Last week, the Mayor of New York, Bill De Blasio, announced free access to health care for all New Yorkers. For British citizens a universal right to free health care might not sound radical – it is something those of us under the age of seventy have enjoyed our entire lives. But medical bills are the single biggest cause of bankruptcy in the USA. Having witnessed some of those closest to me requiring urgent access to our free British National Health Service over three successive New Years, I am in full agreement with the Mayor when he says that “[h]ealthcare is a right not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it”, but also reminded that it is a “right” that most global citizens do not actually enjoy.
Ms Markontour has not been well in the New Year, but the one upside is that we have had lots of time to discover and catch up on Curious Under The Stars, a magical and uplifting BBC radio drama. Having the privilege of sitting listening to it while gazing out on to the ever-beautiful landscape of the Brecon Beacons has made it all the more enchanting.
Earlier this week I awoke to see a field of lost clouds, a huge bank of them, gently swirling in the valley beyond our front window, separated from their brethren who were floating in their rightful places in the sky above the Welsh hills.
This year’s Festive Fifteen, my annual round-up of the best new songs I have had the pleasure of hearing this year, is the product of a multitude of influences. I discovered three of the artists at the wonderful Green Man Festival in Wales. Five tracks reached my ears courtesy of the ever-wonderful BBC Radio 6 (6 Music if you must). Only three were record shop recommendations, probably the smallest total in my decade of Festive Fifteens, and a sure sign that I am not spending enough time in those educational establishments. But that is balanced by the fact that I have enjoyed live shows by more than half of the featured artists – a very healthy state of affairs.
I had a litter picker for my birthday – the grabber thing that means you don’t have to bend down to pick things up. It’s not a sign of premature ageing (I’m still in my late youth, you know), but Ms Markontour had noted the rising frequency with which I come through the front door grumbling about all the mess in our street and decided to provide me with the means to do something about it. Today I tried it out for the first time and now Bakers Avenue is going to win Britain’s Cleanest Street!
Just above the Peak District village of Castleton there lurks a very large cave. So large, in fact, that it would take several days of crawling in the dark if one were foolhardy enough to try and traverse its entire thirteen mile extent. Those, like markontour, who regard such exploits as very much for other people to enjoy, can nevertheless experience some of the beauty of the caves from the relative safety of an entrance known as The Devil’s Arse.
Gruff Rhys is an artist who specialises in creating something new, unique and wonderful at least once a year. Markontour and other fans of the band which brought him to indie-fame were distraught when the Super Furry Animals went on hiatus in 2010, but left to his own devices Gruff Rhys ventured off in all kinds of interesting directions. Last night we had the pleasure of seeing him in his latest incarnation, a seer of dystopia, performing his new album, Babelsberg, in front of a rapt Oxford audience.