Monday, January 29, 2007

The truth about allergy allegedly

Allergy is on the increase because the modern western immune system does not get enough challenges these days. Especially when young - no measles, mumps or chicken pox, no playing in muddy fields or parks. Or so goes the TOO CLEAN theory

Well perhaps. My theory is that the immune system gets too many challenges from the modern food chain

Once upon a time when we ate meat the serving on the plate came from just one animal. But because of mass production a single burger from a chain may now contain meat from up to 100 animals, each with its own immune history. Similarly, it should be called chickens tikka

Dairy products used to come from just one fairly small herd. Now milk is collected, mixed & processed in huge regional plants, thus destroying the flavour, apart from anything else. One reason why goats milk may be good for those with allergies is that it still tends to come from just one farm

So we regularly consume in a single sitting a real cocktail of animal products whose different environments will have produced a veritable cocktail of immune system products

All fruit & vegetables contain natural toxins - they would not otherwise be able to survive their predators. All of these natural toxins can be shown, by normal laboratory tests, to be potentially toxic to humans. Some we have learned to cope with by suitable methods of preparation - such as boiling bitter cassava for a good hour. Others just dont seem to have caused the damage once feared - we no longer share the Victorians fear of tomatoes

Now we eat a wide range of 'novel' fruits & greens. In winter in England the choice used to be limited pretty much to carrots, sprouts, dried peas or cabbage. Add to that courgette, butternut squash, aubergine. Not to mention ordinary 'English' vegetables grown out of our season in almost any country of the world

Obviously these 'novel' foods are not, in & of themselves, a problem, since billions of people have survived healthily on all manner of diets

But the Hedgehog Allergy Hypothesis says that modern allergies are caused by our just not yet having evolved to cope with such infinite variety. The appetites they feed but us make ill

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Chiding streams betray small depths below

Why does water (sometimes) make a noise?

A huge river like the Essequibo can flow almost silently, while the tiniest drip of a tap can sound very loud

The first thing I hear on waking each morning at home is the sound of the stream on the other side of the road. Before I even open my eyes I can tell what the weather is like, just from its sound. Too angry? If only I could just go back to sleep & forget about today! A gentle babble? Oh what a beautiful morning!

Would Niagara still make a noise if it was falling on to something soft & spongy? Like giant foam rubber cushions?

Obviously (?) the speed/force with which the water is moving is part of it. And it has to be moving against something hard. But then what? Explosions of gas?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Plus ca change

While it may be said that this government circular frankly recognises many of the evils created by motor-car traffic, & shows no disposition unduly to favour the motorist, it contains no indication of any intention on the part of Government to grapple seriously with the real difficulties of the situation

British Medical Journal 1908 p941

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Unexpected effects

The papers have been carrying reports this week that bus passes have been putting increased strain on local government finances. Over-60s have been travelling further & more frequently than had been forecast. Quelle surprise

Another unexpected effect is that, at least on my route, drivers will no longer change £10 or £20 notes. This is because they simply do not have much change these days. All those half-fares or flat-rate 50p fares they used to collect are no more. Yesterday evening the driver of my bus had a grand total of 2x£1 coins in his tray

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A cold snap

Some people are suggesting that this winter may turn out to be as cold as that of 1947. I do hope not - I can remember that one

We were pretty much snowed in - not that much traffic came down our lane anyway. The milkman came with a horse-drawn van, but I dont think he could make it throught the snow

I do remember my father bringing the District Nurse round - he pulled her along on a toboggan. She was a story book nurse, all bustling & round, brisk, cheery & competent. She used to wear a uniform coat of dark brown gaberdine & matching round brown hat with a flat turned back brim, not unlike the woolly ones in fashion now

I can also remember going out on some expedition, sitting on the toboggan with my mother sitting behind holding on to me tight

And it was cold & there was no electricity & our prefab was made from asbestos which provided almost zero insulation

Monday, January 22, 2007

Malcolm Marshall

Malcolm Marshall was unusually small - for a Weat Indian fast bowler, that is. But probably the most thoughtful of his generation, thinking in detail about every ball, making the most minute adjustments to his fields. You never doubted he could put the ball exactly how & where he intended

He had quite a bustling run. The moment of his delivery was a wonder to behold. Both feet off the ground, arms & legs extended into a star shape, then thwuupp every inch of his body whipped behind the ball

Sunday, January 14, 2007


When we can be sure of doing perfect justice in the simplest police case we may begin to talk about the infallibility of a tribunal of pedants

ET Raymond:Portraits of the Nineties

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Tactile paving

Miles Kington once said that some clever marketing men spend their time, not on promoting brand awareness but on ensuring that some things have no name at all. This is so that no one can complain about them

Well, now I know its name I can have a REAL rant about tactile paving

This is that horrible pink or vomit-fawn pimply concrete stuff that has sprouted on pavements everywhere. Even in villages

Now I agree that it is a Good Thing that blind people should be given an indication of where to cross the road. But why do these excrescences have to stretch all the way from kerb to property line & fill the whole of the space between the railings they erect to herd us into crossing the road at the prescribed spot?

