Eagle and Tun

What Price For Progress

If we want new, Old has to give way – What price for progress?

Much has been said about the new rail line, HS2. It is a controversial project with many people in support and many against. So I ask – What price for progress?

For me, I don’t think it is needed. A new station will eventually be built just a few miles away from my abode, but it will be of little benefit to myself. Partly because the reduction in time onboard the train will be eaten up by the increased journey time at both ends. However, that is my personal view for what it is worth and not actually related to the blog!

We need to accept that some of the project at least will be built. My musings on here today are more about the cost of the project. 

When I say cost, I do not refer to money (it is blatantly obvious that no one knows how much it will cost). I refer to the other costs. The landscape, the noise and most of all, the loss of two great pubs (1 is reported as being a mistake!). 

We only have so much space in our cities, so whenever we want something new, something old usually has to give way. 

For HS2, much has been demolished.

In Birmingham, a pub called the Eagle and Tun has been demolished to make way for the new Curzon street station.

Whilst you woulnever call this an upmarket pub, it had a rich heritage.

Inside the Eagle and TunIt first welcomed drinkers during the reign of Queen Victoria and is famous for appearing on the cover of UB40’s ‘Best of’ album as well as being used in the video for the track Red Red Wine.

In august of 2019, Ed Sheeran also shot a music video in the pub.

The pub itself had real age and character about it. It closed in 2008 but was rescued by the last landlord and restored using his own money.

Red brick architecture with large windows outside. Inside there were original glazed tiles on the walls, traditional bench seating and a large bar.

Above the bar on shelves were dusty musical instruments.

I was lucky enough to visit the Eagle on Tun shortly before it closed its doors for good in early January 2020. Even in its death knell, the beer was well kept.

Bree Louise

At the other end of the line, the Bree Louise near Euston station was forced to close. The pub, named after the owners daughter who died at the age of 12, was a multi award winning boozer.

A firm favourite amongst locals and known as Euston’s best kept secret known for its great ale, lack of football, no fruit machines and no music. It was a real gem for real ale drinkers and craft lovers alike. It was a real London pub.

Whilst many pubs are closing, it is notable that such historic pubs serving great beer and with a rich history are often thriving.

There will be without doubt other business and architecture casualties in the building of this new rail line.

I think it is fair to say, that the arguments and the business case for such a rail line are dubious at best. The costs in financial terms are incredible and likely to rise. The benefits only for a few in order to shave a few minutes from their journey.

The real cost

The cost however to the country’s landscape, heritage and architecture is immense.

I am not certain why we feel the need to flatten such places and put up in their place glass monstrosities.

To elaborate further on the destruction and loss, my research tells me the following is a list of the countries losses –

  • 900 Homes
  • 1,000 businesses
  • 27 Community facilities
  • 60 Irreplaceable ancient woodlands
  • Estimated 2,380 jobs lost permanently (claimed that 2,340 will be created)

Additionally, HS2 state that

  • 58 million tons of landfill waste will be created
  • 9 rivers will need to be diverted

Will we have anything for visitors to see?

It makes me wonder what the future holds for the country. People travel from a-far to experience our heritage and culture. Let’s hope we can keep some for them to see.

So, What price for progress?

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Number 73 London bus

Crossing London

In past blogs, I have spoken about slowing the pace of life. Putting to one side the trinkets of modern life i.e. the mobile phone or laptops and taking time to observe. This blog, entitled ‘Crossing London’, continues this thought process.

Places to be, people to see

More times than I care to remember have I had to travel across London from one station to another. At first I was proud at the speed that I could make the journey. My destination and timetable all encompassing.

As the number of trips I undertake dwindles, to be replaced by leisure trips, my attitude has changed. I now make this journey in a very leisurely fashion.

Discovery

The change first happened when I found myself with time to spare and I chose the number 73 bus to travel from Victoria to St Pancras in place of the over crowded Victoria line tube. This was a revelation.

Rather than dark tunnels, uniform corridors and crowds, I was treated to the wonderful sites of London. Monuments, parks, churches and architecture. I witnessed locals and visitors alike going about the business of the day. In place of the uniformity of the tube corridors, I relished the apparent randomness of life above ground.

