Saturday, 31 July 2021

Storms. Stuff I have read such as the power of lightning and hunting wolves!

Well, we seem to have dodged Storm Evert. It has apparently gone round us or something, moving eastwards. Yellow wind warnings are in place for coastal areas in south-east England and East Anglia, and thunderstorm warnings for a swathe of England from Nottingham to Norwich and north as far as Hull.  Two women were seriously injured by a falling tree near Heveningham in Suffolk on Friday evening.

“Police received a report at about 6.35pm this evening that an oak tree had fallen at Ubbeston and injured two females in the process,” Suffolk police said. “The two victims, aged in their 20s, sustained serious injuries in the incident. It is understood the pair were in attendance with others at a private outdoor party.” Quite what anyone was doing at an outdoor party, private or otherwise, in the sort of weather we have had this week escapes me. I expect it was planned when the weather was fine and sunny but, this being Britain, the fickle weather let them down. Maybe they were sheltering under the oak tree. 

Here on the edge of Greater Manchester today I have taken the risk of hanging washing out to dry. No doubt I will need to keep an eye on things. 

With the possibility of thunderstorms around, it is something of a coincidence that I came across this in the book I am currently reading:-

“Lightning has evaporated glass. It has struck a field of potatoes and cooked them underground, the harvester turning them up perfectLy baked. It has roasted geese in mid-flight, which have rained down, ready to eat. 

The sudden intense heat can expand fabric. People have found themselves naked, their clothes scattered around them, their boots torn from their feet. 

Lightning can so magnetise objects they are able to lift three times their own weight. It has stopped an electric clock then started it again, the clockhands moving backwards at twice their normal speed. 

It has struck a building then struck the fire alarm, bringing firemen to put out the blaze it started. 

Lightning has restored a man’s sight and also his hair.

Ball lightning enters through a window, a door, a chimney. Silently it circles the room, browses the bookshelf and, as if unable to decide where to sit, disappears through the same air passage by which it entered.”

I don’t think we have quite such powerful lightning where we live - at least I hope not - but the last point about the ball lightning makes my mother’s story about lightning running through the house the open front door, along the passageway and our of the open back door a little less farfetched than it has always seemed. All those years we accused her of exaggerating!

I was also reading about wolf-hunting in Wisconsin. The Trump administration took wolves off the list of protected species and since then large numbers of wolves have been hunted, often with hounds which means that more are killed at one go than in former times. Considering that dogs were bred from wolves originally that must be a strange thing - dogs hunting their genetic forebears!

We don’t have wolves here but I get the impression that wherever wolves roam free there is still a primeval fear of them. That doesn’t really excuse killing 200 in one day though! Not everyone wants them killed. On the side of the wolf is the Ojibwe tribe, one of the First Nations. “We believe the wolf is our brother, and what happens to the wolf happens to us,” said Mic Isham, a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band and a long-time wildlife official for the tribe. They accept the hunting permits to which they are entitled, thus restricting the number given out to other people, but don’t use them: a small gesture. 

Dairy farmers in the state say that wolves attack their livestock but statistics show that livestock losses have been consistently low in recent years. In 2018, Wisconsin farmers and ranchers lost a total of 33 cattle, out of roughly 3.3 million statewide. (No human has been attacked by wolves in the state’s modern history.)

I’m quite glad we don’t have to worry about wolves in this country.

Friday, 30 July 2021

Medals for sports? What I am reading. Food for thought!

We won a gold medal in BMX riding! Wow! I thought BMX bikes were for kids. It’s time we had olympic hopscotch!

Bethany Shriever, the 22-year-old who is our latest superstar had to fund her own qualification campaign after UK Sport cut its support for her event following Rio 2016, and two years ago. So it sounds a little as though UK Sport isn’t convinced that BMX is a proper grown-up sport. 

As you can perhaps tell, I’m finding it hard to get excited about these games!

Here’s a link to an article about someone’s experience of another odd “sport”, rhythmic gymnastics. Judging by the cases emerging of young athletes in various disciplines suffering mental breakdowns now after years of perhaps too much training too young, I think the writer of the article, Rebecca Liu, had a lucky escape. 

