Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Summer time? Going to the beach ... or not. Feeling a bit selfish about places where I like to walk.

I cycled to Uppermill in the sunshine this morning. I even wore shorts! “Summer” appears to be continuing for the time being, even though snow is apparently forecast for Easter Monday. But in the meantime people will be doing stuff like heading for the nearest beach now that Matt Hancock and others are telling us that it’s “absolutely fine” to do so. It’s “absolutely fine” and I understand that we can now travel see friends and family but we ideally are encouraged to “stay local”. 

That didn’t stop lots of people, who don’t all live in Formby, from travelling to Formby Point yesterday. And when they got there, even if they found somewhere to park, they discovered that there was actually no beach. ““We’re expecting a very high spring tide, the sea will reach right up to the dunes and there will be no beach.”

Formby point is very close to Ainsdale and Southport, and Birkdale in between the two, all places which have long been the butt of jokes about how you can’t find the sea. Mostly it’s true and it’s one of the things that make the beaches so attractive for flying kites, running around, walking your dogs, building sandcastles. However, having grown up there, I have known for ages that from time to time the sea comes right up the sand dunes. It always really impressed me, back in the days when walking alone on the beach was a de-stressing activity for me. 

It must have come as a surprise for the people who have only fairly recently discovered the delights of Formby Point with the red squirrel reserve in the pine woods and the stretch of beach just over the sandhills. It’s one of those places that I may have to resign myself to not visiting for a good while yet. When our children were small, going to the pine woods to see if we could feed the squirrels was a regular family excursion on Boxing Day. In more recent years it’s a place I have visited with my daughter and her children, again to look for squirrels and then to climb over the dunes onto the beach. It was never crowded. Now it’s a different story and I’m feeling quite snobby about not wanting to share “our” place with the crowds.

I get the same feeling about our local beauty spot, Dovestone Reservoir, which has long been one of my favourite escape spots if I wanted to go for a long, reasonably solitary walk to think about stuff. There was a time when my son was in his mid- to late-teens when he and I used to get up and drive there before breakfast. Walking round the reservoir as the sun came up was the perfect setting for putting the world to rights. I’ve not been there for ages, not even to cycle round the reservoir, something that I am told would be quite difficult as there are now so many visitors. 

Oh dear! I must be turning into a horrid exclusivist snob! I’ll just have to stay very local for a while longer and stick to walks close to home but less frequented.   


So we’ve not as yet taken advantage of our newly granted freedom to travel a little farther afield. Yesterday, however,  our daughter brought the smallest of her offspring to play in our garden in the late afternoon, now that such activities are permitted again. Assuming the sun keeps shining from time to time, we should see more of that kind of thing. And so on the list of things to do today is the paint the garden bench with Ronseal or something similar to protect it from those days when the sun doesn’t shine but the rain comes down. 

Here’s a final bit of nonsense for today, courtesy of a friend of mine who reads a lot and, like me, finds words fascinating:-

Names for people who read a lot:

English - Bookworm.

Indonesian - Book flea.

Romanian - Library mouse.

German - Read-rat.

French - Ink drinker.

Danish - Reading horse.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

On national pride and identity.

We have another blue sky and sunshine day today. According to the radio, somewhere down south they are approaching 24 degrees! Are we heading for another balmy spring? Everyone will be out and about again. We’ll see. 

The Sarah Everard vigil business rumbles on. I’ve just heard on the radio news something I read in the papers online earlier in the day: “A report on the Metropolitan police’s handling of a vigil for Sarah Everard has concluded officers acted appropriately.”

This is a report by the official policing inspectorate. The report concluded: “The Metropolitan police acted appropriately at the vigil held in memory of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common, a new inspection has found.”  Now, I find myself wondering if they are completely impartial. Just a thought!

I have noticed the increasing use of a new bit of terminology:- dual heritage” seems to be taking over from “mixed race”. The children of a friend of mine are “dual heritage” - white Oldham and Caribbean. One of those children has a child whose mother is Bengali. Does that make that small girl into a “triple heritage” person. 

I’ve also heard - “bi-racial”. Again the question of how to describe someone with more than one racial heritage pops up. In the end, of course, none of this should matter. People should just be people. The MP David Lammy has been challenged about his racial or national identity on his radio show. Discussing the use of the term BAME, which he called lazy and impersonal, he said a more accurate description of his identity was as follows: “I’m of African descent, African-Caribbean descent, but I am English.”

