Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Where yesterday went!

So yesterday was quite crazy and disappeared down a kind of wormhole. I got up quite early, stuck a load of washing in the machine and set off for a run round the village, stopping at the coop for a few odds and ends. 

On my return I hung the washing out to dry, had a shower, got dressed and organised the attic bedroom for the arrival the southern branch of the family. They were coming to visit: third time lucky as on the two previous occasions visits had to be cancelled at the last minute because of covid at one end of the family or the other. We hadn’t seen each other since my son’s little girl’s birthday in March. They hadn’t been here since last Christmas. In the case of my daughter-in-law, she hadn’t been since last summer because at Christmas time her mother was desperately ill. All are well now and the visit was going ahead.

We had a late breakfast. I baked a cake. I made some savoury odds and ends. I tidied the kitchen. Just at the time when I thought I might sit down and write a blogpost, Granddaughter Number Two turned up with The Smallest Granddaughter. We did some painting. We played some games. 

And then the rest of the family turned up: the southern branch and then my daughter with Granddaughter Number One and the small boy, grumpy from a busy day at nursery. It was clear that my plans for feeding my son and his wife at a civilised hour after their little girl had gone to bed needed to change. We were now having a huge family meal. Granddaughter Number Two went home to shower and have an early night as she is working early today. Grandson Number One, who rarely seems to emerge from his room, stayed home with his computer. But my son-in-law arrived later on the bus. 


A grand family reunion, with only a couple of absentees. After we had eaten, the small people finally went to play in the garden, laughing and chasing and doing cartwheels - well, the eight-year-old was showing the smaller ones now to do cartwheels! Finally my daughter’s lot departed, the eight-year-old was packed off to bed and we sat and chatted before giving in ourselves and retiring for the night. 

I woke up very early this morning from ridiculous anxiety dreams about having to address a group of people who politely sat and didn’t listen and didn’t respond to any questions. Besides, I had no idea what I was talking to them about and, although I was aware that I knew then all well, I had forgotten all of their names. Clearly that’s what comes of running round being busy all day. So, as I was awake and obviously not going back to sleep, I decided to come and post this blog, before another day of mayhem ensues. 

Today we plan a family ritual walk round Dovestone reservoir, a local beauty spot. There might be photos tomorrow.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 29 August 2022

Do we need more bank holidays? Deciding where to walk. Failing to go to the moon.

It’s August Bank holiday Monday. The last bank holiday until Christmas!  I read that union leaders have demanded the creation of four more bank holidays to bring the country in line with European nations. The UK typically gets around eight bank holidays per year, while the EU average stands at 12.3.

Liz Truss has suggested that Britain needs to work harder. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady has said: “Some politicians have been calling UK workers lazy but we work some of the longest hours in Europe. And we get the fewest public holidays. After today, there are no more public holidays until Christmas. Instead of insulting workers, let’s show more gratitude to our nation of grafters.”

There you go!

Of course, now that we are retired people all this makes precious little difference to our lives. Back when I was a sixth form college teacher, we would already have had a week of in service training and then the enrolment of new students. This would be our last holiday and tomorrow would see induction day for new students and then full timetable until the half term break. 

Instead of planning what to do with my teaching week, I am contemplating where to go for a walk today. The weather promises cloud and a gentle breeze. There is, however, a 5% to 10% chance of rain. Yesterday we walked out in sunshine to go up Lark Hill. Before we reached the bottom of the steep lane up to the top of Lark Hill the sun had disappeared behind clouds. Up at the top we met an elderly lady whose daughters I used to teach. She was equipped with her raincoat and declared us with our bare arms and no obvious bag containing raincoats, more optimistic than she was. But we dodged the rain. Maybe today we will be less fortunate and so we should take our raincoats with us.

Over in the USA they have just failed to launch a rocket to the moon. They have a couple more “windows” in the next week and after that the rocket will need to go back to the workshop for “tweaking”. I am in two minds about all this shooting rockets up into space. I understand all the arguments about the experiments that can be done up there that can’t be done here, the technical advances and so on but I can’t help feeling that all that money could be better spent on other things. One commentator said that the UK’s commitment amounted to £1 per inhabitant of our islands. Individually that might not be much but maybe it could have ben put towards something immediately useful, like solving the problems of leaks in our water supply. Oh, dear! I think I am turning into a luddite! 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 28 August 2022

Weekend weather. Rain at the wrong time. Some thoughts on vocabulary.

