Friday, 3 June 2005
Driving Me Mad!
Is my driving getting worse? Twice recently, I have had people wag their finger at me when I have been at the wheel. Now, I happen to think that doing that is extremely rude, demeaning and insulting, especially when I hadn't done anything particularly wrong or dangerous.
The first time was a week ago; I was in Tesco's car park looking for an empty space. Near the store entrance, there is a 'pedestrian walkway' with white stripes, similar to a Zebra Crossing. My eyes moved left to an elderly lady who had just crossed and then, I spotted the young woman on my right waiting to cross. I admit I stopped a bit sharply but I was clear of the 'crossing' - so why did she wag her finger at me! I felt quite miffed!
The second occasion was yesterday and, this time, I was really furious with 'steam coming out of my ears'! We look after the grandchildren every Thursday and usually collect them from school at ten past three. But this week is half-term week so we had to get to my son-in-law's house by half-past two so that he could leave for work. Well, we were a little late partly because our neighbour for many years was moving and the giant removal van had been parked across our driveway since ten past eight. "Won't be a minute", the driver called out but it was a bit more than that!
I turned briskly into the little cul-de-sac road in Westergate. There was a parked car about thirty yards in front and a car coming towards me. I stopped, again a bit sharply. I had not cut the corner and I was stopped entirely in my lane but the sneering, puerile nitwit at the wheel of the on-coming car just had to wag his finger at me! He mouthed something, too, and drew up beside me. I wound down the window. "You came round that corner a bit fast, didn't you", said Mr Superior Driver. "You could have bumped into me!" Bumped into him
! I had stopped a good few feet from the parked car before he was even level with it. I never think of the right thing to say. "Well, I didn't and I stopped, didn't I", I glared at him. He didn't move, just sat there with an inane grin on his face. My husband, dear soul that he is, kept very quiet. "I am
in a hurry", I said a bit peevishly. So what does Mr Superior Driver do? Well, the asshole goes into reverse and stops level with the parked car smirking at me like a stupid schoolboy!
Well, I can quite understand how road rage incidents happen! I was really mad! What did I do? The only thing I could think of... I leant on my horn! After about 30 seconds, he decided to move off but not before giving me two fingers up and a verbal insult on the way. I probably shouldn't have - but I retaliated with similar. I only wish I had thought to take his number because I would definitely have reported him!
Tuesday, 31 May 2005
World No Tobacco Day
Topic: Health Issues
We are horrified when we hear of yet another death in Iraq; since the start of military operations, the total number of British troops killed has risen to 88. Eighty-eight young lives destroyed, eighty-eight families torn apart.
Yet, there is a greater killer in our midst. Did you know that smoking tobacco
is the principal avoidable cause of premature death in the UK, killing more than 120,000 a year
. Yes, one hundred and twenty thousand! That is a terrible and completely unnecessary waste of human life. In fact, tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world. It is currently responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide (about 5 million deaths each year). If current smoking patterns continue, it will cause some 10 million deaths each year by 2020. Half the people that smoke today -that is about 650 million people- will eventually be killed by tobacco.
[World Health Organisation
]World No Tobacco Day
(WNTD), observed globally on 31st May each year, is designed to inform people of the dangers of smoking and to tell them what they can do to stop. If you are a smoker, you know that you are endangering your own life - and risking the lives of the people around you who breathe in the smoke you exhale. TODAY is a good time to give up
Many people try to say that they were seduced by tobacco advertising, that they were not told of the health dangers
when they starting smoking thirty, forty or fifty years ago. This is utter nonsense; my husband was well aware of the dangers when he started his National Service in 1951. In fact, the medical fraternity has been aware of the dangerous side effects of smoking for over 120 years
. This article is taken from The Boy's Own Paper
, Issue No. 187 Vol. IV, for Saturday, August 12 1882.
|What Smoking Does For Boys|
A medical man, struck with the large number of boys under fifteen years of age he observed smoking, was led to inquire into the effect the habit had upon the general health. He took for his purpose, thirty-eight, aged from nine to fifteen, and carefully examined them. In twenty-seven he discovered injurious traces of the habit; in twenty-two there were various disorders of the circulation and digestion, palpitation of the heart and a more or less taste for strong drink. In twelve there were frequent bleedings of the nose, ten had disturbed sleep, and twelve had slight ulceration of the mucous membrane of the mouth, which disappeared on ceasing the use of tobacco for some days. — British Medical Monthly.
