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!

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