Saturday, 24 February 2007

Mile high club pioneers

The heady days of civil aviation are recalled in a blog which carries photographs of female cabin crew.

They were all part of the package. Flying just after the 39-45 war was glamorous and exciting. I flew home from Hong Kong in 1956 in a BOAC Clipper Class flight which was just one class - First. Proper French wines in crystal glass, meals served on china with silver cutlery. If one asked for a roast, it was carved at the seat. I do not know what the level of sexual activity really was but one phrase I recall was a stewardess using the line "Tea, coffee or me?" The rumnours led to their being referred to as trolley dollies. Now, employment legislation bars their being weeded out on grounds of age and any idea of their employer controlling their image has gone a long way out of the window. Not a bad thing. I flew out of Beirut on MEA, the Lebanese airline where the stewardess was so wide that she had to progress down the aisle sideways. I'd certainly choose tea or coffee there.

Friday, 23 February 2007

I see no ships

The gentleman at the right using his binos with the lens caps still in place is the Israeli Defence Minister.

Good job Moshye Dayan is not around or there would have been a lot of sparks flying.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Ten tiny toes - addendum

Just to demonstrate that I am not a voice in the wilderness, here is a woman's view on that IVF birth

Ten tiny toes

The use of IVF in creating life is something that confuses me. My main prejudice is that it is unnatural; my take is that whatever there is that controls or preordains things should be allowed to make the running. I am strongly against it’s use where women have given their energies to matters other than pro-creation until late in their life. I am not a good enough parent manqué to understand the incredible drive some couples have to seal their partnership with children. Easy to say I suppose, I’ve enjoyed ours (most of them and most of the time anyway), but I do not think I would have missed them had they not arrived. I feel no less of a person for not winning the Olympic 100 metres than I would at being childless.

With that background, I was interested to see this.

The record for gestational age of a surviving baby has been broken again. New record: 21 weeks and 6 days (5 months). The baby was 9.5 inches long and weighed 10 ounces. After four months of round-the-clock intensive care, she's finally well enough to go home. A national registry shows no other surviving babies born before 23 weeks. The American Association of Pediatrics says a baby born at 21 weeks or weighing less than a pound is not viable. Pro-life spin: Thanks to IVF, we can verify this baby's gestational age and prove that the viability line has advanced. Anti-choice spin: Thanks to IVF, this pregnancy was imposed on a body naturally unfit for it, resulting in a tortured pregnancy, a horribly early birth, and a disastrous four-month drain on hospital resources. (For Human Nature's previous take on fetal pain at 20 weeks and beyond, click here.)

Just get a rule and look at 9.5 inches. Try a small bag of sugar – that is almost twice the weight of this tot. The comment sets out the IVF cost. We cannot know what problems may lie ahead of this child. I hope she makes it with none. I also hope that no one will try and beat this record. It will get filed in my anti-IVF prejudices.

You do not make tea by throwing it into the harbour

I’ve been sitting in front of the screen struggling with some thoughts I wanted to set out in writing. I’m clear enough in the meaning of what these are but the mechanical channel from mind to monitor just escapes me. I’ll get round to it another day – or not. No pressure; plenty of room in my head for the thoughts anyway.

What the childbirth-like process did do was focus my mind to the great writings I knew of. The American Declaration of Independence had always impressed me. The opening phrases set the scene for some matter of great importance. Just that opening “We hold these truths to be self-evident” makes one realises that this is going to be something one needs to give attention. Just a small extract:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

I went off and tracked down the whole thing. I then came across a section – preamble? – I had never known of. That is here:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

I do not know the author of this but I find it even more impressive than “We hold these truths…”. It is one long sentence but loses nothing because of that. The style is very British – but then it would be given the massive influence of Britain on all aspects of American life. Whilst not a student of American writing, I suspect that if the same Declaration were being written today, the language and style would be quite different. More direct – even terse. I find the difference in our use of what is still, basically, the same language most marked when it comes to matters patriotic. Statements that originate in America seem almost to be written for declamation on the silver screen against the backdrop of that fort at the Alamo. There is a fierce pride that would be a source of great amusement is it came through stiff British lips. Certainly more likely reference to God and glory.

