To Fly or not to Fly?

I have booked a flight from Southampton to Bergerac next Saturday, 4 June, and would like to know what #Flybe has to say about the #Frenchstrikes and the likelihood of flights being cancelled.

Here are my steps:

1.First I googled “Flybe strikes” and the following came up as the first entry (this was on 29 May):

“Flybe’s services to France, along with those operated by other airlines, will be disrupted for the next three days due to industrial strike action by employees of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) services in France.

For the latest updates please click on the link below.”

That was encouraging, until I noticed that the message was dated 11 June 2013.

  1. The next Google entry was up-to-date and took me to their Facebook page, where they direct enquirers to the following for further information:

  1. I duly went there and was invited to enter departure and arrival airports or flight number and a date. I did this (still on 29 May) asking about the flight on 4 June, and got this response:

“The date 04/06/2016 is too late. Please provide a date that is on or before 31/05/2016.”

Apart from that there was a warning of possible disruption at Hannover airport on 29 May.

  1. I then tried the company’s own website, which was more detailed than its Facebook and Twitter pages:

“We have been advised that Hannover Airport will be closed from 0900 to 1600 local time on Sunday 29th May. As a result, passengers who are due to arrive and depart on Flybe’s late afternoon/early evening Manchester and Birmingham flights might…”

  1. I tried another page on the website and got a lot of advertisements, followed by:

“Use a keyword or phrase to find the answer to your question”.

  1. I tried “Bergerac flight French strike” and was told about the possibility of strike disruption on 26 May, three days earlier, as if it were still in the future.

Even more oddly, the announcement of expected disruption on 26 May was updated on 28 May!

  1. On 30 May (today) I tried again, and found that 26 and 29 May were still referred to as if they lay in the future. At that point I decided to leave it for now!


Of course Flybe cannot foresee how the French strikes will develop, but they might at least pay more attention to their website. The Times of 28 May was more informative about the strikes.

Could the company not make some effort to show worried passengers that it “cares”? It could easily, for example, ask for telephone numbers and E mail addresses, so that they could tell us if flights are to be cancelled; it could establish a special telephone line which passengers could ring, perhaps for a recorded message, to hear the latest news; and why not remind us that if a flight is cancelled the airline has to refund the fare?

One can see why the Sunday Times of yesterday carried a “SELL” recommendation for Flybe’s shares.

@Flybe @SaadHammadi

Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3


Too Many African Elephants

Some top-line dealers on their way to an antiques fair in the USA were recently ordered by American customs officials to destroy #ivory objects worth many thousands of pounds, and to vandalise those that were only partly ivory by removing the ivory bits. They were not allowed to send the articles home, but were provided with hammers with which to destroy their own property. (@AntiqueTradesGazette).

The dealers had not realised that in February President Obama had repealed the regulation whereby trade in ivory was permitted if it was over a hundred years old. Now it is not permitted at all. It seems that the President has fallen for the idea that all elephant populations are endangered, which is a myth.

In future dealers will think twice about attending fairs in the United States, and museums will be very careful about what precious objects they lend.

Most African #elephants live in southern and eastern Africa, and @IvoVegter, a South African expert, writing in @Daily Maverick (26 May 2016) says that most of the elephant populations there are increasing by 4% annually. Yet elephants in general, wherever they live, are regarded as a vulnerable species, and were even classed as “endangered” between 1996 and 2004.

To take an example of the damage done by an excess of elephants, Vegter quotes Ron Thompson, author of Elephant Conservation, on the # KrugerPark., where until 1994 the target population was 7000, resulting in the loss of almost all the park’s top-canopy trees. (Humans in search of firewood probably contributed too). Thompson thinks the damage could have been avoided if the population had been kept to 3,500. In 1994 culling was abandoned, and the official population is now 16,000.

#Culling used to be the orthodox method of managing wildlife so that animals and humans could live in harmony, and eco-systems be protected (which includes protecting human farms and gardens adjoining elephants’ areas).The point of culling is to match the population to an area‘s “carrying capacity”, that is, the number of animals that does not consume more in a year than a year’s plant growth.

To understand why populations have shot up, one has to realise that animal management has become highly ideological, to the point where management of any kind has become anathema to some powerful players.

In 1975 @CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) was set up to combat illegal trade in animals and animal products, and to regulate legal trade. #CITES introduced a ban on the ivory trade in 1989.

The rise of #Animal Rights, as opposed to welfare, created a new orthodoxy, whereby (to quote Vegter) “”every animal killed by man is one animal too many”. But if elephants are not to have unlimited territories they cannot have unlimited populations.

Once you accept that some limitation is necessary you cannot avoid agreeing that killing by humans (culling) is necessary and acceptable; it follows that there is no reason why the tusks of the dead animals should not be sold. So far as eastern and southern Africa are concerned, the ban makes no sense.

