Thursday, 6 October 2022

Weather. Measures to cope with the energy crisis. (Mis)Interpreting songs and (mis)using them.

 We managed to get out for a walk in the mid-afternoon yesterday, in a lull in the rainstorms. The rain came back again later but today has been dry so far. I even managed to take the small boy for a walk at the end of the morning. The river is getting full again, well, fuller; it has a long way to go to get back to its bouncing best.


With the energy crisis and the possibility of energy blackouts this winter in the news we’ve been checking that we still have a supply candles just in case we need them this winter. For some reason we have boxes of candles dating back to a period years and years ago when we had a lot of power cuts. Now we need to decide whether we really need to rummage about in the shed to seek out the old camping gas stove from the days when summer holidays consisted of loading the car and heading off to Brittany for a few weeks under canvas. It may yet come to that!


The Conservative Party has come to an end. Reaction, even from Conservatives, seems to have been mixed. Liz Truss walked out to make her speech to M People's song but M People don't seem to happy about it. And a number or people have been eager to point our that maybe she never really listened  to the lyrics....


Although,

You’ve done me wrong, your time is up,

You took a sip from the devils cup.

You broke my heart, there’s no way back,

Move right out of here, baby, go in pack your bags…


M People’s Michael Pickering has tweeted: 


“So apparently we can’t stop Truss walking out to our song, very weird! So sad it got used by this shower of a government. BTW Truss, Labour used it with our permission back in the 90s. I don’t want my song being the soundtrack to lies.”


So maybe the Labour Party didn’t read the lyrics either back in the 90s. The chorus about “moving on up” is all both parties were interested in, obviously. M People are not the first and no doubt will not be the last to have their songs used without permission and without any understanding of the song. Donald Trump tried to use Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, without even realising it was a protest song. 


I don’t know how it is in the USA but it seems that here in the UK an artist can prevent a venue using their song without permission, provided they know in advance, but they can’t actually prevent an individual from using it as Ms Truss did.


Today Ms Truss has whizzed off to Prague, I think, for a meeting with other European leaders. Some are taking this as a sign of reconciliation with Europe. We’ll see! Initially she wasn’t planning to go. Maybe she has decided it’s better to talk to other country’s leaders than with her own MPs.


Getting back to possible power cuts this winter, a friend of mine obviously has a very pessimistic view of what conditions will be like. She posted a series of photos on Facebook with the caption: “I took some photos of some of my house plants in case they don't survive the dark season...”


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 5 October 2022

Market day. Medical stuff. Music stuff. And speeches.

The fruit and veg man stood in splendid isolation at Uppermill market this wet morning. The slipper-selling man is still away on holiday. I’ve no idea what happened to the fish-man - maybe he’s gone on holiday too. And Jenny, the cheese and biscuits lady, almost never sets her stall up when it’s wet and windy. So there are no gingerbread dinosaurs for the smallest members of the family tomorrow and no gluten-free oatie biscuits for when my gluten-intolerant brother-in-law comes round next week. So it goes. 


I said the fruit and veg man stood in splendid isolation but in fact he sat rather than stood as he is recovering from a hip replacement operation. His son (“my lad” he says of the son who looks to be in his fifties) drives him to market and does the heavy lifting until the fruit and veg man gets the all clear from his doctor. He’s being cautious and following all the medical advice - sensible chap! A friend of mine has been waiting for some time for a similar operation. First she went through the waiting list in the usual way, finding that even if she went private it only advanced her possible operation date by a couple of weeks. Then she turned up at the hospital only to be told that because she had had Covid two weeks previously they would not go ahead and would send her a new date. Last week she tried again. They found the remains of a gardening-injury scratch for which she had had antibiotics in August! There was a risk of possible continued infection and so they sent her home again! She now has a date for early in November. Third time lucky perhaps but in the meantime her mobility is reducing and so is her morale. 


These things are sent to try us!


Country singer, coal-miner’s daughter, Loretta Lynn has died at the age of 90 - a good age! Another one gone! 


