Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Invitations to book for an NHS Covid-19 vaccine may come from "" and are legitimate

tl;dr - the NHS is using "" to send out invitations to book Covid-19 vaccines and the link is genuine. At the end of that link you'll have your own 10 digit unique code (don't share that publicly). - enter the 10 digit code you receive in your text message, book your vaccination - get injected and protected, not infected :) Continue to be careful afterwards as you can still get Covid-19 though it is likely to be less severe and I think you can still transmit even if you're not affected.


Sunday, 7 February 2021

The Salisbury Homeopathy College appears to have shut its doors

It's always cheering news when something comes to an end in the world of homeopathy. We've seen University courses close, websites taken down or amended, and of course the numbers of homeopathic items prescribed on the NHS have been dropping precipitously for a couple of decades (it's still clinging on though). 

Recently things have taken an even worse turn for homeopathy with bad news for homeopaths appearing in newspapers every few months, following a series of undercover reporting finding homeopaths making misleading claims and offering fake treatments or preventatives.

In January this year the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) lost its accreditation from the Professional Standards Authority (PSA). The PSA was concerned that the SoH had failed to prioritise public safety over the interests of its members and suspended accreditation, to be reviewed in one year. 

The Salisbury Homeopathy College was one of several colleges to have a course accredited by the SoH, which keeps a list of accredited courses on its website. This listing appears to have been removed some time after October 2020, though the College's own website still carries SoH logos and the suggestion that its courses are accredited. 

However it appears that the Salisbury Homeopathy College has now permanently closed. Its website says that it's no longer accepting applicants and its listing on Google indicates closure beyond mere opening hours. I don't know why it's closed or when that happened, but sadly the SoH still lists plenty of other places which will charge people fairly large sums of money (several thousand) to teach them nonsense. 

You can read about one skeptic blogger's visit to the College on its open day in 2018. One of its courses cost nearly £10,000 - I'm amazed its former students don't sue.

Monday, 7 December 2020

A packing list from 1979 for a girls' boarding school in England

From the vaults, a girls' boarding school, somewhere in England...

First the pictures, then the text... (mobile friendlier pics right at the end)

  1. Screenshots of the equipement list 
  2. The list, written out 
  3. Mobile friendly pics


2. The list, written out



(The list was divided into three columns ("No.", "ITEM" with the third column to tick when "Packed").

1    Green Gaberdine Raincoat (optional)
1     Green Regulation Blazer and Skirt
1     Green Regulation Skirt (2 pleated kilts for the Primary school)
1     Dressing Gown
1    Navy Cardigan
1     Green Cardigan
1    Green Regulation Pullover (Optional for Senior School)
1    Navy Kilt
1    House Sweater
3    Regulation Green Blouses (3 for Lower School and Primary)
2     White Aertex Shirts (3 for Lower School and Primary)
1    Pair Grey Woollen Gloves
1    Pair Games Gloves (not Primary)
1    School Tie
2    House Ties
1    Coloured House Cloak
2    Overall (long sleeves) (3 for Primary)
3    Pyjamas or Nightdresses
3    Vests
10    Cotton (boilable) linings
2    Petticoats (optional)
2    Brassieres
2    Linen Bags
1    Brush and Comb Bag
1    Sponge Bag
18     Handkerchiefs (or an adequate supply of paper tissues)
3    Pairs Nylon 30 Denier Tights (not Primary)
10    Pairs Knee Length Grey Socks
3    Pairs White Socks for Summer Games
1    Pair Regulation Brown Walking Shoes
1     Pair Regulation House Shoes (not Primary)
1     Pair Clarkes Sandals
1    Pair non-uniform Shoes (without high heels or platform soles)
1    Pair heel-less Bedroom Slippers (not mules)
1    Pair Lacrosse Boots (not Primary)
1    Track Suit (Optional) (not Primary)
1     Pair White Plimsolls (for Gym and Tennis)
1    Pair Black Plimsolls (for Netball)
1    Pair Gumboots
1    Rug, Eiderdown or Duvet

3    Regulation Green Gingham Cotton Dresses
1    Black Bathing Costume
1    Wrap or Large Towel (2 Towels for Lower School and Primary)
1    Bathing Cap (Senior and Lower School in House Colour, Primary in white)
3    Pairs Fawn Ankle Socks (Summer uniform only, Primary only)

2    Face Towels
2    Bath Towels - 58"x30"
1    Napkin Ring, clearly named

(Page 2)

1    Woollen Dress
2    Skirts, 2 Jerseys
1    Coloured Cardigan
2    Cotton Dresses
2    Cotton Briefs
2    Coloured Blouses
1    Anorak

