I originally wrote this back in 2010, but it gets a new raft of hits each year, usually around the start of Ramadan – which began at the weekend.
I had a pupil on test a while back who failed, and she mentioned that Ramadan had started as I drove her home. She insisted that she felt OK, but I couldn’t help wonder if it might have had some effect on her concentration otherwise she wouldn’t have brought it up.
Ramadan is the month of fasting for Muslims. During it, participants abstain from eating and drinking between the hours of sunrise and sunset. Technically, those fasting are not even supposed to drink water (there are exceptions for pregnant women or those with specific illnesses), and some participants take it more literally than others. At least one reader has had concerns that Ramadan has affected their driving, and in 2016 it was unusually long at 32 days. In 2017, it ran from 26 May to 24 June, and in 2018 it spanned 17 May to 15 June. In 2019, it runs from 5 May until 4 June. It’s pretty much a full month anyway.
Some years ago, I worked in Pakistan – in Karachi – for a short time, and was there during Ramadan. Some people ate during the day, but very little, and some fasted properly. But in the main, whether they fasted or not, they just got on with things and worked normally. After sunset, though, the street vendors came out and it was scoff-out time (I have vivid memories of the sights and smells when I went to see Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s tomb one evening).
At the other end of the spectrum, when I worked in the rat race over here, Ramadan and other such religious festivals were used by some (not all, I must add) simply to avoid work. I remember some of my shop floor staff trying it on, and although we knew that they were doing so (having a smoke outside when you’re supposed to be praying is a bit of a giveaway), the employment and discrimination laws in this country pretty much tie the employer’s hands.
I used to have the (bad) habit of getting up at 8am or earlier, drinking only a cup of tea, not eating anything until I finished work in the late evening, then pigging out on kebabs or curries. Occasionally, during the day, my blood sugar would get so low that I’d crave something to eat there and then – at which point I could easily put away four Mars Bars and drink a litre of Lucozade! Someone who is very slight would probably not be able to get through the day without being affected at least partially – and this must also apply to those fasting during Ramadan.
If you are teaching Muslim pupils it’s worth discussing the subject with them – and just be open about it: they don’t mind talking about their religion (it’s people who think they do who have the problems). I’ve had several pupils in the past who were suffering during fasting, and in several cases we postponed lessons until it was over. Indeed, in 2019, I have a pupil who is very nervous and jumpy in the car, and we were both worried Ramadan might affect her. So we have agreed to do her lessons later in the evening (that was my idea), and although I will admit I thought sunset was a little earlier than it really is when I suggested it, we’re doing lessons at 9.30pm once a week so she can keep driving.
Irrespective of the reason for fasting, not eating could affect both lessons and driving tests because concentration could be impaired by low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). This would apply to anyone who hasn’t eaten properly (remember that it could also be due to an underlying health problem, like diabetes, so I’d advise anyone who is experiencing such symptoms to check with their GP). Not being able to concentrate on driving during lessons is a waste of the pupil’s money whether it’s due to a cold, hay fever… or fasting.
Advice I’d give to anyone fasting during Ramadan is to take lessons or tests in the morning or late evening (if your instructor will do it), and to eat properly when not fasting the night before. It also makes sense that anyone who isn’t fasting eats and sleeps properly, otherwise their lessons (or tests) could also be affected. In extreme cases, just put the lessons on hold until Ramadan is over.
As for the question about whether they should be driving or not, I think you need to be realistic. I’d say that 99% of white, non-Muslim UK drivers drive when they’re not feeling 100%, and Ramadan hardly turns most participants into hospital cases. I can’t see any automatic reason why people who are fasting for Ramadan shouldn’t drive.
Can I take my test during Ramadan?
Of course you can. However, you should consider how fasting affects you and your concentration. It might be better to plan ahead and avoid booking a test during Ramadan altogether. Alternatively, try to book an early test at a time just after you have eaten – or rather, before you start to get hungry.
Fasting during Ramadan affects my driving to work
Honestly, someone found the blog on that search term! The answer is simple.
If you are having problems, either don’t drive or don’t fast. What other answer did you expect? Some Magic Pill that makes it all OK? If you don’t feel well, don’t drive. And that applies whether you’re ill, drunk, menstruating, or fasting. It’s just common sense.
Updated March 2022.
