Monthly Archives: December 2016

A PRECIOUS CHRISTMAS GIFT

2016 has been for me a year of great tragedy. It culminated in the death of my beloved wife Maria, whose love and companionship for sixty years gave me every fulfilment that I had ever dreamed of.

In a life punctuated by a humble beginning, hard work and a Spartan existence, that would become the norm during our formative years, it was a struggle which bound us together; husband and wife, seeking the same objectives to better ourselves and forge ahead in a disciplined manner to achieve a measure of success we could be proud of. Most of all, though, it was to build a life together that, in essence, let our relationship withstand the vicissitudes of time and gave us a happiness that earmarked everything we did and aimed for. This I shall never forget as long as I live.

This Christmas, however, the dark clouds that followed Maria’s death were miraculously alleviated by the birth of a granddaughter which my son and his lovely  Pauline appropriately called Maria. Little Maria brought sunshine back into my life the likes of which I missed for most of last year, to the extent that existence as I knew it before was becoming rather meaningless.

But now what a Christmas present I have! I thank the Good Lord for his immaculate gift and I will try to live again until the day when I get the heavenly summons to join my wife for eternity.

THE TOXICITY OF ALCOHOLIC EXCESS

Levels of drinking have soared one third since the 1980s fuelled by increasing consumption by women, according to a major report which calls for minimum prices for alcohol. Health officials said more working years of life are lost in England as a result of alcohol related deaths than from more than twelve types of cancer combined.

The review by Public Health England suggests that a range of measures, such as minimum pricing and tackling marketing by alcohol firms, could cut the harm caused by drinking. The prime minister’s spokesman said: ‘The government would continue to consider setting limits’ – but insisted that ‘no one wants to interfere with the rights of adults who want to enjoy a drink responsibly.’
Ministers are awaiting the findings of a court case in Scotland where minimum pricing has been proposed. The report shows soaring drinking in recent decades with deaths from liver disease rising by 400 percent since 1970. The study pointed to evidence that ‘setting a minimum price for alcohol can reduce alcohol related harm while saving health care costs.’ One province in Canada, which had put a 10 percent increase on minimum process, saw a 22 percent fall in consumption of high-strength beer with a 10 percent fall in all beers, and reductions of about 6 percent in sprits and 5 per cent for wine.

In 2012 the Scottish parliament passed legislation to introduce a 50p. per unit minimum price for alcohol. This was challenged by the Scotch Whisky Association and is the subject of an ongoing legal case. The Downing Street spokesman said: ‘What this report shows is that clearly abuse of alcohol can cause significant health problems but no one wants to interfere with the rights of adults who want to enjoy a drink responsibly. The issue of minimum unit pricing is under review while we await the outcome of the court case in Scotland.’

PHE’s review of evidence on the harm caused by alcohol examines its impact on health, society and the effect on the economy. It pointed to more than 1 million hospital admissions relating to alcohol each year, half of which occur in the lowest three socio-economic groups. In total, 167, 000 years of working life were lost as a result of alcohol in 2015, according to the figures which calculate how long those under the age of 65 would have lived. It said sales of alcohol in England and Wales have increased by 42 percent in 1980 from roughly 400 million litres in the early 80s with a peak of 567 million litres in 2008. Since then there has been a decline to 533 million litres, meaning that overall sales have increased by one third since the 1980s. The growth has been driven by increased consumption by women, a shift to higher strength products and increasing affordability to alcohol, particularly through the 80s and 90s. Professor Sir Ian Gilmour, Chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK said: ‘Increased duty on the cheapest drinks alongside minimum unit pricing would make a real difference to some of our most vulnerable groups.’

What I find most disturbing is the fact that women are drinking more alcohol, presumably either because they feel an additional stress in our highly competitive society of today, or because young women are encouraged to binge drink by some of their male escorts to soften their sexual resistance.

I find such action inexcusable. It is a most dangerous game to play in all ways possible.

