Thursday, 30 April 2015

"Eateries". Force of Nature. Presentations.

Yesterday was our grandson's tenth birthday. For a treat, he wanted to go out and eat at Nando's, the restaurant chain. So off we went to Nando's in Ashton only to find that we would have to wait over an hour for a table. As it was already well past seven o'clock, by the time we had got our table and ordered some food we might not have been eating until going on for nine o' clock. And the birthday boy and his sisters had to get up for school today! This was not really a problem as there was a Frankie and Benny's restaurant on one side and a Mexican place called Chiquito's on the other. More restaurant chains! We would go elsewhere.

After consultation we opted for the Mexican place. A twenty minute wait, the meeter-and-greeter told us as she handed us what looked like an old-fashioned mobile phone. My almost eighteen-year-old granddaughter and I looked at each other and with one voice asked the meeter-and-greeter, "what is this!" It turned out to be some kind of pager which would flash red when our table was available. How very odd! I can't say I am a great fan of Mexican food. Too many tortilla wraps and fajitas and burgers for my liking. Everyone else was happy though, so I selected a flatbread with roasted vegetable topping. Not wonderful but acceptable. 

What amazed me was the number of people eating out. This was Wednesday evening, not Friday or Saturday, and the three restaurants I have named were all heaving. I thought we were supposed to be in recession, with austerity measures all over the place. And then there are all those television shows encouraging people to be adventurous in their home cooking. It doesn't seem to have influenced the behaviour of people around here very much. 

The location of the restaurant was another of those things that I find odd about modern UK society. There was the Nando's, which we didn't go to, with Frankie and Benny's on the right and Chiquito's on the left. Opposite were at least two other "eateries". All of them were huge places, capable of hosting huge parties and, judging by my admittedly limited experience of such places, presumably all serving exactly the same menu and decorated in exactly the same way, maybe even playing exactly the same music, as all the others in their particular chain. 

In the complex there was also a huge cinema and a bowling alley; it was, I suppose, the entertainment equivalent of an industrial park or a shopping complex. It all seems to me to be a strangely impersonal way of organising things. I wonder if the managers of these chain restaurants ever dream of having their own personal restaurant to run. There appears to be very little opportunity to stamp your own personality onto an establishment of the entertainment complex kind. But perhaps I am just turning into an old romantic! 

This old romantic has been mildly amused by stories of nature getting its own back recently. Thee was the tale of a big game hunter who was killed by a charging bull elephant a week or two ago. Some people believe the elephant was annoyed because the big game hunter had killed a leopard who was a friend of the elephant. Do such friendships exist outside of the world of Disney? And this morning I read about a man standing on his boat of San Diego, California, waiting for his wife to take a photo of him with a huge yellowtail fish he had caught when suddenly a sea lion leapt up, bit into his hand and pulled him overboard. I assume the sea lion was attracted by the fish but I never knew they could attack in that way. Perhaps that is why they are called sea LIONS. The fisherman survived to fish another day but maybe he will be more careful in future. 

This morning I visited our middle granddaughter's school to listen to her and some of her classmates making "presentations" about topics of their choice. They have to demonstrate their spoken skills as well as reading comprehension and writing for their English Language assessments. So I sat and listened to mini-talks, accompanied by PowerPoint, on "My Greyhound", "My dog Baxter" (our granddaughter's choice of topic), "My Holiday in Spain" ("This is the hotel. This is the pool. This is the restaurant. This is the beach. This is Palma airport." At last something indicated that it was actually Spain! This is rather mean of me; after all, these were 12 year-olds!), "Cricket", "The Truth about Sharks" and, possibly my favourite, "Strange Sights in the World". 

This last one had some lovely interaction with the audience, along the lines of asking if anyone could guess what was going on with the goats in a tree or the numerous feral-looking cats who were clearly gathered together to get up to no good. One of his pictures showed a group of around twelve people lined up to hold a huge thing that might have been a sea snake or some kind of marine monster. It turned out to be something called an oarfish. This one did not look as though it was about to take revenge on the folk who had captured it though.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Reflections on the state of the world.

On Thursday I strolled around the centre of Manchester bare legged, bare armed, sun hat and sunglasses on! Today out on my run I met a fisherman (a number of them fish the old millpond I run past most days) who was all wrapped up against the cold and told me it had been snowing earlier. I was not up for the snow: still tucked up in my bed at that point. Towards the end of the morning there were hailstones and I was sorely tempted to turn the heating up a few degrees. My grandson tells me that they had thunder and lightning close enough to his school to cause power cuts, annoyingly preventing them from using computers. We have also had periods of rather chilly sunshine. 

Whether this is part of the natural cycle of weather (as one of my scientist friends maintains) or a consequence of global warming (as another scientist friend maintains) I really could not say. But I can say that I am not impressed! 

However, the year is getting along. I saw my first bluebells of this year when I was running this morning and there are buds on the plants in my garden. All set for a riot of wildflower garden colour before we head off for Galicia in a few weeks time. 

According to some scientists, volcanoes and earthquakes are also affected by seasonal changes and slight alterations in the earths rotation as well as by global warming and melting ice sheets. Sheets of ice weigh a lot and hold down the tectonic plates to some extent. As the ice melts, the plates spring back to where they were before and so we have more volcanic activity and more earthquakes. I wonder if this also explains the huge sink holes that have appeared in recent years! 

I have been reading about volcanoes because our daughter has been preparing a super-duper lesson on this topic for her final teaching practice and I have been one of her main sounding boards to bounce ideas off. I hope her class of 7 to 8 year-olds enjoy all this stuff. I don't remember learning such things when I was that age. If we did, most likely our teacher would have stood at the front and told us about them. Or she might have given us books to read and made us copy chunks out. Nowadays they have to do much more practical stuff, building models of volcanoes and cutting up hard boiled eggs which are meant to symbolise the various bits of the earth and its composition. Perhaps they should really do a cross section of a soft-boiled egg so that the centre could be nicely molten. This would, of course, make for a much messier lesson. 

How did my generation ever learn all the stuff we know without all this hands-on education? 

