CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Tenerife connections

100_0335 Tuesday may have been a dismal day, but when I got to Hythe, they'd put the bunting out for me. Wasn't that nice? :) Hythe is a strange place for a seaside village, because it appears to think itself too posh for anything commercial on the seafront. Waterside there are just quaint cottages a-plenty and the infamous pier carrying the equally famous, World's Oldest Pier Train.

Even the Lord Nelson pub is in the now pedestrianized High Street, which runs inland from the pier head and where shops consist, mainly, of a Waitrose, a plethora of charity shops and a few places selling knick-knacks today.

100_0338The Lord Nelson pub (first listed as such in 1801) sign is unique, claims this history, because it shows Lord Nelson after he'd lost his right arm in the attack on Tenerife (the date was actually, July 25th, 1797) and before he was wounded at the Battle of the Nile on the 1st August, 1798, losing his right eye. In truth, apart from the fact that they get the date of the Battle of Santa Cruz wrong, the sign shows only head and shoulders and neither arm, though, possibly that's to avoid showing one missing.

100_0341Pretty as Hythe is, I'd seen the lot in less than 10 minutes, so after a coffee and a chat with a couple from Hordle who I'd met when I caught the bus in Lymington, I decided to catch the pier railway and the Hythe Ferry.

Both are decidedly cute and the half-hourly service (combined train / boat ticket) to Southampton is a real bargain at just £3.50 (single), considering the added attractions. Well worth it for the experience.

Inside the World's Oldest Pier TrainLook, no doors! Surely, we'll all fall out?

It was also refreshing to ride on something so obviously built long before the health and safety nannies took over the state too. At the end of the pier, I boarded the ferry, the Great Expectations. From Hythe, I could see a large ship off in the distance, but it wasn't until the ferry took us up close and personal that I realized that it was, in fact, the soon to be retired Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2).

The Queen Elizabeth 2 in Southampton docks on September 30th, 2008, the day she was to set sail on the Canary Islands Splendour tour: her last ever call into Tenerife before retiring.

What were the chances of catching a glimpse of her on the very day she was to set sail on the 12-Day "Canary Islands Splendour" tour, that would take the ship to Tenerife for her final visit to the island? That report was written 18 months ago: I'd remembered, vaguely, that she would make her last call this year, but I certainly hadn't remembered the date. Eerie, init?

PS: The bunting, it seems, is a permanent fixture. More photos of Hythe Pier and Railway, Hampshire - The oldest operating pier railway in Britain

More photos from the day trip | More old photos of Hythe

To where the New Forest meets the sea

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On Tuesday, I had to go to Lymington, but what I had to do there took less than 30 seconds, so I decided to take myself off on the day trip I threatened some time ago to Hythe in Hampshire where the New Forest meets the sea and, where one can find the oldest operating pier railway in the world (official).

"The ponies have been called the 'Architects' of the Forest, for it is through their browsing and grazing that the lawns and trees look as they do today. Without their 'work' and that of the cattle and deer the Forest would soon be overgrown with brambles, gorse and other coarse herbage." [Source]

Before we get to Hythe, potential tourists may like to know that the number 112 bus (PDF) from Lymington to Hythe, rattles through the New Forest and various sleepy villages, including Beaulieu on the way. In fact, the bus goes in the "tradesman's" entrance to Beaulieu and right up to the door of the National Motor Museum. Unbelievably, nobody wanted to get off there.

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We passed through Beaulieu village, saw the rooftops of Palace House and the remains of Beaulieu Abbey.

It was a grey day, but along the way, we saw trees everywhere turning shades of orange and red, expanses of heathland, many ponies and donkeys grazing along the roadsides and one after another of impossibly beautiful thatched cottages (like this one), so quintessentially English you could only imagine them to exist in Miss Marple's village of St. Mary Mead.

A couple of times proper country folk at their gates with their hounds - the type who have Chelsea Tractors because they really need them and wear jodhpurs and riding boots because they actually own horses - nodded as we passed.

This is deepest rural England; one of the only bits left. It was, however, noticeable that there were only two small village post offices and stores along the whole route. Not even one in every village, because the majority of those places closed long ago, unable to make ends meet as everyone drove to the big supermarkets. Now everyone has to drive to the big supermarkets.

Getting Britain to take climate issues seriously, yer doing it wrong!

More pics: New Forest 1, New Forest 2, New Forest 3

To be continued ...

Lost in Austen

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Except I wasn't lost at all, but having joked previously that a walk around these here parts seems like something out of a Jane Austen novel, today, on a bit of a sightseeing trip, I found myself retracing Austen's real life footsteps. In reverse, though I was not seasick. More later.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

You don't say ...

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Result of silly quiz at Facebook:

"You are emo, like the bands, most likely shy, maybe not many friends, maybe depressed, but unique and yourself, don't listen to the other kids, be yourself."

Some people will be rolling on the floor laughing after they already told me that.

But I still don't like the music. :)

Friday, 26 September 2008

There's a war on, you know

Dig for Victory poster by Mary Tunbridge PST0696Apparently, sorting your recyclables is as hard as completing a Sudoku puzzle. (Via: The Good Life) And, I can well believe it too, but refuse to get my head round either of them. It's also said that, "The average UK family spends the equivalent of one working week a year sorting rubbish into plastic, glass, paper, cardboard and compost."

And you have to ask yourself, why seemingly sane people readily accept this sort of mindless torture. And most do accept it, unquestioningly, because these never ending tasks are being marketed and packaged as "necessary" as if there's a war on.

Well, because there's a war - several wars - on; against waste, against climate change, against terrorists and, it seems to me, against anything and anyone else who's deemed shifty-eyed and anti-profit here!

At least we haven't (yet) been issued with wheelie bins in this area, nor are we (yet) being threatened with fines if we throw too much stuff away, but last week, the New Forest District Council (who charge each "average" household around £1,400 a year), sent a letter to all households, vaguely inferring future bad shit upon us - note the irony: a letter, printed on dead trees - because some people had put trash out before the proper time and day.

Despite the "if you didn't do it, we apologise", mantra that was in the letter, this is still the same as punishing the whole class just because one child is naughty. That was always been wrong and an injustice, because not all of the people are, or can be, responsible for the actions of one.

Next they'll be asking us to rat on each other about refuse "offences" (like they want council workers to stop people for minor offences and members of the public to bitch at smokers, as they already do at dog owners) and such measures can do no good at all in communities that once, were mutually supportive. People have become nastier and less tolerant in Britain since I last lived here and, I fear that this is one more example of social engineering.

Remember, "United we stand, divided we fall". United communities are strong and stand together against bad administrations. They'd rather keep us going for each other's throats so that they can make us believe we need more rules, more laws, more policing, more CCTV cameras, etc. Accidental? I think not.

The council also say that "Most of the waste goes to the Energy Recovery Facility at Marchwood where it is burnt to generate electricity."

It does what? And WTF kind of marketing bullshit name is an "Energy Recovery Facility" anyway? If they mean a choking chimney, an insidious incinerator, then they aught to have the decency to tell it like it is. Of course, most people actually fall for this crap, which says a lot for the collective intelligence.

Maybe it's just what I'm reading into it, but they seem to be proud of this use of antiquated methods. Out-of-date ideas are certainly normal around here, but this means we have a council who is either totally ignorant of advances in thinking, or actively does not give a shit and, worse, is happy to let the generally oblivious public believe that this is somehow a good thing.

