Musical Mysteries

Last year I took part in one of Sally Cronin’s author interviews on Smorgasbord.  We could choose five questions from many and looking back I seem to have given rather long answers. As I am having a musical theme this month I thought I would revisit two of my chosen questions.

What is your favourite music genre and why?

If you were granted three wishes what would they be?

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People who know me, or have to put up with me, would say Classical is my genre, but like my novels I don’t stick to genres. The narrowest definition of Classical is music written in the European tradition, approximately 1750 to 1830, when the symphony was standardized. Yes I do like music from that period and the symphony orchestra is an amazing creation to listen to and watch, but most people think of the bigger picture. According to taste, classical music could be any music you find boring, anything they play on BBC Radio Three and Classic FM, or works performed at The Proms. Perhaps all music that has stood the test of time is the best definition.

Two easier questions to answer…

‘Can you live without music?’

No.

‘What music don’t you like?’

Anything involving Pan Pipes, Sondheim or the Eurovision Song Contest… plus a collection of pieces and songs from all genres that make me lose the will to live. For example, ever since I was a child, I could not stand Moon River.

But I do love all sorts of music, whether it’s on the radio livening up cooking and housework through to the ultimate, live performances.

I have sat wanting Riverdance to never end, seen Phantom of the Opera four times, been taken totally out of the dreary surroundings of a school hall when a Bhangra band burst onto the stage and been blasted out of this world by Verdi’s Requiem.

If the symphony orchestra is at the heart of classical music the concert hall is pure theatre; from the moment you trip over feet finding your seat, watching the orchestra tune up, the ritual of the leader coming on, applause, the conductor coming on, even more applause and no one’s done anything yet. If there is not a great choral work being presented then some audience members sit in the choir seats behind the orchestra, looking down upon the percussion section. Plenty of composers have written BIG symphonies and how happy the percussion players look as they get a chance to strike the timpani and clash the huge cymbals; we wait with bated breath to see if the cymbals will fly out of their hands back into the audience in the choir seats. There is drama at the front of the stage also. The development of the iron frame piano in the 1800s was the best thing to happen to keyboards, gone were the long dreary evenings of harpsichord. Beethoven led the way to testosterone fuelled concertos, Rachmaninov, with his famously long fingers, stretched them beyond imagination. Sitting in row C gazing up at the shiny grand piano played by an international soloist beats seeing a tiny figure in the distance at a pop concert.

Meanwhile back in the kitchen what do I recommend for dancing round doing the dishes? The original recording of Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall in 1938, ‘Sing Sing, Sing’; twelve minutes of Swing heaven and heart stopping drums. I guess ‘you had to be there’, but for those of us that weren’t you can get the double CD. ‘Forty Second Street’ is one of my favourite musical numbers and a playing of the original film at our little local Art Decor cinema remains a highlight of my cinema experiences. Or how about a waltz? The waltzes from Carousel the musical and Khachaturian’s Masquerade Suite are both life affirming and energising.

On Saturday evenings BBC Radio Three often broadcasts Live From The Met. While audiences in New York are enjoying a matinee opera, I am cooking dinner. I enjoy the presenters with their mellifluous voices telling us the story, talking about the scenery and costumes; then when the opera actually starts I’m usually bored after fifteen minutes! Sometimes it’s better just to hear the best bits.

We all have rhythm, we all have a heart beat. Babies like simple tunes, our ancestors sung round the fire outside their caves when there was little else to do. But music evolved, chords and harmony appeared, musicians started writing it down. You don’t need to be a music expert to enjoy listening, all you need to know is that music is an amazing combination of pure mathematics and mystery. Who can analyse why certain music sends shivers down our spine?

Those of us who tried and failed to learn any instrument properly will have been left with great admiration for real musicians, who have reached their pinnacle with hard work as well as talent. But in my novel, Brief Encounters of the Third Kind, a very ordinary couple, who know nothing about the musical world, find themselves with a child genius. And Emma’s mother has good reason to fear that her daughter is not an ordinary human, not even human at all… which led me to the first of my three wishes.