A caller, named Jean, challenged him and said it was not possible to be both African-Caribbean and English. She told him: “You will never be English, you are African-Caribbean.”


He went on to explain to her: ““Here I am, having grown up in this country, have been born of this country, and actually the truth is it’s a myth there’s one English ethnicity – there’s not. England has always been a country in which Huguenots, Danes, all sorts of people have passed through.

“So when you say you are English, I’m not saying that doesn’t mean something to you and matter hugely … but it is to say that for me, the fact that I was born here and the fact that my sensibilities are English mean I want to claim that heritage as well.”

When she countered that she could never be called Caribbean because she is white, he explained about white people living in the Caribbean for generations and, therefore, being Caribbean. 

He’s been praised for his calm manner in dealing with this caller. 

In an age when people can identify as male or female regardless of their gender at birth, surely someone born in a country can say that that is his nationality. After all, years ago I met an Australian who lived in the Basque Country who had decided to be Basque (he did not say he “identified” as Basaue as such terminology did not exist then), had learnt to speak Basque and was very reluctant to speak any other language. 

While we’re thinking of national pride, the Italians have been celebrating 700 years since Dante died. In my Italian conversation class we have been reading bits of Dante’s Inferno and looking at the ideas behind it. All very interesting! All Italian children have to study Dante at some point in their school life. From what my Italian friend and teacher says they do this  in quite some detail, perhaps a more in-depth study than most English schoolchildren have to make of Shakespeare. Quote often it seems to be a token look at Romeo and Juliet, often using modern films to help. According to this articlewhich goes on about how much more modern Shakespeare was, Italian schoolchildren don’t enjoy Dante. This is not the case according to my Italian friend. She maintains they really enjoy the gory bits about how people are punished for their sins! The description of Paradise grips them to a lesser extent!

Miriam Margolyes has been writing about our country:

“The United Mingdom has fallen. There has been a right wing coup in this country... and nobody noticed. We did not notice because it was years in the making. We did not notice because when it came, it came in a blonde wig and a mask of buffoonery.”

Somebody else posted this on Facebook:

“Pinched from a friends time line, but thought worth reposting!

Epitaph to a Dead Statesman. Rudyard Kipling

I could not dig: I dared not rob:

Therefore I lied to please the mob.

Now all my lies are proved untrue

And I must face the men I slew.

What tale shall serve me here among

Mine angry and defrauded young?

Apt eh?”

And to finish off, here’s a bit of Michael Rosen, quote unrelated to anything else in this post but that’s how it goes sometimes:

Neighbour’s Cat stopped me in the street.

’You’re walking too slowly,’ he said. 

‘I’ve been ill,’ I said. 

‘Don’t we bloody know it,’ he said, ‘on and on and on and bloody on. I hurt my ear. I haven’t written a book about it though.’

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 29 March 2021

Stealing time. Staying up late. Science fiction coming to life. Pollution issues,

They stole an hour from me yesterday by putting the clocks forward an hour. Thus meant I got up earlier than I usually do. Yes, I know that as it was Sunday (as if Sunday is radically different from any other day of the week to a retired agnostic) I could just have stayed in bed a bit longer but that would simply have meant less time in the actual day. Once again, that should not matter to a retired person with no commitments but I do like to stick to some kind of routine in my day. They would still have stolen an hour of my time!

Consequently, latish in the evening, after watching the next acronym-filled, tension-filled episode of “Line of Duty”, I was feeling a little tired and was considering an early night. And then up popped a televised interview between the almost always interesting Alan Yentob and the writer Kazuo Ishiguro. They were in separate rooms, maybe even separate buildings, communicating electronically (a sign of the times we live in), their conversation interspersed with bits of film or TV versions of Ishiguro’s books, and various people reading selected bits or adding their two penn’orth of critical commentary. 

And so I stayed up to watch the programme. It was a very interesting discussion, spurring me to rummage through our piles of book to find and reread Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s always good to have something to look forward to. 

I say “rummage through the piles” because, as friends who have spent a night in our attic bedroom know, we do have piles of books here and there. From time to time I try to reorganise the books into some mind of alphabetical order, a task that would be easier if all books were a standard size, not a standard thickness obviously but with other dimensions matching nicely so they fit on the bookshelves. I’ve not tackled it for a good while as it’s one of those tasks you get half way through and wish you had never started. So there are indeed random piles of books here and there and sometimes finding the book you know is there SOMEWHERE can be a truly daunting task. So it goes. 