I first published this in 2019. At that time, ADIs were not on the list of accepted professions for signing passport applications. I contacted the Passport Office and their precise words were:
…a driving instructor can be considered a suitable countersignature not because they are a driving instructor, but if they would be considered the owner/manager of a limited or VAT registered company.
If they would not be registered in this way we cannot guarantee they would be accepted by the processing team.
Driving instructors could not countersign passport applications according to the Passport Office. Anyone getting away with it could easily not have, since ADIs were not officially acceptable as countersignatories.
Even right now, as of this update, the GOV.UK website lists the recognised professions, and driving instructors are not on it. Also note that the countersignatory has to have known the applicant for at least two years.
However, a reader has sent me a link to what appears to be an internal SOP for Home Office staff dating from June 2021. On this, ADIs are mentioned (though I stop short of saying ‘listed’, as it makes reference to the ‘online criteria’ for acceptance, and ADIs aren’t on that).
It seems that acceptance of the countersignatory is discretionary, and ADIs apparently have a bit of a positive bias applied to them when this discretion is being exercised by the Passport Office. However, they are still not on the official outward-facing acceptance list.
Although this official document is dated from mid-2021, the size of it suggests that it has been around in some form or another for considerably longer. That would explain why I – along with others – have gotten away with countersigning passport applications in the past.
The bottom line is that ADIs are still not on the public list of accepted professions. However, the Passport Office can use its own discretion if the countersignatory is an ADI. It can also apply discretion if the countersignatory has known the applicant for less than two years. Most ADIs would require two discretionary passes here.
Technically, Driving instructors cannot officially sign off passport applications according to the public list of recognised professions – but they might be accepted if they do, since they are mentioned on the internal discretionary list. However, in applying discretion, I am sure the Passport Office might see a newly-qualified ADI in a different light to a more experienced one were they to check.
I sign them and no one says anything
Officially, you are not authorised to sign passport applications. It would appear the Passport Office is applying its discretion.
No one has ever questioned it
If they did, your signature could be rejected. The Passport Office is applying its discretion – which it won’t apply to everyone in the same way.
ADIs are “teachers”
No we are not. A teacher is someone who is a member of the teaching profession, and who specifically does that job day in, day out in a school or college. A driving instructor is absolutely not classified as a teacher in the professional and official sense the word is meant. Like it or not, a driving instructor is not one of the official recognised professions.
So is it illegal to sign them?
No – but it’d be bloody interesting to see what happened if someone you’ve only known for a couple of weeks, and whose passport was obtained with your endorsement, suddenly turned up on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, and they wanted to know how he or she got it. But it isn’t illegal to sign them off. You’re just not officially authorised to do so – but the Passport Office uses its own discretion to decide whether to accept you.
But I’ve been contacted previously to verify that I signed
That’s the Passport Office applying its discretion. If you read the SOP I linked to in the article, you can see that they have to chase the countersignatory in some cases to verify their identity and their knowledge of the applicant. In all honesty, being contacted is closer to not being accepted than you realise – they wouldn’t be checking otherwise.
The Passport Office told me I could sign as an ADI
I’d be surprised if that’s precisely what they said, because it is wrong. ADIs are not on the accepted list of professions, but they are on the list of discretionary professions used internally by the Passport Office.
Can ADIs sign passport applications?
The official public answer is no. However, the Passport Office can apply discretion and might (and quite possibly, often does) accept an ADI as a countersignatory.
Just bear in mind that the countersignatory also needs to have known the applicant for at least two years. Internally, this can also be shortened at the Passport Office’s discretion, but it means most ADIs will be asking for two lots of discretion, since most will not have known the applicant for two years. Indeed, the internal SOP refers to one year – and most ADIs will not have known most pupils for even that long.
Yesterday, Arnie released this video aimed at the Russian people, telling them the truth about what Putin has done, and about what is happening to their families in Ukraine (many have Ukrainian relatives), and about what is happening to Russian soldiers (most will have sons or brothers in the military).
It’s nearly the new Spring in the UK, so now is the time to start gearing up for your watering and feeding rota for 2022. Bear in mind that we’ve had a wet few months, so water probably isn’t your immediate concern. However, warm weather is being forecast for as early as mid-April, and the ground can dry out quite quickly with hungry trees drinking up water. My tree is started showing new catkins by mid-March, and small new leaves have now started to appear. The following is the original article…
Back in 2014, when I originally wrote this, our Birch tree suddenly began to produce a lot of yellow leaves in mid-June. After a lot of research I managed to figure out the possible causes and the remedies. That was the purpose of the original article.
