Wednesday, 16 July 2003

The glass that burns

Yeah, yeah, we all sat in the school playground with a magnifying glass or mirror and set fire to a heap of dry grass and mars bar wrappers, but that basic science lesson has never been one I thought would be of any interest in later life. Along with melting railway points and creating fury on the railways, the current summer heatwave has taken advantage of my mirror. Today, after a pleasant lunch out with a mate, I get back to discard the posher clothes for the necessary shorts combo, to find ash, scorchmarks and thankfully no more than that on the oak table top by an almost-south-facing window. I'm lucky the house didn't burn down. Just a few inches from the window is a strong magnifying mirror (yes, I don't wear make-up, but I like to see how gaping my pores are getting as the years roll on). I can see it now - laser-like sun driven power just about gets a hold when the rain clouds move in the way and prevent havoc and heartache and insurance claim. And Mopsa had been in the house the whole time. Doesn't bear thinking about.
Mopsa is off to the vet tomorrow morning for her annual jab. She loves it there and gets ridiculous amounts of fuss from the veterinary nurses and receptionists. I have booked an early slot as she is finding the heat too much for her thick coat and Bernese snow-loving temperament, and I have to take her in the car. She's also none too keen on thunder storms, so this isn't her favourite time of year. Big wuss!

Sunday, 13 July 2003

Fancy a job, two days a week - unpaid?

Let's leave whimsy to look after itself for a bit and get furious instead. Yesterday's post (July 2003) brought me a letter and advert telling me that the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) have recently advertised the vacancy of Chair of the Arts Council England (ACE) now that multi-millionaire and John-Harvey-Jones-for-the-new -millennium Gerry Robinson is moving on. The letter asked me if I would circulate the advert amongst my networks. Unfortunately, I do not number multi-millionaires such as Gerry, or Lords Palumbo or Gowrie (ex ACE chairs) among my aquaintance who can delight in the rigours of ACE for no payment for two fifths of their working week. If I remember rightly, Gowrie didn't initially accept the role in the 1990s because of the lack of pay, and it would seem that nothing has changed. Are we really, so deep in new Labour times, still under the misapprehension that you need to be rich or richly retired in order to take on what is a pretty major public role? The Chair of the Arts Council of Wales is paid, and rightly so. I have several people in my "network" (ghastly phrase) who would be exceptional candidates for the role. I do not know the intimate details of their bank balances, but am horrified that DCMS expect that a glinting heap of gold is a necessary pre-requisite to becoming or even considering the ACE Chair. It's about time the Government and ACE stopped talking about Arts for All and started delivering arts for all by paying for the skill and dedication they require to advocate and develop policy at the very top. Apparently, arts policy making is only for the incredibly wealthy. Shame on you!

Thursday, 10 July 2003

Pure whimsy

Without realising it, I have been producing what can only be described as a whimsical blog site. It must be in response to past seriousnesses, an unconscious side-step away from the working day and the depressing nature of the news. So, in the spirit of what has gone before, a couple more animal-focussed tales to share.
Last week I found an inch in width and 30 inch in length discarded snake skin on top of the compost heap; I know because I measured it. Reaching for the Readers Digest Animals of Britain book from off the shelf, I am reassured that it is from a grass snake who will travel a mile or more to find a comfy compost heap in which to lay up to 40 eggs. A few days later a youngster (this time pencil slim and a mere 14 inches long) whirred its forked tongue at me and then slid off into the undergrowth. I want to know where the other 39 have gone, and now find myself gardening in gloves at a more than usually heightened state of awareness in case my curiosity is answered.
Last night a day-old bird sat in the middle of the road asking to be crushed or cared for. It's now under an infra-red lamp where the cats can't reach it. Wondering if it was an escapee from the local free range poultry farm, we retraced our steps to see if we could find it a friend. Mopsa's nose and my ears found a second huddled beasty in the long grasses of the verge and there are now what I think are two turkey poults considering whether they have a strong enough survival instinct to make it into a second or third day.