Saturday, 31 July 2010

Bits of good news

I'm grateful to Bryan for pointing this story out to me. A bit of good news to take you in to August. This is defying the politics of fear! Well done, that girl! 
I'm hoping for some more good news with the Hungarian Grand Prix. Come on, Williams! I've just watched the interview with Frank Williams on BBC. I hadn't realised he was disabled after a car accident. And come on, Jessica Ennis, in Barcelona. She, of course, had to change her long-jump take-off foot after fracturing her right ankle two years ago. Two determined people who didn't give up when disaster struck.

Tomorrow we're celebrating again - this time my best man coming of age (as we bus-pass holders say). The beginning of another bacchanalian August!

And then it's off to enjoy some New Wine. Hopefully there'll be some sales of I Choose Everything there. It's selling quite well so far, I'm told. I think that's largely thanks to the South African connection. More good news. 

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The politics of fear

Well, my friend's Spanish nightmare seems to be coming true. Not only did Alberto Contador win the Tour de France again on Sunday, but Alonso, by fair means or foul, won the German Grand Prix and is creeping up the F1 drivers' ranking.... It was a very odd incident, wasn't it, when Ferrari radioed the race leader, Felipe Massa, "Alonso's faster than you... Confirm that you've understood..." It sounded quite sinister! And then he inexplicably slowed down and Alonso slipped past. Then another radio message: "Good lad.... Sorry!" It certainly sounded like a fix. Presumably Alonso has an arrangement with Ferrari that he's their no 1 driver, or maybe they just reckon he's a better bet for winning the championship. A shame for competitive sport.

Radio 4 did an item on the debate about immigration over the Mexican border in the States last night. I was struck by the comment of El Paso local historian, David Romo, about politicians scapegoating immigrants: "They're creating a false portrait that serves their own political interests. It happens that every time an election year comes up they know that creating fear and hysteria about the border will drive a wedge. It's wedge politics at its best. In some ways it's cheap vote-getting, and the pattern just keeps repeating itself.... Hysteria ... is very profitable for politicians. I mean, nothing gets votes like the politics of fear" (The World Tonight, BBC Radio 4 27.7.10).

It struck me as being a) profoundly true in this context, and b) equally transferrable to others. Such as the end of life debate. The euthanasia lobby feeds in to the media scare-stories. 'Palliative care won't work.' Soberly looked at, it's just not true. Watch out for the politics of fear.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

"God's own county"

Well, that's what they say, apparently. And, judging from our very pleasant two nights at The Lamb and Flag in Bishop Monkton, they probably say it very loudly! To be fair, I'd guess that part of Yorkshire, the Harrogate / Ripon area, is pretty prosperous, as the punters were on average loud and large. They were advertising for part-time bar staff, but apparently had no takers: the local youths have no shortage of cash from their parents. We had bed and breakfast there in the barn behind the pub - I'd love to be able to say it was because there was no room at the inn, but actually the barn has been converted into three 4-star bedrooms!
We ate in the pub and the food was great - none of this microwaved nonsense, but cooked then and there by the hostess Carol while her husband Trevor presided over the bar. Our first night's room, Fountains, is on the right of the picture. All the rooms are disabled accessible, though our second night, in Jervaulx, was a bit of a tight squeeze.

We travelled up on the Thursday in order to have a full day of exploring the area - which we did going up Nidderdale to Lofthouse and then over Masham Moor. It was great to be back in the hills again - reminded me of days off in the Peak District. We had our lunch within the sound of a stream pouring under a bridge and out of clumps of sphagnum moss. 
Lunch on Masham Moor
Swaledale sheep?

And then it was on to the romantic ruin of Fountains Abbey. Unfortunately not having prebooked they were reluctant to let me take out an electric buggy in case it ran out of charge, and so Jane had to push me round the extensive grounds instead. Still the main track was fairly level and tarmac. I'm not saying it was easy, mind, but she managed. What a lass! And I must say it's an impressive place - not that I'd have wanted to have lived there, in its tree-lined valley. Though I daresay they were jolly, large and loud Yorkshire monks! An abbey full of Friar Tucks.
East end of Fountains Abbey church
Damsel fly in Fountains Abbey

As well as some more delicate creatures.