Recently, a similar incineration system was proposed in another area of the south of England and ecologists there are campaigning to have it stopped.

My Tenerife readers know all about the major objections to incineration.

Apart from not mentioning if the energy generated makes the whole process worthwhile (I'm sure this is not an accidental omission), not just in terms of cost, but of C02 and other emissions of burning compared to landfill:

"As a recent European study shows, when the full extent of carbon emissions coming out of the stack of incinerators are considered, incinerators emit significantly more greenhouse gas emissions for each kWh of electricity generated than coal-fired power plants." (Source, Incinerators vs Zero Waste: Energy and the Climate (PDF)

... moreover, if the local council, by their own admission is burning most of the waste, then why, oh why, do households need to separate the trash into 1001 (give or take) different categories before they take it anyway?

As The Telegraph also ask, Will recycling your rubbish save the planet?

Wanna know what I think? Not a flamin' hope, because it's all a sham.

The Guardian backs me up too (Via: Anorak), for even more reasons:

According to the researchers, people who regularly recycle rubbish and save energy at home are also the most likely to take frequent long-haul flights abroad. The carbon emissions from such flights can swamp the green savings made at home, the researchers claim.

This [unnecessary] demand on the part of the council also creates the utterly ridiculous situation that people have cupboards full different types of trash and different coloured rubbish sacks that would make even the most "balanced" among us appear to have an obsessive compulsive hoarding disorder and, then spend half of their waking hours "processing" garbage.

I'm not even going to begin to explain the weekly "ritual", but among the old, who make up most of the population in this area and, who may have the tendency and, are easily spooked into such sheeplike behaviour, it's creating a very real problem, because, combined with a lot of time on their hands, this has become a major concern. They really, really fret over it actually.

They also perceive that they don't have space left in their rabbit-hutch sized homes for useful things, like food and household supplies. So they won't buy economical sizes, which means they spend more money unnecessarily (ironically, smaller sizes also means more packaging waste) and then they become really quite frighteningly mean and cut back on essentials.

Even if it's only a side effect, having people spend such a disproportionate amount of their focus on such mundane matters, does distract people from what's really going on and I don't think the authorities mind that at all.

It pisses me off even more that every Thursday, not one, but TWO different refuse trucks come round (yes, double the petrol too) to pick up the different coloured rubbish sacks. Once again, the brainwashed idiots unquestioningly accept and even defend what they're being told about that need.

Alright, maybe it does need two trucks for the quantity, but how about making that actually useful to the customer, say by having two collections on two different days of the week instead of us having to live knee-deep in shit. But no, we get threatened if we do not conform and they keep threatening to stretch it out to one collection every two weeks. And we pay for this?

The refuse is collected and processed, of course, by different profit-making sub-contractors, not the actual public administration, so the real purpose of separating the refuse (if there is a purpose), starts to emerge.

Then, if you pay an additional annual fee, another one will come round, in a different truck (more gas), probably from yet another different company, on a Monday, to pick up garden refuse.

Does anyone see any environmental benefits here, because I certainly don't.

Help save our cafe

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(UPDATE: Sadly, it wasn't saved and not just the cafe, but the entire company closed.)

Regular readers may remember that when I first got here in June and did a quick survey of the exciting attractions in New Milton, I virtually drew a blank, save for one calming oasis in this lifeless desert: Dorcas Coffee Shop.

In actual fact, as you can see from the wording on the facade, it's a community furniture project and coffee shop, providing furniture to people on benefits, etc., for very low rates. The coffee shop sells local, fair trade and organic products and, mainly draws in a "better class" (IMHO) of like-minded folk.

The official blurb at the New Milton town hall website says said:

"Dorcas New Forest based in New Milton is a furniture re-use charity seeking to provide furniture, household and electrical items to those who would not otherwise be able to afford to purchase their own and is open to anyone within the New Forest area on means tested benefits or with a low income.

Another of Dorcas' primary aims is to promote re-use and recycling of furniture, electrical and household goods within our local community by providing a collection service (£5 collection fee applies). This has dual benefits by providing a source of items for disadvantaged families and individuals, and by reducing the number of items going to landfill sites."

Dorcas have a warehouse too, but put furniture for sale on display in the coffee shop. This is a wonderful system, because every time you go in there's a different sofa to lounge on, or dining table to sit round, where you can read the paper (provided by the shop) ... and the furniture and price tags are a talking point, getting complete strangers chatting to one another.

The coffee shop format is good for Dorcas, attracting more interest and donations than a mere showroom and warehouse could and, this benefits the "disadvantaged" greatly too, by making more available and giving them a place where they can call in that is supportive and non-judgemental.

The coffee shop also provides paid employment for one (partially disabled) employee: all of the rest of the super-friendly staff are volunteers.

For all of those reasons, along with their excellent quality, comparatively low prices and a loyalty card system that gives me every 11th coffee free, Dorcas has now become an obligatory stop every time I walk into town.

But ... There's always one, isn't there?

Someone, whose opinion appears to be fairly representative of the narrow-minded rightwingnuts here, already told me that some locals don't like this coffee shop, because they feared it would draw "undesirables" - maybe it does, if you count people like me, aging hippies, the disabled and the like.

Their objection alone was enough to make me a loyal Dorcas customer, partly in defiance, but mostly because that tells me it would attract nicer people I'd get on with and would be a place where I could escape the chavs and the many with stiflingly overbearing conservative attitudes.

However, there is the fact, that Dorcas is one of many (too many) cafes in New Milton's high street. Most of the others are just "average": probably once of the "Greasy Spoon" ilk, mostly trying to look like tourist tea rooms these days and, in my opinion, failing miserably at it.

They maybe wouldn't be too far out of place in Playa de las Américas, but here in New Milton they are laughably out of date and out of step with demand.

To compete, they should pull their socks up and modernize. But do they?

No, it appears not, because the council have received a number of objections against Dorcas' planning application to retain the use of the premises as a coffee shop and, I'm given to understand that those mostly came from other cafes. So they favour abusive practices, not healthy competition, do they?

And, they seem to be oblivious to the fact that they cater to totally different markets, which is another sign that they have their heads up their bums. :)

If you're from this area and care about this, or can see your way to adding your support for any other reason, I would urge you to do so. According to the details online, this case has not yet been decided, but the planning committee meeting date for it is on October 8th, which is Wednesday week.

There's a petition one can sign (I have already), if you call into Dorcas, otherwise, us members of the public can leave comments on the New Forest District Council's website. Planning Application - 08/92794, 48 STATION ROAD, NEW MILTON BH25 6JX, refers (which you can find here.)

On that page, you'll see Public Representations, including Neighbours near the bottom, where you can click a link to be able to make your comments.

So far there seem to be 5 against and 19 in support of the coffee shop (plus mine, which makes it 20, or 4:1 in favour), which superficially, looks like really good news, but I'd love to see them get really overwhelming support.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Mr Fluffy's Progress

Mr Fluffy the squirrel

Once upon a time, Mr Fluffy (the pussycat, a.k.a Balu), his sister Ms Kitty and myself all set out for a leisurely stroll around the garden. We try to do so most mornings, so there's nothing terribly strange about it. Well, you may think differently of two cats on leads, but it works fine, as long as they both want to go in the same direction.

