Danger in the Suburbs

I am very relieved to be able to show you these lovely photos of a hazardous area near the Oblique mansion which has recently been made safe for young and old.

These areas border a historic pathway which is now a footpath.

There are still fungi, stag beetles, butterflies, owls and other wildlife in the area, but over years it has been gradually tidied and urbanised. We have protested more than once, but to little effect.

The semi-wild edging to the footpath has very recently once again been strimmed or cut right back. When I say cut right back, I mean hacked, as you can see.

I did my little bit. I wrote to the Borough Council. It appears I had no idea about the hazards involved in suburban England. The hacking was apparently done because- gasp- an elderly resident had allegedly slipped and fallen into the scrub, and parents walking their children to school had asked for it to be cut back.

As you can imagine, I was relieved that our council had dealt with this danger in the suburbs. In fact, I have decided to help them out and go out weekly with my shears to keep the dangerous shrub at bay. In fact…. no I haven’t. I’m lying. I think this explanation is hard to understand and unjustified.

I can understand why it might be sensible to trim the edges of the wild area and make sure it doesn’t cause a hazard by encroaching on the tarmac area; but the complete obliteration of it seems pointless. If the scrub along here was such a danger, why hasn’t the scrub all over the borough been cut back and all the paths completely paved? We walk in the area daily and there are very many footpaths and pavements where vegetation is far closer to the tarmac areas. Almost all gardens have growth bordering the pavement, some of it spikey. Carried to its logical conclusion, there would be no vegetation at all next to pavements and footpaths.

Surely there can be some better, more sympathetic way of managing it? We are by no means experts, but some healthy neglect (while making sure the vegetation does not handicap pedestrians) would seem suitable.

I’ve written again, making these points. I’ve written to the local wildlife trust. I’ve even written this blog. I haven’t got much optimism about it.

Am I being hopelessly idealistic? Is this relentless obliteration of wild or semi-wild areas inevitable? What else can I do?

Answers, please.

(I have no idea why the font size suddenly changes in this post. One of life’s mysteries.)

Jumpers for Goalposts

I have slowly come to realise that I enjoy professional sport less and less. I could rant about why at length, but here is a small selection of reasons.

Football The obscene wages; “professional” fouls, lack of local roots (in some cases) and lack of regard for fans (in some cases) as typified by shirt and ticket prices.

Rugby The enormous injury toll on players as they all become huge and hugely muscled, and are even (in some cases) coached to cause injuries. I am told that some teenage players are being encouraged to take steroids to bulk up.

Tennis The obscene wages and the increasing lack of subtlety as power takes over.

Cycling Drug use (in some cases).

Cricket I think I had better write about this separately, because this was my great love and now I find I have fallen out of love with it, at least as it is now played.

Obscene wages seem to be a theme here. Yes, I do mean obscene, given that we still have people living on the streets. (See my blog £367, 640). Drug abuse is another problem underlying a lot of sport. I also hate the way professional sport seems disconnected from the grass roots, and how children are hothoused rather than just having fun. Children’s sports and amateur sport increasingly copy the excesses of the adult professionals. There are a host of reasons for all this happening, but what are my answers? I haven’t got any. Instead I present to you….

Jumpers for goalposts. That is, I know, a very loaded cliché. However, I do hanker after a return to sport played just for fun, so as light relief I offer you these alternatives to professional sports, to reclaim the lost territory of the real amateur:

BadmintonGarden badminton I am not entirely joking when I say that badminton is better outdoors. It adds an element of judgement that is lacking, especially at the top level, involving judging the wind and the terrain, as well as avoiding the offerings of next door’s cat. It’s also very easy to set up and relatively cheap. Unless you trample on your Mum’s precious flowers.

CricketRough cricket There are of course many variations of this, but it’s disappearing fast. I remember painted wickets on the school wall. A tennis ball was used, of course- but it still hurt if it hit you in the face if you hadn’t been paying attention. In the summer we’d have epic Test matches on our local field; a true rough sport rule for us was that you could only hit the ball on the on side, as the field was too small. Beach cricket of course is an honourable tradition, the terrain levelling skill differences. The picture, which was tagged as copyright free, is of cricket on the Bramble Bank at low tide. True rough cricket.

