Saturday 15 June 2024

Not summer weather. Trespassing on pink sand. Unethical ads. Tory party turmoil.

 Well, it’s at least semi-official and not just my rather jaundiced perception of things: June has seriously let us down so far. According to this article:

“Temperatures this month in celsius terms have been around half those reached in the record-breaking heatwave of last June, and 3C-4C cooler than average for the time of year. It has been an exceptionally wet year, too.” The flimsy, floaty summer dresses and the strappy sandals can stay in the wardrobe a while longer. However, we must be ready to whip them out at the drop of a hat on those increasingly rare days when the sun stays out and it’s pleasantly warm. 

After all, as the article concludes, “Summer is usually quite difficult to predict”.

In places where the sun shines more reliably, like the tiny island of Budelli, off the coast of Sardinia, they have pink sand. Nobody is allowed to go swimming or walking at Spiaggia Rosa. The ban came into force in the 1990s when they had a lot of people, too many people, going off with bags of attractive pink sand. There’s a path behind the beach where tourists can walk and admire the sand. The island is uninhabited since 2021. For 30 or so years there was one inhabitant, a certain Mauro Morandi who found the little island when his catamaran broke down on the way to the south Pacific. He was allowed to stay as a kind of island caretaker but in 2021 he was 84 and the authorities insisted he move out. He now lives in a flat in another Sardinian island and is consulted by media people who want to write about Budelli. Here’s a link to his story. 

Anyway, it seems that an influencer, Brazilian-born but living in Dubai, has trespassed on the pink sand and, of course, published photos of her visit to Spiaggia Rosa on social media. After all, that’s what influencers do, isn’t it? And they’ve imposed a fine of €1,800 on her. I wonder how they intend to go about extracting the money from her! 

Thinking of media influence, here’s a link to an article about the Guardian newspaper not accepting advertisements for betting. Hurray for the Guardian! say I. Watching various series on More Four, I am struck, indeed horror-struck, by how many advertisements there are for various kinds of betting, largely accessible via a smart phone. The little afterthought comments, the equivalent of the small print in documents, reminding betters to know and set their limits, to gamble responsibly, seem to me to be of little use. 

As the electioneering progresses in the UK and a YouGov poll puts the Reform party ahead of the Conservatives (the only poll to do so at the moment apparently) David Cameron says Nigel Farage is ‘trying to destroy’ Tory party.

“In an interview with the Times, the foreign secretary, David Cameron, has said that Nigel Farage is trying to destroy the Conservatives and has criticised his “inflammatory language” on migration.

Cameron told the Times:

He [Farage] is currently trying to destroy the Conservative party by standing for Reform. I want to be as sure as we can that we get no Reform members of parliament and the Conservative party can move forward.”

In the interview, published on Friday, Cameron objected to Farage’s “inflammatory” rhetoric on migration. While immigration is an “important issue”, Cameron said the Conservatives don’t want the “incredibly divisive” approach Farage brings to the topic.

“I think with these populists what you get is inflammatory language and hopeless policy,” Cameron told the Times. He also warned that a vote for Reform or any other party would make “Britain less safe”.”

Personally, I think Farage is not so much trying to destroy the party as to take it over, following an increasing trend for the far right to do well in elections in Europe. We shall see!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday 14 June 2024

The state of things here and there.

 Well, it seems there was another political parties’ debate on television last  night. Another one I missed. The election campaign period is half way through. There are 4,500 candidates and it seems that no seat has fewer than 5 candidates to choose from. There are 459 independent candidates, more than twice the number in the last election. The Reform Party has 609 candidates, again twice as many as the 277 they fielded when the party was the Brexit Party. So there is a danger that Reform might be a notable presence in parliament after all. Hopefully what will happen is that those candidates will take votes away from Conservative candidates and make it possible for Lib Dems and Greens to win more seats. We live in difficult times! 

Rishi Sunak is coming in for a lot of mockery for explaining how hard his childhood was without access to Sky! And here are a couple of cartoons regarding opinions of our politicians.

