Saturday, 31 October 2020

Wind and rain. A possible full lockdown? Pandemic activities.

Well, it’s been a funny day so far. I got up and ran round the village at about 8.30. It was fine and relatively bright - thinnish cloud rather than blue sky - and dry but very windy. Lots of bits of tree had broken off or been blown down and were lying around waiting for inadvertent runners  or cyclists to fall over them. But the footpaths were remarkably puddle free - still quite muddy but no big puddles.

 

The photo shows a bit of the pond, not a puddle, by the way!

I returned home and showered. By the time I emerged from the bathroom torrential rain was hammering down, wet leaves were swirling past the bedroom window and I swear I heard thunder. 

 

Not long after midday, however, the sun came out, albeit briefly, and we ventured up Lark Hill again, with a lot of wind assistance. When we were at the bottom of the hill the sky was blue. The clouds moved in again but the rain stayed away for the duration of our walk. Hooray!



 

I spoke to our son earlier. They have grey and damp weather in Buckinghamshire too. They are in tier one lockdown at the moment but he is convinced that we are in for a full national lockdown any day now.


And, lo and behold, this is what I found online:


“The Times reported that Johnson was expected to announce the measures for England, which could be introduced on Wednesday and last until 1 December, at a press conference on Monday.


Everything except essential shops and education settings could be closed. Johnson and the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, were to spend the weekend trying to work out what restrictions could be imposed without causing major damage to the economy.

Speaking in a personal capacity on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Prof Calum Semple, a member of Sage, said the country was in a second wave of the virus. “Unlike the first wave, where we had a national lockdown which protected huge swathes of society, this outbreak is now running riot across all age groups,” he said.

He said there were “many more cases, particularly in younger females between the ages of 20 and 40”, with three to four times as many women in that age group going to hospital as men, because they were being exposed to the virus in hospitality, retail and some educational settings.”


So it goes.


My niece, who lives and works in Dubai, has been going on in her Facebook posts about getting out and about on her bike to “fight the lockdown chub”. Quite why she has not been exercising during lockdown is a bit of a mystery. And I hate to say that maybe some of the “chub” may be down to alcohol consumption, because I know she has done quite a bit of that! Apparently a large number of people have been binging on chocolate as well during the pandemic. Sales of large-size chocolate bars for sharing have soared. Sales of small bars, such as you might buy to nibble as you wait for the bus or tram, on the other hand have fallen. Sales of gift boxes of chocolates have also fallen. I wonder why? If we go into full lockdown, will people stockpile chocolate or does that count as an essential purchase.


In some parts of Europe people have been finding other ways to occupy their time during the pandemic. I read about people who go “ice swimming” - going for a dip in ice cold lakes or the sea, if they live near the seaside. It’s very good for your immune system, so they say, but I still don’t fancy it. In Scandinavia there has been an increase in knitting. I suspect it’s not just Scandinavia, judging by the adverts I see for craft materials. Many people are reportedly reading more as well. This seems to be borne out by the increased demand for my daughter-in-law’s services. She works from home as an editor/proof reader, among other occupations, and has been snowed under with work. One of her other occupations is making and restoring furniture - I believe this is called “upcycling”, in rather the same way as second-hand goods are called “pre-loved” - and she has been similarly overwhelmed with demands for the goods she produces, as people get busy renovating and changing the “look” of their homes. 


As for me, I read and knit and sew as much as ever I did - nothing new there - but I have sort of rediscovered old hobbies. When I retired, almost 12 years ago now, I told a friend/colleague that I wanted to get back into drawing and painting, an activity rather pushed out by full-time work. So he gave me a fancy box of water colour paints as a leaving present. Then we went off to Spain for a while and luggage restrictions prevented me taking the paintbox with me. I could always buy more there, I reasoned, and although I did indulge a little, it was never a full time activity. 


Along came the lockdown and I started to keep a sort of journal. Within no time, as I sat in the garden in the fine sunny spring we had, it morphed from a written journal to a sketch book. Out came pencil crayons to add a bit of colour, and then pastel crayons, giving a different texture as I produced pictures of wild flowers I had collected out and about and copied photos. And finally I got out the paintbox, an absolute delight with each block of colour individually wrapped, like fancy chocolates in those gift boxes nobody buys any more. Such fun!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone.

