Wednesday 21 February 2007

Don’t like this one bit

Read a disturbing article in the newspaper:

Stop subsidies for plundering of the deep seas, say scientists

By Steve Connor Science Editor

Published: 20 February 2007

Marine biologists have called on the fishing nations of the world to end government subsidies of fishing fleets that are plundering the deep seas and permanently stripping the ocean floor of its unique lifeforms.

Fish that live for more than 100 years and cold-water coral reefs that have taken millennia to form are being destroyed by the "roving bandits" of the high seas that could not survive without government aid.

Government subsidies are being used to prop up the international trade in deep-sea fishing that is causing the serial and long-term depletion of the deep seabed, the scientists said.

Japan, South Korea, Russia and Spain lead the list of nations that are sanctioning the pillage of the deep ocean with public money which is diverted into subsidies to pay to fuel and equip trawlers, the scientists said.

Robert Steneck, a fisheries expert at the University of Maine, said: "The unregulated catches of these roving bandits are utterly unsustainable. With globalised markets, the economic drivers of over-fishing are physically removed and so fishermen have no stake in the natural systems they affect.

"While it may be a good short-term business practice to fish out stocks and move on, we now see global declines of targeted species," Dr Steneck told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.

"The solution is not going into the deep sea but better managing the shallow waters where fish live fast and die young, and ecosystems have a greater potential for resilience," he said.

A study found that more than $152m (£78m) in government subsidies was paid each year to maintain deep-sea trawling vessels around the world. Without that money, the international business would run at a loss of about $50m a year.

Most of the subsidies are used to pay for the fuel needed to sail beyond the 200-mile, economic exclusion zones - far enough out to areas where international rules about fishing are so lax that conservationists refer to it as the least-protected place on Earth.

Deep-sea trawling involves dragging 15-ton weights across the seabed to break up corals and rocks so that fish can be scooped up into vast nets.

The trawling is so fuel-intensive that it takes between 5kg and 8kg of fuel to catch 1kg of fish, according to Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia.

"There is surely a better way for governments to spend money than by paying subsidies to a fleet that burns 1.1 billion litres of fuel annually to maintain paltry catches of old-growth fish from highly vulnerable stocks, while destroying their habitat in the process," he said.

"Eliminating global subsidies would render these fleets economically unviable," he said.

As fish stocks around shallow, continental shelves have declined and collapsed, fishing fleets have gone further afield into deeper waters to catch fish that in previous decades were considered too low value to be worthwhile.

Selina Heppell of Oregon State University said deep-sea species such as the orange roughy and Chilean sea bass are very slow to grow and can take many years to reach sexual maturity. "When you buy orange roughy, you are probably purchasing a fillet that is at least 50 years old. Most people don't think of the implications of that - perhaps we need a guideline that says we shouldn't eat fish as old as our grandmother," she said.

Am all the more disturbed to learn that as a tax-payer in France, my money is subsidising this practice. It makes me feel quite unwell actually, I mean physically sick-y.

Pancake day

Another lovely sunny start, so we decided to take the dog to the beach again. This time we choose Gullane. As the tide was just starting to come in, there were no birdies but there was a vast expanse of sand for Doggy to career around on. Which she did for about twenty minutes non stop. At the far end of the beach we did spot some Eider ducks on the water. As we spent ages looking at the Eider ducks, by the time we turned to walk back to the car, the tide had come in quite a way so we walked back over the cliff tops. And Mum spotted a roe deer! Cue lots of pic taking by Hubby and Dad and lots of hushed admiration from Mum and me. And some under the breath calling to Doggy so she wouldn't feel tempted to chase it. Which she didn't.

Pushed on to North Berwick and went for lunch at the seabird centre. Dad would like to go on the boat trip out to Bass Rock so we said he could have that for a birthday present.

Broxburn for tea (pancakes). That was nice :)

A "bus" and the NHS ...

The day started with an adventure as Hubby and I travelled into Edinburgh on the "bus". The reason for this being my hair appointment which was at nine. Dad was quite adamant that this "bus" thing would be faster into town than the car. I'm not quite sure how because the places where the traffic jams were had no bus lanes, so I don't see how it was quicker than a car, but whatever. Mum assured me that you can't catch anything on the "bus" so it's OK. Anyway, had caramel highlights put in too because they were doing an offer of 40% off colour in February. Am pleased.

