It’s tough being moderate

2020-02-22 09.56.35Our Saturday morning breakfast table with friends at Don Pasquale in Cambridge doesn’t normally go in for vigorous debate. Generally the talk is of restaurants, football and classic cars but today was different being prompted by Extinction Rebellion (XR) digging up the lawn in front of Trinity College (see the photo).

Many people have been angered by this. They regard it as criminal behaviour and in fact that’s how the police have viewed it as well so they’ve arrested a few people. But then some of us conflated their opinion of the Trinity lawn dig-up with whether or not they were broadly in support of (a) what XR is campaigning for, and (b) its basic approach.

None of us have a problem with (a). It’s when we are challenged on (b) that some of us hesitate. Is XR behaviour simply non-violent protest which highlights issues which might otherwise be ignored? Maybe it continues an approach championed so successfully by Gandhi and other powerful civil rights movements. Or is it unacceptable behaviour which disrupts people’s lives unnecessarily and maybe illegal anyway?

I’ll go along with the former because climate change is a big and desperately important issue and we need major change not just in the behaviour of individuals but governments and industry as well and it’s the latter which is a problem. These organisations have such a massive investment in the status quo that getting them to change and getting to do that with some urgency is a big challenge. There’s irrefutable evidence, there are major political groups calling for change and many individuals when challenged are in favour but sometimes you need a catalyst to force governments to face up to reality. You’d think the recent floods and the fires and gale force winds would be sufficient but still there are major politicians who refuse to accept the truth of what’s going on. And that’s where XR has a role: to highlight the issue, to express impatience and to make our law makers uncomfortable.

And it does work. Witness the statement at the end of this week from the Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council in which he claims that this council is doing what’s right. It is but not enough and not with sufficient urgency and without the XR action it wouldn’t have seen it necessary to make a point about it.

But I do have a problem with some of what XR does. It needs to get its message across forcibly but it needs to do so in a manner which does not alienate people who might otherwise support it. That’s why I’ve no problem with it blocking roads and disrupting council meetings. But although I don’t think it’s a big deal to dig up the Trinity lawn, it’ll be restored pretty quickly, I think it will be counter productive to its cause and result in the debate moving from one about the climate emergency to one about petty vandalism outside a Cambridge college.

So yes it’s tough being moderate, neither extreme left not extreme right but maybe there’s a position of being an extreme moderate: passionate about protecting the world for my grandchildren but equally passionate about including everyone to do what’s right.

Jan 20: photo of the month

DSC06356Here’s another photo from our trip to Indonesia over Xmas and the New Year. It’s taken in Fatahillah Square in Jakarta on the first Sunday of the year when it was full of people being out, relaxing and looking for Instagram opportunities. There are lots of living statues and this photo is of a Javanese lady close to such a statue. I’m not sure who/what it is but he’s holding a violin

The photo was taken with my Sony alpha 77 II f6.3 at 1/500 and a focal length of 280mm. I’ve cropped it from landscape to portrait but otherwise there’s been no post-processing.

5 things to/I do before 9 o’clock

untitled-500K-24I’m motivated to write this piece because I’ve just come across a similarly motivated blogpost which talks of ‘9 things before 9AM’ (click here). It’s a mix of the mundane (drink more water) and the strange (daily affirmations) with some hard work in between (journals) but I recognise much of my own thinking.

So: here’s my maybe more pragmatic list of five and I’ll dispense with the obvious ‘get out of bed’. And let’s not be too hung up about 9 o’clock as a hard limit. Nine thirty is OK especially if you’re no longer in full time employment, the point is that it’s early enough to leave time in the morning to get something done if that’s what’s needed.

1 give yourself enough time. It’s a philosophy I developed when I was working when I travelled frequently around Europe and worldwide. I had limited time in the places I visited. Generally someone else was managing it and I’d find that I had a program that took over my day. I decided then that I needed to get some anchor points down so that I did not lose control and that’s why I take time with my early morning routine and do the same in the evening. It’s a discipline I’ve shared with the people who’ve worked for me and I’ve found that it gives you a fighting chance of being productive so that you don’t end up at the end of the day wondering whether or not you’ve achieved anything.

2 have breakfast. This should be obvious and most, if not all, nutritionists will tell you that getting the right food inside you at the start of the day is important. But for me it’s not just the food but the ritual as well and eating breakfast and savouring the process gives you a platform of calm which you’re not going to get from grabbing a coffee and eating a muffin as you rush to your first appointment of the day. Nowadays for me its a bowl of fresh fruit, fresh bread and an omelette if I’m lucky. And a coffee, see below.

