THIS WEEK'S FEATURE ARTICLES
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Parkinson's and the Argentine Tango
Parkinson's Disease (PD) is an insidious but not uncommon neurological condition. First signs may be hardly noticeable, perhaps just a poor sense of smell, or while walking maybe an arm that is a little stiff and doesn't quite swing as it once did. Each case is different but the condition is incurable, progressive and eventually balance, mobility and other symptoms decline to a stage where full time institutional care is necessary. But the news for sufferers is not all bad, as it is treatable, and a decade or more of quality life after diagnosis is often possible. There are also a number of practical activities that can have a significant beneficial effect on the condition and help to alleviate symptoms.
One that has been given much attention in recent times has been the effect of music and dance, and not just any kind of music. Currently attracting interest is the Argentine Tango. There have been many studies of its effects, some informal, and others from academic institutions in various countries around the world. To understand why the Tango has been singled out you have only to see how a PD sufferer who may not normally be able to walk unaided or even stand without falling over, can be transformed by the music. They no longer freeze, their sense of balance is restored, to the extent that they are again able to make the smoothly executed movements of a dancer.
Is there a possibility of providing this type of therapy in Southern Tasmania? Although there are a good number of dance schools in and around Hobart, some of which teach Tango, I am unaware of any that have tutors with experience of working with PD? However, perhaps you do? Or, if you have PD, maybe you would be interested in joining such a group? In either case I would be delighted to hear from you. Contact: email@example.com, or PO Box 51, Cygnet 7112.
What is Qigong?
Qigong (pronounced “Chi Goong”) describes the simple, yet powerful practice of cultivating and harmonising qi flow for health, healing and daily life.
Legend has it that around 527 AD the Indian monk, Boddidhama, came to the Shaolin Monastery in China and found that the lack of movement in meditation practice combined with the cold weather, caused fatigue, body aches and pain.
So he devised a set of exercises based on a combination of Buddhist yoga, existing Chinese martial arts and observations of animal behaviour in nature.
While the knowledge of Qigong was kept confined to the Monastery for hundreds of years, it was eventually introduced to the West where it has flourished.
Many different styles of Qigong have evolved, but all involve gentle, flowing movements synchronised with conscious breathing and a calm, focused mind.
In practice, Qigong gently exercises, and releases tension, in the muscles and tendons; opens and relaxes the joints; develops postural awareness; increases coordination, flexibility and balance, and promotes self-confidence and a state of inner peace.
Qigong practice can immediately lower stress, increase energy, prevent illness and support rejuvenation of mind, body and spirit. Our bodies are designed to self-heal and re-balance themselves if we can learn to flow, breathe and relax.
Fifty shades of dog
There are considerate dog owners, careless dog owners, and downright irresponsible dog owners. Community focus should shift away from the dog and onto the owner – who ultimately holds responsibility for the wellbeing of their dog, and fair coexistence.
At the forefront of this focus shift are our dog walking clubs. In Tasmania, there are four under the umbrella organisation Tasmanian Dog Walking Clubs Inc: Kingborough, Hobart, Huon Valley, and Sorell. All of them have worked toward some great achievements, and provide group support and programs for dog owners.
Have you considered membership? It doesn’t matter if you are dog-less or not even a ‘dog person’. Your level of participation is up to you – but it is a way you can vote for future provisions. Dogs are a companion animal and a part of many families. These clubs are not limited to the interests of dog owners, but from a holistic perspective, they represent the entire community.
If you are a dog owner, there is added value for you. Exercise-minded
people might join a gym, and in the same way, it’s not a bad idea for dog-minded people to join
You can find out the latest council planning news, compare notes on breed-specific behavioural obstacles, ask for groomer recommendations, or just let your dog socialise. Club walks have indeed brought some dogs ‘out of their shell’ over time, especially at puppy stages or as part of improving your dog’s sociability.
For example, Huon Valley Dog Walking Association thoughtfully schedules walks on varied days to accommodate different people. Why not enjoy ‘time out’ in the Huon Valley with the dog walkers? Or find out how you can get involved with the other clubs.
Check out www.DogWalkingTas.org.au, send a membership form for your chosen club, and keep an eye out for schedules and newsletters. Your life will be all the richer!
