So That Was April 2014…

Hellebore

Yet another month has rolled by, so it is that time again…

The World at Large

Easter occurred this month, although I’m not sure that is exactly news as it happens fairly predictably (although with erratic timing) every year. I blogged about it nonetheless, though very few of you seemed to read it. Too busy stuffing yourselves with chocolate I expect.

The two top stories from last month continue to rumble on un-resolved. As feared last month, Russia has indeed continued to eye up Eastern Ukraine, with armed pro-Moscow separatists, probably supported and encouraged by Russia, seizing control of key government buildings. The mystery of Malaysian passenger jet MH370 also continues. There have been suspected bits of wreckage found and possible pings from a deeply submerged black box, but nothing definitive. Inevitably conspiracy theories have started circulating.

Early in the month there was a pollution scare as the elements conspired to send air pollution accompanied by Saharan dust over the country. The old and the infirm, especially those with breathing difficulties, were advised to stay indoors. It then fell as dirty rain, just after my wife had paid to get the car washed.

A ‘historic’ new law came into force this month allowing same sex couples to marry in England and Wales. Personally I am at a loss to know why they would want to do this, especially as it is widely regarded as purely symbolic, giving no new rights beyond the existing civil partnership legislation. However, if you have read my blog about my wedding you’ll know that my views on marriage are hardly the stuff of a Mills & Boon novel, and there seem to be lots of gay people happy with the news, so who am I to pooh-pooh it.

Our esteemed Prime Minister David Cameron caused a bit of a hoo-ha this month with his comments that we ought to be “more confident about our status as a Christian country” and more evangelical about our faith. What really started the fuss was when a large group of atheists and humanists responded in a letter to the Telegraph objecting. As I am more or less an atheist it is probably not surprising that I mostly agree with the latter, but if you have read my previous blogs it will also come as no surprise that I do have some mixed views on it too. There will probably be a separate blog on this soon.

Whilst on the subject of controversy, there was much ado about a Facebook site entitled “Women Who Eat on Tubes”. The site does pretty much what it says on the can, encouraging people to submit photographs. The founder, Tony Burke, claims that it is art, others, especially women’s groups, claim that it is misogynistic and sexist. I think it is just further evidence that our technology has out-paced our common sense and hope that we will soon become more mature in our approach to having a camera with us at all times and give everyone a bit more respect.

Science

My eye has been caught by an unusual number of science stories this month, so I thought it was worth a section of its own.

We have long been implored to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, but now it appears that may not be enough and we should be aiming to eat seven, or even ten, portions a day. Frankly I suspect most of us fail to manage five and the government is sticking by its guns that that is sufficient.

A large salt water lake was discovered on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, by NASA’s Cassini probe. At about the size of Lake Superior, this is now thought to be the most likely place in our solar system to harbour alien life. However, since the lake is 40km below the icy crust of the moon I suspect we have no worries about an alien invasion from there in the near future.

A group from the University of Leicester have calculated that Noah’s Ark could have been viable – or at least, that it could have floated. From the biblical description they calculated that it would have been about half the size of the Titanic. They then calculated the weight of two of each of the estimated 35,000 animals on the planet and came to the conclusion that the buoyancy force predicted by Archimedes Principle would allow it to float. They stayed silent on the question of how they would feed the animals without feeding them to each other, or who would get the job of mucking out.

Local Interest

Sample the beer? It would be rude not to...

Sample the beer? It would be rude not to…

April kicked off with the 2nd Gloucester CAMRA Beer & Cider Festival on the first Friday and Saturday. Held at Blackfriars priory this is a superb event in a magnificent setting. Unlike last year the beer didn’t run out before the end, although there were some anxious moments when it was thought that it might.

Northend Vaults pubsignTwo of the city’s pubs re-opened during the month, which is good news: the Northend Vaults, which had been closed for some time and has undergone a significant refurbishment, and the Union which, much to my horror, has changed its name to Molly’s Bar and is going to have an Irish theme. Of course I blogged on this too.

More plans have emerged for development of the Fleece Hotel, with the YMCA wanting to turn it into a back-packers hotel plus boutique shops and, critically, a cafe-bar in the old Monk’s Retreat. There are some mixed reviews on the £12 million pound proposal, and I confess to having some concerns that if it ends up looking like a run-down hostel it isn’t going to do Gloucester’s historic Westgate quarter any favours. Done well, however, it could bring some much needed vibrancy into the city – and I’d love to see the Monk’s Retreat back in business. For more on the history of the Fleece take a look at one of my most popular blogs here.

After all of the controversy over the indoor market, this month there was controversy over plans to move the “Cherry and White market” that occupies King’s Square on Fridays and Saturdays to make way for an archaeological dig in preparation for development. Now I know that we are talking about people’s livelihoods here, so I am not completely devoid of sympathy, but really, what did they think was going to happen when development finally started? Also, maybe I am becoming a snob in my old age, but the market looks a bit ‘low rent’ and tatty to me, hardly the image that Gloucester is trying to project for its future.

Personal

I have already said that April had a busy start. Having helped set up the beer festival at the very end of last month, I now got to enjoy it. I visited as a punter to drink on the Friday, which was brilliant, then spent all day Saturday working as a volunteer, which I think was probably even more fun, if exhausting. More on that here. Then, with a hangover and aching feet, on the Sunday we headed off to Prescott for the annual bike festival, where I took loads of pictures, some of which you can see here.

IMG_3866_edited-1

The weekend was made even more enjoyable as my wife’s Uncle David & Auntie Esther visited from London to enjoy it with us. My wife doesn’t get to see her family very often, so it was a treat for her and good that she could show off our fine city to them.

The following Saturday I attended a RoSPA course to become a tutor on slow riding on motorcycles. I have been to a number of slow riding days and was surprised how much fun it was, so it will be good to go along to the next one and actually help others develop their skills. If you are a motorcyclist I would encourage you to give it a go as it greatly improves your riding – failing that, you can at least read more about it here.

Wheels Day 2014, Dunsfold AerodromeThe following weekend was Easter and we arranged to visit friends in Surrey. It was bad timing as I would also have liked to attend the Craft Beer Festival at Gloucester Brewery, but you can’t do everything! We went to Surrey on our bikes, taking a long leisurely ride down, and also met up with a couple of other Gloucester friends there. The highlight of the weekend, other than seeing friends of course, was a visit to Wheels Day at Dunsfold Park. This was another occasion when I took a LOT of photographs.

We did a fair bit of riding over the weekend and, luckily, mostly managed to stay dry (except Sunday, when we got pretty wet, but didn’t go too far). The mileage is still nothing, however, compared with what we will be doing on our trip to the US later in the year. I really need to get more practice crunching the miles…

Oh yes, and it was Easter: our hosts bought us all Easter eggs! How thoughtful!

My blogging

I only managed to write 10 blogs during April, but not too bad considering it was a busy month – and still one better than last month.

There are, however, two pieces of good news…

The first is that April saw the most hits to my blog in a month ever! Okay, so it’s still less than 1700 hits, so probably pretty poor by most standards, but I’m chuffed.

This was, in large part, due to a single post, “A Tale of Two Pubs”, which for some reason got a huge number of hits: seven times more than the second post about Wheels Day, which has many more nice pictures. It had more hits, in fact, than the next nine most popular posts put together. It just goes to show, you never can tell…

And this brings me to the second piece of good news: Fighting Political Apathy was not the month’s most popular post; in fact it only just scraped into the top 10. Seven of the top 10 posts of the month were written in April, which is good.

So, that was April for me: one third of 2014 down, two to go…

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About Darrel Kirby

I am what I am.
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