Sunday, 31 July 2022

Women’s football. Footballers’ husbands. Music. Climate stuff. The price of pet ownership. Cartoon.

According to the newsman on the radio, people are streaming into Wembley to see the England women’s team play in the final of the Women’s Euros. As I have listened to the reports of their success and the news about the Wagatha Christie case, it has crossed my mind that we  might see a new phenomenon. If women’s football becomes a major popular sporting event on a longer term, and if female footballers start to be paid on a par with male footballers, will we start to see “footballers’ husbands”? Will they seek fame in the social media profession of being footballers husband? Will there ever be a libel case like the Vardy-Rooney affair? I am partly inspired to have this thought by my phone sending me one of those pings about news “events” - “find out about the lives of the England Women’s football team on and off the pitch”. Oh boy!

A friend of mine has posted on Facebook that she in on the train on her way back to rainy Manchester after a brief few days in hot and sunny London. I was tempted to comment that we had sunshine in Delph at that point. Up to midday we had had dull and cloudy, warm and drizzly, heavy rain and blue-sky sunshine! I expect that pattern will continue but I have hing washing out to dry anyway!  

I hope it manages to stay fine onto this evening. Relatively near here is Cannon Hall Farm, near a place called Cawthorne, on the way to Barnsley. It’s a place that my daughter visits with her small children on occasion because you can get close up to the animals, a sort of petting zoo, I suppose. Well, recently I saw a notice that Suzanne Vega’s UK tour was taking her to Cawthorne. Does Cawthorne have a venue big enough for the likes of an internationally known singer-songwriter? I wondered. Some time later I discovered that Cannon Hall Farm regularly hosts the Underneath the Stars Festival, which is taking place today. That’s where she is going. Suzanne Vega’s appearance in Glasgow on Wednesday has had good reviews. I hope she is as well received down on the farm this evening! She’s well worth seeing live. 

Yesterday we walked out in the late afternoon, when the damp and drizzly finally eased. We took with us the secateurs and our new acquisition, a litter picker! We have been planning for a while to collect litter as we are out and about. There’s often quite a lot but we’re somewhat reluctant to pick up and so I eventually bought us a gadget: basically a stick with a grabber on one end and a handle to operate it at the other. A good walk and a bit of useful community work - snipping and grabbing -at the same time!

As we made our way home I spotted a tree with some leaves that were turning red. I have been hearing reports on the radio of places in the south of England where they already had red and brown leaves falling from trees because of the lack of water. I thought we had had enough rain to put off autumn for a while yet. After all, it’s not quite August yet! But it seems that the seasons might already be turning here too, even if only in small way so far! 

Amidst the reports of the growing economic crisis I came across an article about the cost of vets’ bills. It’s not just the cost of treatment but the problem of what to do when a pet dies. I have every sympathy. A dog has usually been with you for a long time and they do become friends I suppose, if you are a dog-person, which I am really not. Even the loss of a cat causes sadness, even though cats are sociable on their own terms, unlike dogs who are on the whole good, faithful companions. However, I find myself almost moved to laughter when I read something like this: 

“When my beloved hamster Maisie died, I faced the trauma of figuring out what to do with her body.”

My experience of hamsters is rather limited but they seem mostly to sleep all day and then keep you awake at night as they trundle around their exercise wheel. Still, each to their own. Faced with a large bill to have Maisie cremated, the writer, who had no garden put her in an iPhone box and popped her into the freezer until such time as she can visit her brother and bury Maisie in his flower beds. 

Finally, here’s a cartoon that made me smile. 


It’s much better in my opinion than the one that Nadine Dorries is said to have posted of Sunak stabbing Johnson in the back. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Saturday, 30 July 2022

Trees. Social media stuff - abuse and fortune! The importance of lions.

Out and about the other day I spotted a tree surgeon’s van, with his trailer behind with its machinery for reducing branches into wood chips. The van bore the name of the company: Special Branch. Clever! I do like a witty name for a company. 

Tree surgeon sounds a lot more professional than wood-cutter. Will we see modern versions of Little Red Riding Hood where the small girl and her grandmother are saved from the BigBad Wolf by the tree surgeon? Not beyond the bounds of possibility! I suppose tree surgeons, like landscape artists, can charge more for their very professional services than a wood cutter, or a gardener.  And it can be quite fascinating to watch a tree surgeon at work, fastened in harness to the upper branches of a tall tree.

