Saturday, 30 April 2022

Bus travel with the young man from ‘Ull. Reactions to the news from here and there.

At the end of this morning I caught a bus to Greenfield Tesco. Very efficiently I filled a couple of shopping bags and went to check out the buses for my return trip. On one side of the main road the 356 bus stop informed me there was a bus at 12.51. It was then 12.44. On the other side of the road the 350 bus stop informed me there was a bus at 1.00. So I crossed back to the 356 stop. That bus does a scenic route through Diggle and Dobcross but, even though it’s a slightly longer journey, if it arrived on time I would at least be on my way home. 

1.00 approached. The 356 did not. I decided to go across to the 350 stop. At 1.05 that bus had not shown up either. At that point the 356 came round the corner, so I crossed the road again and hopped on board. I was working on the principle that an actual bus, even if slower, was better than a promise of one - a bird in the hand and all that sort of thing! 

The driver was almost an old friend, the young man from ‘Ull (his pronunciation of Hull) who I’ve travelled with on more than one occasion on that bus route. So we had a chat. Not a bad way to finish a shopping trip.

I arrived home in time to miss the radio news, which is probably just as well as everything is singularly depressing at the moment. Between Liz Truss possibly hurtling us into an escalated conflict, even war with Russia, and evidence of MPs behaving badly - being caught watching pornography once can perhaps be explained as accidental but twice sounds rather deliberate - it’s not cheerful listening. If a teacher or a nurse were to be caught concentrating on any kind of app on their phone in the classroom or the hospital ward no doubt there would be an outcry. So why do MPs feel they can mess about on their phones in the House of Commons? The generous say it’s their team sending them answers to difficult questions. Really?! I am not convinced.

Here’s a bit of news about Italy:

“Italian children should be given the surnames of both parents, the constitutional court has ruled, overturning the tradition by which all newborns are automatically named after their fathers.

The practice was “discriminatory and harmful to the identity” of the child, the court said in a statement, adding that both parents should be able to choose the surname.

Children should be given both parents’ surnames in the order they decide, unless they agree their children should take just one of them, the court added in a statement.

New legislation, to be approved by parliament, is required to implement the decision.”

Two Italian friends of mine are waxing mildly indignant about it on social media, declaring that it is more important and necessary to bring in further legislation to protect women and children from domestic violence. Quite so!

Having seen that, later I came across yet another report of parents causing the death of their baby, almost certainly because of the father shaking the child. In this case the mother hid her pregnancy and baby Eleanor was born two weeks premature, ending up in intensive care for a few weeks before being allowed home. Not a good start: “Hospital staff referred the family to social services after noting they seemed to have little interest in the newborn, leaving bottle feeding to staff and rarely visiting her in intensive care.” So why was she even sent home?

It went on: “A Norfolk county council social worker who visited the family on the day Eleanor was allowed home “noted little communication or interaction” between them and Eleanor. In October, health visitors noticed bruising and scratches to Eleanor’s face, which her mother said were due to an ill-fitting car seat and that the baby had scratched herself.”

There followed a series of mistakes (mistakes?) resulting in the baby’s death. “Elizabeth Marsh QC, mitigating for Carly Easey, said Eleanor “was killed through no action or inaction” by her mother. “She feels extremely guilty for failing to protect her baby from the man who deceived her,” she said.

Sally O’Neill QC, mitigating for Christopher Easey, said he would “carry to his grave … the knowledge what he did cause the injuries to his baby daughter”. She described him as a “very inexperienced father”.”

“A very inexperience father”? I’m pretty sure most fathers are inexperienced when they start down that path. These two parents clearly needed a lot more support!  The system needs fixing!

On that depressing note, I shall finish.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 29 April 2022

Ladies who lunch. Organisers. Other people’s stress. Getting indignant about education. Sleep.

I’ve just come back from playing ladies-who-lunch with a friend. We do this on our respective birthdays and on odd occasions in between. We meet at the restaurant in the pub next door to my house. They offer a “special senior citizens’ menu”, subtitled “also for those with a smaller appetite”. So we kid ourselves that we come into the latter category and refuse to be pigeon-holed as senior citizens. 

We both ordered broccoli and Stilton soup for the first course. The soup turned up. It was red. A red pepper soup. Nice as it looked, it wasn’t what we had ordered. It transpired that red pepper soup was their soup of the day until almost the moment when we ordered the broccoli and Stilton. No! It was the head waitress who told us broccoli and Stilton was today’s soup. Excuses! Excuses! We sent the red soup back and waited for the green soup to arrive. Otherwise the food was as ordered. And all of it delicious. 

