I know I’ve said this every month for the past few months, but it has been another incredibly busy month – this is good, obviously, but it means I haven’t been paying very close attention to the news. Nonetheless, I’ll have a go at summarising the month once again.
The World at Large
Hell in a hand-cart; that seems to be the best way to describe where the world’s going at the moment. The Russian’s are still stomping all over Ukraine and making out that they’re the victims; new atrocities come out every day in the war between Israel and Hamas, with neither side seeming to care that thousands of innocent civilians are dying because of their actions; wars continue to rage across Syria and Libya and now the Islamic State (formerly Isis) have turned their attention on Iraq, where they are slaughtering, enslaving and be-heading people all in the name of their warped view of religion.
Alarmingly there are plenty of nutters from this country heading off to these war torn countries as jihadis, with their copy of “Islam for Dummies” tucked under their arms – it seems that it was a Brit that beheaded two American journalist in Iraq and is now threatening a British one. There is a very real concern that these radicalised head-cases will return to the UK and continue their bad work here and no-one seems sure what to do about it.
Meanwhile, in West Africa, they have problems of a different sort due to an epidemic of the Ebola virus which has so far claimed more than 1000 lives this year. Having watched too many films like ‘Outbreak’ it seems to me that we should be worrying about this more, but perhaps with everything else going on there’s not enough worry left to spare.
As wars rage all around the world, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War (the war to end all wars didn’t quite work out like that!). Disturbing parallels have been drawn between the world situation then and today.
In an impressive visual display, the dry moat of the Tower of London is being filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies: one for every British or colonial soldier killed in the war; the last will be added on armistice day on 11 November, but it already looks very spectacular.
Further evidence that the world is a very sick place comes with revelations of child abuse on an alarming scale in Rotheram, with 1400 children suffering terrible ordeals at the hands of mostly Asian men between 1997 and 2013. Everyone who should have done something to stop it seemed to know about it, but took no action. This was apparently partly due to a fear of appearing racist (a gift to genuine racists!) and partly due to treating the children, mostly from ‘troubled homes’, with contempt.
As if we needed more sad news, one of the world’s great comedians, Robin Williams, died of an apparent suicide on 11 August. A great loss; na-nu, na-nu. This was followed by the death of the much loved actor, producer and director Sir Richard Attenborough on the 24th.
The debate on Scottish independence continued in the run up to the voting, with Alister Darling going head to head with Alex Salmond in two public debates. General consensus was that they won one each, but it probably won’t do anything much to change anyone’s minds. We’ll all know how it worked out next month as the referendum takes place on 18 September.
And finally, on a lighter note, social media sites have been inundated this month by videos of people pouring ice water over their heads in the name of charity for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I succumbed and joined the craze and shared some thoughts on the whole thing here.
Trials of driverless cars have been given the go-ahead in three British cities, possibly as early as January. I’m in two minds about this: on the one hand driving can often be a real hassle and there are a lot of deaths caused each year by bad driving; on the other hand you can see this eating away at the freedom to just get in the car and do your own thing. And where will this leave motorcycling? I’m not sure I’m ready for the future.
I haven’t been doing very well at keeping up with local news this month, so apologies if I have missed many things of importance – I may need to catch up with it next month.
The month started, as I trailed last month, with the final weekend of my favourite week of the year in Gloucester’s calendar: the Gloucester Blues Festival. I really went for it this year and had a great time, blogging about it extensively here for the short version, and here and here for the long version in two parts.
Coinciding with the Blues Festival weekend was the equally brilliant Paint Jam. This was the inaugural festival and saw street artists from all over the country descend on the city to show off their talents. More about that on my blog here
There was excitement at the Docks this month as five tall ships and a film crew arrived to do some (very brief) filming for Alice through the Looking Glass with Johnny Depp. Much to everyone’s disappointment Mr Depp himself seems not to have been involved in these scenes. Other filming was also taking place in Painswick and Stonehouse for J.K.Rowling’s latest book, The Casual Vacancy; and an American TV series starring Vinnie Jones, Galavant, was filming at Haresfield Beacon.
Two new eateries opened in the Quays this month: a huge TGI Fridays near the entrance to the shopping centre and Coal Bar and Grill in the Pillar and Lucy Warehouse (former home of the Waterfront) – I haven’t tried out either yet, so can’t comment, but reports suggest both have proved very popular.
The Citizen reported that plans were afoot to ban glasses in pubs during the Rugby World Cup next year. As you may imagine I was opposed to this idea – in fact I wrote a blog about it last August, which I largely re-used for a Citizen article.
So why have I been so busy?
Well, as mentioned above, the first weekend of the month was taken up with the Blues Festival. I had little time to recover before heading off, on the following weekend, to the Fairport Convention Cropredy Festival. This was my second year at the festival and, although the music was less appealing to me this year, it was still a brilliant weekend. Read all about it here.
The following Sunday was Brackley Festival of Motorcycling – something else that I only discovered last year but has now earned a definite place in my calendar.
And then, the following weekend, we headed off to Bury St Edmonds to visit my wife’s relatives. I am not enthusiastic about visiting people, but on this occasion my enthusiasm was improved by the fact that we went by motorbike, and it was an excellent ride in both directions – even the weather stayed good for us.
And the final weekend we first went to friends for a planning meeting for our much anticipated trip to the US. The thing with a road trip is it needs planning: some people say that planning is this best bit, but I would have to say that those people are wrong! I hate it: all that decision making! We all came away from the meeting with actions – far too much like work! Anyway, things are now coming together and I wait with eager anticipation and some trepidation.
And then, on the Sunday, we had a much more relaxed affair for our friend Jan’s birthday: she provided excellent food and the beer and wine flowed freely – sadly I was on driving duty.
As you will notice from above, every weekend in August was taken up with exciting social activities, leaving precious little time for blogging. Nonetheless, I managed 9 blogs, which is better than the past couple of months! Admittedly most of them were just about the social activities I mention above and no less than three of them were about the Blues Festival, but they still count!
Despite this relatively poor effort on the writing front I somehow managed to achieve my best monthly hit rate ever – by quite a long way! I had over 2000 hits (that may not sound a lot to you, but it’s good for me; my next best was less than 1700 back in April!).
Partly this is a bit of a cheat because the blogs all contain lots of photos, which seem to count as hits individually when people click on them. I also benefited from an unexpected surge in interest for my blog on the Fleece Hotel which I wrote back in February 2013, thanks to it being discovered and Tweeted by Jason Smith from Marketing Gloucester. It came in second behind “Gloucester Docks through the Looking Glass“, talking about the filming at the Docks.
Six of my nine posts of the month made it into the top 10. Amongst the three that didn’t were last month’s review, struggling in at number 12, but I am going to try and persevere to see the year out before I stop doing them. My write up of Brackley also only made it to number 13, which is frustrating because the write up from last year got in at number 8! Finally my blog about the ice bucket challenge came nowhere, but to be fair I did post it late on the 31st so it didn’t have much chance!
Well, that’s it for another month: roll on September – a big month for history in Gloucester, but on the whole, hopefully a little quieter for me.