Tuesday, 10 December 2019

SOme of the oddness of the world.

In the early evening yesterday I stood at a bus stop waiting for the bus to complete my journey home. It was cold. It was bright and crisp and there was a fabulous moon, not quite full or maybe just beginning to wane. There was also a young woman waiting for the bus and phoning various members of her family while she waited. I swear every third or fourth word she uttered was “f***ing”. It was almost impressive. She could have been aiming for a place in the Guinness Book of Records. I wonder what people who routinely swear like that say when they are really, really annoyed.

As promised by the weather forecasters, the cloud moved in during the night and today is as grey and dull as yesterday was blue and bright. I managed, however, to find a rain-free space to run round the village this morning. But it is highly possible I may not move from the house for the remainder of the day.

On the radio I have just listened to interviews with people about how they plan to vote in Thursday’s election. One women interviewed had been considering voting Conservative, despite having voted Labour most of her life. Now she is undecided because she has been online and done a survey about her views and affiliations, a survey intended to show you which party you most agree with. This told her that she is a Liberal Democrat. So now she really is confused!

Do people really need someone else to tell them what they think? This is different from changing your mind because someone has come up with convincing arguments. What an odd world it is! 

Here’s a link to an article by someone who has known Mr Johnson and his ways of doing things for quite some time,

And here is a link to an article by George Monbiot. Despite articles such as this and numerous other articles and posts I have come across where members of the Jewish community express their support for the Labour Party, much of the press still tells us that almost all Jews are going to vote against them.

On to other things. I accidentally clicked on one of those articles online that give you information you don’t really need. This was about who were the richest members of the royal family. I did not read all of it but I saw some stuff about Prince William, his personal fortune and the like, and then this:

 “Prince William also receives an annual salary of almost £48,000 from his time as an East Anglian Air Ambulance pilot. But the Prince reportedly donates this money back to the EAAA charity. When announcing his retirement from being a pilot, the prince said he decided on this in order to dedicate himself fully to his royal duties.”

It’s very nice that HRH donates this money back to the charity but is it normal for air ambulance pilots to carry on being paid after they leave the job? I had to work a lot longer as a teacher to qualify for a reasonable pension and even then it was a mere fraction of what HRH has been given.

And then there is this, from an article in the Guardian:

“When Thomas and Jenny approached a couples therapist before their wedding, they weren’t expecting it to become a long-term commitment. “Initially we decided to see a counsellor due to some trust issues in our relationship,” he says. “We found premarital therapy incredibly helpful, because it gave us a safe space to communicate with each other without fear of repercussion. It became an important part of the relationship – even when things were going well.”
After their wedding this summer, the couple continued to attend sessions while they settled into marriage. By discussing potential problems with an unbiased third party, Thomas says they both felt confident to be more open with each other. It also helped them to work on their communication styles, which has further strengthened their relationship. “It’s not just what you say, but when and how you say it. Before therapy, I might say something critical first thing in the morning and Jenny would immediately become defensive. We’ve learned that we communicate better when we allocate a time to sit down after dinner and rationally discuss things.””

Some people sign prenuptial agreements about wealth. Others have prenuptial therapy about their relationship. However have I managed so long without either of those things?

Monday, 9 December 2019

Busy Monday stuff!

Today, a bright and sunny day, I got up and went to the dentist for a check-up. This involved a torture session, otherwise known as “scale and polish”. We pay £20 or so for the dentist to torture us. All in a good cause, of course, putting off the possibility of dentures some time in the future. Long ago, when my younger sister was born, my mother took advantage of the NHS free dental treatment for a mother during the first year of her child’s life and had all her teeth taken out and dentures fitted. Later in life she said it was the worst decision she ever took but at the time it seemed the right thing to do. That may well be so but at least she got her free treatment. Will that free dental treatment for a year continue for mothers of the country votes the Tories back in? I nearly wrote “if we vote the tories back in” but that would imply that I might be voting for them!!

Having undergone my torture session I went to catch a tram into Manchester where I was going to try once again to nail the Christmas shopping thing and then meet my eldest granddaughter from work. I feel quite flattered that my 22-year-old granddaughter is willing to meet her grandmother casually for coffee after work!

