Monday, 31 January 2022

Cold weather stuff here and there!

It’s been another of those after-the-storm, brilliant-blue-sky mornings. At various points in the night I was woken by what sounded like huge hailstorms but might have been just very heavy rain on the skylight windows. The milkman told me that when he got up the day still looked pretty grim … but then milkmen do get up at pretty grim hours. Even good days look unwelcoming at four in the morning at this time of the year. 

By the time I braved leaving my duvet nest the sky was blue and the sun was coming up. Out and about, I saw the heron hunting for his breakfast. 



And our village looked rather fine in the early sun. It was very cold though. It still is, in fact. 


There were odd pockets sheltered from the wind, however, where you could stand and enjoy the warmth of the sun. It’s beginning to make itself felt. It won’t be winter forever! 

The snowdrops in my garden seem to think it will be winter forever though. 


They’re still scrawny little shoots, just poking up, whereas in Dobcross they have beautiful mature snowdrops. Maybe they are a different breed from mine. 

Apparently they have been having a cold snap in Florida. Somehow one doesn’t associate Florida with cold snaps. One of our neighbours is from Florida. Her car has a sticker declaring her love for the “Sunshine State”. But it seems that iguanas are falling from the trees because of the cold. They sleep in trees, relying on their feet to keep gripping the branches. When they get cold their system starts to slow down and they lose their grip and … oops! fall out of the trees. Not dead but presumably soon will be if they don’t warm up. Temperatures there have been down to -3 degrees.

A friend of mine who lives on one of the Greek islands has been posting pictures of snow on her island. That is also unusual, although not unheard of. She’s hoping that the snow as it melts will go some way to relieve the drought conditions they’ve had in recent times. I read today that hundreds of thousands of farmed fish died from thermal shock in a lagoon in north-western Greece after the heavy snowstorm that crippled the country last week. Schools were closed. There you go. I shouldn’t complain about a cold wind here! 

We’re still mired in Covid. Then there’s the possibility of war over Ukraine. And prices are going up and supplies are going down, but not too much in our local coop store, I hasten to add. All in all, the country is in a mess but we’ve got the queen’s whatever-it-is jubilee coming up. England manager Gareth Southgate is getting in on the act, along with the likes of Ross Kemp and Gary Lineker, aiming to encourage millions of people to take part in neighbourhood parties across the country in June celebrating community spirit and the Queen on what they have dubbed National Thank You Day. They want us to break records for celebration. 

It would need to surpass the 10 million party-goers who marked the Queen’s first 25 years on the throne in 1977 and similar numbers who celebrated the marriage of Charles and Diana in 1981 to stand a chance of entering the record books.

Goodness! I remember my mother decking her back garden with patriotic bunting back in 1977 and organising a party for friends and relations and neighbours. We didn’t go! And on the day of THAT WEDDING some friends invited us to their house for a Stuff-the-Wedding party. The television was not just switched off but put away in the attic for the day and topics like wedding dresses, number of bridesmaids, honeymoons, etc were banned! Of course, if we have a sudden Covid spike for the jubilee all parties could be banned … unless they take place in Downing Street! 

It seems that the plan for National Thank You Day is backed by hundreds of organisations including the NHS, the Football Association, the Scouts, and the Church of England. Some of those I can understand but … the NHS? How does the NHS have the time, the energy and the resources to back anything? The mind boggles! But Ross Kemp has said,  “It’s our chance to say a great big thank you to the Queen for 70 years of service, but also to each other – the people in our own lives – families, streets and communities, who we rely on every day. The people whose support we couldn’t do without.”

He urged people to get together on the day in unprecedented numbers. “Make sure everyone is invited – rope in the neighbours, ask people from the next street over, get the local band to play.”

There you go!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 30 January 2022

The calm between the storms. Learning about Acadia from listening to Desert Island Discs.

When we went for a walk yesterday we joked that we really needed heavy boots to hold us down and prevent us from being blown away. That’s how strong the wind felt. This was apparently Storm Malik. I heard later that the storm killed a couple of people. Here we just had lots of branches broken off trees. 

Today by contrast dawned quietly and calmly. When I went out for a run the world felt completely still. It was also very bright and clear - blue sky and sunshine! Very nice! By lunchtime the clouds had moved back in and the weather forecast has just informed me that there will be winds of up to 90 miles an hour in the north of the country. And it’s not even February, let alone March! 

