Wind in the Wellows, part II

Bless the fickleness of the Isle of Wight’s aspiring MPs, out for a vote, particularly Jill Wareham, Liberal Democrat candidate.

It is just a very short time since her spring newsletter arrived thought Island letterboxes, proclaiming support for the Cheverton Down wind turbine appeal and saying she “would like to see wind turbines here”.

Since then, the announcement has been made for a second attempt at constructing wind turbines at Wellow, a project that Jill’s husband Martin at least was against when it was proposed and he went around canvassing for the Lib Dems in the 2005 local elections (or at least that was the view he gave on this householder’s doorstep). Martin Wareham, by the way, failed to take Freshwater Norton from now provenly corrupt councillor Conservative Andy Sutton way back then (Sutton is currently one of several councillors suspended over their conduct in a planning application).

No one remembers Jill having an opinion about the Wellow turbines at the time, and she was ultimately ousted from the Brighstone & Calbourne seat in a year when Lib Dem heads rolled like an avalanche after the party cocked up its policy on the Island’s schools. She resurfaced in 2010 banging her drum as prospective Lib Dem parliamentary candidate.

Back to turbines. Come this week, and with not one but two wind turbine plans now in the offing, Jill’s election communication omits any mention of wind turbines on the Island. And although her steps towards a fairer Britain and priorities for Islanders have increased from 4 to 7, renewable energy (a fair future: creating jobs by making Britain greener) has slipped from third to fourth.

Supporting wind turbines will cost Jill the votes of the Island’s old people and the wealthy. It’s no surprise that all mention of them should be dropped.


WaitLink ferries

Wight Link recently switched its service on the Lymington to Yarmouth route to a 45-minute schedule. For months it had been failing to keep to timetable for its 30-minute schedule, and frequently missed bus or train connections at Yarmouth or Lymington respectively. Waits were inevitable.

The switch to one ferry every 45 minutes, instead of one every half hour, was done without consultation. It just happened, with Wight Link citing speed limits in the Lymington estuary as one of the main reasons, along with age of the ferries meaning they could not make up time. The truth is simply that it cannot load and unload the ferries fast enough, because timing the journey shows it still takes 30 minutes to get from one side to the other. The speed limit in the estuary has been 4 knots for decades.

You’d think that adding 15 minutes to the schedule would make a difference, but no. On Friday and today I had the misfortune to travel this route on my way to and from Warfare. I arrived in good time for the 15:30 sailing from Yarmouth, which only managed to arrive at 15:38; it obviously left late and, of course, missed the connecting train to Brockenhurst. A long wait ensued at Lymington Pier, allowing a lovely sunset to be recorded.

On the way back today (Monday) I arrived when the service had switched to hourly, after the usual 25-minute wait at Brockenhurst station for the Lymington Pier train (the mainline train just misses it by a few minutes). at Lymington there was another 25-minute wait for the 13:15 boat, which duly turned up late, and then refuelled, prolonging its departure by another five minutes. I eventually arrived in Yarmouth at 14:05, missing the one-an-hour bus up to my neck of the woods.

The lamentable crapness of WightLink on this route is not hard to fathom. It is using passengers as helpless pawns in its battle with the residents of Lymington to get its new, larger ferries into service. Lymington’s finest have reacted to the ferries in the typical traditions of nimbyism and simply don’t want the new boats. West Wight, however, would be paralysed without them: the ferry link is vital for foot passengers such as myself, and for motorists seeking to travel to the west and south west of England.

The existing boats have severe limitations: their radar doesn’t look low enough for them to be used in fog without the risk of a collision with small boats. The mezzanine deck loading mechanism for cars at peak times is slow and therefore contributes to the delays in getting the ferries away. And like their smaller predecessors they now are showing their age.

The journey to Brockenhurst from the time of departure at Yarmouth should take 55 minutes. Thanks to WaitLink it often takes me two hours. With frequent visits to hospital in Southampton back on the agenda now that J. is on her second course of treatment, even the bus combo involved in travelling from Freshwater to West Cowes and then across by Red Funnel’s RedJet service is beginning to look attractive – and I never thought I’d ever say that.