On Saturday morning we wandered (=Jane pushed me) round the rather immaculate village of Bishop Monkton, which has a stream flowing down the main street. As well as providing the children with plenty of ducks to feed, it also provided quiet points of intimate landscape.
The stream in Bishop Monkton

However all good things come to an end, and we had to move on. But Yorkshire had another treat in store for us....

.... in the form of our good friends, the Hateleys, who were celebrating their silver wedding with their family and friends. Readers of My Donkeybody with elephantine memories will recall that Barbara and Gareth were the first of our friends to have an inkling of the true nature of my symptoms, with their combined medical and veterinary expertise. Gareth and I used to play squash, and he still sounds disgustingly fit, doing enormous bike rides round the Dales. I was reflecting how, despite flashes of envy, it is possible to 'learn to be content' with one's limitations. It reminds me of something T S Eliot writes about marriage in The Cocktail Party about being content with the morning that separates and the evening that brings together... which is a 'good way'. I suppose one has to learn to be content to be pushed where one wants, and eventually to be pushed where one doesn't want to go....

Gareth in Falstaffian mode
Toasting 25 years (Barbara on the right)
Anyway on we drove to their house for an excellent party, where we learned, among other things, about the advantageous investment that photo-voltaic solar panels are at the moment (see ). No seriously, if you have a south-facing roof and a few thousand to invest, I'm told you could get an equivalent 8% annual rate of return - which isn't bad. More of the time was spent catching up with news and renewing acquaintances; and I got a professional view of Rev, the sit-com about an inner city vicar which seems to have divided my facebook friends. If you take it seriously, then it's distressing to see a smoking, swearing (occasionally), vague (apparently) priest; if you don't, it's wrily amusing to see stock caricatures in action. It's nice to be in relative detachment from wedding interviews, archdeacons, and church in-jokes. I'm not sure, to be honest, how much those not 'in the know' would get. I suspect it represents and reinforces the half-informed stereotypes of the media world. It can't - and doesn't try to - enter the heart of faith and its outworking.

So after a thoroughly full (in every way!) few days we wended our way homewards, in record time down empty motorways, and climbed into bed grateful for friends - and bed-leavers.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


Yesterday was our wedding anniversary! Thirty-six years of being married to me - you can see why I think Jane's next thing to a saint. We were reflecting on how little we then knew each other compared to now... but I'm glad we did things as we did, because it's been an adventure of discovery and the result is I now love her more than ever - and probably vex her just as much as ever. But in spite of it all she appears to love me too.

And tomorrow we're off to celebrate their silver wedding with Barbara and Gareth in Yorkshire. They have a brilliant family and are the sort of friends one covets. It was a good invention - marriage.

I enjoyed the card we were sent by the Outlaws: picture of elderly couple sitting reading in garden on either side of picnic table:
Man: "Says here married people live longer than non-marrieds."
Wife: "Nah..." (turn over card) "It just SEEMS longer..."

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

BBC Bias

Oh, flippin' 'Enry, BBC! What is all this? Sorry about the strong language, but what do you think you're up to? Yesterday on TV's 6 o'clock news, Radio 4's World Tonight and on the World Service in the night you headlined Tony Nicklinson's demand for the DPP to allow his wife to kill him ( As I understand it he had a massive stroke which has left him paralysed, able to communicate only with his eye and head movement. He is 'fed up' with his locked-in state. Big international story? And by the way was a prolonged commentary by Debbie Purdy on the World Service your much vaunted balanced treatment? I suspect it's launched by the pro-euthanasia lobby to coincide with the 'silly season' of little real news when broadcasters want to fill the airtime with whatever comes to hand.

