Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Running in the rain. Fickle weather! Food crisis! Possible power cuts!

I lay in bed early this morning watching raindrops gather sufficient momentum to roll down the skylight windows. It wasn’t raining enough to make the kind of white noise of rain that some people need to help them fall asleep. Indeed at that point it may not have been raining at all. So eventually I decided to get up and run.  

Of course, by the time I was out there, with my raincoat over my running gear, it started to rain with a vengeance. It had clearly just been waiting for me to emerge! My feet were soon pretty wet from the water streaming down the pavement and therefore there was little point in avoiding the path through the wooded area. It was very muddy! At least, however, there were some nice views of soggy Saddleworth to be snapped!

At some point in the middle of the morning, for a brief, very brief, period the cloud shifted, some blue sky was visible and the sun even came out. That didn’t last long! The grey day resumed its course! We’ll see how it goes later.

At least we personally don’t have to worry about food prices going up, although I am monitoring prices of stuff I buy regularly and maybe will comment on it at a future date. Many are not in our fortunate position. According to the Office for National Statistics it’s poorer families, as ever, who are nearing the brunt of the crisis: 

“UK consumers are facing significantly bigger increases in the price of some budget food items including pasta, crisps and bread, new experimental data shows, as poorer families bear the brunt of the cost of living crisis.

Highlighting the challenge for low-income households, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed prices for some low-cost groceries increased at a much faster rate than general inflation in the year to April.

The price of pasta jumped the most from a basket of 30 basic food items compiled by government statisticians, with an increase of 50% from a year earlier – more than five times the headline rate of inflation of 9%the for the same period.”

Some people question the impact on poorer families, pointing out that some things such as potatoes and apples have come down in price. Jack Monroe, food blogger, has criticised supermarkets for “stealthily” removing value food ranges from their shelves. The Telegraph, it seems, published an article saying that Jack Monroe was wrong about the price rises. She has replied in her own blunt fashion: “Writing on the social media site on Monday afternoon, Monroe called out the newspaper for publishing “a steaming pile of misdirected shit” – and accused it of not paying her for articles she’d written for them two years ago.”

Somehow I think Jack Monroe might be more in touch with the people suffering most from the crisis. 

Nobody seems to be blaming Brexit for any of it. 

On top of food price rises, we might be in for power cuts. Sky News warns us:

“Under plans drawn up by ministers, electricity could have to be rationed for up to six million homes at the start of next year, mostly at peaks in the morning and evening.”

The Times follows suit:

“Six million households could face blackouts this winter because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ministers have been warned, as they look to bolster electricity supplies by prolonging the life of coal and nuclear power stations. Look out for power black outs this winter.

Kwasi Kwarteng business secretary has asked owners of Britain’s three remaining coal-fired stations to remain open longer than planned.

The Times has been told that the government’s “reasonable” worst-case scenario, which has been drawn up by officials from across Whitehall, says that there could be widespread gas shortages if Russia goes further in cutting off supplies to the EU.”

“The last time something like this happened was in the 1970's. Will there be a winter of discontent I think so.”

It’s a good job we have a plentiful supply of candles! Perhaps ai need to look in the shed for the old camping stove, just in case! 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 30 May 2022

The best laid plans … Covid pops back up! Ignoring the rain.

This morning, at about the time I am writing this, our son and his small daughter should have been arriving at Manchester Piccadilly railway station. He phoned me yesterday morning to confirm times and to make sure his sister was going to collect them from the railway station. Some time later his wife phoned me, just for a chat as she was not planning to come with them, having business things to get on with quietly in their absence. The small girl, she told me, was excited about her train trip with Daddy and was busy packing what she wanted to bring with her. All good! 

We were looking forward to the visit. It has been planned for the Easter holiday and had had to be postponed because Phil tested positive for Covid19 at that time.

Yesterday our daughter and several of her offspring came for dinner at our house, as often happens on a Sunday. We were at the strawberries and ice cream stage when my phone rang. It was my son. All our remarks earlier about everyone being fine had clearly put a hex on things. His small girl had developed a cough and a bit of a fever. As she drooped during the afternoon they decided that a Covid test was in order. She tested positive! Not good for travelling on public transport. Not good for travelling at all! 

