Bristol

The vision thing

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The vision thing” is a comment made by George H. W. Bush ahead of the 1988 United States presidential election when urged to spend some time thinking about his plans for his prospective presidency.

The embracing of vision – with or without the thing – is widespread in public life in Britain at both local and national levels. Every party leader is expected to have one; and any plans for the wholesale remodelling of large areas of our town and cities are expected incorporate vision too.

An investigation into the prevalence of vision in the organs of the British state reveals just how ingrained use of the term is. A quick Google search for items containing “vision” on websites within the .gov.uk domain is revealing.

Screenshot of Google search revealing 2.3m uses of vision on central and local government websites

No, your eyes do not deceive you – 2.3 million instances of use.

Looking more locally, a recent search (mid-April) of the Bristol City Council website for the term returns a total of over 4,200 hits. It has probably risen since last month (and with all that evident ocular deployment, one would have thought that the inhabitants of the Counts Louse – which some refer to as City Hall – would realise there’s a major cleanliness problem with the city’s streets. Ed.).

Screenshot of Google search of Bristol City Council website for use of vision

With all that vision in use in the country, opticians and their colleagues must be raking in the money. πŸ˜€

Helmut Schmidt

Sie hatten Recht, Herr Bundeskanzler!

Or is it necessarily opticians and associated practitioners that should be profiting from this phenomenon? There is some scepticism about the benefits of visions.

George H.W. Bush was mentioned at the start of this post. One of his contemporaries was the former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

Schmidt was very dismissive of visions and is on record as stating the following:

Wer Visionen hat, soll zum Arzt gehen.

This translates into English as:

Anyone who has visions should go to the doctor.

Will those working for the British state be visiting their GPs en masse soon?

I doubt it.

Finally, when someone summoned up the courage to ask Schmidt what his big vision was, he is reputed to have referred them to Bush! πŸ˜€

May blossom

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We’re now in May and one reliable natural occurrence of the time of year is the flowering of common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), which is also known as the oneseed hawthorn, or single-seeded hawthorn.

Other common names include may, mayblossom, maythorn, quickthorn, whitethorn, motherdie, and haw.

The Woodland Trust have produced a short video depicting one year in the life of the hawthorn.

The specimen below can be found in the Easton section of the Bristol & Railway Path near the Brixton Road access point.

Hawthorn tree on Railway Path in Easton

Hawthorn is amongst the first trees to start budding in the spring (the above specimen first put out leaves in late January. Ed.) and is also a fast-growing plant. This may explain the alternative name of quickthorn.

As it forms a dense, thorny mass of branches, it is often used for hedging, particularly where livestock has to be contained.

Besides its agricultural value as hedging, common hawthorn can support more than 300 insects. It is a food plant for caterpillars of numerous moths. Its flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. The haws (berries) are rich in antioxidants and are eaten by migrating birds, such as redwings, fieldfares and thrushes, as well as small mammals.

Furthermore, the dense, thorny foliage makes fantastic nesting shelter for many bird species of bird.

Green Man ceiling boss, Rochester Cathedral

Folklore and symbolism

Hawthorn is a pagan symbol of fertility and has associations with May Day stretching back beyond written history. It was the forerunner of the Maypole and its leaves and flowers provided the source of May Day garlands as well as appearing in the wreath of the Green Man.

In medieval times hawthorn was never brought indoors as it was generally believed that bringing its blossom indoors would result in illness and even death. In those times it was also commonly believed that hawthorn blossom smelled like the plague. In more recent times scientists have discovered the chemical trimethylamine (which smells like ammonia or rotting flesh. Ed.) in hawthorn blossom is also one of the first chemicals formed in rotting animal fish, hence the tree’s traditional linking with illness and death.

In spite of the beliefs and symbolism outlined above, the young hawthorn leaves, flower buds and young flowers are all edible. The leaves are often described as having the flavour of bread and cheese. They can be added to green salads and grated root salads. The developing flower buds are particularly good. The haws can be eaten raw (beware a stomach upset. Ed.), but are most commonly used to make jellies and wines.

A final personal note

In my own life, the blossoming of the hawthorn always reminds me that spring is giving way to early summer.

In particular, it reminds of when I was 8 years old and my mother took my 2 younger siblings and me by train all the way from Stafford to Harling Road in Norfolk – the nearest station to my grandmother’s home. The journey took the best part of a day (showing how difficult it was to travel cross-country in England, even in pre-Beeching times. Ed.). The fields on either side of the railway lines on which we travelled were thick with hawthorn blossoming pink and white.