Yes, his survey was amongst boys of nine to fifteen years old. Shocking, isn't it - but children around that age are smoking today
. There has also been a rise in drinking alcohol and drug taking
amongst school children. Perhaps your child or your teenager is one of them! Is this what you want for your children? Teach them by example - stop NOW. So-called 'peer pressure' may start youngsters on this dangerous habit. Teach your children that it is NOT COOL to smoke or to drink. Tell them that it is the ones who do, who are the weak-willed, immature, foolish people, not the ones who refuse to join in.
Smoking and drinking alcohol at the same time increases the risk of cancers - cancer of the mouth, throat and larynx, stomach cancer, bowel cancer and kidney cancer. Although, a glass of wine a day may be good for the heart, smokers younger than 50 are five times
more likely than non-smokers to die of coronary heart disease. Without doubt, smoking adversely affects the lungs, heart, vascular systems and
brain tissue. If you become alcohol dependent and smoke, or know someone who is, be aware that smoking compounds alcohol-induced brain damage
. Don't take the risk!
Monday, 30 May 2005
Cruelty to Animals
Topic: Nature and Our World
I believe all other creatures have as much right to live as we do. Last Thursday evening, as we left my daughter's house; I saw a frog in the middle of the road I was about to turn into. Along came a car - oh, no - straight over it. Amazingly it hopped again so, disregarding the pouring rain, I leapt out of the car, scooped up my prince in disguise and carried him to safety. This afternoon, I spotted a large bird in the garden, a baby rook! There is a nest in the huge walnut tree in next door's garden. The rooks had been dive-bombing a cat earlier in the morning so, that was the reason, a fledgling in distress. Out I went. He fluttered up and down the garden and cowered in a corner. I picked him up easily; he felt cold and a bit thin. Nevertheless, I tried my best and threw it up into the air - if he landed on a branch, he could be fed by his anxious parents and might succeed in flying properly.
So, you can imagine my indignation when I read what had happened to a poor cat
. Shot in the chest with an airgun and severely kicked! What harm had that animal ever done to the thug who attacked her! Earlier in the year, there was a spate of attacks against cats in Bognor Regis and Chichester. One poor creature even had its tail cut off. What makes people do such cruel things to trusting and friendly animals? I can understand, but not condone, a young child pulling off a spider's legs or throwing stones at squirrels and birds; they need to be taught to respect nature. But an adult or sub-adult shooting a pet cat for no reason at all is the lowest of the low!
Saturday, 28 May 2005
Leopold III, King of the Belgians - Belgian Bid to Restore His Honour
Topic: In the News
At the start of World War II, Belgium was neutral. However, the Germans, who had guaranteed Belgian neutrality in 1937, broke their word and, without warning, invaded Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg on 10th May 1940. The Belgian Army fought very bravely for eighteen days but, all the time, they were being pushed further and further back. By the 25th May, the Allies could see that the crumbling Belgian defence was becoming hopeless and on the 26th the French army drew up plans to withdraw to the coast. By 1 p.m. on the 27th, the War Office had issued orders "to evacuate the maximum force possible". In the early hours of 28th May 1940
, Leopold III, commander-in-chief of the Belgian Army, took the final decision to surrender to the German Army, despite the opposition of his cabinet. The King wished to spare his people further bloodshed and suffering - but his action provoked accusations of treason.
Retired Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Roger Keyes
(1972-1945), who had been recalled to serve as liaison officer to the Belgian King Leopold in 1939, was appointed Director of Combined Operations from 1940-41. He closely observed the King's conduct at the time of the capitulation and expressed his thoughts in his diaries. Later his son, Lord Keyes, 2nd Baron, naval officer and author (14th March 1919-4th March 2005) [see TimesOnLine Obituaries
] believed, as did his father, that historians had treated King Leopold III most unfairly and that he had been made a scapegoat for the defeat of France and the British Army in 1940
. He wrote a book, Outrageous Fortune
, published in 1984, in which he set out to exonerate Leopold, whom he regarded as having been traduced by France and Britain for having ordered the Belgian Army to lay down its arms on May 28, 1940, after it had courageously fought the Wehrmacht for 18 days
Recently, [18th March 2005], Belgian Monarchists, urged Tony Blair to "restore the honour" of King Leopold III
; see Belgian bid to restore honour of their king
. Lt. Col. Louis Van Leemputhe, the president of the Royal League of Veterans of Leopold III, is asking the Prime Minister to repudiate harsh comments directed at King Leopold by Sir Winston Churchill and other British officials, both during the war and afterwards.
