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Not many people realise that the bicycle is just that, the most efficient mode of transport on the planet. Nothing can move you further and faster on basically the small amount of food and drink you require to get you somewhere. Try getting your car to take you 5 miles across a busy town in 20 minutes on just a pint of water and a banana. I'll try not to be too smug, but the recent fuel crisis is the best thing to happen in my home town for quite some time. No more inconsiderate motorists squeezing you up against parked cars or the kerb. READ THE HIGHWAY CODE. You are supposed to give the same space when overtaking a bicycle as you would around another car. I actually had someone at my work recently criticise my roadcraft by saying I should not be allowed on the road because I actually cycled out in the road passed the yellow lines. She was really convinced that was the limit of a bike's positioning. Down in Hampshire also, if you do have trouble with car drivers, it's no good taking it to the police. I have been to see the police on quite a few occasions to complain about drivers cutting me up or even twice actually knocking me off my bike. Their reaction is "well what do you want me to do about it, it'll be your word against there's". I only hope they are slightly more helpful if the day comes when they have to scrape my remains off the road. At that time, the visiting officer will get a documented record of every useless visit to a police station stating times, dates, car registration numbers and other things ignored by these useless public servants. So I say ban all non essential car journeys, and relearn the fun of bikes. Fitness and a cleaner city can go hand in hand for us all.
We live in a society. Society has rules. We all have to obey these rules or we do not live in a society. Now I love my daughter more than I thought it was possible to love another human being, but that does not mean at the tender age of six that she has not been disciplined. Right from the word go, I have always found it essential to her well being to let her know where the boundaries are. I grew up in a generation where slapping the children was not just accepted by society, but expected. Now I have raised my hand to my child, and excrutiating pangs of guilt aside, it was neccessary. She will not go running across the road without looking. She will not stick objects into electrical sockets. In other words, she will not try a whole host of other stupid and life threatening little experiments without checking if Daddy says it's all right. We have to keep them in check for their own safety but for me the best form of every day discipline is just the voice. The utmost sanction for our household is the removal from the group for "a little word". That is literally all it is, the real punishment being the embarrassment of being seen going away for the talk. The scariest thing for her is the fact that as well as removal from whatever's going on, the Daddy voice does not get raised, but stays completly calm. Every child is an individual, and discipline begins at home and is different for everyone. I'm not saying my method is definitly the best, but it works for me. My one other tip, which I would say will work for everyone, although it is probably harder on you than your child. NEVER THREATEN ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO CARRY OUT. It's no good speaking, whispering, shouting or screaming anything that you would not carry out. Once that has happened, children get the idea that, "oh well, he said that before and nothing happened". No matter how it affects your plans, if you say it be prepared to do it. "Do that once
again and we'll go home". So if they do it again, GO HOME, or don't say it in the first place. But finally, just remember, you may have had a tough day at work, you may have just had some bad news, your little darlings may have the ability to make the Pope swear, but remember, they have pressures in their little lives you didn't have at their age. It may seem trivial to you, but it is probably the most important thing in their life, so try to understand. When people say," keep things in perspective", just remember that their perspective is different, and who's to say it is not just as valid.
We are a small Island community with a greatly inflated view of our own importance. Yes, we once had an Empire that straddled the globe, but we also had one of the lowest unemployment rates for 10 year olds with chimneys needing to be swept or mines to be dug. The world is changing at a remarkable rate and who knows who the great world powers will be over the next 10 to 15 years. Many of the world's fastest growing economies are in the far east where only a few decades ago we were still sending missionaries to help "civilize the noble savage". But now look at the way markets around the world operate. You need to be big and powerful on a continental scale to make people sit up and listen to you and to compete in some meaningful way. We seem to have two choices: we can join the Euro and have a proportional say in the way the economics of the continent we live in works. Or we can join the Dollar and become the fifty first state of America with absolutely no say in our own monetary policy. These are going to be the hard facts that we will have to come to terms with. Joining the Euro is not an emotive choice to be decided upon by whether you want the Queen's head on your money but harsh economic factors about where we want to lend our remaining world power and hopefully building a better world for our children.
