9 December 2018
As we drove home from Judy’s choir along a dark, wet road I wondered who’d invented catseyes and if they’d ever been sainted for such a brilliant (geddit?) idea. The answer turned out to be Percy Shaw who lived in Boothtown in North Yorkshire and patented the idea in 1934 when he was 44; he wasn’t sainted but he did get the OBE. His company, Reflecting Roadstuds Ltd (website www.percyshawcatseyes.com) still makes them and is still in Boothtown.
Although we take them for granted, they’re a remarkably simple but very clever invention: a pair of glass bead reflectors set in a rubber casing and fitted into a metal box that is recessed into the road so that not only do they squash down into the metal box as something passes over them but, because rain collects in the box, they’re self-cleaning. Ain’t that something!
Since I’m so disenchanted with Brexit, last week’s big event was George Bush’s funeral, the first presidential funeral at which the incumbent president wasn’t invited to deliver a eulogy since LBJ’s in 1973 when Nixon wasn’t. George Bush never impressed me that much at the time but he was apparently quite a modest man who was willing to consider bi-partisan solutions to national problems and he at least, unlike his son, waited for a UN resolution before starting a war in the Gulf. However, it was a pleasure to see how discomfited Trump looked seated alongside his predecessors who had been chatting happily until he arrived, when a palpable froideur settled over them.
A survey commissioned by the End Violence Against Women Coalition has found that a third of people in the UK think it isn’t usually rape if a woman is pressured into having sex but there is no physical violence, which means that a lot of jurors in rape trials are much less likely to find the defendant guilty. The only small consolation is that believing this seems to be age-related: while about 70% of the over-65s consider that having sex with your wife or partner without consent isn’t rape, only one in six of 16-24-year-olds thought this.
So, as we wrinklies die off and disappear from juries, it will become more likely for juries to accept that a lack of consent constitutes rape. Mind you, I’ve reached wrinklyhood without ever having had to do jury service though I have sat through a trial whose jury retired for a long time, making it clear that the decision was far from unanimous, and then came back with the wrong verdict, and I was convinced that this was only because it was getting late on a Friday afternoon and they wanted to get home for the weekend.
The House of Lords this week proved its value by amending the government’s Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill after overseas aid charities had pointed out that the Bill was so badly written it would have made it a criminal offence for British aid workers to support vulnerable people in conflict zones. Their amendment now exempts aid workers and others with a legitimate reason, such as journalists, to travel to areas where extremist groups operate.
Nigel Farage (the one with the teeth, a beer and a cigarette, you remember, the one who pulled Boris Johnson’s strings during the Brexit campaign, the MEP who rarely bothers to attend but still claims large expenses, terrible taste in jackets, you know the one) seems to be setting himself up as a political pundit, at least in America. He has even argued on the far-right website Infowars that London’s 7/7 bombs were faked.
I’m not sure I agree with him because I knew somebody who heard the bomb in the bus explode. She was on the Euston Road about 200 yards from Tavistock Square, heard the bang, looked round, saw the damaged bus, realised there was nothing she could do and came on to work.
Terrorist attacks may delay public transport for a while but they certainly don’t instil terror so why don’t terrorists just give up and see if it isn’t too late to make peace with their gods?