Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Local wildlife in my garden. Oldham in the news. School attendance. Football success!

Working away on the computer yesterday, sitting at the kitchen table with the back door open to let in some of the summer air, I spotted movement out of the corner of my eye. Ever since the incident with the inquisitive blackbird hopping in through the back door recently, I have been more or less on wildlife alert. Don’t get me wrong. I really appreciate wildlife. I just don’t want it in my house if it can be avoided.

This time it was a squirrel, looking pretty much as if he was about to take a nose dive into the water barrel. I didn’t manage to snap a picture of him at that point but I did catch him perched on the edge of the water butt. The problem is that the water level in there is very low. I’ve been using it to water my pots of plants in the garden and so it is no longer up to the brim.  

It was suggested by members of the four-way Messenger chatline that perhaps the squirrel was trying to get the leaves and grass and stuff my smallest grandchildren deposited there on Sunday afternoon when they were making a “magic potion”. However, on reflection, I think the squirrel was just thirsty. It might have been raining in the London area but we’ve  not had a lot here in the North West of the country, just the odd splattering overnight from time to time. So I put a plastic tub of water out on the garden wall, doing my bit help the local wildlife. 

It could be worse. In some parts of Canada and the USA they have temperatures up to 50 degrees C. In some places in the States they are cancelling firework displays for the Fourth of July celebrations for fear of wildfires!

Coincidentally, my oldest granddaughter told us she had a squirrel in the pond in her garden, possibly for the same reason. I doubt that it wanted to look at her frogs!

They are talking about our town on the radio news. All over the country there is a crisis about attendance at school. Covid bubbles are bursting and children are having to self isolate because of being in contact with a coronavirus case. One school in Oldham currently has 42 members of staff absent and out of a possible 1200+ pupils they had 700 turn up,this morning. The rigmarole they go through to ensure that messages go out when a case pops up is amazing. I have great admiration for today’s teachers! 

Added to the problem is the fact that some children simply haven’t returned to school. Our children are suffering!

But, hey! England has got through to the next stage of the Euros! Masses of people were able to go to Wembley to watch them. So all is well! Hmm!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Yarn bombing. Phones in schools. Criticising secretaries of state. Social media abuse and actual abuse.

When I ran through the village this morning I spotted that someone had decorated the post box with a sort of crocheted mob cap, festooned with small crocheted animals. “Yarn bombing”: a friend of mine tells me that is what this phenomenon is called. It happens all the time in Chesham, where our son lives. Bollards and fences and goodness knows what else in the town centre disappear under coloured crochet work. But it’s the first I’ve seen in our village. 


Another friend told me, “I have friends who knit and crochet all kinds of crazy things for public display. It’s kept them (relatively) sane during lockdown.” You’ld think they might find something more genuinely useful to crochet. Surely there are babies who need blankets and little cardigans and the like. Andt yet another friend sent me a photo of a similarly decorated postbox where she lives. It’s clearly the thing to do at the moment. 

I see that Gavin Williamson is having a go at schools about discipline, or as he sees it lack of discipline. It’s mobile phones again this time - ““Mobile phones are not just distracting, but when misused or overused, they can have a damaging effect on a pupil’s mental health and wellbeing,” the education secretary said. “I want to put an end to this, making the school day mobile-free.”

Headteachers and teaching unions hit back, insisting that mobile phone policies were a matter for schools. They accused the education secretary of playing to backbench MPs and using the issue as a distraction from the government’s failures on education during the pandemic.

Here’s something Michael Rosen posted about it:

‘Gavin Williamson is going on about mobile phones in schools again. Here's what Geoff Barton and Kevin Courtney say about it:

But Geoff Barton, head of the school leaders’ union ASCL said: “The education secretary appears to be obsessed with the subject of mobile phones in schools.

“In reality, every school will already have a robust policy on the use of mobile phones. It isn’t some sort of digital free-for-all.”

He said phones were an “operational decision for schools, not something to be micromanaged from Westminster”.

“Frankly, school and college leaders would prefer the education secretary to,be delivering an ambitious post-pandemic recovery plan and setting out how he intends to minimise disruption next term, rather than playing to backbenchers on the subject of behaviour.”

