Saturday, November 28, 2015

German word of the week: Kabelsalat

See entertaining Kabelsalat article below by Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany, published at

I am pleased to report that in my office the only cable that is visible is shown in the photo below. 

Monday, November 23, 2015


Day excursion to Manchester, where Sue had a work meeting at the interesting Bridge 5 venue.

Surrounding area interesting too – see photos below.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

360° virtual tour of Church of the Nativity, Aylestone Park

Confession: Although I'm a regular visitor to the Church of the Nativity 'function' room (particularly in my capacity as a committee member of the Aylestone Park Residents Group), I have never been inside the actual church. Still, I think you will agree that the 360° virtual tour of the Church of the Nativity at the corner of Cavendish Road/Richmond Road in Aylestone Park, Leicester, is quite impressive.

Click on 360° virtual tour in the text above to view it

The Spider


I’m just a tiny creature,
far smaller than a mouse.
I know that I’m not welcome,
but I do live in your house.

You never have to feed me
or take me to the vet,
I’m gentle and I’m friendly,
and yet I’m no one's pet.

I know that some folk hate me,
I give some folk a fright;
but I’m really inoffensive,
and I’d never ever bite.

I have some naughty cousins
who come from far away;
I know they bite in anger
and hurt folk every day.

But I am no tarantula
or widow dressed in black,
I’m just a common spider
with my eyes upon my back.

So please do not be frightened,
I’m harmless as can be;
I will never hurt you,
so please do not harm me.

Alice Drury

Published in the September/October 2015 newsletter of the Church of Nativity, Aylestone Park, Leicester

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Compost Corner

Entertaining 'community event'.

The world stands as one

The Avaaz Paris Solidarity page under the heading The world stands as one is here.

Leicester pays its respects to the victims of Friday's bloody massacre

Update Monday, 16 November:
Hacktivists declare ‘total war’ on ISIS after Paris attacks – ‘Anonymous will hunt you down!’

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Quality of Leicester revisted

Interesting talk. Looking forward to the new edition of The Quality of Leicester.

Tributes paid to Helmut Schmidt

According to the Helmut Schmidt obituary published in the Guardian, one of his watchwords (and another of his English puns) was: 

“The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement”.

Helmut Schmidt at a reception in Berlin to celebrate his 95th birthday last year.
Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Further reading:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cosseted climate change denialism

Quote from a Guardian article under the heading Pacific islands make last-ditch plea to world before Paris climate change talks  (or A climate crisis in paradise in the Guardian Weekly edition) by Oliver Milman:
Media coverage of climate change in Fiji doesn’t have the luxury of wallowing in the sort of cosseted denialism seen in the US, Britain or Australia.
Palau’s Rock Islands in the tiny Pacific nation of Palau.
Photograph: Matt Rand/AFP/Getty Images

Monday, November 09, 2015

Max und Moritz 150

In der heutigen Ausgabe der Deutschland-Nachrichten steht zu lesen:
vor 150 Jahren hieß es das erste Mal: „Dieses war der erste Streich, doch der zweite folgt sogleich“. Sicher erinnern Sie sich an die Streiche der beiden frechen Lausbuben, die Witwe Bolte, Onkel Fritz und Schneider Böck zur Verzweiflung brachten. Die Rede ist natürlich von Max und Moritz. ... Weiter
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This is the badge of my trusted old beetle, which I drove from Heidelberg to London in 1984 for my 6-month placement with Ove Arup.

Meanwhile, the German satirical magazine Der Postillion reckons that the original beetle was probably the last VW car with correct emissions readings. See article (in German) here.

On a more serious note, a German columnist reckons the best way forward would be to let VW go bust and transform it into a future-oriented company in state ownership, focussing on electric cars and e-mobility. See Spiegel article (in German) here.

The front page of the 30 October issue of the German engineering weekly vdi nachrichten reports on its front page that the Made in Germany brand has been severely damaged. Hmm, yes – pretty obvious really...

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Thank you lot's and lot's

Apostrophe howlers continue to provide a seemingly inexhaustible source of despair and/or entertainment for diligent linguists. Here is a thank you card I received a while ago.


Attended The Richardson's 15th Annual Bonfire Bash yesterday evening.
Very impressive all-round!

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Grace Lee Boggs

Thanks to Prof Tony Marmont for drawing attention to this thought-provoking quote by Grace Lee Boggs:
People are aware that they cannot continue in the same old way but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. We need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.

More info about Grace Lee Boggs on Wikipedia and on her website at

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Videoblog: "Very British"

Zitat von
Nach 20 Jahren berichtet ARD-Korrespondentin Hanni Hüsch wieder aus der Millionen-Metropole London. Zusammen mit ihrer Kollegin Julie Kurz ist sie ... "Very British".

"Very British" - alle Folgen gibt es hier.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Frank Auerbach on the importance of language (?)

I could have sworn that, during the recent (rare) interview with Frank Auerbach, there was a passage in which – in the context of the current migration crisis – Auerbach stressed the importance of language (for integration etc.), but I can't find it now. Something along the lines of "language is more important than looks", I think, unless I'm imagining it?

