A Yorkshire Lad Turned Norwegian!
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This website – like its sister blog – WAS based on the uniform
of the former Adwick School. However, due to the distance that the author feels has arisen with Brexit between himself and where he came from, this peculiar feature of this blog has sadly been discontinued. You can nonetheless see the school theme when you view content on the Blog Archive.

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REPOST: Brexit Has Ground to a Halt

This blog will no longer be available in the UK after 29th March 2019

Whatever your opinion of Brexit, if you are a reader of this blog you will know that I see it as a cataclysmic change. That is true even though I now live in Norway, and indeed have spent half my life here. The catastrophic vote of June 23rd 2016 was a very black day. Through this blog I had cultivated that identity I used to think that I shared with the community I grew up in, through common values taught in my formative years. The very colour scheme of Yorkshire Viking was a living memorial to a bye gone age, and the defunct school uniform of the former (now demolished) Adwick School. Yet, as I have written previously, Brexit marked the permanent break; it was a “before and after” like none I had ever experienced. Brexit has broken up the last bonds that bind.

Of course, I follow developments in the UK every day. Today I read this blog post by John Fitzgerald. With his permission, I am reposting it here. You can find the original at https://johngfitzgerald.blogspot.no/2018/03/brexit-has-ground-to-halt.html

Brexit has ground to a halt!

Amid all the sound and fury of conflicting opinions about Britain’s future relationship with Europe, one startling fact stands out: Brexit is going nowhere. Secretary of State for Exiting the EU Davis has not attended a single meeting in Brussels this year. There are no negotiations going on about the transition period or the future trade relationship because the exit agreement, which must come first, has stalled on the difficult issue of the Irish border. Draft heads of agreement were exchanged between London and Brussels in December 2017 but Sec Davis disowned these terms within 24 hours of the agreement in principle. He subsequently backtracked his backtracking and the issue was generally assumed to have been resolved. In fact it was parked by HMG, in the hope some magical solution would be found and nothing was resolved, as is now obvious.

There is no agreement on the Irish border issue, post Brexit, which can be spelled out in a legally binding text. The EU issued a draft text in line with the terms agreed in December recently, for considered by the member states. The UK government instantly disowned this proposal but has declined to put forward an alternative proposal of its own. This impasse means there is now no realistic possibility of an exit agreement being signed at the March EU summit, when this was supposed to happen. Failure to conclude an exit deal means there can be no agreement about a transition period and no talks about a longer term relationship.

Meanwhile in London, government plans to move the next stage of Brexit legislation have been postponed because of a threatened rebellion by Tory MP’s. The House of Lords is also making difficulties with numerous amendments to the EU exit bill being debated, and hundreds more under consideration. As if all that wasn’t enough to give Mrs Mayhem a headache, the Home Office is struggling to define a workable system for registration of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit. A complex set of proposals has been circulating but there are several fundamental problems, most notably how to identify eligible EU citizens when they apply for work, NHS treatment or when signing rental agreements. The only realistic way of dealing with this is an ID card system which has been considered in the past, by the Blair government, but was shot shown largely at the behest of libertarian Tories, notably the same Sec Davis who now sees no point in going to Brussels to negotiate.

There is a long list of other issues backed up, not even being considered by ministers at present, because of lack of time and resources. Prominent items include the need for a replacement for the open skies agreement, governing air transport, of which Britain will no longer be a member after Brexit. Also on the list are international agreements relating to membership of the World Trade Organisation, international nuclear safety, regulation of design rights, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, shipping , data protection, environmental controls and at least a hundred other issues. The fact is HM government is already overburdened by a massive Brexit workload and cannot take on any more legislation or international negotiations.

All the agreements and negotiations mentioned above would have to be signed, sealed and delivered by March 29th 2019 if Britain is to exit the EU in good order. There is not the slightest chance of this happening. The option of leaving the EU with no deal has also evaporated because Britain simply can’t put all the necessary agreements in place with the WTO, open skies, nuclear safety bodies etc, in the limited time left.

In plain English Brexit has ground to a halt and there is no prospect of it moving forward for a very long time. The most sensible move would be for Mrs Mayhem to ‘fess-up at the next EU council meeting and ask the other EU governments to agree to an extension of the Article 50 timeline. That would preserve Britain’s current rights and privileges and allow time for proper consideration of the massive backlog of issues. This will not be easy but it is clearly what the national interest demands. Even the arch Brexit zealot Rees-Mogg said as much in an exchange with Sec Davis at a committee hearing, in parliament recently.

The government is trapped by its own statements and commitments, to deliver a frictionless transition to the brave new world of Brexit. None of this is possible but the government dare not say so in public without serious loss of credibility with its core supporters. The search is now on for a credible means of pinning the blame on someone, Juncker, Merkel, Macron, Varadkar, Corbyn, anyone. Attacking these people is hardly a good plan, however, as most of them will eventually be asked to show considerable goodwill to help Britain through this mess of its own making. Attacking your rescuers is never a good idea when you’re stuck in the mud and lack the honesty or humility to admit it.

The End of FM Broadcasting

Technology Shift

Amazing to think I bought my first DAB radio five years ago

With the exception of small local radios up and down our country, broadcasting is now entirely digital. Last year, region by region, our analogue transmitters were turned off. Norway has killed off FM!

