Scotland snow

Scotland is closed.

I’m currently sitting in stationary traffic on the A8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh. I’ve moved a couple of hundred yards at most in the last hour.

I had a similar experience last night on the M74 south of Hamilton and Motherwell, though I had my 2 year old daughter with me last night, I don’t today.

The Scottish Government (for whom I work) have been utterly unprepared for the events of the last 36 hours. Motorists are now facing their second night trying to get to their destinations.

Last night I faced the conditions with good humour but this evening I’m more annoyed that little seems to have been done to relieve the busiest road in Scotland.

I must say a huge thank you to Ian Emery who put my daughter and I up for the night last night, staying up to wait for us arriving well after midnight.

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Some very small minds

In case you missed this story today, the BBC reports that a Vatican official is unhappy with the fact that British IVF pioneer Robert Edwards has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Full story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11472753

In the last 32 years since that pioneering work, over four million babies have been born using IVF fertility to people who would otherwise not have been able to have children.

Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and the Vatican’s spokesman on bioethics highlights the ethical questions raised by the fertility treatment.

While admittedly there may be some countries where ethical standards are not as strictly enforced as in the UK, his claim that “most probably [embryos] will end up abandoned or dead” is ludicrous. Anyone who’s been through the process will tell you that the number of viable embryos created through each round of IVF is very small, and the failure rate of each of those embryos once implanted is still high.

I would say that any couple going through IVF who end up with more embryos than they can use will be a tiny proportion of the number going through the process, and for many, two or three rounds of IVF can still result in no pregnancies being carried to full term for couples.

As usual, the Vatican, instead of embracing the modern world, and looking to welcome people into the Church, chooses to alienate many who would not be here but for IVF and the pioneering work of Robert Edwards.

I wonder how any of the IVF children born into Catholic families (or Catholic by choice) now in their twenties or thirties feel about their Church raising such concerns.

And how can a supposedly pro-life Church which condemns the use of contraceptives criticise a life-creating technology?

Rather than acting like the Catholic Church of the 16th Century, decrying Galileo as a heretic, perhaps the Catholic Church should take its head out of the sand and join the rest of the world in the 21st Century. I wish this had come out before the Papal visit to the UK, I’d have joined the protests…

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A Very Small Country

There’s a game called Six Degrees of Separation (or Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon), where you can find a connection between two people in a maximum of six steps.

A conversation with a recently made friend a few weeks ago has made me think about this. I was explaining to this friend who I’d made through work about my daughter’s medical condition (not a well-known condition at all), when she said, “Oh, I know that… My friend’s just started work in the unit dealing with that”. It turned out I knew her friend already.

In Scotland, it seems you rarely require more than three steps… There’s a saying up here “Ah kent yer faither” (I knew your father. And yes, that’s different to “Luke, I am your father”…).

Be it that Sean Connery used to be your Mum’s cousin’s milkman or that Billy Connolly worked down the shipyards with your uncle’s best mate, you can pretty much get to anyone in three steps.

OK. Let’s test it. Me to Prince William… I went to St Andrews Uni, and the brother of my girlfriend there was in classes with Prince William the year after I left.

Me to Alex Salmond. Easy, I used to work for Jack McConnell, previous First Minister of Scotland before Salmond.

A population of five million, and you’re hard pressed to find a place where you don’t know someone who knows someone you know. It’s a very incestuous country in that respect!

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An earlier cricketing encounter

I have moments in my life – like most people – where I look back and cringe. Many moments…

And this is one…

I won a competition with BT Internet’s “Win A @Million” contest back in 2000. No, I didn’t win £1M, I got a runners-up prize, but it was a great runners-up prize! I won a £1000 computer for a school of my choice, and a trip to see the 2000 Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix.

I might post about the F1 another time, but there was a third part to the prize. The guy that won the top prize of £1M and the 16 other prize-winners were treated to a prize-giving ceremony at the Millennium Dome, hosted by David Gower, along with publicity photos and a chance to have a good wander around the Dome. (Verdict on the Dome? I wouldn’t have paid to go, let’s put it that way!)

Over champagne and canapés, the prize-winners and guests got to mingle and chat, and my chance came to speak to David Gower. Did I ask him about his cricketing career? His captaincy of England during the 1985 Ashes series? No. I had to ask the question that makes me cringe to this day.

“What’s happened to Lee Hurst? Is he not doing any more of They Think It’s All Over?”

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A Grand Day Out

On Friday, I was extremely lucky to be invited up to the Test Match Special commentary box during the One Day International against Pakistan at the Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground.

I was met outside the Media Centre by Jonathan Agnew, and taken upstairs to the broadcast suites. Standing in the corridor outside the Sky box as we went up was Ian Botham (he has an iPad but still hasn’t taken it out of its box…).

Possibly the strangest experience was realising I still had my DAB radio turned on as I went into the commentary box, and hearing Henry Blofeld’s commentary in front of me, in the flesh! (and yes, he did comment on a pigeon during the time I was in the box!)

It was a real pleasure to meet Jonathan, Malcolm Ashton (TMS’s scorer and statistician), Michael Vaughan, Simon Mann, Duncan Fletcher, and of course, Adam Mountford and Shilpa Patel, TMS’s producers.

And I couldn’t possibly go to the TMS commentary box without taking a cake. Or some dog treats for Bracken, Jonathan Agnew’s dog.

Thanks to all for making Friday a really special day. Oh, and there was even some cricket too… 🙂

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