Sunday morning usually finds us listening to Desert Island Discs. Apart from presenter Lauren Laverne’s inability to say the letter “t” (something that makes me wince slightly whenever she says “twen’y first cen’ury”) it’s almost always very interesting. It’s worth listening to for the theme music alone. 

Today it was the turn of journalist Lise Doucet, whose clipped tones we have often heard on reports from problem areas of the world. It turns out her accent is Acadian; she is from New Brunswick in Canada. Wikipedia tells me she is has Acadian, Irish and Micmac ancestry. I have long thought I could hear some Irish in her accent, by the way. The Micmac (some sources say Migmaw) are apparently one of the Canadian First Nations. She’s got quite a mixed heritage then!

At one point she expressed her lifelong love of learning and explained that she regards journalism as a continuation of the same process. Everywhere she goes, she learns something. As for me, listening to Lise Doucet led to me learning something new this morning. I had long known that the Cajun people of Louisiana get the name Cajun from a mispronunciation of Acadian, Acadia being a French province long ago. What I didn’t know was that the province of Acadia was originally the French colony on the Atlantic coast of North America in what is now the Maritime Provinces of Canada. I had to go and look it up.

During the various wars and arguments between France and England over the ownership of Canada, Acadia ended up “belonging” to Britain. Many inhabitants of Acadia, suspected of fighting on the French side against Britain were expelled from the province, many ending up in Louisiana. There you go! In later years many original Acadians returned to  Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. And in 2003 Queen Elizabeth II issued a royal proclamation apologizing for the forced deportation of the Acadians. 

The fact remains that the Acadians lost their lands. My research shows me that the Micmac people also had their lands stolen - the regular story of the First Nations. Lise Doucet has travelled all over the world and said that she once pleased a lot of Acadian fans by declaring, “They never gave us back our lands but I regard my work as a journalist as a kind of Acadian Revenge”. Those are not, I hasten to say, her exact words.

Interesting stuff!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 29 January 2022

Another anti-false-information celebrity. Disagreeing and then agreeing with my sister. Some nostalgia.

Well, it seems that Joni Mitchell has joined forces with her old friend Neil Young in asking Spotify to remove her music from their system, in protest against their broadcasting false information about the Covid vaccine.

“In an act of solidarity between two veteran rock stars with a shared history of espousing progressive causes, Joni Mitchell has joined Neil Young in removing her music from Spotify in protest at it hosting a popular anti-vax podcast.

Mitchell, whose 1971 album Blue is regarded as one of the greatest of all time, is the first high-profile musician to take a stand alongside Young against the streaming behemoth.

“Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives,” she said in a message posted on her website. “I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.””

On the other hand, I fear that my Spanish sister, incidentally a huge Eric (anti-vaxxer) Clapton fan, may herself be turning into an anti-vaxxer. Yesterday morning she posted this on Facebook:

“My thoughts have been expressed by this post a friend Suárez:

Notes from a nurse…

I had never heard of a vaccine that spreads the virus even after vaccination.

I had never heard of rewards, discounts, incentives to get vaccinated.

I never saw discrimination for those who didn't.

If you haven't been vaccinated no one has tried to make you feel like a bad person.

I have never seen a vaccine that threatens the relationship between family, colleagues and friends.

I have never seen a vaccine used to threaten livelihoods, work or school.

I have never seen a vaccine that would allow a 12-year-old to override parental consent.

After all the vaccines I listed above, I have never seen a vaccine like this one, which discriminates, divides and judges society as it is.

And as the social fabric tightens… It's a powerful vaccine! It does all these things except IMMUNIZATION.

If we still need a booster dose after we are fully vaccinated, and we still need to get a negative test after we are fully vaccinated, and we still need to wear a mask after we are fully vaccinated, and still be hospitalized after we have been fully vaccinated, it will likely come to “It's time for us to admit that we've been completely deceived."”

