This is another from art class, acrylic on canvas. I was coming home from the allotment one evening in the summer and there was a spectacular sunset (we get some great sunsets here) so I took a picture of it and thought it would be nice to paint. This is it, this view is looking towards Lifford in Donegal,
This is the latest from my art class. I was up around the river in Sion earlier in the year and one of the sluice gates was broken. I thought it would be a great image to paint.
Is this the real life, is this just fantasy...and many a day I spent, back in my teenage years, gazing out the classroom window, watching the sky as clouds contorted and rolled over Croaghan Hill, the ever-changing light, adding depth and detail to the broad vista of the town below while fantasizing about (among others!) Freddie Mercury. Completely unaware at that stage of his sexual preferences, although, even when I did become aware, I still fantasised that he was only gay because he had never met me! After all, we had so much in common, he liked opera and ballet and so did I, and he also loved to play Scrabble, my favourite board game!
Bowie and Zeppelin were my first loves in music and I had been introduced to them through my oldest brother but Queen, I discovered and fell in love with, all on my own. I still remember the night at St Colman's disco when I first heard Seven Seas of Rhye, Now I'm Here and of course, Killer Queen. I also remember, only too well, the announcement of his death and how I cried that miserable Monday morning in November. So, with my heart on my sleeve, I ventured forth tonight to see if justice had been done to my beloved Freddie, in the movie, Bohemian Rhapsody.
The movie tells us about the early days of the band and their rise to fame. It reveals more about the background of Freddie's life than the other members but there wasn't anything in it that I hadn't read or heard about before, from his long term friendship with Mary Austin to his, shall we say, adventurous party lifestyle.
As a Queen fan, I loved it! I had forgotten just what a tour de force Freddie Mercury was on stage! What a showman, artistic and outrageous, unique and dynamic! I wanted to sing along! I wanted to stamp my feet and clap my hands to We Will Rock You! I wanted to stand in the crowd at Live Aid and cheer and sing and drink in every second of that heart-storming performance, made more poignant when we realise he had just been diagnosed with Aids, and I'm not the least bit embarrassed to admit a few tears were shed. Ah, Freddie! We'll never see your like again, unfortunately!
When the film ended, no one wanted to leave, conversations were struck up with strangers in order to delay the inevitable as fans and new fans discussed the merits of Mr Mercury et al. Those of us old enough to remember relived those moments in our lives when the music of Queen provided the soundtrack and helped to cement those memories in our hearts and minds. Many vowed to come back and see it again and next time, we will stamp our feet and clap our hands!
In the daily grind of life, we sometimes forget those great moments in life. Times when our hearts soared, when the sheer joy of a performance or piece of music lifted and inspired us, reminded us that there was more to life, that there could be better days or better ways of living if we just had the courage to reach out for it. I remember 1985, I remember Live Aid and how unhappy I was with my life at that time. I also remember vowing to change it and the following year I ended my marriage and even though I had a tough few years after it, it's a decision I've never regretted.
I haven't listened to music much in the last few years even though I still have all my albums and CD's. I seem to have settled (or been driven?!) into a sort of musical doldrums, I put away Queen and the Sex Pistols, Billy Idol and all those others who sent my heart soaring and my pulse racing, those powerhouses of my youth who didn't compromise or apologise for being exactly who they were and screw everyone who didn't like it!
In the apparent misery of the world today, as controlled and promoted by the media, we are fed a daily diet of fear, propaganda and paranoia. We have forgotten that music used to be a way to stick it to the man, a way to upset the establishment and inspire revolt and rebellion. Nowadays, everybody is so busy trying to display their liberal principles, demonstrating to the world how open-minded they are, how welcoming, all kumbaya and political correctness, anxious to be good citizens, terrified of change with a soundtrack so bland, sanitised and nonthreatening that we're being lulled into a permanent state of brain-deadness and musical easy-listening (which used to be the most insulting thing you could say about someone's musical taste!). Now we have music giants like Ed Sheeren with all the charisma of cold rice pudding, perfect for the snowflake generation and political cowards like (punk?) Bob Geldof who turned coat and now kisses the asses of the establishment. 'Oh, we're better together,' 'Oh, we need to save the planet', 'Oh, we can't listen to someone who might disagree with us because we're so easily offended', 'Oh those nasty Brexiteers have taken away our future'. Blah, whine, blah!