Regular route

One of my regular cross London journeys is from Paddington station to St Pancras station. Whenever time and weather permit I elect to walk.

The most direct route for this would see you turn left out of Paddington and head towards Edgware road tube station. A gentle right onto Marylebone road. Then straight onto Euston Road until St Pancras.

Sights to see

As you walk you will see many sights. Westminster Magistrates court, Marylebone station. Baker street, Madame Tussauds, The Royal academy of music, Regents park, Great Portland street, Euston station, and the British library to name but a few. All that in just 45 minutes!

Introduce ‘Random’ to your life

I rarely walk that route! Infact, I rarely walk the same route twice.

I love nothing more than exploring en-route. Whilst keeping the tall landmarks in mind, it is easy to navigate a general direction without becoming lost.

The streets, shops, and pubs of Fitzrovia, Marylebone, and Bloomsbury. These are sites that you won’t see on the bus or any tour. You most certainly won’t see them on the tube.

The journey not only gives me exercise, it also gives me variety and interest. In my view, that is an unbeatable combination.

You can always stand under someone’s armpit staring through the windows onto the dark walls of the underground, or you can walk or use the bus. As you may determine, you know my preference.

Not Just in London – everywhere

I speak here of London, but the same can be said of very many cities. You rarely have to go far from your normal route to find a very different scene. In my local neighbourhood, there is a road into the city centre. It is long and straight. Boring almost. Just a few yards to one side, a canal runs in parallel. This is a far more attractive and interesting walk.

My plea

This weeks plea is therefore one of the simplest and cheapest that I have ever made.

Be aware of your surroundings. Give yourself time to walk and explore. As I explain in the above text, you need not wander too far off route.

Not only will you get exercise but you will see and experience more than you would if you follow the same old routes and routines.

It doesn’t just have to be Crossing London!

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Pragmatic Question

Covid Pragmatism

It seems very rare these days that pragmatism and common sense raise their head above the parapet. When Covid is concerned, such an event is even rarer. I have seen Covid Pragmatism.

At the time of writing this post, the UK Government are considering the subject of Christmas. Specifically if restrictions can be lifted for the festive period.

There are surely conflicting opinions on this topic.

Warnings about the cost of relaxation

Warnings have been issued that for every 1 day we relax restrictions over Christmas, 5 days of additional restrictions will need to be endured. Is that a price worth paying?

Surveys

Today I have seen 2 separate online surveys on this very subject.

The first was a fairly generic question asking on the opinion of Christmas and asking if people would give it up this year.

The second, was a very specific question. Given the 1 day of relaxation costing 5 days of extra restrictions, how many days of relaxation would you like. The results, at the time I completed the survey, we extremely pragmatic. Over 42% of respondents said 0 (zero) with 1,2 & 3 days each polling around 20% of the responses.

Pragmatism

This is the general public being pragmatic.

I perhaps conclude that this is pragmatic because it aligns with my opinion. However, It tells us much about what people are thinking.

Will the United Kingdom give up its hard earn’t position on COVID for a day or 2 of rule relaxation, or, is it better to carry on and restore normality sooner?

So much has been given

The public have given much this year. Most assuredly it has been challenging and emotional for most people. Physically, mentally and emotionally.

In my opinion, it would be foolish to give up on the hard work. Indeed, I believe it would be dangerous.

With positive news around vaccines, we have much to look forward to. The fabled light at the end of the tunnel really exists and it is becoming brighter by the day.

We must not be short sighted.

What will our leaders do?

The big unknown is what the Government will do. Given the second survey I spoke of was a YouGov poll, you would hope that they are taking notice of public opinion. As a result of this, I must ask, “will they act on it?”. Will COVID Pragmatism be a thing?

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Oxford Circus

The High Street – Part 2

On the 10th of April 2020, I wrote a blog about The High Street. I spoke Of the importance of it to our community. In such a few short months, so much has changed I felt I must write The High Street – Part 2.

In the time since my last blog on this subject, the Coronavirus Pandemic has changed so much. The way people are living and shopping is changing at much faster rate than we thought possible. The use of cash has plummeted in favour of electronic payments. Online has excelled in all regards as people have restricted their movements. The high streets quickly became deserted. This has all happened out of necessity.