When last I spoke to her properly we almost fell out over her reluctance to have the booster vaccination. Her son, thirty years old, has refused all Covid vaccination, accepting all the conspiracy theories about it all being a ploy to control us. Now I think he may have influenced his mother’s thinking as well. As far as I am aware, nobody has ever suggested that the vaccine prevents us catching or transmitting the virus. Neither do I think anybody ever said that about the flu vaccine. This is a different sort of vaccine that may prevent us having too serious a dose of the virus and perhaps avoid overloading our hospitals with desperately ill people. We still don’t know enough about this virus and we need to continue doing all we can to keep it under control.

I do agree with something else my Spanish sister has been going on about: the problems caused by Brexit. She recently received a parcel from my English sister. It was a package of knitted clothes intended for child’s baby doll. My English sister wins prizes in summer fairs for her knitted baby clothes. The smallest size of the clothes she makes is perfect for premature babies or certain baby dolls. She passes on the finished garments to people who can make use of them. And so she sent a parcel to our Spanish sister to give as a gift to the child of friend. My English sister had to fill in a declaration as she posted the parcel, giving the value of the contents: about £20, she estimated. When the parcel arrived in Spain, our Spanish sister had to pay 9.95€ before she could receive the parcel, either import duty or VAT. Just another Brexit benefit!

Moving on to something else, in the book I am currently reading, “in the Eye of the Sun” by Ahdaf Soueif, largely about growing up in Alexandria from what I have read so far, one of the characters, back in 1968, at one point talks about her vanity case as her “main symbol of adulthood”. Now, in my collection of family photos there is one of me and my siblings standing together. It may have been Christmas, even Christmas day. We’re all in our Sunday best. All three sisters clutch a vanity case, which we definitely received as Christmas presents. It was probably 1961 or 1962, judging by the size of us all. My older sister would have been about 14/15 and looks terribly grown up and sophisticated, but still young enough to be wearing white ankle socks. I was maybe 12/13, a bit gauche in my school raincoat but still with my vanity case. My younger sister (aka my Spanish sister) would be 6/7, a bit too young in the eyes of her older sisters to have a vanity case at all but there she is. Our brother, 8 or 9 years old is just there, nothing to make him stand out apart from maybe having bis school scarf wrapped around his head to keep his ears warm. But it’s the vanity cases that make the picture for me. We had received them as Christmas presents and thought we were the bees knees. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 28 January 2022

Not forgetting!

Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day. On the television news they featured a 98 year old holocaust survivor. She’s one of number of people whose portraits have been commissioned by Prince Charles, another way of preventing us from forgetting that this happened. Because, of course, the survivors are all growing older and disappearing; those who spent years visiting schools to talk about the holocaust are almost all gone now. And we mustn’t forget that perfectly ordinary people, the sort of people who might live next door, found themselves involved in something so awful. We mustn’t let it happen again, to anybody anywhere. 

Yesterday also I came across this article about the novel “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”, the story of an eight year old, the son of a nazi officer, who befriends another eight year old, a prisoner in the camp run by his father. 

Someone lent me the book several years ago. A sad and moving book, well written, it seemed to me it would serve as a good way to begin discussion of the holocaust with children. Now it’s getting some criticism as giving perhaps too simplistic a view of events, and possibly giving young people a false impression, causing them to sympathise with the nazi soldiers and believe that nobody in Germany had any idea of what was going on. Surely if teachers use this as a resource it should be as a starting point, not as a total representation of reality. As the article tells us, “Drama and English teachers were more likely to use it than history teachers.” We must trust our teachers to use it sensibly. And surely nowadays there are lots more resources to add to the study of the topic. The important thing is that it should not be forgotten and that our children should learn tolerance and compassion.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Pushing buggies. Reading headlines. Price rises. Terry Pratchett.

I’ve just walked our small grandson round the village in his buggy. Apart from the fact that my poor confused Fitbit will think I’ve been for a bike ride and will not have counted my steps properly, pushing a 2 year old around is like a major workout. I have great admiration for my daughter and other mothers of small children as they do this on a daily basis. I don’t remember pushing ours being such hard work forty years ago. Either buggies have got a lot heavier or maybe you just get used to it and your ability to push heavy weights around grows as the child grows and weighs more!


