Well this week I faced the joys of a long distance car trip. Is there any other sort when you’re leaving Cornwall but as I was headed for Norfolk it was quite a stretch, 400 miles in fact. Like all journeys it started with lots of familiar landscape that seemed to make it feel as though you weren’t actually getting anywhere, until we get to Exeter the route is identical for any journey that involves leaving Cornwall and familiarity breeds boredom. I know some people bemoan the advent of electronic gizmos and hanker for the days of eye spy but eye spy can only last for about 30 minutes by the most Enid Blyton of families. For the more Simpsons type of family eye spy usually degenerates into accusations of cheating and tortuous rules after 10 minutes. I’m sure I’m not the only person to be amazed by the convoluted rules that siblings will suddenly invent to ensure that their brother fails to win his round. So it is with great joy that I load up their devices with story books, films, music and games and then listen to Radio 4 in peace and quiet as the car steadily chews up the miles.
We did of course play the odd game of fives, car cricket and eye spy. The occasional diversions were supplied by other road users and oddities in the countryside. For a while we were entertained by a stunt plane that was practising loop the loops, dives and backwards flips, he was so impressive that I’m amazed that the M4 wasn’t littered with cars that had all run into each other as the drivers gazed at the skies rather than the tarmac ahead. As we moved onto the M25 we kept an eye out for Windsor Castle, as soon as we spot it we know that we are on the last leg of the journey so it’s always a great moment. The M11 provides two tunnels with which to hold our breath and then we are onto the A11.
Travelling to Norfolk is like Cornwall in many ways. The motorway peters out and suddenly you are welcomed by empty duel carriage ways (I’m not including Saturdays) and the world seems to drop away from you. You pass through Suffolk or Devon and suddenly hit a single lane carriage way, invariably this is crowded and you wonder where all the traffic has come from. The stretch in Suffolk goes on for many, many miles and is long and straight; invariably people crash their cars, tempted by high speed overtaking and so the road network grinds to a halt as it cuts through MOD land and there’s no left or right turn. Thankfully we pass along the stretch unhindered by delays and reach Norfolk with ease. Like Cornwall, Norfolk is not on the way to anywhere, no one passes through Norfolk on their journey to somewhere else and so it has that sleepy not bothered air that Cornwall has. Unlike Cornwall you can actually see Norfolk. Gone are the steep banks on either side of the road, the tree lined tunnels the reinforced hedges, instead the road drifts over to sandy curbs sown with wild poppies that spill onto the huge flat fields that stretch away to the ever present sky laid out in all its glory. I know I’m waxing lyrical but I do miss the sky here in Cornwall.
The return journey had everything that we had missed on the trip up, the fights, the hot weather, the many traffic jams but it also had the sense of excitement as we ticked off the Tavistock turning, Gilbert the Goblins house, the hedgehog bridge and finally our own road and Steve and Harry waiting with huge grins. Journeys are about the travelling, the destination but most importantly about coming home at the end.
I’ve just started on a course run by the Green Foundation at Eden. It’s run over a few weeks and is aimed at local businesses in an effort to make them more aware of climate issues and sustainability. It was quite a change to go back into a more formal business environment and reminded me why I was quite glad to leave it all behind me in the first place. I’m not good with strangers and quite happy to disagree with people so not the best start. In fact when I went into the room two tables were filling up with people chatting to each other and getting to know one and other. I went and sat on the empty table. Gradually my table also began to fill up but funnily enough, it began to fill up with other people who were quite happy to keep their own company. One quiet, polite table two bubbly tables. I think the course organisers must have looked at us with concern. Embarrassment inducing “get to know” you exercises continued and more and more people got into the spirit of things. My table seemed to retreat into itself but we were beginning to share a few raised eyebrows and grimaces with each other. Progress of a sort. Gradually and at our own speed we got to know each other and soon we were as likely to be told off for talking as any other table.