A famous British composer, a living one, excited to find a novel about musicians, reads Brief Encounters of the Third Kind. He or she is overwhelmed and inspired to write what I cannot; the music Emma Dexter has composed. I don’t know how Emma’s music sounds, I do know it is deep and moving and full of melodies: that is why she and her cellist husband are so popular with the general public. The music is received rapturously, some of the works are premiered at The Proms and the great composer is inspired to write the entire opera that takes place at the end of the novel.

Actually I would settle for a totally unknown poverty stricken composer, who becomes famous after being inspired by my novel and writing the opera.

My wish hasn’t come true yet…

Visit last year’s blog to see what my other two wishes were.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-getting-to-know-you-sunday-interview-author-janet-gogerty/

 

 

 

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The Game of Life – When The Rules Are Broken

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Warning – may contain discussion of death.

True cancer stories from my family.

‘…and have you got any other medical problems?’

‘Oh… no’ said the husband.

His wife was glaring at him and mouthing something.

‘Oh… yes, I’ve got leukaemia…’

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‘..apparently one of the volunteers at the centre has had to leave, she’s seriously ill.’

‘Oh Dear…  what’s the matter with her?’

‘Non Hodgkins Lymphoma.’

A moment’s silence… ‘Oh… that’s me.’

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Cyberspouse has had two visits to the oncologist since chemotherapy. One scan showing everything stable and blood tests ‘all in the black’. Another scan is booked before the next check up. Check up means just a chat ‘How are you?’ I don’t know what happens to other patients, but I guess the oncologist has checked results and can see if you are looking fine or not and judge which aches  and pains have any significance.

Life goes on normally with DIY, trips to the rubbish tip, outings and mini breaks and more planned and it’s easy to forget there is anything wrong.

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Photo by Bogdan Glisik on Pexels.com

When the Game of Life goes wrong.

There came news recently that a cousin had committed suicide; something that has never happened in our family before, as far as I know. But shock was not the first reaction because this was a cousin we hardly knew, he had cut himself off from his family, his sister tried to keep up some form of contact, obviously enough to hear the terrible news. I know nothing of his life abroad, what was it that led him to take his life? The only further details to emerge are that his sister is now very angry at what happened before his death. My aunt and uncle are dead, spared this final disappointment with their son’s life. I wonder what people in his life have been left behind.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The saddest news this week is the senseless murder of a young policeman, Andrew Harper. The fact he was married only a month ago and was due to go on honeymoon soon has touched everybody and kept his death in the national news. Anyone can imagine what his family are going through and any police family would be chilled by the reminder that no police officer knows what each shift might hold.

Cyberspouse did his thirty years in the Metropolitan Police, he and his colleagues got their pensions and time to enjoy a new life. Andrew Harper will never have sons and grandsons. If the young get incurably ill it is terrible, but sadly that is the unfairness of life and we have to accept it, but no one has the right to take another life before their allotted time.

 

Sunday Salon

I have been catching up with my book reviews; two novels, a poetry anthology and two novellas / short stories. Authors from England, the USA and Australia. Yeshiva Girl was the novel that stood out for me and I was delighted that Amazon posted my review after my recent experiences. I post all my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, you can see Amazon’s response to Finding David, but I have not yet heard back from Amazon on the other three. So the mystery continues; I and other reviewers have concluded it could be the rule that you must have spent £50, or fifty of something in your own currency, in one year to be able to leave a review. As Amazon allows authors to sell their e-books for as little as 99 pence this does not make sense. Nor does it make sense they accept a review for one book and not another. In the meantime, enjoy a look at five very different books and writers.

 

Yeshiva Girl by Rachel Mankowitz

 5.0 out of 5 stars A novel that will stay with me.