You cannot avoid walking across the stuff several times each day. If you suffer from peripheral neuritis, or have a bad back, or almost any kind of foot or leg problem, IT HURTS. On a bad day I almost let out involuntary squeals each time I have to do this

The MRC should immediately commission reseach into the effect that this tooth-rattling shaking has on babies & young children in buggies. And all supermarkets should be required, BY LAW, (are you listening, Sainsburys, Hazel Grove) to provide a smooth level pathway for people pushing laden trolleys out of their stores

Friday, January 12, 2007


In the outset, I am bound to express my regret, that the riches of our great hospitals are rendered so little available for enquiries like the present, that these noble institutions, which should be storehouses of exact observations, made on a large scale, and for which accurate ideas should be disseminated throughout the land, are almost completely without the means of fulfilling this very important object

Benjamin Philips Esq FRS, Surgeon to the Marylebone Infirmary
Journal of the Statistical Society 1838; 'Mortality of amputation'

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Boeing 717

I first noticed the Boeing 717 in the summer of 2003 when the weather was nice enough to use the bus stop up the hill where you get a good view of the sky. It can get wild & woolly up there so I usually go to the next stop along the valley floor

Why go back to the number 717? I always wondered why there wasnt one

Anyway, its a beautiful plane. With its slim form, swept back wings & neat engines perched under a high tail, it sems to dance in the sky

There is a whole procession of them coming into Manchester airport from the east around about 4 to 6pm. We are under the flight path but far enough away for the planes to be high enough not to disturb us with noise pollution. A beautiful sight on a sunny summer evening with only a few high whispy clouds & contrails gradually turning into herringbones

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Michael Holding

From a purely aesthetic & visual point of view at least, Michael Holding was the greatest of the great West Indian fast bowlers

He used to remind me of a young stallion, standing at the start of his run, with all the power & vulnerability that that implies. I dont think he actually used to paw at the ground with his foot, nor blow steam from his nostrils - it wasnt usually that cold, even in England. But he always ducked his head at the start of his run

And what a run! Dickie Bird said that he never liked standing at the bowlers end to Holding because you never heard him coming

Lies, damn lies

After Lord Palmerstons death, Lord Russell did not venture on leaving in the Chief Secretaryship a man who had made himself obnoxious to every Irish member, & decided on replacing him with Mr Chichester Fortescue, an Irish landlord

Before Mr Chichester Fortescues appointment, however, was made, the outbreak of Fenianism had furnished a rude commentary on Sir Robert Peels statistics. It had burst like a clap of thunder on a clear sky. Even if Sir Robert Peel was right, & Ireland was prospering, Fenianism made it plain that prosperity had not cured Irish disaffection

The people of Ireland seemed to be divided between those who wished success to the movement, & those who disapproved its methods, but sympathised with its ends. It was no longer possible to deny that they were animated by a passionate detestation of English law & of English rule. Sir Robert Peel might be the best of all possible Chief Secretaries, in the best of all possible Ministries; but the Irish, so it was evident, had no terms to make with the Government which was pondering over the statistics it was collecting in Dublin Castle

Sir Spencer Walpole:The History of 25 Years

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The late Peter Fryer

In the 1960s I read a book which had in its title the name Mrs Grundy. The lesson I took from the book, & one which stayed with me, was that euphemisms - for example words to do with sexual activity - eventually & inevitably themselves become unacceptable in polite society because it is the thing or the activity itself, not the word, which embarrasses us

This is. I think, proved over & over in modern political correctness, which attempts to suppress words such as fat or short but allows slim or tall to pass

When I became a blogger - thinking to concentrate only on Great Thoughts - I tracked down the book, intending to use it as a launching pad for musings on our current usage of the word black. This has always seemed especially ironic to me (though not to be denigrated on that score) since I was taught by my school Latin teacher that the Latinate form Negro had been adopted because it was thought that the Old English black - with its connotations of darkness & evil - should not be applied to members of the human race

I never quite felt I had found the right words to express these thoughts, so the piece remains sitting in my blog as an unpublished draft only

I also remember, in the mid-80s, reading reviews of a much acclaimed history of Black people in Britain - Invaluable, S Rushdie - but since that was a time of upheaval in my life I never got round to reading it

Off & on, over the last couple of years, unable to remember either author or title of the black history book, I have been trying to track it down, ever since I discovered a Victorian quote about Sir Arthur Sullivan. With no success. even when, with renewed vigour, I consulted the website & promotional literature during Black History Month last October

Then, last December I think, I heard on Radio 4 an obituary of a man who had written what sounded like that book. Off to the Library next day - catalogue confirms they have a copy, in Basement storage. Approach the desk in anticipation - only to find that it has just been issued to another borrower. Obviously heard the same programme

Yesterday - finally - the catalogue reveals the book is available once more. This time I leave the library with the book safely in my bag & repair to Caffe Nero for a reviving cappuccino

Turn to the biographical note: Peter Fryer was born in Yorkshire in 1927 .... several books .... including .... MRS GRUNDY: STUDIES IN ENGLISH PRUDERY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had completely failed to make the connection before

Sullivan appears in the Index only in relation to an admiring entry about Samuel Coleridge Taylor without further comment. So I dont think Peter Fryer can have known that Sullivan had more than mere musicianship to provoke fellow-feeling with Coleridge Taylor

Which makes me all the more sad that I cannot write to let him know how I appreciate those two books, & maybe share my small find with him

Related post: Sir Arthur Sullivan: A notable black Englishman

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I love Orion. And his sword. And his dog

I learned to recognise constellations when I did my Girl Guide Astronomers badge. I can still recognise a few - Cassiopaeia, Andromeda, & the Plough, of course. Not forgetting Ursa Minor. And the Southern Cross if Im in the Southern hemisphere

But Orion is something special. I have no idea why. Perhaps its because he, of all the ones I know, looks like what he is supposed to be. How can the plough be a bear?

Best of all, at this time of year, he is right there over my back garden when I put the rubbish out last thing at night. Like my guardian angel


The radiance of the star that leans on me

Was shining years ago. The light that now

Glitters up there my eyes may never see,

And so the time lag teases me with how

Love that loves now may not reach me until

Its first desire is spent. The star's impulse

Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful

And love arrived may find us somewhere else.


Step not forth on the dew-dashed lawn

To view the Lady's Chair,

Immense Orion's glittering form,

The Less and Greater Bear:

Stay in; to such sights we were drawn

When faded ones were fair.