Friday, November 30, 2007

Problems Of A Somewhat Personal Nature

I know I have not posted to the blog for days and days. I've had a lot on my mind. Sometimes you have to get things in proportion. After all, it's only a silly blog. Nobody reads it. At best its nothing more than a kind of sudoku for the innumerate : at worst an exercise in self-aggrandisement. It's a bit pathetic actually. Anyway, I've been having problems. It's the kind of thing that happens to everyone at some time or another. It's nothing unusual. Nothing to snigger about. It's personal. Not the kind of thing you want to discuss in public. A little embarrassing really. Oh, alright then, I'll tell you, but you must promise not to laugh.

Last weekend my dear wife reminded me that we had people coming to dinner on Saturday. She also reminded me - as oft is her want - that I am the only husband in our immediate circle of friends who does not cook. This is a kind of twenty first century equivalent of a husband who didn't erect shelving or fashion mortise and tenon joints fifty years ago (mind you, I didn't do that either). When the discussion turned to what we would have for starters I declared "I will do Yorkshire Pudding" (I must explain to any foreigners reading this that, here in Yorkshire, Yorkshire Pudding is traditionally served as a starter).

I might not be much of a cook, but I can conjure up a prize Yorkshire Pudding (it always has capital letters, a bit like God). But seeing as I hadn't prepared any for some time I decided to have a dry run, so to speak. So on the Sunday night, the eggs, milk, flour and salt went into the blender and the fat went in the trays and thirty minutes later out of the piping hot oven came ..... the most miserable shrunken concoctions you have ever seen in your life. They looked like, and had the consistency of, an open flesh wound. They tasted worse.

My family were quick to comfort me. "It must happen to everyone at some time". "It doesn't mean you're less of a man". All the usual stuff. I couldn't sleep at night. I had to track down where I had gone wrong. By morning I had decided it was the oven temperature. Not hot enough. Try again. Monday night saw another dry run. This time the oven was hot enough to fire porcelain. Eggs, milk, flour etc etc. And out of the oven came what can only be described as pancakes (as in "as flat as a pancake"). By now I was nearly in tears. My family tried to remain loyal but I caught my wife on the phone to her cousin Carrie whispering "something terrible has happened).

By Wednesday I had thrown out all the flour, milk, eggs, and fat and bought new. Just in case. Wednesday night they were as flat as Holland. On Thursday I binned the blender and bought a new one. Thursday night as flat as Twiggy. I have only one day to go before the guests arrive. My life is in total upheaval. I don't know where to turn. My family say they still love me but I found my wife looking out a recipe for Tomato Soup. In and amongst all this I just haven't had time to write silly blogs.

Tomorrow night will tell. Can I overcome this problem and once again find the prize of my manhood - my Yorkshire Puddings.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Deep Sea Fishermen Of Shipley

Many, many years ago I found myself working for the then Department Of Employment and Productivity in Bradford, Yorkshire. I was a humble clerk in the Labour Exchange and my main tasks revolved around the "signing-on" of unemployed people and the payment of their weekly benefits. Occasionally we were given other tasks to complete and sometimes these involved the collection and collation of statistical returns for the Department of Employment nationally. Back then - in the 1960s - the Department published an Annual Census of Employment which showed how many people were engaged in each area of employment in each area of the country. One year I was given the task of transferring the totals from the local office records to the official return which had to be sent to the Department in London. It was a complicated document with subdivisions of both the occupational categories and the local areas. I was young and bored and no doubt my mind was elsewhere. This is not meant as an excuse, but as an explanation. An explanation of why according to the official British records there was a sudden emergence of the deep sea fishing industry in the small town of Shipley which, unfortunately, was a good 50 miles away from any kind of sea - deep or shallow. In 1967 there were some 135 deep sea fishermen employed in Shipley according to the Census. One can only assume that they were split between the Leeds Liverpool Canal and the Shipley Glen boating lake. Or perhaps, just perhaps, some hapless junior clerk copied out a total into the wrong column.

