Wednesday, 16 November 2011


A farmer  named Sid was overseeing his stock in a remote moorland pasture in  Peak District when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced toward  him out of a cloud of dust.        
The  driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses  and YSL tie, leaned out the window and asked the farmer, "If I tell  you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, Will you  give me a calf?"      Sid looks  at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully  grazing stock and calmly answers, "Sure, why not?"   The  yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects  it to his Cingular RAZR V3 mobile phone, and surfs to a NASApage on  the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix  on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that  scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.             
The  young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and  exports it to an image processing facility in HamburgGermany .             
Within  seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has  been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL  database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on  his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.     
   Finally,  he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech,  miniaturized HP LaserJet printer, turns to the farmer and says, "You  have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.   "That's right. Well, I guess you can take  one of my calves," says Sid.          He  watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on with  amusement as the young man stuffs it into the back of his car.                  
Then  Sid says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your  business is, will you give me back my calf?"          
        The  young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why  not?"        "You're  a Member of Parliament for our Government", says Sid.          "Wow!  That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"     "No guessing required." answered the  farmer. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want  to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never  asked. You used millions of pounds worth of equipment trying to  show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing  about how working people make a living - or about cows, for that  matter.  This is a herd of sheep. ... 
Now give me back my dog!


The windswept platform at Goostrey station is not exactly the place to begin a long train journey. Years ago when it was staffed by a railway ticket clerk-cum-porter it blossomed with flowers, and the waiting room was not bereft of its window glass. If you were lucky in winter a cheerful fire burned in the grate.
 That was how it was but I know in today’s age of bean counters such comfort and luxury for the simple traveller is a bygone dream. Yet there are still many benefits for the passenger. It takes less time to reach London and by and large the trains run always to time.I  often let the train  (as they used to say in the ad) take the strain– given I want value from my senior rail card – and I still marvel that despite our so-called crowded isle, the iron road threads its way via some of the most  inspiring countryside to be found. Even the great mass of the industrial midlands is hidden from view. It is as near a chocolate box picture of how we like to think of rural Britain glimpsed from great comfort at speeds of over 100 mph. In a little more than two hours you are in Euston.

I have no need or desire to be whisked away from my home village to be set down in the capital in less a time than now – perhaps within an hour. But that will happen if the political masters have their way with plans for a high-speed rail link to the midlands and north west and beyond. We are promised near virtual travel. Just think in the future of entering a capsule (by then coaches will be redundant) and minutes later you step out on the platform at Euston.
Of course all this comes at a cost. The new super track will carve its way through much of that land we now so much admire. No time given  to read the paper (or electronic device) fiddle with the mobile, listen to one of those banal one-sided phone conversations, or caress a large whisky or gin and tonic as the train glides along the track.  The adventure of travel will finally be put to rest. Only the captains of industry and commerce are said to be the beneficiaries of this new age in rail travel, and even then it will be of doubtful benefit.
 The National Trust and the Council for the Protection of Rural England are rightly alarmed at the prospect of another attack on our shrinking countryside. The damage that will be caused by the proposed line is bad enough, but it will create the potential for yet another explosion in speculative building as seen in the 19th century. When the Metropolitan railway was pushed further and further outwards from the centre of London, leafy villages and market towns were swallowed up to  become suburbs with a morass of houses and commercial properties virtually overnight. You think not? 
Well, the government wants to ease planning laws. Yes, most people think some relaxation is needed, but how many will agree the sacrifice makes it worthwhile?   To me it seems daft to spend billions on a project that will do so much irreparable damage. It would be better spent on maintaining and upgrading what we have now. I leave this blog (or ramblings of a SOF) with  email sent to me by a pal in Goostrey illustrating the high-speed world of communications in which we live.Some gremlin in the system stops me from adding it here but it can be found elsewhere on the site.. Enjoy!