This has mostly been a weekend of reunion with old friends. Well, Phil had to miss a good part of it because he could not get out of playing chess on Saturday but that's just the way it goes sometimes.
On Friday evening we all met for a rather fine meal together at a Turkish restaurant: good food in good company!
On Saturday, however, the day Phil had to miss, we went on the Santa Express, a seasonally modified version of the old steam train from Bury to Rawtenstall.
We didn't really intend it to be the Santa Express. We planned a simple steam train ride but it's that time of year. So we found a carriage away from the main kids' section of the train, where they could say hello to Santa and get overexcited!
Even so, and despite most of us wearing badges that said we were adults, our carriage was invaded by a crazy magician in a flamboyant suit made of blue cloth adorned with Christmas trees and snowflakes and other such seasonal things.
He proceeded to make small sponge balls appear, multiply and disappear, accompanied by a fine selection of ribald comments and double entendres. Six adults were rediscovering their childhood! Totally silly!
However, our conversation did range over more serious topics as well. This is hardly surprising as our group comprised of one physicist, one geographer, at least two but possibly three former primary school headteachers, one of whom was a leading light in a local conservation society and me, a linguist and former head of the Modern Languages department of a college.
As the local conservationist pointed out areas that had been underwater last Boxing Day and how close the railway line came to being washed away, inevitably we had yet another discussion about global warming and climate change.
The physicist argued that global warming is a natural, cyclical phenomenon that has always happened and always will; ice ages come and go; the polar regions expand and contract but the equatorial regions stay much the same.
The geographer argued that it cannot be denied that there are more cases of extreme weather than ever there used to be. Ah, but, responded the physicist, the fact of the matter is that those extreme weather cases have always happened and simply get more press now than ever they used to. In addition to that, every time there is a case of extreme weather, be it cold, hot, wet or dry or windy, someone cries out "global warming" or "climate change", as if that should explain and somehow solve the problem.
The conservationist went on a bit about CO2. The physicist more or less dismissed it as much lesser a problem that methane, which apparently takes a lot longer than CO2 to disappear from the atmosphere.
The rest of us just tipped in our twopenn'orth as we saw fit, perhaps with a little less authority than the scientific branch of our party, but we refused to be excluded. All of us are much too well-informed and opinionated for that.
I am not sure where the extreme weather in Australia reported in today's news comes into our arguments/discussions. Severe thunderstorms have been doing odd things to the pollen, causing asthma attacks from which six people have died while others remain in intensive card. Here is a link to an article about it.
We were not serious and solemn all the time. We has too many silly conversations with folk dressed up as elves and Christmas trees for that. And we had an excellent walk around Rawtenstall, with our local conservationist friend pointing out the improvements that his Civic Pride organisation has carried out.
We admired the Rawtenstall Railway Station, rebuilt 20 years ago in authentic style and looking rather fine. We enjoyed Lancashire food and mulled cider bought from stalls at a Christmas Market. Not so flashy and international a Christmas Market as you find in central Manchester, this one seemed to be selling much more local produce. Not at all a bad thing!
All of us thanked our organising friend, the geographer, for planning our day out and especially for organising the splendid, not too extreme weather for us.