Culling needs to be transparent, which requires effective control at national level, honestly administered, and this does not always exist. For example, in #Zimbabwe it is widely believed that, behind the scenes, high-ups order elephant culls in order to profit personally from selling the ivory. The excuse may be that elephant meat is needed to feed the army, but how necessary is that, given that most Zimbabwean soldiers live at home, not in barracks?

Another way round CITES is to import elephants and breed them for their tusks, as the Chinese are said to be doing.

Surely the answer must be to establish target populations for each of the elephants’ many different territories, and then to work out ways of achieving them? But how likely is that to happen?

Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3


Safe Spaces

All this talk about #safe spaces has set me asking safe from what? Are the dangers physical or mental?

The physical side is easy enough. Parents want to stop their children being run over by buses, catching nasty diseases, being knocked about at school, hearing bad language (but they all do!) being sold into slavery, and so on. In rich countries many children are over-protected and in poor ones they are lucky to go to school at all or to have any sort of roof over their heads.

Once the children get to university they are still pretty safe. The environment is, on the whole, protected and peaceful. In all my years at the #University of York I only once saw students (both men) fighting. Fortunately they did not turn on me when I went to break them up.

In more adult life prisons, the army, hospitals, all sorts of institutions are safe in their different ways, with obvious exceptions. Afghanistan was not comfortable for soldiers; #Addenbrooke’s Hospital is unable to control its ward temperatures (an eminent professor recently said just before he died there that it kept his feet boiling and his head freezing) and at #Wandsworth prison a warder told an inspector, “I wouldn’t keep a dog in there”.

Yet these institutions all provide food, shelter, rules and camaraderie.

What about alien ideas? Lately we have heard a lot about #students who easily feel threatened. Imogen Wilson, an official of #Edinburgh University’s students’ association, “who raised her right hand in a meeting was accused of violating “safe space” rules because the gesture could have intimidated others.”  The move to eject her was lost 33-18, but “she was threatened with another complaint after shaking her head while someone was speaking.” (The Times, 5 April 2015).

At #Oxford law lecturers have been told to issue “trigger warnings” if they are going to talk about rape or violence. Fair enough: it is normal practice at the beginning of a lecture to say what it is going to be about, but to think that young people who have got as far as being law students need to be protected from basic information about their subject makes one fear for their futures. They can avoid practising criminal law, both as solicitors and barristers, but if they are that squeamish would they not be better off reading Enid Blyton to primary schoolchildren?

The right not to be upset includes not listening to speakers with unpleasant ideas. There is nothing new about modern students’ “no platform” policy. In the apartheid days I would have liked to invite the South African ambassador to speak at York, but was told that the university could not guarantee his safety. We did once have Patrick Wall, a genial right-wing MP with close Portuguese connections, trying to justify the Portuguese empire in Africa, but he had to be spirited out through the kitchens. (I must add that I had no such trouble during the years when I had the privilege of organising the #Midhurst Society’s lecture programme).

Please send suggestions of subjects that are really safe for students, and really unsafe. As before, prizes are on offer, but please avoid vituperation and obscenity.

Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3


Anglican Rough Justice (4)

A bit of good news.

There have been complaints in letters to the Midhurst and Petworth Observer about the portrait of #BishopGeorgeBell being removed from its place in #ChichesterCityCouncil.

I am told that the Clerk to the Council did indeed cause it to be removed. The reason given was fear of vandalism by anti-Bell people.

However the Council has been persuaded by the #GeorgeBellGroup’s paper, and decided last Wednesday (27 April) to put the portrait up again. I do not know if this has yet happened, but it is a promising straw in the wind. Let us hope that other bodies that have removed his name will also have second thoughts.

A BBC Newsletter quotes a complaint by the current #BishopofChichester, @DrMartinWarner that:

“The presence of strident voices in the public arena which have sought to undermine the survivor’s claims has added to the suffering of the survivor and her family.”

Fortunately this remark predates the George Bell Group. I doubt if its eminent members would take the accusation of stridency kindly.

Dr Warner, having settled out of court the case brought against him by the nameless complainant (whom he describes variously as “survivor” or “victim”) naturally hopes to kick the whole affair into the long grass of the Goddard enquiry. Or does he have more information up his sleeve, which he intends to present to Goddard?

Interpreting the mind of the Church is rather like trying to understand the Kremlin in the old Cold War days. But Dr Warner has made an interesting remark to the effect that “if there is censure (by Goddard)… we shall have to face the consequences”.

Could this mention of possible censure indicate that a small flicker of doubt has entered his mind about the justice of his treatment of Bishop Bell’s memory?