14 March 2010

Good morning to you all on what hopefully looks as if it could turn in to a fairly reasonable and tolerable day. The sky is clear (at the moment), the temperature, while not excessively comfortable is, at least not flesh-freezingly frigid and the forecast is not half bad. If it doesn’t deteriorate we could be looking at the first real bike ride of the new decade! We’ll see.

While I didn’t get to physically meet her, I recently had the opportunity of accompanying Ms Playchute to the home of her New Best Friend. She was walking Molly across the fields the other day and came across a woman who was similarly walking two golden retrievers. They got to chatting as fellow dog-walkers often do and, during the course of the discussion Penny was asked whether she was a gardener. When the answer was in the affirmative, Penny’s NBF revealed that she has an enormous mountain of fabulously, well-rotted horse manure and that if Ms Playchute wanted any she was more than welcome to come round and remove any amount.

We’ve had previous descriptions In the Befouled Weakly News of the affection with which Ms Playchute adores well-rotted manure. So, as you can imagine, when Penelope arrived home after the walk she was ecstatic with delight and, a few days later at the first available opportunity, she scoured the garage and back garden collecting every conceivable container so that she could go along and collect a car-full of manure. Naturally, I was anxious and keen to be of assistance, hence my opportunity of visiting the home of Penelope’s NBF. It seems that the NBF was off to their holiday home in France for a week or so but we were able to clamber all over a smouldering pile of poo and transport several car-loads back which have now been dispersed around the raised vegetable beds and the back borders. She still needs several more loads so perhaps I’ll get to meet the NBF after all.

We’ve had a couple of great days this week in the sense of being bright and sunny but it has remained stubbornly cold. Still, Spring cannot be too far away: the snow drops are up, the daffodils are just about ready to pop open, yesterday Leamington was awash with the lovely colours of swathes of crocuses and some of the trees are just beginning to show the faintest tinge of colour at the tips of the branches. Surely, it won’t be too much longer, please!

Our expedition to Leamington yesterday was to provide some modest assistance to Nick and Lucy who were moving from one side of the town to the other. The new place is in Cubbington very near where they lived for a number of years on Roxburgh Crescent. The new place – 111 Stirling Avenue, Cubbington, Leamington Spa, CV32 7HW – is very nice and, most importantly, has more room and a nice garden. In particular, it has more space in one of the three bedrooms so that Nick can have a bit more space in his study for all the stuff he needs. Once they get settled it will be very nice indeed.

Finally, here’s something that we never knew before!

Absent-mindedness is a middle-aged male problem, research shows
Women come out best in listening and recollection tests in study by University of London’s Institute of Education

It’s been an endless source of aggravation between the sexes; how can men so easily forget birthdays, anniversaries, and even friends’ names?

Not, it seems, because they cannot be bothered to remember. Research suggests that, in middle age at least, absent-minded-ness is a particularly male problem.

At the age of 50, women’s verbal memory outperforms their male counterparts by a significant margin, a report by the Institute of Education, University of London suggests.

A survey of more than 9,600 middle-aged British men and women showed that women outscored men in two listening and recollection tests.

“Men performed significantly more poorly in the verbal memory tests: particularly on the delayed memory test,” the authors, Matthew Brown and Brian Dodgeon, said.

“This was quite a surprising result, since women turning 50 tend to do worse: another study has shown that during the menopause women do not do so well.”

Participants in the first test listened to 10 common words being read out and were then given two minutes to recall as many as possible. The second test required them to list the same 10 words about five minutes later. Women scored almost 5% more than men, on average, in the first test, and nearly 8% more in the second.

Women were less accurate in a third test requiring them to cross out as many “Ps” and “Ws” as possible in a page filled with rows of random letters. They had, however, scanned letters faster than men.

In a fourth test, naming as many animals as they could in a minute, men and women had identical scores. Each could name 22 animals, on average. The study did not test whether men are better than women at recalling numbers; previous studies have shown that women tend to do better on word recognition tests.

Those tested were members of the National Child Development Study who have been tracked since their birth in 1958. They were tested at age 16, and the latest tests will help estimate the impact that exercise, diet, smoking, alcohol and depression have had on mental abilities. Initial analysis shows those who exercised at least once a month did better on all tests, on average, than those who did not. Non-smokers, including ex-smokers, also outscored smokers in the first of the “word recall” tests, even after social background was taken into consideration.

“Although measuring gender differences was not the central purpose of tests, the differences between men and women were interesting,” the authors said.

Well, thank goodness for that. I thought I was beginning to lose my mind!

Love to you all,

Greg