Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Rain and more rain! Hallowe’en decorations. The oddness of America.

It’s raining again. 

 

One of my nodding acquaintances tried to console me by saying that today’s is only light rain but even so ... I have had enough of rain for the time being! 

 

It’s a good job our neck of the wood looks good even in the rain.


Out and about I am seeing lots of Hallowe’en decorations, although yesterday’s photo probably showed the best of them. This is a new development and is perhaps trying to equal Christmas house decorations. I always wonder about the pumpkins that people have carved into strange faces and left on their doorsteps or gateposts. Have they at least used the inside of the pumpkins to make a pumpkin pie or some similar dish? At a time when there are people going hungry it would be a shame to just throw the innards away. 


Anyway, here is a selection of Hallowe’en pictures. I think people have perhaps gone to town a little this year as they will not be getting together for any kind of celebration. Not that I really hold with celebrating Hallowe’en. It’s one thing for a country to have a tradition of going to clean up family graves for All Saints’ Day - a tradition we don’t have here, by the way! - and quite another to start sending Hallowe’en cards and putting up banners wishing everyone a Happy Hallowe’en. Where did that come from? Well, I think we know the answer to that. But I digress; here are the pictures.






Well, the Americans have sworn in Amy Coney Barrett as a high court judge. Much has been said about her intelligence and so on but I wonder about the intelligence of anyone who could have anything to do with associations that believe in conspiracy theories. But then I have read that more than two dozen candidates for Congress in the US elections have endorsed or given credence to QAnon or promoted QAnon content online. And at least one of them is expected to be elected to the House of Representatives next week. So there we are. But it’s their country, not mine!


Somebody sent me a link to one of those “word of the day” sites. Here’s what it gave me:-


Word of the day is “pinchfart” (16th century): a miser; one who withholds money to the detriment of others.


I think we can all think of some candidates for that moniker!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 26 October 2020

Is there such a thing as bad weather? Defying the odds. How long have we been in lockdown here?

I went out running in the rain this morning. It had eased off some compared to what it was like when I first snoozed my alarm, but even so, rain was still falling. 

 

En route I took a picture of a house all decked out for Hallowe’en and posted it on Facebook when I got back. 



A friend of mine almost instantly commented: “have you been out in all this rain?” I could hear the indignation and astonishment and disbelief pouring out of even the printed words. This is the person who needed extra blankets on the bed when she visited us one time in Galicia in July! Granted it wasn’t the hottest July we had ever seen in Galicia but even so! And, okay, she does suffer from arthritis and poor circulation but ... once, again, even so!


So I quipped back that someone or other had once said that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes! Quite so! But then I got to wondering who it was who said it and did a little research.

Here’s one thing I found:-

 

"There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes." This phrase hails from Scandinavia, where it's a common mantra repeated by parents who insist that their children spend time outdoors every day.


And here’s another:- 

 

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.” That’s how the saying goes. When I first heard this phrase it was attributed to the comedian Billy Connolly. It has also been attributed to the Victorian-era art critic John Ruskin, the explorer Ranulph Fiennes and the fell-walker Alfred Wainwright.


And then I found this, which purports to be an actual quote from the writer John Ruskin:-


There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.


Anyway, with the days growing shorter and finishing earlier, Phil and I have decided that we’ll take that sentiment for our own and go out for a well-wrapped-up walk, even in the pouring rain, almost everyday.

In the event, it wasn’t so necessary today as by midday it had brightened up quite considerably. But we donned our waterproofs just in case - an insurance policy is always a good idea - and set off to walk up Lark Hill once again. The wind was cold but we managed to get up the hill and down without being rained on. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. 



 

Meanwhile we continue in tier 3 of Covid restrictions. It becomes rather difficult to organise family adventures. As our daughter is usually accompanied by two small people, neither of whom would be counted in Scotland, she has to choose which other member of her family can come with her so that we don’t break the RULE OF SIX.

 

I was reminded in an article about how the increased restrictions began just as Eid was about to be celebrated that we have effectively been in a kind of lockdown here since the end of July. The article said that there is quite a lot of feeling that the timing of the introduction of restrictions fuelled anti-muslim hate feelings. As if the Asian communities here were the only ones not social-distancing within the family. When you examine the figures more closely it turns out that there are probably more cases in largely white parts of our community. But that gets little or no attention. 