I find myself asking similar "how did we" questions about all sorts of things. For example, this morning I read that expectant mothers are advised not to drink organic milk or UHT milk as they contain less iodine than ordinary pasteurised milk. Iodine is necessary for brain development in the growing foetus so mothers who change to organic milk could be harming their babies. (So there's another guilt trip for mothers!) But surely mothers were drinking unpasteurised "whole" milk for centuries before pasteurisation came along. Does this mean we are all cleverer now? Imagine what Leonardo Da Vinci could have achieved had his mother drunk pasteurised milk during pregnancy! He would probably have actually built that flying machine! 

And then I read that they been giving dairy cows supplements to make milk and other dairy products the main source of iodine in our diet in the UK. Other countries apparently add it to salt or bread. What else do the various governments do to the food we buy? Big Brother is not only watching us but adding stuff to our food, rather like soma, the happiness drug doled out in Orwell's 1984. When will they discover something they can surreptitiously add to our food to prevent or at least combat obesity? 

I almost begin to understand those who want to go off and live self-sufficiently on a little patch of land where they grow all their own stuff and rear a few cows and hens.

Monday, 27 April 2015

The plants travel again. Classic film watching.

The snowdrops saga continued to a sensible conclusion. Our daughter's two younger offspring were coming to stay overnight on Saturday while their mother went out to celebrate her birthday. Because our grandson was supposed to be going to a birthday party at the Manchester Climbing Centre I had the car to take him there. Whatever happened to birthday parties? When did they morph into great adventure epics like this? Whatever the answer to that question, in the end he did not go to the adventure party as he was suffering from some kind of tonsillitis - a mild kind as he seems to have recovered now. 

Anyway, because I was supposed to be driving close to my friend Heidy's bit of Manchester, I had arranged to take the snowdrops which went to Manchester and back on Friday. When the plan to go to the climbing place fell through, I decided to take the snowdrops anyway, taking the middle grandchild with me and leaving the tonsillitis king with his grandfather. As we drew near my friend's house we went past a huge, really huge, cemetery. My granddaughter commented, "I wouldn't like to live around her when the zombie apocalypse happens!" I was somewhat gob-smacked. The snowdrops were successfully delivered though, and all was well. We did, however, have two grandchildren to entertain. We also had a plan. 

More than twenty years ago we sneaked our daughter into the cinema to watch the film "Dances with Wolves". It was certified as 12+ and she was only eleven. She was quite a tall child though and we pretended she was already twelve so that we could all watch the film together as a family. And what an amazing film it was. Thundering buffalo (or should we call them bison?) heading for the edge of the big screen and having us all ducking before they hit us. Panoramic views of the American Indian camp. Splendid sunset skies. Kevin Costner dancing round a camp fire, doing his own American Indian ceremony with Two Socks the wolf and earning his Indian name: Dances with Wolves. 

Well, it just happened that we had recorded the film onto our digital biz some time ago. (I almost said "videoed" the film but the technology and terminology has moved on.) So we decided to give the two grandchildren their own version of their mother's experience. The older child is old enough to see it even in the cinema but the younger is not quite ten, so he would have had to be sneaked in too. 

This "old" film certainly bears re-watching. Both children appear to have appreciated the experience and were moved to laugh and almost to cry but certainly to think. So many films nowadays, especially films aimed at children, have a saccharine happy ending or promote a world view where everyone is "entitled" to behave in unacceptable ways and obtain whatever they ask for, or they lead children to believe that a zombie apocalypse could actually be a reality. 

What's more, we watched the film without popcorn or fizzy drinks! 

We feel it is our duty to introduce our grandchildren to a different world view!

Friday, 24 April 2015

Travelling plants!

Today I took snowdrop plants to give to my friend Heidy. She has long admired the snowdrops that grow on my garden. For just as long I have promised to give her some. So far we have never coordinated it properly. Last time I saw her, the snowdrops were buried under snow and there was no way I was digging under the snow to find them. 

So, having organised to meet today, I was out last night at eight thirty in the evening digging up snowdrop plants. It was so late in the evening because I had been entertaining the grandchildren, feeding them bacon sandwiches, taking them to the park and eventually home again. I carefully dug up a nice clump of snowdrops - no flowers, only leaves. You have to get them now before the leaves die down and you can no longer see where they are. The plants were safely transferred into a plant pot, plant pot into a small plastic bag, plastic bag into my flowery shopper and carefully carried to Manchester. 

We met at the Deansgate tram stop (sorry, Metrolink stop), from Oldham in my case and from somewhere along the track from the East Didsbury end in hers. Heidy was very pleased to see my little gift for her in my bag. And we had a nice wander around Castlefield, stopping for a coffee and moving ourselves from a table in the sun to a table with a chimenea heater thing when the sun went in. We had a good long chant and set the world to rights and then made our way back to the tram station and said goodbye. 

As my tram set off I swore softly, making a chap opposite me smile, especially when I explained that the snowdrops were still in my bag. This happened because of my altruism. I carried them around myself instead of giving her the bag straight away as she has some problems with arthritis. I very nearly hopped off the tram at the St Peter's Square stop but saw that the tram which Heidy was going to catch was just setting off from there. Had there been more time I would have gone back to the Deansgate stop, given her the snowdrops and caught a later tram back home. However, as it was I would have been chasing after her all the way to Chorlton and probably would not have caught up with her. 

The snowdrops may have to be planted back in my garden I fear. The best laid plans and all that sort of thing!!!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


I do like to find out the origin of words. Yesterday it was the turn of "grog". According to an article I found yesterday we gained that word this way. Sailors used to receive a daily tot of neat rum. I knew that already, as a matter of fact. What I didn't know was that the practice continued until 1970. Maybe someone decided that it was not a good idea to be operating increasingly technological machinery after drinking a tot of rum. The practice was introduced in the first place because the water they took with them on the boats was so foul. 

Anyway, in 1740 a certain Admiral Edward Vernon introduced a mixture of one part rum to four parts water, flavoured with lemon juice (to provide vitamin C and try to prevent scurvy) and brown sugar. The admiral was known as Old Grog because he wore a cloak made from grogram, a waterproof fabric. And so the drink was given the name grog in his (dubious) honour. His aim was to reduce drunkenness but many sailors used to save up their drinks and then go on a spree, ending up feeling "groggy". 

It's interesting to discover where the words for feeling out of sorts come from. Words that we use all the time without thinking about where they come from. There's "groggy" and there is also "lousy", which comes from a time when it was difficult to combat headlice and the constant need to scratch your head as the nasty little creatures nibbled away at you made you feel ill. Oh my goodness, I now want to scratch my head! 

