Mariah, Fascism & Dairylea -Week 51 : 2020

You’ll be relieved to learn I’ve got into the Christmas spirit. This is evidenced by adding my Crimbo tunes to my iPhone. This decision was taken whilst listening to Mariah Carey in a cafe, it came as a shock! Apparently I’m all she wants for Christmas. It will shortly be the time for lists and before you ask then my favourite Christmas record is “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon. It looks like both sprogs will join the Ives peloton on Christmas Day. However it would be an understatement to say things are a little uncertain at the moment. As regards the virus then the first vaccines have been administered to some folk on the street. I’m glad to say I’m a few age groups behind these octogenarians but I can hear the hooves of the arriving cavalry. 

The badger has been back. We’ve hosted it four times now and an untidy chap/chapess it is. However in the spirit of Christmas I’ve given him a name. Picking up on names like ‘Frosty the Snowman’ or ‘Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer ‘ I’ve called it Bastard – ‘Bastard the Badger’. His fourth trip to our garden resulted in considerable damage and over an hour of attempting to restore the lawn. It’s like a jigsaw of gaps and little pieces of turf.

Anna attempting to repair the lawn

Unfortunately the gaps and the turf don’t match. Bastard has ripped up the lawn in such a way that it’s impossible to repair it properly. I was prepared to forfeit all my Christmas presents to buy a contract for someone to shoot it. Apparently they are a protected species and you need a licence to kill one. Legislation was passed in 1992; clearly the MP’s didn’t have one visiting their gardens overnight as they trooped into the Lobby. I suspect ruining my lawn isn’t a good enough reason to despatch him to that giant sett in the sky. Our particular problem arises with their sense of smell, it’s 800 times more powerful than a human and it’s been detecting delicious chaff bugs beneath the turf. Ridding ourselves of this badger candy is impossible. Fencing or netting seemed the only solution. As a consequence we spent £60 at B&Q to slow his progress. After this investment one neighbour casually asked me how we were getting on with our nocturnal intruder? Repressing my nervous tic I reported the situation. At this point he casually commented he’d seen it departing our garden via the open gate on the drive. So maybe lawn covering strategies are unnecessary and shutting the gate might be an answer? Watch this space, I need to organise psychotherapy shortly.

In my transcribing of Eric’s epic life story (as reported in earlier blogs) I have regularly had to type up the phrase ‘bungy sandwiches’. This delicacy is a cheese sandwich, however, such was the quality of cheese that it led to constipation; hence the name. In researching this further then rationing meant that the production of most varieties of cheese was stopped until 1954. That’s nine years of ‘bungy’ cheddar being the only cheese you could buy. Can you imagine the riots and street protests today if this was the only cheese you could buy? The stoicism of the war generation and its fortitude with rationing was literally heroic. If there was a plus then waistlines were more trim and folk were healthier. 

If there were problems today with cheese I would advocate various cheese Tiers. Tier 1 would be all cheeses banned other than Dairylea. I’ve always been suspicious that this and Babybel aren’t dairy products but petroleum derivatives. Tier 2 would allow production and consumption of all British cheeses. (Maybe not much of a concession I grant you). Tier 3, or ‘Tier Barnier,’ would allow all cheeses other than French or that rubbery smoked German stuff that comes in an orange plastic sheath. Clearly this can be relaxed when they move on the Brexit trade deal.

Talking of the war then I’ve been reading the regular articles in The Driffield and Wolds Weekly newspaper that has been carrying a ‘special feature’ week after week on air crashes during the war. In the area were many RAF airfields, all operational during the war. The loss of life was considerable through bombing raids over continental Europe but the loss of life on training flights over the county are frankly numerous and terrible. There are too many to report here but the inexperience of the crews seems to have been the reason. In November 1943 a Halifax took off for a test flight for an ‘air and gun test’. There were six crew on board plus a female civilian passenger. Miss Dorothy Robson was an expert on bombsights. She instructed crews on their use and worked across Bomber Command. In the test flight the aircraft flew into the ground in East Yorkshire. The crew’s ages were 20, 27, 20, 20, 25 and 25 with four from the UK and one each from Canada and Australia. Dorothy was 23 years old. The aircraft only had had five hours of flying time.

Dorothy Robson

I then got to thinking about the financial cost, let alone the human one. Google tells me that a Halifax bomber cost about £45,000 in 1945. In today’s money that is £1.75m. (As a comparison a much more sophisticated, faster and heavier Boeing 747 costs £65m for the entry level model). Would you then let these raw young men with no real proper flying experience, by today’s standards, and without several years of examination and graduation (through types of aircraft) to fly a 25 ton Halifax plus over 5 tons of bombs on board (and enough fuel to get to Dresden and back)? It’s a considerable gamble and was a sign of the times and desperation to end a hateful war. Today can you imagine a news conference with some sanctimonious journalist, worried about their viewing figures, standing up to berate a politician about the lack of training, management involvement and astronomic cost in such tragedies? We’d have never got a bomber in the sky or defeated fascism.

In my last blog I reported on our every other day alcohol regime. This was to stop us boozing during the boring days of lockdown. Another regime change involves the burning of 300 to 400 calories a day. These are easy to lose calories and the solution is known to you all but I’ve only just quantified it. The plan is to walk 10,000 steps a day, which equates to 400 calories being burned. My ideal calorie intake per day is between 2,000 and 2,500 calories: you can see what a bit of a walk helps you burn. It’s not all great as I’ve found as after walk I like the odd biscuit or two and maybe a mince pie with a cup of tea on my return! In fairness I should put on my coat and do another lap after this snack break! 

However I have been moving this year. I’m 111 miles short of 6,000 miles this year. That is a long way and probably a lot more than I’ve driven. The cycling has taken place in the most different of places: either down wet local muddy lanes in chilly drizzle, up gruelling mountain sides with a heavy touring bike in the Central Massif, France in 35℃ or riding in Victoria, Australia past endless fields seeing only the occasional pick up whilst avoiding stopping and being covered in flies. I’ve loved every mile.

Interesting signage in Victoria

Lastly, it has been a year of watching some TV and it may be interesting to share the highlights. Eurosport and ITV were fabulous on their coverage of the grand cycling tours – Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta e España. I sat and watched hours of it. The countryside was sumptuous and often the racing was exciting. Even the present Mrs Ives was alongside me on the sofa. It’s only taken 26 years for her to catch the bug. Netflix threw up some gems. Call My Agent was a French language drama comedy set in a Parisian actor’s agency. Office politics and wacky actors with their hysterical ways and enormous egos were either calmed or massaged. The principle actors were compelling and over three seasons I got to love them. The Eddy was another Parisienne setting. This time at a jazz club with an American pianist owner who gets caught up in acres of malarky. The soundtrack was fantastic. A further season is in production,  bring it on. The Queen’s Gambit was a very unlikely plot about a child genius and her ascent to the top of the chess world via an orphanage, lots of alcohol, pill dependency and shady Russians.

Predictably I watched the fly on the wall documentary about Leeds United. Take Us Home was wonderful as in season 2 we got promotion! (I couldn’t watch the series until I knew it had a happy ending). In addition I watched quite a few films on the streaming services. This also included inside my little tent before I fell into a deep slumber in a foreign field. Which is where you must be after all this. Hasta la vista (baby).

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