I am reminded of this somewhat embarrassing episode by a report in the paper today that a BBC investigation has discovered that a recent major government report which claimed that the cost of obesity to the UK would amount to half of the NHS budget by 2050, somehow got the figures slightly wrong. Wrong by £23 billion in fact! It seems that in a critical calculation the predicted costs were multiplied by 7 in stead of 3.5. A simple enough error. I have every sympathy for the poor clerk involved. I remember when my mistake was eventually discovered - far too late to stop the publication of the figures - I asked whether it would help if I put on a sou'wester and moved to Shipley. Perhaps the current culprit could volunteer to scoff a cream-cake or two.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Good old serendipity strikes again. I was putting some photographs away in a large box when I came across a collection of old postcards which I must have taken from my parents house as we were clearing it out after they had died. Some are from me, some from my brother. One of the ones from me - dated January 1969 - has the picture of a typical 1960s concrete building on the front which turns out to be University House at the then, new University of Lancaster.

You can probably make out the message from the reproduction at the top of this posting. Discovering it just a few days before we head up to the North-East to take Alexander for the first of his university interviews provides an opportunity to examine some of the social changes that have taken place over the last 39 years.

The first thing to note is that, back in 1969, I was sat on a train and not been driven up to the interview by my interfering and over-fussing father. I have to say that the current arrangements are at my insistence rather than Xan's : he would far prefer to catch the train. However I remain convinced that he would get the wrong train to the wrong city on the wrong day. Thus poor Amy is going in kennels for a couple of days whilst the whole bloody family decamps up to Newcastle to make sure he makes it to the interview on time with his shoes properly shined.

Second please note my accommodation for the night - a seaside boarding house. I can still remember the dreadful place to this day. It was damp and bleak and very, very dark. The owner had installed these self-cancelling light switches which meant that as you climbed the endless flights of stairs you had to race at Hamiltonesque speed to get to the next light switch before the previous one went out. For Alexander's trip north we are staying with a friend just north of Newcastle. If that had not have been possible no doubt it would have been a Holiday Inn or Travel Lodge or something. The chances are it would have been difficult to find a boarding house even if we had wanted to examine that particular bit of Memory Lane.

But just has you think everything has changed you spot the final message - written in capital letters to ensure that my parents didn't miss it. "MAY BE RUNNING OUT OF MONEY SOON WITH ALL THESE RAIL JOURNEYS - HELP!". Ah, plus ça change.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Diary Of A Self Obsessed, Drunken, Hypochondriac

I would like to thank all those people who have responded to my call for a "cloud-analysis" of my tags. I extend a special thanks to all those who have suggested that I am a self-obsessed, drunken hypochondriac. I feel the need to say a few words in my own defence.

"Self-obsessed" I accept. But which of us, in all truth, isn't? Self-obsession seems a relatively innocent hobby to me - at least you can't be arrested for stalking yourself. The accusation of drunkenness, I assume, is based on the large number of site listings that deal with all aspects of beer and brewing. As I have pointed out many times before, this merely reflects my academic interest in the subject and my intention to finally complete my magnum opus "The Lives Of The Great Brewers".

It is the hypochondriac accusation that hurts the most. ("Yes Doctor, it hurts, here just below the knee, it's a kind of driving pain which to me suggests something very wrong with my bone marrow"). The large number of tags relating to Healthcare, Infection, Disease and Death and nothing more than my attempt to help my son, Alexander, prepare for his forthcoming Medical School interview. To ensure that he is up-to-date with current medical goings-on I have been appointed his "information stream manager". My job is to digitally clip stuff out of the world press so he can sound a clever-clogs when he gets in front of the interview panel. Which is fine for him but quite distressing for me. The knowledge of all that ill-health out there is a little alarming. Whilst in no way can I be called an hypochondriac, I can't help worrying that I might pick up some kind of infection from it all.

For example, there was a report in one of the papers this morning about some poor chap who yawned so deeply and widely he dislocated his jaw. He collapsed to the floor unable to breath and was only saved by some rapid medical intervention. Since reading that a couple of hours ago I have been stifling a yawn. I know that if I yawn there is a reasonably good chance that I might die. Another paper say that there is a new hospital-acquired bug which is killing people by the million. MRSA and C Diff are CBeebies compared to this beauty. Occasionally I am called on to collect Isobel from the hospital where she works. Not any more. She can walk and catch a bus in future. Then there was a report which said that unless you store your toothbrush at least 9 feet from the toilet Bowl, airborne particles are likely to colonise it. My toothbrush now lives in the fridge.

