Monthly Archives: November 2017

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

It is horrifying to realise that the UK’s mountain of debt is now £1.8 trillion and that the interest alone has amounted to £520 billion during the past 17 years. This colossal debt is mind-blowing and will keep growing as long as we maintain living beyond our means. The country last balanced the books nearly 20 years ago. Since then profligate chancellors have embarked on a borrowing binge, pushing the National Debt up nearly six-fold from £317 billion on to £1.8 trillion pounds. Debt interest payments over the period topped £21,000 per household – leeching much needed resources away from public services.

The government is due to spend another £41.5 billion servicing the debt this year – nearly as much as it spends on defence, and more than the entire transport budget. The figures pile pressure on Philip Hammond to get a grip on the nation’s finances in what is shaping up to be a crucial budget for the Government desperate to prove that the economy is solid and that it will be able to persuade the nation of its ability to survive a Brexit disaster should this ever happen. And let’s not overlook the daily infighting taking place within its ranks which does not auger well stability wise.

The poor Chancellor is struggling to return Britain to the black by the middle of the next decade – leaving Britain the longest period of deficits since Napoleonic times. He is facing a barrage of demands for extra cash to increase funding for the NHS, give public sector workers a pay rise, ease the burden on students and kick-start house building. In the present circumstances, it is an impossible task. The Treasury is bleeding and the Chancellor has few options available to him. All this shows how truly ineffective the Government’s attempt to get the public finances under control have been.

It bamboozles the nation to believe otherwise and make up figures which are really more wishful thinking than numerically accurate. It is time to live in the real world and stop squandering money which we haven’t got. Experts believe that if we continue to convince the public that all is well when it isn’t, the Government is giving a bad example to the electorate, who in turn now live beyond their means by using their credit cards irresponsibly to trigger off yet another financial crisis which we could do without.

I personally fear for the future unless, of course, we mend our ways and control our finances. Or has the spending spree become an endemic part of our culture – live for today and bugger the future?

YOUNG TINA IN FULL THROTTLE…

The furore erupting around the publication of Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair Diaries, reminds me of the time I interviewed her for my book Women.

A consequence of Anne Smith’s resignation from editing the Literary Review, besides the volcanic fury which her actions had unleashed via her supporters in the media (see below), was my need to appoint a new editor for the magazine. I turned to Gillian Greenwood, who was in charge of Robin Clark Ltd, and offered her the post of editor to the magazine. She had formerly been deputy editor to Books and Bookmen before it folded, so her credentials were excellent. Gillian accepted at once, and the gap she left at Robin Clark was filled by Rebecca Fraser soon afterwards. As soon as Anne heard that Gillian was in line to succeed her in her old editorial chair, she exploded. And what an explosion!

Anne let hardly a moment pass before taking her story to the national press in time to catch their deadlines the same night. The most outrageous calumny against me appeared in The Times, inferring I had ignored my original assurance she would retain editorial independence when she queried the length of an Arab supplement to the magazine.

The press continued hot on the scent of what promised to continue as a major literary scandal. The time came when I could not let the matter rest without putting forward my own account of the facts.

During the last quarter of 1981 I was in touch with my legal advisers over instituting proceedings against The Times for the description of me as an Arab propagandist. An offer to intercede in my complaint against The Times came from an unexpected quarter during a meal at Mark Birley’s Harry’s Bar, when Nigel Dempster and Tina Brown were in the group.

Tina had been close friends at Oxford with Gillian Greenwood, who was now settling in as Literary Review editor, and Sally Emerson, a Quartet author (we have just re-issued 6 of her award-winning novels). Tina was then the editor of Tatler and married to Harold Evans, the editor of The Times. As we talked, Tina asked, ‘Do you want me to talk to Harry? ‘Yes, why not?’ I said. Consequently, both legal threats were withdrawn by mutual agreement and the situation with The Times relaxed on 23 November when it carried the following apology:

‘On September 18 it was reported in the Diary that Dr Anne Smith, the former editor of the Literary Review, had left the magazine because of her refusal to accept Arab propaganda from the proprietor, Mr Naim Attallah. Mr Attallah has asked us to point out – and Dr Smith agrees, as we do – that he is not a propagandist for an Arab or any other political cause and as head of Quartet Books has published a number of works of special Arab interest in the context of world culture. We regret any misunderstanding or embarrassment that may have been caused.’