Member, Kingborough & Huon Valley Dog Walking Associations
Philosophising about social media
Two interesting items cropped up on news channels recently, both relating to my aversion to social media. Not bothering about SM – social media, that is, not sado masochism – is my thing. I like to think that staying away from social media makes me more of an individual, with more time. The reality is that I still spend many hours of “research” time on the internet, therefore I still waste far too much of my precious time in front of a screen. One of the items, by Joanne Orlando on an ABC news website, had the heading “Do you ‘zombie check’ your phone? How new tools can help you control technology over-use”. For years, I’ve been aware of the “absent state” displayed by phone-addicts, blundering along the road, footpath or shopping centre, totally absorbed in their screens. Phone addiction has become such a thing, that people are being injured or killed because of inattention to their surroundings, preferring to stare at their phones or other devices than watching where they are going. The article showed photos of “zombies” with ripped clothes, zombie makeup and smatterings of fake blood, accosting phone-absorbed people in the streets. The “zombies” went up to the phone-addicts, interrupting their phone time to exhort them of the dangers of too much techno or phone use. The zombies, actors I suppose, were enjoying being disruptive, and the phone-addicts were annoyed at the interruption, while conducting a love affair with their phone/technology device of choice. There is even an expression about the sort of person who keeps checking their phone: it’s a “smartphone zombie” – that’s a pedestrian who walks slowly, not paying attention to their surroundings, because they are focused upon their smartphone. Smartphone zombies can be a safety hazard, for themselves and for others, as distracted pedestrians cause accidents. Apparently, some cities have introduced special lanes for smartphone users to help direct and manage their obsession with phones. I wonder if a new app would help?
Technology and progress
The other item was an Imgflip photo, on a poster, with a picture of dozens (maybe hundreds) of people queuing at a railway platform or somewhere, all staring at their phones. The caption to the photo said: “people complain about me not being progressive in the 21st century... Tell me kiddos, is this the kind of ‘progress’ you speak of?” Research has shown that excessive unproductive use (of phones and techno gadgets) can have negative mental and socio-emotional implications for young people and adults, including reduced mental well-being and sleep disturbances. Social media also produces its addicts, and certain levels of discourtesy and bad behaviour, such as rude language and trolling. If we don’t like social media, just switch off, right? Cutting down phone usage may be as fraught or difficult as other forms of addiction withdrawal. Cutting back is one way, or maybe going “cold turkey”. A digital detox may not only require self-control and planning. You will probably feel compelled to “share” your detox journey on social media. Why not, everything else is shared and discussed, whether we like it or not. Everyone has an opinion, on every little thing, and it doesn’t seem to matter if the respondent or “sharer” has the foggiest idea about the topic, or is completely ignorant. Shove it on SM and off it flies, gathering momentum as it goes.
If a tree falls…
“If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one around to hear it, does it still make a noise?” is a saying which has been around for yonks. This has been called “a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and perception” and has been attributed to George Berkeley. Here is a modern day philosophical thought experiment: “if a blog (social media post) about someone is not seen by that person (because they eschew social media), does it still happen? Yes. If you are the subject of a sledging on social media, even when you don’t join in, it still happens. If an opinion is proffered about someone’s merits, then, sure as god made little green apples, some other fool will join in – offering an opinion, even if they don’t know the person who was maligned. It’s a race to the bottom, cowardly, and hardly smart. What a waste of time. There’s an expression from “the old days” – If you can’t say something to someone’s face (not facebook) don’t say it at all!
Where have all the bees gone?
In November 2006 a commercial beekeeper in the US noticed that some of his hives were mysteriously empty. The infants and queen remained but all the adult worker bees had vanished into thin air. This was the first time Colony Collapse Disorder was identified. More than ten years later and it is still a problem. Most of us have by now heard that the bees are disappearing, but why are they disappearing? And is there anything we can do about it?
What is Colony Collapse Disorder?
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when, in a Mary Celeste-type situation, the majority of the worker bees abandon a hive, leaving behind the queen, plenty of food and only a few adult bees to tend to the queen and her immature young. There are few, if any, dead bees found in hives that have suffered from CCD, the bees appear to simply disappear.
No one cause
In the decade since the American beekeeper found his empty hives much research has been done to identify the cause of CCD. To date the conclusion is that there is no one cause, but rather a host of complex factors that contribute to CCD. Bees are susceptible to what are known as ‘sublethal stressors’, factors that do not kill a bee but impair its ability to forage for food. This can have disastrous consequences for both the individual and the hive.
Although some suspected causes have been almost definitively ruled out, such as contamination from GM pollen and mobile phone radiation, there are many different stressors that are thought to cause CCD. These include pathogens and parasites that have been spread around the world through international trade, monocultural agriculture, the use of pesticides (in particular neonicotinoids), pollution that interferes with the chemical communications in a bee’s brain, and climate change, which affects the bees’ environment.
Together these are all thought to contribute to the breakdown of the bees’ ability to find food, and subsequently the breakdown of the hive.
Why do we need bees?
Bees contribute billions of dollars each year to the global economy and are essential to a healthy agricultural industry.
Bees pollinate one third of the crops that feed us every day, with honey bees being the most prolific pollinators. Without bees we would lose not just vegetables, fruits and flowers but also the grazing pastures that feed most of our livestock. Our available food sources would be reduced to just a few grain species, some fruits, and fish.
