Grant Shapps and the Travel Green List

So we all know that the UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is out of his depth in a bird bath. He did, after all, go on holiday knowing that his department were about to bring in quarantine last July, and that he’d have to fly back early. What a tosser!

And his incompetence and lack of joined-up thinking continue unabated.

India have only just been added to the Red List of countries where you need to isolate in a designated hotel at £1,750 a time because the Tories were trying to negotiate a trade deal. The Indian delegation then came to the UK and reported a number had come down with COVID-19.

At the same time, UK nationals coming back from India were simply taking a 10 day holiday in Istanbul at a fraction of the quarantine cost and then flying in, so adding Turkey to the red list was inevitable.

Last week, a UK representative told the Spanish that the much-heralded Green List would be driven by the science and the Greek and Spanish islands would be reviewed and treated separately. Then yesterday Shapps revealed a truly bizarre list and noted that Spain (on the amber list) included the Balearics and the Canaries, despite the FCDO website still saying this:

“The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic Islands but excluding the Canary Islands, based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.”

Now, the Canaries – and Fuerteventura specifically – have really low infection rates at the moment, yet to return to London with its much, much higher rates will require quarantine.

That Green List?

  • Portugal
  • Israel
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Brunei
  • Iceland
  • Gibraltar
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands
  • St Helena, Tristan de Cunha and Ascension Island

So most of those do not allow travel from the UK in the first place. Ah.

Portugal and Gibraltar? A pretty open border with Spain, isn’t there?

South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands? You can only travel there by sea and there is no visitor accommodation.

The Falkland Islands? You can only fly there … via Chile (Red List) with commercial airlines or with the MoD via a refuelling stop in Cape Verde (Red List).

You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Ask the Right Question… More Idiocy from Southwark Council

Way back in the mists of time, I wrote a bit about how Southwark Council had decided to make traffic congestion worse on Jamaica Road, SE London by stopping local drivers from using a ‘rat-run’.  Their consultation paper – sent to a tiny minority of extremely localised people – asked a series of heavily biased questions without a “none of the above” option.

Well these fuckwits are at it again: solving a problem that doesn’t actually exist and thereby creating a new one.

They’ve decided that people daring to park on the Western part of Rotherhithe Street – which is a no through road and not exactly busy – are going to be penalised, including all the residents who currently park there.  Their proposals , published at http://www.southwark.gov.uk/info/200140/parking_projects/4039/rotherhithe_parking_zone_study – show only very limited permit parking (at £125 each…) for residents with the rest of the area subject to double yellow lines.

Now there really isn’t an issue with parking on that section of Rotherhithe Street: I walk along it every time I walk to work and there’s plenty of space for parking and no trouble with the road being blocked from the (non-existent) through-traffic by these pesky parkers.

So what would happen when Southwark gets its way? Well quite simply all those vehicles will need to park somewhere else nearby and the nearest parking would be the Eastern side of Rotherhithe Street where there are (currently) very few parking restrictions and no resident-only parking spaces whilst still being a busy through road on the C10 bus route. And when all those vehicles park on ‘our’ street, where will we be able to park? Where will all those coaches that park overnight whilst fetching and carrying kids staying at the local YHA now be able to park? After all, Southwark allowed a new housing development to go up where the coaches used to park. Oh and another new development is going up opposite our house with Southwark’s blessing despite all bar one comment (duplicated 40+ times) objecting to it with no parking spaces included within the development because parking’s not a problem!

Now have a look at the questionnaire. See how it asks what times you’d like the restrictions to apply. There isn’t a “Never” option, is there? Ask the right question…

Modern Toss

Bollocks to this!

Ask the Right Question… More Idiocy from Southwark Council

Way back in the mists of time, I wrote a bit about how Southwark Council had decided to make traffic congestion worse on Jamaica Road, SE London by stopping local drivers from using a ‘rat-run’.  Their consultation paper – sent to a tiny minority of extremely localised people – asked a series of heavily biased questions without a “none of the above” option.

Well these fuckwits are at it again: solving a problem that doesn’t actually exist and thereby creating a new one.