Headlines are misleading. This is not surprising as I have heard that sometimes headlines are written by subeditors who have not actually read the article fully. It must drive the writers of news articles crazy. Yesterday I wrote about Neil Young and Eric Clapton having opposing views regarding Covid vaccination. Neil Young had asked Spotify to remove the podcast of Joe Rogan, on the grounds that his anti-vaccination statements are spreading false information. Today I saw this headline: “Spotify removes Neil Young music in feud over Joe Rogan’s false Covid claims”. I jumped to the conclusion that Spotify had come down on the side of Rogan, who earns the, plenty of money, and decided to remove Neil Young. Well, I suppose ai was correct about the first bit: they did refuse to remove Joe Rogan. But it’s Neil Young who has asked Spotify to remove all his music from their service, in protest. I expect Neil Young can afford to do whatever he likes. He doesn’t need to depend on Spotify. 

A Spotify spokesperson told the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday that the platform was taking down Young’s music: 

“We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to Covid since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon,” the spokesperson said.

I like Neil Young and I never use Spotify, so it’s not making any difference to me. 

According to The Labour List, “Laura Pidcock, the former Labour MP for North West Durham, has resigned today from the party’s national executive committee, citing a “hostile territory for socialists” under Keir Starmer’s leadership”. What a sad state for a supposedly left wing party to be in. Apparently, Laura Pidcock “explained in a statement announcing her resignation that her “deep unease” in the party was compounded by “the cheering of a Tory MP crossing the floor in the House of Commons”.” 

I’m saying nothing about Jeremy Corbyn’s not being accepted back into the party. 

Now, I’ve sometimes found Jack Monroe, food writer, social commentator, a bit annoying to listen to but her comments on price rises make sense. Here are some things she has said:-

This time last year, the cheapest pasta in my local supermarket (one of the Big Four) was 29p for 500g. Today it’s 70p. That’s a 141% price increase as it hits the poorest and most vulnerable households.”

“This time last year, the cheapest rice at the same supermarket was 45p for kilogram bag. Today it’s £1 for 500g. That’s a 344% price increase as it hits the poorest and most vulnerable households.”

“Baked beans were 22p, now 32p. A 45% increase year on year.”

“Canned spaghetti. Was 13p, now 35p. A price increase of 69%  price rise.”

I expect she could go through a whole week’s shopping! It’s quite shocking. 

Terry Pratchett’s estate has authorised Jack Monroe to use the “Vimes Boots Index” as the name of her new price index, which is intended to document the “insidiously creeping prices” of basic food products. 

Here’s an explanation, based on Sam Vimes, who in the Discworld novel Men at Arms lays out the “Sam Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socio-economic unfairness”.

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money,” wrote Pratchett. “Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of okay for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.”

There you go.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Expressive language. Cakes in the news. Pros and cons of the pandemic?

I’ve just heard somebody on the radio news talking, inevitably, about our prime minister and his apparent inability to obey his own rules and recommendation. The comment was along the lines of: rules and laws are made to be obeyed and if Prime Minister can’t obey them then he should resign. End of! 

It’s hard to argue against it, but no doubt some will. 

However, mostly I was amused by the sign off - “End of!” It’s not an expression I’ve heard used much lately. Maybe it should be added to the list of expressions the London Evening Standard tells us are falling out of fashion. Young people are not as colourful in their use of language as older generations it seems. Or maybe they just use different expressions that we older generation folk are unaware of. 

Here are some examples of expressions reportedly falling out of use £ the percentage refers to how many people interviewed never use the phrase:-

Pearls before swine 78%

Nail your colours to the mast 71%

Know your onions 68%

A stitch in time saves nine 64% (Maybe because nobody learns to stitch nowadays - my note!)

Knickers in a twist 56%

Could not organise a p*** up in a brewery 54% (Seems to have come back into use concerning certain parties that were or were not organised lately - my note!)

Popped her clogs 54%

Those are just a few. I use quite a lot of them and would actually like to see “popped his / her clogs” replacing “passed” as a way of telling us someone died. 

The news is still dominated by stuff about parties and birthday cakes. Lots of people have been trying to define what is or isn’t a party! Some time in the future people will look back on this and hold their hands up in amazement.

Sometime in the future there will probably be an examination of how well the world as a whole dealt with Covid, and how useful it was to put us all into lockdown at one level or another. In the meantime, experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are saying that more than 800 lives may have been saved across Europe thanks to better air quality in the first phase of Covid lockdowns:-

“Analysis of 47 European cities found Paris, London, Barcelona and Milan were among the top six with the highest number of avoided deaths. The study noted that closing workplaces and schools in European cities reduced levels of air pollution through less traffic and movement, while public events were cancelled and people stayed at home.

