Thursday, July 24, 2008

The future is all in the past

As a conservative I am often accused of being stuck in the past. In some ways that is true - I liked the way Britain used to be back in the days when you could get your milk, newspaper and morning post all delivered before breakfast. It was a more relaxed Britain where people were polite to one another, kids could play in the park without worrying about falling on broken glass, empty beer cans or used syringes left behind by the previous nights feral gatherings.

I'm also a huge fan of steam locomotives. I personally don't think we've gained much from switching to electric or diesel - they are just as prone to being late, crowded and smelly as any steam driven train - but we lost an awful lot.

I'm just about old enough to remember when steam trains were a reasonably common enough sight and sound. When I was a kid I was able to lie in bed being gently lulled to sleep by the sound of steam engines shunting in the distance and my grandmother lived close to a goods yard where steam powered locomotives pulling freight wagons regularly passed by at the bottom of her garden.

Steam powered trains were enormously aesthetic. The sight of a gleaming steam locomotive powering through the English countryside was - and still is occasionally - an awe inspiring sight and sound. They are visually and aurally inspiring and I'd be quite happy to see them make a comeback.

Similarly awe inspiring were the fabulous tall ships from the golden age of sail. Not being from the coast (or that old!) I can't honestly say that I was regularly exposed to the visual delights of tall sailing ships, but I've seen a few and they are wonderful to behold in full sail but, unlike the conversion from steam to diesel locomotives, there is no doubt that the emergence of powered ships have been a great benefit to trade. Where it once took months to transport a cargo from the East Indies it can now happen in weeks.

So isn't it a little odd that a newspaper which supposedly embraces modernism - and, I'm sure, would sneer at people like me who harken back to the golden age of steam engines - publish an editorial that celebrates the return of commercial sailing?

More cheerful is the prospect of a new era of commercial sailing: this week the Kathleen & May, a 108-year-old triple-masted wooden ship arrives in Dublin carrying a cargo of 30,000 bottles of French wine. There are other schemes to attach giant kites to container ships, to cut their fuel consumption. The old rule of the sea, "steam gives way to sail", may soon be needed again.

Why is it a cheerful prospect that we may be going back to an era where it takes a week to get a few bottles of wine from France to Ireland? Add on the fact that sailing ships are considerably more vulnerable to the whims of the ocean - which is notoriously fickle - and I see little to be cheerful about.

The Guardian is, of course, one of those leftie rags which often bangs on about "environmental" issues while trying to convince us that they are modern and forward thinking. Personally, I think this editorial exposes the truth that if anyone is stuck in the past it is the progressives who look forward to the day when we have destroyed our economic prosperity sufficiently to be dependent once more on subsistence farming.


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Anthony Butcher

Juliam said...

"Why is it a cheerful prospect that we may be going back to an era where it takes a week to get a few bottles of wine from France to Ireland?"

Because it's for the chiiillldreeeennnn! ;)

It's pure greenwash - it won't affect in any way, shape or form the sailing industry, it simply looks good on brochures.

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