Trip to the Fields of Flanders

Not my usual IT related comments but I felt compelled to post. I’ve just got back from a trip to Bruge which included an excursion to various locations and cemerateries related to World War 1 (http://www.visitbruges.org/). It may seem like a depressing subject but I think everyone should make such a trip. It really is worth getting some sort of understanding of the huge loses and suffering of the people involved. Our trip was a small group which consisted of couples from Australia, Britain and Canada. Consequently we visited cemetaries and memorials for those nationalities and were taken to locations where those troops were involved. I’m not going to attempt to describe all the things we saw (or spoil it – see it yourself) but just to say that I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Without lapsing into communism it has certainly made me think more about;  how violence isn’t a great way to resolve a problem, and when I think things are bad (like the fact our water main has collapsed and we’ve got dodgy water) people managed to live (if they were lucky) through years of unimaginable horror – so perhaps I should just smile and be more thankful.

I must admit that after the visit I have become a bit of WWI bore and have read ‘World War 1’ by David Shermer which amazed me about just how many counties were fighting all over the globe. It’s also very interesting to see how it affected ‘modern’ politics. I thought I’d add a litte wikipedia style facts from the book;
Toll of lives (my approximations):
Civilian (not including a huge flu outbreak)  9-12 million
Military:
Germany  1.7-2 million
Russia 1.7 million
France 1.36 million
Austria-Hungary 1.2 million
Great Britain 0.76 million
British Empire 0.25 million
Italy 0.65 million
Turkey 0.37 million
United States 0.12 million

Total Casulaties 37,500,000 – imagine the potential of all those people
Economic cost £75,077,000,000 – and that’s nearly a century ago
E.g of physical damage – France; forests lost 1,875 sq.miles, 8000 sq.miles farm land, 0.25 million buildings
Quote from the book, ‘These are cold statistics…the disillusionment…ordinary poeple realised…the horrendous price for reordering the world’s affairs’.
Mine and the books parting quote;
‘I have given orders to my Death Units to exterminate without mercy or pity men, women and children belonging to the Polish-speaking race. It is only in this manner that we can aquire the vital territory which we need. After all, who remembers today the extermination of the Armenians?’ Adolf Hitler, 22 Aug 1939

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Lynton/Lynmouth

Just got back from a short break in the Lynton, a small harbour town on the edge of Exmoor. It’s a great little place, especially if you’re into walking, if you can’t walk up a hill I’d think twice! I’m sure a photo blog/site will follow but if you’re thinking about going there then I’d recommend staying (or at least eating) at St Vincent Hotel & Restaurant. The food was excellent and really well priced, be warned though, you must book it quickly because we missed out on one evening.
 
Oh and one thing they don’t mention, they have free WiFi too!
 
[Edit] Lynton Photo site is now available. The web site design was carried about Clear Breeze Design, a Hampshire company based in Hook specialising in accessible web sites.

Southwest Trains

I live about a 1 hour train ride from London. However, this train "service" is provided by SouthWest Trains for which they charge me £25 for a day return. However, my penultimate journey took nearly 2.5 hours (probably about as fast as a decent bike ride) each way because of engineering works and they compensated me with…nothing. My last journey actually started off well, I got to London in the advertised 1 hour, so it can be done. However, the journey home took 2 hours and I had to sit on the floor. Better still after several "electrical faults" whilst stopped at the station (incurring a 30 min’ delay) we eventually get moving…only to be told 1/2 way through the journey that because of the delay we’ll no longer be stopping at my station! So I’m forced to either get off at the main station after my stop and get a taxi back (at my own expense) or change four stops early and hope to pick up a connection – which they said would be another 10 min’ away. So I get off and start the walk to relevant platform (5) which is a fair walk away but I’ve go 10 min’ so shouldn’t be a problem. "The next train arriving at platform 5 is due in 3 mins’", ok time for a jog. Eventually I get home 1 hour late.
 
Now I dare say this is a familiar tale to those poor souls who use Britains railways on a daily basis but I just like to make two very simple points;
  1. "Give up my car", they say. Not a chance given the consistent level of bad service I’ve experienced. Even if they did manage to put in a service that would get me to work from my home without taking 3 times as long as the car journey, I very much doubt it would run consistently enough for me to ever make a meeting on time
  2. What other service on earth gets away with charging you a fee for a service they do not deliver. If someone asks me to deliver some software in a week and I agree to that, take their money, then deliver it 3 weeks late do you think they’d want some compensation? How is it that train companies get away with ripping us off. It’s a total disgrace.