Worse than Chernobyl

Yesterday, New Scientist posted an interesting news item on the Soviet nuclear tests at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan in the 1950s.

The tests were known about, but what’s new is that New Scientist have seen a hitherto unknown secret Soviet document containing scientific evidence of the effects of the tests; something which was hushed up at the time.

Needless to say the tests were conducted with total disregard to the local population. The Soviets knew this – even setting up a (disguised) research institute to monitor the medical effects – but carried on regardless. As a result it seems the effects produced a worse human “disaster” than Chernobyl.

Read the full news item at New Scientist.

The Knee’s Progress

[If you don’t like things medical, look away now.]

Just for those crazy people out there who might be interested in the progress of the knee, following the total replacement op on 28 December … it’s doing very well. And just t prove it, here are the pictures:

9 days
9 days after the operation
just after having the dressing removed
14 days
14 days after the operation
when the final dressing was removed
4 weeks
After 4 weeks
7 weeks
After 7 weeks
effectively fully healed although still some swelling


Just a quick post as I must log today’s result — and indeed those of the last week.

I’m currently in the usual cycle of medical things. Let’s go back to last Thursday, 9 February …

Thursday. Physiotherapy session for the new knee. Although I’ve had a flu-like bug (not full flu nor a head cold), so I haven’t done a lot of exercises, the knee is progressing well. I no longer need a stick; I’m walking easily; and taking very few pain killers. The Physio is delighted, especially as the flex on my knee is 119° — he says a “fairy tale” knee replacement would be 125°. Now to concentrate on a handful of the exercises to rebuild strength and extension; and see him in a month probably for a final session.

Friday. Horribly early appointment with surgeon for the 6-week check-up on the knee. Surgeon is equally delighted. The scar has healed well; the flexibility is good; the extension is already better than it was (it is now about the same as my left knee). Book another appointment for 6 months time and we can discuss doing the left knee.

This is followed by going to the supermarket with Noreen for the weekly shop. I walk round half the store before retiring to drink coffee. That’s more than I’ve been able to do for over a year.

Tuesday. Two meetings about things to do with our GP’s patient group (PPG; of which I’m Chairman): one with the Practice Manager and the other with CCG people. Good results and progress from both on ways the PPG can work with the Practice and the CCG. Downside: more work for me over the next 6 months.

Today. This afternoon I’ve had an appointment at the big health centre where our local cottage hospital once was. This is my annual diabetic retinal eye screening — that’s where they take a picture of the back of your eye to see if there is any damage. [The image is one of my scans from last summer.] This means drops in the eyes to dilate the pupils so they get a good view — and then you’re semi-blind for the rest of the day. Well usually that’s what happens, except today it didn’t. The charming young lady technician went through all the usual checks, plus can you read the chart (yes, even the bottom row with my glasses on). She was about to put the drops in my eyes but said “Oh your pupils are already well dilated. We might be able to get the pictures without the drops”. Excellent; let’s go for it. And yes, she got all four pictures (two for each eye, at different angles) first time, without any drops. Results in a couple of weeks, but no reason they should be abnormal. I was out 10 minutes before my appointment time!

So I’m home. And I’m not blind. Which is great as dilated pupils give me something like mild travel sickness. The downside is that I don’t have an excuse to be idle for the rest of the day.

So lots of wins!

Next week it’s hearing aid check-up time. I need another result there too.

Monthly Links

Apologies that due to an incursion of lurgy this month’s collection of links is somewhat late. Anyway here goes …

Science & Medicine

Unlike most other animals, roughly 90% of humans are right-handed. But why?

Another peculiarity of humans is that we are one of only a handful of species which has an appendix. Again, why?

Evidence is emerging that women with severe PMS, called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), really do have an aberrant cellular response to their hormones.

How do doctors measure pain? Answer: inconsistently. And they’re trying to understand this better. [Long read]

I suspect most people don’t notice the pigeons around them, but there are three which are common in the UK: the feral pigeon (rock dove), wood pigeon, and collared dove. The first two are genuine natives, but the collard dove is a recent arrival from Asia which set out to conquer Europe.


Ten things you probably didn’t know about the clitoris.
The here and there of (female) pubic hair through the ages.

On attitudes to masturbation in a relationship.

The BFI now has an archive of erotic films covering the late nineteenth century to around 1960s.


And bridging seamlessly into the really historical, it seems the Ancient Chinese were into sex toys, just as much as modern generations.

Researchers are getting really quite good at dating ancient objects and events. An ancient volcanic eruption has now been firmly dated using fossilised tree rings.

The myth of Medieval Small Beer — no, everyone didn’t drink beer, rather than water, in olden days.

