Grass Verge Mess Left

This is arguably my favourite newspaper story of the year so far.


‘It’s absolutely disgraceful’

Strong words, indeed.

It’s from local (to Sheffield) paper, the Sheffield Star. And it ticks all the boxes as far as Angry People in Local Newspapers goes:

Local Newspaper – check
Nothing Story – check
Undue Pettiness – check
Picture Of Angry People Pointing At Problem – check:

So. Talking of the problem, what is the problem?

Sheffield residents have hit out at the mess left by council contractors cutting grass verges. Harry Marshall, his partner Ann Hartley and neighbour Gaynor Elliot said waste grass cut from verges along their Basegreen homes is spewed out across the pavement and road each year.


Mr Marshall said residents along Basegreen Avenue where he lives are having to sweep it off their drives and pavements to prevent it staining their shoes and being trailed into their houses.


“It gets in the drains and clogs them up. In this year, the 10th anniversary of the Sheffield floods, have we learned no lessons regarding blocking up the drains, or do we want some more floods?
It is absolutely disgraceful, it’s all over the place.”

CLOGS! (Maybe less stainable than shoes? I dunno. Just a thought.)

DO WE?!?!?

Obviously, instead of simply contacting the contractor involved, Mr Marshall – who is allergic to sweeping – decided that involving the local newspaper was a better bet. And the Star duly sent out a ‘tog and a notebook and gave us this story and this pic:

That is terrible. Why on earth are we importing drain covers from Stockport? Oh, also yes, the grass is an issue. Maybe just brushing it up would have been a better option than ranting to the papers though? I reckon it’d take, like, two minutes, tops.

“We’ve recently got back from Spain and they keep their grass verges really tidy. You see the workmen picking up after themselves. I got back to Sheffield and I couldn’t believe the difference. If the workmen in Spain can keep it tidy then why can’t they do it here?”

Yeah, good point, Mr M. But those Spaniards are the bomb when it comes to sweeping up grass clippings. They’ve been European picking up after themselves champions for the past 5 years straight and were runners-up to Oman in the World’s held in Vladivostok last year. You’re comparing Sheffield to the very best mankind has to offer here: it’s a tall order. Do you own a brush, by the way? I’m just asking.

It’s a wonderfully unimportant, petty rant, which is great in itself, but then there’s the bottom picture.


Now, I’m no professional when it comes to taking pictures. Especially when they are pictures of angry people pointing at grass clippings (niche), and I’d hate to stain my shoes or trail grass into their houses while out on assignment, but… but…

Maybe you could try one more step back, just so you can get both the offending partially grass covered drain and whiney neighbour Gaynor Elliott’s head in shot?

And then also, isn’t Harry Marshall (for it is he on the left there) risking a rather nice pair of slacks by kneeling in that rather devil-may-care fashion? Incidentally, I’ve found that using a solution made of one part white vinegar to two parts water is a good remedy for grass stains. Use a toothbrush to work liquid into the area. Leave for 30 minutes before washing. But then, maybe I’m just a shill for Big Vinegar.

In fact, Mr Marshall’s sour-faced partner, Ann Hartley, is the only one that really comes out of this with any glory, albeit that that glory is tempered somewhat when one remembers that she chose to stand there and look grumpy in front of an inept photographer, rather than just using a brush for all of 90 seconds.

People, ne?


It’s the weekend, but I’m at work. Hence “workend”.
Yeah, I know. I was also impressed.

Experimental protocols are no respecters of the 5-day working week. Actually, scrub that: they are if I write them. I work around the difficult concepts of “weekdays” and “weekends”, and the work still gets done. This one wasn’t written by me though, and that’s why I’m in the lab at 7:30 on a Saturday morning.

Yes, I know that some people work weekends, and I’m very lucky to only have to come in for a few hours this morning. But I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I worked in the NHS for 9 years and even if you’ve never been to the UK, the Daily Mail has told you just how much that workforce gets routinely shafted (fairly equally under both a Conservative and a Labour Government, for the record).

So I’d kind of hoped that I’d done the hard yards in the respect, like I’d moved on, settled down and could spend cold, winter Saturday mornings snuggling up in bed with a warm wife and no beagle.

But other people who write experimental protocols are no respecters of the 5-day working week.

Not today, Josephine

As the rain falls over Cape Town again this evening, and we take time out to thank those who eventually got around to praying for it, I am writing this and then getting back off the internet, pronto.

See, when “big things” occur overseas, the internet – most especially the rage-first-(maybe)-think-later little bit of the internet called Twitter, which is where I spend most of my internet time – becomes an extremely unpleasant place to be.

