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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Odds and Sods December 2021

Originally published on Blogspot by Gethin Thomas on the 3rd January 2022

And so 2021 came to an end here with a grey month that was very mild, record breaking mild as it happens. Apparently it's this mild because we have burned too much oil in the last hundred years, so it's all our fault, burn billions of barrels of oil for a hundred years and you will get a record December heatwave.

What's strange though is that it was last this hot in 1916. Yes, we had to burn billions of barrels of oil for a hundred years to beat that heatwave record set back in 1916.

We know that Eric the Red arrived in Greenland in the year 985 which is a very long time before we started keeping temperature records in England, England was only 58 years old then, which is less time than I have been around. In England we started keeping records in 1853 which is 868 years after Eric got to Greenland and only 48 years before the 1916 record was set. We don't reliably know what record temperatures occurred anywhere in the world before then.

Eric and his mates found a lovely rich green land so they called it Greenland and they assumed that this place was always like this, but Eric didn't know about climate change so his descendants got a bit of a shock when what is termed the Medieval Warm Period ended in 1300.

Strangely this Medieval Warm Period which enabled a 400 year long inhabitation of a now ice covered land didn't cause London to flood or the Slapton Line to be washed away. Generations of Greenlanders lived happy and fulfilled lives for nearly 400 years before the change in climate got the better of them, but they didn't have climate activists on the payroll back then or they might have been told it was all their fault for catching too many walruses, and not just a result of what the climate has been doing throughout time.

This is the Slapton Line a shingle bar that separates a freshwater ley on the left from the sea on the right and this is the road that crosses it. We are told that rising sea levels due to climate change will wash all this away anytime now.

This shingle bar was placed here by rising sea levels 12 thousand years ago, a very long time before Eric founded Greenland. The Royal Navy removed millions of tons of this shingle from the sea bed just over a hundred years ago. A few years later the beach half a mile from here disappeared in twenty short years and the village of Hallsands fell into the sea. If they had had climate activists back then they would probably have been told it was their fault for catching too many fish, and nothing to do with the building of Devonport Dock Yard in nearby Plymouth.

So there is consequently a lot less shingle here than there was a hundred years ago and therefore less protection during easterly storms, and we now have climate activists, so this is our fault and we need to start driving electric cars fast before it is too late.

This is a nearby quarry and in the middle of this old disused quarry is a garden centre, which is a great repurposing of an old quarry. I went here to get some potting compost for some tulip bulbs. I should have planted them a month ago but for various reasons I only just got around to it.

The tulips were trying to escape their small bag and were sprouting already. I expect their little heads will be popping up in two or three weeks. Tulips just react to the changing weather, there are no tulip activists, bulbs with pink died tops that claim tulips should stop procreating to change the weather. Tulips never think there are too many tulips and that it is their fault the sun comes out. Tulips don't have such a grand and tulip centred view of the world.

This was a week before Christmas and our last farmer's market in 2021. There was an impressive display of mushrooms and the man selling them was a really fungi. "Ha Ha Ha Boom Boom".

Basil Brush is a fictional red fox, best known for his appearances on daytime British children's television. He is primarily portrayed by a glove puppet, but has also been depicted in animated cartoon shorts and comic strips. The character has featured on children's television from the 1960s to the present day. A mischievous character and a raconteur, Basil Brush is best known for his catchphrase "Ha Ha Ha! Boom! Boom!", used after something he finds funny.

The "Boom Boom" derives from Music Hall or Vaudeville. Traditionally they had live music with an orchestra or band and it became customary for the drummer to give a resounding drum roll after a comic ended a joke with a punchline. After Music Hall died out it was common for comics to give themselves an "ironic" "Boom Boom" after the punchline, which in itself became part of the comedy.

Punchline - The origin of the term is unknown. Even though the comedic formula using the classic "set-up, premise, punch line" format was well-established in Vaudeville by the beginning of the 20th century, the actual term "punch line" is first documented in the 1920s; the Merriam-Webster dictionary pegs the first use in 1921.

