Where the snail leads…

… the BBC follows!

For the second time in a week the BBC has featured something that I wrote about some time ago.

Stuffed and ready to go

Stuffed and ready to go

First it was the knitted knockers on BBC Breakfast and now it’s microbeads on Springwatch. Last night whilst I was busily stuffing knockers and crocheting roses to accompany them, one of the BBC’s popular wildlife shows featured a piece on those tiny balls of plastic that are increasingly found in cosmetics and personal hygiene products. I didn’t see the piece myself when first broadcast, but was alerted to it when references started appearing on my Twitter feed to microplastics and #banthebead. I sincerely hope that the effect on microbeads is as significant as it has been on knockers (requests are still flooding onto our orders board).

If you are in the UK, you can watch the programme featuring microbeads here; the relevant section starts around 47 minutes 35 seconds.

Whilst I’m not a big viewer of television, I am heartened to see the positive effect of this sort of publicity. Being featured on a popular TV show can be a real boon to a charity or campaign, although the response can be a little overwhelming. So, the question is… what shall I write about next in the hope that the BBC feature it as a subject?



The truth

Marvellous thing that it is, there are down-sides to the internet… it’s a massive repository of information, but it is up to the individual reader to determine the validity of what they read. The same is true, of course, of books, but with the printed word, it’s much slower and resource-demanding to circulate information – whether true or false. On the internet, however, any purported ‘fact’ can go viral and appear to be  ‘truth’ by mere repetition.

Discerning users of social media are painfully aware of this. It is always a good idea to check that story your ‘friends’ all posted on Facebook before you give it further credence by posting it yourself. There are lots of sites where you can check out offers/stories/video links to see if they are genuine: try Hoax-Slayer or Snopes. But my advice is to be skeptical… do you REALLY think that Land Rover are going to give away two brand new vehicles via Facebook? Of course they aren’t, it’s just someone trying to get your contact details (at the very least).

Mr Gillette's amazing 'castle'... in Connecticut when we were there

Mr Gillette’s amazing ‘castle’… in Connecticut when we were there in 2008

However, here are sites that we instinctively trust because we think that the parent institution/company is legitimate. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is probably the sort of organisation that one could consider to be reliable. I was a little surprised this morning, therefore, to read a ‘fact’ on the BBC website that I knew to be incorrect. The piece I was reading was about William Gillette… you probably haven’t heard of him, but I knew quite a bit about the man before I read the article. He was the actor who created the ‘look’ of Sherlock Holmes as we generally envisage him (or at least we did until Benedict Cumberbatch came along and transformed the character in the recent BBC series)… you know, deer stalker hat, hooked pipe, fancy dressing gowns. Well, this morning there was a story about the fact that a film of Mr Gillette performing as Sherlock Holmes had been found that was previously considered lost forever. Of course, there was lots of info about Gillette, including reference to the grand ‘castle’ he had built in North Carolina. Well, I’ve visited Gillette Castle and, at the time, it was definitely in Connecticut! I messaged the BBC with the correction and within an hour the change had been made.

Now, this may only seem like a minor thing – what does the location of a ‘castle’ matter one way or another? But it got me thinking. I often believe what I read because I assume the information to be from a reliable source. But if the BBC makes mistakes like this – what else might they be getting wrong? I’m not saying that it’s deliberate, just that when you have a huge website and churn out dozens of stories every day, how much time is actually spent checking and researching them? A book lasts a long time and so getting the contents right is important, but a web page can be changed from one minute to the next – so how much emphasis is put on getting everything right first time?

Food for thought next time you read a report in any of the media, but especially the internet.

… oh, and if you are ever in Connecticut, go and visit Gillette Castle – it’s fascinating and the staff are wonderful.

The value of a life

I really don't want to end up somewhere like this!

