A Vision for “Remain” (cont)

  1. Equality

Not only is the UK a nation with one of the highest levels of inequality in the world, this is ever increasing. This is scandalous. Is this anything to do with Europe? Well, most EU countries do better than us.

A few statistics (GINI coefficient after Tax):

Austria             0.261               Belgium            0.259

Czech R           0.256               Denmark          0.248

France              0.293               Germany          0.295

Greece             0.307               Hungary           0.272

Ireland              0.293               Italy                  0.337

Luxembourg     0.288               Netherlands      0.294

Poland              0.305               Portugal            0.353

Slovakia           0.257               Slovenia           0.236

Spain                0.317               Sweden            0.259

UK                  0.345

 A figure of zero represents total equality; a figure of 1 represents total inequality

Research establishes very clearly that our contentment depends significantly, not on absolute wealth, but on the perception of our position in relation to others: it is relative wealth which is important. The notion that wealth somehow trickles down from the super-rich has also been thoroughly discredited. We should unequivocally be committed to striving for a more equal society.

It would be too simplistic to suggest that the EU is intertwined with this one way or another. However, I would suggest that our culture encourages the growth of an embedded elite of the rich and powerful more than most other countries, and that the EU is a positive influence in keeping this in check. Do we want to throw this away?

  1. Mutual Support

This question, of course, depends very much on how you choose to view it. Some would say that the EU institutions interfere with our “sovereignty” and remove our control over our own affairs.

Others would say that that they provide an essential check on possible abuse of power and the maintenance of conditions and rights in fields such as the justice system, the family and the workplace.

Let me pose a question: it is entirely possible that Brexit would fundamentally damage the EU and the individual nations of which it is comprised; do we care?

Well I do.

I would view it as running away from a partnership which, although not perfect, we should be able to make to work. As with all partnerships, there needs to be a degree of give and take. We should be moving forwards together. Do we really get such a bad deal?

  1. Pursuit of happiness

I should acknowledge from the outset that I consider myself very fortunate: I feel I have sufficient portions of wealth and power not to have to worry about this too much! However, I applaud the belated trend to include happiness/well-being measurements and data alongside other indicators of the “state of the nation”. Happiness and well-being are crucially important. Psychological research suggests that the more connected we are, the happier we are. The obsessive pursuit and collection of “friends” on social and professional media would appear to support this.

Statistics in this area must inevitably be accompanied by a caveat of uncertainty. That said, here is a selection of published data for some European countries (out of 10)

Denmark                      7.527                           Netherlands                  7.339

Sweden                        7.291                           Austria                         7.119

Germany                      6.994                           Belgium                        6.929

Ireland                          6.907                           Luxembourg                 6.871

UK                              6.725                           Czeck R                       6.596

France                          6.478                           Spain                            6.361

 

Do these figures tell us much? Possibly not.

In any event, let us consider the pursuit of happiness an important national and international goal.

  1. Protecting the weak

This morning I heard a brief discussion on the European Convention of Human Rights on the radio. Attention focussed on such issues as voting rights for prisoners (do we really care that some prisoners may have the right to vote?) It occurred to me that our obsession with such relative trivia, is taking place alongside a number of humanitarian disasters which are unfolding throughout the world: political, environmental and social.

Are voting rights for prisoners, one way or the other, of greater concern to us than the thousands fleeing political and environmental disasters at risk to their lives? Indeed, many thousands have been killed in the process. Reading much of the (right wing) press, the answer is “yes they are”. Surely, this is egregious.

The whole point of the ECHR (of which we were a founder member) is to protect the weak. Unfortunately, we have slipped into a mindset which believes that this is OK as long as it doesn’t affect us. Protection of the weak should be unconditional.

I will say no more.

  1. Shared control

There is a well-known saying “Problems shared are problems halved; Love shared is love doubled”. I would suggest that substituting the word “control” for “love” would render the saying equally true.

We choose to surrender some degree of control in every aspect of our lives, professional, social and personal – and are all the better for it. Do not the advantages of co-operation and partnership outweigh the drawbacks of some voluntary surrender? It is mistakenly believed by some that “sovereignty” implies complete control over our own affairs. Not, I’m afraid in the 21st century global world. To quote from a recent article in the Observer:

“In the protectionist camp there is now a wide range of political parties from extreme left to the extreme right……The common element for all these parties is that they dream of returning to a time when “we were in control”; when we could easily open or close our borders; when the world was manageable and small and we did not have to compromise. That is why they want national rules rather than international ones; and that is also why ultimately most of them despise the EU, because it is based not on direct control but on compromise.

