Archive for September, 2015


Statute Of Liberties!

I am heartened, not to mention a little surprised, in many ways that so many people have read my review on the Snowden Mountain Railway, such that it appears in the first page of a Google search on the thing.  I suspect the views of that post equal all of the rest of mine put together!  It shows that some form of direct action can work and that my voicing my opinion and translating the disappointment my children felt may have avoided at least some others having the same experience. Adults can take these setbacks on the chin and muse and moan about the injustice to anyone who will listen, as indeed I have done, but for children this sort of event is more unfortunate and therefore from a parent’s point of view way more vexing.  In this day and age when getting children out of the house and off phones, computers and games consoles is increasingly more difficult it is essential to pick your activity carefully both within budget and something that will appeal sufficiently for them not to feel resentful for having been hauled out of their pits!  One of the most pleasing things is that the benefit to the Lake Railway has been as tangible and this is well deserved.  The experience we had on that did go a fair way to mitigating that on the SMR and I am grateful for it having done so because I imagine, I hope, what they are more likely to remember the SMR for is their father’s ire and indignation rather than their own memories of the mediocrity it all (thankfully they didn’t have to pay for it!).  The rest of the holiday was equally pleasurable with plenty to do in that part of the world and enough to occupy a few days in Llanberis at ground level alone.

Have I heard from the SMR at any stage since our trip, no. Has it damaged their finances much, I shouldn’t have thought a great deal. But it has a little bit and, however insignificant it may seem, the contempt they have shown to my family and others I know has bitten them in the arse, even if the equivalent of that of a mosquito.  There is such little recourse these days when larger organisations do customers an injustice that it is all the more important to speak out by whatever medium you have available, voices, however quiet can still lead to a conversation.  Review sites like Trip Advisor can have both a positive and a negative impact on places, this is not always a good thing as smaller places can be hit disproportionately hard by one bad review whilst the larger ones can absorb it into a morass of sycophancy.  Look no further at the SMR itself for an example of the latter.

At the time of writing the SMR’s Trip Advisor stats are:
  • Excellent – 486
  • Very good – 378
  • Average – 211
  • Poor – 109
  • Terrible – 118
Total reviews 1,302 – There is only 1 of the “terrible” reviews that the SMR have seen fit to respond to and it is one about the lack of the Welsh language being used, none of the things relating to either prices of the train or the parking are deemed fit for comment.  Conversely the “excellent” reviews are greeted with a great many sycophantic responses, I wonder if the original poster were paid to leave their comments!
I notice gladly that there has been no contradiction of my assertion of the Padarn Lake railway being a positive experience and this certainly speaks volumes.
Their Trip Advisor tally is:
  • Excellent – 133
  • Very good – 117
  • Average – 56
  • Poor – 13
  • Terrible – 9

Total reviews – 328.  Obviously this is far fewer than the SMR but the proportions make pretty stark reading, just under 7% of their reviews are at the worst end (Poor/Terrible). They have had 1 terrible in 2015 which was pretty much as a result of the SMR!  Other than that they not had a “terrible” since June 2013 and had responded to the last 2 they did receive.  Their Excellent/Very Good tally is over 75%.  The SMR’s record on the worst end is more than double the Lake railways’ at around 17% and at the Excellent/Very Good they manage only 66%.  So if you then add cost in to that you’ll get an idea of how it all stacks up.  And I haven’t even come to the car parking, a subject that many people leaving reviews seems to merit more anger than any event of the rest of the day!

I hope the people who have chosen to take the SMR have had a better time than we did, I bear those people no ill will and I hope as few children as possible have had a negative experience because at the end of the day my purpose was in the hope that this would be the case.  Likewise I’m sure many of the people working on the railway do care about their customers and are merely hampered, and perhaps equally frustrated by, the failings of the system at management level but I find it such a shame that the bean counters should have been allowed to rob the railway of its magic that I feel duty bound to ensure that my review remains out there alerting people.  One day a manager might come across the assorted negative feedback and think ‘this is wrong, I’m going to change it and make the railway great again’.  Yeah I won’t hold my breath either!

Song Of The Day ~ The Doobie Brothers – Long Train Runing

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Final Analysis

Whether love retreat or it advance
owes itself to random chance
would that I could your fears allay
but you’ll find it out yourself some day

naive belief and feckless hope
the brain’s internal gallows rope
as such pray that your neck it breaks
for strangulation longer takes

I ask myself would I again
risk all and end up with this pain
perhaps there’s things I may yet know
but my answer now’s resounding ‘no’

for what once teased a life inviting
from lover’s kiss and all requiting
yielded distance final ruling
exposed a lack of selfless schooling

where pictures, ornaments remember
of August, April and November
a blessed existence hope and pleasure
preserved like frames of gifted treasure

become like concrete under water
each memory a drowning slaughter
to comfort not but showing warning
of toil to come and ageless mourning

I fear each day’s infernal strife
to grieve the one to be my wife
a cause perhaps so self-obsessing
without an end or some redressing

highlighted all where I was failing
I did not heed my dearest’s ailing
assuming all would time becalm
and reunited none would harm

I wrongly left it all to chance
consequent alone shall dance
bookkeeper cannot count the cost
that signifies just what I lost

did I say ‘what’ that should be ‘whom’
for money seldom builds a tomb
though in this case its damage done
without it lost, with it won?

