Those were the woods that was….and cars and baseball and the US election


Richard Lutz rummages through the vestiges of the last week

Many of Britain’s rail lines disappeared between the fifties and sixties. One was the unredeemably rural Tenbury and Bewdley Line which shut up shop 52 years ago.

Today, miles of this quiet line are still in use as a walking trail from the silver of the River Severn to the western edge of the Wyre Forest which sits above Bewdley – all 6,500 acres of hardwoods and twisty little paths.

I crossed this redundant rail route just last week on another walk. And this week returned to see where it goes as a defunct rail line, like hundreds of others that crisscross Britain and are stripped of trains, engines, freight and passengers, the hustle of steam and steel.

The colours in these hardwoods have radically deepened and changed. They are now officially glorious. In one short week, they have become vibrant, more intense. The bracken the floor of the forest is golden and the trees shimmer with late autumn rigour. A single November blast of wind will leave the trees leafless, probably in the next fortnight.

We see a white deer in the folds of hills just outside Cold Harbour Coppice. A farmer says they are not uncommon in this part of Worcestershire. But a problem remains: its colour makes it stand out at night. And that means poachers go after them. We complete the walk quicker this week. Mainly, I think, because the weather has that distinct chill and there is a fine spray of light rain spreading to the west.

So, the food and coffee breaks we take are quicker, less leisurely among the oaks, birch, the ash and alder. Amid the gold, the reds, the yellows. Time for winter.

volkswagen_logo-svgAfter the bucolic interlude, I return to the troubled waters of the hard cold world.

Ahh, a news item flasheroo: VW, the automotive crooks that cheated millions of customers over its secret emissions gizmo, is handing over £12 bilion n to US customers in a mega-settlement. Let me repeat that: twelve billion dollars. Each car owner cheated by VW will receive between £4,000 and £8,000 in compensation.

And, as for the UK where I am laden with a Passat with the device embedded without my knowledge? Nothing. Zip. Silence. I am part of a class action suit but it seems the powers that be in the UK haven’t lifted a finger. Too busy figuring out what the hell is going on (or not going on) with Brexit, I would think. I await further instruction from m’learned counsel but I don’t hold my breath.

To end: a sport that has little interest in Britain but is as American (sic) as apple pie, obesity or guns. I mean baseball, and the season-ending World Series. It was won by the Chicago Cubs for the first time in 108 years.

travis_wood_on_july_16_2016What will prick the interest of British sport fans is how the club’s youthful general manager Theo Epstein handled the building of his team.

The baseball industry has an intriguing way of signing young players. Instead of waving appalling wads of cash at kids, each year the weakest teams get first pick of the amateurs in a draft. That way understrength or under-financed teams (like the Cubs) can choose the highest-valued players from college and high school teams. It makes for a more balanced senior league with different teams getting to the top, unlike the football set-ups in England, Spain and Italy.

The wunderkind Epstein, according to reports, kept his team knowingly weak for season after season to ensure he quietly built up a young talented team. Which he has now. And it’s top dog in the billion dollar sport. And Chicago is a happy place.

Footnote: Of course, what is a weekly tumble through the week’s events without mention of the US poll. This was the last full week of Trump and Clinton tearing chunks out of each other. Hillary was kiboshed by the FBI, Trump had a pending child sex case dropped only on Friday.

This is the weirdest election since…well, I don’t know when. It’s just plain weird.