Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Childcare duties cancelled. Moons. Booze-culture.

Yesterday evening my daughter phoned to ask if I could look after her youngest offspring today. He had been sick, possibly the consequence of stuffing his mouth too full while eating an apple, and his nursery won’t accept children who have been sick in the previous 24 hours. Okay, we could do that. It meant I would get up about an hour and half earlier than usual but once in a while you can deal with that. 

So this morning I got up (or at any rate started the process of getting up) and switched the heating on to warm the house up. Then I received a message that the little chap was going to nursery after all. He had woken at 5.00 (yes, that’s FIVE O CLOCK!!) bright and perky and ready to play, clearly with nothing at all wrong with him. No fever. Nothing at all wrong. She was keeping quiet about the vomit. So I went back to bed.

Being up and about at that time, however, meant I saw the moon setting over the hill. This was the first full moon of this year, according to the newspeople, and known as the Wolf moon, apparently so named by native north Americans because wolves can be heard howling at the moon more around this time of year due to hunger. 


I didn’t manage to take my own photo of the moon but the article that gave me the information about the name of this moon included this photo of the moon setting behind Hartshead Pike, a local landmark not far from my daughter’s house. 

Earlier yesterday evening I had scoffed when the Radio 4 weatherman had talked about clear skies and the possibility of seeing the first full moon of the year. I had just been outside to leave our dustbins ready for emptying today and had stepped into dense freezing fog. Yet later when I looked out before going to bed the sky was crystal clear, full of stars and that full moon. No wonder my dustbins were frozen shut when I tried to put something in them this morning.  

The local pond was frozen again. I paused during my run to watch the swans. One of them was pushing his (or possible her) way through the thin ice, thin enough for him (or her) to break it but thick enough for it to demand a certain amount of effort. The other swan followed serenely behind in the cleared water, as did the white goose who this morning aligned himself with the swans, perhaps because there were no Canada geese for him to try to join. It would be interesting to know the gender of the ice-breaking swan: a courteous, chivalrous, old-fashioned, gentlemanly male or a subservient, browbeaten or possible bossy and organising female? Even if they had been closer to me, I would have no idea which was which. 

Skimming over news articles online this morning, I came across one by Zoe Williams, commenting on the fact that when she started working as a journalist in the mid 1960s it was a regular thing for them to start drinking at lunchtime and continue for much of the day. It was a 1960s, 1970s sort of thing and not just in journalism. She wrote, “a couple of pints at lunchtime, even in reputable careers such as teaching, was still commonplace in the 80s”. Yes, I can remember a few teaching colleagues going out for a drink at lunchtime in the 1970s. That was before lunchtime was reduced from a good hour or hour and a half to a much shorter forty minutes. But it became frowned on. Working in a sixth form college in the late 1990s, I can recall a colleague being hauled over the coals because students complained that he would fall asleep at his desk in the afternoon. 

You only need to watch Madmen and see how much the advertising people drank to see how much it was a part of office culture, back in the day. But as Zoe Williams points out, it had largely been phased out by the 1990s; we all became much more aware of the dangers of non-stop drinking. But this was not apparently quite the same  in journalism. And we have a PM with a background in journalism.

“When the nation decided to put in charge of the country a bunch of men whose formative professional years were 80s and 90s Fleet Street, the obvious risks were that they would run the place like a newspaper column, with tiny amounts of knowledge parlayed into huge statements that, unlike a column, would turn into concrete acts, and have consequences for millions of lives. That turned out to be devastatingly true, but what, weirdly, none of us predicted was that it would also turn Downing Street into a year-round Oktoberfest.” So wrote Ms Williams. 

She continued:

“Picking over the finer details of the Downing Street drinking culture, though, there are bits that I just do not recognise. Never, in the most outlandish excesses, did I ever see anyone sleeping overnight at work; playing Pictionary until midnight; or leaving drink dregs at their desk for the cleaner to deal with. The government is apparently run by people who don’t have other lives: they have nobody they want to rush back to, nobody waiting at home who cares where they are; they can’t even wrap their heads around the dignity of the cleaners, the people they see every day. The problem runs a bit deeper than a wheelie suitcase full of prosecco.”

Quite so!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well everyone! 

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