Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

July 2006


General and PhotographyThursday, July 20th, 2006, (1:46 pm)

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far and while some Brits are whining about the weather I have to just have to say I’m lovin’ life! Temperatures continue to climb into the 90’s across most of the country today (that the 30’s in centigrade), topping the previous July temperature records set in 1911. Weather forecasters are predicting more of the same as the country is gripped by a heat-wave.

The area I live has been dubbed the ‘Golf Coast’ this week as the Golf Open Championship tees off today at Hoylake. Indeed the golfers and celebrities who are in town for that could be forgiven for thinking they were somewhere far more exotic. I haven’t yet seen anyone famous, but everywhere is awash with very expensive Italian sports cars clogging up our little roads around the Royal Liverpool Golf Course.

I often say how much I love my life and I think it’s a statement that’s worth repeating again and again as I enjoy days like the ones I’ve been having. My job and circumstances afford me a great deal of freedom of which I think it would be almost impossible to put a figure on. I might not earn the megabucks but what is the use of having all that money when you never have the time to enjoy it.

Take yesterday for example. I’d stayed out for the night and woke up at a leisurely time of around 10am (pretty much the time I wake most days). I decided on my way home to stop and pick up a sandwich in Birkenhead for breakfast and take it to the riverside by the Mersey Ferry terminal. In parking my car near the sandwich shop I found a building with a painted shop front on it. For a moment I thought it was real such was the attention to detail.

I took my time eating the egg, mushroom, sausage and bacon sandwich (yes I know, it wasn’t the healthiest thing in the world). Then I just sat there looking out across the river at the buildings that adorn the Liverpool waterfront skyline that is so steeped in history and tales to be told.

By now it was just after 11:30. I was about to go back to my car when I noticed the ferry coming along the river about to stop at the Birkenhead terminal. At this time of day the ferry takes passengers on a leisure cruise up the River Mersey while a recorded commentary tells tourists some of the histories and stories of the sites that can be seen from the river. It’s a most enjoyable experience on a hot sunny day, and one I don’t get to take advantage of that often.

As the ferry slowly moored I made a snap decision that today was a perfect day for a ride on the ferry. The whole ‘cruise’ takes an hour and makes two stops, one at Liverpool’s pier head, and one at Seacombe ferry terminal just down from Birkenhead toward the mouth of the River. I strolled to the ticket office purchased a ticket then made my way down the ramp and onto the ferry. I snapped a few pictures and shot a little video footage (see the movie below), but mainly I just stood on the ferry letting the fresh air cool my face in the hot midday sun.

The Mersey Ferry claims to be the world oldest ferry service, and dates back to the 1150’s though these days it plays more of a tourist attraction role since the construction of a railways tunnel and two road tunnels under the river. I had hoped to see dolphins or porpoises in the wake of the ferry. My friend Joelle reported seeing them on a few of her many ferry journeys across the Mersey, however this time I was not so lucky, the only thing in the wake of the ferry on this trip were lots of squawking seagulls looking for food.

After my impromptu trip along the river I headed home for a drink under the parasol of my new patio furniture. A grapefruit juice filled with ice hit the spot. Before heading inside to check my emails I decided to sit there and slowly drink my drink while soaking up the sun.

The afternoon flew by, sunny days never seem to drag their feet in England. Pretty soon it was time for dinner, and these are salad days for sure. Chicken salad with cherry tomatoes and feta cheese with a rich honey and mustard dressing. Yum!

The best thing about an English summer day is that the sun shines well into the evening. Right now the sun sets at around 9:30pm so at around 8ish I jumped in my car, put the roof down and headed to meet up with a friend for a walk on the beach. I have my favorite beaches, of course. The stretches between Thurstaston, Caldy and West Kirby are where you’ll most commonly find me because those beaches are often very quiet, even on warm summer evenings.

On a near cloudless day like today you can watch the sun seemingly dip into the Irish Sea, slowly disappearing into the waves and transforming distant ships into dark silhouettes. I never tire of that sight, I can’t imagine I ever would.

I love my life.

The Golf Open Championship
Mersey Ferries

GeneralMonday, July 17th, 2006, (4:43 pm)

A friend was up here from london the other day. We had a meeting in Liverpool which I needed him to attend. I ended early so we drove the scenic way back to my flat (that means my apartment for all you Americans). Along the way we drove past this massive plant growing in someone’s garden. The thing was so big that we stopped the car to look at it.