Our five year old granddaughter promptly burst into tears! She had been excited at the prospect of her slightly older cousin coming to stay. She had plans for games to play and activities to get on with. They only see each other intermittently but always get on well. When she had recovered her equanimity she set about making a card to send to her cousin. 

It seems we are fated not to have our son come and stay here! We’ll manage it eventually!

So many people, including our government, seem to have decided Covid is over and done with. And then just as you grow complacent, it comes back and bites you in the leg!

My son texted me this morning. He had managed to cancel his train tickets but British Rail are still sending him reminders about his train departure time!  Annoying! Rubbing his nose in it!

So this morning I got up and ran round the village as usual … just in the rain. It wasn’t raining when I got up but had started to do so by the time I was ready to set off. I ran anyway!

Our number two granddaughter had been planning to drop some books off at our house at 9 o’clock, for me to pass on to her older sister later in the morning. Her older sister, number one granddaughter, was due to come here with her smaller sister while their mother picked up their uncle and cousin. As the visit was cancelled, the books were not to be dropped off. Number two granddaughter was planning a long walk with a friend, catching a bus to the crossroads near our house and then walking up hill and down dale. Like me, she ignored the rain and she and her friend continued with their planned hike.

Late in the morning she called me to ask if she and her friend could pop in to make use of our bathroom facilities. All good! When they arrived, they both had wet feet, although otherwise their waterproofs had protected them well. I lent them both dry socks and fed them cups of tea an slices of cake. Eventually they went on their way, planning to catch a bus to Uppermill and have brunch there. 

At least someone’s plans worked out!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Football triumphs and sadnesses. Almost national treasures. Memoirs.

Phil was rather disappointed to find there was no Match of the Day yesterday evening. We had to find something else to watch instead. The big cup match in Paris was still just about going on at that point, having had a delayed start. But it already looked as though Real Madrid were about to win. 

So poor Jurgen Klopp didn’t achieve his dream in Paris after all. That’s football for you, we have a Real Madrid fan friend in Spain who will be very happy though. And despite their team not winning the cup, masses of fans will be waiting to welcome the Liverpool football team home today. It’s a great shame that the game had to accompanied by problems with fans not being able to get into the Stade De France. Apparently there were people with forged tickets trying to get in and causing blockages at the gates. I wonder how many of them had bought the tickets in good faith. No doubt someone is making money out of it. It must have been a nasty experience for those who had to suffer tear gas. 

On the radio news they have just said that more than 100 people were arrested. 

There seem to be more and more problems with football fans nowadays though. Pitch invasions have come back and the powers that be need to look at ways to control it all. Somehow it seems connected to the general feeling of entitlement - I can do what I want when I want! Yesterday, for example, on the bus someone on the upper deck was clearly having a noisy karaoke session with the music on their phone, sharing it all with the other passengers!

Still on sport, almost a national treasure Lester Piggott has just died aged 86, just about the only jockey whose name I recognise. The news reader on the radio said he had gone to the great racecourse in the sky!  

Two other almost national treasures, Sheila Hancock, 89 I think, and Melvyn Bragg, possibly 85, have just published memoirs. Sheila Hancock’s is Old Rage, stories of her life and times. “People are always stopping me in the street,” she told a reporter. “‘You’re a legend!’ they tell me. ‘It’s wonderful, the way you keep going!’ I thought: maybe I can write something helpful about how life can be quite lovely even at my age [she is now 89]. But then… life turned awful. There was Brexit, Covid and rheumatoid arthritis, and my daughter had cancer. I thought: no, I can’t write something lovely. I’m too angry for that.” I still enjoy hearing her speak on the radio. Keep it up, Sheila. 

Melvyn Bragg writes about growing up in Cumbria in the aptly named “Back in the Day”. Apparently he talks about his reluctance to leave Cumbria and how he almost turned down scholarships to Oxford and considered finding work that would allow him to stay at home. I’ve enjoyed reading Mr Bragg in the past. I’d be interested to read his memoir.  Not that I’m short of things to read.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Cricket. Parking nuisances! Ruins. And gun control again.