The problem with that notion is that such a cosy world does not exist any more. The new generations expect to talk, travel and trade with each other all over the world, no matter where they are.

Fluidity, speed, seamlessness and complexity define the 21st century. Fighting these trends makes sense only if you are of such an age and means that you can afford the luxury of whingeing about the present and dreaming nostalgically about the past, but if you are still trying to make your way in life, you have to embrace change and adapt.”

Left-wing rubbish, I hear you say? Well, I’m not so sure.

  1. International Law

Why are we so scared of International Law? Do we believe we are the sole arbiters of what is right and what is wrong? Or is it that International Law is OK unless it happens to conflict with our own vested interests?

The strange thing is that in any other context, subjugating the rule of law to vested interest would be (rightly) called “corruption”.

Are we so blind that we can’t see the thread of vested interest, up to the very highest level, weave its way through national business and politics? Or perhaps we don’t care.

Well, I’m afraid I do.

When Tony Blair discontinued a criminal investigation into alleged Saudi corruption in “the interests of British industrial relations” were you not outraged? Well, I was.

The fact is that we only have anything to fear from International (or European) law if we have something to hide, or some vested interest to protect.

Not good enough, I’m afraid

  1. The Environment

Until recently this would have been considered a peripheral issue. Not any more. The point about major environmental concerns is that they can only be effectively tackled through agreed international intervention. A piecemeal, national approach is hopelessly inadequate.

Once again vested business and other interest is inclined to get in the way. International co-operation and regulation is probably the only way to ensure that individual nations toe the line and put concern for the planet at least alongside concern for national wealth and growth.

I understand why the corporate fat-cats, supported by sections of the right-wing media, might rail against this, but why should we be wary of it? Surely the watchful eye of the EU, amongst others, must be a good thing?

And finally:

As the Pope recently suggested, we should be building bridges, not walls

A Vision for “Remain” (cont)

  1. Openness

What is our view about change? Do we regard it as an exciting opportunity, or an unfortunate necessity? Do we embrace it or shrink from it? Do we think that the future is a blank sheet under our collective and individual control which we can mould to the greater good, or do we believe that “things were always better in my day”?

How do we treat visitors (temporary or permanent)?

Do we welcome them, treat them with respect and assume the best? Or do we regard them as a threat – they’re after our jobs; here for the benefits; on the scrounge?

How do we describe our identity? Am I a “Londoner”, a Sussex man, English, British, European ….. or Sapiens? How would I rank these, if asked to?

I am proud to be British (not specifically English) …… but also proud to be European. Of my four grandparents, one hails from Ireland and one from Switzerland. I am thankful that these two were welcomed into the late 19th/early 20th century “English” community. I hope that we and our children will have an equally welcoming attitude into the future.

Above all, of course, I consider myself a member of the human family Sapiens; I’m pleased to consider all fellow members my brothers and sisters.

Brexit? No thanks

 

  1. Co-operation

Let’s acknowledge from the start that competition is generally a good thing. However, surely this is even more true in the context of an overall co-operative framework.

Some questions:

  • When seeking access to increasingly limited resources (whether in trade, natural resources, services or whatever), is not working together in partnership better than aggressively fighting for “our little bit”.
  • Are we really still wedded to the notion of Might is Right? Do we care about those with whom we compete? Or about the weak, who will inevitably lose out?
  • Many would acknowledge that working together in science, medicine and technological research is self-evidently a good thing; why not in education, trade, industry, defence and security?
  • Our lives are increasingly dominated by networking (social and professional); why do we shy away from the national equivalent?
  • We increasingly live in a world in which all the important issues are global; if the issues are global, should we not move towards co-ordinated, global responses?
  • In any event, does it make sense to fragment back to a national (or indeed, sub-national) mindset?

Has the concept of the nation state, fundamentally a 19th century construct, had its day?

To be continued

A Vision for “Remain”

In writing this political blog I am breaking a long-standing promise; to blog only once a year on my annual folding-bike adventure. Why am I departing from this? Because it’s something about which I feel very strongly. I’m sure that I am not alone in finding the possibility of  “Brexit” to be intensely depressing.