It speaks volumes for how weak and insipid we have become that the most rebellious voice in politics today is Jacob Rees-Mogg! My God! What happened to us?? We were the punk generation, when did we roll over, give up and play brain dead?
Well, I'm not giving up and thank you Bohemian Rhapsody for getting my blood pumping again, I'm going make it a point to listen to Queen, the Sex Pistols and Billy Idol at least once every month because I need those reminders. We all need those reminders, to remember who we were, when we had a fire in our bellies and weren't afraid to speak up and speak out. Remember our youth, when it was normal to challenge the status quo and defy the authorities instead of cowering in a permanent state of anxiety, too terrified to stand out or stand up and go against the crowd even when we're being sold out! Maybe it's time to get out those old tunes, crank the volume up and let chaos reign for a while, be a rebel, disagree with your friends, be offensive, challenge everything you are being told and be a bit like Freddie, strutting, confident, belting it out at volume, the shy man who was a God on stage, and who knows what might happen if we let that fire burn again...ROCK ON!
I came across this today on Facebook and thought I would share it since we're still doing the Brexit hokey, cokey! Are we in or out, half in and half out, out but still in, or in but being told we're out????? What a farce! Anyway, this is an excellent article and worth taking the time to read. It's from Tony Abbot, former Prime Minister of Australia.
It’s pretty hard for Britain’s friends, here in Australia, to make sense of the mess that’s being made of Brexit. The referendum result was perhaps the biggest-ever vote of confidence in the United Kingdom, its past and its future. But the British establishment doesn’t seem to share that confidence and instead looks desperate to cut a deal, even if that means staying under the rule of Brussels. Looking at this from abroad, it’s baffling: the country that did the most to bring democracy into the modern world might yet throw away the chance to take charge of its own destiny.
Let’s get one thing straight: a negotiation that you’re not prepared to walk away from is not a negotiation — it’s surrender. It’s all give and no get. When David Cameron tried to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership, he was sent packing because Brussels judged (rightly) that he’d never actually back leaving. And since then, Brussels has made no real concessions to Theresa May because it judges (rightly, it seems) that she’s desperate for whatever deal she can get.
The EU’s palpable desire to punish Britain for leaving vindicates the Brexit project. Its position, now, is that there’s only one ‘deal’ on offer, whereby the UK retains all of the burdens of EU membership but with no say in setting the rules. The EU seems to think that Britain will go along with this because it’s terrified of no deal. Or, to put it another way, terrified of the prospect of its own independence.
But even after two years of fearmongering and vacillation, it’s not too late for robust leadership to deliver the Brexit that people voted for. It’s time for Britain to announce what it will do if the EU can’t make an acceptable offer by March 29 next year — and how it would handle no deal. Freed from EU rules, Britain would automatically revert to world trade, using rules agreed by the World Trade Organization. It works pretty well for Australia. So why on earth would it not work just as well for the world’s fifth-largest economy?
A world trade Brexit lets Britain set its own rules. It can say, right now, that it will not impose any tariff or quota on European produce and would recognise all EU product standards. That means no border controls for goods coming from Europe to Britain. You don’t need to negotiate this: just do it. If Europe knows what’s in its own best interests, it would fully reciprocate in order to maintain entirely free trade and full mutual recognition of standards right across Europe.
Next, the UK should declare that Europeans already living here should have the right to remain permanently — and, of course, become British citizens if they wish. This should be a unilateral offer. Again, you don’t need a deal. You don’t need Michel Barnier’s permission. If Europe knows what’s best for itself, it would likewise allow Britons to stay where they are.
Third, there should continue to be free movement of people from Europe into Britain — but with a few conditions. Only for work, not welfare. And with a foreign worker’s tax on the employer, to make sure anyone coming in would not be displacing British workers.
Fourth, no ‘divorce bill’ whatsoever should be paid to Brussels. The UK government would assume the EU’s property and liabilities in Britain, and the EU would assume Britain’s share of these in Europe. If Britain was getting its fair share, these would balance out; and if Britain wasn’t getting its fair share, it’s the EU that should be paying Britain.
Finally, there’s no need on Britain’s part for a hard border with Ireland. Britain wouldn’t be imposing tariffs on European goods, so there’s no money to collect. The UK has exactly the same product standards as the Republic, so let’s not pretend you need to check for problems we all know don’t exist. Some changes may be needed but technology allows for smart borders: there was never any need for a Cold War-style Checkpoint Charlie. Irish citizens, of course, have the right to live and work in the UK in an agreement that long predates EU membership.
