Les Voyages en Train

I like the idea of rail travel. In fact, I had considered booking a rail holiday from Chicago to Sacramento earlier this year. This being 2020, that didn’t happen. In fact, not very much of what I had planned actually took place this year. In fact, I ended up living in a country I had little desire to visit. But this is 2020 and one can’t change that.

I travelled by rail this summer. I travelled by rail a lot. Flights, while growing in frequency and reliability, are still sporadic and prone to cancellations. Carriers have taken full advantage of the chaos to continue offering flights only to cancel them at the last moment. The EU has relaxed regulations on the air industry in light of the chaos. This can mean only one thing: carriers hold onto money for as long as they possibly can before issuing refunds.

Continue reading “Les Voyages en Train”

Chaos and Chuckles

I hadn’t originally intended to fly to Germany, but it became necessary due to a family emergency. It was initially supposed to be for a few weeks, a month at most. Ultimately, it dragged on for over two months due to constant flight cancellations and the travel situation on the Continent. Usually, arranging for travel by train wouldn’t be difficult. But, as Germany. the Netherlands and France agreed to keep their borders closed until 15 June for all but essential travel, that was postponed until then. Continue reading “Chaos and Chuckles”

Vale, Dame Vera

Dame Vera Lynn passed away at a spry, youthful 103. She was one of the last members of a great generation, a generation that went through the Great Depression, the Second World War and the Cold War. She represented something increasingly rare in today’s vulgar world: class, decency, humility and grace. Even though she has not recorded new music for some time, her retirement was well-earned and she certainly accomplished more than enough in her lifetime, the fact that she remains so instantly recognisable, so well-loved, stands as a testament to her great talent and presence. She will be missed.

A bit overdue?

The process of decolonisation was complex and sometimes fraught. There were times when the best efforts at maintaining unity came apart — India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are good examples of this. At times, there was something that looked good on paper and would, had it worked out, have resulted in good results. The West Indian Federation is a classic example of this. (The Central American Republic is another, but that’s for another discussion) But sometimes, a situation was complex enough that it required an entirely different set of measures. Continue reading “A bit overdue?”

Life in a Time of Covid

I write this at a time that I should have been packing up for a flight to Denmark before continuing on to California. I’m clearly not. Rather, I’m sitting in suburban Trier listening to the sound of aeroplanes flying to and from Luxembourg. Passenger flights remain suspended, but cargo flights are still coming and going. Continue reading “Life in a Time of Covid”

Tranquebar

Tranquebar is a small town in India. More specifically, it’s a small town in Tamil Nadu. In and of itself it isn’t all that remarkable. There are a lot of towns in India, many smaller than Tranquebar, many more towns vastly larger. What makes Tranquebar interesting is that it was once a Danish trading outpost. Denmark had great ambitions, but little ability to really force their will on anyone. Denmark’s colonial holdings were, thus, modest. Denmark was among the first countries with overseas colonies to divest itself of them. It sold Tranquebar to the British East India Company in 1845. It sold the Danish West Indies to the United States in 1917 when they became the United States Virgin Islands. Continue reading “Tranquebar”

Holden on no more.

After August, Holden will exist no more. GM, true to form, accepted billions in dosh before turning tail and running. A number of Australians complained about that. They should not be surprised. After American taxpayers bailed them out, they simply moved production to China to boost their profits and cut costs — the long-struggling Michigan and Ohio economies be damned.

Naturally, various excuses were made. The most pitiful one was that Holden struggled due to the fragmentation of right-hand-drive vehicle markets. Sure, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are no more geographically remote from each other than, say, North America, continental Europe and Brazil. Another slightly pitiful excuse was that it was difficult to keep a brand going when it only exited in two markets — Australia and New Zealand. That point is fairer, but it ignores the basic premise that Holden had, for a long time, been a repackaged Opel/Vauxhall with some Australian features.

Whatever one thinks, it’s a blow. Holden was well and truly an Australian icon. With the years, there is less and less that makes countries, societies distinct, that makes a region feel like a region. Holden was Australian, it was a part of Australian life and society. Now, it’s the same Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Hyundai or Lexus you can find anywhere.

The Trouble with Celts

The Celts have, once again, managed to make the news. A few days ago Derek Mackay, formerly Wee Krankie’s right-hand man and an SNP cabinet member was forced out of the SNP and the cabinet after getting caught pesting a 16-year-old schoolboy. This is horrifying, but not entirely unexpected for the SNP. They have rather a history of dodgy members. A pity, really. Scotland is a beautiful country and I have a deep reserve of goodwill for many Scots.

Now, the Irish have managed to make headlines for their seeming embrace of Sinn Fein. Fine Gael and Fiona Fail, after generations of dominance, have been marginalised. Fiona Fail have never recovered from the damage they took as a consequence of Lesser Britain’s severe economic turmoil some 10-12 year ago. Fine Gael have done little to endear themselves to the Irish public. Sinn Fein, a vile mob of terrorists, have capitalised on the general uselessness of the traditional ruling parties. Whilst I personally have no interest either way in what happens in the southern 26 counties of the Lesser Britain, I do worry that this will have a spill-on effect in Ulster.