Monthly Archives: July 2018

THE WONDER OF TURMERIC

Some herbs have proved over the years to contain major benefits for the body and brain. Much more than just an ingredient that gives curry its yellow colour, turmeric is a spice with healing properties. Many high quality studies show it has ample benefits for the body and brain, making it arguably the most effective nutritional supplement available today.

So the latest science is backing up what Indian traditional medicine as always said. Turmeric really does contain compounds to support good health. Curcumin is the main active ingredient. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong anti-oxidant. It is now believed that chronic low-level inflammation plays a role in almost every major Western disease including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Therefore anything that can help to fight inflammation is potentially important. Curcumin fights inflammation at a molecular level. So it’s no surprise that arthritis patients have responded very well to turmeric supplements. Many studies show that curcumin can help treat symptoms in such cases more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs.

Oxidative damage is also believed to be one of the culprits behind ageing, and many common diseases. As a powerful anti-oxidant, curcumin is thought capable of delivering one-two punch free resistances, neutralizing them and stimulating the body’s own anti-oxidant enzymes.

What’s more, it may be useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease, though evidence from trials are inconclusive as yet though several studies have found that curcumin effectively reduces depression symptoms more than a placebo. Curcumin may support heart health in several ways. Studies suggest that Curcumin improves the function of the lining in blood vessels and the fact that it reduces inflammation and oxidation are also significant here.

With more than 10,000 peer-reviewed articles published looking at turmeric’s benefits, it tops the list as the most frequently mentioned medicinal herb in all of science. However, curcumin only accounts for 3% of turmeric powder, so to benefit you really need to take a supplement that contains only the curcumin. Most importantly it shows it should be formulated to be readily absorbed by the body. One effective supplement, supported by 29 clinical studies, combines it with soy and lecithin – making it 30 times more absorbable than standard turmeric.

For some reason or other I have for a number of years considered turmeric a herb worth having. It gives food an aromatic ingredient which enhances taste as well as appetite. I’m glad to realise it has also undeniable health benefits as an added bonus.

EAT YOUR FRUIT

I never thought a mango could relieve a tummy upset but nowadays one keeps discovering that science seems to find out something new every day of the week. They now claim that mangoes are better at relieving digestive problems than many high-fibre foods, a study has found.

The fruit, which contains fibre and nutrients, called polyphenols, is said to treat constipation and gut inflammation more effectively than an equivalent amount of fibre powder. One in five adults is thought to suffer from a long term digestive condition.

For the 4-week study 36 men and women with chronic constipation were divided into two groups; one given a daily dose of 300gms of mango, or roughly one fruit, the other an equivalent amount of fibre supplement. Aside from this, their diet was kept constant for calories, carbohydrates, fibre, protein and fat.

At the end of the month both groups showed reduced constipation but mangoes were found to be more effective at easing symptoms than fibre alone. The fruit also helped improve the make-up of bacteria in the gut and reduce inflammation. Co-author Professor Susanne Martins-Talcott of Texas A&M University said: ‘Fibres supplements and laxatives could effectively treat constipation but do not address other symptoms such as inflammation.’

She added: ‘Our finding suggests mango offers an advantage over fibre supplements.’ The study appears in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.

It’s always good to keep abreast of what the researchers discover as I believe natural medicine is always the better alternative.

ARE WE ALL OF AFRICAN ORIGIN?

I have always been fascinated by the evolution of humans who for years experts believed originated in a single Garden of Eden spot in Africa before spreading around the world.
But now scientists say fossil records show there cannot have been just one area.

Instead, group of early human species were dispersed across Africa in pockets.

These communities – separated for millennia – developed diverse features in the shapes of their skulls and other bones. Over thousands of years the groups sporadically interbred to create Homo sapiens.

Scientists say our species could not have developed from just one place because evidence from skull shapes does not support this theory. If it was correct, skulls would have changed shape in a smooth ‘linear progression’ over time. But the timeline is mixed – with more recent skulls having primitive features while more ancient skulls have modern features.