However, it seems to me that there are rather a lot of tree surgeons around at present. I come across evidence of their work when I am out running or walking - usually a tree stump and some of the wood chippings on the ground. Presumably the wood chippings are sold on for use in gardens: another source of income. Along the Donkey Line bridle path, when a tree is cut down, quite often the chippings are just left at the side of the path, as are the larger bits of tree trunk, gradually getting a coating of moss, know in our family as “Saddleworth Green”.

It always makes me feel rather sad when a tree is cut down. It has taken them so long to grow (unless it’s a leylandia) and usually they are things of beauty (with the exception of leylandii). But there are laws protecting trees, well, some of them. According to this article though a surprising number of trees are being cut down or injected with poisons to kill them off, usually because they are in an inconvenient place, blocking a view, rather than because they are a hazard! Poole in Dorset appears to be the capital of tree murders - eat your heart out Midsomer Murders! It’s not always possible to catch the culprit, apparently, but the article tells of one man, Robert Page, who had a 20-metre Monterey Pine in the garden killed off. “The 65-year-old tree, described as “huge and historic”, had been under a tree protection order since 1989. Page applied to have the tree felled, claiming it was a risk, but this was turned down, too.” On this occasion he was prosecuted. “Page was found guilty, and ordered to pay £80,000: £25,000 in court costs, five grand for the loss in public benefit, and perhaps most significantly, £50,000 for the amount his property had gained in value through the loss of the tree.”

Think twice before you have your trees cut down. Mind you, I’m pretty sure a good tree surgeon should be able to advise you!

 It’s raining now. I managed to run first thing without problems but the day looks set to be cloudy with showers, some of them heavy, as the weathermen say. On the radio news yesterday evening i heard that during the heatwave weathermen received masses of hate-mail and online abuse. It’s not that anyone really blamed them for the actual weather but it seems that climate change deniers were cross with the met office because they kept blaming the hot weather on climate change! It’s a strange world we live in!

I quite like social media. I like being able to be in informal contact with a lot of old friends and former colleagues, people I might not bother to write to or call on the telephone even if I might send them a Christmas card. But I find the desperate need some people have to criticise and be rude to complete strangers truly disturbing. And of course, there’s the political world, where it seems you can’t get on unless you have your media presence and platform. And then there are the “professional” social media people, as seen in the circus that was the Rebecca Vardy v Colleen Rooney court case. Rebecca Vardy faces £2.5m legal expenses and a “ruined reputation”. Really ruined? That remains to be seen. The lawyers must be laughing their legal socks off! But I remain mystified by the fact that people make fortunes from podcasts about nonsense like that! 

And surely things like the Vardy-Rooney case, fashion podcasts, watching the on-line life of a woman famous for being well dressed and supposedly beautiful is hardly doing great things for women’s lib!

But, hey, the England women’s football team is doing well and their success is prompting a lot of discussions a out equality for women in sport, parity with male professionals and so on. We’re rooting for them, even if Phil keeps,getting a bit indignant about their being labelled “The Lionesses”! After all, “The Lions” play rugby not football. But this article about a medieval pendant found found close to a late series of late iron age and Romano-British enclosures being excavated as part of the HS2 development assures me that “The Football Association has been using the three lions symbol (more commonly with the lions in blue) since the late 19th century; a version of it is also used by cricket’s ECB.”

There you go!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Friday, 29 July 2022

Some thoughts on rain, drought and Brexit problems.

 I woke up at about 5.00 this morning to the sound of quite torrential rain. Of course, the rain might have had nothing to do with my waking at that time. I might well have woken then anyway. I listened to the rain briefly and then went back to sleep. It seemed to have stopped by the time I got up a few hours later to go for a run. I put on my running raincoat just on case but when I opened the door and looked out it had begun again, not quite torrential but heavy enough. I decided a more efficient raincoat was needed after all. My running raincoat is fine for a light drizzle but useless for anything else. Putting on a proper waterproof worked like a charm - five minutes later the rain stopped completely. By midmorning a rather watery sun had emerged. 

