Sunday, 25 January 2015

Clearing Snow, Sleeping in at the Weekends, a Danish Bun in the Oven, and Remembering an Ordinary Man

There was one morning last week when I jumped out of bed at 04.30. It had snowed the previous evening and overnight. The drive had a few inches of snow (7-8cm to you metric readers) and had to be cleared in order to get the car out and get off to work. It was the third time in week that I had cleared the snow off the drive. These days I have a routine that gets it done in double quick time, but I have long harboured a desire to own a tractor with a snow plough attachment. I came close to achieving this ambition this weekend when I was able to acquire a fully operational John Deere tractor. However, I think the grandchildren will enjoy it more than me, and it hasn't snowed since!

I have never had a problem about jumping out of bed at an early hour. I normally start my day at 05.00. These days my circadian rhythm has changed and I am no longer a night owl, much more a lark and definitely my best in the morning. I start my day at 05.00 even when it is not a work day and have done for years. A longitudinal study in New Zealand has revealed that people who find it difficult to get out of bed at the weekend are more likely to suffer problems such as obesity and diabetes compared with those who get up early even when they don’t have to go to work.

The study described people whose sleep patterns differ significantly between work days and rest days as having 'social jet lag'. Whilst the study doesn't claim that social jet lag causes health problems, they are able to claim that people whose body clock is perpetually out of synch with their work patterns are putting their metabolism under strain, which can cause chronic health problems.

People in the small town of Thisted in Denmark, might however, have a good reason to stay in bed at the weekends. Denmark has a declining birth rate. The average birth rate is just 1.7 children on average per family. In Thistead, this rate has dropped to 1.6. There are just under 14000 people living there. Local services such as Schools, nurseries, social services and so on are being threatened by the low birth rate. The Local Council have pledged to keep the services running if the local population promise to have more children. This deal follows the 2014 national initiative 'Do it for Denmark' where couples were promised to be reimbursed for their holiday if they conceived during the trip. The campaigns advertisement is well worth a watch – see here.

And this morning, for some reason I woke up even earlier and have spent the time reading about the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of  Winston Churchill’s death. He retired as Prime Minster in the year I was born. I can remember watching his funeral on TV – it was a black and white TV. Colour television programmes didn't come to the UK until 1967 (Wimbledon coverage). It is said that a staggering 350m people around the world watched his funeral. 112 countries were represented at his funeral service.

What I have found fascinating is how my perception of him has been challenged by this morning’s reading. I totally agreed with the BBC poll, which in 2002 put Winston Churchill as the No 1 Greatest Briton. He beat Darwin, Shakespeare, Bob Geldof, Margaret Thatcher, John Lennon, David Beckham and even Prof T. Yet he was very much like the rest of us. He made mistakes, sometimes with catastrophic results for others. He had views on other nationals that might be considered as racist, and occasionally these were revealed. These included relatively uncharitable views of Islamic and Jewish people, Indians, from North American ['Red'] and from Asia

Of course, as far as the UK was concerned, in 1940 Churchill got it absolutely right. And in destroying Hitler’s despotism every political leader since, like all of us, has benefited. He was both a great leader and amazingly ordinary. Although he only slept for 5 hours a night, and was awake and up early, he did have breakfasts that could last for many hours. Whether he ever had a Danish for breakfast is not known.