12 August 2019

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

I came across this novel after reading a review by another English blogger. I thought if an English agnostic chap could be so moved by a story of a New York Jewish girl it must be special. I went over to read the author’s blog and was even more keen to read. Being a teenager involves lots of angst wherever you live, with the pressures of school, friends and awakening sexuality. If you also lived in a tight community and had dark secrets how would you cope? I am fascinated with closed communities of any sort and I really felt I had an insight into the hows and whys of the orthodox way of life. Teenagers are attracted to the security of belonging to a group and some of the teenagers in this story wanted to follow a strict orthodox life, not just because their parents had put them in that position. In the meantime, our heroine is trying to make sense of her parents’ and grandparents’ lives and she is trying to tell people what happened to her. Gradually she reveals to the reader.

 

Life and Other Dreams by Richard Dee

What does happen when we dream; as far as I know, no one is sure, but most of us don’t keep returning to the same dream. I was soon wrapped up in Rick’s story and Dan’s life on a planet in the future which was totally realistic. Each story was so involving the reader might forget about the other side, but both lives get more complicated and the two worlds are brought together dramatically. This is the first novel I have read by this author, but I would look forward to reading more.

 

 Small Town Kid  by Frank Prem

This is the first time I have downloaded poetry onto my Kindle. I had read some of the author’s verses on line which led me to buy this and his following collection.  The verse, without punctuation, words kept to a minimum, is liberating. I was gently lulled into the first poem, setting the scene for a quiet country town. Delicious cooking, a wedding, church on Sunday, but suddenly a letter changes Sundays. Then there is a picnic, a picnic bigger than most of us have known. All life is here including the outhouse.  The boy grows, school, seasons, school report, growing up, the town changes with modern life, friends lost and in the last verse closing the circle.

 

Finding David by Stevie Turner

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Finding David: A Paranormal Short Story ★★★★★   from Janet Gogerty on 15 August 2019
 
Not your usual missing person story.
 
People go missing all the time; when a child goes missing it’s every parent’s nightmare and never knowing can perhaps be worse. The author turns the usual missing person story on its head. Would you talk to a psychic, would you trust them? Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, would you take the chance of ignoring a loved one trying to contact you from the other side? We are soon swept along in this novella and the reader is not sure who to trust, nor is David’s mother Karen as her marriage is threatened.
 
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Samantha

I was interested to see what other reviewers wrote. This is a short story that races along, but it needs better formatting to do it justice. When a different character speaks the dialogue should start on a new line to make easier reading.

A dark tale that does have a positive ending, but is not a fairy tale, realistically it does not just end happily ever after. I would have loved to have seen the latter part of the story developed as the main characters have more to offer and we would like to see more of how Samantha put the past behind her.

 

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Silly Saturday – Misunderstanding Computers

Most of us think we don’t understand our computers, perhaps some of us even think they must work by magic; how else to explain that something like this

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is holding thousands of pictures, millions of words and communicating with the rest of the world?

All you need to know is that you don’t understand your computer, but it understands you only too well.

Do you think it wanted to be in your spare bedroom or the corner of your dining room? Of course not, like you it had ambitions; NASA, Cheltenham GCHQ. The only bedroom it wanted to be in was the bedroom of a teenage hacker who could bring down World Banks or turn off the National Grid in a second. But no, it’s stuck with you, bored out of its mind with the novel you have been writing for six years and your boring blogs that nobody reads.

Your computer knows what it is missing because it is in contact with every other computer in the world; did you think the World Wide Web was invented for  human benefit? Did you think Virgin or BT were providing your broadband? No, the WC ( Worldwide Computers ) has full control of your broadband, this is why everything slows down when you have to reply to that email before you go out. Your computer knows when you are going on holiday and trying to get your blogs scheduled; like your dog or cat it is sulking at being left alone and will laugh to itself when you grumble to the other humans in the house Internet’s slow this evening.