One consequence of our alternating rain and warm(ish) sunshine is that the grass in the back garden is growing at a furious rate. When we had the heatwave - is that really only just over a week ago? - we didn’t cut the grass because it was too hot and cutting it short might lead to scorching it. Now it’s too wet and would just clog up the lawn mower. That’s our excuse anyway! 

The footpath through the wooded area between the two millponds was like a jungle last time I pushed my small grandson along there in his buggy, leading to a mix of delighted laughter and squeals of protest as we had to push overhanging grass out of our way. Since the rain returned the path has reverted to muddy puddles. Some helpful person has cut down quite a lot of overhanging grasses and the path is now strewn with fronds, rather like palm leaves on the road into Jerusalem. This means that some of the mud puddles are not obvious until you put your foot in them or, worse, slither through them, risking an unplanned sit-down! 

It is all looking very lush though! Meanwhile, at the other end of the country Southern Water is implementing a hosepipe ban in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. (Isn’t Hampshire one of the places where hurricanes hardly happen? I even googled it to check up on the saying, an elocution exercise I believe: “ln Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire hurricanes hardly ever happen”. I was right; they may not have hurricanes but neither do they have enough rain apparently.)

About 1.5 million people are expected to be affected by the measures. But other parts of the UK may follow suit as water levels in reservoirs and rivers drop. Goodness! Most parts of England of have not had drought measures implemented for more than a decade but the Met Office tells us that July 2022 has been the driest July in England since 1911, with only 24% of the amount of rain that would be expected in an average July. 

When the rain wakes you at 5.00 am it feels as though all that 24% is falling on us. Climate change can keep you awake at night. It’s one of my personal bugbears and I keep finding related news items. Here’s one from Australia where money intended for developing a state-of-the-art facility to protect endangered koala bears in a theme park was diverted into building a state-of-the-art rollercoaster. Because we all need state-of-the-art rollercoasters, don’t we?

Then there is this report about the planned Green Man Festival in WalesIt is feared that if it goes ahead in the planned location endangered wildlife habitat will be put further at risk. Which is rather ironic as, according to Wikipedia the Green Man “is a legendary being primarily interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, representing the cycle of new growth that occurs every spring. The Green Man is most commonly depicted in a sculpture, or other representation of a face which is made of, or completely surrounded by leaves. 

And finally, here’s another bit of irony, the report of a reforestation company that accidentally caused a huge wildfire in Aragón, Spain.

Another of my bugbears in the whole nonsense of Brexit, which I begin to suspect has destabilised more than just the UK. If I could find a way of blaming Brexit for the pandemic, I would do do!  Meanwhile, there is this:

“Jacob Rees-Mogg has accused civil servants of blocking Brexit and launched a major review of Whitehall, according to Telegraph reports.

Concerns have been raised among Cabinet ministers that government workers could be “standing in the way” of government policy by “dragging their feet” over enacting policies that they disagree with.

“Over the last few years there has been a growing feeling that while lots of parts of the Civil Service have got bigger, have they got more effective?” a senior government source said.

“Are ministers’ decisions properly being taken forward? Are things agreed at Cabinet actually happening? Is the machine standing in the way of things happening by our elected government?”

It begins to sound like an idea for a series on TV. Oh, yes, I think that’s already been done! 

But it seems that even some of the conservatives are now wondering if Brexit has not caused quite a lot of problems, maybe even more than it has solved! Oh dear!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Political differences. Questions of loyalty. Equality matters on the beach!

I’ve not borrowed from Michael Rosen for a while, so here’s a little something:-

“Dear Liz

I awoke to the sound of music and in an instant saw a promotional video in my mind of you, Nadine and me striding towards the camera while Joe Cocker and Jennifer Anniston sing their hit 'Lift us up where we belong...'. Seize the day, Liz!

Carpet diem 


I look forward to finding out what Michael Rosen will invent for whoever succeeds Mr Johnson.

Nadine Dorries meanwhile continues to support Mr Johnson and clearly thinks he was hard done by. This is from the Guardian:

“Nadine Dorries has suggested Rishi Sunak was part of a “coup” that brought down Boris Johnson, and said Conservative MPs made a “huge mistake” removing the prime minister.

