[Will there be] Life on Mars?

What exciting news that proper, wet water has been discovered on Mars! In my fuddled, amoebic, non-science brain even I have determined from the articles and interviews that this stunning news means human life can be supported on the red planet.

I wonder what David Bowie makes of the revelation. His question, written in song and released in 1971 is about to be answered, although to the disappointment of science fiction buffs we are not about to be treated to the sight of small green creatures sporting deely-bobbers but the ‘life’ is likely to be human; that is if plans to populate Mars come to execution.

Robots are to go ahead first and construct the accommodation, which is to be connected pods like those paper lampshades you used to be able get in Habitat. [As yet there are no plans for a ‘Mars Bar’]. I have no problem with the idea of robots building a house. They already construct cars and many other items. Of course you’d have to be certain they weren’t plotting something sinister like the evil Hal in Space Odyssey-but still…

Then-what? Who is to go? Once the circus of astronauts and scientists are done with Mars, what is the long term plan? This is an entire planet. What or who will it be used for? Should, perhaps, the entire population of Earth move there and leave all the hideous mess we’ve made on this world behind? Mars will be pristine and unsullied-also COLD, which means there will be far longer before global warming takes hold. It will take aeons of greenhouse gases wafting around before the atmosphere is irrevocably ruined, by which time another life-support-planet will have been identified. Hooray!

Or should Mars be used to deposit all our detritus so that our own, cosy, familiar Earth becomes viable again. Perhaps all the poisonous waste from nuclear power, all those plastic bottles that are supposed to be recycled but float around the world on enormous ships instead, cigarette ends and doggy poop could go up there?

Or should we offer Mars to Islamic State so that they can go off and commit their vile atrocities to their hearts content and leave us to live our impure lives as we please? Oh no wait, if we are not there they have no one to bomb, behead or torture; also they are pledged to expand their territory, meaning they’d have to capture nearby planets-the nearest being-yes, Earth.

There is no rush to decide the fate of Mars. NASA is dithering about probing further into the water issue owing to worries about introducing a bug into the pristine atmosphere there. Heaven [apologies] forbid that we humans should give the Martians a dose of the measles, flu or the common cold. Isn’t it a shame mankind could not have had such scruples when our own Earth was pristine and innocent…?

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Pouring Cold Water on the Challenge

I realise it makes me into a bit of a humbug-but I have to confess to feelings of relief that the blanket high-jacking of social network sites from the ‘ice bucket challenge’ is beginning to subside. I was just a little tired of watching yet another acquaintance saying something to camera [I don’t know what as I have a tendency to leave the sound off] having water poured over them and exclaiming loudly with their hair and clothes plastered to their skin. But it was for Charideee, of course, which means it must have been a great thing- wasn’t it?
Charities do good work and those who work selflessly for them are to be admired. In these recent times of austerity and financial recessions they have suffered from lower incomes and less giving. So I suppose anyone who comes up with a wacky, ‘fun’ and different idea for fund raising is to be clutched at.
I can never quite understand how those prolonged treks and cycle rides in foreign parts constitutes fund raising-it always appears [and shoot me down if I am wrong] that those who take part are actually enjoying an exciting piece of travel courtesy of those who’ve kindly donated to their particular cause. At least the iced water doesn’t look exotic and desirable.
But isn’t there more than just a bit of smug, do-good, aren’t I generous?/a good sport/a fun-loving sort about such viral challenges as the ice bucket? Why do those taking part need us to see them? Why not go out into the garden, or yard, or car park and tip a bucket of cold water over your head then go indoors and have a cup of tea? Or go and have a bath in some baked beans, shower off and go and dig the garden? Of course, it must not only be filmed, reader-it must be shared on a social network. Why? Well, because a]All your friends must know what a big-hearted, selfless and philanthropic person you and b]You will have been nominated by another fun, generous person-demonstrating that you are also popular and a ‘good egg’.
Wouldn’t it be a great world that had no charities at all in it-because they were never necessary-because the richest, fittest, most advantaged people’s incomes were taxed enough to cover funds to address disease/famine/injury/social deprivation et al; or better still, that the most advantaged gave from their free will, without recourse to iced water, baked bean baths, shaved heads, prolonged cycling or taxation. I know there are those who do contribute a great proportion of their wealth, quietly, without publicising the fact or using it to promote themselves. Good for them.
I doubt the respite will be long. There will be another daft series of selfie videos in due course. In the meantime I’m revelling in the lull.

When You Know you are Out of Your Depth

Amongst the plethora of entertainment, leisure activities and sports events organised by our town, which besides being a place of residence, I should add, is also a seaside resort and  tourist magnet, is a ‘long swim’. I was treated to a preview of this phenomenon yesterday evening during a ‘shortish’ cycle.

I am an admirer of those who are adept at swimming; those who are as at home in the water as they are with their two feet planted on the land. I envy them. They can dive carelessly from boats into the Aegean whilst enjoying their day cruises in Turkey while I can only watch from the safety of the deck and pretend I’ve a water allergy. They can fling themselves wantonly into the waves and disappear into the froth as they submerge, reappearing without spluttering, coughing, shrieking in terror or vomiting up the seawater they’ve ingested. This expertise all looks cool and elegant. Even in a hotel swimming pool fellow guests complete slow, unhurried lengths from shallow to deep and back, flipping over to view something or undertaking that mysterious ‘treading water’ thing that I’ve never mastered.

It isn’t that I am unable to swim. I can. In my twenties I spent all of one winter learning in a class of adults, shivering in an Olympic sized pool, taught with great patience by swimming teachers who understood the panic experienced by those who have lived all the way to adulthood without having mastered the aquatic arts. I kicked, I glided, I even dived with enough encouragement. But the incontrovertible fact remains: I do not enjoy the water. I do not like to have my face submerged. I cannot throw caution to the wind and submit my stature to depths deeper than its height.

In circumstances where the temperature is so hot I need to cool off I may climb laboriously down a ladder into the shallow end of a swimming pool, providing there are no more than about two other adults there-[no children-children splash ]. I might hang there, clinging to the ladder for a few moments before climbing out. I might even undertake a cautious flap across the width at the shallow end, within reach of the side, executing my undignified, unorthodox version of breast stroke which involves numerous, panicky gyrations with my head stuck above the water. On reaching the other side I grab whatever ledge is there, make for the ladder and thence to the safety of the sun-bed.

Most people can swim these days, having learned at school or from holidays abroad. But I was raised in a small village by non-swimming parents. Our holidays were camping jaunts taken in farmers’ fields and a day at the seaside was an occasion involving buckets, spades, sandwiches, rolled up trousers and knotted handkerchiefs on heads.

There is one positive outcome of my land-lubbing childhood: it is that as soon as my own children could walk, and long before they started school, I ensured beyond any doubt that they learned to swim, so whatever sins of parenthood I may have wrought upon them they have no qualms about taking to the water.