Monday, 16 January 2012

Sparkling weather and diamond jubilees.

The splendid weather that we had over the weekend – crisp and cold with blue sky and sunshine – has continued into today. I must say that I am in favour of such perfect January weather and hope it goes on a bit longer. It’s lovely to replace the soggy mud puddles with crisp frozen mud. I have, of course, been making the most of it, taking myself off yesterday for a walk around Dovestone Reservoir: quite excellent.

This morning I got up and went for a run as I often do. Well, this morning part of it was a walk as I have decided that running up Lark Hill, a steepish and very stony path going past an old quarry, is rather out of my league. However I did run the rest of the way. When I got to the top of Lark Hill a small yappy-type dog came to investigate me. His owner, muffled up in a long coat, big scarf round her neck, looked me up and down in my running gear and asked, “Where’s your dog? Have you not got a dog?” When I confessed to lacking such an accessory she went on, “Are you just walking on your own then?” She sounded rather accusing as if there were something quite perverted about walking around the countryside on your own without a dog. When she discovered that actually I was running (hence the running gear and the water bottle and so on) she was baffled and told me I should just take it easy. I suppose madness takes a variety of forms.

As my own form of madness involves getting out and about while the sun shines, I persuaded my Phil to get his hiking boots on later in the day and we set off to stomp around the bridle paths and old farm tracks around here. We were getting along fine, managing to avoid the major icy places and feeling quite pleased that the cold spell has hardened all the places that were quagmires only a few days ago, when we got our comeuppance. Well, I did anyway.

Many of the old farm tracks around here were originally laid with stone slabs, presumably so that carts could be pulled up and down them. Now most of them have fallen into disuse and are fairly grown over. Like much of the stone in this area they have been covered with the ubiquitous “Saddleworth green”, a kind of moss or lichen which is treacherous when wet. Whether this was what I put my foot on or whether it was a small patch of black ice is neither here nor there; the consequence was the same, me sitting down in a cold soggy place.

Sod’s law inevitably came into play here as I was wearing a long white jumper and a white hoodie. What better to wear when you are going to sit down in a cold soggy place? So when I got home I had to peel soggy clothes off and try to remove the worst of the mud before putting everything in the washing machine. So it goes! If it doesn’t wash out maybe I could just make a style feature of the muddy bottom look.

After finding the expression “food insecure” in yesterday’s paper, today I find Nick Clegg making comments about “the haves and have-yachts”. This is all because of Michael Gove, Education Secretary who has suggested that we, the British people, should help the queen celebrate her Diamond Jubilee by giving her a new royal yacht - £60 million. Now, isn’t that nice of him? I didn’t know that came into the remit of the Education Secretary. My feeling is that if there is a spare £60 million around then maybe Mr. Gove should suggest spending it on education.

Mr. Gove’s boss wasn’t very impressed either, by all accounts. Mr. Cameron has said that in this time of austerity such expenditure isn’t appropriate. He didn’t suggest spending the money on education or telling Her Majesty to buy her own yacht though.

And now it seems that Mr. Gove has added, “If there is not sufficient public money, then we should look for generous private donations to give every school a lasting memento of the occasion." Any suggestions? A ship in a bottle maybe? It could be a small version of the one on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

The queen’s old yacht, the Britannia, was taken away from her in 1997 and is now a tourist attraction in Edinburgh. Now, if Scotland goes independent, will England want the yacht back? That’s another important consideration when you start to talk about breaking up the Union!

I leave you with that thought.

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