THE VILLAGE SOAPBOX
Ron re-visits a few old favourites icluding global warming, speeding and patriotism
Personally I prefer to be regarded as British first and foremost and English second. I like to think of the United Kingdom as just that, a united entity. I am happy to acknowledge that I am English and be proud, I like the Scots and the Welsh to be proud of their heritage. I think friendly rivalry between England, Scotland, Wales and Ulster is great, just as I like to see friendly rivalry between Yorkshire and Lancashire, for example. When it comes to the rest of the world, however, I would like to see us put on a more united face, I was happy to see 'Team GB' at the Olympics and I would like to see a GB football team. I am disappointed, therefore to see the nationalism displayed by the Scots and Welsh and the desire by some Scots for independence.
I don't think there is a strong desire for independence in Wales but there is a ferocious nationalism in some quarters. A Welshman on TV recently expressed his disappointment that overseas visitors rarely state an intention to visit Wales, they express a desire to see London, Stratford, Scotland, Lake District, maybe the west country or Yorkshire but rarely Wales.
We have had a number of holidays in Wales over the years, although not recently, and I can confirm that there is some beautiful country in Wales and some glorious beaches. I have to say, however, that I have never felt really welcome. The attitude of the Welsh people has varied from polite tolerance to downright hostility. At the root of the problem to my mind is their determination to hang on to a language that nobody else speaks or wants to speak. Why do they do that? Why do they force school children to learn this language? With all the pressures that there are on school syllabuses why waste so much time and study effort? I suspect the majority of Welsh people can't speak the language and don't want to. On occasions I have seen road signs with words in English and Welsh with the English words painted over. Very irritating and very unwelcoming. Readers may have seen an item on the national news about a sign that had recently been installed with instructions in both languages. The sign was giving instructions in relation to parking or something similar. It transpired that the translation of the words in Welsh were along the lines of "I am sorry, I am out at lunch at the moment......." Such an occurrence clearly demonstrates the lack of understanding of the language in Wales. Those that made the sign and those that installed it did not know and were not told of the mistake until after the sign had been installed.
Despite the strong movement for independence in Scotland we have always felt very welcome when holidaying in Scotland. If the lack of welcome in Wales is well known I am not surprised that people do not put it high on the list of places that they would like to visit.
I understand the desire of some English people to see an English parliament similar to the Scottish parliament but, since England has 85% of the UK population, I fear that an English parliament would so undermine the Union that it would destroy the Union as we have known it for three hundred years. A compromise whereby only English MPs were permitted to vote on matters exclusively related to England might satisfy the critics. Personally I am happy for things to remain as they are, I certainly do not wish to see another layer of politicians. Surely with parish councils, Borough Councils, County Councils, Parliament, the European Parliament and European Commissioners we have enough. The Scots, the Welsh and the Ulstermen are welcome to theirs.
An interesting development was reported recently whereby a device fitted to a car could limit the speed of the car to the speed limit that applies on the road being travelled. The proposal was that there would be an override switch to enable the driver to exceed the speed limit should traffic conditions require it. I thought that it was an interesting device that could possibly help to save lives if widely applied and deserved further development and investigation. Needless to say those who believe it is their right to drive at a speed of their choosing and oppose any attempt to enforce speed limits were quick to voice their opposition. These people try to justify their selfish position by arguing that speed is rarely the cause of accidents and support their claim by quoting published statistics that only 7% of accidents are attributed to excessive speed. When faced with the consequences of an accident the police investigators have to try and identify a cause. There are a whole variety of causes: it may be that a vehicle emerged from a side road, a child ran across the road, a dog ran across, the driver was dazzled by the sun or oncoming headlights, there was debris on the carriageway etc etc. In all these examples these would have been the causes listed but, in almost every case the consequences would have been less severe or the accident might not have occurred at all if the vehicle (or vehicles) involved had not been travelling so fast. Researchers claim that if all cars obeyed the speed limit there would be a 37% reduction in road traffic injuries.
As predicted in the December issue, the global temperature for 2008 was in fact lower than that for 2007. 1998 remains the warmest year on record. 2008 was 0.2C below the 1998 figure and 0.2C above the value for 1944. The temperature for 2008 was lower than that for 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 1998 and 1997. It is a little strange that in ten years, whilst we have been warned repeatedly about global warming there has been no evidence of rising global temperatures despite increasing CO2 levels. Nevertheless the temperature for 2008 was 0.3C above the long term average, although it should be remembered that the confidence with which these global temperatures are measured is no better than plus or minus 0.1C
THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
"Sell a man fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man how to fish, you ruin a wonderful business opportunity."
Karl Marx (1818 - 1883)