Of course, this is something we have known about, and been expecting for a long time. When I arrived at the place I am now living just over six years ago, the date had been set. Yet 2017 was psychologically a very long way off, there was no DAB transmitter in the area, and although one knew that politicians had indeed decided on getting rid of FM, psychologically it was something of a leap to believe that this would actually happen. FM, or VHF as it used to be called, was the technology of my youth (I particularly remember the fuss over the innovation of stereo in the 1970s). FM had remained solidly in place ever since, even though MW and LW were discarded many years ago.

Perhaps the strong sentimental attachment to FM broadcasting was therefore why five years ago, when the first DAB broadcasts reached my area, I began to feel a sense of unease. I am not terribly impressed with the choice we are given on the TV, and it seems to me that the more channels that are given us, the less I want to watch it; for me radio has made a remarkable “come back” this last decade. So five years ago, I decided to buy my first radio with DAB (and the DAB+ that we now use). I felt that I needed the security of knowing that I wasn’t going to be without my precious little radio. Even so, once my retro Phillips radio was standing proudly on my table, the turn off still seemed a very long way off.

FM and DAB Comparison

Of course my new radio could also be used for FM while that was still there. Naturally this allowed me to compare it with the new service at the turn of a knob (I would have a radio that looked like an old fashioned “wireless” after all). In doing so, I became somewhat alarmed. Where there were two programmes simultaneously on FM and DAB, to my ears the sound from FM was always the best.

The difference was subtle. The music was “warmer”, and I was somewhat troubled to listen to the clapping after concerts in DAB. Something seemed lost. It was hard to put one’s finger quite on what, but it just wasn’t the same as FM. A person I know who works in the telecommunications and broadcasting industry said that I was indeed right, but that most people would not notice this and it wasn’t so great a difference that one should not get used to it in the long run. Suffice it to say I began to feel a bit uncomfortable with the approaching date when FM would close.

I am now writing this report on DAB a whole year after FM disappeared from the place I live. As fortune would have it, I lived in the very first county to be turned off. So how did it go, and am I still an avid radio listener? What do I make of it now that FM is a little over a year in our history books (for us who live in Nordland, that is)?

The truth is that I have mixed feelings. However, I am still a radio fanatic, and indeed on balance I think that the increased choice with DAB+ has made me listen to the radio even more. Nevertheless, the technology has its limitations, and if you wish to listen to something in HiFi your best bet is to listen via the Internet. I am assured by the HiFi buffs that there is a standard for what consitutes HiFi, and DAB (and DAB+) will never be able to give you it. I noticed it most recently when I was listening on Christmas Eve to our Sølvgutter Boys’ Choir. As with the clapping after a concert, there is something that just doesn’t sound quite right in DAB at the very top end of the audio spectrum. To me this was noticeable with these boys’ silvery descants.

Concorde of Broadcasting

I think there are two observations that are relevant to the introduction of DAB (and DAB+). Firstly we live in a time that sadly does not seem to take lying and untruth so seriously. In the UK Britons have, after all, allowed themselves to be conned out of an advantageous trading arrangement with the EU that they will never get again. However, we don’t need to look at politics. Something similar happened when the CD came on the market. We were told that it was “practically indestructible”, and didn’t get scratches like records. So it is with DAB (and DAB+, since most stations now use the DAB+ format). It is good, but not that good. Although it is true that poor FM gives hiss and unpleasant reception, it is actually an uncontested fact that under ideal reception conditions FM cannot be beaten in sound quality.

This brings me to the second relevant observation, or rather comparison. Perhaps the best way of looking at the introduction of DAB and DAB+ in our country is to compare it with aviation. We now are seeing some very modern aeroplanes, very pleasant to travel in, energy efficient, and which go much further using less fuel. Yet for all that that is so, it cannot be denied that until a decade ago, one could travel supersonically over the Atlantic. With the demise of Concorde, for all the swanky modernisation in design, things have gone backwards. FM technology just like Concorde was getting out of date, and a large investment would have been necessary to keep it going. As with Concorde, the decision was a brutal economic one.

My Verdict

For all that I miss the fidelity of FM – and I do – this is because I am something of a connoisseur. In any case this is only something one notices at home, and since I have broadband Internet delivered via fibre cables, if I really want high quality music I can and do listen to it via the Internet. The fact remains that 9 times out of 10, you do not need to have the absolute best (when listening to pop music or when the radio is your background music). DAB or DAB+ is slightly less good than FM, and at that only when compared to FM under ideal receiving conditions – but by no means is it poor. Indeed as I have commented above, I listen more and more… not less than before.

It is for me important to be completely truthful. For as I have commented that DAB and DAB+ were sold to the public by people who were a little prone to exaggerating the merits of the technology, I will not commit the same sin. I really do truthfully mean it that for listening in the car, DAB and DAB+ are better than FM ever was – even at its best. In a car you are not going to be getting HiFi anyway, or certainly you are not going to be listening to HiFi disturbance free noise – simply because you are being subjected to the noises of your driving anyway. Yet it never, ever was the case with FM that you could drive thousands of kilometres and almost never experience dropouts. Certainly there were areas where the signal was poor.

There are people who complain about DAB reception. However, if one is talking about the main state channel NRK, I have travelled literally hundreds of kilometres with no loss of signal, and the quality of the sound has remained constant all the way. The only exceptions are tunnels, which I understand the authorities will remedy in time. There is another network, or multiplex, on which one finds the commercial channels. Coverage on this is poorer. Nevertheless, people forget that it was never any better with FM, but on the contrary even poorer.

Basically, then, it wasn’t all that bad after all. In fact… I am listening to my Phillips DAB+ radio as we speak…