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Birmingham Alabama

 

On our way east to Atlanta we had a rest stop in Birmingham Alabama.  Birmingham is a town that is familiar to my generation for often being in the headlines marked by freedom riders, rioting, and white police and vigilantes killing those black people incautious enough to stand up for their human rights. This was where Martin Luther King Junior was jailed for just such impertinence.  I had just started University and remember these events quite clearly.

 

Birmingham campaign for racial equality Birmingham campaign for racial equality
Birmingham campaign for racial equality Birmingham campaign for racial equality

Birmingham campaign for racial equality - to see more click on the ML King Memorial image in Atlanta (below)

 

Birmingham was once as industrial as any town in the Confederacy, a hub of iron making.  But after the Civil War was lost the South was economically devastated and  Birmingham was competing with the likes of Pittsburgh. It remained a place of dark satanic mills and union unrest.  It was here that black activists chose to oppose the Jim Crow Laws that replaced slavery to keep black people in their place.  These imposed strict segregation of the races, ensuring that poor undereducated whites would not be socially or materially outclassed by upwardly mobile blacks as they had already been in the north. For years these whites had resisted any change to these laws and the Ku Klux Klan and others were seen on our black and white TV, dragging black men on ropes or chains behind their utes. Billie Holliday's Strange Fruit recalls mass hangings by the Klan or informal southern militia.

In the sixties, as a result of Northern outrage and black activism, segregation was at last outlawed but in Birmingham the social fabric was seriously damaged and for three decades the city shrank as a result of 'white flight'.  It's now recovering but has a long way to go.

We were there for one night and needed to find somewhere to eat.  Google maps suggested a place.  The restaurant was well appointed with excellent food'. There was a slight pause when we asked to see the wine list.  Wine by the glass featured in the cocktail menu but we could buy an entire bottle our waitress supposed, she would have to check with the manager.  It was about then that we realised that there was not a single white face apart from ours.  But it was fine.  The manager turned up to ensure that we were happy and everyone was charming.  We could only guess what would have happened to a black couple turning up in a good white restaurant in Birmingham just half a lifetime ago, when we were young adults.  So much has changed for the better but when you drive around the back blocks you realise there's a long way to go.

 

 

 

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Travel

Romania

 

 

In October 2016 we flew from southern England to Romania.

Romania is a big country by European standards and not one to see by public transport if time is limited.  So to travel beyond Bucharest we hired a car and drove northwest to Brașov and on to Sighisiora, before looping southwest to Sibiu (European capital of culture 2007) and southeast through the Transylvanian Alps to Curtea de Arges on our way back to Bucharest. 

Driving in Romania was interesting.  There are some quite good motorways once out of the suburbs of Bucharest, where traffic lights are interminable trams rumble noisily, trolley-busses stop and start and progress can be slow.  In the countryside road surfaces are variable and the roads mostly narrow. This does not slow the locals who seem to ignore speed limits making it necessary to keep up to avoid holding up traffic. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Recollections of 1963

 

A Pivotal Year

It appears that the latest offering from Andrew Lloyd Webber: Stephen Ward, the Musical, has crashed and burned after four months in London.

On hearing this I was reminded of 1963,  the year I completed High School and matriculated to University;  the year Bob Dylan became big; and Beatle Mania began. 

The year had started with a mystery the Bogle-Chandler deaths in Lane Cove National Park in Sydney that confounded Australia. Then came Buddhist immolations and a CIA supported coup and regime change in South Vietnam that was the beginning of the end for the US effort. 

Suddenly the Great Train Robbery in Britain was headline news there and in Australia. One of the ringleaders, Ronnie Biggs was subsequently found in Australia but stayed one step of the authorities for many years.

The 'Space Race' was underway with the USSR holding their lead by putting the first female Cosmonaut into obit. The US was riven with inter-racial hostility and rioting.  But the first nuclear test ban treaties were signed and Vatican 2 made early progress, the reforming Pope John 23 unfortunately dying mid year.

Towards year's end, on the 22nd of November, came the Kennedy assassination, the same day the terminally ill Aldus Huxley elected to put an end to it.

But for sex and scandal that year the Profumo affair was unrivalled.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Climate Change - a Myth?

 

 

Recently, an increasing number of friends and acquaintances has told me that Climate Change is a myth.  

Obviously they are talking about 'Anthropogenic Global Warming', not disclaiming actual changes to the climate.  

We don't need climate scientists to tell us that the climate changes. Our own experience is sufficient to be quite sure of that. 

During my lifetime the climate has been anything but constant.  Else what is drought relief about?  And the ski seasons have definitely been variable. 

In the longer term we all have to rely on others. For example on scientists who have themselves examined ice cores or tree rings or sea level records or other physical evidence that can be dated. 

So I'm prepared to believe the scientists who have determined sea levels showing that fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago a hypothetical Australian could walk from Tasmania to New Guinea or an Irishman all the way to Java.

 

Changing sea levels during the past 20,000 years
 Source Wikipedia: Early Human Migration & Sea Level change

 

This rise has not stopped.  During my lifetime the average sea level in Sydney Harbour has risen by nearly a foot, in keeping with long term trends.  More water in the Harbour on average obviously has temperature and therefore microclimate implications.  There are thousands of well documented examples of changes that have climate impacts.

But like the tides there is great variability that masks the underlying trends.   For example 2014 was a record warm year in Sydney.  But in mid 2015 we are going through the longest cold spell in 45 years.  It is snowing in Queensland!

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