January’s a tricky month, emotionally speaking. It contains Blue Monday, statistically the saddest day of the year, a calculation based on weather conditions, levels of debt, and the length of time since Christmas. Crucially, enough time has now passed for us to have already failed to keep our new year’s resolutions: we know we need to take ourselves in hand, but we currently lack the motivation to do so. And for many people that means insomnia, as we while away the wee small hours fretting about our failings. Read More
As rescuers struggle to reach the victims, the death toll from the tsunami in Indonesia keeps rising. Our screens are filled with pictures of devastation and grief, and we wonder how on earth anyone can bear it any more. We seem to be hearing about extreme weather events too frequently these days, and too many people are dying. Thanks to the aid agencies, we can offer practical assistance to the communities affected, but our over-riding reaction to this news is often a sense of powerlessness in the face of natural disaster. Tsunamis and hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, are all considered ‘Acts of God’, even by insurance companies, who often won’t pay out for them, because they’re not caused by human hands. Read More
In Mexico, the car-maker Volkswagen is being criticised for overuse of Hail Cannons. To avoid damage to the new cars they store outside, they’ve invested in vast machines that fire waves of pressure into the air to prevent hailstorms. But the farmers around them are claiming that this also prevents rain, so their crops are failing. Cloud-busting has been going on for quite a while. For their Olympics, the Beijing Weather Modification Office used 21 rockets around the city to fire silver iodide into the clouds, to make the rain fall before it reached the capital. Read More
In a bid to combat fake news, Facebook has just confirmed that it’s started scoring users on their trustworthiness. They hope this will allow their algorithms to de-prioritise those posts likely to be misinformed, so they appear lower down in people’s news feeds. Read More
I wonder what you had on your mind when you woke up this morning?
On this day in 306 AD, a Roman soldier called Constantine woke up in the army barracks at York, to find himself later that day being made the Emperor of the entire Roman Empire. And also today, in 1603, King James the Sixth of Scotland woke up, down south, and was crowned James the First of England in Westminster Abbey. Whether it was Christianity becoming the world’s primary religion, or the Union of England with Scotland, the events both set in train remain huge political issues to this day. Read More
Did you ever have to learn poetry at school? I did. One of the poems I remember was called Schule in June, by Robert Bain. It’s about having to stay inside when it’s a lovely day. It ends up with this complaint:
…..I ‘ve no objection to lessons,
Whiles – but in June?
This is the time of year when we yearn for a break. The world beyond the window seems to be calling to us, and nature puts on her most alluring display to tempt us outside. Many of us are lucky enough to have holidays in prospect. But for some, holidays are a luxury. At least today’s Friday, so we have the weekend to look forward to. But will it really be a rest for you? Read More
Later today, the Queen will meet 92 men and 92 women at St George’s Chapel in Windsor and hand them each a leather purse of Maundy Money.
The Royal Maundy was introduced by King John in 1213. In those days, the ceremony involved foot-washing, because Jesus washed his disciples’ feet on that very first Maundy Thursday in Jerusalem. In the Royal Maundy, before the monarch got anywhere near a poor person’s feet, there were always several pre-washes by B-list dignitaries, and the flowers to mask the smell are still ceremonially carried today. Read More
It’s International Women’s Day today, and this year we’re also marking 100 years since the first women finally got the vote. Companies now report on gender splits and gender pay gaps, and books like Lean In are helping us all to proactively scramble up the career ladder. We have female heads of state north and south of the border, and the first female bishop in the Scottish Episcopal Church was consecrated only last week. Read More
Before her death last year, the MP Jo Cox set up a Commission to look at Loneliness, which affects nine million people in the UK.
It’s estimated that half of those aged over 75 live alone. 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or a relative in more than a month. Many of them go for days or even weeks with no social interaction at all. Read More
Today is the 95th anniversary of the BBC’s first ever radio broadcast, from Savoy Hill in London. 4 months later, broadcasting starting in Glasgow, and within a year, Stations 2BD and 2EH were broadcasting from Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
It’s funny to think of how new radio actually is, because it feels like one of life’s permanent fixtures. I imagine that if you grew up with radio, like me – you woke up to it every morning. When I was ill in bed or away from home staying with relatives, its reassuring rumble would rise up through the floorboards to soothe my soul. As a child I sang along with Stewpot on a Saturday morning; the Top 40 saw me safely through my teens; and whenever I pulled an all-nighter at university, I had the Shipping Forecast to keep me company. Read More