I was invited by Robbie Cheadle at https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com to participate in the Anything but Books tag. Read her thoughts here: https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/2017/11/26/anything-but-books-tag/
I want to thank Robbie by dedicating a song to her.
No, I am not going to sing.
Yes, I heard your collective sigh of relief.
‘Cat Black the Wizard’s Hat’ is one of Bolan’s most sublime nursery rhyme lyrics (included on You-Tube).
As for the other questions… Sorry, I am profoundly uninteresting. I would leave you bored. All I can manage is…
Q2. What is your favourite [Christmas] song right now?
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen sung by Annie Lennox on her A Christmas Cornucopia (2010). Fans argue it is the greatest Christmas album ever. I agree, even though I doubt Michael Bubble or Mariah Carey do.
Lennox says in the album notes…
‘Carols tell ancient stories. They are timeless and lasting. While I don’t personally subscribe to any specific religion, I believe the heart of all religious faith has to be rooted in love and compassion otherwise it serves no purpose.’
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is often mispunctuated because the phrase ‘Rest Ye Merry’ from the 1500s has long since fell out of use. It makes the carol one of the earliest we have. First printed in 1760, the words we sing today date from 1833. (The earliest carol is probably the medieval Coventry Carol, also on the album.)
Lennox captures the early feel with a sparse arrangement: penny whistle, hurdy-gurdy, positive organ and tabor drum: popular instruments used by travelling ‘gleemen’ such as the troop portrayed in the video.
On A Christmas Cornucopia Lennox added her song Universal Child : all profits from which go to SING – the Annie Lennox Foundation – helping support HIV work especially in Africa among children.
The 1st December was International Aids Day.
Now I intend to follow the advice of the great eccentric and self-proclaimed ‘One of the Stately Homos of England’, the remarkable Mr Quentin Crisp.
Crisp lived in London during the intolerant 1930s and 40s. Refusing to be cowed, he flagrantly displayed his effeminate homosexuality through mannerisms, clothes and by hennaing his long luxuriant locks. Needless to say, he had an extraordinarily tough time. In old age, the gay liberation movement made him an icon. Known for his wit, one of his sayings always stayed with me.
‘Let us say,’ he said, ‘you have a geography examination. Naturally you spend all night learning about Italy, only to discover to your horror the question on the paper reads: What are the major exports of China?
‘In such a case,’ he advised, ‘begin… China is unlike Italy…’
In other words write what you know.
Given we have just had International Aids Day…
I do not want to rehash the tragedy that destroyed a generation. Mourn the millions who died in a backlash of ignorance and prejudice. Or lament the millions still dying in parts of the world for want of effective drugs (costing pennies) that have reduced this once killer disease to a treatable condition.
This is merely the biography of a retrovirus.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus destroys the immune system meaning the body, unable to fight off infection, succumbs to opportunistic diseases which any healthy immune system would effortlessly shake off.
Viruses are notorious for jumping species. Natural selection favours any mutation enabling it to replicate within a new host. This is how Asian Flu spread.
In rural China, farmers lived in cheek by jowl with their pigs and chickens. Avian Flu would jump species becoming Swine Flu. Because we have a similar physiology to pigs, Swine Flu jumped to humans. Travelling across the world on commercial shipping lanes, all the time mutating, it eventually returned to China to infect birds with a new Avian Flu strain; starting a new cycle.
Simian Immunodeficiency Virus evolved some 32,000 years ago in African primates. Originally it was probably as devastating as the human version to monkeys and apes. Whole populations died. But some were immune. As the survivors bred, their resistance grew until African primates were not significantly affected by SIV. However Asian monkeys were never infected and so never developed immunity. If an Indian macaque contracts SIV it develops the equivalent to human Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome.
Genetic studies show the Simian virus mutated into the human form on a number of different occasions.
Initially some suggested, well shall we say, monkey business. Yes. I also thought all scientists with those views were tried in Nuremburg in 1946. Apparently not!
SIV has affected humans in sub-Saharan Africa for thousands of years, without causing any epidemic. The virus was probably spread through bush meat. Not so much eating, but the danger from blood contamination during butchering.
Genetic studies point to the emergence of modern HIV in the colonial Belgian Congo in the 1880s, when large numbers of young men came to work in boom towns, mines, docks and plantations or in forced labour camps. Poor working conditions, as with Europe at the time, led to suppressed immune systems, providing easy prey for opportunistic viruses.
Bush meat was a ready source of food. Large numbers of workers were inoculated against smallpox and sleeping sickness with the same hypodermic needles, due to poor hygiene. As always with large numbers of young men, with money to burn, and women and alcohol on hand, things got free and easy.
With hindsight, epidemiologists have identified HIV in 1959 preserved tissue samples from the Congo; a Haitian shipping clerk who died in New York, and ex Navy man who died in England from immune system failure.
It is now thought the disease entered the USA from Haiti around 1969; already being established in Haiti in 1966 when a mini-epidemic occurred. Tissue samples from a St. Louis teenager who died in 1969 revealed HIV.
In the mid-1970s a Norwegian sailor, his wife and 7 year old daughter all died of AIDS. Records show the man contracted a venereal disease in West Africa in the early 1960s.
At the time these were puzzling anomalies. The virus was not identified until 1983.
Despite strange conspiracy theories, such as HIV being an engineered biological weapon, the virus behaves the same as other viruses. 1% of humans possess total or partial resistance, just as a small number of primates were immune to SIV. In 1994 Stephen Crohn was found to have a genetic mutation that made him immune to HIV. He later took his own life. In 2007 Timothy Brown was cured of HIV with a stem cell transplant, given to treat leukaemia.
After tens of thousands of years of devastating mortality, SIV became harmless to primates. With the same time frame, and the near extermination of the human race, HIV would become harmless to us. Something similar happened before. 70,000 years ago humans were reduced to under a 1,000 breeding pairs, from whom we are all descended. There is no evidence what caused that human population collapse.