Sunday summary, IW Festival 2008

It’s Tuesday, and I am recovered enough to finish entries about the festival with a short summary of Sunday. A “Happy Father’s Day” text from Jimjams woke me to get to the festival in time for Proximity Effect – another of the Island’s young bands – on the main stage, and breakfast at the Smooth Criminals smoothie bar. The Smooth Criminals is a regular stopping point of a festival morning. A vegan Jungle Juice got me going, and another customer commented that it sounded healthy. After the alcohol unit count of the day before, it had to be.

I caught the last of Sondura (another avalanche of sound type metal band) in the Big Top, stayed for Hogg, and then back to the main arena for Newton Faulkner. Faulkner provided a breath of air for the day, with immense talent coupled with humour and wit, thus entertaining on several levels. I’d have never bought his album before this point, but now it seems a must buy for the collection.

Back to the Big Top for the end of Gweido, and the whole Arcadian Kicks set (see earlier entry), and then it was main arena time for the rest of the day with Starsailor, James, The Kooks and finally The Police. The Kooks were the only one of four to disappoint, if only because after two well-known numbers it was just another lot of indie band noise that probably meant something to the fans. Jimjams loved them.

I hadn’t seen James for years, last showing interest in them around 1990. But they were polished and tuneful, and I recognised some of the set.

The Police were the only headlining act of the weekend to live up to their billing. Competent, polished music that covered all the well known songs and a few I never knew existed. I have never been a fan of the group, but the set closed the weekend wonderfully, and with five numbers in two encores they went down well. It was even possible to get close and revel in the atmosphere of the occasion. Jimjams didn’t hang around for them, however, and snuck off to Feeder in the Big Top.

About my only disappointment with the event as a whole was that it continues to be dominated by old, wrinkly performers. Was there really no one better than the Sex Pistols – a group that dismayed old and young alike – for the Saturday? Better to have the Sugababes, who packed out the Big Top and well beyond on the Saturday, yet on appearing on stage seemed surprised, saying that they didn’t know how many people would turn up. For goodness sake girls, you’re a top-selling girl group!

Sunday also proved to be day of the jerkwad, with one fat drunk objecting to how I looked. I have to wear gloves at these events because the grass aggravates my eczema (I go stuffed full of antihistamines too and have to avoid food with dairy products). OK, it makes me seem freakily Michael Jackson like, but most people assume I just have cold hands. Drunks, of course, have no subtlety. And there was the pettiness of some man defending his patch of festival soil, saying I had to go round and actually putting his arms out to stop me going straight through to my friends who were just in front of him. As I said, day of the jerkwad.

The bad weather held off, with just a few spots of rain on the last night.  And allergic reactions aside, it was a great three days. Can’t wait for next year.

Sundays stats: Cigarettes: 0; units of alcohol: 8 plus more unknown whiskies. Food eaten: vegan Jungle Juice (Smooth Criminals), lamb tagine (Dunsbury Lamb, again – so good I had to eat it twice), felafels. Jerkwad count: 2 (1 more than last year). Bands liked: Proximity Effect, Newton Faulkner, Arcadian Kicks, James, The Police. Disliked: The Kooks. Wish I could have seen: Scouting for Girls.

The Arcadian Kicks:

Proximity Effect:


Island Food At The Festival

Dunsbury Lamb trailer

Among the suppliers of food at the IW Festival are a number if local producers: some in the tent that comes as part of the deal between the council and festival organiser Solo, and one enterprising individual – Dunsbury Lamb. And what a difference there is between the two.

The council’s tent of doom contains a IW Tourism stand and stalls from a handful of local producers: Arreton’s Tomato Stall, Rosemary Vineyard, The Garlic Farm, and Calbourne Classics ice cream to name a few. All are excellent local produceds, but the showcase of the tent is dire. The tent is located off-pitch for the second time, off the main thoroughfare that links Strawberry Fields with the main arena, and therefore the footfall past it is lower that that past this year’s artistic sand sculptures on the main route of the connecting triangle.

The tent is uninviting, and this year the floor was treacherous underfoot, with three-inch strips of hazard tape placed every yard or so to hint that the floor was uneven. The tent acts so as to hide its producers rather than bringing them outside where they can be more easily seen, and the whole affair looks little better than food stalls at a church fete. Every time I walked past, which was frequent as I took that route by preference to get to the Big Top, there were very few people in the tent and business must have been slow.

