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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Issue 133: October 2005

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News]

Green grows the politicians (and people)
Weekend newspaper supplements, paid for as they are by advertising for usually opulent and pricey consumer items, are not where you would usually begin for instruction on green issues (aside from learning what you can do without and therefore not buy). But occasionally there is a real gem among the gemstones and sleek gas guzzlers. Such was the case with the Irish Times Magazine for 16th July 2005 when Iva Pocock shared information on green footprints – your waste, your food, your home, your transport and your holidays. As she states, if everyone lived like Ireland lives at the moment we’d need 3 planets – which is a pretty challenging way of putting one aspect of what we’ve to achieve into perspective. The piece includes an eco-audit, and suggestions for reducing your impact, some of which may be easy and some rather more difficult but all will make a contribution. I might add that public transport is important, both literally and metaphorically – without greatly increased state support (insulation, alternative energy etc) it will be difficult to carry us to a green future.

The wet weather cyclist
It is obvious that cycling will regain a second – and presumably more lasting – golden age in an oil-less future. Excepting places which are very hilly, self-propulsion by cycling or walking could and should account for the vast majority of journeys of 5 miles or under for able bodied people (and greater distances for some).

Fine weather cycling is just that, fine, but some people are put off by wet or cold weather. There is no need to be put off. If you have the right gear then you’re fit for anything – in fact it can be quite pleasant being able to face the worst that the weather can throw at you with equanimity [What’s that? Aqua-nimity? – Ed] [‘Evenness of mind or temper’ – something you’ll never have! = Billy]. Getting the right gear may cost a bit but is worthwhile investment. The most expensive item is a breathable waterproof jacket – this will set you back at least £50/€80 and possibly rather more but is the one essential. Otherwise you can have teaming rain, tackle a big hill, and you’re wetter inside than out with sweat.

After the jacket you need waterproof trousers, making sure that they’re plenty big enough to allow for movement or slippage around your waist (there’s nothing worse than a gaping gap at your back) and to at least partly cover shoes you’re wearing. Breathable trousers will set you back over £30/€42 and you can make do with much cheaper – and lighter – ones if they really are waterproof. Forget about anything that says ‘Showerproof’ – it’s a waste of time. A few drops of rain is all they are likely to resist.

Then something for your feet. Most of the time I wear white trainers (which have the added advantage of being more reflective in the dark) – if you travel by bike to work you can keep a pair of work shoes there. But for very wet weather there is only one item for the job – the water/rubber/Wellington boot, anything else you should kick to touch. They’re totally impermeable and if it’s very cold as well you can wear an extra pair of socks.

And the hands? Well, there are all varieties of gloves according to taste, including a considerable collection in your favourite cycle shop, but personally I go for ski gloves which still permit plenty of hand movement and control, and are really weather proof. The one disadvantage is that in intermediate seasons they are too warm on your hands.

If you get yourself properly kitted out then the rain can bucket down and the only place you may get a bit wet is the head. In very cold weather I do wear a very light hat (cycling or knitted) under the helmet, apart from anything else being follicley challenged, otherwise bald, a blast of icy air on the forehead can deliver a penetrating pain which makes me nearly keel over. Properly geared out you should feel literally impermeable to the rain. You can even cycle carefully on snow if it hasn’t been compacted too much and turned to ice, it’s actually quite a pleasant and in my part of the world unusual experience if you go carefully and don’t come a cropper. And anyway, it’s not like you are travelling by bicycle in the north of Norway in winter (which I read about in one cycling magazine).

Mind you night-time cycling is another hazard as cars turning can play follow-the-leader and not see you, or a lapse in concentration by the driver can make you invisible. As well as the obligatory back and front lights, I would recommend a large reflective belt, plus an additional (third) light, set on flashing mode, which you can attach to your belt or backpack to be visible from back and both sides. You can also add reflective leg bands if you like. If you have all that then you are as visible as you can make yourself; it certainly doesn’t make you invulnerable but you have fully done your utmost to make sure drivers see you. You may feel a bit self-conscious to begin with but you can ask yourself – do I prefer to be highly visible and get there or highly invisible and knocked down?