What I ended up doing today in this wandering gave me great enjoyment. Made up for my own lack of ability in meaningful writing. As teacher sometimes said, “Must try harder”

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Begone. Stand not upon the order of your departure.

Most brilliant politician? I think not. His popularity rating has dropped from 51% to less than 37%. His legacy will be strongly debated; I for one will have nothing good to say about him.

Enquire within ...

The Times Newspaper was once described as the universal reference and ran a masthead Enquire Within. I'm reminded of this by coming across a rather strange blog. Maintained by a guy whose title must surely have been drawn from the P.C. Recommendations List. It is quite a serious little thing. Just the job for Black Dog Days I think?

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

That wife in the North - hmmn

Seems that the wifey in the North was not such an amateur after all ..........

Let's not go there

America seems determined to talk itself into a war with Iran. I can understand their wish to fight the War on Terror outside their own boundaries but there has to be a point when even that risk is acceptable rather than the cost to them - and the Middle East - of taking on a country that is much better prepared than Iraq ever was.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Anyone seen my book?

I have been following the troubles of a wife uprooted from London and replanted in Northumberland. I've followed it for a while as I thought it might contrast with our experiences and thoughts following a similar relocation. As it has turned out, there is little similarity. She came North when her husband chose a better life; her own involvement seems less than total. He retained the same job and has, therefore, to spend considerable time in the South leaving her to her own devices. This has made her blog somewhat vinegary to my mind. However, for her it seems to have paid off as she has been given a smallish advance and is now writing a book from her daily contributions. I will keep up with the blog; any decision to buy her book will depend on my enjoyment of this. At the moment, I often find myself wanting to reach through the screen and give her a damned good shake. “Get with it woman. Stop feeling so sorry for yourself. Do not just retreat under the duvet”
Of course, she is not the first person to graduate from a blog to a full blown novel. There are a number of very talented writers who have gone down that route. Michael Yon is my favourite in this respect. He has the added bonus of being a very fine photographer and this adds immensely in his description of things in Iraq. Nearer to home we have the prospect of a book from a woman caught up in the London tube bombings of 7 July. Her story is almost a example of 'Into each life a little rain must fall' as she had earlier been the victim of a brutal assault and rape. My interest in this lady is that she seems to have escaped the problem of post traumatic stress disorder; a subject that draws a lot of my attention.
Whilst I am pleased that these bloggers have graduated to the big time, I have a small sadness that we are seeing another development from the basic idea of the blog. We have seen them attract criticism as an alternative wing of the media with calls for some form of central control and censorship. Many who used their working life as the basis for their writings have been threatened with some form of disciplinary action despite their being most scrupulous in keeping personalities anonymous. It is no coincidence that they mostly detailed the constraints put upon their performance by officialdom and it's demands for record keeping and that most were in the police. I would regret seeing the simple blog develop into just another demand for attention.
I cannot see that these blatherings of mine will attract any interest from publishers. One has to really work at one's blog; I am too undisciplined for that. What I do is draw attention to things that amuse or interest me which might otherwise be missed by those with less time on their hands than I have to wander about in the Internet ether. My only brush with the life of the rich and famous seems to be that I have acquired a stalker. Of course, the cachet of such an attendant is now wearing a little thin but mine does produce some small interest for me. When I run out of sheep to count and have abandoned the idea of self-abuse as a sleep bringer I dream about who he might be. I say 'he' but retain the possibility that it could be a 'she'. My casual acquaintances include some with the level of non-education that they might call themselves 'Joe' in mistake for 'Jo' He seems to have some sort of association with individuals who were a wing of my family but chose to separate themselves. There does not seem any risk that he/she will turn into some form of bunny boiler. So it looks as if I'm going to be denied the thrill of the chase.