Back to grog: the fabric that old Grog's cloak was made from - grogram - gets its name from a mispronunciation of a French word "grosgrain" which means "rough weave", producing a tough, heard wearing fabric. Actually, it's not so much a mispronunciation as an anglicised spelling of the French pronunciation. The Spanish have the habit of "hispanifying" borrowed foreign words in this way, "leader" became "lîder", "meeting" became "mítin" and "croissant" became croisán". They have not yet put an accent on the first syllable of "penalty" but then, they simply mispronounce it, putting the emphasis on the second syllable. But they have made "goal" into "gol". 

You can't win them all.

Monday, 20 April 2015


Discussion of matters political continues here with only a few weeks to go the election. It seems that in the televised debate on Thursday Ed Miliband has persuaded some people that he might not be such a bad bet for the role of Prime Minister after all. This does not stop some very personal attacks from his opponents though; if anything it probably provokes them. There is some very nasty campaigning going on this time. Whether it is this or the much publicised almost open racism of a certain party but some people appear to feel they have been given carte blanche to be downright rude to campaigners. 

A Labour Party candidate introduced herself to an elderly man (it is impossible to call him a gentleman) on the campaign trail. His response was, 'I know who you are, I've got your leaflet. Get off my doorstep, Jew.' It's rather worrying to think that people feel that it's all right to shout abuse in this way in public, which is what the old chap did as the campaigner walked away. Are we really becoming a less tolerant society and, disturbingly, one where it's okay to voice your prejudices out loud for all to hear? 

I was reading an article about the American writer Saul Bellow, who spoke Yiddish or Russian at home with his parents, spoke English or French at school and learnt Hebrew from the age of three. By his own account as a young child, "I didn't know what language I was speaking and didn't understand if there was any distinction among these various languages". The natural tolerance of children, I suppose. He also spoke the street slang of Chicago, spending time on the streets with other youngsters. He said that the neighbourhood schools "earnestly tied to convert or civilise their pupils, the children of immigrants from every European country. To civilise was to Americanise us all." To "Americanise" is a wonderful turn of phrase. I wonder if you could still say that now. Is it politically correct? 

Here are a few odd facts. 

The first curry house in Britain was opened in Brighton in 1809 by ex-sepoy Dean Mohammed. 

English converts to Islam numbered about 1,000 at the turn of the last century and supported the building of Britain's first purpose-built mosque in 1889 in Woking. 

These facts were gleaned from a review of "Exotic England" by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, herself a Ugandan Asian who came to the UK in 1972. She asks, "What kind of England will emerge in the coming years? Will it become soulless, colourless, mean, closed off and small? Or will it choose ... to be open, big, international and curious, easy with diversity because it always has been?" 

Then the Observer ran a poll on all sorts of things concerned with Europe, immigration, the state of the UK, housing, money and so on; you name it, it was included! Now, I wonder, of the 48% of those polled who said that they strongly agree that "immigrants coming to this country should embrace the British way of life rather than hold on to the lifestyle they had at home" go on holiday abroad and look for places serving an English breakfast and English fish and chips and turn their noses up at the "foreign muck" served in restaurants in those sunny places. 

So much for tolerance.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Second hand stuff.

In our local Co-op shop there is a TV screen with a rolling programme of odd news items and reminders that the Co-op belongs to it's members (other shops have loyalty cards but the Co-op cardholders are "members", going back to the original idea of the Co-operative movement. I don't accumulate points that have to be used in store; I receive a dividend which is paid into my bank account. I can still remember going shopping for my mother and being asked in the co-op for her "divvy" number - 9232 by the way!) and urging members to swipe their card, by buying stuff, and so be entered into a draw at the end of the month. 

One of the news items this morning was something about a dress worn by Vivien Leigh in her role as Scarlett O'Hara in the film Gone with the Wind. It had sold for a fabulous sum of money, which seemed to me a bit much for a dress that might have been made out of curtains. (An impoverished Scarlett makes a dress out of green velvet curtains when she wants to impress society and persuade them that she is still doing fine.) 

So I googled the news item when I got home from my run into the village. It turned out not to be the curtain dress. It's a much shabbier affair. Everyday wear, I suppose, rather than what you choose when you dress to impress. The collector who was selling it had bought it originally for $20, saving it from just being thrown away, and now sold it for $137,000. Not a bad profit! 

In the same auction, Scarlett's straw hat sold for €52,000, a suit worn by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler for $55,000 and a black bonnet worn by both Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara and Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Wilkes for $30,000. You would have thought that the last item might have got more as it was double memorabilia but clearly the world of nostalgia is as fickle as fame itself. 

Either way, that's an awful lot of money for a pile of second hand clothing.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Modern Times.

I continue to find social media strange and somehow alien. Oh, certainly, I post stuff on Facebook and indulge in arguments there with former students about whether it is more valid for people to post pictures of where they are than pictures of their babies' progress. (As far as I am concerned, both work as a way of keeping your friends (real friends) up to date with what you are currently doing.) But I haven't got my head round tweeting. I read today about someone who tweets pictures of stuff he finds in ancient manuscripts in his work at the British Museum: ancient pictures that look like Yoda from Star Wars, for example. And then there's a shepherd who tweets about his work out on the hills with his flock. At first he was amazed to find he had 700 followers. Now he has around 7,500. All interesting stuff. 

And then there are the death threats. It appears to have become the norm for people to send death threats to famous folk who do something that offends them. Sack Jeremy Clarkson: death threat! Be a possible replacement for Jeremy Clarkson: death threat! Make almost any statement about anything at all: death threat! How did expressing your displeasure at something or your disagreement with an opinion change into the need to threaten violence? Why is that acceptable? Some of these messages are so horribly explicit that they are truly disturbing and the recipient has to withdraw from tweeting altogether. Are the people who send these messages the sort who would resort to fisticuffs in the pub if someone said something they disagreed with? Surely not all of them! The amount of money wasted because the police have to investigate a fair number of these threats and provide protection for the recipients must be quite considerable. And of course, if they ignored them and something happened to one of the high-profile receivers of threats, there would be a major outcry. We live in a crazy world! 

Over in Cannes, where they are gearing up for the Film Festival, they are trying to reduce the number of selfies taken during the proceedings. They are trying to put a limit on the number of selfies that can be taken with the Palais du Cinema in the background. Quite how they will do it is a different matter altogether. You would think that the famous would not need to take selfies but apparently some do. Surely they have enough pictures taken by the paparazzi! 