This heralded the beginning of my friendship with Tina who subsequently agreed to be interviewed for my book which was published in 1987. I now feel it’s time to reproduce the entire interview for the benefit of people who will surely like to hear the young Tina in action.

Here we go:

 

Early influences:

My mother was the biggest influence because she was at home all the time. She made bringing me up her career. She was a glamorous figure who looked marvellous – like an opera singer, rather like Callas – and everybody always thought she was a model or a movie star. In fact she just brought us up. She was so enormously entertaining that she was quite a hard act to follow and I think a lot of my life has in some ways been trying to equal her lustre. In other ways, though, I wanted to be my father, because my father was a film producer and seemed to be always doing exciting things. He came home with all his outside stories of going on location and film stars. I could see what an enormous effect he had on my mother, and I was so attracted to my mother that, in a funny way, I wanted to be my father so I could attract her admiration. My mother was incredibly protective, too protective. She was obsessed with the idea that any harm should come to me. We lived in the country, so I never did anything particularly. There wasn’t much chance to go out and take drugs and so on, but she was extraordinarily protective while, at the same time, nurturing great ambitions in me. She was a mother who wanted everything for me and encouraged me to get it.

Somehow it was born in me that I must try to go to Oxford or Cambridge. And then I would be a writer or a dramatist or whatever. I was never encouraged just to get married. No one in my household ever thought that that would be a role for me. I was a very timorous child. In many ways, all my career exploits are about going against the grain. I think it’s true that people who achieve quite a lot in their lives are often people who are shy and timid and trying to prove to themselves that they are not. My mother could never leave me at a party. She always had to sit in the car and hope I was all right before she drove away, because I was so anti-social. I was always crying for my mother. I was a tremendously timid little girl, and I have remained quite timid inside. It’s just that I’ve always dared myself to do things, and in that sense I was influenced by my father, because he was the daring one.

Advantages and disadvantages:

I am absolutely shocked at how passive and unencouraged English women are. They have very low aspirations. They never think of themselves as running anything. They always imagine that they will be playing a role doing little ‘jobs’ somewhere. At the time I was at Oxford, there were eight men to one woman. The women were so, so grateful to be at Oxford that they didn’t really bother to shine much, except for a handful who then did go on to do wonderful things afterwards. For me it was the most fantastic opportunity, which I exploited. I never felt it was a handicap to be a woman, because I was so ambitious in the sense that I wanted to live life to the full. I don’t mean that I was sitting there thinking desperately about my next career move, because I’ve never thought like that. But I did have to think big. I wanted to get a good degree and be a great writer and go to America and travel.

I was always very attracted to America, I think because I felt it was a land of great freedom. I’ve always found England a very constricted place in a funny way. There are pros and cons, and when you live in both places, you are obsessed with whichever one you are not in. But, I must say, what amazes me about living here in the States is that the women are so much more ambitious for themselves. They imagine themselves as running the Met., being the big power at the Museum of Modern Art, or the big wheel at Carnegie Hall; the women expect to have these positions of power, and they go after them and get them. But you can’t imagine a female head of the British Museum. You can’t imagine a woman running the Tate. Whereas here the women are formidable in a way that I don’t think is bad. Many of them have had wonderful educations because they have gone to Harvard and Yale and all these places, and they are really involved with the moving and the shaking. American women have much more confidence, and the confidence is born out of their expectations. They have not been told from the year dot that, even if they do go to Oxford, they’ll still dribble on into some very low-paid job somewhere and be grateful to have it, and then, when they get married, they’ll slip from view. Here I think women regard their lives in a much more positive way; they really want to make something of them. And they don’t regard what they do as a little job to tide them over.

