Friday, 3 June 2011

Scared of Light.

Still busy but had to note the return of Mummylonglegs with a sensible and logical post.

Today was unusually sunny. The greenhouse had exceeded 40C (104F for any rebel colonists reading) before I went out there and the blast of heat from the door nearly knocked me over. The plants seem happy enough, in fact I had to put some of the triffids in the garden just to space them out. If the slugs waste them, no matter, I have more. I still can't believe these came from seeds that look like dust, and in just a matter of weeks.

I mentioned grow-bags to a friend who is an experienced greenhouse keeper. He scoffed. Why buy a bag of dirt when your greenhouse floor is made of it? He has a point, I will plant most of the plants in the ground inside the greenhouse. Most baccy plants will have to be outside, it's only a little greenhouse and it has to support peppers, tomatoes and chillis too. Although I plan to experiment with outdoor chillis this year because I have grown enough plants to blow my arse to Pluto. Some are Scotch Bonnet. Enough of those and I'll be blogging from the heliopause. If that happens, all I'll be writing is 'Send cream. Cold, cold cream'.

The soil here is crap, mostly heavy clay, so heavy that the worms wear hard hats and carry pickaxes - but right next to the greenhouse is the compost box. Leachate from that will help, as will digging in some decent bought compost and sharp sand. When I put this greenhouse in I had to include a drain beneath it because the garden is a swamp when it rains. All good things if you want to grow plants under cover, of course.

I won't undermine the greenhouse. It's screwed down onto a frame of six-inch fence planks, three deep and fitted together with six-inch-square mortice and tenon joints at the corners. That's attached to posts set into concrete lumps. This thing is going nowhere.

Greenhouse expert is a smoky-drinker and I'll be visiting tomorrow night. Some news for Don Shenker - Tesco are selling Glenfiddich 12-year-old and Glenmorangie 10-year-old at £10 off at the moment. News for the Dreadful Arnott and the tightly puckered anuses of the antismoker movement - I'll be taking spare tobacco plants to the Smoky-drinky too. Soon they'll be growing wild on railway embankments, waste ground and in the middle of motorways. Especially when our local winds catch the seeds. Then they'll be growing in cucumber greenhouses in Spain.

This far north we are fast approaching the time of no darkness. We are already in the time of blue-sky-all-night. All the vampires and other undead creatures have fled to their second coffins in Holyrood for the duration. We don't get midnight sun, but for the next month we get a wonderful effect where the red sky of the sunset just moves around the horizon until the sun pops back up. It really confuses the shepherds.

And so, in a roundabout way, we get back to the subject of sunshine. Once, labourers worked the fields all day, every day, as long as the sun was up and they wore no shirts. Once, people on holiday just flobbed out on beaches and let the sun toast them to a lurid pink.

British beaches, not so long ago, resembled a mass lobster stranding every summer. The stench of roasting flesh reached miles inland, as did the screams of the raw and blistered as they enjoyed their holiday by immersing themselves in unimaginable pain. It was a place where Satan sent his new devils for work experience. The Old British were not scared of Hell. It's one long holiday.

There was sun cream in the old days. When I was a kid, the highest was factor 12, I think, and it was like emulsion paint. Now it goes up to at least factor 30 which I suspect is chrome plating. I don't use any. I have inherited my grandfather's attitude to beaches. If forced to go there I will wear my jacket, a flat cap and a deep scowl. No joke, I have seen photos. He once, I hear, rolled up his trousers almost to the knee in a fit of reckless abandon but mostly the only thing he rolled was tobacco. Franklin's. I haven't seen any in a long time. I bet it's horrible with sand in it.

My grandfather had no fear of skin cancer. He was a coal miner so he spent most of his life as far from the sun as it is possible to get. Pneumoconiosis got him instead, ironic because sunlight grew all those plants that eventually turned into coal. Looks like the sun will kill us all, one way or another. If you hide, it's set traps.

Yet now, with anti-UV creams that are so powerful they actually bend light around you and make you invisible, it seems skin cancers are rising like mad. What about all those shirtless muscle-laden sweaty labourers (calm down ladies and in the interests of equality, if you're gay, put that away) and the beach full of screaming blistered lobsters? Surely with the new paste-on sunproofing there must be a decline in the dangers of the tan?

Not so, apparently. Even with all the modern anti-sun measures like Xbox and Playstation and TV and internet and Gary Glitter, parents worry that their children are getting too much sun (in the UK!) so they have to wear a little gadget to tell them when to return to the underworld. Too much sun? Modern children? What is this, a question of surface area perhaps?

It's interesting, isn't it, to note that when nobody gave a stuff about sunburn, hardly anyone got skin cancer. Now that everyone is dipped in Dulux before venturing outside, there's loads of it.

Like the massive decline in smoking in the last fifty years that has led to a massive increase in lung cancer, heart attacks, asthma, silly little people who can be scared shitless with a few words, and all other smoking related illnesses.

As drinking declines, the problems it causes vastly increase. These same scientists scoff at homeopathy, you know.

Children are apparently getting fatter because they never play outside and parents are worried that they are exposed to too much sun (again - in the UK!). Well if they played outside they'd be less fat and there would be less of them for the sun to hit and they'd have less skin to get cancer in. When they are slim and speedy they'll be better able to dodge sunbeams. Thin enough and the light will pass right through and think how much the NHS would then save on X-rays. How about that for logic, parents? It makes as much sense as anything else these days.