I’ve done my bit of athletic activity this morning, running round the village in the drizzle once again. Despite dire prognostications from the weathermen, the day is brightening up here. So maybe we can manage a walk later in the day.

Meanwhile I have been escaping into books again, current reading one I found on the shelf, one neither of us can remember buying. This is not a surprise and not the first time this has happened, as there are so many books in our house. This latest one is called “Fugitive Pieces” by Anne Michaels, a Canadian poet and novelist, Toronto’s poet laureate from 2015 to 2019.

The narrator of the first of the book a seven year old Jewish boy, Jakob Beer, was taken from Poland to Greece by a greek archaeologist when his family was killed by Nazis. Much of the book reads like a long prose poem; it’s well worth reading. 

I keep having to look things up to see what they are, what they mean or what they refer to. 

From the book I have learnt about Biskupin, the archaeological site of a late Bronze Age fortified settlement in north-central Poland. There is now an archaeological open-air museum there. Discovered in 1933, it was excavated from 1934 onwards. The site soon became part of Polish national consciousness, the symbol of achievements of the Slavonic forebears in prehistoric times. The existence of a prehistoric fortress, 70 km (43 mi) from the German border, was used to show that the prehistoric "Poles" had held their own against foreign invaders and plunderers as early as the late Bronze Age. Biskupin came to feature in paintings and popular. When the Germans occupied Poland in 1939, they renamed Biskupin “Urstadt”, possibly not liking a Polish achievement (is an accident of archaeology anachievement?). They continued excavations but when they were forced to retreat they flooded the site hoping to destroy it, which, ironically, led to very good preservation of the ancient timbers. Excavations were resumed by Polish archaeologists after the war and continued until 1974.


Fascinating stuff! It was from that excavation site that the archaeologist, Athos, in the novel rescued the young holocaust survivor Jakob Beer. He learns to speak Greek and English and late works as a translator. 

And so I was also reminded about the fact that there were two forms of Greek spoken until demotic greek became the official language in 1976 - which seems a long time ago but is really very recent in linguistic terms. 

A new word for me was “photomicrograph”, which I could make a guess at and which was confirmed by the internet: - a photograph of a microscope image. Some of the examples of images of photomicrographs are startlingly beautiful. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 29 July 2021

What to wear for the weather and for sport! Lightning! A bit of clothing discrimination!

I went running in the drizzle this morning. You couldn’t really call it running in the rain. It was more like running in a low cloud. Later I read an article about how the weather in the UK is changing quite dramatically. Or rather, how it has gradually changed over the last few decades. Our mild climate is disappearing and we can expect more extreme weather patterns: more heatwaves, more floods, more storms. 

It has a knock-on effect:

“The impacts are also being seen in farming and on the natural world. The first leaves appeared much sooner and fell much earlier than usual last year, the report found. These effects can cause havoc for other species, which may find themselves out of sync – for instance, caterpillars and other invertebrates may peak before baby birds are born, leaving them with little to eat.”

The first leaves may have appeared early again this year but 5en we had a cold spell which slowed everything down again. This does not seem to have stopped leaves falling already. Looking out of the window onto the back garden I see a distinctly autumnal view of trees and bushes blown to and fro and a fine rain falling. Goodness! I would like a bit more summer, please.

This changeable and stormy weather makes planning outings difficult. Two women had to be taken to hospital after being struck by lightning at the top of Snowdon. Neither have life threatening injuries fortunately but warnings have now been issued, advising people to stay clear of summit areas if there are any signs of thunderstorms.

Well, yes! That sounds like good advice! Even if you’ve had your clamber up Snowdon planned for weeks and you’re a little miffed to find the weather changing just as you want to set off, surely common sense says not to be on the top of a mountain, like a human lightning conductor, when a thunderstorm starts. Surely when the lightning starts to crackle, you abandon the attempt to get to the top and head down for shelter asap. Well, that’s what I would do anyway! 

Snowdon seems to have seen an increased number of visitors. Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team tweeted that it had been “very busy” this year, assisting police with 104 incidents.