Am I the only visceral “remainer” to find the interminable pro-EU arguments lacklustre, negative and lacking vision? I don’t believe the campaign should focus on nitty-gritty: the economy; migration; borders; centralisation or de-centralisation; whether we will be a few pounds better or worse off etc. “Experts” will argue these factors with equal conviction, on both sides, till the cows come home. What we need is a vision for the future.

In the absence of this from the great and good, I will try to present my own in ten stages.

A vision for the future

 I believe we should be building a family/society/country (choose whichever collective noun you wish) which moves forward into the 21st Century on the basis of:

  • Trust
  • Openness
  • Co-operation
  • A quest for equality
  • Mutual support, including through difficult times
  • Pursuit of happiness
  • A belief in the need to protect the weak
  • A willingness to sacrifice some aspects of control for the “greater good”
  • A belief in, and commitment to, international law
  • A commitment to protecting the environment

Over the next ten days I will endeavour to elaborate on each of these ten factors in turn.

  1. Trust

A traveller came upon a wise old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment. “What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger. “What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question. “They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too; the most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.” “Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town. Disappointed, the traveller trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked. “What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again. “They were the best people in the world; hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”

“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

One of the saddest aspects of the modern world is the lack of trust: stranger danger; distrust of “foreigners”; always assuming the worst, every situation a “Health and Safety” risk; suspicion and danger around every corner.

In reality, isn’t the truth is that most people are good; most people can be trusted; most people are just like you and me; risk is there to be managed, not eliminated? Surely it is better to lead our lives in this belief, than to shrink into isolation through distrust of our neighbour, or constant fear of lurking danger. We may occasionally be let down – ok, live with this, manage the risk and move on.

The relevance of this for the Brexit argument is, I think self-evident.

To be continued

 

 

 

 

 

Sapiens on a folding bike – Day 5

gable47's Blog

It’s been a long, but ultimately rewarding day.
The saga of my lost phone triggered a complete strategic rethink. I had wanted to see Freiburg, but couldn’t see how I could work it in. Yesterday, the answer became clear – go by train. Thus it was that I spent the half-hour journey  from Titisee chatting to a fellow folding-bike enthusiast, albeit a Brompton owner, who had recently cycled from Freiburg to Basel! He was able to give me detailed guidance as to what route to follow, where to cross the Rhine (much further north than I had spotted on my map, and points of interest on the way. He also, brave man, promised to look at my blog. If you are reading this, my friend, many thanks – another fine example of German hospitality.

This morning the sky is grey and threatening, but it is not actually raining. Once on…

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Sapiens on a folding bike – Day 5

It’s been a long, but ultimately rewarding day.
The saga of my lost phone triggered a complete strategic rethink. I had wanted to see Freiburg, but couldn’t see how I could work it in. Yesterday, the answer became clear – go by train. Thus it was that I spent the half-hour journey  from Titisee chatting to a fellow folding-bike enthusiast, albeit a Brompton owner, who had recently cycled from Freiburg to Basel! He was able to give me detailed guidance as to what route to follow, where to cross the Rhine (much further north than I had spotted on my map, and points of interest on the way. He also, brave man, promised to look at my blog. If you are reading this, my friend, many thanks – another fine example of German hospitality.

This morning the sky is grey and threatening, but it is not actually raining. Once on my bike, my spirits rise. There are two possible routes out of Freiburg towards Bad Krozingen: one, busy, direct and flat; the other, hilly, scenic, quiet and longer. Which do you think I take? This photo should answer the question

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Once more unto the breach.
Without the sun my trusty Silva compass, craftily fixed to my bike so that I can always see it, is my constant guiding light. Even more important, I suggest than my map. It will always take in the right direction, but not necessarily on the route I might have chosen. Much more interesting, don’t you agree?
At Bollschweil I have my first view down to the Rhine valley across to France. I feel a deep sense of loss as I descend from the hills.
Bad Krozingen turns out to be disappointing. I continue straight on to the Rhine crossing recommended by my friend on the train. There are effectively two rivers running side by side: the “wild Rhine, fast flowing and natural (who’s for Pooh sticks?) ……

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……..and the navigable Rhine, wider and tamed.
I’d better get my passport and visa ready. Oh no – not necessary yet!
Into France. Immediately, an overwhelming smell of wild garlic, the song of a nightingale and the first sight of my absolute favourite flower ….