I don’t think women have to become aggressive and horrible, I really don’t. I think that for them to have higher aspirations is just healthier, that’s all. Recently I went to Cleveland to talk to 120 women in a luncheon club, and I imagined that these women would be blue-rinsed ladies who didn’t know very much. I couldn’t have been more wrong. They were the wives of the Cleveland establishment, and even though they weren’t doing glamorous things like Gloria Steinem, they were women who were organizing their community in a very high-powered way. They had got together and organized a big Dali exhibition to go to the museum; they were fundraising; they were making sure that the head of the Met was coming to talk to them next week. The same sort of women, a group of housewives in Henley-on-Thames say, what do they ever do? Nothing. I know. I grew up in that environment. They never did anything like that. They just sat around and had coffee mornings and talked about their children and didn’t do a damn thing. It’s true in England still: if you go to Gloucestershire nobody’s particularly got any intellectual curiosity or cultural interest. They just do their country pursuits. I don’t knock country pursuits; it’s all very nice, but I don’t see why you have to be in such an intellectual vacuum. I prefer the atmosphere here.

The great downside of the American women’s achievement is the problem they have with men. There’s no doubt it’s much sexier to be in a relationship where the man is stronger; so what, of course, women want here is men who are so strong that they dominate these very strong women. They are looking for such a high-powered man to counter-balance their own quite high-poweredness that they don’t find anybody and turn them all into homosexuals. The men are so utterly stricken by the necessity to be so dynamic that they just decide, I can’t cope with this, I’m opting out, and become gay. I am sure that the women have made the men gay. And it’s sad. A lot of men are terrified, threatened, by these bright, committed women who come along. I don’t think the answer is to slip back into women trying to pretend they are not like that. Strong women have been unhappy and desperate in situations where they didn’t have an arena or scope. I don’t quite know what the answer is. I think things will evolve, and I think perhaps women will realize they have to give something up.

There comes a time when women can feel very left on the shelf, very useless to society. Their looks have gone and their children have fled the nest, and what is there in life for them? I’ve seen it happen, and I think these women are very, very unhappy. One of the nicest things about being a career woman is that, as I get older, it’s not going to matter half as much. I’ll be an older woman who is doing a job like this, and it won’t matter so hugely.

I wouldn’t be a man for anything. I think, particularly now, it’s a woman’s period. I think this is the time to be a woman, particularly in America. Even in England, it’s better than being a man.

Sexuality:

I think we do exaggerate the importance of sex. The old cliché is true: sex isn’t important until you are in a relationship where it is going wrong. I underestimate its importance perhaps, because I am actually very happy. Long periods of chastity are perfectly OK, particularly when you are working hard. I think that gay men are better off in the closet, actually, most of the time. It’s fine to have the occasional relationships, but this pressure to be promiscuous, as a homosexual, has turned out to be medically very unwise. I also think a promiscuous woman is very unlikely to be a happy woman. She is usually a woman who is desperately looking for something. Women, of course, are much more aware of their sexuality now and can enjoy being single and having flings and get a lot out of it. But rabid promiscuity in a woman usually means she is desperate about something.

Motherhood:

Being a mother does change you enormously, and the whole nurturing side comes out. It’s a wonderful, softening thing. It’s the ideal thing to introduce into a successful woman’s life, to restore that balance, because everything becomes nicer and you also become a more loving wife, because it softens you, in a way. And there’s no doubt that, in a funny way, having a child hasn’t changed me in a sense, because I always knew I’d be like that if I had a child. I will just cancel anything for the baby, you know. And I do all the time. But it’s a constant pull now, and a constant conflict. I now have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, and I spend between six and eight with the baby always, and then I try to get out of the office at five, and not later, so that I can spend until bedtime with the baby. But if anything upsets that, then I’ve lost out on the baby for the day. Your life becomes very complicated with a child, and you think, well, maybe I’d better give up my job because I feel so terrible about walking out and leaving him during the day with the nanny. I always imagined I would give up my job when I had children, but now I understand myself better and know I can’t be at home all day with the child because I do have a great driving flair and I’m a very good editor. I find it exhilarating to be an achiever in this world of competition. It does make me feel good about myself. I have to keep proving myself. For instance, when I was between Tatler and Vanity Fair, I was just a nothing. I wasn’t happy just to bask in what I had done at Tatler, as it were, I was a big nothing, just a nobody. I went right back to zilch, which is my particular hang-up in life. But one has one’s hang-ups, and they are what drive you on. That’s my particular neurosis, so I may as well fulfil it doing what I am doing. Every weekend, I have the nanny go away and I spend weekends completely with the baby. And I turn down everything. I don’t care what it is. Even if it’s Barbara Walters’s wedding party, it’s too bad. The weekends are for the baby, and I am ruthless about that. I’ve offended a lot of people this year by saying I can’t leave the baby. But I don’t care.