(Don't read this next paragraph, it is just not funny)

A linguistic interpretation of the mechanics of the punch line response is posited by Victor Raskin in his script-based semantic theory of humour. Humour is evoked when a trigger, contained in the punch line, causes the audience to abruptly shift its understanding of the story from the primary (or more obvious) interpretation to a secondary, opposing interpretation. "The punch line is the pivot on which the joke text turns as it signals the shift between the [semantic] scripts necessary to interpret [re-interpret] the joke text." To produce the humour in the verbal joke, the two interpretations (i.e., scripts) need to be both compatible with the joke text and opposite or incompatible with each other.Thomas R. Shultz, a psychologist, independently expands Raskin's linguistic theory to include "two stages of incongruity: perception and resolution". He explains that "incongruity alone is insufficient to account for the structure of humour. [...] Within this framework, humour appreciation is conceptualized as a biphasic sequence involving first the discovery of incongruity followed by a resolution of the incongruity." Resolution generates laughter.

You read it didn't you? Well, don't blame me, I did warn you. The worst thing you can do is analyse humour. It's like dissecting your pet to see why it is so friendly. However if English is not your first language I will explain my joke in case it passed you by. The punchline is the word fungi in relation to the description of the man selling the mushrooms and it is a play on words. (My favourite sort of joke) In this case the word fungi is meant to relate to the words "fun guy" as a description for the man as both have exactly the same pronunciation.

The "set-up, premise, and punch line" in this case were, Farmer's market, man selling mushrooms, the word play and double entendre of the word fungi. You see, it's not that funny.

While briefly amusing and sentimental, signs like these, below, are also now becoming tiresome. How much do campaigns like this cost us and do they actually achieve anything. Did the bright spark who came up with it actually look at the width of the pavement and question the advice to step into moving traffic rather than get too close to the person coming the other way while outside in the fresh air.

This morning I read the horrifying news that the increasingly insane leaders of France have now mandated that six year olds must wear masks even when outside, to protect against the spread of Omicron, a variant that is seemingly benign in almost every case. This is something that the clever French leaders didn't do for Delta which was far more deadly. This apparently is "following science".

Addendum- 9th February 2022 reposted to

Back when Omicron first made the news "following the science" would have meant yet another full lockdown. SAGE the government advisory committee full of experts who got every prediction wrong so far said, without yet another lockdown we would be headed for 6000 deaths a day by now.

Here we are in early February after our Prime Minister decided not to "follow the science", and with no lockdown, and on the 7th of February the number of dead (which in itself is still a questionable figure) was 45. Bearing in mind my comment above about France made a month ago, France currently leads Europe in case numbers per head of the population. So making 6 year olds wear masks outside really worked then.

I had to be quite persistent with this chap to get a decent shot, he must have seen the reindeer sign above because whenever I got close enough for a close up, he took off and moved further down the quayside, but I followed and eventually he got bored with the game. Haven't they got huge feet?

This is the freshwater ley and the side of the road. Parking restrictions are observed by season, not time of day or day of the week. As a consequence we go to this spot a couple of times a week and park for free, October to April. That is why you get quite a lot of photos from me taken here in winter.

These are the cliffs at one end of the beach and the houses also crawl up the hill as well as along the beach. If you are worried about sea level rise, this is probably the one for you. That concrete part is the remains of war defences protecting the beach against invasion forces. This was a very busy place back in the 1940's while it was evacuated and used to practice for the landings on Omaha Beach in Normandy. More on that later.

The Start Point lighthouse is quite clearly visible on this occasion, last Saturday it was not visible at all. The sloping dark line just below the pinnacled summit of the ridge is the narrow lane down to the lighthouse which is a modern addition.

When the lighthouse was first built, several families lived there, and the children had to walk across that headland twice a day to get to and from school. It was several miles. The lighthouse is now automated, and the local children walk nowhere. They are chauffeured to any and every destination they wish to visit, at any time of day, in air conditioned luxury. They are all "Little Lord Fauntleroys". It is debatable which group of children suffered most and were damaged least.