Table- top table tennis As a teenager, we played intense table tennis tournaments on a large sheet of hardboard in a friend’s barn. To my huge pleasure I found that my Mum and Dad used to play on their dining room table using books for the net and the bats, at least initially. A return to this type of improvisation is long overdue. (I’m delighted to see tables being set up in city centres in the summer.)

Football tennis ball squash In the playground at school we had a corrugated iron fence. We used to play a version of squash against it. As long as you could kick the ball against the appropriate panel of the fence you were still in the point. The killer move was to get the ball going down the sleep slope and into the outside boys’ toilets. It should have honed our skills to high standards….. but it didn’t, and that’s not the point of true amateur sport. It was just fun.

Rough football Oh dear, this is turning into reminiscences; our cub scout goals were just a little more sophisticated than jumpers, being bamboo poles. I was a master of the mighty toe punt. It could go anywhere, occasionally into goal. Oh how they ducked.

Cross-country golf This really does exist, and I don’t mean just on golf courses. Be careful playing it in urban areas…. I should also add garden putting. There’s another challenge.

Road bowlsRoad bowls Again, this does actually happen in Ireland. It might be a bit difficult in our crowded island…..

Although this is light-hearted, it has at heart a serious point. It might surprise my small circle of friends that I really do value sport, for young and old. It doesn’t matter what you play, or at what level. You don’t have to be Maro Itoje, Jonny Bairstow or Justin Rose. It should just be fun.

(No, please don’t mention Quidditch.)

Grumpy Older Person on the heatwave and uniform

A news item today condemned a school for making pupils- sorry, students- wear school uniform in the “heatwave”. The aforementioned uniform was a polo shirt and trousers.

My goodness, writes my grumpy older person alter ego. In my day we wore blazers, pullovers or waistcoats, shirts, ties and woolly vests. With caps. And gaberdine mackintoshes in all weathers. Woe betide you if your socks were not the regulation thick woollen ones. Why, I remember in the heatwave of ’72, when birds were dropping out of the sky from the heat…….

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, uniform. Well, it’s hard to think of a uniform that’s cooler than a polo shirt. I suppose shorts could substitute for trousers. I don’t suppose many students would be seen dead in sandals, however.

The news item has made me recall my schooling, which doesn’t often happen. We did have to wear blazers or jackets (and ties) in all weathers, unless given permission by the teacher of the lesson we were in. I remember Miss Young (a rather wonderful English teacher- one of the old-school types who never shouted or punished, but who never, ever had any class control problems) allowed us to take our jackets off. The room was suddenly bright with white shirts, and the odd grey one.

While we’re on the subject of uniform, hands up who remembers gaberdine macs. On of my abiding memories is the smell of them drying in the cloakrooms. Unforgettable. We take for granted modern fabrics: waterproof, cool or warm, stain resistant, easily washed and often not needing ironing, cheap……

Anyway, enjoy the heat. You’ll be moaning come the winter….

Note: More apologies (in the unlikely event of anybody reading my old posts) for some of the comments. Some are just weird. including instructions for storing medicines. Wot? Nothing to do with me, gov……

A Literary Wedding

DSCN6753Briefly- We went to a lovely wedding the other day, where there was something of a literary theme: hearts on the table punched out from a copy of Pride and Prejudice, paper bouquets made from books and magazines, themed course names, and so on.

 

 

DSCN6752I particularly liked being asked to choose a present for myself: a book from a selection made by the bride and groom. The idea provoked discussion and pleasure. I know it has motivated some guests to read, or to read something new. I chose ‘Underworld’ by Don de Lillo, as the groom particularly recommended it. Looks like a cue for a blog review. Eventually; it’s huge. Thank you, Michael and Christy-Anne

Reading in Public

Now that I have more leisure time, I have started to notice what people are reading in public. Just for my own amusement, but hopefully yours, I am sharing my observations with you.

