Wednesday, 8 October 2008

New blog

Hi folks - just a last word to say that I have a new blog here: Rattlebox

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Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Bloody AOL

AOLUK are dumping all journals from the end of this month, bastards.

Anyone interested in continuing to read can from now onwards find Rattlebox in its new home here:  Click here: Rattlebox 

I don't know who reads this blog apart from 2 or 3 who occasionally comment - and your comments have been very much appreciated - but whether you are a commentator or lurker, you'll be welcome on my new blog so please Fave the link up and sign up for notifications.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Marooned :O)

A bloke, having split from his girlfriend, decided to take a holiday.   He booked himself on a cruise and proceeded to have the time of his life, that is, until the ship sank.

He found himself on an island with no other people, no supplies, nothing, only bananas and coconuts. After about four months, he is lying on the beach one day when the most gorgeous woman he has ever seen rows up to the shore.        

In disbelief, he asks, 'Where did you come from? How did you get here?' She replies, 'I rowed from the other side of the island. I landed here when my cruise ship sank.'

'Amazing,' he notes. 'You were really lucky to have a row boat wash up with you.' 'Oh, this thing?' explains the woman. 'I made the boat out of raw material I found on the island. The oars were whittled from gum tree branches. I wove the bottom from palm branches, and the sides and stern came
from a Eucalyptus tree.'

'But, where did you get the tools?'

'Oh, that was no problem,' replied the woman. 'On the south side of the island, a very unusual stratum of alluvial rock is exposed. I found if I fired it to a certain temperature in my kiln, it melted into ductile iron. I used that for tools and used the tools to make the hardware.'

The guy is stunned.

'Let's row over to my place,' she says. After a few minutes of rowing, she docks the boat at a small wharf. As the man looks to shore, he nearly falls off the boat. Before him is stone walk leading to an exquisite bungalow painted in blue and white.
While the woman ties up the rowboat with an expertly woven hemp rope, the man can only stare ahead, dumb struck. As they walk into the house, she says casually, 'It's not much but I call it home. Sit down, please. Would you like a drink?'

'No! No thank you,' he blurts out, still dazed.  'I can't take another drop of coconut juice.' 'It's not coconut juice,' winks the woman. 'I have a still. How would you like a Pina Colada?'

Trying  to hide his continued amazement, the man accepts, and they sit down on her couch to talk. After they have exchanged their stories, the woman announces, 'I'm going to slip into something more comfortable. Would you like to take a shower and shave? There is a razor upstairs in the bathroom
cabinet.'

No longer questioning anything, the man goes into the bathroom. There, in the cabinet, a razor made from a piece of tortoise bone. Two shells honed to a hollow ground edge are fastened on to its end inside a swivel mechanism.       

'This woman is amazing,' he muses. 'What next?'
When he returns, she greets him wearing nothing but vines, strategically positioned, and smelling faintly of gardenias. She beckons for him to sit down next to her.
'Tell me,' she begins suggestively, slithering closer to him, 'We've been out here for many months. You've been lonely. There's something I'm sure you really feel like doing right now, something you've been longing for?'

She stares into his eyes ..


He swallows excitedly and tears start to form in his eyes....................
 




'F*****g hell, don't tell me you've got Sky Sports?'   

Friday, 19 September 2008

Barmouth

 

What a fab day.  We went to one of our very favourite places, Barmouth on the Welsh coast, for a picnic lunch and a good long walk on the beach.  Barmouth has old fashioned charm, a treasury of everything anyone over 40 remembers of family seaside holidays.  A gorgeous stone walled harbour sits at the mouth of the beautiful estuary among narrow streets of slate roofed stone houses at the foot of steep rocky hills covered in bracken and heather.  Sand dunes, rock pools, swing boats on the beach, stalls covered in racks of buckets and spades and a very small funfair with very subdued music playing.  And it's all set in the most lovely scenery.  It's one of the best places in Britain to get some sun on your back and sand in your toes.

A puzzle.

 
Here's a conundrum.  An older woman becomes pregnant for the 5th time just months after getting a very highly ;paid powerful job. She is an outspoken anti-abortion campaigner.  She decides to have an amniocentesis test to discover whether the foetus is 'normal'.  She discovers that it is not.  The logical inference is that she can only have had the test so that if necessary she could prepare her family for a future with a disabled child. 
But then she doesn't tell her family and when the infant is born and her elder daughter worries that the baby looks as if it possibly has Down's Syndrome she tells her that they will have to wait and see.  So the initial inference was wrong because she didn't use the time and knowledge to help her other children come to terms with having a disabled sibling, in fact she prevaricated even when the evidence was before their eyes.
 
So, why did she have the test?  Is it because she knew that two of every five amniocentesis tests lead to loss of the foetus? 
 
Welcome to the principles of America's potential Vice President.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Success?

6 years ago when we first moved to this house with its very large garden I wanted to buy a sit-on mower.  My husband was most reluctant because he is an absolute innocent about anything mechanical and he worried about not being able to fix it when little things went wrong, and also because we didn't have a vehicle we could use to transport the thing to the dealers for repairs & servicing.  As a result we've spent all these years first using a very large and heavy petrol mower which almost killed me off, and then using a Stihl petrol strimmer which we both found much more manageable, and surprisingly perhaps, even at 3 hours minimum, quicker than a mower.
It took 6 years, but today our new superduper Countax lawn tractor was delivered.  It was raining so I just took it for a short circular test drive around a tree and then into the garage. Where I crashed it into a ladder, grazed the cabinet freezer and finally crushed the cat's boxbed.  Result!
 
Isn't this a fab photo of Grace, Constance and Felix looking like chicks in a nest!
 
My other news is that a mere 8 months after making my New Year resolution to go scuba diving I've actually booked it.  One week cruising the Jordanian Red Sea to Aquaba and a tootle by Moses' burning bush and striking water from rocks country followed by a week scuba diving at the beginning of February next year.This will be not only a first scuba holiday but also a first for actually keeping a NY resolution.  Then again, scuba holidays are more likely to be kept than my usual weight-loss/more tolerant of dimwits doomed hopes. There's my top tip for successful NY resolutions - make them a treat rather than a threat  :O)
 

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Is teenage pregnancy as sad a misfortune as we think?

 
Young women across the whole of the less economically developed world have children at very young ages as happened in the west before industrialisation (and equal opportunities) came into play.  We don't condemn rural peasant cultures where marriage and motherhood commence shortly after puberty, and even if we wish it were not so, then generally we appreciate the reasons for it - shorter life expectancy, lack of state social welfare provision, lack of health care, lack of education, lack of alternative lifestyle choices etc.
Here in the west tho single teenage motherhood is viewed by those not involved as a bad thing even when there are no economic costs to society - generally because of the notion that very young mums are damaging their own potential life chances and consequently those of their infants.
 
