Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Some thoughts on the first day of spring!

First day of spring! A weatherman on the television last night explained to us that the spring equinox (= equal day and night) varies from year to year between the 18th and 21st of March. This year it is today. Bang goes my sister’s belief that she was born on the first day of spring! But maybe back then the spring equinox did fall on the 22nd. Or maybe even the weathermen believed it was a fixed point in the year.

For convenience, commercial enterprises and governments and such regard the 1st of March as the first day of spring. It’s easier to divide the year four three months chunks if spring begins on the 1st of March, summer on the 1st of June, autumn on the 1st of September and winter on 1st of December. Never mind what the weather does! And anyway, with climate change and global warming the “seasons” no longer count for much and we can have several different kinds of weather in one day. 

Today though has felt positively springlike. The fruit and veg man, who also sells bedding plants, has spread his wares, well, the plants, over a large chunk of the available space in the square. Very colourful it was too. No chance this week of a car manoeuvring its way between the stalls! One customer was asking him about primroses. Too late! They have been and gone! So said the fruit and veg man. However, he did have snowdrops which have well and truly been and gone in my garden for several weeks now. But who am I to argue with a fruit and veg man?

Somebody sent me an item from something which calls itself the Southend News Network, self-described as “.Satirical news to hold Southend and the powers that be to account!” The sender probably selected this item for me as he knows I get a bit obsessed with incorrect use of the English language.

Here it is, surely a bit of fake news:

“A spokesperson for The English Academy has confirmed that the word ‘have’ will be replaced with ‘of’ in December 2019.
According to a statement given earlier today by the academy’s Grand Linguist Sir Nigel Nougatti, the decision has been taken to try and cut down on the number of ‘vicious incidents of cyberbullying’ that have occurred after confusion between the two words on Facebook. Sir Nigel added: ‘Language is an evolving organism, and when enough people use a word outside of its intended usage there will always be calls for the dictionary to be changed.’
‘As an added bonus, it should also cut down on the sheer number of people who shout ‘illiterate moron’ whenever someone says ‘I should of waited before giving my baby solids’ on Facebook.’ ‘Modern British society is all about embracing differences and cutting down on hatred, and there is a huge divide at the moment in this county between people who can speak English properly and those who think that ‘defiantly’ is a word that is used when you are 100% sure of something.’ ‘This discrimination stops today.’
Although both words will continue to be valid in their own individual contexts, the official Oxford English Dictionary will be updated to state that ‘of’ is a valid component of the conditional perfect tense.
Sir Nigel also pointed out that the main debating topic of the August 2019 English Congress will be the proposed consolidation of ‘there, their and they’re’ into a single term. A proposal to add the term ‘lack toast and tolerant’ to the Lancet Glossary of Medical Terms was rejected in 2016 after concerns that its introduction would lead to long-term neurological disorders amongst the general public.”

Here’s another story, genuine this time, calculated to make me laugh:

 “A 747 cargo jet suffered damage after it tipped backwards while parked on the tarmac when airport workers mistakenly unloaded the aircraft from its nose.

The jet – belonging to Iranian cargo airline Fars Air Qeshm – became unbalanced during unloading at Doha airport in Qatar, tipping onto its tail.

The Boeing 747-281, which had arrived from Yerevan, Armenia, is the airline's only aircraft.

Incidents of aircraft tipping backwards are uncommon, but happen more frequently with cargo jets. Some airlines use tail stands when the aircraft are parked to prevent them tipping back.”

I felt quite sorry for the Fars Air Qeshm airline. Imagine having only kne plane and getting it messed up because someone unloaded it from the wrong end!

Less amusing but equally odd is this story from Sicily. But where else could such a story come from?

 “A 64-year-old woman allegedly hired four Sicilian mafia henchmen to murder her ex-lover who had stolen her jewels, according to police. The killers, all Sicilians, carried out their order by walling the man in cement while he was still alive.

 ‘‘The act of walling up bodies was a very common practice by the Sicilian mafia,” said Salvatore Lupo, a professor of contemporary history at the University of Palermo and a renowned expert in the history of Italy’s so-called Cosa Nostra. “It is a very rational practice because if the body is not found, police investigations are slowed down,” said Lupo. “Other times, however, the mafia wants the corpses to be found to send out a message. If a victim talked to police about their business, he was killed and a stone was put in his mouth. If instead the victim stole money or was too greedy, the killers put banknotes on his genitals.’’”

Before we get too holier-than-thou about violence in relatively faraway places, here is something to consider.

Yesterday evening I was the sole passenger on the Saddleworth Ranger, a minibus service that runs between Denshaw and Greenfield, timed to coincide with the arrival of trains from Manchester to Greenfield, which is how I came to be on the bus. The driver and I had a fine chat about this and that. His accent marked him out as a Yorkshireman, from Hull, or rather, as he told me it should be pronounced, ‘Ull. At one point he told me of a recent visit to his family in ‘Ull and coming across a piece of artwork, an angel-figure made entirely of knives, machetes, axes and other similar weapons confiscated by the police. The figure is twice as tall as a man, the young man told me.

That’s an awful lot of confiscated weaponry! So I don’t think we can sit back and criticise the violence of other nationalities!

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