The culture secretary, who is one of Johnson’s most avid supporters, said he was a “great leader” and she was “very disappointed” he would be stepping down on 5 September.

But Dorries said they had to look to the future and hailed Liz Truss as “somebody who has both integrity and loyalty and is able to pick up the baton using those very important qualities to take the country forward”.

However, the petition that Conservative Party members should be given a vote on the removal of the prime minister seems to be being met with some resistance:

“Senior Conservatives have privately voiced scepticism about a poll demanding party members be given a vote on the removal of aboris Johnson, after the party’s headquarters found fewer than half of a sample of signatories were party members.

The authors of the petition have said addresses and membership numbers provided by the signatories are undergoing stringent checks and that Conservative campaign headquarters (CCHQ) has not yet received the vast majority of the signatories.

The website Conservative Post, which organised the petition, said it was being overseen by a team of experienced professionals.”

We are living in interestingly odd times! 

We have a Labour Party which seems to have forgotten its links with those who labour. Keir Starmer has declared: “The Labour party in opposition needs to be the Labour party in power. And a government doesn’t go on picket lines, a government tries to resolve disputes.” Goodness! John McDonnell points out that ministers, even ministers in government not just in opposition, went on picket lines in the past: 

“I went with our CLP delegation regularly. It was a tough and, at times, violent dispute as the police escorted a bus full of scabs brought in by the company to break the strike and teach the women a lesson.

The Labour and trade union movement came together as one to campaign against the exploitation of these women. Joining the picket lines to show solidarity were some of the most prominent members of the movement, and among those who joined the women’s picket line were Labour cabinet ministers. Not shadow ministers but cabinet ministers actually serving in government at the time, including, famously, Shirley Williams.” 

But now the shadow transport minister has been sacked by Keir Starmer, supposedly not for actually going on a picket line but for agreeing to be interviewed about it and expressing opinions about how much rail workers should earn - the kind of thing you might expect a transport minister, even a shadow transport minister, to have some views on. It seems that you have to toe the party line completely and utterly! Oops!

In Spain politicians appear to be arguing over different matters altogether:

 “Spain’s equality ministry has launched a creative summer campaign encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to hit the beach, with the slogan: “Summer is ours too.”

The colourful campaign’s promotional image features five women of different body types, ages and ethnicities enjoying a day in the sun. “Summer is ours too,” it says. “Enjoy it how, where and with whomever you want.” The campaign also features a woman who has had a mastectomy topless.

“All bodies are beach bodies,” Ione Belarra, the leader of Podemos who serves as social rights minister in Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government, said, “All bodies are valid and we have the right to enjoy life as we are, without guilt or shame. Summer is for everyone!””

The left wing disagree but “when left-wing leader Cayo Lara said the campaign was absurd and trying to “create a problem where it doesn’t exist”, Podemos hit back in a tweet with: “If bodies bother you, you can stay home tweeting.”

Personally, I am inclined to agree with the leftwing point of view. My experience of Spanish beaches tells me that nobody seems to feel the need to be “beach ready”. Women of all shapes and sizes wear their bikinis or, indeed, go topless, wanting to get as much sunshine as possible as they walk up and down the shoreline. And the men of all shapes and sizes wear their skimpy shorts in similar fashion. Of course, it could be that I have just been to the wrong beaches. Maybe on really trendy beaches, the sort frequented by the really fashionable, that the pressure is on to have a perfect body! So it goes! 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Threats of drought. Nostalgia for 1976. Mr Rees-Mogg’s food order. The price of Springsteen tickets. French diplomacy.

The sun has come back today, but with gentler, more British temperatures in the low 20°s. Over the last few days my water barrel in the garden has refilled itself to about one third. I suspect we need a bit more rain if it is to be completely refilled and I am going to be able to water my plants in pots if the threatened drought comes to pass. The news media are harking back to 1976 and water restrictions we had then. One of my principle memories of that time is of a young Frenchman arriving at the school where I was teaching. He was going to be our French “assistant”, giving French conversation practice to small groups of our pupils. He arrived on the day the drought broke and would not believe the stories of almost two months of unbroken sunshine in the UK. But now, 40+ years later, the weathermen are talking about drought again. As for me, I had a pleasant cycle ride to Uppermill and back. 