But as we all know, over the past couple of decades it has become harder not easier for people to climb out of the socio-economic position they have been born into.  A young girl born poor has little chance of becoming not-poor whether she becomes a teenage mum or not.  In fact, research has found that poor teenage mums have very similar earnings trajectories to similarly poor young women who wait until their mid or late 20s to begin a family.  These days having a baby at 14/15/16/17/18 does not economically disadvantage either the mother or the child in comparison to older poor mums.
 
Given the increasing likelihood in western societies that a woman will at least partially raise her children alone isn't it economically sensible for a poor young girl to choose to have her children while she still has the financial and practical support of her family rather than wait until she has no choice than to go it entirely alone?

Hey hey good lookin............

We women are beseiged from a very young age by media exhortations to improve our appearance to fit the cultural norm in the beauty stakes, but how important in terms of actual measureable life opportunities is the possession of good looks? 
 
A Queensland Mayor recently caused a stir by suggesting that as there are 5 men to every woman in his city, women who are 'beauty-disadvantaged' should consider moving to live in his town where their chances of getting a male partner would be improved. 
There's some sense in this suggestion in economic terms in that scarcity value can often overcome prejudice - if you dearly want a beer and all that is on offer is what my husband calls rat pee, then by and by as your thirst increases you will be glad to get rat pee and may well pay over the market rate for it too.  So if women believe that their lack of physical attractiveness is a significant factor in being unable to find a dearly desired life partner then it makes sense for them to up their chances by going where they have scarcity value. 
On the other hand, 'beauty-disadvantaged' women may not be desperate enough to replace Roger the Rabbit with some man who clearly has had very limited experience of how to relate to women as people rather than as sexual outlets if the man voted in as Mayor is an example of the local type. 
 
There is also the consideration that, as mining is the main form of employment in this particular town, any women moving there would in effect be narrowing their income opportunities to the sole expediency of wedlock and would in all likelyhood reduce the city's per capita income and increase its welfare benefit bill. 
The Mayor's suggestion therefore seems based not on the best interests of his city residents but on the chauvinist notion that every man deserves  and/or needs sole access to a woman.  In terms of moral  and practical economic principle any women who take up his suggestion would be exchanging their sexual availability for a life of economic dependancy.  There's a name for that.
Female residents of this city are incandescent that their Mayor has turned women into no more than sexual objects and have responded by declaring  that while in their town the odds are good the goods are decidedly odd.
 
A different take* on the advantage of good looks compared to the disadvantage of less conventionally good looks draws the interesting conclusion that where all other factors are taken into account - age, education, length of employment, qualifications, number of hours worked, parental education and expectations, height and weight - people of both genders who are generally rated as good looking or beautiful earn more than those rated as average, and that those rated as average earn more than those considered 'homely'.  They conclude that this disparity in earnings, given that all other things are equal, is the result of 'pure prejudice' on the part of employers.
 
Now anti-discrimination legislation has been ennacted in several states in the USA to prevent denying employment on the basis of 'height, weight and personal appearance' and proposed elsewhere on the basis of 'facial features, build and height' (Philippines).  A Vermont Supreme Court in 1992 ruled that a chambermaid's lack of upper teeth qualified as a handicap protected under Vermont's Fair Employment Protection Act and the movement to include suboptimal physical appearance as a legally protected handicap is growing apace.
 
As the evidence grows of the impact of physical appearance on life opportunities we may find ourselves approaching an era when being less physically attractive than the ideal type is a legally accepted handicap and covered by equal opportunities legislation across much of the world. 
 
Given that physical appearance is primarily a matter of genetic inheritance - but that it can be 'improved' by medical procedures - how soon shall we see someone suing their parents for neglecting the proven best interests of any potential child when choosing their sexual partner or, in the UK, suing the NHS for failing to ameliorate their 'handicap'?
 
 

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

My outdoor lav - enjoy! :O)

I had a cortisone jab in my left shoulder this morning.  I could have typed reams - would my now duff left arm allow - describing in horrid detail the absolutely dire pain which both caused me to have this jab and resulted from submitting to it.  I further embarrassed myself by silently sliding off my chair onto the floor in a dead faint, my GP following my downward trend to finish the job as I lay prostrate and semi-conscious in a crumpled heap. 

Instead I thought I'd just post a pic of my outdoor lav as a piece of expressive art denoting my feelings of lost dignity.  If my shoulder doesn't improve following this torment I may post a pic of the lavatory pan.  Fingers crossed that isn't necessary.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Good Lord!


August 8, 2008, 12:48 PM EDT

Members of the East Central Narcotics Task Force arrested a West Hartford man was arrested after a short chase in South Windsor Thursday evening.

According to police, Almighty Supremebeing Allah, 35, of 119 Elmhurst St. West Hartford refused to stop for a marked cruiser and was detained about a mile down the road after the initial stop.

He was charged with Reckless Driving, Disobeying an Officers Signal, Interfering with an Officer, Criminal Attempt/Sale of Cocaine Criminal Attempt/Possession of Cocaine.

Imo his parents should be arrested too.

I wonder how often he's heard 'Oh My God' screamed into his pillowed ear <g>

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Georgia on my mind

 
Georgia -what's it all about really?
 
I don't know.
 
I read a lot of reports so that I could attempt some level of informed opinion.
 
I read that the 2 secessionist regions are areas of land which have been Georgian since Georgia began.  That the population there are mainly Russian passport holders who don't want to abide by Georgian democracy.  That these people are Muslim. 
It made me think of the possible future English scenario, once we have been firmly put into our separate EU Regions for, say, Lancashire and Yorkshire to want to secede from England and set up their own mini-states.  The similarities to the Georgian issue would be very close - those counties are English since England began, and, if it ever came to pass, it would be because of Muslim Pakistani passport holders demanding secession.  If the Pakistani government or even the EU sent in tanks to help the secessionists then I suspect there would be an armed struggle.
 
I thought, right on Georgians, don't let them get away with it.  If these Russians don't like being governed by Georgians whilst living in Georgia then they can simply walk across the border to Russia. Let them go, or let them abide by the democratic decision making process.  Staying in Georgia and then trying to take Georgian land from the Georgian people isn't on.
 
Okay, Go Georgians!
 
Then I read more. 
 
I read about the USA wanting to put nuclear weapons and Early Warning systems in their bases in the Ukraine until Russia said that such an action would be taken as a declaration of war.  Then I read about Georgia knocking at NATOs door for admittance and thought about how then Georgia's armed forces, bases, airfields etc would also be Nato bases, airfields and armed forces. 
I imagined how we Brits would feel if Russia, China, or anyone else were to take over Eire's military installations and put troops, tanks and nuclear facilities so close to the British mainland.  How would we feel if some ancient enemy tried to surround us with military forces?  We wouldn't be happy bunnies.  We might send troops right on back into the Republic in an attempt to take the whole of Ireland into British control again. 
Unless of course all this was being done by the French in which case I'd get my little dog to yap at them and send them scurrying back to France.
 