 Bank Holiday weekend and the weather is fine. With a Bank Holiday around the weathermen have stopped lamenting the drought and have started to say how fortunate we are to have some sunshine. It doesn’t take much to keep us happy, apparently. 

Around here we’ve been having rainy nights and fine days, which suits me fine. Not good for those who work at night but that’s how it goes. We’re able to get the washing dry outdoors - I don’t have a tumble drier anyway - and we can go out for walks. We’ve been blackberrying again. At this rate, I shall have to start making jam! 

Despite the rainy nights, the local reservoirs are low. We need some more rain. A friend of ours who lives on one of the Greek islands has been posting pictures and videos of the rain near her home, quite torrential rain not usually expected until the end of September. And the news is telling us of horrendous floods in Pakistan. The rain is falling but in the wrong places and at the wrong time. We can’t cope with it when it falls. The world has gone crazy! 

There’s a story going round that the head of Thames Water is taking home £40,000 per week! If true, she won’t worry about the cost of energy. I wonder what she spends it on. Maybe it’s on stuff like this:

“A car used by Diana, Princess of Wales has sold for £650,000 at auction.

The black Ford Escort RS Turbo, driven by Diana from 23 August 1985 to 1 May 1988, sold to a UK buyer at the Silverstone Auctions sale on Saturday.”

It might well be a unique vehicle but once you’ve nought such an item what do you do with it? You would hardly want to drive it around the streets with the possibility of someone bumping into it or scratching its paintwork! Some people have more money than sense. 

I’ve been getting annoyed about vocabulary. I read an article about monkeypox, one of the latest nasty diseases to pop up in the modern world. People are having difficulty getting vaccinations or as the article put it “jabs”. This was quite a learned-sounding article, full of scientific facts, so why did the writer use “jab” rather than “vaccination” or “injection”? A “jab” is something random, someone poking you with a finger, an umbrella or whatever they have to hand. In boxing it’s a short sharp blow. An injection or vaccination should be more precise. “Jab” is fine in a tabloid headline but I want proper scientific terminology in news reports, please! 

In the weekend Guardian Seamus O’Reilly has a regular column which has been featuring his small son for quite some time now. Today he has been writing about his now four-year-old’s language development, including some of his amusing vocabulary mistakes. Among his favourites are “gerbils” for “germs” and the mispronunciation of “sandwich” as “samgich”. I suspect that last one will go down in their family annals. We are still likely to describe some very large thing as “fuge”, which was how Granddaughter Number One, now in her twenties, used to say “huge”. However, it might be time Seamus O’Reilly stopped using his son as column content. Some time in the future the embarrassment factor might kick in.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 27 August 2022

New (to me) vocabulary. Stockpiling your reading matter. The cost of energy!

A friend of mine gave me a new word this morning: “tsundoku”, originally from Japanese slang (積んでお to pile things up ready for later and leave and dokusho 読書, reading books) it refers to having a pile of books, usually by the bed but sometimes on bookshelves, waiting to be read. It perfectly describes my Number Two Granddaughter. It’s dangerous to let her into a bookshop. Personally, I’ve been trying not to buy actual books - no room left on the shelves - but I do have rather a lot of books waiting on my kindle.

Some people feel guilty about having books pending. However, according  to statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb, these unread volumes represent what he calls an “antilibrary,” and he believes our antilibraries aren’t signs of intellectual failings. Quite the opposite.

Taleb says: “Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. [Your] library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”

Children who grow up in a house with lots of books, even unread ones, are more likely to develop a good reading habit and intellectual curiosity.

Of course, some households simply can’t afford books, which is a dreadful situation, especially as libraries are also going through a funding crisis. 

And here we are in the 21st century with experts warning us that people will die of cold this winter. Every discussion news programme has desperate people stating that they don’t know how they will get through the winter. OFGEM confirmed an 80% rise in the consumer price cap from October that will take a typical household’s gas and electricity bill from £1,971 to £3,549 a year. Nadim Zahawi says it’s not just low income families that will suffer: 

“My concern is there are those who aren’t on benefits. If you are a senior nurse or a senior teacher on £45,000 a year, you’re having your energy bills go up by 80% and will probably rise even higher in the new year – it’s really hard.

