Airplane Mode

In October 2015, the UK introduced a 5p tax on single use plastic carrier bags. You know, those flimsy things which will just about get your supermarket shopping home, before they fall apart? 5p is, pretty much, a nickel. Next to nothing.

The cost wasn’t the problem, but it highlighted the issue to people, and use of these bags pretty much dried up overnight.

The aim, of course, was that we should reduce our use of plastic. The law with this type of bag was, as I say, highly effective. But there is data now showing that sales of so-called bags for life has leapt. A bag for life is stronger, sturdier, and of course, uses more plastic than a single-use bag. Many supermarkets here will not discuss the numbers (presumably out of embarrassment) but others show a sharp increase. 5p is nothing, but for some people, neither is 50p for a bag for life.

So the law has only partially had the desired effect overall, but just in terms of those single-use carriers, really hit the sweet spot.

I’m kinda minded of this when I think about using taxes to try and change people’s behaviour. I’m generally quite against it, because it brings people’s income into the equation. For some people, they live on a budget so can’t really afford the extra outlay, even 10p or 20p, just on plastic bags. For others, the cost is negligible, so it doesn’t matter to them. So, a tax doesn’t hit everybody equally. But, there is no denying that it worked, just in terms of our society using fewer single-use plastic bags.

That story is interesting (well, it made me prick up my ears) because the UK is in General Election mode at the moment. Most of the progressive parties want us to fly less, just to reduce our fossil-fuel consumption.

I must admit I am part-cynical about this. Cynical is probably the wrong word. But I notice that in the UK a lot of effort is spent telling individuals that they need to tighten up, and yet subsidies for coal-fired power stations are at a high, and that our carbon dioxide emissions are increasing, despite all individuals’ efforts. So I think individuals, just individuals, are doing a pretty good job. But I, for one, am happy to take on the notion that I should fly less.

The Liberals suggested a tax, which I found quite complicated. The basic thrust was that anybody taking more than three long-haul flights per year would pay a tax. I don’t know what that tax is, might be tens, might be hundreds, might be thousands. And, I’m paraphrasing here – for a start, presumably they mean three roundtrips.

The sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed that, to work this out, you’d need some intelligence. A register with every flyer’s name on it, plus a count of the number of trips they have taken. Okay, all of this is do-able, but it means some new IT system. Government IT systems equal millions and years. So, yes, it is do-able, but it is a faff.

My solution? Well, the Liberals are way too complex for me. Bear in mind that we already pay a tax when we fly, it is taken when we buy the ticket. Me? I’d just set that tax at $1000. Per flight. Long haul, short haul, I’m not fussed.

And bearing in mind that my goal here is to reduce bums on seats. If $1000 didn’t work, I’d try again at $10,000. Make people really believe that their two weeks for that holiday on a beach in Greece really is the holiday of a lifetime.

Luxembourg (1996)

(Using a different flag today because the title is so similar to the last post.)

My first trip to Lux was in 1995, and I wrote about it here. I enjoyed the first trip so much that I went back just a year later. I was in a new job, in a more senior role, which was probably just as well. This time, I had a longer break, and flew to Paris, where I picked up a rental car. I would’ve only have been driving for a year and this was probably my first rental. I drove from Paris all the way to Luxembourg (about 4 hours) – I think that because I hadn’t been driving long, I was surprised when that short line on the map took far longer in reality. I arrived late in Luxembourg – I’d enjoyed my hotel the first time around so stayed in the same place this time around.

With wheels, my range increased and I enjoyed a lot more of Luxembourg. I had several days to see what was a very green country, forests (Luxembourg is essentially in the middle of the Black Forest, or Schwarzwald) with lots of cultivated fields and agriculture. North-east of my hotel, I found the beautiful town of Echternach, right on the border with Germany. Very picture-postcard, very medieval, very Germanic, this town was even more pleasant than Luxembourg Ville. I made a mental note.

Echternach

Echternach lies on the River Sûre, and in fact the river forms many miles of the border between Luxembourg and Germany. There was significant fighting here as the allies advanced in 1945, and of course many readers will recognise Bastogne in the map above.

