Tag Archives: walking

Stop stop and search

My spaceship this week (I am trying to be vague about where I actually live and do not want assumptions based on previous articles) landed in London, during the Olympics.

Transport for London (TfL) scared residents and visitors from coming into the centre if not for the games and that transport, the tube especially, would be dreadful. I sat in Sloane Square watching empty buses go past as passengers were confused by all the changes for the various road stopping exercises – torch parades, cycle races. London seemed if anything slightly quieter and it’s been irritating to leave early and find oneself hovering around often at either end of the day unnecessarily.  I even witnessed an Olympic venue and its nearby tube. After having the threat of waiting for an hour to get a train at a peak time, it all went very smoothly.

I did alot of walking, in 30 degrees C (or 90 Fahrenheit, which sounds worse) and a big bag to lug, believing it would be (as TfL advertised) quicker and easier than using transport.

Having one’s road networks commandeered by official vehicles for a month, even being unable to cross on foot whilst cycles whizz past and horns honk as a gold perforated torch passes, having cattle market railings everywhere makes London hard especially for those who live and work there.

The custom needed by shops (and surely part of the point of hosting the Olympics) is being denied as Olympic watchers are herded from their sports venues to tubes a la apres football matches and not able to buy wares from nearby outlets.

Worst was the army led security, not just in Olympic venues but in major museums. No I do not take the attitude, it’s got to be done and good they’ll catch terrorists. This is making the terrorists win whilst intruding on regular people, and taking up more of our time. You can’t just wander into the National Gallery at present, there’s a queue round Trafalgar Square. The signs are pretty blunt – “We will search you and you belongings” not “Please bear with us, sorry but we feel we have to”. I am not sure if Olympic ticket holders were warned about this airport style of security which stipulates what you can have in your bags and how big they can be. Checking on the venue’s websites, none of this was obvious. Clearly a terrorist would be thinking round these rules, whilst making it inconvenient for travellers to lose their toiletry items. It’s inciting fear and suspicion and conformity. With the security being administered by the army (who have rocket launchers dotted round the city) it all feels rather frightening and an odd mix with the festivities and more genial atmosphere created by helpful Olympic Ambassadors (who I mostly consulted to find out how to avoid inconveniences and carry on with my day).

I don’t think it is right to be expected to accept this and all the money spent on making fences, security signs and paying staff. Fear and violence are not the way to overcome fear. Our search rules and procedures need to be changed and so does our attitude so that we don’t create another cold war type society when  we suspect everyone and it becomes a military state.

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Caravans, coasts and councils

I went for a lovely walk yesterday by the sea. It was a bright autumnal day and all seemed very pleasant. I could see the next town from the top of a hill and thought that it would not take too long to reach it along the coast path. Except that the National Coast Path is no such thing. Beware acorn symbols if you trying to get anywhere quickly. The coastal path was diverted due to some sad caravans who wanted the sea view without the distraction of unsightly walkers spoiling it. Then there was the £1000 fine threat if I did not close the gate after crossing the railway. It amazes me that so many country paths send us across a working railway line, and yet I was threatened with a £600 fine if I crossed to catch the train that was standing on the opposite side of the road but which I couldn’t reach due to faulty level crossing barriers. Neither the police nor the rail company would give permission to cross for fear I would injure my dear little legs and sue them, even though it was originally a designated pedestrian crossing. So I had to miss my train and wait an hour. That was 3 years ago and I’m still cross.

I decided to ignore the acorn signs and pick my own way – sadly without sight of the sea – towards my destination as directly as I could. (Checking a map later showed me that this hunch was completely right and the acorn walk is distinctly inland and meandering). I did find an opportunity to rejoin the cliffs, only once again to be confronted by more rows of dull white caravans, and a sign saying: the Permissive Path is closed due to coastal erosion – and we’re not going to let you across our precious holiday park. Sorry for the inconvenience.

And that was the end of the sign.  No map, no arrows – once again I had to use intuition to continue my journey and get there before dark fell. I have never been so glad to see a pier, knowing that I had at last arrived, having taken considerably longer than expected. I did not predict that I would need to scramble up a meter high bank to avoid the incoming tide and rejoin the promenade. (There is a ladder but this is only about a foot wide – skinny walkers only, then).

Before my walk, I had sat in a cafe and read in the newspaper how £8m has been spent on aggressively evicting squatters. And that we might have secret courts, should that elusive phrase ‘national security’  be deigned to suffer otherwise.

I thought, again – what a crazy country and world we live in. Our priorities are all about money, control, property, and we behave in ways that fly in opposition to our supposed own national values of open justice and supposed rule by the people. We nanny about safety and fence off the cliff tops with numerous signs; but the caravan park won’t shrink – the public have to get trapped and lost instead. So yes I enjoyed my walk, but what a shame that  something as innocent and relaxing as some sea breeze and exercise still doesn’t let you escape the deeply imbalanced world we live in.

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