On the way in I earwigged on a conversation on the tram. This is what you do if you are an inveterate nosey parker. I listened to the banter going back and forth about voting or not voting Labour in the forthcoming election. These were people who said they had voted Labour all their lives - one had been a Labour councillor, for goodness sake! - and were now contemplating voting Conservative. Somebody else was eavesdropping as well, for we both chimed in when bus-passes were mentioned and the possibility of them being taken away, and we both declared that voting the Tories in was a pretty sure way of losing that privilege, among others.

That was when the conversation got into small-world territory for the ex-councillor starting naming people I knew, people I had been friendly with in the past, people whose children had been to school with my children. I think we all agreed in the end that we don’t want any more years of Tory austerity.

And I went on and did my shopping and met my granddaughter. We then went on to meet her mother, my daughter, and her in-laws for more coffee and a chat and some admiration of the small grandchildren we have in common.

Eventually I made my way home and found this on the news online:

 “Boris Johnson has been accused of not caring after he repeatedly refused during a TV interview to look at a photo of a four-year-old boy forced to sleep on the floor at an overcrowded A&E unit, before pocketing the reporter’s phone on which he was being shown the picture.
In an ITV interview during a campaign visit to a factory in Sunderland, the prime minister was challenged about the plight of Jack Williment-Barr, who was pictured sleeping under coats on a hospital floor in Leeds as he waited for a bed, despite having suspected pneumonia.
Johnson refused to look at the photo and, out of camera shot, eventually took the phone from the reporter and put it in his own pocket.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, responded by tweeting a video of the exchange with the message: “He just doesn’t care.””

Enough said! Tomorrow is another day! Maybe the PM will run away from another confrontation situation.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Reactions to Sunday morning stuff.

Australia is burning. The Victoria Falls in Africa is reduced to a trickle. I just heard of loads of tourists trapped somewhere in New Zealand because a storm has caused flooding. The world is going crazy. It makes our weather here seem extremely moderate, whatever it does! That said, I had to wait for the rain to stop before going running this morning. They are predicting high winds for us now, possible the first named storm of the winter. And snow is forecast for the end of the week.

We shall see!

We need to watch the weather on Thursday. Cold and wet can prevent people turning out to vote. And here we are, only days away from the election and pollsters offering all sorts of possibilities. The politicians are running around still trying to persuade the undecided to vote for them. The son of a friend of mine is taking his nine year old daughter around with him campaigning for Labour. She’s already got a lot of the arguments sorted out and regularly cheers Mt Corbyn. In some countries they don’t allow polling or campaigning in the last days leading up to an election. I tend to agree with them.

I forgot to mention on the craziness front the state of things in France, where transport strikes are causing chaos to reign.

On the Christmas front, journalist Barbara Ellen has been writing about Peleton, the exercise bike people with the annoyingly enthusiastic advertising campaigns, putting out an advert where a man gives his wife a Peleton bike as a Christmas present. Barbara Ellen’s feeling is that the wife would be insulted at this gift which is surely hinting, in a not very subtle way, that she needs to lose some weight and get fit. “Astonishing as it may seem,” Ms Ellen writes, “women don’t fantasise about being presented with the opportunity to strive to look hotter for you.”

My Italian friend would agree with that. In her opinion, “presents are jewels, perfume, flowers, chocolate.” She would be insulted to be given, for example, a vacuum cleaner for Christmas or for her birthday. And yet, I know people who have done that as well. Surely biggish purchases like exercise machines and household equipment should be a joint decision.

Here’s a link to an article about art and Spanish exiles fleeing Franco’s Spain after the end of the Civil War. The list of those who died or suffered because of the Civil War includes the poet GarcĂ­a Lorca, executed early in the war, another poet, Antonio Machado, who died in the French Pyrenees after fleeing Spain, the writer Arturo Barea, reduced to a nervous wreck and exiled to England, and, or course, the masses of ordinary people photographed by the jpirnalist Robert Capa as they fled. 

Probably an exhibition worth visiting Madrid again for.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Round tables. Debates. Christmas nonsense!

Yesterday we went out to lunch with a bunch of old friends. This particular group gets together two or three times a year, sometimes just to eat and drink and chat, sometimes to go on trips on steam trains - a bunch of old young-at-hearts out having fun. Yesterday we were a somewhat depleted group - some of our number are off on holiday or busy doing this and that in other places - only eight of us sat down to lunch. But we had a round table and decided that a group of eight at a round table is probably ideal for the kind of conversation where everyone can join in.

