Thursday, 31 March 2022

Snow. Being traumatised by the Oscars. Some thoughts about food.

 We woke up to snow this morning. Not a lot but snow nonetheless. It was also blizzarding nicely. It was still doing that when my daughter dropped her little chap off at our house. By late morning, though, the sky had cleared and the sun had come out. We went for a walk round the the village, past the millponds and through the trees, where the little chap enjoyed the puddles. They promised cold front had definitely moved in though. The ground may not be cold enough for the snow to stick for long but the air is cold, despite the sunshine. 

A lot of fuss has been made about Will Smith punching someone I’ve not heard of at the Oscars. Amy Schumer declares herself completely traumatised by having seen it. Sorry, Amy, you can be upset but witnessing one punch does not leave a person traumatised! Some people are saying this was the most shameful night in the history of the Oscars.  Then a friend of mine posted this:

“The year Hattie McDaniel won her Oscar for Gone with the Wind, people had to pull favours to let her in the building, and she was made to sit at the far end of the room, against the wall with her agent. So, no … Not the most shameful night in Oscar history. Not even top twenty.”

I came across this quite lengthy article about how we have lost touch with proper food. Most people, the writer maintains, no longer know how to test fruit and veg for freshness by gently squeezing, especially as so much fruit and veg comes plastic wrapped. Well, actually, many places that still sell loose fruit and veg, while happy for you to select the items you want to buy, ask you, please, not to squeeze the produce. But I still gently test avocados. The “ripe and ready to eat” label often lies! And where possible I do like to buy my fruit and veg loose. A plastic box can hide a mess of soggy tomatoes at the bottom. Sometimes though, you have to give in and buy the pre-packed stuff. I draw the line, though, at buying ready-chopped vegetables. What must they spray them with to prevent them going brown and messy? 

Then there’s the sell-by and use-by dates. Fruit and veg don’t really have a use-by date. Yes, Inknow they do but they don’t need one. You can tell when a carrot is past it. But apparently masses of perfectly good stuff is thrown out because it’s past that date. Supermarkets won’t even consider selling you such food even one day after the sell-by date, not even at a discount. They are afraid of being sued, I suppose. But what a waste of fruit and veg. 

Meat products are a different matter. I respect their use-by dates. But I’m afraid milk and yoghurt and such are subject to the sniff test: if it smells all right a day after it’s use-by date, then it’s probably okay. If, however, it curdles when you pour the milk in your tea or coffee, it’s probably gone off and you’ve wasted your beverage! So it goes! 

The writer of the article was somewhat shocked to discover that some American children when shown an aubergine did not recognise it but thought it was a pair. That’s a bit extreme, I thought. How many British children would recognise an aubergine? Come to that, a fair few adults wouldn’t recognise one! Besides, it’s a seriously over-rated vegetable in my opinion and only improves when it takes on the flavour of other veg it’s cooked with. In fact, I probably break all all sorts of rules about making ratatouille by omitting the aubergine altogether.  

The best story about children’s awareness of food is the one where children were asked where milk and eggs come from. Answer: the supermarket! But of course!

I do agree with the writer’s insistence that we need to re-establish our connection with what we eat. Well, as a nation, but not me personally. I really love the combination of colours when you chop up peppers to roast them in the oven or to stir fry them in the wok. My eldest granddaughter and I regularly exchange photos of dishes we have prepared for the evening meal. Food definitely should be a total sensory experience: look, taste, smell and sometimes sound. Doubters should watch our smallest grandchild eat a bunch of grapes or, better still, demolish an apple so that all is left is the stalk and the smallest core possible! 

Mind you, he also enjoys disgusting-looking bubble-gum flavour ice-lollies, given half a chance!

Thinking about food, on the radio news at lunchtime, on an item about the cost of living going up, they spoke to someone who organises a food-bank in her district. As the price of food has risen, contributions to collections for food-banks, located outside many supermarkets, have been going down. People are thinking twice about buying something extra to put in the food-bank collection. The spare cash is being eaten up by the increased cost of their own weekly shop. Asked how she is managing to provide balanced food parcels for those who come to the food-bank, the interviewee said that she and a friend are largely funding it themselves. But she is unsure how long she and her friend can continue to do so. 

There is something wrong with our society if such things are going on in one of the richest countries in the world. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Seasons. Markets. Trials and tribulations of royal folk.