They’ve decided that people daring to park on the Western part of Rotherhithe Street – which is a no through road and not exactly busy – are going to be penalised, including all the residents who currently park there.  Their proposals , published at http://www.southwark.gov.uk/info/200140/parking_projects/4039/rotherhithe_parking_zone_study – show only very limited permit parking (at £125 each…) for residents with the rest of the area subject to double yellow lines.

Now there really isn’t an issue with parking on that section of Rotherhithe Street: I walk along it every time I walk to work and there’s plenty of space for parking and no trouble with the road being blocked from the (non-existent) through-traffic by these pesky parkers.

So what would happen when Southwark gets its way? Well quite simply all those vehicles will need to park somewhere else nearby and the nearest parking would be the Eastern side of Rotherhithe Street where there are (currently) very few parking restrictions and no resident-only parking spaces whilst still being a busy through road on the C10 bus route. And when all those vehicles park on ‘our’ street, where will we be able to park? Where will all those coaches that park overnight whilst fetching and carrying kids staying at the local YHA now be able to park? After all, Southwark allowed a new housing development to go up where the coaches used to park. Oh and another new development is going up opposite our house with Southwark’s blessing despite all bar one comment (duplicated 40+ times) objecting to it with no parking spaces included within the development because parking’s not a problem!

Now have a look at the questionnaire. See how it asks what times you’d like the restrictions to apply. There isn’t a “Never” option, is there? Ask the right question…

Modern Toss

Bollocks to this!

City of London 20mph Speed Limit

On 20th July 2014, a blanket speed limit of 20mph was introduced in the City of London:

20mph City of London Limit

20mph City of London Limit

Why did they decide to do that? It was apparently part of their “Road Danger Reduction Plan“. And yet, reading that, it’s not speed that’s the issue with the highest at-risk groups of cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists.

Cyclists:

  • “… 84% of casualties are involved in collisions at intersections or junctions. This is in line with the Greater London average.
  • Collisions are more likely to occur in the middle of junctions rather than on their approaches.
  • Failure to see a cyclist appears to be a significant causal factor.
  • The main contributory factors identified in cyclist casualties are “turning right”, “changing lanes”, “opening vehicle doors” and “undertaking of large vehicles turning left across cyclists path”. The last factor being the most significant in KSI casualties.”

Uh-huh. So speed isn’t really at issue at all here and indeed it looks like the main issue is cyclists with a deathwish undertaking – no pun intended – large vehicles.

Motorcyclists and Scooterists:

“…As 72 per cent of motorcyclists were injured due to the actions of other road users, a significant reduction in motorcyclist casualties will only be achieved by addressing the behaviour of other road users, particularly car, taxi, and goods vehicle drivers and by increasing motorcyclists’ awareness of other road users. The most common causes of a motorcyclist being injured are pedestrian lack of attention, motor vehicles turning right across their path, and vehicles U turning.”

I see. So the trouble here is pedestrians and vehicles doing right and U turns, neither of which are speed-related.

Pedestrians:

“Goods vehicles, coaches and buses are disproportionately involved in collisions….

“Pedestrian inattention” has been identified as the main contributory factor for pedestrian casualties.”

Interestingly, it also notes that there are clusters of casualties around the stations where “the City experiences considerable over-crowding of footways, particularly at peak times, with pedestrians stepping onto the carriageway.” So it appears that people stepping off the overcrowded pavements into the path of slower-moving vehicles is the risk here, again rather than speeding. Perhaps investment/improvement into the pedestrian walkways is the key here?

According to the London Evening Standard:

Michael Welbank, speaking on behalf of City of London council, said: “For the City of London to continue its success as an international business hub it is critical that its streets should be safe for all who use them be they commuters, pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, motorcyclists, shoppers or cultural wanderers and dreamers.”

So maybe infrastructure investment might be a better idea, along with enforcement of other legislation and education of pedestrians and cyclists? Or why not simply reintroduce the Locomotive Act 1875, although this would mean fewer speeding fines and less “Being Seen To Be Doing Something”:

"Red Flag" Act

“Red Flag” Act

Eurothrash 2014: How Many Countries?

