Two kinds of hot air hit the nation this week.
We had for the first time ever a televised election debate by the leaders of the three main politcal parties. As a small piece of British history was in the making it seemed likely to be worth watching. I assumed that form and public relations would take priority over substance and that the programme would not make for interesting viewing. In the event it was not all form and no substance but was an educational hour and a half's viewing. As Gordon Brown put it - a time for answers. No dumbing down, no time wasting clapping, some good arguments by all three men - the absence of women was obvious and our political system is poorer for that - but each man conducted himself civilly towards the others. There were apparently c.70 ground rules including the one against clapping but the result was positive so the rules seem to have worked well. There were no obvious 'winners' or 'losers' on the night but as that rarely sells newspapers, the media subsequently crowned underdog Nick Clegg the Liberal Democrat leader as their main man. We'll see but the interest is sufficient to warrant switching on the next debate next week.
By then too I wonder if the second cloud of hot air to affect the nation will still be around namely that from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano? Seeing first hand last year how much electricity is produced near to Reykjavik by a power station using heat below the earth's crust, made me think then how thin the earth's crust must be in Iceland. A view confirmed by marvelling at the geysers of hot water and steam nearby. Icelanders joked that they need no army as they could simply wait for their volcanic lava to take over the world by pouring into the sea and increasing their geographical acreage every few years.
Yet the reminder that mankind is despite our scientific discoveries, self important prime ministerial debating, quests for money passions for football and attention to our clothes and looks, in many ways a puny little species at the mercy of mother nature is salutory and perhaps necessary; certainly timely during this the run up to a general election.
The volcanic ash now closing so many British and Northern European air ports is also a reminder that our tastes for exotic fruits and other foods which have to be expensively flown in by plane need re-thinking along with the life styles that accompany those tastes. The longer the current no-fly zone applies the more re-thinking will be needed.