The real killer was a report in today's Daily Telegraph which says that worrying about your health is bad for your health. There is no way out of this hell. I think I'll have a drink. It's a bit early but what the hell.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Naked In A Cloudy Marketplace

For a few weeks now I have had a link to my homepage on this blog. I like : it is a useful resource which allows me to organise all the various links and news items I come across whilst browsing the web quickly and efficiently. Today I took the important step of displaying my tags on the front page of my website. The list of tags (tags = headings or categories) appears in the now familiar "cloud" formation. This is quite a clever system which allows you to recognise the popular tags very easily. The more items which are filed under a particular tag, the larger (and darker) that tag is displayed.

Such an approach opens up the possibility of a new pseudo-science : cloud analysis. Back in the old days of paper and books (remember them!) I always used to think I could learn a great deal about a person by looking at what books they had on their bookshelves. You needed to be a little sophisticated in your analytical approach : always disregard "token volumes" (you can always spot them because their spines are uncreased) and search for patterns. Over time you could get quite accurate in spotting the weirdo and the crank, the polymath and the cognoscenti.

The challenge is - can such an approach be adopted to the new science of cloud analysis. I suspect it can, but I am not sure. I am not the best person for me to test it out on - I know myself fairly well. What would be far more useful - from a scientific perspective - would be for all you out there to apply the principles of cloud analysis to my cloud. What does this pattern of reading tell you about me? What is the overall picture? What are the individual "kinks" in the emerging trend. If you can't make out all the minor tags in the cloud in the above illustration you can always see the real thing by visiting my website.

I recognise that I am laying myself open to a ground-breaking exercise in mass analysis here. I am walking naked into the marketplace of cloud analysis. I do it gladly, for the sake of science.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Good On Australia, Lousy On The UK

Ask me anything you want about the Australian election. You want to know it and I can probably tell you it. That is because each morning, as Amy and I take our walk, I listen to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's podcast of the AM morning news report. The half-hour programme provides invaluable insights into what is going on in the country - the good and the bad, the positives and the negatives. Did you know, for example, that the incumbent Prime Minister has just promised to bring forward his proposed retirement age by six months if re-elected. Some incentive that.

Ask me anything you want about Manchester. I'm pretty hot on Manchester. That is because each morning, as Amy and I take our walk, I listen to BBC Radio Manchester's podcast - "Manchester On The Run". It's a good programme. You get a pretty good feel of what is going on in the city in just 7 or 8 minutes. Did you know, for example, that the former Manchester United player and "Busby Babe" John Doherty has just died at the age of 72. Sad isn't it?

Ask me anything you want to know about New York..... OK you know the rest. After we have finished listening to "Manchester on the Run" we listen to the podcast of the Front Page of the New York Times.

The point I am, with my usual circumlocution, trying to make is that the important elements of a good news podcast are (i) brevity; (ii) relevance; and (iii) timing. And there is currently a gaping gap in the market for a decent news podcast covering the UK. The BBC does one but it is not published until the day is nearly over and when it is published it does not score high in the brevity stakes. The Guardian does one but that again is late and discursive. Channel 4 News used to do a splendid one - The Morning Report - which ticked all the boxes. But a few months after it had won my coveted "News Podcast Of The Year Award" it was dropped.

So until someone spots the gap in the market and does something about it, I remain good on Australia, Manchester and New York but lousy on the UK. In the meantime, all I can do is tell you that the television ratings for the live coverage of the Australian Test Match dropped to an all-time low last week. Interesting, isn't it?.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Happy Birthday Xan

Eighteen years ago today, my son Alexander was born. Throughout all those eighteen years I have had just one key milestone set in my mind : the first time he could walk into a half decent pub and buy me a pint. Tonight we made it. The pub was the Head of Steam in Huddersfield. The pint was a pint of the Phoenix Brewery's Pale Moonlight. The occasion was an experience to relish. Happy birthday son.

