thesticks

"It's warm in the sun," declared the Webmaster, 'but I don't want to go walking through bogs."

"Where do you mean?"

"Well the route you picked last Sunday."

"With all the rain, everywhere will be boggy unless we stick to the roads. Why don't we do the Tongue Lane route and extend it out to Broad Lane. There aren't many stiles so it will be a bit easier for the Old Dog."

"You just want to see if the road has been properly fixed", accused the Webmaster, refering to an email he received from the council a couple of days ago reporting that they had completed the repairs to the pot hole he reported.

 "Oh, yeah, we can see what they've done. What we saw last week must have been a temporary fix. Do I need gloves?"

"Shouldn't think so."

We get the dogs ready and set off down the lane. It is a nice day: blue sky, bright but cold. 

"Brrr, not as warm as it looks."

"Hold the dog while I put my gloves on."

"You brought gloves."

"I put them in my pocket as contingency in case you were wrong." I smile across to the Webmaster as both dogs suddenly pull us to the left and head for the ditch.

"This must be where that dead dear was," explained the Webmaster. There is no sign of it now. "Someone must have taken it away, if foxes had eaten it there would still be some signs of it."

"Yes. You should have reported it. You can't leave large animals like that dead at the side of the road."

"Well it was in the ditch, I wouldn't have seen it if the dogs hadn't found it."

 We pull the dogs away from the ditch and continue down the lane.

"The club won't pay for the numbers, not just for a one off race. They may do for the Summer Series," said the Webmaster.

"Well they were very expensive. Why were they so much more expensive than the normal numbers? I thought you said they would be standard price for just one colour."

"That was a general printer, not the usual supplier. The usual supplier can't do what we want because they can't do a print merge to align the QR code with the number. They are only set up to print static text like the club and or sponsor name on the numbers."

"So no pilot run then. You can't just launch it new at the Summer Series without testing it in live action on something smaller."

"I"ve got the RFID tags coming on a slow boat from China."

"And something to read them?"

"Yeah, but just the electronics, no case."

"Well that'll work in the rain then!  How do they attach?"

"Like key fobs. Maybe on a lanyard type thing."

"What? You can't ask people to run with something round their neck. Don't be daft."

"Well people put their car keys round their neck."

"Maybe some do but not at the request of the race organisers."

"Maybe they'll pin on."

"How big are they?"

"Standard key fob."

"Is there a standard size? All ours are different."

The Webmaster begins to sound frustrated. "Just a standard type key fob," he repeats.

"Let's see when they get here." We walk on in silence for a while, rounding the lane round the sharp bend at the bottom of the lane.

"Something large has been driving this way recently, churning up the edges. Look." The Webmaster points to tyre tracks which have cut into the edge of the verge.

"We don't come up this way very often," I say as we turn to go up the track, "we're usually coming down here."

Our walk continues up on to the hill. The air is clear and the visibility is good. We can see over to the Welsh hills.

"I think the connection problem is atmospheric. I don't think it would recover so quickly if it were water in the connections," said the Webmaster referring to our loss of internet access which coincides with poor weather. "I couldn't see Mow Cop at all on Thursday".

"Is that the mast?" I ask pointing to a pylon type structure on the Mow Cop ridge, not far as the crow flies.

"Yeah, I think so."

"Well it is still better than the phone line we used to have. At least it works with reasonable speed most of the time. But when we first had the wireless connection it didn't go down much. It only seems to have been in the last few months. Has the weather really got so much worse?"

"It does seem to be linked to visibility. Although just fog doesn't seem to have the same effect but when there is heavy rain and poor visibility, that's when we have the problems."

We reach the top. It is cool and bright. We can see in all directions. Blue sky, distant mountains, dark moors, green fields and autumn coloured woodland. In the day time the built up areas, without their lights, are less visible. For a few seconds it is possible to believe that the world is all peace and beauty. This, with minor exceptions, is the same view our ancestors must have seen when walking this hill and it will, with luck be the view for our descendants. 

"Have you seen that Donald Trump doesn't believe in climate change and is planning to ditch the Paris accord?"

"Surely he will have advisors and listen to them."

"Hopefully he'll listen to experts but it seems experts are out of flavour on both sides of the Atlantic."

"Elites with vested interests eh?"

"Yep, but they are experts not elites. Did you see that report on pay for academics in universities? According to the article over 50% of lecturers and academics are on zero hour or very short term contracts and many are struggling financially. Really highly qualified, teaching in our universities and barely able to make a living. Of the top universities Birmingham is apparently the worst, with over 70%. I sent a link to the article to the Student."

"So what is she paying her nine grand a year for?"

"Good question."

"And they get more from overseas students although Mrs May is doing her best to undermine that. Complete madness to stop foreign students. Everything is short term."

"Muddled May, as the Times of India reported the other week."

We walk down from the hill, through the car park and turn to walk down the lane. The road has been repaired but how long it will last is anyone's guess. 

"It looks like lose fill. It'll wash away in heavy rain."

"Not really and lose fill is more flexible, it won't break off and leave those sharp edges and large drops. I think it is better." We continue to debate the quality of the road repair. In the end we agree that it does the job and stop vehicles damaging wheels or damaging their undersides if they have to pull over in the dark to avoid or pass an on coming vehicle.