But the point is, we heard all about him, but what about the case of John Millar? 'Who?' you ask. Well, that's it. He's the Edinburgh pensioner who last year tried to smother his wife, Phyllis, who has Multiple Sclerosis, with a pillow. She explicitly told him she didn't want to die. He was her sole carer. He told the police, "She would be dead and out of the way." He was sentenced last week. That story was conspicuous by its absence from the headlines. It does appear on the BBC website, in fact - on Scotland News, Edinburgh East and Fife ( In other words tucked away in a local news page. But it's a paradigm case of why changing the law mustn't happen, because had he succeeded the only witness to her murder would have been dead and his defence would have been compassion and her request. She's now being cared for in a nursing home, but what a traumatic experience... So where's the BBC's level playing field?

How did I come to hear the story? It was actually through the Canadian blogger I follow. How ironic is that! One more thought on the sad story of Tony Nicklinson. I wonder if when he had his stroke his doctors intervened to resuscitate him and whether his family desperately hoped and asked them to save him. I would imagine they did. It would have been only natural. But rather than killing him now, perhaps it would have been better to 'let nature take its course' then. That's of course an infinitely difficult decision, and requires extraordinary wisdom. But perhaps society as a whole should have the courage to say to families, "If we make this person survive, do you realise what that might mean - indefinite years of dependence on their part and care on your part. It will an irrevocable commitment."

The news-story about Ali Mohmet al-Magrahi also gave me pause for thought. You remember he's the Libyan Lockerbie bomber who was released a year ago by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds because he had 'terminal' prostate cancer, with an estimated 3 months to live. Well, he's still going strong and the cancer specialist, Professor Karol Sikora, of CancerPartners UK, who diagnosed him, was quoted in the Sunday Times last week as saying, "There was always a chance that he could live for 10 years, 20 years ... but it's very unusual.... There was a 50 per cent chance he would die in three months, but there was also a 50 per cent chance he would live longer." Much of the euthanasia campaign is dressed up as a way out for those with 'terminal' illnesses. What exactly does that mean? As I've said elsewhere, we are all in a terminal condition. But if one of our leading cancer professors can give a 3-month prognosis and then admit he was only 50% sure, it seems we are on very slippery ground in categorising terminal conditions. After all Debbie Purdy herself is having an eventful life, and so am I, to say nothing of Stephen Hawking, and we all technically have a terminal illness. I have many friends who have had cancer and are living full lives. What I fear is that doctors could be induced to make a terminal diagnosis and it be a ground for assisting suicide or euthanasia. Life, even one like mine, is infinitely rich and precious.

I was glad to find out that I Choose Everything is being enjoyed by all sorts and conditions. Sales are going well. But here's an example of it being inwardly digested for real. To be fair, it wasn't Jess who was chewing on the good things in it. We just got her to pose! Seriously, if you want to think about the looming issues around euthansia, it wouldn't be a bad place to start.

Monday, 19 July 2010


Following from the last post and my weariness with internal church politics, I read this quotation from Hilary Cotton (Vice Chair of WATCH - Women and the Church) on elections to a new General Synod in September: "We've got some work to do to make sure people stand for this Synod who are going to support this legislation, and to give them the story so far." (Church of England Newspaper 16th July) Which stands nicely alongside the ginger-group's advert of the week before: pictures of women bishops from the USA and round the world with the strap line, "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church" - which of course echoes Revelation 2 and 3. That particular line seems to me entirely inadmissible in contemporary Christian debate - as it stands above contradiction and implies an obdurate resistance to God on the part of people who might beg to differ. Of course WATCH are not alone in political manoeuvring and claiming divine irrefutability. Whatever your view, that's just not the way for Jesus' followers to carry on, is it?

I've been reading Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland, a fascinating study of power politics at its raw edge, and was struck by this quote: "The individual who inspires the politics of paranoia is often caught up in a primitive psychological defence that guards against depression, emptiness or meaninglessness." In other words, people who start campaigns demonising others are often trying to exorcise their own demons. "Ironically, the enemies from which such people most passionately distinguish themselves are those to which they are most closely bound" (page 205).
On a more, and unexpectedly positive, note, I was listening to Desert Island Discs on Saturday morning on which the castaway was Dr Gwen Adshead, consultant forensic psychotherapist at Broadmoor High Security Hospital. (By the way, I love the theme music with the seagulls' mewing overlaid. Brilliantly evocative! I'm so glad the BBC has never tried to change it.) You'd have thought that working with acutely disturbed criminals, such as the Yorkshire Ripper, would have given her an entirely jaundiced view of life. Actually it's given her an entirely realistic one.