“Talking about mobile phones is a distraction,” said Kevin Courtney, co-leader of the the National Education Union. “Schools generally have clear policies and will not see the need for another consultation.”

“The secretary of state talks about discipline and order when he should talk about mental health, well-being and what teachers need to cope with learning gaps,” said Mr Courtney.’

We have to keep reminding them about priorities. Personally, I still think masses of problems in schools could be reduced by making schools into smaller communities rather than massive exam-passing factories!

While we’re criticising government ministers and secretaries of state, here’s a question raised by Jeremy Corbyn:

“Can Sajid Javid confirm he will resign from his extra-parliamentary role as an advisor to JP Morgan or that he intends to do so at the earliest opportunity to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest as he takes on the role as guardian of the NHS?”

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t just fading away into the background, it seems.

Meanwhile Mr Javid is confirming that stage 4 of the easing of lockdown is set for July 19th. I did hear him say that the decision is irreversible - possibly a risky thing to say in the time of covid. We shall see. 

It seems our football heroes are still coming in for a lot of abuse of social media. Maybe they should stop looking at twitter, just ignore it and get on with playing football. 

It’s an odd phenomenon this social media abuse; time was a disgruntled fan would just declare to his friend that his former idol, now with feet of clay, was an idiot and the matter would be forgotten, especially as the next time said feet-of-clay idol scored goals all would be well again. Now the insults fly around the media and are there forever!

A different matter is fans causing actual harm, not necessarily on purpose. The Tour de France has got off to a crashing start again this year, some of the problems caused by fans wanting to get close to the riders as they hurtle by. The photo in this article shows the dangers of thoughtless fans waving huge banners in the path of the cyclists. Crazy times! 

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty has also suffered from actual physical abuse, being harassed by what sound like yobs in St James’s Park who grabbed him in an attempt to get photos and videos, which then went out on social media. And Whitty is not really one of the bad guys. As I said, we live in crazy times!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 28 June 2021

Some thoughts on language and communication.

My daughter, my two older granddaughters (the officially adult ones) and I have a regular, ongoing four-way chat on Facebook Messenger. It used to be just three of us  but when granddaughter number two hit 18 earlier this year and declared herself an adult she asked to be included. For the most part it makes arranging things between the three households - mine, my daughter’s and the oldest granddaughter’s - without too much repetition of messages back and forth. Sometimes it’s all about photos of what everyone is having for dinner. At others it is granddaughter number one having a panic about how to deal with a giant spider in her bedroom.

Yesterday on our chat we had an exchange about the pronunciation of the word “harbinger” - hard or soft g? Our granddaughter’s close friend and housemate confidently assured her that it was a hard g making the word rhyme with “singer” and “linger” and “humdinger”. Logical but wrong! When our granddaughter corrected her, backed up by reassurances from her loving grandparents her friend put her right: “She says you’re academics which means you’re always wrong because there is so much debate in academia.” She also accused her of picking on her. Wow! 

I suspect that the friend is suffering from what a lot of people do when studying: reading and understanding a word, using it correctly in written assignments but never hearing it pronounced correctly, indeed never hearing it pronounced at all. The odd mistake - odd as in occasional as well as odd as in peculiar - is understandable but in the end language is about communication and if you pronounce things wrongly it detracts from your ability to communicate. 

Nesrine Malik wrote in the Guardian about moving from an Arabic speaking country to Kenya, official language English, at the age of seven and being bullied at school until she learnt enough English to be able to stand up for herself. Four decades on, she still regards her English as imperfect and still mispronounces words - she is made to wonder, “When I say “meLAN-kolly” did I really mean “MELON-kolly”?” - and in the family home they mix the two languages together, adding …ing to Arabic words, for example. I am reminded of a Mexican friend whose son used to make Spanish verbs from English ones - drinkar = to drink!

As Nesrine Malik points out, there really is no such thing as “pure” English. It’s a living language, influenced by all sorts of things. And so, much as it annoys me to hear the verb “to transition” and words like “decision” suddenly being pronounced as of that c were a z, or indeed “jubilee” which long ago “transitioned” into “jubilee”, I suppose I’ll just have to accept all these changes.