Whenever I see hawthorn in bloom these days, I’m immediately reminded of that one train journey, even though it’s now almost 6 decades in the past.

Update: After writing this post, I asked both my siblings if they remembered that journey and if so, what they recalled. My sister replied that she recollected the journey as being interminable and her chief memory was all the trackside telegraph poles, whilst my brother – the youngest of us – responded with a question as to whether that was the railway trip during which he was sick. He obviously had other matters than lineside shrubbery on his mind. πŸ˜€

Illiteracy or bloody-mindedness?

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It’s now 10 years since TidyBS5 was inaugurated by local residents with the support of local ward councillors to campaign for a more pleasant street scene in the Bristol council wards of Easton and Lawrence Hill.

During all that time, both residents and councillors has persistently call on Bristol City Council to increase both the presence and visibility of enforcement action, but our efforts have only been rewarded in the last couple of years with higher fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for environmental crimes in 2019 and the recent recruiting of more enforcement officers (posts passim).

Largely as a result of the actions of local residents raising awareness of environmental blight, the streets of Lawrence Hill and Easton are now marginally freer of fly-tipping than they were then, but problems still persist, not helped by the lower footfall due to lockdown and the amount of DIY and building works being undertaken.

This was spotted at the junction of Walton Street and Chaplin Road.

Photo shows fly-tipping beneath sign advising no fly-tipping, CCTV in operation

Is this an example of illiteracy or bloody-mindedness? Kindly give your answers in the comments.

Greens take impressive lead in recycling box poll

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It’s one week to go to the elections for Bristol City Council, the elected Mayor of Bristol (with 2 of the 9 candidates standing for election to the office vowing to hold a referendum with a view to abolishing the autocratic post. Ed.), the West of England Combined Authority Mayor and the Avon & Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner.

My recycling box is rapidly filling up with election materials as the parties all vie for my cross against their candidates’ names on the four ballot papers (Hint to canvassers: don’t bother with my house any more; I’ve already voted by post! Ed.).

Following the arrival on the latest leaflet on the doormat, the poll has been updated and now shows the following state of the parties.

Screenshot of spreadsheet showing Greens with 4 leaflets and other parties with 1 each

The Greens seem determined to win Lawrence Hill ward and are pulling out all the stops. As they’re normally in fourth place, the Tories have managed on token leaflet as have the Liberal Democrats, who were once renowned for their zeal in bunging up letterboxes with their literature.

Why has there only been one Labour leaflet? Is this a symptom of lower levels of activism in the wake of members deserting the party after the election of Keir Starmer (whom some unkindly refer to as Keith. Ed.)?

All will become clear next week.

Maybe.

Local elections 2021 – the recycling poll

It’s getting close to election time again and the period of what is informally known as “purdah” (also known rather more formally and stuffily in local authority circles as the “pre-election period” Ed.), which has very little to with purdah’s original definition, i.e. a religious and social practice of female seclusion prevalent among some Muslim and Hindu communities, and more to do with preventing central and local government from making announcements about any new or controversial initiatives that could be seen to be advantageous to any candidates or parties in the forthcoming election.

Here in the Bristol area, elections are being held not only for the local council, but also for the elected Mayor of Bristol, the Avon & Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner and the Mayor of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA).

As is usual with matters electoral, I keep a record on a LibreOffice spreadsheet of all election leaflets received, which ultimately end up in their rightful place – the waste paper recycling box (apart from personally addressed material, which is fed to the confidential waste shredder. Ed.).

The latest state of the parties – as of first thing this morning – is shown below.

Screenshot of election leaflet spreadsheet

As can be seen, the Greens are clearly putting a major effort into depriving Labour of their 2 ward seats for Lawrence Hill in the council chamber.

Whilst elections may be regarded as a vehicle of change, there are certain features that are reassuringly familiar and are thus recycled election after election.

For instance, the first leaflet received after the notices of persons nominated were announced was one from the Liberal Democrats, as per their decades-long reputation for opportunism.

That leaflet also comprised other reassuringly familiar Liberal Democrat tropes, such as the bar chart below for the WECA Mayor. I am reliably informed by a fellow linguist who took a ruler to the y axis, that the column sizes are reasonably accurate (for once. Ed.)

Bar chart scanned from LibDem election leaflet

That just leaves the equine graphic with the heading “It’s a 2 horse race! (Insert_party_name) can’t win here!” and the traditional graphics requirements for LibDem leaflets will have been fulfilled.

