My computer’s spell check automatically changed  “equality” for “equity”.   A sign of the times. 


The philosopher-physicist Aurélien Barrau began an interview with news he’d read on the train: half the tress planted in the name of carbon offsetting die, and rain water is now “unfit for consumption.”   The interview continued in like vein, with a touch of humour -? – when Barrau referred to artificial Intelligence as  “algorithmic unintelligence which impoverishes the possible” …


In second hand bookshops, I generally head straight for the nature section – my favourite genre at the moment because uplifting.  It should have come as no surprise though that Rachel Carson’s book is not – the clue, after all, is in the title: Man’s War Against Nature.   With hindsight, I should have bought the battered book about old country crafts. 


Vivienne Westwood has died: rebel, provocateur, activist, icon, 1941-2022.

Paris Fasion Week October 2022


In How To Stay Sane In An Age of Division,  Elif Shafak writes that her mother and grandmother had an entrenched faith in progress, that tomorrow, almost by definition, would be brighter than yesterday that, as Zymunt Bauman put it, the parents’ point of arrival was the children’s starting point. “Today the faith that tomorrow will be better is no more” (Shafak 2020: 52)


France’s newest literary prize, Goncourt des détenus (inmates Goncourt) is awarded by prisoners, who this year gave it to Sarah Jollien-Fardel’s Sa Préférée  (His Favourite), one woman’s struggle to cope with the legacy of her father’s physical and psychological abuse.  The prize is a nod to the idea that prison should be  about transformation, developing critical thinking skills, that access to culture lies at the heart of a healthy society.


France takes a harsh line on prisoners yet a poll in 2018 found 50% of French people believed detainees were “treated too well,” up from 18% in 2000. I doubt the local lad who spent the first decade of his adult life behind bars because of one dumb act when he turned 18 would agree.  And I wonder if a white lad would have suffered the same fate.


A rare concession to this end of year capitalist landfill festival (!) is listening to A Christmas Carol, this year, with Ralph Richardson playing Scrooge in the ultimate tale of wintry transformation.  The goodness that surges up is particularly welcome in these bleakest of times.  It leaves me no choice but to smile and, like Old Fezziwig, laugh all over myself.  


“It’s so cold people say” in the early morning.  It’s December, Worry if it’s warm at 7am just before Christmas. Today I have opened all the windows.  Yesterday I gardened in T-shirt and shorts. These days fires are not lit, there are flies in the house and mosquitoes have been swotted.


The Christmas decorations are up in town, leaving me furious about how local taxes are used, furious from an aesthetic  point of view and enraged because  there’s no hint of awareness all that plastic, all those butchered trees are not helping the planet.  Moche is the word. Naff.  Really, seriously naff.  


I’m becoming very French – and getting rather good at it.  Second in line at the laboratory this morning, I counted 22 people queuing behind me by the time it opened at 7:30.  Seven highly colourful phials of blood were drawn, a veritable rainbow of test tubes which hopefully hold answer to some mysteries.


I was happily bumbling around the Ariège when the phone rang – my appointment was half an hour ago.  I drove fast, arrived an hour late, was seen by a cheery specialist and walked out in high spirits. But crossing the car park I saw a giant magpie (“one for sorrow”), a priest hurrying to give the last rites, and a muster of albino peacocks…


My grandparents’ house was on a road that ran parallel to what used to be a railway line until the Beeching Report (1963),  commissioned because British Rail was running at a spectacular loss (£42M a year in 1960).   Thousands of miles of mostly rural and industrial rail lines were cut, 2,363 stations closed and 70,000 jobs lost.


In 1914, Britain’s railways extended over 23,440 miles (37,720 km) and cross-country journeys were possible.  Dr Beeching’s recommendations had a devastating effect on rural areas, especially in Scotland. Car and petrol industries boomed, motorways were built, road networks grew. The Beeching Report, a veritable ecological disaster.


The article says: “in Northern India a concoction of seven different fungi could help thin the smog that pervades the capital city with the worst air pollution in the world.”  Children are sent out wearing gas masks. Might  the healthier and more logical option not be to try to stop polluting in the first place?    


AA former headteacher of the school I loved said its purpose “it is to foster scholarship and sound learning, to follow knowledge like a shooting star and to offer humbly an imaginative understanding of our fellow creatures born of this pursuit of wisdom.”  To follow knowledge like a shooting star. Yes!


Samantha Harvey’s Shapeless Unease is subtitled ‘A Year of Not Sleeping’.  I’m wondering, with my 2…3…4am insomniac logic  if this means I could publish 17 volumes?   And perhaps seven more books about the years when my children didn’t sleep?  25 books in all. Harvey’s a mere débutante!


One of several French national pass-times is queuing outside the Laboratory before dawn to get blood (or other) tests.  I was tenth in line this morning at 7:10am, the youngest by a good decade or two.  Being stared straight in the eye by old men holding pots of their wee is an unnerving way start to the day.


Sixty years ago Elliot L. Grant Watson wrote extensively about both short- and long-short term devastation of the countryside and wildlife by chemicals.  Even agricultural authorities he said “are seriously questioning the ruthless destruction of all creatures, whether considered pests or not, and are troubled by the human interest that has shifted from concern for the soul to concern for material existence alone.”


As a teenager I was fascinated by London’s architecture seen from Waterloo Bridge.  In 1955, a Guardian country diarist recorded his love of the exact same spot – but he saw swans, up to 50 of them in spring, summer and autumn. One night 20 swans flew under the bridge: “seen from above against the darkness of the water, the moving patterns of birds, all starkly white, gave me one of those moments of rare and striking beauty likely to remain in my memory forever.”