Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The last days of homeopathy

I have affectionate memories of Professor David Bellamy, OBE; he was always a bit of a clown, but his zest was endearing and his 400 TV programmes were entertaining and did much to popularise his enthusiasms, particularly botany.

Sadly, he later espoused the cause of climate change denial and more recently became the patron of the British Homeopathic Association, lobbyers for more quackery in the NHS.

This letter by Professor David Colquhoun asks Bellamy to appeal to the organisation, as one of its trustees, to take a firm and unequivocal stance against homeopaths using their products to either prevent or treat serious diseases such as HIV, malaria and to make a firm statement that they condemn this murderous use of homeopathic products.

It is indeed sad to see that dear old Bellamy (he is 78) needs to be advised not to support an organisation like the BHA. However, Colquhoun's letter gives some heartwarming comments on the increasing decline in the popularity of the absurd nostrums which they peddle:

"According to the Telegraph today, spending on homeopathic prescriptions has plummeted eightfold since 2000. If this decline continues, we can expect no prescriptions to be written with public money within a year or two....

I am not sure why homeopathy has declined so precipitously. But the very vocal campaign over the past few years against the provision of this superstitious form of medicine with public money may have played a part.

Homeopathy within the public sphere has been declining since the formation of the NHS with it almost disappearing entirely in the ‘70s. There are not any real homeopathic hospitals left at all now – just a few small clinics clinging on. Tunbridge Wells homeopathic hospital closed down a few years ago and the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital had to stop pretending it was a real homeopathic hospital in its own right and changed its name to the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. Maybe we are just seeing the tail-end of a long decline."

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A jug of wine, a book of verse...

I don't like poetry much but have always been a keen versifier. I set a couple of sonnet-writing competitions some years ago (this is an example) but didn't enter them myself. However, I did once enter another competition, which called for a poem about either chlamydia or some form of contraception. I wrote:

There was a young lady called Lydia
Whose sex life just couldn't be giddier.
She gave not a rap
For the pox or the clap,
But was terribly scared of chlamydia.

This got an honourable mention but at the time I published the post I did not know that my poem was going to be really published. Then the branch of the pharmacy which had sponsored the competition produced a booklet containing all the best entries, and mine was one of them.

It occurred to me when I came across my copy of the booklet the other day that I had never announced to my friends that I had been given this signal honour, so I am doing so now.

The name of the sponsoring pharmacy, by the way, was Laycock Chemists. 

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Actually, books don't always smell nice

Monday's Guardian had a thoughtful and fairly objective article by Sam Leith about the relative virtues of books and electronic books. Most comment on this topic is special pleading of one kind or another: Ebook Sceptic, for example, is written by a bookseller (Tom Campbell) and unsurprisingly presents few arguments in favour of reading off an electronic device; Kindle-Schmindle describes Campbell's piece as "collating scientific research which adds rational support to his - our - instinctual [sic: he means instinctive] rejection of this new technology", but in fact it is cherry-picking: proper research should not merely set out to justify views already held.

I could set out the many advantages of reading devices (such as the fact that some books - and all thick paperbacks - have to be held open with both hands, which is uncomfortable) but this would be special pleading; I am biased because I love reading but a combination of arthritis and sensorimotor axonal polyneuropathy made it difficult until I discovered the iPad; now it is once again a joy.

Monday, 15 August 2011

This Sporting Life

I have been taken to task by one of my nearest and dearest for having expressed mild irritation at the brouhaha over the English cricket team’s recent success. It had seemed to me that for the result of a game of cricket to feature for several days as a major item in every TV news broadcast was excessive; the spectacle of smirking newsreaders telling us over and over again how epoch-making it all was – Georgeous George Alegiah was particularly gruesome – must have palled even for some sport-lovers.

I was accused of meanly resenting the “general happiness enabling people to forget their miserable dull lives”. This is not true: I like people to be happy, and if all it takes is a sporting victory then good luck to them. What I do resent is the way in which the bullying majority assume that those who do not share their enthusiasms must be perverse, unpatriotic or effete, or all three; I do not demand that they  share, say, my passion for early Assyrian stringed instruments, so why do they think I ought to enjoy listening to them wittering on about their silly games?

I suppose it is partly my fault for having nowadays stopped concealing my total lack of interest in all forms of sport. For many years, while I was making a living in a field related to sport, I had to dissemble and at times actually pretend that watching some contest or other, when I didn’t understand the rules and didn’t care much who won or lost, was my idea of fun.

But, I hear you cry, why did you ever get involved in something so unrelated to your inclinations? The answer is simple: in many jobs, the end product doesn’t really matter too much. Suppose you are the CEO of a multinational employing 4,000 people making mild steel flanges; must you be devoted to mild steel flanges? Would you necessarily want to spend your leisure time watching TV programmes about them or discussing them with your friends? Of course not, but running the company could be fulfilling work at which you were fairly competent and which you thoroughly enjoyed doing.

So it was with me, but of course all my colleagues naturally assumed that I was as fascinated by sport as they were, and it would have been churlish (and a poor career move) to have let them know how much it bored me. Sometimes the pretence was a strain.

The first time I went to Beijing (or Peking as we called it then) my interpreter told me when I got off the train from Lo Wu that my hosts had decided to honour me the next day by granting me a rare privilege. I was already excited just to be in China and I tossed about all night wondering what this surprise treat would be: a confidential talk with some of the party leaders, perhaps? A private visit to part of the Forbidden City not normally shown to foreigners? Dinner with some of their top circus stars at the biggest of the famous Roast Duck Restaurants, the one that serves 5,000 meals every day?

No. It was a seat (admittedly a good one, with arms) at a football match. The Red Army versus Albania. Three hours in a scruffy sweltering stadium with twenty thousand spectators screaming, spitting and generally carrying on, while I tried hard to pretend I was having the time of my life.

In later years I devised various stratagems for keeping up the pretence of my keen interest in all things sportive; I picked up from experts a few phrases relevant to each sport which I could trot out when at some dreary event I was woken from a light doze by someone wanting to know what I thought about it. One of those for football, I remember, was: “…well, of course, they’re keeping it very loose in midfield, aren’t they?…” Or, for cricket, something along the lines of: "...just like Gooch, really; he was always flashing at rising balls on the legside... "

I had no idea what these things meant, but neither did anyone else and I said them confidently, so they usually went down quite well.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Taken for a ride

It has occurred to me that it is a long time since I have added a new titfer to my "Hats" category. This will be OMF's 50th hat and I have chosen it to contrast with all the spectacular, soppy or frightening ones in the series

Actually this one isn't new. I posted this photo of one of my grand-daughters before, as hat number 41, but so what? It's a gentle, pleasing image, and I've nothing else to post today. 


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Passing likeness

They both have that piercing look of hard men, as if they might have had something in common, but they probably didn't, apart from having had tough childhoods. 

 Yehudi                               Philip