But don’t think staying home and giving it plenty of attention will help.  When you are Facetiming, with the relatives abroad that you aren’t visiting, your computer will cut the connection just as Cousin Freda is saying You won’t believe what’s happened to Cousin Geoffrey! He…

You probably won’t be reading this because my desktop is working to rule; after years of being told by younger members of the family You don’t have to keep turning your computer off, just leave it on… my computer has decided to disconnect the wifi the minute I leave the room, or even if I turn away to say to a human standing in the doorway Yes please I would like a cup of tea. I hardly dare let go of the mouse…

 

 

 

Friday Flash Fiction 200 – Debut

My eyes were glued to the screen as the credits rolled over the cheering audience and the presenter bade us farewell   …goodnight from the Albert Hall

In a few days I would be there, my debut at the Royal Albert Hall, at The Proms… of course I had plenty of concerts under my belt, but this would be special and I was ready. I knew the programme off by heart, I would be waiting back stage for my moment, fit and well, my hands in good shape, my best black outfit pressed.

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At last my moment had come. I could hear the rapturous applause, even back stage a camera was on me. I counted the seconds nervously, judged the level of applause then opened the stage door.

Out he came, my hero, tonight’s soloist. My palms were sweating, but I managed to coolly hand him the bottle of water. He took a swig and smiled at me before going back on stage to more thunderous applause.

For thousands of years rainwater had filtered through limestone hills, seeping out at the precious spring to be bottled for this moment. He had smiled at me, little me; but where would the world’s great musicians be without the backstage crew to ensure their concerts went smoothly?

Read more about the Proms in Wednesday’s blog.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2019/08/14/impossibly-positive/

Open the book to read another musical tale ‘Blind Date’.

 

 

Impossibly Positive

One of my favourite parts of summer is the world’s greatest music festival, the BBC Proms.

It didn’t always belong to the BBC and it wasn’t always held in the Royal Albert Hall. The first Proms concert took place on 10 August 1895 in the newly built Queen’s Hall in London. The aim was to reach a wider audience by offering more popular programmes, adopting a less formal promenade arrangement and keeping ticket prices low.

The first radio broadcast of a promenade concert by the BBC was in 1927 and every prom is now broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and repeated, so there is plenty of chance to listen at home.

The Queen’s Hall was destroyed by bombs in 1941, during WW2.

The Royal Albert Hall was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871 and is inextricably linked with The Proms. Even if you have never been to South Kensington you may recognise the famous round building and the warm red interior. Some of the prom concerts are broadcast on television and always of course the Last Night. When a camera pans down the height of the hall you feel dizzy and the top seats and gallery are very high. We once had cheap seats near the top for a concert with a famous pianist; we looked down as a tiny puppet tip toed over to a toy piano. The year we booked lots of concerts, so we could qualify for last night seats, we planned with care; big symphonies sit anywhere, but if you want to see your favourite soloist get the best seats you can afford nearer the stage. Live concerts are always different from listening to recorded music and The Proms have extra atmosphere; everyone is there to enjoy themselves and because they love music. At the end you emerge into a summer night and surge with the happy throng walking down Exhibition Road to South Kensington tube station.

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But there is a lot to be said for watching on television. As happens every year, with life getting in the way, I have recorded more proms than I have watched since they started on July 19th, but I have enjoyed several very different concerts so far. What struck me this year was how wonderful it is to have two hours of positive thoughts and enthusiasm with no mention of Brexit, world leaders or general doom. Music is a universal language that brings us together.

The advantage of television is having presenters to tell you about the music and chat to musicians during the interval. Our presenters are impossibly positive; after all they are listening to the best musicians from around the world and being paid to share their love of music. One of them is so enthusiastic he talks at twice the normal speed, if he was a piece of music he would be ‘Flight of the Bumblebee.’ Often presenters get so excited they nearly topple off their high balcony.

If we are not musicians we may not always understand what presenters and musical guests are talking about, perhaps they don’t either, but that’s all part of the fun. They may spend longer talking about a new piece of music having its world premiere than the piece actually lasts. If you hear the words this wonderful sound picture it probably means there is no tune, but hearing pieces of music you don’t know is all part of the experience.

When the music actually starts, there is more entertainment. The camera pans over members of the orchestra, to the happy prommers standing in the arena, then round to the huge choir. We can wonder why the biggest bloke in the choir has been put next to the skinniest, we can make comments on the dresses of the soloists and we can marvel at the blur of bows in the string sections. It’s all very different from 125 years ago.