 When I went out running this morning there must have been 30 cars parked on the road - no mostly on the pavement! or half-on and half-off the pavement - on the approach to, outside and beyond the cricket club. Fortunately there is a bit of a grass verge so I was able to run there rather than in the road itself. Mind you, running on the grass leaves you susceptible to looming trees! 

There were hordes of kids on the cricket ground itself, divided into groups, with cricket games or cricket training of some kind going on. Doting parents, the owners of the large cars which were blocking my path, were sitting around applauding every so often. Busy! Busy! Lots of excitement! And they’ve got a fine day for it.

On the other side of the world, near Mérida in Mexico (not Mérida in the south of Spain) they have discovered the remains of a Mayan city full of palaces and pyramids. The photos in this article are quite impressive. Apparently archaeologists were surprised to find it so well preserved as many ruins around there have been destroyed as urban sprawl has spread. It’s on the construction site of an industrial park. I did wonder what would happen to the ruins but according to the article, although  construction will go ahead the ruins will be preserved. Let’s hope so! 

Meanwhile, in North America it seems that the last Salem witch has been pardoned. It’s only taken three centuries and a bit. In 1693 Elizabeth Johnson Jr was wrongly convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death. Even though the sentence was not carried out neither was she pardoned. Now a bunch of eighth grade students in North Andover middle school, Massachusetts have done a project which involved finding out how to clear her name. And they succeeded! Hurrah!  

Now the year 1693 rang a bell for me. On one of our visits to Sicily our charming guide insisted on repeating that year to us, complete with hand gestures: 10 fingers for 1,000, 6 fingers for 600, 9 fingers for 90 and 3 fingers for 3. Why? Because 1693 was the year of a famous earthquake in Sicily. It affected an area of 2,200 square miles and caused the death of 60,000 people. 

The extent and degree of destruction caused by the earthquake resulted in the extensive rebuilding of the towns and cities of southeastern Sicily, particularly the Val de Noto, in a homogeneous late Baroque style, described as "the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe”. We have admired those restored buildings on more than one occasion. 

Now, what I want to know is, was Elizabeth Johnson Jr really a witch after all and did she cause the earthquake to happen in that fateful year 1693?

And now, back to guns. A man has been shot by police officers on Toronto Canada. He was reported wandering around with a shotgun. And police shot him dead. Everyone is a bit nervous, I suppose, even though Canada is a safer place than the USA. Canada’s rate of firearm homicides is 0.5 per 100,000 people, far lower than the US rate of 4.12, according to a 2021 analysis by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

In the USA some 55,000 people are expected to turn up for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Houston. That’s an awful lot of gun-toting people. Protestors have been turning up to, agitating for changes to the law. One protestor had with her a list of 12 people she knew personally who had been shot, 2 of them, including her daughter, shot dead. Mind you, she herself is a gun owner! But she wants changes to the law. Will things change? We shall see!

I don’t own a gun. I don’t know anyone who owns a gun. I don’t know anyone who has been shot. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Friday, 27 May 2022

Owning books. Receiving a rebate. Another Brexit benefit!

I have just had a curious conversation via messenger with my two eldest granddaughters, all about the ownership and whereabouts of Louisa May Alcott’s books, Little Women, Good Wives and Jo’s Boys. After some back and forth, and presumably my daughter joining in with a hunt for books in her house, we established that in her house there are my childhood copies of the books as well as copies bought secondhand by or for granddaughter number one from the museum at Uppermill back when she was about eleven. Goodness! What hoarders we all are! I don’t need my copies returning to me. We have more than enough books here. So granddaughter number two is making a bid to own those for herself. 

She is a true hoarder of book and loves hardback copies, something she inherited from Phil who has been known to buy hardback copies of books we already own in paperback, because the hardback copies are so beautiful! Granddaughter number two recently bought two copies of the same novel, each decorated in a different style to reflect one or other of the protagonists, just because she could not decide which she preferred. This is what happens when a 19 year old gets a decently paid job and starts to save money. At some point she will need to move out of the parental home just in order to be able to house her book collection. 