“If you’re a pensioner, it’s really hard. So universal credit is a really effective way of targeting, but I’m looking at what else we can do to make sure we help those who really need the help. We’re looking at all the options.”

How have we got to a point where someone earning £45,000 a year will be having problems? 

Brexiteer Kate Hoey has apparently been saying that in the past we all used to put on an extra jumper. So I’ve had a Facebook conversation with various people commenting on that. Yes, I remember when it was not a routine thing for every home to have central heating. Yes, I remember frost patterns on the inside windows - no double glazing and unheated bedrooms - and I remember a certain reluctance to put my foot out of bed onto the cold lino on the bedroom floor - no bedroom carpets either. But most houses had heating of some kind in the main living room of the house. We may have put on extra jumpers but as I recall people didn’t die of cold in their own homes! 

It’s not just that we’ve grown soft with our central heating. And lots of things have changed - we almost all shower daily, as opposed to having a weekly bath; we wash our clothes more often than we used to and we didn’t have tumble driers. I’m pretty sure the likes of Kate Hoey don’t really want to go back to those days. We need to find a better solution.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 26 August 2022

A bit more about York.

Here are a few more pictures of our visit to the city of York. Some may be repeats from yesterday, for which I apologise. These photos are of what remains of St Leonard’s hospital, which covered a lot of ground in the city, sharing grounds with the minster itself.

Back in the 10th century there was a hospital, St Peter’s, on the site. Of course it was St Peter’s as the minster is the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter. However, the hospital was severely damaged in a fire in 1137. (Fire seems to have been a problem in York, as the Minster itself was damaged by fire in 1829 (arson) and 1840 (accidental) and again in 1984. On that last occasion some traditionalist Anglicans suggested the fire was a sign of divine displeasure at the recent consecration as Bishop of Durham of David Jenkins, whose views they disapproved of. It’s amazing how intolerant the followers of Jesus can be!)


In 1137 St Leonard’s was erected on the site of St Peter’s.  It was the largest hospital in medieval England, with 225 beds and 70 staff.

Much of the work of the hospital was caring for and feeding the  old, the poor and the chronically sick. Indeed, the story goes that the sick could not have their illnesses treated until or unless they confessed their sins. If they kept to the religious rules though they were promised a more or less guaranteed place in heaven. 


The hospital had high ceilings and large windows because of medieval medical belief that illness was caused by “bad air” and that good circulation of air would help recovery. 

Saint Leonard’s has a bit of medieval scandal too.: 

“According to folklore, a monk at St Leonard’s was prone to revelry. Discovered drunk amongst the townsfolk, his punishment was decreed by the prior: to be walled up alive within the hospital’s cellars. Once imprisoned, the monk pushed his way through a rotten wall to the cellar of St Mary’s Abbey next door, where he passed himself off as a newly-arrived novice monk. After a year, he was made cellarer and put in charge of the abbey’s food and wine. Sure enough, he was caught drinking the abbey’s supplies and once again, as punishment, sealed up alive within the abbey’s cellar walls. The cellarer at St Leonard’s heard singing, unblocked the wall and found the monk still alive a year on. Thinking this a miracle, the monks rejoiced and made him prior of the hospital.” 

Boy! They knew how to punish turning work events into parties in those days!  

Not much remains of the building because the buildings because of the reformation. Good old Henry VIII had monasteries and convents destroyed and their wealth confiscated. Because the hospital was connected to the church it suffered the same fate in 1539. The city of York was left without a hospital until 1740. 

Perhaps good old Henry was an early Tory, cutting health services! 

That’s enough Yorkshire tourism for today. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 25 August 2022

Girls’ day out!

In October our Number Two Granddaughter is off to university in York. Not too far away, close enough to come home in case of emergency but far enough to be independent. She deferred her entry for a year, initially with the idea of travelling but later with the aim of earning some money. So she’s one of those who are causing trouble for this year’s applicants. Like many others of her year they have already taken up places not available to this year’s cohort. So it goes. 

Her smallest sister is a little confused at the idea that she will no longer be living with them full time. This is odd as she happily accepts that her oldest sister lives in a different house. But that has always been the case. Perhaps, like so many people, the small girl just doesn’t like change. 