Hmmm, so now I don't quite blame the Russians either.
 
Then I thought about the sheer aggression of the Russian attacks on Georgia and remembered that when the same thing happened in the Kosovo region of Serbia with (Albanian) Muslims wanting secession the Russians supported the Serbs.  So, the Russian military action isn't one of principle.
 
Putin is an old Cold War warrior with old Cold War ways of thinking.
Bush is in the thrall of US armaments manufacturers and fancies himself as an armchair warlord.
An oil pipeline goes through Georgia.  Hmmm.
 
I have ended up little wiser after spending quite some time reading and thinking about all this. 
 
My sole secure conclusion is that I think the Gordian Knot is mispelled.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Stung by tears and by my local council

Wasn't the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony simply superlative?  How can London ever hope to match it?  I expect to be mortally embarrassed in 2012.  I also expect Seb Coe to explain the national humiliation by whining about having a virus as he did without fail every time he lost a race.

But I must be getting awfully emotionally shallow.  I watched the opening ceremony from start to finish and, I'm a bit ashamed to admit, several times found myself getting teary - even the firework 'feet' got me surreptitiously reaching for a tissue.  I know that much of the symbolism was hypocritical in light of the realité; the representation of the Chinese ethnic minorities for example, and the mass participation dove of peace thing to say nothing about the 'green' theme thing but it seems to me that the Olymics is all about ideals and so actualité is somewhat beside that idealistic point.  I sat there like a completely wet ninny watching the little lad who supposedly sang to keep up the morale of his classmates who were buried alongside him by the Szechuan earthquake and even tho I thought the story was probably nothing but Chinese national morale raising propaganda I still came over all sentimental.  Sentimental and a bit Jewish momma - I kept thinking 'his/her mother must be so proud!'

I must be sickening for something.

Something else sickening was the council man who came out yesterday to sort out the wasps nest in my lawn. Parked, walked across the grass, stuck his spray nozzle down it, one squeeze, done.  £34 for less than 3 minutes thank you.  He spent more time telling me that his son who lives 10 minutes away would have done it for half the price.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Not NICE at all

A body of whom I've written a piece before: NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) - now there's a misnomer if ever I heard one - today ruled that kidney cancer patients may not have drugs to prolong their lives because at £30K pa it costs too much. Never mind the millions spent to prolong the lives of infants born with no kidneys, no bowels or no stomachs, or the millions frittered on removing tattoos or pinning 8 year old ears back. Today someone whom I regard as a genuine stoic and hero made a post on her blog.  Please read it and email your local MP urgently.

Shocked and disgusted......

 

Asses, Arses, and the Law.

 
Yesterday a couple of blokes were standing on an open air train platform and having a cigarette while they quietly waited for their train.  A woman, who had apparently done the same thing earlier in the week, decided to harangue them and told them to put their cigarettes out.  It ended with one of them pushing her away and she fell off the platform and broke her wrist.
Well, that's not a very nice thing to happen to her and it's regrettable that she had a fall.  On the other hand being loudly and aggressively harangued by some nosy intrusive busybody when you are doing no harm to anyone, and then having them do it to you again the next time they see you also isn't very nice.  I'm not at all glad that she got hurt but you know what?  I'm glad that for once one of these self-righteous anti-smoking fascists found that while she may have been within in her legal rights to hassle these men, on this occasion it wasn't entirely without cost.
 
The Times Online says:
The men made obscene gestures as she walked past them shortly after 7am, a police source told The Times. “She turned round and told them to grow up, and they pushed her. She stumbled backwards and fell on to the track. We don’t think they meant to push her on there. They were as surprised as she was.”
 
Another bit of news was about a Scotsman who, when his elderly wife who looked after him wouldn't hand over cash for him to go boozing, strangled her until she was dead.  The Judge said that prison wasn't the right place for him.  Presumably the Judge thinks that relatives, neighbours, or the female care assistants and frail inmates of residential homes for the elderly would be much better able to physically handle a murderously violent elderly alcoholic better than could burly prison guards and tough convicts.  This murderer was 'punished' by being told not to go to the pub for 12 months.  That's it, that's his only punishment.  Meanwhile his poor wife lies cold in the ground and he's ticking off the days whenhe can go to the pub instead of sending next door's nipper to the Off Licence.
 
So, based on the above, what punishment will the blokes who pushed the woman get do you think?

Lazy days of summer.

I've had a busy day today, mostly owing to crops ripening.  I've made and frozen 2 ice cream containers of rattatouille made from all organic home grown red onions, garlic, tomatoes, yellow and green courgettes, orange peppers and purple aubergines.  Then I picked a backbreaking 10lbs of blackcurrants and made a litre of blackcurrant cordial and 4 pints of sorbet.  My kitchen tops got so splattered with concentrated blackcurrant juice that they look like they have some dread disease and I doubt they will ever recover.

In the garden Gyp discovered the most gross humungous caterpillar, exactly the length of my index finger and at least as fat.  It was an unbelievably fast mover but I managed to get it onto my husbands cap brim long enough to take a pic.  It's the caterpillar of that equally horrifying moth I found in the kitchen sink a month or so ago.  Crap pic but I think it still conveys the horror.

We also have a very busy underground nest of digger wasps.  The local authority pest control man is coming out tomorrow to get rid of them as we have Grace and her little friend here from Sunday and the last thing I need is two tots with fat stung legs.  £34.50 it's going to cost, isn't that disgraceful?

We are inundated with teensy little frogs, some of them a hundred yards from their pond and one poor little thing we found drowned in the pets' courtyard water bowl.

Monday, 4 August 2008

More summer visitors

As soon as Constance and her friend Esme had been collected

by Felix and his Mum

our youngest granddaughter Imogen

 

and her parents came for a long weekend and on Saturday we went to the Oswestry Show. 

 

Just after I took this photograph the cow blew a massive snort at Immy and she fell over backwards in shock.  I almost fell over in shock myself.

Now we have a few days clear and then Grace and her friend Eleanor will be with us for a week.  I'm definitely moving to the wrong side of the tracks in Nuneaton before next summer  :O)

Friday, 1 August 2008

Connie

I've had Constance and her little friend staying for the week:
They came with us to get our dog and cat boostered up and asked why they had to have a jab when they weren't poorly.  To stop them catching anything says I, forgetting how literal 6 year olds can be.
Later, back at home Connie told me the jab hadn't worked on the dog, because 'she can still catch sticks Granny'.
 
