Answers and miscellaneous

I might have posted this week on how pleasant (albeit chilly) it is to eat breakfast at newly-reopened cafés along Beeston High St, but this blog has spent a year trying to keep off the subject of coronavirus, so I won’t. Instead, here is a general miscellany.

Answers to last week’s quiz – I was surprised at how difficult people seemed to find this, and it made me wonder whether it’s partly about the differences in the ways people read. I know some people find the names in Ragaris Distinctly Odd, and this hinders their enjoyment. On the other hand I personally can never remember what fictional characters look like, even when it’s fairly dramatic features like someone who’s lost an ear (first chapters of “Game of Thrones.” ) I rarely visualise faces, even of my own characters.


  1. Joffrey etc BARATHEON (“Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire” by George RR Martin. Or should it be LANNISTER?)
  2. Elinor etc DASHWOOD (“Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen)
  3. Vera etc ROSTOV (“War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy)
  4. Hen etc BROON or Brown (“The Broons,” long-running comic strip in the Scottish paper “The Sunday Post”)
  5. Petunia and Lily are of course respectively Mrs Dursley and Mrs Potter, but the surname I was looking for was EVANS (first given in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”)
  6. Gerald etc WIMSEY (the various Lord Peter Wimsey novels of Dorothy L Sayers)
  7. Nancy and Peggy BLACKETT (“Swallows and Amazons” and its sequels by Arthur Ransome)
  8. Pearl etc… TOOK. All right, you’d need to have paid careful attention to Appendix C of LOTR to know that Pippin had sisters, let alone their names. There is an anecdote featuring Pearl in Tolkien’s letters.)
  9. Arun etc MEHRA (“A Suitable Boy” by Vikram Seth)
  10. Fuchsia and Titus GROAN (“Titus Groan” and sequels by Mervyn Peake)
  11. Rommi and Eyanda B’SHEN (“The Servant’s Voice”)

So… thanks to those who tried!


There are currently two items of news – coronavirus and the death of Prince Philip. A few months ago the two were coronavirus and the US election. A rival item (riots in Belfast) is trying to break into the headlines.

In the meantime – the US government is proposing a global corporate tax system (YES PLEASE!);  Russian aggression towards Ukraine is becoming more and more alarming; what on earth is happening in Ethiopia?; the courage of the protesters in Myanmar continues to astonish; and as for Brazil…

What items do you wish we were hearing more about?


My Classic Book of 2021 is the Histories of Herodotus (in a translation, obviously, by Robin Waterfield.) Herodotus (“the Father of History”) was born in approximately 485 BC and probably died some time in the 420s, so about 2500 years ago. He predates Alexander the Great. His topic in this mammoth volume is the wars between Persia and Greece, but he is also king of the digression. His accounts of the power struggles, battles, murderous conspiracies and acts of general tyranny (if a Persian emperor invites you to a banquet after you’ve annoyed him, check the whereabouts of your children before eating) are complex and fascinating, interspersed as they are with General Knowledge.

This means geography, anthropology and natural history, as reported by an intelligent man who was curious about everything, and not uncritical of what he was told, but whose worldview meant that, for example, the earth is a flat disc across which the sun moves from east to west – so logically eastern lands such as India must be at their hottest in the morning when the sun is closest, and grow cooler as the day/sun moves on.

This is one of my favourite passages so far –

“Divine providence is wise, as one would expect, and it looks as though it has arranged things so that all timid and edible creatures produce young in large quantities, because otherwise they might be eaten into extinction, while all fierce and dangerous creatures produce young in small quantities. Hares, for instance, are hunted by all wild animals and birds of prey, and by man too, and so they are very prolific. Hares are the only creatures that conceive while pregnant. A hare can be carrying foetuses in her womb at various stages of development – some with fur, some still bald, some in the process of taking shape, and some being conceived. That is what happens in this sort of case, but on the other hand a particularly strong and brave creature like a lioness gives birth only once a lifetime to a single cub, because she expels her womb along with the cub. The reason for this is that while the cub is in the womb it begins to move around, and since its claws are far sharper than those of any other animal it scratches the womb, and eventually as the cub grows, it rips it to shreds, until by the time it is due to be born the womb has been completely destroyed.” (Histories, Book 3 paragraph 108.)

So now you know.

Love from the PPI Blogger

PS Another exciting thing has happened this week: I’ve finally learned how to spell “café” on a keyboard!

1 Comment
  • Stephen Hall

    16th April 2021 at 5:40 pm Reply

    What do I wish we were hearing more about? Some positive framing for day-to-day news stories please.
    – Less outrage-fuelling reporting that fails to acknowledge that individual disgusting incidents are not necessarily indicative of systemic problems or scandals. Some bad things will always happen, but it’s wonderful that in most fields we’ve done a fantastic job of making them much less common than in the past.
    – More reporting of global success stories: the massive improvements in African health and economic statistics; that there are fewer and fewer wars and people dying violent deaths; the virtual elimination of famine and illiteracy.
    – More reporting of what has actually happened, and less of what ‘commentators’ think about it.
    – News editors switching their mindsets from: “What outrage-provoking scandal can I uncover today?”, to “What are the most important issues, and what is the truth about them?”

    We look back on the 1960s and the late 1990s as times of hope and optimism, and yet almost any economic or social stat you care to look at (if not environmental sadly) things are far better today. Do you remember that, in the “good old days” there were actual famines and countries used to invade each other? Is everything awesome now? Certainly not – there are grim mega-narratives to be told on things like corporate power, climate change, and biodiversity loss. But the unrelenting, unnecessary and often unwarranted negativity of much of the news media is very wearing.

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