24 October 2010

Good morning and welcome to another Sunday.

Ms Playchute was on the verge of calling out the doctor for me on Friday – she was convinced I had gone stark, raving, barking mad. Her expression of disbelief, doubt and distrust was etched across her face when I told her that I was about to go outside and clear out the gutters.

GutteringOf course, in most instances this would not have elicited such emotions of concern but she knows me better than most. She knew that (a) I hate carrying out maintenance tasks of this sort and will find every conceivable excuse to avoid them and (b) there was a college football game as well as a baseball playoff game stored on the satellite hard disk and the only reason I would choose to do something other than watch five hours of sport on the television was because I must be poorly.

As I say, clearing out gutters is not one of my favourite tasks and I suppose the last time they were cleaned out was three or four years ago. To be fair, there’s only one side of the house which really gets clogged up with dead leaves but some of the other gutters had begun to sprout a life of their own. It was either clean them out or find a way to get the mower up on to the roof in order to trim the lawn which was flourishing at various points around the guttering.

And, while one has the ladders out one ought to trim the wisteria and the jasmine to stop them taking over the whole house. So, I spent a very “happy” three hours clambering up and down a very long and heavy ladder extracting years’ worth of primordial ooze from each of the gutters around the house, not to mention the plantation of weeds, grass and thistles which somehow managed to seed themselves in the guttering and grow to a respectable height in the years since the last deforestation.

I guess that will keep us going for another three or four years.

I am sure many of you noticed the announcement of the annual Ig Nobel awards a few weeks ago. You can read about the usual collection of wacky and downright bizarre sorts of activities people get up to here but a couple are worth a mention in their own right, I think. For example, Richard Stevens from the UK won the Ig Nobel Peace Prize by carrying out research to confirm that swearing does, indeed, relieve pain. Well, I suspect we’ve all known that for years but it is nice to have it confirmed. The Public Health Prize was won by Manuel Barbeito from the US who determined that microbes cling to bearded scientists and the Management Prize was won by Alessandro Pluchino from Italy for demonstrating mathematically that organisations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.

My favourite? The Biology Prize won by Libiao Zhang from China and colleagues for scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats. The real question here, it seems to me, is not so much about what goes on between two consenting fruit bats but rather why anyone would be sufficiently aroused or interested to study it.

Billion Dollar HouseFinally, with George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announcing his spending review this week and explaining how public spending over the next couple of years will be cut to the bone and then the bones ground up and discarded, it’s nice to know that some people still have more money than sense.

Love to you all,