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Councils Ecological English Culture English History English Literature Society

Bill and George? Who?

Today should, by rights, be a good day for me to write an article.

Maybe words to titillate the senses; maybe to educate, entertain or inform? Or maybe an opportunity for me to be self-indulgent.

Why does today augur such good omens?

Well, for a start, it just happens to be the birthday of William Shakespeare, or so the historians think. The actual date of the bard’s birth is not recorded or documented, but his baptism was, and he was christened on 26th April 1564. It was normal to have baptisms three days after the birth, so I guess its a reasonable assumption.

Weirdly, William Shakespeare died on the 23rd April 1616. This is documented, so either way you look at it, this should be a good day for a struggling penman to bash out a few words.

Now, flashback to the early 1970s.

Confounding my father’s prediction that I would be an imbecile for the rest of my life, I did pass my eleven-plus exam, and made the cut to get into Grammar School.

A typical 11+ exam from 1968… Could a ten year old do these now?

English lessons with Mr Dobbins were dreary and dull, but at least he taught me the fundamentals of grammar, and spelling.

Even at that age, I was a voracious reader. My bedroom bookshelves housed the complete works of Issac Asimov (all read, I add), but I recall that I also dabbled with H G Wells, Jules Verne, E E “Doc” Smith and Arthur C Clarke.

Just one of the reasons why I love Science Fiction

However, nothing prepared me for the sheer, unadulterated hell of classes in English Literature.

Miss Briggs, my English Mistress, was a true hippie, complete with an Alice headband, long dresses and mauve tights. I think she knitted her own shoes.

But she was a nice soul, generous with her praise, and gentle with her frustrations at dealing with a totally disengaged class.

The english literature syllabus back then required that students were able to understand the context of the books studied, and could explain the use of metaphores, and allegories.

This meant that the works of the great writers were dismantled, sentence by sentence, line by line, chapter by chapter.

And then the probing questions and tests to establish our understanding…

“Mark, what did Shakespeare mean by his obscure use of the word and in this sentence.

After two years of dissecting Macbeth and Richard the Second, I was put off Shakespeare’s works completely,. So whilst I could (and still can) recite several speeches and soliluquies, I ended up leaving school with a deep seated loathing for Shakespeare, and a not much better opinion of the mediaeval writer Geoffrey Chaucer. Maybe this was a reaction against learning The Millers Tale and the Nun’s Priest’s Tale in Middle English.

What the hell were our educators thinking???? My old school friends, with whom I still meet regularly, all left school with the same feelings.

It was many years before I came into contact with the Bard again; I was in my mid twenties, and had joined my local drama group. After gaining confidence and appearing on stage in a lot of very minor bit parts, I was finally being offered more principle or leading roles.

One winter evening, I went to a meeting of the players, to discover that the next play we were producing would be A Midsummer Night Dream.

Would you like to see my Bottom?

My heart sank. Not Shakespeare…

Please…

However, I soon discovered that when read and performed as the great man intended it to be, it was truly joyous, and is a great piece of literature.

I have never managed to read any of his works as a book. I have watched and genuinely enjoyed some excellent performances of his work, so the cultural damage inflicted upon me as a kid have been repaired, but it has taken over four decades!

If they had required that I study Science Fiction, I would have probably passed my English Lit exam with an A+ rather than a C-.

The other thing of note about today’s date, is that it is Saint George’s Day.

Saint George on his charger…

For those that aren’t familiar with Saint George, let me briefly explain. St. George is the patron Saint of England. Not Britain. England.

The true history of St. George is lost in the mists of time, but he did exist. It appears from several accounts that he was a serving officer in the Roman army around 300AD. Legend has it that he killed a dragon that was slaughtering the residents of a local town. He was offered a monetary reward from the King, but refused to accept it, and donated it to the poor of the town.

This made him worthy of Sainthood.

There are accounts from 12th Century Genovese books that refer to Saint George’s colours being a red cross on a white background.

Other accounts tell of him fighting alongside the English Knights Templar during the crusades of the 12th Century.

In 1348 King Edward III of England incorporated the Cross of St. George into the English Royal Standard, and by the end of the 14th Century, St George was adopted as the Patron Saint of England, and the Protector of the Royal Family.

The English Royal Standard, circa 1348

It has been this way for centuries.

Now, the English seem to have a reputation as a self effacing race. We don’t normally go in for self agrandisement, prefering understatement to get by. That and the much publicised “Stiff Upper Lip”.

So, it’s our Patron Saint’s day today. We are in lockdown. So none of our pubs will be open for the discounted English Ale, cheap Cider, roast beef sandwiches and pork pies . There will be no give-away straw hats, or plastic flags. No Public Holiday.

But then, we don’t do that anyway.