Of course, the EU might not like this British leap for independence. It might hit out with tariffs and impose burdens on Britain as it does on the US — but WTO rules put a cap on any retaliatory action. The worst it can get? We’re talking levies of an average 4 or 5 per cent. Which would be more than offset by a post-Brexit devaluation of the pound (which would have the added bonus of making British goods more competitive everywhere).
UK officialdom assumes that a deal is vital, which is why so little thought has been put into how Britain might just walk away. Instead, officials have concocted lurid scenarios featuring runs on the pound, gridlock at ports, grounded aircraft, hoarding of medicines and flights of investment. It’s been the pre-referendum Project Fear campaign on steroids. And let’s not forget how employment, investment and economic growth ticked up after the referendum.
As a former prime minister of Australia and a lifelong friend of your country, I would say this: Britain has nothing to lose except the shackles that the EU imposes on it. After the courage shown by its citizens in the referendum, it would be a tragedy if political leaders go wobbly now. Britain’s future has always been global, rather than just with Europe. Like so many of Britain’s admirers, I want to see this great country seize this chance and make the most of it.
Tony Abbott served as Prime Minister of Australia from 2013 to 2015
My recovery is going well, I've been out walking every day and walked half the small by-pass today. I'll try all of it tomorrow. The entire by-pass is almost 6 miles but you can break it up into 3 different walks so I'll keep going with the aim of doing the entire thing within 2 to 3 weeks. The only thing about walking is that I can't walk at my usual pace, if I try to speed up I feel the muscles around the wound tighten and I don't want to push myself to the point where I might rupture something on the inside and end up back in hospital. It's a strange feeling, it feels sometimes as if a muscle has got caught on my lower rib, not a pleasant feeling by any means but it slows me down and stops me from overdoing it.
I also drove today for the first time since the operation too. I didn't receive much advice on leaving hospital other than to take it easy so I've been checking online for advice and tips. One site advised that if I could stamp my braking foot hard on the ground then I should be ok to drive. I was able to do that ok and felt strong enough to drive so I gave it a go and it was fine. The wound itself has healed really well so things are steadily improving and I hope to be back at work before Christmas.
Before the gallbladder operation, I would have considered myself to be fairly tough. I have come through some fairly traumatic events in my time, after all, I grew up in a war zone and then the ‘Troubles’ started!! Seriously, though, I’ve had a fair share of trauma and emotional pain but when faced with the hard reality of actual physical pain, I realised I wasn’t anywhere near as tough as I thought I was. I actually have quite a high pain threshold but there was one day in particular when I was in extreme pain and unable to take any more pain relief as I had reached my limit and most of it wasn’t working anyway. There was nothing I could do but just sit there and endure it, which I did for 10 hours and in enduring it, I was humbled, and to be honest, I think something in me did break.
Being confronted with the reality of my own human weakness has certainly brought about some profound changes. Whether the changes will be temporary or permanent will remain to be seen but one of the positives I’ve taken from it is that I have definitely become more patient, not just with others but more importantly, with myself. I realise that in the past, I have been far too hard on myself and tried to take on and do too much. There have been many times when I have driven myself to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. Not only that but I would also have considered it a personal failure if I had ever fallen ill with flu or something, or worse, ever had to ask anyone for help.
Well, those days are certainly over and I will now happily accept all offers of help…well, maybe not all, just the useful ones or the ones I need! I will also give myself time to recover. I’m cutting back on the work front too and giving up the second job. Time is more important to me than money and I want to enjoy as much of my life as possible, after all, no one knows what tomorrow may bring.
Funnily enough, on the Sunday the pain started, I had changed my mind about the Robert Plant/Van Morrison concert. Standing at An Grianan Aligh admiring the view, I had thought, ‘to hell with the cost, it’s a once in a lifetime event with 2 musical legends, I’m going!’ But by the time I got home, the pain had overtaken me and all thoughts of the concert were forgotten. So, even if I had got a ticket, I still would have missed it. My sister and her husband did go, she said it was brilliant. She’s not a Van Morrison fan but she said he was amazing. Of course, Robert Plant was amazing, that goes without saying! I was really sorry I missed it but c’est la vie! I also missed out on my trip to England for bonfire night. Ah well, there’s always next year – I hope!
