Friday, 8 February 2019

Genetics. Sleep. And things to do when you are 70.

I was half listening to the radio yesterday afternoon as I pottered about in the kitchen. It was one of those occasions when you let the talk sort of wash over you. Then something caught my attention. On the Science Programme on BBC radio 4 yesterday at one point they talked about the genetic makeup of different nationalities. Some clever group had done genetic profiling of the people of Britain. Despite all the place names in some parts of England that bear witness to the presence of Norsemen in our past, we apparently have very little Scandinavian genetic stuff in our makeup. The scientists concluded that the Vikings must have been top-down rulers, not fraternising much with the locals. Not fraternising? I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.

Then they turned their attention to Spain. Some parts of that country have a rather different genetic makeup to the rest - Basques and Catalans, for example. Well, that explains some of the desire for separate status. Mostly however, they have pretty much the same genetic mix throughout. “What about African influences?” the presenter of the programme asked. After all Spain was ruled by Moors for a good part of their history - 8th to 15 century more or less. Well, the African genes are there but where they show up most clearly is in Galicia. This surprised me as there is always much discussion about whether or not the Moros got that far north.

Clearly they did. That’s interesting!

Every so often something pops up about how much sleep we do or don’t need. Margaret Thatcher is famously supposed to have got by on about 4 hours, but then she was not really representative of the human race. My Fitbit tells me how long I have slept every night - it works it out from my heart rate or something. And it analyses the type of sleep: deep, light, dreaming, awake. I am always surprised by how little deep sleep I seem to have.

An article in the paper this morning discussed how modern life prevents us sleeping and causes chronic insomnia.

We need to get back to traditional sleep patterns because “studies have found that, on average, people from traditional societies go to bed and wake up several hours earlier than we do in developed countries. Not only do they sleep earlier than us, they also seem to sleep better. Between 10 and 30% of people in developed countries experience chronic insomnia, whereas just 1.5% of Hadza people (Tanzania), and 2.5% of San people (Namibia) say they regularly have problems falling or staying asleep. Neither group has a word for “insomnia” in their language.”

How interesting that they have no word for insomnia.

We all invent the words we most need.

The article also talks about LED street lamps, many of which have been Installed around here, specifically one outside our house, prompting us to buy blackout blinds for the attic! We had arguments with my brother in law, an electrical engineer, when the lights were being installed about the need (which we think is nonexistent) for such bright lighting. Now it seems that these extra bright lights also play havoc with sleep patterns and, therefore, have a knock-on effect on health. There you go! I was right!

John Crace in the Guardian writes this:

“No one seems quite sure whether Raphael Samuel, the anti-natalist from Mumbai who plans to sue his parents for having been born without his consent, is for real or not. My natural cynicism inclines me to believe Raph is a bit of a wind-up merchant, but there are still plenty of people who are taking him seriously. The logic certainly appears somewhat fragile. Unless Raph believes that everyone but him managed, before they existed in any form, to send secret messages giving persons unknown permission to have unprotected sex, he must be baffled that no one else has got round to suing their parents. And indeed bewildered that his own parents haven’t sued their parents for being born against their will. Nor is it entirely clear what Raph hopes to get out of this. Does he want his parents to kill him? Does he want the right to officially be considered not to exist for tax purposes? Or can he just not wait to collect on his inheritance and is looking for an early financial payoff? Whichever it is, I would be encouraging his parents to get their retaliation in early by counter-suing Raph for being an ungrateful miserabilist and not the son for which they had hoped. Though that could be a dangerous precedent. There must have been plenty of times when my parents felt like suing me for damages. Not that I had any money to give them back then. As for me, I’m just looking for someone to sue for the fact that one day I am going to die.”

What crazy stuff!

John Crace also writes:

“The Duchess of Cornwall has taken a bit of flak for hinting that the food may not be up to much when she and the Prince of Wales go to Cuba later this year. From my experience, she was merely telling it as it is. If you’re going to Cuba for a foodie experience, then you’ve rather missed the point. My wife and I went four years ago and we only managed a couple of good meals in the entire 10 days we were there. Even in the posher restaurants, we mostly just ate rather bland variations of rice, beans and chicken.” 

But restaurateur Charles Tyler begs to differ in this article.

Now, I am off to Cuba on Monday with an old friend. Last year, as we hit the magic number 70, we decided to take ourselves off on a ladies only adventure. Is HRH Charles Windsor struck by a similar whim, I wonder? After all, he has recently hit the 70 milestone.

 I can’t help feeling glad to be going before he and Camilla do so!

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