After lunch my friend was going off to help her son and family move house, or at any rate to pack up ready to move house tomorrow. Starting to pack up this afternoon struck both of us as little tardy, but then we are both organisers and like to advise people on how to do things, ie tell the, what to do! . 

My eldest granddaughter appears to have inherited the organiser gene. She and her housemate have some American friends arriving today, not to stay at their house, which is too small to accommodate everyone. They have hired a b&b somewhere nearby. We are currently wondering of they will be able to locate the b&b. 

My granddaughter has been tearing her hair out trying to pin everyone down to a programme of activities. Apparently this has been a little like herding cats. Everyone was very lackadaisical. Then odd events started to trickle through:

  •  the Americans were at the airport when they realised they had left their passports at home. One of their parents had to do an emergency run to the airport with them.
  • having arrived at Manchester they realised that a purse had been left behind in the car they had parked at the US airport - a purse containing cash, one driving license, some credit or debit cards. This could cause problems with the car they had arranged to hire here.
  • in response to the suggestion that they should alert their bank to the possibility of credit and debit cards being lost, they declared themselves “too stressed” to do so at the moment. 
  • at Manchester airport they boarded the wrong shuttle bus and had to find their way back to the correct bus to go to the car hire place.

So that is why we wonder if they will ever find the air b&b or if they will drive around Manchester for hours. Presumably they have satnav!

My granddaughter is a mix of stressed and amused, but at least it’s someone else’s stress she really has to deal with. She’ll probably take over when they all get together finally and tell everyone what to do!

In a recent news item Katharine Moana Birbalsingh, self-confessed small-c conservative, described on Wikipedia as a British teacher and education reformer who is the founder and head teacher of Michaela Community School, a free school established in 2014 in Wembley Park, London, has said that girls don’t choose Physics as an A-Level subject because they find the Maths too hard! This has led to some splutterings of outrage. Here is a sample of letters to the Guardian newspaper:

“I was incensed by Katharine Birbalsingh’s comments. In 1975, I chose physics, maths, chemistry and biology for A-Levels. The groups were about a third female. Both our physics and chemistry teachers were female. My daughter, now a doctor, chose sciences, including physics, for all her A-level subjects.

I went to a comprehensive school and we were encouraged to do subjects we enjoyed. I am glad we did not have teachers telling us that, because we were female, we would not choose physics or maths because they were too hard. Presumably Birbalsingh also discourages girls from doing too much reading as this might cause their brains to melt and dribble out through their ears.
Ruth Rising
Thornton Watlass, North Yorkshire”

I love the idea of opposition to excessive reading on the grounds that it could cause brain-melt. Of course, there are still parts of the world where such an attitude to girls’ education still holds sway! It needs combatting!

And finally, here’s a little something about sleep. My Fitbit encourages me to get plenty of sleep, giving me a reminder at about 10.30 pm that it’s time to think about bed, and awarding me a star if I get over 8 hours.  

This article tells me this:

“Seven hours of sleep each night is the ideal amount in middle to old age, research suggests.

The study of nearly 500,000 adults aged between 38 and 73 found that both too much and too little sleep were linked with worse cognitive performance and mental health, including anxiety and depression. A consistent amount of sleep also appeared to be beneficial.”

There you go. So now I know how they (whoever “they” are) define middle to old age. I also know that this year my ladies-who-lunch friend and I have tipped over into old age! Oh dear!

Update on the Americans - my granddaughter tells me that they are now lost somewhere between Manchester airport and Ashton under Lyne. Oh dear! 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Thinking about small children. And birthdays. And cakes.

Today has been a bit on the cold side again. It didn’t stop our smallest grandchild from running around the garden without a coat, doing his best to organise me into the kind of game his 5 year old sister likes to make us play. “Fish and catfish” involves one person giving or denying all the others permission to run towards him or her. Not bad for 21/2!

We still managed to go for a walk in the late morning, this time with coats on. It was not as fine and sunny as yesterday’s stroll by the canal near our eldest granddaughters house but not at all bad! 

This has been a week of birthdays - not over yet! Sunday was our daughter’s birthday. Yesterday was an old friend’s birthday, which we will celebrate by going out to lunch tomorrow as she was busy yesterday and today. Tomorrow is our oldest grandson’s birthday. He will be seventeen and apparently has been heard to mutter that he hopes there will be a cake for him. Everyone else on the family, even his stepfather, has had one of my cakes on their birthday and he does not want to be left put. Quite so! He may have to wait until Saturday or Sunday though!

