Can you believe that it is March already? We are already a sixth of the way through the year; where has the time gone?
The end of another month means another review. My review of January didn’t get a great deal of hits, but despite the complete lack of demand I will persevere for now: I would be interested in your thoughts on whether I’m wasting my time.
Caveats remain the same as last month: these are just a selection of things that caught my eye during the month, not necessarily the most important things going on in the world. I’m also bound to have forgotten a good deal. With that in mind, and in no particular order, here’s my review of February.
The World at Large
It seems that a lot has been going on this month.
As with last month, let’s start with the weather. Rains and flooding continued, only beginning to recede toward the end of the month. The rain called in re-enforcements from the wind, and the resulting storms inflicted damage across the UK. The south west was particularly badly battered, with impressive film of crashing waves in Devon and Cornwall appearing on the news. Damage included taking out the South West’s main rail line when it was washed away along with the seawall in Dawlish.
Floods also started to engulf the Thames Valley, causing politicians to finally pay proper attention. David Cameron declared that “money is no object” in Britain’s flood relief effort. Around 6,000 properties are reportedly affected and people inevitably started looking for someone to blame. The Environment Agency took most of the brunt.
As if people weren’t suffering enough, reports started to emerge of looters turning into pirates. These low-lives were apparently setting out in boats to loot abandoned flooded properties. A new insurance levy known as Flood Re has been introduced to ensure that affordable insurance can be provided for homes at flood risk in the future.
The other big story for the month was the Sochi Winter Olympics. Russia came under attack for its environment record, treatment of migrant workers, homophobia and rampant corruption. The games reportedly cost £30 billion; three times the cost of London 2012 and equal to the cost of all previous Winter Olympics since the event was first held in 1924 put together.
Despite that, and concerns over possible terrorist attacks, the games went well, with the country unexpectedly becoming hooked on curling. This is probably because this was the sport in which Great Britain won two of its four medals: a bronze for the ladies and silver for the men. There was also a bronze in the snowboarding, and a gold for Liz Yarnold in the skeleton, possibly the most insane of all the crazy winter sports. This put us in 19th place overall out of a total of 26 countries. This may not sound very impressive, but it’s still our most successful Winter Olympics to date.
I don’t generally dwell too much on international news, but the situation in Ukraine is hotting up and looking set for civil war as some want closer ties with the EU and others with Russia. The Russian’s are greatly motivated to support the latter camp. Things look like they are going to get messy.
Scottish independence rumbles on, with all the main parties agreeing that Scotland won’t be allowed to keep the pound. The EU has also said that it is unlikely that they will waltz straight back into the EU. It amazes me that Alex Salmond has been allowed to blithely make all of these assertions in his manifesto – it is like splitting up with your girlfriend but assuming that she will still do your washing and let you use her car. Crazy.
Both Bill Roach and Dave Lee Travis were found not guilty of the sex offences of which they’d been accused, despite having their lives turned upside down by salacious media reporting. I discussed my thoughts on this back in January.
The media was also whipped into a frenzy by reports of Justin Beiber ‘going off the rails’, having allegedly being caught street-racing in a Lamborghini following a “drink and drugs bender”. Closer investigation showed that things weren’t as bad as reported, but since when did our pop stars have to be so squeaky clean anyway? The rock starts of the 1970s must be shaking their heads in dismay at the whole situation.
Whilst on the subject of music (of sorts), I was amused by the story of a Canadian rock band called Skinny Puppy who, on hearing that their music was being used to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, invoiced the US Government for $666,000.
And a couple of stories of the earth doing odd things: first an earthquake of 4.1 magnitude under the Bristol Channel between Ilfracombe and the Gower, then, right at the end of the month, an Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, that could be seen as far south as Wales and even here in Gloucestershire.
Once again, lots going on in and around the fair city of Gloucester. For a change, people are starting to say nice things about the city, with Gloucester being named as one of the best cities in the UK by an economic think tank. This was reported at around the same time as Cotswold Life published an article extolling the city’s virtues. The Gloucester Docks and Quays were also identified as the county’s number one tourist attraction with over 4 million visitors per year; by far eclipsing the second place Cheltenham Racecourse with 700,000 visitors. The cathedral came in third with 500,000 visitors.