This year’s Eurothrash took us from England to France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy and we almost ended up in Lichtenstein too! 2,361 miles in a week, with two rest days.

I mentioned in the last blog entry that I’d fettled the Sprint ready for the journey. As it turned out, we did a quick pack on the Friday night and found we could fill the two panniers and then put the 30 litre roll bag in the top case along with Alison’s heated inner jacket and our liners. Gloves and bits and bobs went into the Kriega US-20 strapped onto the tank.

And so it was that we were up at 3.00am to shower, pack and hit the road around 4.15am to meet up with Mark (Purge), Martin (Yox) and Josie at the Stop24 services on the M20 near the Eurotunnel at 5.30am. Despite horrific weather being forecast for the journey, the only wetness we saw was a bit of spray on the A2 out of London.  We were first to arrive and grabbed coffee and croissants at the Shell garage. Yox and Josie arrived a few minutes later on his Kawasaki Versys and we then received a message from Purge saying he’d woken up to torrential rain and would get a later crossing and meet us there!

Early start at Eurotunnel

Early start at Eurotunnel

I reset my dials and the satnav to kilometres for the rest of the trip to make it easier to work out fuel and rest stops.

Once boarded, we were told there would be a delay due to a train fault in the tunnel, so we were around 45 minutes late getting off in France. These delays continued and worsened, apparently, so that Purge had to wait hours for an eventual 1.50pm crossing and a blast down by Autoroutes to join us in Germany for our first night.

On the way down through France, we stopped off near Reims to stretch our legs at the old Formula One pit buildings of the Reims-Gueux Circuit:

Reims Grand Prix Pit Buildings

Reims Grand Prix Pit Buildings

Reims Grand Prix Pit Buildings

Reims Grand Prix Pit Buildings

We finally reached the Hotel-Landgasthof Hirsch in Neu-Ulm (mid-way between Stuttgart and Munich) at tea-time, so we showered and changed and hit the beers before dinner. Purge joined us around 9.30pm.

After a really nice breakfast on the Sunday morning we set off for Austria despite a light shower at one point, though nothing like what was forecast. Germany meant Autobahns so on one section I decided to wind the Sprint open and we hit 147mph – two-up and fully laden, don’t forget – before I backed it off down to 100mph. I wonder how fast it would have gone (especially solo and without all the gear)…

A coffee and a Snickers as we approached Austria and we were on our way.

DSCF0287 DSCF0288 DSCF0289

Into Austria and we headed down to Hall in Tirol and the Gasthof Badl.  Purge and Yox had stayed there before, but I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest. I was grateful to be proven completely wrong: a well-presented and large double room with a huge and very modern bathroom and a balcony with a wonderful view of the Alps.

Gasthof Badl (by Purge)

Gasthof Badl (by Purge)

Gasthof Badl and Bikes

Gasthof Badl and Bikes

The view from our balcony

The view from our balcony

A shower and off we went into the old town to a restaurant in the castle for the largest Weiner Schnitzel you could imagine (pork, not veal, of course).

That was our restaurant for the evening

That was our restaurant for the evening

After a huge breakfast on Monday morning, we set off into the Alps to visit the Grossglockner glacier. Some great twisty roads and stunning views on our way, too.

Panoramic View

Panoramic View

Grinning at the Grossglockner Glacier

Grinning at the Grossglockner Glacier

It had been very cold on one of the earlier passes, enough for me to switch on my heated grips and for Alison to plug in her heated inner jacket which kept her toasty warm.

Tuesday was supposed to be wet, so we planned our rest day. It wasn’t at all wet as we walked into town for coffees and then back to the hotel for beers before dinner.