Later today Imogen comes for a long weekend and next Sunday Grace and her friend for a week.  Sometimes I think I need a much smaller house.  And coloured bedlinen.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Detouring

 
We went out to lunch in Bishop's Castle today and took a detour onto some high heathland behind White Grit where we parked up and took an uphill walk on a rough and stony path through bracken to the high tops.  There on sheep cropped grass which was spangled with harebells and tormentil we came across a 3000 year old Bronze Age stone circle on a hilltop.  Leaning against those warm lichen encrusted stones I wished, as so often I do at these times, that I could be transported back to see what they had represented to their builders and what ceremonials they been used for and by whom. 
A few yards outside the circle was the site of a recent large fire which we supposed may have been lit during the Summer Solstice, Bishop's Castle being something of a bohemian habitation - Druidical bookshops, whole earthers, crystal healers, that sort of thing being more common there than Mace Grocers.
 
From the stone circle we were able to see across to another height where there was an equally ancient barrow and we climbed again to walk around it.  Then, making our way down by a different route, we came across a scruffy old van, side door wide open, sound system fairly ramped and a certain herbal fragrance in the air. 
In a high and wild place such as that, on a hot summers morning, well, I dragged my husband off the look at a nice big camper van en route home after lunch.  Mind, at £40K+ onroad costs I think if I take to the travelling life it will have to be in a bender.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Sex Bomb!

 
What a dreadful shock for the poor wife of Max Mosley to see in that scurrilous rag The News Of The World that he'd been paying good money to have himself smacked on the bottom and shouted at by no less than five prostitutes at once.  All those times when what she most wanted was to give him a damn good slap and telling off and now she discovers that not only would he have liked her more for doing it, but he'd have shelled out big bucks too. 
But my heart goes out even more to any Mosley children.  Reading this stuff about your dad is weird enough even if your dad doesn't have a spooky embarrassing father of his own to live down as Mosley does.  At least I suppose the Judge has said that there's no actual evidence that Max was acting out his dad's dream of being smacked by blonde female members of the Gestapo so there is, I suppose, a little comfort there BUT think on.....
the absolutely worst, most humiliating revelation of all, and one which will smash his children's (and grandchildren's) street cred down into oblivion's depths is that, after his caning, after the cries of 'Who's been a very naughty boy then?' had died down, Max and the five blonde dominatrix all sat down and had a nice cup of tea. 
 
How English, how laughably unsexy, how obvious that the public-school educated Judge would find in Mosley's favour.  Brothers in arms - I should say so!
 

Thursday, 17 July 2008

OI, where are MY royalties??

A few entries ago I mooted the potential of high decibel James Blunt as a Weapon of Mass Destruction (Click here: Ban this ban that, what's the world coming to????).  It would appear that the CIA really do spy on blogs because they have stolen my idea, tweaked it a bit to avoid my tort for theft of intellectual property rights, and put it into practice.  Prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are being bombarded non-stop with David Gray's 'Babylon' at top volume. 

I have just two observations on this 1) if the poor beggars are still holding out after this cruel torment then they must be innocent and 2) I appear to have missed my natural calling.  Tho some of my kids wouldn't agree there.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Summer is a comin.......going, going, gone.

 
Yesterday was summer!  Okay, it's over now but it was great to have a hot day.  A view from the back garden:
 
View from the courtyard gate:
 
We spent the morning working in the garden, in my case giving the orchard its first strim since December - absolutely knackering, especially the 4th time I went over it.  The trees now look as if they're ankle deep in chaff.  I'm thinking about burning it off.  My hub is thinking about having me committed <g>
 
But my morning slog was not so knackering that I couldn't find the energy for a long walk up in the hills behind Pystill Rhaydr in the early evening altho half way up I did wonder whether the rewards would be sufficient compensation for the pain in my calfs.  Steep barely describes it, but once I was up there, fantastic. 
 
There's absolutely nothing as wonderful as being in a beautiful place with not one soul nor one habitation nor one road in sight.  Ravens, whitears, sheep and me. 
 
Up near the top, miles from any farm I came across an old sheep dip.  Work related structures fallen into disuetude as this sheep dip has always make me think of the lives of the men who used them, long gone from the hills and maybe lost at Mafeking, the Somme or in some Japanese prison camp:
Mind, when it comes to summers they had the best of it - ask any oldie!  :O)

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

Expectant parents spend literally months reading endless published Baby Name lists and having fraught conversations about the forename they will give their infant.  It's one of the ever-present banes of (other people's) pregnancy in my opinion but then I've never been very imaginative.

I've been reading a research paper written by economists S. Levitt and R. G. Fryer Jr. and expanded to a chapter in the very entertaining and fascinating 'Freakonomics' by Levitt and Dubner.  The paper looks at the gulf between black and white culture in the USA.  One very noticeable difference in cultural indicators is that black parents give their children names that are starkly different to those given to white children. (and of course vice versa).  The paper: The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names is summarised below:

This research was based on an extremely large and detailed data source of data: birth registration information for every child born in California since 1961 - more than 16 million births.  It included standard items like name, gender, race, birthweight, and the parents' marital status, as well as more telling factors: the parents' ZIP code (which indicates socioeconomic status and  neighbourhood racial composition), their means of paying the hospital bill for the birth (again, an economic indicator), and their level of education.

The California data establish just how differently black and white parents have named their children over the past 25 years or so  - a side-effect maybe of the Black Power movement. The typical baby girl born in a black neighbourhood in 1970 was given a name that was twice as common among blacks than whites.  By 1980, she received a name that was 20 times more common among blacks than whites.  (Boys' names moved in the same direction but less so - parents of all races apparently less adventurous with boys' names than girls'.) 

Today, more than 40% of the black girls born in California in a given year receive a name that not one of the roughly 100,000 baby white girls received that year.  Even more remarkably, nearly 30% of the black girls are given a name that is unique among every baby, white and black, born that year in California!

The data offer a clear picture of which parents are most likely to give a child such a distinctively black name:  unmarried, low-income, undereducated, teenage mothers from black neighbourhoods who themselves have distinctively black names.  Giving a child a super-black name would seem to be a black parent's signal of solidarity with her community.  White parents, meanwhile, often send as strong a signal in the opposite direction - more than 40% of the white babies are given names that are at least four times more common among whites than blacks.

The California names data offer the opportunity, by subjecting this data to regression analysis, to tease out the effect of any one factor (in this case, a person's first name) on her future education, income, and health.

The data show that, on average, a person with a distinctively black name - whether it is a woman named Precious or a man named DeShawn - does have a worse life outcome than a woman named Emma or a man named Jake.  But it isn't the fault of his or her name.  If two black girls, Uniqque Williams and Claire Williams, are born in the same neighbourhood and into the same family and economic circumstances, they would likely have similar life outcomes. But the kind of mother who names her daughter Claire doesn't tend to live in the same neighbourhoods or share economic circumstances with the kind of mother who names her daughter Uniqque. And that's why, on average, a girl named Claire will tend to earn more money and get more education than a girl named Uniqque.  Parental income and educational level is the prime factor in the child's own eventual socioeconomic position. Uniqque's name is an indicator - but not a cause - of her life path.

