Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

MODERN TIMES: The Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on December 15, 2011 at 4:51 pm

That borders bust-up

I presume that we’ve all been paying attention to that recent bust-up between Home Secretary Teresa May and her former head of the “border force”, Brodie Clarke.

Personally I’m not really bothered about who did what to whom, and who gave the orders. And I doubt that our security was really jeopardised one jot by it all.

But as a reasonably law abiding Dinosaur, born in primeval Britain with a UK passport tucked away somewhere, I’ve long objected to the hoops we have to go through to leave or re-enter this country. Personally I neither have the predilection or the ability to commit “terrorist acts”. But whoever we are, we all have to put up with the nightmare of what’s known as UK “airport controls” – tediously lengthy check-in times, searches and scans, and invariably hostile looking officials who seem to assume that potentially we’re all up to no good.

Getting back into the UK is almost as bad. It usually involves long shuffling queues that snake around a bleak entry hall the size of an aircraft hanger. And that’s just trying to get back into one’s own country!

Incidentally, for those who come in to Britain by car or coach, have you noticed that Britain’s border controls are now actually just outside Calais? It’s here that you’re expected to rummage for your passports and face the steely-eyed “border force”.

Of course the experience varies. Arriving in Canada, for example, is usually quite welcoming. But my worst encounter to date was on a flight to New Zealand involving a stop for refuelling in Los Angeles, USA. We were all taken off the plane, made to wait in a  corridor for an hour, before being herded into a “transit lounge”: an interior room with no natural light and with armed guards posted around the walls. We had our passports examined and stamped, were subjected to an “iris test”, and made to sit until we were allowed to re-board our Air New Zealand plane.

I wouldn’t imagine that Teresa May, or any member of her Government, has to go through that kind of ordeal. They’re probably given the red carpet treatment.

Come fly with me?

Darting off at a tangent slightly, I’ve recently been to see the film, The Age of Stupid, a production with a powerful green message, looking at how our own stupidity and greed led to global warming, and (in the film) the final destruction of human civilisation.

One of the many points hammered home in the film is the environmental damage caused by the increasing number of aeroplanes in our skies. The implicit message is “don’t fly” – Airlines are bad for us all.

I don’t have any argument against the message. But the only problem is that if we want or need to visit those faraway places across the Atlantic or Pacific, how do we do it without taking to the air? The era of ocean liners is now over, and no genius has yet come up with an environmentally friendly alternative for global travel. So, do we merely stay put in our own land-locked continents, never having any physical contact with those across the seas?

Or could we merely accept the “virtual reality” offered via the computer and the world wide web? Or those travelogues on the telly showing us life in faraway places? Or do we just wait for the oil that powers the aircraft to run out?

For this particular Dinosaur it’s a dilemma. If anyone has the answer, let’s have it!

The Olympic ideal…

Whatever happened to the Olympic ideal? That ideal of friendly sporting competition between the nations has long since been sullied by interests that believe that winning at all costs is what counts. That of course all began at the Berlin games mounted as a showcase for Aryan supremacy back in the 1930s.

Now on top of that, we’re told that the London Olympics will take place in an atmosphere of tight security. Demonstrations will be banned anywhere near the site, homes may be searched at will and any political material confiscated – and there’s even been talk of missiles being alerted in case of “terrorist attacks”.

Is all this worth all the money, the dislocation and the razzmatazz?  Let’s scroll back to the first post-war Olympics held in London. That was a cut-price affair held in a bomb-damaged city. We didn’t win much on that occasion – but didn’t we all enjoy it! And that’s what it should be all about.

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