There are so many things in life we take for granted, simple things like the ability to eat, move or sleep. These are things we never really think about until we suddenly find we can't eat, sleep or move, for whatever reason. A few weeks ago, I was having a very enjoyable Sunday, a day out to the beach with a stop off at An Grianan Aligh on the way home to admire the spectacular views on a cool, sunny, autumn afternoon. What started off as a dull ache in my right side gradually turned into something much more painful by bedtime, requiring the use of painkillers and every home recipe I could think of, to counteract what I assumed was, a bad case of indigestion.
After a restless night, things had calmed a bit by Monday morning. I was expecting a gradual lessening of pain and discomfort through the course of the day but the pain remained constant and I spent another sleepless night trying to find a comfortable position which lessened the pain and ate little more than soup for fear of making things worse. By Tuesday, I suspected something more was going on than simple indigestion as the site of the pain had now swollen to include a hard lump. Things gradually worsened over the course of the week with trips to the doctor and A&E, where I was finally admitted on the Friday with an inflamed gallbladder. A scan revealed a large stone blocking the bile duct and a lot of inflammation in the gallbladder and colon.
Over the course of the next few days, I was pumped full of morphine and antibiotics to try to control the pain and reduce the inflammation and things seemed to be progressing well until the Tuesday when I had another attack with pain beyond anything I had experienced so far. On a scale of 1 - 10, I was asked to rate it. This was a definite 10 but with screaming! I didn't think I was capable of feeling this level of pain and surviving and the thought of meeting my maker was one I welcomed if it would just end the pain and I cried like a child for the grandfather I lost at 8 years of age to come and get me. I was in so much distress the only thing they could do, on doctor’s advice, was give me a dose of morphine, strong enough to knock me out. I was never as glad in my life for the wonders of modern medicine.
I didn't fare much better over the course of the next 24 hours, the pain worsened, the inflammation was increasing along with infection levels so they finally decided to take it out and so I was prepared for surgery the next day. Talking to the surgeon afterwards, he remarked that it was a difficult procedure and although it wasn’t the worst gallbladder he had seen, it wasn’t far off it and the stone he removed was about the size of a walnut so it was no wonder I was in so much pain. Another week in recovery, where those simple acts of eating, sleeping and moving still seemed monumental, gradually, the ability to move and eat improved. I had been surviving on porridge, soup and custard for the best part of 3 weeks, too afraid to try anything more in case the pain returned and even I could see the weight loss (at least 10lb) confirmed by my sister who remarked when she came to see me, 'God, Aideen, you look terrible! You're grey and your face has fallen in, all I can see is cheekbones and panda eyes!' 2 weeks in hospital is not good for the health, trying to recover from major surgery with a diet so nutritionally deficient that every day I could feel myself weakening more and more. I was craving protein and fantasising about scrambled eggs and steak.
By the second week, sleep deprivation was catching up with me (hospitals are not conducive to good sleep with lights on all night) and cabin fever began to set in. It felt like I hadn’t been home in months and I longed for a night in the warmth and comfort of my own bed. I yearned to get outside and feel a breeze or the sun on my skin. Then, finally, on the Thursday, a week after surgery, I got to go home.
I was never as happy to see Strabane as I was last Thursday evening, I could have kissed the ground and the first thing I ate when I got home was scrambled eggs! Divine!
So, I’m still on the light diet for this week and introducing foods one at a time. My range of movement has improved but there is still some way to go and I’ve caught up on my sleep but with the limitations on movement, it isn’t what it was but it was certainly helped by having the pins removed from the wound yesterday. My energy levels are improving daily but I won’t be walking any long distances for a while yet as I’m still quite weak physically. I find it amazing that only 3 weeks ago; I could go for a long walk without a care in the world whereas at the moment I wouldn’t have the strength or energy to walk to our local shop. I’ll be off work for a while too; I can’t drive yet and have to take it easy but having endured the worst pain of my life, I have a new found appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. The joy of a night in the comfort and warmth of my own bed, the absolute pleasure of being able to eat real food again and more importantly, being able to move, even if it is limited, without pain is one I will treasure for some time to come and look forward to getting my full fitness and strength back.
