According to Garrison Keillor, “A postcard takes about fifty words gracefully, which is how to write one… fifty words is a strict form but if you write tiny and sneak over into the address side to squeeze in a hundred, the grace is gone and the result is not a poem but notes for a letter you don’t have time to write…”  Here are my Postcards from France. I’m very free with the number 50…

1423

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice… Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity… Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that… I have a dream…. Let freedom ring…” Happy Birthday, MLK.

1422

A very American story: three-time Olympian, five medals, including gold. Career over, sedentary job, weight problems, divorce.  Child custody battles. Unemployment.  Homelessness. Living in car.  Social media, swallowing lies. Pro-Trump rallies. Caught on camera storming the Capitol.  Facing charges/possible prison sentence.  Klete Keller- making his country proud?

1421

Hooked on a show where dog eats dog in the shark pool that’s corporate America. Teeth, knives, nails sharpened and rule books thrown out of the boxing ring (one character’s constantly mixing metaphors). I’ll stick with it because the writing’s first class.  But dear oh dear in the land where Money’s God people really are a nasty, Machiavellian money-grabbing bunch of back-stabbers.

1420

Text from fraud squad. An hour online trying to sort the problem, getting nowhere. I dial a UK number. Next thing I know I’m talking to someone in the Philippines, who puts me through to technical support.  Different accent. And you’re in …?  Athens.  Twenty minutes later we’re still wandering down goats tacks in Pelion, discussing tiropita, wallowing in memories of Greece.

1419

Laundry, check. Workout, check. Breakfast, delicious. Fire, lit. Pot of tea, settle down to work. Doorbell rings.  At 8am?  The chimney sweep. I’d forgotten.  He looks at the roaring flames, the white lacy knickers and bras drying over the stove.  Says he’ll come back next week.

1418

When I was little a squirrel called Tufty Fluffytail and his friends in the Tufty Club drilled road safety into children at an early age. So famous, he was even on the telly but he can’t have made it to France: today’s bike ride was a constant series of swerves to avoid people walking with their backs to oncoming traffic.

1417

Out on a country lane, a middle-aged peroxide beehive with short blue coat, big red bag, no smile and no bounce in her step, despite the bag containing a boombox.  This was near the run-down house that has a huge Catholic tomb in its front garden, despite being opposite a cemetery.  

1416

The reason I love Cillian Murphy’s Limited Edition on BBC Radio 6 is not so much because of the tracks. Some are achingly awful, some sublime, most somewhere in between.  What I love is his boundless positivity, his eclectic choices. The fact he’s doing a Benny Green, recounting anecdotes, making connections, conjuring memories.   And of course, that voice.

1415

A young postie from Airdrie in North Lanarkshire has become an internet sensation – singing a sea shanty.  He posted a recording of Soon May the Wellerman Come on TikTok, the app that “turns dusty esoterica into viral gold”  and suddenly sea shanties are all-the-rage and stuck-at-home individuals discovering the joys of community singing.

1414

Sea shanties and whaling songs create a sense of shared purpose. Designed as a distraction from hard work and toil onboard ship,  singing, led by a shantyman, would rhythmically enliven tasks like hauling sails or slaughtering whales, cutting out their tongues and extracting oil for lamps and baleen (bones) for corsets.

1413

A million pounds a day.  That’s how much the Scottish fishing industry says it is losing because customers in Europe are cancelling orders.  And The Honourable Member for the Eighteenth Century, Jacob Rees-Mogg, partner in a multi-billion pound hedge fund that benefits from NoDeal Brexit, has the gall to tell the House the industry is better off for leaving the EU.  

1412

Two weeks into the New Golden Age of British Empire, a small family-run business created in 1921 is encountering grave problems. Exporting to Europe was so simple in the glorious days of the European Union.  Now there are export levies, “deferment account fees,” delays and large charges for every small parcel sent abroad.  

1411

No surprise that  record-keeping under Trump has been highly selective.  The man with the massive hammer engraved with his name is cavalier when it comes to filing paper trails. Staff say he has a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out, forcing White House workers to spend hours taping them back together.  

1410

Les Cahiers d’Esther are a sensation on both page and screen.  Riad Sattouff, whose 5-volume autobiographical L’Arabe du Futur made him a household name, weekly interviews and records the observations of a girl in Paris, a typically “superficial” teenager growing up in close, loving family in a world of violence, idolatry, sexism, bullying and intolerance.  They’re shockingly funny.

1409

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was a pristine tract of Sonoran desert. Until Trump. His contractors dynamited a sacred mountain and Native American burial sites.  It takes 50 to 70 years for one branch to appear on a saguaro, that universal symbol of the American west.  And seconds for Trump’s vandals to uproot  tracts of these ancient, giant cacti.

1408

It’s not just cacti that are disappearing on the Mexican border. Jaguars, which made a remarkable comeback after being hunted to extinction, haven’t been seen since construction work on the wall began.  In a National Wildlife Refuge, wetlands – home to threatened species of fish – are being drained to make concrete.  Ecological vandalism.  Humanitarian disaster.

1407

A black hole where the mouth should be. No lips, just deep creases. Confused fear written all over a face unrecognisable, stripped of dignity.  Nose veers to one side.  Eyes, sunk deep in her skull, have bruise-brown rims. Parked in a wing-tipped chair.   Once magnificent mane of hair uncut, old-person mad.  She’s been put in a home, sedated, the teeth she wrapped in tissues thrown away by cleaners.

1406

This week’s classes have been about Jugaad (a Hindu word meaning frugal innovation),  Aid to Africa, business ethics, Augusto Boal, Bertolt Brecht’s fourth wall, the fashion industry, fake news, systems of punishment, aeronautical science, asteroid mining, fracking, Banksy, biotechnology, Hegel and climate change. Flexibility is on my CV. 

1405

Tomorrow’s Humanitarian Engineering class asks students to come up with cheap, innovative solutions to Developing World problems, solutions which target as many of the UN’s sustainable development goals as possible.  I heard a TED speaker say 70% of Kenyans live “off the grid.”  The irony of human progress! Progress, meanwhile, in First World countries could involve helping people live off-grid.