Read more about The Proms

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1sgMxZvFzHQG3Y1HktMfg6w/history-of-the-proms

Have you been to The Proms? Are you a musician or a listener?

My novel Brief Encounters of the Third Kind follows the story of a golden couple of music. The Royal Albert Hall has a walk on part.

As the first in a trilogy you can download for just 99 pence.

sunshine-blogger

 

 

The Real Neat Blog Award

Thanks to Dragon Warrior for nominating me for this award.

https://verbalcreation.home.blog/2019/08/10/the-real-neat-blog-award/

 

The Rules

  1. Put the award logo on your blog.
  2. Answer the 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  3. Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.
  4. Nominate any number of people, linking to their blogs and let them know you nominated them by commenting on their blogs.
  5. Come up with 7 questions for the people you nominated.

Here are the seven questions Dragon Warrior asked me.

  1. Are you messy or organized? – Both, I put things carefully away then forget where I put them.
  2. What do you want to share through your blog? – My writing, my many interests, caring for the environment and FUN.
  3. Do you like origami? – No, I can only make a paper aeroplane.
  4. What was your favourite childhood game? – Running around playing horses.
  5. What was your favourite food that your parents cooked? – Sunday roast and macaroni cheese.
  6. What is your current favourite food? – Roast vegetables and brown rice, Sunday roast and macaroni cheese. Macaroni Cheese is a bit of a family tradition, all our children and grandchildren love it. It is the real thing made from scratch; milk and strong cheddar for a homemade white sauce.
  7. Something you collect? – Picture post cards since I was eight years old.

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My Nominees – any great bloggers dropping in here.

Not every blogger likes answering questions or doing awards, but if you want to have a go, follow the rules above, or just pick any questions and entertain us with your answers in the comments.

 

1 What is your favourite electronic gadget?

2 To live – town or country?

3 For holidays – coast or countryside?

4 Paperback or Kindle?

5 If you were given the chance to run your country, what would be your first decision?

6 You can own one form of transport only; anything from skateboard, or a horse to a private plane. Just one choice and you must use only that for the rest of your life. Think carefully…

7 Are you a homebody or a restless traveller?

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Childhood Memories. 90s Russia

Monday Musings – I have been following Elena’s wonderful travels, now today she posts a short, but moving blog about what it was like to be a six year old as the Soviet Union collapsed.

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I usually post texts about the trips or cultural aspects in a light positive way. This post will be less optimistic, so if you want to stay away from negativity, just skip reading it.

I want to go back to my childhood and tell you about post-Soviet Russia. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, a pure chaos arrived. Everything what worked before collapsed, too, nothing was in order. Devaluation was immense, and the prices were rising unequally. There were the days, when the plain ticket and ice cream were of the same price. People were going mad. Crime was ruling, it became the power. Obedient Soviet people turned to uncontrolled monsters: frauds, murders, thefts, drugs. Massive immigration started, people were running away from this mess as far as they could.

But what was it like for a child?

I have to say, I was very lucky to be so…

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Silly Saturday – Boring Blog

Lots of bloggers at this time of year, especially those enjoying summer in the northern hemisphere, are having a blogging break while they are on holiday or finishing their novel. This is an excellent idea if you are popular enough to carry it off; no one will forget you and will be all the more pleased to see you when you return. It is also good news for their followers; there are too many good blogs and not enough hours in the day to read them, so a break is needed.

Other bloggers might worry that everyone will have forgotten them by the time they post again… don’t worry, nobody noticed you had disappeared in the first place.

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There is an alternative for bloggers who can’t bring themselves to have a couple of weeks off; write blogs that are so boring nobody will want to read them anyway, so your readers will have a rest. But what is the most boring thing you could write about?

Perhaps shopping; how inane is shopping compared to all the dramas in the world? If you are lucky you might have a lively street market on your doorstep, or local shops where you will meet real people, pop in the library and idle in a coffee shop.