In my work I tend to see a lot of forenames of school age children.  Generally, altho I've not compiled my very own data set so this is no more than an anecdotal observation:  the children attending 'good' or 'excellent' schools as judged by Ofsted tend to have very different forenames to those attending 'satisfactory' or 'inadequate' schools.  Jack and Harry, Olivia and Jessica even on those uncommon occasions where they attend the same school are not found in the same academic sets as Jayden and Chokota , Alexus and Madonna - but are most often not found in the same school.  As Levitt and Fryer conclude, it's not the names themselves which account for the difference in life outcomes, but that the names they are given indicate their parents' life position - and parents socio-economic position is the foremost and principal determinant of the child's. 

Having said that when we hear that someone is named Chokota I believe that we form prejudgements about them, about their abilities, habits and expectations - and those prejudgements themselves are an important limiting factor. (Unless of course it happens to be Chokota Beckham in which case we'll assume that they've had the best education money can provide.)  The reverse, imo, is true when we hear a child is named Tristram or Miranda - our expectations of them are set by a prejudgement based on their forename only.

So, imo, whatever our social class it's important that we give our children forenames that at the very least will not prejudice their life chances.  Those interminable hours spent coming up with suggestions and arguing about whether baby is to be a John or a Jodrell actually are absolutely crucial. 

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Population and some thoughts on abortion.

 
A poster on the GPN board has for years regularly proclaimed the dire need for stringent population controls to solve the world's problems and over the past few days I've been making discoveries about the most famous case, China, with its rigorously and forcibly enforced one child per family law.

20 years ago ultrasound scanning came into widespread use in China and Asia generally and gave pregnant women a cheap and readily available means to discover the sex of their unborn foetus. The results, by the million, are now coming to maturity in Bangladesh, India, Taiwan and China. By choosing to abort females and give birth to males millions of Asian parents have propelled the region into a unique experiment in the social effects of gender imbalance.

As a result of foetal gender selection the natural (universal non-selective) balance of about 105 male births to 100 female has grown to around 120 male births for every 100 female births in China. The imbalance is even higher in some locales; 136 males to 100 females on the island of Hainan, an increasingly prosperous tourist resort, and 135 males to 100 females in central China’s Hubei Province. According to the China Family Planning Association Lianyungan, a booming port, has the most extreme gender ratio for children under four - 163 boys for every 100 girls.  There are currently 37 million more young men than young women in China. 

Similar patterns can be found in Taiwan, with 119 boys to 100 girls; Singapore, 118 boys to 100 girls; South Korea, 112 boys to 100 girls; and parts of India, 120 boys to 100 girls.

(China, India, and other nations have now outlawed the use of prenatal diagnostic techniques to select the sex of an unborn child but a suitably compensated ultrasound technician need only smile or frown at the expectant mother or father.)

Many of these excess boys will be and are poor and rootless, a lumpenproletariat without the consolations of marriage and family. Prostitution, sex tourism, and homosexuality may ease their unfulfilled urges, but Asian societies are witnessing far more dramatic solutions.  Chinese police statistics recorded 65,236 arrests for female trafficking in 1990–91 alone. Updated numbers are hard to come by, but it’s apparent that the problem remains severe.  Mass sexual frustration is thus adding a potent ingredient to an increasingly volatile Chinese mix of problems that include surging economic growth, urbanization, drug abuse, and environmental pollution.

Beijing expects that it may have as many as 40+ million frustrated bachelors by 2020. The regime, always nervous about social control, fears that they might generate social and political instability. What are the chances hmm? Well, China watchers are already seeing signs of growing criminality; over the past decade, as the (post ultrasound) boys have hit adolescence, the country's youth crime rate has more than doubled.

One might assume that China’s economic growth will solve the problem, as prosperity removes the traditional economic need for poor rural peasants to have sons who can work the land but the numbers don’t support that theory. Indeed, the steepest imbalance between male and female infants is found in the most prosperous regions, such as Hainan Island and Lianyungan.

The long-term implications of the gender imbalance are largely guesswork because there is no real precedent for imbalances on such a scale.  A Beijing powerstruggle between cautious old technocrats and aggressive young nationalists may be decided by mobs of rootless young men, demanding uniforms, rifles, and a chance to liberate Taiwan.  A study undertaken under the aegis of the CIA suggested “in 2020 it may seem to China that it would be worth it to have a very bloody battle in which a lot of their young men could die in some glorious cause.”

In contrast a study in the USA into criminality and specifically the sudden drop in crime rates in the 1990s suggested that the legalisation of abortion in 1973 was a key factor. By 1980 1.6 million abortions were carried out annually - almost 1 abortion to each 2 live births.

The smaller birth cohort resulting from the legalisation  of abortion means that when that cohort reaches the late teens and twenties, there will be fewer young males in their highest-crime years, and thus less crime.  As each year cohort reaches adolescence and adulthood and older cohorts mature beyond the most usual age for criminal behaviour (18 - 24) the crime rates will drop year on year - and that's what has happened in the USA ever since 1992 when the first post-Roe v Wade legalisation of abortion cohort reached the age of 18/19. 
 
As interesting is the possibility that children born since abortion became legal in the USA may on average have lower subsequent rates of criminality for either of two reasons. First, women who have abortions are those most at risk of raising children likely to engage in criminal activity; socially immature teenagers and the economically disadvantaged are all substantially more likely to abort and recent studies have found children born to these mothers to be at higher risk for committing crime in adolescence.
Secondly, the 5 states which legalised abortion in 1970,  before Roe v Wade saw drops in crime before the other 45 states.  States with higher rates of abortion have had a 30% drop in crime relative to low abortion-rate states since 1985.  The analysis and comparison of statistical data suggests that around 50% of the drop in US crime rate between 1991 and 1997 can be accounted fro by the legalisation of abortion: virtually all of the crime decrease can be attributed to reductions in crime among the cohort born after abortion was legalised - there is no change in crime amongst older cohorts born before Roe v Wade.
 
These research outcomes pointing as they do to particular conclusions pose some difficult ethical questions and I'd be very glad to have your considered comments.
 
Links to research available if required.  :O)

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Having a breakdown :O(

 
This morning my pc monitor went kaput - black screen and no amount of rebooting helped.  I was totally thrown for a few minutes and even called a local repairman to see if he could instantly come out but he was ill.
After a few minutes I realised that what I thought at the outset was doubtless correct - the monitor had just packed up, I'd not caused it and I couldn't repair it.  I'm fortunate that I can go buy a new one and I did, I got a 19" Belnea from Staples for £99.99.  Getting it fixed up to my pc was a pain because it means lugging the desk out to get at the back and then there are all those sodding wires to deal with but I did it and voila the screen display was perfick.
Then I kept getting booted.  I pulled the desk out again and checked all the things pushed in the back (pardon the technospeak here), checked my phone line and filter were properly plugged in but I eventually went to Live Help.  Who were not actually awfully helpful apart from telling me there is no server problem.  So I went to the Tech boards and yes, someone else was having exactly the same problem with being booted off aol.  Now however, a couple of hours later all seems well.
 