The French and the Spanish, and I suspect the Italians as well, have institutions and academies to protect their language from foreign influence. Fat chance of that really working! All of them at various times have set limits on the number of foreign films and songs broadcast on their national channels. The Spanish and Italians (I’m not sure about the French) insisted for a long time, and maybe still insist, on foreign language films being dubbed into their own language. This led to a whole profession of “dubbers”, certain actors regularly doing the voice for particular Hollywood stars. It also led to a host of fans who admired Hollywood actors without ever having heard their true voices. Strange! 

But what I want to know, if protecting your own language is so important, is why so many foreign language detective series we have watched over the years have English songs for their title music. Just a thought!

I read today that, according to the admissions service UCAS, a third fewer 18-year-olds have applied to study English at university this year than in 2012. English academics are beginning to lose their jobs, while one university has paused provision altogether. First it was Modern Foreign Languages; now it’s the turn of English. Partly it’s governmental championing of science course as against “dead end subjects”. In fact the percentage of students moving on from A Level English to degree level study apparently has remained the same. It’s the numbers opting for A Level English that seriously dropped. Mind you, it’s probably for the same sort of reason: what can you do with a qualification in English, be it Language or Literature, apart from teach?

Well! Here are a couple of excerpts from an article about it:

“University College London appointed the first professor of English in 1828 – but it was a few years later at King’s College London that the study of literature was given more emphasis and deliberately set against a utilitarian model of education. “Knowledge cannot be poured into the mind like a fluid mechanically transfused from one vessel to another,” wrote H.J. Rose, who became the second principal of King’s. “[Literature teaches] the wisdom of men better and wiser than ourselves … [and] prepares us best of all for the examination of those moral and intellectual truths which are not only the worthiest exercise of our reason, but most concern our future destiny.””

 “English language and literature are now among the UK’s most successful exports; passports to work and life across the globe. English graduates are found throughout the creative industries, in law, the civil service, diplomacy, advertising, politics; they are entrepreneurs, teachers, digital innovators – all areas where the skills of critical analysis, lateral thinking and flexibility are prized. The Canadian prime minister is an English graduate; the first American woman in space studied it alongside physics. But, as Prof Rose knew, the subject can provide far more: it is a way to think about our relations with each other and with nature, about our rights and moral responsibilities, and the powers and limits of science; it demands that we at least try to see the world from others’ points of view. (A 2014 study found that the effects were measurable: schoolchildren who had read Harry Potter showed an increase in empathy towards immigrants, refugees and gay people.)”

There you go! Good for Harry Potter, say I. Here’s a link to the whole article on English studies. 

Returning to our four-way chat: later in the day, the conversation was all about who was coming to our house for dinner, and whether the oldest granddaughter’s dog could come too. The last time said dog came too she was a little too enthusiastic about getting to know our youngest grandson. The suggestion that she might need to more controlled led to some hurt feelings, some huffing and puffing, and the need for persuasion to get everyone together. This led to my daughter resorting to text messages to me about her exasperation with the whole drama-queen situation. This is what we have to do when we no longer want the totally shared communication experience! Oh, boy!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 27 June 2021

So Matt Hancock resigns as Health Secretary and Sajid Javid takes over. I’ve just listened to the radio news. Sajid Javid says his aim is to bring an end to the coronavirus crisis. A good aim! I don’t suppose anyone has thought of that before!

There was lots of talk in the media about Matt Hancock’s behaviour undermining confidence in the government. As if we all had great confidence in them beforehand! But I suppose it would be hard for Matt Hancock to stand there and tell us how we need to follow the rules if the relaxation of restrictions has to be further delayed.  

Here’s another little something to undermine our confidence in government:-

“Classified defence documents containing details about HMS Defender and the military have been found at a bus stop, prompting an investigation from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The department said an employee reported the loss of the documents last week, which were discovered by a member of the public in a soggy heap behind a bus stop in Kent early on Tuesday morning, the BBC reported.

The papers included one set of documents that discussed the potential Russian reaction to HMS Defender’s travel through Ukrainian waters off the Crimea coast on Wednesday, according to the BBC, while another laid out plans for a possible UK military presence in Afghanistan.

A member of the public, who wanted to remain anonymous, contacted the organisation when they found the 50 pages of classified information.”

