E is for Europe.

There are two Europes. One is a malignant Political leviathan aping the old USSR, despite the lessons its failure taught, the other is a wonderfully varied place, full of fantastic peoples, and worthy of extended visits, and getting to know more about.

A full ten percent of this fair isles residents never leave. There are the wilds of Dartmoor, the Brecon Beacons, the Mountains of Scotland, the Cornish Riviera, Historic Cities, from Bath to York, and all places in between, and over 4000 miles of coast. There is a lot to do and see here.

Some, like their ancestors, rarely travel more than ten miles from point of birth.

We do have a slight disadvantage, being an island, we have to cross the Channel to get to the rest of Europe.

Fun fact. My dear Wife and I had to attend an early morning  appointment in Greater London last year. Return rail ticket cost about £120. My eldest and I went to Berlin later in the year. Return flights for us were under £100. Brighton to Berlin, about 700 miles. Brighton to London, about 60 miles.

So Europe is accessible, go see it for yourself.

The other Europe is a bit darker.

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First, the History bit.  Over the last 1000 or so years, probably longer but 1000 years is long enough, the Europeans main hobby was War. It started in 1002 with a scrap between what we know today as Germany and Poland. The last big one ended in 1945, involving the same two Nations, and most of the rest of the world. You would think after best part of a 1000 years practice they would be really good at War, but this last conflict left both in ruins. Makes you wonder if that was a hint from the rest of the world.  

After the last big one, the winners devised a cunning plan to force peace on the Europeans, well, most of them, and this plan has morphed into the European Union.

Everyone was convinced they would rebuild, rearm and go back to war, once the next crop of soliders had grown up. The plan worked. By the clock, someone should have created a drama, and invaded someone else by about 1970. Have the Europeans broken the habit?

By forcing trade and cooperation on all the previous belligerents, war has become too inconvenient. Instead of ruthless armies of occupation, we have a ponderous army of bureaucrats meddling in  our day to day affairs. Instead of a slightly mad class of Aristocrats governing our lives, we have a European Commission, of slightly mad politicians.

If you ignore the huge financial mismanagement, the petty attempts at macro management, and the feather nesting, it basically works, because we are at least two big wars behind what historical precedent suggested.

It would be very easy for me to list a ton of things the European Union has done, and talks about doing, that would perpetuate the often polarised view folk hold. I like basic broad brush strokes. It was necessary for world peace that Europe be united. The old communist USSR was cast as the bogeyman, the USA and then NATO as the defender. Unified under a common threat. This ebbs and flows, time moves on.

Now we live in interesting times. War in Western Europe is unlikely. It’s good for the Arms industry, but that is not dominant. We have a businessman as President in USA. UK is leaving the European Union, Italy might do, Spain is starting to crack over regions. Greece has been financially ruined. Immigration of unskilled persons is at record levels.

It’s the age of soundbite politics, trial by media, twitter and 24/7 media. It’s the age of new generation, and they are generally disappointed. Every new generation feels the same way. This lot have the tools to tell everyone how they feel, and have been brought up with the dangerous message of entitlement, and other false promises.

Have to see where it goes from here….

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I is for Interested..

Now this can be a bit of a curse, especially with the discovery channel and YouTube.

There is so much freely available information. To make it more interesting, quite a lot of it is wrong. Not always totally wrong. But often inaccurate or misleading. The now legendary Encyclopedia  Britannica collection in most aspiring households has been rendered obsolete by Wikipedia’s growth. Without fully understanding how it works, it’s fair to assume if you are reading a blog, Wikipedia needs no introduction. But. And I know it’s a poor show to start a sentence with either of those words, but, it’s readily editable by anyone who can be bothered to register. Regardless of their expertise or political leaning. Britannica had a good reputation, although it could be dated. Wiki is not so reliable, but is a good starting point.

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(This is not a picture of me. In the free to use photo section, there appears to be little demand for grumpy overweight blokes peering at books. Just have to make do…..)

The discovery channel is great entertainment dressed up as vaguely educating. It usually entertains, even if you have to watch out for the words could, might be, and one day.

As a human, there are certain basic needs that have to be met, water, shelter, food being the basic building blocks of life. The Discovery channel is a long way down that list, but if the basics have been met, the need to stimulate the few pounds of soggy grey matter behind the eyes becomes more important.

I sometimes wish I could be interested or even fanatical about watching sports. That is well catered for. Doing sport is ok, good sometimes, watching it does not sit well with me. Watching live sport has a number of drawbacks, watching it on a small screen is not my beverage of choice. Simply put, watching a person pushing the limits of physical endurance, whilst slumped in a near vegetative state, consuming a steady stream of high calorie, high sugar crap, just seems wrong. Maybe I should watch the cycling from a static trainer, or the athletics while on a treadmill, not sure how I could watch Rallycross, other than throw myself off the chair occasionally.

But people do get interested in being a spectator, i’m just not sure how. Hence, the tendency to get interested in many different things, none of which are mainstream, and frankly only of interest to myself. The curse is to have a butterfly mentality, flitting from thing to thing, dependent on mood, weather and how much coin there is in my pocket.

Take art of example. I like doing art, making pictures, chasing pigment all over the page, that sort of thing. My art, my connection.  I have limited interest in watching art, like spending hours at a gallery. I am just not that deeply connected to it, or more likely, have that deeper level of understanding.

Or I will spend hours watching or reading about history.  If I go someplace, and have a bit of knowledge about the history of it, I will try to find some sort of physical connection. Literally touching the wall. The defeat of the Nazi’s in Berlin was a lot less abstract to me once I had touched the Reichstag building. The Cold war more real when I walked along what’s left of the Berlin wall. Suffering and crises was real at a Romanian state orphanage in the early 1990’s. The Iron age becomes more tangible when you walk around an abandoned hill fort.

And I have no idea why.