The thing is my tummy is still churning 6 hours later, couldn't eat any lunch, and I'm as anxious as hell in case my husband can't fulfill his contract and submit his work when he gets home tomorrow.  I've already worked out that he can simply stick his document on his key fob thing and pop along the road to an online neighbour and send it on from there, but this anxiety just won't go away.
 
I've had this sort of thing before when I was much younger but it was usually associated with money worries or washing machine breakdowns and therefore rational.  This now seems irrational - there was a hardware problem and I sorted it, there was a software problem but now it seems ok and in any event I have a good fallback plan.  So why am I still so bloody anxious, what's up with me?
 
Polite answers on a postcard please :O)

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Isn't this a good idea!

Instead of Police Record checks and CRB checks which are based on the demeaning notion that we are all possibly ex cons, wouldn't it be great if we in the UK had access to something like this?

Oh the horror, the horror!

Imagine the bladder weakening thrill as, on my own in the house when tidying up before going to bed, I found an elephant hawk moth sitting in my kitchen sink.  A horrifying 2½" across and flesh coloured with a body the size of Felix's thumb it leered up at me and challenged me to hold my ground without whimpering.  I lost and snuck off to bed leaving it lurking there.

Of course I couldn't get it out of my mind and eventually went back downstairs and, without putting the overhead lights on, I managed to drop a teatowel over it and gently roll it inside.  I unlocked the courtyard door and in my nightie in the rain opened out the teatowel on the table.  The moth scowled up at me and refused to move so I shook the teatowel.  It lurched with (I swear) an audible thud onto the table top and then horridly fluttered down to the bench seat where, like a ginger flash, my cat Dennis leapt on it and finished it off with one crunch.

 

Sunday, 29 June 2008

More madness

Those of us who have children and cars will have used the car to take the children to some children's event - scouts camp maybe, swimming club, a chess tournament.  Many of us will have been asked by the Scout leader, club organiser or school whether we would help out by agreeing to pick up another child who lives on our route to the venue.  It happens all the time and most parents are happy to do it and glad when another parent agrees to pick their own child up to return the favour.  It's normal family life.
 
Not any more it isn't.  From next year if you are asked to pick up Mary Smith from the next street to your own and deliver her home when you collect your little Johnny from an after school panto rehearsal then if you haven't been CRB checked you'll be breaking the law.
 
This is sad news for organisations which provide activities for children, it's sad news for helpful parents who, precisely because they are helpful, are to be treated as perverts, and it's sad news for children whose own parents can't collect them.
 
However, on the bright side it's good news for perverts because CRB checks are only required if the activity organiser asks you to take another child - if a paedophile sidles up to a harassed dad and directly offers to collect little Damian after soccer then well, there's no problem and no CRB check required.
 
This new CRB requirement is vitally necessary because parents who are asked by a 3rd party (ie the activity organiser) to transport carless kids are, obviously, much more likely to be sexual predators than those who secretly whisper their obliging offers directly into parents' ears.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Royal choppers in the trough

 
In the media headlines today news that HMQueenie costs £40 million a year.  Hoorah say the headlines, that's only 66p per person.  Super value.
 
What they don't say is that Queenie's police and security costs us over £100 million a year, or that she gets another £15 million of our money per year for property maintenance.  No, they don't mention the £15 million, the headlines on property maintenance merely say that the wiring in Buckingham Palace hasn't been renewed since before she became Majestied and that she's very worried about it.  That, and some roof repairs will cost £4 million and she wants us to pay extra for it.
So how many years has she had the equivalent of £15 million for buildings upkeep and not spent one sodding penny on making sure that the Buck House sockets aren't going to up and bite some poor footman or perhaps some American tourist paying through the nose to look at stuff with some vague royal association? 
 
Then again, the media hasn't mentioned the hundreds of millions spent on what they (surely ironically) call the Civil List - the bucketsful of money handed out to Queenie's kids, grandchildren, cousins, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins twice removed etc etc who also have security costs, property maintenance costs, jaunts in government helicopter costs to impress their latest squeeze, hire of Nazi uniforms for dressing up games, polo ponies, etc etc etc.
 
Never mind, just remember that tourists only come to Britain in hopes of seeing a regally radiant smile.  I mean come on, if it weren't for Queenie Britain would be as bereft of tourists as Paris and Rome.
Tho we would all be 66p + the unmentioned add-ons a year better off.
 
Okay.  Off with her head and gimme my money back.
 
PS June 28 In today's paper:
Queen's £22000 Yankee
Glasgow Daily Record - 2 hours ago
THE public spent £22000 on sending the Queen to the races by helicopter, figures have revealed.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Ban this ban that, what's the world coming to????

 
Are you an iTunes subscriber?  If so then I hope that you read the licensing agreement properly before installing the latest version.  I'm guessing you're going to be either astonished or totally gutted but you cannot use the iTunes software "… for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture, or production of nuclear missiles or chemical or biological weapons ".  So there. That's put paid to your fiendish plan to use high decibel James Blunt as a Weapon of Mass Destruction hasn't it?
 
Or, perhaps, being canny and worried about rising fuel costs, you had planned to use iTunes software to run your back garden nuclear reactor?  Well tough because Apple saw you coming sunshine and they've got it covered here "The Apple software is not intended for use in the operation of nuclear facilities, aircraft navigation or communication systems, life support machines, or other equipment in which the failure of the Apple software could lead to death, personal injury, or severe physical or environmental damage."
 
Myself I don't subscribe to iTunes, not having megalomaniac tendencies but I bet you do.  Well I just want you to know that Apple know what you're up to and if you do use the iTunes software to create any WMD or run your personal nuclear reactor then you'd better watch out because, and this is the crunch - they could stop you downloading.  Unless you've Blunted them first of course.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Outraged

 
There's been quite a fuss in the media about Primark sourcing clothing from foreign companies - mostly Indian - which employ children and as a result Primark have said that those contracts have been cancelled.  The children were employed in sewing on sequins and ribbons, often as outworkers in their own homes. 
 
I have 3 hand knotted silk Kashmiri rugs which were in all probability made by the small nimble fingers of children - at 400 knots to the square inch I know for sure no fully grown adult fingers could have done the work.  The money I paid for my rugs made a profit for the shop owner, and for the person who owned the frames and supplied the silks, but it also helped feed poor families and possibly paid for one or more younger siblings to attend school.
 
For around 15 years now we have helped to support a school for 300 of the poorest children in a small Indian town.   Over time we have come to realise that the only really succesfull way of using that money and promoting the children's education is to provide a reward for regular attendance which is meaningful for the child and it's family.  The only useful reward and the only one which actually has a positive impact on the education of the poorest children, because it keeps them coming to school, is to reward attendance with cash money to replace the wages they could otherwise earn by labouring on building sites or by begging.
 
