Weekendish: Hay fever discovered and Ganges swimming
- 4 July 2014
A collection of some of the best reads from the BBC News website this week, with an injection of your comments.
Sewage, industrial waste and the remains of partially cremated bodies - this is what you might encounter in the River Ganges if you swam in it. Why would anyone want to do that, you might ask. Well, around the ancient city of Varanasi, hundreds of children take the swimming lessons every summer, from April into the rainy season, in addition to the thousands who wash or bathe in the holy river at other times of day. The parents appear to assume that because the river is holy, nothing will happen to their children. "The water is unique," says swimming coach Pramod Sahni. "Once you drink you want to drink again." Sound advice? Find out in The river where swimming lessons can be a health hazard. Warning for the faint hearted, there is a picture of a rat. It is dead. Geography Dept tweets: Effects of industrialisation and urbanisation on Mother Ganges
Anyone who travels beyond Delhi and Mumbai to India's provincial cities will notice English words cropping up increasingly in Hindi conversation. It's Hindi, Hindi, Hindi, and then suddenly an English word or phrase is dropped in: "Job", "love story" or "adjust". Take the word "tension". This is used as a noun ("don't give me tension"), verb ("don't tension me"), and adjective ("that was a very tension exam"). Joshua Valin tweets: "So many clever #IndianEnglish usages, including timepass, Stepney, nighthold, miss call & back and jack. #linguistics", while Stephen Heard adds: "I have simply *got* to have some hands-free underpants." Find out about that underwear English explodes in India - and it's not just Hinglish.
Bleeding, cold baths, opium and self-induced vomiting - and still Liverpool-born London doctor John Bostock couldn't find relief from the catarrh and blockages of the sinus that plagued him every summer. This was the early 19th Century and hay fever wasn't known about. Bostock was sure that his ailments weren't exclusive to him and set about trying to find fellow sufferers. "This was thinking outside the box," says Maureen Jenkins, director of clinical services at Allergy UK. "It's marvellous, really, how determined he was to prove the point. He was convinced that it was caused by something that happened in the summer, even when no-one else was." Read about the man who 'discovered' hay fever. Nick Browning tweets: "2 months ago, I eliminated refined carbs. 1st ever summer without hay fever symptoms."
Ben Sansum is 35, but he lives in 1946. He wears 1940s clothes, has a 1940s toilet (a bucket) and an original Victorian range cooker, which he polishes every day. His one concession is a fridge, which is carefully hidden behind some vintage fabric. "I used to hope that one day I'd have someone live with me and we'd be compatible," he says. "But I think my interests are so extreme that my partner has a modern house and I have a period house - we have a house each." Watch the short film of the man who lives in 1946. Victoria Stamps tweets: "This is a delicious combination of fabulous and bonkers." Finsbury Park adds: "Huge kudos to #BenSansum Blinkered minds will write him off as an eccentric, but huge credit for his commitment!"
Forty years ago the world's biggest bike race, the Tour de France crossed the channel for the first time. It had all been the idea of the artichoke growers of Brittany. However, the slightly strange Plymouth stage was such a disaster the Tour did not return to the UK for another 20 years. But was British ignorance to blame? SW Tour of Britain tweets: "Who knew @letour first visited the UK in 1974 with a SW stage? I'd like to think we've learnt a bit since then".
As the Queen officially names the first of the UK's new-generation aircraft carriers, comparisons have been drawn to a 50-year-old plan for the super-carrier that never was. Like the new ship, the CVA-01 would have been called HMS Queen Elizabeth, but pretty much all that remains of her - apart from a few architect drawings and artist impressions - is a model in a storeroom at the Fleet Air Arm museum at Yeovilton. Meant to replace the navy's then ageing carrier fleet, she would have been a radical new design for her day, with a new 3D radar, a novel flight deck arrangement, and other innovations. Like the new carriers, she was also hugely controversial and the subject of bitter inter-service rivalry, with arguments over whether she was too large and too ambitious. But, unlike the new ships, she was cancelled in 1966 before an order was ever placed. The then-Labour government was facing economic pressure and a sterling crisis, and looking to cut defence spending as Britain's post-Imperial world role diminished. It was decided that the navy's carriers had to go. The aircraft carrier that had to go
Also: The Queen smashed a bottle of whisky on the hull of the new carrier, in a break from the traditional champagne. But how did champagne become the tradition? Who, what, why: Why is champagne traditional for smashing on ships?
Here are some things we've enjoyed this week from elsewhere around the web:
Why boredom is good for us - Slate
The periodic table of storytelling - designthroughstorytelling
The battle against comfort eating - The Guardian
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