On a more down to earth level, all of this odd weather makes getting dressed difficult. It’s no longer warm enough to be tripping about in floaty summer frocks or shorts and T-shirt but neither is it woolly jumper weather. I’ve been rummaging in the wardrobe for in-between-weather garb!

But at least I’m not being criticised for wearing the wrong stuff, unlike women athletes. Apparently the two-time Paralympic world champion Olivia Breen was told by an official at  a long jump competition on Sunday that the shorts she was wearing were “too revealing” and was recommended to buy another pair. At the other extreme the European Handball Federation said the Norway’s beach handball team were in the wrong because they wore shorts instead of bikini bottoms during a match over the weekend. They were fined €1,500, which the singer Pink has offered to pay on their behalf! 

But will they be able to wear shorts in the next game they play. Men can wear shorts for their matches. Nobody asks them play in their Speedos! Clearly even beach handball is a serious sport for men but a spectator spectacle when women play! 

Members of Norway’s women’s handball team said they deliberately broke the rules as they wanted to “ spark a conversation about the uniform requirements. 

“We are overwhelmed by the attention and support from all over the world,” the team’s instagram account posted after news of the fine broke. “Thank you so much to all the people who support us and help spread the message! We really hope this will result in a change of this nonsense rule!”

It’s not a new argument. Over the years, bikinis in particular have become a source of contention among beach volleyball players and spectators. In 2012 the International Volleyball Federation said it would no longer insist women wear bikinis, opening the door for others like the Egyptian women’s volleyball team to participate wearing hijabs and long sleeves.

Welcome to the 21st century!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Wedding cakes and (un)holy relics. Thunder and lightning.

I just heard an item on the news about a piece of the wedding cake from Prince Charles’ and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding going on sale by auction. I was so amazed I thought I might had misheard the item. So I looked it up on the internet and it’s quite true. It will be auctioned on August 11th and is expected to sell for around £500. 

The slice in question was given by the queen mother to one of her employees at Clarence House. The employee wrapped it in clingfilm and put it in a cake tin. Now it’s being sold, 40 years down the line, together with an order of service for the wedding and a Royal Wedding Breakfast programme.

The article I found informed me that “in accordance with royal tradition, Charles and Diana served their guests fruitcake at the reception after their nuptials”, making it sound as if this was something special that only members of the royal family did. Hasn’t it long been a normal thing for wedding guests to be given a slice of the wedding cake? Indeed slices were also given to people who for one reason or another had not been able to attend the wedding. Unmarried female guests were encouraged to sleep with the cake under their pillow so that they would dream of the man they would eventually wed in their turn!

And it has long been usual to have a fruit cake as it keeps well and therefore can withstand the complicated icing process without going stale. It also means that slices sent to distant relatives and friends and acquaintances can withstand the journeys they might have to make. It’s probably why this slice of the royal cake has not crumbled to dust. 

Indeed, other countries as well as ours have a similar tradition. If you read  Laura Esquivel’s novel “Como Agua para Chocolate” (Like Water for Chocolate) you will discover how a wedding cake cooked by terminally sad sister of the bride (the bride was marrying the man her sister loved because the sister, youngest in the family, was duty bound to stay home unmarried and care for her ageing parents) became infused with her sadness. All the wedding guests who partook of the cake wept copiously as the cake made them experience the feelings of having lost the love of their life. 

Hmm! I wonder what feelings were experienced by those who partook of the royal wedding cake! But actually, that wouldn’t work as the emotion comes from the person who baked the cake. But transmitting emotion into what you cook is a different matter altogether, not relevant to the matter in hand. Mind you, I don’t think anyone is recommending eating this 40 year old slice of wedding cake. 

What struck me was how collecting Charles and Diana wedding memorabilia, and in fact any kind of Diana memorabilia, is rather like the ancient tradition of purchasing religious relics. Splinters of the true cross, thorns from the crown of thorns, the tears of the Virgin Mary were probably the most precious but almost anything that was certified as having a connection to a saint would fetch a good price. I think of the scene in Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) by Giuseppe di Lampedusa where the very devout wife of the Prince of Salina discovers that all her holy relics are pretty much worthless. Now it seems as though Diana has become a kind of modern day saint, without having to actually perform any miracles.   