The Louisa May Alcott books will be restored to granddaughter number one as soon as possible: a small step in decluttering for my daughter. 

Incidentally, coincidentally, the writer Esther Freud said this in an interview about her reading habits: 

 “My favourite book growing up
I was living in a stepfamily of five girls when I read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I adored it, identified with each of the sisters and couldn’t wait to read the sequel – my disappointment was extreme!”

Sequels often are a disappointment! In my experience you come across them more with TV series or films than with books. Sometimes prequels are even worse!

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been defending some things about his plan for helping out families in the cost of living crisis. It turns out that people with second homes, and presumably third and fourth homes,  will receive the £400 energy bill rebate twice , or three or four times. Apparently doing it differently could lead to some people not getting the help they need. Some people are saying it’s the consequence of making a sudden and quick decision without proper planning! Mr Sunak also said that, as he did not need the £400 payment, he would be donating the money to charity, and he urged other wealthy people to do the same. Addressing the Sky presenter Niall Paterson, he said:

I am sure, like me, you can also give that money to charity if you don’t need it.

The Sunaks own several properties, not to mention having a lot of money, and so his charity donations are likely to be more than £400, commenetd one reporter. 

Along with prices going up, we’re hearing of more things going into short supply. Some of this is a consequence of the Ukraine situation but we can’t blame that for produce that is waiting to be harvested on British farms while the farmers are desperately afraid they’ll rot in the fields for lack of workers. 

This article  tells us that “seasonal labour shortages in the wake of Brexit and the pandemic have forced the government to look beyond Europe. Its seasonal worker scheme, which offers short-term visas for farm work, is now recruiting from more than 50 countries – as far afield as Barbados, Tajikistan and Nigeria, as well as Nepal. The scheme began with about 2,500 workers in 2019 and may recruit as many as 40,000 this year.”

Another Brexit benefit! It’s worth reading the article. You couldn’t make it up!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Clement vs inclement. Evening walks. Cost of living crisis. Guns!

 Well, today has been one of the gloomiest in a long while. Certainly the gloomiest Thursday.

On Thursdays, as I have mentioned before, our youngest grandson comes and spends the morning with us. So usually by 8.00 i am being invited or, indeed, instructed to “Sit on your carpet, Grandma! Hold this dinosaur!” He has a second breakfast of toast with honey when Grandad has his breakfast. Then in the late morning we generally go for a walk so he can identify a few plants and animals and eventually agree to climb into his buggy and have a snooze before lunch and before Mummy gets back. 

This morning, and for most of the day in fact, it was so wet and blustery that we went nowhere. It was altogether too inclement to walk at a two and half year old’s pace and it really wasn’t worth fighting him into his buggy so that we could walk in the rain. So we stayed in, drew more pictures, built more towers and pushed more little cars around the place.

(I was about to comment on the fact that we talk about inclement weather but not about clement weather. i thought I’d better look it up before I made a fool of myself. It turns out that some people do talk about clement weather, meaning mild and pleasant. However, it’s more often used to describe people and judgements - or it was when people used to say it frequently - to mean inclined to be merciful or lenient. So those people who were named Clement, such as Clement Attlee were perhaps so named in the hope that they would be that kind of person! There you go!)

This evening in contrast has turned out to be mild and sunny. So I took myself off for a brisk walk round the village and a quick visit to the coop store for a couple of things. As you do! Well, as I do!

The news, when I got around to looking and listening to it,  has mostly been full of the government’s decision to help out with the cost of living crisis. There will be a windfall tax on energy companies but we can’t call it that. It's an Energy Profits Levy, not a Windfall Tax, insists the government with an entirely straight face. There was some rather loud laughter in the Commons at that. Anyway, we all get £400 off our energy bill. People on benefits will get more help. So will pensioners. It will come to us with our Winter Fuel Payment. If we have any twinges of conscience - which we probably won’t as, after all, we have paid our taxes and made our contributions over the years - we can always give it to a good cause.