Daniel Barenboim at the age of 79 has announced that he is slowing down: 


“I am taking a step back from some of my performing activities, especially conducting engagements, for the coming months,” he wrote. “My health has deteriorated over the last months, and I have been diagnosed with a serious neurological condition. I must now focus on my physical wellbeing as much as possible.”

“Music has always been and continues to be an essential and lasting part of my life. I have lived all my life in and through music and I will continue to do so as long as my health allows me to. Looking back and ahead, I am not only content but deeply fulfilled.”


I note he says “some of my performing activities”. Maybe he envisages making a comeback. It’s hard to step back from a busy life you really enjoy and musicians seem to go on forever.


Over in Gainesville, Florida, they plan to honour one of their sons, Tom Petty who died in 2017, not long after I saw him perform in Hyde Park, London. The University of Florida Athletic Association will celebrate the inaugural 'Tom Petty Day' on Saturday, Oct. 15, in conjunction with the Gators' football game against LSU. The university has also announced it will award the legendary icon an honorary Doctor of Music in May 2023.


The Tom Petty Estate plans to give all the proceeds from the sale of merchandise at the Tom Petty Day to underserved communities in Gainesville. Good for them. Since his death in 2017, his song “I won’t back down” has become a kind of anthem for Gators fans.


"It is so incredible for everyone in the family that UF is honoring our dad in his hometown this way. He loved the Gators and he loved Gainesville, he always talked jokingly about a doctorate from UF and he would have been totally blown away by all this. It is an added gift that we can give something back and provide much-needed resources to underserved communities in Gainesville. It is near and dear to our entire Petty family. Annakim and I have a mother, father, grandparents and an uncle and aunt who have lived here a long time. It's unbelievable that now 90+ thousand people sing our dad's song here at home games." said Adria Petty, Tom Petty's daughter.


Here’s a last bit of music related stuff, courtesy of a friend of mine who sometimes sends me odd facts: 


In the 1940s, black jazz musicians started calling each other “man” because they were usually called “boy” by everybody else.


And so an expression entered the vocabulary of the world.


Maybe not quite the last music-related thing because over in Birmingham the PM has gone onto the stage at the Conservative Party conference to the sound of “Moving on up” by M People, who are a bit cross that she used their song! Did nobody tell her about copyright! 


 And a certain Richard Adams (but not the writer of Watership Down) says she was mistaken to think she is the first PM to have attended a comprehensive school.


“Liz Truss was wrong when she claimed in her conference speech that she was the first prime minister to have gone to a comprehensive school. Gordon Brown went to a comprehensive secondary school (Kirkcaldy high school), while Theresa May’s school was converted into a comprehensive while she was a pupil there: Holton Park girls’ grammar school, in Oxfordshire, became Wheatley Park comprehensive school in 1971, two years after May enrolled. The education secretary at the time was Margaret Thatcher.”


There you go!


And Kwasi Kwartend has apparently blamed the “pressure” of the Queen’s death for mistakes in the mini-budget which has plunged the Tory party into crisis. “We had a nation in mourning and then, literally, four days after the funeral we had the mini-budget,” he said.


There you go again!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Who’s going to COP 27.

 “Delivering for people and the planet

From 6 to 18 November, Heads of State, ministers and negotiators, along with climate activists, mayors, civil society representatives and CEOs will meet in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh for the largest annual gathering on climate action.

The 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP27 - will build on the outcomes of COP26 to deliver action on an array of issues critical to tackling the climate emergency – from urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change, to delivering on the commitments to finance climate action in developing countries.”


That’s what it says on the UN website. 


Apparently Liz Truss has told our new king not to go. I didn’t think it was in the remit of a prime minister to tell a king what to do or not do but there it is. But it has been deemed inappropriate for the monarch to attend. It would be a different matter of it were being held in the UK, like COP26, but despite his longstanding interest in environmental matter, those in the know say that Charles now has “other priorities”. It must be hard being the head that wears the crown and not being able to indulge your passionate interests. It rather defeats the object of being king. It has been suggested that William should go instead, taking up his father’s mantle as protector of the environment.  