King Arthur had the right idea. Long oblong tables lead to the group splitting into factions. Is this of significance in the design of parliamentary chambers. Ours is a long oblong with a big enough space between the two sides so that nobody can reach over with a sword and poke an opponent. Other countries, but not all by any means, have a semi-circle. Maybe we should have more government in the round.

One or two of our party yesterday expressed an interest in getting home in time to watch the Corbyn-Johnson debate on television. One had organised for her husband to record it for her in case she did not get home in time. I decided to give it a miss. Another friend has expressed her disappointment that Jeremy Corbyn did not call Boris Johnson out for a liar - probably not his style. The newspapers seem undecided as to who “won”. In the end, of course, the only winning that counts is next Thursday’s.

Not thinking of Christmas is an impossibility at present. In a magazine article this morning I read this:

“The festive season is a frenzy of spending: in 2018, according to a survey by Deloitte, we spent an average of £299 per person on gifts in the UK, many cast aside on Boxing Day.”

Wow! Some people must spend an awful lot.

A dancer interviewed about life in general, spending in general, not just at Christmas, said, “I spend like a man with three arms”. What a strange but very descriptive expression. A friend and former colleague of mine always used to describe profligate spending as spending like a wild gipsy.

Some people don’t just spend on family members at Christmas but also on their pets. Pet owners are now going to shout at me that pets are members of the family too. Research shows that pet owners spend an average of £44 on Christmas treats for their pets (a national total of £528million!!). Now I read that Tesco and Sainsbury’s are selling special own-brand mince pies for dogs. Tesco is also selling macarons for “small breed pooches”, filled with a dog-friendly “yoghurt”. Whatever dog-friendly yoghurt is! Pet owners don’t want their animals to feel left out in all the Christmas festivities and want to share with them. They can’t share “human” mince pies with their dogs because the raisons are poisonous to dogs. Hence special “mince pies”.

There are also pet advent calendars.

And you can but Pawsecco from Tesco, a kind of pretend Prosecco for cats.

I am astounded!

It is estimated also that 52% of Britain’s pets are overweight. So they really are just like humans!

And here is something I found pointed out in letters to today’s Guardian: the expression, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” should read “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a dam!” A dam, it seems, is a worthless Indian copper coin and the expression comes from the days of the British Raj. Who knew? Was Rhett Butler aware of this and did he give a dam/damn?

Finally: our heroes grow older; Noam Chomsky is 91 today - proof that thinking and philosophising is good for longevity!

Friday, 6 December 2019

Being out and about. And some people who apparently refuse to be out and about.

Overheard yesterday in the local co-op store: “Are your apple pies vegetarian?”  

Well, I suppose that if the pastry was made with butter rather than margarine then the pies might not be vegan. Otherwise, what non-vegetarian ingredients does a fruit pie usually contain? The mind boggles!

Even better, the shop assistant could not actually tell the customer; she was not allowed to. She had to give the customer the packet so that she could decide for herself. Rather like the occasion when I went to collect our granddaughter from nursery and she had fallen asleep just before I arrived. The nursery nurse told me that she could not, was not allowed to wake her up. I had to do it.

This is the litigation age! Everyone is afraid of some kind of come-back!

We have been out and about today, meeting a bunch of old friends for lunch in Prestwich. A fine lucn it was too.

We were given to understand that Labour’s Angela Rayner was also out and about in Prestwich but we did not see her. At least one of our party would have liked to see her to praise her - this person in a Momentum member - but another wanted to heckle her. Phil and I heard her speak, not terribly impressively, at a teachers’ union event some years ago but I think she has grown in stature sincee then and comes across quite well.

Anyway, we did not see her and just carried on with our rather fine lunch, embellished with lots of reminiscence from times past. We have all known each other rather along time!

The only damper on our day was the final stage of our return journey. Travelling back towards Manchester Victoria on the tram, we had to decide whether to change to a tram to Oldham, where we would wait maybe ten minutes for a bus, or take a tram to Manchester Piccadilly, the a train to Greenfield and hop onto the shuttle bus. On balance the first option seemed faster. But then the bus from Oldham failed to turn up. When it was fifteen minutes late we went to the taxi rank and requested a taxi to Delph. At that point the bus sailed past the taxi rank! Too late for us!