The opposition is claiming that the government stole their idea. Maybe so! Also, it takes attention away from Partygate and gives the Borisophiles another reason to say he’s doing a good job!!!

And I’ve been finding comments about the latest school shooting in Texas. The USA has more school shootings than other countries and a lot of them happen in Texas, where 18 year olds, and maybe even 14 year olds can easily buy guns. Several people have pointed out that after the Dunblane shooting here, strict gun controls were introduced and we have not had a shooting like that since. (We de seem to be seeing a lot of knife crime on other situations, and with knives wielded by youngsters so we are not perfect.) But the Americans are seemingly not convinced. 

This comes from Newsthump:

“By Rich Smith

26 May 2022

God has rejected America’s latest batch of thoughts and prayers following another mass shooting, this time in a Texas Elementary School, telling them he doesn’t grant prayers for things you can easily fix yourself. As the latest mass shooting saw more young children gunned down in a place they should feel safe, God has shocked many Americans by flatly rejecting their requests to do something about the constant mass shootings seen across their nation. God told us, “If your injured buddy Gerry wants to walk again, that’s a prayer I’m willing to listen to, and I will give it my full consideration.

“But, if you’re praying to me in the hope I’ll help stop mass shootings, then no – I’m not helping. Because that’s a job for your politicians. I’m here for divine intervention, not because America’s political establishment have becomes so heavily dependent on the gun lobby’s money.”

Then there’s this, for which I can’t find the source but which sounds quite persuasive:

“Sacramento police held a gun buyback event. Both legal and illegal guns were brought in - no questions asked - and exchanged for gas vouchers.

The even was so popular they ran out of vouchers in under an hour. 

Every police department in the country should do this.”

It just seems crystal clear to me. Make it difficult for everyone to buy guns and especially teenagers. And surely NOBODY really NEEDS an assault rifle. Aren’t shoot’em’up computer games enough? 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

At the market in the rain. Buses. The crazy world.

Today is dreary, damp and draughty - well, windy really but I wanted the alliteration. My weather app says “Light rain and a gentle breeze”. It might well say that, but I decided it was wet and windy enough to dissuade me from cycling to Uppermill this morning. So I donned a waterproof and trudged up the hill to Dobcross and down the other side to Uppermill. The cheese and biscuit lady was not there, I am sorry to say. The other stall holders were joking that Jenny has become a “fair weather trader”. I gather she has difficulty setting up her stall when it’s windy, which is a shame as we miss her oat flip biscuits!

I was in Uppermill by 9.20. A quick run to the hardware shop (for superglue), the coop (for crumpets among other things), the Italian greengrocery (for oranges, grapefruit, yoghurts, apples), the fish man on the market (sea bream fillets - 2 for £8), the veg man  (for carrots, apples - I like to spread my apple buying between suppliers - and strawberries), the deli (for olives, sundried tomatoes and rather nice cheese) and before 10.00 I was waiting for a bus for home. 

The 356 bus, which does a scenic route via Diggle and Dobcross) arrived early. I checked he wasn’t planning to stop for his breakfast break for five minutes - this sometimes happens - and decided it was better to get on an actual bus rather that wait for a hypothetical 350 bus which does a quicker route and was due in a few minutes but might be late - that also happens … and far too frequently! So many things to take into account (!) but I was home by 10.20, in time for a latish breakfast.

Incidentally, as the bus was held up at traffic lights in Diggle someone waved her arms at the driver, indicating her wish to get on. “Not a stop!” growled the driver. Now, I know they are not supposed to allow passengers to get on and off between stops (It’s more than my job’s worth!) but I also know that some drivers are flexible about it, especially on that scenic 356 route. Some of the drivers know which passengers to wait for at certain points along the route, making it a friendly service! Besides, I recognised the lady in question and would have enjoyed a catch-up chat with her!

It might have been dull and damp but I still found some colour in one of the local trees, which appears to be preparing for autumn already, even though summer has not got started yet! 


Yesterday we walked out in the late afternoon, admiring cloud formations against the blue sky and exotic yellow blossom on the laburnum trees. 