Photo Opportunity

Photo Opportunity

Quick Chat

Quick Chat

Coffee Break

Coffee Break

Wednesday and we headed into Italy and Switzerland for the Jaufenpass and Stelvio Pass. Very impressive passes both, if a little cold as we passed through the snowline up to Stelvio for big hotdogs and wine just as the snow began falling. Epic twisty roads too after the light dusting dried out in the warm summer sun…

Stelvio Pass (photo by Yox)

Stelvio Pass (photo by Yox)

Stelvio Scoff (thanks Purge)

Stelvio Scoff (thanks Purge)

Jaufenpass (photo by Yox)

Jaufenpass (photo by Yox)

Stelvio Pass

Stelvio Pass

Sprint and Stelvio

Sprint and Stelvio

Sprint and Stelvio

Sprint and Stelvio

Stelvio Smiles

Stelvio Smiles

The Hills Are Alive

The Hills Are Alive

Thursday was Josie’s 50th birthday. Our plan for the day was to head to the Kehlsteinhaus or Eagle’s Nest, which was given to Hitler for his 50th birthday (which was ironic as he had a fear of heights…). Yet more stunning scenery and very twisty roads on our way to the visitor centre. On arrival in the car park, the rain started falling heavily for around 10 minutes so we stood in our waterproofs before it stopped and we boarded the truly scary convoy of buses to take us up to the retreat itself, where we stopped for lunch and the views.

Lunch at the Eagle's Nest

Lunch at the Eagle’s Nest

Too bright!

Too bright!

Stunning Views

Stunning Views

Celebratory fizz and birthday cake back at the hotel before heading up to bed.

Friday was another rest day with one or two light showers but after two days in the mountains on hairpin bends, we could all do with the rest!

Espressos and Iced Tea

Espressos and Iced Tea

Breakfast on Saturday morning was massive as usual. We then checked out – why was our bar bill so excessive again? Oops! – then it was off to Mulhouse. Purge wasn’t quite ready when we were going to head off and said he was going to go the quicker rather than the scenic route, so Yox and I headed off. A fab journey it was too through Austria and Germany (the Black Forest, mainly). We stopped at one point in Germany at Schluchsee in the mid-afternoon for drinks and ice creams by the huge lake. Purge had already reached Mulhouse and was sitting by the pool drinking beers (as per).

It's tough, this travelling

It’s tough, this travelling

Sprint at the Schluchsee

Sprint at the Schluchsee

Schluchsee

Schluchsee

We rolled into Mulhouse after another day of scenery, hairpins and hot sun and ate outside by the pool at the Golden Tulip Mulhouse Basel at Sausheim.

Sunday morning and it was up early for breakfast before heading out for our long journey back. Purge opted for the “splash and dash” whereas we opted for more Alpine scenery and a less frenetic if longer route, with me leading us into the Eurotunnel in plenty of time for the ridiculously long (and hot) wait for the UK Border Agency to let us onto the trains. Our border control is frankly pathetic compared with every other country I travel to. Such long delays coming back home.

Once back in the UK, Alison and I waved Yox and Josie off and we stopped to eat and refuel before heading home mid-evening, 2,361 miles down:

Trip Mileage

Trip Mileage

And finally, a little bit of video:

Planning for next year’s Eurothrash has already started: maybe the Italian Riviera? Accessed via Bilbao and Northern Spain, Andorra and the French Riviera?

Happy Holidays!

Well I’m counting down to our Eurothrash 2014 – a week in Austria on the Sprint GT with Ali and a couple of mates – and I’m definitely in the holiday mood.

This year around Easter I went to Fuerteventura yet again, this time taking my kids and their partners and Ali, which meant the villa was packed and I had to hire two cars for us all thanks to all our gear (and the fact we were six!).  Ali and I are heading back there again at the end of the summer, so much more shooty fun is envisaged!

And I’ve also just booked the first of our holidays for 2015: Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand next spring to start us off in a bunch of 5-star hotels. The second week at Ko Samui in particular should be spectacular with a villa to ourselves with its own private pool, outdoor sofas and rain shower and a beach:

Garden Pool Villa
Garden Pool Villa
Beach View
Beach View

It’d be rude not to take my camera gear and do some shooting whilst we’re here!

December So Far…

Well November ended on a high: whilst up in Norfolk for the weekend, I took Amy – Jack baled out at the last moment – to see London Grammar play the Open in Norwich and very good they were too (as expected).

