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The Rich Tapestry of Life Page
Odds and ends that don’t fit anywhere else, information, general knowledge, light-hearted quips and quotes from all over the place that make up the ‘rich tapestry of life’ for reading in those odd moments when you have nothing else to do! Read on and enjoy.
This is PAGE NINETEEN - Another “Life and Human  Encounter” Page
To return to “Tapestry CONTENTS”, CLICK HERE
A Learner
Years ago, I was inexplicably given charge of my school house junior netball team. I have had a lifelong zero interest in sports and absolutely no knowledge of how, or even why, they func­tion. Aged eighteen, I led a group of intensely keen eleven-year-olds whose house had never won anything. They were a motley, mainly bespectacled crew in ill-fitting navy games uniforms, but they had hope in their hearts and I knew I couldn't let them down.
In the library I found a book entitled Netball — Know the Game and my crew and I resolutely went through it, chapter by chapter. The eleven-year-olds learnt the basics, I mastered shout­ing certain key phrases from the side, such as 'mark up' and 'go wide' with no real knowledge of when would be an appropriate time, and the rest of the story is frankly cup-carrying triumph.
Since then, I have been confident that anything can be learnt from a book.
The Reader's Digest Plumbing and Heating Manual has changed my life. After just a few sessions with my printed mentor, I found myself waking up thinking I must pop to the shops for some jubilee clips, an olive and a 15 mm push-fit connector valve. Water flows both in and out of the sink, the washing machine sustains a cheerful hum over spinning suds and I have not had to deal with anyone sighing and moaning while wearing their trousers low enough to think about parking your bike.
Oddly enough, I find myself in good literary company. It's a little-known fact that the poet Henry Longfellow was the first American to have indoor plumbing; and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first earned a writer's crust by translating a German arti­cle for the Gas and Water Gazette entitled 'Testing Gas Pipes for Leakage'. OK, they didn't do the work themselves but they took an interest.
Misspending my youth in libraries means that I know that NASA once experimented with tilapia, a sewage-eating fish also called the 'toilet trout'. There was a notion that the fish could live in a space station swimming in waste water and eating the product before finally being eaten themselves. This year, some­one gave me a Delia cookbook. The first recipe I came to? Oven-roasted Tilapia with Mango and Pawpaw Salsa. I just can't bring myself to cook it, but maybe as an unusual sideline in my plumbing work ...
(Source: Sandi Toksvig in The Chain of Curiosity)
Direction by Magnetic North?
Vision is by far the most important of all human senses. Processing visual information uses 30 per cent of the brain's activity, whereas smell, the directional aid used by most mammals, accounts for just I per cent. Only birds are as visually dependent as we are, but they navigate using 'magnetoception', the ability to plug into the Earth's magnetic field. Embedded in their brains are crystals of an irased mineral called magnetite.
The bones of human noses also contain traces of magnetite, which suggests we may once also have had magnetoception' but have forgotten how to use it.
In 2004 Peter K6nig, a cognitive scientist at the University of Osnabruck in Germany, made a belt that he wore round his waist constantly, even in bed. It had thirteen pads linked to a sensor that detected Earth's magnetic field: whichever pad was pointing north vibrated gently like a cellphone. Over time, K6nig's spatial awareness radically improved. Wherever he was in the city, he found he knew intuitively the direction of his home or office. Once, on a trip to Hamburg, over 160 kilometres (100 miles) away, he correctly pointed towards Osnabruck.
When he finally removed the belt, he had a powerful sensation that the world had shrunk and that he had become 'smaller and more chaotic'. The belt had reactivated — or perhaps re-educated — a sense he didn't realise he had. It may be that our bodies have been faithfully sending out magnetoception signals all the time, but that our brains have lost the ability to interpret them.
(Source: The Second Book of General Ignorance)
Let's Slow Down
The trouble with progress is that it happens so fast that you don't have time to notice that things are disappearing before they've well and truly vanished off the face of the earth. Maybe if we just slowed down a bit, we'd remember to keep some of the things we're going to regret not having in the future.

(1) Fountain pens, inkwells, blotting paper and handwriting classes.
(2) Grammar - how to use a capital letter, the structure of a sentence and when to start a new paragraph.
(3) Chalk, blackboards and those blackboard rubbers that teachers can throw at kids who are behaving in a silly fashion at the back of the class.
(4) Lining up - if a teacher cannot make their class line up in a sensible and orderly fashion, then they should be instantly sacked.