Kirsty Young asked her about the unpredicability of life, "Do you think our expectations culturally right now are at a point where we expect too much happiness?"
Dr Adshead's reply was:
"Yes. I do. I sometimes wonder whether we don't prepare enough for the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'. Or rather I think we don't understand that pain and suffering, and rage and distress, are as normal a part of life as the happiness and the joy." (Desert Island Discs 17th July) Well said! Get real. Life doesn't always go our way. 

Saturday, 17 July 2010

'Don't panic...' (+Oxon)

Some years ago, at Lee Abbey someone asked me over lunch, 'Would you serve under a woman bishop?' What did I answer? I suppose the question was posed at the time when the subject first came up at the Church of England's General Synod. Deceptively simple, it is of course a highly complex question. It's much more than, 'Are you a male chauvinist?' It's more about the nature of 'authority' in the church. What a bishop is. Where do the Church's ideas come from? What finally matters in the Church's life?
Well, now it's come up again in a rather messy episode of synodical government. It so happens that this week we've been reading about ancient Israel's demand for a king. "Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations," they demand of Samuel, who's not overimpressed. In his view God is already their king and this is tantamount to rejecting Him. God seems to take it in His stride, but tells Samuel to warn them what it'll be like having a king. And Samuel spares no details, as he paints an unprepossessing picture. "No!" they say, "but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations...."

What struck me about this incident was not so much the desire to have a king, but to 'be like all the nations'. It's long seemed to me a dubious principle that the Church should be 'like everyone else', more specifically that its power-structures should be modelled on other institutions. In fact I thought Jesus said the opposite: 'It shall not be so among you.' But the Church has almost throughout its history imitated the power structures of the world. Bishops sit on 'thrones' (cathedra - hence cathedrals), archbishops are enthroned; bishops wear robes scarcely less fabulous than the Queen; they march in processions - all trappings of sovereignty. With the 20th century and universal suffrage, the C of E comes up with a pale imitation of Parliamentary democracy, with synodical government and its precursors. And I find myself wondering whether this is not the Church of Christ yearning to be 'like everyone else', and barking up entirely the wrong tree. Because of course it's not only the church I grew up and served in that models itself on secular patterns. Churches are run by committees and men or women in suits - or jeans and pink shirts; or like family-run firms; or multi-national corporations; or celebrity fan-clubs.... 

'It shall not be so among you.' A priest swears 'canonical obedience' to his or her bishop - wow! That sounds positively feudal. (Thankfully there's an additional conscience clause: 'in all things lawful'.) Votes in Synod determine doctrine and practice - thoroughly democratic.

I don't know about the rights and wrongs of women bishops. But I was very sad to hear the news that the Archbishops' proposal to put legal safeguards in place to protect those who in conscience cannot accept the validity or authority of women bishops was rejected in synod by a margin of 5 among the clergy (although accepted by the majority of bishops and lay people). I don't know what the archbishops' view of women bishops is, but I don't imagine they're opposed. But here was a proposal of pastoral grace put forward by two godly and wise leaders, and it was rejected. It felt like the ancient Jewish elders saying to Samuel, the wise old prophet, 'No, but we will be like all the nations. We will have it all our own way.' It was interesting that afterwards those who defended the decision talked in terms of rights, and equality, and glass ceilings - the language so often heard in political debate.

My disquiet over the outcome of that vote, the triumph of legalism over grace, was mitigated by the commentary on the Samuel incident in our Closer to God notes, such as: 'When we put ourselves under God's sovereignty..., he will  show his goodness even as a result of our worst choices' (Tuesday); 'Those that seek authority eagerly are often not the right ones to hold it' (Wednesday); 'There are times when we, too, will feel uncertain about the decisions that other Christians have made. The challenge for us, as for Samuel, will be to pray and to encourage, rather than to condemn' (Friday, Andrew Marsden).  