My weather app promises that today will improve later, reducing the chance of rain to only 3%. So maybe we can do the same again today. Already (late morning) the rain appears to have stopped and the cloud has thinned enough to let a little brightness through. 


Mayhem continues in the wider world, war in Ukraine pushing out concerns about the environment and climate change. Not to mention concern about Ukrainian refugees pushing out concerns about Afghani and Syrian refugees. And there has been another school shooting in Texas, USA. Those who put their energies into anti-abortion campaigns and protecting the unborn child need to turn their attention to anti-gun matters and protecting the children already in existence. The world is mad!

Meanwhile, here in the UK partygate has raised its head once more - or maybe it’s just never lowered its head, just hid it behind other issues. Sue Gray’s report comes out today, just a day or so after photos of a wine glass wielding Prime Minister were published and Downing Street staffers started revealing facts. Oh boy! My Italian friend says that her friends back in Sicily cannot understand what all the fuss is about. What’s a party with a bit of wine compared with bunga-bunga and major corruption? they ask! Maybe so! And maybe the fuss has all been going on far too long! But it’s not so much the parties - bad as they were - as the lying and obfuscation! Good grief! We’re British! We don’t do such things! 

Hey! Ho!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Pink blossom. Running and chatting in the changeable weather. Discussing families.

Today’s local weather forecast says “Sunny intervals and a moderate breeze”. It doesn’t even have a raindrop symbol indicating rain but on another bit of the page it gives a 25% chance of rain. That percentage diminishes as the day goes on, so maybe we should postpone going for a walk until about 5.00pm. In any case, it’s nice to be able to do that now that the days have grown longer.


The horse chestnut trees and the hawthorn are nicely in blossom all over the place. In both cases my favourites are the ones with pink blossom, in various shades of pink. 


Maybe because they are more unusual than the white blossom they always seem extra spectacular to me. 


Here are a couple of local examples.

Note the blue sky behind the hawthorn blossom that’s how nice yesterday evening was! 

I didn’t consult the weather app,before going out for a run this morning. Instead I listened to the attic skylights: no rain spattering there so I donned my running gear + light weight rain jacket and set off. Half way round my usual route I was caught in a mild downpour, not quite so heavy as some we have had lately but even so - wetting. It stopped after a while and I dried off somewhat. Almost home I stopped to chat to a neighbour. Like me she walks miles most days. Today she had fished out her lightweight raincoat just in case - raincoats and umbrellas work as good insurance policies. This “insurance policy” did not stop the rain starting again as we set the world to rights. 

One of the things we talked about was having children, maybe because her nephew has just become a father at the age of 42. She herself has only one son. One was enough for her. “I don’t like pain”, she declared. When she hit forty and her husband suggested they might have a second child she told him the only way would be if he bore the child. That wasn’t going to work! We discussed sizes of families in the Italian class yesterday, most of us feeling that families were growing smaller. My mother was the ninth child of ten. I was the second of four and I went on to have just two: one of each kind. Okay, our daughter went against the trend by having five, but there are three different fathers involved. This seems to be the way of things if you have a number of different partners; each relationship needs a new mini family. 

Anyway, my neighbour told me she had been watching a programme about the Radfords, a family with 22 children. Yes, 22 children! I thought the family with ten I knew as a teenager was big enough. They ranged from a twenty year old to a one year old. I had been to school with a couple of them. I remember marvelling at the thought of the mother having spent a good twenty or more years of her life permanently pregnant or just delivered of a child. Mrs Radford clearly beats that record! My neighbour and I speculated on how they afforded so many children, especially as one of the daughters has now begun providing grandchildren. How do you manage to have a house large enough for so many? How do you manage family outings. The family I knew in my youth used to run everyone around in a minibus but the Radfords must need a charabanc or a fleet of minibuses! Maybe they live off child benefit, speculated by neighbour. But I’m pretty sure they have restricted the number of offspring you can claim for.

So I googled them and, among other things and masses of photos I found this:

“How do the Radfords afford to live?  

The Radfords support themselves with the proceeds of Noel’s bakery, The Radford Pie company, which is located near their home.