Friday, 30 October 2020

Spiralling down into doom and gloom! And it’s going dark earlier each day!

The world continues to spiral into craziness.


There is, of course, Covid-19 causing havoc all over the show. France goes into a new four-week lockdown. People will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential purposes: food shopping, commuting to work if it is not possible to work from home, and medical or imperative family reasons. Outdoor exercise will be allowed for one hour per day and within 1km of home. Schools will remain open, but children aged six and over must wear masks. So on Thursday night there were massive traffic jams both into and out of Paris as people tried to organise themselves to be with their families for lockdown. Oh boy!


But that’s not all. 


France has been seeing a spate of horrible attacks by outraged Islamists. That country which continues to declare itself a secular state is suffering for, if not religious, then religion-related reasons. It was interesting to note that in the attack in Nice the perpetrator was shot by police but not killed. Now, why is it that French police can shoot to disable and disarm and then take the perpetrator off for questioning while American police seem to have to fire - how many was it in one recent case? - as many as fourteen bullets into the suspect they want to arrest? Fourteen bullets pretty much inevitably leads to death. Is it a hangover from the days of shoot-out at the OK Corral? Do all police officers see themselves as the fictional Jack Reacher, who should be truly traumatised by the number of people he has had to kill in the course of solving mysteries? Or is it something more mundane like the firearms training being rather inadequate?


And of course, over in the USA they are having just about the most interesting and odd elections possible. Will there be a result by this time next week? Or will we have to wait a bit longer while the wrangling continues?


Here in the UK, it’s half term in most places. They’ll be back to school next week, probably not having been able to do much this week as the weather has been so dire. Much discussion has been going on about the importance of letting our children, especially from underprivileged areas, catch up with missed education, trying to close the gap between the haves and the have-nots. And yet I read today that masses of early years providers are going to have to close by Christmas because they simply cannot afford to stay open. Private nurseries and childminders are losing money over fist. So how are parents of small children going to manage to go to work? More importantly, from the children’s point of view, a whole load of small people are missing out on early years education. That’s where the divide between the haves and the have-nots starts.


Meanwhile, instead of fighting this kind of problem, the Labour Party is tearing itself apart again. The BBC coverage of Corbyn’s suspension from the party was singularly one-sided yesterday. Only one of their invited speakers, at least among those I heard, came close to suggesting that Corbyn might have had reasons for continuing to say that the reports of antisemitism in the party were exaggerated.  And they barely let that young man, an avowed fighter against antisemitism, get a word in edgewise. It would have been nice to see a more balanced discussion of the whole business. Is that asking too much?


Boris Johnson must be really pleased. He could not wish for a better distractor form criticising his handling of things. 


And as a backdrop to all of this, it keeps on raining. At around 11.00 am Phil said I should keep an eye on the weather. If it brightened up just a little, he suggested, we should go out for a walk before it goes dark! Yes ... at 11.00 am ... “before it goes dark!” I’ve already run round the village in the rain. And yesterday we walked up the hill to Dobcross in the rain. So far we are doing well with our “there is no such thing as bad weather” philosophy?



Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 29 October 2020

The rain is not stopping. France in lockdown. How long should books and films be?

As if being in tier 3 of the lockdown system was not enough, we are told by the weathermen that we are on the edge of a yellow alert area for heavy rain. What’s that saying? Ah, yes! It never rains but it pours.


I exaggerate of course. In fact I went for a run this morning and barely got rained on at all, confirming my theory that the early part of the day is often the best. 


Since then, naturally, it has rained rather heavily. We are monitoring the situation, hoping to find a moment when it eases sufficiently to make it worth while putting on our raincoats and going out for a walk.


Monitoring the wider European situation I found this:


“French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a second national lockdown until at least the end of November.

Mr Macron said that under the new measures, starting on Friday, people would only be allowed to leave home for essential work or medical reasons.

Non-essential businesses, such as restaurants and bars, will close, but schools and factories will remain open.