The more I worked in New York with women who had decided against motherhood because they liked their careers so much, the more I realized I didn’t want to be like those particular women. The clichés are true: they are harder, narrower, tougher, more self-absorbed. Obviously some women have tragedies and can’t have children, but that’s rather a different person from the person who has made a choice because they want to have more freedom to travel and all those things. And they usually regret it, I am sure; nine times out of ten they do regret it.

I never thought terribly hard about abortion until my baby was in an incubator in York Hospital; he was born at seven months, weighing 4 lb 8 oz, but there were many babies in there that had been born at four months’ gestation who were 3 lb and 2 lb, and even 1 lb, and they were being nurtured back to life in an incubator with mothers weeping while they waited to see whether the child could make it or not. I felt, then, I could never have an abortion. If a three or four months’ baby can live and grow into an adult, and at four months people are having abortions, then the fact is, it is a kid of murder. Of course, I understand there are tragic personal circumstances, and I wouldn’t like to be forbidden to have an abortion if something terrible happened. If I was raped, or if I was unwell and was told it was dangerous to have another child, I would want to have an abortion. But to use abortion as another kind of birth control is criminal. I can’t understand intelligent women who say they had an accident. They are taking the pill, what’s the matter with them? Why did they have an accident? It’s pathetic to say you had an accident if you’ve got a brain in your head. A middle-class woman, who has got a job, who has an accident, is criminal if she then has an abortion. It’s madness. I know it happens, and I know lots of women, lots of my friends at home, who’ve had abortions. I personally couldn’t because I find it too agonizing. The idea that my baby George could have been aborted is, to me, fearful.

Relationships:

The fact is, it’s not sexy to be with a man who is weaker than you are. In fact, it’s very horrible. You can be as much women’s lib. as you like and say these things don’t matter, but the dynamics of bed are the same as they have always been. This is why the women are so unhappy, particularly in New York. We have got these wonderful, fulfilled, terrific, stylish women, but they can’t find anybody to satisfy them sexually, not because they are ravening beasts, but because the dynamics of domination aren’t there. So they become gay themselves, or they just forgo sex, or they have a wimpy husband. Very few have got husbands who dominate them sexually and make them feel really great. Of course, there are people who have that sort of marriage, and they are very happy marriages. Some women find, in the end, it’s so important to have that that they are prepared to forgo their careers, but then they are not very happy either because they have lost something else that matters very much. The modern dilemma for a woman is very difficult.

I am more comfortable with women. I love having women around me, and most of my staff are women. I’ve got great belief in women, and I love my little guerrilla force of women. They work very, very hard, they are terribly committed, they love their jobs. And that exhilaration is very catching.

I am attracted to men who have great warmth and energy, and a great sense of humour. I suppose I like highly sexed men, full of instant energy. I quite like men who are extremely ugly, actually, but who, I think, are secretly very sexy. They turn out to be the best lovers of all. I like to have some sensitivity, tenderness there. If you are involved in the cut and thrust of competitive life, you really want the flowers and the candlelight.