This all started when I saw somebody who I stereotyped as a businesswoman reading Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a world without work, by Nick Srineck and Alex Williams, which is apparently a “major new manifesto for a high-tech future free from work”. To which I will only say: oh yeah? For all the starving or impoverished billions of the world? Or just the privileged few? No, I haven’t read it, and am not inspired to do so.

Persuasion (Jane Austen) This was being read by the kind of lady you would expect to be reading Jane Austen; although a surprisingly wide range of people like her work. An old hardback copy. It does inspire me to want to reread Austen, a pleasure that never fails.

Azol Agol This is a cautionary tale, perhaps. We were in Boston Tea Party, Honiton; the youngish man at the table was reading a book. Mindful of my intention to write this blog, I was peering to see what the title was, and realised this looked incredibly creepy, so stopped. It was something like Azol Agol, but I can’t find this anywhere! I can find books with Azul (I think this is “blue” in Portugese), but not the exact title. Have I misread it? I know it was recommended by New Statesman. It remains A Mystery.

Kindle Here, of course, is Another Mystery. There is no way of knowing what someone is reading on a Kindle. Of course, you could guess, from the gasps of surprise or horror, the tears, or perhaps the heavy breathing: apparently this is a good way to disguise an interest in pornography (sorry, erotic literature). Fifty Shades of Grey is allegedly a favourite; no, I haven’t read it; yes, I have peeked into it; yes, it does really look like rubbish. Come to think of it, I see a lot of Kindle reading, by all ages, and I am sure this is more for convenience than from a desire to hide titles from prying bloggers.

(According to Mrs O. it is common to see Japanese commuters reading the most violent and sexual manga comics and books on their journey to and from work.)

On a lighter note,  I was delighted to see two young children having breakfast before school in the Waitrose café, reading with apparent pleasure and apparently uncoerced. Their books were J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and that timeless classic, Digger to the Rescue (author unknown) (see footnote). Interestingly, there is at least one edition of the Harry Potter books that was published in “serious” covers for adults. A couple of weeks later, I saw the family again and had the courage to tell the mum that as a retired teacher it did my heart good to see children reading, not playing on their phones. “Oh, you wouldn’t want to teach this one,” she smiled. “He reads all the time, even when the teacher is talking.” I rather think this might be a Good Thing. Depends on the teacher.

Another recent sighting was a table of four people with a copy of The Ups and Downs of Cruising. Before you get any peculiar ideas about the subject matter, it turns out to be a rather light-hearted book by Bryan Shelley about…. taking a cruise. Not “walking or driving about a locality in seach of a sexual partner” (Wikipedia). What a relief. This is Hampshire, after all.

Trains are another good source of reading matter observations: newspapers, manuals and magazines as well as books of course. The Kindle is popular. However, last week I saw Miracle Cure by Harlan Coben, which I think is some sort of medical thriller, and A Piano in the Pyrenees, which is a “light hearted travel book” by Tony Hawks. Older readers will remember ‘A Year In Provence’, another book in which an Englishman moves to France. I assume that this is similar, full of gentle misunderstandings and affection. I may be wrong and I have too much to read to confirm or deny this. I speculate that these books may be indicative of a desire to escape from the mundane reality of commuting. I only spotted the author’s name on another train book: Phillip Kerr, who I have found writes crime novels set in wartime and post-war Berlin, with detective ‘Bernie Gunther’. More escapism?

I suppose I should mention The Tent, the Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy and The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. These could recently be spotted being read by the Obliques while waiting for daughter #3. I have blogged about the latter (‘The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend’ by Katarina   Bivald). The former is apparently a very amusing read about camping. We’ve been there….

DSCN6711

Footnote: ‘Digger to the Rescue” is part of a series by Mandy Archer and Martha Lightfoot. Putting jokes aside, they look great for young readers.

£367, 640

Many of you will recognise that sum as the alleged weekly wage paid to one of the star English Premier League footballers. As far as I know, it has not been disputed.