Because Number Two Granddaughter applied to university during lockdown she was unable to do the usual round of open day visits to universities. Virtual tours are all very well but they don’t really give you a feel for a place. So for the last sixth months we have been planning to arrange a trip to York, just to have a look round the city. None of the possible university visit days coincided with days she wasn’t working. Finally, yesterday was the day! 

So the little chap was sent to nursery as usual. This made room in the car for Phil who planned to come with us but who decided to stay home after all. A girls’ day out then: me, daughter, Granddaughter Number Two and the smallest girl. 

Here are a few of the bits of old York we admired. Starting with the castle, on a hill people were told not to climb up but which peole were rolling down anyway.

We never got to the university, as it’s a fair distance from the centre. Besides, she’ll discover that for herself and she had a sunny introduction to the city itself. A new adventure begins for her. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Out and about. Foraging. Prime ministerial visits.,

Yesterday perked up weatherwise more or less as expected. We didn’t go and do a long walk up Lark Hill though. By the time we finished the indoor jobs and got ourselves organised the cloud had moved back in and so we opted to walk round the village instead, equipped with waterproofs in a bag in case it turned to rain. Phil did decide to take the secateurs with him to continue with the work of snipping nettles and brambles and anything else that chose to block the path.

I considered taking the litter picker as I knew that there were a fair few cans dropped here and there on our route. In the end I decided not to bother. 


At the last minute though I picked up a piece of Tupperware in case I saw enough ripe blackberries to make it worth while picking them. 

We made slow progress, inevitably with both of us on the lookout for something to snip or collect. Despite the cloud, it was actually very warm. 


The blackberries were ripening nicely. 

I collected a good boxful. 


And when we got home I baked an apple and blackberry pie. Not a bad bit of foraging!


Later in the evening the rain came back and it was quite heavy during the night. My granddaughter and I had planned a day out today and went prepared for a wet excursion. In the event, the further we got into Yorkshire the more the weather improved. More of that tomorrow. First I need to catch up with today. So this is a short post.,

On my return from our day out I discovered that Boris Johnson had made a surprise visit to Kiev in Ukraine today. He’s very popular on the Ukraine. Maybe he wanted to go to a place where they appreciate him. Someone has painted a mural of him on the end of a building. Today they have put up a plaque proclaiming him a hero. 

I suppose everyone has to be appreciated somewhere. Since the campaign to choose his successor here began he seems to have kept a low profile. Maybe he’s been too busy having a wedding celebration and going on holiday to continue with the job he’s still being paid for.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Time rushing past. What to wear. Uniform issues. And restrictions.

Yesterday it started raining some time after I came home from my run. I must have timed it just right. And it continued raining just about all day, until it was too late to consider going for a walk anywhere. Today the sun is trying to break through the clouds so maybe we’ll walk up Lark Hill. Somehow a walk up Lark Hill is better in the sunshine!

The summer is rushing past. It’s almost the end of August. The days are getting shorter. And we’re back to that quandary of what sort of clothes to wear. Layers! You need something light in case the sun comes out, and something warm and windproof but not too heavy just in case you find yourself needing to carry it. And then out and about you also need a waterproof. After all, it might rain, despite the warnings of drought! 

Our daughter has spent what seems an inordinate amount of time in school during her summer holidays. I say that as someone who used to spend a fair amount of summer “holiday” time preparing for the coming year. In actual fact, she has been quite sensible about it all, spending some mornings in school sorting her classroom and checking teaching resources and doing family things in the afternoons. The little chap,has been in nursery for these mornings. After all, to keep his place for the next academic year the fees have to continue to be paid. You’d think a retainer would be enough but I suppose they are running a business. So he has gone happily to meet his little friends. His big sister has either gone along to “help” or has spent time with Daddy, with big sister or with me. 

And suddenly we’re only about a week and a half away from back to school. Shops are advertising school bags, school equipment and, above all, school uniform. A friend of mine posted this:


The average cost of school uniform is over £300. A new law comes into effect next month in England to try to help with those costs:

  • State schools will need to keep branded (more expensive) items to a minimum and allow high street alternatives
  • Second hand uniforms must be available 
  • Parents’ views will need to be considered when uniform policy is decided

While most people welcome the changes, some feel it doesn’t go far enough as costly branded items are not completely banned. 