What does this mean for our High Street

When I last wrote on the subject, I questioned if the changes that our beloved High Street had undergone were sustainable. Are they desirable?

Even now, as the pandemic restriction continue to be lifted, the High Street footfall remains low.

Is it a generational issue?

The older generations have been particularly hard hit by Coronavirus. Many of these people we instructed to shield. As it is this demographic that have grown up using local shops and cash. It would be true to say that whilst these people continue to be nervous, some shops will continue to struggle. However, the problems run deeper.

Big and Small affected

It seems that hardly a day goes by where we don’t hear about a high street failure. Alongside this, jobs are being lost in large quantities. A toxic combination that will be hard to break out of.

Stalwarts of the high street such as John Lewis, Debenhams, House of Fraser are all struggling. As a result of their store closures, it is not just the local High Street that is being affected, but the streets of of towns and cities up and down the country.

Hospitality and entertainment

More than retail, the new hope for the High Streets survival is struggling. Pubs, restaurants, Cinemas and the such like have been closed and are now running on much reduced capacity. In other words, they are struggling as well. Many have not re-opened after lock down. Those that have are struggling to break even.

Working from home

There can be no doubt that the empty office blocks that adorn our cities, towns and suburbs are making the situation worse. As the occupants of these offices continue to work from home, they are not shopping at lunchtime. They are not travelling. In short, they are spending less money, and the money they do spend is online.

Community Spirit

The heart of the community has shifted. One of the positive things to have come from Coronavirus has been the community spirit. As a direct consequence, folk are looking after those around them. The street is the community rather than the High Street. The humble corner shop is thriving.

What does the future hold?

I really don’t believe that anyone knows how this will end. There is no rule book or computer model for this situation. As a result, no one can predict the future.

The confidence of the human race is the key factor. Somehow, this confidence needs to be restored. The country needs to slowly rebuild itself. The fear of a resurgence of this invisible enemy is all pervading and needs to be overcome.

Inevitably, there will be challenges. Such a challenge has not been faced in recent times. There is no rulebook for this situation. I for one am very glad that I am not the one making the decisions. We can have no doubt that mistakes will be made. We must all be positive. Not only positive, but forgiving. Let us not belittle or embattle those making those decisions. We must trust that the errors they will make are as a result of them wanting to do the right thing. There is no space for negative politics.

Let us look forward. We must build The High Street – part 2.

Positive attitudes and support for the community in whatever form it emerges in are a must. Let us embrace The High Street – Part 2.

Stay safe.

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Burning News

News Overload

Did you know, that it is estimated that 1 weeks worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person in the 18th Century would come across in their whole lifetime? Much of this information will be News. I believe this is News Overload.

For the purposes of history (should this blog page last), this entry is being written in middle of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. It is such events that make us turn to the news stations, papers and websites. This for me causes an overload of news.

Why do we do this?

I am not a human psychologist and can only speak for myself.

When bad news strikes, I seem to have an intense curiosity to understand it. Selfishly, this curiosity is usually driven by selfish motives; how will this affect me? When will the current bad news end is also another question that desire.

Drawn in.

With the advent of the ‘Always on’ world the news is plentiful, of this there is no doubt. We can listen to news radio. A plethora of 24 hour news TV. Internet web sites. I seem to get drawn in and readily accept the 30 minutes cycle of the same news.

Do we need this much?

Humans, by their very nature, are inquisitive and social animals. As a result, we do quest knowledge and understanding. Such understanding enables learning. Actions and behaviours can be adjusted. Perhaps this is self preservation. Understandable human instinct.

I do sometime question if we always need to know what is happening on far away shores. Events that will not affect our local lives. My mind is open and un-decided on this subject.

Expert Opinion

Many news shows have a never ending stream of so called experts. For me, this is just a way of stretching out the news item until the next cycle can start. A piece of news is presented and then analysed endlessly. I would suggest that it is the exception rather than the rule when these ‘experts’ bring additional value to the news snippets. Very often, they are opinion. There is a time and a place for opinion, but not every 30 minutes!

Is there such a thing as too much?

The constant repeat of the same news, may be convenient for some. For many it can become addictive. Constantly listening, reading or watching, searching for the new snippet. Perhaps progress. Maybe even the beginning of the end of the news story.