Happy and safe winter cycling. And when people ask you as you arrive, “Are you not cold?”, you can inform them that, no, on the contrary, you’re very pleasantly warm, and have already had part of your day’s exercise.

Lessons don’t end at 3.30
An editorial in this publication recently was musing that the British government seemed intent on making some of the same mistakes in relation to bombings and ‘terror’ attacks in Britain as it made in Norn Iron thirty or thirty-five years ago. And then what did we see in the September 2005 issue of Just News, the Bulletin of the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ); an article on “The war on terror”. This is a very useful short tour around various state methods in ‘combatting the war on terror’ including lethal force, internment (‘detention without trial’), torture, the rule of law, security and human rights, and also the fact that economic change and economic rights were less rooted as a legal matter in peace negotiations in the Nort than other measures. The article concluded “Northern Ireland has a lot of useful experience – good and bad – to share with the rest of the world….the question is: is anyone prepared to listen?” The short answer at the moment would seem to be ‘no’. But then maybe Norn Iron is ”yesterday’s news” and just not sexy any more. [The CAJ website at has material from Just News].

Also in the same issue is an article by Tom Hadden on “Identity Cards” and the (rather labouring in more than one sense of the word) British proposals to introduce them in the UK. Beginning in quite neutral fashion, it raises serious concerns later on. With punning accuracy he concludes ” Welcome to Big Brother writ large, but in very small print...”
As the article points out, there has been very little discussion of the issue in Northern Ireland but I would expect ructions if they were introduced, at least from people on the nationalist/republican side and possibly some others.

Peaceful laughter
I think we’re all much too serious most of the time, about ourselves, about our lives, about our causes. It’s not that I think we shouldn’t be serious – if you look around Ireland and the world it’s enough to make your blood curdle/boil/freeze/insert your own adjective here. But humour is subversive, healthy and fun. I believe it’s possible to do serious things in a humorous way, and I try to preach what I practice (not always successfully but there you go).

Which is my way of getting around to referring to the retirement this year of Richard Deats from the Fellowship of Reconciliation in the USA, I hope he has more time for pun-ishment. I’ve only met Richard a few times but I know a humorous spirit when I see one and, indeed, he has a book published “How to keep laughing – even though you’ve considered all the facts” (Fellowship Publications, 1994). Which is an excuse to give a couple of his stories which have become staples of my own.

“A Zen disciple goes to a hot-dog vendor in New York City’s Central Park and says, “Make me one with everything.” “ Brilliant.

“A Philadelphia rabbi was asked if he knew that many of his members had become Quakers. “Oh yes, he replied, “some of my best Jews are friends”. This one I usually spin out a bit before the punch-line, a concerned person comes nervously to visit the rabbi thinking he should know but worried about the response he may receive, etc.

I myself risked a joke with a cleric who was well known for arriving late and leaving early, and had recently retired; when he arrived late for a meeting, I commented “I’m glad to see retirement hasn’t changed you.” Maybe that was bordering on a put-down, I don’t know, or a joke at his expense, it could be taken different ways – which is often the case with humour. And there are all sorts of issues there which I may return to [that’s not funny – Ed]

Well, I hope you’re well settled into your winter schedules by now and everything is going well. Well, well, well. [And what about the bucket of water – Ed] [To throw over you? – Billy] Winter has its advantages including being cosy with your favourite book, TV programme – or even loved one(s)! – and refusing to stir. But chance would be a fine thing, so I hope you get yours. Until the next time, I remain, your disobedient servant, Billy.

Who is Billy King?
A long, long time ago, in a more innocent age (just talking about myself you understand), there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train' and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor around with you).

Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little about horses even if someone with a similar name is found astride them on gable ends around certain parts of Norn Iron).

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