Feeling the genitals of freshly hatched chickens may not be the most glamorous job in the world but at £40,000 a year it’s not badly paid. It requires some stamina: you pick up hundreds of chicks a day and check their ‘vent’ for boy parts. If it’s a baby hen, then she’s sent off for a life of corn and egg-laying. If it’s a baby rooster — well, best not to ask. Almost nobody in Britain wants to do it, so vacancies go unfilled.
Mental health is a slippery concept at best and according to the annual prevalence rates given in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, people in north America and Europe suffer from an average of about two-and-a-half psychiatric conditions a year. This suggests that either we are all mad or the American Psychiatric Association is mad (though with a shrewd eye to the main chance).
What’s wrong with low-cost education in poor countries? Quite a lot, you might think, if you read a new report from the Department for International Development. Low-cost private schools serve around 70 per cent of children in poor urban areas and nearly a third of rural children too. But the issue raises controversy among academics and experts, not least because it goes against 65 years of development dogma that the only way to help the poor is through government education, with big dollops of aid thrown in.
Gardeners are up against it. There are thousands of garden pests, exciting new ones discovered every day, and few remedies left with which to fight them. The wonderful cure-all chemicals we once depended on have long been banned — they ‘cured’ a little more than was intended.
And how do you repel that king of garden pests, the alien grey squirrel? Squirrels destroy baby birds, bulbs, fruit, young trees just as they begin to look like real trees, and bird feeders too.
Washington DC and Iraq
We stood on a bleak hillside in eastern Iraq looking at a makeshift grave. It held a dozen Shia Arabs, according to the Kurdish troops escorting us. The dead were men, women and children murdered by fighters from the so-called Islamic State as they retreated, said the Kurds. We stepped gingerly around scraps of women’s clothing and a bone poking out through the dirt. In the town on the dusty plain below, Shi’ite militias were busy taking revenge on Sunnis, our escorts said, looting and killing.
For cheap laughs you should look at the situations vacant column of the Church Times — pages of jobs for Anglican clergy. The language, with its dreary emphasis on compliance and its neglect of individualism, may help to explain why the Church of England has become the Labour party at prayer.
Number one word in these adverts is ‘team’. Applicants need to be ‘team players’. Other hot words: ‘passionate’, ‘change’, ‘management’ and ‘skills’.
People get the wrong idea about Vienna and I blame Johann Strauss. His plinky-plonky waltzes have become the soundtrack to the city, cementing Vienna’s public image as a place of balls and carriages and cream cakes. It’s an image the tourist board is keen to cultivate, and it makes good business sense. Tour groups visit the Spanish Riding School and the Vienna Boys’ Choir, eat a slice of Sachertorte and depart contented.