Alright, just once or twice they have walked along neatly together, like obedient little dogs and thanks to the "magic" of reflective glass doors, I too was able to see how bloody ridiculous we looked collectively! :)

Usually, it's a turmoil of tangled leads and half-escaping cats - because, unlike dogs, you can't pull the lead to make them fall into step - and the simplest way to cope with it, involves picking up and shoving one under my arm. Not taking cats out on leads at all would be better for my "street cred", but if one must do it, let me tell you that taking cats out one at a time is much easier.

Balu always finishes eating his breakfast first every morning. He then goes and waits by the door, so I used to take him out while Kitty was still eating ... Then it began to disturb Kitty so much that she would follow us, yowling through various windows, or sitting by the back door crying loudly.

At first I thought it was because Kitty didn't want to be separated from her dahling brother and was crying for him. She would start licking him as soon as he came back in through the door ... Until a couple of times when I took her out first and Balu afterwards, which did not seem to perturb her at all. As long as Ms Kitty is put first, she's a happy bunny, I mean Kitteh.

So she's just a jealous little self-centred prima donna in a fur coat then.

(Manipulative little minx was supposed to be my mother's cat too! :)

Now Kitty has it sussed and rushes to the door, eager not to be left out as soon as I get Balu's harness, so to keep the peace, I take them both.

But Balu, who is certainly "mummy's boy", I cannot deny, would make Garfield look hyperactive by comparison. Recently, he's gone back to that stage of cat walking, where said animal does a fair, if completely useless, impression of a "legless" floor mop. Previously, he was strutting his stuff all round the neighbourhood, now he often just lies down and doesn't budge.

Not even with a strategically placed foot (gently, but firmly) up his tail end.

The fuzzy yellow bushSo, maybe it was fortunate that I was carrying Balu (who also does a good impression of a sack of potatoes with fur on when you pick him up), that day when we got round the other side of the garden, just in time to watch a grey squirrel dancing around at the back of the yellowy, fuzzy bush.

Kitty spotted the tantalizing display though, as the squirrel exited, stage right, making off quickly in the direction of the garden wall, which it was up and over in a trice ...

... and Kitty forgot she was on a lead, as she tried to take off in pursuit of it.

So much for all the nocturnal squirrel watching from windowsills, because lazy Balu made no move to get out of my arms as we ran after it. I mean, as I ran behind Kitty, comically. Because, had I not done so, the strain on the lead might have been enough for her to escape out of that.

Cats don't forget though. The next times I took Kitty out (sometimes I take her out on her own while Balu is under the covers, snoring), she was straight up the particular bit of the wall where Squirrel Nutkin had gone.

home_sweet_homeBoth kitty cats keep sniffing up the back of that bush. I've looked, but can't find any squirrelly Home-Sweet-Home signs inside.

The bank of holly Yesterday, when I was out with Kitty and she was poking her nose up under the holly bank, there was a sudden noise of scuttling as something inside was disturbed by our presence.

Clearly, the squirrels live very close as they dart back and forth inches from the house, every day. Do they know what danger they could be in?

Nevertheless, the squirrel population is safe for the foreseeable, because the signs of normality (well, we don't really do "normal") and confidence are still not frequent enough to trust either of the cats to go out on their own.

Balu's regression to timidness seems to be because visiting neighbourhood cats (including one from next door), sit on our back step looking in through the glass door and the poor little wimp cries his eyes out and trembles!

His howling isn't particularly funny at 2 a.m. either, but it's been since these visits have become more frequent that Balu has started to become reluctant to go out for walks. Not just his refusal to move his arse once he's outside, but sometimes he quivers or runs away and hides when he sees the harness.

Even when they appear perfectly happy to go out, both cats are still very jumpy and easily spooked by any strange movements or noises and indoors, both still spend most of their days hiding under the bedcovers. Actually, this hardly seems like we've made any progress at all.

Mr Fluffy the squirrel photo by haloocyn

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

More on the mole massacre

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This really has nothing at all to do with blind furry animals, but trust me, you really don't want me to post an accurate photo to go with this post. You expected that the process of mole (the type you have on your skin, not the ones in your lawn) removal was maybe not going to be quite carnage, but was never going to be quite as simple as "advertised", didn't you? Naively, I thought it couldn't be that bad either, but even I hadn't fully taken my ability to suffer side effects and react badly to things into account.

Actually, the whole thing was quite disturbing in a way, because I turned up for my appointment with the nurse, who merely asked me if I'd seen the doctor about the moles. I told her that I had (because I had), explained that he had looked at them with his special tool and declared them harmless, but suggested I make this appointment for their removal, so here I was.

And with that, she just started zapping them with the freeze gun.

This is all very well, since I am honest, but I made the appointment myself, via reception, merely saying that I had discussed this with the doctor and the nurse did the treatment, merely on my say so. Incredible, huh?

Anyway, the nurse did warn me that they would be sore, but it's been well beyond that. For the first couple of days I felt like I had first degree burns and the pain made me hot and sick. I went back to the doctors' surgery and spoke to another nurse in the treatment centre, because the pain wasn't dying down at all, but all she could suggest was that I take paracetamol, which would have been about as useful as a chocolate teapot, given the severity.

The pharmacist suggested I take Ibuprofen at the same time and I've had to, popping pills like Smarties over the last few days and, while this has still had scant effect on the soreness, has rendered me frequently comatose.

Meanwhile, the moles are darker than they used to be, one or two have red rings, but otherwise, for all the nasty burning, don't actually seem to be doing anything yet. They're certainly showing no signs of wanting to drop off as they apparently should and, now I'm wondering how long this is going to take.

The worst of it is because most of them are around my middle, so that until the soreness goes, I can't even wear clothes - slouching around in pyjamas at well below half-mast is one thing at home - certainly not if I have to walk miles with them rubbing and chafing and, it's a 1.1 mile walk each way just to get to the chemist or the doctor, so this is decidedly more than inconvenient.

Photo: wendylee03

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Fruxaffigology

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No, that's not a swear word, thought it probably should be, because fruxaffigology has been suggested as a generic name for fruit and veg label collecting.

Why anyone would want to collect fruit and veg labels, I don't know. There are stranger hobbies, I suppose, but I reckon it's right up there with train-spotting and nose-picking on the cool and trendiness index and, truth is, I'm sick and tired of having to pry stickers off every fruit before I can use it.

It's bad enough when it's apples or something you might expect to consume one at a time, but the other day, I removed no less than 14 labels off 16 plums (and, before you point it out, yes I do think there's something ironically peculiar about someone who stands and counts the things, let alone collects them.) On plums, where you'd be sure to eat or cook several at once, this is a complete waste of time and energy (theirs and mine) and resources.

All this useless labelling and packaging is for what?

So we can throw it away to create more refuse (PDF) that has to be separated, go in landfill, get burnt and either way, gives off more gasses than politicians generate hot air?

For another thing, I do not want to eat sticky label glue residue, thank you.

But doesn't anyone see the contradiction here? We're being terrorized over waste in the UK and yet we seemingly cannot avoid this epidemic of etiquetas (labels to you: the plums were Spanish) and plague of packaging.