His small brother, the little organiser mentioned earlier, refuses to accept that tomorrow is his big brother’s birthday. At 21/2 he managed to get his head round Mummy having a birthday last weekend. Even then, having accepted on Saturday that the next day was Mummy’s birthday, when Sunday came around and someone pointed out the significance of the day he growled, “No, Mummy’s birthday is TOMORROW!” So the idea that someone else could have a birthday within such a short time has led to total denial. It’s hard to get your head around things when you’re only small.

In fact, being a small child is quite hard work all round, with people telling you constantly what you can and can’t do. Our small boy does quite well at holding his own in the bossiness stakes though, especially since he has grown more articulate. 

But he way we treat our children continues to be a matter of debate. Wales has just recently banned smacking children and there are calls for England to follow suit. Whether it’s the old stiff-upper-lip thing or something else remains a mystery to me but a surprisingly large number of people seem to think it’s okay to wallop children. 

Even Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi says it’s okay and expressed his belief that parents should be trusted to decide for themselves whether or not to smack their offspring. “I’ve got a nine-year-old, and I don’t think I’ve ever smacked her but I think her mother, on occasion, has felt a need for a light smack on the arm, if she’s completely naughty and misbehaving.” That’s what he said. Interesting that he “doesn’t think” he’s ever smacked her! 

It’s illegal to hit your partner, a friend, your dog but you can still hit a child, only within reason (whatever that means) and so long as it doesn’t cause bruising or leave a mark! So you can show a child that might is right and that it’s perfectly okay to lash out when you are frustrated about something! Oh boy! 

This is how we end up with politicians who can contemplate moves that might lead us into World War III!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

A bit of an eventful day! The superiority of English strawberries.

To ride to the market this morning I put on my running gear with a lightweight waterproof on top, not because I needed to stay dry but as wind-proofing. (Quick memory flash: when I was a teenager there was a fashion for jackets called wind-cheaters! Whatever happened to them?) Over the last few weeks I have grown used to being able to cycle to the market in lightweight clothing. No longer any need to wrap up in loads of layers. This was a mistake today. 

I was warm enough cycling along the bridle paths but once I got to Uppermill it was clear that the temperature had dropped. By the time I had stood in line at a couple of outdoor market stalls I was pretty chilly. There must be a special wind that bowls through the square where the market is held. 

On the plus side, as I approached the fruit and veg stall, from a good few yards away, I could smell strawberries. They were the first of this year’s English strawberries which, it has to be said, are far superior to almost any other strawberries. My daughter will often buy strawberries out of season from the supermarket, usually grown under glass or in polytunnels in various places quite far away. They always look beautiful but their taste never matches their good looks. A bit of a discussion ensued around the fruit and veg stall: the general consensus was that you can’t beat a good English strawberry!

It was all drama at market too. I noticed the lady who runs the cheese and biscuit stall (that lady now seemingly restored to health and making a regular appearance once more!) swilling a bucket of water into the gutter across the road, washing away what looked like a puddle of blood. And indeed, that’s just what she was doing. Someone had tripped over the uneven paving stones and cracked his head. The fruit and veg man told me, “He wasn’t even a doddery old chap. A bit elderly but sprightly! I had just served him. He had two bags of shopping, one in each hand, so he wasn’t able to break his fall.”

Someone had found him a chair to sit on. Someone else had phoned emergency services. They were warned that it might take a few hours for an ambulance to be available! That seems to be happening all over the country. However, within half an hour we could hear sirens and an ambulance turned up and whisked him away. How long he might have to sit in the ambulance outside A&E is a different matter.  

I rode home with my shopping, only to discover emergency stuff going on at home too. On the kitchen table was a ‘trouble shooting guide’. The central heating boiler was not functioning properly and Phil was having a go at sorting it. First things first, switch it off and restart it. All to no avail! So he sent for a boiler-man, who amazingly arrived within about 20 minutes. The first thing he asked was, “have you switched it off and restarted it?” Clearly the first step in any kind of repair.

In the midst of all this, our granddaughter phoned in a panic. She had spoken to a consultant about one or other of her medical oddities and needed to talk to someone. Her mother was at work. So I was the next best thing. In the end I left most of the shopping where it was in my bike panniers and took myself off to talk to her face to face. A panic shared is a panic halved. 

She calmed down. We took the dog for a walk and made plans. I called Phil in the late afternoon and suggested he sorted himself out with an early tea before heading off the play chess. I discovered that the boiler-man had done a temporary repair but had decided we need a new part for the boiler. He will phone Phil when he has it organised. Amazingly he charged no call-out fee. Let’s hope  the spare part and the necessary work are not too expensive,

Granddaughter and I chatted over cups of tea and set the world to rights. Eventually her mother turned up and we discussed matters further, rather inconclusively. We await further medical consultation. 

