March Update: The Coronavirus Edition

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Like most of you, I’m stuck at home due to the coronavirus. I’m having to be very careful, since my deeply confused and unhappy immune system has a tendency to go into complete meltdown if anyone so much as sneezes within a mile of it. Luckily, it’s behaving itself at the moment and I am well, but I’m not taking any risks – and neither should you.

I have a number of new posts planned – one of which will be my 500th, believe it or not! I’ll also be posting links to some essential resources that some of you may need during the lockdown. I may not be able to get out and help directly, but I can provide information and try to distract from the boredom of being sat at home.

We are living in strange times. The normality we are used to has skulked off into the sunset, but here are a few small ways of capturing sanity in an uncertain world:

  • Get a daily routine going. Creating structure helps to ground you in difficult circumstances. Sleep is really important in this respect – make sure you’re getting enough if you can.
  • Keep an eye on your mental health too. Isolation and lack of sunlight can do a real number on you, whether you have a diagnosed mental health condition or not. The charity Mind have put together some helpful info here.
  • Relatedly, take Vitamin D if you can. Doctors recommend that everyone should do so during the winter months anyway (my GP is very hot on this) – read the NHS guidance on the subject here.
  • Remember that you don’t have to watch/listen to the news if it’s creating stress and anxiety for you. And if you do watch/listen, take it all with a big pinch of salt (see here and here for ways to do that). The same applies to social media.
  • You can indeed read the books you’ve always meant to read, but if you’re anything like me, the comfort book is the way to go. Re-read childhood favourites, and books that make you laugh, and books that transport you to another world. Same goes for other forms of media too. Escapism is not a bad thing.
  • Handcream. No, seriously. All this handwashing, though necessary, is drying out your skin and that can become very uncomfortable after a while, especially if you have sensitive skin. Even something as small as a dollop of handcream can make you feel a bit more human! (I swear by this one).
  • Cuddle your cat/dog/guinea pig/ferret/goldfish. Well, maybe not your goldfish, but there’s plenty of scientific evidence that your furry friend can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
  • No pet to cuddle? Don’t be ashamed of getting your old teddy out from the back of the wardrobe and cuddling that. It’s a scary world right now, and sometimes old ted is the best companion to have while navigating it.
  • Watch the birdies. I’ve written before about the amazing amounts of local wildlife you can see from your window, even in a big city like London. And since it’s nesting season, you might even get to see the beginnings of a new family… The RSPB have some useful information here to get you started.
  • Open the windows, put your favourite songs on and dance. Not only is this great exercise and guaranteed to get the endorphins flowing, it’s also a brilliant way of tiring out bored and over-active kids!
  • Keep a journal or write a blog. Getting your feelings out of your brain and onto paper or a screen is a really good way of processing them. You don’t have to write much or even every day, but it really does help.

If you like what you read here on Another Kind Of Mind, you can follow me on Twitter. I’m also on Pinterest, where I’ve put together a somewhat extensive London-themed board inspired by my posts here on the subject.

If you’re missing the sport (I am!), don’t worry. I also edit And Still Ricky Villa, a football blog inspired by the legendary 1970s Argentinian midfielder. You can find that on Twitter too, and also Instagram. If you do Pinterest, you’ll also find a variety of football-related boards by me there.

If you fancy watching some football, I’ve compiled a YouTube playlist of complete FA Cup finals going all the way back to 1953 – and there is always the joy of the animal pitch invaders playlist too!

(And incidentally, all the other Playlisting posts are here, covering everything from London to Andy Weatherall and beyond…)

Keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Sending you all love and elbow bumps – from a safe distance of two metres of course!

 

 

Christmas in Space: The ISS Edition

ISS-38: Astronaut Mike Hopkins on a Christmas Eve Spacewalk (2013)
ISS-38: Astronaut Mike Hopkins on a Christmas Eve Spacewalk (2013)

Imagine Christmas in zero-gravity. Pouring the gravy on your turkey dinner would certainly be a bit of a challenge for a start. I’m not sure how you’d even begin to wrap your pressies up without the sellotape, the wrapping paper and the present floating away. And I don’t think space stations actually have chimneys for Santa to get down anyway, so how would your pressies be delivered in the first place?

There are, however, a small group of quite amazing people who have faced all these things and have actually managed to spend Christmas in space. These fantastic photos (below) of the festive season onboard the International Space Station (ISS), Mir, and Skylab are from the NASA archive, and are a glimpse into what Christmas is like when you’re in earth orbit and very far from home…

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And as a bonus, here’s the famous video of astronaut and social media star Commander Chris Hadfield performing the David Bowie classic ‘Space Oddity’ while actually in space. How rock n roll is that?

For much more Christmas stuff, direct your mouse into orbit here.

Beware the Yule Cat!

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I am really very fond of kitties, big and small. Ask anyone who knows me well, and they’ll tell you I’m a mad cat lady in training. But I think I would run away screaming if I ever met the Yule Cat…

The Yule Cat is not your average domesticated feline; the sort who purrs like a lawnmower, and is only really guilty of attempting to pinch your dinner and leaving the odd half-dead rodent in your shoe.

