LETTERS FROM LONDON
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
1 October 2016
Pet Relief

Okay, okay, you’ve watched ‘the debate’ – and the Labour Conference to the
point of torture and now you simply don’t care – hopefully.

Considering the former: we had 24-hour back-to-back coverage of The Don and
Hillary with constant replays of their 90-minute debate. There was no other news
on offer. Really? Yes, really. Was this necessary? Remind me why. Oh yes, it
must be our sycophantic positioning in regards to the US. Two more to come.
Can’t wait.

So, moving on to the latter: I’ll let Polly Toynbee writing in The Guardian reveal
the facts. “The Fabian Society’s analysis: is that Labour needs 104 seats in
England and Wales and 40% of the vote to win.

“In the marginals, four out every five of the extra votes must come from those
who were Tory last time. Even if the young are energised and turnout soars to
Scottish referendum heights, it gets nowhere close.

“Even if every single Liberal Democrat and Green vote went Labour, that only
gives 29 seats. Even if Ukip were crushed, its vote divides equally Labour and
Tory. As Labour wins radical votes, it risks losing moderate votes to the Tories:
2% went that way last time.” Sighhhhhh.

Animal Farm

So, it’s time for a little science relief. I’m going for insects and animals. No,
really.

Let’s do bees – not their imminent demise - but on a more positive note, the
journal Science has published that biologists at Queen Mary University of
London have discovered that after bumblebees drink a small droplet of really
sweet sugar water, they behave like they are in a positive emotion-like state. No,
that isn’t why they dance, although possibly they could make the moves with
more enthusiasm.

The training involved? The researchers trained bees to find food at a blue flower
and no food at a green flower. Then they tested the bees on a new blue-green
flower. You know what’s coming don’t you? Bees that drank a small droplet of
sugar water prior to the test took less time to land on the ambiguous-coloured
flower.

Other experiments showed that this behaviour wasn't due to bees just getting
more excited or searching faster. In another experiment, bees were subjected to
a simulated spider attack, something common in nature. Oh that is just so wrong.
Spiders attack bees? I’m blocking that out and I suggest you do the same.
Arghhh.

Back to the experiments: bees that received the sugar water took less time to
reinitiate foraging after the attack. This indicates that the sweet sugar water may
be causing a positive emotion-like state in bees, similar to humans and other
animals. Who knew?

And now for horses. Yes, horses. Researchers from the Norwegian Veterinary
Institute taught 23 horses how to signal if they are too hot or too cold. Hint: not
by stamping.

So how you ask? Well, the horses were trained to touch a board on a fence with
their noses – so far so okay – but then they were shown how to distinguish the
difference between symbols on the board. These indicated: ‘blanket on’, ‘blanket
off’ and ‘no change’. I’m liking ‘no change’ in particular.

So what next. The horses were trained to make the association between an
action and each symbol.  By the end of two weeks training all 23 horses it
should be noted here – accomplished the task. They all went to the board to
indicate their preference for rug covering. Clever.

Home Alone

Now you can ring in to cheer up your pets, assuming horses included. They do
get depressed you know. British TV host-turned-animal-whisperer Noel Edmonds
is launching the very first radio station exclusively for our “animal chums”.  Well,
think about it, they ‘watch’ TV and now they have the radio - but personalised.

This endeavour is called Positivity Pets and Edmonds will invite pet-owners to
send in messages for “their loved ones”. Music requests of “special relaxing
tones” are included.

Edmonds has recently launched Phone A Pet service – see where we’re going
here? This service will ring any pet which requires a ‘pep talk’ some “positive
words of appreciation and motivation.” “Good guinea pig, good guinea pig. You
have such lovely fur.”

NE reminds us: “It’s amazing how a simple brief phone call can pick up the
spirits of the most dejected hamster, the most stressed goldfish and the most
neurotic cat.” Have we had research on this yet?

NE received 2,000 email applications in four hours – despite the criticism and
questioning of his sanity. Tell your dogs, cats, gerbils, rabbits, parrots, horses,
lizards, pigs, snakes not to worry; relief will be available by Christmas. Messiaen
for birds then?

Perhaps young people in Japan are more in need. More than 500,000 have
chosen to live in isolation. Yes, that means no school, work, socialising. It’s all
home alone.

It’s called ‘hikikomori’ and 541,000 15-39 year olds have lived without contact -
some 39 per cent for at least seven years (‘Oyawwatashi no Ohaio-shū!’ – OK,
OK – ‘oh my gosh’!) and 29 per cent for three to five years. And what do they
do all day – after day after day? Comics and video games of course.

Evidently this mass movement began in the 1990s and exists in China, Spain
and the US. Huh? Did you know? No treatment has been offered. Oh, Noel…
Tasukete! (OK – help!)

Or - they could move with their unhappy pets to the Scottish Outer Hebrides
which is the happiest place in the UK, but that would mean they would have to go
outside. Oops.

See, wasn’t it a relief from politics no matter how bonkers….?
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