I find myself wondering yet again why we have this obsession with school uniform. Other countries manage without it apart from in private schools. And yet most people here are quite happy with the idea of uniform, even welcoming the idea as there is no argument about what to wear. Even schools that previously ignored uniform introduced school logo sweat shirts and before you knew it they were back to little girls in grey skirts or gym slips and little boys in grey trousers.. But if you have two or three children, kitting them out for school is an expensive business, even with hand-me-downs from one child to another. 

Even the nursery the smallest member of our family goes to has a uniform. Mind you, they also do a “graduation” ceremony for the children moving on to primary school, complete with tine mortar boards. What is the world of nursery education coming to!

Thinking of the cost of things and the current cost of living crisis, here’s a little reminder of inequalities from MP Zarah Sultana:

“If you’re on the minimum wage, it would take more than 3,000 years to earn as much as a topFTSE CEO makes in a year.

Don’t let anyone tell you a pay rise for workers is unaffordable.”

Quite so!

I’ve not quoted the estimable Michael Rosen for a while. This could be why:

“I have 'multiple restrictions' on my 'account', Facebook tell me. This is because of several of my 'Boris letters'. They do not meet 'community standards'. They are guilty of 'hate' apparently. I suspect that someone or some people have complained.” (Michael Rosen). 

So here’s one of his latest offerings:

“Dear Mogg

I'm against paid holidays for workers. Most of them don't work and then get a holiday for doing nothing. But thinking of myself for a moment, I have to say, I'm on a damned good squeeze: gadding hither and thither, doing sod-all, on full pay.

Mega siesta


[Hello Facebook - this letter is in the voice of someone else, not me. It's what's called 'dramatic irony'. The beliefs or views that are implied by the 'letter' are not mine. They are ones that I am attributing to Boris Johnson based on the things he says and writes.]”

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Monday, 22 August 2022

Fossils. Frozen mammoths. Gold diggers of one kind or another. How to move house easily.

Our Number One Granddaughter’s friend/housemate has returned from a brief holiday with parents somewhere on Cornwall, bringing gifts for Number One Granddaughter. Mostly these look like lumps of concrete but Number One Granddaughter assures me they are interesting rocks. She’s happy with them, so that’s what counts I suppose. 

Amongst the lumps of concrete there were indeed some interesting fossils. Fossils are always fascinating, partly because they are so old, evidence of a life form of sorts from all that time ago. On one of our regular walks around here we go past a sort of embankment where the stony hillside is in strata. Every time we pass it one or other of us will comment on the fact that we have not yet found any dinosaur bones sticking out of the layers of stone. I doubt that we will ever find dinosaur bones and if we ever spot anything remotely interesting sticking put of the stone we will probably fall over in surprise. 

In the Guardian’s “Experience” column recently someone described how he discovered a baby mammoth preserved in frozen earth in the Yukon, Canada. The article begins quite romantically: “I’d been working as a gold miner for only 30 days when I made my big discovery.” It conjures up images of eager miners panning for gold, hoping to strike it rich and singing “Oh my darling Clementine”. In fact he works for a company called Treadstone Gold and works a mechanical excavator called a “ripper”. It’s a wonder he saw the mammoth at all and didn’t end up chopping it to pieces. But how exciting that he actually realised what he had come across. I hope he receives some personal acclaim, not to say reward, for his discovery. 

We tend to think of the legal profession as a band of gold diggers, especially in light of the crazy fees talked about in cases like the Vardy-Rooney affair. We have not had too much personal experience of such things, fortunately, but whenever we have needed to consult the legal people we have been astounded at how much you need to pay even for a letter to be sent. So it sounds a little odd to hear that junior barristers plan to go on strike. More fun and games in the justice system! There is a 50,000 case backlog already waiting to come to court. Serious cases are going unresolved for years and years. The justice system in “seriously fractured” says Dame Vera Baird, Victims’ Commissioner. But it seems that in the first few years of their professional life junior barrister a paid just over £12,000 per annum. Greatly publicised civil cases like the Vardy-Rooney thing might earn some people a lot of money bit the criminal justice system clearly needs some work. 

Meanwhile, from the world of the wealthy comes the news that Prince William and Family plan to move into a modest 4 bedroom cottage, within walking distance of her majesty’s residence. There will be no live-in staff. They say they want the children to have as normal a childhood as possible, preferably in a rural setting. Good for them! The cynic in me suspects it’s part of making the whole royal family appear as normal as possible. It must be nice though to have the option to move house easily, without having to go through all the tension of selling the old house and buying a new one!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Sunday, 21 August 2022

Repairing Notre Dame the old fashioned way.

