Friday, 13 February 2009




There are cats that will be reincarnated as hearth rugs and we need not detain ourselves with them.  There are cats that shrink at the sight of you and then bolt in a fear, it is reasonable to suspect, is assumed.  Then there is another kind of cat.


This kind of cat is usually ginger and always a Tom.  This kind of cat leaps out at you from behind sofas and sideboards and anywhere he can lay in wait.  When you go for a walk he accompanies you until he is distracted by a passing dandelion clock or the prospect of a mouse.  He bullies your dogs and leaps onto your morning paper when you spread it on the breakfast table.  He hears your car in the drive and rushes to meet you and welcome you home.


He kills birds and scatters their feathers over your best carpet; leaves the indigestible organs of mice just where you are about to put your bare feet.  This is the kind of cat T.S. Elliot wrote about.  It is the cat called Jeoffrey that the drunken and mad poet Christopher Smart recalled in his 18th century Bedlam:


“For he keeps the lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.

“For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.“


He is the cat who swam the Thames and crawled down a chimney of the Tower of London in the reign of Elizabeth I to console his master Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, the boyfriend of Shakespeare, who was imprisoned there.


He is the cat who, according to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, is the Sun God Ra himself.  He is Bast, the cat-headed god of Bubastis.  He is Pangur Ban, the pet of an anonymous eighth century monk who wrote in the margin of his illuminated manuscript:


“’Gainst the wall he sets his eye,

“Full and fierce and sharp and sly;

“’Gainst the wall of knowledge I

“All my little wisdom try.”


He is the cat that, with “Memory“, made a musician out of Andrew Lloyd Webber.. He is the cat of whom the 16th century essayist Montaigne asked: “When my cat and I entertain each other with mutual apish tricks, as playing with a garter, who knows but that I make my cat more sport than she makes me.”


He is one of several ginger cats we had.  Pudding, who died after being run over by a car and  left a hole in our lives many times larger than the tiny space he occupied in life.







Twenty years ago, climate research became politicised in favour of one particular hypothesis which redefined the subject as the study of the effect of greenhouse gases.  As a result, the rebellious spirits essential for innovative and trustworthy science are greeted with impediments to their research careers.  And while the media usually find mavericks at least entertaining, in this case they often imagine that anyone who doubts the hypothesis of man-made global warming must be in the pay of the oil companies. As a result, some key discoveries in climate research go almost unreported.

Enthusiasm for the global-warming scare also ensures that heat waves make headlines, while contrary symptoms, such as one winter’s billion-dollar loss of Californian crops to unusual frost, are relegated to the business pages.  The early arrival of migrant birds in spring provides colourful evidence for a recent warming of the northern lands.  But did anyone tell you that in east Antarctica the Adélie penguins and Cape petrels are turning up at their spring nesting sites around nine days later than they did 50 years ago?  While sea-ice has diminished in the Arctic since 1978, it has grown by 8% in the Southern Ocean.

So one awkward question you can ask when you’re forking out those extra taxes for climate change is: “Why is east Antarctica getting colder?”  It makes no sense at all if carbon dioxide is driving global warming.  While you’re at it, you might inquire whether Gordon Brown will give you a refund if it’s confirmed that global warming has stopped.  The best measurements of global air temperatures come from American weather satellites, and they show wobbles but no overall change since 1999.

That leveling off is just what is expected by the chief rival hypothesis, which says that the sun drives climate changes more emphatically than greenhouse gases do.  After becoming much more active during the 20th century, the sun now stands at a high, but roughly level, state of activity. Solar physicists warn of possible global cooling, should the sun become hyper-active again.




I see where the Home Secretary is entitled to charge £116,000 for a second home in London, although she lodges in her sister’s house.


It is perfectly legal, she insists.


Of course it is.  She is one of the law makers.  How much trouble would have been saved if the Great Train Robbers had sat in Parliament and defended their right to pillage mail trains.


Bankers are allowed to increase their bonuses by taking unnecessary risks in the certain knowledge, that if the risks come unstuck, the losses will be made up by the tax payer.  Off hand I cannot remember how many MPs take profitable directorships with banks when they leave office.


No comments: