Funny how this blogging business can get under your skin, isn’t it? Dropping out of the tag reader for a few days felt like going into exile. What was the matter with me? I started to give myself little lectures in the bathroom mirror – don’t worry, the lighting in there is curiously flattering – little pep-talks along these lines … Look, you spineless wimp, this isn’t real life … It’s not as if anything bad has happened like being sacked or burgled or … well, being laughed at by younger people on the dance floor … just words floating away into the ether which may or may not be read by people you don’t even know … and it’s not as if it makes any difference to the world, anyway, the cold and crazy world that wouldn’t even notice if you took all your clothes off and ran out into the street singing wild bohemian rebel songs calling for … at which point, having cut myself shaving, the thwarted blogger I’ve become began to answer back. Hey, I like blogging. I put a lot of effort into it. It’s a kind of adventure playground where I can experiment with ideas, genres, voices. The idea that others are reading what I’ve written is genuinely exciting, a huge incentive to continue. And it sure in hell beats consigning my calligraphic effluvia to big cloth-bound journals … bound for the flames when I snuff it, I’ve been told … my journals, that is, we’re not big on afterlife speculation in this household.
We’re not very reverent about one another, either. My 19 month old granddaughter’s nickname for me is Old Windbag. Her grandma is Bossy Boots, so at least we’re on a level playing field. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, as they say, though who puts them up to it is anyone’s guess! But I digress … blogging, for me, is an escape into a better world. Sing about what is good and shout about what is bad … or rather, send it up. Which brings me to the point. I want my latest satirical squib to join the others under the Bafflesby tag – go ahead, call me a crazy completist, I’m used to being insulted by that insufferably sanctimonious spoilsport in the bathroom mirror! – so here it is … again.
Air pollution isn’t funny but the half-assed science – or lack of it – unfortunately is. Blame Bossy Boots for the idea, bless her, because she suggested that I give it the Bafflesby treatment after we’d shared a laugh at the nervous advice to open windows – somehow reminiscent of letting a cat out only to find he wants to come in again! Really, of course, we wanted to cry at the world our granddaughter may have to live in … if and when scientific reports become just one more way to cover politicians’ backsides:
Keep Calm and Carry on Breathing
We at the Bafflesby Official Science Helpline (BOSH) would like to reassure residents that the wilder rumours circulating the town have no basis in fact. The air is not about to run out or turn purple and everyone should continue to breath it in (and out) as any other course of action could be injurious to health. A few simple precautions will be sufficient to keep you and your family safe from harm.
Avoid smoking indoors, especially if your gas appliances are faulty. If radioactive radon is seeping into your home, try to sell it. Don’t use air fresheners, candles and cleaning products. Remember that cooking can fill the house with fumes which may react with the solvents that slowly seep from plastics, paints and furnishings. Heating your home with a wood-burning stove, while much cheaper than gas and electricity, creates a further health hazard. Other items that give off harmful pollutants include joss sticks, cookers, boilers, open fires and portable gas or paraffin heaters. House-dust mites, mould and dander from pets can also damage health. In point of fact no level of exposure to anything can be seen to be safe, with any exposure carrying a risk.
Our previous advice to lower your energy costs by reducing ventilation is under review. Try opening a window for a few minutes a day to help improve indoor air pollution unless, of course, outdoor air pollution appears to be the greater threat to health. Don’t forget that levels of air pollution are above legal limits in many towns and cities including Bafflesby town centre during daylight hours, when the need to relieve indoor air pollution is most acute.
We understand that ownership of diesel cars has more than trebled in the past 15 years, driven by tax incentives that identified diesel as a ‘green’ fuel. In 2000 just 14 per cent of new cars were diesel powered but today this figure has risen to 50 per cent and almost all light goods vehicles, vans and many buses are now powered by diesel. We at BOSH are proud to say that we sat on the fence over this one because our scientific investigation ran out of money before we could reach sensible conclusions. We did suggest that more goods should go by rail until it was explained to us that Bafflesby Railway Company didn’t have the funds either.
On your behalf we are now advising the powers-that-be to promote alternatives to diesel and petrol cars, to monitor air pollution levels more effectively, to implement and enforce tougher regulations on polluters, and to investigate the economic damage caused by air pollution. Nevertheless, we fully realise that the current economic climate makes long-term planning difficult and that nothing should be allowed to prevent economic climate change.
So in the understandable absence of government, local authority and business action we must all do our bit as individuals to reduce pollutant exposure. Explore active travel options like walking and cycling in conjunction with the stylish new BOSH Smog Detector (any profits from which will top up our reduced government funding) although we would suggest you avoid Bafflesby town centre during daylight hours.
We have no choice but to agree with the official view that the value of personal exercise in saving the National Health Service money far exceeds the cost – financial and political – of reducing emissions. Remember that air pollution has been linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity and dementia – although proving the connections must wait for an end to the cutbacks. So, while we’re waiting, each of us has a civic responsibility to adopt a sensible exercise routine compatible with maintaining your economic contribution.
And to cheer us up here is Prof Peter Pangloss, an expert in the field at cash-strapped Bafflesby & District General Hospital: “When you compare now with the bad old days we’re older and fitter than they were. And don’t forget that deaths caused by the environment are really deaths experienced early rather than deaths that wouldn’t have happened.”
So chin up, then! With science like this on our side and a steady supply of laboratory rats, it can only be a matter of time before we find the elusive elixir of life!
Bafflesby Official Science Helpline (BOSH)
We invite not unhealthy non-smokers aged 18-81
to sit next to open and shut windows for several hours a day.
Tea, coffee and biscuits provided.