As is tradition in this country, throughout my childhood in Bolton there was a constant white noise about weather. Through all the seasons from spring (drizzly) and summer (close) to autumn (nippy) and winter (slippy), weather was discussed, pondered and moaned about.
Now, though, the phrase “since records began” is being bandied about an awful lot in a month in which there’s been hip‑high snow in America and floods blighting huge areas of the UK in a freakishly warm and wet January.
Weather is getting biblical. Across the globe, lakes are turning to desert, villages to rivers. El Niño and La Niña aren’t cute Spanish twins from a CBeebies show but weather systems growing in power and intensity. We’re all gradually beginning to feel a little uneasy about climate change, and talking about the weather now has a sinister undercurrent to it. I’m secretly acknowledging to myself that things are changing for the worse (but not out loud, in case it makes it come true quicker).
We need a CCA: Climate Change Anonymous. “My name’s Sara and I’m scared about global warming. It’s been three weeks since I had a bath instead of a shower.”
This is the 10-year anniversary of Al Gore’s global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which we watched and thought “Cripes, jolly serious stuff” – and then carried on with our lives as though it were a science-fiction film about an imaginary planet, not a documentary about our own. We conveniently shelved the information in the “too big to deal with” cabinet of our brains.
Gore must now be sitting on his ark sadly watching this big political, global bird come home to roost.
Last week, when the weather dipped to freezing, I was thrilled to have numb fingers as it just felt more “January”, more normal, so I could stop fretting. But I’m scared for my kids, and for my kids’ kids.
I’m no Swampy, but I try to do my bit. There’s barely an hour goes by that I’m not standing at the sink washing out a piccalilli jar ready for my blue bin.
In the good old bad old days, we’d just toss these into landfill, but now recycling could almost count as a national hobby.
Unfortunately, with my green efforts I take one step forward and two huge strides back, leaving a massive smudgy carbon footprint with my “mumtruck”. It’s a tank, and as much as I try to justify it – three children and a dog! Bikes, scooters and horse-riding gear in the boot! – I know it’s an indulgence because I see it in the eyes of cyclists as I squeeze past them. They look at me as if it’s fuelled by a live kitten furnace, rather than the now demonised diesel. I was even tempted to cadge a “British Beef” window sticker from my farmer dad, so people think I’m one too and just visiting north London from my 100 acres of rough moorland that absolutely requires the use of a 4x4.
Aha, wait a minute, though. I rarely fly, and that surely earns me some green points. We holiday in the UK, supporting tourist industries from West Pembrokeshire to Penzance, renting cottages, eating cream teas and driving around the wonderful countryside in my... oh hang on.
Whenever I think I ought to trade in my beloved motor, I envisage a factory in China belching out black smoke, six-lane highways in Dallas and some git illegally flattening Ecuadorian rainforests and think: “What difference would it make?”
A selfish cop-out, I know, but I kid myself that my other efforts balance things out. I hate food waste (most meals we have are because the main ingredient “needs eating”) and I tell my kids not to waste electricity and water, mysteriously murmuring, “think of the polar bears”. I reuse tin foil and wash drinking straws (much to the annoyance of my husband), but I know it’s not enough.
It feels like the world is spinning out of control, but how can I change that when I’ve got school runs, work and my own little world to keep spinning? It’s so hard to know where to start, but we’re going to have to soon – if we’re not already too late.
Ask my collarbone what the most dangerous sport is
Victoria Pendleton, the successful British Olympian, has accepted a “swapping saddles” challenge, taking her off her bike and on to a racehorse.
I have walked in her riding boots, having raced twice for charity at Goodwood’s Ladies’ Day, but the difference is I’ve ridden all my life and only had to cling on for a seven-furlong sprint on the flat. Victoria hadn’t so much as sat on a horse before her training began last autumn, and her goal is to ride over 22 fences in the three-mile Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March. There are similarities between the sports. You need to be incredibly fit and have thighs of steel to create that jockey’s “martini glass” shape, legs deeply squatting and flat back. You need to be dedicated and competitive – all fine for Victoria.
What’s new here is her bravery. Horse-racing is the most dangerous sport. A nice doctor in Watford A&E told me that as he patched up my broken collarbone, dented knee cap and swollen neck disc after I crashed during training in 2013.
However Victoria does in March, if she finishes in one piece I reckon she deserves another medal to add to her collection.
How switching off could help you nod off
A study in the US has found that people who use social media regularly suffer from disturbed sleep. Whether it’s posting photos of your cat on Instagram, getting riled during fiery debates on Facebook or confusing your circadian rhythms by subjecting your brain to a bright glow from the screen at night time, it’s apparently calamitous for your kip.
This research was released the day before a social media storm erupted on Twitter involving a spat between rappers Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa. Both men exchanged blows – of 140 characters or fewer – in front of a captive audience of their combined 41 million followers.
Kanye decided to drag his ex-girlfriend, the model Amber Rose, into the spat, being pretty cretinous about not only her, but her young son with Wiz Khalifa. Twitter melted as Amber Rose bit back with twice the teeth of her ex, tweeting to the world some detail of Kanye’s sexy-time preferences.
Kanye retreated, deleted, stepped away from the phone. Game, set, match Amber Rose.
In light of this new research, I’m imagining she slept much better than he did on Wednesday night.
No excuse for pyjamas at the school gate
A letter from a Darlington headteacher asking parents to stop wearing pyjamas and slippers on the morning school run has led to accusations of her having “middle-class” views. That’s an insult to the working classes; without getting too “12 of us lived in a crisp packet”, my mum had two jobs and worked bloody hard to provide for us but would never have left the house in her nightie. These parents need to get dressed!
They don’t have to do a Claudia Schiffer school-run look, all caramel cashmere and a blow-dry. I’ve worked enough early shifts to know it takes four minutes to chuck on some jeans, pull a hoodie over your head and drag a brush through your hair.
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