One of the Ishiguro novels discussed was “Never Let Me Go”, almost a science fiction story, certainly rather dystopian, about human clones whose sole purpose for being alive at all is to provide vital organs which can be “harvested” for transplanting into “proper people”, “normal people”. Interestingly, just the other day I came across this article about the possibility of babies in the future being “grown” in artificial wombs, “freeing” women from that responsibility for reproduction which can cause career problems and sometimes endanger their health. 

Oh, boy! What about that pre-birth bonding that goes on throughout pregnancy for many women? It’s one of the reasons you see pregnant women sort of cradling their baby bump. Then there’s the unborn baby growing accustomed to certain sounds going on around it - the mother’s voice, siblings’ voices, music - not to mention the older siblings gradually getting used to the idea that a new member of the family is about to be introduced. 

Oh, I can see the benefits of an artificial womb, especially with increasing infertility problems (I really shouldn’t get started on how our use of plastics contributes to this, nor on how plastic particles transfer via the placenta from the expectant mother to the foetus). And I can understand the argument that foetuses from abortions could then continue to be grown and eventually adopted. But the whole thing smacks of serious science fiction and is rather troubling. 

Thinking about the stuff of science fiction, here’s a link to an article about car tyres and pollution. Wear and tear on tyres, particularly as they drive around our cities in their stop start fashion, contributes almost as much pollution in the way of micro-plastic particles as our use of plastic bottles and the particles released from fabrics when they are washed. We should have worked that out, of course. After all, the bits worn off tyres don’t just disappear. Scientists observing such things hoped there might have been a reduction during the various lockdowns, certainly initially when our streets went really quiet, but it doesn’t seem to have made much difference. 

I think we should go back to wooden wheels!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Some thoughts about freedom at the moment - and not in fiercely oppressed countries!

From tomorrow six people, or two households, can meet in English gardens or other outdoor places. Not that the outdoors is very warm and inviting just at the moment, but we will have that bit of freedom. 

Wales has gone one better. Since yesterday the Welsh can travel where they like within Wales. Self contained holiday accommodation, including hotels with en-suite facilities and room service, can reopen to people from the same household or support bubble.

Their freedom is still limited to Wales however. They can’t leave their country, and nobody from England, or presumably elsewhere, can go into the country without a very good reason. But they are reviewing things on April 1st and if all goes well after April 12th the English can invade Wales once more. 

Foreign travel still seems to be a no-no! But there is talk about it being possible for us to travel from the UK to other countries by the middle of May. We shall see!

In Barcelona, meanwhile, they have been experimenting with ways to hold big concerts. 5000 people went to the Palau Sant Jordi (that’s Saint George’s Palace, by the way) concert hall on Saturday night to see a group called Love of Lesbian. I can’t say I have ever heard of that group but I’m no longer a teenager and neither am I any longer a teacher who needs to keep up to date with the Spanish music scene! The five thousand had to be tested beforehand and they had to wear high quality face-masks which were provided by the organisers. Would-be concert goers who did not test negative for Covid had their tickets cancelled and presumably received a refund. Those who did test negative received a message on their phones validating their tickets. And in they went and stood together, waving their arms around and jumping up and down or dancing, just like the good old days. 

It’s all gone ahead officially, an experiment in making such things possible again, with health protocols designed under the supervision of virologist Dr. Boris Revollo. And concertgoers have agreed public health authorities could inform Revollo’s team if they came down with coronavirus in the weeks after the concert. With that information, Revollo’s team will do an analysis of infection rates among the 5,000 concertgoers compared with that of the general population to see if there are any discrepancies that could point to contagion at the concert.

Little by little steps are being taken to make live events possible again. A good sign!

Maybe we will have to accept the idea of vaccine passports to expedite such a return to near normality. I continue to feel somewhat bemused by the fierce opposition some people show towards such a measure. This from an article in today’s newspapers online:-

“This could be used by more than just pub landlords or election officials. The data on our vaccine passports could be used by the police, just as Singapore’s authorities admitted in January to using contact-tracing data.

