I met met Jim Summons the other day. A nice old man with a gentle smile, a casual observer would say. Over the last eleven years I’d seen him faithfully and fastidiously operate the paper stall in Haverfordwest Station’s ticket hall but I’d never thought much about him.
This meeting was different. For the first time in nearly two years, I was about to make a train trip and pitched up to buy tickets in advance. It was hot, and Jim sat by his stall laden with an extraordinarily wide range of daily newspapers, periodicals and magazines. The ticket hall (a grand word for a space big enough for three socially-distanced people in these times of plague) was empty except for Jim. He sat in silence on a small stool leaning back against the wall next the entry doors. His white shirt matched the colour of his hair, and a well-worn leather cash bag which reminded me of the bag our co-op milkman used to carry on his rounds in the fifties hung on a strap diagonally across his body. In those days, it contained not only cash but a delivery note book full of pages, held open at the appropriate page by a rubber band, with details of the milk supplied and detachable sections which he left with his customers to confirm their weekly purchases. The bill was always hand-written in those pre-computer days.
What is it about spin that is so fascinating? Why do we love to spin things and what is spin? Evolution designed our hands with an opposing thumb to make spinning an easy action. Flicking the thumb against the middle finger can summon immediate attention. It can also twirl a dart, which travels more accurately towards its intended target. A gyroscope is stable until it stops turning.
It was a crucial moment in the England vs Ukraine football match. Kyle Walker had the football in his hands, pondering where to place the throw-in. He whirled the ball in his hands. He spun it again as if to settle his mind with the distraction of the ball’s rotation. And again, he spun the ball in the air. He had made up his mind. He threw it in and the game resumed.
In other sports, we see Roger Federer spin his racquet as he prepares to make or receive a serve. It must help him concentrate and he is not alone. So many tennis players of all abilities do it.
PETER CUTHBERT HAD BEEN MEANING to visit his cousin Beatrice in Spain for years but like so many promises to himself, he pushed them aside due to lack of time, money, work commitments, or because he had not been able to organise and coordinate the trip with other matters. In February 2008, he finally made the trip to see her.
When he and his wife Janet subsequently visit India on holiday, a chance mention of a museum in Barrackpore revives dormant memories of a Grandfather who died mysteriously in India during World War One and Cuthbert embarks on a surprising voyage of discovery.
‘Thank you for a great story! Nicely paced, with a wonderful sense of place and culture. Intrigue and adventure all woven together with a clear sense of mystery.’ Ronita Sinha
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In 1966, England achieved, for many, the zenith of their sporting achievements. They had climbed the mountain of world football and had come to the top above the greats of S. America and Europe. The small group of working class lads, including one who had started out working as a cleaner on the railways, had achieved a high-water mark that looks impossible to be reached again.
Politicians have always been known to associate themselves with sporting heroes. An endorsement from a sporting icon is worth thousands of votes and so how much more valuable would it be if a whole team capable of winning the World Cup said vote for X?
Which is the overriding consideration when tackling a pandemic emergency?
Today, 26 January 2021, the UK passed 100,000 deaths, a grim statistic. Did it have to be this bad? How have others countries done?
Of course, any pandemic will also cause peripheral damage, cancer or heart operations missed – possibly causing deaths– businesses wrecked, mental health damaged, etc. Any eventual report will include so many factors in the argument as to whether the UK has done significantly better or worse than similar nations. Its complex conclusions will be heralded as success by the government and a failure by the opposition
Osborne and Cameron’s response to the banking catastrophe, which can be traced to 15 September 2008 when the investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, sending shock waves through the global financial system and beyond, was to cut costs and freeze public sector pay to balance the budget or at least minimize the increase in the deficit. The pain fell on the low paid. Crudely, you could say that capital (the bourgoise) won, labour (the proletariat) lost.
Some producing some unexpected results, as in the case of Broad Haven…
As we pass into day seventy-one of lockdown in Wales with severe restrictions still in place and with the deaths of 1347 people (as at 1 June 20), what has changed?
1 We spend an awful lot of money on being entertained and travelling to be entertained: theatres, cinemas, restaurants, pubs and holidays.
2 A daily walk is an excellent exercise and unbeatable mental stimulation. When everyone else can only walk as well, we can talk to one another. We have made many new acquaintances as everyone has a little more time and we are not rushing past each other in cars. Continue reading “What Has Ten Weeks of Lockdown Taught Me?”
Tigger as a Spitfire ace as Heffalump reads The Daily Sketch 8 May 1945
Covid-19 has brought the best out in many people. Ordinary people doing ordinary things are now appreciated in a way which, in the rush of economic activity and social hedonism, had previously been ignored. We clap cleaners, carers, doctors and nurses, we volunteer to help the less able and more vulnerable and we let our creative juices flow as we battle to entertain or home school children. Jokes circulate the internet faster, with deeper poignancy and greater acerbity. Tweets or Facebook posts outstrip the dreaded coronavirus, going viral in days. Major Tom walking up and down his garden is viewed two million or more times, men and women from NHS singing ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ in Llandudno’s Venue Cymru, which had been turned into a temporary coronavirus hospital, is so popular that even Paul Simon has to add his comments.
The April news has been wall to wall Covid and coronavirus. It’s been the same story worldwide: deaths, lock-downs, social distancing and personal tragedies thousands of times repeated from China to Chile. A high temperature and persistent cough lead to isolation and intensive care in hospitals described as the front line in the uneven struggle against the microscopic enemy. Old age and a list of unfavourable medical conditions, or co-morbidities in the new lexicon of words, such as asthma, obesity, and diabetes reduce the chances of survival even when the skills of doctors and the care of nurses wearing suits that would not look out of place on the moon are used to tame the virus. Even so, the virus wins most battles in the dark days of April 2020. Continue reading “Touch”
A century ago, my grandfather fought in a Great War from which he never returned. Not only did the war change my family forever, but it also changed the world. In Russia, the Bolsheviks took over. Germany faced not only the greatest inflation ever seen but also the resignation of the Kaiser. ‘I commend the German Reich to your loving care,’ he said when abdicating to the new Chancellor of republican Germany. In Britain strikes reached and all-time high in 1921, only to be bettered in 1926, and the Labour Party gained an unshakeable position in British politics.
In less than a generation, the world was at war again. My father survived and went on to live a full life. Determined to stop future world wars, nations bound together by forming the United Nations within six months of the war’s end.
Today, and past my allotted span, the world faces a new global war, but this time we are all united against the common foe, a virus named SARS-Cov-2. We have had global pandemics before. The word quarantine derived from the 40 days used to try and prevent spread of the Black Death in the 14th century. In 1918, Spanish Flu, so called because the Spanish press reported it, caused Britons and Germans to die in the hundreds of thousands but neither side wanted to confess its existence lest it weaken their position in the eyes of the enemy. They were at war. Spain was neutral. Continue reading “How the world changed after global wars and might change this time”