We used to play in the sun as kids. If it became uncomfortably hot we used to head for the shade until we'd cooled down. It was a thing called 'common sense'.

I think most kids still have it, you know.

The adults don't.


Anonymous said...

If you wish to become rich, you get a MD and specialize in dermatology in California. There is a 2 month waiting list for a missed appointment, 4 months for a scheduled one. I spent my life in the sun here, have had 3 cancers scraped off legs and arms. For 57 years, not too shabby. There are worse living in Frostbite Falls, Scotland!
Bill in SD

Anonymous said...

Repotting my second batch of tobacco plants today after the slugfest some weeks ago. I've since been vistited by a passing hedgehog who managed to hoover up every slug in the vicinity and liked it so much he's now a resident.
I'm still keeping the plants in the greenhouse though.

RobT said...

Grant seeking for new research? How about a paper,peer reviewed of course,pointing to the correlation between the increase in skin cancer due to a reduction in atmospheric particulates as a result of smoking bans. Should be worth a try!

Just an idea. I'm certain that with your talent for writing and skill manipulating statistics you can inspire a new scare for the masses, and hopefully encourage a parliamentary bill to ensure Mandatory Smoking.

Maybe give that Arnott woman a few nightmares.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Southern Africa and spent most afternoons outside during school time and all day outside during the holidays. I don't remember my mu slapping anything on my back other than coconut oil, whioh only served to fry me to a crisp.

Forty years on and I'm still here, completely skin cancer free. Perhaps it's the sun cream that's causing the cancer.

George Speller said...

I saw a theory once that said it be the use of sunglasses that encouraged skin cancer. It works like this: melanin is produced not just because light falls on the skin, but because it enters the eye. Sunglasses cut the light down so protective tanning doesn't happen so you spend even more time in the sun, whereas without glasses you would most likely perceive that the sun was strong and seek shade sooner, and the protective skin reaction would would be facilitated. It's such a neat theory I gave up sunglasses.

bunyip said...

>Maybe give that Arnott woman a few nightmares.

I'd prefer some shadows on her next chest X-ray.

Australian and had a couple of chips burned off. Every weekend was sunburn weekend growing up.
"Hi Jack, how's yer back?" followed by a lustful *slap* to the irradiated area.

I know nobody who's died of skin cancer, unlike car accidents or heart failure. My great uncles from the country farmed in Australia, fought in North Africa, then farmed in Australia again. Heart attacks, all of them.

As they'd be over 110 now, I would be interested to learn just how they should have died in a risk-free environment.

Anonymous said...

"Scientists have found a cream containing vitamin B3 can significantly increase the skin's ability to stop skin cancers forming.
The results will be presented at an international dermatology conference this weekend.

Even as little as six minutes in the sun can weaken the body's defences against skin cancer.
Researchers at the New South Wales Cancer Institute painted healthy volunteers with a lotion containing vitamin B3 or nicotinamide"

Scientists are not exactly sure how vitamin B3 boosts the skin's defences against cancer."


Moisturizers Linked To Skin Cancer?

"The moisturizers tested in the study were Dermabase, Dermovan (a wholesale only product discontinued in 2006), Eucerin Original Moisturizing Cream, and Vanicream.

In a mouse model of sun-related skin cancer , frequent application of each product resulted in more skin tumors and faster tumor growth, says study leader Allan H. Conney, PhD, director of the Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research and professor in the school of pharmacy at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J.

"This was unexpected. We really did not expect to see the tumor-promoting activity of these creams," Conney tells WebMD."

I found those when I was researching nicotinic acid/Vitamin B3, but the moisturiser scientists were working on caffeine.


James Higham said...

The soil here is crap, mostly heavy clay, so heavy that the worms wear hard hats and carry pickaxes

More worms?

Chuckles said...

Funny how they never mention how much damage the lack of Vitamin D is doing?

Anonymous said...

Where the heavy clay soil is concerned, it is possible to improve it, by adding lime, sand and a lot of humus. You can also extend the growing period by planting on raised beds with a layer of coil over a deeper layer of rotting plant material and horse shit (doesn't half get a compost heap going, does horse muck).

It is possible also to play tricks on a plant, to make it believe that it is experiencing a long day when in fact it is in deep winter. Keep it warm, and give it a good shot of grow-lights for a half hour or so in the middle of the night, to reset the circadian clocks in the plant cells. Modern grow-lights have moved on somewhat (driven by an insatiable demand from persons wishing to smoke something stronger than tobacco) and are now highly efficient LED units, much more cost-effective than the older halide lamps.

If you really wish to speed up the growth of the tobacco plants, then hydroponic culture is the way to go. Support the plants in a pearlite made, to let the roots get a hold, and irrigate with an oxygenated nutrient solution. Tap water can be de-chlorinated by bubbling air through it for a day or two, which renders it harmless to plants (chlorinated tap water is definitely NOT good for them). Once again, the burgeoning demand for cannabis has driven the market for home hydroponics systems, making them much cheaper.

Finally, a hypothesis you might like to test. Nicotine is a secondary metabolic chemical, produced by tobacco plants as a way of deterring plant-eating animals. Logically, if the plant detects damage to the leaves, it might well divert more energy to producing nicotine to try to cull an infestation of herbivorous insects, so slightly damaging tobacco leaves or lightly spraying an alcohol onto them ought to simulate this response; one to try, perhaps? Cannabinoids aren't an insect repellent, BTW, but a defence against large browsers like cattle. Cows apparently absolutely hate getting stoned, possibly because it makes them much, much more vulnerable to predation.

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