As regards the nature of the cake, I think that sponge cake wedding cakes and wedding cakes made of creatively heaped cup cakes, dusted with gold dust - such as was served at my son’s wedding some 10 years ago - are a fairly recent innovation.

As I type this I can hear thunder rumbling around our nearby hilltops. It never arrived yesterday but today has been catch-up day. I cycled to the market and back this morning in a sort of lull between rainy sessions. My daughter phoned and asked if I would like to go to Ikea with her and children towards the end of the morning. We very nearly opted to go for a walk first of all as the sun was trying to shine. However, by the time we set off the rain was starting again. 

While we were in the store my oldest granddaughter contacted us to tell us we were missing a monster thunderstorm which was scaring both her dog and her cat. We came out to fine weather though, just fine enough for long enough for us to reach my daughter’s house before it began again. It was rather spectacular: great flashes of lightning and immediate crashes of thunder, a storm right overhead. 

It was the kind of storm that would have had my mother putting all the knives out of sight to prevent them being struck by lightning. My mother firmly believed that could happen and used to regale us with stories of the cottage in her village where they had both front and back door open one thunder-stormy day. This was a good thing, she told us, as a ball of lightning rolled in though the front door, straight down the hallway and out of the backdoor … and presumably away down the hill … without harming anyone! We children accepted this as gospel truth, of course!

I returned home in another lull between storms. Yes we have had torrential rain here but only for short periods at a time. I wait to see what kind of news reports will emerge later this evening.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Things to do before the rain arrives.


We’re still waiting for the promised rain. Not that I am especially eager for it to rain but I think the gardens might need it. Yesterday turned into a fine afternoon and evening. We waled the forest path, which we have hardly walked since the bluebells finished as it was so very soggy. Now it was fine and dry and very green. 

This morning I overslept. Or rather, I woke up half an hour later than usual and realised that I had not set my alarm. No snoozing the alarm this morning - just no alarm!

So I set off later than usual on my run. Hardly had I set off than my phone rang. My daughter had just dropped the children off at nursery and wondered if she could pop in for breakfast. So I suggested she should park her car and walk into the village, where I would meet her after following my usual morning running route. 

Some time later in the morning my daughter and I decided to go and visit her daughter, taking gourmet sandwiches from the local bakery for her and her housemate for lunch. I thought I might pick up the good rye bread they bake, saving some space in my panniers when I cycle to the market tomorrow, but they had none. Plenty of other kinds of bread but not what I wanted. So just lunch-time sandwiches for the girls!


At my granddaughter’s house we sat and chatted for a while, watching her work from home on her computer, and occasionally being leapt on by her over-energetic, over-enthusiastic collie dog. In the end my daughter and I offered to take the dog for a walk to use up some of her excess energy along the local bridle paths and along the canal, admiring the wild flowers en route.

I read that Tokyo has a record number of Coronavirus cases at the moment. Would that have anything to do with an influx of athletes and journalists for a certain sporting event? Hmm! I wonder!

As we discuss how to ensure that poorer nations are able to vaccinate their people against virus, I came  across this article about how Francisco Javier de Balmis set off from Spain in 1803 to vaccinate the people in Spain’s colonies against smallpox. As there were no refrigerator-ships to keep the vaccine fresh, he took a group of children with him, infected them two at a time with small pox, making them ill but not killing them. In that way he was able to have the serum he needed when he got across the ocean. Ingenious. You would think modern technology could find a better solution nowadays. There is an exhibition about it in Seville. 

And finally here are a couple of things I have found on social media:

“Dolly Parton didn’t spend her millions on vanity space projects, she’s spent it putting 150 million books in the hands of children and, honestly, more people should be like Dolly.”

And a question:

“What’s considered trashy if you’re poor but classy of you’re rich?”

One suggested answer: “Speaking two languages..