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You think I’m joking? Oh no I’m not.
It has started to rain. At one point, when I retrace my steps to look at a village just off the road, I discover my good fortune: on a vexation scale of 1 to 10, light rain might score about 2; light rain, with the wind in your face would score 10!
Onwards, ever to the south. Time is on my side. I decide to pop back across the Rhine into Germany for lunch. Better get my passport, visa and Deutchmarks out! Sorry guys, but that really is how ridiculous it would be; surely we’ve moved on – and for the better.
It’s also raining in Neuenburg, but lunch is good.
Back into France
I continue southward on a tree-lined country road with pretty villages anybody familiar with France would immediately recognise

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It’s stopped raining and the sun has started to shine. I pass a mediaeval tile-kiln

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Apparently tile-making was important in this region of Alsace in Roman times and continued as a craft industry until relatively recently. Reaching Kembs, within sight of ‘planes descending towards Basel airport, I make a spontaneous decision: it is only 4.15 and my ‘plane is not till 9.40. I turn north towards Mulhouse. An hour later, I’m strolling its historic heart searching (unsuccessfully) for holiday presents. Oh well, I tried. On the way into the city I had seen hills rising to the north-west, the Vosges; I make a resolution to return on my bike one day to explore.
Rather than retrace my steps, I choose a scenic (yes you’ve got it!) hilly route back towards Basel. I’ve done my map research well – I progress seamlessly right up to the terminal of Basel airport arriving just before 7 pm.
It’s been a long, but ultimately rewarding, day.

Distance travelled 81 miles
Elevation gain 1,748 ft
Average speed 10 mph
Maximum speed 29.1 mph

A final fling for Sapiens! What to say, with so little time?
I decide to change my script. If you’d like to explore more of our fascinating anthropological history, with all its psychological (and in my view, philosophical) implications, I could do no better than recommend you read the excellent “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari. It covers issues such as ” imagined and constructed” orders – justice, money, capitalism; and major historical movements – the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions.
And it looks, intriguingly into the future.
For my part, I will summarise my feelings: I am proud to be a member of Sapiens and believe we are unique amongst species (this, of course, implies unique responsibilities); I believe my consciousness endows me with genuine free will, which once again, is unique on the planet (and possibly in the universe). Life is a wonderful privilege which we should treasure and enjoy. Sapiens is special! I also believe that, although science has answered many of the questions, there are still some crucially important ones which remain.
There is so much more that I could say – but it will have to wait…… until next year!

Watch this space.

Total distance travelled 261 miles
Elevation gain 24,401 ft !!

Sapiens on a folding bike – Day 4

Leaving the hotel I determine to tackle the road up the Kandel. Let me provide a context: on the map this is a minor lane which wiggles and wiggles, lined with green and with ominous view points marked.The map key explains that green lining means scenic: for me, the alarm bells ring. Steep! Little do I know that the Kandel is (I think) the second highest mountain in the Schwartzwald. Would it have made any difference if I had known? Probably not. It’s the only road going the way I want to go. And anyway, what the hell – bring it on.
The sky is laden, with low clouds obscuring the peaks, but not actually raining …yet. As I start climbing my mind becomes a streaming of random ephemeral thoughts: human rights: snails; kuchen; zig-zags. All will, I hope be revealed in due course.
It occurs to me that this is the joy of solo cycling – sensual indulgence overlayed with ephemeral thoughts. I know that I am alive! As Descartes said, “Cognito (sensual indulgence and ephemeral thoughts) ergo sum!”
The hill gets steeper …and I get slower. I start wondering how slowly I can go without falling off. This is the answer:

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I should say that there are more of these on the road than people or cars. It is deserted.
The road gets steeper still and I start to zig-zag. This doubles the distance but halves the effort. I start analysing the zig-zag. Why is one or other always the harder of the two? (He’s gone mad, I can sense you thinking). The answer, of course, lies in the camber. Try it – or perhaps don’t.
I enter the clouds, and it starts raining. My imagination starts running riot; what about those wolves and bears? It’s just like a scene from a Grimm fairy tale. I stop to view a waterfall

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The only company I have are the songbirds: goldcrests flitting from tree to tree, jays, and one buzzard who rises in front of me as if to say “this is my territory, not yours. Be off!”
Eventually, I get to the top. It’s taken over two hours, but worth every moment. There’s a fantastic viewpoint and a rather grand Biergarten. The only trouble is …. the Biergarten is deserted, and I can’t see beyond my hand. Disappointed? No. Anything else would almost have devalued the effort.

