773

It’s proper April weather – hail one minute, T-shirts the next. We can have all four seasons in an hour, but when the sun shines, it’s heatwave hot. I’ve planted fruit, flowers and trees and hope we can get through this summer without everything shrivelling up. Already there are little buds on the fig, apple and cherry trees.

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Elderly people in London being grabbed by police and marched off at a speed beyond their years – shouldn’t we be cheering their bravery? Instead, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has called on police to use the “full force of the law” against Extinction Rebellion protesters & to “take a firm stance” against those who were “significantly disrupting the lives of others.”  

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Easter Sunday. The Archbishop of Colombo (Sri Lanka) asks the government to find out who’s responsible for terrorist acts which so far have killed 290 and injured 500, “and to punish them mercilessly, because only animals can behave like that.” The only animals capable of targeted terrorist acts that I know of are human beings.

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23rd “Gilets Jaunes” Saturday in Toulouse. April, but temperatures are July-heatwave hot. Hundreds of heavily armed police/vehicles fill and surround the town. Banks and shops are boarded up. Shoppers in T-shirts mill about. Wedding parties gather at the mairie. Hundreds of demonstrators protest anything from high taxes to EU membership. Cost to date?  In excess of fifty million euros.

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In 1983, Melina Mercouri (Greek Minister for Culture) launched the European City of Culture Initiative, believing passionately that culture, art and creativity are as important as technology, commerce and economics (I still do!). The Glasgow project (1990) won international recognition and has had a lasting, wide-reaching legacy. Yet constantly we’re having to fight for the arts.

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I was listening (again) to a programme about Melina Mercouri (Great Lives BBC R4) while cooking a (vegetarian) Greek meal, thinking about the Greece I knew long ago, of our simple village house (once the bakery) and walking down a goat path to the sea where we would have a whole beach to ourselves.

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Within hours of Notre Dame fire, two French Multibillionaires pledged €300million. If, in your savings account, you had €3,000, that’s a bit like like you donating 10€.  (Their individual fortunes are greater than the operating budgets of several European countries).  In 2012, The Economist calculated that the Vatican’s operating budget in the US alone came to $170bn. The Pope is said to be praying after the fire.

766

I saw Delices de Tokyo again, a Japanese film about food, tradition and belonging. As with much Japanese art, time slows down almost to a halt, inviting us to stop and reflect, appreciate small details such as wind blowing the blossom on cherry trees. Underscoring this there’s sadness and violence in each of the three characters’ histories.

765

Theresa May’s plans to replace the NHS in England with an American healthcare system, Kaiser Permanente. We had Kaiser cover when living in California. In 2018 the average cost for a family was $19,616 a year, or $6,896 for one person. The health service and Bevan’s dream looking critically ill under this government.

764

Last year I planted melons next to butternut squash. They cross-fertilised and made something shaped like a butternut but tasting of avocado. This year’s seeds are already sprouting: black tomatoes, poppies, and nigella intended for culinary use. I’ve also planted things that were sprouting in the kitchen: ginger, potatoes, garlic, onions. 

763

Jiro Taniguchi’s L’Homme Qui Marche” is a beautiful meditation on ordinary things. As a man walks around his neighbourhood, the pace of life slackens, we start to breathe, relax, drink in the beauty of nature  – notice a bird, look up at the sky, admire a leaf, as though for the very first time. That’s the magic of BD (comic books).

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Parents returning from holiday were horrified when their baby, born in the UK, was given a tourist stamp and six months’ leave to stay so long as she “does not engage in work….” An immigration officer at the airport said: ‘Just because she is born here doesn’t mean she has a right to be here.’

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Greta Thunberg, in her address to EU Leaders, pointed out that while there have been 3 emergency Brexit summits, there has not been one for the environment, though the number of species becoming extinct every day would make a caring person weep. Trump is on record as saying climate change is “a hoax … a money-making industry.”  

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Hated as Education secretary, pro-Brexit Michael Gove has, as Environment Secretary, been called “a fox in the hen house.”  He’s voted against fracking controls, against renewable energy, and against climate change prevention measures. As Education Secretary, he tried to wipe climate change from the school curriculum and passed legislation allowing Creationist Schools to open. 

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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.

756

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.