My lack of understanding of social media and how they work does not stop me from finding bits and pieces of stuff that amuse me. Here is a link to an article about expressions in modern everyday usage that are really annoying to its writer - and to me, for that matter!

And here's another thing that I have been getting a little stressed about recently: sloppy use of language. Today a certain Ben Jacobs was writing in the Guardian about Hillary Clinton and her attitude to same-sex marriages. Suddenly I came across this: 

"While first lady, former president Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (Doma), which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages." 

Now, to my way of understanding things, that sounds as though Bill Clinton was once First Lady. Really? Was he? Did this happen in an alternative reality? Of course, what the journalist meant was " While Hillary Clinton was First Lady ....". However, that is not what he has written. This isn't even a case of my being pedantic. This is just plain sloppy. And it is not the first example I have come across. 

What is going on? Is there a younger generation of journalists who never paid attention in English lessons at school? And where was the editor, or at least the sub-editor, when this was allowed to go to press? 

Ok, another rant over!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Life's casualties.

Well, so much for the promised fine weather. On the radio I heard someone commenting on the blue sky in Camden, I think it was. Here we have cloud and fine drizzle. To be fair, the newspaper does say that the country is split, summer in the south and back to winter in the north. That's the way it goes. 

It was fine and dry enough for a good run this morning but by the time I went out later to the post office it was decidedly damp and miserable. I needed to post a pair of pyjamas left behind by one of the young Spanish chess players. Initially when I asked for his address, the responsible adults in Spain responded by saying we didn't need to post the pyjamas. They know we are due to go back to Galicia some time soon and suggested we just took them with us. So I had to explain the hand-luggage-only travel philosophy that we follow. We really need every milligram of the 10 kilos each for stuff of our own. We have it down to a fine art and could probably run seminars an the art of travelling light! 

It is, however, very easy to leave stuff behind when you travel. We once had to contact a French hotel to retrieve a jacket carelessly left behind by a friend of ours when we were on holiday together. This was in the days before internet and so we had to find the phone number of the hotel in order to get in touch. I seem to remember we put a ten franc note in an envelope to cover postage. That is not as good as the German exchange teacher who once left half his summer wardrobe behind in our son's bedroom. He had brought shorts and tee shirts just in case the weather proved warm (no chance!) and never wore them. Our son discovered the clothing when he moved back into his room, having doubled up with his sibling for the duration of the visit. We were a little surprised at the amount of stuff left behind though. Did his suitcase not feel extremely light? 

For as long as I can remember there has been an old tramp (probably no older than I am, truth to tell) who could be seen wandering the length and breadth of Oldham town. I have seen him in all sorts of far flung spots. A friend of mine once found herself standing behind him in the post office, an uncomfortable place in the queue. Every few years you might notice that he had a new, or new-to-him, parka, soon rendered as disreputable as the rest of his attire. I never once saw him beg. He simply walked and walked and walked. And now, this morning, my daughter tells me that the news is "all over Facebook" that he has died. I must have the wrong friends as the news is not there on my Facebook. 

I wondered what happens about the funeral of someone like this but my daughter commented that she had heard that he came from quite a wealthy family. He even had a place in a care home but would not stay. She had heard that he went off the rails when his wife died. Now, that must have been years ago for he has been tramping the highways and byways of Oldham for nigh on twenty five years. 

What pushes people like him into a life choice like that? I remember an old, truly very old, lady who we used to see around our village years and years ago. A strange fey creature, she never spoke to anyone, managed a bit of a smile for children and would buy bits and pieces in the local shops. This was back when we had more shops than the Co-op which is all we have now. She lived in an old caravan, a tiny little place, parked up in the hills above the village. If you went hiking, someone was sure to point it out. And she lived there summer and winter, come rain or shine or even snow. Often she would be seen in snowy weather with the most inappropriate, broken footwear. She was another who was said to have come from a wealthy family. Rumour had it that she became reclusive and strange after her heart was broken but nobody seemed to know the truth of the matter. Rumour also had it that she had been cheated out of her fortune by a family member taking advantage of her distress. From time to time someone would organise a place in a residential care home but she always returned to her caravan where she died, years ago now. 

Another of life's casualties. 

It always seemed to me that her story could well have fitted into Laurie Lee's "Cider with Rosie, except that it was taking place some forty or fifty years after his tales. And yet we still seem to have people falling through the cracks of our society and simply not coping with life. Let's see one of the political parties put that right.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Political nonsense.

I am growing more than a little tired of hearing David Cameron tell us that his party is the party of working people. The party of people who work in extremely highly paid jobs perhaps! How are ordinary people persuaded to vote for the Conservatives? It has always mystified me. 

His latest ploy is to promise to revive the right to buy your council house, assuming that you are actually renting a council house and not paying an extortionate amount of rent to a private landlord. Being able to buy council houses won't help those people to get on to the property ladder. And we are a little obsessed in the UK with the idea of having to own our homes: an Englishman's home is his castle and all that sort of thing. Now, I can understand the desire to own a bit if property. And I know that my parents would probably not have bought a house if the chance to buy their council house had not come up. And yet ... and yet, having sold off council property in the past something was lost along the way. 

It used to be the accepted thing that a young couple rented their first home, usually a council house if they could manage it because that was the most reasonably priced. This enabled them to save up the deposit for a little place of their own. Some people never managed it and remained in their council house forever but no one thought any the worse of them for that - unless they were unfortunate enough to live in a really rough council estate, in which case the were pitied rather than looked down on. But if the only council housing available is precisely on those rough estates where no one chooses to live, then young couples nowadays are forced into the more expensive private rental market and bang goes their chance of saving any money for a house of their own. 

Surprisingly (to most British people anyway), in some other European countries it is much more common to rent and nobody feels inferior because they don't own the place they live in. Or maybe they do and nobody talks about it. Maybe I am just talking total nonsense. However, I still don't think David Cameron should pretend to be a man of the people. In fact, I don't think any of our politicians can truly claim to be a man of the people. That era seems to be in the past and nowadays they are all professionals, unfortunately! 