£367640

As my legion of followers and regular readers will know, I try desperately to be positive in this blog, sometimes in the face of overwhelming odds. I just can’t bring myself to be positive about this.

I’m sure there have been all sorts of comparisons and conversions made to show what this figure really means. For example, to take an example I know a bit about, unless teaching has suddenly become hugely more profitable since I retired, this would pay the annual salaries of ten teachers, with a lot of the other costs of employing them…. in a week.

It would pay for six thousand homeless people to stay in Southampton Travlelodge for a night. Yes, I know…. it’s not big enough. OK, it would pay for 16 of them to stay in a Travelodge for a year. 32 if they doubled up.

It would buy a three bedroomed house in Southampton. That’s every week. It would buy 81, 879 Big Mac meals. For pity’s sake, it would buy me chocolate for life, or 1868 copies of that Steve Hillage box set I don’t really want. Really. Yes, I am very privileged to be able to make that comparison, and my life is very privileged compared to very many people’s in this country and abroad.

Some of you (and I can guess who you are) will argue that this is just a result of market forces; that if the fans didn’t pay for the tickets, then salaries like these would not be paid; that players with this level of skill deserve what they get. You have a point. But my point is that such enormous discrepancies in rewards are out of all proportion.

I’m sorry, I think this is just wrong. No. I can’t think how it can be changed. Yes, my reasoning probably has huge holes in it. But I think it’s just wrong.

 

 

Fashion Police Bulletin #3

Before we get going on our latest bulletin, the Fashion Police would just like to clarify their position on gender. That is…. we don’t care about gender. Identify how you like. Dress according to however you see yourself. (And in our humble opinion, unisex toilets would be a very civilising influence on those who identify as male. However, this is moving away from our role as arbiters of good fashion taste.)

Nevertheless, there are many- dare we say a majority- of people who do identify quite clearly with traditional male or female genders. Thus we use these terms when necessary, without implying that they are binding or exclusive, or that you should necessarily dress according to your stated or self-identified gender, if you wish to state it or self-identify it. Indeed, we saw a gentleman (for his beard implied to us that that was how he saw himself) in Southampton the other day in a very fetching dress and make-up. The Fashion Police applaud such individuality and flair.

Colour The Fashion Police find themselves in the happy position of being able to start this bulletin with thorough approval of the brighter shades that are making some sort of a comeback this Spring. This is most evident in shops, and seems to be trickling through to the high street. While it is generally not the Fashion Police’s role to be prescriptive, we thoroughly approve.

Ready-Ripped Clothing We hate to labour a point, but we are very perturbed to find that our views on ripped jeans (see Bulletin #2) have been ignored; in fact that there is evidence of ‘artfully’ ripped tops being for sale. In one horrific example, the holes looked much like bullet holes. Don’t do it (Penalty according to extent of pre-ripping.)

T-shirtWriting on T-shirts The other day we saw a young lady (for that is presumably how she self-identified) with a neat T-shirt, on which was printed the word “……imist”. The dots are to indicate that none of us could see the rest of the word. “Optimist”? “Pessimist”? “Soroptimist”? (We have never worked out what that last one means.) Now we could have stared intently at her chest until we could see the word clearly, but the male members of the Fashion Police felt this was inappropriate. The moral? Please don’t wear a T-shirt with writing on unless you are happy to have people look at your chest. Especially not long texts; some of us are not happy until we have read them all. No penalty; just a word to the wise. (I’ve been dying to use that expression since I heard it on EastEnders the other night.)

Sports Short In a well-known clothing store today there was a banner advertising a “Sports short”. In another part of the store there was a banner advertising “T-shirt and shorts”. Are we missing something? Is a “short” different from a “pair of shorts”? Is this a protest against an archaic use of the word shorts, as a plural for what is now a singular item? Or is it just sloppy thinking? You may well argue that this is totally outside the remit of the Fashion Police. You’d be wrong. Sort it out, P*****k.

Back-to-front Baseball Caps Still? Are they all taking the mickey? After all we have said?