Blog Archive

Friday, September 1, 2023

Summer Wildfires, Day out in the Cotswolds, UK Air Traffic Control Breaks Down

Summer Wildfires: Lahaina, once Hawaii's royal capital, is now a crematorium

It seems that each summer the wildfires get worse, more destructive and more common. This year the media have covered the fires on the Greek island of Rhodes and at Lahaina in Hawaii. Along with all the other fires, these two have had particularly high levels of media coverage because it's where Westerners go on holiday.

Two firefighters were killed in Greece, when their plane crashed

The fleeing holiday makers provide good reports and telephone film the disasters as they unfold. They escape, often criticising the response of their tour operators and are soon back in their homes usually with compensation or an alternative holiday. In contrast, the locals, who have been widely praised for putting the holiday makers first, are left to deal with the mess, re-building their homes, seeking alternative incomes and in the case of Lahaina on the island of Maui, burying the dead.

Lahaina, population 13,000, looks worse than a war zone

Even where there are no fires, the summer temperatures are higher than average again this year, leading to many asking if the traditional summer holiday remains viable. It is likely that seasons will be extended to allow for more options at cooler times perhaps bringing more business to popular destinations.  

A Day in the Cotswolds

Our main destination was Daylesford, where we went for lunch.

Daylesford Organic is a farm shop in the Cotswolds near Moreton-in-Marsh that sets high standards for farm shops in terms of quality, appearance, price and facilities. They have a huge range of food, much of it produced on their farm and much of it organic. They have restaurants, gift shops, a home furnishing store, a garden shop and plant centre, a clothing and jewellery shop, a wine store, a large wellness spa and various other facilities all set in beautiful Cotswold style buildings and grounds.

Daylesford was founded in 2002 by Lady Bamford in the grounds of her 1500 acre family estate. She is married to Lord Anthony Bamford, the chairman of JCB, founded by his father J.C. Bamford.

Here is a great short clip from Clarkson's Farm in which he goes to his local farm shop (Daylesford) to buy the ingredients to make a Ploughman's lunch:

My only criticism of Daylesford Organic Fram Shop is the striking lack of diversity; all of the customers there looked like me and mostly sounded like me. Each time I saw a dark skinned person, they were either working in the restaurants or serving in the shops. 

We also visited Stow-on-the-Wold which was so full of tourists that it's hard to see it's beauty and charm. On the way back we stopped for a cup of tea at Burford Garden Centre - surely the UK standard in high quality garden centres? - which was surprisingly quiet. I assume it's not a tourist destination and that lots of the locals are on holiday.

UK Air Traffic Control Break Down

On Bank Holiday Monday August 28th, the UK's air traffic control, the National Air Traffic Services (NATS), broke down for a few hours. This was sufficient to see 1,500 flights cancelled and thousands delayed on one of the busiest days ever.

We were booked to fly to Toulouse that evening so I checked the flight status which showed an 8 hour delay on our flight from 20.40 to a revised departure of "04.28+1". I wasn't sure what to do so spent much of the day worrying and considering my options. At 18.00 we received this email from BA:

"Please be advised that due to a network-wide Air Traffic Control issue currently impacting UK airspace, your flight will be severely disrupted and we will need to cancel a number of services today. This issue is outside of our control and we apologise for any inconvenience caused." 

Looks familiar?

I checked the flight status again and it was now showing 'On Schedule" so we departed for the airport. The traffic was very heavy, the car park was pretty empty due to all the cancellations and we proceeded to check in. The landside area was pretty chaotic with people crying and staff trying to help. We were unable to either download or print my wife's boarding card so we tried to find someone who could help. After being directed and re-directed to 5 different people we finally got it printed by a member of staff in about 30 seconds.

We then had to check in our bags and were running out of time. The automatic bag check in didn't work - I pressed the button to send off my suitcase and it went, but then it came back again! Fortunately a member of staff was there and she did it all manually for us.

This was a very stressful and tiring experience, but remarkably we arrived in Toulouse 8 minutes ahead of schedule and even the Avis experience was a smooth one at 23.30 at night!

Surely NATS should pay up for their failure?

We were very lucky compared to the tens of thousands of people who had their plans ruined. On this occasion I have some sympathy for the airlines who are having to pick-up the bill of some £100M+. Surely NATS should take responsibility and pay up?

Quotes for the Month - John Donne (whom I have recently discovered)

Nothing but man, of all envenomed things
Doth work upon itself with inborn sting.
John Donne c1600

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
Extract from a sermon by John Donne 1572-1631, Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, London

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