Elsewhere in the world problems we have stopped talking about continue. Here’s a link to the state of affairs for girls in Afghanistan. Girls in their teens are being married off to older men, subjected to abuse and deprived of the dreams they might have had of becoming teachers, doctors, something influential in the world. For many their world is restricted to their homes. A sad state of affairs!

Negotiations are going on about a ceasefire in Gaza. Israel continues to move tanks into Rafah, aid is still not getting in, children continue to die of starvation and yet it is Hamas who are seemingly not cooperating. Interesting! Here is a Michael Rosen take on the situation: 

“'Let's have a talk about negotiations,' said the King to his tutor.

'That's a good idea,' said the King's tutor.

'I don't really get why we bother,' said the King.

'Neither do I,' said the tutor.

'Then why do we do them?' said the King.

'Well,' said the tutor, 'mostly because everyone out there says that we should.'

'That's really boring, isn't it?' said the King.

'Yes,' said the tutor.

'Hmm,' said the King, 'so given that we have to do them, what do we do?'

'We say that we are willing to negotiate,' said the tutor.

'Even though we're not willing.' said the King, 'Then what?'

'We faff about,' said the tutor. 

'Oh is that where you wave bits of paper about?' said the King.

'Exactly,' said the tutor.

'Then what?' said the King.

'I give you proof that the other side wrecked the negotiations last time and you tell everyone about that,' said the tutor.

'Why do I do that?' said the King.,

'To show the world that we are willing negotiators and the other side are not, and never are,' said the tutor.

'Good,' said the King, 'then what?'

'At some point,  once the negotiations get going,  I tell you that the negotiations have broken down. I give  you a reason. I say that they have broken down because, as we predicted, the other side have made impossible demands,' said the tutor.

'But will they have made impossible demands?' said the King.

'That's neither here nor there,' said the tutor, 'the point is the negotiations break down and we say that it's the other side's fault.'

'Then what?' said the King.,

'We carry on,' said the tutor.

'Which is what we wanted to do in the first place,' said the King.

'You've worked hard in today's lesson,' said the tutor, 'well done.’”

On the positive side, I didn’t get rained on when I went out earlier today. Neither did I get wet going to Tesco. It appeared to have rained while I was in the store but I managed to get home without being soaked.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday 13 June 2024

A bit of a rant about climate change and its effects around the world.

 When I went out for a run earlier this morning, it actually felt quite warm, almost like June. This was largely because the cloud cover had thinned somewhat and the sun was actually shining on us … briefly. I was almost persuaded that summer was beginning again; we’ve had a few false starts when it has seemed reasonable to wear summer, or summer-ish, clothes. It didn’t last long today though. The cloud moved back in and the temperatures plummeted once again.

Meanwhile, with temperatures hitting 40+° in Athens, the acropolis has been closed to tourists. That’s a crazy temperature. The heatwave has arrived earlier than usual. Builders are starting work at 6.00am so that they can do a few hours work before outdoor work becomes intolerable, not to say dangerous. People manning street-food stalls don’t have that luxury; there are still tourists out and about wanting to buy food on the go. I find myself marvelling, however, that anyone can be out and about voluntarily in such heat. Imagine going on holiday, looking forward to a bit of site-seeing, a bit of culture, only to find that all you really want to do is sit in the shade and pant and sip cool drinks. 

And of course the lovely, cool places with air-conditioning are actually just contributing to the problem. 

In some parts of Spain, such as the province of Murcia and the Balearic Islands they have had unbelievable floods. 

Across the ocean, in Brazil they have also had floods, affecting the poorest people more severely, according to this article. In Porto Alegre, the capital of Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul,  ecause of gentrification poorer, mostly black people have been forced into districts more vulnerable to flooding. They are used to flooding there but this year has been exceptional: 

“In 1941, the floods lasted 22 days and inundated 15,000 homes in Porto Alegre. The city’s main river, the Guaíba, swelled to 4.76 meters deep.

That used to be the benchmark for extreme flooding, but this May, all records were broken. More than 300,000 homes were flooded in Porto Alegre alone and the Guaíba reached 5.35 meters on 5 May.