There was a pernicious cult, which perhaps Gloria Steinem had something to do with, of making women feel they could have it all. And what no one really explained to women, as they went out on their feminist forays, was that they were giving up something. What is tragic to behold are women like Germaine Greer, who suddenly do a volte face at fifty and say, why didn’t I have children? They become almost pathetic, because they are fifty, they are past the biological age for children, nor are they likely to marry anybody. I hate the sight of this pitiable regret for what they’ve missed. And I think the regret comes because they wanted everything. Sometimes you can have a combination for a time, then the combination changes, but you can’t expect to have everything at once. That was the whole pernicious thing of the Cosmopolitan magazine philosophy, which made young women feel they could have these torrid sex lives and great dazzling jobs and motherhood, and feel all these things at once. What’s happened, particularly in America, is that people are too hasty to get divorced. Someone in my office, one minute she is married, then the next minute divorcing. I think she is insane. Why can’t they just work it out? Many people who get divorced don’t find anything better and really wish they hadn’t. They could have rubbed along, they could have lowered their expectations perhaps, or introduced something else into the relationship. I’m not suggesting everybody compromises and takes third best, but I think this whole thing of racing off to get divorced at the first snag you hit seems pathetic.

Differences:

I don’t think the sexes are the same at all. I think women are instinctively much more nurturing. It’s for the woman to think imaginatively about the emotional life in a relationship. I play that role, even though my husband and I are really quite equal in terms of what we both do. It’s for me to think we really must try and spend three weeks away together, and it’s me who thinks about when, and me who gets the diary out and insists we make time. But I’ve noticed this with women across the board: it’s always they who say we really must think about Christmas now. Women think in that much more caring, strategic way.

REMEMBERING APHRODISIA

It’s hard to believe that almost thirty years ago, in October 1989, my wife Maria opened a shop in Shepherd Market, Mayfair, called ‘Aphrodisia’. The idea had its roots essentially in the premise that products that are life-enhancing promote a healthy well-being which in turn improves one’s love life. Artificial aids and stimulants had no place in this scheme of things. Nature’s way was to be the answer. Maria would run the shop and assemble the stock. Aphrodisia’s diverse merchandise would all be guaranteed to combat the stress of modern living. Handcrafted gifts and natural products would be evident everywhere. Rare honeys, both bitter and sweet, gathered from a variety of locations from the Mediterranean to the Pacific, would be placed alongside the finest ginseng and pure mineral sea salts. Chocolates to excite the palate, based on an exclusive Aphrodisia recipe, would be available, as would cold-pressed olive oils, rich in aromas and full-bodied, with jars of wild berries to make the mouth water.

 

Maria’s artistic flair was ideally suited to the enterprise. Acting as the sole interior decorator for the Namara Group she had received unequivocal praise for her ingenuity and good taste. The new undertaking was to give her the opportunity to display her many talents in a field primarily aimed at boosting the romantic side of life. The shop would be an Aladdin’s cave with love as its theme and raison d’être. The London Evening Standard seemed taken with the whole idea:

I’m delighted to hear that the publisher Naim Attallah is to set up his wife in an aphrodisiac shop in Shepherd Market, the notorious stretch of Mayfair so enjoyed by businessmen and authors. The excellent Maria Attallah is sometimes forgotten in all the excitement of the publisher’s famous gaggle of nymphets at Quartet Books, so it is heartening to find that Naim is redressing the balance. Among the shop’s products will be a 24-carat-gold powder to sprinkle on your bread-and-butter pudding.

Among the first of its illustrious customers was Auberon Waugh. After his visit, writing in the Spectator, he bemoaned the loss of innocence, until.

I chanced on a shop in Shepherd Market called Aphrodisia. It is kept by Maria Attallah, wife of the Palestinian philanthropist, whose purpose, she tells me, is to sell things which make men and women feel natural and good. Some are toilet preparations, but there are books, too: The New Sensual Massage: Learn to Give Pleasure with Your Hands; Love Spells; Shakespeare’s Sonnets; The Japanese Bath; books on roses; love poems; foods of love; books of pretty Edwardian nudes; beeswax candles; green-apple candles . . . ‘all my objects point towards sensual passion’, says Attallah. Single ostrich feathers; silk damask copes with gold fringes for those with religious fantasies; pretty painted-wood putti; Japanese tea; honey from Hawaii; hearts made of crystal, yellow and rose quartz; amethyst matrices, silver hearts, eggs of agate; little trinkets of affection; gold love chains; ginseng roots pickled in vodka and brandy . . . At 25 Shepherd Market, Maria Attallah has collected everything that is innocent and pure, everything worth saving from the Sixties. There is a philosophy and a truth in sensuality which need to be separated from the destructive guilt which once supported the drug culture. Apart from anything else, I felt that all my Christmas-present problems are solved as long as Aphrodisia lasts.