Well, the weather has taken the predicted turn for the worst. We’ve taken a backwards step … back into winter. So that seems to be spring out of the way. Maybe even summer! I took a look at the thin, sleety falling and decided that a cycle ride to Uppermill this morning was not really a good idea. So I put my big, warm, waterproof coat on, the one I had decided should probably be put away until next winter comes around, and set off to the market. 

I’ve never really understood the idea of putting clothes away because they are out of season, having a specific summer wardrobe and winter wardrobe. That’s how you end up in a flimsy frock on a chilly and windy day. Our seasons aren’t sufficiently defined to merit specific wardrobes. You just have to get used to wearing layers so that of he day warms up you can remove a layer or two.

The market was pretty feeble - just the fish man and the fruit and veg man. The cheese and biscuits lady, Jenny, has difficulty setting up her stall at the moment and the man who sells slippers probably decided it wasn’t worth setting his tables up, only to spend most of the morning covering and uncovering his wares. But it made a rather poos show this morning! I hope it’s not about to disappear. 

The royal family continues to have a bad time, it seems. William and Kate went off on a tour intended to promote the firm and ended up being criticised left, right and centre. There seemed to be nothing personal in this. The couple make a pretty pair and were cheered by crowd but there was also a lot of determination on the part os the bits of the Caribbean they visited to point out that they want to be totally independent - no more queen! - and to remind the royal family if its part in the slave trade. I suspect any family with long standing wealth must have connections to the slave trade. It’s how a good deal of money was made back then. 

One article I read mentioned the fact that royal families have to be seen to be believed. Henry VIII was reputedly bow-legged from riding his horse all over the place to let people know he was still alive, which was something kings had to do before television was around to publicise them. But it may be that our royal family is losing its glamour. This appeared in one report: 

“even William, on whom with his wife and children so many hopes of monarchists rest, is not as glamorous as was once made out. “He’s just another middle-aged bald bloke in a suit,” as one cameraman once said to me.”

Is he really middle-aged? He’s younger than my offspring and I don’t consider them middle-aged!

We can be reassured about the queen, however. She managed to turn up for the thanksgiving service in memory of the the Duke of Edinburgh. It was supposed to be a family affair but it still got s lot of press. Maybe royalists do need reassurance that the 95 year old is still around. But even those reports were tinged with some criticism - not of her majesty, of course, but of the role played by Andrew. Is he being re-assimilated into the family business? Or was he just helping his aged mother? But apparently Charles and William were giving him dirty looks. Maybe they believe the rumours of Andrew being her favourite child and arebresentful. 

Anyway, it’s all nonsense, taking our attention away from other matters. Bread and circuses! And all that sort of thing. I sometimes wonder how Kate really feels about what she has got herself into. Does she ever think she might really like to be an ordinary, fully hands-on mum? Or does she like the idea of one day being queen. We’ll never know the truth of that one. 

Just like party gate! And why Johnson has that stupid hair!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Snoozing. Things left behind - and taken away. The joy of pockets. Rain and drought. And those clocks!

 I “snoozed” my alarm twice yesterday morning, possibly trying subconsciously to recapture the hour’s sleep I lost Saturday to Sunday. Consequently my Fitbit tells me I had 8 hours and 1 minute of sleep and gave me a score of 88 and a star! I am not sure - no, I have no idea - what the maximum score is that it could give me but I take a sneaky delight in making it think I have slept longer when all I have done is smack the snooze button!

In the bathroom I have discovered a small green toy car, a “monster truck”. This can only have been left behind by the smallest grandchild when he had a bath on Sunday evening before going home. This makes up for the fact that he stuffed into the pocket of his dressing gown the whole collection of finger puppets which usually stays here for him to play with. The concentration involved in doing this was something to admire! The last time this happened was a few weeks ago. When he next came to spend Thursday morning with me he wandered over to the toy collection and then looked at me, puzzled; “Where is Sharkey?” he asked. Concentration - full marks! Memory - less so!

On reflection, I think it may be the particular placing of the pockets on his dressing gown - of which he is ridiculously fond and proud, sometimes opting to wear this bright green garment, adorned with stegosaurus bumps down the hood and back - that encourages the desire to fill them with small toys. Unlike the pockets on his coat, these are easily accessible to small hands. And the finger puppets are just the right size for stuffing in one after the other until the pocket bulges. 