Go Well…

Categories
Bowels Constipation English Culture HEALTH Society Uncategorized

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Recently, a good friend, and one of my regular readers, made the observation that many of my articles are conceived whilst I am loafing about in coffee shops – commenting “Do I ever do any work?”

Whilst said as a jokey comment between friends, it was indeed a good observation, and was unerringly accurate.  Thanks NH.

I decided that this would have to stop.

So, early one morning, I was sitting on my lavatory, ruminating about what to write next. Not such a strange place to really. I’m sure that the peaceful tranquility of the latrine is a place where, no doubt, many people take some quiet thinking time.

04d0022b-e9fd-40c8-9949-f5febecc35bb-1.jpeg

My subject matter today, therefore, is related to bowel health.

“Deep Joy”  I hear you say…

Bowel health affects all of us, and is fundamental to staying in overall good health.

Everyone is taught from an early age of the importance of staying regular, and of eating the correct types of food in the correct proportions to keep us running smoothly.

Despite this, I was amazed to discover that constipation cost the English National Health Service £162 million in the fiscal year 2017/18!

Delving further, into what is a very touchy subject, I learnt that the statistics show nearly 15% of all adults suffer from constipation, and a third of all children are bunged up as well.

It seems that there is a social taboo about discussing such issues, and many people feel too embarrassed to even talk about it.

According to a YouGov[1] survey of almost 2,500 adults in 2016, 35% of those experiencing constipation would rather do nothing, and wait and see if their condition improved before consulting with their GP. An alarming 50% thought it was not worth bothering with seeing their doctor.

Ignoring longer term constipation potentially leads to more serious situations, hence the large number of hospital admissions – 71,430 in 2017/18. Of that number, almost 53,000 were unplanned emergency admissions.

Constipation has more than a financial cost. Constipated patients spent a total of 163,128 days in hospital beds. That’s about 447 years of lost productivity, and extra strain on an under-resourced health service.

Those that do visit their GPs are sometimes prescribed laxatives to resolve their problem, and prescriptions cost in the region of £91 million.

UK GPs see on average about 6 people a week who have screwed their courage up and discussed their constipation. This is about 218,000 consultations per week[2], and this costs the NHS a further £487 million per year[3]

So, what can we do about it?

The basics are now widely understood, if not acted upon. Healthy varied diet, with an intake of fibre, vegetables and fruit. A good level of hydration, and some regular exercise. All of these factors will reduce the risks of becoming backed up internally.

We also need to adopt better habits when going to the loo.

According to Bladder and Bowel, we need sit correctly on the toilet, in order to place the hips and lower abdomen into the optimal position for clearing the bowels.

The correct position?  What??  There is a correct position for taking a poo????

Why was I never told this?

This is what Bladder and Bowel say about adopting correct posture.

Note: For my aviation, aerospace and airline professional followers, this is NOT the same as the BRACE position.

  • Lean forward when you are sitting on the toilet with your hands resting on your thighs
  • Make sure that your knees are bent and are higher than your hips (it may help to use a footstool if your toilet is high or you are not very tall)
  • Make sure your feet are resting on the ground – (or on a footstool)

ARE YOU SITTING COMFORTABLYFigure 1 – The correct Sitting Position

It may not always be possible to do this, as not many public toilets, or those at work have small footstools, and let’s be honest, platform shoes went out in the 1970s, so until they come back into fashion, you may only be able to sit correctly at home.

It is recommended to try and establish a regular routine so as to avoid having a sudden need to use the toilet. However, if a sudden need is felt this should not be put off, and wherever possible we should go. Ignoring the urge could impair the bodies defecation reflex, which may then make it harder to know when you do actually need to go.

Now, as I alluded to earlier, the average UK bog is the place where we are all assured of a certain level of peace and tranquility. Many men will retire to the smallest room with the daily paper, a good book, or nowadays, with a smart phone or iPad.

As far as I know, this habit is mainly restricted to men…

Now the bad news. It’s really not a good idea to sit for prolonged periods of time in the “position” as this partially opens the bowel, which weakens it and this may lead to complications in advancing age – such as incontinence.

So, dump the books and papers fellers…

Lastly – we are a nation of ever-expanding people. I know that I am an incipient chocaholic, and love food of all types. I struggle with balancing my love for sweet desserts with my need to shed weight, and prior to Christmas I managed to slim down to 86Kg.

Post-Christmas, I have put 4 of those kilos back on.

To enhance not only overall fitness, but to prevent constipation, more exercise is needed more regularly. Exercise and hydration really will help to keep the body in better shape – as well as sitting correctly on the throne.