However, it remains true that Oldham is suffering. From figures sent by my brother-in-law I see that Oldham is top of the league for Cases in Greater Manchester, with 592.5 cases per 100,000, while the national average is 207.5. 


And now I read that the Spanish government has declared a six-month state of emergency and ordered a nationwide curfew. Italians have also been strongly advised to stay at home as the country imposes tough limits on people’s movements in a effort to contain the second wave of the coronavirus. That’s too places we like to visit. I doubt we’ll be going anywhere in a great hurry any time soon.


And now it’s started raining again. I shall dedicate the rest of the afternoon to some therapeutic baking, I think.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Drilling... for something! Name calling! Closing borders!

Our next door neighbour is a builder. He never seems to be short of work. He parks his large black van on the double yellow lines outside the house. When he has parked it round the corner where there are no double yellow lines it has been broken into and his tools have been stolen. Besides, since the double yellow lines have been there outside our houses nobody has seen hide nor hair of a traffic warden, or received a parking ticket. Rarely have we seen a policeman either! So it goes!


I do not know what state the inside of his house is in by now but I reckon it must have been completely remodelled judging by the amount  of banging and hammering and especially the drilling which goes on every weekend. Especially the drilling, I say again! Of course, he may have taken up a new profession as a dentist! 


Another possible theory is that he is drilling for oil!


Whatever the case, at 10 o’clock (newly clocks turned back time) this morning we could already feel the vibrations!


Last week some time, almost certainly during debate on free school meals extending into holidays, deputy leader of the Labour party, Angela Rayner, referred to a Tory MP as scum. Maybe if she had used a more picturesque term such as scallywag, the sort of thing favoured by our prime minister, nobody would have taken much notice. As it is, I seem to remember she was reminded that such language was unseemly in the House. And now it appears that around 150 Tory MPs have signed a letter protesting that they have been subjected to abuse, presumably on social media although I have seen pictures of Conservative Party offices emblazoned with the word scum. They must be sensitive souls. 


Some people think that the abuse might have other causes and that perhaps complaining about it is bit of a dead cat.


“You don’t think voting against feeding hungry children during the school holidays had a little something something to do with the abuse?” tweeted the former children’s laureate Malorie Blackman OBE. “A valiant attempt to shift the blame while simultaneously detracting from the main issue, ie children going to bed hungry night after night.”


So it goes.


Here’s an odd consequence of Wales having closed it’s border. An organisation in Chester had organised a drive-in cinema in the carpark of a football stadium. They have had to refund ticket money to people who had planned to come from across the border. Further problems arose when they realised that the carpark toilets were actually in Wales but they have managed to arrange portaloos. Now I suppose all they have to hope for is a rain-free evening. Watching a film through a rain speckled windscreen won’t be much fun. 


We are hoping for a mostly rain-free day today - there is sunshine and some blue in the sky at the moment - so that we can perhaps go on an extended walk later. Not too much later though. The clocks having gone back means that sunset is now officially just before 5.00pm. How did that happen?


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Cancelled adventures. The vagaries of weather. Meanness.

The great Diggle Chippy Hike was abandoned yesterday after all. For a very brief time in the late morning it looked as though things were brightening up, but then the rain came back again, not torrential but sufficiently present to make us all opt to stay at home. Somehow the prospect of sitting on damp wooden benches by the duckpond with the drizzle making your fish and chips all soggy lost its charm. So we are looking at next week when those of the family involved in education are on half term. The forecast, however, is pretty dismal for the whole week.


Yesterday’s rain did ease in the late afternoon and so we had a family walk around the village, more or less my running route but missing out the mud-puddles. The sun even came out for us, amazingly. But by the time we were almost home again the rain began to return. So we said our farewells and the various bits of the family went our separate ways.


Today began with a dry spell so that I was able to run less soggily - how convenient! - but the wind brought the rain not long after I returned. Tomorrow currently has a sun and cloud symbol on my weather app so perhaps more extensive family adventures can be embarked upon. We shall see!