How did someone manage to leave such papers on a seat in a bus shelter?

Why were such papers being carried around by someone who travels on public transport?

Elton John has been railing against the government’s seeming reluctance to help musicians and performance artists in general. In an interview he was asked:

Why is there such resistance (to help the entertainments industry) by the government?

To which he replied:

“They are philistines. The government are philistines. We’ve got used to governments – especially the British government – just telling us lies every day, and I don’t feel OK with that. Look what they did with the NHS. After all that those people did during Covid, they give them a 1% increase. I find that extraordinary. I just can’t live with that. It makes me so angry. I’m 74 years of age and I just don’t get this unfairness and this ridiculous ability to lie through your teeth every f***ing minute of the day.”

There you go.

On a more optimistic note, here’s a link to an article about the young winner of the World Marmalade Award. The nine year old made her marmalade, with he help of her mother, from Seville oranges and orange blossom. But who even knew that there was such an award available? But it’s cheering to know such things exist.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Cricket. Wild flowers. Packaging. UFOs still unidentified.

There was something going on at the cricket club this morning when I ran past. Indeed, it was difficult to run past as there were so many cars parked on the pavement alongside the road, in some cases right onto the grass as well. Cars were parked for a good half mile on either side of the entrance to the cricket grounds. 

I think it was some kind of junior event, maybe an inter-schools competition or training event. Large numbers of youngsters, some of them looking no more than 8 or 9 years old, were there, wielding cricket bats. Some of the bats were bright blue, which looked really odd. Cricket bats are surely supposed to be wood-coloured! Parents were setting up camp on the outer edge of the playing field: blankets, flasks, refreshments, magazines and books, obviously planning to be there for the long haul. People were signing in at the gate - Covid rules - and late arrivals were rushing along excitedly, getting in my way!

I’ve no idea what was actually going on but they had a reasonably fine morning for it and everyone seemed very excited about the prospect of a cricketing morning. Good for them!

Incidentally, further round on my run I saw that someone has been busy planting wild flowers. 

Poppies of unusual colours are popping up.

Back home for breakfast, which most days turns into a kind of brunch as it ends up being mid morning, I had to rush to answer the door. Earlier this week I had received a parcel from Holland and Barrett, the health food people. Unfortunately it didn’t contain the mixed nuts which were the main reason for placing the order. I checked my emails and discovered that this time it was on fact my fault. Somehow I removed mixed nuts from the order. So I re-ordered on Tuesday or Wednesday and, lo and behold, the parcel arrived today. Except that there were two parcels, clearly both from Holland and Barrett. A small mystery.

I opened the smaller one first, a box about 10 inches x 12 inches x 8 inches.  On first inspection it seemed to contain nothing but crumpled brown paper, which many companies use as insulating packaging. It recycles more easily than bubble-wrap. Sometimes I store it in case ai need to wrap something for posting. There is, however, only so,much brown paper a person can keep. Eventually, from amongst the packaging there emerged a small packet, 3 inches x 2 inches x 1 inch, a packet of gingko biloba tablets. It turns out that Phil has a regular order with Holland and Barrett for that and other vitamin-based stuff. But his delivery arrived earlier in the week, at the same time as the parcel for me without mixed nuts.  Another example of two parcels arriving from the same source at the same time.

A few questions arise: 

Why does the company not put together orders for the same address at the same time in one parcel?

Why did they send most of the vitamins earlier in the week but the gingko biloba only today?

Why did it need to be in such a large parcel, relative to the size of the contents?

I have heard that there is a bit of a crisis with packaging. Our H & B order in multiple packages explains why. It’s a good job we recycle, rather than just throwing it in the general rubbish bin.

It seems that the Pentagon has released its report on UAPs, the strange things seen on the sky formerly know as UFOs. Apparently it has been a little disappointing:

“The truth is still out there,” several reporters who covered the news wrote, after the report could only explain one of 144 reports of what the government calls “unidentified aerial phenomenon”.

“We were able to identify one reported UAP with high confidence,” the report says. “In that case, we identified the object as a large, deflating balloon. The others remain unexplained.”