Covid daily deaths in France are at the highest level since April. On Tuesday, 33,000 new cases were confirmed.

Mr Macron said the country risked being "overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first".

Meanwhile, Germany will impose an emergency lockdown that is less severe but includes the closure of restaurants, gyms and theatres.”


There we go! Will the UK follow suit at some time in the future? We shall see.


I read something about books and films getting longer. As regards books one explanation is the kindle. One  of the things putting people off reading long book was having to carry a huge tome around with you. Those were the days; our son would juggle his holiday luggage, weighing up how little clothing he could get away with so that there was room for more books. (His father still does that with chess books, by the way!) He never reached the extremes of someone I used to work with. He travelled with a very small rucksack -hand luggage only before it was the fashionable thing to do - containing a change of socks, underpants and t-shirt, all of which he washed every couple of days while away on holiday. I never asked about the trousers or shorts! He took no books. And he did not own a kindle. How do people go on holiday and not read? But then, how do so many people go through their everyday lives without reading? I am baffled! 


I never quite understood the mania for making films last only for 90 minutes (or under) as if that was a magical length that did not strain anyones’s tolerance level for sitting still - or their bladder capacity! Some stories simply need more time to do them justice! 


But now films, like books, are getting longer again. Which is odd since making films in this new regime of social distancing must be quite problematical. Even podcasts are getting longer, or so I am told. So it  goes!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Blue sky morning before the rain. Lockdown? Voting issues.

Today began with a ride in the sunshine to the market in Uppermill. What a pleasant surprise to look out of the window and see blue sky, albeit with a few clouds but they were truly just a few. The weatherman had promised rain and I suspect it will come later as clouds were definitely moving in by midday. The Donkey Line was looking particularly fine.


The market was somewhat depleted. No fish man! And I was planning to buy some fish for this evening’s meal. Less crucially there was no cheese and biscuit stall either. And the bakery did not have the bread I wanted. They had other good bread but still ... we creatures of routine like to know that our routine supplies are available!


Our ploy for going out for walks come what may seems to have worked so far but it is early days yet. It takes a lot of willpower to make yourself get up a little earlier each day to take advantage of the reduced hours of daylight. 


With increased calls for another total lockdown I think we need to be strong and keep up with our early rising efforts.

 

However, we managed a walk with our daughter and offspring just after midday, avoiding most of the rain.

 



At the end of Newsnight on BBC2 last night Emily Maitliss said farewell for a while as she is off to America to cover the upcoming elections. I can’t say I would fancy the prospect of a transatlantic flight wearing a facemask but there must be compensations for her, I suppose, 


On the subject of US elections, on Facebook yesterday a friend of mine posted this from Occupy Democrats:-


“SHAMEFUL. For those of you who don’t know, the Supreme Court just allowed North Dakota to ban from voting anyone who doesn’t have a residential street address. Most Native Americans in the region use PO boxes because they live in remote areas. The Native Americans were the last to gain the right the vote, and are now the first to have it taken away.”


Then on the Radio on Tuesday’s Today Programme, an American expert was describing voting systems over there. It seems that basically there is no one system. It varies from state to state. Within states it varies from county to county. Democrats want a uniform system because it is fairer, and as such favours them. Republicans, he said, oppose it because it makes it harder to suppress voting. He described a drive-through voting station in one state, rather like a drive-through Covid-testing station. It was working very well. Republicans want to close it down. I wonder why.


Reports say that turnout at early voting stations has been very high indeed. Interesting times!


And at the back of it all there is the sneaking fear that however well Biden seems to be doing in the polls at the moment there is always the possibility of another four years of Trump. Interesting times indeed.

 

Life goes on. stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Rain and more rain! Hallowe’en decorations. The oddness of America.

It’s raining again. 

 

One of my nodding acquaintances tried to console me by saying that today’s is only light rain but even so ... I have had enough of rain for the time being! 

 

It’s a good job our neck of the wood looks good even in the rain.


