Sunday, 7 December 2014

Just One Drink, Nativity Play Bashing, and Being a Sheep for Just One Day

The Anchor Hotels main bar was almost empty last night. Even in deepest Winter this is a rare occurrence. Whilst it was cold, and everything was covered in a white frost, as always, there’s was a cheery log fire burning brightly in the bar equalling the warmth of welcome from Sharon, Robert, Lyndsay and the rest of the staff. For me the Anchor is just a short stroll along the sea front from the House in Scotland, but for many others getting there will require a car. I think this was the reason the bar was so quiet. At one minute past midnight last Thursday/Friday Scotland’s new alcohol limit for driving was introduced. The new legal limit is just 50mg in every 100ml of blood (in other parts of the UK it is still 80mg per 100mls).

This means that even having just 1 pint of beer is likely to take most people over the limit. Between midnight and 06.00 on Friday 4 people were arrested for being over the new limit. 79% of Scottish motorists support the new reduced limits, and the RAC found that some 38% of UK motorists (living outside of Scotland) believe the lower alcohol limit should apply across the whole of the UK. 23% wanted a total ban on consuming alcohol before driving. This time of the year, most Police forces in the UK have a crackdown on drink driving,and such campaigns are almost a Christmas tradition.

A growing Christmas tradition appears to be Nativity Play Bashing. Last week the newspapers were once more full of critical narratives bemoaning the loss of the more traditional Jesus and Mary approach, or ridiculing the inclusion of astronauts and other assorted non-traditional cast members. Given the past week saw: the death of Jeremy Thorpe; massive civil rights inspired rioting on the streets in the US; NASA sending its first people carrying rocket beyond Earth’s orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972; and the WHO acknowledging that, 33m people around the world are living with HIV, and 11m don’t know they have the virus- complaining about children’s nativity plays seemed somewhat daft and churlish.

Grandson Jack didn't complain about being part of his Nativity play. This year he was a Sheep. I can’t show you what a good looking Sheep he was, because photos taken at the play are forbidden from being used on any social media site. Here's one of Jack and his brother Harry instead. Such is the world we now live in. Unfortunately it’s a world where the British police are to launch their new tool in the fight against child abuse. CAID (Child Abuse Image Database) next week. This database will store 10s of millions of photos, and videos which can be scanned and searched for images previously linked to child sexual abuse activity. The system was created by team of Swedish computer software designers.  

There were just under 9000 cases of abuse against children aged 7-14 in Sweden last year and just over 3000 reported cases of abuse against children aged 0-6 in the same period. Sweden, of course, is famous for having a culture completely intolerant to drink driving. There the limit is just 20mg per 100mls of blood. There are severe penalties for those in breach of this limit, including imprisonment. The Swedish School association in Scotland has already performed its Swedish Nativity play (Julspel) this year. 

I am not sure how many sheep were included, but Sweden isn't known for its sheep flocks. The country is home to 9300 flocks containing some 300000 ewes and rams. The average flock size is about 30 sheep, with 30% of flocks having only nine sheep or less. In comparison, Jack, for just one performance swelled the ranks of the 23m sheep that make up the national flock in the UK - and he did it in style! Bah Humbug to all those who can’t enjoy a great children’s Nativity play.