Oh dear! Here we are with our heads full of ideas about aliens, fed by stories in science fiction novels and films and TV series, and in my case going back to 1950s radio dramas like “Journey into Space”. 

We’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out whether all the UAPs are just space debris from all the stuff we have been sending up there by way of satellites and so on. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 25 June 2021

Running in the rain again! Phone apps. Summer nostalgia. My indifference to the love life of politicians.

Well, today I was back to running in the rain. Actually, truth to tell, running in the drizzle. 


After rain last night and the night before, the puddly places are busily re-establishing themselves. 


But when you have a Donkey Line to run along then running in the rain is not too bad. 

Having spotted a bush full of white flowers on my outward route, I stopped on the way back to try out the plant recognition app on my phone again. 


Chestnut rose was what it said they are. Well, of course, the flowers look a bit wild rose-like but the leaves not so much. It’s a lovely name though.

The plant recognition app is a recent acquisition. Quite fun to have, it is nonetheless not quite so reliable as I had expected, occasionally telling me a particular wild flower is something that I definitely know is not the case. I really ought to note down the results of its search mechanism, both to check against my flower book at home and to prevent me from looking up the same flower umpteen times. I am reminded of my vocabulary notebooks from sixth form language studies. We were supposed to note down words we had had to look up while reading the literature component of the course. Looking back over the notebooks, I would find the same word occurring over and over until finally it was properly lodged in my brain. Maybe flower names will work the same way. 


The roses in my garden are a bit waterlogged, as I predicted, but not so sad and droopy-looking as the peonies the next door neighbour planted in the back garden. 


Yesterday they were standing tall and looking amazing. Today they look very down in the dumps. 

Yesterday, as it began so dull and damp I was reluctant and hesitant about hanging washing to dry in the garden but the sun came out and everything was fine. I had taken the right decision. We walked out in the sunshine in the mid- to late-afternoon. You would not have thought it was the same day.

A friend who lives in Greece commented on the pictures I posted, thanking me for giving her a taste of an English summer. Of course, she only sees the best bits. The really rainy days are not very photogenic. Like my Spanish sister she has a kind of nostalgia for the gentle English summers of our childhood - wall to wall sunshine, rarely wet, pleasantly warm, never too hot. At the moment she is in Athens where she tells me the temperature has been 40 degrees, altogether too excessive for my liking!

Maybe today has a chance of pulling itself together and giving us some sunshine after all, like yesterday! We shall see. 

Here’s a Michael Rosen comment on modern goings-on:-

“I see that George Osborne has become the new Chair of the British Museum. He's just announced it on twitter. I've asked him how he got the job. How do people get these jobs? How did they arrive at him? Did they just ring him up? No one's ever rung me to offer me a job like that. I didn't invent austerity, though.”

Like Mr Rosen, I do wonder how some people get the jobs they do. 

Various people have sent me news about the Health Secretary having an affair with an adviser. Frankly, to quote Rhett Butler, I don’t give a damn! Provided his lover isn’t being given millions of pounds to (fail to) provide PPE or other vital equipment, does it matter what goes on in Hancock’s private life? 

I have been known to rail against betting and the dangers of addiction. Recently I came across the story of a man in Mississippi who lost a fantasy football bet. As a consequence he was supposed to spend 24 hours in a waffle house. Do we have such restaurants in the UK? Places that specialise in what os essentially a dessert? Ice cream parlours are one thing but even those tend to be more take-away than eat-in. Anyway, he was supposed to spend 24 hours in a waffle house restaurant. However for every waffle he ate his sentence was reduced by an hour. In the end he spent 15 hours there. This meant he ate 9 servings of waffles, with sticky syrup as well. Only in America! 

I suspect he might never eat waffles again. He might never make a bet again either!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Midsummer. Weather reporting. Rainbows and other equality matters.

It’s June 24th, the feast of Saint John. In other years we would have been watching the clean up of beaches in the north of Spain where bonfires were lit on St John’s Eve. And towns would still smell of smoke and sardines, the traditional food of the occasion, the next morning. Crazy people jump over the bonfires to bring them luck for the coming year. It’s all that midsummer madness, the perfect setting for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It must be the extra hours of daylight, those long, long days inspiring silliness.