So why did I answer, 'No,' to my Lee Abbey interrogator? As the soap cliché has it, 'Well, it's complicated'! But it's always seemed to me that the power of the Christian faith has derived from the Bible, plainly understood. Tyndale wanted to translate the Bible into English so that "If God spare my life, before very long I shall cause a plough boy to know the scriptures better than you do!" and was martyred for his pains. It's the plain meaning, not the abstruse meaning accessible only to those in the know, with which the Spirit convicts and converts people. It's the plain meaning which provides a reliable foundation for ethics. That's not to say an unintelligent cherry-picking of proof texts is to be our guide, but we have to beware of ignoring the Bible's unfolding teaching. It is clear to me that the Bible doesn't relegate women to a second-class status. From the beginning men and women are equally valued and both are in the image of God. Jesus includes women among his disciples and friends. Paul is clear that there are no distinctions of gender, class or race in God's kingdom.

So what's my problem? Well, it seems that there remains complementarity of roles in the Church family just as in human families. There aren't first- and second-class members of a family. There are certainly different giftings, and different roles, and different characters - but there's a normative structure. And that seems to me the source of its stability. There are different roles with differing responsibilities. Sometimes a mother may have to take over a father's responsibilities - as is beginning with Jane and me - and sometimes a father will have to take on a mother's role - as Jozanne has painfully discovered while watching Dave struggle with Nicole's pony-tails! But hard cases never make good laws. Exceptions don't turn into rules. 'Headship' is a role, not a position of superiority.

Much of our difficulty, it seems to me, comes from our feudal model of church, where bishops are Lords - as indeed they should officially be addressed ("My Lord Bishop"). It must not be so with you.... whoever wants to be great among must become a servant. That is so impossibly radical that it's hard to get our head round. But it rings true. I suspect you see more of God's kingdom in the faithfully praying 80-year old and in the clear-sighted curate than anywhere else in the church. Our problem is that we think the 'top job' is the best paid and most important. Jesus said the opposite.

I'm wondering whether the dear old C of E is a hopeless case. I don't mean individual churches; I mean the hierarchical institution. The Bishop of Oxford tells those of us who may be thinking of leaving 'not to panic'. Well, my Lord, I'm not panicing - just thinking. Just looking....

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Book launch at Cornerstone

Quite a weekend! On Friday we established a skype link with South Africa and 'met' Jozanne and her family for the first time. Wow! That was a moment. Jozanne still has her lovely smile. The link didn't work quite so well when we tried it at Cornerstone on Saturday at the book launch, as we could hear them but not vice versa. However that didn't spoil their enjoyment or the excitement of having their virtual company for the afternoon. 

Mary, the manager at Cornerstone, did an amazing job decorating the whole place with bunting. Katrina and the caterers produced cakes - all with an orange theme. I missed the carrot cake, but enjoyed a cup-cake with an orange jelly baby on top at the end - which was yummy. It was a real party. Thanks to everyone who made it happen.

And also thank you to everyone who came. People came from near and far for it. Sheffield, Nottingham, Rugby, Sidmouth, Bristol and London - as well of course friends from Stanford, Grove, Wantage and Didcot.  

Here is Lesley Ogden, the ubiquitous and tireless branch secretary of our local MNDA branch, who brought a display; and on the right is my promotions' manager, Bryan, who, for example, is responsible for the I Choose Everything Facebook site. 

Here I am talking to Joanne Warren, who is going to do the Great North Run in aid of the MNDA, in memory of her father, John, our friend who died last November. In the background is the lovely Mary, who manages Cornerstone.

