Saturday, 22 January 2022

Bullying whips. Highway code. Cycling and walking improvements ahead. And birthday parties.

It seems to be a very gloomy Saturday, not quite so misty and damp as yesterday but still very gloomy. Not a lot we can do about it!

The latest government scandal seems to be all about Whips bullying members of parliament. Why are the Whips so called? Surely the name suggests a bit of violent behaviour. According to one of my sources of information, “the name comes from the term “whipper-in”, the person who, in hunting, would keep the hounds in the pack using a whip”. There you go. It’s another of those terms that goes back to people of privilege!

It seems there is a new version of the Highway Code. I wonder how many of us have read the Highway Code since we passed our driving test. Much is being made of a new rule about which had you should use to,open your car door. The new rule is that you should use the hand furthest away from the door. What this does is to force the door-opener to twist their body around and, hopefully, look over their shoulder to see if opening the door is going to knock a cyclist or a pedestrian for six. Maybe it explains it in the Highway Code. Ikve not actually read it. But all the news reports are talking about possible fines for opening the door wrongly. Really it seems to be a case of a large fine if you cause harm to someone by opening your car door. Surely the new rules should say to look over your shoulder and check before opening the door! 

Meanwhile cycling champion and medal winner Chris Boardman is going to be working to improve things for cyclists and pedestrians by being in charge of Active Travel England (ATE), which will hand out funding for cycling and walking schemes and oversee designs. He points out that about a quarter of households in cities have no car: “These are their roads and streets, too. Kids don’t have a choice to drive – they have to be driven. And these are their roads and streets, too, and they have the right to use them.” Quite so.

I spoke to my daughter-in-law last night. We are trying to organise getting the little girl cousins together for her daughter’s 8th birthday. Two years ago my daughter and I drove down to Buckinghamshire with her two small children to celebrate the 6th birthday of the Buckinghamshire cousin. It was a great success, even though we drove home through a monster storm. We would like to repeat the experience, but without the storm on the way home. Last year we all stayed at home.

My daughter-in-law told me that she has had her small girl home-schooling all week because her class bubble had been sent home because of Covid. Daily Covid tests showed she wasn’t positive and so they were able to go out and about, to the park, to the swimming baths and so on. Even with a daughter who is very good at getting on with things and who will entertain herself happily, it was still time-consuming for someone who is working from home. Maybe all of this will change as restrictions are lifted. We shall see!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 21 January 2022

Birthday nostalgia. Recycling clothes nostalgia. Microplastics. Jeans nostalgia. Tiles nostalgia.

Today would have been / should have been my brother’s seventieth birthday. He never even saw his sixtieth. Significant birthday’s missed or never reached. When we were kids, both of us having birthdays in the same week in January, our parents would leave some of the Christmas decorations up, the non-specific streamers, for our birthday parties. That was back in the day when parents didn’t hire a play centre and invite a whole class of children to the party. There would be enough friends, and siblings, and maybe a cousin or two of the right age so that you could organise a good game of musical chairs or musical statues or pass the parcel. And everyone got a piece of birthday cake to take home but there were no party bags as such with extra sweets and a toy of some sort for each guest. Life was simpler!

Yesterday the youngest grandchild came for the morning. This is becoming a regular feature. I have turned into a regular babysitting grandmother after all! My daughter brought, along with a small boy, a number of things that need a stitch or two. I am the go-to person for small repairs. Somewhere along the way she seems to have missed out on that bit of her education. Her eldest daughter, on the other hand, is very good at darning socks. She sends photos of the darns she has completed. I have my grandmother’s darning mushroom. I know who to pass it on to when I decide I have no further use for it. 

My daughter may not be much good at doing repairs but at least she arranges for repairs to be done rather than simply throwing put a garment because of a small hole or tear. Throwaway clothing is a major source of rubbish. Here are some facts.

  • 350,000 tonnes, that’s around £140 million worth of used but still wearable clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.
  • This equates to more than 30% of our unwanted clothing currently goes to landfill.
  • We Great Britons send 700,000 tonnes of clothing to recycling centres, textile banks, clothes collections and to charity each year.
  • That’s enough to fill 459 Olympic-size swimming pools.