Eden makes for such a wonderful venue to host a course, we were often wandering off into the gardens either to discuss things or just have a coffee. Lectures were varied and interesting and the team work – yes I cringed – wasn’t so dreadful and as I got to scribble loads of doodles I was happy. The structure of the course was to discuss the wider climate change picture and then we began to narrow it down to our own businesses to see if and how we could improve practices. I’m only half way through, a few more sessions at Eden and some site visits to other delegates businesses to compare and contrast but so far it’s proving interesting. The start of the course was a bit shocking, all the facts and figures, the rise of costs, the change in climate, the damage to the environment all of these things were alarming but they’re not new. We know that the world has been getting hotter, that worldwide there has been a greater frequency of extreme weather events, that there is more CO2 in the atmosphere and that there is a finite supply of fuel. All this we know and yet it still seems to be a remote issue. Maybe because the problem is the next step; we don’t scientifically, categorically know what is going to happen next and we don’t know therefore how to fix it.
The Green Foundation makes the point that even if we don’t know what comes next we can make a pretty good guess that globally it’s going to get hotter which isn’t good news for billions of people. Even if things got no worse than today, Bangladesh would still suffer country wide flooding, Australia would still be on a permanent drought footing, America would be more prone to massive tornados to name but three very large countries. Maybe we will cool down again but the link between CO2 emissions and global temperature rises is pretty clear for the last few millennia. So if we want to cool down we have to reduce CO2 emissions. Which are amongst other things fossil fuels. Hard to imagine a world without fossil fuels though.
What do you know? Royalty must read my column! Do you remember the other week when I said that there were lots of great ways to visit Mevagissey but the best ways was by boat? Well on Tuesday, HRH Sophie, Countess of Wessex came to visit Mevagissey to re-open the Tourist Information Centre and to see how businesses were managing after the floods and she came by boat! It was quite funny she got dropped off at the lighthouse and was then driven done to the front of the harbour. It’s hardly a big walk but I guess they have incredibly packed timetables so every second counts. It was nice to have someone come and have a look about and see what’s what. It’s great to see businesses up and trading again but more importantly there are still people who aren’t back in their homes yet and I hope that they soon are. HRH was then whisked onto Heligan, where she would have been assailed by wonderful scenery and glorious scents. It’s lucky that she didn’t come into St Austell then, poor thing would have been assailed by an altogether less fragrant smell. I have no idea what the smell is that is coming and going to the east side of St Austell but it smells like rotting cabbages. I’m sure I’m not the only person who went to B&Q to get a set of drain rods, I know people are talking about it being connected to the brewery and the smell is definitely present on Trevarthian Road but I think people should investigate the DIY shops first – I bet they’re doing a roaring trade in drain rods and cleaners!
Even if the Countess of Wessex had wanted to sample the fragrance for herself I wonder if she would have made it back out of the town. I have never known so many road works; the council seems to be acting as though it has a sum of money that it must spend before May is finished. It doesn’t matter where I go I’m hitting bollards and traffic lights, some days I’m hitting three on one journey and they’re like mushrooms, overnight they suddenly pop up and so the school run is taking longer and longer and getting more convoluted. Hey ho, if it means no more pot holes then I’m all for it. I do wonder though why it can’t be done at night?
On a more positive note we are now the proud sponsors of a radio show. Hurley Books sponsor the Carclaze School show on Radio St Austell Bay on Tuesdays from 4pm – 5pm. 105.6 f.m. I know I’m biased but it’s a great show, run by Janet and Simon, every week children come from the school and chat about, amongst other things, what they are reading. This week’s book is Pip of Pengersick “Adopted into a family of Cornish smugglers, Pip takes to life on the high seas. An encounter with a well-dressed stranger sends Pip and her smuggler friend. Harry, on a secret mission to France, a country in the grip of revolution. What is this secret that people will kill for? And who are the shadowy figures that dog their every footstep?” Sounds exciting doesn’t it? It’s aimed at 8 -11 year olds so if you know someone in that bracket maybe they would like to read along and see what the pupils at Carclaze make of it next week?
It’s great to have a truly local radio station and it’s also really nice to hear children on the radio on a show aimed at children. I honestly can’t think of another current radio show anywhere, locally or nationally that is just for children so well done RASB! Maybe the pupils of Poltair or Penrice would like to run a later show for teenagers?