It’s quite likely Liz Truss won’t go either, despite saying that she would during her campaign to become queen … oops! leader of the Conservatives. But then I rather get the impression that she and her government are not terribly interested in the environment. There’s a story doing the rounds that Rees-Mogg would not object to fracking in his own garden. Of course, you have to have a large enough garden to make fracking worth while. Perhaps he does have such a garden. Ours is definitely too small to make such activity worth while. Besides, the scientific opinion is rather against fracking.


I would really like us to save the planet, even on grey days like today. There is supposed to be rain on the way, not enough to fill the reservoirs though. The wind seems to be getting up too. But I managed to get up and run without any untoward happenings so I suppose I’ll just batten down the hatches and stay in for the rest of the day. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Monday, 3 October 2022

Aftermath of injections. Sunday chaos.

 Well, we appear to have survived our double-vaccination relatively unscathed so far. One arm feels slightly bruised. Phil says he has a stiff shoulder, the same one as my bruised-feeling arm, but I think this is a case of oneupmanship in the reactions to vaccinations stakes. In my opinion it’s the arm which had the flu injection but he is convinced its the one which had the covid booster. We both had the same experience, in the same room, with the same nurse but clearly remember it differently.


After we got home there was some uncertainty about what the rest of the day would consist of. Our daughter was undecided about whether they were all coming to dine at our house. In the end the small people decided for her that they wanted dinner at Grandma’s. Then Granddaughter Number One asked if Daughter was bringing her dog, in which case could she bring hers? At half term Daughter and family go away for a few days and want to leave their dog with Granddaughter Number One. So Granddaughter Number One thought it would be a good idea for the two dogs to spend a bit more time together to get used to each others’ company. Consequently they had a crazy car journey with two dogs plugged into doggy seatbelts (government regulations) in the back of the car - not my idea of the ideal way to travel! So we had two dogs for dinner as well!


None of this would have been possible if Granddaughter Number Two had been around but she is away on York at university. She has succumbed to Freshers’ Flu, the almost inevitable consequence of mixing with a whole lot of new people and being attacked by their germs. Oddly enough I don’t remember ever suffering from such a thing. Perhaps it’s a new thing for the extra-sensitive younger generation. She is sooking. This is a new term to me. Here’s a definition: 


Urban Dictionary: sooking

sook -Someone who is emotionally needy, especially after a bad day or in a bad mood or sick. -Someone who wants to be taken care of like a kid when ill. "Karen was being such a sook today, she wanted me to bring her soup in bed and cuddle with her because she's feeling sick." *after asking to cuddle* " Stacey, you're such a sook.


So Granddaughter Number Two bemoaning the fact that she can’t get a mum-hug while she feels under weather is perfect occasion to use the word.


I picked up that bit of vocabulary from this First Dog on the Moon cartoonAccording to that cartoon daylight saving time was invented in 1895 by a “New Zealand bug guy who wanted more daylight to stick pins in insects”. Hmmm!

Maybe “sook” is a bit of specifically New Zealand vocabulary but it seems like a useful word.

Just as I was getting to a crucial point in the preparation for the arrival of Granddaughter Number One, Daughter, small children and dogs, my phone and iPad both started making weird noises. It turned out to be my Spanish sister trying to Facetime me. As I rarely use this facility I answered on my phone and then was criticised for not being visible. I could probably have arranged to be seen on my phone but there seemed to be some urgency. So after a moment or two of chaos I got her stop the call and then call me back so that I could answer using the iPad. It turned out to be not only my my Spanish sister, but also my English sister and her oldest daughter. The latter had arrived on a visit from Saudi Arabia where she works and had arranged for my Spanish sister to arrive at Manchester airport more or less when she herself arrived. Surprise! Surprise! It’s a good job her mother has room to host both of them at the same time.


As the family was about to arrive for dinner, I then had to promise to call my sisters back when the family arrived so that they too could be surprised! Total mayhem! Everyone was trying to talk at once. The smallest member of the family became very confused as to who was who! It’s a good job we’ll all meet face to face next Saturday! 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 2 October 2022

Vaccinations. Some thoughts about wealth - how much do you need. And musical identity.