LIVING AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH IS THE NEW DESTINATION

People, who visited New Zealand, although describing the country’s landscape as the best one they could ever wish for, were usually unlikely to consider moving there on a permanent basis. New Zealanders themselves have long lamented their isolation – a predicament causing half the country’s brightest and most ambitious to flee overseas.

However, it seems a reversal of this trend is now taking place as some of the wealthiest people in the world are buying up property in a land renowned for its natural beauty and open spaces. Alexander Abramov, the Russian steel billionaire who is a business partner of Roman Abromavitch, has had a 30 million pound ‘lodge’ built at Helena Bay in the far north, arguably one of the country’s most stunning beaches. He endeared himself to New Zealanders and its government by agreeing to allow public access to his isolated 500 acre farm and employing Maori people.
Other big spenders showing an interest include Jack Ma, founder of Ali Baba, the world’s largest retailer, who said in April that he would use part of his 21 billion pound fortune to buy a home in New Zealand. Diana Foreman, 56, New Zealand’s wealthiest woman, believes that the country’s attraction is its isolation. London is more than 11,000 miles away and takes 25 hours of flying to reach. ‘New Zealand is a safe haven,’ she said.

Nick Horton, owner of Luxury Real Estate, which sells expensive property to many foreigners, says the US election has produced a spike in enquiries from ‘wealthy Americans, seeking to secure a far-off bolt-hole for themselves or their children if things go awry in their homeland.’

‘Rising levels of unrest around the world were also a contributing factor,’ he added. ‘In American Election years we get added enquiries.’ Officials have noted a surge of enquiries from the UK since the Brexit vote: they are running at double last year’s rate.

At twice the size of England, but with less than a tenth of its population, New Zealand has long been at the top of desirable locations to live. Recently the Legatum Institute in London named it the world’s most prosperous nation, based on rankings covering business environment, education, health, safety and personal freedoms. It said that New Zealand had an unrivalled ability to turn its wealth into prosperity for its inhabitants.
James Cameron, the Canadian born film maker, has built a second home in farmland and forest, north of Wellington. He is so enamoured with it that he has appeared in a promotional film launched by New Zealand’s tourist agency in which he declares he has never before felt such a strong connection to a landscape.

Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, has invested millions of pounds since 2010 in New Zealand’s software and telecom companies. He says he has found his ‘Utopia’. John Key, a former prime minister, was a currency trader based in London. He has described the country as ‘England without the attitude.’

If the very rich are flocking to buy homes in New Zealand then they must surely know what they are doing. For me, however, it is much too late to consider the possibility of uprooting myself at this stage in my life.
In any event, I’m not very comfortable with earthquakes or tsunamis

A Sombre Reflection

When the Chips are Down is a review by Stoddard Martin, an author and critic himself, of Nine Love Letters by Gerald Jacobs published by Quartet Books at  £20.

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Here is the opening of his long review which will give the reader an inkling of what the book is about:

We are living through a neo-expressionistic, intolerant era. Famous lines come to mind: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The resentful go ranting, provoking ill-judged rejoinders; the ante is upped, and clunky apparatchiks are called in to assess who has indulged in hate-speech. Amidst sound and fury, where are the quieter voices, the humane ones, belonging to those who begin and end by trying to understand?

Gerald Jacobs is not a loud-speaking writer. His sentences are never calculated for show. He spins out a narrative calmly and justly, in a reasonable voice. His tale is about Jewish experience, but not with special pleading or without exposing foibles of the tribe. Nine Love Letters is no exercize in us vs them; it is a novel about people in their un-public lives, the way they have navigated historical noxiousness, the difficulties they have in simply living.