Back to Sapiens. I left you pondering “human rights”; well, I’m sorry, they don’t exist – at least, not as an absolute. No more than “animal rights”, which are governed by the biological imperative – right to be born; to try to survive; to pass on genes; and to die. We might like to think that human rights are inalienable – let’s not kid ourselves!
Of course, society has constructed a system of rights to protect the collective interests of the community (unless, of course, you’re Maggie Thatcher!). But this is what Harari would call an “imagined order”.
And what’s more, there’s clearly no consensus as to what they are. Some may seem straightforward: liberty, access to justice etc. Others are much more nuanced: gender; right to travel freely; right to free speech: right to reside in s place of one’s own choice. Oh dear! A few raw nerves here, I suspect.
Seriously though, it seems to me that this is an area where International agreement and cooperation is essential – to build a common understanding and affirmation of individual rights within society. We should be building bridges not walls.
There is however one, and I think only one scenario in which “inalienable human rights” can be genuinely promoted and understood – that they are endowed by a “Creator”. God?

I commence the descent. I suddenly realise …. it’s cold. If you don’t believe me look – and look carefully

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I stop for Cafe (or is it Kafe) and kuchen at Sankt Peter

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Thereafter, the rain digs in. I take a forest track. Am I miserable? Far from it. Somewhere, from a dim and distant past a tune enters my head. What is it? I know – “Oh Joy of Pleasure unforeseen”. This comes from a G&S show I conducted many years ago (probably 40; yikes!) for the Hemel Hempstead Operatic Society. Where did that come from? I now can’t get it out of my head.
In any case the forest track is a beauty.

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Before long I arrive in Titisee, where I intend to get a train to Freiburg.
But enough – more of that tomorrow
It’s been a day of few miles, but much quality

Distance travelled               32.7 miles
Elevation gain                          5629 ft !!
Average speed                          6.8 mph
Maximum speed                       32 mph

Schwartzwald – Day 3

I’ve got my phone back. Huzzah!! – courtesy of a helpful hotel receptionist and the wonderfully efficient German integrated transport system.
It went like this: yesterday I sent a message from my tablet to my phone; an hour later I had a reply (in perfect English) telling me where I’d left it (25 miles away over the German equivalent of the Khyber Pass!): the receptionist found out that a taxi would cost €100 but that I could get there, with loaded bike, for about €8 by train and bus. Hey Presto, catching the 8.14 local train, I had the phone in my possession by ten past nine. Not bad, hey!
By the way, it was a “no brainer” yesterday – the annoyance of the phone loss was easily outweighed by the pleasure of the pastry. You can buy another phone; but a pastry that hits the spot at the right moment …..

This necessitates a change of plan; I had not intended to be starting from Schramberg. But, you know what? This might actually be better. I can explore more of the Kinzigtal, arguably the most sumptuous scenery of the entire region – and this time, gently down hill. Serendipidy strikes again. In a trice (how long is a trice?) I have retraced my steps through  Shiltach to Wolfach.
Today there are more leisure cyclists around including the stony-faced Brunhildes, reminding me of the Moselle valley

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On reaching Haslach I ponder over a coffee and a delicious banana split laced with fresh cream. This cures my nascent indigestion. After slapping on the sun-cream I decide to break free, heading into the hills to the south. There follows the most wonderful ascent. Now some of you may feel that these two words form an oxymoron. Not so! If you don’t understand the idea, you would be wise not to cycle in the Schwartzwald. No traffic; the sun starting to shine strongly, and a gentle breeze on my back. I pass a typical local farm farm.

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Towards the top where the tarmac surface degenerates into a rough track and then a steep stony path, I happily get of and walk. Why not? I’m in no hurry.
This part of Germany is devoutly Catholic with many roadside icons and crucifixes. I stop to photograph a rather OTT example

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Let’s pause the journey a moment and return to Sapiens.
Yesterday, I left a question hanging. The eruption out of Africa was stunning. Having led a parochial existence for almost 150,000 years Sapiens conquered the entire world within 50,000: Australia 45,000 years ago; the Americas 16,000 years ago.
How? Why?
I shall endeavour to leave you with another unanswered question.
Having existed happily as hunter gatherers for 140,000 years Sapiens suddenly converted to agriculture about 10,000 BC. Research suggests that this happened contemporaneously over many parts of the world. Why?
The consequences were momentous: permanent settlements, possessions, dependence on only a very few plants and animals, dependency on the vagaries of the weather, population explosion. Were human farmers really better off/happier than their “primitive” foraging forebears?
Additionally, the Agricultural Revolution signalled the development of many human “constructs”: hierarchy, rules/laws, myths etc. These rapidly became the glue which held society together. But they are only constructs. They have no absolute validity – indeed they show huge historical/geographical disparity. Let’s look at one relatively recent example – the American Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal … that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights ……the pursuit of liberty and the pursuit of happiness”
Putting on one side the use of the word “Creator” (without which the whole thing actually falls apart!), and the obvious historic irony of “equality”, is it not simply an imagined order created by fertile human imagination and held together by social cooperation?
So humans have rights? Do animals have rights? If they do, surely they are endowed by us?
Who endows our rights?