In my opinion, you can have too much news. I recall being in the USA on September the 11th. The TV news was watched for 5 hours solidly before my friend and I decided that the news was not changing. Facts were very few and far between. It was time to take a break from the news. Under the circumstances we did the only other thing we could. Yes, we went to the pub and got drunk. In the morning, the news was still there and the meaningful news nuggets had not massively increased. We missed little.

In the Corona pandemic, the same is true. As the lockdown started, I watched endlessly. Became addicted. The result was stress and despondency. Little additional information was learnt by the constant ingestion of news.

In answer to the question – Yes, there is such a thing as too much news. My conclusion is that it is also bad for a persons mental stage.

Protection

As a result of the current news overload, I have developed my own protection mechanisms. These are so very simple and depend on what I am doing. They are –

  • If am working, I listen to music radio with just a 2 minute news bulletin.
  • If am home, I limit myself to a maximum of 1 hour of news broadcasting each day.

For your own sanity, please limit your news intake. Rather than absorbing ‘Expert Opinion’, listen to the facts and form your own opinion. As a result, you will prevent yourself suffering from News Overload. Not only that, you will own your own opinion.

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High Street

The high street

The high street has for years been a centre of a community or town. It has been a hub of activity and a place to obtain a wide range of goods. Alas, things are changing. Out of town retail parks and the internet are having a dramatic affect.

People say, rightly so, that the high street needs to change to survive. This, however, is nothing new. Change is really the only constant in life. Looking back, it is somewhat amazing to see the change that has already occurred.

Change is the only constant in life

Change has and continues. In the years that I recall, the number of bars, coffee shops and eateries have increased to take the space left as the shops depart. Even with this change, the High street is still struggling for survival.

The above is doubly true in these crisis times caused by the COVID-19 virus. Daily we are seeing companies fail and I wonder what shops, pubs and restaurants will open when we emerge from this crisis.

Is the entertainment and hospitality industry stable enough?

As the High street re-invents itself and adapts, there is a hope that both the Cafe culture and perhaps the entertainment industry can revive the fortunes of this precious local resource. The question for me is can the public support this change. Do they want to?

Such changes will rely on the public’s disposable income being sufficient. For the public to have the cash and the desire to spend in such places when all the household essentials have been procured.

In my opinion, this puts the High street at risk once more. It makes it so very vulnerable to the ups and downs of the economy.

The community needs to buy in

If the Coronavirus crisis has taught us anything, it is surely that there is a strong and undeniable community spirit bubbling below the surface. At the heart of any community, are these community spaces.

Would it not be wonderful if additional community facilities were to be created on the high street. Something for everyone and for all ages.

To survive, our High streets need to continue to adapt and more importantly to innovate. They need to do this in-line and with the backing of the community. A place to be social, entertained, fed, watered and provisioned. Perhaps even educated.

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Power Button on Mac

Power

The Power of Google. Have you ever considered where power is held. Power, not in the form of Electricity or gas, but in influence and control.

In the past, I would have considered that our Government had power. After all, they control budgets, public services, defence, health, and schools. In todays world, I do not consider this to be the true powerhouse any more.

Gobal

The world that we live in today is truly global. Rightly or wrongly, some of the true powerhouses are now business organisations. Power is derived more from the control of information than how much money is in the bank.

Consider the likes of IBM, Microsoft and Apple. All these companies either store and use your data or provide the systems to do so. They are private organisations with so much data and power. There are so many more.

Of all the companies today, I believe there is just one that is all encompassing. That organisation is probably the one that brought you to this page; Google.

Google

On the face of it, Google looks simple. However, the power and control behind that simplicity is truly frightening.

What leads me to suggest this fear? Whilst Google does not directly store the information that you want, it does hold the keys to the filing cabinet.

Think about it. Recent statistics suggest that Google has 90% of the global market share for internet searches. Assuming that statistic is true, then Google truly has power.

It has power because it makes decisions on what you see and what you don’t! If Google decides it does not want to tell you about a website, it is unlikely you will ever find it. The ramifications of that power are truly immense.

Comfort

I am unsure that I can say that I am comfortable with just one organisation having so much control. It is likely that if this size was the result of 2 companies merging in the UK, it would not be considered in our best interest. The merger would likely be blocked. So why do we accept it?