The shock and outrage here in the UK arises from the fairly new-found western belief that children should not work for money - and this moral outrage from a society which allowed British 11 year olds to leave school and go out to work only a hundred years ago.  Many children still do work in the west, but they work for their family business and don't get paid for their labour  - many farms, restaurants and small corner shops would go under if school age children were actually prevented from breaking the law by working for free.  On a BBC4 programme about London's Hasidic communities only this week it was quite openly stated that Hasidic Jewish children in London leave school and start work at 14 - two full years before the legal school leaving age.   So child labour is obviously tolerated here regardless of our self-righteous clamber onto the high horse of child protection for foreign children.
 
Now that those Primark contracts have been cancelled of course, those unemployed children will all go skipping merrily back to school.  Not.  Instead of sewing sequins on to tee shirts they will likely be employed in road making, carrying heavy hods of stones, or smashing large rocks into smaller chips.  Or they will be sent climbing up bamboo scaffolding carrying breeze blocks for new hotels or office blocks, or they will wander their towns rummaging amongst rat-infested rubbish piles for empty bottles, or tins, or old paper to sell.  They may even have to resort to prostitution or begging.  Some may starve to death.
 
But still, when all's said and done we have to do what we can to discourage children in other countries from following the life patterns which have sustained poor people throughout the ages so that we can wear £3 tee shirts with a clean conscience.

Devastated

The garden here is a scene of widespread devastation.  Whole large flowering plants broken off at base, climbing Rambling Rector roses wrenched from their supports - including from 20' up in the old pear tree, even rhubarb stalks snapped in half, but worst of all, 6 years growth of Virginia Creeper torn from the walls of the house and crashed onto my Brown Turkey fig tree.  The winds have been utterly ferocious and it looks as if a hurricane has passed through.  I've just spent 30 minutes out there getting buffeted by tail winds while trying to clear the pond of what turned out to be a 10 gallon drum full of leaves and gathering ceramic pots, plants, ground cover matting and overturned wheelbarrows and I've come back inside full of gloom.  It's amazing that the polytunnel is still standing and no damage has been done to the house or cottage.  I'm telling myself it could have been worse but..........  :O(((((((((

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Beauty and the Beasts

Today I'm sure we've all heard the tragic reports about the father who put a hoax bomb in his estranged wife's home with a note saying that she would hear about him in the newspapers, who then took his two little children for a drive, parked on a lonely Welsh lane, attached tubing to his exhaust and murdered his tots. 

This follows two fairly recent cases in Scotland of fathers murdering their little children, plus the man who murdered his little lad by tossing him from a holiday balcony before jumping off himself while carrying his toddler daughter, and, I think worst of the lot, the father who drove a car containing his children into the sea and then phoned their mother so that she could hear them screaming as they were drowned.

I can't be the only woman who wonders what is going wrong with modern men - and who wonders why people are surprised that so many women now are choosing to have children without fathers.

I wonder whether tho it isn't something wrong with men per se (tho it could be) but that these particular men don't actually regard their children as human but merely as objects which their wives, whom they have come to hate, actually love more than they now love their former husband.  They tried to get custody of the children and when they failed they simply killed them.

They murdered their children, all of these men, as a way of punishing their wives for not wanting to continue being married to them.  It's the same impulse that can make some people kick a pet dog or cat.  If only they would think before they murder their nippers that someone willing to murder small children as revenge isn't a suitable husband or father at all.  Someone who would even contemplate such evil horror is barely human.

I think it's a great pity that this latest man died with the children he murdered because now he cannot be made to suffer torments for the rest of his life. 

On a much lighter note, yesterday evening I went to Colemere to see the orchids. 

There are literally acres of orchids and yellow rattle, the most I have seen anywhere in the world and they're all right on my doorstep to see for free.  Fabulous, aren't they?

 

Monday, 9 June 2008

It's a hard hard life

I love the garden at this time of year when there are plenty of flowers and yet still lots of favourites to come, and some yet in the polytunnel waiting to be bedded out.  It's a busy time but I'm not the sort of person who can just sit and look for very long without seeing a weed needing a tug or something needing an extra stake.  The one exception is first thing in the morning when I sit near our rough ponds and watch the dragonflies prising themselves out of their ugly adolescent carapaces, reminiscent of a Hammer Horror film, to rest and dry their wings in the early sunshine until fully pumped up they can fly away.  Here's where I sit every day from about 6am until 7am when I fetch the lead and get the dog out in the lanes.

When it gets too hot to do anything but read then I take my chair into the dappled shade under the old apple tree and spend a couple of hours wafting away money spiders which drop from the branches and watching the birds in the pear tree nest boxes.

Then at the end of the day, I sit at my dining room patio waiting for my hair to dry and sipping something cold while I watch the swallows flycatching over the paddock and listen to the swifts screaming overhead.

My fingers are permanently stained, my nails are ragged and my sandalled feet don't bear description but all in all a summer spent gardening takes a lot of beating.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Equal under the law?

 
Click here: UK National News - Sentence increased for baby rapist (6 years gaol increased to 8 years, female victims aged 12 weeks and 14 years old)
 
BBC NEWS | Scotland | Glasgow and West | Baby rapist jailed for 13 years (female victims 11 months old and 12 years old)
 
BBC NEWS | Scotland | Crown appeals baby rapist sentence  (5 years gaol, female victim 13 months old - rapist posted images of himself raping this baby on the internet)
 
 
( 17 years gaol, male victims adult)

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Damned

Do you always walk when you could drive?  Do you use a hairdryer instead of letting your hair dry naturally?  Do you not have a hybrid car?  Are you still buying the occasional pineapple or maybe black peppercorn?

Shame on you!  In fact, shame on you for using electricity to be online and read this.

You, yes YOU are morally as evil as Josef Fritzl.  You sit there possibly wearing shoes made from the skins of cattle which eat corn that starving people could eat - and don't think that limiting yourself to sandals exculpates you even if Jesus did wear them too.

Everything you do which is not part of the conscious fight against global warming damages children to the same extent as Fritzl did.  Oh yes it does.  The Bishop of Stafford has made it all quite explicit.  Eat a burger or keep your milk in a refrigerator and you, sunshine, are one of The Damned.

Get on your knees right now and switch your PC off. 

Global warming inertia 'as bad' as Josef Fritzl, says Bishop of Stafford - Telegraph

Monday, 2 June 2008

Nauseous

At a time when the average Zimbabwean salary is $20+ million (ZWD) per month, the Victoria Falls Hotel in Jungle Junction is charging 1.25 Billion dollars for 2 beers, a mineral water and one dinner.
 
Mugabe is currently attending an international conference on the food crisis. Why has no one shot him??? 