Self Abuse

The main BBC One O'Clock News has just finished. As it closes, the newsreader says "a reminder of our main news today, the BBC has learned of concern amongst senior doctors about the tide of teenage alcoholism". Yesterday, at the same time, the same newsreader said "a reminder of our main news today, the BBC has learned that treating children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with drugs is not effective in the long-term". As I write this, the local news is on. The story starts : "it is BBC Children In Need on Friday and we look back on some of the schemes your money has helped in the past".

There is, of course, a common factor to all these stories. They are self-generated and manufactured to support the broadcasting schedules. The ADHD story was, in fact, a trailer for that evenings' Panorama report. The alcohol story is based on responses to a BBC survey, but as yet they are not saying why they undertook the survey. No doubt we will discover that it forms the basis of a BBC Special. And "Children In Need" will dominate the BBC schedules on Friday evening.

My moan is not with self-publicity. The BBC should be able to produce publicity about its own shows just as any other organisation might do. (By the way, the latest episode of "Fat Dog To The Big Apple has just been posted, don't forget to read it soon). The complaint is disguising such "promo's" as news. Worse still, headline news.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Read All About It

It's out! A three-page article in the December edition of Waterways World all about our boat's conversion to electric drive. AND they'd done all the minor edits I suggested.

Two slight catches in the "contacts" panel at the end.....

Firstly, they've published my blog about the conversion.... ( ... and I've still masses to write up! My idea was to write at length to include all the details and fiddly problems... but there so many of them!!

Secondly, not at my suggestion, they've included contact details for the Electric Boat Association (which is fine and sensible) but also TELCO. Which, if only I'd realised they might, I would have said "no WAY"!!!

TELCO is the Thames Electric Launch Company, headed by one Emrys Burrell (I think I've got that right, I've tried to expunge his name from my memory)... I approached him for advice (two years ago, now) and he came to look at the boat. Des (brother-in-law) and Alan (boatyard engineer) were there. Alan loathed him anyway from other contact, I'd discovered. Des was startled. I was gob-smacked....

Thing was, I'd emailed Emrys all the general idea, he basically emailed back "fine, fine"... and then when he turned up he said (1) oh, we'd have to have plug in shore re-charging, no other way to get a full recharge.... but I'd SAID a key point was not to need shore-based recharging, (2) oh, we couldn't re-charge whilst running along, far too dangerous... but I'd SAID this was a key part of my plan (3) we must have at least 800 A-hrs of battery storage, best form was 2V standard traction cells... making a mere 266(!) cells required, all slightly separated, the boat would have to be totally reballasted... (and, of course, I'd SAID I wanted to avoid this whole problem if at all possible!)

Finally, he recommended they should go under the bed, adding that they'd need a gas-proof box with a flame proof vent so that when they gave off hydrogen whilst recharging (I'd SAID we'd want sealed-type batteries!) this would get away safely... and we didn't want batteries exploding, nasty effect. I'm still not quite sure how I kept a straight face at the idea of sleeping over batteries that might explode if safety precautions failed (one tiny leak would have been quite enough!) (I had, of course, discussed battery safety in my earlier email, yes, yes... E.B. had clearly ignored that - I even began to wonder if he could read...)

I saw Des and Alan giving me curious looks whilst Emrys was talking... was I going to say his ideas were hopeless then and there?... Well, you can't, can you? - and I reckon he was relying on this to force an unsuitable sale on me.

I had a moment with Alan after Emrys had left... I said (something like) "My goodness, the man's an idiot, his suggestions for the batteries are impractical, crazy and dangerous... and why's he say NOW the things can only recharge at 20 Amps maximum... it was one of the questions I asked him in my email, whether there were cells that could recharge quickly enough." Alan broke into a huge grin of relief. I said "You told me he was rather a difficult man, you didn't tell me he doesn't even know his electrics properly!!"

We gave Des lunch, following this. After a slight pause, I could see Des was wondering how to broach that he thought Emrys was appalling... although he was dubious rather than sure about some of the suggestions being crazy, he had realised the man had been steam-rollering that "he knew best" like a hard sell, rather than considering the problems and requirements. I eased Des's mind by saying (something like) "Well, that was a waste of time!"