What with the summer solstice on Monday and St John’s day today, it’s no wonder that BBC Radio 3 seems to have been playing a lot of midsummer-related music all this week.

I don’t know how many fires were lit on Galician beaches last night. It probably depended on how local municipalities interpreted the rules about movement and gathering at the moment. Perhaps next year will be back to normal. 

Anyone wanting to light a bonfire and stay up all night around here last night would have had a soggy time of it. The promised rain came late in the evening. I woke up a couple of times in the night to hear it raining quite heavily. By the time I got up this morning, however, it had stopped, and the rain that fell hasn’t made much difference to the footpaths and bridle paths in the area. It’ll take a bit more rain before the mud-puddles reestablish themselves, which is fine by me. 

As I listened to the weather forecast on the radio yesterday evening it struck me that the weather reporting is very London-centric. The reports and forecasts always start with the South East of England and gradually work their way round the other regions. It’s long been the case that when they talk about some extreme of weather - a heatwave, heavy rain, a big snowfall expected - they almost always mean in the South East. I hadn’t really thought about routine weather forecasting though. But there it is: “England” really seems to mean London and the South East. Even Evan Davis on the Today programme talks that way about the weather. The other regions are just add-ons. It’s time they began to vary the order of things, rotating which part of the country they start with. We might feel a little more included, all regions equal in the eyes of the weatherman!

Which brings me to OBON - One Britain One Nation. I’m pretty sure that Kash Singh, the retired policeman at the centre of the whole business, had only the best intentions when he set up his organisation 2013. But the Department for Education endorsement of the proposal for One Britain Day tomorrow has opened up a moderately-sized can of worms. 

The children of St John’s CE Primary School, Bradford, have written an “anthem” titled ‘We are Britain and we have one dream to unite all people in one Great Team” and it is being suggested that all schoolchildren should sing it on Friday, tomorrow! Nobody seems to have consulted actual teachers and their unions about this. Scotland is feeling it’s a dig at their perhaps wanting to leave United Kingdom. And underneath it all is the feeling that starting the day with schoolchildren singing a patriotic song is not really a very British thing to do. We just don’t do that! And if we did, might we not actually just sing God Save the Queen? Oh dear!

Last night saw another international football game end in a draw, this time 2-2 for Germany and Hungary. Because of Hungary’s recent laws forbidding anything that might allow under-18s to learn anything about being gay or transgender, as if the mere power of suggestion would somehow infect all young people, the Germans wanted to light up the stadium where the game was being played in rainbow colours. UEFA said it was inappropriate. Consequently other football and sports stadiums around Germany lit up in rainbow colours in solidarity. Here is a link to some pictures.

And, thinking of equality in football, here’s a link to an article about young women in France demanding the right to play football wearing the hijab.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Cafe culture. Fashion oddities.

In our village there is a cafe and gift shop. In fact, it’s also a craft cooperative, selling handmade cards, artisan jewellery, wooden toys, knitted items and the like. I once thought of joining in but it means committing yourself to providing stuff on a fairly regular basis and at the time we were still travelling back and forth between here and Galicia, frequently but irregularly. Maybe I should look into it again. There’s also a picture framing business there in the basement, connected to a group of artists who meet and paint there. At any rate, they used to do so. It’s possible the virus put paid to that!

It used to be called Edna’s cafe. I would chat to the eponymous Edna and to her husband, who had been some kind of adventurer, international salesman, and was acquainted with Vigo and other places in Galicia. Small world syndrome struck again! 

When we last returned from Galicia, just as the whole coronavirus nightmare was getting under way, I discovered that cafe was closed. “For bereavement”, the notice said. Nobody I spoke to knew whether it was Edna, who always looked frail and rather unhealthy, or her husband, one of those florid types who could well be a stroke victim. So whole thing remains a mystery for me. 

The cafe and craft shop remained closed for some time and then, towards the end of last year it reopened as Crumbles Cafe. For a while they served take-away coffees and sandwiches but now that it is permitted once more I often see groups of people sitting outside with coffee and cake. And in recent weeks they have adapted the area just behind the cafe, where Edna’s husband used to park his car, into a bicycle hub, complete with places to lock up your bike! Small business enterprise seems to be doing well here.

