Archive for April, 2013



30 April 2013

When I was at primary school (aged 5 – 11), we did a lot of “projects”.  I remember one when we studied the bicycle!  We learnt about how they work, the history of the bicycle, the history of the clothing that cyclists wear, we drew bicycles etc etc etc.

I also remember studying American Presidents.  I used to be able to name them all in order.  I had a scrapbook with pictures of them all and a potted history.

But I discovered the other day a really fascinating fact about President John Tyler.  He was the 10th President and was born in 1790.  He was married twice and had FIFTEEN children.  The 13th child was born in 1853 (when Tyler was 63).  This son, Lyon, also produced children late in life.  One in 1924 (when Lyon was therefore 71) and one in 1928. 

And they’re still alive.  223 years after the birth of their grandfather.





“I’m Sure I Had A Girl”

25 April 2013

Today in Australia is ANZAC Day and often I’ve talked here about things “military” (my father was in the army, my mother the air force)

But I don’t think I’ve ever talked about my birth, which took place in a military hospital in the UK.

Two babies were born there that day – me and the grandchild of a famous British Field Marshal (for those outside the UK, Field Marshal is the highest rank in the British Army and there have only been about 140 of them).  At that time, it was common to take babies away from their mothers, bringing them back just for feeds and changes.  My mother was given the wrong baby and happily fed it.  And when I say “it” I actually mean “him”!  Yes, my mother presumably cood over a little baby boy until she realised that there’d been a bit of an error.  My father used to tease me about the little boy they nearly had instead of me.  And I knew his name.

Fast forward to the first Gulf War and I was watching the news on television in London.  The reporter was interviewing British soldiers in the desert and I was transfixed by the name that appeared under the Major she was talking to.  It was the baby who nearly made his way into my family. 

So I wrote to him, to wish him well and to tell him the story, if he didn’t already know it. And he didn’t.  And he didn’t think his mother was ever told either.  It was definitely him – born in the same hospital on the same day as me.

I’ve often wandered what would have happened if that baby had been a girl.  (Pre-DNA for a start – and today is the 60th Anniversary of the discovery of the double-helix by Watson and Crick incidentally)


Speaking Ill Or Well

9 April 2013

Within minutes of the announcement of Margaret Thatcher’s death yesterday, the internet was full of it.  Speaking ill of the dead, that is. 

And that raised in me a number of questions I hadn’t given much thought to before.  Why can’t we speak ill of the dead?  How long after the person’s death would it be appropriate?  Or after someone has died, must you always speak well of them?

The latter is clearly ridiculous.  If that were the case, historians would go out of business and Hitler would have taken on the persona of a decent human being.  

I’m not talking about the way one would behave with the close family and friends of the deceased.  I’ve struggled sometimes to find something nice to say about someone to their next-of-kin but if you dig deep enough there’s usually something – even if only that they were fond of children and helped old ladies across the road.

But to the public at large or the internet full of strangers? 

When a public figure dies, his/her life is going to be discussed.  Or are we supposed to wait an ‘appropriate’ amount of time before we do that?  In the case of Margaret Thatcher, you could hardly say that people are saying after her death things that they wouldn’t have said to her face, if they’d had the opportunity.

I know that the non-British out there are probably surprised by the amount of vitriol this woman engenders.  I know perfectly decent Americans who admired her greatly.   But to me, and a lot of my fellow-countrywomen (putting on my British hat here), she was the person responsible for creating a “me first” society where the needs and desires of the individual took precedence over the good of society, the person who was partly responsible for my husband moving to Australia as he couldn’t bear the society she was creating, and the person who changed my parents from life-long Conservative voters to Green voters for the last 20 years or so of their lives (which was no mean feat in itself). 

The only good thing I can think of to say is that a generation of British children grew up thinking that women run the country, with a long-standing female Prime Minister and a female monarch.  But has that brought forth a steady stream of women going for the top jobs?  There hasn’t been a female party political leader in Britain since so I don’t think she can be said to have been much of a role-model.

‘Nuf said.

ADDED:  Since writing this post, I’m come across an article in the Guardian on the same subject.  Read here.



It Never Rains In Sydney

7 April 2013

Yes, I know that sometimes we get absolutely drenched and quite often the drains get so blocked that some streets become rivers.  But if you ever read the Bureau of Meteorology’s daily reports you’ll know that this is never ‘rain’.

Torrential downpours or a slight drizzle – it’s all the same to them.  It’s a ‘shower’.   We have ‘a shower’, ‘a shower or two’, ‘showers expected’, ‘early shower’, ‘late shower’ ad infinitum.   

It doesn’t matter whether the rain wouldn’t be enough for you to bother to rush out to bring the washing off the line, or whether it will remove your entire top soil, it’s a SHOWER. 

So next time you’re awakened by what sounds like ten fire hoses being directed at your roof and you need a very large umbrella and raincoat (sorry, “shower coat”) before you can step out of the house, remember this.  You may think it’s RAIN, bucketloads of it, but according to the experts, it’s just a shower.  


I Know A Man Should Have A Hobby….But

4 April 2013

A man and woman on the train on Tuesday night, sitting next to me.  They obviously had worked together at some point but hadn’t seen each other for quite a while.

They swapped stories about their jobs and their children.  Then she asked him (and I immediately wrote it down)  “Are you still doing all the genocide stuff?”

What genocide stuff?? 


Drum Roll For A Winner, Please

1 April 2013

In March, 99 comments were left on my blog by 36 people.  And as usual I’ve asked David to pick a number.

The winner is Christine who lives in Essex.  I’ll email you for your address, Christine, and a prize will be on its way to you.

Thanks for your support.  Normal service will be resumed in April (ie I’ll blog when I feel like it!)