PC 230 Observations

It’s fun to consciously observe one’s surroundings; too often it’s all in the mush of generalisations and we fail to see the detail, where the interest is. On my way back from collecting my newspaper the other morning, I observe a silver Porsche pull out from the kerb; we live in a posh area!

It wasn’t this one but same colour!

If I owned a Porsche I am sure I would do a little ‘look at me’ exaggerated movement or throttle revving – why not! But this individual had forgotten the basic lesson about never cross your hands on the wheel – and with a mixture of too much throttle and whirling crossing hands fighting to control the steering wheel, almost took the car across the street into another one. Writing ‘look at me’ brought back a memory of one of my first cars, a VW Variant, not the sexiest of automobiles. I bought some very nice Chrome wing mirrors and two seat belts, fitted both and drove around thinking ‘look at me’. Simpler age maybe?

Did you see that lovely reproduction of Leonardo’s Head of a Bear in a newspaper last weekend? A ruler at the bottom showed it to be 7 cms long – and it was square. So it was 49 sq cms and not 7 sq cms as described! And I thought the editorial staff at The Sunday Times were numerate!

Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Head of a Bear’ measuring 7cms by 7 cms

I sense everyone is trying to outdo everyone else with their ideas for saving the planet, doing their bit to slow the man-made element of climate change. Reducing the amount of plastic we use, improving recycling rates, moving from fossil-fuel powered transport to electrical, trying out new fuels ….. to our own efforts. We recycle but get frustrated that ‘stuff’ we think should be recyclable isn’t and we don’t understand why the industry isn’t publicising why we can’t do this or that or indeed why they can’t do this and that, and buying a Hotbin composter. In addition to the pile of loo paper from ‘Who Gives A Crap’ (minimum order 48 rolls) we now have a little plastic (sorry, couldn’t find a wooden one!) container in the kitchen for the food waste.

And I am reminded of my late step-mother and her habits. She and I didn’t have the greatest of relationships so I can indulge my memory in its entirety. She and my father lived in the middle of a damp wood in an old keeper’s cottage, in Wigtownshire. She kept chickens. One disgusting habit was to take the scraps of kitchen waste out in their little bucket to the chickens, scoop up the contents with her hand, come back into the kitchen and start preparing a meal – without washing her hands – well, to be fair, she might have wiped them down on her not-too-clean apron first.  

Unbelievably, the slippers sent to my mother-in-law in Portugal in November, and returned, and returned, have now been returned. They must be the most travelled slippers on the planet, having completed 4500 miles and still not worn! (PC 220 Soleful Tales and 221 Ephemera refer) We thought they had complied with the “Fill out the customs form and you might have to pay this or that but we are not sure so we can’t release them yet” request. Then silence …… until Royal Mail delivered them back to our front door.

Monitoring the amount of energy you use is other way, so we are told, of helping the planet. Sadly the electrical meters for Amber House are in an outside cupboard more than 25m from my apartment and a Smart Meter wouldn’t work. Trumpeting the benefits of a Smart Meter, a recent advertisement stated it costs 63p per hour to boil your kettle. Who would want to boil their kettle for 60 minutes?

In the United Kingdom the Office for National Statistics conducted a census on Sunday 21st March. In the book ‘Britain: An Official Handbook’, published by the Central Office for Information, you can garner every conceivable fact about this country. Whenever I read the word census I am reminded of why Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem, such are the Christian stories embedded in my psyche! Sorry! – Oh! Yes! The national census – these days completed online, done easily and without too much thinking. So it was a surprise to have a census chap ring the doorbell the other afternoon. “We need to verify some of the responses from a sample of the population and your address came up.” On Thursday a chap presses the door-entry phone and came into the inner hall but didn’t want to enter the apartment.

Our Apartment front door – and the view the census chap had!

I thought he was simply going to ask me a couple of questions and enter my answers digitally and that I would only going to prison if I my answers were not the same as those I gave on 21st March. But no, unable to get an internet connection, he withdrew a paper booklet from his satchel and proceeded to ask me every question on the census form. After ten minutes the question “What sex do you declare?” came up. I am not so much of a dinosaur that I am unaware that this is now a multiple choice question. “Really?” I asked. “Yes! Particularly as this is Brighton (& Hove).” “I am sorry I am not going to answer that!” I said, putting my hand in my trouser pocket, searching for something. (Note 1)

The founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society, a John Richards, died last month aged 97. Twenty years ago this retired journalist was so concerned for the apostrophe’s survival that he created a website (www.apostrophe.org.uk) aimed at preserving its correct use. “The apostrophe plays a vital part in written English. Just take this sign outside a block of flats: ‘Residents’ refuse to be placed in bins.’ Remove the apostrophe and you see a very different notice.” You may remember PC 195 illustrated with Lynne Truss’s ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’ and the misplaced comma? Apostrophes have, I think, an important part to play in modern written English; it’s true isn’t it or is it “its true isnt it?”

Richard 14th May 2021


Note 1We are getting our knickers in a complete twist when it comes to gender and its variants. Here the LGBT charity Stonewall has a ‘Diversity Champions’ scheme urging employers to sign up to its goals, but not allowing individuals to argue against its diktats. Apparently ‘dozens of woman have faced disciplinary action at work for offences such as stating JK Rowling is not transphobic (interesting a word the online dictionary doesn’t recognise!), asking questions during equality training or requesting female-only loos’ – actually they used the word ‘lavatories’ but this is not a word I recognise!! I did, by the way, find what I was looking for.

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