I can appreciate his delight in pockets. One of the problems with women’s clothing is the lack of pockets. Hence the need for handbags! Of course, overstuffed pockets can spoil the line of an outfit but it is really good to have a pocket to slip your essentials into when you go for a walk, for example - house keys, mobIle phone, lipbalm, tissues! While I don’t go into quite the paroxysms of joy that a friend of mine experiences, I do like a dress with good-sized handy pockets!

I have been known to moan and complain a lot about the rain. Not in the last week to ten days, I have to say! We have been blessed with some fine, sunny, even very warm weather, which has been delightful. As is usual at this time of the year, I have rediscovered the joy of hanging the washing out to dry in the garden, neatly pegged according to an obsession that a good friend and I share, instead of draping it around the house or over radiators. The radiators are currently switched off anyway! But I confess to moaning perhaps too much about rainfall, especially when I read about Italy.

In some northern Italian towns they face fines for wasting water as their mayors ration supplies amid a severe drought. Italy as a whole has had one of its driest winters in the last 65 years, with rainfall 80% lower than the seasonal average. The north has suffered worst, in some cases going without significant rainfall for three months or more. The river Po, the country’s longest river, is at its lowest level recorded in winter since 1972. Fountains have been switched off, using water for gardens and allotments has been banned, also for washing cars and filling swimming pools. And it’s still only March! Mind you, do those swimming pools need filling at the moment? Who uses a swimming pool in March, even in Italy.

And finally, a last word (possibly) on changing the clocks. This from the Guardian letters page:

“Mike Parker (Letters! 21st march) writes in support of the UK moving the clocks forward an hour permanently. It appears to be a reasoned argument, but I am less sure. There are so many hours in the day and no legislation by any government can change this.

The challenge is to use the hours more efficiently. Our habits have allowed us to get out of bed some hours after sunrise, and then go to bed some hours after sunset. This wastes a lot of electricity to light our homes when we should be letting the sun do it for free. We just need to go to bed earlier and get up earlier. Dolly Parton may have worked 9 to 5, but if she wanted to get more daylight she needs to work 8 to 4. Midday should be just that, and midnight the same.

In short, it’s not the clocks that need to change, but us. Ten o’clock for the main news of the day is too late – we should all be in bed then. And get up at daybreak. It’s what we human animals have evolved to do.
Steve Seddon”

All well and good, but the days would still be very short in the winter months!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 28 March 2022

Kitchen therapy. Angry actors. Over-reacting. Schemes that don’t appear to work.

I’ve been making soup. We had the family round for roast chicken and all the trimmings yesterday. Today I am using use the chicken carcass and other odds and ends to make soup. Voltaire might have said we need to cultivate our garden, but I think we should be busy in the kitchen. There is something very calming about chopping vegetables and the like. One of my granddaughters seems to follow suit, except that in her case it’s making cakes and biscuits that calms her down whenever she feels at all stressed. She would never make soup as she has refused to eat fruit and vegetables, apart from chips, if chips even count as vegetables, ever since she was about three years old. Watching her remove too obvious tomato from a pizza is quite something! 

Each to their own!

The weatherman on the radio has just said that colder weather is on the way. It could even snow by the middle of the week apparently. Today though the fine weather continues. We must go out walking before the blizzards begin!

A lot of fuss is being made about the Oscars as usual. One actor offended another by making rude comments about his wife, leading to the second actor punching him and then having to apologise while making an Oscar acceptance speech. How the famous live!

As regards actors and directors and writers, I read an interview with Aaron Sorkin, creator of programme such as The West Wing. Here’s something he said that I quite agree with:


There was some Twitter fuss about the “inauthentic” casting of Javier Bardem in Being the Ricardos. How do you deal with controversy?

In terms of accuracy in casting, it’s absolute nonsense. We know the difference between being demeaning and not being demeaning. We know the difference between, say, blackface and someone who is Spanish playing someone who is Cuban. How do you deal with the noise? You don’t. I don’t argue with people online. I actually don’t have any social media. You have to ignore it.”

On the radio news I just heard that the NHS is being instructed not to buy supplies from Russian companies. At least I think that’s what it was. The important thing is that we are urged not to finance Putin’s war machine. And on that subject, here’s an odd news story:

“Italy’s former prime minister Giuseppe Conte Is under pressure to clarify an arrangement under which Russia supplied aid to Italy early in the coronavirus pandemic, as questions resurface over the Kremlin’s motives.