No one could have described the shop better.

THE POSSIBILITY OF HOPE…

Alzheimer’s disease has become the new scourge of the decade outstripping everything else but with a ferocity that’s most demeaning to the human psyche. Research by scientists to find a possible cure is gaining momentum as the disease is costing the NHS billions of pounds and rising. Tiny human brains are now being grown in a laboratory by British scientists who say they could one day be used to repair damage caused by this terrible disease. The miniature organs are being made from human skin cells, which are transformed into neurons and 3D-printed into clusters, so that they resemble the structure of the brain.

The scientists want to use them as models to test treatments or monitor the progress of dementia, but they also believe it may be possible one day to grow new brain tissue which can be transplanted back into damaged areas. Although it could never bring back old memories, it may stop further degeneration.

Professor Edik Rafailov of Aston University in Birmingham, said, ‘this is kind of science fiction. We’re trying to help neurons to connect and to grow together so that ultimately we can replace parts of the brain that have been damaged by, for example, dementia… In simple terms, with dementia, part of the brain is not working properly. If you can replace this part, then you can return people to normal life… It’s no exaggeration to say the project could improve and prolong hundreds and thousands of lives.’

Around 800,000 people in Britain live with dementia and the figures are expected to rise substantially in the coming decades because of the ageing population. It is estimated that by 2040 around 1.2 million people will have the condition. There are no treatments and scientists are still unsure about the underlying causes of the disease. But the micro-brains, which presently only grow to 2mm across, could help researchers untangle how dementia gets a foothold and speed up the development of new drugs.

Ultimately, the Aston work could allow scientists to ‘farm’ brain parts, growing replacement brain structures in a laboratory for transplanting into Alzheimer patients. Dr Derek Hill, Programme Director for MSc stem cells and Regenerative Medicine at Aston said: ‘This work is incredibly exciting – we’re making something that acts like real brain tissue… But we face some real challenges beyond the difficulties of creating human brain tissue, and conditions such as Alzheimer’s present themselves in older patients, so we need to find a way of accelerating the ageing process in our laboratory brains so we can understand how the diseases work.’

Dementia charities said the idea of using stem cells as a treatment for dementia was intriguing, but warned such therapies were likely to be a long way off. Dr David Reynolds, Chief Scientific Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK said: ‘The science behind the use of stem cells as a therapy for brain disease is still in its infancy and while the kind of treatment is an intriguing possibility, there are huge technical challenges to overcome and fundamental questions about whether this method would be able to benefit people with dementia.’

Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at the Alzheimer Society said: ‘The ability to take skin cells from an individual and reprogram them into brain cells is opening doors… The suggestion that these cells can be grown into brain tissues and then grafted into the brains of people with Alzheimer’s is exciting, but in reality we don’t know if this will ever be possible.’ The Aston team involves scientists from a broad range of disciplines, including stem cell biologists, neuroscientists, photonic experts and physicists.

If this experiment were ever to prove conclusive in treating Alzheimer patients, then what a great relief it would give the ageing population that suffer from it and are almost reduced to human vegetables bereft of dignity and everything else. Duration of this kind of life is no longer a blessing, but a calamity of formidable proportions.

THE LETHAL METROPOLIS

Heart attacks are amongst Britain’s biggest killers. There are various theories why this deadly disease is so rampant but nothing so far seems to have curtailed its capacity to strike the body, when very often it is the least expected.

Now we are told that the cacophony of noisy town centres could trigger heart problems, according to a study which found that fluctuating sounds on busy highstreets disturbed normal cardiac rhythms. Researchers from Nottingham Trent University found constant changes in noise – even at low levels – had an immediate and disruptive effect on the patterns of participants’ heart rates.

