Just spent a wonderful weekend at The Upton Folk Festival held in the lovely little town of Upton on Severn in Worcestershire. So many great acts, all for free.
The highlight of the weekend for me? Take a look at the video of the Beltane Border Morris. As they say on their Facebook page “Think Morris dancing is all bells and hankies and tea with the vicar? Think again. Welcome to the Dark Side of Folk;”
The dark side of folk indeed. As someone else remarked, These guys are like pixies, only scarier. With electrifying music, pulsating, hypnotic percussion, wild shouting, clashing sticks, scary male dancers, high stepping short-skirted female dancers and enough fishnet to supply the Brixham trawler fleet, the performance was more than exciting; it was positively abandoned. The video gives some idea of the unrestrained pagan energy these guys give out, but you really had to be there.
Can’t wait to see them again.
Or indeed for the Upton Blues Festival, the best free blues festival in the UK( 21st to 23 July 2017). I’ll be there. Why don’t you check it out?
Just a quick heads up to all my fellow Englishmen and women that tomorrow April 23rd is St George’s Day.
We’ve not always been as keen as our Scottish, Welsh and Irish neighbours to celebrate our national saint’s day, so let’s make this year different.
Wear a rose on your lapel or brooch, fly the flag, eat roast beef, shepherd’s pie or fish and chips, wear a red white and blue tie or scarf, sing Jerusalem, even go down the pub in a silly hat if you want to. Just do something.
Let’s show that we’re proud to be English.
There are thousands of e-books on the Amazon Kindle Store that have content errors. They may range from a series of simple spelling mistakes to a total mishmash of misspelling, appalling grammar and non-existent editing.
In an attempt to counter this and provide a better reading experience, Amazon will, from third February, begin showing customers a warning message on the Kindle store detail pages of books that contain validated quality issues. The warning message will be removed as soon as Amazon receives an updated file from self-published authors or publishing companies.
Whilst this is good news for readers like myself who have bought and downloaded a book only to find that it’s almost unreadable, as an author I have some reservations.
Take spellings, for example. As a Brit I write colour, which is different to the American spelling of color. There’s aeroplane and airplane, authorise and authorize and a whole host of words that have different national spellings. You will no doubt think of many yourself. Both versions are correct, but my UK spell checker flags up the US spelling as wrong.
And what about arcane technical and scientific terms like Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism, which is a medical condition? (Boy did my spell checker have to think about that one before it marked it up!)
When we throw in dialect, slang, conversation and deliberate misspelling, not to mention foreign accents, intentional spoonerisms and bastardised and “new” words, one can’t help wondering just how Amazon and its presumably automated editing is going to sort out what is correct and what isn’t. Much of meaning and spelling is derived from the context, and anyway what is the good of correcting spelling if you ignore poor construction, punctuation and grammar?
My fear is that in trying to cure one problem, Amazon is opening a large Pandora’s box of others.
Unless the AI (for I’m sure the editing won’t be done by humans) is more sophisticated than anything we’ve seen before, this new initiative will surely catch good, well written works as well as bad ones.
Which will leave the readers no better off than before.
Had enormous fun last night when we went wassailing over at Colwall village, just in the lee of the Malvern Hills. This was our first time here – we usually attend the Weston’s Cider Wassail – and I’d like to thank the Colwall Orchard Group for organising such an excellent event.
Wassailing is a traditional—actually pagan, probably Anglo Saxon—English midwinter festival which is celebrated to awake the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn. It’s also thought to be the origin of Christmas Carol-ing.
Although it’s a very ancient custom, and enjoying a resurgence especially amongst the younger folk, wassailing is really only celebrated in the cider apple growing counties, and the wider English public is not generally familiar with it. Which is a pity, because not only is it a great traditional English antidote to the commercialisation of Christmas, it’s also a really good excuse to get out on a cold Saturday night, eat, drink hot spiced cider, make lots of noise, meet nice people, wear silly hats, process down lanes holding flaming torches and generally have fun. It also raises lots of money for charity.