Conte, who was forced to resign last year after the collapse of his second administration, could face questioning by Copasir, a parliamentary committee for the security of Italy, amid concerns that Russia may have exploited the aid mission for espionage.

Italy was the first western country to have a major Covid-19 outbreak, and Russia came to its rescue at the height of the emergency, dispatching military doctors, PPE, ventilators and mobile disinfection machines on cargo planes from Moscow. A convoy of lorries emblazoned with the slogan “From Russia with love” was broadcast on Russian state TV making its way to Bergamo, the province most severely affected in the pandemic’s first wave.”

It’s all getting a bit silly, if you ask me!

Our government has made a lot of noise about providing shelter for refugees from Ukraine but things seem to be moving slowly. According to one charity organisation it’s just not working properly:

“A charity that is helping Ukrainian refugees trying to come to the UK has said no visas have been granted to those it is supporting, nearly a fortnight after a government scheme was launched.

The head of Positive Action in Housing, Robina Qureshi, said the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme had given people “false hope” and amounted to a “gimmick”.”

If it doesn’t properly organised, then there is the danger of people traffickers stepping in to fill the space. There are always those who will try to benefit from the misfortune of others. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 27 March 2022

Out and about. Things children notice.

This morning, out running, I saw deer on the hillside just behind the village. I’ve frequently been told about the deer in the valley between here and Denshaw, deer between Delph and Castleshaw, but I have rarely seen them. And there they were, three of them, just standing quietly. My phone’s camera doesn’t really have the zoom power to show them properly but I had a go anyway. 

Here are some photos from our hike to Heights Church yesterday. 


It was really warm and sunny, sunhat and sunblock weather! Today is fine but much cooler. Apparently snow is forecast for the middle of the week. I hope the bees and butterflies manage to get to shelter. 

When we go on family walks like that I am amazed by the stuff the smallest members of the family remember from previous hikes, in the case of the smallest one, from a time before he could even speak very much. They work out how the world works from earwigging on our conversations. 

A journalist called Seamus O’Reilly has been writing a column featuring his small son every Sunday, pretty much since the child was born. Today he was writing about moving house, always a traumatic experience. He though his small son had ignored the whole business but then this happened: 

“The day after our move, we were saved by my sister Maeve, who took our son for the day so that we could get the place ship shape, and he could follow Ardal and Nora around their house, gawping at his elder (four and six respectively) cousins with delight.

He’d spent the first hour in their house ferrying furniture from one Sylvanian Family cottage to another in a toy truck, rather putting the lie to our belief he’d not being paying any attention to the ordeal we were making out of what had been, to be honest, a mostly happy move.

When we went to pick him up, he grabbed the two houses he’d been playing with, so he could bring them home ‘to move house’. We laughed, he burst into exhausted tears, and we did our best to console him. It has, indeed, been a moving experience for us all.”

There you go. Silvanian Families and Playmobil and other such toys have provided lots of opportunities for children to work out things that are troubling them or just going on seemingly above their heads. 

A friend of mine who is totally traumatised by the whole business of moving house after 35 years of accumulating stuff in one place could do with some toy houses to act out his stress. Do they provide such things for adults?

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Birthdays. And hikes. And changing the clocks.

Today has been a bit busy. I ran down the Donkey Line first thing, to make a change from running round the village. My plan after that was to do some washing and then head for Tesco, to buy a few odds and ends. The washing was done and then my daughter got in touch. Today is her number 2 daughter’s 19th birthday. The birthday girl wanted to go for a hike up to Heights Church, one of her favourite places. Ideally, her older sister would have come along with the dog but she was feeling a bit feeble - she has rather wonky arthritic feet. 

So the rest of us - well, me, my daughter, the birthday girl and two small siblings - set off up the hill to Heights. There we ran into an old friend of my daughter’s, born in the house next door to ours when we lived in the valley between Delph and Denshaw. We shared our picnic with her. The two small ones played “We’re going on a bear hunt” around the graveyard. The five and half year old told the story over and over again while the two and a half year old followed on, joining in whenever he could. 

After we walked down the hill again, my daughter gave me a lift to Tesco so that I could pick up the odds and ends I had listed in the morning. She went on her way, planning to visit the oldest granddaughter. I whizzed round the supermarket and caught the 5.00 bus home. Such efficiency!

Tonight, overnight, we put the clocks forward. They steal an hour of my sleeping time! Here’s a little something from an article about it:

“Not only do you lose an hour’s sleep, you also get to spend thirty minutes once you are awake on a Sunday morning trying to work out how to change the clock on the microwave and the washing machine if you have them.

