How the West was Won

I have occasionally blogged on the joys of Aberystwyth and its place as a University town in the far west of Wales. The story is that its railway line escaped axing in the Beeching era, not because the line was profitable but because it ran through five Labour held parliamentary constituencies.
It is a nice place to visit, not just because we have family there but because of its indomitable spirit of activism despite the efforts of the City fathers.
This spirit is exemplified by the sign I saw in a car window.

Does it mean that Aber is overrun by ravening hordes who will smash a car window in search of stale (or otherwise) food. No, it means that if due to idiosyncrasies in the licensing laws, the pie shops close before throwing out time at the local bars, then there is no profit to be found scavenging in the parked vehicles looking for left over sea gull food.

Steroids & Caffeine

JeremiahFrom time to time I read one of the lessons at the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh. The first reading on July 22nd is from Jeremiah. Normally I like to avoid Jeremiah and Job as they are not the most cheerful of prophets and I prefer to enjoy the more declamatory words of Isiah, Ezekiel or Nathan.
The reading on the 22nd is about the negligent “shepherds” of the people who deserved better leadership.
Much of Jeremiah’s work was in Judah’s capital Jerusalem. He tried to keep several kings faithful to their stewardship  amidst an atmosphere of political intrigue and backstabbing. Jeremiah was blunt about what was right and what was not, and he suffered at the hands of the powerful because of his outspokenness. At the time of his prophecy, a good king in Judah had just been replaced by a king who put the country in thrall to Egypt. Jeremiah raged against this policy.
The reading is Jeremiah’s response to the negligent leaders. I first read the passage as a reproachful piece but looking at the readers’ notes I was encouraged to see that it is proclamatory and that I should not let Jeremiah sound like he’s on Valium. If anything, he should sound as if he is on steroids and caffeine.
He was a vigorous, courageous, outspoken man. He thunders on behalf of a God outraged at the powerful people’s neglect of their responsibility to the poor. “I gave you the privileges of a shepherd, you mislead and scatter the flock!”
Any linkage between the events and characters of 200 B.C. and the present day are purely unintentional and coincidental.
On the other hand, I think I’ve known some readers for whom Valium is the default mode when tackling the readings. But for me, for this week at least it’s a case of onwards with the steroids and caffeine!

The Rain Makes All Things Beautiful

The full verse continues Flowers and Grasses too. And, I like to think that it also makes houses beautiful.
Our house is now listed on the Weichert Luxury Homes site and as the sun comes out it can only look better in real life than it does in the photographs
The winter in Raleigh has been quite brutal from time to time. Not so bad as in the North East of the country but occasionally quite harsh with overnight temperatures in the lower twenties Fahrenheit.
So, today I was quite pleased to see that the beautyberry has survived in its exposed position and is showing some small tentative green shoots. The Hypericum is looking set to flourish and the early Azealia’s are acting as though Spring has finally sprung. On the other hand, the Crepe Myrtles and the Dogwood are evidencing distinct signs of remaining under the duvet until it is absolutely safe to come out.

Blessed with Politicians

Larry PittmanIn North Carolina we are blessed with some of the most creative thinkers in the political landscape.
Take for example N.C. State Representative Larry Pittman
In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting, Americans were asking why would someone do something so terrible?
Experts say it’s often a combination of mental illness, adversity in the shooter’s life – and access to guns. Larry Pittman took the speculation a step further.
He speculated on Facebook that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had political motivations and suggested the Florida shooter was part of a conspiracy to push for gun control so they (the communist Democrats) could more easily take over the country.
Larry is well known for his ahead-of-the-curve thinking. Last year, he proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow North Carolina voters to repeal that part of the North Carolina Constitution, which declares that “This State shall ever remain a member of the American Union; the people thereof are part of the American nation,” and prohibits the state from seceding from the United States of America; The amendment is currently languishing with that committee which runs the Legislature’s timetable.
Larry has been a registered Republican since 1972, when he was 17. He posts that he is proud of the fact that without his votes Jesse Helms would have never won elections to the US Senate, nor Ronald Reagan’s  elections as President.
We are truly “blessed”.

For more information please see http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article200807499.html

What does $2.3million look like?

MoneyThe reports of the $2.3 million missing cash from the Wake County Register of Deeds office raise as many questions as answers. $2.3 million over nine years is an average of $21,000 a month which for some people could be yearly earnings.
Reports tell us the who, what and the how.
We do not know the why or where the money has gone.
As a former Bank Chief Inspector I would always look for motivation in gambling, drugs and extra marital dalliances. Where has all the money gone? It can’t all have gone on riotous lifestyles? Has it gone to family, colleagues or financing elections? It can’t all have been frittered away, can it?
For more details please see Charlotte Observer of August 28th

This is What I Like about the South

Feeling the need for an Independence week end getaway we decided to take ourselves down to Kinston and visit Kings BBQ Restaurant.
Kings BBQ Restaurant feeds Eastern NC barbecue lovers locally and nationwide, serving 8,000 pounds of pork, 6,000 pounds of chicken, and 1,500 pounds of collard greens a week! So it is obviously well recommended.
My initial curiosity was sparked by a clip as part of a NC tourist promotion and the YouTube extract is worth watching.
I had the pulled pork (which is why we went) and as a side dish I had the collard greens which are cooked with bacon. Together with the fried okra and freshly cooked chips we couldn’t manage a dessert – so we brought the pecan pie home with us. And yes, being well brought up and skilled in these matters I would never put ketchup on NC barbecue pork.
Kinston has a population of 21,000. The area is very agricultural – where else would you see highway billboards extolling the virtues of pesticides and fertilizers? The farmland is characterized by tobacco which is an indicator of poor soil. Kinson was badly affected by Hurricane Matthew last October
 as the restaurant marker shows.
It was a good trip and a very nice meal – plain homestyle Southern cooking at its best. The restaurant was pleasantly full but not crowded and our waitress Tina bustled around like the true professional she is.
Is it on the list for a revisit – yes it is!

Dragon Arts

Wales is renowned for its artistic genes. Artists and bards spring up everywhere. After all Aberystwyth boasts my son in law as a sculptor in residence.
Last month the Ceredigion coast experienced some late spring gales and among other detritus a tree washed up on the beach.
If as Michaelangelo  said “Every block of stone has a statue inside it.” then every piece of wood harbours an artistic expression that wishes to
emerge like the butterfly from the cocoon.
So it was with no surprise that one morning we discovered that the tree trunk had been transformed into a dragon complete with (dead) 
spider crabs for eyes.
As can be seen, my grandson is a true native of Wales and shows no fear of dragons!