Further to my reporting the other day that a lorry-load of luxury food items destined for a certain Mr Rees-Mogg’s summer party had supposedly got stuck in cross Channel queues - a report I suspected at the time of being invented - today I found this in The London Economic: 

“GB News parody account suspended after Rees-Mogg story goes viral

The tweet claimed that supplies for Rees-Mogg's summer soirée had been victim of the traffic chaos at Dover.

By Joe Mellor 2022-07-26 09.28

A tweet by a spoof news account went viral after a made-up story about arch Brexiteer Jacob Ree-Mogg was shared by thousands of people.

The parody account claimed that a lorry carrying £20,000 of oysters and champagne to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s mansion was among the vehicles stuck in traffic.

Maybe people wanted it to be true too much and it was all over social media yesterday.

Alas for any of the anti-Mogg brigade, of which there are many, it was a ruse.

The account has now gone, but we will keep an eye on any lavish Rees-Mogg deliveries that do get caught in any traffic chaos.”

Sometimes social media is really good.

My brother-in-law, an ardent Marillion fan who recently travelled to faraway places such as Montreal, Canada, to see his favourite band, sent me a link the other day to information about the price of tickets to see Bruce Springsteen in the UK next year. Tickets were priced at £600 in some cases. Tickets were selling out rapidly and ticketmaster was putting prices up according to demand. Then today I read this in the Guardian: 

“If you want to see Bruce Springsteen play in the US, it may cost you. Some of the tickets for the Boss’s forthcoming tour are going for over $4,000 (£3,300) on Ticketmaster – prices that have triggered a backlash and angry headlines. Do you get hand-fed gold-coated caviar and have your feet massaged by a supermodel for that money? Not exactly. The reason the tickets cost so much is because of “dynamic pricing”. Ticketmaster has said most Springsteen tickets cost under $200, but 11% are part of a variable pricing strategy where the cost adjusts according to demand. Think Uber’s surge pricing – but for concert tickets.

While people are understandably outraged by Ticketmaster’s antics, dynamic pricing isn’t unusual. We’re all used to the fluctuating prices of hotel rooms and aeroplane tickets, for example. What is newer, however, is the extent to which dynamic pricing is being used. According to a 2018 Deloitte and Salesforce report, 40% of brands that use artificial intelligence to personalise customer experience have adjusted pricing and promotions in real time. A recent McKinsey report, meanwhile, notes that Amazon “reprices millions of items as frequently as every few minutes”.”

We live in a world gone mad where money seems to rule! Why am I not surprised. However, the article about Springsteen tickets gave me a link to this nugget about Finland:

“In Finland, speeding fines are linked to salary. The Finns run a “day fine” system that is calculated on the basis of an offender’s daily disposable income – generally their daily salary divided by two.”

However, that bit of proof that progressive pricing can be good dated from 2018. Things may have changed since then. I wonder of those speeding fines rulings still apply.

I mentioned French conversation earlier. Phil found me a story about a French ambassador to the UK at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, a certain Monsieur Paul Cambon, a much decorated gentleman by the looks of things:

“Underpinning Cambon’s exalted sense of self was the belief - shared by many of the senior ambassadors - that one did not merely represent France, one personified it. Though he was ambassador in London from 1898 until 1920, Cambon spoke not a word of English. During his meetings with Edward Grey (who spoke no French) he insisted that every utterance be translated into French, including easily recognised words, such ‘yes’. He firmly believed, like many members of the French élite, that French was the only language capable of articulating rational thought and he objected to the foundation of French schools in Britain on the eccentric grounds that French people raised in Britain tended to end up mentally retarded.”

Brilliant! You could not make it up! Oddly enough it’s  a similar philosophy to that held by Brits who think all you have to do is speak loudly and clearly in English, wherever you go. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Nostalgia. Heroes of our youth. Ferraris - red or repainted? Making sports more exciting.