Someone has found what is alleged to be the long-lost skirt from one of Queen Elizabeth I’s dresses being used as a church alter cloth.

A research student has been able to uncover the movements and exploits of a Renaissance spy, who successfully masqueraded as a garden designer to the rich and powerful.


Each year IanVisits provides a calendar of the gun salutes in London for the year.
Crossrail have unearthed yet more archaeology in an unexpected place: jammed and pickled under the old Astoria nightclub.

There’s a section of tunnel under the Thames on the Northern line tube which was bombed and flooded in 1940. And it is still sealed shut.

To go with the previous item, here are a few vintage pictures of London tube stations.

And, just in time for your next pub quiz, here are a few things you may not know about London buses.


Some thoughts on how to talk meaningfully with children. And not just children, I suggest.

Even the most macho bloke has his bit of feminine. Here are some on the feminine things men would do if they thought they wouldn’t be judged for it.

Unless you’re doing a really dirty job (like down a coal mine) it’s likely you’re showering much too often for the good of your skin.

And finally … Just what did those prudish Victorians have to hide?

More next month.

Taboo Vocabulary

I’ve been going on, for a long time, about how we need to normalise nudity and sexuality, and become much more familiar and at ease with our bodies and bodily functions.

Apropos this I recently caught up with a July 2016 press release from The Eve Appeal, who are a charity devoted to fighting women’s cancers.

The press release reports on research they conducted into women’s, specifically young women’s, knowledge of their sexual anatomy, language and attitudes. The results are quite worrying.

Almost two-thirds of young women have problems using words such as “vagina” and “vulva” and only half of 26-35 year-olds are able to locate the vagina (compared with 80% of 66-75 years-olds).

But it gets worse …

It’s not just a knowledge gap … the data also showed a distinct difference in attitudes towards talking about gynaecological health issues … more than one in ten of 16-35 year olds said they found it very hard to talk to their GPs about gynaecological health concerns, and nearly a third admitted that they had avoided going to the doctors altogether with gynaecological issues due to embarrassment …

These findings are in direct contrast with the popular misconception that society is more open these days, making it much easier for women of younger generations to talk about gynaecological health.

I find this very worrying. It means there is a huge section of the population who are at much higher risk than need be of serious gynaecological health issues.

And according to Men’s Health Forum, men are no better about knowledge of, and attitudes to, their genital equipment. So don’t go getting all smug, guys!

I dread to think how bad is the knowledge of the other sex’s anatomy and the naming of parts. Or of normal bodily functions like menstruation.

We just have to change this! We have to get everyone much more familiar with their bodies — with bodies of all sizes, shapes and genders. We have to teach people the correct, as well as the incorrect and slang, names for body parts. We have to overcome the embarrassment and the knowledge gap.

There is really no reason for us to be embarrassed, because medical professionals aren’t — they’ve seen it all before. When I was in hospital recently for my knee operation I had a conversation with one of the (more mature) nurses, who remarked that they all, very early on in their careers, stop seeing genitals in any sexual way; they just become another piece of body no different from a finger or toe. And that is how it should be; just another part of a body. Until one gets into a specifically intimate and sexual situation.

It is also important that we teach when it’s appropriate to use various terms. While “penis”, “vulva”, “testicles”, “anus” are appropriate for a medical context, “prick”, “cunt”, “balls” and “arse” (although perfectly good Anglo-Saxon words) are much better kept for more intimate, private or jocular occasions. And even greater circumlocutory euphemisms are best abandoned completely.

Moreover, if we were all more attuned to, and comfortable with, our intimate anatomy how much more difficult it would become (and we would make it) for sexual predators/abusers. It would be much easier for (potential) victims to speak up, either at the time or afterwards. How much easier would it be for us to fight against female (and indeed male) genital mutilation and to reduce STIs.

I don’t know how we do this piece of public education, especially when we are starting from a base of such poor knowledge and attitudes. What I do know is that the responsibility has to lie with both parents and teachers. Actually it lies with all of us … we all need to use the correct words and not be frightened to do so.

If we can achieve this I feel sure it will result in much better health for all of us, because there will be no stigma in discussing “sensitive” subjects with medical professionals, or indeed with each other, just as we are all comfortable talking about ears, eyes, knees and backache.

It beats me why we can’t just do this.

Knees Up

[Skip this if you don’t like things medical.]

For anyone who wants to know what a total knee replacement looks like 2 weeks post-op, here’s mine today just after having removed the dressing. Slightly longer scar than I had been led to expect, but no stiches/clips but glue. Still swollen and uncomfortable, but definitely on the mend.

Click the image for a larger view, if you dare

Notice about 2/3rds the way down the incision, a small scar on each side where I had arthroscopy some 10 or more years ago.