This led to less nitrogen dioxide (NO2) polluting the air, with Spanish, French and Italian cities experiencing the biggest decreases in NO2 of 50% to 60% during the period.”

Maybe it’s a benefit of the pandemic but how does it bear comparison with statistics for those who died of the pandemic. Maybe we can find something similar for Brexit.

Arguments about vaccination continue, amazingly!  Here’s a report from The London Economic yesterday:

“Rock star Eric Clapton has sparked further outrage online after claiming people who have had the Covid vaccine are victims of “mass formation hypnosis.”

It comes as Neil Young has told Spotify to delete his music from the streaming service over their partnership with Joe Rogan.

In a now-deleted letter posted on his website on Monday (24 January), the 76-year-old singer wrote that he does not appreciate Spotify’s affiliation with Rogan and his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, which is spreading “false information” regarding Covid-19 vaccines.

Clapton previously claimed he suffered “disastrous” side effects allegedly due to the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying his hands and feet were “either frozen, numb or burning, and pretty much useless” and he feared he “would never play [the guitar] again.”

He also released an anti-lockdown single, “Stand and Deliver”, with Van Morrison in 2020.

Speaking to The Real Music Observer Clapton told the interviewer he didn’t get the “memo” – or information about “mass formation hypnoses” which began circulating among anti-vaxxers last year – when he received his vaccination.

“Then I started to realise there was really a memo, and a guy, Mattias Desmet [professor of clinical psychology at Ghent University in Belgium], talked about it,” Clapton continued. “And it’s great. The theory of mass formation hypnosis. And I could see it then.””

I suppose there have always been people who are easily persuaded that conspiracy theories are the truth of the world!

As for me, I’ll go on accepting vaccination when offered. I’ll also continue to wear a mask in shops, even though the staff of our local coop seem to have given up on the idea. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

On festivals and traditions.


There I was, thinking the Spanish were a bit crazy about festivals, all kinds of festivals about food and drink, interspersed with the occasional religious festival involving taking statues around the town and sometimes out to sea in small boats, not to mention festivals with animals. And then I read about the Dorset Knob Throwing festival. It’s normally held in a place called Cattistock alongside the Frome Valley food festival - there you go, a food festival! So it’s not just continental Europe! In 2020 they had to cancel the Knob Throwing festival because they hadn’t got a venue for it (?!). In 2021 they had to cancel because of Covid restrictions. This year they are cancelling because it’s become too popular and too many people have signed up to take part. The organisers can’t cope.

A Dorset Knob is kind of hard biscuit. Participants compete to see who can throw one the furthest. Does this mean the biscuits are too hard to eat? I wonder. The record throw of 29.4 metres (96 ft) was set in 2012. There are other events involved: knob-eating, knob-painting, a knob and spoon race, guess the weight of the big knob, knob darts and a knob pyramid. It sounds like a criss between one of those American pie-eating competitions and a craft fair. The mind boggles! They hope to get their management team sorted out and run the festival again in the future. 

Round here we have much more sensible events like the Band Contest which takes place on Whit Friday, involving brass bands from all over the country and indeed from all over the world. Even if the weather doesn’t favour outdoor events, the bands go from village to village in Saddleworth, marching into each village playing their instruments and then play for judges who rate them and eventually award a prize to the best band. Some people follow bands from village to village. Others, most  people I think, just stay in one village and drink al fresco, cheering each band as it arrives. Our local fish and chip shop does great business!

When I first discovered the Band Contest, back in the 1970s, pubs used to  open quite early in the morning and some folk just drank all day. As the event became more publicised and people came from far and wide, that early morning drinking was somewhat curtailed, for fairly obvious reasons.

There are Whit Walks in the morning, local church and Sunday school attendees following their Sunday School banner through their village. Old traditions!

In line with a new tradition that my daughter and I have started, I am busily crocheting small tigers. Chinese New Year is coming and we are about to enter the year of the tiger. My daughters youngest two offspring have a Chinese father and so she decided they should receive a toy animal for each new year. I am involved as the creator of the animals.  

According to the Internet: Tigers are courageous and active people who love a good challenge and adventure in life.

