Together we can mash potato
If you, like me, are losing track of the hours and the days, here is a reminder: Monday is a Bank Holiday, (yippee), and Thursday is local elections day and a chance to make your own voices heard. It was encouraging to hear from one candidate that an issue that has been coming up on the doorsteps of Oxford is the future of the Wheatsheaf. Whilst I still don't have any clear idea if or when gigs will ever resume there, it is good to know that potential politicians are listening to our messages.
So this Saturday is another May Day where we have to forsake the traditional early morning celebrations and musical festivities in the Oxford town centre. In Finland, the first day of May is known as Vappu and is an important date on the calendar. It marks the transition from winter to summer, when the snows have receeded, the seas have mostly thawed, and a 24 hour long outdoor picnic and party, with wine and doughnuts, fancy dress and carnival parades. It is also the final day of the Finnish college year so traditionally students and ex-students wear white graduation caps. Covid puts a block on al of that of course, so here is a hungover Finnish group called Siika (Whitefish) and The Boys, who describe themselves as "Finland's most mediocre party band". Wishing you a happy Vappu.
The name Vappu is a Finnish representation of Saint Walpurga's Day, who you have probably never heard of. She, (yes she), was born in Devon and entered Wimborne Abbey in Dorset in 721 at the age of 11 and later became a missionary, and was canonised a hundred years after her death. She was highly educated, skilled in Latin, and wrote accounts of her brother's exploits in the crusades, which leads to her being called England's first female author.
Dance like a drunken robot
You all know how a robot dances don't you? Well think again. Here is a video made by Boston Dynamics, a research company which specialises in robots that mimic the movements found in the animal kingdom. I know this looks like it must be CGI from a sci-fi film, performed by dancers in robot suits enhanced by elaborate special effects, but no, this is real genuine life-sized robots performing the dance routines. No camera tricks are involved.
These automata have internal gyros and masses of motion sensors so that they can do things like walk over rough terrain, jump, stumble and regain their balance, just like people can do. And unlike daleks, they can climb stairs. It is a truly impressive piece of engineering, but sadly the main source of funding to date has been for military applications. Still, they can't be that far away from building a better politician to replace our own monotonous robots. Oops, politics.
We need a better tomorrow
Masaka (pronounced mass-a-car) is one of the unfortunate townships of southern Uganda which suffered terribly from the brutalities of the Idi Amin regime and the wars of the 1970s and 1980s. It remains impoverished to this day but this inspiring video shows that people are still people, kids are still kids:
Masaka Kids Afrikana which make these videos is an organisation working to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry, where kids have access to education and the basic needs in life. It wants to empower children, mobilise communities, build futures.
It is people and places like this and those charities which work there that really suffer when we cut our overseas aid budgets. Somehow I don't think the people of Masaka would have an odd £85,000 in spare change lying around to spend on new wallpaper and carpets. But then, who does? Oh yes, I forgot.
The spreadsheets are heading in the right direction
I read today that a man in Bromley has completed his mission to park in every one of the 211 parking spaces at his local supermarket. It took him six years, he took a photo every time as proof, and charted the results in a spreadsheet. Is it just me, or has the world gone completely mad?
In a less eccentric use of numbers, the coronavirus statistics continue to look good. Oxford city has about 25% more cases than the UK average, but nevertheless we are safely below the levels we were at last September, when the city was teetering on the verge of tier three. Oxfordshire as a whole is well below the national averages for covid cases. So it is a shame we can't have a May Day bash this year, but keep up the safe behaviour and it can only be a matter of time now before we are back blasting our eardrums with live music again.
Stay safe everyone, keep aiming for that better tomorrow, and whatever your political leanings, don't forget to send off your postal vote.