The ordinariness of Jacobs’s characters is at the base of their virtues, yet neither they nor their lives are truly ordinary. How could they be when one of the two families, eventually united in marriage comes from Baghdad at the time of the Farhud and the other, now reduced to one, from Budapest at the time of exportations to Auschwitz? These epic disasters provide a precisely painted-in background, but they are not what Jacobs trains our eye on…

Now it is time you buy a copy of this amazing novel and find out for yourself its emotional impact in an age when the world is still going through a spat of inhumanity and violence.

DRUNKEN PETS ARE ON THE RISE

Who would have thought that pets are unwittingly picking up their masters’ dirty habits of imbibing themselves with alcohol drinks which are left unfinished, especially at this time of the year when merriment takes over in unforeseen circumstances?

For pets are likely to succumb to alcohol poisoning during the festive period as a result of them sneaking a sip of any drink left lying around the house, with potentially fatal consequences. With more people drinking at home now than in pubs, the problem is worsening. Vets are becoming concerned about the problem and they have now warned the public that because pets, such as cats and dogs, are naturally inquisitive they are likely to sniff out any liquids left in glasses on the floor, and because of their size it takes very little to make them drunk.

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It is no laughing matter to see your pets inebriated, for last year vets treating pets who had suffered alcohol poisoning contacted the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) for advice on 26 occasions, up from just 5 in the year 2000. The service also feared that many such cases remain unreported.
Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association, said: ‘If a pet has access to alcohol, it can lead to serious health issues. If owners suggest their pet has consumed alcohol they should contact their local vet immediately.’

It could be a worrying problem if the trend of alcohol poisoning were to continue to rise. As binge drinking, especially amongst the young, shows no sign of abatement, the dangers to pets will multiply.

Vigilance should therefore be high on the agenda to ensure that pets are given the necessary protection.

Warding Off Pneumonia

If dentists were to reduce their exorbitant fees they would not only be more popular but within the means of a larger section of the population who would make a habit of visiting them on a more regular basis than they do now.

Avoiding the dentist could almost double the risk of getting pneumonia scientists have discovered. So it is in the interests of both parties to forge a better relationship for the overall health of the nation.

Apparently those who fail to have their teeth and gums checked were found to be 86% more likely to contract the disease. US experts believe this happens when bacteria in the mouth, which is more likely to thrive in people with poor dental health, is inhaled.

Dental check-ups twice a year could protect people by keeping bad bacteria such as streptococcus under control. The research follows evidence that brushing your teeth properly cuts the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Michelle Doll, associate professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University said: ‘There is a well-documented connection between oral health and pneumonia and dental visits are important in maintaining oral health.

‘We can never rid the mouth of bacteria altogether but good oral hygiene can limit the quantities of bacteria present.’

The latest research backs up a study by Yale University that puts bad dental hygiene among the top risks for pneumonia. The Virginia Commonwealth University researchers examined medical records for more than 26,000 people. They found 441 had bacterial pneumonia with those who had never had a dental check-up 86% more likely to have the disease than people who saw a dentist every six months.

Pneumonia, usually caused by a bacterial infection, is a swelling of the tissue in one or both lungs. It leaves patients with a hacking cough and fighting to breathe – and can even lead to respiratory failure and death.

Not brushing and flossing properly may lead to pneumonia when mouth bacteria is inhaled but also when food goes down the wrong way or during choking. This is more common among older people with swallowing problems, putting them at greater risk of pneumonia. Hospital patients are more likely to breath in bacteria. Meanwhile gum disease is believed to change the make-up of saliva which makes it less able to defend against disease.

The way in which oral bacteria can cause pneumonia is not fully understood, but the findings are important because 20,000 people in Britain get the disease every year with almost 29,000 dying. Bacteria that commonly cause pneumonia include streptococcus, haemophilus, staphylococcus and anaerobic bacteria.

Doctor Doll, who presented her findings at the annual IDWeek conference in New Orleans added: ‘Our study provides further evidence that oral health is linked to overall health and suggests that it is important to incorporate dental care into routine preventative health care.’