Like their eponymous zodiac animal, people born in years of the Tiger are vigorous and ambitious, daring and courageous, enthusiastic and generous, self-confident with a sense of justice and a commitment to help others for the greater good.

I am not aware of knowing any Tigers … but you never know!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 24 January 2022

Dead man walking - update. A bit of science. And thinking about security.

Further to the odd story I wrote about yesterday, the story of the two Irishmen who took a dead man to the post office to try to withdraw his pension, it is with some relief that I read today that the Gardai do not suspect foul play. Postmortem examination suggests that the pensioner died of natural causes just hours before the incident. So the two men trying to get the money were not necessarily evil, just very stupid! And perhaps optimistic! And in the end, not very lucky!

Today’s report also tells me this:

“A local priest was called to the scene by gardaí to give the man his last rites.

“It really is shocking. People in the town are clearly shocked, but he did get prayers and he was anointed,” Father John Dunphy told Irish media.

“The shop was closed, and I didn’t know the man, but the staff were upset, naturally. He was anointed; he got the last rites, of course, and we all gathered around him and prayed. It was very dignified.

“The gardaí were very kind and the staff were brave. It was a peaceful moment, very, very dignified.””

So that’s all right then - like a scene from a gently comic-sad film, probably made in black and white about 70 years ago!

I’ve also written recently about micro-plastics. Today I read that nano-plastic pollution has been found in the ice at both the North and the South Poles. It’s a long time since I studied science and back then nobody told us about micro-plastics and nano-plastics. I wondered what, if any, was the difference between micro- and nano-plastics, and this is what I found: “a solitary microplastic particle will break down into billions of nanoplastic particles suggesting that nanoplastic pollution will be prevalent across the globe.  It is probable that nanoplastics are more damaging than microplastics as they are small enough to permeate through biological membranes. Despite of this, the potential human health effects of nanoplastic exposure remains under-studied.” 

So it seems to be a matter of size. The problem, however, remains that they’re everywhere, little tiny bits of plastic that we can’t see. They’re floating in the air and in the water. Recent research suggested people may be breathing 2,000 - 7,0 micro-plastics per day in their homes. Prof Anoop Jivan Chauhan, a respiratory specialist at Portsmouth hospitals university NHS trust, said: “This data is really quite shocking. Potentially we each inhale or swallow up to 1.8m microplastics every year and once in the body, it’s hard to imagine they’re not doing irreversible damage.” And the nano-plastics, being even smaller, are more easily absorbed into the body and are more toxic. 

I never learnt about all this is science at school and yet it’s all been around for longer than we think. Ice-core examined in Greenland reveal micro-plastics in ice that probably fell as snow in the 1960s. 

It’s too late! We should never have developed polyester and other synthetic fabrics; we should never have used Tupperware; and as for clingfilm … well, what can we say? 

Yesterday the family (our daughter and various offspring of hers) came for dinner, as often happens on a Sunday. One was missing, the 18 year old who had taken herself off to Chester for the weekend to celebrate a friend’s birthday and was not due back until later on Sunday evening. My daughter and I had exchanged messages during Saturday evening about whether or not she was keeping in touch to let us know she was safely back in her b&b at the end of her Saturday night out. Late I reflected that when I was her age I was living independently as a student at university, writing letters home to my parents once a week, if they were lucky, or more likely once a fortnight. We had no mobile phones. Indeed, my parents didn’t even have a landline. They just had to accept that I was getting on with things sensibly! As for me, I worked on the principle that what they didn’t know couldn’t hurt them. Not that I was really up to much. And maybe the world was a safer place.

At least there were probably fewer nano-plastics around.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone. 

Sunday, 23 January 2022

I’ve been listening to a radio programme called “New Year Solutions”, all about ways we ordinary people can help to combat the climate crisis. Today they talked about water and how we use or misuse it. We tend to think we have plenty of water and no supply problems here in the UK. It often seems as though we have too much water. Certainly around her it doesn’t take a great deal of rain for the River Tame to suddenly seem very full as it bounces through the village.

However, it seems that we could easily have problems. London already has less rainfall than it really needs for supply to meet demand.  

