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Driving lessons, anyone?

By Mike Cunningham On May 14th, 2011 at 7:24 pm

This report may seem more than slightly extraordinary, but I don’t really believe the standards of driving are any different all over Rome.

My wife and I were in a taxi on the way to Fiumicino Airport outside Rome at the end of a really nice stay in the Eternal City.

We were sat in the back, and I can honestly state that I have never seen an airport terminal look so good before or since. He had his mobile phone switched on to hands-free from about five seconds after we left the hotel, his left arm was out of his window waving to keep cool I presume; but his right hand, instead of gripping the steering wheel as a normal driver would, kept waving around in the air as he emphasised what he was saying on his mobile phone!

My wife and I both quickly cinched our seat-belts up tight, and sat motionless for the fifteen minutes of the drive.

I will admit that he seemed slightly surprised at my invective as we stood on the pavement, possibly because he thought he was a good driver!

A Big Thank You!

By ATWadmin On December 13th, 2008 at 1:34 pm

A big thank you goes to the people of Greater Manchester, who were courageous enough to vote decisively against the latest attempts by political officialdom to both bribe and extort them simultaneously.  The inhabitants of all ten metropolitan districts (I do wish the BBC would stop referring to them as ‘boroughs’) opted to overwhelmingly defeat the proposal to charge up to £5 per day to travel into the city and many of its suburbs. 

Sandinista Gordonistas, not to be deflected from their overriding mission to screw Middle Britain, plan to press ahead with studies aimed at the introduction of road pricing schemes in other parts of the UK.  However, they may find redoubled opposition from local authorities.  Leeds has already pledged to resist road pricing for the city, and others will undoubtedly follow.  It may be that the Feckless and Fecund Revolutionary Socialist Movement, alas currently occupying the role of government in this United Kingdom, will want to avoid asking the people in future (Lisbon Treaty redux) because they know exactly what the answer will be.  Those battles are for another day.  Meanwhile, let’s thank Mancunians for restating what the Left have been trying to deny for the last decade or so: that the car is king!!

Pay Up or Else!

By ATWadmin On December 11th, 2008 at 5:00 pm

You’ve read about protection rackets many times.  In Palermo, for example, it is estimated that over half of the city’s businesses are owned by, or have connections to, the Mafia.  Back in the Spring of 2006 students and business owners in the city rallied against the ‘pizzo’ – money paid by shopkeepers to the Mafia to ensure that their businesses do not ‘accidentally’ catch fire in the dead of night.  In short, you pay a dividend to the Mafia, and they ensure your daily well-being.

A new form of ‘pizzo’ could be in the pipeline for a very different city to Palermo.  Two thousand miles north west of Palermo is Manchester: a city where the Mafia is embodied by the local authorities; and the ‘pizzo’ is represented by a potential blackmailing scheme of expensive proportions.  Like the Mafia, the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities will guarantee the well-being of its targeted groups, but only if a ‘pizzo’ – in the form of a £5 congestion charge – is voted via a county-wide ballot into operation.  Otherwise Manchester and its metropolitan area (the third largest in the UK with a population of 2.5 million) will have to suffer substandard public transport for the indefinite future.

Were it not for the spinning of government propaganda, such a blatant attempt to screw money from the public would be called a ‘protection racket’.  In this instance the ‘Yes’ lobby actually pretend that they are trying to do you a favour!  Some £3 billion has been earmarked for buses, trains and trams.  However, should the electorate of Greater Manchester say ‘No’ (as I hope they will), the offer will be taken off the table.

What is so appalling about this congestion charge scheme is not only its cost to the motorist, but its geographical extent.  Unlike London’s system, which principally includes what most of us would regard as the centre of the capital, the project envisaged for Manchester will cover the entire area enveloped by the M60 orbital motorway.  This effectively means that people who do not wish to avail of shopping facilities in Manchester city centre will still have to pay to access neighbouring towns such as Salford, Swinton and Stretford, where the Trafford Centre is located.  To put this into a London perspective, it would akin to extending the charge there to cover Croydon, Kingston, Hounslow and Waltham Forest.