And it's not just some things that are packaged, it is nearly everything: there's noticeably much more packaging here than there was in the stores in Tenerife. In some stores, the only thing you see is rows and rows of conveniently pre-packaged goods. Even the "fresh" produce comes bagged, though the only thing it is conveniently pre-packaged for is supermarket profits, IMHO.

To allow the supermarkets to continue with these abusive practices is to condone waste; waste of food, waste of money, waste of resources.

It's no wonder British consumers can't tell the difference between healthy food and junk either, because packaged, from the outside, it all looks the same; very little of it tastes fresh and wholesome, just bland and manufactured.

Recently, I wanted some large potatoes for baking. Just a couple would have been fine, but do you think I could find any loose? Nah, the least was a pre-packaged bag of four uniform medium-large potatoes, ready washed.

Things sweat in those bags, which, even if they're unpacked and dried when you get them home, often go manky before you can use them, yet in Tenerife, I was used to buying - or being given - sack loads of loose, local muddy things and they would last ages in perfect condition, even in the warm climate.

What is going on with produce in the UK?

Pondering the possible reasons has turned up very little that makes sense, but here carrots go limpid and spuds go spongy in a couple of days. Packaged or not, "fresh" produce in the supermarkets seems to be wet, as though it's been refrigerated and that also seems to speed up it's deterioration, which again seems to me like a deliberate ploy to sell more, more often.

Of course, a wet summer where it almost never stopped raining, where there was a heavy "Autumnal" dew on the grass every morning, right through June, July, August and September and, where, on a relatively warm and sunny and certainly rain-free day, humidity was still at 94%, probably doesn't help!

Monday, 22 September 2008

One Web Day

OneWebDayOneWebDay is an Earth Day for the internet.

The idea behind OneWebDay is to focus attention on a key internet value (this year, online participation in democracy), focus attention on local internet concerns (connectivity, censorship, individual skills), and create a global constituency that cares about protecting and defending the internet.

So, think of OneWebDay as an environmental movement for the Internet ecosystem. It’s a platform for people to educate and activate others about issues that are important for the Internet’s future.

OneWebDay is a day when users of the World Wide Web are encouraged to show how the Internet affects their lives. It is held on September 22.

Find out more: OneWebDay | Official website | Via: Mashable

Food Shortage

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A worldwide survey was conducted by the UN. The only question asked was:

"Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?"

The survey was a huge failure because ...

In Africa they didn't know what "food" meant.
In Eastern Europe they didn't know what "honest" meant.
In Western Europe they didn't know what "shortage" meant.
In China they didn't know what "opinion" meant.
In the Middle East they didn't know what "solution" meant.
In South America they didn't know what "please" meant.
And in the USA they didn't know what "the rest of the world" meant.

Supposed to be a joke. Should be just over-generalized steriotypes. I reckon Western Europe is heading fast towards finding out what shortage means, but what hope is there that the US will ever nod to "the rest of the world"?

Stolen from the humor archives and 1001 other locations online.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

International Day of Peace

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The International Day of Peace ("Peace Day") provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. It was established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. The first Peace Day was celebrated in September 1982.

The International Day of Peace is on September 21st of each year and calls for a full day of peace and ceasefire throughout the world.

International Day of Peace | International Day of Peace website

Saturday, 20 September 2008

I haz a kid

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I love goats, which tended to be a good thing when I lived in a valley filled with hundreds of them, had friends who kept goats (and made terrific cheese), but long before that I'd joked a goat would come in handy to keep the weeds down in the garden. Those who laughed at the idea, see dis.

Every day in the late afternoon in Tenerife, you come across herds of goats, but it took lots of walks to meet the goats in a local pen before my daft dog would no longer bark at them (she was no better with horses and a lot worse with other dogs, but that's a whole other story.) Whenever I took her to see the goats, an entourage of cats (her adopted kids) would follow us too.

Betty climbed the 3 meter wire fence to get up close and personal with them and wasn't so certain about meeting goats in person once one chased her all around the perimeter of the field.

But my favourite memory is from the first time Cleo (my little shadow and then queen of the feline troop) came with us. She was not exactly sociable with other critters normally, so it was the more surprising and touching to see her standing up on hind legs at the fence, nose to nose with a goat kid.

My good friend Natalia, who kept goats, made cheese and was usually followed around the valley by her own entourage of cats, died, at the far too young age of only 47, at 7 p.m. on May 3rd, 2001.

How I can still remember so clearly, is because I remember exactly where I was at that very moment: with Holly, rescuing three kittens, two of whom are with me in the UK. Cleo had kidney and liver problems, so I had to end her suffering in 2004. This year, in June, I had to leave Betty (and Mico) behind in Tenerife and had say goodbye to Holly, my beautiful dog and best friend. Too soon and not by choice.

As a result, all of these memories have turned bitter-sweet. I miss so many friends, the other cats, my dog, the goats. I miss the walks, the wild fruit, the nature, the mountains and the fresh air. I miss them all so much it hurts. And in their place is just an emptiness that makes my heart ache beyond anything I can bear.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Summon the Mole Killer

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Working down my excessively long list of unresolved medical issues, on my last visit to the doctor, I asked him to look at a number of moles. (Nothing to do with furry blind animals!)

These were reasonably large and lumpy chaps that did worry me a little, because they'd either appeared from nowhere or grown from small flat freckles in only the last few years and, a couple of them often itch too, so they annoy me, as well as that being a potentially bad sign.

The GP has looked at them with a special light / tool and says they are harmless, but he did immediately offer me the chance to get them frozen off, which given the annoyance factor, seems like it could be a good idea.

Went to reception to organize the appointment (for today) and the woman says, "Oh you want the nitro clinic." WTF are they going to blow them off?

The way she said it, mind you, made me think more of the "nit nurse."

But I like to know something about what I'm letting myself in for and discover that this is Cryosurgery of moles, freezing them off with Liquid Nitrogen. I sincerely hope this doesn't turn out to be carnage and that I don't live to regret this decision. What if they get mixed up and preserve me at a very low temperature? Maybe I'd be better booking a Nitro party instead? :)

Photo: by Chris Harley

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

50 reasons cats are better than men ...

