Monday, 2 May 2016

An English tradition

Today is a bank holiday in England.  It's known as the May Day bank holiday even though it is held on the first Monday in May regardless of whether or not that day is also the 1st May, May Day proper.  Mind you, in Oxford they still celebrate the proper May Day.  Yesterday it was estimated that the crowd on Magdalene Bridge to watch the dawn numbered as many as 25,000 people!  Meanwhile the choir of Magdalene College sang Hymnus Eucharisticus from the top of the tower.

And in keeping with another tradition, the weather today is wet (ish), dank and drear.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Darling buds of May

So here it is again - May Day.  And the Weather Gods seem to have entered into the spirit of the occasion giving us a beautiful day weather-wise.  Granted, there is quite a breeze up on the Downs, but that is nothing unusual.  I think the weather must have gone to my head as I have spring cleaned what we call the conservatory.  In reality it is not much more than a lean-to at the back of the house providing an entrance (and exit) for the dog and a place to keep wet-weather gear, wellingtons, dog leads and all that type of paraphernalia.  And the freezer and tumble dryer as well.  It really was in desperate need of cleaning but the weather has to be just right to undertake the task - and today it was.  So, for the first time in months, I cleared the cobwebs, swept up the dead and dried leaves, the dog hair and the mud and then washed the floor.

Not content with that, I took the dog for a walk round the Roman Camp.  Since my nasty bout a couple of weeks ago I have not really been 100% and so the walks have been somewhat less energetic that I would consider normal - driving to the park in the morning instead of walking 10 minutes each way and cutting the afternoon walk, quite drastically some days.

What a delight it was to see bluebells, primroses, cowslips, violets and other flowers - and to catch a snatch of a skylark's song.  But of the darling buds of may there was no sign yet.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Elections

Many people here in the UK will be voting next Thursday.  In London, there will be an election for a new Mayor; in Wales, they will be electing members of the Welsh National Assembly.  Here in Brighton we will be electing a new "Police and Crime Commissioner for the Sussex police area".

As an off-beat comment, I must say I find the title Police and Crime Commissioner a little strange.  I always thought a commissioner was somebody who ordered something to be done or made, such as a picture or a statue, or an administrator like the old colonial District Commissioners.  It seems to me that a Crime Commissioner should be somebody who organises crime, not a person responsible for fighting it!

But that is all by the bye.

It is highly probable that I, along with about 60% of the local population, will not bother to vote, which does go rather against my self-imposed principles.  I think that we who live in democracies where elections for officials are - on the whole - straight and unrigged (and there are exceptions, even here in England), we who live in such countries have both the right to vote and the responsibility to exercise that right.  I don't suggest use it or lose it, but I do think we should take our rights seriously.

On the other hand, I would suggest that those standing for election also have a responsibility to the electorate, a responsibility to tell voters what their policies and proposals are so that the electors are able to make a considered choice.

The only reason I have heard any of the names of the candidates for the Sussex Commissioner's post is because the Old Bat is registered for postal voting.  I asked to see her voting paper so that I could find out who is standing for election.  None of the candidates has made any attempt to persuade voters to elect them and there has been no attempt by any person, authority or organisation to even say who the candidates are.  How can anyone possibly decide which of the five candidates is most suitable if we don't even know their names until we reach the polling station?

Another reason for my abstention in this farcical election is that each of the five candidates claims to represent a political party., the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and UK Independence parties.  In my opinion (humble or otherwise), a Police and Crime Commissioner's post should not be the subject of party politics.

So, come Thursday, I shall just go and play elsewhere.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Well, it tickled me

An advertisement in today's paper read:

Hand-made shoes; buy one get one free.

Monday, 25 April 2016

In praise of youth

There was a time - I'm sure there was! - when the "older" generation moaned about the "youth of today".  That said, I don't recall hearing any old gits (like me) complaining recently about the younger generations.  Personally, I have never felt that there has been anything wrong with the youth of whatever day.  There are rotten apples in every barrel - but there are plenty of good, healthy ones as well!

I thought that today I would highlight just a couple of the success stories I have heard recently.

I'll start with Kidane Cousland.  Now aged 24, he grew up on a rough council estate in Tottenham, north London, one of three sons of a single mother.  At the age of 11 he was still unable to read and he left school with just 3 GCSE "C" grades.  He joined the army at 16 and was eventually selected for officer training.  He has now graduated top of his class at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and been presented with the Sword of Honour.

Then there is Zoe North.  Diagnosed with cerebral palsy just before her second birthday, her family were told she would never be able to walk unassisted. Yet, 18 years on, she has managed to defy the worst of the doctors’ prognoses to take part in the London Marathon - although she was given a head start.  In fact, she started last Wednesday and spent each of four days covering about five miles in about 3 1/2 hours.  Yesterday, the day of the marathon, she set off to complete the final stretch.  Her efforts had raised more than £90,000 for charity when she started yesterday, and could well bring in over £100,00.

And there are just so many more youngsters to whom I am privileged to take off my hat.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Yesterday

Did you notice that I wasn't here yesterday?  Although, of course, I was here but actively involved in meditation so I completely missed the chance to make a meaningful contribution to your day.  Part of the time I was musing on the apparent naivete of the American President and/or his advisors who seem not completely to understand that membership of the European Union involves considerable loss of sovereignty and democracy.  Guess which way I shall be voting!

But enough of politics.

Yesterday was also the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.  Somehow I had got into my mind that 23rd April was his birthday but I now find that was 26th April.  Mind you, everybody who celebrated commemorated 400 years since his death yesterday was doing so on the wrong day.  Yesterday was 400 years less 11 days since he died on 23rd April 1616.

Confused?

Well, it's quite simple really.  Some time in the 1700s - about 1752 or 1723 or somewhere along the line - I do know it was in September one year - the calendar was altered and 11 days were cut out.  The country went straight from 4th September (say) to 15th.  Cue rioting in the streets with people demanding, "Give us back our 11 days!"

Hey, I've just checked and people do celebrate his birth on 23rd April.  He was baptised on 26th!!

But there can be nobody who has had such influence on language.  Today, there are in use many everyday phrases which were coined by the Stratford bard: break the ice; a wild goose chase; dead as a doornail; set my teeth on edge; the green-eyed monster; vanish into thin air. And many, many more.

Just think; I can do it all again on 4th May when it will 400 years to the day!

Friday, 22 April 2016

The field next door

Well, almost next door.  There is a very small field right next door, then the farm track and then this field next door to our French hideaway.  Every year the field looks different!  This last visit, this is what we saw:



Last year, this was the scene in July:





But back in 2011, it looked like this:



And in December 2012, the scene was distinctly different:

It's great to see the changes.