1    Manicure Set
1     Music Case (flat, not folded) if learning a musical instrument.
1    Trunk with name in full on top and sides
1    Weekend case with name in full
1    Paintbox (optional, for free time use)
1    Lacrosse Stick (not Primary)
1    Tennis Racquet
8    Coat Hangers
1    Work Box with mending equipment
      Shoe Cleaning equipment
1    Duster, marked
1    Cm ruler
1    Protractor
1    Pair Compasses
1    Cartridge Pen       )
1    Set Coloured Pencils) Primary only
6    Fibre Tipped Pens   )
1    Set Square         )
1    Light, strong bag of suitable size for carrying books
      Supply of name tapes

The Little Oxford Dictionary published by Oxford Clarendon Press (not Primary)

A First Dictionary published by James Nesbit & Co, W.D. Wright (Primary only)

Good News Bible, hard cover, published by Collins/Fontana
Book of Common Prayer
Philips' New School Atlas, edited by Harold Fullgard, published by George Philip & Son Ltd


This is a complete list of equipment for the Summer and Winter, so that the things need not all be bought at the same time, but only as they are require (sic) according to season.

Please address all questions about clothing to the Wardrobe Matron. The school outfitter is... [name of school outfitter]

Every article must be marked with CASH'S NAME TAPES (these should be woven in black onto a white background with the initial of the girls' house in the right hand side (i.e. X for House X, Y for House Y etc) with the name in full. Brushes, combs and toothbrushes should be marked, and pens and watches engraved with initials or full name.



3. Mobile friendly pics


Things I like about online theatre, via Zoom (there isn't anything I don't like!)

Last Sunday I was in a Zoom audience with 7,000 others (!) attending Lockdown Theatre's 'For One Knight Only', in aid of charity (Acting For Others). There were five thousand on the Zoom itself and 2,000 in the overflow room. They raised a lot of money. It was fantastic - here's a nice review in The Guardian.

This was the second Zoom theatre 'thing' I've been to during lockdown and I've really enjoyed them. In more usual circumstances I tend to go to the cinema more than theatre so am not really a 'theatre person', so bear that in mind when considering my points below (I can well imagine a theatre-goer or cast/crew person finding it a bit too different from what they prefer, and not 'real' enough.)

While online theatre could never entirely replace real life theatre I hope that some of the online infrastructure can remain once everything is back to normal.

Here's what I like about it -

  • Accessibility - people don't have to leave their house (or even get dressed) to see a theatrical performance from their living room. I can see this making things much easier for those who are less able to get out.

  • Accessibility - everyone has same experience - it doesn't matter where you sit, you can see and hear everyone clearly, on one screen (yours).

  • Bigger, wider audiences - time zones permitting you get to be in an audience simultaneously with people in other cities and even countries, this has been rather exciting actually! It seems like a potential way to reach more people, and engage a different audience.

  • Cost - while the ones I've been to haven't been particularly cheap (for charity) they are still considerably cheaper than London West End prices. I don't know how much the operating costs are (cameras, internet connections, ticketing).

  • Comfort - the seats are comfy with lots of legroom! Perhaps Deliveroo etc can adapt their 'Big Night In' snack bundles for theatre ;)

  • Comfort - you're muted so you can rustle your Maltesers as much as you like, eat boiled sweets noisily or nip to the loo without disturbing anyone other than your immediate household.

  • Differently social (audience) - you can chat with other attendees via the Chat function though this is perhaps a mixed blessing if you've not worked out how to hide it and don't want it scrolling like a Geek Chorus in the background.|

  • Differently social (actors) - the actors can also see each other on-screen (normally they'd be in their dressing room for chunks of the play or event so would miss stuff, though they can switch off their own video while waiting) 

Possibly some of these are disadvantages too. 

Perhaps the actors are quite delighted at a muted audience but also miss the normal audience responses (laughter, applause etc). It must be difficult to judge how anything is landing. 

Pros and cons are also mixed in terms of accessibility - it's cheaper and doesn't involve travel but I'm not sure how well it works for people who are Deaf, though live-captioning is coming along in leaps and bounds. Or perhaps if recorded then a watch-again-with-subtitles facility might work (though there's the risk that people wouldn't bother turning up at the allotted time and just watch it at leisure on YouTube). 

I've previously attended a performance of The Madness of George III which was performed live on stage at the Nottingham playhouse with footage beamed into a cinema screen in London. It combined cinema and theatre brilliantly, via the NT Live platform. That was quite a different set-up from Zoom though, with the actors performing the play as usual and cameras set up to point at the stage. With Zoom each performer talks directly to their laptop camera.