About 150,000 people died yesterday

Many people died yesterday… in every country there were deaths. Some people died of old age, some as a result of an accident or an illness, some tragically and some peacefully. In total, about 150,000 people died in the world yesterday. Of course the media cannot report all of those deaths, and we are more likely to hear of the deaths of individuals from our own country than those from overseas, but yesterday really highlighted to me how the current cult of celebrity has skewed the lives that we, apparently, value… or at least that the media values.

Last night we watched the news at 10pm on the BBC. The main story was the death of Peaches Geldof – daughter of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates. Clearly a tragic death – she was only 25 and had two young children. Probably her greatest claim to fame was her famous parents, although she had (probably as a result of having famous parents) been a model, TV presenter and written for various newspapers and magazines. The BBC web site currently features a link to a piece about the death of Peaches Geldof on its front page.

Much later in the same news bulletin last night the deaths of two British women in Tenerife were briefly reported: Uma Ramalingam and Barathi Ravikumar drowned trying to save two children who had been swept into the sea. Mrs Ramalingam was a consultant obstetrician and Dr Ravikumar was a GP. The children were rescued but both women drowned. I had to search for a story about these two women on the BBC web site today.

In addition, yesterday the Rev. Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit priest who ‘became a symbol of suffering and compassion in the war-ravaged Old City district of Homs, Syria’ was shot dead. According to The New York Times ‘After Syrian government forces isolated and laid siege to the rebel-held Old City for more than a year, a truce in January allowed the evacuation of 1,500 people, both civilians and fighters. But Father Frans, as he was known, insisted on remaining in the monastery where he had lived for decades, offering refuge to Muslim and Christian families alike and sharing their deprivation and trauma.’ This story did not even merit mention on the BBC TV news last night… and today I only found a report on the BBC web site because I searched for the priest’s name.

And what of all those who died yesterday as a result of the conflict in Syria? At least that’s a situation we hear a little about here in the UK on the news. Other conflicts and those who lose their lives as a result get almost no coverage. The web site Wars in the World currently lists the warring hotspots in Africa as: Central African Republic (civil war), Democratic Republic of Congo (war against rebel groups), Egypt (popular uprising against Government), Mali (war against Tuareg and Islamist militants), Nigeria (war against Islamist militants), Somalia (war against Islamist militants), Sudan (war against rebel groups) and South Sudan (civil war). And that’s just one continent. There are people dying in all of those countries (and many more) and we barely hear of the conflicts, let alone the deaths.

Now, I don’t want to play down the death of any one individual, but I am appalled that our cult of celebrity gives such prominence to the passing of one young woman and pays so little attention to massacres of innocents. Perhaps our newspapers and TV stations need to remember the value of all lives and give some prominence to those who had so little chance to speak up for themselves even when they were alive.

I’d like to think that we would value every life and that the passing of each person is mourned, just as I’d like to think that each person should be valued and cherished when they are alive… whoever they are, wherever they come from and whether or not the media deems them to be ‘important’.


Bad maths

Do you believe everything you hear? Probably not, but there are some sources that we consider more reliable than others… here in the UK, you would expect the British Broadcasting  Corporation (BBC) to get their facts right. Sadly this is not the case…

Watching the news on the TV this lunchtime, we were presented with a report about the CEO of Sainsbury’s supermarket stepping down after 10 years. During that time, we were told, he had overseen a massive increase in business. They gave us some figures:

10 million extra customers each week

That sounds high, I commented. Too right, said Mr Snail-of-happiness. So we did our sums:

Let's play with some numbers

We didn’t need our abacus!

10 years = 10 x 52 weeks = 520 weeks

10,000,000 x 520 = 5,200,000,000

The current population of the world is around 7,200,000,000

So, if we believe the BBC, Sainsbury’s has increased it’s customers by around 5/7 of the entire world population. That’s the increase, mind… they obviously had some customers before that.

Do you still believe everything you hear?


This post is dedicated to Nerd in the Brain and her continuing quest to encourage numeracy.

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