Hubby and I then went to John Lewis and purchased oven gloves and a standy up cheese grater. Exciting. There we bumped into Anne which was a lovely surprise. Her tummy is very full of baby #3, who is due on 17 March. She looked well and was excited about her wedding plans. However, she'd received notice from her employer (by email, which they are not allowed to do!) that the store where she works is closing and that they are all out of a job, just three weeks before she was due to go on maternity leave. Didn't really have time to talk further about that but sounded a bit unfair!

We travelled on another "bus" to come back home. It stopped at evil Tesco.

On return home I called NHS direct or 24 or whatever they are called and unsurprisingly they said that yes Hubby would need a tetanus injection just to be on the safe side, and no it couldn't really wait until we went back to France. So Dad kindly drove us to the Emergency dept at the infirmary and Hubby had his first encounter with the NHS. We waited for less than an hour, if you can believe that! Waited in the sweltering heat, I might add. If they turned the heating down in hospitals I can think of two major benefits: the reduced heating bill would probably eliminate NHS debt; and the germs wouldn't breed quite so well.

In the evening we headed back into Edinburgh and got caught out by some surprise road works that had appeared since morning. Grrr. We went round to Willie's then up to Broughton Street and Kushie's for a rather pleasant curry.

Sunday was sunny too

Another beautiful sunny day :)

Church in the morning. Saw Jennie who asked after Jeni.

Went to Kings Acre for lunch and that was very pleasant. Afterwards we went to the beach at Yellowcraig and that was very pleasant to, if a bit windy. The tide was just starting to go out, which meant restricted width and room for doggies to run around, but as a flipside it meant that there were many birdies. We took plenty of digital pics and then studied the bird book on our return home. We had seen sanderlings, turnstones, oyster catchers and redshanks. And also a shag but no decent pics of that it was too far out. So I have now learned to identify about six different birdie types.


In the evening, in the middle of Top Gear (v. funny), poor Doggy mistook Hubby's hand for her chewy bone (that he was holding at the time) and sunk her teeth into it. It hurt, apparently. After Top Gear finished, Hubby and I went round to evil Tesco and bought some Savlon to wash his hand with. We all decided against calling NHS 24, suspecting they would say he needed to go to A&E, and given that we'd all had more than one glass of wine each that wasn't going to be possible. He wasn't bleeding to death or anything so we just left it.


Beautiful sunny day :)

Met the Broxburn branch and the Langleys at Ocean Terminal. Super nephew and Sam have (naturally) grown and changed very much. Even though they are only a month different in age, Sam is quite a bit bigger than Super nephew and apparently already wears 18 month sizes.

Super nephew


We all packed into the soft play centre where Super nephew and Sam enjoyed the ball pool and Richard and I mused as to whether there was such a thing as a soft play centre for adults. Then went for lunch and everyone headed home. Super nephew was coming down with a cold, and Hubby and I were running out of steam too.

Bro came over for his dinner and we had a good evening together, with conversation at its usual low-brow levels. :)

Escape from Franceland

Up early to head for the Channel Tunnel. We were supposed to get the 9.20 train but on arrival at Eurotunnel pet control centre, we discovered that the vet hadn't stamped Doggy's passport for her tick treatment. So Eurotunnel had to call Defra in Dover, who asked for a fax from the vet attesting to her having had the appropriate treatment. Except the vet was in surgery … Finally ended up on the 10.20 train. Remainder of trip up the country was uneventful and unremarkable. Save, of course, for those deeply irritating signs on the A1 north of Newcastle (where it becomes single carriageway for a while), commanding "DON'T SPEED". Well the chance would be a fine thing when one is stuck behind an Iceland lorry with a dizzying top speed of 45mph!!

Arrived Dalkeith just before 8pm. Was good to be home.

Monday 12 February 2007

Super Slim Me

Watched this last week:
Super Slim Me
and the thing I remember most from the whole programme was that the girl kept on saying how hungry she felt all the time. So how many those skinny wretches who claim "oh, I just don't have very much appetite" are fibbing, and in fact they are starving hungry most of the time???

Silly girls. Dawn Porter is about the same build as me (same height, same weight, same dress size), and she looks great. (ha ha, so do I ha ha ha) This programme is further proof that depriving yourself of yummy and healthy food so you can fit in a smaller skirt is a pointless exercise. You don't look half as good, you end up being grumpy all the time, and you miss out on all the yummy food!