Later on I did some calculations... from what Emrys had said his batteries couldn't even be reliably re-charged in less than eight hours - FAR too long to be practical! ... I phoned him to explain with the data .. "Oh," he said "Oh".... "Don't worry, I'll work out a way round"... I said "You can't, it's basic physics."

And then a year later he sent a full bill for "consultation"! I'd already said (email) I wouldn't pay that - I said I'd agreed to pay for expert advice and it had turned out he was no expert at all, the only things he'd advised anybody wouldn't already know were of no use. But I did agree to pay for his visiting time.... and we did.

Mind you, I may have been being a bit unfair - negative information is often almost as useful as positive and my irritation did cause me to work out more exactly what would (probably) work (and does, we now know!)

It remains annoying that the man has generated such good publicity for himself... when, OK, only a few examples, but the only conversions I've heard of that TELCO have done, people have found less than satisfactory.... to say the least.... until I heard such earthy remarks I, too, had assumed TELCO knew their stuff.... from what, it would appear, was actually Emrys promoting his business under the guise of "interesting information." Mind you, perhaps he believes himself, who knows?

I've found another use for a blog, to expostulate. Rant, even. Must say, it is annoying that Waterways World, in their "wisdom" put TELCO as a contact... and when I sent Richard Fairhurst, their editor, details of my (definitely useful) contacts I was within ace-aimes of saying (in the email) "Please don't put TELCO as a contact"... ah, hindsight is a wonderful thing...

Friday, November 09, 2007

My Lamentable Spandrels

According to an article in this morning's Guardian, a survey has shown that there are 4 million bloggers in Britain alone. Like all such surveys it is based on some rather "iffy" sampling techniques. 2,000 Internet users where questioned about their on-line habits and 15% of them admitted to keeping a blog. Apply such a ratio to the 26 million people in Britain who are supposed to use the Internet and you get 4 million bloggers.

So what do the 4 million British bloggers write about? If you use this blog as an example then the answer must be that we write about people writing blogs. In that case the great blogosphere is nothing more than the kind of endless illusion you get when you look in a mirror at yourself holding up a mirror.

Convinced that blogging was more than technologically mature navel-gazing, I instigated my own survey based on the highly scientific "next" button. If you look towards the top of any Blogger Blog there is a small button labelled "next" which will take you to a randomised blog. A good way to get an idea of what people blog about is simply to press the "next" button repeatedly and note where you get to. My small survey this morning took me to five random blogs. So here it is, the definitive answer to the question, "what do people blog about?".

1. Making Money
"Earn $27 in less than a hour and over $100 in a week" declares the
first of my random blogs. It is full of nothing but invitations to click on commercial websites or fill-in fake surveys for which the person running the blog gets a small cut of the profits I presume. This is to blogging what Exchange and Mart is to quality journalism.

2. The Civil War In Florida
I am glad that the random "next" button sent me to
this site because it epitomises all that the Internet and blogging is about : esotericism. The blog - which is run by the American historian Dale Cox, is dedicated to the study of the American Civil War in Florida. It's a subject I have never given a second thought to - until today. I spent a fascinating half hour reading through the postings. Wonderful stuff.

3. Machete Blows To The Conscience
The third blog is in a language that appears to be Portuguese. It serves to remind us that the Internet and blogging is a global phenomenon and that whilst English might be the dominant language it is not the only one. I tried entering a sample of the text into an on-line translation system with the following results. Make of it what you will!
"It has a girl crying in cômodo to the side. I hear its sultry soluços transposing the bricks of the wall and supplying my spandrels with lamentations and my chest, anguish. It soluça. E beating of its soluço aches me as small machete blows in the conscience. It has this girl of cômodo of the side. It seems that it is opening drawers, I know there. It will be that it is thinking about leaving by this time? It will be? It there and I here. It there committing its small acts of insanity, for guilt of a sad end and I, here lying on of one edredom on the frozen soil".

4. Homework
The fourth blog is rather intriguing. It is entitled
7th Grade Homework blog and appears to be a list of tasks set by teachers in an un-named school for their students. One example is a message from Mr Little, as follows -
"Wednesday: Write 1 paragraph answering this question: "Who was really the first people/person to America?" Use 3 facts, and use the "Before Columbus..." activity and WS as the backbone of your thought. Students absent should e-mail me for this copy!"
OK Mr Little, I will have a go at the task and post it to my blog. Anyone else can join in the game.