On the Sunday I again underestimated my distances, and drove up to Spa, in Belgium (off map), to watch the grand prix. My only grand prix – it was very loud, very expensive, and you get a much better view on tv. But all sporting events are better on tv, I find. It’s nice to watch something live because of the atmosphere, but you’ll get a better view in your armchair. Even then, though, I had only a passing interest in motorsport (non-existent now) so was satisfied with just this once – I can say I’ve done it, but the experience got it out of my system and I was never even the slightest bit interested in going to another.

Tired after the drive, I got back to the hotel, only to be greeted by the sound of the Rolling Stones, who were playing a concert in the next valley (it seemed like the next room!). No thank you. I can barely stand them at the best of times, certainly not at the end of a long and tiring day.

The next day was my last. Back to Paris, hookup with a friend, then flying home the day after. At least, that was the plan. But I hadn’t counted on…friction (lack of)!

I was about to step into the shower. It was a good, powerful shower, exactly what you’d expect in a five-star hotel, and I remember thinking That might be slippery, I must be careful.

And so began my acquaintance with the Luxerbourg Health Service! I remained conscious, complete with dislocated shoulder, and with the help of the concierge, managed to get some trousers on. The concierge got a taxi for me, and I ended up in the Clinique Sacré-Coeur.

Of all the things to remember, I met an Irish guy there who was coming in to have his ingrowing toenail sorted… just before I passed out.

When I came to, I was in a hospital bed. My shoulder was very sore but at least now looked like everything was where it should be. After resting for a few hours, they discharged me later that day.

Obviously my hookup in Paris wasn’t going to happen, as I rested up for the night still in lots of pain. The hotel were happy for me to stay the extra night, though helpful as they were, they made sure they still charged me for it. I suppose I should not have expected any favours, anyway. Although I cancelled my night out, I didn’t wish to cancel my flight, which was the following afternoon, so the next day, the day after I dislocated my shoulder, I found myself driving back along the autoroute to Charles de Gaulle airport.

I suppose when I wonder now whether I could drive one-handed, there is my answer! In fact, I have often thought that just getting hold of a left-hand-drive car, especially an automatic, would solve my problems altogether. Anyway, on arrival at Charles de Gaulle, finally some good news – the airline check-in staff had taken pity on my sling and upgraded me to Business! The only time it has happened in my life. For a 40-minute flight 🙂.

At least in the UK I was on home soil, though driving (right-hand drive) was near impossible and I must’ve driven all the way back home (Oxford) in fifth gear.

Work the next day – well, obviously there was no work the next day! In fact I was off the whole week waiting for the pain to ease, and still wasn’t properly recovered when I did go back. That was, I suppose, lucky in that for that short time, I could get away with just being in telephone contact with them. There was politics going on at the time anyway, so it was as well I was out of the way.

Not quite the end of the story. A full nine months later, onto my mat dropped a bill from the hospital in Lux! €300. About $300, give or take. In theory, we are all EU so I should have been covered, but there was some form-filling I’d have needed to do, and in the state I arrived at hospital… I realised, of course, that it was purely speculative, I had since moved so it only got to me because my mail had been redirected, they had no idea where I was now, but at the time I’d needed them, they were there, I felt like I owed them so I coughed up.

Job Hunt (Fandango’s Friday Flashback)

It is Friday once again, and time for Fandango’s Friday Flashback, where he highlights a post from this date in some previous year, which his current readers may not have seen.

I quite like the idea, so I join in to. What I normally do is to find the original post, and hit its reblog button. Without entering any commentary, I confirm the reblog, and the repost is live. I then look at my list of posts, find the one I just reblogged, and switch it back to draft. This then allows me to work on a short commentary at my leisure, and to put the thing live again when I’m ready. I suspect, though, that it also sends out loads of notifications about a post I’m just about to turn back into Draft.

So, today, something a little different. I’m typing in this piddly little “reblog” box, and am just gonna put the repost live, and be done with it. It doesn’t really need a commentary in any case. So, I hope by the time you read it, I’ll have linked to Fandango’s post and fixed all my typos!

From a year ago.

Mister Bump

As part of my job search, I signed up to a site called reed.co.uk, and set up a search. I asked for all jobs within a 10-mile radius. I know from other job search engines that this search yields 20-25 jobs per day, many of which are at the local hospital. So, imagine my surprise when their search email told me that, in the course of just 24 hours, there were more than 350 jobs!