All this – effectively, as I say, a stealth national ID card without the necessary debate – when we don’t even know if vaccine passports would help to solve our biggest problem: stopping the spread of the virus. We don’t know how long immunity lasts. We don’t know to what extent vaccines reduce transmission, or by how much, or whether this varies depending on which vaccine we’ve had.

We don’t know how much such a system would cost, how we would know if it represented good value for money or whether our resources would be better invested in other solutions. We need to know the answers to those questions and we need the government to explain why it has done a U-turn on vaccine passports.

For months, ministers have been telling us that there are no plans for vaccine passports, while funding eight pilot schemes to test them. In January, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “We are not a papers-carrying country.” Yet, here we are, with the government reviewing plans to become just that.”

While I am sure some of what is said in the article is quite reasonable, I personally have no objection to an ID card. And many of the objectors carry iPhones which already reveal a lot of stuff about us. 

We still have the question of the right, or lack of right, to protest hanging over us here in the UK. More protesters have been arrested over the weekend. There has been some reporting of what looks like police violence at the various protest marches but it’s not been getting much attention on mainstream media. However, even some former police are letting us know they oppose paramilitary-style policing. Here’s a link to one such.

I am watching the progress of all these things with interest. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 27 March 2021

No snow. Celebrating. Demonstrating. Doing a little job on the side.

The forecast snow wasn’t waiting for me this morning. No icy pavements even. I’m not complaining. When the sun came out, intermittently but still out, it was even pleasantly warm. Maybe other places got the snow. Here they are promising us “mostly cloudy with sunny spells” for the rest of the day. That’ll do!

We managed a rather chilly walk to the millpond yesterday to feed the ducks and geese (but no swans this time so we hope they have not decided to move on) to celebrate the 18th birthday of our second granddaughter. Then we sang Happy Birthday, quietly somas not to attract a lot of attention,  and ate cake by the garden gate. She seemed quite pleased to have any kind of celebration given current circumstances. From Monday we will be able to have drinks and biscuits and cakes and such in the back garden again. Time to dust off the garden furniture, keep our fingers crossed for some decent weather, and see how things go!

Last night in the television 10 o’ clock news they reported demonstrations again in Bristol, protesting against the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, which would give police greater powers to restrict protests. It all looked quite peaceful, people walking (marching?) down the street, police looking on quietly. No arrests had been made, said the newsman. I remarked on how it looked as though the police had decided to take a lowkey approach. Reports say it initially attracted around 300 people and then grew to more than 1,000, which usually means there were more than that. 

This morning there are reports of violent clashes with the police: “Avon and Somerset police said glass bottles, bricks and eggs were thrown at officers. Fireworks were also launched at its mounted division, the force claimed, with one horse being daubed with paint. Ten people were arrested, three of whom had also been detained at similar demonstrations last Sunday.” 

Boris Johnson tweeted this morning. 

“Last night saw disgraceful attacks against police officers in Bristol. 

Our officers should not have to face having bricks, bottles and fireworks being thrown at them by a mob intent on violence and causing damage to property.

The police and the city have my full support.”

It must all have “kicked off”, as they say, in the late evening. Video clips accompanying the newspaper reports are timed as being after midnight. Well, it can’t have been demonstrators popping into pubs and getting fired up with alcohol; the pubs aren’t open yet. Were the demonstrators just getting fed up and wanted to liven things up? Did the police get fed up and start to push things a little? Was the demonstration infiltrated by “troublemakers”? You know, the ones who supposedly travel round the country looking for demonstrations to disrupt? 

I doubt we’ll ever know the truth of it. But it’s a pity it didn’t stay peaceful as it just gives further ammunition to those who want to stop all demonstrations.

It’s curious that it seems all right to make laws banning demonstrations here but it’s unjust if the Chinese or others do the same thing. Now, I wonder why that is!

I read a report that says the MPs earned almost £5m from second jobs and side hustles during the first year of the pandemic. My goodness! Some gave paid advice to businesses on Covid policy. Others took jobs with firms that won test-and-trace contracts - and we know how well some of those worked! Did the MPs not work hard enough?

The standard MP salary is apparently £82,000, which some might say is fairly small for working in London but which others - teachers, nurses, bus drivers, supermarket workers - would be happy to receive without needing to supplement it. 