For example, older skulls dating back 300,000 years at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco have small faces like us. However, there braincase is elongated instead of spherical like a modern skull.
Earlier human fossils dating back 160,000 years ago from Ethiopia had big ‘robust’ faces quite unlike us, but with rounder braincases.
Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum and Doctor Eleanor Scerri of Oxford University and colleagues put forward their case in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
The author said early humans were kept apart by diverse habitats and shifting environmental boundaries such as forests and deserts. Many of the inhospitable regions in Africa today, such as the Sahara, where once wet and green with networks of lakes and rivers and abundant wildlife.
Similarly, some tropical regions that are humid and green today were once arid. The shifting nature of the habitable zones meant groups of humans would have gone through many cycles of isolation. This led to the development of unique primitive technologies such as stone tools and highly diverse genes.
Professor Stringer pioneered the Garden of Eden theory but now accepts this is wrong. He said ‘we do see a continental, wide trend towards the modern human form but some archaic features are present until remarkably recently.’

‘I have increasingly come to the realisation that our African origin was a complex process. The great diversity of African fossils between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago suggest that multiple lineages existed on the African continent at that time.’
Lead author Doctor Scarri said ‘the stone tools discovered across Africa don’t show a great progression to crude to sophisticated.’

She said ‘the evolution of human populations in Africa was multi-regional. Our ancestry was multi-ethnic and the evolution of our material culture was, multi-cultural.

Professor Mark Thomas of UCL added that the genetic patterns found also support their case.’ He said ‘it is difficult to reconcile the genetic patterns we see in living Africa and in the DNA extracted from the bones of African who lived over the last ten thousand years with their being one ancestral human population.’

For me, the mystery of the evolution of humans remains unbelievably complex. I always understood that most likely the Garden of Eden was situated somewhere in the Holy Land. But obviously scientists are more well versed in these matter than I could possibly be. All this however adds to my own fascination to the concept of creation overall.

ARE WE ALL OF AFRICAN ORIGIN?

I have always been fascinated by the evolution of humans who for years experts believed originated in a single Garden of Eden spot in Africa before spreading around the world.
But now scientists say fossil records show there cannot have been just one area.

Instead, group of early human species were dispersed across Africa in pockets.

These communities – separated for millennia – developed diverse features in the shapes of their skulls and other bones. Over thousands of years the groups sporadically interbred to create Homo sapiens.

Scientists say our species could not have developed from just one place because evidence from skull shapes does not support this theory. If it was correct, skulls would have changed shape in a smooth ‘linear progression’ over time. But the timeline is mixed – with more recent skulls having primitive features while more ancient skulls have modern features.

For example, older skulls dating back 300,000 years at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco have small faces like us. However, there braincase is elongated instead of spherical like a modern skull.
Earlier human fossils dating back 160,000 years ago from Ethiopia had big ‘robust’ faces quite unlike us, but with rounder braincases.
Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum and Doctor Eleanor Scerri of Oxford University and colleagues put forward their case in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
The author said early humans were kept apart by diverse habitats and shifting environmental boundaries such as forests and deserts. Many of the inhospitable regions in Africa today, such as the Sahara, where once wet and green with networks of lakes and rivers and abundant wildlife.
Similarly, some tropical regions that are humid and green today were once arid. The shifting nature of the habitable zones meant groups of humans would have gone through many cycles of isolation. This led to the development of unique primitive technologies such as stone tools and highly diverse genes.
Professor Stringer pioneered the Garden of Eden theory but now accepts this is wrong. He said ‘we do see a continental, wide trend towards the modern human form but some archaic features are present until remarkably recently.’

‘I have increasingly come to the realisation that our African origin was a complex process. The great diversity of African fossils between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago suggest that multiple lineages existed on the African continent at that time.’
Lead author Doctor Scarri said ‘the stone tools discovered across Africa don’t show a great progression to crude to sophisticated.’

She said ‘the evolution of human populations in Africa was multi-regional. Our ancestry was multi-ethnic and the evolution of our material culture was, multi-cultural.