I guess we accept it because it is easy. One place that we can go for any information. It has been added to the Oxford English dictionary. The English language embraces Google.

I hope my concern is unfounded. Perhaps the algorithms that Google uses are perfectly acceptable. However, the potential for control exists.

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FinTech

There is a big discussion right now about the new Fintech banks. The like of Starling, Monzo, and N26 are all gaining customers at such a huge rate at the cost of the high street banks. But why is this happening?

On the face of this, it is somewhat counter-intuitive. Don’t people want to be able to go into the branch and talk to someone? What about cash? What about when things go wrong?

For myself, things have moved on. Whilst I recognise that the high street is important, and we need to do something to support it, customer service and efficiency are so key to the way I live my life.

We also need to understand just how often we want to speak to our bank and when. I don’t actually recall the last time that I wanted to, but I am totally sure it wasn’t on a weekday! I have so much power and control on my phone or browser so it is rare I need to. I do recall how easy it was to just chat via the app.

The way we live our lives has changed. The high street banks haven’t. It is as simple as that. Most people now work and can’t get to a branch. Why would you need to go to a branch anyway when you can do it online?

The way the new banks embrace technology, the way they challenge the status quo and make things so much quicker and easier is incredible. Who thought 3-4 years ago that you could open a new account in 5 minutes whilst sitting in the garden!

I find customer service so utterly important. It determines if I use an organisation or not. It also determines if I promote or detract amongst those that I influence. It seems that in this endeavour the fintech’s  also have the answer. Latest Surveys put them in 2nd and 3rd place. Which? also recognises this ability and has started recommending some of them. Impressive indeed.

There is a saying that says, “The only constant in life is change”. I believe this is true. Admittedly, the pace of change can sometimes be slightly bewildering, but change will always be present. I believe those that both embrace change but remember the service and values are the ones that will both survive and flourish. Those that resist change will fall by the wayside. This is the new way of life and we must adapt to this change.

 

 

Beauty on the doorstep

There was a time in my life when I considered going on holiday must involve going to a foreign land. How could you possibly want to stay in the UK? International travel was exciting right? What did I do when I got to these places? Yep, I drank cold lager, lazed by the pool and failed to explore. I now consider that a waste. Don’t get me wrong, chilling by the pool is nice, but for 7 days?

What we must consider is that most of the places that the brits visit are designed to be a bit of the UK in the sun. Many of the holiday islands are sun scorched bits of land with hotels, pools and bars selling English Breakfast. I don’t see the point. If you want English food, stay in England!

If you want scenery, then the UK can be pretty special. You don’t even need to go that far. The picture above, was taken less than 1 mile from my home.

There are so many beautiful towns in the UK with rich history and tradition, I implore you to take the time to visit some of these places. Not only will you be helping the local economy and saving the environment, you may be pleasantly surprised.

I personally have never looked back. Yes, I still go abroad sometimes, but I am sure going to experience that which is in my own country.

Welcome to the grumps blog

Introduction – As I grow older, it has become obvious to me that I have become more grumpy. When I say grumpy, I don’t necessarily mean miserable or unhappy, more disappointed with people and the human race. Simple things such as manners and consideration seem to be in increasingly short supply.  Perhaps this is simply my perception as I grow more impatient. Perhaps it is the way of the modern world with people becoming increasingly time pressured. I don’t honestly know. What I do know is I am not sure I like it.

In this blog, I may comment on some of the things I see as I navigate my life. Some of this maybe observations on peoples behaviour. Some posts maybe regarding personal experience. On the less grumpy side, I may comment on architecture, glorious pubs, Interesting things to do.

I am not sure how many people will be interested in my musings. After all, who am I to ask for your time to read about my thoughts? I am aware of the fact that in just one week, the New York Times contains more information than a person in the 18th Century would get in their entire lifetime. The question must be therefore, how much more data and information can a human consume? Will my commentary push you into overload?

Regardless of the risks to your health by providing you with more data and information, I am going to push on selfishly to try and save my sanity (Sorry about that)!

I truly hope you will enjoy my musings. If you do, please feel free to comment, share, tweet or whatever else you use. I won’t mind.

 

Steve