The highest earner was Theresa May, who received £616,000 in speaking fees over the past 12 months – including more than £130,000 for three speeches delivered on video calls. That’s quite a lot of money speeches made when she didn’t even need to get her bottom half smartly dressed or put on her kitten heels. What did she talk about? I wonder. 

She’s not alone of course. In August, onetime chancellor Sajid Javid took a £150,000-a-year job as an adviser to JP Morgan, which involves 80-96 hours of work per year. Now, didn’t I hear recently of young people working in banking and finance and the like protesting about being expected to work 80 hours a week? I bet they don’t get £150k a year!

I could go on but I won’t bother. 

It might be a bit naive of me to think this, but it would seem some of our MPs don’t work hard enough on their day job if they have so much time to spare for secondary employment. And they are extremely greedy. But I suppose their exalted life-style demands a much greater income than mine does. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 26 March 2021

Checking out the work on the bridle path. Eating out. Reading matter. And attitudes to reading.

It was raining when I went out earlier this morning but the weather has brightened considerably since then. Perhaps my granddaughter might have her planned birthday walk to Heights Church after all. 

Yesterday we took advantage of the sunshine, when it appeared late in the morning, to head off up the hill and then back home along the Donkey Line. We wanted to check what has been going on there. 

On Monday as I ran along the Donkey Line I began to think I must be hallucinating; I was sure I could hear a motor behind me. Eventually I turned round to look. Yes! There was a car chugging along quietly behind me! Maybe it was an electric vehicle, it was so quiet. It was clearly an official vehicle as the driver had the keys to open the gates at the midpoint between the two sections of path. I expressed my surprise to the driver, who told me that he only needed to check a small section of the path and it seemed a long way to walk for such a small piece of work. Softie!

On Tuesday, as I approached the first of the two old tunnels, someone warned me that I might not be able to get through as they were resurfacing under the next tunnel. Indeed, there was a truck and a digger taking up just about all space under the tunnel. So I turned off and took a detour. 

On Wednesday, heading for the market at Uppermill, I had to squeeze past a lorry on the Donkey Line. There was only just room for me and my trusty bike. Like buses, you don’t see any vehicles at all ever and then there are three on the run, on three consecutive days, 

Yesterday there were no vehicles, but a lot of evidence of resurfacing work having been attempted. A mix of sand and gravel has been spread over most of the muddiest places, although there was one place where puddles were already re-establishing themselves. Some clearing of side channels has also taken place. Fortunately they had not dug up the frogs’ stretch of water. The frogs, which were extremely vocal on Monday and Tuesday, seem to have finished their business there now. Masses of frogspawn but not a frog in sight. Not even a croak or a ribbit to be heard. Where do frogs go when they have finished mating? One of life’s mysteries! Another one: how do they know to go back to the place where they were spawned? 

In a couple of weeks we’ll be permitted to eat out, but only literally out! I was about to say that it still seems a bit chilly to me but I suppose that on a sunny day in a sheltered spot it could be quite pleasant. The pub next door to us seems to have been doing a certain amount of construction work over the last week in their car-park-converted-into-a-garden-seating-area, probably ensuring that there are out-of-the-wind nooks for customers to sit in. According the the Guardian’s restaurant critic, Grace Dent, they are not the only establishment doing that sort of thing. However, she also points out that many places for eating out are already fully booked until the autumn.   

I am still reading Alice Monro at the moment. Here’s a sample, writing about her grandfather:

“He too was a great reader. (... ) he never talked about what he read, but the whole community knew about it. And respected him for it. That is an odd thing - there was a woman too who read, she got books from the library all the time, and nobody respected her in the least. The talk was always about how the dust grew under her beds and her husband ate a cold dinner. Perhaps it was because she read novels, stories, and the books my grandfather read were heavy.”

An interesting bit of sexism there! Suspicion of the intellectual female who doesn’t “do her duty”. To some extent we women are still trained or conditioned not to “waste time” or at least not until we’ve done the housework. I’ve almost got over it but not quite. And I can still remember my amazement, back when our children were tiny, at a neighbour’s ability to sit in the middle of chaos, lost in her book, with her two small children rampaging around. Nowadays, however, I can happily leave the shopping in its bags, waiting to be put away, while I check my mail or read an article online or finish the latest chapter on my novel.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Island living. Unseasonal weather. Taking advantage of the sunshine. Celebrating birthdays.