So it goes!

Here is a little something from today’s Independent:

“Boris Johnson has cancelled a speech to members of the public in Rochester after a small number of protesters turned up. The prime minister was due to give a stump address to Tory supporters near the Ye Arrow pub in the Kent town. A small number of protesters - which The Independent counted at five - also arrived holding signs which read “Tories out”, “Austerity killed over 130,000, the blood is on your hands” and “No to racism, no to Boris Johnson”.

Conservative officials claimed the speech had been cancelled on police advice after the late running of the event prompted security concerns. They said "security officials" had voiced worries about some members of the crowd, and were wary of members of the public being aware of the prime minister’s planned location so far in advance of his arrival.

Ahead of the visit, the handful of protesters mingled among the roughly 50 Tory activists, plus several Conservative MPs.

The crowd grew as Mr Johnson’s scheduled arrival neared, and police moved the protesters outside the small pub car park where he had been due to speak. It soon emerged that the PM was delayed, and Tory officials were seen holding close discussions with Mr Johnson’s security team.”

It seems that he has also been failing to show up at hustings in his own constituency. One of our number today now lives in Mr Rees-Mogg’s constituency. He too has been keeping a low profile in his home territory.

One could begin to wonder about these posh boys.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

On noise, the Princess and the Politicians, TV drama and annoying adverts.

The roadworks on our street have progressed to almost outside our house. Consequently from being more quiet than usual because of their being less traffic, and in particular fewer big lorries, it has suddenly become more noisy. Heavy machinery clunks continuously, digging trenches, transporting huge pipes, filling in trenches and generally making a row. Not to mention the parking problems, which don’t affect us directly but do affect anyone coming to visit. The people in the house opposite are in danger of finding themselves with their car trapped on their drive or not being able to get it knot the drive, depending on where it is as the works progress further along! I just hope all this kerfuffle actually solves the drainage problem.

Looking at news reports of the NATO summit and fancy receptions at Buckingham Palace with, apparently, jokes at Mr Trump’s expense, I notice that Princess Anne has been rolled out into the public eye. As a rule she has kept a low profile for a good while now, quietly getting on with her royal jobs without making or demanding any kind of fuss. And suddenly there she is, being gestured at by her mother to join the meet and greet line-up, getting into conversation with foreign dignitaries and sharing a joke with them. Is she replacing her brother Andrew to some extent and is her good reputation being used to repair public perceptions damage? Or is that just me me seeing deviousness where none exists?

Meanwhile Philip Schofield, once a children’s TV presenter, now a morning chat show host, appears to have become apology-demander in chief. First he nagged Jeremy Corbyn into apologising - not for the first time regardless of what the media might imply - for anti-Semitism. Now he has made Boris Johnson apologise for comparing Muslim women in burkas to letter boxes. Who will be next? I would like to volunteer Rees-Mogg but that would be to give him too much importance.

Partly in an attempt to avoid seeing too much election coverage, but also because it is worth seeing, we have been watching an Italian TV series, La Mafia uccide solo d’estate, a very good black comedy series set in 1979 Palermo, Sicily. It mixes real fact with fiction. Real-life mafiosi are featured, as are real-life mafia-related events, mixing old television footage with the modern series to underscore the serious stuff beneath the comedy. And, as it is in part a coming-of-age drama, they use a fantastic bunch of juvenile actors. Well worth watching!

The downside of watching this series is that it is available on More Four, or All four, or whatever the catch-up for Channel 4 is called. This means that we are subjected to adverts. Lots of adverts, splitting the programme quite arbitrarily. Occasionally on American series, seen in the UK without commercial breaks, you can almost see where the breaks have been programmed in, usually at a natural scene-change point. In the series we have been watching the breaks just happen, sometimes mid conversation, not even at a cliffhanger moment.

And there are masses of adverts for gambling - always with a soppy-voiced reminder to “Gamble responsibly” and to “keep gambling fun”. I find myself growing quite huffy and stuffy about this and stating over and over again that advertising for gambling should be banned. You no longer see commercials for cigarettes on television, and gambling can be just as addictive as tobacco.

