Monday, 1 December 2014

December Miscellany

On December the first 1919, Lady Nancy Astor (presumably she was not yet a lady, at least in the sense of being ‘raised’ to the peerage) took her seat in the House of Commons; the first woman MP.

It was also on December the first — I can’t offhand remember in which year — that a brave black woman in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her seat to some boor of a white man. She was arrested for breaking Alabama’s racial segregation laws, and this led to a boycott of the bus service by black people. This was a seminal event in the struggle for racial equality; a struggle that as recent events in the benighted United States of America show all too clearly is still going on.

About this time in 1974, palaeoanthropologists in Africa found the skeleton of ‘Lucy’, who had been half-woman half-ape. That is an over-simplification I fear: we can’t exactly say that Lucy was the great-great-great…grandmother of us all, but the discovery was palaeoanthropologically (now there’s a nice word, which I just made up and must add to my Microsoft Word’s semi-literate dictionary) very important. She is called Lucy because the discoverer was listening to ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts' Club Band’ on his Sony Walkman at the time.

Readers may remember that a week or two ago I reported the arrival here in this little Greek island of a boat overloaded with Syrian refugees. According to statistics compiled by, I think, an American organization, there are now some 30,000 Syrian refugees in Greece, and their situation is desperate: they daren’t go back to Syria, indeed it would, quite rightly, be illegal for the Greek authorities to send them back. But the law does not allow them to leave Greece, because they have no papers. The Greek authorities will not give them any papers, nor will they allow them to work. So many of them are cold, wet, hungry, and homeless.

Here is a somewhat speculative picture of what Lucy may have looked like: I think she is the one on the left.

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