I saw straight away that their search contained jobs that were not 10 miles from Salisbury, but 50! I mean, what is the use in that? If I’d wanted to see jobs that were 50 miles away, that’s how I’d have set up the search. Someone has obviously decided that it is better for their site to send out great swathes of information, even though it is irrelevant, than to send a smaller amount…

View original post 190 more words

Angry Face

Ha ha ha, I am just going through my morning notifications and I see that one of the blogs I follow has responded to a challenge of Things With Faces.

It reminded me of a motor sign I once saw (and photographed) over in the Netherlands. Is it just me?

Attitude of Gratitude

The Christmas festival is the biggest we have here. Just two days, eight if you happen to have time off work between then and New Year. A lot of the people I meet nowadays don’t look forward to it – they don’t particularly feel lonely, but it represents disruption from the norm, there is not much to do except for staying home, and not much to do when they do stay home. It represents unnecessary cost. Our supermarkets have had Christmas goods on sale since October, so they can tell you all about how much they try to part people from their cash!

Christmas here is our biggest festival, just like Thanksgiving is in the US. I can only assume that some people will feel the same way about it.

If you’re one of these people, you can at least give thanks that next week there will be some respite, although I’m sure things go every bit as crazy once we reach Christmas.

If you’re somebody who will be celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope you have a good time of it. Eat as much turkey as you see fit – there are plenty things worse for you, although I know a couple of bloggers will be licking her lips at my image – at all those sprouts!

Play it again, Sam

It is Wednesday, and time once again for Fandango’s Provocative Question. I’m going to paraphrase, but this week he asks, would you go back? If you had your time over again, would you start over?

Actually, I’m gonna take a step back (did you see what I did there 🙂). His exact wording is:

Would you be willing to give up everything you have if you could go back and start your life all over again? Why or why not?

Give up everything? Well, everything is an awful lot, but let’s just split it into a few different parts.

First and foremost, there is my health. Sure, I’d love to go back to before the stroke, but strokes are generally a slow burn, some kind of cumulative thing. Usually, a stroke isn’t caused by a one-off trauma. Certainly mine wasn’t, as best I can say. So, who’s to say that the same thing wouldn’t happen over again, aged 48? How much would I have to change to make the stroke not happen? Whatever I changed, whenever I changed it, could I make the stroke not happen? None of this is clear.

On the same subject, when I think back to the stroke, it was totally painless. Things just stopped working, but it didn’t hurt. We all have to go somehow so if I ended up having another…well, it could be worse.

Next, there is the material wealth that I accumulated. In that respect, I didn’t do badly. I might have done better, but by and large I loved my work. Still do. In fact, I know for a fact that I turned down better money to stay in an environment that I liked. So, what price happiness? If things had been different, would they necessarily have been better? Would I be happier?

Next, there is my knowledge, my intellect. I’m quite happy with how that turned out. Maybe we all think our values are the right ones? I juess so, I certainly do. I’m glad that I try to help other people with the charity work I do, I’m sad that more of us don’t. And I look in the mirror, I see a life that’s beeen lived, that has gotten wiser as I’ve gotten older. Experience, life skills, are everything – they’re what make us who we are. Some of the best life skills are developed by the knocks we take. I can see the benefit now, but I’d rather not go through those knocks again.

Then, there are relationships. I’m happily married, I wouldn’t want to change that. My daughter and I are chalk and cheese, so my child-rearing experience could have gone better, but I always wanted children so I’d have probably ended up going through something similar again.

You can probably tell, by now, where this is going. No, in general I wouldn’t want to change things. But that’s not quite it. There are specifics I’d change. Of course, I’d like to be sitting here able-bodied. I’d love not to have had the stroke. But because of the stroke I have met people I never would have met, not just met them but mixed with them. I’ve seen how the Health system, the Benefits system, don’t work very well. A lot of people of my age are yet to find this out – people think there is something concrete behind all the taxes they pay, I’ll bet they’ll be disappointed when they find out..