However, 2018 threw up a new issue. It turned out to be the hottest year on record, but even before we found that out people will remember how hot it was, and for how long it stayed like that. My tree once again began to show a few sprays of yellow fairly early in the season.
The article becomes popular each year, firstly in late Spring and early Summer, then again later in the season closer to Autumn.
In 2014, I identified the following as likely causes of premature yellowing:
- nutrient deficiency
- iron deficiency
- manganese deficiency
After the 2018 heatwave, I further identified lack of water as a major factor. With hindsight, it may have also been a factor in that 2014 season, but nothing compared with 2018 for prolonged heat and lack of rain.
When I first experienced yellowing back in 2014, I initially thought my tree was dying. Googling for an answer was pretty much useless, because most of the technical advice is American and focuses on the Bronze Birch Borer (a beetle that feeds on white birches), which isn’t known outside of North America. But somewhere in among the advice, I came across a simple comment – and I don’t recall where I saw it now – that made a lot more sense.
In a nutshell, premature yellowing/leaf drop can be caused by nutrient and iron deficiencies in the soil. This comes about over a period of time as fallen leaves are swept up each year and sent to the tip, so none of the nutrients are returned to the soil. Consequently, the soil becomes depleted of them.
Birches are ericaceous – lime-hating – plants, and prefer a slightly acidic soil. As such, you need to feed them using ericaceous fertiliser. I first used Miracle-Gro solid fertiliser, intended for Azaleas and Rhododendrons (also lime-hating), but a couple of years later switched to Doff liquid feed so I could use it in my Access Irrigation Static Dilutor. I also got hold of some Maxicrop Seaweed Extract, which is also liquid, and watered that in at the same time.
This is known as chlorosis. Leaves are usually green because they contain chlorophyll – and chlorophyll is green. Chlorophyll is what allows plants to convert light energy into sugars that they can use as food through the process called photosynthesis. Plants use iron to produce chlorophyll, so if there isn’t enough iron in the soil the tree can’t make enough chlorophyll, and you get yellowed leaves. The tree compensates for being hungry (if it hasn’t got chlorophyll it can’t make food for energy) by going into shutdown and shedding those leaves. And you may also find that new leaves are small and misshapen when chlorosis is the issue.
You can easily treat chlorosis using sequestered iron (or seaweed extract). Being ‘sequestered’, the tree can suck the iron up and use it right away. A longer term solution is to use iron sulphate lawn feed, which also slightly acidifies the soil over time.
I also bought some manganese to water in the first time, but I am not sure how relevant that was. I used it for a couple of seasons, but stopped. Each year, I simply feed the tree once or twice a month between March and September using fertiliser and seaweed extract.
Note that none of these problems are confined to Silver Birches. All trees and plants can be affected by nutrient deficiencies, and you simply have to deal with the problem using the appropriate, easily purchased treatments.
In that first season, a single application of fertiliser stopped the leaf drop almost immediately. Once the already-yellow leaves had fallen, the tree remained green until Autumn, and even threw out some large new leaves and fat catkins. It obviously liked what I had done to it, and I continued doing it from June until September every few weeks.
Everything was fine until the hot summer of 2018. You might recall that the prolonged heatwave began quite early, and by the end of June I was again noticing a few sprays of yellow. I wasn’t a nutrient issue this time – I was feeding the tree regularly – but I’d already guessed the hot weather might have something to do with it, and a bit more research showed that heat stress in trees is a real issue, and Birches are highly susceptible to it.
It turns out that lack of moisture in the ground combined with prolonged high air temperatures causes trees – and especially Birches – to become stressed, which again triggers them to go into emergency shutdown by shedding leaves.
My research provided two options for getting water down to the roots (which fortunately, in the case of Birches, is quite shallow). One involved hammering at least half a dozen hollow spikes into the ground around the tree and dripping water directly down to them. I decided against that on the basis that a) the ground was already as hard as iron plate, b) anything which sounds so simple (i.e. hammering a hollow plastic spike into the soil) was going to turn into a nightmare of split plastic, only being able to get part way down, and discovering chunks of bedrock I didn’t know were there, and c) having these things poking out of the lawn would look bloody awful even if I got them in (and even worse if they only went in part-way). The easier option was to commence heavy-watering immediately – basically, to run the sprinklers for hours at a time every night.