Professor Mark Thomas of UCL added that the genetic patterns found also support their case.’ He said ‘it is difficult to reconcile the genetic patterns we see in living Africa and in the DNA extracted from the bones of African who lived over the last ten thousand years with their being one ancestral human population.’

For me, the mystery of the evolution of humans remains unbelievably complex. I always understood that most likely the Garden of Eden was situated somewhere in the Holy Land. But obviously scientists are more well versed in these matter than I could possibly be. All this however adds to my own fascination to the concept of creation overall.

KEEP RIGHT ON TILL THE END OF THE ROAD…

It’s true that the young at heart often insist that you are only as old as you feel. Now a study has proved they are right, finding that those who feel younger than they are show fewer signs of brain ageing. Neuroscientists, who gave a group of people aged 59-84 MRI scans, found that those who said they felt younger had more grey matter in their brains and did better in memory tests. The researchers suggested that those who feel their age or older have picked up on small cognitive changes in the brain, such as mild memory loss.

The study, carried out by the University of Seoul in South Korea, is the first to link how old people feel with the physical signs of brain ageing. Co-author Dr Geanyung Chey said: ‘We found people who feel younger have the structural characteristics of a younger brain. Importantly, this difference remains robust even when other possible factors – including personality, subjective health, depressive symptoms or cognitive functions – are accounted for. If somebody feels older than their age, it could be a sign for them to evaluate their lifestyle, habits and activities that could contribute to brain ageing and take measures to better care for their brain health.’

The researchers asked 68 healthy people whether they felt older or younger than they were, or whether they felt their age. When their brains were scanned those who felt younger had more grey matter in key regions such as the hippocampus, which is linked to memory. The scans showed their brains had actually aged less than those people who felt older, as grey matter tends to decline with age. The youthful-feeling group also did better in memory tests including tasks such as recalling details from a story 15 to 30 minutes after hearing it. The researchers suggest that those who feel older may be able to sense the ageing process in their brains as their loss of grey matter may make cognitive tasks more challenging. Another possibility is that those who feel young are more likely to lead a more physically and mentally active life, which could cause improvements in brain health.

Previous studies have suggested that asking people how old they feel can predict if they will develop dementia, become frail or be taken to hospital. Those who feel older than their age are also more likely to be obese and diabetic. Dr Chey, whose study was published in the journal Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience, said: ‘Why do some people feel younger or older than their age? Some possibilities include depressive states, personality differences or physical health. However, no one had investigated the brain ageing process as a possible reason for differences in subjective age.’

The results suggest that feeling older than one’s age may reflect relatively faster ageing brain structures. Those who feel younger have better preserved and healthier ones. Some of the biggest changes in grey matter, based on age perception, were found in the inferior pre-frontal cortex which helps in suppressing irrelevant information. Loss in this region could cause age-related problems in tasks requiring focus and concentration. In brief, if one leads an active life and does not feel one’s age, then the omens are good.

The moment I feel my age – I trust it will never happen – the signs are then that the end is near and my journey, hopefully, comes to an abrupt end.

THE LAND OF NOD IS GOOD FOR YOU

Alzheimer’s, today’s dreaded disease, especially amongst the elderly, is causing the nation a financial burden which it could do without, given the current austerity we are facing in a world where uncertainty and political upheaval is rampant. Scientists are saying that to combat Alzheimer’s a good night’s sleep, regular exercise and drinking small amounts can help the brain clean itself at night and protect it against this horrible malady. All these three stimulate the brain’s glymphatic system which wipes away the toxic build-up of proteins linked to the devastating disease, according to researchers. Studies on mice represent a breakthrough as they could help illuminate how the human brain functions – including how it clears away its waste products.

Dr Ian Harrison, of University College London, told the Cheltenham Science Festival that studies on the brain and spinal fluids of mice have shown that sleeping well, increasing heart rate through exercise and 25 ml of wine per day stimulated the self-cleaning mechanism. And he said researchers were now focusing on finding ways of preventing the human brain’s glymphatic system from failing.