"We are not asking for an apology but a letter from Mr Blair, simply stating that the British Government regrets the position taken by Sir Winston Churchill, which caused internal problems in Belgium that led to the abdication of the King," he said.
The league has also written to Belgium's prime minister to ask him to rehabilitate Leopold, who died in 1983, and "lift the veil of lies which covers this black page in our history
I am not an historian but, as an outsider, my sympathies are with the late King (who died on 25th September 1983). Leopold III continued his defiance of the Germans right through the occupation. He rejected cooperation with the Nazis and refused to administer Belgium in accordance with their dictates. The King did meet with Hitler and successfully negotiated the release of thousands of Belgian prisoners-of-war - an event which resulted in some regarding him as a 'collaborator'. Although he was exonerated after the war, he was never forgiven by the Belgium people as a whole and, eventually, was forced to abdicate in 1951. The reasons for this are diverse due in part to old divisions between the Dutch-speaking Flemish people in the north and the French-speaking Walloons in the south. The reasons probably also extend to Leopold's private life - his behaviour during the war, particularly his re-marriage, incurring the violent disapproval of the Belgian people.
It is time he was forgiven.
For a brief history of Leopold from my main website, click here to view a Pop Up
for the full-size page.
Petals Around The Rose
'Petals Around The Rose' is a game which is traditionally played with five six-sided dice. I was introduced to it via a link on Joanna's Blog
- AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH! It is a simple game but a really difficult puzzle! I tried it, my husband tried it — we were stumped. Then this evening, my husband tried again and, he got it! It took me a bit longer but eventually an idea dawned as I did some ironing before supper and I got it too. We can sleep soundly tonight.
Have a go here
if you want a running total of your attempts. I can tell you that the name of the game is significant. That the answer will always be zero or an even number. Once you get it, you can tell someone the answer but not how to do it - they have to find that out for themselves. If at first you don't succeed, don't worry, it took Bill Gates
a while too.
Friday, 27 May 2005
Thank you to the person or persons who contributed to my fund-raising today. Grand total is now #15 towards an unwrapped camel!
Thursday, 26 May 2005
Buy Me A Camel - Update
In my recent post, Buy Me A Camel!
, I reported on Oxfam's Unwrapped Gift Catalogue
. This scheme caught my imagination because it allows you to buy a present for someone, a present which is in aid of Oxfam's humanitarian work and which will actually be allocated to a community in need. I was particularly interested in the camel gift
as I had just posted an entry on Amazing Animals: The Camel
'Well, why not try to fund-raise for this purpose?', I asked myself. So, I contacted Oxfam, who pointed me in the direction of bmycharity.com
. Here, I was able to set up a special web page - "Unwrapped Gifts - A Camel for a needy village". From this page, you can access a secure site for donations by credit/debit card and, if you are resident in the United Kingdom and pay tax, you can increase your donation by ticking the box for gift aid. Oxfam tell me that donations through this service help charities to save time and money in administration - so every donation goes further.
If you could afford to donate anything from #1 upwards, I would be most grateful. Wherever you see a 'camel' button, click on it to go to my fund-raising web page, https://www.bmycharity.com/helptessa2give4life
Please ask your family and friends to support this appeal, together we might raise enough for a herd of camels, or a camel and a cow for #75, who knows!
THE CAMELMany grateful thanks to Barbara Dixon for permission to reproduce her late father's poem. Visit John and Barbara Dixon's Website
by Rothwell Bishop (1910-1998)
Though desert life is rigorous
The camel's life is vigorous
In killing heat his master wilts
But he plods on, on padded stilts
At night sometimes his master freezes
But with the cold he never wheezes.
In truth he's learnt a better trick.
Is to lift
His temperature when it is hot
And lower it when it is not.
Plod on, plod on, you surly brute
I wish I had your thermostute
(I know the word is thermostat,
But couldn't find a rhyme for that.)
Monday, 23 May 2005
National Walk to School Week
Topic: In the News
Today is the start of National Walk to School Week. In October, there will be another event, International Walk to School Week. If your children's schools are not taking part in the National initiative then, hopefully, they will promote the International event in the autumn. Why is this important? Well, health for one thing. Children today don't get enough exercise and walking or cycling to school will help to combat child obesity and will keep them fit.