The ritual owes its origins in the UK to the first world war. The annual hourly changing of the clock was first established in the UK more than 100 years ago under the Summer Time Act 1916, with the thought that lighter evenings might preserve fuel for the war effort.

In the debate in parliament about introducing it at the time, Henry Petty-FitzMaurice, the Marquess of Lansdowne, made reference to Benjamin Franklin, who had, half-jokingly, proposed a type of daylight saving time while living in Paris. There, in 1784, Franklin observed that the sun had risen much earlier than his Parisienne acquaintances. He argued they would save money on candles if they opted for earlier mornings rather than continue to enjoy their later nightlife.

It would have been impossible to introduce daylight saving time on this side of the channel that early though, as the UK didn’t even have legal standardised time until 1880. Prior to that date, people calculated when noon was locally, and worked from that, but the introduction of railways and their timetables made ultra-local timezones confusing.”

Not only regional dialects then, but regional time zones.

And here’s something from a certain Stefano Pavone: 

“Tonight in Britain the clocks will go forward – all except mine

For a start, changing the clocks is bad for our health. This is because we humans (and many other lifeforms on this planet) are synchronised with Earth’s natural orbit – we naturally wake up when the day begins and sleep when night falls. Changing our “social clock” creates a gulf between the time on our watches and the height of the sun in the sky. (This was made even worse during the second world war, when British double summer time was introduced, time-shifting the natural day by two hours instead of one.) In 2019, a group of experts in psychology, neurology and sleep cycles concluded that “if we want to improve human health … we should abandon DST”, after studies showed that, in the weeks after a clock change, sleep durations fall and heart attacks increase. There is a strong safety case, too: when DST was paused as an experiment in the 1960s, road traffic accidents in England and Wales fell by 11%.”

There you go. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 25 March 2022

Sunshine. Wild garlic. Trends. Language difficulty. Image creation.

Amazingly, the fine weather continues. No doubt there will be complaints about drought before long! We need something to moan about. In the meantime, I have been out and about in the sunshine, I have done a pile of washing, as you do when the weather is good, and now have a line full of stuff drying nicely in the sunshine. 

Along one stretch of my usual running route there is a section which fills up with wild garlic every year at around this time. Last year I came across someone digging some up to put in her garden. She gave me a few plants to take away with me, warning me to put them in a pot as otherwise my garden would be full of wild garlic before you could say “wild garlic pesto”. I followed her advice, the plants grew nicely, I used the odd leaf in various recipes and eventually the plants died off. I thought that was the end of them but this year they appear to be back in the same plant pot. The wonders of nature!

According to this article the town of Lostwithiel in Cornwall is having problems with people coming into the area and picking so much of their wild garlic that the lanes look as though they have been ravaged. Mostly they seem to be connected with restaurants and the like and are collecting the stuff to make large amounts of wild garlic pesto. One young man, when asked where he was from, admitted to coming from nearby Bodmin, where they had already “ruined” their local supply! It’s weird how trends in food come and go, just as in the world of fashion and entertainment.

One such thing is the fuss that was made when Colin Firth played Mr D’Arcy in the BBC production of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. This was back in 1995 and I remember the daughter of a friend of mine asking if I was as dotty about Mr D’Arcy as her mother was. Well, no, actually I wasn’t. It took me a long time to become even a moderate Jane Austen fan and I really wasn’t interested enough to watch the series. Besides, the scene everyone went bonkers about, where Colin Firth emerged from a lake with a soaking wet shirt, didn’t even come from the novel. Mr D’Arcy was much too stiff and conventional to do such things and the scene was invented for the series, presumably to show of Mr Firth’s physique. 

Anyway, it seems that there is to be an exhibition of clothing at Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, Hampshire, an exhibition that is supposedly focussing on the kind of underwear ladies wore in Jane Austen’s time. But for some reason the famous shirt is to be included in the exhibition. The curator Sophie Reynolds said she was sure Austen fans would be thrilled to see the shirt, which has spent most of the years since in the hands of a professional costume company. “I think people will be excited to see it in the flesh and hopefully no one will go up and hug it,” she said. Okay! Fashion and fans are strange things.