Your Monthly Links

Here’s this month’s instalment of links to items of interest, or amusement, you may have missed he first time round.

Science & Medicine

Who thought leprosy was only a biblical and medieval affliction? Well it ain’t, ‘cos it seems British red squirrels carry leprosy — only the third known species after humans and nine-banded armadillos.

Who’d be a scientist’s cat? Not content with abuse by Schrödinger, scientists continue to drop cats in aid properly understanding their self-righting mechanism.

Trees do it in secret. Communicate, that is. Ecologist Peter Wohlleben thinks he knows what trees feel and how they communicate. It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.

The Guardian has a very interesting page which (goes some way) to showing you how visually impaired people see the world.

So why is it that French mothers don’t suffer from bladder incontinence? It sounds deeply dodgy, but it does appear to be a thing.

So there was this contemporary of Isaac Newton who produced the foundations of the current Information Age. Yes, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.


So here’s yet another article suggesting that women don’t actually know what orgasm is. I had hoped we’d got past all this by now!


So here are ten things about our cutest invasive species: cats. If they weren’t so cute they’d not get away with half what they do.

There’s an interesting new theory about how the brown rat has conquered every city around the globe.


Oxford University Press have recently published a massive new dictionary. It lists every surname found in the UK (including imported ones like Patel) which is held by 100 or more people. That’s almost 50,000. Not just that, but the OUP and academics have done deep research into all these names to determine their origins, often finding previously unknown documentary evidence. Want a copy? OK, well it’s four volumes and will set you back £400. But they reckon there will be an online accessible version.

Art & Literature

Prepare to be amazed. Artist Charles Young has created a complete animated metropolis from paper.


It seems the Romans really were ahead of the game. Researchers have discovered metallic ink used on some of the scrolls from Herculaneum (neighbour of Pompeii). That’s around 500 years earlier than previously thought.

Birth by C-section is rather (too?) common these days. But in days of yore, before modern medicine, C-sections were only performed in order to save a child by sacrificing the mother. It was rare for the mother to survive. But new evidence suggests that Beatrice of Bourbon survived a C-section as early as 1337. The previous record was of a Swiss case in 1500.


London blogger IanVisits walks the route London’s Roman Wall.

In which Diamond Geezer considers becoming a London cabbie.

Many pubs have dutiful dogs to look after them, but there are London pubs with characterful cats too.


Just in case you hadn’t realised, there are actually good scientific reasons why you should always be naked. What’s more I can vouch for this from personal experience.

It seems we have it all wrong about addiction. We need to build “rat heaven” for humans rather than prison cells, as this video explains.

To quote poet Philip Larkin: They fuck you up, your mum and dad / They may not mean to, but they do / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you. So yes, here are 30 ways in which your childhood can affect your success as an adult. Which explains a lot.

I have a dream that one day the medical profession will make up their minds about alcohol consumption. Now some new research suggests a beer a day helps prevent stroke and heart disease.

Not content with London, Diamond Geezer takes an away-day to Lowestoft, Mrs M’s home town.

Shock, Horror, Humour

And finally … it seems that in the Middle Ages witches stole penises and kept them as pets or even grew them on trees as fruit. [The mind boggles over whether the fruit would be sold by the butcher or the greengrocer!]

More next month …

Nudity. Why Not?

Yesterday, in between doing lots of other interesting things (which I’m not allowed to write about, at least yet) and having a day off, I came across a thoughtful piece of journalism on nudity.

In The Scientific Reasons Why You Should Just Always Be Naked Lauren Martin looks at some of the evidence in favour of accepting nudity. OK, it’s American — although that doesn’t make it any less valid elsewhere — not greatly detailed and is written with many questions in order to challenge our prejudices and taboos.

It is well worth reading the whole article, but here is the essence:

