Monday, 11 January 2021

Back to grey! Some things that made me smile. Roman remains v Victorian remains. And praise for Spanish health workers.

The Christmas decorations are gone. Well, mostly. Out running this morning I saw a garden wall still festooned with those lights that change colour on a regular basis. Whoever manufactures and sells those has done really good business over the last six weeks or so! And in the garden across the road there are two random baubles still hanging in a bush, obviously missed when then dismantled their Christmas display. Otherwise, places are back to normal!

And the snow is gone. Although there remains a little bit of ice on the Donkey Line in places, waiting for an inadvertent runner to skid on it. Mind you, my weather app tells me the snow might be back next weekend. However, next weekend is far enough away for all predictions to change utterly. Did the harpies and the various crones who read the chicken entrails in times gone by ever say, “Of course, this prediction may be subject to change after a few days”? I wonder!

Anyway, we are back to dull and damp and grey and moderately cold instead of bitterly cold. So I have sought out some things to amuse myself ... after a fashion.

We translate chess books. Or rather, Phil translates chess books and I carry out the role of language consultant, helping occasionally with longer bits of Spanish prose. Consequently I am aware of how matter of fact most chess commentary is. Brief remarks about moves, sometimes just a ! or a ?. Over breakfast this morning Phil shared with me a bit of commentary by a Dutchman, J. H. Donner, from his book “The King: Chess Pieces”. Here it is:-

"Dear pawn on a5, 

Sweet little thing, a rook’s pawn you are, just one square is all you control. You’re so small, almost nothing and throughout the game you’ve been standing there on your little place, but all that time my hope was built on you, and all my fearful hankering was for you. I did see you standing there, you little rascal. People thought, of course, it was the d5 pawn that it was all about, he drew their attention, they all looked at him, but you and I knew better, it was all about you, about you and you alone. You’ve been waiting, you naughty boy, not wanting to come on, because you knew that all the time I was only thinking of you and that you didn’t have to do anything at all, because I would be coming to you of my own. 

Little rook’s pawn, you’re free now. Go ahead, unspeakable bliss is waiting for you and me on a8. 

Thank you, you sweet little thing. I love you, 

your King 

Black resigns."

Ah, the poetry of chess commentary!

Getting back more everyday stuff, here’s something from Michael Rosen:-

“Dear Dominic 

I'm having dreams of some election soon which we lose and some of our more, shall we say 'active' supporters, refuse to accept it and storm Westminster. I hear myself urging them on in Latin. You're there in a crash helmet with a bazooka. 

Militia somnambula 


And on the subject of ‘active’ supporters, a friend sent me a reminder of the philosophy of Voltaire:

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

I think we have seen some evidence if that.

The Metro newspaper has this headline:-

“Majority of Covid patients still battling symptoms after six months”.

Does this explain Trump and Johnson? They both seemed to bounce back from their battles with the virus but their behaviour is odd. On balance, probably not the aftermath of the virus. 

Michael Rosen, by the way, took a long time getting back on form after being so ill with it.

Now, I have grown used to reports of construction work brought to a halt in places like Rome, or Cadiz, my Spanish sister’s territory, Gadix in roman times, because of more Roman remains being unearthed. Examples of beautiful roman tiles need to be preserved for posterity and the modern building work has to be put on hold. In Greater Manchester we do things differently and unearth the remains of Victorian bathhouses.  Here’s a link to an article about it. The tile work might not be so ornate as some of the Roman stuff but apparently they plan to preserve it and incorporate it into some new project. Huzzah!

And finally a big huzzah for Madrid health workers, some of whom walked for hours through the snow yesterday to get to work to relieve colleagues who had been on duty for 24 hours on the run. 

“With roads blocked to cars and commuter trains cancelled, nursing assistant Raúl Alcojor walked 14km to make it to his shift at a hospital on the outskirts of the city. “Morally I couldn’t stay at home,” he said, citing colleagues that had been working for more than 24 hours.

The trip took him two hours and 28 minutes, complicated by the many fallen trees and snow that at times was 40cm deep. “I told myself, ‘go for it,’” Alcojor told broadcaster Cadena Ser. “If I get there, I’m there. If I don’t make it, I’ll turn around.”

Others had the same idea. One nurse shared her story as she made the 20km journey to her hospital on foot while a video posted on social  media showed two nurses walking 22km to reach Madrid’s 12 de Octubre hospital.”

That’s dedication for you!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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