I came across a curious article about politicians, all about the most frequently Googled questions about them. For almost all of them, one of the things questioners wanted to know was how tall the politician was. Almost all the leaders of the main parties are nicely tall, hovering around or just above six feet tall, probably a sign of the good diet they had as children. Nigel Farage is considerably shorter, about five feet eight. This does not stop him making a lot of noise. Nicola Sturgeon is only five feet four but she is a Scotswoman after all and her people seem to look up to her anyway. 

But what a strange way of judging people. Maybe the ballot paper should tell us the age, height, marital status of candidates as well as the party they belong to. Perhaps we could also have a photo so that we could vote for the best looking!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Things going on.

Yesterday was something of a right-off. I had suggested that our younger grandchildren be dropped off at our house for the afternoon so that our daughter could get on with preparation she needs to do for her ongoing school placement, the final stage of her becoming a fully qualified teacher. So, of course, it rained! The small boy, who really wanted to go and kick his ball a round in the garden, had to make do with football ranted activities on his iPod. These seemed to involve a lot of electronic communication with a friend doing the same thing in another place. His sister, who had brought her wellies in case she hot to paddle in the river, used some of the time to string beads. How fortunate that I had kept a few packets of very small glass beads. She only managed to spill them all over the floor once! Not quite the day of outdoor activity that we had planned. Everyone enjoyed roast chicken for tea though! 

Today, by contrast, has been dry and bright but very cold! Windy as well. So, what do you do on a bright and windy day? You wash anything that is not nailed down and hang it out to dry. The gardens of all the neighbours are evidence that this is the case for a large number of people living in the north of England. No space for children to play our today: everywhere is full of loaded washing lines. 

Here as some things in the news today:- 

The German writer Gunter Grass dead. He lived to the ripe old age of 87, which is In itself quite an achievement. He managed to be a respected but sometimes controversial figure as well. I read his first novel, "The Tin Drum", years ago but I have not read anything of his since. Maybe this is another writer to add to my list of people I want to rediscover. 

Hillary ( I can't spell my own name) Clinton has announced that she is running for president of the USA. (I am sure her name should really be spelt "Hilary" but it is her name so I suppose we'll have to accept her version of it.) It is reported that a lot of people in this country have been tweeting their excitement about this announcement. They are much more excited about this than about our own imminent elections. Maybe that is not so surprising; the campaign here is being reduced to a lot of nastiness and name calling. We can only hope that they start to talk politics instead of scandal and backbiting before too long. 

If Hillary Clinton achieves her ambition and becomes POTUS - President of the United States - I wonder what Bill Clinton's title will be. I have recently seen a photo of Michelle Obama with the caption "FLOTUS ... (does something that I have forgotten already)". FLOTUS stands for First Lady of the United States. Would Bill be First Gentleman? How would we all pronouns FGOTUS? Of course, this is all hypothetical. She still has to win the election yet. So far she has been to Iowa. 

I have never understood why Iowa is so crucial but from watching "The West Wing" and "House of Cards" I am aware of its importance. All I really know of Iowa is that Bill Bryson began his book "The Lost Continent" with the words, "I come from Des Moines. Someone had to." It sounds so apologetic that I have often wondered what the place is really like. 

In France the Paris-Roubaix cycle race was almost hit by train. The peloton approached a level crossing. Some of them got through. It became clear a train was coming. Most of the remaining peloton stopped but one or two opted to nip through, hoping to remain with those who had already crossed. They were almost cycling history! Dedication to your sport is one thing. So is the ambition to win. But risking your life for it by dodging trains is something else again. 

On the subject of trains, here is a link to an article about amazing train journeys. Picturesque rides through distant lands. Well, mostly distant. One of them was in Austria where a train runs from the unbelievably named Gloggnitz to somewhere or other. Mürzzuzchlag was the name I think. I should not laugh at odd-sounding names when we live in area which has places called Mytholmroyd and Micklethwaite and Slaithwaite (pronounced Slawit). And don't get me started on places with names like Hunsingore!

And since we have had cycling, a sport which has had its problems over cheating in recent years, today we have the strange story of a chess cheat. Grandmaster Gaioz Nigalidze, the 25 year old Georgian chess champion has been thrown out of a tournament in Dubai when it was discovered that his frequent trips to the loo were in fact visits to his hidden iPhone to consult a chess programme. 

Too silly! He should have realised he would be spotted. Now, just as Lance Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France victories, this chap might find himself losing his GM title. For there are other chess players saying that he reached grandmaster status through cheating as well. And he could face a 15 year ban from the sport! 

 It must be very hard to be very good at something but not quite good enough to be the best without cheating in some way. And unless you are among the very best in chess it's hard to make a living at it. The poor chap might have to look at another way of earning a crust!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Traditional happenings.

 It is fairly typical of British weather, especially northwest of England weather, that it changes from warm and sunny and pleasant one day to bitingly cold the next. So I should not have been surprised to see rain in the window this morning when I woke up. No, not surprised, just rather disappointed. However, having ascertained that the rain had already fallen and had now stopped I decided to go for a run anyway. 

Up the road I ran into my old friend Jack. Or rather, his little dog Rosie ran into me. Ever since she finally accepted me as a friend she waddles towards me when she sees me coming, instead of just carrying on rooting around for interesting smells as she used to do. Jack was wearing a thickish jumper and a body warmer. Personally I do not see the point of body warmers. Why wear what is essentially a jacket without sleeves? It may keep your body warm - as its name implies - but your arms are left exposed to the elements. A bit of fashion nonsense if you ask me. Anyway, Jack gave me a wry smile and asked, "Do you know what I did yesterday?" Before I could think of an answer he went on to tell me he had put all his winter coats and jackets away in the loft, clearly misled by the balmy weather of the last few days. He only had the body warmer available because his wife said it needed cleaning. So he put that on rather than scramble up the loft ladder at 8.30 in the morning!!! 

Do people really still put their winter clothes away like that? It would seem that some do. It sounds like something out of a 19th century novel when clothes for different seasons were put away, wrapped in tissue paper and with mothballs in between the layers. Or at any rate, those who had enough clothes to merit such activities did so. I thought that nowadays you just moved them to the more inaccessible bit of your wardrobe. Who knew that some folk were still so systematic? 

The day didn't get much warmer but it did improve somewhat. The rain clouds disappeared and the sun came out although the wind remained bitterly cold. But by the time I walked out to go to the supermarket it was bright and clear. I was rewarded for my perseverance by a view of the local heron fishing in the river just down the road from our house. 