And finally I got home in the early evening and put the shopping away. I ate the small punnet of strawberries I had bought in the morning. They were good!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!  

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

The madness of the modern media-led world.

Mr Johnson has been Up North, doing some campaigning in Bury. News footage shows him repainting white lines on the football pitch there.  He does like to be seen doing practical stuff: painting white lines, driving a tram, all sorts of occupations that I’m pretty sure he would not want to do on a regular, full-time basis. Maybe he suffers from Marie Antoinette syndrome. 

In an article on occasions in the past when female MPs have had to deal with sexism in the House of Commons, I came across this:

“Baroness, whatever it is … ’

Boris Johnson, as foreign secretary, was slapped down in 2018 for referring to his shadow counterpart, Emily Thornberry, by her husband’s title rather than her name. Answering Thornberry, whose high court judge husband is a knight, Johnson referred to her as “Baroness, whatever it is, I cannot remember what it is … Nugee”.

The then Commons Speaker, John Bercow, said: “We do not address people by the title of their spouses. The shadow foreign secretary has a name, and it is not ‘Lady something’. We know what her name is. It is inappropriate and frankly sexist to speak in those terms, and I am not having it in this chamber.” Johnson subsequently apologised for his “inadvertent sexism”.

It seems to me that has always had to apologise for stuff he has done “inadvertently”. How do we come to have such a bumbling person who does things without realising it as Prime Minister? 

Even when apologising for offence he gave inadvertently, he seems to  enjoy the limelight. A very modern prime minister therefore, he is a product of this age of being seen to do things, being famous for fifteen minutes. 

And so we have Twitter being sold for $44bn - how is  a social media platform worth so much? - and influencers earning silly amounts of money just for appearing on social media. No wonder prime ministers want to be seen pushing line painters around on football pitches!

There’s a news item I found about a YouTuber (that’s a YouTuber, not a citizen, not a man, not a bloke with a plane - he is defined as a YouTuber!) who has lost his pilot license in the USA for deliberately crashing his light aircraft so he could film the whole event, as he parachuted to safety, and then upload the video onto YouTube. 2.2m views and no more plane and no more flying for a year. Does he receive financial compensation somehow for the (deliberate) loss of his plane? Or does he just have more money than sense. 

How odd to live your life so much in the public eye! I would think that Johnny Depp is wishing he didn’t love so much in he public eye at the moment. It’s a fickle thing, that public eye! One day you are everyone’s darling and the next you are a villain. And your love life is scrutinised - the latest I’ve seen is Bennifer, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, reunited 19 years after their original planned wedding was kiboshed by too much media attention! Oh boy! It’s hard being famous!

On the romance front, here is a new term: Fictosexuals. It means people who fall in love with a fictional characters, whether from books or films or TV series, I think. I”m pretty sure this used to called “having a crush on somebody, as when so many women apparently went a bit wild about Colin Firth as Mr Darcy in the BBC’s production of Pride and Prejudice. What do you call someone who falls in love with the actor who plays a fictional character? Is there a separate special label for such people. 

I know that characters in books become very real. It’s why series of books featuring the dame characters do so well. It’s why I like to reread certain books, to revisit those characters. In some cases, the best cases, you can imagine them carrying on beyond the end of the novel. But most of us don’t fall in love with fictional characters. As a rule we known they don’t really exist beyond the pages. But there is apparently someone in Japan, Akihiko Kondo, who has married Hatsune Miku, a fictional computer-synthesised pop singer who has been on tour with Lady Gaga. He has been in a “relationship” with her for ten hears apparently and says this saved him from depression. However, none of his family turned up to his wedding. That’s a bit sad!

Such is the weird modern world!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 25 April 2022

President de la France. A little bit of etymology. Festa de la liberazione in Italia. Tourist problems.

So Monsieur Macron is going to be Monsieur le Président for another term. Phew! That’s a relief! As a lot of leaders of other countries seem to be saying. France has been saved! Europe has been saved! Some see it as a blow against Putin. It’s been a close thing! Not quite as close as we came to staying in the European Union but still not really an overwhelming victory of Macron. Some polls are apparently saying that an awful lot of those who voted for Macron did so more to keep Marine Le Pen out than to keep him in. They voted for him faute de mieux, as they say. It must be a bit galling to win because you are the lesser of two evils, but in the end a win is a win! 