Dr Harrison said: ‘A paper came out a couple of years ago where the researchers studied the brains of mice when they are asleep and mice when they are awake. What the researchers did was inject a dye into the cerebrospinal fluid and see where it goes. In the mice that were awake, that cerebrospinal fluid starts to go into the brain but only resides on the surface and doesn’t go deep into the brain tissue. When they quantified this in the animals that were asleep, this glymphatic system was far more active – 6o% more than the animals that were awake. This is good evidence that the glymphatic system is active during sleep. If that is anything to go by, we should all be sleeping a lot more than we are. That kind of makes sense because, if you think about it, when your brain is active during the day, these brain cells are going to be actively producing all these waste products, so it is only at night when our brain switches off, that it has a chance to switch on our glymphatic system and get rid of all these waste products.’

He said there were similar results with exercise, adding: ‘In the sedentary animals the fluid penetrates the brain but when the animals have voluntary access to exercise there is massive increase in the amount of glymphatic function.’ It is thought the increase in heart rate helps drive cerebrospinal fluid into the brain.

The scientists also gave mice low, intermediate and high dosages of alcohol for 30 days. Dr Harrison said that with low doses – the equivalent of a third of a unit a day, or 25 ml of wine for a human – resulted in a 30% to 40% increase in self-cleaning. However, intermediate and high doses led to a reduction in self-cleaning by a similar percentage. Dr Harrison added: ‘So sleep more, exercise and as the data suggests, you can have a drink but only a third of a unit of wine per day.’

The above makes a great deal of sense. Sleep is vital and the more one sleeps the healthier is the brain. And last but not least, exercise is a very important factor where fitness is concerned. Unfortunately, I’m much too lazy to exercise although not through lack of commitment, but I keep trying.

MY BIRTHPLACE IS BLEEDING

For a man who was born in Palestine and during his youth was raised to consider the Jews living in the Holy Land as his compatriots, I find Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu is becoming dangerously more right-wing than ever before, especially now that Donald Trump, who I don’t believe is seeking peace in the region, is egging him on to act irrationally vis a vis the Palestinians.

The latest move to infuriate the Palestinians under occupation is to strip them of the right to self-determination by declaring Israel, exclusively the home of the Jews. The law just passed was a flagship measure of the most right-wing governing coalition in Israel’s 70 year history. It sparked furious protests in the Knesset. Arab law makers and Palestinians called the law ‘racist’ which made them second-class citizens, with some shouting and ripping up copies of the bill while crying out ‘Apartheid!’

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List, a political alliance of four predominately Arab parties, which holds 13 seats and is the third largest bloc in the parliament, waved a black flag in protest. He said: ‘Today, I will have to tell my children that the state has declared that it does not want us here.’ In a statement issued later, he added: ‘The Knesset has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us we will always be second-class citizens,’

Ahmed Tibi, an Arab lawmaker, said after the vote: ‘I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy.’ Saeb Erekad, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization, called the legislation: ‘A dangerous and racist law.’ He said: ‘It officially legalizes Apartheid and legally defines Israel as an Apartheid system.’ The legislation passed by 62 to 55 votes. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, praised its passage as ‘a defining moment.’ His government had pushed for the legislation to be approved before the parliament’s summer session ended. The legislation speaks of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jews, and reiterates the status of Jerusalem under Israeli law, which defines the city as the ‘complete and united capital of Israel.’

Part of the city is claimed by Palestinians as the capital of a future state and the International community considers West Jerusalem as an occupied territory. The Arab community in Israel accounts for around 20 per cent of the population of 9 million. Though they have equal rights, they have long complained they have discrimination and critics fear the bill will alienate them further. The law also stresses the importance of the ‘development of Jewish settlements as a national value’ leading to concerns this would allow for the creation of Jewish only communities. Amir Fuchs of the Israel Democracy Institute told the Guardian: ‘The State is allowed to create villages that will separate on the basis of race or religion or nationality – this is outrageous. The bill had been under discussion since it was first introduced in 2011 and had been amended multiple times in an effort to water it down.’