My grandchildren walk the mile or so to their school each day but, nationally, it seems that this is becoming a dying practise
. Part of the reason is that parents worry about road safety or 'stranger danger'. They are 'rushed off their feet' so they take the easy way out and use the car. Did you know that the school run contributes to 1 in 5 of all cars during the morning rush hour
? This increase in road traffic causes congestion and is directly related to the number of car accidents involving school children, which rise during term time. It seems that this accident rate could be dramatically lowered by the implementation of staggered school hours
. This is something which is already happening in the Chichester area with at least one secondary school starting extra early — although I think the real reason was the availability of school buses!
If walking is out of the question, what other action can you take? Well, car sharing is one answer - organise a rota to take your child and your child's friends to school. This simple solution will have an impact on the problem of school gate congestion. Many local schools have already registered with the West Sussex Young TransNet
to formulate School Travel Plans and make school journeys safer. Make sure you support your school by doing your bit as a parent.
Sunday, 22 May 2005
Sir Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)
My late sister, Pauline, collected many autographs of famous actors, including at least ten signed photographs of the British actor, Sir Laurence Olivier
, all of which she obtained personally. This photograph is of him in the part of Hotspur from Henry IV part I, probably taken in 1945, when he starred in this role on the London stage. Laurence Olivier seemed to slip naturally into every Shakespearean role he played and he brought the characters to life with an intensity which was, and still is, the envy of many other actors. As a young teenager, Pauline went to see virtually every Shakespeare play he appeared in at The Old Vic
in London's West End. I don't think my father was very keen for her to go to the theatre so, a friend's mother aided and abetted her in a deception by 'inviting her for tea' so that her daughter and Pauline could attend matinee performances together without my father's knowledge. They would wait outside the stage door, whenever possible to collect autographs.
When she left school, and started working, (I remember her telling me that #5 per week was an excellent salary for a secretary in London, immediately after the war), Pauline had more freedom to indulge in theatre going. I think she had a bit of a 'crush' on Laurence Olivier at the time and she waited for him so often, he began to recognise her. I can remember her telling me that she had felt quite faint when he once placed his hand under her trembling hand to steady the page he was signing! He was aware of her reaction and had a huge grin on his face! I suppose you could say my sister was an original 'groupie'. At the time, I was much too young to join her on her trips to the theatre but I heard all about them. She told me of the occasion when 'Larry', great actor that he was, sat on a chair which suddenly collapsed. It wasn't meant to, she definitely knew it wasn't meant to, because it was the third time she had seen the play. But, to the rest of the audience, it passed virtually unnoticed as he took it all in his stride.
Often described as the 'greatest actor of the twentieth century', Laurence Olivier was born on the 22nd May 1907 at Dorking, in Surrey. He made some 14 films in the 1930s, including "Fire Over England", his first film with Vivien Leigh, whom he later married. However, I think that one of the best films from this era was, "Wuthering Heights", in which he starred as Heathcliff. Made in 1939, in black and white, of course, his burning portrayal of Heathcliff has made it into an ageless classic. I saw it much later on television and it remains one of my favourite films. He went on to star and direct in many more films right up to 1989. Those I definitely saw include "Henry V", which was originally released in 1944 as a 'propaganda' film, Richard III (1955), "The Prince and the Showgirl" (with Marilyn Monroe in 1957), Spartacus (with Kirk Douglas in 1960), Sleuth (with Michael Caine in 1972), Marathon Man (in 1976 - I think of Dustin Hoffman every time my dentist uses a drill!) and "A Bridge Too Far" (1977).
I finally got to see Laurence Olivier on the stage when I was fifteen or sixteen. He was starring in "The Entertainer" in Brighton. I remember I went straight from school dressed in my stuffy grey uniform and complete with satchel! I had a seat on the aisle. I was totally unprepared for the scene in which a nude model appeared on the stage. I remember feeling extremely embarrassed and I'm sure I went bright red. Certainly, I didn't dare look at the gentleman sitting on my left!
Laurence Olivier was knighted in 1947. In 1970, he was made "Baron Olivier of Brighton" for his services to the theatre, an honour which entitled him to a seat in the House of Lords. In 1981, Lord Olivier received the Order of Merit. He died on the 11th July 1989 in Steyning, West Sussex, where he lived with his third wife, Joan Plowright. He is buried in 'Poets' Corner
' in Westminster Abbey, the second actor to receive this honour, along with the 18th century Shakespearean actor, David Garrick.