We’ve been out and about this morning getting ourselves vaccinated: booster for covid and the regular yearly flu vaccination. We had to go to Lees, not a million miles away but not exactly round the corner from our house: a bus-ride and a brisk walk to arrive on time. Nothing seems to be happening at the smart Delph clinic and Uppermill only seems to have occasional vaccination sessions. So it goes.


We went prepared for a long wait. A friend of hours had told us he had stood in a queue for the best part of an hour last weekend. We had no problems though: straight in, ‘just a little scratch”, as the nurse said, in each arm and then out again to make our way home. One possible reaction is muscle ache in the vaccinated arm. That should be interesting if both arms start to ache! 


There’s a new bit of government scandal doing the rounds. It appears that the chancellor held or at least went to a champagne part with hedge-fund managers after the mini budget. Maybe it wasn’t celebratory.  Maybe it was just routine. Maybe that’s what he always does on a Friday.


Here’s a story someone sent me, told apparently by John Bogle, philanthropist and economic advisor: 


“At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, “Yes but I have something he will never have … enough!”

Enough. I was stunned by the simple eloquence of that word - for two reasons: first because I have been given so much in my own life and, second, because Joseph Heller couldn’t have been more accurate.

For a critical element of our society, including many of the wealthiest and most powerful among us, there seems to be no limit on what enough entails.”


Whenever I hear of people earning £1million a year or receiving huge bonuses or benefitting from tax cuts to the tune of £50,000+, I find myself wondering about just how much money some people seem to need. They must be fantastically insecure if they need to keep on squirrelling it away like that. Because I doubt they actually spend it. Maybe they had really poor childhoods where they were deprived of all sorts of good things! Or maybe they are just greedy and consider themselves entitled to whatever there is. 


Listening to the radio yesterday I heard “This Classical Life” on Radio 3  where, according to the programme description, “Jess Gillam hosts the music show for people who like classical and other stuff too. Music, eclectic playlists and chat, with a new guest every week”. Yesterday’s guest was Cosmo Sheldrake, someone I confess I had never heard of. So I looked him up: described as a "musical visionary" by The Telegraph, Sheldrake has been releasing music since 2014. Okay, I am not a great deal wiser but he was interesting to listen to.


He talked about steel drums, now the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. Back in the 19th century slaves were taken from Africa to work the sugar plantations there. They took their music with them and were allowed to have carnivals of sorts to celebrate the end of the harvest. Skin drums were banned after some time because they were believed to be used to communicate secret messages between groups who wanted to stage uprisings! So they improvised and used abandoned oil drums, fashioning them into musical instruments, as a way of asserting their identity! 


He reckoned that the carrying of boom boxes by African-American youth in the 1980s was another example of a group of people asserting their identity. Denied access to so many things, these young men - and they were largely young man - reclaimed the streets by imposing their music on everyone. 


One of his choices of music was Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez played on flugelhorn and trumpet by Miles Davis in an arrangement by Gil Evans. Fantastic! I sort of fell in love with the Concierto de Aranjuez played on guitar during my time as a student in Spain. Later, in France, I discovered the trumpet version. I am still entranced by both! 


It’s amazingly lovely what you can accidentally listen to on the radio as it plays in the background. 


Yesterday I wrote about the approach of Hallowe’en. No sooner had I posted my comments that I was not yet receiving adverts for Christmas than I found an email from The Works with this message: 


The Christmas countdown is onπŸŽ…πŸ»πŸŽ„


Hey! Ho! 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Saturday, 1 October 2022

Rain. October’s arrival. Hallowe’en trees! Easter trees! Decorative trees!

 Running in the rain this morning nearly didn’t happen. I lay in bed and listened to the rain and very nearly rolled over and went back to sleep. But I needed to pop into the coop store for a couple of items necessary for serving breakfast. As one way or another I was going to need to go out I decided I might as well put on my running gear with a proper waterproof on top. In the event it had just about stopped raining when I set off although it did rain in me briefly for part of the run. Mostly though I managed to stay dry. 


Every so often the cloud thins and the sun even tries to emerge but basically today is another dull wet day. But it is the beginning of October and we have had a good long spell of largely dry weather. The river running through the village is filling up again even though it’s not quite reached its bouncing best as yet. The autumn colours in the trees are coming on nicely too. 