Even some readers of this blog were there, and it was so nice to meet them. Afterwards, the family of Tim Berner came and chilled out with us at home. Tim is a dedicatee of the book. His life-asserting attitude to MND inspired and encouraged me. As you'll have gathered, I don't believe terminal illness is an unmitigated tragedy, and that thinking of sufferers as 'victims' is profoundly unhelpful. And that's true whether or not you believe that death is the final full stop. Sadly I never met Tim, but his family tell me we would have got on well together.
Fortunately there was a lot of sport on TV the rest of the weekend, as that seemed to be all I was good for! The play-off game for 3rd place in the World Cup, between Germany and Uruguay, turned out to be one of the best matches of the tournament - and then on Sunday after church we had it wall-to-wall: British Grand Prix from Silverstone, with poetic justice among the Red Bulls, and Grove's own Williams F1 got their best result so far with Barichello in 5th and Hulkenberg 10th. Yes. And then there was the Tour de France climbing the Alps. A friend of mine is concerned that Alberto Contador might win. What with Rafael Nadal winning Wimbledon and later that night Spain winning the World Cup, after a bruising encounter with the Dutch, he reckons the Spanish would be insufferable! A good thing Alonso doesn't look set to win F1! Between the Tour and the World Cup, I could nod off to the quiet swish/click of the Scottish Open Golf. Last time I looked one of the Molinari brothers was romping away with it.

But that wasn't all this weekend...

Thursday, 8 July 2010


Yesterday afternoon we had another MND Association meeting, this time going round the gardens at Waterperry House just outside Oxford. For all their new-agey philosophy they know their onions and their herbaceous borders. Here's our friend Jan beside the latter. It was only a year ago that we were going round Waddesdon Manor gardens with Jan and John, her husband. He was facing the most aggressive MND, and in fact died in November last year. He had great courage and faith. He's one of the people to whom I made my dedication for I Choose Everything. His daughter, Joanne, is doing the Great North Run in his memory in September, in aid of the MNDA of course. You can sponsor her on

We came across this rather magnificent ornamental thistle just round the corner. I guess it's seven or eight feet high. Jan, being taller than Jane, kindly took this picture for me with the bee at work on it. Then we retired to the tea shop where we met up with all the others who'd been wandering round the gardens themselves. Had a good piece of coffee-cake with my tea - though not up to Cornerstone on quality and more expensive!

Second from the left is Barbara, who went to Parliament with us about the National Strategy. In fact all four of us were there again and compared notes. Jane and Barbara were disappointed at the low turn-out of MPs, but Jane and I were a bit more sanguine that it might have done some good. However I've since discovered they were probably nearer the mark than us. On the right is Lesley Ogden, the very efficient and hard-working branch secretary, who is typical of the really nice (sorry, teacher!) helpers and visitors.

The official government response to asking for a National Strategy for MND appears to be to refer to the National Service Framework for Long-term conditions. I looked it up on the Department of Health's website, wondering what I'd find. It has an introduction by the Secretary of State, no less - John Reid!! Remember him? Yes, it's from 10th March 2005. What's it about? "This NSF sets 11 quality requirements to transform the way health and social care services support people with long-term neurological conditions to live as independently as possible. Although the NSF focuses on people with long-term neurological conditions, much of the guidance it offers can apply to anyone living with a long-term condition." And it made a commitment for implementation in 10 years. Now the new government is committed to its implementation 'over 10 years', I gather. That sounds like 5 years slippage. The point of the MND National Strategy was to make sure that GPs and care professionals are clued up on diagnosis and care for a disease which on average takes 14 months to diagnose and from diagnosis to death averages 17 months. 'Long-term neurological condition'? Come on - most MND patients die within a year and a half of diagnosis! Another 10 years sorting things out is cold comfort for them. Usually it's a rapid disease. I'm not typical. Neither is Stephen Hawkin. We actually do need a strategy. I do hope someone in government is reading and thinking about it. Long-term condition? Hardly ever. Long-term problem? Yes. And immediate challenge.


