August 2021

My God!


How the hell did we get here? It was only about three weeks ago that we were sitting down to Christmas dinner!

We’ve had to miss our annual visit to Fairport’s Cropredy Convention once again. That’s it in the banner photo above from 2017. The last time we were there was August 2019. Last year’s was cancelled (as was everything else in the universe!) and we were hoping that we would make it for 2021. Sadly, not going to happen. Mostly down to the refusal by the government to back an insurance scheme for festivals (They back a few such as Latitude and Tramlines) and the financial risk for independent festival organisers is just too great to take. So, last year, we had our own in the garden and will be doing the same again this year. We now have to hold our breath until 2022. I have mixed feelings about this second cancellation: everyone embraced Freedom Day but things were far from hunky dory. Infections were still rising, as were hospitalisations and deaths. I knew a few people who have been double jabbed but still got it and one or two of them were really quite ill. Before the announcement of the cancellation, I was starting to get a little bit nervous about mixing freely with twenty thousand other people. Maybe there is a sense of relief.

The Olympics have been a bit special. They were postponed from last year but Tokyo have put them on this year despite there being no spectators. It was predicted to be a completely damp squib and has turned out to be the complete opposite. Some fabulous performances. Britain has done brilliantly in the pool and sailing. The BMX stuff has been really exciting and there’s been plenty of drama. Not the least of which came from Simone Biles who had some kind of emotional event that affected her balance and she pulled out for ‘mental health issues’. This led to the normal vile comments from the likes of Clarkson and Morgan but she went on get a bronze on the beam. It has raised the whole question of mental health awareness and some people (more than the two mentioned) seem to be completely unsympathetic to the whole issue. That might explain why some individuals end up in a terrible place when they get either no help or even abuse. I don’t get it. But then I have something of an insight as I get a flash of anxiety first thing in a morning. It is completely debilitating but, thankfully, it passes in a few minutes and I’m almost embarrassed to even mention it. How anyone would deal with that all the time is completely beyond me. Michael Johnson (US sprinter) spoke very eloquently on the subject and referenced his own struggles with pressure and mental health. One of the good guys.

I’m trying my best to keep politics out of here as much as possible but I can’t let the situation in Afghanistan go without mention. I remember back in the eighties when Russia was fighting the Mujahideen in the hills; the US and UK along with a bunch of others, armed and trained the Mujahideen in what was, in all respects, a proxy war between the West and Russia.
The Russians eventually threw in the towel but then the various rebel groups slowly became the Taliban (it’s far more complicated than that) and then we had September the eleventh in New York and the rest is history, as they say. The Americans and the British essentially invaded Afghanistan in 2000 or thereabouts in Bush’s ‘War Against Terror’ and started to fight those that they’d armed and trained twenty years previously. That was never going to end well. And it didn’t. So now, after another twenty years and billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives, now that the Americans have withdrawn, they’re back in exactly the same position as they were in 2000. I mean, if they were kids in a playground or a garden, you’d just give them all a big bollocking, tell them to go and stand away from each other and to have a good think about their behaviour. Unfortunately, jokes are inappropriate as millions of Afghans are terrified, especially the women. The president has fucked off. We must have trained him as well.

Early indications are that the new regime is going to be far more tolerant than they were in the first part of the century, but they were brutal bastards back then and… well, it’s worrying. There is unlikely to be anything approaching a resolution before the end of this blog.

The general uncertainty of life these days has led to many problems, not the least of which is an increase in alcohol consumption. Now, it’s quite a contentious subject in that those who do drink are very defensive when it comes to units per week and those who don’t particularly drink don’t understand those who do.
I definitely fit in the former category and, without talking specific numbers, I exceed, by quite a large amount, the fourteen weekly units that our government currently advises. This number equates, roughly, to six pints of beer or lager each week. The whole point of targets is to make them achievable. As I said, people who drink very little have no problem with this but a drinker, and there are a lot of us, find this sort of restriction almost laughable. I’m not one to go down the pub ‘potting’ as we used to call it but I do maintain a steady level of abuse throughout the week. Those lads and lasses that you see in bars will probably drink at least six pints in one evening. For a drinker, that’s not excessive, it’s just having a good drink. So when you say to those people, you should have less than nine tenths of a pint a day, you’re not likely to win them over.

I remember someone (I suspect it was David Nutt but can’t be sure) claiming that the figures given to the government were arbitrary because the government simply demanded them. I can’t find any reference to this online but it’s a real memory and not just wishful thinking. I did, however, find this: The following extract from Christopher Snowden writing for The Spectator in November last year (2020).

“Before answering the question of whether we can trust health advice we must first ask: ‘Which health advice?’ It varies so much over time and between countries. In 1979, the government advised men to drink no more than 56 units of alcohol a week. This was later reduced to 36 units, then 28 units and then 21 units. Last month, the Chief Medical Officer reduced it once again, this time to 14 units. Upon announcing this, she also asserted that there is no safe level of drinking and that the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption were ‘an old wives tale’.

Male drinking guidelines vary enormously around the world, from 52 units a week in Fiji to 35 units in Spain, all the way down to seven units in Guyana. There is no other country in the world that has the same guidelines as the UK.”

I’m sure the reduction is down to some medical research but, as most of us are fully aware, alcohol affects different people differently. I have friends (in some instances, had) who should never have taken the top off a bottle in the first place. Alcohol has utterly destroyed them. I also have friends who have drunk pretty heavily over seven or eight decades with no ill effects whatsoever. So I think a little perspective is needed. I get that the powers that be feel an obligation to advise, even if it is mostly with a view to reducing costs to the NHS, but they need to be a little more realistic. Telling someone they have to cut down because their drinking is seven times above the recommended limit is not going to convince them. For me, reducing the amount I drink is a work in progress. It goes along with many other things including overall fitness and mental health. I have always been of the view that a few beers is infinitely better than benzodiazepines.

I should emphasis that I am not medically qualified in any way and probably have no idea what I am talking about.

I guess that’s me done for August. The year is absolutely flying by. So everyone keep safe and sane (by whichever method you find most suitable) and meanwhile, why not take a little peek at my Website?

See you all in September.