So it’s the first of October. I’ve not yet seen notices about booking early for Christmas - it will happen soon - but the company Etsy sent me an email asking “Ready for spooky season? πŸŽƒ” I must block these emails. I bought one thing from Etsy ages ago and I’ve had advertising emails ever since.


(Aside: 


“Etsy What is Etsy? Etsy connects people looking for unique goods with independent sellers around the world. When you shop on Etsy.com, you can choose from millions of handmade, vintage, and craft supply items created and curated by millions of independent sellers. Learn more about Etsy. Who are Etsy sellers?”


And: 


“Etsy Etsy, Inc. is an American e-commerce company focused on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. These items fall under a wide range of categories, including jewelry, bags, clothing, home dΓ©cor and furniture, toys, art, as well as craft supplies and tools. Items described as vintage must be at least 20 years old.”


Basically it’s a way of buying and selling tat online.)


The “spooky season”! Every year it has me spluttering about the nonsense of it. It’s not so much the fact of Hallowe’en per se. If people want to celebrate Samhain that’s their business. (According to Wikipedia “Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or "darker-half" of the year.”) No, what I object to is the commercialisation, the creation of Hallowe’en greetings cards and people wishing each other Happy Hallowe’en! So I was grumpily amused to find this article in the Guardian.


https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/sep/28/tis-the-season-to-be-spooky-have-you-decorated-your-halloween-tree-yet


Where on earth did the idea of a Hallowe’en tree come from? Even my Number One Granddaughter who decorates her window with stick on spiders and spiderwebs and bats doesn’t put up a tree!  So where does it originate? Various theories are around: 


“Some say it began in 2018, around the time John Lewis started selling illuminated bare-branched trees as Halloween decor.”


“others insist that in the US, trees with Halloween-themed decorations began appearing years before that. In Bradbury’s book, a group of children travel back in time to explore the origins of Halloween, led by a guide who has a tree hung with jack-o’-lanterns.”


I’ve read quite a lot of Ray Bradbury but I’ve not read The Hallowe’en Tree. Maybe I need to look for it. 


On the subject of trees, I seem to remember there being talk of Easter Trees earlier this year. That annoyed me too! Trees are for Christmas! 


My little Christmas Tree in its pot, however, seems not to have survived the drought very well. It’s still alive but one whole section is withered - not really in a fit state to come indoors in December! How very annoying! 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 30 September 2022

Stormy times - whose fault is it? A little gentle satire. And serious protesting.

Yesterday afternoon I walked into the village to buy a couple of things from the coop store. It was sunny when I set out. It rained on me as I approached the first millpond. And then I was rewarded with a huge rainbow! Splendid!




Walking back on the path that leads onto the industrial estate near our house I saw a boy running along, frantically shouting, “Luna! Luna!” He was probably about 11 or 12. It’s hard to tell. Some of the junior school children are enormous but the other day I saw children from the local comprehensive waiting for the bus and some of them were so small they didn’t look old enough to be in secondary school. Anyway, this child of indeterminate age was clearly chasing a crazy dog, a small black creature which proceeded to jump up at me excitedly, leaving muddy footprints on my light-coloured trousers. It’s a good job they were destined for a wash today anyway. Perhaps Luna was short for Lunatic! A little further along I came across a worried-looking woman of indeterminate age but old enough to be the grandmother of the child of indeterminate age. We agreed that chasing the dog probably just encouraged her to think it was a game. He caught her and brought her back to safety. 


This morning there was no sunshine but neither was there any rain. The percentage chance of rain forecast for today increases as the day goes on. By 3.00pm it stands at 100%. But I managed my run without getting wet, always a bonus! Apparently there is a storm on the way: the first of the “winter storms” and we!re only a week onto autumn! So it goes!


I read that global warming has contributed to the strength of the storms we have nowadays. One explanation is that storms and in particular hurricanes gather energy as they pass over open stretches of ocean with water heated by global warming. And so Hurricane Ian picked up speed and strength before hitting Florida and in similar fashion Storm Fiona braced herself to hit Canada more strongly than any other storm they have suffered. Scientists have argued about the influence of global warming on storms but the consensus of opinion seems to be leaning towards the worsening storms being largely our own fault … once again! Certainly I don’t remember storms as such in my childhood. Rain and fog  feature in a big way - walking to school with my school scarf wrapped round my mouth to prevent breathing in the fog - but not what ypu could call storms!