Another recent study showed that human burning of fossil fuels and trees made floods at least twice as likely, while infrastructure failures worsened the damage.

More than 420,000 people are still displaced and 16,000 are living in shelters.”

It may be a natural phenomenon but human action - “burning fossil fuels and trees” - has exacerbated it. 

It’s happening everywhere. We’ve broken the planet!

In Switzerland the KlimaSeniorinnen – or Swiss female climate elders – a group of women over 65, 2,400 of them, took the Swiss government to court for failing to do its fair share to stop the planet heating 1.5C (2.7F). Wow! And now the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Switzerland violated the human rights of older women through weak climate policies that leave them more vulnerable to heatwaves. 

Quite why women are more vulnerable than men remains a mystery, a mystery to me anyway. 

The Swiss parliament’s lower house voted on Wednesday to disregard the ruling – with 111 votes in favour and 72 against – arguing that the judges had overstepped their bounds and that their country had done enough. 

And the women are being criticised by the rightwing for being selfish. Jean-Luc Addor, from the rightwing populist Swiss People’s Party, the largest in the federal assembly, said: “These ‘climate elder’ are just a bunch of apparently healthy “boomeuses” [female boomers], who are trying to deny our children the living conditions they have enjoyed all their lives.”

But maybe a precedent has been set and other “elders” will follow suit. Those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s believed that we could make the world a better place for everyone. We need to keep on trying before it’s too late.

Okay. That’s another little rant over,

Life goes on, stay safe and well, everyone! 

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Another icon gone. Election stuff. Wine producers’ problems.

Françoiise Hardy est morte! 

That’s another icon of our youth gone. Back in 1963 she represented France in the Eurovision Song Contest, at a point when I was discovering I could understand at least some of the foreign language songs in the contest. Does that still work? I wonder. I get the impression that many of the artistes sing in English, regardless of their nationality. And do youngsters learning French or Spanish or German still seek out songs whose lyrics they can try to figure out? 

And Françoise Hardy was singing when it wasn’t obligatory for a young female singer to dress outrageously, wearing as little as possible. Mostly she looked like one of us, perhaps a bit more polished and very beautiful but still recognisably a girl you might have gone to school with.  

And when she managed to stop being totally manipulated by the music industry she wrote her own songs and was quite an example to young feminists. And something of a fashion icon as well. 

I’m not inspired by young singers around today. Maybe I’m just too old for them.

Some news reports are talking as if a Labour Victory in the upcoming election is a done deal, talking confidently about Rachel Reeves moving smoothly from Shadow to actual Chancellor. We shall see! 

And some people even think the weather has turned against Rishi Sunak:

“Rishi Sunak must be cursing the British weather. He got soaked to the skin when announcing the general election outside 10 Downing Street last month. Now it appears wet weather has brought a halt to the UK’s economic recovery.” 

Apparently “the economy would have grown in April had it not been for a 1.7% drop in construction output and a 2% fall in retail activity. Both declines were almost certainly weather-related.

That’s not to say the economy would have exactly been booming had April not been so cold and wet. Manufacturing output, which is not affected by the weather, fell by 1.7%.”

Thinking of the weather, I have just heard a weatherman on the radio say that once again today’s temperature is below average! Indeed! I don’t expect to wear gloves in June, but that was the case as we walked to Uppermill this morning. So it goes!

Meanwhile, in Italy they are having problems in wine-growing regionsSome farmers are taking measures to protect their crops, putting nets on vine growing terraces to guard the grapes against hail, and planting fig trees to shade the grapes and cool the vines in periods of very hot weather. There’s a reason trees were planted in vineyards from 100 years ago, says Prosecco producer Paola Ferraro. “It’s not just because they look good.”

Its all part of the environmental problem which so many people are ignoring.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Diverse contrasts. Imperfect breadghogs. Foodbanks. Valuable dinosaur bones.

 A little more about perfectionism. One day last week I was persuaded by the small grandchildren to buy them one of those children’s magazines with rather shoddy plastic toys attached to the front, in this case very small plastic kittens and animal hospital equipment. It’s the sort of stuff that imaginative children can use to create endless games, which is precisely what our grandchildren did. 