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1. Cats clean themselves everyday.
2. A cat matures as it grows older.
3. Cats rarely miss the litter box.
4. Cats don't hog the covers in bed.
5. Cats are inexpensive.
6. Cats listen to your problems without interrupting.
7. Cats eat out of one bowl and don’t leave lots of dishes around the house.
8. Cats leave very few whiskers in the sink.
9. Cats comfort you when you are sick.
10. Cats don’t leave the toilet seat up.
11. At least when they sleep all day they don’t take up the whole couch.
12. Cats won’t crush your legs when they sit on your lap.
13. Cats keep your ears warm at night.
14. Unlike a man, a cat can fend for itself.
15. Cats do not drink beer.
16. If a cat gets lost, at least it has a tag on it to tell whoever finds it where it lives.
17. A cat is loyal.
18. There’s a better chance of finding a cat that is willing to read a book that doesn’t have any pictures.
19. Cats always greet you when you get home.
20. A cat’s idea of a good time is a game of string and a good belly rub.
21. Cats don’t come with in-laws.
22. A cat won’t steal anything but your glasses, your golf balls, and your heart. 23. Cats drink less and snuggle more.
24. Each of a cat’s nine lives is worthwhile.
25. A cat can’t write checks.
26. Cats can entertain themselves.
27. Cats are more attractive when they run around naked.
28. Cats like to watch “ER” more than a football game.
29. You can have an intelligent conversation with a cat.
30. Cats actually think with their heads.
32. “Meow” is never a lie.
33. Cats are more likely to be up to date on their shots.
34. They will both stand outside your door and whine indefinitely, but a cat will stop if you let it in.
35. Cats will never use up the last of your shampoo and then complain that it was the wrong kind.
36. Cats seldom go bald with age.
37. If a cat fixes your car brakes, it will do it correctly.
38. If cats don’t kow how to do something, they are more likely to admit it.
39. A cat might bring you household vermin as a present, but never “sexy lingerie.”
40. Most cats don’t like to drive, so you don’t have to worry about them crashing your car.
41. Cats won’t leave you waiting by the phone.
42. To buy a fancy dinner for a cat, you only need to spend 53 cents.
43. A cat’s friend is more likely to be less annoying.
44. Cats won’t leave a ring in your bathtub.
45. Cats can’t say, “I love you” without meaning it.
46. Cats are ALWAYS cute.
47. The only things cats expect you to “put out” are food, water, and a clean litter box.
48. When you leave a cat alone in the house, you know it won’t invite friends over for beer and pretzels.
49. Cats know what kindness is.

And last but certainly not least:

50. Men are sometimes pigs or asses, but cats are always cats.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Going Potty

scan0008Well, I've had one of the most unpleasant days I've ever had and, that's compared to most days being pretty damn shitty to begin with.

A while back, I dug out a letter I'd kept since 1990, from Joan Jones, the (apparently still) curator of the Minton Museum, with regard to two coffee cans and saucers, made by L A Birks & Co, Vine Pottery, Stoke, between 1896 - 1900. (You can almost see one in the image, right, to the left of the vase.)

Ms. Jones' letter tells me that Birks (Laurence Arthur) was a former pâte-sur-pâte artist at Minton, who left in 1896 to set up on his own. The design on these is a close copy of Minton's Delft pattern, which at the time, wasn't under copyright protection.

Since these could only have been made in that 4 year span, presumably, the copy is rarer than the original, but what I don't know is if that "rarity" has a positive effect on their value.

And there's only one way to find out, I reckon: get an expert opinion.

Anyway, for a long time, mother has been telling me about an auctioneer in Lymington that supposedly someone she knows has recommended. She purports to know everything about it, so I accept and leave it at that.

It's not urgent, but yes, I'm looking to sell these and the vases.

However, I can't just get up and go places. If I want to have a day out, with all the pain it will entail, I have to plan ahead, taking it easy for a couple of days beforehand. I'll still postpone outings if I wake up in too much pain or if I'm tired, because I know that will increase the recovery time - yes, just from a simple shopping trip - from the minimum 3 days to much longer.

Remember, I've spent 13 years pacing myself and balancing this problem.

Anyway, today was a bad day, pain wise and had I any choice in the matter, I would never have gone out at all, but mother decided that it was sunny, she wanted to go and I knew if I'd said no, she'd have one of her tantrums.

The other reason for going to Lymington is because last time I'd been there, I'd found a branch of Millets and, having compared the quality and prices of their clothing with the utter crap in the fashion stores, I thought that they were much better value for warm and weatherproof clothing. Told mother about it and she said we'd go and get "everything I needed."

Of course she doesn't have to, but I have absolutely no warm clothes and, before I came back to the UK, I made it clear that I would have to have clothes for the climate and, that I would not have money to buy them myself. Mother assured me she would buy me an entire new wardrobe, no problem.

And she's a fucking liar.

So, we get the local bus to New Milton, and then wait half an hour for the bus to Lymington - I know this sounds like no big deal, but it causes me a lot of pain, so I don't undertake the journey lightly. (I also have to find a loo at least once in that amount of time.)

We get off in Lymington at the bus stop she says is near the place she claims to know all about. And we walk miles and around back streets and then she says she THINKS it's around here somewhere, but isn't sure where. She doesn't have the address and she can't remember the name and she hasn't thought to write it down and bring it with her!

She randomly selects a building at the end of any street and swears that's where it "used to be". It's a removals firm and has "Removals" painted in gold lettering on the glass above the door in a style that makes it obvious that it has been a removals firm since somewhere around the 1930's.

To say that she's making up a total load of bullshit as we go along is the biggest understatement of the millennium and I'm not a happy bunny.

By chance, we do find an auctioneer in a back street. We don't know them, we have no idea if they're trustworthy. She says they aren't the name she was given, but I'm supposed to go in there and be content with their opinion.

The man there gave the items a cursory glance and declared each of them worth a condescending £10-12, including the Chinese vase that a (well known, professional and respected) auctioneer friend of mine in Birmingham had valued at £300, almost 20 years ago.

That vase, one of a pair, came from a well-to-do old lady who had a house stuffed with £15,000 + cabinets. The vases won't be £10 junk and my mother absolutely knows they won't be junk, because the old lady (now deceased) who gave them to me had been my mother's next door neighbour. She gave the vases to my mother to give to me and, at that time, my mother was fully aware they had some value, because she herself had told me they did.

Now she claims she "can't remember" that this is where I got the vases. She can, strangely enough, remember every other tiny detail about the woman.

But that was that. That was what "the expert" said and mother was virtually laughing and gloating because I had been "proved wrong": that these were almost worthless junk. Whereas, I'm more inclined to believe that the bloke didn't really know what he was looking at.

We then stop for a coffee in a really nice coffee shop, which was completely wasted on my mother, because she wouldn't be able to tell the difference between good coffee and dishwater.

She announces while we're in there that she refuses to have coffee out because she "just can't afford it." It was hellishly expensive, but oddly enough, I can still enjoy that (occasionally and rather than having to put up with dishwater), provided the voice of doom and gloom isn't whining in my ear and rushing me to drink up and leave.

The truth of the matter is that everything in this country is hellishly expensive, but I just couldn't cope with any outing without regular breaks to sit down, plenty to drink and yet more frequent visits to the bog.

We then walk into a charity shop and find a £3.79 top, which mother says is absolutely perfect for her upcoming Christmas do. She's clattering on about what it will go with, when she changes her mind mid-breath - coincidentally when I happen to say "yes, I like that" - and decides that it will be too big, will hang dreadfully off the shoulders, will look awful ... I measure it up against her cardigan and it is exactly the same width. She refuses to accept the "hard evidence", but snaps that I can have it if I want it. I didn't say that and I didn't want it. It was not my style at all.

Then we walk to Millets where she ums and ahs and questions and pulls faces about the cost of the waterproof jacket - that I'd told her two weeks ago was £25. It was £24.99. That's definitely not expensive. It's also not insulated, is not winter weight, but at least it will be weatherproof, as nothing else I have is.

Apart from that, I got one lightweight, microfiber top (£17.99), with free sighs and grimaces. That's it? That's my "entire winter wardrobe" is it?

And, if that's the reaction to the cheapest jacket in the shop (hardly more than a plastic mac really), what's the chance of getting a winter weight garment?

Or, more to the point, what fucking chance do I have of surviving a British winter after 16 years in the sub-tropics and with a severe sensitivity to cold - a known symptom of fibromyalgia - without proper winter weight garments?