There are 10 local authorities in the Greater Manchester area.  These are Bolton, Bury, City of Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.  The Conservative-run councils (Bury and Trafford) have always been against the introduction of the charge, as has Stockport (Liberal Democrat).  However, the remaining seven councils (including four where the Labour vote is weighed in tonnage rather than counted) have all strongly backed the proposal.

However much I wish for improved public transport, I detest blackmail.  Less than a sixth of the money paid in road tax is ploughed back into the transport infrastructure of this country.  What of the ever-spiralling Council Tax?  Don’t the various governmental bodies in Britain already have enough money torn from the clutches of their respective citizens without resorting to unashamed bribery?  Make no mistake, if the people are foolish enough to endorse this proposal it will give a green light to the progressive introduction of comparable schemes in other British cities.  Lenin talked of ‘useful fools’.  Let’s hope Mancunians and their immediate neighbours do not become the latest incarnation of that aphorism.

Over There – Happy Boxing Day and Happy St. Stephen’s Day

By ATWadmin On December 26th, 2007 at 3:30 pm

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish the ATW folks in Europe and elsewhere a Happy Boxing Day and Happy St. Stepen’s Day.  Due to the high level of Yank interest in the site, I thought it would also be helpful to explain the holiday to my compatriots here in the USA.

Many Americans may be confused by Boxing Day Celebrations, after all, who was the last great heavyweight boxer produced in England?  However, is has nothing to do with individual pugilism, but rather is an old tradition dating back to the Middle Ages and derived from that most British of all sports – Class Warfare.  Essentially it has its origins in the time when the upper class would give out gifts (boxes) to the poor, employees and people of the lower social classes.  Even as I write this, David Vance is likely giving generous gifts to disadvantaged hula dancers on his vacation in Hawaii.  It is celebrated in many of the places the English found themselves back when THEY were the immigrant problem  (Canada, Australia etc).   

Of course, in Ireland, the day is known as St. Stephen’s Day, named after the first Christian Martyr who was stoned to death (and not in a Jimmy Hendrix or Brian Jones way, gentle readers).  It is also known there as Wren Day, when the Wren Boys/Mummers/Strawboys come out.  The Wren Boys are generally children who roam their village from Pub to Pub (in a cross between Halloween and Spring Break) dressed as second-string scarecrows.  They sing a few songs to the denizens of the pub and are rewarded with small coins and the occasional bag of crisps.  It is a very beloved holiday in Ireland as the pubs are closed on Christmas Day and the citizenry, having been compelled to spend 24 hours in the company of their family, may break free and rejoin their loved ones at the bar when the pubs are reopened on the 26th. 

All kidding aside, I’d like to express my best wishes to those celebrating either holiday and enjoy your day.  Cheers and Slainte!!   


By ATWadmin On December 24th, 2007 at 3:20 am

Hi all – remember me?

Well, I’ve managed to find a few minutes from my busy schedule of relaxing to catch up with y’all!

I have little idea what has been going on in the blogosphere so instead I thought I might share my vacation to date with you. So, if you’re ready….

We’ve been to San Francisco and stayed in a wonderful hotel right on Fisherman’s Wharf with a view right across to Alcatraz! Truly spectacular. Had a wonderful time in this liberal bastion (!) – walked across Golden Gate Bridge, toured the Rock itself (A prison regime I would love to see replicated), and enjoyed the shopping splendour of Union Square. We found the city very quiet and the lack of crowds allowed us time to take in all the sites. Highlight was coming down on the tour bus from Twin Peaks with a setting sun and Frank Sinatra crooning how he left his heart in you-know-where. Everywhere I go I hear Sinatra – great stuff!!

