Sunday, 24 April 2011

It's all Smog'

It’s Saturday night on the first Easter holiday weekend under the Con/Dems, and here’s hoping that they are not in office come Whitsun’. Oh, and do you remember that Whitsun’ it was a bank holiday in the United Kingdom until 1967. It was formally replaced by the fixed Spring Bank Holiday on the last Monday in May in 1971.

The name "Whitsunday" is generally attributed to the white garments formerly worn by those newly baptized on this feast and I have no idea if this Christian ceremony is still performed in an especially solemn elaborate or formal way?”

Next weekend of course it’s the royal wedding bank holiday – well aren’t we the lucky ones.

These bank holidays come thick and fast at this time of the year, and many people have told me that when they were working they would look forward to them and the time off from work. However if you're unemployed or retired then they seem to be an unavoidable inconvenience, and no different to any other day of the week, especially if you don’t have much in the way of disposable income.

One or two things that I have noticed this holiday weekend – Smog and no planes taking off from the city airport across the other side of the A13 where I live in Canning Town. The airport which I may or may not have mentioned in previous posts is the gateway to Europe for the executive business type who it principally serves, the financial district of London.

The airport has produced apparently a master plan outlining their vision for growth up to 2030. The plan shows an expansion of the airport to a maximum capacity of 8 million passengers per annum, without the addition of a second runway, or significant expansion of the airport boundaries, this is all the more remarkable when you consider it is a single-runway STOLport, an airport for use by STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) airliners.

The size and layout of the airport and overall complexity caused by the lack of taxiways mean that the airport gets very busy during peak hours. The air traffic controllers have to deal with over 38 flights an hour.  I have a real birds-eye view of planes taking off and coming into land, and luckily for me the noise and disturbance of planes taking off is quite minimal on my side of the track that is, but on the other side of Canning Town it’s horrendous, although I must say that in recent years many have moved out of Canning Town South as the local Labour Council and property developers decant and re-mould, as if from clay this old artery of London’s East End.

I suppose it is true to say that nothing stays the same, places change, people come and people go. But there are some things that do after all stay the same, for instance I don’t imagine that many of the thousands that live locally and underneath the flight-path have the resources or can even afford to take a flight out of Canning Town, such is the poverty of the area which I know I have spoken about on this blog many times.

And that brings me conveniently to ‘Smog’ which over the last week or so has hit the news and of course during this really exceptional weather which is far beyond what is usual in magnificent magnitude and degree for this time of the year, what ever happened to the April showers then.  It really has been great and uplifting, but it's not spring as we know it. We are now in the fourth week of what may well be the warmest April on record. The days have been almost endlessly sunny since 6 April; temperatures have, in these here southern parts, reached 26.5 C; and our gardens and countryside look more like mid-May than late April.

The British spring of 2011, and we are warmer than Los Angeles, drier than Madrid; although bringing to an end a particularly nasty winter. However there is a down side to this tale and that’s the ‘Smog’.  

Potentially dangerous levels of smog across the country are being currently evaluated and measured by health officials. High levels of pollution are expected to affect much of Britain, according to officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with London, Yorkshire, and the east, south-east and north-west of England all forecast to be badly hit.

The latest smog means that the UK could face a penalty as punishment for breaking EU air-pollution regulations. Recent smog alerts have put Britain over its annual limit for daily pollution. As the guidelines become legally binding in Britain in June, experts believe the UK could soon face court action.

Professor Frank Kelly, a professor of environmental health at King's College London, has said:

"We've now had seven consecutive days of high or very high pollution in London, which we haven't seen since the heat-wave of 2003”.

Britain was given an extension to meet EU limits for air pollution but it runs out on 11 June, leaving the UK vulnerable to being taken through the European courts.

Every morning I sit as this desk surfing and browsing the Internet with a brew in hand looking out occasionally into the early morning, witnessing the distant haze hanging around buildings as the Sun begins to turn up its heat. Make no mistake this smog is a real killer, man made, showing no mercy. Comrade Mark Write, fellow blogger puts it this way:

“The mad rush to work everyday during summer months in London is unbearable as it is but despite London’s attempts to ease traffic off with their congestion charge the smog and fumes keep on coming”.

And he continues by saying:

“I lay the blame for the pollution of our cities and towns firmly at the feet of capitalism who have no care in the world for the world, and this will end up in us destroying our planet unless we change the way society is run”.

I must say I second that comrade; you can read Marks post in full here: the way I see things 

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