The other "interesting" thing was that, while we were in Millets and one other shop where I found something worth looking at, she had to sit down (head bent, sighing) and was rushing me to pay up and go. Then we'd get outside and she'd announce that she "just has to go to ...", as though it was planned or a commitment she'd made to someone and, off she went browsing round clothes shops for her, where she had no problems at all, strangely.

We only went out at just before 11 a.m. and were back on the 2 p.m. bus, at home before 3 p.m., but I felt like I'd done 11 rounds with Muhammad Ali. By the time we got back to New Milton, I was in excruciating pain and could hardly put one foot in front of the other. At 84, she was racing on ahead of me.

She's starting, finally, to accept that I must have something wrong, but now she's convinced herself that the doctor will just give me a pill and it will be cured.

Sympathy and compassion are still conspicuous by their absence.

We got indoors and she goes off to the kitchen mumbling away in a stage whisper, still moaning about something - me, obviously - just because I'd said I didn't want a cup of tea. She does this every time she encounters reality and doesn't like it, which is pretty damn often, as you can probably tell.

How can anyone be this selfish and venomously negative, so constantly? Is it simple senility or calculated cruelty? Does it even matter really? All I know is I'll soon end up in the loony bin if I have to put up with much more of it.

A pig of a life?

577516_93656354Pigs get a bad press. With an unfair reputation for dirtiness and gluttony, pigs are in fact lively, inquisitive and affectionate creatures. It's claimed that the average pig is at least as intelligent as a domestic dog and certainly has the same capacity to feel pain and suffering. So why is it that millions of pigs are incarcerated in factory farms where they face a life of boredom and frustration?

A typical factory-farmed pig is taken from its mother at just three weeks old and put in a barren pen without bedding. The stress of this early separation makes his immune system weak and because he's kept in cramped, unhygienic conditions, he's fed antibiotics to fend off disease. Bored and frustrated, he'll start fighting with other piglets so to prevent injuries, his tail will be docked and teeth cut. He may also be castrated. These painful procedures are all carried out without anaesthesia.

His mother fares no better. Treated as a piglet production unit, during her unnaturally short life she is moved from one cage to another where she can barely move, let alone turn around. The narrow farrowing crate where she gives birth prevents her from mothering her piglets naturally, causing distress.

Compassion in World Farming is the leading farm animal welfare charity working to end factory farming - the biggest cause of animal cruelty on the planet.

Our campaigns to date have been instrumental in reforming EU welfare legislation which will make a huge difference to the lives of farmed pigs - and we couldn't have achieved it without the generosity of our supporters. But there's still so much more to do, for the 1.3 billion pigs slaughtered worldwide for meat, and the other 60 billion animals reared each year for food.

So please, support Compassion in World Farming today.

What Happens to Bullies?

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Would setting the license on this image to "All rights reserved" count as irony?

Well, I reckon it would be a tad ironic, same as I think that people who upload photos to photo sharing sites and then use copyright as an excuse why they suddenly don't want their photos shared are seriously contradictory.

Truthfully, I think they're just closed-minded and mean-spirited individuals who enjoy using their own invented take on rules as an excuse for bullying, but you can make your own mind up on that. The story below is true. No names are mentioned, not to protect the guilty, but because I don't discount taking this matter further if I don't receive a satisfactory public retraction and apology.

Normally, I'd be content to afford abusers all the respect and attention they deserve (none whatsoever), but I do not suffer fools gladly and there is a limit. When they make their actions public, it would be foolish not to manage and defend my online reputation against their ignorant and false accusations.

Oh, whilst I could do, I have no intention of responding in their native Spanish, because if there's to be any "mal entendido" (misunderstanding), it shall be in their interpretation. This person's profile indicates that they work in the media (well that's funny, so did I for a lot of years, as do a number of my friends and acquaintances), so the chance that they simply do not understand copyright issues is, I believe, negligible. Even if it's possible their malice may not have been personally directed at me, their manner makes me feel that these false accusations may fall under the definition of cyberharassment.

There's a chance too they considered it OK to have a go at me because I'm a woman and / or an English name amongst a Spanish-speaking group. There are already too many of this type in real life in Spain, then add the tendency for cowardly types to be abusive when hiding behind a computer screen.

Whatever their problem, I think they need to be given a very clear message that this kind of behaviour simply isn't tolerated in civilised society.

It seems curious to me that this man (presumably) consciously and voluntarily joins a photo sharing site, then (presumably) voluntarily uploads his photos, (presumably) so he can share them publicly. He then adds photos to a public group - voluntarily again (with and without invitations) - to (presumably) share them publicly a bit more. If that isn't the reason why he joined such as site, then why didn't he just keep the images hidden on his hard drive?

He then discovers a Flickr badge (made with the Flickr tool), which randomly rotates tiny, square 75 px x 75 px thumbnails of images from the group. He then claims that is "including his photos on my site without his permission."

This claim is laughably ridiculous for the following reasons:

  • No reasonable person would call those tiny thumbnails "the photo."
  • They're randomly rotated from Flickr, where he put them, where they remain. They're not downloaded and hence not "included" in the site.
  • He added his photos to Flickr and the group himself, so "permission" for this normal use (that is available to all) is already implied.
  • Nobody is claiming nor violating any copyright.

This is not a case where I have done something "borderline" or that could be thought of as wrong by some people: this is where I have used the absolutely normal, publicly available Flickr feature in it's usual and expected manner, yet he decides to take umbrage with it for absolutely no good reason at all.

Clearly, if he didn't want his photos to be promoted and seen by people that is entirely his prerogative, but if that was the case, he should not have joined a photo sharing site, nor made his photos public, nor added them to groups.

Maybe he didn't understand how it works, but everyone knows ignorance is no defence and, it certainly didn't give him the right to do what he did next.

In fact, nothing at all makes it right for anyone to falsely and publicly accuse someone else of "a crime" or "robbery" just because the result isn't what you want. It certainly doesn't excuse the threatening tone used in emails, nor his later attempts to cover up his own errors (that made sure I did not have an equal opportunity to defend myself against these false accusations.)

Those badges only have one purpose: to lead people to the photo page, giving the photographer the benefit of more viewers to his photos.

The only reason I put that badge on my website is to make it more interactive; to give photographers and group members the favour of exposure for their photos, give site visitors more to look at; more information, to enable them to see more of Tenerife. This directly benefits site visitors, photographers, Yahoo/Flickr and even the island (which was the whole point, really.)

The only person it does NOT benefit directly, because it takes traffic away from the site, is the site owner, i.e. me. Thus, it's a service, for the reasons listed above, that I more or less offer "out of the kindness of my heart."

Many photographers thank me, when I invite them to add photos to one of my groups. I don't ask or expect that, but it's nice when people bother.

So, what does this ingrate do when they encounter the badge?

They write me an officiously worded email, accusing me of "un delito" (a crime), then maliciously accuse me of "robo" (robbery) in the public forum of a different public Flickr group (of which I am a member and have met other members in person - more than likely my site was identified - but which is not my group and, neither is it the one they allege (falsely) to have a problem with.)

Worse, upon discovering that their accusations were entirely without merit, instead of admitting it or apologising, they've attempted to pass it off as a mere "mal entendido" (a misunderstanding - not on my part it wasn't) and asked the administrator to remove the thread (destroy the evidence).