That method fixed the problem in less than a week.
With hindsight, it is quite possible that lack of moisture was a contributing factor back in 2014, and my feeding routine would have dealt with that automatically (though I did have chlorosis). But in 2018, it was definitely just the result of too little moisture around the roots.
So, to summarise. If you experience premature leave-yellowing, the very first thing you should do is water like crazy. Don’t worry about over-watering too much – Birches like wet soil, which is why they grow near streams. Just don’t turn your garden into a swamp. While you’re doing that, buy some ericaceous feed and seaweed extract, and get that into your soil as soon as possible (how much depends on how big your tree is).
Can you rescue leaves which have turned yellow?
No, probably not. I suppose that chlorosis could be reversed if you caught it early enough, but if the leaf is dead and the tree has triggered its shedding mechanism, you’re going to lose them.
The important thing is that by feeding and watering the tree you can stop any further yellowing – and believe me, the first time you do it the effects will be quite noticeable within a short time.
Do you have to keep treating the trees?
Yes. If you don’t, the problem just comes back once the tree has used up what you’ve fed it, especially if you bin the leaves again the following autumn. Huge trees will suck up all the nutrients and water, and if you’re raking up and binning the leaves each year (or if the soil is dry and there are no prolonged periods of rain) nothing gets returned to the soil.
How often should you feed?
Treat them once or twice a month from March until September. And water regularly.
Can heat and drought cause them to lose leaves?
Yes. If they are stressed you may get them dropping leaves. In extreme cases the leaves can go brown and the tree can even die. It’s a good idea to water them deeply during hot, dry periods. Once or twice a week should be enough, though more frequently won’t hurt if the dry period is prolonged.
Remember that after a period of drought (or prolonged dry weather) it needs an extended period of rain to wet the soil again, especially deep down. A few heavy downpours won’t do it, and you will still need to help things along.
Will a Birch recover from drought?
It depends on whether the drought killed it or not. A reader wrote to me in 2018, mentioning that his tree had lost its leaves, and I advised that the only thing he could do right then was to feed and water – and hope for the best. He wrote to me in 2019 to tell me the tree had started to rock in the wind, and that a tree surgeon had subsequently declared it dead, and had had to remove it. Apparently, the roots were rotten.
There’s no way of knowing if it was just the drought that did the damage. The tree may have been weakened by not feeding and watering over previous years, and the drought was just the final nail in the coffin. But the 2018 heatwave certainly caused problems.
Is there any other way to deal with the problem?
You have to get nutrients and iron back into the soil. And you need water in order for the roots to be able to access those nutrients. Yes, you could use your own mulch or bought compost, but obviously this is not so attractive in a normal garden (removing it is what got you here in the first place). It would also take longer to have an effect. But it would still work, given time.
When do Birch trees normally start to shed their leaves?
In the Autumn! In the UK this is from around September-October, and the onset varies up and down the country. It often seems triggered by a noticeable drop in night time temperatures. The leaves will begin to fall from that point – very lightly at first, then increasing as the yellowing spreads.
Why do birch trees drop leaves so early?
They don’t. They drop them in Autumn, like all other trees which shed their leaves each year. If yours is turning early, you may have a problem.
How do you apply these treatments?
You make up the required solution as directed on the pack, then water it into the area specified. I use a combined watering/fertilising system, which I have written about separately. However, you can use a watering can and hosepipe/sprinkler as necessary. Note that if the ground is dry, a watering can won’t get the nutrients down to the roots, so a heavy watering is essential.
Why are fallen leaves sticky?
You’ve probably got greenfly! Specifically, the birch aphid, Euceraphis betulae. They feed on the European Birch, Betula pendula, and they increase in number during warm and dry weather. Aphids secrete honeydew as they feed, and that’s the sticky stuff you’re seeing. Apparently, you can get different species of greenfly that feed on specific trees.
You can kill them with a soap/water mixture, though no one has ever been able to tell me precisely how you apply that to a 20 metre high tree. And the same goes for any chemical method relying on direct contact. An alternative solution is to introduce predatory insects – something that eats aphids. The best one is the Ladybird larva, and you can buy them online. There are other predatory insects you can buy, too.
