759

It is Friday, and heartwarming photos are appearing around the globe of people of all ages, from preschoolers upwards, taking to the streets with placards asking governments and industries to act on climate change. So how ironic is it that it’s cheaper by far for me to drive to Toulouse march than take the train?  The train which is in fact a bus, due to rail works.

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A programme about climate change on France Inter as I drive back from the most original meal I’ve eaten in a restaurant in France (more of that in another post).  This Friday thousands – hopefully hundreds of thousands – will join the inspirational Swedish 16 year old Greta Thunberg’s example, and demand governments (and individuals) act on climate change.

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From The Guardian: The EU has almost given up understanding what’s going on in UK politics. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has compared UK Prime Minister Theresa May to the Monty Python knight whose limbs get cut off in a duel, but insists to his opponent that the fight was a draw.

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Ceramics and crafts are part of Cornwall’s rich history and were taught at Falmouth School of Art, until that was absorbed into Falmouth University. In 2014, Anne Carlisle (see #755)  announced the closure of the much-loved Contemporary Crafts degree, thought it played a key role in Cornwall’s economy, culture and keeping traditions alive.  

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Anne Carlisle, Vice-Chancellor of Falmouth University, received the 8th highest pay rise in UK in 2017. She earns more than twice the Prime Minister’s salary. Yet Falmouth University has fallen from 32nd place to 63rd in university league tables overall and is ranked only 46th for Art and, thanks to Ms Carlisle, no longer has a foundation course. 

754

9am, dashing into town, I see a tiny man comically, dangerously, swaying as he tries to cross the road. His backpack is so heavy he’s almost horizontal.  He falls. I rush over, remove his bag and ask if he can stand.  The old man has a stud earring, large breasts, a few days’ stubble and reeks of booze. Unusual, in Gaillac.

753

It was truly heartening to see overwhelming community support when Oakland teachers went out on strike. And the headline today is really good news: “Oakland teachers ended their seven-day strike Sunday and will return to schools Monday after approving a new contract that won them salary increases and concessions on class sizes and staff workloads.”

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I brought my children to live in a country with beautiful beaches, mountains and alps, vineyards, olive groves – and first class health care. I could, because we were part of the European Union.  If Brexit goes ahead in 26 days, future generations of what’s currently the UK, will not have such luck.

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Zeina Abirached’s books about Beirut humorously mingle personal and the mundane with a wider socio-political context in unusual, musical graphic novels and make me want to eat Lebanese food! … smokey baba ganoush (moutabal), flatbreads cooked on a saj topped with tangy spinach, garlic, soumac and middle-eastern cheese…

750

I’ve taken to revisiting childhood places (and wallowing in nostalgia). Last week, the public baths where I’d learned to swim now full of septua-/octo-/nonagenarians ploughing up and down swim lanes and groups of children from eye-wateringly expensive local private schools. Sadly, the sign with pool rules, including “No Petting”, has been taken down.

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4 am and I’m wide awake. Insomnia, that constant nocturnal companion. I try breathing exercises, take magnesium, make monumental efforts to meditate/fend off lists of things to do/lists of things not done, write, read a bit. I’m  enjoying Adam Gopnik’s The Children’s Gate, a book about Manhattan. 

748

On procrastination: I’m going through a box of business cards and find a post it with literary agents’ contact details. I’m guessing they represented a friend of mine, though I can’t remember which one. I Google the agents. Both are dead. And my books are still not complete.

747

“I don’t believe,” says Bernie Sanders, “that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation where billionaires own the political process.” He plans to run next year with a programme of “economic, social, racial and environmental justice”, a $15 minimum wage and free higher education. Sadly, he’ll never get elected.

746

I browse the shelves and pick out Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, set in a world where difference is tolerated and species coexist. Written in the wake of WW1, A.A. Milne’s books charm readers still with their goodness and fun, word play and belief in the power of imagination.

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Meanwhile back in my real world I’m preparing an afternoon of art for 25 five & six  year olds and have no idea how one teacher manages to cope with such a broad spectrum of (physical and mental) maturity, wide ranging needs and concentration spans that rocket from advanced to twitchy.

744

An actor who had a role in a 70s cult TV show, has died.  A few fond fans have written tributes. Yes, he was witty, intelligent, erudite. But I knew him and know he was also an opportunist sex traveller who fooled himself that young Asian boys were happy to pleasure him for paltry sums.

743

I imagine you have some idea what you’ll be doing in your personal life next month, this summer, later this year? Yet an entire nation – population 66.02 million – haven’t the foggiest notion what will happen in 27 days’ time if the UK withdraws from Europe. 

742

Revelling in a bit of nostalgia, watching From Scotland With Love (music by King Creosote), documentary archive footage of a world where industries provided mass employment, people worked communally (not alone in front of screens), and men wore hats. There were plenty of fish in the sea, dances, close communities and children playing in the street.

741

Surnames intrigue.  In France I’ve come across (in translation) a dentist called Old-tooth, a  plumber called Fart-water a headteacher called Child, a teacher called Anus and sundry folk called Mouse, Neighbour, Ready, Fingers, Carpet, Strawberry, and Whew (Ouf)!  

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It’s February, but Scotland saw temperatures this week that would count as a heatwave in summer.  Everywhere people are going about as though these hot days are a glorious, unexpected, welcome gift. We ought to be profoundly scared.  The past 22 years have seen the 20 hottest years on record. Mankind’s sleepwalking towards the cliff edge…