I cycled to Uppermill again this morning. I was in Uppermill centre by 9.15. Maybe cleaning my bike after the last time I used it - a very necessary task after all the winter occasions when it got thoroughly mud-splattered - made it a lighter and faster ride. Consequently I got round everywhere before queues built up and was on my way home again not long after 10.00. It was a fine morning for riding along the Donkey Line. 

On my return I had a natter with one of the neighbours, a lady of about my age. She was hanging her washing out, including a couple of pairs of shorts. Apparently one of her grandchildren, an 18 year old, had commented in surprise one sunny day recently, “Grandma! You’re wearing shorts!” Just as if she might not be aware of what clothing she had put on that morning! So she told her granddaughter that she had always been reluctant to wear shorts, considering her legs to be too chunky, but having reached the age of 70+ she no longer cared and just wanted to be comfortable on a hot day. Besides, she added, the granddaughter has almost certainly inherited her chunky legs!

Now, according to something I read on one of the fashion pages the thing to do now is to wear comfortable clothing like sweatpants and leggings with deliberate holes in them to reveal bits of your anatomy.

“Grin and bare it: the rise of the intentional wardrobe malfunction”, reads the headline. 

“After dressing for comfort during the pandemic, why are we seeing more flesh-revealing clothes?”

Psychologists and behavioural scientists put it down to our all having been sexually repressed by and during lockdown, and now we are making up for it. As well as clothes with body-revealing holes, underwear featuring as outerwear is also a trendy thing at the moment.

“We’ve spent the last 18 months focusing on safety, health and wellbeing. However, this appears to be a watershed moment in which all that pent-up sexual tension is about to explode,” says Prof Andrew Groves. “These displays of flesh around the groin, buttocks or breasts are indicative of that.”

Personally, apart from wearing shorts like my neighbour, I’m not running around revealing buts of my body to all and sundry.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!C

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

A bit of Joni Mitchell nostalgia. Travel frustrations - not mine. And travel anxieties.

Fifty years ago Joni Mitchell recorded her album Blue. A fabulous and very autobiographical album it was too. Here’s a link to a very good BBC Radio programme celebrating the album.

And here’s a link to a Guardian article in which famous people tell us which is their favourite track from the album.

Some of those famous folk were also her lovers at some point in their lives. As David Crosby put it: 

“Joni went out with me, Graham Nash, James Taylor, Jackson Browne and Leonard Cohen.”

There’s a lovely innocence in his saying “Joni went out with me” and I imagine them going to the pictures and sitting hand in hand on the back row of the cinema. Instead they were all in Laurel Canyon writing songs and playing music, among other activities. 

I love this comment by Graham Nash: “In 100 years’ time, people will remember the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Joni.”

I would add Leonard Cohen to that list. Oh, and maybe Paul Simon.

We all get a bit attached to the music of our youth and No doubt today’s young people would quote singer-songwriters of today who they think will be eternal. But it’s quite significant, in my opinion, that our 23 year old granddaughter counts Joni Mitchell songs and Paul Simon songs among her favourites.

Ah! Nostalgia!

In the present day, my Italian teacher and friend is spitting Sicilian feathers about the continuing restrictions on travel. And now Italy itself has turned on her and said that people travelling from our Delta Variant-infested country will have to quarantine if they visit Italy. All she wants to do is visit her family in Sicily … and have a bit of guaranteed sunshine. Oh, to be able to count on waking up to blue sky and sunshine and not have to wonder whether the temperature has dropped again overnight - that’s the way her thinking is going. If this difficult travel situation goes on, pretty soon her Sicilian summers will be just a nostalgic memory! 

Out running this morning, I stopped to chat with one of my dog-walking acquaintances, who confessed to having switched on the heating in her house yesterday! I reassured her that we had done the same in the late afternoon, summer solstice or not! But today the blue sky and sunshine came back … at least they did briefly while I ran round the village. Since then they have been intermittent.

There’s little chance of rain, however, according to my weather app. So when I go out later I should not get wet at any rate. My granddaughter, the 23 year old, has a hospital appointment and needs to catch a bus to the hospital. She is a mass of worries and anxieties, part of which manifests itself in a serious reluctance to use public transport. It’s not really lockdown-related but the lockdown and working from home have not helped. So after much discussion and persuasion, she has agreed to travel on the bus of I accompany her. I suppose that is what family is for. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 21 June 2021

Celebrations and festivities of one kind or another. Colour coding for milk. UFOS. All a bit nostalgic.

