A short break

You may wonder why you have heard nothing from me for a while – or you may just have been grateful that I haven’t been blethering on. Well we have been away, fitting in a holiday between the end of the school holidays (when everything is twice as expensive, and full of other peoples children) and my next appointment with my oncologist.

First we had a week in Northumberland as a stopping off point on the way to Scotland – but now a destination in its own right.  We also visited Sunderland where my father’s family had lived since 1779 when they probably had come down from Scotland. Then a week in Scotland, this time the eastern side although we did make it over to the west coast for a few hours, and finally back to Yorkshire then home.

While we were away a couple of things caught my eye.

In the local magazine for the hamlets around where we were staying which popped through the door in Northumberland there was an article about migration and why Germany was so keen to encourage immigrants. It said that the birth rates of the rich nations have changed dramatically over the last 20-30 years. To keep population stable you need 2.1 births per female but in some countries including Germany it had dropped to 1.3. Predictions had Germany’s population dropping from 85 million to 65 million by 2020. There would not be enough working age people to support their economy. The magazine also had musings on the harvest and the price of gimmers (yearling ewes). There was a discussion on whether there should be a version of the magazine on-line and the difference between making information public in a low circulation printed leaflet and making it public on the internet where it could be found by anyone and read anywhere in the world.

Then there was the exciting news from ‘down under’ about how Tasmanian Devils are evolving. They are the top predators in Tasmania and so keep invasive species, such as feral cats, under control – and therefore are important in protecting native wildlife much of which is under threat. (Across Australia cats are responsible for killing one million small mammals and birds every day!)

Over the past 20 years Tasmanian Devils have been suffering from Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) which has decimated their numbers. This disease is one of only two contagious cancers and great efforts have been made to limit its spread. The good news is that Tasmanian Devils have been evolving to become resistant to the disease. Amazingly this evolution is taking place over years not millennia. How have they done this and are there lessons that we can learn?

Oh well, now it is back to the angst of everyday life after three weeks of very patchy internet and mobile phone access, few newspapers and even less television.

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