So if you’re in Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, or Dorset next midwinter, try and attend a wassailing. You wont regret it, and you’ll keep the cider apples healthy!
I had intended to illustrate this with my own photos from last night, but I’m afraid they weren’t really good enough, so I’ve included a video from last year’s Colwall event which will give you a flavour of what goes on. Also, for a good explanation about wassailing, see here.
Waes Hael ! ( Good Health! )
Liz and myself would like to wish all of my readers a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy , Healthy and Prosperous New Year.
According to the latest scientific research into longevity, shorter people live longer than tall folk. This is the finding of scientists from Scotland’s University of Glasgow and Norway’s University of Science and Technology.
Whilst this is quite good news for me (struggling to make 5’9” flat on my back with my hair spiked up), it isn’t so good for those who can reach the biscuits off the top shelf without going on tip-toes.
Although it’s always been known that larger animal species tend to live longer than smaller ones ( an elephant for instance will live a lot longer than a rat), it is only over the last hundred years or so that it has become clear that larger individuals within a particular species tend to die earlier than shorter individuals ( a St. Bernard is likely to have a significantly shorter lifespan than a small dog such as a Jack Russell).
While the researchers were unable to fully explain why this is the case, they believe that it may have something to do with telomeres – a region of protective DNA at the ends of a chromosome.
Telomeres have been compared with the plastic tips on shoelaces, because they keep chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other, which would destroy or scramble an organism’s genetic information.
Basically, the longer the telomeres the better. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, the cell can no longer divide; it becomes inactive or “senescent” or it dies. This shortening process is associated with aging, cancer, and a higher risk of death. So telomeres have also been compared with a bomb fuse.
“Growing a bigger body means that cells have to divide more. As a result, telomeres become eroded faster and cells and tissues function less well as a result,” said Professor Pat Monaghan of The University of Glasgow
Larger individuals tend to have smaller telomeres than shorter individuals and this could more easily lead to the onset of age-related diseases and an earlier death.
Other unrelated research bears out the fact that tall people rarely live exceptionally long lives.
A Short Survey
A study of more than 2,600 elite Finnish athletes showed that cross-country skiers were 6 inches shorter and lived nearly seven years longer than basketball players.
Even with the variations in diets and environment and culture factored in, average height in European countries closely correlates to the rate of death from heart disease. Swedes and Norwegians, who average about 5-foot-10, have more than twice as many cardiac deaths per 100,000 as the Spaniards and Portuguese, who have an average height just north of 5-foot-5.
Japanese people who reach 100 are 4 inches shorter, on average, than those who are 75. The countries in the taller half of Europe have 48 centenarians per million, compared to 77 per million in the shorter half of the continent.
It seems that you can measure your life span in inches!
Shortening The Odds
So, what can you do if you are a little on the lengthy side and you want to increase your chances of reaching one hundred? Stunt your growth with cigarettes or coffee? Drop a heavy weight on your head? I think not. You’re trying to lengthen your life, not shorten it.
There is a much easier way
According to research quoted on this blog, controlling inflammation is just as, if not more, important as telomere length, when it comes to successful ageing.
If you want to live to be a healthy centenarian, the most important thing you can do is reduce the levels of inflammation in your body.
And what is the easiest and most effective way of controlling inflammation?
Grounding Therapy, of course!
So all you stretchies out there, don’t despair.
Read my book Grounding Therapy, then order yourself some good grounding sheets.
King size of course!
Had the pleasure of spending a few days down at the Hay Festival last month, where I caught Neil Gaiman talking about the late Sir Terry Pratchett (who he describes as ‘gloriously grumpy’), and Peter and Dan Snow, who reflected on the The Battle of Waterloo.
Hay was, as always, a delight. The setting is glorious, the weather was benign, the festival was expertly staged, and best of all it’s less than an hour’s drive away from me.
Oh, and the fish and chip shop in Broad Street just by the river bridge serves the best chips in the country!