Mention censorship and most people immeadiatly think of Mary Whitehouse and her campaining tribes. Do we need her to protect the nations morals.....NO! Look up censor in the Oxford dictionary and it says," An official authorised to examine printed matter, films, news, etc. before public release and to suppress any parts on the grounds of obscenity". Okay, I understand the process, but who decides what is obscene. Naked bodies; are they obscene or just what we all are beneath our clothes. Swear words; are they obscene or just a few more syllables to be used in a wonderfully descriptive language. Sex; is it obscene or just the extremly enjoyable process by which we all came to be on this planet. If you travel around the world you will be able to find someone somewhere who will find anything you care to mention is not to their taste or moral code, and therin lies the answer. I do not wish to be dictated to by some self appointed moral guardian who knows, supposedly better than me, what is harmful for me to know. Now I have a young daughter (6 years old) and I would not like for her to constantly hear bad language or see graphic scenes of sex on the TV but a body is just a body. You see, I have my own moral code and I can guarantee that someone will disagree with me, but that is what makes a society. It is the differences that make us strong, not the mindless followers of a creed that is not to be questioned. We live in a country that is supposed to be free with the advantage of free speech, and yet up until a few years ago I was not allowed to hear the words of a democratically elected Northern Ireland Politician because someone decided that there words should not be heard in the British media. Don't make the mistake that "Outraged of Surbiton" in the Daily Mail might think that I am some Lefty IRA supporter but I am certainly sophisiticated enough to hear his words and decide for myself what is fact and what is obscene propaga
nda. The fact that you are reading this on the internet shows that you have found your way onto the world's greatest uncensored medium, and let us all hope it stays that way. The thought police are there only if you let them be, stand up to censorship wherever you can and never let the bastards get away with hiding the real truths from you!
From what I can find out the worst thing about cannabis is that we have to buy it from criminals and become criminals by using it ourselves. Go to Holland or Switzerland and they cannot understand why people who do not wish to try it themselves get so annoyed about other people using it. Some people think we live in a nanny state, I would say it is more of a busybody state where the morals of the Daily Mail Reader are not to be questioned without the direst of consequences coming down on the head of the questioner and I personally want more freedom than that. I do not advocate the unlicensed availability of the herb ( I will not call it a drug until society recognises alcohol and caffiene with the same word ) but used in moderation it is purely a social enjoyment shared by a greater proportion of our population than most of us would probably realise. Children should not be allowed to get hold of it any more than they should get hold of alcohol, but within its current unregulated state most of the countries teenagers can get it easier than they can get hold of beer and cider. Anyone who wonders about its harmful effects can find out that the worst thing is that it is usually smoked with tobacco but pop over to Holland and you can by cookies or cakes with it in and that stops that dirty habit. Anyone wondering why another "social evil" should be allowed just needs to see the difference between a drunk and someone stoned. No one who ever over indulged in cannabis ever wanted to beat up his wife, kids or perfect strangers. The worst thing they may do is over eat pizza or mars bars.
I've just got back from a west highland holiday from a tiny little place called Glenelg and tranquility is so evident there it could be bottled. For those not in the know, it is located about 75 miles from Glasgow, on the coast over a mountain and half a mile over the sea from Skye. We stayed in a cottage hired through a company called Emerald Cottages and although it came with all mod cons ( dishwasher, washing machine, cooker, microwave, TV & Video ) the best thing about it was the silence. The local shop/post office sells any food you might need for a weeks stay but was so enchantingly rural you would be hard put to get 6 customers in it. The local Hotel ( the Glenelg Inn ) had a gourmet resaurant where the food was excellent or a good old style friendly bar that did bar food and a realistic price for a good pint or dram. You havn't really soaked up the atmosphere until you have enjoyed a drink and a chat with the landlord whilst sat on fishboxes in an old style country hotel. The Kyle of Lochalsh is 20 miles away with the bridge to Skye but if you just enjoy walking in the country and sunsets to die for this is the place. It is actually 3 miles along the coast from where Gavin Maxwell's "Ring of bright water" novel was written about and his old cottage may be gone but the spirit of his writing has captured a place that will never change and should never be allowed to. For the keen amateur naturalist, in one week there we saw Golden Eagles, White tailed Sea Eagles, Red Deer, Seals and most important of all, we had a family of otters pay us a daily visit to the beach our cottage was situated on. Anyone who has a hankering to leave the city and enjoy wild Britain really should check this place out, it's the nearest to heaven you can find on these islands.