Further reading:

Escher in London for the first time

Surprised to read that a current (autumn 2015) Escher exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery is "the first devoted to his work in England".

According to corresponding web page here, the exhibition was in fact organised by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh and shown there before it moved to Dulwich. See here.

More info in an interesting article by Al Jazeera journalist Jessica Baldwin.

Looks like Escher but may not be. Source: Pixabay

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Difference between 'made of' and 'made from'

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between 'made of' and 'made from'?

Cambridge Grammar of English by Ronald Carter and Michael McCarthy provides this helpful and succinct distinction:
‘Made from’ is often used to describe manufacturing processes . . . 
‘Made of’ emphasises the inherent material or qualities of something, and has a meaning similar to ‘composed of’.
Thanks to Jacqui Birnie for the 'research' on this issue.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

'Improvements' at Brundholme Road, Keswick

The first eight images below show  Brundholme Road, Keswick, in June 2015. The images were taken from Google Street View and show the street scene with the original kerbstones, before it was vandalised (the official term was probably 'improved') in September 2015.

The next three images below show the replacement 'kerbstones', which were installed in September 2015. Note that they aren't even concrete, but plastic!

The final two photos were taken elsewhere in Keswick, in St John's St, just outside the nice, traditional Alhambra Cinema. These kerbstones are made of concrete, but, significantly, note that they have the traditional shape and size. If the kerbstones in Brundholme Street had to be replaced, why on earth didn't the planners stipulate a more traditional appearance, in preference to their monstrous and indeed rather depressing 'solution'?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ragtime Rascals

Happened upon the Ragtime Rascals in Penrith on our way back from the Lake District, bless them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Difference between icon and symbol

An updated version of this blog post can now be found on the HE Translations blog at

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

YAC Number anniversary

I signed up for a free personal YAC number back in July 2000. In case you are wondering, YAC stands for You're Always Connected. The number still works after all this time. My main purpose has always been to "catch" incoming faxes, which are automatically and conveniently forwarded to email. The downside is that the service is relatively expensive for the sender (or caller, in the case of phone calls). Further info here, in case you are curious.

In any case, now that faxing has been consigned to the dustbin of history (I never had an actual fax machine cluttering my office, by the way), my number is basically obsolete, but I might as well hang on to it. For old times' sake, here is the welcome fax from YAC, received (as an email attachment) on 13 July 2000.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Der gestresste Freizeitbürger

Die in der "Freizeit-Monitor 2015"-Studie unter deutschen Freizeitbürgern festgestellten Symptome kommen mir auch von britischen Freizeitbürgern bekannt vor. Es wäre interessant, herauszufinden, ob es zwischen den beiden Freizeitbürgergruppen signifikante Unterschiede gibt. Vielleicht gibt es diesbezüglich ja bereits die eine oder andere einschlägige Studie?

 Ein Beispiel für ausgefallene Freizeitgestaltung: Ein Teilnehmer der Weltmeisterschaft im Splashdiving in Schweinfurt - eine Art "Arschbomben-Wettbewerb". Quelle: Tagesschau

Wie dem auch sei, an dem im zugehörigen Tagesschau-Artikel zitierten Rat: "Weniger ist mehr" sollte ich mich in Zukunft vielleicht selbst etwas stärker orientieren...

Friday, August 07, 2015

Obama, the garlandmaker

Outstanding Thought for the Day episode on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday, 5th August (available from here for 30 days from the date of the broadcast; after that, please contact me re. the recording – I downloaded the mp3 file).

The speaker, Akhandadhi Das, compares the modus operandi of the charcoal merchant, the garlandmaker and the honeybee. In conclusion he says:
"President Obama's initiatives [to address climate change] are at least trying to move from charcoal merchant to garlandmaker. But who will lead us to living as honeybees?"

The development of transparent solar cells is no doubt another step in the right direction.

Vladimir Bulovic (left) and Miles Barr (right), co-founders of Ubiquitous Energy, are making transparent solar cells that could eventually be placed on everyday objects such as phones and windows so these surfaces could produce energy.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

If or Whether

In case you keep struggling with the "If or Whether" question, Lynn Gaertner-Johnston's Business Writing blog comes to the rescue (again). One of her useful rules is:

If you can add "or not" to the word and it makes sense, you want whether. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Coventry Canal Greenway

Took the bike in the car on my third visit to Frau Honorarkonsulin in Coventry within the last 18 months or so (for yet another "Unterschriftenbeglaubigungssession", but that's just by the by), with a view to "trying" the Coventry Canal Greenway from Coventry Canal Basin to Hawkesbury Junction, which I had been meaning to do for some time.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Gardening the Countryside?

An article which appeared in the Mercury (9 July) about Leicestershire grass verges and mowing, together with some more recent comments, raises important questions and challenges, both from a local authority and individual perspective.

Leicester Friends of the Earth suggests that there is no argument at all that vegetation should be mown on safety grounds in places where sight lines on left hand bends, junctions and other places for safety purposes require necessary visibility. However, many areas of roadside verges are mown completely unnecessarily. Not only has valuable habitat been destroyed but often looks a mess left with desiccated cuttings. Surely it is far more aesthetically pleasing to see lush green vegetation with colourful wild flowers.