And then I went away to Leeds to study at the university and discovered what a real Yorkshire winter can be like!


Out in governmental world the economic storm continues. To help us put things in perspective the estimable Michael Rosen has begun to post extracts from the “DiAry” of a certain Liz Truss. The spelling is especially pleasing. And the punctuation is sometimes interesting. Here are a few examples:


Liz Truss 

My DiAry

Sept 29

Its bean a hard day to day. I've torqued to lots and lots and lots of radiostations and told them that its all going trifficly well. The economy is going to grow and grow and grow cos we've made rich people richer. This economics thing is easy peasy.


Bedtime diAry

by Liz Truss

Sept 30

Catched a bit of BBCQT. Lots and lots of peole being horrid to us. They dont get that when we give rich peole tax cuts etc etc they spend all there extra money on growthy things. They dont pop it into tax heavens an buy2rent towerblocks. o no.


My diAry

Liz Truss

Sept 29-30

Middle of night. Insumnia. Cant stop thinking about the Party big boys ganging up on me. Probs best next stop for me is some lovely little snaps of me on Dover beach in a lifejack saying these immigrants are doing what Adolf Hilter couldn't do.


My DiAry

by Liz Truss

Sept 30

Such a busy busy busy day today. Big meeting with the OBN. Must remember my I'm-the-boss face. Kwazz says we can pay for evrything using benefits - when peole stop getting benefits, they have to go to work. Simple. Economics is so easy peasy, tra-la.


My DiAry

by Liz Truss

Sept 30 in PM's car (oooo, look at me!)

Am doing sums. 67 billion from the Bank of E is awfully big. That's a jolly lot of £ notes. Am worried some peole will say Y not spend that on things that stop peole being poor. Kwazz phones: says we're doing great.


My DiAry

by Liz Truss

Sept 30 

Super muffins at the OBN. Kwazz wispered in the brake: there are too many peole on benefits. I said, mebbee its simpler than that: there are just too many peole. And we both laughed. A lot. Now for the hardwork. How to get rid! We have good laughs.


There it is! 


In more serious vein, here’s a news report of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe cutting her hair in protest at the death of Mahsa Amini. In solidarity with women in Iran who have been doing the same thing, she quietly said the names of women who have suffered because of discrimination against and maltreatment of women, especially in Iran. I saw it on a television news report on Wednesday evening. It was possibly the calmest, saddest act of protest I have ever seen.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well everyone!

Thursday, 29 September 2022

Some stuff about wildlife and nature conservation.

I’ve been listening to and reading items about lost or almost lost species being returned to European countries. Beavers are being reintroduced to farm lands here in the UK as a way of solving some of our waterway problems. Bison were introduced ( or re-introduced? Did we originally have bison here?) to a place in Kent, with a view to establishing a proper herd. I’ve written before about the benefits specialists feel such herds will bring to the countryside. Bears - brown bears rather than grizzlies - are a protected species in countries like Spain and Romania. But what struck me most was wolves. Here’s something I read:  


“The grey wolf has been the fastest to return among carnivores. For centuries they were killed by humans, until a low-point during the 1970s when there were only a few populations hanging on in pockets of south and north-eastern Europe. Since the introduction of legislation to protect them, and more public tolerance of living alongside them, numbers have increased by 1,800%. There are 17,000 individuals roaming almost all of continental Europe, with calls to reintroduce them to Britain too.”


It’s that last sentence that worries me. Do we really want wolves roaming around our island? I remember my daughter being traumatised by a book she read as a child, “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase” by Joan Aitken. Nowadays my daughter has a dog, saying she hopes to prevent her own children from being afraid of dogs, as she claims she was. How would she cope with the idea of wolves running around?


No! Beautiful animals they may well be but I don’t think we need them here!


Maybe they need them in New Zealand though. “Marauding feral pigs have blighted a central suburb in New Zealand’s capital, killing kid goats at an urban farm, intimidating dogs and turning up in residents’ gardens.