In April 2019 the cathedral of Notre Dame caught fire. I seem to remember I was at my son’s house as we watched the news footage in amazement. The old wood in the roof burned fiercely. Amazingly the structure remained upright and the rose window survived. President Macron declared that the cathedral would be restored to its former glory by 2024. That’s quite a lot to ask. He’s only got a couple of years to go.

The complex roof structure of the cathedral was known as “la forêt” because of the number of trees used in building it. The techniques used in building it were considered to be lost in the depths of time. Back in the thirteenth century nobody was videoing building techniques. But now it seems all is not lost.

Some 25 years ago a project was started in a place called Guédelon in Burgundy. Guédelon castle was the home of a minor, rather impoverished nobleman also built in the thirteenth century. The Guédelon project is an exercise in “experimental archaeology”. Rather than dig things up, the idea is to build using the techniques that were in use at the time, thus learning stuff about life at that time. And now those techniques are in demand for repairing the roof of Notre Dame. A number of carpenters trained in medieval techniques at Guéridon have already been employed for the restoration work. 

It would perhaps be quicker to use beams prepared by modern sawmill. No “maybe” about it. Of course it would be quicker. But those who have worked at Guédelon hold their hands up in horror and say that the old techniques respect the wood in a way that modern sawmills do not. If they want to beams used in restoration to last anything like as long as the original ones then the old traditional ways must be followed. 

One of the experts involved in Guédelon said, “I have studied the 13th-century technique for many years and, if we respect the internal form of the tree, the beams will last for 800 years. Guédelon is the only place in France, and I believe in Europe, where they build this kind of roof structure in wood. All those who didn’t think it was possible didn’t know about Guédelon.”

He adds: “But it shouldn’t be rushed. Macron’s insistence that the cathedral be open by 2024 is idiotic. We are talking about a cathedral, we’re not in a hurry and we have the money to do it the right way. If we rush it, there’s a risk it [will] be done badly and something is missed. Sadly, I fear Macron doesn’t understand that.”

They’ve even followed medieval blacksmithing techniques to make the axes and other tools needed to deal with the wood. 

In this age of rush and hurry it’s rather refreshing to come across a bit of old-fashioned slow idealism. And even though there no doubt all sorts of other demands on funds, I hope they manage to set aside the money to do the job properly.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Saturday, 20 August 2022

My life of relative ease. My reading matter. Migrant problems.

 Yesterday I phoned my hairdresser’s salon on the off-chance that I might be able to make an appointment for some time next week. And the receptionist suggested 10.00 this morning. What a surprise! So there I was at 8.20 this morning waiting for a bus to take me to Oldham Mumps to catch the tram into Manchester. Not quite what I had planned but there it was. The later bus would not have got me there in time.

I thought I might have time to pop into a couple of shops before my appointment but the places I wanted to visit close to the salon didn’t open until 10. So much for the early bird catching the worm and all that.

It was dull and rather drizzly when I set off but I had my umbrella just in case. By the time I reached Manchester it had stopped and by the time ai came out of the hairdresser’s the sun was shining. I did my odds and ends of shopping but completely forgot that I had intended to go to the bookshop to look for a couple of items for Granddaughter Number Three’s sixth birthday in a couple of weeks time. The best laid plans …!

I shall have to order online, which is a little annoying. I already have projects afoot ready for her birthday, including a hand-stitched mermaid toy, but there are a couple of children’s books I want to introduce her to. 

I only remembered my plan to visit the bookshop as the tram I was travelling on was approaching Ashton - too late! I called in at my daughter’s on the way home, mostly to admire the mammoth sorting put tasks she has been undertaking over the last couple of weeks. She is feeling very virtuous!

I’ve been reading a series of books by Larry McMurty, essentially cowboy stories, the exploits of some Texas Rangers. As they have made their way through the wilder parts of Texas, facing drought and occasional storms, fighting off Comanche Indians, I find myself wondering how the West was ever settled. And then yesterday I came across this article about migrants from Mexico, trying to cross Texas and dying in those same arid bits of the country. They are tackling more dangerous territory because the border guards are too effective in safe crossing points. Bodies are being discovered, people who have simply run out of food and water and been unable to continue. What a sad situation in the 21st  century! 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Friday, 19 August 2022

Doorbells. Donations. Drought - and what it brings to light.

