Saturday, June 10, 2006

Summer rambles.

Summer has undoubtedly arrived. Most of England is sweltering under cloudless skies with temperatures in the eighties. A drought order is being applied for in London. Here in Bournemouth we benefit from sea breezes that make the heat bearable. The garden is lit up by a haze of purple geraniums, all buzzing with visiting bees. Our plum tree bears fruit for the first time, though several leaves are speckled with tiny green bumps like ants eggs. I suspect an insect attck.

The small fountain is running, endlessly recycling the same few liters of water over pebbles and porcelain frogs. Once a pond was there, rich with water lillies in pink, red and white. Alas we had to drain it lest our grandchildren became pond life.

Clock golf was difficult. We secretly cut the grass without the gardener's permission, but our lawn lacks the smoothness of a putting green. When asked how the Wimbledon courts were kept so perfect the greens-keeper replied, "It's a simple process, sir, you plant the seed, then water, roll and cut for about three hundred years."

Our lawn has only been down for thirty years so it lacks the smoothness required.

It has been an eventful week. My daughter has been away in Budapest for a few days on holiday. I don't think she was very impressed. It was expensive and run down. Also cold and wet. My other daughter returned from her honeymoon in Mauritius. The weather was wonderful, but she was concious of the poverty of the locals who were providing her with luxury.

The disparity between rich and poor in the world seems an insoluble problem. I remember during the 1950s - a time of grim grime and hardship in England - watching the output of Hollywood with considerable envy. Watching smartly clad, beautiful people driving large cars, living in well-appointed, well-furnished apartments, going to night clubs clad in white tuxedos, drinking martinis with gorgeous women dressed in low-backed, sequined dresses emphasized how poor we were.

Men in England seemed always to wear grey shapeless jackets that were too short in the sleeve, uncreased trousers and down-at-heel, skuffed shoes. They couldn't even afford ready-made cigarettes, but smoked roll-ups constructed from the remnants of other people's smokes.

Of course, that picture of America was just as false as that in the mind of today's would-be Indian immigrant who regards Paddington, Edgeware Road, Tooting Bec and Streatham as magical places.

The English Flag of St George has been rehabilitated. Once it was only flown by far-right, anti-immigration political parties, but it has been redeemed by football supporters. It flies from every flagpole, every gas-station, almost every automobile. The World Cup began yesterday with Germany showing attacking flair but a leaky offside trap and Ecuador unexpectedly defeating the Poles. Perhaps the temperature had something to do with it. Isn't ecuador Spanish for equator? England play today against Paraguay. The form book says England should walk it, but I remember when Bournemouth beat Manchester United.

I guess the big news of the week has been the killing of Al-Zarqawi. Hard to think of anyone who deserved it more. The only dissenting voice seems to come from a Mr Berg, whose son was murdered in Iraq and who is running for office somewhere in America on an anti-war ticket. I guess that grief makes some men less objective than would otherwise be the case. In many ways I favor the death-penalty, but I have become convinced that enough mistakes have been made as to render it an impractical solution to the problem of murder. I do not consider it an immoral response by a community to the most heinous crimes, and I have no sympathy for those who are clearly guilty. Its great flaw is that it cannot be undone if a mistake is made, and it is a human inevitability that mistakes will be made.

What has changed from those grim days of the fifties is an enormous lessening of the fear of punishment. I used to have dreams - nightmares - about being hanged. I imagined that something that I might do might lead me to kill somebody. No doubt we are less deterred by the fear of punishment today. The number of homicides in Britain before the end of the death-penalty was about 160 a year: now it is about 1000; still rather few by American standards but continuing to increase. Can it be reversed?

Almost every day the TV News carries and item about one young person killing another with a knife - this is in a country where hand-guns are banned. You can't ban knives, people need them to cut their food with. At the moment the Police are running a knife amnesty. Among the items handed in was a Klingon Batalith (is that the right spelling? One of those double-handed battle axes from Star Trek). However, the dangerous weapon is the hand that wields it, not the sharp implement. To remedy that requires a change of heart.

In the BMJ there is an obituary of Jean Bernard, the French Hematologist who has died in his 99th year. Apart from describing a rare platelet disorder (the Bernard Soulier syndrome), he also introduced the anthracyclines (daunorubicin, adriamycin) for the treatment of leukemia. The BMJ credits him with diagnosing CLL in the Shah of Iran. It claims it was the admission of the Shah to America for medical treatment by President Carter, that prompted the Iranians to storm the American emabassy and take the hostages. If this is the case then it provides a stark contrast between the motives of the Christian Mr Carter and the Islamists in Iran.

By the way, Bernard got the diagnosis wrong. It was almost certainly splenic lymphoma with villous lymphocytes - or splenic marginal zone lymphoma as it is now called. It is said that the Shah failed to take the chlorambucil he was prescribed for fear of showing weakness. It would probably have made no diference.

1 comment:

catherine said...

i enjoyed reading that, very insightful as to life in the 50's.

thankyou :)