Tonight we turn the clocks back an hour. I’ve got the right dates this time, having tried to do so several weeks ago! This means that the afternoons will be shorter. We’ll have to set off on our family adventures a little earlier. No more wandering around until the early evening. Winter, it seems, is coming!


Phil and I are usually in Figueira da Foz in Portugal at this time of the year. This has been the case for about the last 10 years. Phil plays in their chess tournament and I walk around the small town and stroll along their magnificent beaches. With very few exceptions the sun has shone on us. We have always found interesting places to eat, usually very good fish! This year we were in two minds about going. The tournament was organised but we were unsure about travelling. And then Coronavirus cases spiked over here and over there and the whole question became academic. We hear that the tournament had probably been cancelled. Another thing to put off until next year. Rather like Christmas!


I was reading about how the lockdown has messed up a lot of people’s sleep patterns in Australia. It’s not just insomnia. Some people are sleeping more, using sleep as an escape. Others have been having, and have been remembering, strangely vivid dreams. Is this a consequence of having a strict lockdown during their winter months? We went into lockdown as the days were getting longer and we had a spell of good weather making it more tolerable for those who have gardens to escape into. So have we also had sleep problems? I wonder.


My brother-in-law has been bombarding me with messages about the meanness of Tories. It’s all about their making large expenses claims while voting against the provision of free school meals during school holidays. It’s his indignation at people who won’t tolerate helping immigrant children, or refugees in general, because we should “help our own first” and then not being willing to “help our own” in their time of need.


One MP in particular has been criticised for tweeting that vouchers given out for free school meals during the summer had gone straight into the coffers of drug dealers. He withdrew his tweets about this apparently but I saw him on TV last night, still blustering about parental responsibility and explaining that it is wrong to expect the state to feed people’s children. He is, of course, being called on to apologise but I really don’t think an apology will serve any useful purpose. We see too many apologies along the lines of “I am sorry if you felt hurt by what I said or did”, always with an implied “but I still really stand by what I said”. Sorry is not the hardest word when you have your fingers crossed behind your back. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 23 October 2020

Fruit shops. Figs. Odd facts. Out and about ... or not.

On Wednesday, as well as shopping at the market, I went to the Italian fruitshop in Uppermill. Years ago it used to be run by the family of someone our daughter went to school with: an old fashioned Saddleworth greengrocer’s shop. When the owner decided to sell up and retire, the business was bought by a pair of Italian twin brothers and it became Alimentari Alberti. The brothers quickly absented themselves from the business. A good looking pair, very Italian, all dark hair and brooding eyes, and muscles apparently for their absence was explained by their success in body building competitions. Their sister, equally Italian-looking, the same dark hair and eyes, runs the place with a variety of very English staff when she has childcare problems. 


It’s a fine greengrocery, justifying its Italian status by selling Italian soft drinks, Italian bread and odds and ends of Italian delicacies. The delicatessen farther along the road, Oliviccio, is not run by Italians. The owners claim no direct Italian connection but say they know some good suppliers. And so they sell a fine range of olives and sundried tomatoes, cheeses of various national origins and florentines and other Italian cakes and biscuits to tempt your sweet tooth. 


However, Alimentari Alberti has been selling figs in recent weeks, something that as a rule you do not find in English greengroceries. Consequently we have had oven-roasted figs, in a nice marinade of honey, lemon, red wine and sage, as a side dish to a number of meals lately. And yesterday I made fig clafoutis for dessert. You see, you have to take advantage of the figs while they are there, which is only for a limited time, unlike strawberries, which used to be a summer fruit but nowadays appear all year round. And so I have become a strawberry snob. For best strawberries are English strawberries in season, around the time of Wimbledon. The ones grown under glass in various parts of the world at other times of the year simply do not bear comparison.


The fig clafoutis was a great success. And here is an odd fact about fig biscuits:-


(Biscuits by the way are so called because originally they were bread baked twice - bis = twice and cuit = cooked.)


The fig roll was invented as a health food.
Medieval Muslims were the first to add sugar to the dough for twice-baked bread, and transformed biscuits into a luxurious health food. Sugar was seen as a medicine that kept the body in a perfect state of balance. The medieval Arab physician Ibn Butlan recommended eating biscuits filled with warming figs and nuts.