On more serious matters, I read that there is a problem for people in the UK volunteering to host Ukrainian refugees: the website for the resettlement scheme has forms for Ukrainians to complete, forms which appear only in English! So Ukrainian refugees, with limited access to the internet anyway, need to have the forms translated. Now, I know there’s a myth that “everyone” speaks English but it’s really not so. Ukrainian is not a language commonly taught in UK schools but there are old established Ukrainian communities in the UK. Surely they would be able to provide translations! The mind boggles!

Last night BBC’s Newsnight had an interview with Mr. Johnson. I didn’t catch all of it but ai did hear our PM talk about “so fortifying the quills of the Ukrainian porcupine as to make it indigestible to the Russians.” Or words to that effect. I long ago grew weary of government by metaphor and now there is comment by metaphor as well. 

I also grow weary of politicians, especially rhe ones who are personally very wealthy, taking photo opportunites to make themselves look like “ordinary people”. The latest was Rishi Sunak filmed filling up his car at a service station, presumably publicising his cut to fuel duty, which does not in fact help those many people who don’t own a car! I need my politicians to understand ordinary people but no to pretend that they are just like those ordinary people.

Oh boy!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Building castles in the sand. A bit of imagination. Hazardous activIty.

Late this morning I walked round to one of our local children’s playgrounds, accompanied by my number 2 granddaughter (useful for pushing the baby buggy when I got fed up of doing so) and the two youngest grandchildren. The youngest, two and a half and inclined to stop and examine every interesting stick and stone he comes across, rather like a small dog with smells, insisted that he wanted to walk. I decided to go with that, for a while at least, putting off the dread moment when I would need to wrestle a stiff, howling child into the buggy and strap him in with great difficulty. His older sister, by way of a contrast,  insisted after maybe 500 yards, that she needed a lift on the buggy board, a device which did not exist when my children were small! The older child just had to walk alongside the buggy holding the younger child.

We finally got to the park, after a stop for a portion of sausage and chips for some of our party who declared themselves to be starving and then admitted to having had no breakfast this morning. Most of our time at the playground was uneventful. Small stick houses were built, the two and a half year old built “castles” - a stick stuck in the sand next to a pile of sand! Then the five year old, quarantined from her reception class because of a stomach upset the night before last, decided we were going to play at ”going to the theatre”. 

There is a section of the playground with wooden seating arranged like a mini outdoor theatre. We sat on the top level, eating imaginary popcorn, and after a while the smaller child decided to climb up from the lower level to ours - climbing “steps” almost as big as he is tall. He must have tumbled three or four times, each time picking himself up with a cry of “my okay!”. Kamikaze genes, obviously. 

I thought of this when I read this report in the newspaper online later in the day:

“A British Base jumper has died after his parachute failed to open in time during a cliff jump while on holiday with friends in the south of France.

The 34-year-old man succumbed to his injuries at Grenoble university hospital after Tuesday’s accident, according to the Dauphiné Libéré newspaper.”

Anything involving parachutes sounds a little hazardous. So then I had to find out exactly what base jumping is. This is what Wikipedia told me:

“BASE jumping is the recreational sport of jumping from fixed objects, using a parachute to descend safely to the ground. "BASE" is an acronym that stands for four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump: buildings, antenna (referring to radio masts), spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs). 

Participants exit from a fixed object such as a cliff, and after an optional freefall delay, deploy a parachute to slow their descent and land. A popular form of BASE jumping is wingsuit Base jumping. 

In contrast to other forms of parachuting, such as skydiving from airplanes, BASE jumps are performed from fixed objects which are generally at much lower altitudes, and BASE jumpers only carry one parachute. BASE jumping is significantly more hazardous than other forms of parachuting, and is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous extreme sports.”

Why would you do that? I am constantly amazed at the human capacity for finding new and possibly interesting and spectacular ways to put themselves at risk. As if there weren’t enough dangerous things to do accidentally. 

Incidentally I discovered that a certain Fausto Veranzio is widely believed to have been the first person to build and test a parachute, by jumping from St Mark’s Campanile in Venice In 1617 when over sixty-five years old. However, these and other sporadic incidents were one-time experiments, not the actual systematic pursuit of a new form of parachuting. Rather better that Daedalus and his feather and wax wings for himself and his son the ill fated Icarus but only just!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Eating out and the difficulty of getting home. Plans that go awry.