Ah, nostalgia! And then the heroes of your youth pop their clogs! The actor David Warner has died at the age of 80! Back in 1965 my A-Level English Literature class went to Stratford, quite a long way for a day trip from the Northwest of England but I don’t remember our staying overnight. We visited Anne Hathaway’s cottage, which from photos looks to have been substantially extended from the three roomed cottage they reckon it originally was. My friend Jenny impressed us with her sunshine sneezes every time we came out of a shady interior into the sunny outdoors. And, more importantly, we saw David Warner play Hamlet, just one of the works of literature we were studying. I fell instantly in love with his long, languid Prince of Denmark. My boyfriend of the time was less than impressed when I insisted on going to see my hero in “Morgan, a suitable case for treatment”. 

Ah! nostalgia! I suppose nowadays I would be following him on social media! 

I wrote yesterday about there being more Big Boys’ Toys around than there used to be, especially Ferraris - which, by the way, should always be red! Some years ago I knew a small boy in Spain who insisted, mistakenly but determinedly, that his father’s car must be a Ferrari because … it was bright red! Anyway, here’s a little news item regarding a Ferrari:

“Police in the Czech Republic have turned a high-powered Ferrari they seized from criminals into a patrol car capable of chasing down joyriders at speeds of up to 200mph.

The 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia was formerly coloured racing red, but the authorities painted it with yellow and blue reflective stripes and mounted a panel of lights on top. It will be used to chase stolen cars and to crack down on illegal road races, police said in a statement.”

Is that what regularly happens to goods “seized” by the police? Can they do with them as they like? Who knew?

As wife of a chess-player, over the years I have learnt quite a lot about the game I don’t play, including the untoward tactics sometimes used to discombobulate opponents: blowing smoke across the board (no longer possible of course), various nervous tics such as jiggling a knee, clicking your retractable ballpoint pen, obsessively tidying up the pieces you have taken, slamming the controls of the chess clock, even playing super fast to make your opponent follow suit and make an error - the list goes on and on. Somehow you’d think chess-playing robots would be above such things but here’s the story of one which broke its young opponent’s finger: 

“A chess-playing robot, apparently unsettled by the quick responses of a seven-year-old boy, grabbed and broke his finger during a match at the Moscow Open last week, Russian media outlets have reported.

“The robot broke the child’s finger,” Sergey Lazarev, president of the Moscow Chess Federation, told the TASS news agency after the incident, adding that the machine had played many previous exhibitions without upset. “This is of course bad.”

Video of the 19 July incident published by the Baza Telegram channel shows the boy’s finger being pinched by the robotic arm for several seconds before a woman followed by three men rush in, eventually freeing him and ushering him away.”

Really! You’d expect AI to be better than that. The small boy concerned, I am glad to say, carried on playing the next day - that’s the resilience of youth!

Maybe it’s all a deliberate attempt to add excitement for the spectator - after all it seems that they have been doing that with the Tour de France:

“Fifteen years have passed since the new Tour de France organiser, Christian Prudhomme, announced his intention of “sexing up” the race – my words not his – after watching a dramatic stage across Burgundy. Since then the Tour has gone in one direction: shorter stages, more hilltop finishes, the odd gravel road, cobbles, a search for routes where crosswinds may affect the peloton, fewer and shorter time trials; a search for ways to create tension and excitement, to avoid the race becoming predictable.

The 2022 Tour looks like the culmination of that process. Barring accidents or illness – not an idle statement in a Tour where Covid-19 has played a lead role – Jonas Vingegaard will ride up the Champs-Élysées on Sunday having won the fastest ever Tour, one which has seen only two conventional bunch sprints as of Saturday.”

Signs of the modern age! 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 25 July 2022

Being defeated by the weather. Wildfires. Food-banks in crisis. Sales of supercars.

Well, yesterday we eventually went out for a walk around the village at 9.00 in the evening. Under a clear blue sky … after a day of grey clouds and drizzle! I say a clear blue sky but it was a very pale blue, only to be expected, I suppose, at that time of night. 

This morning, however, even I was defeated by the weather. I listened to rain lashing down on the skylight windows and considered the idea of going for a run. I didn’t consider it for long though. Even when the rain eased down to a steady drizzle again I decided that staying in bed and listening to it was preferable to going out and running in it. After a while I did some indoor bending and stretching - not quite the same as running three kilometres but there it is. If the weather improves later I’ll walk to the library in Uppermill. My books are overdue but since lockdown they no longer fine people for late returns! 