(5) School assembly - there's nothing wrong with knowing a hymn or sitting cross-legged on the floor next to a pile of sick, which for some reason gets covered in sawdust, rather than simply cleaned away.
(6) Paper-boys (almost extinct in certain areas of London) - a child who has done a paper round all through a wet November is set up for life.
(7) Plaits - there is nothing to beat the excitement of pulling a girl's plait.
(8) French knitting - we didn't know why we did it, but it gave us something to do with our hands. It was the alternative to texting, and a lot more creative and colourful!
(9) Quilting – beat Cath Kidston at her own game. Really time-consuming and hard work, but what price an heirloom?
(10) Times tables done en masse in a sing-song voice.
(11) Learning things off by heart, rather than just Googling information when you need it. Once upon a time, every school kid knew at least one poem – this should be compulsory, and the compulsory poem should be Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which took the author eighteen months to write and takes about the same amount of time for children to learn.
(12) Cousins – they're good. Not as annoying as siblings. Cherish them; they make Christmases more interesting.
(13) Plain black wellington boots, please – we've had enough of all that `Look at me; I'm so much fun; I've got zany wellies' nonsense.
(14) Proper light bulbs.
(15) Taps that have a blue blob on them for cold and a red blob on them for hot. Philippe Starck, my arse.
(16) Lesbian gym mistresses with sturdy legs in short pleated skirts –good news all round.
(17) Matrons with stiff hair and watches on their bosoms.
(18) White pepper – bound to come back in. Start using yours now.
(19) Jackie magazine – no wonder today's girls have lost their way. Bring back Cathy and Claire – every girl needs to know how to French-kiss with tongues but not be pressured into doing anything silly
(20) Old women with hairnets and shopping baskets – forget all this trying to be young; let's hear it for women who are glad to be hideous old bags.
(Source: Chin up Britain by Jenny Eclair)
Aging Gracefully
Olivier de Ladoucette tells us that the biographer of Jeanne Calment, who died at the age of one hundred and twenty-two, was impressed by her ability to face up to adversity. She was, according to him, immunised against stress. She liked to repeat to anyone who would listen: “There is no such thing as an insurmountable ordeal; all
you have to do each time is find a solution.
What should we do in order to follow in Jeanne Calment's footsteps? Apart from the rules for a healthy lifestyle — sleep, a frugal and balanced diet, exercise, and avoidance of alcohol and tobacco—we must be able to adapt to changing situations, retain confidence in our own resources, accept our limits with good humour, learn how to refuse what we don't want to do, and ensure that our daily routine incorporates time devoted to doing what we enjoy, in peace. If, in addition, we can share our worries with those close to us, then we are on the right path.
Studies show that elderly people who have retained a network of relationships —both family and friends —live longer than others. Giving and receiving, and showing generosity, all have positive effects. Conversely, relationship conflicts are a veritable poison, which can eat away at a person like rust.
`Centenarians are almost never lonely. They have loyal people close to them who bring them daily physical and psychological support. These relationships exist because of a clear charisma, which inspires respect and affection, and exerts a strong power of attraction on people."
It is a question of finding a balance between accepting solitude and having a rich emotional life. Emotional independence is not easy to maintain when one feels lonely. Many elderly people transfer their social expectations onto younger people who cannot fulfil them because, after all, they have their own lives. The ideal is not to expect too much of others, but simply to be receptive. Being nice is the key, according to Jean-Louis S ervan-Schreiber: 'It is up to us to behave so that people enjoy listening to us, meeting us, and communicating with us. Let's mellow! Let's be receptive!'
`Certain elderly people are very good at achieving this alchemy,' he wrote. 'It can be found in a look, a smile, a pleasant tone of voice on the telephone. They have an instinct for making themselves agreeable. They never complain, expect nothing, have their own network of relationships, and take care of their own physical health. It is no longer a question of trying to seduce, which isn't appropriate, but of remaining attractive, cultivating one's charm. 16
Charm no longer comes from smoothness of skin or strength of muscle, but from the soul, as we saw in the case of actress Tsilla Chelton, who appeared on the television program devoted to ageing. Charm comes from the capacity to take an interest in others and in the world, to look at life with confidence, wonderment, and gratitude. It is necessary to leave behind one’s egocentricity and enter the other person’s world.
(Source: The Warmth of the Heart prevents your Body from Rusting by Marie de Hennezel)

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