Removing stuff does not make it go away online. As I'm subscribed to a feed of the particular forum discussion, I was able to save a copy of their comments before they were deleted, in which they had further added a "warning" to others to "look carefully" at what groups they add their photos to.

This is another gross (and ignorant) slur, which might lead others to think there is something wrong in the way my group is administered. To make it perfectly clear again: neither the way I administer the group, nor the way in which I use the standard badge is anything at all out of the ordinary.

NOTE: this person is still adding their photos to other Flickr groups, obviously ignorant of the fact (or deliberately ignoring it) that ANYONE in the world could make a similar badge for that or any other group and post it anywhere.

But even without understanding how Flickr works, it should be obvious to any reasonable person that sharing photos online, publicly at a public photo sharing site (the purpose of which is explained, clearly in English, Spanish and numerous other languages), means that you are making your photos available to be shared. Photos can be published elsewhere (with credit / link), even though the photographer retains full copyright (that's a concept that has been present in the media since forever.) There are even code snippets (provided by Flickr) so that images can be placed on other websites (following the guidelines that, "... specify that if you post a Flickr photo on an external website, the photo must link back to its photo page.") There's also the "Blog This" button on photo pages that allow photos up to 500 px to be posted to blogs. (Though none of those applies or has been used in this case.)

Don't like this? Then set your Flickr account so that your photos are only available to your friends and family, or better yet, do not upload them.

So next, he tells me (in a further email, in a snotty and superior tone) that he has "no desire to continue the discussion". In other words, attempting, once again, to sidestep his his own culpability and, presumably, hoping that I will be intimidated into thinking I was at fault, go away. Sorry, I'm not so dumb.

He then snarkilly comments in that email that he "hopes" the photos have been removed - at the end of the very same sentence, where he already says he has removed his photos from the group himself, so yes, obviously.

He also attempted to quote me chapter and verse of some guidelines he's made up, but I would just point out that the Flickr guidelines take precedence and say that, "Flickr is not a venue for you to harass, abuse, impersonate, or intimidate others." (With the emphasis on harass, abuse and intimidate.)

Harassment and false accusations (made publicly to a forum of which I'm a member, where, reasonably, this could have identified my site and harmed my reputation) are injurious and difamación and calumnia certainly are "delitos".

Ordering people around or intimidating people with threats is called being a bully, most bullies are trying to make themselves feel more important and bullies often pick on someone they think they can have power over.

What Happens to Bullies?

"In the end, most bullies wind up in trouble. If they keep acting mean and hurtful, sooner or later they may have only a few friends left - usually other kids who are just like them. The power they wanted slips away fast."

Image by cowfish (Via: Londonist)

Monday, 15 September 2008

Do cats ward off evil?

Ms Kitty in daylight

Mother went out on Wednesday when I took this photo and she was out again Saturday, as was Ms Kitty again, wandering around, jumping up on things, sniffing everything and showing interest in her environment for the very first time since she arrived here in June.

In fact both cats had been out of bed, during daylight for some time in the morning and were even relaxed enough to romp around and try to beat sh*t out of each other.

It's so good to see them behaving like cats ... since they are cats!

They've sometimes done this at night when the house is dark and quiet and mother's in bed, but otherwise they're still avoiding her like the plague.

Now, why would they specifically want to do that, I wonder?

They aren't used to having other humans around, but tell me why they cower, run, dive into hiding and even hiss and growl when my mother comes near them, but on the rare occasions when strangers call, they don't exactly form a welcoming committee, but they don't show such scaredy cat antics either?

It has been said that, "Cats [...] can sense things that humans can not, including bad vibes and impending disaster, earthquakes, etc." Cats have extraordinary senses, they may be able to detect terminal disease (by the cat performing a cat scan, presumably?) and, they could very well be picking up the vibe from me, but can they tell nice from nasty people too? :)

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Sapo en el pozo

So it's a frog. It won't taste any better! If English words liberally sprinkled into Spanish conversation seems a little alien, then reading Sobre Inglaterra (All About England), in Spanish is definitely smile inducing. Seeing how someone else sees us is always a strange experience, but it's lots of fun, as I've been discovering recently, along with the various delights of Birmingham, las Joyerias Quarter, Manchester, pasado industrial, fascinante presente, El Carnaval de Notting Hill and the Gastronomia tradicional inglesa, lo mas tipico, amongst others.

What they say about the British grub is particularly funny, with names of dishes that don't translate and comments like, "English cuisine will rarely do well in competitions, international awards or in the face of criticism", or that "it's impossible to deny that the majority of the typical dishes are very high in calories," pointing at the English Breakfast (desayuno inglés).

But, as I pointed out to my friends' son (un canario), a doctor who thought this a very unhealthy meal (that he was served at a B&B in Blackpool), I think there and English bars in south Tenerife are the only places that these artery clogging and heart-attack inducing fry-ups are served regularly.

Who could resist reading all about Marmite, getting the recipe for Yorkshire pudding or learning how to make Fish and Chips in Spanish? The prize for aptest and cutest translation though, goes to "sapo en el pozo", which, translating it literally back would be "Toad in the well". :)

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

¿Duy├║ spikingliss?

La Laguna Ahora reproduce what is said to be a letter that a woman asked to have read out live on radio, which certainly must have sounded strange, a snippet of which (you need to be fluent in Spanglish) is as follows:

"Desde ese punto de vista, los españoles somos modernísimos. Ya no decimos bizcocho sino plum-cake, ni tenemos sentimientos sino feelings. Sacamos tickets, compramos compacts, comemos sándwiches, hacemos camping, puenting y trekking y cuando hace frío nos limpiamos las narices con kleenex."

Of course there are two schools of thought on this lengua mestiza (half-breed tongue, or fusion language, if you prefer.) To some, it represents the worst of globalisation and suppresses traditional Spanish language and customs.

To others it's modernization: adding something and enriching the culture.

Personally, I think there's room for both, without sacrificing either.

Actually, I thought I did speak English, but there's nothing more calculated to throw you off in Spanish conversation than English words splattered about liberally, because they're in the wrong places and suddenly become alien.

How would you cope?

Once again it's raining in the UK and my entire body is screaming out in pain because of the humidity, which according to the BBC is 95% today. That's not to say things are perfect on days when it isn't raining, but when it does, it's so much worse and, it happens more often here.

My muscles burn as if I have a fever, I have all manner of other flu-like symptoms, my neck, back and shoulders ache, my legs ache, my knees are incredibly painful too, in fact everywhere hurts.

My head aches, my eyes are permanently sore. Immediately I stand up it feels like multiple-gravity is weighing me down and I feel overwhelming fatigue and an incredible urge to sit down. Walking to the opposite side of the room is exhausting enough to make me breathless.

If I sit in a chair, with my feet down to the floor, my feet begin to go numb and I get pain in my shins and ankles within seconds, while the latter swell like balloons. The toothache-like pain I still have in my hip after a fall 7 years ago makes sitting incredibly painful anyway, so the only comfortable position is lying down with my feet up.

Now, because I don't have a comfortable position at the computer, I quickly get aching arms and a terrible pain in my hands and wrists that I've not had before.

There's a time on most days when I am crying in pain. Even the constant dull aches are bad enough to make me nauseous and, on many occasions, the pain becomes sharp and sudden enough to take my breath away.

