Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Dragon & Flagon Pub Tour

OK. The reason I was not at the opening of the Barkingside square event is because I was on a Dragon & Flagon Pub Tour. I was invited to this private tour by Heather to celebrate her 50th birthday long before the date for the square was set. And those who know me will also know that beer is one of my favourite subjects. So, there was no contest in where I was going to be and the B21 crew got along with MIRA fine without me. There is no such thing as an indispensible man.

The gathering with Vic NormanSo let’s introduce you to the tour guide. He is Vic Norman and despite his personal Facebook page saying he lives in Brisbane, Australia he actually lives here in Redbridge and is a neighbour of Heather’s down on the commonwealth estate. In his preamble, as we gathered outside St Paul's tube station, he mentioned that he had only ever lost one customer in all the tours he had done and then pointed to one of the invited guests, also from Australia. Now, Vic is quite a tall bloke and he has very bight dyed crimson hair so he is very easy to spot and follow in a crowd, and crowded are the streets of London, not to mention the pubs. I don’t quite understand why the photos in the gallery on his website are so devoid of people. He also, judging by his attire on Saturday and the banner picture on his Facebook page, has a shoe fetish but we won’t tread there.

There are several tours, all listed on his website, and this one, which involves the most walking, was the Tale of Three Bridges which had nothing to do with the place of that name in Sussex, although it did involve crossing the river to the place where angels fear to tread – south London.

Boozy FloozyWe visited 5 pubs, four of which were new to me and ended up in the Dickens Inn which every Londoner knows. You only get to spend about 20 minutes in each pub so by the time you get served there’s not enough time for a pint. But that’s not such a bad thing as with a half pint you can try out other ales that you wouldn’t normally go for. So I toasted some internet acquaintances with a half of ‘Bitter & Twisted’ and then some people I really know with a half of ‘Boozy Floozy’. Oh, in the first pub the early football match was on and I got to see the Everton injury time equalizer while standing with a group of Liverpool supporters which prompted a hasty retreat. I also got to see the Spurs goal at the Emirates while in the Dickens Inn. But back to the beer, as you would expect the prices (you buy your own) up town are rather more expensive than out here in sunny Barkingside especially if you are used to Wetherspoon prices. But don’t let that put you off.

OMG! What is that?The other aspect of the tour is what another guest described as History 101. Not just the hstory associated with these quaint old pubs but the sights you see on the way. An eclectic mix of interesting little factoids that you may not expect to find in a history book. One draw back is that you can’t stop and look at everything and there were quite a few interesting things I noticed along the way and wondered what they were. Maybe I’ll pop back sometime … I can’t really tell you too much because that would spoil the fun so if you want to know what had captured our attention in the photo (left) you will will have to go on a tour yourself, but watch out for the best cheese in London and Monks.

Altogether a very enjoyable afternoon out with Heather and her chums. The tours cost £10 per person and a private tour can be scheduled by arrangement, minimum 10 people. The public tours are on Friday evenings.

Monday, September 29, 2014

It’s ……. Ken Aston Square

In case you didn’t know already. That’s the name of our new town square here in wonderful Barkingside and fantastic it is too. We at Barkingside 21 are very pleased with it as are the councillors and traders, so all you moaners can shut up. So there! If you don’t know who Ken Aston was here’s an obituary in The Telegraph. The Wikipedia entry is not very good. But our Mira has updated the entry for Barkingside.

And here’s a photo of our energy Bubble bike at Saturday’s Better Barkingside event and the formal opening of the square. It’s not finished yet, the stage area has some work still to do and the new steps to the library are just beginning plus the removal of the cobbles and more planting of shrubs, but we are hoping it will be for the Christmas turning on of the lights event for which a date has not yet been set.

More photos over on our Facebook page here. If you have a Facebook account don’t forget to log in and “like” the page while you are visiting.

I didn’t get to the event until about 8pm, (the reason for that is the subject of the next post), but the atmosphere was wonderful with lively music provided by Chris and Steve of Redbridge Green Fair. We hope to have some more of this to complement their other gigs at Valentines Mansion, the RAFA club and Cricklefields. See Notices & Events in the header bar above.

All in all a very successful event and congratulations to the organisers and workers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Follow the Money – Energy Review

Last weekend there was a notable presence of people on the streets in major cities all around the world. They were marching here in London, Paris, New York and elsewhere in support of a call to the world’s leaders for action on Climate Change.