There you go.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 26 July 2021

Sport? Medals. Extreme weather. Wasps!

I always thought of scooters and skateboards as toys for children and pre-teens. I’ve never quite understood the attraction for young men (and it is mostly young men, very few young women) of hurtling up and down ramps on skateboards, turning dangerous somersaults and flips in the air.  And suddenly skateboarding is an olympic sport! How did that happen?

As for scooters, when I was a child I regarded scooters as somewhat inferior to bikes. Scooters seemed appropriate for those children who couldn’t ever manage to get their balance on a bicycle. And now we have big discussions taking place about the scooter as a viable means of transport within cities. So far nobody has suggested that you could travel from Manchester to London, for example, on a scooter, not to my knowledge anyway. And now otherwise quite sensible friends are telling me about countries where scooters work as a means of transport because they have proper cycle lanes. Goodness me!

There’s also synchronised diving! Who knew that was even a serious sport let alone one in which team GB could win a gold medal: 

“On a day of vertiginous pressure at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre, Tom Daley and Matty Lee took the gold medal in the men’s synchronised 10-metre platform by one point from the Chinese world champions Yuan Cao and Aisen Chen.

The British pair took the lead with three dives remaining, producing a performance of relentless high scoring as the Chinese, who had led from the first round, cracked unexpectedly.”

But at least they don’t have to wear waterproof make-up and flowery bathing caps as happens with synchronised swimming, an aquatic version of Busby Berkeley’s formation dance routines! 

It’s sport and transport, I suppose, but not as we know it.

The weatherman on the radio had been promising some rain later this week. Today will apparently stay fine. This is all to the good as a neighbour and I have filled our washing lines with wet washing. 

They’ve had floods in London - underground stations flooded and cars driving slowly and carefully along roads turned into rivers. In Sardinia they have frightening wildfires, destroying 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of forest and forcing 1,500 people to be evacuated from their homes. In Utah they have had sand storms, causing a twenty vehicle pile-up. I have no idea whether that last example,of extreme weather has anything to do with climate change. Maybe they have always had sandstorms but it sounds a little suspicious. The planet does seem to be protesting!

It seems that an American based woman has been saying that we are softies to complain about the heat here in the UK. This has led to a host of people replying about how much more difficult heat is to deal with in the UK because of humidity and because we don’t as a rule have air conditioning in our homes. 

As for us personally, in our house we have a very cool bottom floor, a sort of semi-cellar kitchen-dining area - the ideal place to be on a hot day. 

We did have a small problem with an invasion of wasps yesterday, the result of leaving the backdoor open. I say an invasion of wasps but in fact it was only one wasp, or at the most two but I suspect that one might really have been a worker bee. The problem was that one rather aggressive wasp threw our 18 year old granddaughter into a panic by buzzing around her too closely and for too long. Suddenly “I am a grown up” was reduced to “I am a terrified child - help me!”. The situation was not helped by her older sister insisting that we should not kill the beast because, she assured us, they send out pheromones that attract other wasps to come to their defence, or at least to avenge them! My daughter also declared that my collection of wild flowers on the kitchen window-ledge was not helping. All in all, a little bit of panic as I served dessert!

I was taken back to classrooms of sixteen year olds with girls squealing in panic and then complaining when I squashed the little beasts - cries of, “Oh, miss! You’ve killed it!” before we could get on with the lesson in hand. 

But wasps are simply a fact of life. Unless you have an allergic reaction a wasp sting is not too bad. Some years ago I sat in the shade near an open air swimming pool in Pontevedra while Phil played chess in a nearby building. A mean wasp stung me twice on the inner thigh and I had done nothing to annoy it! Immediately several people offered me Afterbite, a standard treatment for insect bites and stings of all kinds. We were all prepared for battle against the beasties!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Immigration. And Brexit. And supermarkets. And weather.

On The World this Weekend on BBC Radio 4 they are talking about illegal immigration and specifically about the small boats continuing to come across the Channel. Boats laden with refugees arriving on beaches used to be something we associated with Mediterranean countries. Last year 8000+ people arrived on our south coast. This year it looks like being 22000+. Imagine bow desperate you must be to set off across that stretch of water in a flimsy boat, especially with Priti Patel determined to stop you.