The world has to congratulate Donald Trump, the so-called bumbling political stirrer who triggered it all by moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem declaring the city as the capital of Israel. That was in essence the most anti-peace action of the many he has so far initiated.

I feel devastated that the Holy Land is manipulated to make peace impossible to achieve, as where I was born and raised matters a great deal to me. It is sacrosanct.

 

A JAB FOR ALL SEASONS

As winter approaches flu jabs become necessary especially for elderly people who suffer from type-2 diabetes, as a precautionary measure to prevent them being unnecessarily vulnerable to the risk of being laid low by the deadly virus. However, we are now told that a single jab, which protects against all strains of flu for up to a decade, could be available on the NHS in just 2 years. The result of a UK human trial announced recently suggest the jab is more effective than existing vaccines, which target only a few types of the virus. Its creators claim it will end the scourge of flu globally, turning it into a mild illness rather than a killer.

The flu-V jab, which is the work of British company IMUTEX, is said to fight off every strain – from the yearly winter virus to virulent strains such as swine flu and the recent Aussie flu. It is likely to cost between £20 and £50 per person, and will need to be given only every 5 to 10 years. Current vaccines target proteins on the virus surface, but regions of these proteins constantly change in a bid to fool the immune system. This means the virus is always one step ahead of the vaccine, which is why it must be remade each year. The new jab has been created to target unchanging regions of the virus proteins by boosting the immune system’s T-cells that recognise and attack foreign invaders.

The trial involved 123 participants aged 18-60, being infected with the swine flu virus and then spending eight days in a room. 80% were prevented from getting flu after getting the jab. The vaccine was also twice as effective at limiting flu-like symptoms with 60% of those given the jab developing fewer than two symptoms. This suggests that even with people who catch the flu virus, the vaccine can reduce the impact of its symptoms. And a less severe infection for the elderly would slash the likelihood of complications and hospitalisations. After participants received flu-V, their immune cells were tested against a range of flu strains. In all instances the cells recognised and killed the virus. It is hoped the results give the vaccine a breakthrough designation from the US Food & Drug administration – fast-tracking it through the approval process and paving the way for it to become available on the NHS within 2 years.

The new study was part of the collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases which is part of the world’s largest medical research establishment, the Nation Institute of Health in Washington DC. The UK’s top flu expert, John Oxford, emeritus professor of virology at Queen Mary University of London said: ‘I am enthusiastic about universal vaccines full stop. It is recognised as being a good way forward. If one should have an effective universal flu vaccine people could relax because you could have a dose of it and it would give years of protection against whichever virus is circulating.’

Dr Ed Schmidt, from the Universal Influenza Vaccine Consortium at Groningen university Holland, said the vaccine could be a game changer, adding: ‘It would lead to a serious reduction in deaths and have a major impact. This winter, the annual jab worked in just a quarter of the population in what was called the worst epidemic in seven years.’

The NHS spends more than one hundred million pounds annually on just its flu vaccine alone. A universal jab could save the NHS around £27,000 per person over the course of their lifetime, from less sickness absences and reduced pressure.

What a relief, if the one-jab flu vaccine becomes available. The benefits of such a discovery would be tremendous. Let’s hope it will not be too long before it materialises.

No Longer With Us

Rosemary Anne Sisson (13 October 1923 – 28 July 2017) was an English television dramatist and novelist. She was described by playwright Simon Farquhar in 2014 as being “one of television’s finest period storytellers”, and in 2017 fellow dramatist Ian Curteis referred to her as “the Miss Marple of British playwriting”.

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I interview her in 1987. Here is the substance of what she told me.