Yesterday, after we had eaten lots of curry dishes and sung happy birthday to my friend Heidy, we set off to make our various ways homeward in the middle evening. Together with another of the group I went to the bus stop to catch a bus to Piccadilly Gardens, central Manchester. We saw one bus go past as we said our farewells to the birthday girl but we were not concerned as there are usually a huge number of buses heading towards the city centre. Not last night, there weren’t. We discovered a notice at the bus stop informing us that the bus stop was closed between 7.00pm and 9.00pm because of a Reclaim the Night march. All well and good. I’m all in favour of making the streets safe in the evening for women  (and men for that matter) to walk about in. But there really was no immediate sign of a march.

So we set off to walk past the various bits of the university, heading towards the centre. At one point we passed a host of people going in the opposite direction, seemingly the remnants of the Reclaim the Night March. And eventually, after about 45 minutes we managed to catch a bus. Just as well, as my walking companion has a game leg and some breathing difficulties; in her words, “I have difficulty walking, talking and breathing at the same time.” But we made it safely back to Piccadilly gardens. I left her to catch another bus and went off to catch a tram to Oldham. Once there, neatly half way between buses to Delph, I decided to take a taxi for the final stage of my journey. As ever, going into Manchester is fine but getting home again is a pain!

Today’s plan was that I should go to my eldest granddaughter’s house, collect her and her dog and walk to my smallest granddaughter’s primary school to meet her and then walk back to number one granddaughter’s house. A long walk but not impossible. The small girl was very excited at the prospect. In the event, she had an upset stomach overnight and so did not go to school. Apparently she was in floods of tears at 8.00 this morning because she could not go and more importantly could not be collected by Grandma and big sister. We’ll have to do it another day.

So I went off the number one granddaughter’s house anyway to make her make good use of her day off by walking the dog along the bridle path and back along the towpath. It all went well. We saw some fine fungus. The blossom trees are doing nicely. And nobody fell on the canal, not even the dog!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Fine weather. Birthdays. Nostalgia. Going to Ukraine - via instagram but probably not in person.

In a reversal of what often happens, today began rather cloudy and dull and then improved into another fine and sunny day. I hope it continues so as I am going put later to help a friend celebrate her birthday. The washing is on the line. It might stay there overnight, depending on what time I return later and whether or not I remember to remind Phil to bring it all in. 

Yesterday in the Italian conversation class we had a nostalgia session, remembering the 1960s. We’ve been reading and discussing stuff about Italy’s “boom economico” and our teacher / coordinator asked us to dredge up memories of that time in our own country. Of course, most of us are post war babies, old enough to have been been teenagers through the sixties. Things have changed a good deal since then, when my family had no phone, no car, and had only just acquired a television, a fridge and a washing machine - a twin tub, of course, not an automatic! And now you can get Alexa to control them all, if you so desire! 

Our teacher was a very small child during that time. Her family moved from inland Sicily to Gela on the coast where industrial development was going on apace. One of her memories - as well as that of her mother’s cultural shock of moving from the mountains to the seaside and having to learn to cook fish - was of her mother putting a tin bathtub full of water on the balcony to warm up in the sunshine. Once it was warm enough the small girl would be given a bath. This morning, to celebrate our older sister’s birthday, my younger sister posted a photo of our older sister, as a small girl, I hasten to add, not as the grown up lady she is now,  sitting in an identical tin bathtub in the garden, in the 1950s, not the 196s. Those were the days when summers were hot enough to need to cool down in a tub of cool water in the garden! 

When I go out later, I will don ordinary shoes, fashion shoes, for what is probably only the third or fourth time in two years. All those smart shoes I once wore to work sitting in the bottom of the wardrobe, have been neglected in favour of trainers and walking boots. Now, according to this article the days of wearing high heels to work are over and done with. No more sexist demands that women should wear stilettos to the office! Not that I ever wore killer heels. They are definitely not to be recommended for the classroom but I did know one or two who insisted that they enjoyed being taller and that they really could not imagine wearing flat shoes. I wonder how they fared during lockdown. Did they team their tracksuits or even pyjamas with stilettos for working from home?

During our nostalgia fest yesterday one of the gentlemen in the group told how he shocked his colleagues in the law firm where he worked by turning up in a pink shirt! He was quietly told that it was really not appropriate, even when teamed with a conventional suit! The men had to conform as well. Those were the days! I can remember fighting for the right to wear trousers to work in the 1970s!