It comes after news recently that anti-plaque toothpaste could help prevent heart attacks and strokes almost as well as statins.

So many studies, so many discoveries, some contradictory – but all point to the fact that hygiene in all parts of one’s body is the best preventative medicine one can have.

 

MY PORTE- BONHEUR OF THE YEAR

As I am constantly on the lookout to extol the beauty of women, it is always a pleasurable reward to find that the Good Lord in his great wisdom and immeasurable artistry keeps on crafting endless forms and features of his female creations, the variety of which defy the limits of human evaluation.

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This time I came across an Indian actress who fits the above description, born 18 July 1982 by the name of Priyanka Chopra, who happens to be the best friend and soulmate of Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Megan Markle, whose appearance on the royal scene has become the most talked about event this Christmas.

Chopra, by contrast, has many of the qualities of Markle, mainly actress and philanthropist. In addition, the Indian beauty is a singer, film producer and the winner of the Miss World 2000 pageant.

Reputed to be one of India’s highest paid and most popular celebrities, Chopra has received numerous awards, including a National Film Award and five Filmfare awards. In 2016, the Indian Government honoured her with the PADMA SHRI, the fourth highest civil award and Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

 

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In addition to her blossoming acting career, Chopra is noted for her philanthropic work and was appointed as a UNICEF Good Will ambassador for Child Rights in 2010. She promotes good causes such as the environment, health and education, Women’s Rights, and is particularly vocal about gender equality and gender pay gaps

Chopra’s off-screen life is the subject of substantial media coverage and as a recording artist she has released 3 hit singles. She is also the founder of the production company, Purple Pebble Pictures.

 

A woman of exceptionally varied talents and a god-endowed beauty, she sparkles with rare magnetic features which I find totally mesmerising. The more I look at her the more entranced I become. But beneath all her visible physical assets, her philanthropy is perhaps the most admired side of her personality.

For this alone I have no hesitation in choosing her as my Porte Bonheur of the year.

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Journalism at its Finest

Brian Sewell’s death last year was mourned by his friends as well as his enemies for the man was a remarkable human being: idiosyncratic, waspish, indiscreet, comical and utterly outrageous. He hated mediocrity, shunned celebrity status and admired nascent talent. But for me in particular he was a loyal friend, an ideal author and a most generous individual when put to the test. I enjoyed his company, his acerbic style of writing when challenged and his vast knowledge of the arts. I truly miss him.

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The Orwell Essays recently published by Quartet is a selection of prize-winning journalism. Written while columnist for the Evening Standard from 1996 to 2002, Brian Sewell’s Orwell Prize winning essays tackle issues as diverse as battery farming and pornography as well as subjects still at the fore of public discourse such as housing and immigration. He wages a veritable one man war against the political and social evils of the time and casts his discerning eye over the tenures of both John Major and Tony Blair, ever the sceptic as the latter was swept to power on a wave of optimism.

Controversial and idiosyncratic throughout, his opinions are backed up by a vast well of knowledge and his humanitarian instincts shine through in diatribes on attitudes towards homelessness and child labour, among other causes. Written with his trademark eloquence and humour, this collection celebrates an extraordinary career and marks a year on from his sad death at the age of 84.

Buy this book for Christmas and enjoy reading the essays by a man who broke all of the rules but always remained true to his convictions and excelled in everything he embarked upon. You will be entertained and outraged in equal measure.

 

 

Is Stopping Working a Call for the Undertaker?

Most of us at work dream of the day when we retire and feel free from the burden of having to earn our living and become, so to speak, people of leisure without a worry in the world. That’s the common dream that I do not share. In fact, I have always feared the day when, through bad heath, I would be compelled to give up work and become, in my view, a man without a proper objective, languishing and waiting for the almighty to take me away, hopefully to his place of residence.

So you can imagine how delighted I was to discover that putting off retirement helps workers stay healthy, according to the chief medical officer. Professor Dame Sally Davies said that those who were approaching retirement should consider working into their late 60s and beyond. She also said that anyone who does leave work should look to keep active with volunteering or a hobby.