We walk down to the feeder at the bottom of the valley and turn left to follow the path up to the village.

"Someone's cleaned out the blockage in the culvert." The Webmaster is looking at a large pile of silt and leaves sat at the edge of the feeder. The water level on the left of the culvert under the path was now the same as that on the right. Last time we came this way it had been much higher, and the water silted and stagnant. 

"E has posted on Facebook that he's going to apply for an Irish passport because he has a house somewhere in France and he was planning to retire there."

"Seems like everyone apart from us has a way out. There was an article in one of the on-line newspapers about people who voted Leave and then when they realised the implications for themselves applied for Irish citizenship. Shit. How could they do that? There was even an Irish citizen who said they had a vote and voted leave. Bloody hell. Now they regret it. They hadn't realised it would impact Ireland."

"Seems to be more and more about immigration."

"Yeah, well, I guess the people complaining about immigration who think leaving the EU will fix it and open up whole new world of trade with countries they seem to think we didn't trade with before don't read about Muddled May in the Indian newspapers."

"Haha, as the man said... maybe they will discover whole new opportunities with places that business men in the past were unable to find."

"Heseltine, you mean, at the select committee?"

"Yep, those were the days eh. You thought Thatcher's team was bad, but now you think about them as the good old days."

"Well, I do blame Thatcher for the social decay and her attitude of business before all and the trickle down. Yes, I do think a lot of this is her legacy, but they were good at trade, and they did have a coherent argument, and acknowledged the consequences, even though I disagreed with it. The current mob don't seem to have a clue. It isn't as though they have a strategy I disagree with. They still seem deluded. Their policy is bonkers and inconsistent. Boris made a fool of himself in Italy. It's embarrassing."

"No opposition! Opposition should be making a killing."

"Now you are just depressing me even more. No one dare stand up and say what they really think. The "people" have spoken, here and in the US. And Brexit might be bad for the economy, but now with Trump, it's the social implications that scare me most. Trump has proposed some very frightening policies and he is appointing people who are, if anything, even worse, and here no one in the government stands up against some very dangerous trends. Like the abuse of the high court judges. For God's sake a government minister was on a major TV show repeating them."

We have reached the top of the path. "Shall we follow the road rather than cut across past the allotments. It might be boggy that way."

"Yes, and it will be easier for the Old Dog. We'll avoid the stile."

"It can't be as bad as it sounds. Someone will see sense."

"That's what they always say. Did you actually read that article you sent me, that link to the extract from book about Germany from 1933 to the end of the war where someone was explaining how it happened? Very gradually, so slowly everything was normalised so there was never one big change that anyone could actually object to. And in the earlier days the excuses and rationalisation that it couldn't be that bad. It was a good follow on from that New York Times report of 1922. No one believe Hitler meant what he said. They thought he was just tapping into popular sentiment to raise support. In 1922 no one believed it, by mid 1930's it was too late."

"So when did it start this time? This isn't the beginning."

"I don't know but I think you are right. As I said, the first I noticed was in run up to 2014 European Parliament elections. Before then I hadn't seen this level of scapegoating and intolerance. Shit, that Twitter thread where it went from an announcement by the BBC of the Question Time participants to someone claiming 'tolerance' was a word used to brainwash people into surrender of the white race was unbelievable."

"Are you sure it wasn't just a troll trying to provoke?" 

"Pretty sure. I have seen other posts and he does enter into what looks like genuine argument and debate for a while before just resorting to that type of stuff."

"No one will listen to people linking the current situation to Hitler. They think it is scaremongering and elitism."

"But that's the point. Nothing much has happened, so why all the fuss. Then another small step and still nothing much has happened. Like the article said, a farmer watching his corn field everyday doesn't see it grow but one day it is over his head. Read the article."

We reach the car park and head back over the hill. "My hands are really cold now" complains the Webmaster, "the air is very cold." At the track we turn down towards the lane.

"You don't like going to the end of the hill and down do you?"

"I don't want the dogs to get muddy again. You'll only moan if they climb on the seats."

We walk down the road. "I'm sure those tracks cutting into the verge have got worse since we've been out" I said.

"Yeah, look. Something's cut into the bank on the bend and dislodged all those stones from the wall. Looks like they took out a part of the embankment and undermined the wall there."

The Webmaster points to lumps of sandstone lying in the road. Some large stones, some smaller.

"If anyone comes round the bend and runs into them they could damage their car."

"Yep, that one could do serious damage to a small car like the Student's. Hold the dog. I'll move them over there out of the way. There's not much we can do about the rest, but they look fairly stable for now."

The Webmaster moved about half a dozen stones from the road and piled them on the top of the opposite embankment where they could not roll back into the road.

"From the way the track marks are and how the stones have fallen it looks as though they were going that way." The Webmaster points in the direction of our walk, so that would have been the off side of the vehicle." He looks around. "See here." He points to the verge opposite the damaged embankment. "The grass is flattened and there are track marks. I think it must have been a large vehicle that couldn't get round the bend and it reversed back for another go. It can't have been the usual farm traffic though. The milk lorry and the others know how to take this bend." 

We finish clearing the mess from the road and walk the last bit up the hill home.