Out in the wider world, I read that David Beckham gave his instagram account to a Ukrainian doctor so that she could broadcast to the world what her day is like. I have no idea how that works but it seems like a good gesture on Beckham’s part as no doubt masses of his followers will now have seen almost first hand what life is like for the hardworking medics. 

According to Oliver Dowden, Boris Johnson is “desperate” to go to Ukraine in person. Apparently Oliver Dowden, who is also a minister without portfolio in the government, told Andrew Marr on LBC Radio on Monday evening: “Well, I think the prime minister is desperate to go to Ukraine and has throughout this conflict felt a real – as the British people have done – a real emotional connection with the suffering of the Ukrainian people and a need for the west to unite in standing up to this threat from Russia which has been exposed to Ukraine. And actually, for example, with the bazookas that are currently being fired in Ukraine, people are saying ‘God Save the Queen’, because they know that it was the British that were leading that effort.”

Hmm! Do the people firing bazookas really ask themselves where the bazookas came from? I doubt it. Cynics are saying that what the PM really wants is a photo opportunity. It could well be so! 

Meanwhile The London Economic reports that “Boris Johnson has not been invited to a summit of EU leaders to address the Ukraine crisis amid fury at “cynical” remarks comparing Russia’s invasion with Brexit.” This despite his wanting to go. Could it be because he is no longer an EU leader? I wonder. 

And some are saying that Mr Johnson is in for another partygate because he is rumoured to have cut short his visit to Saudi Arabia in order to return to London in time for his wife’s birthday party. As with so many government-related things, it is unlikely we’ll ever know the truth of that. 

That’s enough about Mr Johnson to last us for a good while. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Monday, 21 March 2022

Frost. Fire. Foolish words? Broken promises.

Just to remind us that it’s actually still only March there was frost on the shed roof this morning. I’m not surprised as it was very clear with a bright, almost full moon last night. Running in the early  morning I found that the sun was still quite warm. By midday the clouds had moved in somewhat but the forecast is favourable.  We’ll see how that goes. 

The fine weather has brought out the pyromaniacs again. Not far from Liverpool they had a patch of marshland set alight, almost certainly deliberately. Closer to home, they had to put out fires at our local beauty spot, Dovestone. I wonder what it is that makes some people feel the need to set things alight!

Although Partygate appears to have disappeared over the horizon, other things are popping up to give us cause to criticise our PM, or indeed for other people to criticise him. Johnson has apparently compared the Ukrainians’ fight for freedom to Britons voting for Brexit. “I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time,” he said in a speech to the Tory Party Conference in Balckpool. “I can give you a couple of famous recent examples. When the British people voted for Brexit, in such large, large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners.” Maybe he thought that what goes on at conference stays at conference - not so. Rishi Sunak and Sakid Javid have both jumped to the defence of their leader, denying that the PM said the two situations were “directly analogous”. Well, no, I would say they are not!

Sajid Javid went even further, telling Nick Robinson on the Today programme:

“[Johnson] was talking about the general desire for people, no matter who they are, where they live, for self determination, and that can be in any setting, in any country. I don’t think at all he was trying to link the specific situation in Ukraine with the UK.”

In response, Robinson pointed out that the PM’s speech specifically did link the two situations. He suggested that the fact that two cabinet ministers have now effectively disowned the connection made by Johnson suggests that No 10 accepts it was a mistake. 

Possibly a case of foot in mouth disease!

And then there are the claims that the Uk is a “world leader” in the fight against Putin. There’s this from The London Economic:

“A former prime minister of Finland has said claims Boris Johnson is leading opposition to Vladimir Putin are “utter rubbish” and an “illusion”.

Alexander Stubb said only in “Brexit la la land” was Johnson seen as having “taken a lead globally”.

“This idea about ‘Global Britain’ is as true as ‘peaceful Russia’,” Stubb said. “Simply utter rubbish, to put it diplomatically. To claim that Boris Johnson ‘has taken a lead globally in standing up to Putin’ is an illusion only possible in Brexit la la land.””

Meanwhile the Brexit “benefits” continue for those with or seeking settled status. Here’s yet another story of a couple  being told that it was okay to travel on the assurance that the husband’s application for settled status was being processed, only to find that he was not allowed onto the plane bringing them back from India. Despite their being married and about to have their first child, he was deemed to have “failed to provide sufficient evidence that he was a “durable partner” of his wife at the time of the application”. Had they lived together before being married, something they did not do as it is against their Islamic beliefs, he would probably be okay! The mind boggles!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!