Wednesday, 3 September 2008

August reviewed

Today's post is stimulated by our good friend Martin Smith writing from holiday in America. (What he says is in italics, followed by my comments.)

My, what an August…

- Oil and commodity prices plummeting/£ going the same way/Darling in a panic – are we approaching a bottom?

From my very local, "at home" perspective, my bank balance is healthier for not having had to buy €€€ to holiday in Europe. I'm glad to be paying less for petrol; though food in the shops doesn't seem to get any cheaper. (Reports say we are cutting back on buying organic products; but as Sir Terry Leahy recognises in an article in today's Guardian, "People's values do not change simply because the economy is going through a bumpy patch.")

I'm not sure Chancellor Darling can actually be said to be panicing, just because he gives one unusual - and surprisingly refreshing - interview from his holiday fastness. But it will need a miracle for Labour to recover in the opinion polls. I'd be inclined to agree with the suggestion that, as Gordon is going to lose the next election anyway, he should go for broke and bring to fruition all those radical ideas which induced people to vote New Labour into power - and which he's shelved because he now thinks they would damage his prospects of reelection.

- Beijing Olympics twice as interesting as expected. Brits did amazingly well, but did you see that Stanford got 24 medals, eight of them gold?!

Guess where M. Smith went as a post-graduate student! I'm solidly in favour of the Olympics as a means of bringing people of all the nations together; but as a spectator sport I found them a turn-off. Give me a half-decent football match any day!

- US politics approaching fever pitch – Obama riding high, McCain thwarted by Gustav, and backing a gun totin', creationist anti-environmentalist woman as VP. Please God let Obama win.

Hear, hear! From this viewpoint, the two sides seem very ill-balanced: it's hard to see what can be said for McCain as President, let alone the extraordinary Palin as Veep. We had a neighbour here recently, with her family "over on vacation" from the Mid-West - solidly creationist: even as a fellow-Christian, you just don't know where to start in on the discussion.

- A month of rain in UK and of sun here (sorry)

Actually, it hasn't been that bad, in Cheltenham at least. It could certainly have been warmer, and dryer - but at least those who wanted to watch the Olympics haven't felt guilty about being inside. The fruit and veg. have been prolific, nor have we had to water the garden! And we've certainly saved on sun screen.

To Maestro Smith's list, I would add:

- For the first time in history, the Northern ice cap can this Summer be circumnavigated. And as Oliver Tickell says, "With melting ice, more sunshine is absorbed rather than reflected back into space. The result is more warming, and more melting. In turn this increases the degassing of methane from Arctic bogs, lakes and thawing permafrost - and methane is a powerful greenhouse gas in its own right, 70 times stronger than CO2 over 20 years."

- The Russian army went into action beyond its country's borders for the first time since the invasion of Afghanistan, and it did so against an Orthodox country with deep cultural and human ties to Russia.

- Every night at the Proms seems to be better than the last. There have been great visiting orchestras, but none better than the dear old BBC Symphony Orchestra, at least on the evidence of their Verdi Requiem on Sunday night. Superb conducting by Jiří Bělohlávek, and the best lyric tenor I've heard since Fritz Wunderlich - the 30-year-old Joseph Calleja. (Listen Again - quickly - if you missed it.)

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