The Yule Cat is, in fact, from Iceland, and it seems certain moggies in this part of the world are a little bit… um… different. The National Museum of Iceland explains further:

It was customary in the old rural society that employers gave the employees in their home a new garment and sheepskin shoes for Christmas. This was done to reward the people for good work as the tasks that had to be accomplished before Christmas were numerous and therefore the weeks leading up to Christmas were characterized by a rigorous workload.

The saying went that those who did not receive a new garment for Christmas would be ‘devoured by the Christmas Cat’ which was a fate to be avoided at all costs – whether this meant that the Christmas Cat would eat them or eat their food. Thus everyone worked zealously at finishing all the woolwork and knitting of garments for the members of the household before the arrival of Christmas.

You have been warned.

Meow…

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If you’re in the mood for lots more festive reading, click here!

The Berlin Wall in London

'Change your life'

I bet you didn’t know that there’s a piece* of the Berlin Wall in London.

You can see it in the photograph above, taken yesterday in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth, where it has been since 1991. This small section of the Wall was originally from the area around the famous Brandenburg Gate and, according to the plaque at the foot of it, the striking artwork is by the graffiti artist Indiano.

It’s strange seeing this piece of the Wall here in London – and as history, too. Like so many, I grew up seeing it on the TV news as an ever-present Cold War reality, symbolic of a divided city and a divided nation. Twenty-five years after those vivid, emotional images of Berliners from both sides of the border finally meeting on that dark November night as the Wall began to fall, it still stands as a powerful reminder of those times and of those who lost their lives attempting to cross it.

* In fact, there are actually several pieces in London – the National Army Museum in Chelsea holds a number of segments in its collection and there is also a section situated at the German School in Richmond. Other pieces of the Wall can be found at sites in the UK and around the world.

Mile High Lost Property

I’ve written before about the weird things that people leave behind in places like the Tube network and in hotels (as well as the bizarre items people pinch from said hotels!), so naturally I couldn’t resist when I came across this list of strange things found on planes by cabin crew from around the world. I wonder if any of these items were ever reclaimed by their owners?

Live parrot

Live falcon

Live tortoise

Glass eye

Prosthetic leg

A bag of sand

A clog

Box of dried fish

One shoe

Wedding dress

Bag of diamonds

Wig

Bag of onions

Toupee

Handcuffs

Double bass

One egg (without packaging)

Frog

Underwear

Written marriage proposal

I’m aware how exhausting air travel can be, and I’m pretty sure that some of these items of lost property are probably explained by excitable passengers attempting to join the Mile High Club, but one wonders just how forgetful you would have to be to to leave something like a double bass on a plane? Or a bag of diamonds. Or your wedding dress. Or even a live falcon – although I guess I should be grateful I’m not having to discuss snakes on a plane…

RIP Nelson Mandela

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

A remarkable, inspirational life well lived.

Rest In Peace.

2012: The End of the World?

There are some who said that the world would end today. Why some folk believed this is pretty definitely defined (see below), although nobody seems to be able to agree on just how these end-times were supposed to pan out. Suggestions range from a planetary collision or a run-in with a black hole to some sort of reversal of the earth’s polar axis – or even a zombie apocalypse (I’ll be in the pub if that ever happens…).

These eschatological theories had been circulating online for quite a while, and I was curious as to exactly what they were all about and where they had come from. Predictions giving a precise date for the end of the world are not uncommon even now (anyone remember Harold Camping‘s insistence that the apocalypse was due in 2011?) – and, in fact, there is a long list of such predictions going back almost a millennium.

So what is it that made the 2012 phenomenon different and so widespread? The existence of the internet has certainly helped disseminate these theories far and wide, but as with so many other things what has been said online is not always strictly accurate, and these end-times theories are no different in that respect.

What can be said for certain is that, ultimately, it all comes down to the intriguingly-named Mesoamerican long-count calendar (see here for an explanation of how this type of calendar works), which was widely used in Central America prior to the violent arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century.

Continue reading “2012: The End of the World?”

Quote of the Day: Malala Yousafzai on education

I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one.

These are the words of Malala Yousafzai, the 14 year old Pakistani schoolgirl who was, horrifically, shot in the head on her way to school last week. Why? Simply because this brave young woman is an outspoken advocate of education for girls – in a part of Pakistan where the Taliban have closed all girls’ schools and forbidden their education.

As I read Malala’s remarkable blog posts (originally published by the BBC – at the age of 11 – under a pseudonym for her own safety), it really brings it home to me how lucky I am, and how much I, as a woman, still take for granted about acquiring knowledge and educating myself. I may not have enjoyed school for a variety of reasons, but at least I had the opportunity of a formal education – and the freedom of choice to decide what to do with it afterwards. Yet there are so many the world over who still do not have these chances.

I have every admiration for Malala; admiration for her strength and her commitment to what she believes in, despite the obvious danger she has faced as a result. This young woman should be just beginning to really live her life, should be enjoying her education and her teenage years – she should not be lying in a hospital bed, fighting for her life because of the actions of a group of people who can’t see beyond their own twisted beliefs.

I wish you well, Malala – you are a strong, brave soul and I hope you pull through to get the education you so passionately desire.