Over-heating

Short-sleeves and ice creams in British February has been a seriously unseasonal event worthy of hitting the headlines, and arguably should have remained headline news within the scientific context of climate change and global warming.  Some state that the weather has always presented odd blips but that such events don’t carry significance.  Overall rising temperatures have been recorded for the last 14 years at unprecedented levels; we might wonder what next February will bring.

Quoting the British MP Caroline Lucas writing in The Independent two days ago:

“Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2005. January 2019 was Australia’s hottest month ever – with averages topping 30C in a deadly heatwave. Prolonged droughts worsened California’s destructive wildfires.”

And, “Last year’s three-month heatwave meant England had the hottest summer on record – and it was joint-hottest for the whole of the UK.”

“This is part of a wider global trend of record-breaking temperatures and increasingly extreme weather patterns.”

Reading the comments following her opinion piece it’s clear that many don’t share this worry.  Having been alive long enough to recall regularly icy winters and hot summers it’s clear to me that the weather is changing.

February temperatures of over 21 degrees Celsius, as recorded at Kew Gardens in London this week, should be regarded as bizarre and worrying.  I recall my visit there in 1974 during the February half-term holiday; how grey and dreary it was although my memory of it is a happy one with bright flashes of the gloriously luscious palm house and exotic paintings of Marianne North.

 

 

 

 

 

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January snows

Watching energetic blue tits flitting about under a beautiful blue sky yesterday morning, it certainly appeared that these tiny little birds were enjoying the warmth of some welcome January sunshine.  Later I had trekked up the hill heading into town, walking through our coastal greenery it was clear that all our local wildlife were making the most of that glorious sun-soak.  As ever, my crows came down to see what offering I had hidden in the brown paper bag clutched in gloved hands; these watchful Corvids do seem to be used to me as their “look-out” calls when I arrive along the first stretch of path. With our unwanted crusts dropped off to satisfy those shiny black creatures my route took me along narrow paths where the shrubs offer shelter to much smaller specimens.

It was a joyful walk punctuated by flashes of red from near-hyperactive robins and colonies of blue tits, looking almost tropical in their blue and yellow coats.  Scuffling noises close by were accompanied by the sight of squirrels bounding away, and on one occasion at least the, less-welcome, long thin tail of a rat disappearing into the undergrowth.  In my opinion these much-maligned creatures have to be accepted as long as they stay well away from our homes; we have so many foxes sharing our space and I’m sure some of the rat population end up on vulpine banqueting tables.

Walking home with heavy bags my slow pace helped me spot the green shoots of bulbs hidden in the earth; snowdrops I hope.

These moments remind me of the “Ladybird Books” of my childhood, from whose pages enticing illustrations and densely-packed written details opened the doors to the pleasure of identifying both flora and fauna

Tonight’s snowy weather also serves to remind of how these sparks of spring sunshine can hide an icy devil.  As the house got colder I dug around in my woollens collection to select additional jumpers, uncovering a pure wool V-neck which I had carefully layered in tissue for storage…a welcome rediscovery!

It’s no surprise to be closing the month with snowy scenes; looking back over my life-time the meteorological records will back up my own memories of various “big freezes” and trekking through knee-deep snow in my school days and when a young mother pushing our family transport, the buggy.  Times have changed and the reality has certainly shifted with regard to what our winters have become.  However, there’s no doubt that the cold is still an icy devil and something from which every living creature requires protection.

Homelessness has been on the increase in recent years and it’s clear that its visibility has also shifted to become part of too many High Streets.  This must form a separate chapter but, in these temperatures, a critical one for our administration to tackle with more urgency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Closing 2018

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Gilets Jaunes, Yellow Vests…garments to symbolise power to the people?

The on-going action in France to protest about the increasing taxes on vehicle fuel have made an impact which perhaps politicians failed to foresee.

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Plastic pumpkins for a plastic planet

 

Halloween and all that; visiting the supermarket today, the depressing sight of rows and rows of “pumpkins” manufactured out of plastic…useless unnecessary junk to create more polluting waste.  One might wonder exactly how many shoppers will buy one and put it away carefully for next year after its one night stand?