They might not be so lucky next time. Marine Le Pen garnered rather a lot of votes. Next time there will be more younger voters who don’t remember her father Jean-Marie Le Pen. Anything can happen. They need to work on finding a credible alternative. There are people here in the same kind of voting quandary as the French: Conservatives who can’t think who could realistically replace Johnson and non-Conservatives of various colours wondering who could put up a credible fight against him! 

Those who claim to know about such things say that the coming local elections in the UK will be a bellwether for the state of politics in the country. 

Bellwether is an interesting word. According to the encyclopaedia in the cloud it means:

One that serves as a leader or as a leading indicator of future trends.

A wether or sheep which leads the flock, usually carrying a bell on its neck.

A wether, or sheep, which leads the flock, with a bell on his neck.

Some sources say “wether” just means sheep but most are more specific and say it means a castrated ram. This led me to wonder exactly what a “wetherspoon” is apart from an annoying chain of pubs. Was it a strange implement used by sheep-farmers? Wikipedia just sends me to lots of information about the annoying pub chain. So I tried an alternative spelling: “wither” and “witherspoon”. Of course, I got information about the actress Reese Witherspoon, that I wasn’t interested in. But I also found this: 

“Witherspoon was a name for someone who lived in various places throughout Scotland. It may have been a habitation name from a now lost place name, thought to come from the Old English terms wether, which means "sheep," and "spong," or from spang, which means "a narrow strip of land." Habitation names form a broad category of surnames that were derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads.”

So “wetherspoon” basically means “sheep land”. Maybe the annoying pubs could be demolished and the land given over the sheep-farming!

Today is Liberation Day in Italy - Festa della liberazione - commemorating the victory of the Italian resistance movement agains Nazi Germany and the Italian Social Republic, puppet state of the Nazis. It is distinct from Republic Day - Festa della Repubblica - which takes place on 2 June.

Wikipedia tells me: 

“The date was chosen by convention, as it was the day of the year 1945 when the National Liberation Committee of of Upper Italy (CLNAI) officially proclaimed the insurgency in a radio announcement, propounding the seizure of power by the CLNAI and proclaiming the death sentence for all fascist leaders (including Benito Mussolini, who was shot three days later).

By 1 May, all of northern Italy was liberated, including Bologna (21 April), Genoa (23 April), Milan (25 April), Turin and Venice (28 April). The liberation put an end to twenty-three years of fascist dictatorship and five years of war. It symbolically represents the beginning of the historical journey which led to the referendum of 2 June 1946, when Italians opted for the end of the monarchy and the creation of the Italian Republic, which was followed by the adoption of the Constitution of the Republic in 1948.”

There we go! A bit of history!

Still in Italy, they seem to be having a little problem with tourists and drones. The big thing used to be taking selfies in front of great monuments, the person being more important than the monument, or taking silly photos where the tourist appears to be preventing the Leaning Tower of Pisa from falling any further, or seems to be holding some other monument on their head. Now the thing to do is to have a drone to take aerial photos of your visit to famous places. There are, as you would expect, rules and regulations, no-fly zones and the like, but some tourists either are unaware of such things or opt to ignore them - if you have the money to buy and fly a drone then you feel entitled to fly it where you like. 

Today’s news reports an Argentinian tourist in Rome flying his drone in Piazza Venezia when he lost control of the device and sent it crashing into the roof of Palazzo Venezia, a 15th-century building from where the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini delivered some of his most famous speeches.

Piloting a drone in central Rome and the Vatican is completely out-of-bounds because of all the precious monuments.

And last week, two Mexican tourists crashed their drone into the Leaning Tower of Pisa, also breaking no fly rules. Oops! They might have made it lean even further! In 2020, a 40-year-old tourist from Poland crashed his drone inside the Colosseum despite having been warned that piloting the device inside the ancient amphitheatre was banned. And in July last year, a 61-year-old man was charged with an “attack against transport security” after flying his drone above Rome at an altitude of 2,000 metres. The man, who was a member of a Facebook page for drone fanatics, was reported after his device was seen by a professional pilot.

So, a Facebook page for drone fanatics, eh! Who knew? It takes all sorts, I suppose. 

Fortunately there have been no reports of damage to monuments due to the impact of crashing drones. Penalties imposed have not been reported either, but fines for violating drone rules range from €516 to €64,000. I reckon I’ll stick to my mobile phone.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!  

Sunday, 24 April 2022

March winds in April. Some women in politics. How to get people back to the office?

Friday’s wind blew my glass and plastic recycling bin over, scattering some of the contents around the garden. Obviously we need to drink more wine so that we have more empty bottles to weight the bin down. It also blew two of my pots of flowering plants off the garden wall. Fortunately they survived and have now been brought down to ground level in a more sheltered spot until the weather calms down fully. And I have an honesty plant which has gone from vertical to horizontal. When things are completely calm I will find a cane of some kind to fasten it to and restore it to its former glory. 