My life to come I’ll analyse
the time since I last saw those eyes
the years since I had felt her touch
will probably reveal as much

had I perhaps her better heeded
might have I constructed what she needed
would we have realised our happy ending
that joined together eternal spending?

as much as all I miss the pleasance
of her enriching, nurturing presence
the lack of love once filled me bursting
has left me parched and constant thirsting

no other cup that dryness sate
no pills can make the ache abate
no mask can face of sadness hide
too great the gnawing pain inside

Song Of The Day ~ Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

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Now is not the time for political polemic, tempting though it might have been to look at who has caused the crises across the world, in particular in Syria. It is a tragedy that it should have taken an image of a three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed up on the Turkish coast to shock the world into caring for the plight of the displaced, distressed and disenfranchised. People aware of the image do not even mention or perhaps know of the fact that he was washed up on the shore along with his five-year-old brother and his mother. Where was the same shock when 71 decomposing bodies were found in a truck near Nickelsdorf last month?

No, now must be the time for action, to look at what can be done to avert this catastrophe before it worsens resulting in a flood of drowned children on beaches around the Mediterranean and beyond. And yet here I sit on an island which is only populated at all because people crossed the sea to get here and what I see is ambivalence, distain and reasons being given as to why this is not our problem.

Today I was at the first “Refugees Welcome” demonstration in England, I am proud of my city for standing up to be counted, similar meetings, demonstrations and marches have already begun in Europe and tangible action has begun there whilst the British politicians prevaricate until they are shamed into action. David Cameron said Britain was full, he did so in front of an empty field. Whilst in Germany Chancellor Merkel has already pledged that Germany will take an unprecedented number of refugees and will taken Syrians from wherever they have entered the EU. I have seen videos of refugees being cheered and clapped on the streets of Germany, little children being given gifts and hugs and a general outpouring of warmth. I am proud of Germany where I once lived and experienced racism myself, yet now it takes the football fans of German clubs and the clubs themselves to show us the example. Bravo Bayern München Refugee Plans und Borussia Dortmund.

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…and Germany is not well-known for its financial profligacy!

Someone articulated the counter argument to the right-wing posturing which will inevitably pervade. It is not about whether we can afford this or that, it is about leadership, it is about saying what it happening is morally wrong and we must find a way to sort this out. When I think how much money we are paying the politicians it seems only fair that indeed they do now need to earn it. If we are saying we are full whilst we have empty houses, empty bedrooms, food being thrown in the bin, blankets in the attic etc. then what we are actually saying is we cannot be bothered or we do not care. If our goal is to find a way then we will not focus on the obstacles we will focus on the endgame and how best we get there, we will solve the problem because it must be solved and impediments will be overcome if there is the will to do it. These refugees are humans, they are fleeing death or a life quite unimaginable to us cosseted in our comfy beds with duck down pillows. These people would be grateful for tents in a park and a 5 year old tin can of baked beans to eat in comparison with their current lot. Are we so heartless as to think we cannot help? And if we do not look to find a way then we merely fuel the business of the people smugglers, already extorting the sort of money from refugees that would pay a months rent for a very comfortable flat in the West just to give passage to Budapest.

These people are not lazy, they are not looking for a free ride, you do not uproot your whole family and leave your home and your possessions behind save for what you can carry unless the circumstances are extreme. Many of us have come to other countries seeking a better life, we have been allowed to live and work, to get education and training. This has enabled us to build a comfortable life with food, entertainment, transport, property and the like, more than we need for basic survival. Yet here we have people for whom basic survival would be a step up the ladder and we can offer our hands.

If you are not touched and cut to the very core by the images you are seeing in the news I question whether you are truly human. Personally I find it hard not to be ashamed that people might even feel they would be abandoned to their fate by people who have so much more than they need. Then I see the fences and the border controls and I know I have every reason to be ashamed.

I heard a speaker say they had been in Calais last month and that they had spoken to refugees camped there who wanted to come to England. The speaker asked the refugees if they could talk to the British people what would they like to say. She said that the most common response was “Mercy.” I struggle to hold back the tears even now.

Song Of The Day ~ Fréro Delavega – Le Chant Des Sirènes