Thursday, 8 October 2020

National Clean Air Day 2020

Another week, another National Day, this time a day for all things clean air, particulate free, fresh, and fragrant. Actually not fragrant, or not necessarily. Just clean and healthy. Because today is National Clean Air Day 2020.

Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK. At least 30,000 deaths are linked annually to air pollution. It's especially bad around schools, where the tiny toxic particles (PM2.5s) combine with Nitrogen Dioxide and other gases to form a potentially deadly chemical cocktail for our children. 

It used to be thought that the the brain stem kept such particulates in the blood at bay, preventing them from reaching the brain. Used to be. Some of these particles are 40x thinner than a human hair, a fact that it has now been confirmed sees them damaging not only our heart and lungs but our brains as well. 

Lockdown led to a widespread improvement in air quality. Fewer cars and lorries led to all sorts of wonderful gains, like an estimated 11,000 fewer dirty air-related deaths. That's quite something. It'd be a shame if such advances were lost in the return to 'normal' (whatever that means). 

And they needn't be. It needn't take much. You don't have to swap your car for a bike (yet)... just turn the bloody engine off when you're parked at the school gates waiting for the bell. Just get your shiny fleet of diesel-engined minibuses (Lincolnshire County Council, I'm talking to YOU!) not to sit belching out exhaust fumes for anything up to half an hour while they wait for their passengers to embark. It's not rocket science. (Which is a good job, as rocket - and aircraft fuel - aren't exactly guilt-free either!) 

I've written to the aforementioned County Council about the aforementioned mini-buses and copied in my local MP. And I've heard nothing. 

Never mind, I'm not about to give up any time soon. After all, this is a real and important health benefit everyone can help achieve. And, if you want to join in, CleanAirDay.org has a range of resources and online activities to help and inspire. 

We can all do something. It could be as simple as writing a letter to your local council and MP.

Just don't hold your breath waiting for a reply...





Thursday, 1 October 2020

National Poetry Day

It's that day again, the one day in the year (for some) that poetry impinges on their consciousness and that day of the year when the rest of us, already addicted, try to share the secret. Not that it is. A secret, that is. It's there, out there and it's for everybody. And it needn't be difficult to be good. 

Many, many years ago when I was a troubled teen I began listening to Radio 3, becoming hooked on classical music in the process. At the time, they broadcast regular little 'fillers' called Rural Rhymes, read by the erstwhile announcer Robin Holmes. They were lovely little, charm-filled minutes of rural verse read in the most underrated but beautifully poetic way. To my mind, there's no better way to hear these poems. 

So here are a couple of those wonderful programmes...

 

Monday, 28 September 2020

Testing, testing...

Well, term (home-schooling, self-isolating) didn't last long. 

Things are back to normal, in the sense that the kids at back at (real, physical) school and my wife has returned to work. I can't say I 'feel' normal. But at least the fever and the other 'flu-like symptoms (which have been pretty severe) weren't Covid-19. We finally, after hundreds and attempts, managed to book a drive-in test a matter of an hour's drive away and got the results just twenty-four hours later. That couldn't have been much quicker. 

What could, was the frustrating, aggravating, annoying and despair-inducing process of trying to get a test in the first place. There are only so many times (especially when you're feeling unwell) you can receive this message without wanting to hurl your phone across the room. Thank God I didn't have the strength for that. 


And I suppose the silver lining to all this (got to look on the bright side, haven't you?) is by the time I had been lucky and hit the jackpot, I was feeling well enough to drive. Having seen the scenes on the telly I'd expected someone dressed in a hazmat suit to lean in to the car with a long swab. Instead, we were handed self-test kits through the window (during the brief period we were permitted to wind it down) and marshalled to a far corner of the car-park, there to do the deed ourselves. Not easy in the rear-view mirror. 

But, we got what they needed from the backs of our throats and up our noses and they tested it and then they told us we were covid-free. But who were 'they'? Well, perm any three from among these, I'd say: 

They did have 'NHS' on their tabards... but the 'Serco' sign was bigger!

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