Out and about I am seeing lots of Hallowe’en decorations, although yesterday’s photo probably showed the best of them. This is a new development and is perhaps trying to equal Christmas house decorations. I always wonder about the pumpkins that people have carved into strange faces and left on their doorsteps or gateposts. Have they at least used the inside of the pumpkins to make a pumpkin pie or some similar dish? At a time when there are people going hungry it would be a shame to just throw the innards away. 


Anyway, here is a selection of Hallowe’en pictures. I think people have perhaps gone to town a little this year as they will not be getting together for any kind of celebration. Not that I really hold with celebrating Hallowe’en. It’s one thing for a country to have a tradition of going to clean up family graves for All Saints’ Day - a tradition we don’t have here, by the way! - and quite another to start sending Hallowe’en cards and putting up banners wishing everyone a Happy Hallowe’en. Where did that come from? Well, I think we know the answer to that. But I digress; here are the pictures.






Well, the Americans have sworn in Amy Coney Barrett as a high court judge. Much has been said about her intelligence and so on but I wonder about the intelligence of anyone who could have anything to do with associations that believe in conspiracy theories. But then I have read that more than two dozen candidates for Congress in the US elections have endorsed or given credence to QAnon or promoted QAnon content online. And at least one of them is expected to be elected to the House of Representatives next week. So there we are. But it’s their country, not mine!


Somebody sent me a link to one of those “word of the day” sites. Here’s what it gave me:-


Word of the day is “pinchfart” (16th century): a miser; one who withholds money to the detriment of others.


I think we can all think of some candidates for that moniker!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 26 October 2020

Is there such a thing as bad weather? Defying the odds. How long have we been in lockdown here?

I went out running in the rain this morning. It had eased off some compared to what it was like when I first snoozed my alarm, but even so, rain was still falling. 

 

En route I took a picture of a house all decked out for Hallowe’en and posted it on Facebook when I got back. 



A friend of mine almost instantly commented: “have you been out in all this rain?” I could hear the indignation and astonishment and disbelief pouring out of even the printed words. This is the person who needed extra blankets on the bed when she visited us one time in Galicia in July! Granted it wasn’t the hottest July we had ever seen in Galicia but even so! And, okay, she does suffer from arthritis and poor circulation but ... once, again, even so!


So I quipped back that someone or other had once said that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes! Quite so! But then I got to wondering who it was who said it and did a little research.

Here’s one thing I found:-

 

"There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes." This phrase hails from Scandinavia, where it's a common mantra repeated by parents who insist that their children spend time outdoors every day.


And here’s another:- 

 

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.” That’s how the saying goes. When I first heard this phrase it was attributed to the comedian Billy Connolly. It has also been attributed to the Victorian-era art critic John Ruskin, the explorer Ranulph Fiennes and the fell-walker Alfred Wainwright.


And then I found this, which purports to be an actual quote from the writer John Ruskin:-


There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.


Anyway, with the days growing shorter and finishing earlier, Phil and I have decided that we’ll take that sentiment for our own and go out for a well-wrapped-up walk, even in the pouring rain, almost everyday.

In the event, it wasn’t so necessary today as by midday it had brightened up quite considerably. But we donned our waterproofs just in case - an insurance policy is always a good idea - and set off to walk up Lark Hill once again. The wind was cold but we managed to get up the hill and down without being rained on. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. 



 

Meanwhile we continue in tier 3 of Covid restrictions. It becomes rather difficult to organise family adventures. As our daughter is usually accompanied by two small people, neither of whom would be counted in Scotland, she has to choose which other member of her family can come with her so that we don’t break the RULE OF SIX.

 

I was reminded in an article about how the increased restrictions began just as Eid was about to be celebrated that we have effectively been in a kind of lockdown here since the end of July. The article said that there is quite a lot of feeling that the timing of the introduction of restrictions fuelled anti-muslim hate feelings. As if the Asian communities here were the only ones not social-distancing within the family. When you examine the figures more closely it turns out that there are probably more cases in largely white parts of our community. But that gets little or no attention. 


However, it remains true that Oldham is suffering. From figures sent by my brother-in-law I see that Oldham is top of the league for Cases in Greater Manchester, with 592.5 cases per 100,000, while the national average is 207.5. 