Can we not feed our children real food and stop or at least delay the lifelong drive to get kids on to junk food. Yes I am sure that all the companies that sell baby foods have there best interests at heart and scientifically try out all the products to check that only the best ingredients are being used but just look at what they are adding to the jar or tin you are feeding them. When children are young and just starting on solids you have to be very careful what you start them on but surely fresh fruit ( a mashed up banana or apple or even finely chopped orange ) is so much better than the tinned versions. Cooking yourself some potatoes, then do a small platefull for the little one, believe me they will get more goodness out of it and a lot less additives. Whilst walking around supermarkets it always amazes me that so many parents ( and this goes for the well off as well as the cash strapped ) choose a nice piece of chicken for themselves but think that chicken nuggets are good enough for the kids, often mistakingly thinking that the kids prefer them. What they prefer is the shape or the idea that they are getting something special when the chicken meat that goes into most nugget or burger type products would normally make you avoid them forever if you saw what actually went into them. Just imagine that the only part of a chicken that is not used is the feathers and the cluck. Think of that next time you see some turkey dinosaurs on the shelf. Just try and get children to eat chicken feet before they are formed into something else.
Anyone who enjoys reading stories to their children and who have not yet discovered Dr.Seuss are missing out on probably childrens favourite type of story. It rhymes, it is pure childish nonsense, is wonderfully illustrated and if you look carefully there are good moral messages that even a 3 year old can understand. My daughter has been enjoying these stories since she was two and four years later she reads them to her toys and unprompted from me I even caught her explaining the moral to her teddy. There are at least 60 books to choose from all of which delight, whether passing on messages or just enjoying the tongue twisters offered up in the text. Kids will also love to see that even grown ups can have trouble reading out loud with some of them. Considering they are American in origin, they still transfer to English very well without too much lost in the translation. Culture in cartoon form!
Parents, Grandparents, Aunts & Uncles, please, please, please strap your children in when travelling in your car. It really gets me angry when I am driving or walking along the road and I see someone drive past me with one or more children bouncing around loose in their car. Yes you may only be going on a short journey ( in which case you should probably be walking with them ) but if the journey is necessary then it should not just be the law that makes you strap them in, common sense should tell you too! Where I live there is always some boy or girl racer going round the residential streets in some little car much faster than the area or their skill can cope with, it only takes one of these little idiots to hit you head on at 30 mph when you may only be doing 10 mph. That gives the collision speed of 40 mph. Do you really want to take that risk with your child. A few extra seconds of care can save a LIFETIME of regret.
I was not born here, but I have grown up here and I do sort of like the place. It's like most large cities in that it has a good range of things to do and places to go but it has the added beauty of large areas of green within its city limits. It has lots of trees and small parks all over giving it a pleasant feel in the hot, dry summers that it experiences but suffers as most southern Britain does with too much traffic. Try to go anywhere and you need transport of one sort or another. Public transport is a bit of a joke in Southampton, most of the buses seem to stop about half an hour before the first pubs shut in the evening meaning you have to use taxis. Go anywhere at seemingly any time and you will find yourself in a queue of traffic at least once during your journey. Try using your bike and you might as well paint a target on your back and carry a sign saying I hate car drivers. But it's not all bad, there is a huge student population and therefore a good choice of nightlife from pubs to clubs. The cinemas and restaurants are on the whole good, and varied. The people can be friendly, if at first reserved but it is certainly one of the most tollerant populations I have come across in a multicultural society. Property can make you laugh or cry depending on how you believe the prices people are willing to pay to live here but that's the beautiful south for you. Honestly it is a nice place to come to but expensive to live here and impossible without a car.