More leaflets can of course be expected to land on the doormat as polling day approaches, so updates will be provided in due course.

Corvids nesting in BS5

Having been brought up in rural Shropshire, I normally wouldn’t have paid a lot of attention to corvids when I lived there.

However, things are different now I’m an inner city resident and appreciate all the birdlife I see.

As regards corvids specifically, magpies and carrion crows seem to be the most numerous. Indeed, magpies nested in the large ash tree in the ‘pocket park‘ around the corner a couple of years ago.

Furthermore, jays, those most colourful of British resident corvids, are not unknown in Easton, whilst sightings of ravens are rarer (posts passim).

Indeed, the only members of the resident 8 strong British corvid family that I’ve not seen locally over the years are the chough (which tends to prefer sea cliffs as habitat. Ed.) and hooded crow, which is more readily found found in N and W Scotland, N Ireland and on the Isle of Man as a replacement for the carrion crow.

Croydon Street crow's nest

Croydon Street crow’s nest in top of sycamore.

Monday was a lovely sunny day and returning from my constitutional, I was passing down Croydon Street when I noticed a crow alight in a nest in a roadside sycamore tree. A crow’s nest is best described as a roughly crafted collection of sticks in the fork of a tree. Most corvids are not builders of complicated or artistic-looking nests.

As I was attempting to get a halfway decent shot of the nest, the other bird in the pair turned up with fresh nest material in its beak. It can be seen in the picture below. Apologies for the wobbly camera work: I was leaning back and pointing the camera straight up at arm’s length.

Croydon Street crow's nest with bird to left

Croydon Street crow’s nest with bird to left

Update: there’s also a crow’s next in a tree in the pocket park on Chaplin Road.

Another classic headline

Bristol Live (formerly the Bristol (Evening) Post. Ed.) really has form when it comes to writing ambiguous headlines (posts passim).

Attempting to drive whilst giving birth is extremely dangerous! Do not try it on the roads! πŸ˜€

Headline reads 'Dangerous driver had baby in car before crash'

New alternative to binning soft plastic

Tesco logoThe BBC reports that Tesco is to introduce collection points for soft plastic packaging such as crisp packets, pet food pouches and bread bags at its stores in England and Wales.

This follows a successful trial in 2018 at 10 stores.

The roll-out will start with facilities being installed in 171 stores in south-west England and Wales.

Tesco is hoping to collect 1,000 tonnes of soft plastic a year and customers may return packaging from other retailers as well as its own packaging provided all packaging presented for collection is clean.

Soft plastic is notoriously hard to recycle and most currently ends up going to landfill or being incinerated.

Given Bristol’s wide range recycling collections, this type of plastic makes up the majority of my residual waste collected by the refuse lorry.

With this move, Tesco is finally living up to its “Every little helps” motto.

Theft, consent and tautology

Another day and every regional newspaper in the country is replete with examples of one of its mainstays – reports of criminal cases being processed through the local courts of justice.

The details of one case in particular on the Bristol Live (formerly the Bristol Post. Ed.) website caught my eye for one single sentence.

In the relevant sentence we are told that the defendant*

stole his dad’s car keys without consent last October.

I have never before heard of an item being stolen with its owner’s consent, so let’s examine that sentence in detail.

We are told the defendant “stole his dad’s car keys“.

The dictionary definition of the verb to steal is “to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, especially secretly or by force“. That definition includes the words without permission, i.e. without consent.

The lack of consent is implicit in verb’s definition, hence the qualification without permission is superfluous.

This brings us to another concept with which the author of the piece in question will be unfamiliar: tautology, i.e. “needless repetition of an idea, especially in words other than those of the immediate context, without imparting additional force or clearness“.

To some it may seem that I’m being overly pedantic, but as a linguist I’m all too aware that words matter as they are the only tools we have to convey meaning and in being the main source of information the press has a duty to use them properly.

* = Name omitted as having his name pop up once for a youthful misdemeanour in search engine results is enough without my adding to his woes.

IWD stencils

Yesterday, like 8th March every year, was International Women’s Day, this year focussing on the theme #ChooseToChallenge.

To quote from the IWD website:

A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.
So let’s all choose to challenge.

How will you help forge a gender equal world?
Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.

Easton Way in Bristol was yesterday sporting some new challenging stencil art in celebration of IWD near its junction with Easton Road.

Organise Yourself Sister stencil art Feminist in Training
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