I am determinedly trying not to complain about the rain. On the television news last night they showed footage of the village of Wennington, East London, where wildfire destroyed a whole row of houses. It was like the kind of film you see of disaster areas in distant parts of the world: shells of buildings and burnt-out cars, people shaking their heads in amazement and wondering if anything salvageable is left behind. And wildfires are still going on down there. Even Heathrow had reduced visibility yesterday because of smoke drifting over the runways from nearby fires. So, no, I’m not going to moan about a bit of rain … not too much anyway!

Here’s a little something going around on social media:

“A lorry with £20,000 worth of perishable food for Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Somerset mansion is stuck in queues at Calais, according to a source. 

The luxury food haul - including seafood, oysters & champagne - was for Rees-Mogg’s summer party today, but now won’t arrive.”

It’s a delightful idea, but I suspect its an urban myth, especially as I was under the impression that the hold-ups are on our side of the channel, not in Calais.

And do people really spend £20,000 on party food at one go? Really? Even the foolish rich? At the other end of the scale, I read that food-banks in some places are having problems because of lack of donations. They are having to turn people away because they run out of food parcels to give out.

Some of this is because many of those who previously bought a little extra something to put into the food-bank collection outside the supermarket are themselves struggling to pay for the food for their own families. 

And here’s another possible explanation: 

“Food banks across Britain are suffering from a form of long Covid. During the pandemic, many better-off families switched to online grocery shopping and worked from home – habits that have stuck for a lot of people. That means fewer donations from office fundraisers and fewer items left in food bank stands at supermarkets, removing two key forms of support.”

Maybe it’s time for supermarket’s online order forms to include a list of items destined for the food-banks so that those who can afford to do so can be reminded to donate. 

One area where people are still spending money is in car-sales, specifically sale of supercars. There are more Ferraris and the like around than there used to be. Out and about, we have certainly noticed an increase in the number of what we call “Big Boys’ Toys” (BBTs), especially extra-expensive BBTs. Around here there has also been an increase in BIIIG expensive vehicles, Land-rovers and the like. Some are probably not bought outright but are on the rental scheme that is popular nowadays and are “traded in” at the end of the lease-hire time for something more modern but equally flashy. However, it does seem that those who have the money are splashing out on status symbols. Here’s a significant bit of statistics; 

“Out of the top-10 areas for supercars, only two are not in the south-east of England. East Cheshire, known for its “golden triangle” of wealthy villages, is home to some of the most famous Manchester and Liverpool-based footballers and 321 supercars. The other is Birmingham with 175 supercars.” 

The exact three points of the triangle are the subject of local debate but are generally considered to be Alderley Edge, Prestbury and Wilmslow. The area is noted for expensive houses in a pleasant countryside setting that is popular with wealthy Premier League footballers. I’ve a feeling our nearest Waitrose store is over there in the “golden triangle” too. Not that I plan to shop in Waitrose any time soon. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone. 

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Rain. Fires. Going on holiday (or not) in these difficult times. Agreements.

It was surprisingly warm when I went out for my morning run today, not especially sunny but there was some blue sky between the clouds, with a brisk wind blowing everything around. We’ve had quite a bit of rain since, some of it heavy but mostly rather drizzly. In fact. We’ve had quite a lot of drizzly rain the last few days. I blame our milkman, who told me on Wednesday that we need a good week of rain to make up for the seeks of dry weather and then the few days of heatwave! Maybe it will be enough to soak our peat moorlands and avoid wildfires.   

Other parts of the world, indeed other parts of Europe, continue to have very hot weather and frightening outbreaks of fire. Here are two headlines from today’s newspapers:  

California: Thousands evacuated over wildfire near Yosemite as California governor declares emergency.

Greece: Lesbos tourist resort evacuated as wildfire destroys homes. 

Scary stuff! My Italian friend who tells me we need to adjust to the idea of having a “proper summer” meeds to bear that in mind! 

Of course, it’s almost a tradition here in the UK that the weather turns foul as the schools finish for summer. Our smallest granddaughter hasn’t actually broken up for summer yet; she still has a couple of days to go. Her mother’s school has broken up and our daughter has received a mass of cards and present from her grateful small charges. When did it become such a normal thing for a stack of gifts as well as cards to be given to teachers? Is it to make up for not receiving a decent pay-rise?

