20 years of internet shopping

Novak: Slovak Suite etc. CD coverToday marks twenty years to the day since I first bought something online. The item was a CD of Novák’s Slovak Suite and other works, and it was bought online from hmv.co.uk for the princely sum of £11.24, plus £1 for postage. The site still exists today, although HMV must have been in administration and changed hands a few times in the intervening period.

I wanted to buy the CD after hearing the same recording, of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Libor Pešek, played regularly by John Brunning on Classic FM’s Smooth Classics at Seven. It proved impossible to find in the shops, so it had to be online. Today, I don’t think twice about buying something online. It’s still the case that I buy things in the local shops if I can find them, but in most cases it simply isn’t possible. Of course, over the last year, we’ve seen most shops closed, so online shopping has been a lifeline for everyone.

I do still buy CDs, too. The sound quality is still better than most downloads. Admittedly, I tend to buy second-hand CDs and make FLAC files out of them. Sometimes I have bought CDs containing recordings of concerts where I was in the audience, as it’s nice to have something physical as a memento.

Some things don’t change, though. The first movement, At Church, from the Slovak Suite, is still a regular on John Brunning’s Smooth Classics at Seven, and I still love it just as much as I did 20 years ago.

Grow up!

I’ve never been much of a fan of Boris Johnson. His antics were mildly amusing when he was Mayor of London, a position that was created to be filled by personalities as much as politicians. However, his behaviour was often inappropriate and damaging when he became Foreign Secretary, and the mind boggled as to what he might be like as Prime Minster.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has rather put a damper on Mr Johnson’s shenanigans, and I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with him last week when he said that people who take photos of empty hospital corridors to “prove” that the virus is a hoax need to “grow up”. I think this is a fitting response to various conspiracy theorists. Think Donald Trump is secretly fighting a paedophile ring operating among Washington’s elite? Grow up! Left-wing activists dressed as Trump supporters attacked the US Capitol? Grow up! I would also extend it to climate change deniers and flat Earthers. Grow up, the lot of you!

Some people need to realise that this is real life, not a Hollywood film where incredibly far-fetched conspiracy theories are somehow concealed against all the odds. The political conspiracies are bad enough, but what particularly enrages me is when people deny scientific fact. The coronavirus pandemic is deadly serious, and people who trespass in hospitals or protest against lockdown restrictions are costing people’s lives.

I often consider parallels between the pandemic and a war. During World War II, fascist leaders such Oswald Mosley was interned: put in prison without being charged with a crime, and without trial. One could argue that Mosley was expressing his own political beliefs, to which everyone is entitled; however as those beliefs happened to align with and support our enemies, he was put in prison. The coronavirus, on the other hand, is not a belief; it’s a scientific fact. There is no justification or argument for anyone to protest against the virus, or claim it doesn’t exist. I would therefore argue that people who do so – or at least their ringleaders such as Piers Corbyn – should be thrown straight into prison in the interest of national security. If it wasn’t for the fact that a pandemic is probably a bad time to greatly expand the prison population, I think this should be seriously considered. This is, after all, a time of national emergency akin to a war.

We are not talking about hanging above London on a zip-wire here. We are talking about people’s childish attitudes that are costing lives. Some people need to take a good, hard look at themselves, take some adult responsibility for their actions… and grow up!

Time to end uncivil and nasty politics

George W. Bush has congratulated Joe Biden on winning the US presidential election, and called him a “good man” and the election “fundamentally fair”.

Many of us were not particularly impressed with Bush when he was president, but then we could never have imagined anyone as awful as Donald Trump holding that office. Bush’s statement today shows him, if nothing else, to believe in fair play and decency.

In this, Bush takes after his father. Bush senior was the previous US president to lose an election, to Bill Clinton, and only serve one term. When British prime minister John Major called him to commiserate him, Bush told him that he had been impressed with Clinton’s knowledge, adding that he would be “good to work with”. It’s hard to imagine Trump saying that about anyone. (In fact, John Major also made a similar comment about Tony Blair to Bill Clinton after losing to Blair in 1997.)

The late George Bush once said, “Because you run against each other that doesn’t mean you’re enemies. Politics doesn’t have to be uncivil and nasty.” Hopefully, the ousting of the president who those terms describe perfectly can be the start of a return to a politics characterised by civility and fair play on both sides of the Atlantic.

Didcot Power Station cooling towers demolition

At about 7am, the remaining three cooling towers were demolished.

Didcot Power Station cooling tower demolition 1

Didcot Power Station cooling tower demolition 2

Didcot Power Station cooling tower demolition 3

Didcot Power Station cooling tower demolition 4

Didcot Power Station cooling tower demolition 5

Didcot Power Station cooling tower demolition 6

The demolition scared hundreds of birds, which flew around crazily following the explosions, and also set off burglar alarms even a couple of miles away. It also caused a power cut not only in Didcot but in Abingdon, Wantage, Wallingford and further afield, apparently due to an issue at the substation that is right next to the site of the cooling towers.

See also:

Boris Johnson and bus deregulation

With the unfortunate news that Boris Johnson is to be the next prime minister, I thought it a good opportunity to highlight a post from 2007.

Johnson had written in his Telegraph column how bad he considered the bus network in London to be, suggesting that London should adopt the system common throughout the rest of the country, which is effectively a free-for-all where different companies run whatever routes they want, where there is no central timetimetabling or ticketing, and where often it is not possible to use the same ticket on different operators’ services.

In response, the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, had defended London’s buses. As Johnson was at the time MP for Henley, in Oxfordshire, I decided to write a letter to the Telegraph pointing out that buses in Oxfordshire, using Johnson’s proposed system for London, didn’t really work that well. A slightly edited version of the letter was printed in the newspaper.

Johnson became Mayor of London the following year, but his plan to change the way London buses worked never saw the light of day. So that’s Johnson Nil, Me 1…

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