Meanwhile, the numpties of UKIP et al continue to deny that human beings and our rapacious exploitation of our natural environment (our life support system) is having any effect whatsoever on our long term survivability. These are the people who complain bitterly about green taxes and subsidies for clean renewable energy but are completely oblivious to the financial support (via taxation) given to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries.

Fossil fuel subsidies growing despite concerns -BBC
They also seem to think that we (Barkingside 21) are part of a global conspiracy aimed at world domination that also involves an obscure Charitable Trust named 'Common Purpose' whom nobody else seems to have heard of.

Fortunately, judging by the numbers who were on the streets (plus those, like me, who couldn’t make it) they have rather a lot of people to convince that the scientists are wrong. But all is not well. 70% of Conservative MP's (that’s effectively the UK government) think there's no proof that climate change is caused by human activity and 20% think the idea is 'environmentalist propaganda'.

It may, or may not, be a coincidence that the moves to dump Mrs Thatcher came immediately after her climate speech to the Royal Society in 1988 but I wouldn’t want to condone conspiracy theories. And the financial support given by the fossil fuel and nuclear industries to UK political parties is itself a self fulfilling prophesy in that those funds come from the subsidies and tax breaks in the first place. That’s our (taxpayer’s) money.

There is Granny Weatherwax’s view that progress just means bad things happen faster. This may well be the view of those with a vested interest in the status quo but there is also a thing called serendipity and we humans (as a species) seem to have it in abundance. Let’s have a look at what’s happening in the real energy world and see what the Tory and UKIP Luddites are up against.

Oil industry on borrowed time as switch to gas and solar accelerates
The props beneath the global oil industry are slowly decaying. The big traded energy companies resemble the telecom giants of the late 1990s, heavily leveraged to a business model already threatened by fast-moving technology.
Political will is only barrier to 100% renewables
Where the100% renewable target is adopted, it gives the clearest signal to business that investments in clean technologies will be secure. The report says: “The benefits range from savings on fossil fuel imports, improved energy, and economic security, as well as reduced energy and electricity costs for governments, local residents and businesses."
Nuclear power - insanity at taxpayers' and consumers' expense
Nuclear power exists for one reason only, writes Ralph Nader - government support. Without the taxpayer subsidies, accident liability waivers and exploited consumers, nuclear power wouldn't exist. And even with all the above, it can barely hold on. It's time to end the nuclear boondoggle for once and for all.
Japan: 'solar islands' replace nuclear power
As Japan seeks to end reliance on nuclear power, one of the answers is floating 'solar islands', writes Jon Major. A 70MW solar island opened last year, and two additional plants have just been announced.
Scotland's double first: tidal array and twin-bladed offshore wind turbines
Two-bladed designs at this scale are a major innovation for the offshore wind industry and the deployment offshore of the turbines at Methil will be the first in the world of its kind.
Bright and breezy future for renewables in an independent Scotland
Scotland might traditionally be known for its North Sea gas reserves but it also leads the way in renewable power. The current devolved Scottish government wants 100% of the nation’s electricity generation to come from renewables by 2020.
A Solar Revolution
The advance of solar power around the world is bringing instant, dramatic improvements to people's lives, so why aren’t more governments overhauling their dysfunctional energy policies?
New transparent solar cells can be used on windows, smartphone screens
Not only are they transparent, these solar cells are also flexible. The researchers are now working on scaling the technology up for commercial applications such as window coverings for residential and office buildings, smartphone and tablet screens, electronic signs, and car windows.
Soon, Europe Might Not Need Any New Power Plants
Within a few decades, large-scale, centralized electricity generation from fossil fuels could be a thing of the past in Europe. That’s the word from investment bank UBS, which just released a new report anticipating a three pronged assault from solar power, battery technology, and electric vehicles that will render obsolete traditional power generation by large utilities that rely on coal or natural gas.
Fracked off - natural gas victims flee Colorado's toxic air
Lives and health are being ruined by pollution from taxpayer-subsidized gas wells, flaring and refining plants, while property values collapse. Now a mass of environmental refugees are fleeing the ravaged state.
US shale oil drillers flaring and venting billions of dollars in natural gas
It's a process so wasteful that it's sparked class action lawsuits from landowners, who say they've lost millions of dollars worth of gas due to flaring. Some of the air emissions from flared wells can also be toxic or carcinogenic.
Rockefellers to switch investments to 'clean energy'
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining a coalition of philanthropists pledging to rid themselves of more than $50bn (£31bn) in fossil fuel assets.
The big question is whether the pace of technological innovation is fast and strong enough to ease us through this period before calamity sets upon us. I will not be around when that question is answered.