In 2017 Cape Town was running out of water after a prolonged drought and people were people ordered to use only 50 litres a day or face the eventual arrival of Day Zero when water would be switched off. One of the water-saving mantras was about flushing the loo. Imagine a South Ifrican (deliberate mis-spelling, by the way) as you say:

“If it’s yellow,

Let it mellow!

If it’s brown,

Flush it down!”

This is advice most of us find hard to follow but we may have to start taking measures to reduce our water use. Apparently the average person in this country uses 152 litres per day. A bath uses 80 - 100 litres. A shower uses 50 litres - and some people have three showers a day (why do they do that?). Washing your hands with a running tap uses 6 litres per minute. So all the extra hand-washing we’ve been urged to do during the pandemic has really contributed to excessive water use, especially as for that kind of hand washing to be effective you need the water to run warm. We all wash clothes more frequently than we used to and many families use dishwashers as well - not me though! 

Of course, it’s not absolutely necessary to shower every day. I remember being in digs, as we called them back in the day, (lodging for younger readers) with an elderly lady in my first year of university. I was told that I could have one bath a week and needed to book it to be sire there was enough water. I got into the habit of taking soap, shampoo and towel one day during the week to the students’ union where for a small fee I could have a really deep bath, and wash and dry my hair. Those were the days! Mind you, it was quite normal to bathe and wash your hair only once a week. Were we smelly? I don’t think so.

Apparently it’s young people who are more likely to have three showers a day, having grown up with modern bathroom facilities. And yet they are the ones shouting loudest about climate crisis problems! 

Seriously though, it seems we should reduce our profligate use of water if we want to save the planet. Meanwhile, they’re already having wildfire problems in California

“It’s unusual to have fire this size here on the coast at the end of January,” said someone from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “The fact that we had a fire this size is of great concern.”

Drought! Fire! Floods! Pandemic! The threat of war! The world is falling apart. I keep expecting to see four horsemen riding over the nearest hill!

So, to counter all the doom and gloom, here is a tale you would not quite believe if it popped up in a TV series:-

The Gardaí have launched an investigation after two men carried a dead body into an Irish post office in an apparent attempt to claim his pension. This was in County Carlow on Friday. A man went into the post office on Friday morning, asking to collect a pension payment for an older man, only to be told that the pensioner himself had to be present in order for the money to be handed over. 

So he went away but returned later with two other men, one of whom, the pensioner, needed supporting. Payment was again refused and two men fled the scene, leaving the pensioner propped up in a corner. On investigation he was found to be dead. The mayor of Carlow, Fianna Fáil councillor Ken Murnane, said he was “absolutely shocked” to hear the news.

“I was absolutely shocked to hear about what happened. I cannot believe anyone would do something like that. It beggars belief, I’m just shocked.”

The local Fine Gael councillor Fergal Byrne echoed Murnane’s words, saying: “The whole town is in shock.” He described the deceased as “a nice man by all accounts and someone who caused no offence to anyone”.

You couldn’t make it up! Will I be criticised for finding the whole incident mildly amusing? 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 22 January 2022

Bullying whips. Highway code. Cycling and walking improvements ahead. And birthday parties.

It seems to be a very gloomy Saturday, not quite so misty and damp as yesterday but still very gloomy. Not a lot we can do about it!

The latest government scandal seems to be all about Whips bullying members of parliament. Why are the Whips so called? Surely the name suggests a bit of violent behaviour. According to one of my sources of information, “the name comes from the term “whipper-in”, the person who, in hunting, would keep the hounds in the pack using a whip”. There you go. It’s another of those terms that goes back to people of privilege!

It seems there is a new version of the Highway Code. I wonder how many of us have read the Highway Code since we passed our driving test. Much is being made of a new rule about which had you should use to,open your car door. The new rule is that you should use the hand furthest away from the door. What this does is to force the door-opener to twist their body around and, hopefully, look over their shoulder to see if opening the door is going to knock a cyclist or a pedestrian for six. Maybe it explains it in the Highway Code. Ikve not actually read it. But all the news reports are talking about possible fines for opening the door wrongly. Really it seems to be a case of a large fine if you cause harm to someone by opening your car door. Surely the new rules should say to look over your shoulder and check before opening the door! 