Bet you wish I’d gone to Costa’s now…

Mark

[1] YouGov Online Survey conducted 1/2/16 sample sized 2352, weighted to represent all UK Adults 18yrs +

[2] The Lancet – Cost of Constipation Report

[3] Appointment costs and times

Categories
Aircew Airport Civil liberties Humour pilots Politics Satire Society Travel

Education And Aiports – Are we Losing the Plot?

Grumpy – And With Good Reason!

It may be because I am getting older, and therefore less tolerant of the idiocy of others, or it may be that other people really are becoming more cretinous and idiotic.
To prove my point, let me share some thoughts with you.
A few weekends ago, I had to make a short train journey to meet up with some family members for a genteel lunch, at a beautiful quiet country pub, nestled snugly in the Surrey countryside, in a fold of the peaceful and wealthy Surrey Hills.
In order to enjoy my journey to its fullest extent, I made a quick excursion into the pleasant little town of Haselmere, where I was to catch the train.  I left myself time to take a gentle stroll into the quintessentially English High Street where Costa Coffee is located, so I could buy my usual Skinny Wet Latte with an extra shot.  

Meandering back to the station, I popped into W H Smiths and bought a paper to pass the time.

Standing on the sun dappled platform, I began to peruse the news of the day.  Amidst all of the hysteria about the forthcoming General Election, and the sad stories relating to the earthquake in Nepal, I found some cause for an element of grumpiness, which cheered me up considerably.
It seems that London’s Goldsmith College have banned Caucasian men from attending an “Anti Racism” event, because according to the “Diversity Officer,”  in order to attend you have to belong to the BME. It appears that the BME, far from being some supremacist group, stands for “Black Ethnic Minority”. 
Mind you, there is good news here as well, because the event also positively welcomed those who are “non-binary”. 
You could be forgiven for thinking this was some form of computer phobia, or an inability to count in base ten.  
I was a little amused to discover that those amongst us who are “Non Binary” do not know what sex they are.
Is it not somewhat ironic, that an event that is intended to break down barriers, and stop people discriminating against others based on racial background should fall into the trap of banning others from attending because they come from a different racial heritage.
You couldn’t make it up could you?
I did have to chuckle at the next article, concerning yet another bastion of the British Education system –  this time Queens University in Belfast.  Why has such a respected seat of learning become the target of my grumpiness (albeit mirthful grumpiness)?
Well, the scholarly leaders have decided to ban a conference on Free Speech, Self-Censorship and the Charlie Hebdo killings.

Who employs these people?  Are they specially selected for being stupid, so as to make the scholars feel clever?

So, it was with a mood of cheerful grumpiness that I met up with my family, and enjoyed an excellent lunch, with good company and good food.
Having to a certain extent, forgotten the previous evidence that modern educationalists are sillier than primary school children, I awoke the following morning early, as I had to take a trip to London to attend a business meeting.
Driving to the station, I grabbed a coffee, and picked up a Metro free newspaper at the station entrance.
Skimming through it, – amongst the latest daily doses of pre election hyperbole and more sad stories of the earthquakes and avalanches around Everest I spotted what I was subconsciously looking for…..my morning fix of idiocy to fuel my impish inner self.
Now, I work in the aviation industry, and have done for the best part of my working life, having previously served as a security officer, VIP services manager, an aircraft cleaner, a passenger services executive, and have been flight crew.  I have been exposed to much witless behaviour on many occasions from both passengers and colleagues, but I did draw a sharp intake of breath at the story published.
It seems that a little boy, of four years old was travelling through East Midlands Airport with his family, who were flying out to Lanzarote for their holiday.
All would have been well, but for the four year old carrying a plastic toy gun. It was promptly confiscated by airport security staff because “it posed a security risk”. A spokeswoman for the airport apparently said “No items may pass through security that resemble a prohibited item”
Having seen a Nerf gun in a photograph, it’s quite difficult to see what part of a bright yellow and orange plastic toy could cause anyone but a certifiable lunatic, (or maybe a user of psychotropic drugs) or someone of less than normal eyesight and common sense to mistake it for a real weapon.
Are these people actually recruited for their simplistic interpretation of a regulation that is obviously designed to stop people wandering round the departures lounge with replica AK-47s and similar.  
Mind you, a few years ago I  personally witnessed another situation whilst passing through to airside as a passenger.  The lady in front of me was asked to cover up her tee shirt….it was camouflaged and had an image of a Hand Grenade on it.  
She was justifiably irritated, but was told that the image could be distressing to other passengers.
We live in a very strange world these days, where reality is skewed to accommodate flawed thinking, and four year old children can’t take their favourite toy with them on holiday.
Welcome to brave new world.
Discuss! 
Mark Charlwood © 2015.  Mark Charlwood holds the intellectual property rights associated with this article. Please contact me if you wish to use it, or quote from it.