I am going to start a campaign against the devaluation of the word iconic. Television and radio reporters and presenters throw it in when they can't think a better adjective. When I was at school we were taught never to use the word nice except when it meant 'precise' or 'neat', as in a 'nice distinction' - instead of the usual sloppy equivalent of 'pleasant'. 'Iconic' seems to have become a catch-all word, meaning anything from 'big', 'typical', 'unique to'. For example, you have 'iconic' Herdwick sheep in the Lake District, 'iconic' ponies in the New Forest, 'iconic' cattle in Jersey or the Highlands; the 'iconic' gherkin in London, Pompidou Centre in Paris, Sears Tower in Chicago etc etc. In other words, "I'm too lazy to think of any other hyperbole to describe this object." (If I may do a short boris [excursion into Classics, after Tsar Boris of London], 'iconic' comes from the Greek word eikon meaning 'likeness, image, picture' via what we call icons to 'of or pertaining to an icon; of the nature of a portrait'.) So I'm starting a movement to protest against this abject misuse of the licence payers' money. We don't pay all that money to employ a bunch of illiterate oiks - do we?

When Grace Sheppard was here, she was sitting in our garden early when she witnessed a bee alight on our amerlanchia bush next to her and proceed to saw a neat round hole in a leaf and fly off with it. We looked it up in our insect book and found out about this fascinating behaviour. It was a female leaf-cutter bee, making its nest. It rolls up its cut-up leaves to make single-cells in a tunnel, lays an egg in the bottom, provisions it with honey and pollen, seals it with a leaf, and then makes another cell and so on. All the eggs are female, except the last one. Which she seals in and then she goes off and dies. The eggs hatch and become larvae enjoying their late mum's larder, hibernate through the winter and next year begin to emerge, the male first who then hangs around on a convenient 'street corner' until the females arrive eager for him to do his stuff...! And so it goes on - marvellous. You can see good pictures on, but this one is from our garden.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Big week

Hello, I'm just multi-tasking and listening to 'Top Gear' - and the three members of the TG mutual admiration society are laying into Wayne Rooney again. Cheap laughs, boys. Your script-writers can do better. It's easy to make negative jokes.

So we've entered the week of the launch of I Choose Everything. A number of friends from round the country have said they'll be coming. Cornerstone, my favourite café in Grove, is the venue. I hope that by now Jozanne will have received her copy. It seems to have been taking ages to reach her.

In case you've forgotten and would like to come, it's Saturday from 2 to 4 o'clock - OX12 0PT, if you're using a satnav...

WAGs and Wimbledon

The nearest I've come to a WAG, I suppose, is Grace Sheppard. Her late husband was the English cricket captain, David Sheppard, and as big a sports' celebrity in his day as they came. I'm sure WAGs as such didn't exist, and she certainly lived a very different lifestyle from the millionaire sportsmen of today. However she is familiar with handling media attention. She was visiting on Friday and together we watched the Murray v Nadal semi-final at Wimbledon. It gave quite a different perspective, not least as the camera zoomed in on different celebrities. Watching it in company with a former occupant of the royal box, you realised these 'celebs' were just ordinary people with normal affections. I felt it particularly when it focused a number of times on David Beckham and his young son, Brooklyn. I was impressed to see his engagement with the match; his applauding good play by both sides, and his sharing disappointment with his friend, young Andy - who by the way played well. It was in fact a very good game.

I think that's why I was so cross to hear the review of the papers on the Today programme next day, quoting the Sun headline, 'Is it the curse of Beckham?' Becks was there when Germany knocked out England and again when the Spaniard beat the Scot. Personally I found logic totally absent and morality equally so. A dad takes his son to enjoy watching some tennis together, and has a gratuitous and malicious headline and article created out of it. Actually Nadal played better and Germany played better.

We got to bed in the evening in time for me to hear an item on The World Tonight about the Dignitas facility for assisting suicide in Zurich ('the suicide factory', as David Morris used to call it). It was hung on the Swiss reviewing their suicide laws and the discovery of a load of ash-urns at the bottom of Lake Zurich. They interviewed Ludwig Minelli - who happily said he'd help anyone who wanted to commit suicide, and interestingly wouldn't reveal any details about how much money it made. Life seemed an entirely disposable commodity. "Just choose when to end it, and I'll do the rest." (The interview's about 25 minutes in.) Bit depressing listening last thing.