My daughter picked me up from the supermarket. While I waited I was accosted by a smiling old chap who clearly thought he knew me. "Margaret?" he queried. I shook my head and neglected to tell him that he was half right; Margaret is, after all, my middle name but I wasn't going to get into conversation with random old gents today. 

Up in Dunblane today the tennis player Andy Murray married his young lady, the one who drew attention to herself by swearing at Wimbledon last summer. Apparently some said this was as near as Dunblane would get to having a royal wedding. Good for Andy Murray and his young lady giving a bit of joy to the town. But why did his mother choose to wear such a very silly hat? 

I was about to say something about the absurdity of English traditions but of course this was Scotland. So the traditions must be British!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Chaos and qualifications!

There was a small amount of chaos and mayhem outside my house when I went out for a run first thing this morning. One of the neighbours told me that it was a lorry attempting to turn round a bit further up the road. Another case of someone unthinkingly following satnav and finding themselves in a difficult situation we decided. In fact it was one of those flat-bed, low loader trucks depositing a digger of some kind onto one of the small side lanes. Quite why the truck driver had to place himself across the road, blocking traffic in both directions, remains one of life's mysteries. 

No doubt all those cars waiting with their engines running did little to help our local pollution levels, which I had not thought about until I was running past them. Hopefully the pollution cloud won't reach quite as far as here in the north west of the country. Or at any rate it might have dissipated a little. According to stuff I read in today's paper cities in the north of France expect to be very badly affected. Paris has taken measures to reduce the amount of traffic going into the capital. They tend to do odd things like alternating the days that cars with certain registration plates are allowed into the city. Today's was something to do with free residential parking to encourage people to leave their cars at home, presumably in places where you can only park free at night. Why not do something permanent about parking and reduce further the cost of public transport? Getting cars out of city centres seems to me to be the best solution. 

I was mildly amused to read in the article about today's pollution that a certain Dr Penny Woods of the British Lung Foundation "said it was unfair that those suffering asthma and other lung conditions should be repeatedly forced indoors by air pollution events". I quite agree with her that it most unfair that asthma sufferers and the like should have to suffer at times like this but it was the terminology that amused me. What on earth are "air pollution events"? Why not just say "air pollution"? To talk about "air pollution events" makes it sound as though someone has sat down and organised it, or indeed several someone's, a group, an "air pollution events committee". 

No doubt such people would have degrees in "events management", probably from a modern university that used to be a polytechnic. Oh dear, there's my intellectual snobbery coming out again. But why is it necessary to have a degree in such skills? Do such degrees really mean the same as a degree in Classics or History or any other traditional subject? Maybe our way of categorising qualifications needs a shakeup. 

As debate starts to rage about children who "fail" their SATs tests at age eleven being obliged to resist them in their first year of secondary school, I read more and more from people of my generation about the schools that they went to. There were what are now called "vocational classes" in secondary schools for the "less academic". I love that terminology. Just give someone a big label: less academic!!! 

Nowadays, many of those supposedly less academic positions demand a degree in their speciality: office skills, events management, possibly even construction. Who knows? What a crazy world! The sheep in the field up the road from here don't seem affected by any of it. However, in the radio soap opera, The Archers (an everyday story of country folk, as it used to be sub-titled and possibly still is), I think that the daughter of the one of the Archer's is doing a degree in agriculture! Nothing is simple any longer!

Thursday, 9 April 2015


There's that old thing about a butterfly flapping its wing in Japan and causing a hurricane or similar extreme weather in California. Now they are saying that a dust storm in the Sahara is going to make pollution worse here in the UK. Perhaps not quite so far-fetched a possibility as the butterfly thing but it still sound a long way away. But it is a little ironic that just as the weather has turned very pleasant and people are wandering about in the sunshine and being really nice and friendly to one another, the weather bods start to tell us that over the next 24 hours we have to be extra careful about pollution. 

In the middle March it was a cloud of smog coming from Europe that was causing the problem. What a pity that is not the case now; the anti-Europe political parties would have a field day. Transport mix-ups led to my spending a fair amount of time walking about in the open air today so I hope the pollution problem has not set in too quickly. I had been doing some helpful sorting at my daughter's house and looked up the time of buses home. According to the timetable there was no bus or train for a good three quarters of an hour. So I set off walking along the bridle path. 

At a suitable halfway point I checked the timetables again. There was supposedly still no bus for going on for twenty minutes so I set off along the next stage of the bridle path. Within minutes I saw a bus sail past along the nearby main road. So it goes! Further along my route, I caught one of the local buses that go all around the houses, going once or twice round various out of the way housing estates. As we approached Uppermill I alighted, intending to pop into the Co-op while the bus went up the hill round another estate and then I planned to hop back on as it came through the village centre. No good! The queue in the Co-op was longer than expected and by the time I came out the little round-the-houses bus had gone. Consequently I ended up walking a little further than originally planned. 

In the radio news later, as well as telling us about pollution, they told us that Duchess of Cambridge has announces that her second child, due in a few weeks, will be born in the hospital where baby number one was born a couple of years ago. Well, I will sleep more easily in my bed now that I know that that is all under control. 

I suspect they include these titbits in the news as light relief from all the stuff about the election. News about babies gives many people a lovely warm glow, after all!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Normality ?!

It's very strange getting back to "normal life" after having been planning an event for weeks and then having it take place. So, having sent the Spaniards home on Monday, we had the place and our time to ourselves yesterday, for the first time in a while. It didn't remain so for long. 

I had to return my daughter's car to her. We had borrowed it for the duration of the Spanish chess visit so that I could very people around. You would have thought taking it back would have been a straightforward affair but life isn't like that as a rule. First I popped into the supermarket to replenish stocks of this and that, including snacks and drinks for the kids' lunch. Then, having arrived at my daughter's house, instead of being driven back home again, I waited around while the kids had lunch and then until it was time to take the oldest one to a meeting regarding her part time job. Follow that with a visit to the local tip to get rid of bags of rubbish of various kinds and it was time to go and collect the oldest granddaughter again. 

