Monday, 28 October 2013

Patron Saint of the Impossible

Today is my 527th blog. I'm not sure why I mention it to be honest - it's an odd number (literally).

However, most importantly, severe European windstorm 'Jude' has come and gone through East Yorkshire with a bit of a whimper, dropping a lot of water but little if any wind at all. However, in the south of the UK tonight, a quarter of a million homes are without electricity and lives have been lost and my thoughts are with those deceased and their families and all those that have suffered and continue to suffer.

St Jude the Apostle by Anthonis Van Dyke, painted c1619/1621

Although no-one knows quite who named the storm, they don't normally have names here, St Jude's feast day is today, 28th October in the West, on the day the storm was predicted to land. Jude, not to be confused with Judas, alleged betrayer of Jesus was one of the 12 disciples. He is the patron saint of lost causes,  desperate situations and hospitals. Some say he might be the same Jude the brother of Jesus, but I wouldn't know not being a scholar of the Bible nor knowing much about it. How very apt that the storm be named after him.

According to Wikipedia, St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Bernard (not the dog) had visions from God asking each to accept St. Jude as 'The Patron Saint of the Impossible'. He is venerated across a number of different religions.

The year 527 was 527 in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars, the letter of which we still follow today for our western dating system. Apparently the Germanic tribes called the Saxons invaded a bit of the southern half of the UK just north of the River Thames and they founded the Kingdom of Essex, now just a county of Essex, under King Aescwine. Along with the Angles, other German peoples who occupied parts of England after the Romans lost power they and the Saxons were eventually to create Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms leading the the name 'England.'

So, quite an important year in the history of the UK although sadly virtually nothing is known about Aescwine, the guy at the top.

Another use of 527 (apart from being the result of 17 x 31) comes from the United States. A 527 group is created primarily to influence the selection, nomination, election, appointment or defeat of candidates to federal, state or local public office. All sounds a bit conspiratorial to me.

Interestingly 527 belongs as a trademark to Levi's Jeans and in the words of their marketing gurus: The perfect everyday boot cut, this jean sits low on the waist and runs straight through the leg.

I've never looked good in jeans!

Finally, United Airlines flight 527 from Hollywood International, California landed a short time ago at the time of writing at Newark Liberty International Airport (the countries oldest airport), which took the twin-jet A320 Airbus just 2 hours 22 minutes for an average fare of just $174.02 (£179.89 or €126.24). 

A United A320 Airbus. Courtesy of
This is a distance of 2,786 miles which would take you 40 hours to drive at state speed limits at a cost to an average sized car in fuel around $286 worked out at a fuel efficiency of 35.5 miles to a US gallon and costing just $3.65 per gallon on the West Coast. Therefore it's cheaper by plane by over £100 dollars and no overnight stop to pay for.

By the way - US petrol cost an equivalent of 50 pence a litre today, compared with today's UK cost of an average of £1.30 a litre around where I live.

Hey - for someone who is poor at maths, that's not bad but please don't check it - it's probably wrong although the research was fun.

Chat soon


Sunday, 27 October 2013

Day in the Museums

High Street, Hull in autumnal sunshine
The City of Kingston upon Hull (to use its Sunday name) has much in the way of history with activity going back for certain to the thirteenth century. Its connection with the sea through its exports and imports of salt, wine, wool, whaling and fishing amongst many other commodities make this a rich place for history to shine through with those influences into the modern city it is today.

I took advantage of a day off and took a friend Linda to just two of the many museums and exhibits in Hull - The Wilberforce Museum and the Street Life Museum, both on the historic High Street in Hull, one of the oldest and once the busiest part of the town. Sadly no longer does it have the kudos it once had when it had busy wharves, shipping and trading offices, homes of the wealthy and bustling inns and hostelries.

The entrance to Wilberforce House Museum, William's head can be seen poking over the wall to the right
The cobbled street remains and upon it is the Wilberforce Museum. This is the original birth place and home of William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833), to whom the world can be rightly proud to one of the movers of the abolition of slavery, although if you visit the museum in Liverpool Albert Dock, he hardly gets a mention.  

The grand staircase with beautiful mouldings
The house is in a good state of repair having been built in the 1600s and despite bomb damage during the war, the house retains much of the original features and includes a garden backing onto the River Hull in which the visitor can relax. The entry is free as with all the Hull museums but the visit was tinged with slight disappointment. If you are a first time visitor, the new style museum masks the house with dozens and dozens of information boards and precious few exhibits. You may like that and indeed it is very interesting and informative.
A beautifully restored fireplace with a placard in front of the focal point - the equipment used to hold the cooking pots! GET RID OF THE PLACARD Mr or Mrs Curator.
However as a child, I visited the museum and the artifacts of slavery, Wilberforce's office and bedroom were fully furnished and kitted out - all that has long gone and with it the atmosphere of what was once a family home. That's a real shame. Is it worth a visit? It certainly is, but get your reading glasses out and be careful not to miss many of the original features of the house, almost all overshadowed by the plethora of written information.

A street scene taken from the level crossing
Next door is the more modern Street Life Museum and this, ladies and gentlemen, is a gem. You don't have to come from Hull or the environs to appreciate this feast of old vehicles of every sort, trams, buses, cars, a bicycle workshop, mock ups of real life size shops that actually existed, a refurbished signal box from my home village of Cottingham, a railway crossing to name but a just few  of the exhibits, a lot of which you can get on and experience.
The old signal box from my home village of Cottingham.
This is a must see and again it is free entry with very helpful guides and members of staff. This isn't a squeaky clean - don't make a noise type of place - its fun and informative and its hands on.
A Corporation bus
So if you have a few hours to spare one wintry day now the nights are drawing in - go pay a visit and if you go by car, park in a multi-storey near by (on street parking is only two hours) and walk to the museums in just five minutes. There are plenty of cafes in the old town just a couple of hundred yards away.

