Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Funny how time slips away

A weird thing happened forty minutes ago (at least I think it's forty).  I usually watch the BBC1 six o'clock news, which lasts for just under half an hour, when we get the weather forecast and then across to the regional news.  (I'm sure you already know this, but bear with me, the timings are important, not least because the end of the weather is my Pablovian trigger to go and pour a G&T.)

Anyway, at 6.20, that's six twenty, Susan Powell was cued up to do the forecast, and George then handed us over to 'South Today'.  I wouldn't have minded this, I am still capable of overriding pre-programmed synapses even at my age - maybe there was a party political or charity appeal coming up - except that George said, handing over to Sally Taylor: 'and now it's coming up to half past six, and it's time to hand over to ...'

I checked my watch.  It's twenty past six.  I checked several other time sources, which agreed.  I switched off the TV, which was probably a mistake.  The BBC has stolen ten minutes, I thought.  I've just read 'Ghostwritten' by David Mitchell, which plays, amongst many others, with the idea  that time is not necessarily absolute or sequential, according to the physics; which didn't help.  But just for a moment there - and this is the good bit - I felt as if the ground, or the sky, or both, had tilted slightly as time momentarily slipped away.

Then I went and poured myself that gin.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Honeysuckle Rose (with Apples)

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Immigration, football: are they connected?

No more the vuvu's wild zanzara whine
No more the fumbled backpass into space ...

(Sorry, I've been rereading Summoned by Bells, so everything I think tends to come out as Betjemanesque blank verse ('weary and worried the supermarket queue' etc etc)).

But, I was hearing on the radio just now from a healthcare professional about the difficulty of recruiting staff from overseas with the required language and technical skillsets ...  Well, lack of language and technical skill seems to be a required qualification in the English football context, doesn't it?   It's not an exact parallel: in healthcare it's the more menial skills that are hard to import, rather than the managerial ones; and we can't import the menial workers (i.e. players), because that wouldn't be cricket, and we're not Germany. 

But again, the common whinge about England's so-called team has been 'these are world-class players in the Premier League, why can't they perform as well in the national side?'  The answer, of course, is that in the Premier League club team they're surrounded by proper world-class-plus players, who enable them to shine in their own modest way - and who all happen to be immigrants.  Outside this sheltered world, they are revealed as, not so much professional carers, more the carehome patients they are, now, about to become.

Still, the Government is about to ban (well, severely restrict) immigration of skilled labour from outside the EU, so that should do the trick for 2014.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

How many eyes make five?

My Collins 2010 Diary has a trivia/pub quiz question for each day of the year, with the answer conveniently printed, upside down, below the question.  The entry for 24 June is 'How many eyes does a bee have?'  Answer: 5.

I passed this information on in a comment on a rather grumpy, bee-related post by a fellow-blogger, in the hope that it would cheer her up (I think it did!).  But then I wondered: can this be so?  If it is, then it's the only example I know of a creature having an odd number (one excepted, of course) of any organ.  (My blogging partner obviously did some exhaustive research on this phenomenon, because her follow-up comment was 'How strange is that?')

Wikipedia is oddly (sorry, no pun meant) reticent on the subject.  Its bee entry (which is suspiciously hard to find) doesn't mention eyes, except for a scary profile picture on which something called 'composite eye' is labelled.  They don't tell you how many components there are to this, but assuming that our bee has two composites, it would have to be two-and-a-half for each, wouldn't it?  This seems unlikely.  Perhaps my diary only counted one eye.  Hah, Collins!

The research must continue, given the power bees apparently have over the survival of our environment (not to mention the honey and its impact on bears of little brain).  But I can't do it.  My mind has shifted to the related, and equally challenging, topic of bee's knees.

Of course, the diary item was for ten days time, so as the Boss says, 'none of this has happened yet' ...

Thursday, 10 June 2010


As I lay awake in my bed in the caravan, breathing, unable to sleep for the sound of the waves crushing the pebbles on the beach down below, and the way they counterpointed with my heartbeat as it pounded up into my ear through the pillow, I thought about the pulse of life, and where it comes from.  The sea, the breath, the heart.

We started in the sea, then crawled out, so that wave pulse must be somehow dissolved into our bodies.  We grew lungs and hearts that have to breath and beat rhythmically, or we die.  So those are where it comes from.

But then we learnt to walk!  And once you no longer need to walk just to survive, eventually you find out how to dance.  And once you've got the hang of walking and dancing, you have the fundaments of humanity.  Everything else follows.  So, civilisation is founded in the rhythm of the sea, isn't it?

I'll dance to that!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Caravan diaries

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Remember this, anyone?  When I was his age, I fought my parents for the right to go swimming before the end of May.  Immersing oneself in icy water (and this was Bournemouth, tropical compared to Pembrokeshire) for hours on end was an essential desire.  I'm inclined to think, now, that I must have been mad (I put my feet in for about thirty seconds last Wednesday afternoon, on a scorching hot day at Wisemans Bridge, and they went white); but Cyrus would've stayed there, jumping waves, until the sun had set.  'Aren't you cold?' I asked him when he eventually deigned to come out; I can't express in words quite how his 'no' made me feel: 'old' is one of them, 'mad' perhaps another.  Are children madder than grown-ups?

The 50th birthday party on Saturday, in and around a caravan just up the field, was very Welsh.  Wales had just lost honourably to South Africa at the rugby, which lent an air of, how can I put it, celebratory desolation to the proceedings.   Ribaldry occurred (one lady, having selected a veggieburger and so accused of being a vegetarian, replies tartly 'I don't eat meat - ask my husband'), but the best part was the singing.  Three old guys (who all turned out to be younger than me) did three part harmonies, in beautiful tenor voices, to everything from maudlin welsh-language valley ballads through Tom-Jonesish slush to Buddy Holly and the Evs.  I joined in where I could, and was asked what I feel to be two highly complimentary questions: 'are you in a choir?' and 'are you Welsh?'

Main wildlife sightings: a little bird which I firmly believe to be a pied wagtail, though it doesn't wag as much ('incessantly') as the book says it should (perhaps it's reworking its image); and a baby rabbit, no bigger than your two hands, who bounced out from a hole onto the patio and then back, before I could grab it by the ears.