Sunday, 28 February 2016

A Travelling Parrot and the Joy of Coffee and Conversations

I have a parrot called Billy. He loves to whistle the blues, dance to music, imitate nearly every noise he hears, laugh at comedy on the TV and talking in the voices of familiar people around him. He can be context perfect when it comes to expressing an opinion, and he has many of those. When we go to Scotland he likes to sit on the back seat with Cello (the dog) and is quite content to watch the world go by with just the occasional whistle or ‘ye gods did you see that’ or 'by eck!' type utterance. The journey usually take between 2.5 – 3 hours, last Sunday it took nearly 8 hours.

There was an accident on the M6 which sadly resulted in the death and serious injury of a number of people. The accident brought the motorway to a standstill. After sitting on the motorway for 2 hours we started a very slow stop/start journey off the motorway and on to the backroads more or less until we could re-join the motorway the other side of Kendal. Billy was not impressed and kept up a cry of ‘I despair’ until it became dark and he tucked his head under his wing and had a snooze. W read her Kindle, as I mentally ticked off all the jobs I now couldn’t do in preparation for the following busy week. Of course it was very frustrating just sitting there as the hours ticked by, but of course the inconvenience we were experiencing was nothing to the possible life changing consequences facing those directly involved in the accident.
The only silver lining in this tiring travel experience was that after many disappointments and luke warm cups of coffee, W had invested in an authentic Themos flask, and on its first outing, this wonderful invention kept us in hot coffee for several hours. I was very grateful for the refreshing sips of coffee, more so because I knew it was good for me. Here are some examples. Only last week I read of a recent study, led by Dr Oliver Kennedy of Southampton University, which reported that drinking 2 or more cups of coffee a day could significantly reduce the health risks associated with drinking too much alcohol.

Cirrhosis of the liver is a disease that kill 1000s of people in the UK and more than 1m people worldwide every year. The risk of developing cirrhosis was found to be reduced by 22% with 1 cup of coffee, 43% with 2 cups and 65% with 4 or more cups compared to those who drank no coffee at all. In a different study published last year it was also noted that for men, drinking just 2 cups of coffee a day reduced the risk of erectile dysfunction by 42% compared to men who didn’t drink coffee. Care needs to be taken though as the research also showed that the results (and the affected member) dipped slightly (to 39%) for men drinking 3 cups a day. 

Women can also benefit as well. Research carried out by Dr Fay Guarraci from Southwestern University in Texas suggested that coffee can boost women’s sex drive. She found that drinking coffee stimulated the parts of the brain that signal sexual arousal – although the finding appeared to only apply to women who did not drink coffee regularly. And Professor Ichiro Kawachi from Harvard University undertook a study that monitored the mental health of 86000 nurses over a period of 10 years. He found that those nurses who regularly drank between 2 – 4 cups of coffee a day were significantly less likely to have committed suicide. 

However, my best cup of coffee last week was the one I had after enjoying a great dinner with Professor Sir Walter Bodmer, the internationally renowned human geneticist. He had come to the University to open our new mega laboratories. His work on human genetics in particular is seminal, and he is credited with the idea of the Human Genome Project. There can be few scientists whose contributions to knowledge crosses so many different fields of science. At 80 years old, he had many stories to tell, and his humorous, confident and knowledgeable approach to life was an inspiration, it was a real privilege to share a meal and a good cup of coffee with him.  

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