THE EARLY INFLUENCES

Rosemary Anne Sisson: My father was a scholar, a philosopher, and even when we were little, he would talk to us as if we were at table. Our opinions were welcome so long as they were sensibly held, and then he would challenge our opinion. So every opinion we held we had to be prepared to defend. That was a great intellectual exercise for little children. It was a strict upbringing though it was so full of love that we didn’t realize it, but my parents set very high standards and if we came home and said: I was second in my class, they always said, who was top? I don’t think I ever wanted to be competitive. I don’t think my sister did, but our parents were competitive on our behalf, and my mother still is. I suppose I am competitive, but not against other people. I always want to be perfect, which is a terrible thing to try to be all the time, but that was really what was asked of us. That we should always do the very best we could whatever we were doing. My sister and I always took it for granted that we would go to a good school and go to a university, and then marry. In fact I always planned to be married. The only thing I wanted was to be married and to go on the stage. I wanted to have children. And it was my sister who married and had five children; and I never went on the stage. Yet I’m a remarkably happy woman, so it’s a good example of not getting what you want but getting what, in the end, is best for you.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
Rosemary Anne Sisson: I went to Cheltenham Ladies’ College, which is, of course, a girls’ school that believed in intelligence in women, so all my friends were delightful and intelligent girls. I was happy there, and at home we were treated with great respect – our minds, as well as our personalities, so I never felt the slightest inhibition and we had a lot of pleasant friends. Those were the days when the boys who were your neighbours were also your friends, and you played golf and tennis together, and you went exploring the fields together, and sex didn’t enter into it. They were your friends, different, more interesting friends, but still just your friends, so I never felt any inhibitions because I was a girl.
Once I started writing, then I did feel that women writers were not treated with the respect men writers were. Certainly, when I wrote my first play after the war, it was much harder to break into the world of the theatre and critics tended not to treat you with the same respect. My first play was an historical play. The men took it for granted it was a woman’s play, and the fact that it was a very funny play and the audience adored it, and it was very exciting – none of that made any difference. I was a woman writer and therefore they judged it. It’s a very subjective, difficult thing to put your finger on, but this – Miss Sisson’s play – somehow the attitude to it was different.
Certainly in my world it was very hard to get to the top, much harder to get to the top for a woman, but once you get to the top, there are only about half a dozen of us, so it’s an enormous advantage, because everyone knows my name in the business. If they’re looking for a woman writer, I’m one of the first names they try.
There is no discrimination moneywise at all, partly because of the Writer’s Guild. I’m one of the highest-paid writers in the television business; I am in the very top bracket.
I did find when I was chairman of the Writers’ Guild that I had to be aggressive, but that was because they were a rowdy lot round the table, and, unfortunately, if you were going to keep control, like Mrs Thatcher in Parliament, you had to shout a bit and be rather ferocious. And the men didn’t like it; they would have accepted it from a man, but didn’t like it from a woman. That’s the only time I’ve had to behave like a man. I’m glad I’m not in politics.
I use every advantage a woman has. For example, very often it was difficult to get rehearsals in the early days. Directors didn’t like you there. So, instead of saying, as perhaps a man would, listen, I’d like to come to rehearsals if I may, I would always say, would you mind very much if I came to rehearsals? I’ll sit very quietly. So I’d use my woman’s charm. It was a great advantage – I didn’t threaten them in that way.
No one could have had more encouragement than I had in my private life, in our family life, and among my friends; no one could have been more lovingly encouraged and praised, and yet, still, one bad notice or adverse comment and I am knocked off my perch and have to struggle back on to it again. I find it hard to disregard.