Another frequent feature at the moment is the John Lewis Christmas advert, which reportedly cost something like £6million to produce. Some people find it charming but you can really go off a story about a little dragon who sets fire to everyone’s Christmas, even if he miraculously manages to reform and learn to control his incendiary nature in time to set the christmas pudding alight. Other people are grumbling that it is, if not actual plagiarism, extremely similar to an already published children’s story about a small girl and an impetuous, almost uncontrollable dragon!

In fact, I am sick of Christmas adverts altogether. Marks & Spencer have a singularly silly one about choosing a jumper to wear to the work’s Christmas disco! “Go jumpers for Christmas!” Really! Who wears a jumper to a Christmas disco?

Oh dear, I seem to be turning a little Scrooge-like" So here’s a link to an article about a much less expensive advertising campaign.  That’s the way to do Christmas - shop local, give everyone a screwdriver as a present - the advert is for a family-run hardware shops.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Local travel fun and games!

Yesterday was swallowed up by my being busy. I was up bright and early to go off the the hairdresser’s in Manchester. Yes, I know I could go somewhere local and pay less but I like my Manchester hairdresser’s. There I caught up on the gossip magazines, most of which were a little out of date and so I did not have to plough through stuff about Prince Andrew.

The royal family came into it though, as there was an interview with Helena Bonham-Carter, currently playing Princess Margaret in the TV series The Crown. By all accounts she does it rather well. She had met the princess in her youth. I suppose her name is a bit of a give-away, suggesting that her family might have mixed in highfalutin circles. As well as reading biographies of the apparently rebellious princess, Ms Bonham-Carter said she consulted a spiritualist who put her in touch with the dead princess. It seems her dead royal highness thoroughly approved of Helena playing her in the series. You could not make it up!

My hair sorted and my gossip-reading (about lots of folk I have never heard of - I am seriously out of touch!) completed, I went off to do a bit of half-hearted Christmas shopping and then on to my Italian conversation class. There we did what adult classes always do in the last class before Christmas; we had a bit of a Christmas party. And, as this was an Italian class we had to drink Prosecco and eat panettone. And, quite exceptionally, we had arancini, cooked by one of the men in our group. He explained that he had been to an adult-ed cookery class which began with simple stuff like shepherd’s pie but moved on eventually into more exotic foreign dishes. Hence the arancini, which were declared to be very authentic by our resident Italian! Very good they were too!

My Italian class finishes at 6.30. From Manchester Piccadilly station I can catch a tram to Manchester Victoria station, where I catch another tram to Oldham, usually arriving just in time to miss the bus to Delph. So I have taken to waiting at Piccadilly for the Huddersfield train which stops at Greenfield, arriving there about five minutes before the shuttle bus, a minibus which follows a scenic route around the Saddleworth village but which is designed to coincide with the trains from Manchester. 

The train left Manchester on time and then stopped and waited, just outside the station, for several minutes. When it set off again, it crawled along at snail’s pace. The public address system kept reminding us that this was the Transpennine Express. Really? Never was there such a misnomer! The computer display on the train informed us that the train had been delayed by 5 minutes, 6 minutes, 8 minutes and kept recalculating the time at which it was expected to arrive at various stations along the route. Finally it was due in Greenfield at the same time as my shuttle bus! Ouch! I did not relish running over a possibly icy bridge.

There was no sign of the little bus so a few other people and I compared notes and agreed to cross our fingers. After all, I was able to advise them, the bus had arrived late every week for the last three weeks. One couple gave up in despair after five minutes and hopped in a taxi. As their taxi set off, the little bus came round the corner. Hurray! I had a pleasant chat with the friendly driver, a young man from Hull, or ‘Ull as he says in his broad Yorkshire. I have chatted with him on more than one occasion. There is nothing quite like a minibus with a friendly driver.

Today I got up and ran to the market in Uppermill, today being Wednesday. My timing was fine and I was at the bus-stop in the square in time to make my way home in the same shuttle bus. Which went sailing by! It was held up at traffic lights, where I caught up with it and knocked hopefully on the door. The driver (not the young man from ‘Ull but a lady driver) indicated, as I expected, that she could not open the door and that the stop in the square was out of action.

I was rather annoyed as there was no sign that I could see to inform me of that decision, presumably because of the road works traffic lights. But I picked up my shopping and walked to the next stop, probably half a mile up the road. When the next bus (not the shuttle bus) came along I had a little moan to the driver. He said he was unaware of the stop being closed!