We’re planning to play France a while load of money to cooperate with us in stopping the journeys. How much easier would it have been if we were still in the EU and could argue for EU cooperation. A bit late now!

Then there’s the problem of the shortage of lorry drivers, which is being blamed on the pingdemic but which some lorry drivers themselves say is a result of Brexit. Here’s a link to an article saying that Labour needs to start agitating for Brexit to be reversed.

Hmm! Can it be reversed? Certainly not just with a click of the fingers. We shall see. 

Meanwhile here’s a post from Richard Burgon MP:

“A Health Secretary who tells people not to cower from the virus.

A Prime Minister who says let the bodies pile high.

129,000 people have died from this virus. We need a government that does everything to protect its people, we have one that treats them with contempt. Vile.”

So it goes.

I went to our local Tesco again yesterday - twice in one week after months of not going near. It was not very crowded. Most people wore masks. And the shelves were not empty. Maybe we’ll be all right. 

Here it’s quite a nice sunny Sunday. It’s cooler than it has been but we’ve not have the promised torrential rain. Maybe my writing this will provoke said rainfall. Other parts of the country have had more dramatic weather. In Hampshire they have had houses burn down after being struck by lightning. So it goes. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Being entitled. Being attacked by bears. Etna.m

hear that although Jeff Bezos and his companions have been up to the edge of space they can’t call themselves astronauts because of a technicality. To be recognised as an astronaut you have to have an assigned job to do during your space travel. (Richard Branson’s lot all had jobs to do when they went up in his rocket. So he’s an astronaut which must be annoying to Jeff Bezos.) Jeff Bezos and co went up in a fully automated rocket. All they had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride. As a result they cannot be considered to be true astronauts, just passengers. 

To call themselves astronauts would be like me calling myself an airline pilot just because I have flown in a plane.

Or like saying that eating good food makes you a cordon blue chef.

Or wearing fine clothes makes you a couturier.

Or even that taking medicine makes you a doctor - well, I suppose some people have been taking medicine for so long they know  almost as much as their physician. 

I could almost feel sorry for Mr Bezos and co … but not really. Just think of what the money could have been used for.

There’s a story in the news about a man who was rescued from a cabin in Alaska after being attacked over and over again by a grizzly bear. He was lucky to be spotted by the helicopter pilots who saved him. They almost didn’t fly over his camp. 

Whenever I read stories like this I wonder why a sensible grown up person decides to go and camp in a place where there are fierce wild animals, grizzly bears in this case. Seeking peace and quiet is one thing but bears and wolves and the like are to be avoided. It’s all very well the experts saying that bears rarely attack people. They only need to attack you once for that to be too much. And in this case the lone camper was attacked several times over. 

We were talking to my brother-in-law recently about power cuts. He’s an electrical engineer and so he knows about such things. He has no explanation for the fact that we have had remarkably few power cuts in recent years. We still have a stock of candles dating back to a time when power cuts were a regular feature of the winter time. This turns out to be a good thing as there are warnings that we are likely to face a winter of blackouts. As the economy wakes up again there will be more demands on the system, a system which is apparently past its use by date according to this article.

Still, life could have worse problems. In Sicily Etna keeps erupting from time to time. It’s been doing it quite a lot lately. Never enough to be life threatening but enough to generate a lot of volcanic ash. It seems that people have taken to walking around with umbrellas to prevent themselves from being covered in ash. The clean-up is costly. 

What do people about drying their washing? We’re talking about a place where washing is hung from lines outside balconies, or on rooftops. But it’s  not very sensible if your wet washing gets coated in dark grey ash. I’ve watched Etna erupt, from a safe distance, of course, and have been very impressed. But apparently small eruptions are happening quite frequently at the moment. People are getting a little fed up of it. 