The way this festival has been promoted and pushed by all those wishing to sell more junk is utterly depressing; the traditional celebration slipped away many generations ago when all things modern seemed preferable to ancient traditions.  It’s pretty clear that the development of China as manufacturer of ultra-cheap consumer throwaways helped resurrect a wide range of commercial opportunities to “celebrate”.

Fun dressing up from the “dressing up box”,  party games and a few sweet treats kept the festival in low key for decades; accessible to all who chose by simply being an impromptu event; no special sweet-collecting receptacles required.  The extent of Halloween now is nonsensical in the light of a world drowning in plastic waste and junk destined for landfill and where plastic fibres are ingested in our seafood and in the air we breathe.

How many of those plastic pumpkins will end up in the ocean?

Legislation is the only answer as consumers will continue to choose what’s on offer, specially when it’s so cheap; with schools holding spooky discos for primary-age children and our Environment Minister still debating banning of plastic-stemmed cotton buds, it’s clear that little will happen until the threat to human life is as bloodied and bruised as those zombie characters appear to be.

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Anniversary Deaths…

800 years since the death of Al-Malik ab-Adil/Saphadin/Saif al-Din, brother of Saladin*,  in 1218

And my poetry book informs me it’s 330 years since the death of John Bunyan.

Henry Moore died exactly 32 years ago in 1986.

21 years since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Why the obsession with death? And what does it matter?

Put simply, it’s where we’re all heading…but who will remember us when we’re gone and merely held, captured in photographs and fast-fading memory?

 

Some months of emotional family matters (not deaths thank goodness) and an acute awareness of the fragility of life…

Looking back over previous August blog posts the reader will note no blackberries this year!

I’ve been far too busy, although a couple of weeks ago I picked a dozen and pressed them on my tongue; that evocative taste sent me on a time traveller’s journey!

The garden apples await their partner so I’d better get on and allocate some weekend time to gather summer’s bounty.  To say good bye to August and not experience blackberry and apple is surely sinful?

Part 2.

* Saladin’s brother: I don’t recall much about the bro but do have memory of learning the name Saladin in the “Ladybird Years”, that is when my primary school reading selection was drawn from that famous book series.  I’m certain it was the one about the Richard the Lionheart and the Crusades; from memory, Richard was taken ill and Saladin nursed him and gave him “sherbet” to drink.

That “sherbet” was, in fact, the sugar which the returning Crusaders brought back with them as a precious “spice”.  That first sugar was also considered a medicinal materia medica for many generations….sweetness hid the bitterness of poison and poisonous plants which sometimes possessed therapeutic claims, and often scientific medicine before it was formerly identified as such.

In the period of Saladin Arab medicine was far superior to anything Europe could offer.  My Ladybird book was clear in that Richard was cured by Saladin’s doctors.  That surely is sufficient proof that the book was worth reading?

As I type I’m reminded of another link to that same school; we listened to John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” via the BBC School’s Radio broadcast.  Memory is telling me that we did our sewing at the same time.  Knowing what I do about education and classroom management, that seems quite enlightened for a C of E primary in 1970.  As religious input, it never affected me the way my enforced Roman Catholicism did which had been compulsory from age 8 in the army schools system.  I recall that the voice delivering the story was gentle despite the horrors of “The Slough of Despond”!

My encounter with Henry Moore was much later when I discovered that the design studio where my father had worked at the age of 18 had also offered work to this famous artist, as well Jean Cocteau and Matisse, although I’m not sure if the two Frenchmen ever actually entered that Bond Street establishment!

As for Diana, Princess of Wales….they say everyone knows where they were when they heard the news of her death.  Yes, I can picture our home above the laundrette and recall the shock of the news and its tragic waste; I recall my sadness for her two young sons.  The public expression of grief at the time was a turning point for many, although some of us believe there should be the same sense of outrage for the suffering of the living.

Hopefully, experiencing the death of a loved one teaches us to value life and all it might offer, from the simplest pleasures to great moments of achievement and even meetings with great people.  Value the moment when the rose blooms and sends its scent, when  blackberries ripen and stain, when that piece of work is completed, or when standing in the crushing crowd enjoying an exhilarating gig…or listening to a brilliant speaker.  The moment is precious; it is life itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy 99th birthday Mr Levi!

