Visiting Wimbledon

Yesterday was quite an interesting day, if a bit of a long one. I had been thinking about trying to go to Wimbledon for a few days: the tennis championships are on TV, of course, and it’s an area of London I’d never visited before. The thing is, it seemed rather hard to get to: unlike when I want to go to Stratford or up to Wembley, there is no direct tube line, and the tube line which does serve the area, the District Line, isn’t very convenient as it would require changing at least twice. There was, however, another option: the tram.

I’d tried out the trams before about eight years ago, but that was just a short trial run and since then I had sort of left them alone. Even getting down to the track takes quite a long bus ride. Yesterday, however, was the sort of day which made me feel like exploring. At about noon, I trundled over to the Royal Standard, then caught the 54 to Elmer’s End. I knew it was going to be a long trip, but such excursions are good for thinking, and if I was back in time for dinner I’d be ok. There is something about long, quiet rides on public transport which make it easier for me to ponder all kinds of things.

The 54 isn’t a very fast bus, weaving it’s way through Lewisham and across south-east London. In what felt like about an hour, we reached Elmer’s End Interchange, a quiet little corner of the city. After finding my bearings, I got down to the tram station, and was soon aboard probably London’s least well known form of public transport. When you hear the word ‘tram’, you might think of somewhere like Blackpool, with it’s decades-old carriages trundling along the seafront. London’s trams, though, are modern, sleek vehicles: London’s tram system is essentially a tube line for the south of the city, built on the surface rather than having to dig more tunnels.

I must admit it was a lot of fun. As the tram wound it’s way across south London, I got to see so much more of the city, from bustling high streets to into people’s back gardens. The tube might be faster and more direct, but you don’t get very good views. It felt like a pleasant, Sunday afternoon tour of a part of the metropolis I’d never seen before. Every thirty seconds or so, we stopped briefly at a station, but between them it felt like we were whizzing across the city.

The only problem was I couldn’t see a map, so I had no way of knowing where we were or how much further we had to go. It came as something of a surprise, then, when the automatic voice on the tram announced that it had reached Wimbledon. I was there, and the real exploration could finally begin.

By then, of course, it was about half three or four in the afternoon, and I knew it wouldn’t be too long before I would need to start thinking about getting home. Leaving the station, I tried to get my bearings, looking for directions to the tennis club. It was obviously a well-to-do area, with high-end stores and gin bars lining the street. Turning the wrong way at first, I eventually found the way up quite a long hill and down a lane bustling with spectators and security people. It all looked very prestigious.

I reached the All England Tennis Club about three hours after leaving home. It had been a long journey, especially given that my only reason in going was to see if I could get there. Yet I had made it; and, having got there and having looked at all the posh looking people outside the club, it was time to start my journey back.

Fortunately I realised there was a special bus from the club back to Wimbledon station, and from there it was just a case of getting the tram and bus home. Strangely, the journey back felt quicker than the journey there, but then I knew where I was going and wasn’t so concerned. I must say, though, that I really like London’s trams: they are sleek, modern and accessible; faster and less dependent on traffic than busses, but without the obvious costs of building a new tube line (or risking disturbing any balrogs). Yesterday afternoon I began to wonder whether the tram system could ever be extended, perhaps up to Woolwich to connect with the Elisabeth Line. Yet that is an entry and exploration for another day.

Tax The Churches

This probably refers to the state of affairs in America, but I’m sure it applies here too. Churches are essentially giant organisations for social control and exploitations. They pressure people into donating, and grow obscenely wealthy because they don’t have to pay tax. Well, it’s time they made a real contribution to society.

 The Next Generation/First Contact (Metal Cover)

Time for a bit of Friday evening music. I was just restoring a few links to my old blog entries, and came across this bit of awesomeness. It’s an electric guitar/rock/metal rendition of the Star Trek TNG theme mixed with the theme from First Contact, but trust me, whether you’re a Trekkie or not, it’ll get your head banging.

June Bond Update

The next addition to the Bond franchise is at least two years away, according to this Guardian article. Following Daniel Craig’s departure, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson are apparently now working on a complete reset of the series, although, apart from a vague reference to some kind of TV series, there isn’t much detail yet about what that might entail. To be honest that isn’t that surprising: as I touched upon here a couple of months ago, the mark Craig made on Bond was so profound that the only way he can possibly followed is to start from scratch. I mean, not to belittle any of his predecessors, but Craig took 007 to another level: for over fifteen years, Craig gave us a gritty, realistic Bond who it was a thrill to watch. Craig really cemented Bond’s position within our culture, breathing new life into the franchise. I can’t see how any actor could follow that: the weight of expectation will be almost suffocating. The producers are thus right to wait a while to let the cultural dust settle. According to the article, they have no script yet, nor have they made any choices about what direction to take the franchise.

Yet at least one thing is certain: James Bond will return.

A Nice, Easy Haircut

I sometimes have difficulty communicating with people who don’t know me. If people are not used to the way I speak or communication aid users in general, it can take a bit of time to realise that what I’m typing into my Ipad is what I’m trying to tell them. Today, though, I needed a haircut. I hate haircuts, and had been putting it off for quite a while. Yet it had grown so long that this morning I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get it cut. Luckily there is a decent-looking barbers just down the road from me, so this afternoon I set off there.