And now I read that the Spanish government has declared a six-month state of emergency and ordered a nationwide curfew. Italians have also been strongly advised to stay at home as the country imposes tough limits on people’s movements in a effort to contain the second wave of the coronavirus. That’s too places we like to visit. I doubt we’ll be going anywhere in a great hurry any time soon.


And now it’s started raining again. I shall dedicate the rest of the afternoon to some therapeutic baking, I think.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Drilling... for something! Name calling! Closing borders!

Our next door neighbour is a builder. He never seems to be short of work. He parks his large black van on the double yellow lines outside the house. When he has parked it round the corner where there are no double yellow lines it has been broken into and his tools have been stolen. Besides, since the double yellow lines have been there outside our houses nobody has seen hide nor hair of a traffic warden, or received a parking ticket. Rarely have we seen a policeman either! So it goes!


I do not know what state the inside of his house is in by now but I reckon it must have been completely remodelled judging by the amount  of banging and hammering and especially the drilling which goes on every weekend. Especially the drilling, I say again! Of course, he may have taken up a new profession as a dentist! 


Another possible theory is that he is drilling for oil!


Whatever the case, at 10 o’clock (newly clocks turned back time) this morning we could already feel the vibrations!


Last week some time, almost certainly during debate on free school meals extending into holidays, deputy leader of the Labour party, Angela Rayner, referred to a Tory MP as scum. Maybe if she had used a more picturesque term such as scallywag, the sort of thing favoured by our prime minister, nobody would have taken much notice. As it is, I seem to remember she was reminded that such language was unseemly in the House. And now it appears that around 150 Tory MPs have signed a letter protesting that they have been subjected to abuse, presumably on social media although I have seen pictures of Conservative Party offices emblazoned with the word scum. They must be sensitive souls. 


Some people think that the abuse might have other causes and that perhaps complaining about it is bit of a dead cat.


“You don’t think voting against feeding hungry children during the school holidays had a little something something to do with the abuse?” tweeted the former children’s laureate Malorie Blackman OBE. “A valiant attempt to shift the blame while simultaneously detracting from the main issue, ie children going to bed hungry night after night.”


So it goes.


Here’s an odd consequence of Wales having closed it’s border. An organisation in Chester had organised a drive-in cinema in the carpark of a football stadium. They have had to refund ticket money to people who had planned to come from across the border. Further problems arose when they realised that the carpark toilets were actually in Wales but they have managed to arrange portaloos. Now I suppose all they have to hope for is a rain-free evening. Watching a film through a rain speckled windscreen won’t be much fun. 


We are hoping for a mostly rain-free day today - there is sunshine and some blue in the sky at the moment - so that we can perhaps go on an extended walk later. Not too much later though. The clocks having gone back means that sunset is now officially just before 5.00pm. How did that happen?


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Cancelled adventures. The vagaries of weather. Meanness.

The great Diggle Chippy Hike was abandoned yesterday after all. For a very brief time in the late morning it looked as though things were brightening up, but then the rain came back again, not torrential but sufficiently present to make us all opt to stay at home. Somehow the prospect of sitting on damp wooden benches by the duckpond with the drizzle making your fish and chips all soggy lost its charm. So we are looking at next week when those of the family involved in education are on half term. The forecast, however, is pretty dismal for the whole week.


Yesterday’s rain did ease in the late afternoon and so we had a family walk around the village, more or less my running route but missing out the mud-puddles. The sun even came out for us, amazingly. But by the time we were almost home again the rain began to return. So we said our farewells and the various bits of the family went our separate ways.


Today began with a dry spell so that I was able to run less soggily - how convenient! - but the wind brought the rain not long after I returned. Tomorrow currently has a sun and cloud symbol on my weather app so perhaps more extensive family adventures can be embarked upon. We shall see!


Tonight we turn the clocks back an hour. I’ve got the right dates this time, having tried to do so several weeks ago! This means that the afternoons will be shorter. We’ll have to set off on our family adventures a little earlier. No more wandering around until the early evening. Winter, it seems, is coming!