My sleep is disturbed too, mostly because of the pain: either I can't get to sleep until the early hours or I wake up early in the morning, which leaves me exhausted and incapable of concentrating on anything of consequence.

Additionally, I no longer have my double bed with superior latex mattress and heat pad that was the only way I could manage this pain, even in Tenerife's climate. Here, I find the bed so uncomfortable and it makes matters worse. On more than one occasion, I've woken up and, you know when you're still in that half-asleep, half-awake stupor, midway between dream and reality ... I've ached so much that I've thought, I'll be OK, as soon as I can lie down.

A split second more awake and, I realise that I'm already lying down.

Nine days out of 10 in Tenerife, I could manage ordinary, day-to-day things.

Nine days out of 10 in the UK I simply can't.

The constant pain is close to unbearable and I truly don't know how much more I can take.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Freedom Not Fear

Freedomnotfear_pascale

I'll support that initiative, because, clearly, things have gotten seriously out of hand. Especially here in the police state formerly known as Britain.

"People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both." - paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin

Freedom Not Fear (Via: Boing Boing)

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Lazy Bean Soup

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What a coincidence, Souvlaki For The Soul chooses to produce a Greek style “Lazy” Bean Soup this week, while I chucked together this vaguely Italianate version, everso loosely based on Minestrone or Simple White Bean Soup.

For the above: Soften a finely chopped onion in olive oil, dice a carrot, chop a dozen or so French beans into one inch (25 cm) pieces and throw all of those into a saucepan with a couple of handfuls of butter beans (soaked overnight, if needed. I cheated because these were pre-soaked and frozen.) Add a can of chopped Italian tomatoes and sufficient quantity of vegetable stock to cover.

Simmer for around 30 - 45 minutes to cook the veg and impart the flavours, then add a handful of pasta shells for the last 10 - 15 minutes.

Even that not very large amount of ingredients produced 4 - 6 portions of soup (depending on how hungry you are), so it's very economical and is a candidate for freezing if we don't want to eat the same thing day in, day out. 

Apart from the seriously lovely Mediterranean bread from Tesco that resembles a savoury cake and makes the cupboard smell beautifully of roast peppers that I served it with, this dish is, as far as I can tell, vegan, fat-free, healthy and yet it still tastes nice.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Stomping off 'cos I don't like reality, reason #99

Library photo ivy on a wall Today's happy morning greeting - after being asked if I'd had "a nice sleepies", as if I was a 2 year old (and yet she ignored my reply, which was NO) - was an announcement that my mother needs to have a word with the neighbour about the ivy creeping over the adjoining garden wall.

The photo isn't it, but so far, just half a dozen wayward new shoots have made it over the top in only 2 places. They probably aren't about to threaten humanity and take over the world.

Besides, from my observations in the 3 months I've been here, it is obvious that the neighbour is generally on top of garden tasks (though he appears to have a life between doing them), so I'm absolutely positive that if we say nothing, he'll knock on the door one day and ask if it's OK to come and trim it this side of the wall. Like he did when he pruned his hedge alongside our driveway just a few weeks ago and I know he's done on countless previous occasions.

The answer: the win-win situation, in terms of saving work, money, arguments and a whole lot more, seems perfectly clear to me. Simply do nothing.

No, mother has to speak to him because, she says, haughtily and as if it were of dire importance, "I don't want it getting tangled up in all my plants."

There is, in fact, as I reminded her, just ONE PLANT on this side of the wall - the area is otherwise boring brick, paving slab and stones and, quite frankly, would benefit greatly from some relief of green. What's more, it would be years before his plant grows far enough to get tangled up in anything. So I told her that she really shouldn't worry about it.

Well, alright I told her it was utterly ridiculous to consider it an issue.

That's reality, of course and we don't like reality do we, so she stormed off in a huff again.

This was followed by slamming of doors, windows and cupboards and then twice, she went outside to look at this "problem" plant.

Quite what staring at it was going to do, I have no idea!

Oh, I'm aware that most old people make small problems into big ones, but I think there's more to it than that and hers has entirely different motivations.

What I want to do is remind her of the numerous real problems that she should worry about, but refuses to face, but I dare not do so, because that would only result in another of her abusive outbursts and threat to throw me out on the street.

I think what she dislikes most is that I make sense. 

Is her focus on such inconsequential matters unaware or involuntary, or a deliberate smoke screen avoidance of reality? Not that my judgement counts for anything, but my observations over most of the last half century are that she has always gone out of her way to avoid reality and is manipulative in her means of doing so. You don't have to believe me, but whichever way you look at it, my mother has either lost the plot because she's senile (I don't believe this is the case), or because she has always had these tendencies.

Hopefully, learning to recognize exactly what she's doing will afford me some protection against becoming a similarly "nasty piece of work" and writing about it will help stop it festering up inside me and imploding with disastrous consequences, but it's mentally exhausting deal with her and hard work to avoid being dragged down into the negativity. The more so now, because it's constant and, at the same time it has become so much harder to deal with anything, because the climate has increased my pain ten-fold and so, my own capacities for thought and resistance are diminished by a similar factor. 

You can't choose your relatives, or make them change, obviously, however, I do think it's genuinely important that I concern myself with the effects this is having on my own health, because stress is certainly not desirable.

When would you justify murder?

It hasn't yet been confirmed that the third body found at Osbaston House, Shropshire is that of Kirstie Foster, 15, although, I agree, that would appear to be the natural assumption. Neither do we know, even if it is her, how she died or at the hands of whom. Nothing at all is certain, but the information we do have, does seem to point to someone shooting the dogs, horses and Mrs Foster, barricading the house from the inside and setting the fires in several places and, all of that does suggest Christopher Foster as the culprit. It's by no means proven. I'll leave that to the police.

However ...

My mother (the woman who takes unreal to alarming new depths) has rushed to assume that all of the above is fact, merely because that is what the media is feeding her, of course. She is, however, clearly incapable of thinking the whole thing through, as she thinks that the father shooting the daughter is perfectly OK, because "at least he did not leave her to be maimed for life."

Hello, excuse me! By her own assumptive reckonings, it follows - though she can't / refuses see it - that the daughter would have been in no danger of death or maiming whatsoever until the father did all those things and set light to the house that he'd barricaded her inside.

Up until that point, the worst "threat" the poor girl appeared to be facing (apart from having an arsehole with no conscience for a parent, maybe) was that the family might become homeless and destitute.

Well, many of us have survived worse, hell as it may be.

What we know about Kirstie is that she was on the internet at 1 a.m., seemingly going about the normal life of a 15 year old. She was a healthy teenager who rode horses and, as far as I can tell, was not "maimed", sick or disabled - not that those are valid reasons for killing someone.

And just because her dad was in debt, was certainly no reason to kill his own daughter.

If he wanted to commit suicide, then that's his own decision, but there is no way anyone sane would call the killing of his daughter in these circumstances, "justifiable homicide." Surely?

You can make up your own excuses for my mother. I've tried hard to make allowances for her age, or her lack of education, etc., but none of it washes: I do not think that anyone can hold such an opinion unless they are grossly and willfully ignorant, combined with some sick, nasty, cruel and sadistic tendencies ("enhanced" by old age, maybe, but that were there all along.) And I just cannot put into words the deep repulsion I feel for someone who can think like this. 

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