On a more general note it is easy for a councillor to report about being ‘inundated’ with letters from constituents about overgrown verges; however for every constituent that sends in a letter of complaint, there are others who either do not care one way or another or tacitly approve of verges being left to grow longer, so letters alone are not always representative of true opinion. How many actual people walk on verges on a regular basis anyway? Who exactly is offended and why?

If anything is an eyesore, one only needs to look at the mess of the development which is happening on the green wedge between Leicester and Glenfield – a site of environmental vandalism.

There appear to be two main issues here; money to be made out of mowing contracts and obsessions about what is perceived as ‘overgrown’ vegetation and the need for ‘tidiness and order’. Both of these areas are badly in need of some remedial thinking. Even though some areas may look temporarily untidy until the end of summer cut, this is done for a purpose to allow seeds to mature.

The people making money out of local authority mowing will obviously want to create as much work for themselves as possible and those citizens who like to see stripy lawns instead of natural surroundings need to realise that not everyone shares that view and they may even benefit from some ecological education.

Graham Stocks, a local conservationist said:

“Recently, I met a gang setting up their strimmers ready to mow the paths through a nature trail. Along part of this trail I had recently recorded Pink Purslane, aka Siberian Spring Beauty (Claytonia sibirica) and pointed this out to the mowing gang, informing them that it was very rare in Leicestershire and that it should be left untouched. You can guess the rest – I returned the next day to find that a metre wide strip on each side of the paths had been strimmed. I’m guessing that these people had a plan drawn up under contract and carried out that plan to the letter. They get paid, we lose out on experiencing biodiversity – on a nature trail of all places!
Roadsides are really no different. The problem is that most of us these days are townies and have little contact with the natural world.”

Which would you rather look at?



There is a golden opportunity for us all to create and enjoy mini-wildflower meadows. Loughborough is competing in Britain in Bloom and a couple of years ago some roadside verges were planted with a wildflower mix – and beautiful they were too. Some residents in Loughborough have even taken to guerrilla gardening by mowing verges themselves. Although a significant number of us are extremely concerned with the loss of flora and fauna, such as bumblebees and honeybees, etc., it’s as though others can’t resist gardening the countryside, like straightening a crookedly hanging picture on a wall.

Most flowering plants have their growing points well above ground level. Chop these off and they don’t survive, especially if they haven’t had a chance to produce mature seeds. Keep mowing and all that will survive are grasses and ‘rosette species’ of flowering plants – things such as daisies and dandelions. The obsessives would no doubt advocate the use of herbicides along verges to completely wipe out any broad-leaved plants. Disturbingly, many gardens are following the same fate.

Like the highways they border, verges are important highways for wildlife.

Local resident James Davies said:

With natural habitat and wildlife being constantly attacked on all
fronts, it is paramount that we welcome biodiverse areas such as grass verges to provide a myriad of benefits across our nation. To those who unknowingly shun these vital spaces as nothing more than unsightly, I urge you to actually learn and see these for the bountiful benefits to our wildlife, air quality and mental well being that they abundantly provide."

Leicester City is more enlightened than most; within some of its parks and squares where grass is allowed to grow longer around the edge whilst providing well mown paths for people.

Stuart Bailey, Leicester Civic Society, said:

“I should have honestly thought that in this day and age, leaving verges to grow naturally wild was
an obvious thing to do. It saves money on endless cutting as well as encouraging natural habitats."

Coventry has recently planted its central strips of grass along carriageways with wildflowers and this is also happening in other parts of the country. What’s not to like? Less formal flowers like this take care of themselves with less maintenance and are of huge benefit to bees and other insects.

Jack Riggall, a trainee ranger said:

"Allowing roadside verges to grow has a huge range of benefits for struggling wildlife; they potentially connect & extend otherwise isolated habitats, provide cover for mice & voles and they attract bats, shrews & hedgehogs who benefit from the wider range of insects. This in turn has benefits for predators such as polecats, foxes, kestrels and barn owls. The entire complex food chain is going to benefit if verges are treated sensitively as wildlife habitats & corridors for movement between larger habitats."

With continuous development resulting in habitat loss, we have to put something back and all have a collective responsibility to ensure that biodiversity flourishes, not just for the present generation but for future generations to come and we have no right whatsoever, to deny them that opportunity. The fact that reduced mowing saves on costs is surely a massive bonus. The councillors defending fewer cuttings should be commended for sticking to their guns. Leicestershire had a reputation for its ecological credentials and has the opportunity to enhance this.

Michael Sackin for Leicester Friends of the Earth said:

“Following a national bee campaign in recent years, verges have to be beneficial for bees as well as other insects, provided the right flowers are allowed to grow. If everything is cut to within an inch of its life there is likely to be no life at all.”

Councillors and contractors alike would benefit from the appropriate training and education in good ethical practice and to think more about the wider consequences of their actions. The economy is important, but economic growth without environmental limits is pure stupidity. Quality of life is perhaps more important which often means enjoying the things in life that are free and what we often take for granted, until it is gone forever.