Friday, 7th April, 2023

[Day 1117]

Today dawned bright and clear and just the weather for a day out – more is the pity that we had our day out yesterday but nonetheless, we had things to look forward this morning. After we had got ourselves ready and hastily breakfasted, we made our way to Waitrose, via the paper shop, where we were due to meet with our University of Birmingham friend. Once esconced in front of a cup of coffee and a round of toast, we got onto the subject (I do not know how) of the way in which cities grow and develop. When I was at university, one of the most interesting courses that I undertook was one in urban sociology. If this sounds very esoteric, this is not really the case as much of the same subject matter is shared with another academic discipline but in this case called human geography. As our friend was an engineer by discipline and eventual employment, I spent a certain amount of time explaining the Burgess model of city growth which is now well known to countless generatons of students. These theories were originally formulated in the 1920’s in the Chicago school of urban sociology and conceived of the city as a ‘natural’ biological mechanism in which certain principals could be seen as being worked out. Two of these are ‘invasion and succession’in which land use changes as one ‘species’ drives out another (in the urban case, read populations) Another pair of principles are ‘commensualism’ in which similar organisms cluster together (in the urban case, think of financial institutions) and ‘symbiosis’ (in which unlike ‘organisms’ are to be found adjacent to each other such as restaurants adjacent to theatres, flower/fruit sellers to be found outside hospitals and the like) All in all, my friend and I spent about an hour discussing how these principles apply to cities that we knew well, Birmingham in my friend’s case and Manchester in my own.) We also spent some discussing the kinds of self-tuition language courses that might be of particular use to both of us because I have in mind that a lanuguage refresher in Spanish might prove to be of particular interest to Meg given her past level of proficiency in languages. Incidentally, the Spanish have rather a nice phrase because whereas we would say that we ‘proficiency’ in a language, the Spanish use the noun ‘dominion’ (almost literally the usage we have in English) which tends to imply a certain amount of struggle followed by eventual ‘mastery’.

I consulted the radio guide published in today’s newspaper to see if the BBC would maintain their tradition of broadcasting a ‘Passion’ (typically Matthew Passion or John Passion) this afternoon, as it is Good Friday. I found that Radio 3 was broadcasting St John Passion rather than the better known Matthew Passion. This Passion is shorter than the Matthew Passion and is not as well known and has somewhat fewer choruses, although the ones they do have sound similar and are rather derivative of those from Matthew Passion. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the clarity and superb exposition of the singing and so enjoyed this during the afternoon. Incidentally, I have confirmed but still do not know why this should be the case but FM recption on Radio 3 is certainly improved if one places the aerial wire into a horizontal rather than the vertical orientation that most sources would suggest. My limited reading around the subject suggests that it depends upon the polarisation of the transmitted signal and that vertically aligned aerials work better placed next to a wall but horizontally oriented ones when mounted adjacent to a ceiling. Perhaps that is why many dipole aerials are sold in a ‘T’ shape so that some of the aerial is vertically whereas the arms are horizontal. Anyway, all of this is somehat of a black art but I have found out empirically what suits my system(s) and I will stick with that, evn though there is a theoreticl reason for the results I am achieving.

Meanwhile, British politics is fast descending into the gutter. A Labour Party ‘tweet’ is implying that Rishi Sunak would not want to send either child molestors or armed criminals to gaol whereas Suella Braverman (and Boris Johnson before her) has also attacked Keir Starmers record as Dirctor of Public Procecutions on similar grounds. I am pleased to say that voices are being raised to the effect that a party confident of its own values and policies has no need to engage in this kind of ‘gutter politics’ and condemnation of the tweets and the consequnt debate is coming from all sides of the political divide. But, of course, politicians are in full electioneering mode now that parliament is in recess, the local elections are about 3-4 weeks away and Easter is a traditional time to get one’s message out before the electorate. But perhaps it is self evident that these sorts of ‘tit-for-tat’ attacks upon political opponents are ultimately self defeating and probably harm the perpetrator more than the intended target. I have always rather like the riposte, first used I think by Adlai Stevenson the American Democratic politician, that ‘if (political oppenents) stop telling lies about us, we will will refrain from telling the truth about them’ This is, in my view, political repartee at its best.