Back to the journey.
The wonderful ascent is followed by an exhilarating, but much shorter descent down to Elzach, where I enjoy another cup of coffee. I suspect that this glorious up-and-over, from Holsach to Elsach via Bierich will be the single highlight of the entire trip.

But the wind has changed and clouds are blowing in from the south. An early finish me thinks. Ten miles down the valley on a cycleway alongside the road, now in light rain, leads me to the pretty town of Waldkirch where I manage to find a decent, stylish but not too expensive hotel. Herewith, the corridor outside my room:

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It’s been day learning and appreciation. I’m a fortunate member of Sapiens

Distance travel           42.9 miles
Elevation gain                   4095 ft
Average speed                9.2 mph
Maximum speed         39.8 mph (!!)

Sapiens on a folding bike – Day 2

Well, why am I here?
Let’s leave the flippant answers (cycling, boozing, skiving  etc) on one side and go back to Sapiens. Humans first evolved about 2.5 million years ago in East Africa, from an earlier genus of apes, Australopithecus. Subsequent migration and settlement resulted in an assortment of primitive humans throughout Europe and Asia. One of these was Homo Neanderthalensis, mainly in Europe; another was Homo Erectus, mainly further East. By about 300,000 years ago most were using fire on a daily basis. By about 150,000 years ago our own species, Homo Sapiens, was present on the world stage but minding its own business in a corner of Africa.
About 70,000 years ago something very strange happened – Sapiens leapt out of Africa and within a very short time overran the entire Eurasian world, (probably) hastening the demise of all other human species
Why?
Many interesting theories have been put forward; for a summary of these, and for an interesting new insight I would recommend “Sapiens” by Yuval Harari (to whom I must give credit for much of the anthropology in this blog). But more of that later.
So that gives some answer to the question “how” I’m here. But still not “why”. Surely there must be some point to our lives … some purpose?
Three broad  attempts have been made to answer this question, to ascribe a sense of purpose to our lives, on a humanist basis:
Liberal humanism – which attempts to endow Sapiens with inalienable rights; endowed by whom? A creator?
Social humanism – humanity is collective, rather than individualistic, seeking equality between all humans;
Evolutionary humanism – let’s not go there: Hitler, eugenics etc!
Some may find satisfaction in one or more of these. Me? I’m not so sure. But the question of “purpose” must be answered .
Of course, there’s one more possibility – belief in a creator. God.
When I read “The Life of Pi” I never twigged that the tiger represents God.
The writer has said:
“Life is a story
We can choose our story
A story with God is a better story”
Food for thought!

Back to journey
It’s been a day of intertwining madness and glory.
Leaving the hotel I discover it’s drizzling. Oh yes, I did find a hotel last night in Herrenberg – it seems such a long time ago.
The first hotelier welcomed me with a smile and a handshake ….but had not yet opened for the summer. I later returned, though, for an excellent meal in the restaurant – which was open. His friendly hospitality made me proud to be European (sorry!!)
The second greeted me with a frown, and a single word – “Nein!”
The third, a Chinese couple, opened a room especially for me …. €20!
Back to the drizzle; it’s remarkably refreshing!
A few miles down a gorgeous country lane lead me to ……. a few miles along a dual-carriageway with thunderous traffic!
Gratefully diverting to a forest track, a few wonderful miles lead me to ….a rough ascent resembling the Snowdon Pyg Track! On a folding bike? I don’t think so.
As I said, the madness and the glory. I’m now officially in the National Park

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Eventually, with the drizzle receding, I embark on a stunning descent to Wolfach. 6 km without touching the pedals …. and then another 10 down to Schiltach. What did I do to deserve this? I have a feeling I’m going to pay later. I pass a “Wolf and Bear Park” Par