When I was a child we used to send unwanted or outgrown clothes to jumble sales, usually organised by the local church. It worked as a recycling system but was occasionally a bit embarrassing if you came across someone wearing the dress your mother made for you the year before last. Maybe taking stuff to a town centre charity shop keeps it a bit more anonymous. It was certainly odd to see the flamboyant coral-coloured hat I wore to my son’s wedding in the window display of a charity shop in Uppermill a couple of years ago.

The other modern problem with clothing is that we wash everything more often than we used to. This is surely no bad thing in itself but according to scientists who know about such things there are so many synthetic fabrics used in clothing these days that whenever we wash them, especially in modern, efficient washing machines, we send a load of micro-plastic particles down the drain. These get into the water supply and into the food chain. No wonder we are all made up of so much plastic!

Some even say that we should not wash denim jeans at all, something I find hard to accept. Many-times-washed denim is much more comfortable. Time was you would not want to be seen in an obviously brand new pair of Levis. They needed to be washed a few times to make them look a bit careworn and faded. Of course, what usually happened was that they reached the perfect level of fading and then sprang a hole in the knee. This was, of course, before it was trendy to walk along with designer rips in your jeans!

While we’re getting nostalgic, here’s a link to an article about Joan Moliner from Barcelona who goes round on his bicycle scavenging beautiful old floor tiles from buildings that are being “modernised”.  

The façade of an old building is often subject to a preservation order but beautiful floors are just thrown away. What a waste!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 20 January 2022

The confusion of the modern world. Lifting or imposing restrictions.

MPs  changing parties, confused voters who aren’t sure any longer who or what they voted for, PMs who don’t know what’s going on - it’s a strange country at the moment. It’s a good job we don’t have volcanoes and tsunamis as well. 

David Davis shocked the House yesterday by telling Johnson it was time for him to go. Addressing the House, he said, “So, I will remind him of a quotation which may be familiar to his ear: Leopold Amery to Neville Chamberlain.

"'You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.'"

The “him” referred to, Johnson, apparently claimed not to recognise the quotation. His alter-ego, voiced by Michael Rosen, on the other hand gets all the classical and historical references:

“Dear Mogg

Who does Davies think he is? He’s just a jumped up Cockney boy trying to sound like Cicero. No Sword of Hercules poised above me, Moggo! I am deeply grateful for your loyalty. You are loyal, aren’t you? Aren’t you? Await your reply. 



“Dear Mogg

The tricky bit of juggling I’ve got to do today is prove that I spent 25 minutes looking at a hundred people quaffing and munching and thought it was work. You’ve got to remind them of Telemachus and the Feast of the Sabine Women. 

Postprandium desperandium


“Dear Rishi, I hope you were listening to Today: me being lauded as the great leader with the weight of state on my shoulders, too busy to have twigged it was a party. Be like him, young man, and not like Virgil suckling the wolf.

Omnibus terminus


And now they’re telling us that all the covid restrictions will be lifted, some of them immediately. This is provoking further discussion but it might be taking attention away from other governmental problem area.

In other parts of the world, where they are somewhat behind us in the coronavirus waves, restrictions are causing all sorts of wedding problems:

“Until 28 December, Heena Vashisht was a happy bride-to-be. The 28-year-old was pleased her family had put in place early all the arrangements for her wedding on 10 February, right down to the last candle. But her plans have been shredded by India’s Omicron surge. The nuptials can go ahead in New Delhi as planned, but only if she cuts her guest list down from 650 to 20.

“My own immediate family is 80. How can I reduce the guests to 20? The tension in my family is unbearable right now. No one knows what to do and my mother’s blood pressure has shot up with all the tension,” says Vashisht.

With India’s Omicron-driven third wave firmly under way, the New Delhi government has, along with other restrictions, limited wedding guests to 20, dealing a huge blow to India’s traditional wedding season, which runs from November to March.”

I find it hard to imagine getting together an immediate family of 80, but I suppose that if I considered all my cousins, and I do have rather a lot, as immediate family, then I might manage it. I certainly can’t imagine a guest list of 650! And how on earth do you reduce that number to just 20? Of course, soon we won’t have to worry about such things any longer! 

On the subject of marriages, it seems that Isabel Allende has recently married for the third time. Asked about this in an interview promoting her latest book she said this: 

“Do you think that anybody expects to marry at 77? No! But then this man heard me on the radio and fell in love with me. The only reason we got married is because for him it was really important. The last straw was when his granddaughter, who was seven years old at the time, went to the librarian at school and said “Have you heard of Isabel Allende?” And the librarian said: “Yes, yes, I’ve read some of her books.” There was a pause, and then Anna said: “She’s sleeping with my grandfather.””