You see, there are worse things in life than the weather being too hot or too cold - one of my nodding acquaintances commented this morning that it was “rather chilly”! It’s all relative. If we hadn’t had temperatures in the mid to high 20s in the last week she would find today’s 16 or 17 degrees perfectly fine. And at least don’t have volcanic ash to contend with, or mud slides or dirty flood water. Small mercies!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 23 July 2021

End of term rituals. Covid consequences.

 This morning I accompanied my daughter as she drove round distributing end of year presents to members of her class. I went along because she wanted me to sit in the car with her two children as she popped up alleyways and hunted for specific addresses. My classes used to have to make do with a shared box of chocolates or fancy biscuits. Maybe primary school teachers have a different kind of relationship with their class from sixth form teachers. But I don’t remember my primary teachers being so thoughtful. But times change and everyone sets a lot more store by those closure ceremonies these days. I have mixed feelings about it all.  You need to mark the process of moving on to the next stage but sometimes it seems as though all these things are analysed too closely nowadays. Or maybe my bump of sentimentality is just underdeveloped.

The driving around to deliver presents was made necessary by the self isolation that my daughter and her class have had to put themselves in during the final stage of the school year. Another consequence of Covid. 

Another more worrying one is apparently a rise in the number of small children developing something called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Parents are being encouraged to look out for symptoms of severe infection in at-risk children, including fever with a high temperature of 37.8C or above, a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, and rapid or noisy breathing. The NHS  is preparing for a rise in children needing treatment. 

It is something that normally occurs in the winter time but positive RSV samples among suspected cases have increased over the past five weeks from 1.2% to 8.9%. It’s  not Covid but it’s still frightening for parents of very small children. And one of the reasons for it happening is that many small children have seen few people other than their parents for the last year and a quarter. And so they have not developed the natural immunity that would be expected to occur. Strange times we live in.

And then there’s the Olympic Games beginning today in Tokyo under very odd circumstances. Most especially is the lack of spectators. We’ll see how it goes. 

Plans are afoot to insist that people going to live concerts will have to show proof of having been vaccinated against Covid. Eric Clapton has thrown his two penn’orth into the debate by saying that he will cancel any of his planned concerts at venues demanding such proof. It seems he had a bad reaction the Astra Zeneca vaccine and now he appears to have joined ranks with the anti-vaxxers. He undoubtedly has the right to make up his own mind and I imagine he already has enough money to be able to afford to turn down gigs. 

No doubt things will calm down eventually. 

After we had finished driving around this morning, my daughter, the children and I had a bit of lunch and then went on a long walk to make up for her having been unable to do so over the last week or two.

Life goes on. Stat safe and well, everyone! 

Thursday, 22 July 2021

World heritage status. Cultural vandalism. And the value of cultural artifacts.

So Liverpool has lost its world heritage site status. Too much modern development apparently. I remember a Spanish friend telling me years ago that he did not like Manchester because it has too much of a mix of old architecture and modern stuff. At the time I disagreed. Many old Spanish cities have managed to keep their old quarter beautifully intact, the modern development taking place outwards into the surrounding, growing city. But Manchester has always been a changing, developing industrial city, losing some of its old stuff to bombings, ancient and modern. Mostly I’m still a fan of Manchester’s mix of old and new but I can’t say I admire some of the very tall building that have been going up in recent years. 

I suppose the same applies to Liverpool and I have enjoyed visiting the dock area - a bit different to when my primary school took us on a visit to the docks, including a ride on the overhead railway that used to be there. I haven’t seen any of the new development as it’s a while since I have visited Liverpool. I expect that, like Manchester, it’s still worth visiting. Manchester doesn’t have a world heritage site status to lose though. Will the World Heritage Police go round checking that Liverpool has removed all notices about their now lost status?

Here is a photo of a bridge in Great Musgrave in Cumbria. It’s an old Victorian railway arch. You can see where the railway used to run. 



There are structural problems with the bridge. It was built for lighter traffic than we have nowadays. Highways England was afraid that it might collapse under the weight of modern vehicles. And so they reinforced it … by filling the arch with concrete. 

Naturally this bit of cultural vandalism has come in for a lot of criticism. Highways England may be forced to rectify it and find a better way of reinforcing the bridge. Bit in the meantime other ancient arches around the country are in danger of getting the same “assistance”.