Compare that with Dunsbury Lamb, whose catering trailer really took its product to festival goers by competing on equal terms with other food vendors. I ate there twice, choosing the excellent lamb tagine (a meaty lamb stew with peppers) – a menu option that sold out each day of the festival. It really was a most excellent dish, coming in a bread bowl that could be eaten afterwards, leaving only a paper serviette and a wooden fork as rubbish.

Of course, it takes quite an investment to escalate a stand from a table with a banner to a full-blown trailer purpose built for outside events. As a trader with a table and a banner myself, I appreciate that a more professional set-up is out of the question financially. However, it’s not the real problem: the problem lies with having the IW produce stands in a dark tent that hides more than it reveals. If the council seeks to promote the Island, it really needs to put on a welcoming front.

IW Council Tent of Doom

They hanged Dom Skelton and all his yellow-skinned family

Let’s get this clear. This is a pictorial joke that’ll only mean anything to anyone who visits wargames news website The Miniatures Page. Some people might say I’m crazy, but I say I’m comfortable that way.

And the dull stuff is that the giant smiling bananas were prizes on one of the stalls at the IW Festival 2008. 

You never forget how to…

… ride a bike. Much.

At the weekend I took time to power wash the house and at the same time hose down the bikes to get them usable for getting to and from the Isle of Wight Festival this coming weekend. Jimjams has grown since she last rode her bike, and having made use of her mother’s chaffeuring services, this means she hasn’t ridden her bike since primary school, some five years ago. She’s still too small to use a full sized bike, and having determined that her mother’s equally underused cycle was too high, I adjusted her old bike. It’s about as high as it will go but is now ideal. As Jimjams got on she declared she’d forgotten how to ride a bike.

This sort of declaration is not unusual, though when last heard it it was the slightly more terminal sounding “I’ve forgotten how to swim”, thereby showing that five years of swimming lessons had largely been wasted. Still, she evidently remembered enough to get out the pool, and so it was with the bike: an unsteady but forwards-moving journey. Jimjams has never understood the concept of gears, though.

My bike is used almost every day, and a quick hosing down made it look more presentable. However, it’s too big to go in the car to transport to where we’ll be staying over the festival, and our car can’t take a bike rack. So this morning I took advantage of the slightly hazy sunshine and got an early start on the 15-mile journey across the Island to our friends’ house in Wootton. I usually only cycle the few miles to the post office and back, so comparatively speaking this was an adventure.

It didn’t used to be like this. In London, forced by a succession of train strikes, I cycled the 16 miles to work from Wandsworth to Woolwich as a matter of habit, regularly beating public transport on a journey whose only tough part was Blackheath Hill. But it’s at least 15 years since I did that sort of thing every day, and I was prepared to be tired and somewhat saddle sore.

Cycling across the Island isn’t that hard, though the route isn’t flat. In fact there are some unpleasantly tough hills that virtually compel a rest stop at the top. Our local slope, Hallett’s Shute between Freshwater and Yarmouth, is an unpleasant monster that at least I can now get up without having to stop, but this wasn’t an issue as it’s downhill from home to Yarmouth. That short journey takes about five minutes downhill and 15 back.

The actual distance covered was about 15 miles, and it took me a leisurely 1 hour 20 minutes (compare that with 16 miles in 60 minutes in London). And I felt pretty good, though it did take two teas and some biscuits, plus an hour’s sitting down and chatting before I felt up to heading back home by bus.

The trip back was important to pick up a new gear cable in Newport. Not for the bike I’d just taken to Wootton, a comparatively new Dawes with a comfy saddle and conveniently placed gear levers (plus more gears than I actually use), but my old faithful touring bike, a burgundy Coventry Eagle with drop handlebars, a racing saddle, and gear levers down on the frame that once in the past have seen me in casualty after I missed them and stuck my fingers into the rotating spokes of the wheel. I had taken to using the Eagle in poor weather, until a gear cable broke leaving me permanently in fifth.

The Eagle has been revived so that I can continue to get to the post office while the Dawes is away. And it was a shock to ride, requiring a different sense of balance and complete readjustment to be able to change gear confidently. The racing saddle was very hard. I can’t believe I rode it for so many years without replacing it with a gel seat. But worst still was, saddle sore from the trip to Wootton I had to take out the Eagle today to get a vital order off to one customer. It was almost a harder trip than the one earlier in the day.

So, you may not forget how to ride a bike, but you can certainly forget what it was like to ride a particular one.