There are more relationship things, from before my wife. Maybe if I had or hadn’t said such-and-such, the relationship wouldn’t have ended? Ha ha, yeah, right! Looking back, I got off lightly! Failed relationships are a rite of passage. And, I can’t complain with how it has turned out. And, of course the issue of sex – it has to come up. Maybe if I had or hadn’t said that thing, I’d have laid that woman I always fancied? But I do know that sex is a lot less important at fifty-something than it was at twenty-something! Maybe these are all just the little learnng processes we have to go through in order to become better people? And it’s not just the stroke, or my diabetes, talking. My wife says exactly the same. Maybe all that parenting just knocked it out of us?

Those are basically my thoughts, but I’m aware that when I first read Fandango’s post, I commented about the UK film About Time. When I made the comment, I thought I might bring it into my response, although as it turns out, I haven’t. Furthermore, I’ve since seen Fandango’s response that he hasn’t yet seen the film, so there will be no spoilers from me. I shall say no more on the subject other than to highly commend it it to you, it is well worth the watch, and it does offer another answer to Fandango’s question.

Luxembourg (1995)

I posted a few weeks ago about our trips to the Netherlands, and a few months ago about my once-frequent stays in Paris. I figure I’m on a roll, so…Luxembourg.

But now the kicker. I wrote something originally as a single post, but it just grew longer and longer. I don’t know about you, but I lose interest in too-long posts, I suppose because reading is such an effort for me. So this is merely Part One, centered around my first visit. I shall continue with my other visits in the future. This first post will be short, because it was a short trip.

Luxembourg is another of those places that we ended up having enjoyable family times, but my first encounter was as a singleton.

It was entirely at random. I’d been working very hard, and we had a bank holiday coming up, so I hit the local travel agent (remember them?) and said, Find me somewhere to go for the weekend. They gave me a few options, and Luxembourg sounded like it might be an adventure. Also, it was 1995 (I really do have the tee-shirt) and Luxembourg was currently the European Capital of Culture, so special events were planned. I was earning well, so opted for the best hotel on offer – the Intercontinental.

I flew from Heathrow – all nice and smooth – Luxembourg is a small airport and I used to find that smaller generally meant smoother in the world of air travel. The hotel was a little way out of the city centre, but no matter – it was the best.

Luxembourg Ville (ville, to differentiate the city from the country) – where to start? Well, it is built of two levels, for a start, so views like this defined the city:

Luxembourg Ville

The city itself spanned a couple of escarpments, linked to each other by bridges and looking down on a lower level, for some reason called Grund. Grund was largely green. gardened, as you can see, making for a very green city overall.

The city centre was pretty compact, with many designer shops – Luxembourg is not necessarily a cheap place! Luxembourg, after all, had the highest per-capita income in Europe. But – a mix. A few streets from those designer shops, one could quite easily get a pizza or a burger. But after a full-on Friday evening and Saturday, I’d seen enough for this time.

Chamber of Deputies (I think!)

Wanting to see as much as possible, though, and not having transport of my own, on Sunday I got the train into France, destination Strasbourg. A train is also a good way to see the countryside, which outside the cities was very rural.

Strasbourg is a hybrid – right on the border between France and Germany. So it doesn’t feel quite French. Add to that that it is one of the places where the European Parliament meets, and it had a very international flavour. But, some beautiful architecture:

Cathedral, Strasbourg
Petite France, Strasbourg

Strasbourg was about 2 hours from my hotel back in Luxembourg, so another long day. But when you have a limited time to explore, you tend to pull the stops out. After that busy weekend, I flew home on the Monday, ready for work again on Tuesday. A successful trip, no? And cetainly whetted my appetite for times to come!

The Last Post

I voted today. I qualify for a postal vote these days, so it all happens a bit sooner for me than for everybody else. All the bumf came through yesterday, I sorted it this morning, so, for me, the 2019 election is over.

I did have a half-thought of voting tactically, but in the end voted along with my principles. I feel that by doing that, I have at least been true to myself. In previous elections I’ve done the same – certainly since I moved here, one party is so dominant in this area that I may as well vote with my principles.

I honestly don’t see that this will change things. No matter how many times you shuffle the deck, you’re just as likely to get a royal flush!

I just feel pessimistic.