Fig rolls only ever came out at Christmas time, or on occasional Sundays, in my childhood. I was never sure whether or not I liked them. And I had no idea what a fig looked like. So it goes.


Yesterday the rain held off sufficiently for us to walk up Lark Hill again. There are fine views from the top of the hill, and the autumn colours are still spectacular.




Today there might be a Diggle Chippy Hike but I suspect that rain might put a stop to it.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 22 October 2020

The value of graffiti. Feeding children ... or maybe not. American Pie. And perhaps a bit of sunshine.

A Banksy painting has just sold for £7.5 at auction, at what they call a “Sotheby’s event” yesterday, following what was described as “a near nine minute battle between collectors”.  (Visualise the rich men punching one another!) The painting in question is a “reimagining” (there’s another fine bit of terminology) of Monet’s waterlilies picture, with added abandoned shopping trolleys and a traffic cone. 


He’s come a long way for a graffiti artist, has Banksy. Graffiti may still be illegal but I’m not sure he still needs the protection of anonymity any longer. But even his anonymity is a sort of trademark, I suppose, and whenever one of his works pops up there is always that frisson moment of “is it really a Banksy?”. 


But how crazy is it that collectors are daggers-drawn over who can pay silly amounts of money for his work? Or any work of art for that matter? At least nowadays the likes of Banksy get to benefit from the “value” of their work, unlike the artists of the past whose work only made huge amounts of money after the creators were long dead. Even so, £7.5 is a ridiculous amount of money for a painting. What I find especially galling is that so many works of art are then locked away in vaults, too valuable to be on display!


Imagine how many school dinners could have been provided for children from poor families with that sum of money! 


How many of the MPs who voted against continuing free school meals through school holidays have works of art hanging on walls on their homes? It’s more than shocking that here and now, in one of the richest countries in the world in the 21st century, there are children going hungry. It’s more than shocking that MPs could vote against measures to help feed them. And the argument against continuing the free school meals from holidays is equally shocking: the scheme was devised so that children would not be so hungry that they could not concentrate on their lessons! So it’s perfectly all right for them to be hungry when they don’t have lessons to concentrate on, is it? The parents who can’t find the money to feed their children during term time can magically do so during school holidays, can they? 


Maybe they can take the hungry children to an art gallery. Oops, no, they probably can’t do that in Greater Manchester at the moment. I’m not sure whether art galleries are allowed to be open under tier 3. And anyway, they would probably have to travel on public transport to get there and we are advised only to make essential journeys at the moment.


Newsnight on BBC2 was singularly depressing last night with a report on three young Somali women beaten up in a racist attack at the end of last year - a crime whose investigation was totally bungled with, among other things, the victims being asked whether they had been trying to buy anything from their attackers! - the report on the government’s voting down free school meals holidays, and general mayhem around the world. 


I see the downward spiral continues!


Which brings me to American Pie, Don McLean’s enigmatic song written half a century ago. Apparently on one occasion when asked what the song meant he is said to have replied that it meant he was able to become very rich! Good for him! Now it seems that to mark the anniversary a new documentary, “The Day the Music Died”, is going to be released. A Broadway Show is also planned for 2020. And there is going to be a children’s book. A children’s book? Really? Are there no new ideas for musical shows? And I find it hard to visualise a children’s book based on the song.


Oh, boy! Bring back Pinky and Perky!


Meanwhile, I am waiting for the weather to improve. It was dull and grey when I went running first thing. We have had drizzly rain in the late morning. The forecast promises an improvement this afternoon and right now, middle of the day, the sun is trying to come out. 


It’s not all doom and gloom after all. Maybe we can go adventuring this afternoon.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Wednesday weather. Apples. Biscuits. Covid Tiers. Small town stories.

Another Wednesday. It rained massively in the night. Whether it rained all night is debatable but I know that I heard heavy rain at several points in the night. My weather app suggested a “window” of rain-free time between 9.00 and 11.00, perfect for my ride to the market. By midday it still hadn’t begun to rain again so maybe Storm Barbara has got stuck a bit further south. I bought apples at the fruit stall. I am laying in stocks of Coxes apples, almost certainly the best apples in the world, from the fruit stall at the market. They are only available for a limited time. I’m sure that when I was a teenager we used to get Coxes apples from New Zealand at other times of the year. Is that a false memory? Or does that kind of import not happen any longer?