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in numbers to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are…the functionaries ready to believe and act without asking questions.” Primo Levi

Today would have been the 99th birthday of Primo Levi.

Sadly he died on 11 April 1987…a date I recall because it was the first time I felt and saw my unborn child kick me whilst I was sitting in the bath as a shape poked and pushed my abdomen; I can see this moment play inside my head; an auspicious day to feel new life!

Two years ago BBC Radio 4 broadcast Levi’s “The Periodic Table”…an amazingly entertaining and informing listen which I long to hear again and, very much hope they will re-broadcast for his 100th anniversary next year.

For now I’ll study this quote and know that the monsters of today are just as dangerous as those Mr Levi faced as a young man….and that there are too many “monster-followers”.

What to do about monsters? Mythology recommends chopping their heads off!

 

 

 

 

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Lettuce shortage…how do they manage in hot climates?

“UK heatwave: Lettuce growers warn of imminent shortage”

Today’s BBC headline could be the counter-balance to the winter ones where “the beast from the east” caused havoc in every aspect of life and shopping; shortages of every basic foodstuff and, according to business analysts many months later, sales in every store affected by the extreme cold weather. So now the heat is stopping lettuces from growing.

Having lived and travelled in desert lands I do wonder how those citizens managed to feed themselves whilst surviving burning days. If lettuce cannot grow in this heat then perhaps cooks need to search out alternatives? Does salad need lettuce?

Return to the history books to discover alternative non-lettuce salads; there are numerous lettuce-free summer meals to make.

Second thought is that very little weather is “normal”; it can be freezing one minute then hit sweltering highs [who is to decide what is "normal" and acceptable for these caravan dwellers?]

 

 

 

 

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The meeting of flora and fauna

Digging into a mound of soil to pot up some of my plant babies I noticed a slight movement; thinking it was simply the disturbed soil shifting I carried on…several more trowelsful and my eye caught it again. Then the large green shape plopped into full view; the khaki green frog had been sheltering under some large terracotta plant plates, making its home in the damp soil.

Now I ask myself , was it a frog or a toad?  There’s work to do to sort out the identifying process.

 

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Wardrobe reorganisation with seasonal disorganisation; a confused month

Spring sunshine always reveals the dust of winter forcing the urge to get everything outside into warm air, winter-wear pullovers are shaken before careful hand-washing whilst heavy coats must be prepared for storage; the sudden change in weather mid-month resulted in a huge leap from woollen gloves to summer vests almost overnight. the various cast-off garments were soon jumbled as I had numerous outings where nice clothes could be worn. How strange to see a pair of grey wool gloves in my handbag whilst I prepared for a day out, braving London without a coat…one step outside warned me I would roast even if I selected the lightweight version, so spotting those gloves lurking with all my handbag essentials was bizarre!

Thus all the winter wear was cleaned and stored, the summer layers selected and warm days enjoyed with sun cream applied. Now the month is closing with a nasty reminder that winter only hid behind the curtains for a second.

As I tackle my garden to invite spring and new life I think how confused the plants must be with these temperature fevers, where sudden dry summer sensations are swamped by water-logged chilled days and nights; plants and flowers which had been fooled into bursting out of the safety of their buds are again at the mercy of torrential downpours and fierce storms.  Once the Easter rains had stopped I had tried to tackle the mess of an ice-ravaged garden where the mushed leaves delivered nothing but images of decay; hard to imagine there had ever been any colourful joy in those pots and semi-controlled patches.

Thus the confusion is both indoors and out; I will dig into my wardrobe and drawers to find layers to keep myself warm and dry but I’ll select shades to reflect the label of spring; my plants will have to suffer whatever is thrown at them…I’m amazed that they take such a battering but eventually return. At the moment I’m still waiting to be reassured that my Passionflower has survived the February snows when I wasn’t there to protect it. However, I’m rather glad that it wasn’t coaxed by the false heat when I wore summer dresses; perhaps its tender new growth sensed the false start and forced itself to ignore the mini-heatwave mid-month? Passionflowers carry an exotic air with their complex flowers; worth waiting for, they remind me that luscious intricate beauty can lurk behind dried stalks. I will be thankful to see my Passionflower return from the dead…

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