Little Lord Fauntleroy is a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was published as a serial in St. Nicholas Magazine from November 1885 to October 1886, then as a book by Scribner's in 1886. The illustrations by Reginald B. Birch set fashion trends and the novel set a precedent in copyright law when Burnett won a lawsuit in 1888 against E. V. Seebohm over the rights to theatrical adaptations of the work.

Polly Hovarth writes that Little Lord Fauntleroy "was the Harry Potter of his time and Frances Hodgson Burnett was as celebrated for creating him as J. K. Rowling is for Potter.

I don't think Burnett was ever banned from her own celebrations though, like Rowling has been. But then back in 1886 it was not so insanely controversial to think that men should not be housed in women's prisons.

When someone came before a judge back then claiming to be Napoleon and demanding to be treated with the necessary respect accorded to the Emperor of France, the judge didn't immediately bow down and say pleased to meet you your Imperial and Royal Majesty.

Today anyone declaring themselves to be Napoleon in court would probably be sentenced to twenty years of luxury in Buckingham Palace so as not to hurt their feelings.

Back to D-Day.

639 gave their lives just out at sea here in Torcross on the 28th of April 1944. An exercise called Operation Tiger was a full scale rehearsal for the invasion and liberation of Europe. Thousands of men had boarded landing craft at Plymouth and Brixham south and north of this point to meet here and invade the beach which had been chosen because of it's close resemblance to Omaha Beach in Normandy.

American soldiers were in full combat gear below in the Tank Deck, along with their vehicles. The LSTs were loaded with smaller amphibious vehicles, tanks, jeeps, weapons, and trucks that were full of fuel and ammunition. The sailors and officers were at their posts as they set sail. The ships were on their way to meet and form one convoy in Lyme Bay. The distance from Lyme Bay to Slapton Sands was the approximate time it would take to make the crossing to Utah Beach on D-Day.

All of the ships arrived at approximately 2:00 a.m. on April 28th in Lyme Bay and formed one long convoy as they began the journey back to Slapton Sands. Suddenly, four German E-Boats, on a routine patrol, armed with torpedoes approached the convoy and began firing on the ships. General Quarters was sounded on all the ships, but the LSTs had little fire power and protection against these fast moving boats. Initially, the torpedoes missed hitting the LSTs because of their flat-bottom hulls. Survivors from the tank decks recounted stories of hearing the torpedoes scraping the bottom of the hull. Gun fire was exchanged between the E-Boats and the LSTs. The E-Boats quickly made adjustments and LST 507, at the back of the convoy, took a direct hit and was in flames and sinking. LST 531, in the middle of the convoy, then took direct hits from two torpedoes. She would sink within six minutes. LST 289, in front of LST 507, was the third and final ship that was hit with a torpedo. LST 289 did not sink but took extensive damage to the stern and suffered the loss of life of 13 men and many were injured. The LSTs remaining afloat followed orders and moved out in a zig zagging pattern as they began making their way to the nearest port. The E-Boats had left the scene.

Captain John Doyle, of LST 515, the lead ship of the convoy, disobeyed orders and returned to rescue survivors from the sea. His crew rescued approximately 134 men that would have surely perished. They remained until the British ship, the HMS Onslow, arrived at dawn to assist in rescuing men and retrieving the bodies of those who died.

Those that survived were taken to various established and temporary hospitals. They were told never to speak of what happened under threat of court martial because of the secrecy required for D-Day. There was no leave given to survivors to recover from the trauma, no time for mourning those who died. They were reassigned to other LSTs and took part in the D-Day invasion. This tank was retrieved from the sea bed. Shamefully the decision was made in 2021 to cancel the memorial event held here every year, because of the pandemic. An event which would have been attended by people who by then had been double vaccinated and which was held in the open air. How risk averse we have become in 77 years. I wonder what Captain John Doyle would have thought about that.

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