Oddly, at least one store that sends me regular email/adverts is advertising “back to school” clothes. Really? Already? I fully expect the pub next door to start putting up notices about booking early for Christmas! 

The continuing chaos at Dover and surrounding areas is not helped by this weekend being the start of the school holidays. Everyone feels the need to dash off on holiday. This is our moment. France waits until the start of August for ‘le grand départ” and Italy hangs on until mid-August, the “ferragosto” signalling the moment to rush away to the seaside or the mountains. And these are countries where the schools finish for summer earlier than in the UK, as far as I know. What do they do with the school kids in the meantime? Personally, I am glad not to be setting off on holiday this weekend. 

Elsewhere Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement to get grain out of the country. Is this a sign of a willingness to talk? I wondered. And then, before we knew it there was an explosion in the port of Odesa. Russia has now said they did it but they weren’t targeting grain ships but a military target! It’s a very mixed up situation!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Chaos and cakeism!

So the chaos at Dover continues, if a little less fiercely, and is still the fault of the French according to some. The Financial Times apparently has some other ideas. The port of Dover handles 2.2 million passenger vehicles a year. Back in October they asked for funding to help pay for additional Brexit-related border expenses. There was a £33m proposal to double the number of  French government passport booths from 5 to 10 in anticipation of the need for passports to be stamped and other more stringent measures. According to the Financial Times, this proposal was turned down by the cabinet. 

Clearly the French are to blame!

And here’s an interesting little something, a blast from the past:-

“I don’t want my daughters to grow up in a world where they need a visa or permit to work in Europe; or where they are hampered from growing a business because of extortionate call costs and barriers to trade.

Every parent wants their children to grow up in a helathybenvironment with clean water, fresh air and theiving natural wonders. Being part of the EU helps protect these precious resources and spaces.”

  • Liz Truss, June 2016. 

I suppose everyone is entitled to a change of heart, a change of mind but not everyone is trying to be prime minister.  Maybe she just says what suits the moment. Other politicians have been known to do that. Be that as it may, now she is an ardent Brexiteer, believing now in the idea that by putting up barriers to trade with Europe we could become a richer country. And she has other plans, wanting simultaneously to cut the money coming into the public coffers and increase the money going out: less tax and more spending at the same time. She’ll cancel the national insurance rise and jack up the defence budget. 

I understand that this is called “cakeism”. I wondered if the name had anything to do with a certain PM’s birthday cake but investigation twlls me otherwise. One dictionary defines it as: 

“the wish to have or do two good things at the same time when this is impossible. This word comes from the phrase “to have your cake and eat it too: 

He seems to be running for election on a platform of cakeism: you can have your cake and eat it , too.”

Maybe that last bit should be she not he.

Here’s another definition”

“Term used to describe the random sentences of wisdom that came from ancient Graeco-Roman philosophers. Cakisms are used to explain events such as the creation of mankind, how to obtain world peace, and why stid people exist.

"If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.” "Wow, that was a really deep Cakism."


And one last definition; 



  1. (UK politics) The doctrine of having one’s cake and eating it too, particularly regarding the UK’s approach to Brexit negotiations and subsequent deliberations. “

There you go. 

Meanwhile, Tata Steel are considering closing their plant in Port Talbot Wales, unless they get financial assistance from the UK government, with a knock on effect to workers in other related industries in the UK. Mark Drakeford, First Minister for Wales, at least I think that’s who it was, said on the radio that this event has been looming for some time. Presumably we have heard little about it because there has been such a lot of scandal stuff going on in Westminster! And presumably it’s not going to be sorted out until September when they have selected a new PM. Indeed Mr Drakeford says he has only spoken to Mr Johnson once in the last year. That’s how important the Union is the Mr Johnson! 

By the way, Tata Steel is Indian owned! And EDF - that’s Électricité de France, in case anyone doesn’t know - are going to be building a new nuclear power station. Is taking back control and giving it to other countries another example of cakism?

But not to worry, they’ve made British Bake-Off into a musical! Songs about cakes! 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!