Chat soon


Sunday, 13 October 2013

Change Available Here

The weather here in East Yorkshire has certainly turned autumnal these past couple of weeks and in the last few days, high winds from the north and east and quite a bit of rain has turned the days unpleasant to be out in. Even yesterday at 10.30 am, the street light was on it was that dull. It's hard to come to terms with after such a pleasant summer. 

Will the real me step forward?
But as the autumn comes, things change and it's not only the weather and nature that changes but the cycle of life in general provides changes for us all, some good, some not so good.

I have been looking back at some Facebook postings that someone puts on my timeline of products from the 1980s that you may have used and some of them have been toys that my kids certainly had. It's quite nostalgic. In general, I love nostalgia, looking back at pleasant events, things, some places and people for example. Memories are by the most part okay but there are some things I'd rather not remember - often because they are embarrassing, or not too pleasant or not very positive as a whole. 

One of my mantras is that you can't look back to the past with regrets because you can't change anything that happened back then. You can manipulate memories if you can get away with it,  but the past is a series of electrical impulses in your mind recorded for posterity or placed there for, as we sometimes think, the sole purpose of making you shiver and cringe. You can't change it and it forms the basis of who you are today. The collective experiences, physical, mental and spiritual is you. Your attitude today is coloured by it, your actions now are often determined by it and that may be good in a protectionist sort of way if you want to avoid falling into the same trap as an unpleasant past event. By the same token, you may have already learned from the lesson and you use the past to move you forward at a pace. 

I fully accept that experiences from the past can be debilitating in many, many ways.  

But you can't change the past. You can do something about not letting the past hurt you, affect you or colour your future. I admire, applaud and support those that want to understand the past, understand why it is hurting them or affecting them now in a negative way and give themselves tools for making the future whole and more comfortable personally. Good on you - go for it.

Have I looked to my past and tried to understand how it makes me the person I am today? Certainly because I wanted to understand why I am like I am and this helps to change things about who I am today and hopefully in the future. I also accept I could do more in this area of my life.

I have written on here in the past about the fact that we have supposedly free will and I think that is largely true within the constraints of the law of the land and it's also governed by your physical and mental abilities and your conscience. There is tonnes of philosophical writing on free will, lots of theories, scientific and personal and what it's based on, some of it I don't understand.

What I do understand is that you have the free will to change a lot of things - personal issues particularly but looking to the future, what changes can you make and agree in your own mind that it is okay to change? Looking after the 'me' factor is neither selfish nor is it unacceptable in the priorities of life. Do your children and family come first? Do you risk your life to save a drowning man despite your responsibilities? We would all like to say 'yes' to the first and the second question comes with qualifications for some of us - can you swim; is it highly dangerous; is there back up available to help you if you get into trouble; are you fit enough; do I care? I guess some people don't think twice about a rescue, their nature is one of love for a fellow suffering man - 'others come first'; others would consider their options first - they are not selfish, they are simply logical, pragmatic and realist. Neither option or attitude is right or wrong by the way, only you can judge when you are placed in that situation. It's too easy to judge others.

But you have the choice. The free will to decide and mainly at your own pace too.  

So what is it you want to change? I want to change a whole host of things - some are conditioned things, some are cultural things, some are beliefs, both personal and professional, some physical, some emotional.

I have decided to change something that doesn't exist: the future expected path of my life, which  is determined by a whole host of things: traditional family expectations for older life, again - culture, probable physical health, financial circumstances, mental health, happiness, destiny and the list goes on.

Why would I want to change what might be? That's a matter for me to know right now, it will become clear in time, but my past will not affect the future if I can help it. Why, just because certain things have happened in the past will it affect my future? I have likened this change to my expected path to having a clean piece of paper before me.
The question I have only recently asked myself (recent = past two or three years) is, do I want to be a different 'me' in the future from the 'me' of the past? 

I am fed up with having my present and probably my future coloured and adjusted by my past. My plans for the future are fairly clear in my head for some parts of it and less clear for others. Do I use my experience of the past to make judgements? 'Yes' but only because my past is who I am today, but I don't normally go back if I can help it to the past to justify it using specific examples of why I will or I won't do this or that.

Is change easy? No, it is one of the most unsettling thing for a human being, to be drawn outside of a comfort zone. In other words, the unknown, which is what the future is. There is absolutely no certainty in the future and as the old saying goes (attr. to Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke the elder): 'the plan of action never survives first contact with the enemy.' So, this indicates that nothing ever goes smoothly, even though you can put down the best of plans - expect the unexpected. The other certainties about the future are the tax man and death, a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin. I'm not sure about those either to be honest (but that's a different debate).

I think we should all use our free will to change what we don't like about ourselves and other things around us if that's possible, to protect as best we can our uncertain future. Don't sit back and accept what isn't acceptable any more. Small steps perhaps, an objective a day or a week. 

I feel less inclined to be one of the flock of society's sheep any more. I want to be a different 'me'. When the time comes to make a decision or decisions, I will be a different person, already changed by my evolving thought patterns and attitudes, ready to be who I really am.    

Do what I've done - get a friend (in my case), or friends who you can trust to help you in your quest for change and self understanding and perhaps most important of all - self belief.

These are just personal thoughts, nothing academic and I guess that they can be easily criticised, but it's a point of view. What's yours?

Chat soon