Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Stuff and Nonsense

I haven't a lot of time at the moment but that doesn't mean I don't still have the odd idle moment in which my mind goes wandering

For instance, driving past some cooling towers the other day, I found myself wondering about the people in the houses spread out near their base. I suppose living in a world that uses nuclear power requires a certain faith in authority but to live so close to that kind of power plant must indicate a greater trust in human administrative abilities - or perhaps in fate - than I could muster. Or perhaps it is just a sign of deeply felt stoicism, if stoicism is defined as an indifference to what life doles out. Or could it be that there are people who actually see a beauty in these places? I did have a Russian teacher who was always trying to whip up interest in weekend outings to hydro electric stations and nuclear projects.

Somehow - I really don't know how; maybe my memory turned to Soviet bloc industrial towns and how filthy they were (there was one we used to drive through somewhere in the Balkans that was completely orange; whatever it was that belched out of the factory chimneys there, it coated every surface in a strange tangerine dust) - my thoughts meandered on to land on the subject of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It occurred to me that of all the countries that were part of that empire at the start of the First World War, the only one that did not spend a time under Communist rule was Austria. But is that true? And if it is, why did Austria miss out - or perhaps more importantly why did every single one of the others succumb? The weakened state of formerly colonised countries? Does that apply really in that least aggressively colonial of all empires? Too great a faith that the thing would never fall apart leading to false security? This is probably a question upon which many great minds have spent a lifetime, and still no certain answer has been discovered. I suppose ultimately it was just a matter of how far to the east you were as the Soviets swept westward. Lucky old Austria.

My husband meanwhile has decided to get his head around the War of the Austrian Succession. He may be some time.

Another day, and in a completely different context, (the result of overhearing two young women discussing a young man they knew), I found myself wondering where the new word, "buff" comes from. The girls agreed that their acquaintance was "well buff". It seems to me that that is not a phrase that would have meant anything to anyone even five years ago. It still doesn't mean an awful lot to me.

Finally, as I peddled through a thirty-five minute bout of interval training, it occurred to me that you move through time in a different way when exercising. A more painful way essentially - and sweaty, bleurgh. But VERY GOOD FOR YOU, yes, yes.


  1. We don't live within sight of a nuclear power plant, because it is delicately tucked away in a sheltered cove about 12 miles up the coast from us. However it is ever-present and we have sirens on signal poles throughout our county. When the kids were little they used to insist on asking me what they were for (even though they knew) and I would explain that they were to keep us safe even though I knew that if a mass evacuation were ever required, we would all die in our vehicles crowded onto the one major road out of our county.

    I have become more fatalistic over time. Fukushima (which actually affected the tides in our town on the other side of the Pacific) made me realize that a nuclear catastrophe would most likely be a slowly unfolding horror, rather than a desperate scramble for safety. And now that our power plant has been slated for closure, the county is outraged, since we have come to rely on the dollars that the utility has poured into the county. Some of these payments are required to by law or by contract; others are made in order to buy our loyalties.

    1. That is fascinating - and, thinking about it, I realise it is silly to think proximity or distance makes any difference. I was living in Yugoslavia when Chernobyl happened and I remember the plume from that went to very unexpected places, so that for months and months afterwards radioactivity kept being picked up where it was never expected to be - eg Sri Lankan tea crops. Not that the reporting was easy to find; sometimes such things were tucked away in German government reports and never picked up by the papers. I remember a man being sent over from head office to talk to all those of us they had stationed in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. We were chastised for not foreseeing the possibility of such an event and stockpiling milk in our freezers and simultaneously persuaded - or at least he attempted to persuade us - that actually a bit of added caesium in the local lettuce was quite beneficial, an easy way to spruce up our genes.