It's a no brainer.

Ian Rankin does it again

Loved The Naming of the Dead. Only it made me homesick. But it was of usual high standard one has come to expect from Mr Rankin. I just can't imagine that Rebus will soon be retiring, and he doesn't have much of a choice because it's compulsory...

Flexible working for all

Where is this woman so I can shake her hand? Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything particularly against parents or carers (but I'm mostly thinking of parents here), but they are not the only people who have non-work commitments and the fact that they have produced a child does not somehow make them superior to non-parent co-workers, who also have the right to a life outside of work.

I understand that a sick child who cannot go to nursery cannot be left at home alone and that parents of school-aged children are restricted in when they can take holiday leave. I understand all this, but you parents should not assume that your ability to procreate means that you can always rely on your childless colleagues to stay late and finish the key report for the boss while you slip away to pick the kids up. Because your childless colleagues deserve to go home early once in a while too.

Of course, in France and in many other countries I'm sure, being a parent and especially being a mother means you get overlooked for pay rises and promotions. This is the revenge of the non-parents, I suppose. Longer hours, being relied upon to sort out the last minute emergencies at 7pm, last in the line for holiday choice ... but a raise and a promotion!

I suppose my point is that we all make (or are subjected to) choices. Some people choose to be parents, and yes, employers should be sympathetic to their family emergencies. Some people choose not be parents (or, very sadly, biology makes that choice for them), and they too should be allowed a decent work-life balance.

Thursday 8 February 2007

It snowed again!

This morning all was white and pretty. :)

It had all gone by lunchtime. :(

Of course, the highways agency round here claimed to have been "surprised" by the snow. Eh? I had seen the forecast on the web (meteo france) - snow. And on the BBC - snow. Do they think we came down in the last (snow) shower?? More like they don't know how to operate the snow ploughs and grit lorries so they just claim they didn't know it was going to snow. So it took me 30 minutes to make a 7 minute journey. Hurumph.

Beer goggles explained

The well known effect of beer goggles has been scientifically explained:

Thanks to Bausch & Lomb for commissioning this incisive and fascinating research :)

Wednesday 7 February 2007

It snowed!

It snowed yesterday afternoon and evening. But it didn't stay. Oh well.

Fed up with work. Not interested in it at the moment. I just want to be on holiday.

Hubby is finally looking into doing his career review and all the stuff I've been saying he should do for the last year. At last!

And that's all.

Saturday 3 February 2007

Not the best of days

It started well, with wall to wall blue sky. Took the dog for a walk. We had a change from the park and went to the Citadelle in Lille (photos on fotothing). Was lovely.

Then returned home to a 225 euro phone bill from France-f**cking-useless-thieving-bastards-Telecom. We subscribed to an "optimal unlimited" offer in October to pay 39 euros a month for all-inclusive unlimited calls to Europe & N. America. They cancelled it without us asking them to. So we complained. They put it right (so they said), and we got a second letter saying the subscription had been activated (dated 23 November). And today we got this huge bill. They say they'll refund us and they bloody better! All this and they don't even say sorry (of course not, why would they be sorry that paying customers are utterly dissatisfied with their pathetic service??). I think we might just change operators anyway.

And now Scotland are being dismal at rugby :(

However, while France-we-don't-know-what-customer-service-means-Telecom might be about as much use as a secondhand egg, EDF, the French electricity company, shot up in my esteem this week. Since last Friday we'd noticed our lights had been dimming from time to time. Were concerned, but hadn't got round to doing anything. So on Thursday, the power just cut out! Hubby said the circuit breaker hadn't tripped, so we switched it back on at the mains and it promptly cut out again six minutes later! Called the electricity company, explained the problem, and they sent an engineer round straight away. It was our mains switch was faulty (eek). We called at 9.30pm and at 10.25pm the bloke had come round, changed the thing, and our leccy was back on. Very satisfactory. So some things do work in this country!! :)

Thursday 1 February 2007

Non-event of the week

France's so-called smoking "ban"
When you add up all the dispensations and exceptions, you come rapidly to the conclusion that this non-event changes, well, nothing.
Look to Scotland, Ireland and Italy for examples of how to implement a real smoking ban.