The owners of a goat milk farm in the hills of the suburb of Brooklyn, 10 minutes from the centre of Wellington, has lost about 60 kid goats to pigs in the past few months. Often, all that is left of them are gnawed bone fragments and parts of the hooves or head.


“It’s a murder scene,” said Naomi Steenkamp, the farm’s co-owner. “If they find something they like eating, and it is a free feed – like a newborn kid – they are going to keep coming back.””


At the other end of the scale are slugs! This year has had one of the hottest, driest summers on recordwith most of England still officially in drought, despite recent showers. Also despite the fact that when the little fellow and I went out into the garden this morning we lasted maybe 15 minutes before it started to rain. But my rain barrel is still only half full so perhaps there is still a problem. I need to take another walk around Dovestone to check out the reservoir. Getting back to slugs: one consequence of the drought is that slug numbers are down, apparently. 


“I went to survey a woodland site last week and it took me over 30 minutes to locate a slug. Usually, I would expect to find them under almost every log in that habitat,” said Jake Stone, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge. “I thought that there would be fewer around, but I’ve never seen this low a number. But I suppose that’s to be expected, because it’s rarely been this hot and dry.”


As a matter of fact since we’ve been back to having occasional rainshowers I’m seeing slugs on the bridle paths around here. And the snails are still attacking my flowering plants. Grrrr! I suspect more southerly parts of the country - the bit they mean when they talk about England in the news -  are still a lot drier than here.


In the places where slugs are still around, we are reminded to be tolerant of them - if you put down slug pellets, the poison int pellets kills of hedgehogs and other such creatures that like to eat slugs. It seems that only nine of the 44 recognised species in the UK actually eat garden plants. Who knew? And how do you tell them, apart? “The majority are very beneficial in the garden because they break down dead plant matter and turn it back into compost,” said Paul Hetherington of Buglife, an organisation devoted to the conservation of invertebrates. “There’s also the knock-on effect on things that eat slugs and snails: song thrushes, amphibians, hedgehogs – all of these creatures are in decline at the moment.”


There you go. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!


Wednesday, 28 September 2022

I cycled to the market in the sunshine this morning. Mind you, I needed my windproof jumper and my cycling gloves. It was CO-O-O-OLD! There was frost on the grass along the Donkey Line bridle path! But what a splendid day to be out and about quite early in the morning.


And then I returned home and on the online news read about Hurricane Ian which managed to wipe out Cuba’s already rickety electricity supply system. The whole country was without power as a result. It may not be a huge country but still it’s hard to imagine a whole country blacked out and there are over 11 million people there. Ian is on his way to Florida where people have been warned to evacuate certain areas and to take steps to stay safe. If you’re an island like Cuba, however, you can’t drive to another state to escape. As I read about tobacco farms being flattened I thought back to the trip to Cuba my good friend Dee and I made not long after we turned 70. One of our excursions was a visit to a tobacco farm. The drying sheds, mentioned in the article as being destroyed by Ian, didn’t look as though they could resist a gentle summer breeze let alone a hurricane. 


Thank heavens we don’t suffer from such extremes of weather here in our bit of the UK!


On the subject of tobacco, I’ve re-read some Kurt Vonnegut recently. I meant to mention it yesterday while writing about Madeleine Peyroux. In one of her songs on the album “Half the Perfect World”, a song called “I’m  all right”, she sings:


He made me laugh 

He made me cry 

He smoked his stogies in bed 

But I'm all right 

I'm all right 

I've been lonely before 


Now in “Hocus Pocus”, a sort of critique of American society, Kurt Vonnegut explains about “stogies”, a slang name for cigars. He was writing about covered wagons taking adventuring settlers out into the Far West: 


“… the generic name for the sort of covered wagon that carried freight and settlers across the prairies of what was to become the United States of America, and eventually across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, was ‘Conestoga’ - since the first of these were built in the Conestoga Valley of Pennsylvania.


They kept the pioneers supplied with cigars, among other things, so that cigars nowadays, in the year 2001, are still called ‘stogies’ sometimes, which is short of ‘Conestoga’.