Flew to Kauai – the "Garden Isle" in the Hawaiian island chain! Spent a week there in a most luxurious Grand Hyatt on Poipu Bay. So calming and scenery so beautiful. Played the Championship 18 hole golf course – the most scenic I have ever been on. Travelled to the Fern Grotto and sang the Hawaiian Wedding Song – remember this is my 20th wedding anniv.  The fresh sea food is remarkable and I have tried the Mahi=Mahi, the Swordfish, the Opah..if it swims I have eaten it! Hope the folks from PETA aren’t reading this….

Now am on Oahu, staying right in the middle of the Waikiki beach area. Tomorrow, it’s swimming with dolphins, then a few days late, off for a bit of whale-watching. Thereafter there is the USS  Arizona Memorial to see, and a few other adventures to be had.

Getting lots of sunshine and my ordinarily pallid Northern Irish complexion is turning a gentle shade of brown. My wife and kids are all having a great time –  they have already boosted the American economy through their retail therapy sprees!

Hope this finds you all well – and being kind to each other!

Now then, seeing as we are almost at Christmas Day, I wanted to post this carol. It was a favourite of my late Father’s. Can I wish you all a very sincere Mele Kalikikmaka and will be be back on-line in a few days!

race through london

By ATWadmin On November 24th, 2007 at 9:13 pm

The team at Top Gear tries to determine which is the best form of transport during rush hour in London. They race each other through the capital using public transport (a mix of bus, tube and DLR), a car (with satnav, the police and the CC to contend with), a bike (rather him than me) and a boat. Brilliantly edited, a nice snapshot of life in the capital, topical and full of humour. Really good fun. In 3 short parts. I won’t tell you the result

part 2
part 3

The Yellow Peril

By ATWadmin On September 2nd, 2007 at 11:22 am

An article on one of my regional news programmes the other day focused on the expected arrival of fixed speed cameras in North Yorkshire.  The county – Britain’s largest – is one of only two places in the country where there are no yellow speed cameras.  Cameras do line the roadside and motorists will be fined if, say, they are doing 50mph in a 30mph zone.  I don’t have a problem with that.  What I do have a problem with are the yellow abominations that ruin a motorist’s life for doing 3mph over the limit.  They, as far as I’m concerned, are vomit-inducing: almost as much as the cretins who defend their existence.

You don’t need me to tell you that the UK is the speed camera capital of Europe.  Of course we are.  This country is much more adept at ripping its own people off than many others – with a determination to match.  Probably goes some way to explaining why another 200,000 Brits buggered off to live elsewhere last year.  The line about speed cameras saving lives is trotted out with minimal analysis.  However, when you see the figures, you notice that Britain has now a poorer record on saving lives than many other European states with few or no speed cameras.  Despite the evidence, rules have now been changed that do not require speed cameras to stand out on the road side.  So, in order to further Labour’s dream of hammering motorists until the carburettors squeak, there could be inconspicuous speed cameras on every road in the country.  Wouldn’t you just like to meet some of these Cabinet ministers in the ring with a sturdy pair of boxing gloves?  You could really enjoy the experience.

I’m lucky insofar as I have a very good knowledge of back roads and so-called ‘rat runs’.  Therefore I keep away from main roads as much as possible.  When I’m on those roads littered with speed cameras I simply do what every other driver does: slow down for the duration of those white lines that follow a speed camera location.  The thieving scumbags gave me three points in 2002 (they expired two years ago).  I am determined to ensure they never get that pleasure again.

From the Bog to the City

By ATWadmin On August 12th, 2007 at 10:55 am

Congratulations to Aer Lingus (or Air Fungus as I used to call it) for choosing to locate its British hub at Belfast International Airport.  It opted for Aldergrove instead of Birmingham and the re-instatement of the direct link to London’s Heathrow will soon be a reality once again.  What has caused me a great deal of mirth is the reaction of people around Shannon Airport who will lose out on the back of this decision.