That’s a different sort of scandal.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Chilly but sunny. Does it matter what you know? Fiestas with bonfires and horses.

It’s another of those days when the weather does strange things. I woke to the sound of quite heavy rain and snoozed my alarm while I considered whether it was raining too hard for me to cycle to Uppermill market, whether I might put my waterproofs on and walk there or whether I might just give up o  the idea and stay in bed. While I thought about it the noise level of the rain eased off a little. By the time I got out of bed and looked outside it was clear that the rain was about to stop. So I decided to cycle but with a proper waterproof and not my thin running waterproof which is only good for light drizzle. And by the time I got my bike organised the sky was beginning to clear. I rode back from the market in the sunshine, rather chilly sunshine but sunshine nonetheless! It’s turned into a nice crisp day.

The market was looking a little depleted, just three stalls - slipper seller, fruit and veg man and fish man. Apparently the cheese and biscuit lady is not expected back until next month. Has she gone off in search warmer climes? Is she not well?  Maybe I’ll discover eventually. In the meantime my source of gluten-free oaty biscuits for when my brother-in-law comes to visit is not available. The gluten free offerings from the coop and Tesco are nowhere near as appetising as those oaty biscuits. I didn’t know she was going to be absent for long. 

Of course, ignorance is no excuse … unless you are the leader of a country. 

So nobody told Mr Johnson that the drinks party was against the rules? What a surprise! Surely you would expect the prime minister to be aware of what the rules were? Wasn’t he involved in setting the rules. Surely if he doesn’t know what the rules are he should be judged incompetent! You couldn’t make it up!

There’s a section of the Guardian newspaper online that they call “In Pictures”, basically collections of photos relating to current events and things going on around the world. I was attracted to this one today.

There’s something about pictures of bonfires that is very attractive. This lot came from a Spanish fiesta called Las Luminarias, held in honour of Saint Anthony the Abbot, the patron saint of domestic animals, in San Bartolomé de Pinares. The fiesta, which dates back hundreds of years apparently, took place on the 16th to 17th of January, for the first time since the pandemic started. Dissatisfied with the bits of explanation alongside the photos I decided to do a bit of googling.

San Bartolomé de Pinares is in the province of Ávila, to the north-east of Madrid. The story goes that centuries ago an epidemic killed all the horses of the town. Since then they light bonfires, the smoke of which is supposed to purify the horses and protect them from disease. Fumigation, I suppose. So on the evening of the 16th, the eve of the feast of Saint Anthony, they have a mass, of course, and then they light the bonfires. Then the local “jinetes”, horsemen, are blessed by the bishop and ride through the streets jumping over or through the bonfires. (Hmmm! More on that later!) this goes on all night and on the morning of the 17th Saint Anthony’s day, there is a competition to see which jinete can collect the most ribbons hanging a rope. Lots of excitement, lots of bonfires, probably fireworks, lots of food and drink: a good time is had by all … apparently! People come into the town from other parts of Spain, and probably other parts of the world, to see it. 

But what about the horses? Surely it’s not natural for a horse to go jumping over bonfires!

"Para nosotros, los habitantes de San Bartolomé de Pinares, esta fiesta se vive con mucha intensidad porque aquí hay mucho amor por los caballos”. - “For us, the people of San Bartolomé de Pinares, this fiesta is something we experience to the full because we love our horses so much”. 

Really? I wouldn’t have thought the horses really have such a good time.

And what is it anyway with the Spanish and leaping over bonfires? At the feast of Saint John -la noche de San Juan - bonfires are lit and people leap over them, especially young men who want to impress young ladies, I suspect!

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good bonfire. Some of the best parties I have organised have been for Bonfire Night on November 5th. But nobody ever tried jumping over the bonfire. We were all much too sensible, even after a glass or two of mulled wine. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Childcare duties cancelled. Moons. Booze-culture.

Yesterday evening my daughter phoned to ask if I could look after her youngest offspring today. He had been sick, possibly the consequence of stuffing his mouth too full while eating an apple, and his nursery won’t accept children who have been sick in the previous 24 hours. Okay, we could do that. It meant I would get up about an hour and half earlier than usual but once in a while you can deal with that. 