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Having a 'senior' moment

A 98 year old woman in the UK wrote this to her bank. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the Times.

Dear Sir,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my Pension, an arrangement, which, I admit, has been in place for only thirty eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account £30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become. From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and- blood person.

My mortgage and loan payments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank by cheque, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate. Be aware that it is an offence under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Solicitor, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, I will issue your employee with PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows:

1 To make an appointment to see me.
2 To query a missing payment.
3 To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
4 To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.
5 To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
6 To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.
7 To leave a message on my computer (a password to access my computer is required. A password will be communicated to you at a later date to the Authorized Contact.)
8 To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through to 8.
9 To make a general complaint or inquiry, the contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous, New Year.

Your Humble Client



(Remember: This was written by a 98 year old woman; DOESN'T SHE MAKE YOU PROUD!)

Monday, 26 May 2008

Poetry......... :O)

I have just been reading Paul Mcs latest blog entries here: Brininess and Volubility  and saw this rhyme:

A funny bird is a pelican,
his mouth can hold more than his bellycan.
He can hold in his beak, enough for a week,
And I don't see how in the hellican.
-- Dixon Lanier Merrit

It reminded me of another rhyme I heard spoken by Miles, the pre-school best friend and daily companion of my eldest daughter and her one-time guest at her  Church playschool Christmas Party.  The children were asked if they knew a song, carol or poem that they'd like to recite to all the Mums and the other party-going poppets.

Miles braved up, stepped into the middle of the floor and proudly piped up with his offering.  It went like this

The cuckoo is a funny bird
It sits upon the grass
With its wings neatly folded
And its beak stuck up its arse.
And when it tries to Cuckoo
It just says twit twit
Cos it's hard to say Cuckoo
With a beak full of shit.

He was 3¾ and he never left another room as fast as I whipped his little arse out of that one.

Later that day after Miles had gone home to tell his brother of his triumph, my daughter told me she was sad because she hadn't had a chance to say her poem because we'd left the party too quickly.  Brilliant, sez I, I didn't even know you had a poem you wanted to say.... tell it to me now poppet.  She went out of the room to make a grand entrance onto the rug 'stage', curtseyed to her audience and said

A boy had a willy 2 foot long
And he showed it to the girl next door.
She thought it was a snake
So she hit it with a rake
So he never showed it her anymore.
 
When she could stop giggling she said Miles taught me that Mummy. 
Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Smashing same old same old

It has been quite a time since I last posted here for two reasons - my life has simply been trundling on its usual course with nothing outstanding happening and I've been constantly busy with the garden and have been knackered in the evenings.
But, as it's soccer on TV yet again I've decided to bore you all anyways <g>
 
This time of year is choc a bloc full of small momentary pleasures for people like me who spend most of their days outdoors - a couple of examples; I was grubbing around weeding my <too large beds> of strawberry plants when I heard a 'whoooshing' sound.  I looked up and 3 swans were flying directly overhead about 50' above me, a startling white vision of pristine perfection against the blue sky.  Beautiful.
Last week I sorted out all my leftover seeds from last year's effort to turn the orchard into a wildflower patch and I collected a fair old pile of corncockle, corn marigold, blue cornflowers, Californian, opium ,Welsh and Icelandic poppy seeds and I decided to chuck them on a very stony piece of ground at the back of my polytunnel in hopes that they might flower later this summer.  Since then that patch of ground has become the restaurant of choice for a small flock <it's actually called a 'charm'> of goldfinches, so instead of flowers I've got birds that are as pretty as flowers.
 
I have two young fillies in my paddock who are inseparable.  They are never more than 20' from each other and for the first time I've watched something I never knew happened - ponies using their teeth to 'groom' each other.  My paddock is a mottled patchwork made up of greensward, buttercups and mats of white hair where the ponies have rolled and the birds are constantly up and down, taking the horsehair for their nests.
 
In the meantime, my irises and massive headed blue firework alliums are gorgeous and the rhododendrons are splendid if vulgar.  My peas and French beans and red and white onions, my leeks and courgettes, carrots, beetroot, parsnips and pumpkins are all sprouting and standing like little soldiers in formation, and the polytunnel is packed with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, aubergine, sweetcorn and small flowering plants waiting to be put out and my courtyard is once again a health and safety issue as I take up most of the space with ever more tubs and baskets.
 
And I still have to keep half an acre of grass cut.  Do you wonder I'm knackered?

Monday, 5 May 2008

Wildlife grrrrrr :O)

 
I've spent today working like a Trojan in the garden (not that I've ever read anything to indicate that the Trojans were especially good grafters).  Mice have eaten my peas, moles have played havoc with my vegetable seedbeds and I have scarlet blotches from the bites of viciously vindictive red ants on my hands, arms, feet and legs.  Slugs are romping through my hostas and my roses and clematis are smothered in greenfly.  Sodding wildlife.
 
On the other hand, larks have been singing all day,  six buzzards circled screaming above me for much of the afternoon, a sparrowhawk paid two very swift visits, the swallows are back over the paddock and when I lifted my water bucket I found a Great Crested Newt lurking there, orange belly glowing.
Isn't wildlife great?
 
Great Crested Newts mean that legally I can't touch any of my ponds and the bats which live somewhere in the building mean that legally I cannot do much in my loft. 
 
Sodding wildlife

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Gimme a gold star

Not only have I created a DUN connection so that I can still get online if/when this Carphone Warehouse server migration malarkey buggers up my aol connection, but I've actually braved up enough to try it and wooweeee, I can be online and using aol software without loading it up on my pc.  I could even uninstall aol from my hard drive completely and still get online and still do everything on aol that I want to do.  Brilliant.

If you fancy doing the same then do exactly what this link tells and shows you to do, then just use IE and go to aol.co.uk, log in and voila.  Go on, it's easy peasy.

DUN


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Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Weekending

I've just returned from a long weekend away - can you guess where?

Here's another clue

Yes, sunny Devon.  We drove for 5½ hours to get there through Shropshire snow and sleet and found a blue-skyed Shangri La smothered in primroses and bluebells and clotted cream teas.  My sister in law has cannas in her garden 12" high already.  Mine are blighted soggy stumps that I doubt will ever rise again. 

 


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Tuesday, 8 April 2008

And to clay you will return.......

News today in economics circles about food prices in the poorest neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which is perhaps the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The price of rice, the people's staple food, has doubled in the last year. This increase naturally has forced poverty-stricken residents to look for substitutes for rice.

Apparently in the past they have baked “dirt biscuits” using salt and vegetable shortening along with clay from a nearby area.  The clay has some nutrients in it, so it is not entirely filler. The problem tho is that the supply curve of clay is not horizontal; so with this increased demand for the clay, its price has risen too — by 40% during the same period. 

The dirt is no longer dirt-cheap - and the poor are just too poor to eat dirt.