Time flies when you are doing bits and pieces. I almost forgot to mention the useless trip to the charity shop. We had a bag of stuff to give them but it was almost five o'clock and the three charity shops in Uppermill village were closed. The sun was shining and the place was full to bursting with people strolling around but the main shops were all beginning to close, leaving only cafes and sweet shops open. It always surprises me how early places close up in the UK. In Spain people are still shopping at 8 in the evening. So we collected the kids from the park, where we had left them paddling in the river in their wellies while we went to the charity shop. Then we all had an ice cream in the park in the sunshine before heading to my house for a cup of tea. 

And that was the best part of a day over and done with. Amazing! 

Talking of differences between countries, here's something. In the UK we give Easter eggs. But there is more formal stuff. I was not sure whether the queen still gives out "Maundy money" on the Thursday before Good Friday so I checked online. Yes, she does. Checking that, I also revised a bit of the history of Maundy Thursday. Somewhere back in the thirteenth century members of the royal family would distribute money and gifts and wash the feet of selected poor people, an act of humility recalling Christ washing the feet of his disciples. By the eighteenth century our monarchs had given up on the humility bit and stopped washing people's feet but did give out gifts of money and clothing. It all became just gifts of money in the nineteenth century. 

Nowadays, as many elderly men and women as there are years in the queen's age are chosen to receive Maundy money, because of their Christian service to the church and the community. So if you are an old curmudgeon who does nothing for the community, even if you go to church every Sunday you won't qualify. I must say I am quite surprised nobody has raised the diversity and discrimination thing here but I suppose that as it's part of the Christian Holy Week they can justify a bit of bias! So this year 88 fine upstanding old folk in Sheffield received two small leather purses from Her Majesty. One, a red purse contains ordinary coinage, money in lieu of the old gifts of food and clothing, and the other, a white one, contains silver Maundy coins, specially minted I think, consisting of the same number of pence as the queen's age. There you go! 

In the Guardian I found a link to an article about traditions in old Slovakia, where the custom was to whip women with thin willow branches and to throw cold water over them. This was supposed to make them healthy for the coming spring. As this took place, and perhaps still does, on Easter Monday, I would have thought they were more likely to catch their death of cold from getting soaking wet. But who am to criticise old traditions? Anyway, here's a link to the article. 

And in the USA the president organises an egg roll: an event involving singing, storytelling and rolling eggs down the South Lawn of the White House. I suspect Barack Obama has someone else to organise it for him but he wishes them all a 'Happy Easter' at the start and perhaps even joins in the fun. This year's was the 137th such event. 35,000 people were expected to be there. Really? Do they all get to roll eggs or do most of them just have to watch respectfully? 

Just a slight difference in customs. On the whole though, I think the Americans probably have the most fun!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Chocolate eggs. Bowling. Españoles en Manchester.

Yesterday we gave our Spanish visitor an Easter egg, explaining that this is the tradition in the UK. The same as in Spain he told me. Odd, I thought, since you never used to see Easter eggs except in Catalunia. You do see displays of big chocolate eggs in bakery shop windows but, unless it's different this year, the supermarkets don't seem to be full of Cadbury's cream egg eggs, flake eggs, mini egg eggs, Nestlé rolo eggs, smarties eggs and all the other varieties of eggs you get on display in the UK from somewhere around the end of January. Anyway, he looked at it and asked me if it was a whole egg made of chocolate. So somehow I don't think he's in the habit of receiving Easter eggs. 

Then I read in the newspaper this headline: "Enjoy your eggs this Easter: they may soon be just a luxury treat." There is, it seems, a crisis in the cocoa industry which will probably lead to a price rise. Cocoa trees are high maintenance and some farmers are turning to easier crops. Then there is a labour shortage as young people don't want to work in coca but prefer to go work in cities. 70% of cocoa beans come from west Africa where there has been major political and social upheaval over the last two decades. And finally there has been an increase in demand from China and Asia, not traditional chocolate eaters but now rushing to join the obesity and bad teeth epidemics of the world. Consumption increases of 230% a year!!! That's a lot of extra chocolate. It's a good job I am not a chocoholic! 

Today all our Spaniards, a fair number of them having won prizes in the chess tournament that finished yesterday, were flying back to Galicia. As we had the morning free beforehand, one of the host parents arranged for everyone to go bowling and then have a spot of lunch before heading off for Liverpool airport. This was great success. Phil, who swore he was not going to bowl, not having been tenpin bowling for more than thirty years, proceeded to achieve the highest score of all of us. It must be that competitive spirit! 

One of the girls on reception at the bowling alley turned out to be Spanish. Then we found a Spaniard working in Nando's restaurant. Add to this the fact that our waitress in the cafe in Manchester town hall was a Spanish speaker from Colombia and you might begin to see a pattern here! Small world syndrome strikes again! I shouldn't be surprised really. I already knew that Manchester has an enormous Spanish or Spanish speaking population. 

The young man working in the restaurant came over several times to speak to our group of young Spanish chess players. He seemed quite delighted to see them. I found myself wondering if a young Englishman working as a waiter in Spain was in the same situation, finding himself with a group of English school kids in his restaurant, would have been so keen to come over and talk to them. The English adults in our group seemed to agree that he probably would not have done so. English reserve and all that sort of thing! 

Anyway, we finally got everyone to the airport with no more mishap than one young Spaniard managing to lose his jacket in the bowling alley. He left it behind and only remembered as we left the restaurant. We went back to look for it. To no avail; no jacket had been handed in and none was lying around in the area where we had been bowling. He was remarkably calm about the loss. I wonder what his parents will say when he gets home without it! And so another project comes to an end. 

Life returns to something like normal and we can start to think about our own travel plans.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Synesthesia. Oh, and animals.

Some years ago I worked with someone who one day happened to ask, quite conversationally, what colour Tuesday was for the rest of us. She saw it as blue. She was an Art teacher. It turned out that not only did she see each day with its own distinctive colour but she also saw them arranged in a quite specific pattern, as if laid out on a page. The only person who answered with a colour, not blue if I remember rightly, was an English teacher. Both of them spoke of experiencing certain tastes and sounds in colour as well. Neither of them had heard of synesthesia, the term for this kind of inter-related sense experience. Various poets, including French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire I believe, saw the world through synesthetic eyes. My two friends/colleagues both believed that everyone saw the world in colours as they did and were surprised to find that most of us live in a different kind of world, perhaps more impoverished. I can sometimes think of sounds as colours but I am not sure if I am making it up as I go along. 