First of all I need to state how only the Irish could have conceived an international airport in the middle of nowhere.  Who wants to land at a place surrounded by pig pens and cattle grids?  I’m surprised even the terminal floors weren’t carpeted with cow shit.  Airports around the world need to be concentrated close to major centres of population, not close to farms whose principal occupants have names like Ermintrude and Babe.  Aer Lingus has done the right thing by choosing the island’s second largest population conurbation for its relocation. 

But what of reaction in the Republic?  Where supposedly nationalist camaraderie and bon homie towards ‘the North’ are foundations of that country’s culture?  The people are revolting (not the same meaning as if I was saying the people of South Armagh ‘are revolting’, you understand!).  TDs, bishops, local workers, even the Provo apologists who clamour for the establishment of an all-island economic unit doth protest too much.  Fine by me.  The bigger the partitionist mentality, the better.  It only goes to prove that the two parts of the island are competitors, not colleagues.  It has taken the Aer Lingus move to finally bring reality to the surface.  For that, as well as for the economic well-being of South Antrim, we Unionists should be thankful.

The Wheels on the Bus…….

By ATWadmin On August 9th, 2007 at 8:14 am

There are three main private bus companies in the UK: First, Stagecoach and Arriva.  Each one tends to dominate in different parts of the country.  Additionally, some areas of the UK have a greater percentage of bus passengers than others.  I wonder what Red Ken would make of the news that bus passenger growth in Cambridge is double that seen in London over the same period.  Stagecoach, the main operator in the city, said passenger volumes grew by 77% in the five years between 2001 and 2006, whereas the percentage in the capital was only 34.4.

There is nothing about this figure that surprises anyone at the initial glance.  However, it is important to stress that Cambridge does not have a congestion charge.  Driving into the centre of one of the fastest growing cities in the UK costs absolutely nothing.  Zilch!  Car parking charges in Cambridge are not overly excessive, either, compared to the obscene £4 – £5 per hour levies in central London.  What may also be of interest to the average Londoner is the fact that traffic numbers in the congestion charging zone have now gone back to the levels they were before the charge was introduced.  So how is Livingstone’s theft helping to curtail the ‘pollution’ of motor vehicles in the city?  It isn’t.  It’s larceny dressed up as environmentalism.

I have been to Cambridge many times and seen the approaches to public transport there.  In Cambridgeshire the attitude seems to be ‘we won’t persecute motorists at the wallet.  What we will do is plough lots of money into public transport and let the public see the improvements.  They will then hopefully make use of them.’  For example, the county council is a part-investor in the UK’s first quality guided bus lane, which will follow the path of the old railway between Cambridge and Huntingdon.  That’s how you get people to change their habits.  You give them a better alternative instead of penalising them for sticking with their existing arrangements.  Are you listening, Ken?  I doubt it.  The jingle of cash pouring out of the congestion zone must be affecting your hearing.

Mancunian Pay

By ATWadmin On July 27th, 2007 at 8:39 pm

I have expressed my disgust at both the current London congestion tariff and the proposed scheme for Manchester.  In order to take the concept of ‘rip-off’ to its zenith, Manchester proposes to have two zones where drivers will be charged to drive (nothing about a rebate on the road tax, by the way).  The first zone covers the city centre.  The second – unbelievably – covers the entire urban area within the M60 Manchester orbital motorway!!  Are they kidding!?  If this comes to fruition car drivers will not only have to pay to enter what is generally referred to as the central business district of the city, they will also have to pay extra for the ‘privilege’ of driving in the suburbs.  Why aren’t people taking to the streets about this?  Oh I forgot, it doesn’t concern football of alcohol!!

Why will Mancunians be compelled to pay to drive in an area that will dwarf the size of the congestion charging zone in London?  Not only that, if the geographical extent of future zones is to be decided by the presence of an orbital motorway, or bypass, what’s to say the London zone won’t be extended to eventually cover the 800+ square miles that lie within the M25 – just to ensure the greedy, grabbing b******s really get their hands on a lot of dosh?  Driving in Britain…..the rip-off starts at Dover, folks!!