On the website, it says: “We have owned our own lovely bakery since 1999 which is how we manage to provide for (and feed) our huge and expanding family as well as for the local people of Heysham and Morecambe.”

The family have now expanded their business to cater for online orders made from around the UK. 

The business is a family affair, with Noel at the helm, and children Chloe and Daniel helping out.

Do they take child benefit?

Noel and Sue famously don’t rely on benefits for their bumper brood, and live off their pie shop for income. 

They also revealed they make money from brand partnerships on social media.”

That last sentence says it all for me, along with the fact that my neighbour was able to watch a TV documentary about them. They may well claim to be bakers but really they are a “professional family”. That is their main employment. Forget about the Von Trapp Family Singers and the Jacksons making show business a family affair. In the modern, media-driven world it is possible to earn a living just by being yourself and publicising and marketing yourself to the full.

What a strange world we live in.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Monday, 23 May 2022

Some stuff about Manchester. And some sympathy for Liverpool.m

In preparation for today’s Italian conversation we had a series of questions to answer about how well we know our own country. There were questions about the country’s favourite sport, festivities, weekend activities, and so on. One in particular was “what are the people like?“. Amidst all the usual stereotypes about the English something someone posted on Facebook struck me.

Five years ago yesterday a bomb exploded at the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena, killing 22 people. The post I saw on Facebook showed a series of messages sent on the night of the bombing via tweets and other social media, messages from people close to the centre of Manchester offering help of various kinds. Some just offered sympathy and comfort. Some said they would bring cups of tea or sandwiches to people helping out with the aftermath of the explosion. Others went so far as to offer accommodation for the night for people who had been at the concert and now could not get home. 

That’s what people are like!

Incidentally the BBC 10 o’ clock news reported a memorial service taking place at Manchester’s Piccadilly station. I wondered why it would be Piccadilly when the Manchester Arena is within Manchester’s Victoria Station, where there is a permanent memorial to those who died. Later in the North West section of the news they correctly reported the memorial service as taking place at Victoria Station, as expected. Why did the national news get it wrong? Lack of preparation? A slip of the newsreader’s tongue? A bit of bias with lack of care for things in the North? Goodness knows but it was sloppy reporting! I’m not aware of a correction or apology. 

The Manchester Run took place yesterday as well, with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham appearing on the news, looking as though he had taken part and saying what a success it had been and how fitting that it took place on the anniversary of the bombing - a sign of hope for the future!

And then Manchester City won the Premier League, much to Liverpool’s chagrin. It’s always hard to come second. I felt rather sorry for Jurgen Klopp. He seems a nice bloke and appears to look after bis team well. He even has a song dedicated to him, to the tune of the Beatles’ “I feel fine”. It goes like this:

“I’m so glad that Jurgen is a Red.

“I’m so glad he delivered what he said.

“Jurgen said to me, you know. We’ll win the Premier League, you know. He said so.

“I’m in love with him and I feel fine.

“I’m so glad that Jurgen is a Red.

“I’m so glad he delivered what he said.

“Jurgen said to me, you know. We’ll win the Premier League, you know. He said so.

“I’m in love with him and I feel fine.”

But yesterday wasn’t his day. It was Manchester City’s turn to shine. Today I think they’re doing an open top bus tour of the city centre. It’s all happening in our city.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 22 May 2022

The weather. The jubilee. Food banks in hospitals.

The odd weather patterns continue here. Yesterday was mostly dull but still I got a load of washing dry in the garden. 


We strolled out in the evening for an after dinner stroll. The evening was surprisingly pleasant.



And some of the flowers were spectacular.

Today promises a 5% chance of rain here. So some more washing is on the line. We’ll see how that goes.

Everyone seems to be going crazy for the queen’s jubilee. I just heard someone say on the radio news that you can buy a jubilee water bottle - in case you need to be hydrated in the jubilee weekend. Apparently tea towels and biscuit tins featuring picture of Her Majesty are very popular. It seems there are people who collect such things, hoping they will increase in value. How odd!  

The culmination of all this is that the Prince of Wales and his wife are to appear on Eastenders, acting as themselves, making a visit to Albert Square. So we had the queen in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London and now the heir to the throne in Eastenders. The soap opera of the royal family goes on. 