The team says their findings add to a growing body of research which shows how our everyday surroundings could have wider implications for long-term help. For the study, shoppers were asked to wear mobile body sensors to monitor their heart rates as they moved around Nottingham City centre for 45 minutes.

‘We found that rapid changes in noise resulted in rapid disturbance to the normal rhythm of participants’ hearts,‘ said Dr Eiman Kanjo of Nottingham Trent’s School of Science and Technology. ‘If this pattern is repeated regularly then there is danger it might lead to cardiovascular problems.’

It is known that repeated exposure to external pressures such as noise, pollution and crowded areas can lead to a range of long-term physical illnesses and behaviour issues. Recent studies have found links between noise and heart-related diseases. But the study is the first to use sensors to attempt to model the short-term impact that city environments can have upon the human body.

The researchers also found air pressure had an effect on heart rate as well as an impact upon body temperature. Environmental data including noise, air pressure and light levels were compared to data from participants relating to heart rate, body temperature and movement and changes in the electro dermal activities of the skin. None of the participants had heart problems, but the researchers say it would be useful to study whether people with heart conditions suffered a greater impact.

The team are also calling for decision makers to develop, implement and improve guidelines to protect public health around urban spaces. ‘Repeated human exposure to environmental pollutants such as noise, air pollution, traffic or even crowded areas can cause severe health problems ranging from headaches, and sleep disturbance, and heart disease, ‘added Dr Kanjo. ‘Many people live in and around urban areas and everyday will walk along city streets and get around by cars, trains or buses. It’s important noise is considered when designing city landscapes. Most importantly, local authorities should look at the multiple environmental factors that might affect our health at street level.’

The research was published in the journal Information Fusion.

This kind of research makes sense. A quiet life could conceivably help reduce the risk of suffering heart attacks or perhaps cause death through boredom. The choice is yours…

AN ORANGE A DAY WILL RESURRECT THE NHS…

As oranges are part of my prepared daily fruit consumption, I’m glad to be told by scientists that a couple of glasses of orange juice a day can nearly halve the risk of hip fractures.

A study of more than 10,000 people found that it strengthened bones and protected against breaks. The secret appears to be vitamin C. Researchers at Zhengzhou University in China compared the vitamin C intake of 2899 hip fracture patients with 7908 volunteers of a similar age. They found that for the juice of every medium sized orange, the risk of fracture dropped by 5 per cent.

It means an average sized glass containing 8 fluid oz. of juice could potentially reduce the risk by 20 per cent, and two glasses by up to 40 per cent. The researchers conclude: ‘Our results strongly support the idea that increasing dietary vitamin C can reduce the risk of hip fracture.’

The NHS spends about £4.6 million a day treating fractures resulting from falls, and hip fractures alone, cost hospitals over £1 billion each year. Well folks, be sensible, eat oranges and help the NHS who are desperate to reduce their financial burden which is crippling their activities.

That could be your good turn for Christmas.

IT ISN’T CHEESE…

The Clangers may not look like experts in Luna living, but it seems they had the right idea all along. Researchers have found there are huge underground caves beneath the Moon’s surface and that living in tunnels below ground could indeed be a viable option for a future colony of scientists. Lunar caves may provide an ideal spot for a base by reducing humans’ exposure to damaging radiation and insulating them from temperature swings, according to experts.

The Clangers – the classic children’s television programme from the 1970s – saw the pink-knitted creatures living in tunnels with Soup Dragon on their own tiny moon. Now data taken by Japan’s Seline Lunar orbiter has confirmed the existence of a similar cavern – 31 miles long and 330 feet wide. Experts from the country’s space agency believe it a ‘lava tube’ created by volcanic activity about 3.5 billion years ago.

JAXA, Japan’s space agency, said they found the underground tunnels beneath an area called The Marius Hills. Previous research identified the underground networks as potential habitats for future space dwellers. The findings were published recently in the magazine Geophysical Research Letters.

What an exciting discovery! The Universe as a whole is full of surprises and our Moon, in particular, is no exception.

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