So as usual July started with the Tour de France. The Tour is one of the few sports that I still watch on TV. Cricket used to be my mainstay for the summer, nipping into the prep room during lessons to see how things were progressing and then getting home to watch the end of play and of course listening to the radio 4 commentary but somehow when the coverage went to Sky or maybe there were just so many tests I started to lose interest, and cricket is not a sport to watch half-hearted. So I look forward to the Tour as it in some ways it has a lot of the elements of a cricket match, some quite long periods of consolidation (or to put it more bluntly – boring bits) with periods of intense drama. Anyway this year the Tour came to London, I have seen bike races live before but never the Tour. So slightly against my better judgement I took the afternoon off work to watch it in the centre of town. I think the photo below captures the experience quite well!
I guess this is probably my rant for August there are just too many people like me who like doing things that I want to do in London. So you either have to make sure you buy tickets for things miles in advance or you turn up to things to find that you queue for ever and then probably can’t see anything anyway. It seems possible that I am something of a misanthrope, see
Typically we failed to get our act together and so despite both children being past school age we ended up going on holiday to France at the expensive end of July. I shouldn’t really complain, I guess I am very lucky that the children are still happy to put up with me on holiday. Anyway, we went to Luc Sur-Le-Mer which is a really lovely small Normandy resort. Our house was right on the sea front so I could nip out in my swimming costume without any glasses or even a towel and swim in the sea. I think floating on my back looking up at the sea is one of my favourite things, considering the potential for getting a mouth full of seawater it is incredibly relaxing and soothing. I think my former O-level French failing self would find it inexplicable how much I seem to like France – not the food or the drink particularly but they seem to have held on to some things that we have lost in England and it makes it a nice place to be in.
Apart from burning on the beach – well it is a holiday tradition – we managed to visit the Bayeux tapestry. It turned out to be a lot more interesting than I expected, and a rare case where an audio guide was a positive boon as everyone shuffled round at a pretty similar pace so once you had got through the queue to get inside you actually did get to see the tapestry and not other peoples’ phones taking pictures of it. I can’t help feeling that it was a rather biased view of the Norman Conquest, the tapestry itself is obviously propaganda but the sleeve notes did little to challenge the history described by the tapestry. But in thinking about this I realised that my history of the Norman invasion has been shaped by some entertaining novels, in particular the Last King Of England, where Harold is portrayed as a good but doomed king. I guess the reality was a lot more complicated and the fact is that all of the contenders were aristocrats but I can’t help wondering if the Goodwine strand of Norsemen had triumphed rather than the Normandy strand whether we might have ended up a rather less hierarchical sort of country. It feels as if the Anglo-Saxon Witan was ahead of anything that the Normans brought over.
While on holiday I read In the Light of What we Know. It is a clever book, perhaps too clever but it has some really nice passages that got me thinking about the limits of knowledge. The book repeated a version of the following version of the following joke (taken from )
A biologist, a statistician, a mathematician and a computer scientist are
on a photo-safari in Africa. They drive out into the savannah in their
jeep, stop and scour the horizon with their binoculars.
The biologist: “Look! There’s a herd of zebras! And there, in the middle:
a white zebra! It’s fantastic! There are white zebras! We’ll be famous!”
“It’s not significant. We only know there’s one white zebra”
“Actually, we know there exists a zebra which is white on one side”
The computer scientist:
“Oh no! A special case!”
Which was then followed (at least in my memory) but a description of how these limits of what we know might be employed with dolphins. There seem to be quite a few stories of how dolphins have saved humans by helping them to get back to dry land but of course there are no stories where the dolphin led the unfortunate sailor to the middle of the ocean and left them there to drown; as the sailor is unable to report the villainy of the dolphin and so maybe we have a rather over inflated view of the goodness of dolphins.
I don’t know quite why but this has been my humming song of choice recently
and to continue with a vaguely poppy theme,
and not quite sure how to describe this but one of my favourite tracks from 2014