Author Archives: Roads

234. Fukushima, Japan and nuclear power in the UK

hinkley point nuclear power station somerset england by me'nthedogs flickrThe triple shock of a huge earthquake, a devastating tsunami and an unfolding nuclear accident rocked Japan in March, and my condolences go out to all the many thousands affected.

Luckily, none of this could never happen here in Britain. Or could it?

Despite public disquiet over the safety of the industry since Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, nuclear power has regained political favour in recent years.

Amidst desperately slow progress in investing in renewables to fill a looming energy gap in the UK, successive governments have presented nuclear as a clean, cheap and proven solution which also offers zero carbon emissions.

protest at sizewell b nuclear power station suffolk uk 2002 greenpeaceFaced with public concerns after Fukushima, ministers have maintained that the UK is unlike Japan because there are no appreciable seismic risks. We do have earthquakes, but mostly they are minor.

But low seismic risk falls far short of guaranteeing safety. The more important question is whether there are risks from geological or meteorological events which could threaten the safety of our existing and future nuclear power plants. And I’m afraid the answer is a resounding yes.
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233. Isle of Wight 1: On Tennyson Down

freshwater-bay-isle-of-wight-england-by-roadsofstone
No rock so hard but that a little wave
May beat admission in a thousand years

Alfred, Lord Tennyson — The Princess (1847)

* * * * *

freshwater-footpath-dusk-isle-of-wight-england-by-roadsofstoneThe fog is hanging low across the Chalk Downs as ahead of me the village of Freshwater huddles deep between the trees. The first streetlights of a November evening flicker weakly above the street.

As inspiring landscapes go, perhaps this drizzly valley wouldn’t rate that high. But five miles run before the autumn daylight fades is precious, shrunken time, expanded on the trail.

The village street is empty. A fine mist of rain would keep most folk inside, but in truth it’s almost perfect running weather.

the-abyss-cliffs-tennyson-down-isle-of-wight-england-foggy-dusk-roadsofstoneI loop around to find the path, cut into steps above the road through dense gorse and bramble. It climbs relentlessly between the trees, emerging breathlessly onto a chalky, flinty track under a darkening canopy of woods — branches of yew holding up grey clouds just a metre or so above.

At last the path emerges from the underworld and in just a second my feet burst out into a longer stride across wide and grey-lit grassland, rising evenly towards a lurking hill unseen beyond.

The evening silence is different here — wider, more expansive and with a distant, threatening edge. I skulk onwards more cautiously now — for all the firm, smooth ground beneath my feet, there’s a clifftop not all that far away.

Open, yawning space fills the sky, as the empty horizon closes out direction and up or down. It’s unsettling, nauseating — yet an elemental elation fills my throat.

This is fear.

tennyson-memorial-in-fog-isle-of-wight-england-by-roadsofstoneA minute further through the void, I’m a mile or more from anyone who would hear me scream when a dark grey mass rears itself tall and high from unlikely, empty fog.

Atop this wild, forsaken hill there stands a cross.
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232: Cuba 3 – Havana

view from the hotel sevilla habana cuba by roadsofstoneThe street outside Graeme Greene’s Hotel Sevilla is quiet, but as the dramatic Prado opens up beyond, suddenly the sheer scale of this paradox strikes me: Havana is truly a world city.

on the prado havana cuba by roadsofstoneColumbus sighted Cuba in 1492 and landed here two years later. The island has been a prize for empires ever since. Spanish, British and American armies all fought for this land.

street life in old havana cuba by roadsofstoneCuba’s history and her population embrace that diversity. Cubans of every shade and colour fill the streets.

And whether descended from white Europeans, African slaves or indigenous peoples, they’re all simply Cubans.

By rights, Havana should be the hub of Latin America, entrancing and captivating in her charm, passion and style as nowhere on Earth.
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231. Zürich

october morning  fraumünster and st peter river limmat zürich switzerland by roadsofstone

The October sky is grey and dank and the Zürich morning still half dark as I emerge into Weinplatz. The first leaves are scattered around the square, and at this early hour the weather looks unpromising.

The summer’s smug geraniums still adorn the hotel windowboxes, but they’re looking limp and vaguely threatened now. Autumn is brief here in Switzerland, and the winter’s not all that far away.

Behind me, the River Limmat is swirling gently northwards on its way to join my old friend the Aare near Brugg, and then onwards to join the Rhine for Basel, Germany and the sea. Tall churches and pretty wharfsides beckon beside the river, but for now I leave the waterfront behind me.

I know my way round here, in the biggest small country in the world.

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230. Autumn leaves and cobalt sky – 2010 London Royal Parks Half Marathon

ten ten ten westminster bridge royal parks half marathon london by roadsofstone

It’s ten past ten on 10.10.10 and I’m running across Westminster Bridge. The sun has just come out onto a perfect autumn day and Sunday mornings don’t come much more memorable than this.

royal parks half marathon london 2010 by roadsofstoneLondon has hosted a famous marathon every year since Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen held hands beneath Big Ben to share the first race victory one rainy day in March 1981. And now this soon-to-be Olympic city of ours has a world-class half marathon as well.

I head back along the bridge and east beside the Thames. There’s a soft breeze blowing leaves along the sunlit road under a clearing October sky. Across a silver slice of river, the London Eye is turning gracefully. The Embankment is my spiritual running home, and I’m very glad to be here.
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229. Ryder Cup 2010 – the perfect blue day

ryder cup 2010 blue scoreboard celtic manor wales sunday c visitwales comClear skies may have been in short supply in Wales this week, but at least by Saturday night the Ryder Cup scoreboard was showing its first hint of blue.

As I left home on Sunday morning to find a TV showing the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, news came through on the radio. The start of play had been delayed until noon, and then 1.30 pm. I’ve watched the last day of the Ryder Cup many times, but this year the weather and the schedule were both out of kilter.

Instead of a full Sunday programme, play would be restricted to the last nine holes of six fourballs and foursomes which had begun the day before. The singles matches to conclude the event would be delayed until Monday.

For just a very few moments, I pondered turning around. But, meagre as it was, this was all the live golf I would see in this Ryder Cup.

rainbow sky ryder cup 2010 celtic manor wales day 3 visitwales comFor me, and for many others, the Ryder Cup is the highlight of my sporting calendar. The reasons that the event is so special?

In truth, there are many. It’s all about pride, about fear, and about the vagaries and unique demands of match play in golf.

The Ryder Cup is about individual performance in the heat of the battle, and about bringing a team together to outdo even its own expectations.

On this side of the pond, it’s about proving the worth of the European Tour against the PGA Tour in the US. It’s about showing who are the best golfers in the world — for many years it really was the Americans, which is why we tried so hard to foster the illusion that maybe they weren’t.

That’s the Ryder Cup. It encapsulates so many glories in this game of golf, and it celebrates all that divides us and unites us across the Atlantic Ocean as well.
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