Saturday was slightly less windy than Friday and today is calmer again. But the rather later than expected March winds have not yet given way to  April showers. Pretty soon someone will tell us not to water our plants. It doesn’t take long for weather panic to set in.

Across the Channel the French go to the polls today to decide which is the lesser of two evils: Macron or Le Pen. It must be quite a hard choice but surely the French can’t finally elect a President Le Pen, even if it would mean the first ever woman president of La République Française! We wait with bated breath. 

Another woman in politics, Angela Rayner, has been accused by the Daily Mail of using her feminine wiles to put the Prime Minister off his stride in the House of Commons. Crossing and uncrossing her legs! Whatever next?! I have mixed feelings about Ms Rayner but I must say that her response is quite pleasing:-

“Women in politics face sexism every day - and I’m no different - this morning’s is the latest dose of gutter journalism courtesy of the Mail on Sunday. 

I stand accused of a “ploy” to “distract” the helpless PM - by being a woman, having legs and wearing clothes. I am  conspiring to “put him off his stride”. The rest I won’t repeat but you get the picture.

Boris Johnson’s cheerleaders have resorted to spreading desperate, perverted smears in their doomed attempts to save his skin. They know exactly what they are doing. The lies they are telling.

The potted biography is given - my comprehensive education, my experience as a care worker, my family, my class, my background. The implication is clear.

But it is the PM who is dragging the Conservative Party into the sewer and the anonymous Tory MPs doing his bidding are complicit. He and his cheerleaders clearly have a big problem with women in public life. They should be ashamed of themselves.

I won’t be letting their vile lies deter me. Their attempts to harass and intimidate me will fail. I’ve been open about how I’ve had to struggle to get where I am today but I’m proud of my background, I’m proud of who I am and where I’m from - but it’s taken time.”

The whole episode reminded me of a scene in the book I am currently reading, another Barbara Kingsolver novel, “Animal Dreams”. One of the main characters, a tall young woman is in a cafe and realised another customer is staring at her long legs. After some time, she crosses her legs and tells the “gentleman”, “Look, I have two of them”. He’s not shamed by it but instead asks her to marry him.  

I don’t think Mr Johnson can do that! But he and Ms Rayner are also accused of flirting across the House!

Meanwhile ministers get on with their work. Jacob Rees Mogg is urging civil servants to return to the office. Here is Mr Mogg’s message to civil servants not at their desks: “Sorry you were out when I visited.

“I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.”

One suggested response to that is to leave a note on his desk along the lines of:

“Walked past your office. You weren’t there. Hope to see younout of office soon”. 

And Newsthump suggest: “Civil servants admit biggest reason for working at home is to avoid risk of bumping into Jacob Rees-Mogg.”

Ah! The cut and thrust of political debate.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Significant dates. Saints. Religious problems. Trespassers.

It’s Saint George’s Day! Our patron saint, adopted from the Turks, I think, by Richard I when he was out crusading. I seem to remember Good King Richard spent more time crusading than actually at home ruling but maybe that’s just an impression I got from watching Robin Hood on television as a child. Be that as it may, lots of people get very patriotic about a chap who probably never saw England. And did we have a lot of dragons for him to fight anyway?

He’s also the patron Saint of Mallorca and of one or two other bits of Spain. And here’s a photo I took of him being paraded around Ragusa Ibla in Sicily - he’s their saint as well - for his festa, confusingly at the end of May rather than the 23rd of April. Those carrying the statue jiggle him up and down from time to time to make it look as though he is breaking into a gallop. 

Anyway, there it is - St George’s Day! Wave a flag if you must!

On BBC Radio 4 at the moment, just after The World at One news programme, Neil MacGregor has a series of programme about museums, visiting museums in various part of the UK. Incidentally, Wales has a national museum, Scotland has a national museum. England does not! Interesting! Be that as it may, Neil MacGregor visits various cities’ museums and talks about an exhibit, explaining why that particular object has been selected by the museums curator. 