I’ve not been buying biscuits from the cheese and biscuit stall lately. Phil asked me to stop doing so as he was simply eating them - that is what they are for, after all! - and he was concerned about his waistline. Today I bought a sneaky pack of “oat flips”, biscuits that my gluten-intolerant brother-in-law can eat, as we have planned a Diggle Chippy Hike again for Friday, weather permitting. If he can still have a cup of tea in the garden, possibly not now that we are in tier 3, he can have a biscuit to go with it. In the meantime, the oat flips are hidden away.


Here’s an odd fact about biscuits:- 


“No other country buys and eats more biscuits than Britain. In the last month of the national lockdown, shoppers spent an extra £19m on biscuits. There is a biscuit for every occasion: rusks for teething babies, party rings for birthdays, custard creams to dunk in tea, Penguins and Tunnock’s wafers for lunchboxes, water biscuits to eat with cheese. We even assign character traits to different varieties and use them to reveal our personalities. Politicians interviewed on Mumsnet are routinely asked to choose their favourite.”


And here’s another:-


“Queen Victoria refused to have a biscuit named after her. Association with royalty helped sell biscuits. Marie biscuits were named after a Russian duchess, bourbons after a French royal house, Albert biscuits after Queen Victoria’s husband. However, Victoria declined Huntley & Palmers’ request to name one after her. Perhaps she thought it would be too vulgar to have her name emblazoned across biscuit tins. The palace suggested that they should instead name it after her favourite home on the Isle of Wight – and so it came to be that Osborne biscuits were one of the most popular 19th-century biscuits.”


I wonder if anyone told her about the cake known as a Victoria Sponge!


Well, Greater Manchester goes into tier 3 of the Covid lockdown at midnight on Friday. Our granddaughter is growing a little more anxious than usual, already high, at the prospect of not seeing her mother apart from at a distance for the foreseeable future. Now the news on the radio informs me South Yorkshire is following us into tier 3. So that’s a large swathe of the North of England under increased restrictions. South Yorkshire has been praised for the sensible way it carried out negotiations for financial assistance. Is that an implied criticism of Andy Burnham? Or is the local government of South Yorkshire avoiding having stuff imposed on them from above?  The whole question of financial aid has been very thorny.


Over in the United States, as well as the upcoming election there is the question of the confirmation (or not) of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court Judge, a position for life which it’s important to get right. Now, Amy Coney Barrett, belongs to a christian group called People of Praise.


I read this:-


“The basic premise of everything at the People of Praise was that the devil controlled everything outside of the community, and you were ‘walking out from under the umbrella of protection’ if you ever left,” said one former member who called herself Esther, who had to join the group as a child but then left the organization. “I was OK with it being in a tiny little corner of Indiana, because a lot of weird stuff happens in tiny little corners in this country. But it’s just unfathomable to me – I can’t even explain just how unfathomable it is – that you would have a supreme court justice who is a card-carrying member of this community.”


How strange to talk about your country as a place where “a lot of weird stuff happens in tiny little corners”. It sounds like something from a science fiction or horror story. Do weird things happen in tiny little corners of England? We need someone to write a good story about it. But Esther is correct: it really is unfathomable that someone as important as a supreme court justice, or an influential politician should have fundamental,religious beliefs that include a belief in the devil controlling large parts of our life!


Here’s another small town story. There’s a little town in Canada with the unfortunate name of Asbestos. As it’s name implies this little town was once important for the production of asbestos, something to be proud of before anyone realised how dangerous that once-ubiquitous mineral really is. So now the townspeople have voted to change its name to Val-des-Sources. When I read that the vote was 51.5% in favour, I wondered if quite a lot of people wanted to remain Asbestosians, but on reflection I assume this was 51.5% in favour of that name over other proposed options. “It’s a name that represents our area, and especially, it’s inspiring for the future,” said the Quebec town’s mayor, Hugues Grimard. Quite so! Good for them!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!