By 1830, the sturdiest and most popular of these wagons were in fact made by the Mohiga Wagon Company right here in Scipio, New York, at the pinched waist of Lake Mohiga, the deepest and coldest and westernmost of the long and narrow Finger Lakes. So sophisticated cigar-smokers might want to stop calling their stinkbombs ‘stogies’ and call them ‘mogies’ or ‘higgies’ instead.”


There you go - a little linguistic history.


Some of the quotations from “Hocus Pocus” still hold up well today:-


“Just because you can read, write and do a little math, doesn't mean that you're entitled to conquer the universe.” 


“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.” 


“Being an American means never having to say you're sorry.” 


“Any form of government, not just Capitalism, is whatever people who have all our money, drunk or sober, sane or insane, decide to do today.” 


A clever man Mr Vonnegut: I must seek out more of his books from our collection and read them again.


Life gos on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Manchester thoughts. Music thoughts. And a bit of social media commentary.

Well, we successfully and efficiently got ourselves into Manchester early yesterday evening for the Madeline Peyroux concert at the Bridgewater Hall. My Italian conversation class on zoom finished at 5.30. By 5.55 we were catching a bus at the crossroads to go to the tram-stop in Oldham and so on to Manchester. A masterpiece of timing!


We got off the tram at the Deansgate-Castlefield stop as the Bridgewater Hall is at that end of town. I like the Bridgewater Hall, a quietly elegant building, erected to replace the Free Trade Hall as the home of the Halle Orchestra and concert venue for all sorts of music. Apparently there were plans to replace the Free Trade Hall after it was damaged during the Second World War but in the end the hall was repaired and it was not replaced until the 1990s. The Bridgewater Hall was one of a number of structures built in the 1990s that symbolised the transition to a new and modern Manchester following de-industrialisation and the 1996 bombing.  They must have worked fast because the bombing took place in June 1996 and the Bridgewater Hall held its first concert on 11 September 1996 and was officially opened by the queen on 4 December. 


So there it is, a very pleasing modern building, unlike the cluster of skyscrapers that has sprung up close to the Deansgate-Castle stop since I was last there. I had read about them but not seen them until last night. They don’t add much beauty or elegance to the skyline in my opinion. And then there is this strange building which has popped up close to the former Central Station, converted long since into an exhibition centre known for a while as GMex but now apparently called Manchester Central. It should be safe from demolition as it is now a listed building. 



We arrived at the Bridgewater Hall in time to see the support act, something which I feel we should do if possible. How else will new performers become known to a wider public? It must be dispiriting to have got excited about playing a venue like the Bridgewater Hall only to find that most of the audience has ignored your part of the evening. The smoke machine was going full-pelt on the stage. I was reminded of an occasion many years ago when we saw Suzanne Vega have to leave the stage with an asthma attack as a result of an over-zealous use of the smoke machine. On this occasion it was pumping away because the support act was called Smoke Fairies, two young women who played guitar tunefully and sang well. Unfortunately their sound engineers had not ensured that we could hear the words of their songs clearly so it was a little difficult to judge them properly. 


Madeleine Peyroux and her excellent band sang a mix of songs from her Careless Love album and some other stuff, old and new. Her sound engineers worked fine. A good time was had by all - our first time properly playing out since lockdown. We must do so more often. We arrived back in Oldham in time to have missed the last bus to Delph by about 15 or 20 minutes. Fortunately we can afford the occasional taxi, especially as we get free bus and tram travel. So it goes. 


And today the sun is shining again. And the world, or the UK anyway, continues its craziness. Here are a couple of comments I culled from social media:


“Russ Jones - TheWeekInTory


We begin with our new leader, Margarine Thatcher, who in only three weeks has become PM, finished off The Queen, taken two weeks away from work, ruined our relations with the US, crashed the economy, and started a backbench rebellion to remove her from office.”


“Ali Brady

Traders are referring to Truss as “Daggers” - as in Dagenham, 2 stops past Barking …”


It must be hard living in the public eye and open to all the sarcasm but hey! if they remove her she’ll get a nice fat PM pension! 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!