Inside the magazine was a recipe idea for making  bread roll in the shape of hedgehogs: smooth, pointy-nosed face, raisins for eyes and sculpted spikes on the back. So on Sunday, when the family was coming to dinner I decided to make “breadgehogs”, as the seven year old named them. Well,  making the dough was simple enough, standard procedure, but I’m not sure what the magazine people did to their bread dough to make it stay in shape while they baked the rolls. Their rolls did look quite hedgehoggy in the photos. Mine on the other hand didn’t even look as hedgehoggy as theirs did before going into the oven. Once in the oven, they continued to rise and swell, which probably made for lighter, fluffier, tastier rolls but meant that any semblance of spikes mostly disappeared. Once you knew they were meant to be hedgehogs I suppose you could pick out one or two with some aspect of hedgehogginess about them. How we laughed! 

They were, however, quite tasty. the small people were very polite about the artistic qualities (or lack of the same) and their older sibling took one away with her to make her lunch for work the next day! An imperfect success!

Now, I am fortunate. I can fuss about the nature of the bread rolls I bake. I can “waste” money on children’s magazines, knowing full well that our small grandchildren have more than enough toys to play with. And besides, the seven year old is quite capable of making cute kittens herself out of clay. She’s become quite adept at fashioning all sorts of creatures which we then ‘bake’ in my oven. 

Many people are not so fortunate. In this article once upon a time Prime Minister Gordon Brown writes about the rise and rise of food banks and other such related problems. 

Here are a few selected bits of facts and figure:

“There are 850 cinemas in Britain today and three times as many food banks. There are 1,200 hospitals and twice as many food banks. There are more food banks than there are public libraries.”

“A mere 35 (foodbanks) were provided by the Trussell Trust in 2010 and they had to increase twentyfold to 650 in 2013 and then double again to 1,300 in 2019.”

With the addition of independent food banks, there are now 2,800.

it’s not just food, of course:

“For worsening poverty is causing not only hunger but ill health and squalor. Mothers find that after skimping and scraping to feed hungry bodies, they cannot afford to buy basic toiletries to keep austerity’s children clean. According to The Hygiene Bank, 3 million people are experiencing hygiene poverty. Instead of soap becoming more available at a decent price, families are paying 13% more for liquid soap than they did a year ago. Children coming to school unwashed and without clean clothes is often the first public sign that a family is in crisis. That is why many food banks are now providing toilet rolls, nappies, toothpaste, soap and shampoo.”

He doesn’t mention sanitary products for the women - just another aspect of the crisis. 

“Seventy per cent of poor children are in working families, and instead of the indignity of breadwinners having to beg for bread, food banks want their users to enjoy the dignity of well-paid work.”

This is the 21st century equivalent of the humiliation of ending up in the workhouse in Dickensian times!  

At the other end of the scale we have the rich collectors who are apparently buying dinosaur bones. This sounds innocent enough … apart form the fact that museums and scientists are then unable to carry out research into dinosaurs. 

I was reminded of Tracy Chevalier’s novel “Remarkable Creatures”, the story of Mary Anning, real-life 19th century fossil collector and palaeontologist, making great discoveries in and around Lyme Regis, at a time when women were not eligible to join the Geological Society of London, or indeed even considered capable of scientific stuff. Even then rich folk were buying fossils and bits of dinosaurs for their private collections. And women were fighting to be recognised as having good brains! 

I was reminded of Tracy Chevalier’s novel “Remarkable Creatures”, the story of Mary Anning, real-life 19th century fossil collector and palaeontologist, making great discoveries in and around Lyme Regis, at a time when women were not eligible to join the Geological Society of London, or indeed even considered capable of scientific stuff. Even then rich folk were buying fossils and bits of dinosaurs for their private collections. And women were fighting to be recognised as having good brains! 

Grandson Number Two, a four year old expert on dinosaurs, lover of wood lice and all things creepy-crawly and preferably messily disgusting, would  no doubt love to discover a dinosaur skeleton. Could we persuade him to part with it, even for millions of pounds? 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well everyone!