A friend of mine lives on one of the Greek islands. I don’t know which one. My knowledge of Greek geography is sketchy, almost nonexistent, and besides it doesn’t really matter. Recently she has reported an increase in Covid cases on her island, which has largely been Covid free. She blames it on Athenians who have holiday homes there and have been travelling from Athens quite regularly to escape restrictions there. The trouble is that they get bored on the island when it’s not summertime and then they travel back to Athens for a while ... until they once more feel the need to escape. And so the virus gets moved around. 

According to my brother-in-law they traced the recent outbreak in the Isle of Man to someone who works on the ferry and who caught the virus either on the boat from a passenger or during a ferry stop in Liverpool. Either way, it broke the island’s carefully preserved Covid-free state. 

No man is an island and it seems than even an island isn’t an island for long in the pandemic world.

My Greek island friend reports they have snow today. Surely that’s a bit unusual! We are forecast snow over the weekend apparently, it won’t be the first time we’ve had snow when it’s officially spring. It rained in the night, just as the weathermen predicted, but this morning has been a mix of cloudy and bright. Yesterday my brother-in-law, who usually likes us to organise Chippy Hikes on a Friday so that our daughter can also join in, suggested a walk in the sunshine as Friday could well be wet and cold. As I had already cycled to Uppermill and back, I reduced the proposed walk to a tramp up Lark Hill to admire the view.

Including this view of the amazingly stripey field.

Coming down the other side of the hill towards Dobcross we admired the daffodils all over the place. The daffodils are back, proof positive that we have been doing this lockdown business for a year. 


If further proof was needed, some of the neighbours were sitting in the garden again, just like a year ago. A definite feeling of déjà vu!


I am keeping my fingers crossed that tomorrow’s forecast rain and possible sleety snow is proved wrong. Our second granddaughter is 18 tomorrow and , faute de mieux, wants to celebrate it by doing a family walk up to Heights Church. After all, she can’t, even though she will be old enough, go out to the pub with friends. I have been commissioned to make a chocolate cake but we might have to sing Happy Birthday by the front door, again as we did last year!

Another friend, living in Wales this time, has alerted me to an incipient bit of overt patriotism:

“All government buildings in England, Wales and Scotland will fly the Union flag every day, following new guidance from the culture department.

Currently flags are only required to be flown on certain days such as the Queen's birthday.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden described the flag as "a proud reminder of our history and the ties that bind us".”

As with the almost enforced wearing of poppies for Remembrance Day, this led him to an almost apoplectic outburst about how we are being bullied into not just being patriotic but being seen to be patriotic.

Strange times!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Problems with IT and AI. A little bit more of Michael Rosen. Thinking about the meaning of “cutty”.

I post quite a lot of photos on Facebook. It’s not a particularly egotistical thing. I don’t think so anyway. I don’t post selfies. That whole “here’s a famous landmark with ME in front of it” business has always struck me as a bit annoying. But I do like to take pictures when I’m out and about and then share them with others. Some of my friends tell me they appreciate them And I appreciate the pictures they take. One friend tells me it’s the only contact she has with the countryside at the moment. So I’m doing a bit of good at the same time. It’s a way of keeping in touch without needing to say very much, especially at a time when we can’t actually do a great deal. 

So you can imagine my surprise on Saturday when it stopped working. I tried to post a picture or two and up popped the message “Taking longer to connect that usual”, followed by “Post when connected”, followed in turn by “Your picture will be posted”. That last was a lie - none of them were posted later, or indeed ever! 

A friend sent me a message asking if I was all right. “No photos!? Are you not well?” Well, I suppose that at the moment you never know what might happen to your friends. It’s nice to know people care. I reassured her that all was fine ... apart from my posting problem.  

I investigated all sorts of possibilities. I clearly hadn’t been banned as ai could post links to newspaper article. I switched everything off and started again - it works with most IT things! Not this time. Then I remembered that my iPhone had been updated at the weekend, one of those routine updates it can only do when your phone is plugged in and connected to internet. Yes, that was it! The update had switched off my Facebook access to photos! Everything works fine now I’ve switched access back on. It did feel a little bit as though artificial intelligence was beginning to take decisions on my behalf!

It could have been worse, I suppose. At least I didn’t have to learn a whole new operating system!

Here’s another Michael Rosen comment on our world:-

“Viruses, like fish, have nationality. 