5. Pictures of Tomas

The final blog in my selection consists of a series of pictures taken on a mobile phone of a young lad who appears to be named Tomas. Granted that he is a cheery little soul, but perhaps there really are some things which are kept private. One of the pictures seems to show the little chap hovering above a swimming pool. How interesting.

So, there we are. That is what people are bloggong about at the moment. Don't know about you, but it makes my spandrels ache.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Happy birthday!

I'd no idea it was blog's birthday. Jane's feeling unwell.... I have to tell her not to panic. I'm in supressed excitement my Waterways World article is about to be published... can't wait to see reaction. Good to hear the raised BP idea was a mistake. Happy birthday, blog!

My One Ambition .... To Be Overweight

Coming hot on the heels of all the research which clearly shows that the incidence of every disease from piles to pneumonia increases with every pound you carry over and above stick-insect weight, is a new piece of research carried out by the American National Cancer Institute and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. For the first time, a team of researchers looked at the relationship between mortality (death rates) and weight. Not surprisingly, they found the highest mortality rates amongst the obese. And the lowest mortality rates? One would expect to see these amongst people in either the "normal" or the "underweight" ranges. Wrong. The lowest mortality rates were amongst the group classed as "overweight". According to their report - published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association - the researchers found that in 2004 (the latest year for which data was available) there were more than 100,000 fewer deaths among the overweight than would have been expected if these people had been of normal weight.

The study found that although "overweight" people had a higher chance of dying from cardio-vascular disease than people of normal weight, the situation was more than reversed when diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, infections and lung diseases were taken into account. Dr Mitchell Gail, a cancer institute specialist and one of the main authors of the paper, said that in his personal opinion as a physician and researcher ... "if you are in the pink and feeling well and getting a good amount of exercise and if your doctor is very happy with your lab values and other tests, then I an=m not sure there is any urgency to change your weight"

Now isn't that an interesting thought to chew over as you have your dinner.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Happy Birthday Dear Blog

The News From Nowhere Blog is one year old today. On the 7th November 2006 I decided to start a blog. Here's the entry for that day : "Welcome to the News From Nowhere Blog.Why a Blog? Why News From Nowhere? Perhaps the answers to these and other questions will become clear over the coming weeks and months. Perhaps not. Primarily, this is a therapeutic exercise. A chance for me to think some things out and decide where I am going. Perhaps it will become an established part of my life. Perhaps not. Let's just see what happens". 170 postings later the Blog is still in existence. It has become an established part of my life. I'm quite pleased about that.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sympathy For Dunshaughlin

I would like to extend my sympathy to the good people of the town of Dunshaughlin in County Meath, Ireland. As you can see from this extract from today's Irish Times, James Lawless has passed away and, as a mark of respect, his pub and hardware store has been closed until after the funeral on Thursday.

The wonders of the Internet means, of course, that what was once parochial is now pandemic. I know of Jimmy's death because of the notice in the Irish Times which I was able to read thanks to my Press Display subscription. Wanting to know a little more about the late owner of "The Dublin House" I was easily able to track down a feature on him and his family which appeared in the Irish newspapers some nine months ago.

No doubt I could read his will, check his bank account, riffle through his Health Records, and check his tax returns if I wanted to. But I don't. And even if I did, Jimmy wouln't mind. He's gone now, part of history, part of the public record.

I know that a lot of people get very worried about the amount of information about us that is out there. This is all part of the big-brother world where individual privacy has reached the extinction stage. But so much of the fear seems to be pointless paranoia. Jimmy's family had lived for three generations in the vicinity of Dunshaughlin before he and his wife bought the Dublin House pub in 1945. Running the pub and hardware store would have made them the centre of village life. And from what little I know of village life, the mass of information which is available on the Internet about them will be nothing compared to the mass of personal information which would have been common currency in a rural community.