What can we do to help the bees?
Scientists around the globe are already working hard to stop CCD. The CSIRO has fitted tiny micro-sensors to thousands of Tasmanian bees to monitor their activity and environment in order to help narrow down specific causes of CCD.
Even if you’re not a scientist fitting tiny backpacks onto bees there are several ways in which you can help the local bee population. As well as being mindful of the pesticides and other chemicals you use, you can plant bee-friendly plants in your garden or even keep bee hives of your own.
Many common garden plants are bee-friendly and planting them helps provide bee populations with a source of food. Plants with simple flowers are the easiest for bees to collect nectar from. The list of bee-friendly plants is long but some of the most common ones are lavender, daisies and asters, sunflowers, borage, and herbs such as thyme, sage
If you’re interested in beekeeping you can also help out by keeping a beehive, of either European honey bees or a native species.
Hobby apiarist Sean Deegan keeps hives of the small native stingless bee and describes it as a rewarding experience. As a hobby he says it is low cost-maintenance, with the initial hive purchase being the main cost, and one that can bring a lot of joy to the owner.
“Other than during extreme temperatures [native stingless bees] are incredibly easy to keep”, he says. “It’s so rewarding watching the bees come and go from the hive and harvesting the occasional jar of honey, [as well as] knowing I am making a positive contribution to the environment”.
The CCD problem has not been solved, nor has a definitive answer
been found, but there are still ways that we as humans can try to help these useful and hardworking little insects until a final solution can be found.
Researching family history
When next in England, I intend to visit the small village of Colnbrook, which is so much part of my
Colnbrook is at the eastern end of the borough of Slough and is directly west of the M25 motorway which separates it from Heathrow Airport. A very different place from when my ancestors lived there with no motorways or airports. Instead it was on the coaching route out of London.
According to Wikipedia, “mentioned in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book, Colnbrook is on the Colne Brook, a tributary of the River Colne, hence Colnbrook. Coaching inns were the village’s main industry. In 1106 the first one was founded by Milo Crispin, named the Hospice (now the Ostrich Inn), the third oldest in England. By 1577 Colnbrook had no fewer than ten coaching inns. Colnbrook’s High Street was on the main London to Bath road and turn off point for Windsor and was used as a resting point for travellers”.
The website relates one gruesome tale. “One 14th-century landlord, Jarman of the Ostrich Inn, installed a large trap door under the bed in the best bedroom located immediately above the inn’s kitchen. The bed was fixed to the trap door and the mattress securely attached to the bedstead, so that when two retaining iron pins were removed from below in the small hours of the morning, the sleeping guest was neatly decanted into a boiling cauldron. In this way more than 60 of his richer guests were murdered silently and with no bloodshed. Their bodies were then disposed of in the River Colne. The murder of a wealthy clothier, Olde Cole or Thomas of Reading, proved to be Jarman’s undoing in that he failed to get rid of Cole’s horse, leading to his confessing. Jarman and his wife were hanged for robbery and murder. The inn is reportedly haunted and has been subject to investigations by the Sussex Paranormal Research Group and Most Haunted. On an episode of Ghosthunters International that aired in 2010, it is mentioned that the Jarman murders at the Ostrich Inn were the inspiration for the story of Sweeney Todd. Colnbrook is also the place where Richard Cox (a retired brewer), in 1825, first grafted the Cox’s Orange Pippin apple at his orchard named The Lawns.”
But I have other reasons to go to Colnbrook. I have always known that my great-grandfather was born there along with many members of the extended family. Being a keen genealogist, as soon as more information was available online, I intensified
My mother’s grandfather, George Seward, was born in 1854 and lived until 1930, so my mother knew him in his later years. She told me, “Grandad was a gardener. After he retired he ran a nursery, in Worthing.” We even have pictures of George and his wife Elizabeth with my mother.
But he was certainly no ‘jobbing gardener’, because what Mum did not know until I started researching the family history, and found a testimonial, was that in later years he was Head Gardener at Park Place in Henley with 15 under-gardeners. He oversaw the extensive hot houses, fruit and kitchen gardens. No mean feat with 570 acres of parks
Park Place is now Britain’s most expensive home, with 30,000 square feet of indoor space, and was last sold for a record £140m. The main house dates from the early 18th century, and was once owned by Frederick, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of George II. The ghost of Mary Blandy, accused of murder, is said to haunt the grounds.
The gardens are magnificent in the photographs still available, and many of the very mature trees would have been planted in my great-grandfather’s time, maybe by him?
However, part of George’s history which I discovered, would have shocked my mother. Certificates prove that George was born four years after we know his father died! His birth certificate just has his mother Mary listed. Sometimes we need to be very careful about what we disclose to elderly relatives. There would have been no benefit in sharing that knowledge with my mum! Always something to be aware of. Sometimes it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie!
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