So this morning I got up (or at any rate started the process of getting up) and switched the heating on to warm the house up. Then I received a message that the little chap was going to nursery after all. He had woken at 5.00 (yes, that’s FIVE O CLOCK!!) bright and perky and ready to play, clearly with nothing at all wrong with him. No fever. Nothing at all wrong. She was keeping quiet about the vomit. So I went back to bed.

Being up and about at that time, however, meant I saw the moon setting over the hill. This was the first full moon of this year, according to the newspeople, and known as the Wolf moon, apparently so named by native north Americans because wolves can be heard howling at the moon more around this time of year due to hunger. 


I didn’t manage to take my own photo of the moon but the article that gave me the information about the name of this moon included this photo of the moon setting behind Hartshead Pike, a local landmark not far from my daughter’s house. 

Earlier yesterday evening I had scoffed when the Radio 4 weatherman had talked about clear skies and the possibility of seeing the first full moon of the year. I had just been outside to leave our dustbins ready for emptying today and had stepped into dense freezing fog. Yet later when I looked out before going to bed the sky was crystal clear, full of stars and that full moon. No wonder my dustbins were frozen shut when I tried to put something in them this morning.  

The local pond was frozen again. I paused during my run to watch the swans. One of them was pushing his (or possible her) way through the thin ice, thin enough for him (or her) to break it but thick enough for it to demand a certain amount of effort. The other swan followed serenely behind in the cleared water, as did the white goose who this morning aligned himself with the swans, perhaps because there were no Canada geese for him to try to join. It would be interesting to know the gender of the ice-breaking swan: a courteous, chivalrous, old-fashioned, gentlemanly male or a subservient, browbeaten or possible bossy and organising female? Even if they had been closer to me, I would have no idea which was which. 

Skimming over news articles online this morning, I came across one by Zoe Williams, commenting on the fact that when she started working as a journalist in the mid 1960s it was a regular thing for them to start drinking at lunchtime and continue for much of the day. It was a 1960s, 1970s sort of thing and not just in journalism. She wrote, “a couple of pints at lunchtime, even in reputable careers such as teaching, was still commonplace in the 80s”. Yes, I can remember a few teaching colleagues going out for a drink at lunchtime in the 1970s. That was before lunchtime was reduced from a good hour or hour and a half to a much shorter forty minutes. But it became frowned on. Working in a sixth form college in the late 1990s, I can recall a colleague being hauled over the coals because students complained that he would fall asleep at his desk in the afternoon. 

You only need to watch Madmen and see how much the advertising people drank to see how much it was a part of office culture, back in the day. But as Zoe Williams points out, it had largely been phased out by the 1990s; we all became much more aware of the dangers of non-stop drinking. But this was not apparently quite the same  in journalism. And we have a PM with a background in journalism.

“When the nation decided to put in charge of the country a bunch of men whose formative professional years were 80s and 90s Fleet Street, the obvious risks were that they would run the place like a newspaper column, with tiny amounts of knowledge parlayed into huge statements that, unlike a column, would turn into concrete acts, and have consequences for millions of lives. That turned out to be devastatingly true, but what, weirdly, none of us predicted was that it would also turn Downing Street into a year-round Oktoberfest.” So wrote Ms Williams. 

She continued:

“Picking over the finer details of the Downing Street drinking culture, though, there are bits that I just do not recognise. Never, in the most outlandish excesses, did I ever see anyone sleeping overnight at work; playing Pictionary until midnight; or leaving drink dregs at their desk for the cleaner to deal with. The government is apparently run by people who don’t have other lives: they have nobody they want to rush back to, nobody waiting at home who cares where they are; they can’t even wrap their heads around the dignity of the cleaners, the people they see every day. The problem runs a bit deeper than a wheelie suitcase full of prosecco.”

Quite so!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well everyone! 

Monday, 17 January 2022

Poultry update!

Well, we still have our cockerel in the shared gardens, despite our having put out messages on social media and neighbourhood watch groups. He was sounding very close to the house again this morning, so when I returned from my walk I had a look for him. He wasn’t in our garden, nor anywhere obvious in the neighbouring garden. Then I spotted him, on one of the very lowest branches of a bushy tree in the neighbour’s garden, tossing his head back and cock-a-doodle-doing for all he was worth (not much as far as I am concerned, by the way!) 