Today is the summer solstice. Some people call it midsummer’s day. Others say it is the official start of summer. With the odd weather patterns we’ve had in recent times it’s really hard to say when one season ends and another begins. How nice it would be if the seasons would behave themselves like in a story book, with a neat three months for each of the four seasons. At the moment the summer solstice does not seem to be very sunny here. But it’s pleasantly warm outside and it’s not raining on us - small mercies and all that sort of thing. 

It seems that Saturday (June 19th) was what the Americans call Juneteenth, a day of celebration to commemorate the end of slavery in America in 1865. Here’s a link to some pictures of the celebrations. It’s a little frightening to think that not much more than 150 years ago it was legal to own people. It’s even more frightening to think that slavery in one form or another still exists around the world, not so official and perhaps not so widespread but still there. It’s also frightening that we still need anti-racist organisations. Back in the 1960s and 1970s I was fairly optimistic that the world was heading for times of tolerance and equality for all. I’m rather more pessimistic now.

Also back in the 1960s we saw the beginning of the big music festivals. The USA had Woodstock. We had the Isle of Wight. Here’s a link to a brief article about the Isle of Wight festival, or rather about the photographer David Hurn and his picture of crowds of festival-goers heading naked into the sea.

It was the end of August so the sea would have warmed up a little I suppose. I have Spanish friends who do not believe that we actually go into the sea off the shores of our island. But then they bathe in the Atlantic, which is considerably colder than most of the UK waters, with the possible exception of the North Sea off the coast of the North East of England. I swear my feet turned blue paddling in the sea there one summer’s day. 

I wrote recently about my milkman having said I need not return the green screw tops on the empty milk bottles as they don’t reuse them. The tops are colour coded. Green tops signify semi-skimmed milk, red means totally skimmed, almost transparent, a sort of watery, milky pale blue in colour, and blue tells you the milk is full fat, so rich in flavour it’s hard to take when you’ve been drinking semi-skimmed for years. Well, over the last few days our milk bottles have had white tops! What do white tops signify? This morning I found out. The milkman apologised for white tops. They’ve had lots of phone calls about them apparently. Not from me; as long as the milk tasted right I was not worried. It turns out that they have run out of green tops and are expecting a delivery imminently. By Wednesday, he hopes, normal service should be resumed.

I refrained from commenting on the supreme irony of this. If they got their act together to re-use the metal bottle tops they would not have to worry about running out. So it goes!

UFOs - or as I really should say nowadays, UAPs - are in the news again. The Pentagon is about to release a report on the activities of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). Who knew that such a programme (or program) even existed. Just as I thought that this was a special US madness, possibly aimed at justifying increased funding for defence, I read that closer to home, in Todmorden, not too far from here, they are equally crazy about UFOs and even have a resident ufologist. Who knew that that was a profession?  Picture the school child who pipes up, “When I grow up I want to be a ufologist”. 

The aforementioned Tod ufologist is Tod bookshop owner Colin Lyall who set up the Tod UFO Society (it’s really just The UFO Society - Tod is my addition!) back in 2016 and organises monthly meetings. They meet in a local pub on a Tuesday night (presumably they can do that again now) and usually have 30 - 50 people, locals and visitors, wanting to find out about the local former policeman Alan Godfrey who claims to have been abducted by aliens in 1980 and has written a book about his experience, and presumably about more recent unexplained “events”. They’re very excited about the soon to be released Pentagon report.

Goodness! I am taken back once again to some time in the early 1970s, when a colleague and I stood at the staffroom window and watched a strange light in the sky, speculating jokingly that it might be a UFO. 

I am also imagining the possibility of a TV series along the lines of the BBC’s “Detectorists”. We could call it “Ufologists”.

Of course, if it turns out that after all this time the aliens are finally going to be revealed to us, then the ufologists will have the last laugh. However, I really can’t help feeling that if those aliens wanted to talk to us they would have done so by now. 

Happy Solstice Day!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!