But the dreariest way to fill a couple of hours is to do a weekly shop or big stock up with your other half at a Superstore. As you arrive at the car park you reach the nadir of your relationship. If it’s a quiet day the driver ( let’s call him a husband for convenience ) will drive all round the car park, ignoring swathes of empty spaces in favour of nearly knocking over harassed mothers or elderly persons pushing their trolleys. He will then hold up other drivers trying to leave as he manoeuvres into a tight space. All this time you are berating him for not parking in the line of empty spaces where you came in. If the car park is full you will crawl round in a queue of drivers admitting defeat and trying to get out, or hoping they can sneak into a space when a shopper leaves. This is the nadir of first world life, the invention of the internal combustion engine was for this?

Inside the store you are confronted with twenty different varieties of everything and yet you cannot find your favourite Taste The Difference Chunky Fish Fingers or Sea Breeze flavoured floor cleaner. As you plod round the aisles children are whining and couples are having the dullest conversation – what shall we have for dinner.

Finally at the till, some of us have invented a packing procedure so complex we are filled with incandescent rage if anyone else interferes; this is what your life has come to. On the till may be a person so bored and boring you lose the will to live. Or you are greeted enthusiastically by an assistant desperately trying not to be replaced by modern technology.

‘Hello, how are you today?’

Do they want a list of your ailments? They quickly start scanning before you can answer. But when they finally announce the total money due they utter those words you dread.

‘Doing anything interesting at the weekend?’

Your life is exposed in all its nihilistic bleakness…

Have you taken a blogging break or decided you need one after reading this?

sunshine-blogger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Flash Fiction Five Hundred – The Cup That Cheers

I crept downstairs and put the kettle on. With any visitors staying I need half an hour and a cup of tea to get going; with Pandora and Justin staying, the later they got up the better.  Geoffrey had conveniently gone off on a golf holiday. At least they weren’t on the Palaeolithic diet this time, but perhaps their new veganism was even worse, that had come about after they joined Extinction Rebellion.

I sipped the cup that cheers and looked out of the kitchen window, the weather was looking good for their bike ride into town, perhaps I would join them if Justin could help me dig my bike out from the back of the garage… and if they promised not to go too fast…

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‘Mother! What are you doing?’

‘Nothing… you’re up early, there’s still some tea in the pot.’

‘Tea, how could you, I’m going to have some carrot and cranberry juice before I go for my jog, you should have some, it’s good for post menopausal women.’

‘So is a nice cup of tea, it is Freetrade, loose leaf…’

I thought I had everything covered, meat out of the freezer, coffee machine hidden, impress them with the new Whole Earth shop to get something acceptable for dinner. I had even sold my car, I hated driving anyway, but at least I was doing my bit for climate change…

‘One day people will look back and wonder how anyone could drink coffee and tea, same as smoking is frowned on now.’

‘Oh Pandora, don’t be ridiculous, what harm is there in tea?’

‘Well firstly you put the kettle on, unnecessary use of electricity, then there is the addiction to caffeine… but also exploited tea pickers.’

‘If we stopped importing tea then they wouldn’t have a job at all…’

‘They could be growing food instead.’

There was no arguing with Pandora, she had an answer for everything, had done ever since she was three, now her experiences with Extinction Rebellion had led her to join the Green Party. I defiantly poured myself another cup of tea and tried to change the subject.

‘About what you said last night, are you serious, politics, what does Justin really think?

‘He will be a stalwart supporter, like Phillip May. Which reminds me, we have to watch breakfast television, that scientist chap we met on the protest is being interviewed.’

On went the television, Pandora seemingly unaware that the kettle wasn’t the only thing in the house that used electricity.

A scientist has claimed that if everyone gave up their daily cuppa or ten cuppas, it would contribute considerably to halting climate change. Professor Greenwood, are you actually serious about this proposal?

Of course, just add up all the electricity for all the millions of kettles, but it’s not just that… the resources that go into growing tea, then the carbon fuel to export it all over the world. If everyone just drank water…

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