People who look back on a golden age of individual privacy which is now under threat from the all-watching, all-recording world of databases and security cameras, are often yearning for something which never existed. Whereas before the knowledge of Jimmy's death at the age of 90 would have been known throughout the town, now it can be known throughout the world. I don't see anything wrong with that. And neither does Jimmy.

Friday, November 02, 2007

New Study Shows Beer Is Good For You

Following hot on the tail of a series of news items showing that everything from bacon sarnies through to smiling are potentially bad for you, I can exclusively reveal the first results of a new scientific study which clearly shows that beer is good for you.

Following a "funny turn" a few weeks ago the doctor decided I had high blood pressure. Every time my blood pressure was taken in the surgery it was high, whenever I took it at home it was low. Attempts to suggest that my raised blood pressure might have resulted from a swift walk up the steep hill to the surgery and/or a perfectly reasonable fear of doctors was met with scorn. To settle the matter I was yesterday fitted with a 24 hour blood pressure monitor. The results of this test are now available and they make interesting reading.

In the first place they show that I have the blood pressure of a man half my age and twice my fitness. This comes as no surprise and is a clear vindication of the point I have been trying to make over recent weeks. Knowing that the overall results would be as they were, I decided to undertake a little sub-test. The machine took my blood pressure every 30 minutes. At 10.30 this morning when it was taken I was in the middle of a hour-long strenuous walk with Amy the dog. At 1.30 this afternoon when it was taken I was sat in the Richard Oastler in Brighouse enjoying a pint of Hook Norton Hooky Gold.

When the monitor was eventually taken off and the results fed into a computer I specifically noted the 10.30 and 1.30 readings. The results show quite clearly that my blood pressure was considerably lower when drinking the pint of Hooky Gold compared with when I was running up the hill with the dog.

Now according to the latest NHS Blood Pressure advice sheet - and I quote -
"Nowadays, doctors think that keeping your blood pressure as low as possible can help prevent further strokes, even if it has never been high in the past".

Need I say any more? Cheers.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Teasmades And Torture

When Isobel and I got married thirty-odd years ago, somebody bought us a Teasmade for a wedding present. A Teasmade represented the height of new technology back in the early seventies. An electric clock would automatically switch a heating element on in a small electric kettle. Once it had boiled, the pressure of steam would force a jet of scolding hot water into an adjacent teapot. Three minutes later an alarm would sound and lights would flash and you would wake up to a ready-made morning cup of tea. Such was the theory. The reality was a little different. The machine used to make a dreadful assortment of noises as it slowly heated up. As the steam finally pushed the water from kettle to teapot it was like a clip from Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. Steam would escape, there would be whizzes and whozzes. Bits would clank and other bits would vibrate. It was one of the most alarming experiences I have ever suffered from. You would lay awake half the night waiting for the dreaded moment when it would start up. Which rather defeated the object of the thing in the first place.

I am reminded of the Teasmade and that anticipatory fear in the pit of my stomarch at this very moment. In just a few minutes a pain will develop in my left arm, a pain as intense as an attack by a boa constrictor. Over a period of about 30 seconds it will build to a level where you think your arm will be split asunder and then it will gradually - and I mean very gradually - fade away. Is this yet another of my funny turns you will ask. No, I reply, it is my 24 hour blood pressure monitor.

When the practice nurse told me I would need to be attached to a 24 hour BP monitor I assumed it would be a classy digital device which would automatically and continuously monitor my pressure. I was wrong. It tums out to be what looks like a 1960s blood pressure cuff with a long tube attached to something behind my back (I assume a pair of bellows). Every half hour - day and night - someone (who I also assume is secreted behind my back) pumps the bellows up until I cry in pain. When tears begin to flow it must somehow break the circuit and slowly the pressure goes down. And this happens every thirty bloody minutes. In the few hours since it was attached to me I have learnt to dread its half-hourly cycle. I sit here waiting for it to kick-in. As the promises time gets nearer my blood pressure builds up in anticipation. Which, rather like the old Teasmade, rather defeats the object of the exercise.
Can't write any more now, it's about to happen !! !!!! !!!!!!

Daffodil On The Water

When I was young, back in the early 1950s, our family’s annual seaside holiday would alternate between Bridlington on the east coast and New...