FEMINISM
Rosemary Anne Sisson: I’m definitely not a feminist in the sense of thinking there is no difference between men and women. I love being a woman, and I wouldn’t be anything but a woman for all the world. I’m only a feminist when my professional standing is not treated with the respect it deserves because I’m a woman. Women should get respect for being what they are. When they do work equal to men, they should get equal pay. But also they should accept their responsibilities as mother of the family and expect the father to accept his responsibilities as father of the family. Some feminists would claim that is an old-fashioned view, but I think it’s a natural view, and when you depart from Nature you get into trouble, physical, moral, and spiritual. And I’m also a Christian, so that conditions me to some extent. I do think the last shall be first and the first shall be last. I think the more you try to assert yourself and be aggressive as a woman, the less respect you will get.
Mrs Thatcher expects women to get on with it, which is certainly what would have been said in our household. You know, if you can’t manage children and a job, then don’t have children or don’t have a job, otherwise get on with it and find a way. It’s very hard, but it’s realistic. They’re asking now for nursery schools from the age of three – well, that is exactly what used to happen: people used to have nannies. So they very people who say, what a shocking thing to put your child into the care of a nanny, still want to have the child and have the job, not because they need the money, but because they want to have both. Nothing is for nothing in this hard world, I think Mrs Thatcher has said, and those of us who were brought up in that same hard school know that’s true.

SEXUALITY
Rosemary Anne Sisson: I was brought up to think that love and sex went together and I can’t imagine anything else. I cannot imagine going to bed with a man I didn’t love and want to spend my life with and have children with. I don’t think its conditioning, it is part of the feminine nature. It’s Nature making sure that a lot of little animals are not scattered about the place with no father.
I’ve had a very long and happy life without sex. I know many women can live without it. Obviously some women can’t. But this great need for sexual fulfilment is rather like compulsive over-eating or compulsive alcoholism. I wonder whether it’s a compensation for lack of love in their lives, whether it isn’t, in a way, a sign of insecurity for a woman to need it so continually. As if she is always trying to prove she is immensely successful because she is successful in bed.
These programmes on Woman’s Hour and television, discussing sex publicly and continually, I find very distasteful. I feel that I’m a voyeur when I’m invited to attend someone else’s sexual experiences. I wouldn’t stand on Wimbledon Common peering down at them, I don’t really want to read about it unless it’s wonderfully well done in novels, and I certainly don’t want to see it on television or films.

MOTHERHOOD
Rosemary Anne Sisson: I don’t know what else you can call abortion but murder. It’s a crime, it’s murder. I really don’t think that just because of my religious opinions, funnily enough, though obviously that would start me off from a certain position. Women have always been able to have contraceptives. Jane Austen said, why doesn’t she practise the simple regimen of separate rooms? when a woman had another baby. But now, when contraception is so safe and so natural, to have an unwanted baby and murder it – I see it as infanticide. There is no other word – it’s infanticide.

RELATIONSHIPS
Rosemary Anne Sisson: One is always a tiny bit on show to men, and that is part of the pleasure. That’s probably why I enjoy the company of men, that there is a certain feminine standard which I ask of myself when I’m with men. I’m sure this is why there’s this little extra pleasure both for me and for them.
I must have a dozen at least, if not two dozen men friends, who are either fellow-writers or actors. A good example is Edward Woodward, whom I’ve known since he was in my first play. He’s one of the most attractive and sexily attractive men I’ve ever known, and I found it a great mercy I never fell in love with him. I can’t think why I didn’t except that he was married and so something in my mind forbade it. So I love him dearly, but he’s like a brother to me, like a dear, dear brother.
I didn’t meet the man I loved enough to marry. If I had, I would not have written until the children were grown up. So I have absolutely no sympathy with people who marry and have children and then grumble that they’re not their own person any more. When you marry and have children, that’s a marvellous, wonderful thing, and I’ve never had it, but I’ve had great compensations. I didn’t meet any eligible men because of the war breaking out. All the boys I knew and who might well have been the ones I would marry, went off to war. Some were killed – at least three of our close friends were killed – and two lost legs. And after the war, then, in a way, it was beginning to be too late; I was very choosy by then. I was still marriageable, but I wasn’t prepared to marry just for the sake of marrying. I had about five proposals, and one I came quite close to – he was going to be a vicar, a minister, and absolutely delightful when he was courting me, writing lovely letters every day. Then, unfortunately, he sent me one of his sermons, and it was dreadful. I thought, he’s not as clever as I am, and if I’m going to marry a man, he’s got to be cleverer, stronger, wiser, better than I am. I couldn’t bear to be married to a fool.
I like men who are strong and kind, but also very intelligent, and if I can get that combination, I do find that quire irresistible. I really don’t think I am at all seduced by power, because I’ve known some cowboys who didn’t have nine dollars in their pockets and who were strong and kind and funny, and I found them very very attractive indeed. The man I don’t like is the little man who tried to assert his strength. That was another proposal I turned down, and I said, no, I couldn’t marry you, you’re not as strong as I am. And he took hold of me and said, yes, I am, I’m just as strong as you are; and I kicked him on the shins and said if you don’t let go of me I’ll scream. This was in the middle of Knightsbridge. I kicked him on this shins and screamed at the top of my voice and he let me go very quickly.
People are really, truly, dreadfully self-indulgent. They’ve been brought up to think there is a cure for everything, and they don’t believe in death. I think it’s most extraordinary. As soon as a marriage gets difficult, they think, oh, I don’t like this, this is getting difficult. Whereas I think once you marry, you marry until death do you part. All marriages go through bad stages, and you have to thole it, as my parents used to say. Thole it. My parents lived to a Golden Wedding through obviously very difficult times, and times when they almost hated each other. But they were married and loved each other, too; and to see that, to reach that, is what marriage is all about.