Well, that answered my eldest granddaughter’s question: where does he go at night? She’s very soft-hearted, especially where animals are concerned. My first response to her question was, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” I might even have worded it more strongly, not giving something else rather than a damn! But now we know he seems to use that bushy tree as a perch. In remain surprised that he hasn't frozen to death these last few cold nights. 

When I posted a photo on Facebook asking if anyone recognised him, one of my supposedly clever, witty friends gave the answer: it looks like a rooster to me! It’s always good to,get useful info from sarcastic friends. Her answer puzzled Phil; for some reason he thought rooster meant hen, based on his hearing of the song “Little Red Rooster” with a line about laying two eggs a day. He scoffed when I said I had always heard it as “too lazy to crow today”. Granted, I have form for mishearing song lyrics and making new and interesting versions, but I was pretty sure I was right this time. So I googled it:

"Little Red Rooster"

I am the little red rooster

Too lazy to crow for day

I am the little red rooster

Too lazy to crow for day

Keep everything in the farm yard upset in every way

The dogs begin to bark and hounds begin to howl

Dogs begin to bark and hounds begin to howl

Watch out strange cat people

Little red rooster's on the prowl

If you see my little red rooster

Please drive him home

If you see my little red rooster

Please drive him home

Ain't had no peace in the farm yard

Since my little red rooster's been gone

There you go. Vindicated. I’ll try not to crow about it. But oh, I do wish our  multicoloured rooster were also gone. His wake-up calls are much too early.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 16 January 2022

Things going on in Australia. Things seen in Saddleworth.

So Australia has decided to deport Novak Djokovic. There seems to be a division of opinion on this: some people are relieved that Australia is staying safe and insisting on the rules being the same for everyone while others are screaming that this is discrimination against the tennis player.

BBC Radio 4’s Profile programme featured Novak Djokovic this week. One thing that came up was the feeling that somehow Djokovic is less cuddly and lovable than other tennis players of his generation. The big comparison is, of course, with the very lovable (apparently) Rafa Nadal. I used to use newspaper items about Nadal in my AS level Spanish classes. Several of my students had serious crushes on him. And even now a friend of mine would happily adopt Rafa if such a thing were possible. 

He has been described as the supreme tennis diplomat, so here is Rafa Nadal on Djokovic’s current problem:

“If he wanted he would definitely be playing here without a problem,” said Nadal, with a not unfeeling shrug. “Everybody is free to take their own decision – but there are some consequences, no?”

That last section of his comment is very indicative of his almost but not quite perfect command of the English language: that use of “no?”, the Spanish equivalent of the French “n’est-ce pas”, to question or confirm the statement that went before. Getting the correct “isn’t it?”, “doesn’t he”, “aren’t they”, etc is hard work for foreign speakers of English. We have a friend in Spain who substitutes “not?” for the Spanish “no?”. That’s quite odd, not?

Getting back to Australia, we seem to have lost the Ashes again! Here’s an apt Michael Rosenism on that topic:

“Dear Mogg

Was rather hoping the boys down under would bring back some glory. I would have grabbed some rays of glitter from the victors’ laurels for myself. Not to be. On we tread across the sea of despond.

Non bravado on sofa


So it goes.

Here’s another little something from social media:

“One of the more controversial parts of the Nationalities and Borders Bill is that it gives the Home Secretary of the day (Priti Patel) the power to strip someone of their UK citizenship if they present a danger to the UK.

Let's use their Bill against them!

The Home Secretary should strip Boris Johnson of his British citizenship.”

Onto other matters, here in Saddleworth we went out for a walk yesterday afternoon, hoping to catch the last of the day’s winter sun but in fact we only caught the winter sunset. 



In Dobcross I spotted the first snowdrops of the year. In my garden the snowdrops are only just poking their shoots above ground but these were in full bloom. It was the same last year. They are very large snowdrops too, so I have decided that they may be foreign imports - interlopers! - or that there is something odd in the Dobcross soil.

Incidentally I learnt a new word yesterday: galantophile = a snowdrop lover! Who knew. There is a snowdrop festival in Devon apparently -here’s a link to some info - where you can admire different types of snowdrop. Last year they couldn’t open the gardens for the festival but now all is well again. Perhaps the Dobcross snowdrops feature there. 

And finally, my brother in law has sent me a photo of the Northern Lights seen over Saddleworth Moor. Impressive! I never knew they could be seen from here!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!