One such place was Belfast, a much troubled city over the years, where the exhibit chosen was a blackboard on which Catholic and Protestant school students had written the things they felt they had in common and the ways in which they differed. I think this was in connection with a TV programme made about the divided city. One thing that emerged was the lack of contact between the two groups back in the 1990s. Protestant schoolchildren and Catholic schoolchildren simply did not meet. And I thought back to my 1950s - 1960s childhood when I too spent my time only with Protestant friends. I simply did not know any Catholic children. They went to different schools. It was not until sixth form that girls from the Convent, the local Roman Catholic girls’ school came to join us for A-level studies. Indeed I can remember my mother being seriously mistrustful of Catholics, especially the Liverpudlian Catholic (suspect on two counts!) my older sister eventually married and is still married to! Moving on in time I can remember sixth form students in tutor group discussions asking, “But are Catholics christians?”. This was in the first decade of this century!

We still need to talk about such things. There is still violence going on in Jerusalem, where Israelis and Palestinians - Jews and Moslems - dispute territorial rites to holy places in the city. It can’t have been helped this year by Passover and Ramadan coinciding almost exactly. Throw Easter into the mix and we have three religions, all worshipping basically the same god and disagreeing with each other, often over who can worship where! And then in Afghanistan there have been terrorist attacks on mosques, during Friday prayers! A terrorist group attacking people of their own religion! The world is crazy. 

Getting back to Neil MacGregor, I find it interesting that I enjoy listening to  the clipped tones of his rather precious English, despite it’s occasional similarity to the equally precious but supremely annoying and condescending-sounded tones of Mr Rees-Mogg! Odd!

Ninety years ago tomorrow, 24th April 1932 an event took place not far from here. Hundreds of people trespassed on Kinder Scout, Derbyshires highest point. They were attempting to establish the principle of open access to the countryside. The plan was to “take action to open up the fine country at present denied us”. Six  people were arrested but the point was made. Kinder mass trespass gave us all rights to ramble and laid the foundations for the UK’s first national park, the Peak District.

Tomorrow at noon a group of wild swimmers are sort of re-enacting the mass trespass. They plan to swim in Kinder reservoir in “an act of defiance against widespread lack of undisputed access to inland open water in England and Wales, and the disconnect this causes between people, water, and each other”.

All are welcome to join in, apparently, but we are warned that the water will be cold. I’m not going. I like to swim in the sea in warmer places but even then I get a little nervous. Really I prefer to swim in a nice safe swimming pool, ideally a sea-water but you can’t have everything. However, I wish the wild swimmers luck. It may not be my cup of tea but, hey, each to their own!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 22 April 2022

Earth Day. Windy day! Some Greek Easter stuff.

Today is Earth Day 2022. Everyone keeps telling me so. I thought it must be a recent innovation but Wikipedia tells me it’s been around since 1970.

Who knew? Not me! In 1970 I was busy finishing a degree course and for the next few years I was busy earning a living and starting a family. And being mildly aware of environmental stuff in the background. 

The Earth Day website tells us :

“EARTH DAY 2022 – APRIL 22

This is the moment to change it all — the business climate, the political climate, and how we take action on climate. Now is the time for the unstoppable courage to preserve and protect our health, our families, and our livelihoods.

For Earth Day 2022, we need to act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably). It’s going to take all of us. All in. Businesses, governments, and citizens — everyone accounted for, and everyone accountable. A partnership for the planet.”

And so we are all being given advice from all sorts of people on how to lead a more eco-friendly, sustainable life. This mostly seems to consist of buying stuff from certain retailers. Another bandwagon has been jumped on. 

Today has been bright and sunny and amazingly windy! Two lots of washing blown dry in the garden! No tumble drier for me! How eco-friendly am I ?

The village shops having a poor supply of birthday cards and there being three birthdays coming up in my friends and family group, I decided to go to Uppermill to try my luck there, where they have more shops selling cards and trinkets - tat shops, in other words. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and arrange to meet my daughter and some of her offspring there. Walking through the housing estate by the old Delph Station, I watched two dustbins being blown over and a several empty plant pots go flying through the air. That’s how strong the wind has been. 

All along the Donkey Line there were bits of tree all over the place - not quite branches but bigger than twigs! Thinking of cyclists, I moved some of the larger pieces to the side of the path. And then I almost got  own down by a couple of cyclists. I suggested that a bell might be a good idea. I have a bell, one told me, and pinged it - a very feeble ping it was too! My own bell is much more effective!

The bluebells have barely got going along the Donkey Line. 

However, on Den Lane, above Uppermill, they are a little better. 


Before we dismiss Easter completely, here’s something a friend of mine who lives in Greece has sent me:

“Traditionally, families across Greece dye eggs red on Holy Thursday. Dying eggs red in anticipation of Greek Easter is one of the oldest and most beloved in Greece.

Along with candles, church services, lamb, and the sweetbread tsoureki, eggs that have been tinted with red dye are one of the most iconic symbols of Easter in Greece.