Things are only taboo because we make them that way.
… … …
Nudity is a taboo … because we primarily equate nudity or nakedness with sexuality and we have taboos about sexuality.
… … …
What would happen if we accepted our bodies the same way we accepted everything else? What would happen if we stopped covering up and started stripping down? What would happen if we all just let our bodies hang out in the open and didn’t hide them …?
… … …
There’s … no denying … that if we could get past our childish perversions and accept nudity as a basic and natural human form, there would be a lot less “deviousness” and fewer obsessions with the human body — and we could all just stop caring so much about it.
… … …
If men … were exposed to nudity on a normal, everyday basis, they wouldn’t fantasize and obsess over it the way 14-year-olds do at the sight of their first breast … By making nakedness an ordinary, matter-of-fact, common experience, unassociated with sexuality, the unhealthy prurient interest in pornography would be considerably lessened.
Imagine if men were desensitized to the female body … Imagine if men stopped putting all their time and energy into seeing women naked and just learned to live side-by-side with them?
… … …
Imagine if we all just looked at each other the way God made us without any implications or idealized notions of the perfect body? … it’s our clothing that creates our insecurities and inability to accept and love each other the way we should.
… … …
What if we’d grown up in a nude household? What if we’d been taught from a young age nudity is natural [and] beautiful?
… children exposed to nudity from a young age became … unfazed by the human body later in life and sometimes, psychologically stronger because of it … children raised around nudity [grow] up with a higher body self-concept … coming from a nudist family [plays] a more significant role in the children’s positive self body-image than their race, gender, or area of the country in which they lived.
… … …
Humans donned clothing to keep away parasites and filth, yet only created breeding grounds for different types of infections and disease … Along with infertility rates and Lyme disease, clothes also contribute to yeast infections and UTIs.
… … …
It seems arbitrary, but walking around barefoot increases brain flexibility. It doesn’t just make you feel young again, it makes your brain feel young again.

I was brought up in a household where nudity was natural and pornography was seen as a healthy part of life’s rich pattern (but violence and abuse were definitely not acceptable). To this day nudity and pornography don’t faze me — and I fail to understand the taboos around sexuality. I’ve long been an advocate of mixed student residences and mixed changing rooms — if we were all well adjusted to nudity and our bodies this should not be a concern for anyone (but until we are it will be).

I spend time in the nude when I can and I know I have a lot fewer problems with yeast infections and so on because of it. Despite admonishment from the medics I do spend almost all my time at home barefoot (it has to be really cold for me to put socks on) because fresh air is not only better for the feet (see yeast infections, above) but there is thought to be a protective effect against dementia.

So there you have it. An article which looks at some of the evidence and comes out supporting what I’ve been saying for nearly 50 years! Nudity is healthy, mentally and physically, and embracing it would benefit all of us both individually and as a society.

So what really is so special about nudity that we have to make a taboo out of it? Nothing! Get over it.

PS. As an example of how daft all this is, it took me longer to find a suitable illustration for this post than it did to actually write the thing!

Your Interesting Links

Science & Medicine

The medical profession has come to the conclusion that there are at least 40 common treatments which are not necessary (or don’t do any good).

In an interesting study, researchers conclude that there might be a relationship between migraines and gut bacterial species.

AIDS was brought to the USA by one promiscuous homosexual in 1980-81, right? Wrong; it had been there undetected for years!

So that’s how thy mummified the Egyptians.

Yes, cats obviously do get high on catnip, but not for long.

When is a monkey like a human? When it make stone tools. Yes, monkeys have been discovered making sharp stone tools, but do they know what they’re doing?

Lads, eat your heart out! This newly discovered millipede has four penises — but also 414 legs to get in the way.

OK, so from the animal to the mineral … Scientists have accidentally discovered how to turn CO2 into fuel.

As if we hadn’t guessed it, an ancient book confirms that the whole of the Himalayas is an earthquake zone.


The River Severn looks set to see Henry III’s favourite fish, the Shad, return after a project to install fish passes at a number of weirs gets funding.


A Stone Age dog’s tooth provides evidence of the UK’s earliest known journey.

The Museum of London has acquired a rare and unusual document: verbatim minutes of a report to Parliament on the Great Fire of 1666.

William Hogarth, entrepreneurial Londoner.
It seems no-one knew there were some huge holes underneath the Clifton Suspension Bridge.


What Is London’s Oldest Church? Define “oldest”. Define “church” even.

It seems that procrastination and fudge are not the preserve of modern major civil engineering wroks. Here’s a brief history of the Regent’s Canal.

And the same again for the Underground’s Northern Line.

London has a new museum. It’s out at Pinner and celebrates the illustrator William Heath Robinson. Diamond Geezer when to investigate. [PS. The chiropractor mentioned is my osteopath.]

A Heath Robinson landscape painting

Westminster Bridge holds some secrets; here are 11 of them.

And another well kept secret is St Paul Cathedral’s triforium. Yet again, IanVisits went to see.

There are many facts about London, and indeed many about the Underground. Here are some Underground facts that aren’t.

Somewhere near Perivale there’s a fighter plane on a rooftop. except tat it isn’t always there.

Finally for this section, a happy 10th birthday to one of our favourite London blogs, IanVisits.


How to confuse yourself about nothing and also about emptiness. Well that’s Zen for you!

Food & Drink

You mean you didn’t know that you shouldn’t put tomatoes in the fridge? Tut, tut!

Shock, Horror, Humour

Following on from our first item, here are 40 worthless everyday things you can stop doing right now.

More next month.