3 squeeze in a little exercise. It might be just a walk round the block but do something. When I’ve travelled I’ve chosen hotels with pools or gyms or close to parks. These give me the opportunity to take a little exercise before breakfast, you just have to set your alarm a half hour or so earlier. These days now that I don’t travel this exercise is a 10 minute walk into the village to buy my newspaper and fresh bread.

4 read the newspaper. That’s my preference of course, others may prefer to read the news on a tablet or listen to it but it’s good to be abreast of what’s going on and to get the mental exercise that goes with it. I read the paper and listen to the radio so I’m getting a double dose of mental stimulation. You get even more benefit if you can engage with others so no use of earphones please.

5 drink a first cup of coffee. I’m a recent convert to breakfast coffee and appreciate that this might not be to everyone’s taste but it’s undoubtedly a stimulant and it sets me up. One’s enough, there’s little extra to be gained from multiple cups or from one of those extra large cups beloved of some of the coffee shop chains. I used to drink too many cups of instant. Now it’s just a proper breakfast coffee and maybe a couple more during the day. Taste the coffee, don’t just consume it.

That’s it and as I say above let’s not get hung up about 9 o’clock. It’s OK if it’s 0930 and if you’re a wage slave then maybe it’s 0800 or earlier. Just set your alarm in good time so that you can approach the day prepared.

Dec 19: photo of the month

untitled-500K-8I need to get 2019 completed so that I can start on 2020 so here’s Dec 19’s photo and, rather inevitably, it’s from Indonesia and it’s a simple photo of the daughter of the guy from whom we bough fresh fruit at his roadside stall near Bandung, Indonesia.

The photo was taken with my Sony alpha 77 II f5.6 at 1/160 and a focal length of 85mm. I’ve given it a square crop which seems to work and subjected it to minimal post-processing given the light was perfectly good and there’s enough separation between the subject and her background that the latter is out of focus.

Reflections on 2019

2019-08-29 18.15.18It’s a bit late I know but it’s still important to reflect on a year just gone.

From my personal point of view it’s been dominated by my big op. Actually it wasn’t really that big, ‘just’ an angioplasty to insert a stent into my right coronary artery which only took about 30 minutes, but it did signal a change in my life. I’d never thought before that I might have a life threatening condition and although that’s now been sorted I have had to change my life style if I’m going to make 90. Go to for the full story.

That was at the end of August and by year end my blood pressure was low and stable, I’ve got plenty of energy and I’ve completed a couple of fairly strenuously walks. My weight is down to 65kg which may be good but it does mean that I no longer avoid snacking. And I now follow a healthy diet and have reduced my alcohol consumption by about 30%.

Fortunately the big op left room for lots of other activity during the year. Juni and I enjoyed a week in Sicily in May (, five days in Wales just before the op in August ( and then four weeks in Indonesia at year end ( I also had a few days in Manchester in June when I was invited to a wedding party and used the opportunity to reacquaint myself with a city I’d lived close to in the 90s (

Along the way we stayed in some super hotels including Gwesty Cymru in Aberystwyth, Brown’s Hotel in Laugharne and Mason Pine in Bandung, Indonesia. We’ve also been fortunate to eat at several excellent restaurants including the St John’s Chop House and the Senate in Cambridge, Sicily in Palermo and Sea Sound in Giardini Naxos, both in Sicily, the Penderyn in Laugharne and Seasoned in Ubud and Cinnamon in Tanjung Benar, both in Bali, Indonesia.

In the country at large the year ended badly. It appeared at sone time that there was sufficient momentum building up which would result in a second Euro referendum. But it was not to be and in December the Tories triumphed at the general election and we head into 2020 looking at a certain Brexit with no idea what form it will take. I fear the worst.

As we head into 2020 prospects are not great. There’s Brexit in prospect, the Corona virus rampant and terrifying bushfires in Australia. Despite my op I’m in good shape but when I was interviewed on BBC Radio Cambridgehire recently I said that I was really worried about what the future holds for my grandchildren.


Nov 19: photo of the month

DSC04916I seemed to take a lot of beer photos during the month and with me having ‘perfected’ a process I could have chosen any of them for the monthly award. However this one’s of Wrexham Lager which connects me with my drinking days of the late 60s. We used to call it Chateau Wrexham.

Anyway the process involves my  Sony alpha 77 II with a Sony 1.8 lens, 1/25th at f5.0 at ISO3200. There’s been no post processing.