The virus that's about to 'wash up on our shores'  

(Johnson quote) 

is an illegal asylum seeker. 

The variant that first appeared in the UK 

and has spread elsewhere 

Johnson calls just that: 

a 'variant' 

so clearly it's not acting illegally. 

It doesn't 'wash up' anywhere.

This is 'science', 

government style.”

I am heartily glad he didn’t die of Covid.

Reading Alice Munro’s collection of short stories, “The View from Castle Rock”,  a mix of her family history and stories she has made up, embellishing events, I came across something called the “cutty stool”. It’s all to do with paying public penance for your “sins”, as perceived by the church, probably Presbyterian. 

“They were called up for their sins to sit on the cutty stool and beat their shame - usually for some sexual matter, solemnly referred to as Fornication - in front of the congregation. James Hogg was summoned there at least twice, charged with paternity by local girls.”

So I looked up “cutty”, which basically seems to mean small or short.

“A cuttie-stool, or cutty-stool (also -stuil), was a type of three-legged chair used in Scotland. It was a short stool, often having a round seat on the top, but the word also designates a larger piece of furniture associated with public penance in church.

Such stools were often used for milking and domestic purposes, and afforded little comfort other than to provide balance to the worker concerned. They were cheap to buy and easy to make, and their three legs made them stable on uneven floors.” .

The word pops up in the name “Cutty Sark” the ship named after the nickname of the witch Nannie Dee in Robert Burns’ 1791 poem “Tam o’ Shanter. She received the nickname because of the short shift - her cutty sark.

And apparently “cutty” is also used as a term for an “immoral woman”. Isn’t it funny how a woman who enjoys sex is immoral, often in the past a witch, probably because it gave her power over men , while a man who enjoys sex is often just a “bit of a lad”?

Getting back to IT stuff, Facebook keeps sending me an advert for a gadget that will “improve your drawing skill”. You lay the picture you want to copy on a screen and switch on so that it is back-lit. Then you put your drawing paper on top and follow the lines of the original. We used to do this with tracing paper as children, and if you had no actual tracing paper your mother’s greaseproof paper would do at a pinch! 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Not forgetting. Making gestures. Thoughts about the government.m

One year ago today we went into lockdown in the UK. There’s been a minute’s silence at midday, to make this a national day of reflection. The prime minister was going to observe this silence privately, whatever that means. At least it means we won’t have to watch him stand on the doorstep of Number 10 looking solemnly dishevelled. They’re also going to light up landmarks at 8.00 pm, just in case we forget to reflect, I suppose. The radio news just told me we are asked to stand on our doorsteps and hold a light to create a “beacon of hope”. Gestures!

We’re not likely to forget here in Greater Manchester. This is from the Manchester Evening News: 

"Most of us here have been banned from meeting one another either indoors, or in gardens, ever since, meaning Manchester and many other places in the North West have only been free from restrictions for 25 days of the last year.”

That’s a long time to be under restrictions. 

In the meantime, there’s this:

“The government has acquired a second, brand new plane painted in the colours of the union flag to be used by the prime minister and other dignitaries for short-haul trips.

The government faced criticism last year when it emerged Boris Johnson’s primary plane, the RAF Voyager, had been repainted with the union flag at a cost to the UK taxpayer of £900,000.

A government spokesperson insisted the second aircraft, which it said had been repainted with a “Global Britain livery”, represents “value for money”. They declined to comment on the cost of the lease or new paintwork.

The aircraft will be used when Mr Johnson, cabinet ministers or members of the royal family are making short or medium-haul trips, with a range that could take them to destinations elsewhere in Europe or even as far as the US east coast. The larger RAF Voyager, an Airbus A330, will continue to be used when ministers or royals are flying further afield.”

Another sort of gesture!

It all sounds unnecessarily presidential to me but some people must appreciate it as it seems that Mr Johnson’s ratings are still going up. Some people must be seeing things that I am missing. You would almost think he had personally and single-handedly made the vaccine himself. And that seems to have wiped out memories of all the wasteful stuff that has been going on for the last year - wasting both time and money. 

So here is something Phil found for me that could well be applied to the gang of friends and cronies running the country at present:-

Oliver Cromwell’s speech dismissing the Rump Parliament – 20 April 1653 :

“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.

Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government.

Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?

Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.

Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.

I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.

Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!”

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!