To add fuel to all of this pride, Tredworth Man Jamie McDonald made the news for his incredible feat of running 5,000 miles from coast to coast across Canada to raise money for the Pied Piper Appeal. He returned home to a hero’s welcome at Gloucester Cathedral on 13 February. Insanity and philanthropy must run in the family because at the same time his cousin, Kev Brady, travelled the length of the Mississippi by canoe for the same charity.
It was not all good news in the city, however. On 18 February an attractive 20 year old hairstylist called Hollie Gazzard was stabbed and killed at Fringe Benefits and La Bella Beauty in Southgate Street. Her 22-year-old ex-boyfriend has been arrested and charged with her murder.
And in more sad news, Marilyn Champion, stalwart supporter of the Civic Trust and saviour of St Michael’s Tower died after a long battle with cancer. Her enthusiasm and dedication would have been an inspiration even if she wasn’t battling a terrible illness at the same time. She will be missed.
A couple of things carrying over from last month’s review: The Golden Egg was demolished, as promised, and Councillor Paul James assured me via Twitter that it will not be replaced by just another expanse of tarmac. The Eastgate Market saga rumbles on and it seems that, despite the alternative venues mentioned last month, upstairs in the Eastgate Shopping Centre remains their most likely home. Traders and public are mostly unimpressed.
In pub news, rumours of a brewery tap for Gloucester Brewery proved to be true, with the Citizen reporting that an application has been made to convert the former Bridge House in Llanthony Road into a pub. It’s a bit early to get too excited yet, as Jared Brown, the brewery owner, emphasises that for now this is just an exploratory application to see what is possible. Still, fingers crossed.
There is more positive news for the Vaults in Northgate Street, which now has a new manager and is looking to reopen at the end of March following extensive renovation. Plans sound very promising and I have assurance via Twitter that the name is going to revert to the Northend Vaults as per my plea.
Things haven’t exactly been going swimmingly in my bid to get healthier. I felt pretty ropey for a couple of weeks, which I fear may be due to a resurgence of my food intolerances. I am choosing to believe that the problem is dairy for now rather than cut out the beer again. This means I haven’t been to the gym as much as planned and I am no closer to that six-pack stomach.
It was an expensive start to the month as my bike had to go in for an MOT and service. This meant that I got to try out Branson’s courtesy bike – a Honda NC700. I didn’t get much opportunity to use it as the weather was shocking, but it seemed quite good; I won’t be trading in my CB1300 for one any time soon though.
We spent a couple of weekends visiting my wife’s family, who are scattered around the south-east, for belated birthday celebrations, which was quite nice. This also gave us the opportunity to call in on friends who co-incidentally live nearby. This was a fortuitous visit which led to the planning of an exciting holiday for later in the year – more information on that no doubt as plans get firmed up.
The other highlight of the month was a superb beer festival at the Pelican. They had the excellent idea of a taster card, allowing a taster of all 15 beers, plus a pint of your favourite, all at the bargain price of £10. Afterwards we headed to the Cafe Rene to catch the Worried Men – we managed to see the end of the set that we missed at the Brunswick last month when the place got closed down by the police.
I managed fewer blogs this month, only 10 compared to last month’s 13. I wasn’t far behind with total hits though with 1,116, my fourth best month ever and miles ahead of last February’s mere 598 hits.
For a while it looked like Fighting Political Apathy was going to get knocked into second place as most read blog for the past 30 days, but in the end it came in equal first with The Fleece Hotel: A new Life for an Ancient Inn. I have to look to third place to find a blog actually written during the month: The Golden Egg. All the rest in the top ten were written during the month though, which is good I think.
So, now we are heading into spring, so let’s hope that floods don’t dominate next month’s review – although judging from the way the rain is hammering against the window as I write this I won’t be placing any bets.
Don’t forget to let me know what you think about these reviews…