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I wonder if any are still to be found in the wild throughout the Forest?
For the first time in two days I encounter other touring cyclists: three elderly gentlemen complete with white beards and Ortliebs …. but no helmets. They give a cheery wave
After lunch (a cheese-burger and a beer) I continue to Schramberg 

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Although I don’t realise it until I’m 20 miles further on, over what must be the longest, highest hill-climb in the entire Forest (I told you there would be a payback) another moment of madness strikes – I leave my phone in a shop!
Serendipitiously, I discover this just as I buy a pastry after what seems like hours of yearning for one. I can’t decide which is greater – the anguish of the phone loss … or the pleasure of the pastry!
Half an hour later, I reach Triberg, my destination for the night
Madness and glory intertwined

Distance travelled         59.7 miles
Elevation gain                  8,562 ft !!!
Average speed                    8.9 mph
Maximum speed             35.1 mph

Sapiens – on a folding bike

Basel, here I come! Well, perhaps not just yet.
It’s been a fascinating day. Leaving Gatwick there is a touch of deja-vu. Let me explain; last week, on our way to Vienna (yes, we really are jet-setters) we encountered technicians working on an engine as we boarded the plane. Not something to bolster confidence in the flight you may say. Within an hour, courtesy of Lufthansa, we had been transferred to another plane and had duly taken off.
This morning, as I board my EasyJet, technicians are working on the on-board computer; nothing trivial, you understand – it’s not for the pilot to play solitaire. This is the computer which is programmed to control the entire flight. I wonder what part the pilots actually play in the process. Not to worry, though; it’s sorted within half an hour, and we take off – and do actually reach our destination, Stuttgart, safely. So, as I said, Basel here I come.
My intention is to cycle across the Black Forest, or the Schwartzwald, as I shall call it, on my trusty folding bike. Oh yes, the title? What’s Sapiens got to do with it? Well, apart from the fact that I’m a proud member of “Sapiens”, as well as a proud Brit and European (sorry!!), I shall from time to time introduce some philosophical anthropology to raise the tone of the blog. You have been warned!
Having assembled the bike, I leave the airport at about 10.45 local time. Quite late. Can I get out? I always have been able to in the past but I have this fear that one day I won’t without hopping on a bus or getting a taxi. All is well however; I exit without event. But which way to go? A young lad working on telephone wiring, puts me right …. in perfect English. Sickening!
Within twenty minutes I’m sweeping down a sinuous wooded valley with all my senses being sumptuously feasted: buzzards and kites overhead; the sound of cuckoo’s and woodpeckers; the buzzing of bees in a field of rape-seed oil; the intoxicating scent of pine trees; and a warm but gentle breeze in my face. And the sun is shining. This is what it’s all about!

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I pass an advertising sign saying, in English, “Inner balance, Wellness (sic) and Massage” What a load of crap – and people pay good money for it. They should try a bike ride instead.
Soon after I encounter a forest track going my intended way. Should I take it?
“Beware, beware the Forest of Sin
Few come out though many go in!”
It certainly looks creepy – and it’s 18km long!
Well, as you’ve guessed, I do take it ……and it’s fantastic!  18 km encountering only one horse rider.

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And I do get out!

I enjoy “lunch”, a triple portion ice-cream and a coffee in Herrenberg, a delightfully traditional small German town

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Continuing into what turns out to be a long, anything but lazy, afternoon, I discover more forest tracks; they’re hard to spot, but once you’re on them they’re fantastic – impeccably signposted at every twist and turn. And, being Germany the kids don’t fool around with the signs.
I encounter a slow-worm and a black squirrel. Black, I hear you ask? Surely you mean grey, or perhaps red? No – it was definitely black; or very dark brown. I shall have to look it up. Oh yes – and the flies. Somebody told me the Schwartzwald can be plagued by flies. Well, at this time of year they don’t constitute a problem, but you certainly do notice them. Of course, at the speed I cycle they don’t, in any case stand a chance!
Stopping for an “afternoon tea” consisting of an iced doughnut and a yoghurt bar washed down with a drink of water, I continue to the attractive town of Dorn-Stetten, my intended resting place for the night.
But will it be?
Well, you’ll have to wait till tomorrow to find out.
And what about the homespun philosophy? That will have to wait till tomorrow as well. Perhaps a double dose!
It’s been a fascinating day.

Distance travelled        53.4 miles
Elevation gain                      4,477 ft
Average speed                    9.3 mph
Maximum speed             35.8 mph