I’ve written a lot about mental health and devoted half an hour every week to it on my radio show Faversham Natters in January, as well as appearing as a guest on many other radio stations. It is a simple subject and a yet complicated one. We are learning the great value of talking, particularly when it comes to us men. The New Zealand Prime Minister is leading the way having introduced the world’s first ‘wellbeing budget’. Applauded by some but criticised by others, the measures were included in the first budget since the murder of 51 people in March at a mosque in Christchurch, which also included additional funding for the intelligence agencies. Obviously, it has a gimmick value, but let’s not belittle the fact that it has us talking about the issues of mental health and will help to de-stigmatize it.
Of course there are those who try to explain away the recent success of the British economy; in part they will be right that stock piling against a no deal Brexit has had a positive impact, but that doesn’t explain it all. Yes, the Chancellor is right to say the economy is “robust”; yes, it is right to be cautious about the future, but growth in the construction industry, which is absolutely crucial to the success of the economy, isn’t Brexit driven, although, yes, the decline in car production is concerning. But I suspect that the car-buying public and corporates are also changing their buying habits. Cars don’t rust as they used to, engines, gearboxes and other mechanical bits last longer which is why manufacturers are offering longer and longer warranty periods as a competitive feature. I know several businesses who in the last five years have changed their policy from changing cars every three years to every four years. That’s good because it shows that the quality and reliability are getting better.
But back to the main theme, despite all the political chaos, the economy is remarkably resilient – just think what will happen when we know where we are on Brexit. That great British ‘get on with it’ spirit will flourish, whatever the prevailing wind!
We have been on our Land’s End to John o’ Groats journey for over four weeks now, as Tracy cycles to raise money for the UK Sepsis Trust. We reached Glasgow on 23rd May, so for the last ten days I have been reading papers that have a Scottish slant. Some of it is scary!
I have written before about too many people going to university to get sometimes useless and meaningless degrees. There has not been enough emphasis in higher and further education in technology, so I recently welcomed the government’s initiative in allocating addition funds for technical teaching. The Bank of Scotland Consumer Digital Index tells us that 48% of Scots don’t have the skills to deal with digital problems. Now, it’s not a case of old folk not being able to use the internet, we are talking about young people not having the basic digital skills employees need them to have to do a job in the modern world. Maybe they are not so social media driven in Scotland, or maybe that is all they can do. I’ve read that people with digital skills earn about £12,500 a year more than those without – I’d be off to night school tonight!
So, President Trump has a favourite, maybe one and a bit favourites, in the race to become leader of the Tory Party and Prime Minister. It is totally outrageous that he expresses any opinion. The role of an elected President in a democracy combines the role of our Head of State, the Queen, and our political/executive leader, the Prime Minister. Of course, the Queen would never meddle in the affairs of another nation, but can you imagine the outcry if she did? And who would be likely to shout loudest in this country? The Republicans… Not only is Trump America’s national leader, but he’s also a Republican!
As you know, I’m a great one for the ‘KISS’ principle; Keep It Simple Stupid, and attitudes on little things being an insight into attitudes in bigger things. Something I find both annoying, actually rude, and giving insight into people’s attitude is when people walk into a room and turn lights up, down, on or off, adjust TV settings, or alter curtains without saying anything. It’s meddling, pure and simple. But hold on a minute! We know Trump is not universally popular in this country. We know he is a schemer, maybe he is reverse selling by saying he favours a candidate he actually wants to see lose knowing some people will do the opposite of what he says!
What a twisted world we live in!
Someone has conducted a survey on how long it takes drivers to start arguing with passengers in cars! And the answer? 18 minutes! Is that back street driving, road rage, directional issues or just, going back to my bit on Trump, just another example of the increase in the disease of meddling? And often meddling in ignorance! I’d be interested how long it takes in other environments, but whilst this sounds like a mad piece of research at first, it may have something to contribute to road safety. I’d say arguments in cars and talking to people in the back seat are as, or more, dangerous than being on the phone. Maybe it should be illegal to talk in cars?!
The Dutch first brought gin into everyday use in about 1700, selling it in pharmacies as a treatment for gout and stomach complaints. It wasn’t quite as we know it now and people didn’t like the taste, so the juniper berry was added, which was also thought to have medicinal benefit.
Now, a Dutch professor of molecular astrophysics, Ewine van Dishoeck, tells us that there are huge clouds of alcohol in space and that they helped start life! They think that the activity which created life on earth didn’t start here after all, but in giant gas clouds way out in the universe. They have discovered alcohol which has a role in creating proteins found in antifreeze, acetone and nail varnish remover among other things. Ah, I hear you ask, is this a trace or something more? Something serious? I’m writing in Thurso, Scotland, as we near the end of LEJOG, so it seems apt to use a local calculator. One small gas cloud will contain the alcohol equivalent of thousands of billions of bottles of Scotch!
You may remember my piece about Mars, the red planet, being the ideal climate for growing a specialist white wine grape. Now it appears that there really is a Scotch mist way up above us, that far from being rare is very plentiful. It’s life, Jock, but not as we know it!