Neither of us are garden experts but we concluded it had to be something tropical as we hadn’t seen anything quite like this before in the UK. It had huge spiky leaves and stems and was growing very close to a ditch which was damp.

The question is what on earth is this great big plant? My Dad might know so I’ll email Mom some pictures (my Dad is a technodunce). But in the meantime I thought maybe some of you might know what this plant was.

To get a true idea of the dimensions of the plant check out the video below.

EnvironmentSaturday, July 15th, 2006, (9:10 pm)

We’ve been enjoying some great weather in the UK over the last few weeks. Long hot sunny days with hardly any rain, great for all those who love the summer like myself, but not so good for the water companies that are having to deal with the fact that there is a rising demand for water being made on a slowly declining supply here in the UK.

It took going to India for me to truly appreciate the luxury we take for granted with clean water on tap. An estimated 1.1 billion people in the world don’t have access to clean drinking water putting them at grave risk from diseases like cholera, typhoid, shigella, polio, meningitis, and hepatitis A and E. Every year 1.6 million people die from drinking contaminated water, and 90% of them are children under five.

According to the World Health Organization in 20 years 48 countries will face water shortages affecting up to 2.8 billion people. Furthermore, the United National Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) predicts that by 2025 the global demand for clean water will increase 20% for agriculture, 50% for industry and a staggering 80% for domestic consumption.

With that in mind I’ve made an effort to become more aware of the amount of water I use, not because it will save anyone in a developing country, but because I can no longer, in good conscience, be wasteful of this simple yet essential resource. Environmental factors have also played a major role in making me consider just how I use water and how I might be more responsible in that use.

As a part of this last week I installed a water butt on one of the down-pipes from the guttering on my roof. It wasn’t an expensive thing to install. All in all the whole set up came to around £30. The water from the 155 litre tank will now be used to water my many house plants as well as the trees and stuff that I’m growing in the garden too.

I’ve long thought that a water butt would be a good idea because the rain water must surely be better for the house plants than tap water. I’m not on a water meter here, but if I was I think that there would possibly be a cost benefit involved too.

With all the concerns over environmental issues and water shortages, I’m surprised new homes don’t come pre-built with water saving devices that could be used to supply the home with non-drinking water. I suppose it comes down to a cost issue. Companies that are building homes want to maximize their profits as much as possible so while the idea of rainwater harvesting might be a good one, an underwater storage tank is not as visible a selling point as say a hot tub or big whirlpool bath.

According to the UK Environment Agency we each use somewhere in the region of around 150 litres of water every single day (that’s nearly 40 gallons!). Imagine how different our lives would be if we had to walk to a well to collect that amount of water. The women I met in Tamil Nadu made two or three journeys a day to a well that was 6 miles away. Watching them carrying giant containers of water on their heads and across their shoulders while often walking barefoot gave me a new appreciation of water and the luxury we enjoy with this essential resources being readily available on tap.

No butts
Water saving tips
Stop throwing money down the drain
Rainwater harvesting
Water Situation for England and Wales
World Health Organization
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Water war between Canada and the United States possible
Striking peace on troubled Waters – conflicts over water supply
Water Aid – A charity bringing water to the world

GeneralFriday, July 14th, 2006, (2:26 am)

I’m just putting the final details together of my next tour of America. I’m calling it a tour rather than a trip because, as usual, the summer trip involves a quite intense travel schedule. But I thought I would let all of you know just in case any of you would like to meet up along the way.

The tour will span the entire month of September starting in Portland, Oregon, where I will be for a week. I’ll then be swinging through central valley California before heading for Durango, Colorado, where I’ll be for 4 days. I’ll then be heading to Denver and Bolder for a few days before flying out to Houston, Texas, for the final part of the trip in the last week of the month.

Last year we had a little Xanga get together which was awesome, I’d certainly be up for that again if anyone else was?

Although the trip seems like a long one, it will fly by as my itinerary is sure to be quite busy especially on the west coast. I’d love to stop in Chicago as I have to fly though there twice, but I can’t justify making the tour any longer than it currently is. Heck if I could I’d add a stop in New Orleans, Waveland, New York and Boston too.

This trip might be the last one of it’s kind for a while. I’d like to start heading off to Australia and New Zealand soon. I have a couple of friends in New Zealand who have said I should visit, and I think it’s about time I took them up on that offer. I’ve never been to that part of the world and I desperately want to see it.