I am reminded of art restorations that have gone awry!

Closer to home we have a bit of cultural vandalism of our own. When we walk up the hill to Dobcross we reach a point that we call IADH, It’s All Down Hill, because it’s the highest point on our walk. At IADH there is a good, old-fashioned gate (actually a fairly recent addition to the patch of land there). It’s a very traditional five-bar gate. We like to stop and lean on the gate, catching a last bit of sun on winter walks, catching our breath on summer walks, and admiring the view. Our smallest granddaughter likes to show off her gate-climbing skills on it. Yesterday evening we went out snipping and snapping and discovered that the owner of the land has strung barbed wire across the top of his gate, making both leaning and climbing an uncomfortable, scratchy and indeed possibly hazardous occupations. 


 Why has he done that? There is already a strong padlock on the gate. Is he afraid someone will climb over  and steal his pile of old stones?

Beach huts are much admired at some seaside places. Another bit of cultural heritage in their way. We never had them on the beaches of my youth at Southport and Birkdale and Ainsdale . I always thought they might be a useful addition but it was not to be. Now it seems that beach huts, in those places fortunate enough to have them are selling for huge amounts of money. Who knew? Here’s a link to an article about it.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Inequality of responsibility for climate change! Trying to find series 2 of a number of things. Slow justice.

We’re still working our way through the current heatwave and already meteorologists are predicting another in the first two weeks of August. In typical British fashion, we are all complaining that it’s too hot. Well, personally I’m not complaining, not much anyway, but I am adjusting my life around it, seeking shady places, going out for walks before it gets too hot or after it has cooled down some and thanking my lucky stars that I don’t have to go out to work. 

Yesterday we waited until about 6.00pm to go and walk up Lark Hill, admiring the lush green of the fields and a very pleasing straight line of trees. 

If it’s all down to climate change as they keep telling us, then I’m afraid we may have to blame the men for most of the problem. According to a study done by a Swedish research company, men are more to blame than women. 

“Men’s spending on goods causes 16% more climate-heating emissions than women’s, despite the sum of money being very similar, a study has found.

The biggest difference was men’s spending on petrol and diesel for their cars. The gender differences in emissions have been little studied, the researchers said, and should be recognised in action to beat the climate crisis.”

I suppose it all comes down to historic gender inequality. Even today there are more men drivers than women drivers. And men rather than women have been the great industrialists. 

“We think it’s important to take the difference between men and women into account in policy making,” said Annika Carlsson Kanyama, at the research company Ecoloop in Sweden, who led the study.

“The way they spend is very stereotypical – women spend more money on home decoration, health and clothes and men spend more money on fuel for cars, eating out, alcohol and tobacco.”

But, of course, blaming the men for the climate crisis is like blaming women for the population explosion, just because we are ones who have the babies. We’re all in this together in the end. Let’s hope we can sort it before it is too late. 

We’ve been watching an Italian series, Il Cacciatore = The Hunter, based on the true story of a anti-mafia investigator in Palermo. We’ve just reached the end of the first series. The Latest lot of mafiosi have been arrested but, hydra-like, new ones are springing up. And we are left hanging as to whether the child kidnapped by the mafia is rescued; the final scene suggests that maybe he’s coming to a sticky end. As with another Italian series we have watched in recent months, we know there is a second series but it is not yet available on Netflix or similar in the UK. It’s quite frustrating.

Coincidentally, I came across an article about a grieving father who has refused to cut his hair and beard until the truth comes put about the death of his son, Antonino Agostino, another mafia investigator, killed alongside his pregnant wife in 1989. The mafioso who killed them has just been sentenced to life imprisonment. How slowly the wheels of justice turn! But according to the grieving father the full truth is still hidden; there are people in positions of power who are implicated in this violence. And the old man, 86, still needs police protection as he is still campaigning! 

And I was reminded of all this as I read about the situation with victims of the “troubles” in Northern Ireland and families still feeling that justice has not been done. Grief is a long-enduring thing!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!