There are always people out there who think that they know better than you. The ‘thought-leaders’, the self-appointed ‘Twitterati’.
And look, in some cases, maybe they do.
But the thing is that these people are of a mind that they always know better than you. They’ll go out of their way to remind you of that, and tell you what you should be thinking, feeling, saying or doing. I don’t like these people at the best of times, but at the worst of times (like when a “big thing” happens overseas), these individuals step up their obnoxious campaigns a hundred fold. We are policed, we are told that we must use this word and never use that word. And, again, I’ll happily say that if once you had evaluated their plentiful demands, and found that in some instances you were left wanting, well, fair enough. But in these cases, that doesn’t happen, because there are no right or wrong answers in these cases; only the dictionaries favoured by one political movement or ideology – theirs.

They get their kicks and their pleasure by preying on people, most especially after these “big things” happen. Of course, I don’t ever give in to this thought-policing, but that wholly justified resistance has, in itself, implications. And what I should be doing is sticking my head above the parapet and telling them to pipe down a bit and refrain from getting their knickers in a knot. But when you do that, well, then come the smears, the labels, the faux outrage, the anger (and that’s the only fun bit, really).

And why on earth would I, a mere microbiologist and reluctant beagle owner, want to get involved in that sort of crap? Sure, I’ll happily fight my own battles, but when it comes to repeatedly shouting at the abyss that is their collective beliefs, I’d rather save my time. But remember:

Withdrawing in disgust is not the same as apathy

Because while these people are thankfully free to air their feelings across the internet and beyond, I am equally free to take note of who is saying what and pass my own mental judgement on them. So that next time, when they proffer an opinion or point of view – even on something wholly unconnected with any “big thing” – for me, it will come served with a side salad of pre-warning and prior knowledge.
If it sounds like I’m talking about you, I probably am.

And that’s why once I’ve hit the publish button on this, I’m going to switch off the internet and try to take a second-tier Danish side to the UEFA Champions League Final on FIFA 17.

You should try it – it’s much nicer than the real world.

Religion and the Knysna fires

Busy day for me today, so I’m going to direct you elsewhere (although obviously please come back once you’re done there).

Herewith then, an article by Ivo Vegter (you may remember him from such posts as The Lion, The Bitch and The Ecophobe and Ivo backs me, rubbishes Christine’s Brilliant Idea) about the recent devastating fires on the Garden Route.

As ever, Ivo takes a different angle on the situation, lamenting the hypocrisy and dichotomy of some religious individuals and their reaction to the disaster.

At no time since the start of the tragedy did enough rain fall to make much difference to the fires, but when the occasional few drops did fall, Christians cluttered up the chat groups to thank their god. When the fires burnt out or were successfully fought, they praised the lord.

It’s clearly the writing of an very angry man, albeit that you get the impression that his professionalism is keeping his true feelings somewhat in check. Although (as he notes), his feelings will fall upon stony ground when it comes to the Christians:

We will be told it’s a matter of faith, not reason. That has the merit of being true, at least. There is nothing reasonable about any of this.

It’s an impassioned, yet controlled rant, clearly written in very difficult conditions – and it’s one of the best things he’s done in ages. I urge you to go and have a read.

Another attack

Another attack, more outrage, more division, more strong words.

No solutions.

There will be a vigil, prayers, candles, hashtags and a minute’s silence. But give it a week and we’ll all have moved on and forgotten about it. The only reminders will be the banners across the bottom of the profile pictures of our more dramatic Facebook friends.

I’m tired of being told that this is the new normal, tired of being policed on which adjectives I’m allowed to use when describing the individuals involved, tired now of this cycle of horror and distress followed all too quickly by acceptance.

We’re told that hundreds of terror plots have been foiled, and that’s to be congratulated. But when things like Manchester and London Bridge happen (because that’s how we describe them now – just the geographical location – we all know what we’re talking about), then whatever measures are being taken are clearly not robust enough.

Don’t ask me what to do. I’m a microbiologist. If you want to know what eight spots in the second panel of an immunological test for latent tuberculosis means, then I can tell you. It’s the politicians and the leaders who get paid the big bucks – our big bucks – to make the policies which should explicitly prevent these attacks from occurring. And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist (which I’m not either) to see that whatever policies exist right now around this area need to be strengthened. It’s not for me to say how. I’ll look at your blood test and tell you whether or not you’ve been exposed to TB. You stop the terrorists from killing innocent people on a night out.

And yes, some rights might get trodden on, some individuals might get offended, upset, angry. So be it. The needs of the many and all that. A van and some knives, a jar of homemade TATP surrounded by screws in a backpack? That’s nothing compared to what these people would like to be able to do, nothing compared to what they are aiming for. So put on your big girl panties, take a deep breath, and make those decisions which you know are going to be unpopular with some people.

Because hashtags and candles aren’t ever going to stop people being murdered.