GeneralWednesday, July 12th, 2006, (2:50 am)

My next door neighbor isn’t much of a gardener. His garden is now so overgrown that the two greenhouses and one car that were once visible are now completely covered in greenery as nature has taken back the land.

My back garden is not the biggest garden by any stretch of the imagination. In fact one has to stretch ones imagination to even call the two grassy areas separated by a short path a garden in the first place. But it’s a nice little south east facing sun trap which I often sit out while I have breakfast or a cup of tea on a warm day. Heck we’ve even had barBQ’s and firework displays in this little garden!

At my back gate looking toward my humble abode the short little path feeds you directly to my back door. My neighbors garden on the right in the picture above has been growing out of control since the day I moved in. When I first moved here in 1999 the garden was untidy due to the recent death of my neighbors father. Apparently before his death the garden was well kept with flower-beds, a small lawn, and two greenhouses. full of all kinds of potted plants.

In 2003, one afternoon I decided to create a web page showing how nature had “reclaimed it’s territory.” Today as I sat outside having a bite to eat I marveled as to how this once pretty little English garden had reverted to an uncontrolled wild kingdom that would present a daunting task to even the bravest gardner.

I’m not really bothered at all by the wilderness next door. I’m quite sure that nature is having a ball under the thick green blanket of leaves and thorns. The only problem presenting itself now is that the bush that separates chaos from order is now dying away. I would imagine perhaps the reason for this is because there isn’t enough ground water for the bush, or maybe the roots of the thorn bushes, weeds, and everything else that is out of control, have strangled those of the dividing bush.

I’m not sure how much longer I’ll live here, but I thought I would take a few more pictures to document natures progress. Since the first time I photographed the garden there have been two attempts made to bring it under control. One was by my landlady’s grandfather, and the other was made my an anonymous man. Both attempts failed.

Looking at the garden really makes me wonder how quickly nature would just retake control if we were all gone tomorrow.

The same garden three years ago

General and PoliticalSunday, July 9th, 2006, (3:05 pm)

This morning as I had breakfast I watched the news on TV. Every day there are stories about Iraq and how the situation there seems to be going from bad to worse. President Bush and Tony Blair occasionally tell us that great work is being done out there and that the people of Iraq are doing better now despite what it looks like. But as gunmen in the Iraqi capital Baghdad today killed at least 40 people at a fake checkpoint, in an apparent sectarian attack against Sunni Muslims, how can anyone feel this is a country in a better state than before?

It’s been three and a half years since President Bush, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, proudly declared in front of gathered troops that the war in Iraq was over and that the United States, along with allies, had been victorious. “We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We’re bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We’re pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime who will be held to account for their crimes. We’ve begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated.” said the President.

“With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians.” He said, and while that may indeed be true from an American perspective the civilian body from this war currently stands at around 43,000.

I, do of course, understand that allied forces haven’t been directly involved with killing all of those people. Many of the innocent people who have been killed will have died as a result of attacks aimed at American forces in the region. But as I watch this latest news today I am forced to wonder where this will end and what good will come of any of this in the long term.

The initial reason for the invasion was to find weapons of mass destruction. As we know these were never found. A quick re-branding of the war told us that the real reason for the invasion was to bring freedom to Iraq, but what kind of freedom do the people have now? Today’s news of Muslims killing Muslims seems to me to be evidence that the situation in Iraq is not at all good and that civil war might be a very real possibility. If that happens then what good will come of that? Will America and its allies be able to stand up proudly and claim a victory then? What happened to the promises made by President Bush to rebuild Iraq. Where are the new schools, roads and medical clinics?

The other night I watched a Channel 4 documentary called “Iraq’s Missing Billions” (preview below). People like Reece would, of course, dismiss the documentary as propaganda, and while I am willing to accept that facts can be manipulated, I would suggest that if this documentary were even 10% true that would still be something we should be very concerned about.

I’m not trying to be political. I just feel that this whole tactic of invading the Middle East has exploded in the face of the men behind it. I’m struggling to see what good has been bought to the region, and what the long term goal actually is.

For now all I can do when I see the news of daily violence is think to myself, what have we done, dear God what have we done?

See the full documantary : Iraq’s Missing Billions

Dozens killed in Baghdad attack
Iraq Body Count
Iraq body count regional figures
Iraq war timeline
President Bush’s 2003 victory speech
Victory speech gets mixed reaction

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