I’d never met the guys in there before, let alone spoken to them, so I was feeling a bit apprehensive. When I reached the shop, I stopped my powerchair outside as there was a small lip in the doorway. I then waved to the two men in there to get their attention. Fortunately they weren’t busy, and soon came over. Before I turned my Ipad on to tell them what I needed, I pointed to my messy, overgrown hair, hoping that they would see the problem. And what d’ya know? They cottoned on almost immediately, helping me out of my chair, into the shop and into one of their barbershop chairs. I didn’t have to say – or type – a word. Pretty soon my hair was cut, no longer in my eyes or blocking my ears, and I was on my way again. The ability to communicate is a fine, fine thing, but some things are so obvious that sometimes you don’t need it.

Sturgeon is No Better than Farage

I really, really don’t like Nicola Sturgeon. I think that, for all her left wing pretences, she is just a power-hungry bitch no better than Farage. I have written on here before about how much I oppose the prospect of Scottish independence, and why: I don’t want to repeat myself too much today, but I passionately believe humanity should be coming together, not re-establishing ancient borders and dividing itself into smaller and smaller groups. Thus I oppose Scottish nationalism for exactly the same reason that I oppose Brexit; and I do so with equal vigour. Both boil down to the same simplistic, arrogant, tribalist mentality.

Sturgeon argues that Scotland voted to remain in the EU Referendum, and is therefore being taken out of the European Union against it’s will. Yet you can argue precisely the same about London: London also voted Remain, by an even bigger margin than Scotland and even has a bigger population. Should the metropolis declare independence from the rest of the UK?

Of course not. Even if we had that option, the only way through catastrophes like Brexit is to remain united. For one small group to break itself off from a larger whole in order to save their own skin, while abandoning the rest of the group to a fate which they too would like to escape but don’t have the option, is nothing but an act of betrayal. I therefore see nothing but treachery and vindictiveness in what Sturgeon wants Scotland to do: it’s as if, having failed to have been granted the power she clearly craves the first time, she now intends to ask for it again, and will obviously do so until she gets what she wants, wannabe despot that she is. In her we can see the same self-importance, the same vainglorious desire for power and authority, that we find in Farage, Trump and Johnson.

If that’s the case, two can play such games. I personally think that, if Scotland declares independence, all NHS infrastructure should automatically be moved out of Scotland south, back into the remaining parts of the UK. After all, the NHS is an institution of the United Kingdom, payed for by UK taxpayers. It should not be usurped or stolen by other, separate nations. Thus, if it is stupid enough to do so, as soon as Scotland divides itself from the rest of the UK, all NHS infrastructure, from ambulances to equipment to hospital beds, should be returned to the UK. And I don’t care how childish or petty that may sound: nationalism is nationalism, and aught to be outgrown. The Scots need us just as we need them, so re-erecting ancient borders in order to claim a right which they would deny the rest of us, is nothing but folly.

Lanes Indeed

Coming home from Greenwich on the bus today, having had to cut my trundle short due to a torrential downpour, I was struck by quite an interesting question.Back in Cheshire, I used to drive my powerchair down old, winding lanes heading off into the countryside. The one I remember best was called Giantswood Lane, which ran from Congleton to Swettenham. It was a quiet, pleasant road: the kind of road which comes to mind when you hear the word lane.

The odd thing is, these days I come across roads called lanes all the time; Greenwich seems especially fond of them: roads with names like Anchor And Hope Lane, Charlton Lane or Old Post Office Lane. None of them, though, is what I would call a lane. They are not very long and do not really meander. Yet I can’t help wondering if they once did. Did these so-called lanes now running between houses, shops and factories, once run between fields? And if any of them did, what might they once have looked like? What was this area like before it became a metropolis? I get the impression that the vast, urban landscape around me wasn’t so different to the landscape I knew as a child, not that long ago; and that you can perhaps glimpse that past like a palimpsest in the layout of the roads and the names of places. It’s as if, below this vast, sprawling, hectic maelstrom lies a quieter, more peaceful past which can still, just about, be glimpsed if you look hard enough.

Man Vs. Bee – Just Don’t Bother

I just watched the first episode of Man Vs. Bee on Netflix. I’d heard a bit about it recently, and thought I’d give it a go. I like Rowan Atkinson from his Blackadder days, and the notion of one long film-length narrative divided into ten minute segments sounded interesting. However, having just watched the first such segment, I only have one thing to say: No. Just No.

It astonishes me to contemplate why anything like Man Vs. Bee was ever made, let alone why anyone would want to watch it. It is utterly stupid. A man, played by Atkinson, is hired to housesit for a wealthy couple while they go on holiday. What follows is a series of totally cringeworthy yet completely predictable set of ‘accidents’ which we are meant to find funny but which see the house wrecked. There is no plot or character development, just awful accident after awful accident. I gave up after the first episode, but I could see it just becoming more and more contrived and inane as it went on. There is nothing funny about watching a man get himself into more and more trouble, and becoming more and more desperate. Frankly, I have better things to do with my time than watch such shyte.