Now I read that a behavioural psychologist has been researching how certain colours and types of music can enhance, and presumably detract from, our experience of food. He gave groups of people chocolate to eat while listening to pieces of classical music. While listening to sombre music people found the chocolate bitter but declared it set when listening to lighter music. How bizarre! Presumably restaurateurs could use this knowledge to enhance customers' experience of their food and thus encourage them to return in the future. Interesting! But just a little worrying! How easily are we manipulated? 

Today, having dropped my chessplayers off at the pick-up point for their lift to the chess tournament, I waited for the early morning mist to clear a little and then went over to my daughter's house so that we could take her crazy small dog for a walk. Despite the sunshine, the walk was rather damp underfoot. Afterwards we had to tie the small dog up outside for a while until his legs dried off a little and the mud could be brushed off him. After that he more or less had the run of the house as usual, although the younger children were taking care not to let him into their bedrooms as there were toys around that he believes belong to everyone and, therefore, that he is allowed to chew them. As a rule they have no objection to his being in their rooms. In fact, they usually encourage it. 

When my daughter and family moved into their new house, on the first night they took a decision that the small dog was to sleep in his basket downstairs and on no account was to be allowed in anyone's bedrooms. He howled all night. Nobody got much sleep. Research shows, my daughter tells me, that if you move house and make your small dog sleep downstairs alone he will be sure, once you head upstairs for bed, that he has been abandoned and will howl out of sheer despair. A poor creature abandoned by his pack! Consequently the dog now seems to sleep in different bedrooms on different nights. 

Not only that, but quite often he sleeps at the foot of the bed, on the bed or indeed IN the bed. Here's another thing: when I stayed at my son's house, babysitting overnight while he and his wife went to a wedding reception, their cat made no attempt to pester me during the night. Perhaps she did not realise where I was sleeping. However, when the young couple returned the following day the cat made a point of sleeping that night on the pillow, practically curled up around my daughter-in-law's head. 

Now, I find all of this very disturbing. Sleeping with animals if fundamentally wrong. And I am not even talking about bestiality; I mean simply having animals in your bed. I would even draw the line at animals in the bedroom. However, I seem to be expressing a minority view, at least to judge by the pictures I keep seeing on Facebook. These are pictures of children snuggling up to dogs and cats. Not only quite large children such as my grandchildren who are old enough and large enough to carry their dog around and often do. In fact, the whole family has a habit to pick him up and cuddle him. They are a little surprised if I am reluctant to be hugged by them after they have spent some time snuggling the hairy creature! 

No, what I find most alarming are the photos of small babies cuddled up to sleep with dogs and cats. Even more upsetting to my delicate sensibilities are the videos of crawling babies and tiny tots in bouncing cradles and ride-on toys being "kissed" by the family pet. Most parents carefully sterilise baby bottles, baby cups and spoons, dummies and the like. Almost anything that is going to find its way into the tiny child's mouth is scrupulously cleaned. And then they let the child hug the pet ... and presumably afterwards put their fingers into their mouths!!! They allow the dog to lick the child's face ... and everyone knows that dogs lick the most unsavoury things! 

Two things:-  
  • I am aware that children need to experience a little dirt and a few germs but there are limits. 
  • I can understand the value of pets for a child's emotional development. Well, sort of! I think soft toys can be a very good substitute. (My daughter tells me she got her first dog so that her children would not grow up afraid of dogs. OK but I am not totally convinced!) 
  • And I would not do anything to harm an animal. I just don't believe in living with them, especially not in close proximity. 
 I realise that those are three things but that's how it goes.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Weather, colouring and Zen activities!

My friend Brendan who lives in Galicia has been posting pictures on Facebook of his two delightful children playing on the beach in the sunshine. Meanwhile we have been to the airport to collect a bunch of young Spaniards, Galicians, who are coming here to play chess. So we drove through the rain, crossed the airport carpark in freezing wind and waited for them to arrive. It must have been a bit of shock to their system to come out into that. 

Mind you, I reckon it was more of a shock to those people I saw arriving in shorts, tee-shirts and flipflops! I know none of us really wants the holiday to end but do such people not realise that April in Manchester is not the same as some sunny place with a beach? Maybe they had seen - and believed - an April Fools' Day weather forecast this morning. 

Tomorrow we will show the young Spaniards Manchester so I hope that the weather forecast I have just seen for fine but still fairly cold weather will be true. Some time ago I bought myself an adult colouring book, much to Phil's amusement. Lots of complicated patterns of plants and flowers and such like stuff. I found it very therapeutic, a splendid way of relaxing. I used to feel this when I went to painting and drawing classes. We all simply got absorbed in the task in hand and forgot about everything external. In those days I probably needed to escape stress rather more than I do now but the Zen-like quality still remains. 

I mention this because I found an article about that very thing - adult colouring books - in the newspapers online. They even had MY colouring book in their illustrative photo. Apparently in Australia, there are even groups who meet to colour-in together. It's rather like the knitting circle that have sprung up all over the place. I don't think I'd go so far as that. The whole point of the colouring activity is that you concentrate solely on that. You don't need to chat at the same time. Surely you lose the Zen thing! As for knitting circles, I am not really interested in them either. If I knit - or rather, when I knit - I do it while reading or watching television. If I want to go for a drink with friends, I go for a drink with friends. I don't need to take my knitting needles with me to justify my being in a pub 

However, it seems I am correct about the Zen thing. Here is a short extract from the article: 

"As adults we can be in danger of forgetting how to play. Play is crucial at all stages of life; it can be used to practise spontaneity and to relieve stress. It helps to maintain our brain function, whether through solving the problems involved with colouring in, or the social interaction of a board game. Play also stimulates the imagination, helping us to stay flexible and develops a playful state of mind that is useful when coping with stressful situations, such as breaking the ice with strangers

you I have no intention getting my dolls out! 

The doodling and colouring stuff, however, has been recognised as good for us. "A study was undertaken in 2009 to see if subjects retained more from a list of random names being read aloud if they doodled at the same time. The researchers had suspected doodling might help the brain to remain active by engaging its “default networks” – these are regions that maintain a low level of activity in the cerebral cortex when outside stimuli are absent. In a surprise quiz given later, subjects who doodled while listening to the list remembered 29% more of the names than those who didn’t doodle. And the doodling they were doing? They were shading printed shapes – in other words, colouring in." 

So there you go. Get In touch with your inner child as soon as possible!