Phil and I are usually in Figueira da Foz in Portugal at this time of the year. This has been the case for about the last 10 years. Phil plays in their chess tournament and I walk around the small town and stroll along their magnificent beaches. With very few exceptions the sun has shone on us. We have always found interesting places to eat, usually very good fish! This year we were in two minds about going. The tournament was organised but we were unsure about travelling. And then Coronavirus cases spiked over here and over there and the whole question became academic. We hear that the tournament had probably been cancelled. Another thing to put off until next year. Rather like Christmas!


I was reading about how the lockdown has messed up a lot of people’s sleep patterns in Australia. It’s not just insomnia. Some people are sleeping more, using sleep as an escape. Others have been having, and have been remembering, strangely vivid dreams. Is this a consequence of having a strict lockdown during their winter months? We went into lockdown as the days were getting longer and we had a spell of good weather making it more tolerable for those who have gardens to escape into. So have we also had sleep problems? I wonder.


My brother-in-law has been bombarding me with messages about the meanness of Tories. It’s all about their making large expenses claims while voting against the provision of free school meals during school holidays. It’s his indignation at people who won’t tolerate helping immigrant children, or refugees in general, because we should “help our own first” and then not being willing to “help our own” in their time of need.


One MP in particular has been criticised for tweeting that vouchers given out for free school meals during the summer had gone straight into the coffers of drug dealers. He withdrew his tweets about this apparently but I saw him on TV last night, still blustering about parental responsibility and explaining that it is wrong to expect the state to feed people’s children. He is, of course, being called on to apologise but I really don’t think an apology will serve any useful purpose. We see too many apologies along the lines of “I am sorry if you felt hurt by what I said or did”, always with an implied “but I still really stand by what I said”. Sorry is not the hardest word when you have your fingers crossed behind your back. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 23 October 2020

Fruit shops. Figs. Odd facts. Out and about ... or not.

On Wednesday, as well as shopping at the market, I went to the Italian fruitshop in Uppermill. Years ago it used to be run by the family of someone our daughter went to school with: an old fashioned Saddleworth greengrocer’s shop. When the owner decided to sell up and retire, the business was bought by a pair of Italian twin brothers and it became Alimentari Alberti. The brothers quickly absented themselves from the business. A good looking pair, very Italian, all dark hair and brooding eyes, and muscles apparently for their absence was explained by their success in body building competitions. Their sister, equally Italian-looking, the same dark hair and eyes, runs the place with a variety of very English staff when she has childcare problems. 


It’s a fine greengrocery, justifying its Italian status by selling Italian soft drinks, Italian bread and odds and ends of Italian delicacies. The delicatessen farther along the road, Oliviccio, is not run by Italians. The owners claim no direct Italian connection but say they know some good suppliers. And so they sell a fine range of olives and sundried tomatoes, cheeses of various national origins and florentines and other Italian cakes and biscuits to tempt your sweet tooth. 


However, Alimentari Alberti has been selling figs in recent weeks, something that as a rule you do not find in English greengroceries. Consequently we have had oven-roasted figs, in a nice marinade of honey, lemon, red wine and sage, as a side dish to a number of meals lately. And yesterday I made fig clafoutis for dessert. You see, you have to take advantage of the figs while they are there, which is only for a limited time, unlike strawberries, which used to be a summer fruit but nowadays appear all year round. And so I have become a strawberry snob. For best strawberries are English strawberries in season, around the time of Wimbledon. The ones grown under glass in various parts of the world at other times of the year simply do not bear comparison.


The fig clafoutis was a great success. And here is an odd fact about fig biscuits:-


(Biscuits by the way are so called because originally they were bread baked twice - bis = twice and cuit = cooked.)


The fig roll was invented as a health food.
Medieval Muslims were the first to add sugar to the dough for twice-baked bread, and transformed biscuits into a luxurious health food. Sugar was seen as a medicine that kept the body in a perfect state of balance. The medieval Arab physician Ibn Butlan recommended eating biscuits filled with warming figs and nuts.


Fig rolls only ever came out at Christmas time, or on occasional Sundays, in my childhood. I was never sure whether or not I liked them. And I had no idea what a fig looked like. So it goes.