Yesterday evening, quite early in the evening, just after Phil had set off for chess club and before the rain started, the doorbell rang. This is quite unusual. Many people ignore the doorbell completely and either try to use the ineffectual knocker above the letter box or rap the door itself with their knuckles, equally ineffectually! An electricity worker checking cables and installations the other day even told me when I remonstrated with him that he does not trust doorbells! Arrant nonsense! Even if you cannot guarantee that the doorbell works you should at least try it as well as rat-a-tat-tatting on the wood with your knuckles. That’s my opinion anyway!

So when the doorbell rang I thought it might be Phil rushing back for a forgotten item and deciding it was quicker to ring the bell and have me answer the door than to hunt about in his pockets for his keys. But, no, this was not the case. It was smiling gentleman in a Red Cross tabard. Did I know what the Red Cross did? he smilingly asked me. Well, yes, I did know. Did I know that huge numbers of people in this country have problems? Well, yes. Did I know that the Red Cross helps people in crisis in this country, not just in faraway places? Actually, yes, I did. Did I also know that for as little as the price of a cup of coffee each day I could help? Yes, I knew that too. I also knew what was coming next. He was about to ask for my bank details so I could make a regular contribution. Yes! That was it!

Now, I always refuse to fill in donation forms on the street, or even on my doorstep for that matter. So I knew I was going to have to send him away disappointed. He even tried to soft-soap me by saying that he knew I could organise my donations online but that way he would lose his commission. That’s the way of the world. His tabard and ID card could well almost certainly genuine but I prefer to give my bank details in a safe way. Had he been collecting cash I would have made a donation. I know that a fraudster could work that scam as well, pocketing the cash for his own use, but it wouldn’t lead to the emptying of my account. We bandied our arguments back and forth in a friendly fashion for another five minutes or so but eventually I won. He went away, probably thinking I was a crazy, suspicious old biddy and I retreated indoors with my feelings of minor guilt. 

And I really dislike being put on the spot in that fashion. Maybe next time I’ll lie through my teeth and tell them I already contribute on a regular basis. After all, I do make a regular payment to Médecins sans Frontières and other such organisations. Grrrr!

Some time later I phoned our son. He was sitting in his garden enjoying a glass of wine in the warm but not too warm evening. The heat in his part of the country has been quite oppressive, he told me. He did get caught in a torrential downpour in central London the other day, he said, but mostly everything is very, very dry. And his journey home on the Metropolitan Lone has taken him past the occasional small fire, which is rather disturbing. No doubt he will find it all pleasantly green here when he visits at the end of the month - assuming nobody catches Covid in the interim, which has happened on the last two occasions that a visit has been planned. 

Satellite photos of England confirm how very dry much of the South and East of the country has become. This picture was taken on August 10th. Even though we are in the green bit of the country, I read that we had only 70% of our expected rainfall in July. Much of the South East has less that 10%. 

According to this article all sorts of things have been revealed below the water as rivers across Europe have dried to much reduced shadows of their normal selves: sunken boats, Roman forts and bridges, a nazi tank, that bomb in the Po in Italy. Perhaps the find that impressed me most was the “hunger stones” in the River Elbe, like the one near the northern Czech town of Děčín, close to the German border. “Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine” (“If you see me, then weep”), reads the grim inscription. It’s apparently one of dozens in central European rivers engraved to mark their levels during historic droughts – and warn future generations of the famine and hardship likely to follow each time they became visible. Some of the inscriptions go back hundreds of years. 

And of course, there are the drowned villages in reservoirs. I keep expecting to hear reports of the reappearance of villages from below Ladybower Reservoir, not too far from here. According to Wikipedia, “in 1976, 1995, and 2018, dry conditions caused the water level to drop and the village of Derwent to once again be exposed. In 2018, this caused unprecedented crowds to visit the rarely visible site. On 3 November 2018, a man had to be rescued by a mountain rescue team after getting stuck in extremely thick mud around the ruins of the village. On 17 November 2018 it was reported that the site had been vandalised by some of those visiting, with park rangers forced to stop visitors removing items from the site and with graffiti scrawled on some buildings.

We had rain in the night, or so the milkman tells me. Me, I slept through it.m

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!