Meanwhile cycling champion and medal winner Chris Boardman is going to be working to improve things for cyclists and pedestrians by being in charge of Active Travel England (ATE), which will hand out funding for cycling and walking schemes and oversee designs. He points out that about a quarter of households in cities have no car: “These are their roads and streets, too. Kids don’t have a choice to drive – they have to be driven. And these are their roads and streets, too, and they have the right to use them.” Quite so.

I spoke to my daughter-in-law last night. We are trying to organise getting the little girl cousins together for her daughter’s 8th birthday. Two years ago my daughter and I drove down to Buckinghamshire with her two small children to celebrate the 6th birthday of the Buckinghamshire cousin. It was a great success, even though we drove home through a monster storm. We would like to repeat the experience, but without the storm on the way home. Last year we all stayed at home.

My daughter-in-law told me that she has had her small girl home-schooling all week because her class bubble had been sent home because of Covid. Daily Covid tests showed she wasn’t positive and so they were able to go out and about, to the park, to the swimming baths and so on. Even with a daughter who is very good at getting on with things and who will entertain herself happily, it was still time-consuming for someone who is working from home. Maybe all of this will change as restrictions are lifted. We shall see!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 21 January 2022

Birthday nostalgia. Recycling clothes nostalgia. Microplastics. Jeans nostalgia. Tiles nostalgia.

Today would have been / should have been my brother’s seventieth birthday. He never even saw his sixtieth. Significant birthday’s missed or never reached. When we were kids, both of us having birthdays in the same week in January, our parents would leave some of the Christmas decorations up, the non-specific streamers, for our birthday parties. That was back in the day when parents didn’t hire a play centre and invite a whole class of children to the party. There would be enough friends, and siblings, and maybe a cousin or two of the right age so that you could organise a good game of musical chairs or musical statues or pass the parcel. And everyone got a piece of birthday cake to take home but there were no party bags as such with extra sweets and a toy of some sort for each guest. Life was simpler!

Yesterday the youngest grandchild came for the morning. This is becoming a regular feature. I have turned into a regular babysitting grandmother after all! My daughter brought, along with a small boy, a number of things that need a stitch or two. I am the go-to person for small repairs. Somewhere along the way she seems to have missed out on that bit of her education. Her eldest daughter, on the other hand, is very good at darning socks. She sends photos of the darns she has completed. I have my grandmother’s darning mushroom. I know who to pass it on to when I decide I have no further use for it. 

My daughter may not be much good at doing repairs but at least she arranges for repairs to be done rather than simply throwing put a garment because of a small hole or tear. Throwaway clothing is a major source of rubbish. Here are some facts.

  • 350,000 tonnes, that’s around £140 million worth of used but still wearable clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.
  • This equates to more than 30% of our unwanted clothing currently goes to landfill.
  • We Great Britons send 700,000 tonnes of clothing to recycling centres, textile banks, clothes collections and to charity each year.
  • That’s enough to fill 459 Olympic-size swimming pools.

When I was a child we used to send unwanted or outgrown clothes to jumble sales, usually organised by the local church. It worked as a recycling system but was occasionally a bit embarrassing if you came across someone wearing the dress your mother made for you the year before last. Maybe taking stuff to a town centre charity shop keeps it a bit more anonymous. It was certainly odd to see the flamboyant coral-coloured hat I wore to my son’s wedding in the window display of a charity shop in Uppermill a couple of years ago.

The other modern problem with clothing is that we wash everything more often than we used to. This is surely no bad thing in itself but according to scientists who know about such things there are so many synthetic fabrics used in clothing these days that whenever we wash them, especially in modern, efficient washing machines, we send a load of micro-plastic particles down the drain. These get into the water supply and into the food chain. No wonder we are all made up of so much plastic!

Some even say that we should not wash denim jeans at all, something I find hard to accept. Many-times-washed denim is much more comfortable. Time was you would not want to be seen in an obviously brand new pair of Levis. They needed to be washed a few times to make them look a bit careworn and faded. Of course, what usually happened was that they reached the perfect level of fading and then sprang a hole in the knee. This was, of course, before it was trendy to walk along with designer rips in your jeans!

While we’re getting nostalgic, here’s a link to an article about Joan Moliner from Barcelona who goes round on his bicycle scavenging beautiful old floor tiles from buildings that are being “modernised”.  

The façade of an old building is often subject to a preservation order but beautiful floors are just thrown away. What a waste!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!