Is it just me, or are we splitting our country up into tribes according to which RAG you read. Sit down at any coffee table, dining table or anywhere that a discussion can be held and within 3 minutes I can usually tell which paper a person reads by the opinions that they spout. Now don't get me wrong, if you genuinly hold that opinion and can back it up with feeling, that's good enough for me. Time was when the newspapers used to echo public opinions from whatever background you came from. Now they want to mould public opinion and are quite happy to pander to any racist, sexist or biggoted opinion will get them copy. Take the News of the World's latest campaign to out paedophiles. Call me a cynic, but was that not just last Sunday's most succesful marketing ploy. I am a father of a small girl and would happily kill anyone who harmed my daughter but remember that justice must be impartial and not led by mob rule. If you look at the statue on the top of the High Courts you will see Justice, the statue holding a balance but most importantly she is blindfolded. Our laws are imperfect and occaisionally mistakes are made but they get it right MUCH more often than newspapers. Also if the law is at fault you have redress through the courts. Get wronged by a newspaper and you'll be lucky to have any acknowledgement and even that grudgingly will be printed on page eleven between an advert for financial products and todays joke story about a clever cat. Come on Britain, lets control the press and not be led mob handed by them. I have more faith in our nation than Mr. Murdoch does.
I took a family package trip to Calleta de Fuste in Fuerteventura and thought I was in Essex in the Sunshine. All in all I got what the travel agent described to me but not really what I expected. For unspoiled read, being built at the moment. No, it wasn't just one big building site but there was building work going on around most of the town. For family friendly read, English spoken and served in the bars and restaurants. When I go abroad I like to feel that I have gone to another country with a different culture. Every place we went to eat we were made to feel very welcome and especially my daughter ( 5 years old ) but they only had to hear our language and they expected us to want fish and chips, steak and chips or pizza and chips with chicken nuggets for my daughter. There was very little Spanish feel to it which disappointed me but for the less adventurous traveller this is probably just what they are looking for. Very friendly, not very Spanish and very, very windy. (Fuerteventura is Spanish for strong wind ).
Normally I'm not the sort of person to recommend any product which could be classed as easily disposable but here's one little thing I do like. Monthly disposable contact lenses have really changed my comfort and life style in one short year. I had been wearing specs for 24 years and never fancied the idea of putting something actually onto my eyeball. Then Dollond and Aitchinson had the idea in 1999 of offering free trials and I thought what the hell. My first reaction on putting them in was how I comfortable ( by which I mean after 3 minutes I could not feel them at all ) they were. Then going out into the street to walk about for an hour and being able to see without the face furniture I've had to wear for all that time felt just wonderful. Now every month I get a new pair and just throw the used ones away. They have the consistency of a half sucked fruit gum and the comfort level has to be experienced to be believed. Definitly a good lifestyle choice for us speccy peeps.
I was invited carp fishing by a friend five years ago now and I must say it has to be my favourite way to spend a day doing absolutely nothing. Oh yes you can spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds on equipment and you can spend every waking and non working hour sat on some lakeside trying to tease these elusive fish out of hiding, but to me just a few carefully bought items ( most second hand ) and about 15 weekends of the year with my mates or my own thoughts; aahhh heaven. The best thing about it is probably just the peace and tranquility to be found on some of Britains quieter watersides watching all manner of wildlife interacting when suddenly..... whizz and away your line goes and your in to the fight and trying to land what must be the King of freshwater fish. Carefully play it to the bank, gently land it in the net and then check it carefully and quickly admiring its beauty. Then as soon as possible put it carefully back and sit back to enjoy the quiet of the countryside once again.
I drive a "T" reg civic 1.6 automatic and I must say it is definitly the best car we as a family have ever owned. Right from the start (we bought it from a Honda Dealer) I found everything about the Honda a pleasant experience. It was the first time I had met a car salesman who did not seem to have his hand on my wallet before I did. The car is an excellent smooth ride with all the toys expected of todays modern car with twin airbags and electric everything. My friends said I should buy a nice patriotic home made British car like a Ford. Ha! a nice British car like a Ford ( built in Germany ) no thanks, I'11 have one of those nasty Honda imports ( built in Swindon ). If you need any more recommendation about the dealership, how's this. The one I bought is an ex demonstration model with 5000 miles on the clock and one year old. The dealer gave me all the warranties to be expected with a brand new one although the price was that for a second hand model. Also, there was one hub cap not properly matched for shade on the alloy wheels and they were not able to get one within their promised timescale, so they gave me a new set of alloy wheels. I think I am definitly going to have to buy another Honda after this one.