Yesterday the rain held off sufficiently for us to walk up Lark Hill again. There are fine views from the top of the hill, and the autumn colours are still spectacular.




Today there might be a Diggle Chippy Hike but I suspect that rain might put a stop to it.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 22 October 2020

The value of graffiti. Feeding children ... or maybe not. American Pie. And perhaps a bit of sunshine.

A Banksy painting has just sold for £7.5 at auction, at what they call a “Sotheby’s event” yesterday, following what was described as “a near nine minute battle between collectors”.  (Visualise the rich men punching one another!) The painting in question is a “reimagining” (there’s another fine bit of terminology) of Monet’s waterlilies picture, with added abandoned shopping trolleys and a traffic cone. 


He’s come a long way for a graffiti artist, has Banksy. Graffiti may still be illegal but I’m not sure he still needs the protection of anonymity any longer. But even his anonymity is a sort of trademark, I suppose, and whenever one of his works pops up there is always that frisson moment of “is it really a Banksy?”. 


But how crazy is it that collectors are daggers-drawn over who can pay silly amounts of money for his work? Or any work of art for that matter? At least nowadays the likes of Banksy get to benefit from the “value” of their work, unlike the artists of the past whose work only made huge amounts of money after the creators were long dead. Even so, £7.5 is a ridiculous amount of money for a painting. What I find especially galling is that so many works of art are then locked away in vaults, too valuable to be on display!


Imagine how many school dinners could have been provided for children from poor families with that sum of money! 


How many of the MPs who voted against continuing free school meals through school holidays have works of art hanging on walls on their homes? It’s more than shocking that here and now, in one of the richest countries in the world in the 21st century, there are children going hungry. It’s more than shocking that MPs could vote against measures to help feed them. And the argument against continuing the free school meals from holidays is equally shocking: the scheme was devised so that children would not be so hungry that they could not concentrate on their lessons! So it’s perfectly all right for them to be hungry when they don’t have lessons to concentrate on, is it? The parents who can’t find the money to feed their children during term time can magically do so during school holidays, can they? 


Maybe they can take the hungry children to an art gallery. Oops, no, they probably can’t do that in Greater Manchester at the moment. I’m not sure whether art galleries are allowed to be open under tier 3. And anyway, they would probably have to travel on public transport to get there and we are advised only to make essential journeys at the moment.


Newsnight on BBC2 was singularly depressing last night with a report on three young Somali women beaten up in a racist attack at the end of last year - a crime whose investigation was totally bungled with, among other things, the victims being asked whether they had been trying to buy anything from their attackers! - the report on the government’s voting down free school meals holidays, and general mayhem around the world. 


I see the downward spiral continues!


Which brings me to American Pie, Don McLean’s enigmatic song written half a century ago. Apparently on one occasion when asked what the song meant he is said to have replied that it meant he was able to become very rich! Good for him! Now it seems that to mark the anniversary a new documentary, “The Day the Music Died”, is going to be released. A Broadway Show is also planned for 2020. And there is going to be a children’s book. A children’s book? Really? Are there no new ideas for musical shows? And I find it hard to visualise a children’s book based on the song.


Oh, boy! Bring back Pinky and Perky!


Meanwhile, I am waiting for the weather to improve. It was dull and grey when I went running first thing. We have had drizzly rain in the late morning. The forecast promises an improvement this afternoon and right now, middle of the day, the sun is trying to come out. 


It’s not all doom and gloom after all. Maybe we can go adventuring this afternoon.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Wednesday weather. Apples. Biscuits. Covid Tiers. Small town stories.

Another Wednesday. It rained massively in the night. Whether it rained all night is debatable but I know that I heard heavy rain at several points in the night. My weather app suggested a “window” of rain-free time between 9.00 and 11.00, perfect for my ride to the market. By midday it still hadn’t begun to rain again so maybe Storm Barbara has got stuck a bit further south. I bought apples at the fruit stall. I am laying in stocks of Coxes apples, almost certainly the best apples in the world, from the fruit stall at the market. They are only available for a limited time. I’m sure that when I was a teenager we used to get Coxes apples from New Zealand at other times of the year. Is that a false memory? Or does that kind of import not happen any longer?


