My shame, catching flies, the right to have sex, good guys at Timpsons and the Sidmouth fatberg

7 April 2019

I’ve never really thought about being British, it’s one of those things that just is, like my height and skin colour, except that if I’d never smoked I’d probably have been 6’6” and if I hadn’t spent too much time topless, my skin would be less blemished than it is.  Anyway, I’m now not just aware of my nationality, I’m ashamed of it.

This week I learnt how flies react so fast.  Their temporal resolution is quite different from ours and their dear little brains process up to 400 images per second while our huge lumps of grey goo can only manage 60 so they can respond a lot faster to a visual stimulus (such as a fast-moving fly-swat) than we can.

Did you know that, from ceilings, houseflies take off forwards from their upside-down position and do a fast 180o vertical loop downwards before deciding who to annoy next?  You can prove this by slowly lifting a cup full of a frothy coffee beneath them;  when the fly takes off, its loop takes it into the froth, where it gets stuck.  This doesn’t do the fly much good, or the coffee, but anybody who drinks frothy coffee deserves whatever lands in it.

Earlier this week, a (male, naturally) judge spoke in court about the “fundamental human right” of a man to have sex with his wife.  This was in the context of a case that had to decide, at the request of social services, whether the wife was still able to give her consent and the judge said that he wanted hear the evidence in detail from the woman herself, her husband and social services but he still used these words.  Where are we at?  1819?  Can you imagine a male judge talking about the fundamental human right of a woman to have sex with her husband?  I don’t remember our wedding vows even mentioning our sexuality, let alone what we did with it.

Better news emerged from the (private, family-owned) Timpsons group which includes various businesses and a locksmith service as well as the eponymous shoe-repair and key-cutting chain.  They employ more than 1,200 ex-offenders and at least seven of the group’s 2,000+ stores are run by people still serving their sentences, working under day release schemes and popping back to prison at the end of their shifts to get banged up for a good night’s kip.

They also fund training academies inside two women’s and five men’s prisons and have just got permission for a Timpson university in Wythenshawe which will offer degree-level training to 500 people a year including ex-offenders and those on day release.

James Timpson for PM if we can’t get Jacinda Ardern.

Devoted readers may have noticed my uncharacteristic restraint in failing to mention (at least until now) East Devon’s major contribution to national media in the last few months:  the feculent fatberg of Sidmouth.  Even now it’s been cleared, it still worries me because I always thought foul sewage was filtered and purified until it was clean enough to go into the nearest watercourse.  So how did all the fat and wipes and ‘other stuff’ block a sewer that runs under the seafront?  Somebody please reassure me that it goes the long way round, via a sewage treatment plant, in case I ever again feel the desire to plunge into the surf – if that’s the right word – at Sidmouth.

(Did you know that Prince Charles’ sewage at Highgrove seeps through about five descending levels of reed beds – I oversimplify somewhat – and the water trickling out the far end is supposed to be drinkable.  I didn’t test this when I was there.)

And finally, I hear McKenzie Bezos will be getting $37bn of Jeff’s wealth as they divorce.  I’m thinking of asking her to commit bigamy with me because I can think of a lot of things that would benefit more from all that money than her piggy-bank – the option of Earl Grey tea for all charity volunteers, for example.

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