Friday, 20 May 2005
Energy for Life
Topic: Nature and Our World
Did you watch last night's "Question Time" from Edinburgh on BBC1
? One of the questions was, "Would the panellists prefer either a wind turbine or a nuclear power station in their back yard"? I wonder what people in this country said when the first windmills were being built in the 12th century for milling grain? Were they a 'blot on the landscape' in the middle ages? Now we think that windmills are a picturesque addition to the landscape, like our own local mill up on Halnaker Hill
, near Chichester. Some windmills have been lovingly restored to full working order such as High Salvington Mill
near Worthing. I remember visiting that windmill with my sister in my late teens. It was being used as a tea room and we 'partook of the refreshments'. We were the only customers late that afternoon and the gentleman in charge was friendly and chatty. We admired the, at the time, somewhat derelict mill and asked how old it was. He invited us behind the scenes on a little tour of the building and showed us the old mill stone. I remember being invited to pull on a rope - he then told me that I had just lifted one ton! I was very
To get back to the question of wind turbines versus nuclear power stations; where practicable, I would choose the wind turbine generator every time. They are not as picturesque as windmills but, who cares! Initially, they are much cheaper to install and maintain then building a large nuclear power station and the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases they produce is negligible. Okay, so nuclear power can be very cheap to produce and creates no air pollution, until there is an accidental release of radioactivity, such as the Chernobyl disaster in 1986! Then there is the problem of the disposal of dangerous radioactive by-products, which can remain hazardous for thousands of years. Until, and if, we learn to properly harness nuclear fusion (combining atoms) instead of nuclear fission (splitting atoms), this will be the main drawback to nuclear power.
This debate raises a deeper concern. From the time of the Industrial Revolution, people in Europe have relied on fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum to produce energy. In many third world countries, they still rely on wood to cook and to keep warm. This unrelenting demand for natural and fossil fuels is stretching the planet's resources and alternative sources of energy must be found, and soon. One solution, is the harnessing of wind power, together with solar power and wave power. As long as our solar system exists, we shall have waves and winds and solar power, free energy to use without adding to the greenhouse effect we hear so much about. Since the advent of the car, the worldwide demand for petroleum has been steadily increasing and this rate of demand cannot be sustained for many more years. Today's oil fields will, eventually, run dry and humanity will be forced to find an alternative solution; perhaps electric or hybrid cars with petrol motors kicking in on motorways to start with. Research is also being undertaken into producing a car with hydrogen-powered fuel cells
. This would be clean and sustainable, when they find a way of reducing the cost. Perhaps, one day, they will discover how to harness gravity or magnetism
, who knows!
As a small child, I can remember asking my sister, Pauline, where petroleum
and petrol came from. I knew it came from oil wells, but how had it got in the ground in the first place? At the time, her answer sounded quite plausible to me - dinosaur wee! Well, they were huge creatures and must have had huge bladders! Actually, the natural process which forms petroleum still continues today, as it was formed from plants and animals living in the warm seas that covered the earth millions of years ago. As they died, they piled up on the sea bottom, sunk under their own weight into the sea floor, eventually to be covered by tons of sand and mud. Under pressure, and over millions of years, this dead sludge gradually turned into dark liquid trapped in the pores of the earth. Some found its way into 'pockets', forming today's oil fields and, occasionally, oil rose to the surface creating sticky tar 'lakes', death traps for many prehistoric creatures. Early man made use of it to make torches, waterproof baskets or the seams of ancient ships. The Ancient Egyptians used bitumen to preserve their mummies; the Chinese used petroleum for heating and Red Indians used it as paint, fuel and medicine. Today, petroleum is refined or distilled to make petrol, paraffin, lubricants, waxes and asphalt. But the rate we use it up is much faster than the time it takes the earth to produce it and the truth is that it will probably run out in a hundred more years.
Unfortunately, the refinement and burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, releases sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide into the air, impurities which are a major cause of acid rain, together with large amounts of greenhouse gases, such as carbon monoxide. This is affecting our climate, our forests, our seas and our lakes. Society is irresponsible, too; we waste an enormous amount of energy - just look at all those neon advertisements signs you see in London or New York! Our street lights are wasteful, directing light in all directions instead of straight to the ground where it is needed.
All new houses should be better insulated and should incorporate solar roof panels. Why not have them on cars, too - they could boost the battery and perhaps even power a car for short urban shopping trips. More research should also go into developing a viable solar-powered oven for those third world communities currently relying on wood or camel dung for essential cooking purposes. We should be doing all this now
- not leaving the problem for our great-grand children. If we don't do something about the pollution to the environment, about deforestation and over-fishing, the harm we are doing to our beautiful planet, to its bio-diversity and, ultimately, to humanity itself, could be permanent and lethal.
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