Medical advances mean we are living longer – with many remaining fit and healthy well into old age. Dame Sally, who published a major report on the health of the baby-boomer generation of 50-70 year olds, said: ‘People are living longer than ever and so retirement presents a real opportunity for baby-boomers to be more active than ever before.

‘For many people it is a chance to take on new challenges. It is certainly not the start of a slower pace of life it once was.’

Staying in work, volunteering or joining a community group can make sure people stay physically and mentally active for longer. The health benefits for this should not be underestimated. Traditional retirement age – when someone can claim a state pension – is rising from 65 for men and 60 for women. By 2020 it will reach 66 for everyone. Default retirement age was banned in 2011 meaning employers cannot force staff to give up work in their 60s.

The department of health stressed that Dame Sally, nicknamed the government’s ‘nanny in chief’ for her strict instructions about personal health, did not want to pressure workers into carrying on if they wish to retire but, a spokesman said ‘if they feel fit and healthy they may benefit from staying at work’.

Life expectancy in old age has risen to its highest ever. Men who live to 65 can expect to survive for 19 more years while women can expect another 21 according to the latest data gathered in 2014. In 2002 men at the age of 65 could be expected to live for just another 16 years and women for 19.

More than three quarters of those between 50 years old and pensionable age are in active employment and 12% of those older than the state pension age still work. By 2020 it is estimated that a third of workers will be over the age of 50. Those who stay in work generally have better health, research suggests. Staying socially and intellectually active is also known to ward off the risk of dementia, while keeping physically active reduces the chance of cancer and heart disease as well as fighting obesity.

For some, giving up work is a welcome break but for others it can lead to social isolation, experts say. Paul Green of Saga said: ‘For many people the abolition of the default retirement age was a blessing as it allowed them to work for longer and enjoy the social, physical and mental wellbeing it gave them.

‘In fact, there are now more than 1.24 million over 65s who have taken advantage of the changes and remain in work, a 48% increase since 2011. However, for some, the idea of working until they are in their 70 fills them with dread.’

As I said at the outset, for me to stop working will signal the termination of my life prematurely which would be dreadful.

THE CALENDAR GIRL

 

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Rosie Jones, born 19 July 1990, is an English glamour model. She has appeared as a Page Three Girl and in numerous men’s magazines. Rosie attended St. Ignatius Primary School and St. Pauls Catholic College at Sunbury on Thames, where she achieved A-levels and AS in psychology, theatre studies, media studies, critical thinking & general studies.

Aged 17, Rosie joined Samantha Bond Management and started modelling in 2008 when she turned 18. She began doing nude modelling as a Page Three Girl for the Sun newspaper. Rosie models full time for Page Three and magazines such as Nuts, Loaded, FHM and Front. She was invited to the PAS Rankings Main Event in 2009 to sign some posters and give away the prize for the event.

 

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In 2010, she appeared in the music video ‘You Can Dance’ by Bryan Ferry, as one of the models. She also appeared in the music video for Professor Green’s ‘Be Good to Green’. In August 2010, she raised money for Help for Heroes by ascending Mount Tobkal in Morocco. During the 2013 Christmas holiday season, Rosie appeared in a number of music video clips of the German comedy band, Keule.

In 2010 she was voted the No 1 Sexiest Babe by visitors to the Nuts website with over 1 million votes, and again in 2011. Rosie is no ordinary model. She is cultured, hardworking and always ready to take a new challenge. She has an extraordinary look, an elegant disposition, despite her cheeky poses for her new calendar baring her famous curves in an alluring Lycra outfit.

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Any man, old or young, would love to buy her 2017 Calendar if only to show appreciation for the effort she takes to keep herself trim and looking enticingly desirable. Keep at it young lady, for you bring some cheer to a world which has now gone barmy.