Friday, 30 April 2021

Odds and ends in the news. The consequences of gathering. Bits of comfort.

Was it with conscious or subconscious irony that yesterday’s 6 o’clock news on the radio began with the fact that parliament had finally voted against protecting homeowners from post-Grenfell safety costs and moved seamlessly on to further reporting of who-paid-for-the-Johnson-refurb? Such an odd juxtaposition, in my view at least. One group of people face bankruptcy to pay for something that is certainly not their fault and that they certainly did not choose. A more fortunate and higher-profile couple face questions over who paid for things they certainly did choose! 

In today’s newspapers two items where religious gatherings are mentioned drew my attention. 

In Israel dozens were killed and around 150 injured in a crush at a sort of pilgrimage of ultra-orthodox jews to the tomb of a the second century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at Mount Meron in Galilee. They’ve been dealing with Covid very well in Israel and I suppose that’s why permission was given for 10,000 people to gather for annual celebrations with all night prayer, mystical songs and dance. In the event 100,000 turned up and people, including children, were killed in the crush. 

Then, in The Long Read in the Guardian, writer Arundhati Roy considers the mess her country is in and asks how it happened. Covid seemed for a while to be under control but it has definitely gone wrong now and India is suffering. She lists the things the Modi government has been “too busy doing” to prevent the crisis happening. One of these was a religious event, “the Kumbh Mela to be organised, so that millions of Hindu pilgrims could crowd together in a small town to bathe in the Ganges and spread the virus even-handedly as they returned to their homes across the country, blessed and purified.”

People are still meeting in huge crowds for religious gatherings - in the 21st century! in the middle of a pandemic!

The mind boggles!

Having said that, let us not forget that we are trying to find ways to make music festivals, sports events and other such gatherings of large numbers of people happen again! They’re trying it out in Liverpool at the moment. And it’s not just us. They’ve been trying in Barcelona as well. 

We are social animals and like to get together for all sorts of reasons. But maybe we need to carry on being careful.

People find their comfort in all sorts of ways though. I read about a woman in the USA who knits things out of animal hair. She was was born in the former Soviet Union, and her mother taught her to knit when she was very young. “It was a skill every Russian woman had when I was growing up, because clothes were in short supply.” It was not just a Soviet thing, surely; young British girls also learnt to knit. In my junior schools the girls had knitting and sewing lessons while the boys had woodwork and metalwork. 

Anyway, the Russian knitter moved to Boston Massachusetts in the 1990s, and didn’t knit for a while because, she said, she could buy clothes cheaply. Then she adopted a longhaired cat, a ragdoll cat, a breed I had never heard of. Indeed I thought at first she was talking about a toy, and so I looked it up. 

“Developed by American breeder Ann Baker in the 1960s, they are best known for their docile and placid temperament and affectionate nature. The name "Ragdoll" is derived from the tendency of individuals from the original breeding stock to go limp and relaxed when picked up.”

Our knitter kept the rather beautiful hair she regularly brushed from her cat and eventually experimented with spinning it and knitting the resulting yarn. Very enterprising, she sold the things she made online and before long customers were sending her their animals’ hair and making special requests for items they wanted making from this hair. The most extreme was the lady who asked her to knit a toy cat from her deceased pet’s hair. When the customer received the finished item she took it to bed with her and had her first good night’s sleep since the death of her cat. Now, for me that’s almost as strange as gathering together with lots of people at the tomb of a long dead rabbi! No, maybe even more strange!

Talking of pets, we can all rest easy, Lady Gaga’s kidnapped dogs have been returned to her. The dog-walker was injured during the kidnapping but has recovered, I think. The dog-nappers may not have known whose dogs they were and were probably planning to sell them at extortionate prices. But then Lady Gaga offered a reward for the return of Asia, Koji and Gustav. $500,000!! A woman who turned out to be in a relationship with the father of one of the dognappers tried to claim the reward at the police station. The rest is history - or at any rate the story of dognappers being arrested. Such a relief!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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