Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Hunter and Barbour effect

I arrived in Sussex without suitable footwear for snow. I'd left my Uggs and Emus in Alberta, but although ideal for dry snow they would get ruined quickly in our wetter stuff. This is wellie weather, so after a visit to Harper and Eede I'm now the owner of a pair of green Hunters to go with my old Barbour jacket. Needless to say, the effect is more Duchess of Cornwall than Peaches Geldof.

It strikes me that there could be few better auguries of a Conservative election victory than the fashion revival of Hunters and Barbours.

I see that Barbour are now doing a belted jacket which bears a remarkable resemblance to the old biker's Belstaff jacket, which is no longer produced. I wore a Belstaff for years in my twenties, it long outlasted the boyfriend with an Enfield India. It was an excellent garment without the snob associations the Barbour has acquired.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I've arrived in Sussex from Alberta, but there is no escape. At least here I'm not the biggest wimp on the block because I won't leave the house when it is below -30 C, and I can be very contemptuous, in a North American way, of six inches of snow, and temperatures below freezing being an excuse for half the British population to skive off work.

Why is that? Yesterday the roads in this village were clear enough for careful drivers. The pavements were still treacherous, but wouldn't have been if everybody had cleared the snow from in front of their own house.

This morning we've just had a call saying that Mum's community bus is not running. This is a service for elderly and infirm folk to make sure they can do their shopping every Friday, but apparently not today when they will find it most difficult to get to the shops unaided.

There is a community spirit. I am very grateful to all our neighbours who have popped in to see that Mum in all right.

But as for the authorities, I'm sorry but this is pathetic. I'm ashamed of my country.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Canada - Champions of the Environment

If you want to read something ridiculous, look at the site of Expo 17, a world's fair Canada is planning to celebrate its 150th birthday. The theme is "social and environmental sustainability". This is the equivalent of apartheid South Africa holding an international multicultural festival with the theme of "one colour under the skin", or present day Zimbabwe hosting a celebration of liberal democracy.

Edmonton, the Alberta's capital, and the Sodom of global warming to Calgary's Gomorrah, has made a bid to host the fair. The city's theme is "Energy in Harmony with the Planet". According to Kevin Taft, an, (apparently delusional), local Liberal politician, Edmonton could become "a leader in the post-Copenhagen low-carbon economy".

I'm possibly being unfair to Mr Taft, who is an honest and hardworking MLA, who spent four years in the dispiriting role of leader of Alberta's official opposition. My own position here is as a lily of the field, I reap not neither do I spin. I contribute nothing to this city, but I sit on the sidelines making sarky comments while I wait (impatiently) for my husband to retire, so we can get the heck out of here. So, I should spare some sympathy for the native liberals of Alberta who do not have the option of escape.

It is hard to sustain optimism if you are a liberal, progressive or environmentalist in Alberta. With a 1.5 degree warming now inevitable, agriculture on the prairies has no more future than Tuvalu, and as the conventional oil and gas dry up, Alberta's only other substantial natural resource is the tar-sands. The political status quo is just as depressing: the Progressive Conservatives hold 72 out of 83 seats in the legislative assembly and have held power since 1971. In these circumstances it is not surprising that Albertan liberals have a tendency to build castles in the air.

Friday, January 1, 2010


My octogenarian mother has a painful rash caused by shingles. She is in a lot of pain, so I've decided to fly home on Monday and look after her. Meanwhile, I've been finding out about shingles.

I already knew that you can't get shingles unless you have had chicken pox, but I didn't know that there is a vaccine for chicken-pox, which is given to children in the USA and Canada, but not in the UK.

The rationale for not giving the vaccine in the UK is that it would increase the number of shingles cases in adults. This is because, once you've had chicken-pox, further exposure to the virus as you gets older acts like a booster vaccine and gives you protection against shingles. Therefore if all children were vaccinated, adults who'd had the disease would not come into contact with the virus and so would be more likely to get shingles.

I'm not sure about the ethics of the British chicken-pox vaccine policy. According to this Daily Mail article, more elderly people die of shingles than children and young adults die of chicken-pox. But is it really right to unnecessarily expose younger generations to the disease to protect the older generation, particularly since more than half of elderly people will get shingles anyway?

The British position is even more dubious now that there is a vaccine against shingles. It is not yet available in the UK, but in Canada it is available to the over-60's.

I am sure of one thing, I'll be making sure we've had our shingles vaccinations in Alberta before we retire to the UK.