DIFFERNCES
Rosemary Anne Sisson: I think women remain faithful for longer than men, even when all hope is gone. I’ve watched my friends go through break-up of marriages and that is very upsetting. I wrote a play about Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, and to the very end of her days Catherine could not believe that her husband would not come back to her. She loved him to the end, and the more she loved him, the more angry it made him, because he wanted to be free. And I watched that played out with my married friends. So I think what Jane Austen claimed in Persuasion, that it is the gift of women to be faithful when all hope is gone, and to be loving when all hope is gone, is a feminine trait.

GRIND THOSE BEANS…

Sometimes to delve into the unknown can give one the comfort one needs, especially if you happen to be a coffee addict. It seems that whether you like a trendy flat white or prefer decaf, it’s news that should have you full of beans. People who drink 6 cups of coffee a day are 16% less likely to die early, a study found. The reduced risk was discovered to be similar for all types of coffee – including instant, decaffeinated or ground – suggesting the benefits are not linked to caffeine.

Scientists believe that natural anti-oxidants found in the plant’s compounds can help to protect against some cancers and cardiovascular disease. US researchers looked at the mortality rates of almost half a million Britons over 10 years in relation to their coffee intake. Generally, the more cups people drink, the lower their chances of dying sooner from those diseases. This peaked at between 6 and 7 cups, where rates fell by a sixth compared to those who never drink coffee. But even those who drink twice the recommended amount of 4 cups a day saw their chances of dying early reduced by 14%, according to the researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Maryland.

Coffee has overtaken tea as Britain’s favourite drink with an estimated 55 million cups consumed every day. The European Food Safety Agency advises that people drink no more than 4 cups a day, saying those who do run the risk of anxiety, sleeplessness, heart rhythm disturbances or heart failure. Yet the US findings suggest the health benefits extend to the decaffeinated variety without the pitfalls of coffee. The protective effect was also identified among moderate and light coffee drinkers but to a lesser degree. 2 to 5 cups, 1 cup or less than 1 cup a day, reduced early mortality by 12%, 8% and 6% respectively over the same period.

The results were adjusted for life style factors such as smoking and diet. The findings, published in Jama Internal Medicine add to the growing evidence coffee can be part of a healthy diet, the authors say. In 2016, the World Health Organization withdrew its warnings on a link between coffee and bladder cancer and instead said the drink could help protect against womb and liver cancer. However, pregnant women are at greater risk of losing their baby if they drink too much coffee, and caffeine also slightly raises the risk of bone fractures amongst women. Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘What is interesting is the study looked at different types of coffee consumed such as instant, ground and decaffeinated coffee. All types showed a lower risk of death with increasing coffee drinking, but more research is needed to understand what is behind this.’

As I said at the outset, delving into the unknown can give one some comfort which one needs, given the complexities that often emerge as a result of these studies.