The symbolism of red eggs on Greek Easter

The red eggs hold significant religious symbolism, as the color red symbolizes the blood Christ shed on the cross.

Additionally, the egg in itself is a symbol—its hard shell represents the sealed tomb of Jesus—the cracking of which symbolizes His resurrection from the dead and exit from the tomb.

Due to its religious significance, the egg serves as an emblem of the resurrection, and its decorated Easter variations are globally recognized as a symbol of the most special day on the Christian calendar—Easter, the event that sealed the promise for eternal life.

According to some followers of Eastern Christianity, we owe the Easter tradition of painting eggs red on Holy Thursday to Mary Magdalene.

This tradition of some believers states that Mary Magdalene brought cooked eggs to share with the other women at the tomb of Jesus and that the eggs in her basket miraculously turned brilliant red when she saw the risen Christ.

Others relate a similar story with a few minor changes. According to tradition, Mary Magdalene, after stumbling upon Christ’s empty tomb, rushed to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor to tell him that Christ had risen.

The governor, however, didn’t believe what he was told and announced that he would believe Mary Magdalene’s claims only if the eggs in a basket next to him turned red, which they instantly did.”

There you go! My mother used to dye eggs brown using onion skins.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Positive thinking to the max! Brief thoughts on Rwanda and resignation.

I am actually a great believer in positive thinking. Not giving in to feeling under the weather, in my opinion, helps a great deal. Believing in yourself helps you get through interviews well. Positive thinking gets you through all sorts of hard times. It has to be said, however, that I have worked with people who have found my sunny disposition downright annoying. This has manifested itself in comments such as “Why are you always so b****y cheerful!” 

Which brings me to this article on “manifesting”.

This is how it starts: 

“Diana Celestine was let in on the secret about 10 years ago. Then an IT consultant in Charlotte, North Carolina, she’d made a passing comment to a friend lamenting the state of her love life – something along the lines of “I’ll probably never get married”.

Celestine had just been joking around. But her friend stopped her, deadly serious.

“If you speak it into the world, it brings it in,” she said.

“It was the first time I’d ever thought that your words and thoughts might make any difference,” Celestine tells me now over Zoom.”

Oh boy! Taking the power of thinking, negative as well as positive to extremes! Be careful what you think and say!

It’s all about “The Secret”, a book by a certain Rhonda Byrne, published in 2006, all about the power to control your life and make things happen. This is one of my favourite bits of the article, after the scare-mongering start:


After being given a copy of The Science of Getting Rich: a 1910 guide to “wealth attraction” through willpower, by Wallace Wattles, and reading it very quickly …

“Byrne decided to put it to the test by discarding her reading glasses as the physical manifestation of her “belief” that eyesight deteriorates with age. She started visualizing herself reading in low light. Within three days, Byrne said, she didn’t need glasses at all: “That was the level of my knowing, and my belief”. 

Someone should warn Specsavers! 

The most extreme believers “manifest” themselves better boyfriends, better jobs, a new life on California! A kind of witchcraft maybe!

Even my positive thinking philosophy never goes that far! 

But maybe my positive thinking has been working on the weather. I seem to have “manifested” us another day of sunshine. Yesterday we walked the forest path again, hoping the valley might have turned into the bluebell woods. The bluebells in my garden are coming on nicely. However, the valley must be a bit more shaded than our garden. There are lots of bluebell leaves showing where there will soon be a carpet of blue but the bluebells themselves have barely got started. 

The cherry blossom on the other hand is doing brilliantly all over the area at the moment. 


On a more serious note, here’s a social media post passed on by a friend:

“It's worth remembering in the midst of the refugees to Rwanda scandal that France has repeatedly offered to establish processing centres in France and allow them to apply for asylum there.

The UK has turned them down.”

And here is a link to an article about Barcelona where instead of raging against immigrants not speaking the language pf the country, they have begun a project for having the immigrants teach their own language to anyone interested. A different approach to integration. 

And finally here are a couple of Michael Rosen’s “Boris” comments on the question of resignation:

“Dear Carrie

When I resign, we need to make a dignified retreat. Like me presenting a TV series: a trek round the Roman Empire: 'Boris Goes Roamin' with the Romans'. Or a follow-up to Attenborough but more about me: 'Boris Saves the Planet'. 

Orbis in rectum


“Dear Queen

It may turn out that I am unable to  continue in office. I would be most obliged if you could indicate to me that should this eventuality coming to pass, you would refuse to accept my resignation. Might I suggest that this would be your duty?

Fossa ultima


Debate on the matter continues. What will today’s Commons vote bring? We shall see.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!