I’ve not been buying biscuits from the cheese and biscuit stall lately. Phil asked me to stop doing so as he was simply eating them - that is what they are for, after all! - and he was concerned about his waistline. Today I bought a sneaky pack of “oat flips”, biscuits that my gluten-intolerant brother-in-law can eat, as we have planned a Diggle Chippy Hike again for Friday, weather permitting. If he can still have a cup of tea in the garden, possibly not now that we are in tier 3, he can have a biscuit to go with it. In the meantime, the oat flips are hidden away.


Here’s an odd fact about biscuits:- 


“No other country buys and eats more biscuits than Britain. In the last month of the national lockdown, shoppers spent an extra £19m on biscuits. There is a biscuit for every occasion: rusks for teething babies, party rings for birthdays, custard creams to dunk in tea, Penguins and Tunnock’s wafers for lunchboxes, water biscuits to eat with cheese. We even assign character traits to different varieties and use them to reveal our personalities. Politicians interviewed on Mumsnet are routinely asked to choose their favourite.”


And here’s another:-


“Queen Victoria refused to have a biscuit named after her. Association with royalty helped sell biscuits. Marie biscuits were named after a Russian duchess, bourbons after a French royal house, Albert biscuits after Queen Victoria’s husband. However, Victoria declined Huntley & Palmers’ request to name one after her. Perhaps she thought it would be too vulgar to have her name emblazoned across biscuit tins. The palace suggested that they should instead name it after her favourite home on the Isle of Wight – and so it came to be that Osborne biscuits were one of the most popular 19th-century biscuits.”


I wonder if anyone told her about the cake known as a Victoria Sponge!


Well, Greater Manchester goes into tier 3 of the Covid lockdown at midnight on Friday. Our granddaughter is growing a little more anxious than usual, already high, at the prospect of not seeing her mother apart from at a distance for the foreseeable future. Now the news on the radio informs me South Yorkshire is following us into tier 3. So that’s a large swathe of the North of England under increased restrictions. South Yorkshire has been praised for the sensible way it carried out negotiations for financial assistance. Is that an implied criticism of Andy Burnham? Or is the local government of South Yorkshire avoiding having stuff imposed on them from above?  The whole question of financial aid has been very thorny.


Over in the United States, as well as the upcoming election there is the question of the confirmation (or not) of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court Judge, a position for life which it’s important to get right. Now, Amy Coney Barrett, belongs to a christian group called People of Praise.


I read this:-


“The basic premise of everything at the People of Praise was that the devil controlled everything outside of the community, and you were ‘walking out from under the umbrella of protection’ if you ever left,” said one former member who called herself Esther, who had to join the group as a child but then left the organization. “I was OK with it being in a tiny little corner of Indiana, because a lot of weird stuff happens in tiny little corners in this country. But it’s just unfathomable to me – I can’t even explain just how unfathomable it is – that you would have a supreme court justice who is a card-carrying member of this community.”


How strange to talk about your country as a place where “a lot of weird stuff happens in tiny little corners”. It sounds like something from a science fiction or horror story. Do weird things happen in tiny little corners of England? We need someone to write a good story about it. But Esther is correct: it really is unfathomable that someone as important as a supreme court justice, or an influential politician should have fundamental,religious beliefs that include a belief in the devil controlling large parts of our life!


Here’s another small town story. There’s a little town in Canada with the unfortunate name of Asbestos. As it’s name implies this little town was once important for the production of asbestos, something to be proud of before anyone realised how dangerous that once-ubiquitous mineral really is. So now the townspeople have voted to change its name to Val-des-Sources. When I read that the vote was 51.5% in favour, I wondered if quite a lot of people wanted to remain Asbestosians, but on reflection I assume this was 51.5% in favour of that name over other proposed options. “It’s a name that represents our area, and especially, it’s inspiring for the future,” said the Quebec town’s mayor, Hugues Grimard. Quite so! Good for them!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!