25 May 2014

Well, it wasn’t completely downhill – we had a glorious weekend last week and the early part of the week ranged from good to very good. Monday was glorious; Wednesday was outstanding but things took a downturn on Thursday with overcast skies and showers followed by more persistent rain just as dog-walking time approached. Friday was damp and yesterday was sodden. Hey ho.

I exercised my rights as a British Citizen for the first time on Thursday when I cast my vote in the European elections. In these elections one votes for a “slate” of candidates by party and the seats in the Parliament are allocated by proportional representation. The choices in our constituency ranged from the Looney Party, the Even Loonier Party, the Unbelievably Looney Party as well as the “normal” lunatics like UKIP and the Britain out of Europe party. I did my duty, cast my vote and await the results of the democratic process. One thing’s for sure, whoever gets in is likely to be a liar and/or a crook – that seems to be the main qualification these days.

We have the pleasure of Pen’s sister J’s company for a few weeks – she arrived for a visit along with her daughter-in-law Elisa on Tuesday. It’s always wonderful to have J here especially when she insists on relieving me of the morning dog walking chore. However, it also has its drawbacks – I have to try to remember to wash my coffee cups as I use them rather than merely pile them high on the sideboard as normal. If J finds an empty vessel or utensil within twenty paces of the sink, it gets washed up!

I noticed via the Google Doodle the other day that it was the 40th anniversary of the development of the Rubik’s cube which brought back many happy memories of my useless and unsuccessful attempts to solve it – I don’t think I ever did. I know that the boys were considerably more adept at solving it than was I and I was interested to read that it was never intended to become a “toy.”

The Rubik’s cube was invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik, a Hungarian architect, who wanted a working model to help explain three-dimensional geometry.

As part of the anniversary celebration, Google developed a “playable” version which you can try yourself (assuming (a) that you no longer have a cube of your own to play with and (b) you can be bothered to remind yourself just how useless you were at solving the puzzle). If you struggle a bit with the mouse, you can find some instructions for using your keyboard to manipulate it here. See if you can match the computer’s time below:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTq2V1aPAp8

Some of you might have missed the item about the 2000 new trains for the French railway line being too wide for many of the provincial railway stations requiring the stations to be modified at a cost of something in the region of €50m. This reminded me of our own local “miscalculation” a few years ago when they were improving the flood defences along the A361, the main road into Banbury from here. At one point the construction was virtually complete when, by chance, too large lorries were travelling along the road heading in opposite directions. When their wing mirrors clipped the engineers realised that the road had been built too narrow in some places requiring another 6 months of construction and tens of millions to remedy the mistake. How about these similar miscalculations?

And finally, for a major miscalculation, how about the chap who launched a torpedo down the main street in Bedford, Massachusetts during some hustings in the presidential election of 1896?

Perhaps it was the pyrotechnics that gave Patrick [Cunningham] the lightbulb moment he came to regret. The pyrotechnics, or the booze. Possibly a combination of the two. With the flamboyant stupidity of a man who knew it all, except when to stop, Cunningham hurried to his workshop and loaded the [torpedo] on to a wagon and brought it to a suitably unsuitable spot. “Placing the torpedo in the middle of the street he lighted it, and the machine at once started down the street at a terrific pace,” reported the Worcestershire Chronicle. Tearing along a foot off the ground, following the haphazard flight path of a drunken wasp, the hissing torpedo rebounded off a tree, veered across the road and smashed sideways into a shop. Some reports say it was a grocery. Some say it was a butcher’s shop. Some say it was the market hall. All agree on the upshot. “The building at once collapsed,” said the Chronicle. “The torpedo then exploded, shattering several blocks of houses in the vicinity.” The fearsome blast was heard several miles away.

I guess it’s a good thing that our elections tend to proceed a little more quietly these days.

And finally, finally a few photos of some of the May flowers from Penelope’s garden.

Love to you all,

Greg