Hannah Reid of London Grammar at the Open, Norwich
Hannah Reid of London Grammar at the Open, Norwich
London Grammar at the Open, Norwich
London Grammar at the Open, Norwich

I was also impressed in particular by one of the support acts: Josh Record, who may or may not use my suggestion of “Geoff” for the title of their presently unnamed track. Or not.

Josh Record at the Open, Norwich
Josh Record at the Open, Norwich

Tuesday of the following week and I was back off to Canada; Toronto this time to speak at a major exhibition (people actually had to pay to see me speaking). This time, it was a morning flight so I arrived at lunchtime EDT . Straight from the Airport via our offices to check the venue out for the following day, then off to the hotel to do a quick shower and change and back out for the evening: dinner at the Toronto Maple Leafs where their top player, Phil Kessel, celebrated his career 200th goal after scoring against the San Jose Sharks. Very enjoyable evening.

Toronto Maple Leafs v San Jose Sharks
Toronto Maple Leafs v San Jose Sharks

Wednesday and it was up early for breakfast and meeting colleagues before heading down to the convention centre to do my thing. A quick drink afterwards – bought for me by an ex-pat British lawyer (I didn’t have time to get her name) – then off to the airport for the red-eye to Heathrow.

Friday I had the day off: I was heading down to Gloucester for the PurplePort social. Great fun with lots of drink and chat: Katra was memorable for touching my face all evening looking for (non-existent) plastic surgery scars and Ali was memorable for not falling out of her corset despite all odds!

After breakfast, I headed back to London … via Bourton-on-the-Water where I lived when I was a little boy and we’d come back to the UK from Malta. I’d been taught our address parrot-fashion as we all do with our kids, so I popped it in to Waze on my iPhone and headed there. It was still as I remembered it, bar the houses that had been built behind the bungalow. Off into the village centre which was as I remembered it for a coffee and a walk around.

Fosse View
Fosse View
Selfie in Bourton
Selfie in Bourton

More of the same the following week – another seminar to give in London – and then the following week was fabulous, starting with the Placebo gig at Brixton on Monday 16th with GT. Really, really good they were too and it was nice to see GT after a few weeks.

Placebo at the O2 Academy, Brixton
Placebo at the O2 Academy, Brixton
Placebo at the O2 Academy, Brixton
Placebo at the O2 Academy, Brixton

Later that week, in Crawley at a Client’s, I dropped the RX-8 off at the nearby dealer to see if they could sort out the headlight washers: hitting a pheasant at {cough} MPH had split and lost the thick hose that feeds the headlight washers. They have had to order-in the hose which will be a massive £380 fitted! Expensive car, this one. Then back on Thursday evening for the company Christmas Dinner Cruise along the Thames, during which I gave a younger colleague a pep-talk about his forthcoming new baby and how he shouldn’t envy my lifestyle. He didn’t go home that night, apparently. So much for mentoring…

Friday I had the afternoon off as a friend, NT, was coming to stay at mine for the weekend. I picked her up from the railway station and we stopped off at London Bridge to pick up my car from the office where I’d left it overnight. As it was a lovely day, I took her up the Shard – fnarr! – before heading home. A lovely steak at Gaucho that evening. Saturday she wanted to do some shopping for her kids so we went up to Camden; tapas and t-shirts. Saturday and it was off to Le Pont de la Tour for dinner from their tasting menu. Excellent nosh.

NT at Tower Bridge
NT at Tower Bridge

Then into the Christmas Week: Christmas Eve was peculiar as due to the storms that hit the UK, I was one of the first into the office and it remained that way until mid-morning when just a few made it in. Drinks and snacks at the pub and then home. Christmas Day and I’d been invited to GT’s for what was a lovely Christmas Dinner including her fabulous Cheesy Chestnut Roast. Feeling bloated, I headed home to an early night before heading up to Norfolk for Boxing Day and the first of two defeats this week for Norwich City.

New Year’s Eve beckons now – after a shoot I have planned tomorrow with Marlyn Lindsay – and my plans include a possible NYE at Slimelight. I did wonder about grabbing a last-minute flight to Moscow to see the New Year in with Manuel and Angelo (friends from Route 66) but flights are stupidly expensive for what would be a one-night stay!