My tree is losing branches and twigs
If the tree is weak then it is understandable that twigs and small branches might fall off. Once they’re stronger this will stop. In any case, if it is windy, a few dead twigs are bound to fall off. It’s just nature – and birches also have a fungus which can cause small twigs to die and fall.
In the Spring, Crows can also be a problem if they’re nesting nearby. They are very, very selective in their choice of twigs for the purpose, and they will tear off dozens until they get the right one. It’s nature, so we don’t worry when they’re using ours for their twigs.
When do birches start to show leaves?
In Spring, obviously, but the precise date varies depending on both the tree and the weather. In 2019, they were about a month earlier than 2018 in the UK. Mine is usually showing leaves sometime during April each year.
I’ve got catkins but no leaves
Someone found the site in April 2018 with that query. You’ll probably find that in a couple of weeks you’ll have lots of leaves. As I have said in this article, I start feeding mine from March onwards. Leaves start sprouting a week or two earlier than my neighbours’ trees, and the foliage on mine is usually much denser. The catkins often come before the leaves.
Are the leaves changing early this year?
This was a generic search term used to find the blog in mid-July 2017. The short answer is no, they are not – not in July in the UK, anyway. They change towards the end of September in the UK.
Do Weeping Silver Birches lose their leaves in Autumn?
When do Silver Birch leaves go all brown?
They don’t. The leaves should go yellow and fall off in the autumn.
I had quite a few visitors from this search term in 2018, and when I looked it up it seems that extreme cases of chlorosis and heat stress can result in leaves turning brown (see this supplementary article). It could also be a disease or infestation which you could treat, but the tree itself might also be dead – especially if it has been having any of the problems I mentioned above over previous years. Best to call in the experts.
Does this advice only apply to Silver Birch trees?
No. Chlorosis can affect many plants, and lack of nutrients is a universal issue. You might need a different fertiliser to address any nutrient problem, but iron will likely fix chlorosis. Lack of water can kill virtually any plant.
The last blog article simply stated the obvious detail that anyone of sound mind will already be aware of. Vladimir Putin is a f**king w*nker.
A BBC article gives some technical info which explains this fact in more precise detail.
Ukraine has fought back much harder during the first week than Vladimir Putin expected, or very probably than his generals promised him, it would…
Ukraine has proved a hard nut to crack, and the reaction of Western countries, particularly Germany, has been far fiercer than he thought. Russia’s economy has already been savagely hit. Putin’s one big friend, China, now seems worried that this Western upsurge of anger might, one day, be turned against China itself – and that serious damage could be done to the Chinese economy. It has already distanced itself from the invasion…
Finland and Sweden could both end up joining the alliance for their own protection. Putin launched this war in part to stop Ukraine one day joining NATO, but he could find more NATO members on his north-western border.
It doesn’t mention that huge swathes of Russian people are also opposed to his pathetic and diminutive Soviet-era mind. He has screwed up big time. He has fu*ked himself, and he has fu*ked Russia. And he won’t stop fu*king anyone, because he is a complete w*nker.
He has already threatened the use of nuclear weapons. This is absolute proof he is not of sound mind and needs to be stopped before he can use them. Because if he is backed into a corner, like the pathetic midget he is (he wears elevators in his shoes, by all accounts), he would undoubtedly use them. There would be nowhere else for him to go.
I don’t want to spell it out completely, but the abstract phrase ‘an ass in a nation’ comes fairly close to what is really needed right now.
Everyone is completely sympathetic to Ukraine’s plight in the face of this madman. But the West cannot get directly involved because of the modern risk – some would say the ‘certainty’ – that Putin would push the nuclear button if he were anywhere near losing. The fact that he’s already threatened it is enough for that to be beyond debate.
Eighty years ago, the last complete madman we had to deal with put a bullet in his own head to avoid being pulled up on crimes against humanity.
This one would push the button to achieve the same thing – but with greater consequences to humanity than a loud bang in one of the back rooms of a bunker. In a way, that gives Putin the height he lacks in the physical sense: he is head and shoulders worse than Hitler.
Putin is the vilest of creatures. Even extinction would be too good for him – but better for the rest of the World. And all Russians.
And his extinction is the only rational solution.