My contribution is limited to lending to our daughter a book that I received at age 5 on the occasion of the queen’s coronation. She plans to use it with her primary school class as part of their work on the jubilee. She promises to treat it with care. It might after all be of value as a collector’s item. There is also a coronation mug around somewhere. Goodness knows where that is!

I’ve no idea how much money is being spent on the jubilee extravaganza but people are still going hungry in this country. Here is something from The Independent, about things going on with hospitals:

“Hospitals across the country have set up food banks and are offering emergency “hardship” loans as health leaders warn staff are “struggling to feed their families”.

Six NHS trusts have set up food banks or launched food voucher schemes for workers as part of efforts to help staff cope with the rising cost of living, while others have confirmed they are considering the move.

Some hospitals have also begun offering emergency loans to help staff who are under financial pressure, while others have increased the payments made to workers in respect of their travel costs.”

It’s not just here either. All over the world there are problems. There’s something broken in our society.  But …

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 21 May 2022

In praise of daughters!

I came across this article about the writer Julie Myerson and the problems which arose from her including details of her own teenage son’s addiction to cannabis in her novel, “The Lost Child”. She came in for a lot of criticism, nay, abuse, from all sorts of people for writing about her family. And yet, I wonder how many writers base a lot of their “fiction” on their own lives. After all, it’s the area of life they probably know best. 

As I read the article I remembered reading Michele Hanson’s regular column, “Treasure”, long ago, about the trials and tribulations of life with a teenage daughter, not even a drug-addicted teenage daughter, just plain mother-daughter stuff. I looked it up on the internet and found this article by Michele Hanson from 2010.

When I was reading her original “Treasure” column, our own daughter was going through teenage rebellion in her own fairly quiet way. I think I annoyed her quite a bit by laughing at “Treasure” and pointing out the similarity to my own “Treasure”, approximately the same age. I even wrote a version of my own, describing the fun and games of teenage friends camping in the garden. It has to be said that she was generally quite charming within the family, even agreeing to wear a flowery headdress when she was bridesmaid at her favourite uncle’s wedding. But there were times when she was a real pain in the neck. We could be walking down a shopping street, chatting happily when I would realise that she had dropped behind by about five yards. This was because she had spotted a school friend and did not want to be seen out and about with her mother!! And we did have some wham bang arguments about boundaries!

I was apparently not the only one to find Michele Hanson describing my own life. When she died in 2018, people wrote letters to newspapers in her praise. Here are a couple of examples:

Sarah Carter writes: The many columns by Michele Hanson sustained me for several years. First Treasure, who was the same age as my own free-spirited daughter – she painted her bedroom black at the same time as mine did – and then Mother, whose death came just before that of my own mother, who died aged 101 after living with me for 13 years. I do not know how I would have managed all those years without Michele’s caustic commentary.

After I wrote a condolence letter to her on her mother’s death she rang me up – much easier than writing a reply, she said – and I felt even more bonded to her. And when she launched her book Living With Mother at the Guardian’s offices I was able to tell her in person.

Margaret Heaton writes: I feel that I have lost a friend in Michele Hanson. Way back when she was writing about looking after her mother, she was bemoaning how long it took to peel potatoes. I wrote telling her it was totally unnecessary, and that we never peel ours, as most of the nutrients are just behind the skin. She sent such a lovely letter in response.

In Michele Hanson’s 2010 article she describes how her once stroppy, opinionated, determined daughter had made use of those very qualities to forge a career, among other things setting up a charity called Small Steps, which aims to provide shoes, food, clothes and medical care for children working on the world's giant rubbish tips. Amongst her other qualities she had developed a strong sense of justice and the ability to fight for what she thought was right. 

And I look at my own “Treasure”, who by a fairly convoluted route got herself a degree and a teaching qualification and is now a highly respected member of staff in a local primary school. She runs a tight ship and her small pupils, and their parents, love her! Sometimes stroppy just means strong-willed and determined. I’m glad we didn’t squash her!

And we get on very well!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!