While I rather like the idea of future theatrical performances being performed live for the in-theatre audience and also live-streamed for an online-audience at home perhaps actors might not be so keen. You're not allowed to make recordings while you're in the theatre meaning that there's no record of the performance.

Also (as with watching things later on YouTube where a Zoom is recorded) I wonder if theatres might become emptier if too many people decide to stay at home and watch it later? Possibly it's not even that practical (and it would be different from Zoom as the actors would be acting on stage, and not to a laptop camera). The technology is already there and in use for the NT Live arrangements but I don't know if actors generally welcome having cameras pointed at them during the performance, though this certainly seemed to work well for the Madness of King George III.

Thanks to an excellent decision to follow Sanjeev Bhaskar on Twitter I discovered that he was taking part in a table-read performance of Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound back in October. That led me to discover the existence of Lockdown Theatre which has been putting on a series of performances and events during lockdown to raise funds for theatrical charities.

I really enjoyed last Sunday evening's "For One Knight Only" which was a panel chat among Sir Kenneth Branagh (compere), Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith and Sir Ian McKellen.

As you can imagine it was a delightful and amiable hour and a half with a bunch of incredibly talented people who evidently enjoyed each other's company as much as we did. I suspect the chances of seeing them all together in one theatre, or even one TV chat show, are probably quite low during non-Covid times as they'll all be off doing their own thing, so this has been one advantage of everyone's life being paused.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Genevieve Flight of Shambhallah Healing Centre found guilty at Gloucester Crown Court

Genevieve Flight is or was the director of the Shambhallah Healing Center/Centre and she and her centre made a variety of misleading claims about being able to cure Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease, as well as asthma, cancer and diabetes. 

She maintained that there is no disease that doesn't also have a cure, and she was reported to Trading Standards after she infiltrated a closed cancer patient Facebook group and tried to tout her cures there. This resulted in a court case and a jury at Gloucester Crown Court found her guilty in her absence (apparently she's fled to Nigeria and was tried in absentia) and there is an arrest warrant for her, for her to attend court for sentencing.

"She was convicted of six charges of falsely claiming a product can cure illness, and six of engaging in a misleading practice." (BBC News)

The Shambhallah Healing Centre has previously had two Advertising Standards Authority adjudications upheld against it, in 2018, for similar misleading claims. I had wondered if she might be being prosecuted under the Cancer Act 1939 but it's more to do with misleading practice. 

A transcript of her Trading Standards interview was read out in court (copies are in a couple of papers below, eg Metro) and she suggested that TS send her someone suffering from an ailment and she'd cure them. This was a spectacularly unwise move on her part, removing the misleading claims and agreeing not to repeat them could possibly have averted any further court action.

I wish I'd been in court to hear a medical expert explain that her Brain Tonic couldn't cure Alzheimer's. 

According to the First Gazette notice* (of 1 Dec 2020) on the Companies House website the company will be struck off the register after the accounts were made up for the dormant company in August 2019. From looking at the previous accounts / filings it seems that the company began with £2 and ended with £2. That's two pounds. Not sure I really understand that!

*Note that these Gazette Notices to strike companies off registers can happen for fairly non-sinister reasons - sometimes this is triggered by a default on filing, and may be later reversed, though if the company is dormant this is probably correct in this case.

Further reading
Advertising Standards Authority

ASA Ruling on Shambhallah Healing Center Ltd
(3 January 2018)

- which includes this absolute gem in response to a request from the ASA for info and evidence "Shambhallah Healing Center did not believe that they needed to provide documentary evidence to support their claims because it was their policy that complainants must undergo their treatment in order to declare that it did not work. They invited the ASA to select a candidate to undergo their treatment. They further stated that they had been using these methods to treat patients since the second century BCE.".

ASA Ruling on Shambhallah Healing Center Ltd (2 May 2018)

Courts 'causelist'
Summary of her case T20190281 which began on took place on several dates over 17 October 2019, 11 May 2020 and 3-4 December 2020 concluding on 4 Dec.

News articles
Police issue arrest warrant for 'holistic healer', 43, after she was found guilty of advertising fake 'Brain Tonic' she claimed could cure Alzheimer's, Huntington's disease and cancer (4 December 2020) Daily Mail

Woman who sold bogus ‘brain tonic’ cure is on the run (4 December 2020) Gloucestershire Live

Hunt for ‘holistic healer’ who claimed she had cure for Alzheimer’s and cancer (4 December 2020) Metro

Gloucester 'brain tonic' seller guilty of false claims (4 December 2020) BBC News 

Quedgeley woman claimed she had Alzheimer’s and cancer cure (5 December 2020) Stroud News & Journal

BBC Points West news clips
4 December 2020 - from 3m33s
(clip no longer available)
3 December 2020 - from 17min
(clip no longer available)