So, the IPCC is terrorising the population again with their tales of impending climate catastrophe! It’s not just climate-change or global-warming, there is a climate catastrophe coming our way!
'We're doomed, we're all doomed!'
Ok, before you all head for the hills, or loot the local supermarket to stock up for the Armageddon that is, supposedly, just around the corner, let me just say, don't panic, don't panic!
When it comes to global-warming, because I believe in global warming, I know you thought I didn’t but it is a real thing and the amazing thing is, I figured it out all by myself! Woo hoo! So, just to set your mind at rest, here is how it works and this is all you need to know about it - every day the sun comes up and warms the earth, and here is the important bit, every night the sun goes down and the earth cools down again. See, simple, really when you think about it!
Ok everyone, panic over, relax, drop your shoulders and breathe! Aaaahhhhhh...now let's be realistic about this, what difference would 1.5 degrees really make in your life or the life of the planet? Little or no difference because no matter how hot is gets during the day, that temperature never stays the same and even when it is hot, it's only hot for a few hours because that temperature goes up and down every day, up and down, changing all the time because that's the thing about the temperature, it is seldom the same in any two places for very long.
'But it was really hot this year and not just here but in other places?' I hear you say. Yes, it was hot, it was summer, and we had a good one, for a change! I remember we had one back in 1995 and in 1976, and back in the day, when we got a hot summer or a bit hotter than average(?!) we called them 'heatwaves'. Someone even wrote a song about them, you may know it, 'We're having a heatwave, a tropical heatwave! The temperature's rising, it isn't surprising...because it was the summer, that’s why! Maybe the IPCC could adopt it as their theme tune. This is a bit like the hurricane Harvey terror of 2017, there was a hurricane in a place called Hurricane Alley at a time called hurricane season! I know! Go figure??!!
But, back to global-warming/climate change. Back in the middle-ages, the earth went through a warming period, it was so warm, the Danes were living and farming on Greenland, see, the clue is in the name, 'green' land. Logic would dictate that if the Danes were able to farm on Greenland then the Arctic ice must also have been gone. Did the world drown in 100 metre sea rises? No, it didn't, because even if the ice poles melt, the sea will only rise by about 8 inches. If you think about this logically, it makes sense too. The Arctic is ice and the majority of that ice is under the water. Now, when water freezes, it expands so if the ice melts in the Arctic, it will contract, so won't really add that much to the oceans. Antarctica is bigger than the Arctic but it is a continent, land with ice on it but again like the rest of the planet, it goes through seasons so even if it warms up a bit in the summer, it will cool down and freeze again in the winter. Also, a recent report from Antarctica identified that the ice in Antarctica was melting from underneath not from above. It was melting because of volcanic activity below the ice, not temperature rises above the ice.
So, there we go, panic over, nothing to worry about here...well, apart from pollution from plastic, species loss, fishing the oceans dry, incompetent leaders, deforestation, junk food, fake news, obesity... Oh, and you are doomed, sorry about the bad news but we are all going to die, some day, maybe even today! But then again, maybe not, so to leave you on a happier note, while we are here, lets live a little or live a lot, if you can, enjoy each day as it comes and if you are really worried about the planet, then plant some flowers or a tree or two, then sit back, relax and enjoy the day for what it is and don't worry about the earth. It has survived worse than mankind and will in all probability outlive us too.
Ok, panic over, resume your positions and carry on…
Another day, another battle in the propaganda war against Donald Trump. I hadn't really been following the Senate Judiciary hearing for the Supreme Court very closely but I was aware there was an allegation of assault made against Trump's nominee and I caught a bit of Christine Blasey Ford's testimony on the news. Then, of course, there was the usual run of opinion on Facebook. I got into a disagreement with someone I know about it because she was adamant that from what she had heard and seen, he was guilty. I said, I didn't like trial by media and pointed out that the man hadn't been charged or convicted of any crime so at this point, and in the eyes of the law, there is supposed to be a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. But it was like talking to a wall, laws didn't matter, she just knew he was guilty.
So, I made it my business over the weekend to watch both testimonies and both rounds of questioning as much as time allowed (which turned out to be several hours of my Sunday, in between trying to watch the Grand Prix!).
As someone who, unfortunately, knows only too well the consequences of assault and its aftermath, I have to say from what I watched, Brett Kavanaugh is innocent and Christine Ford's performance, and not a very good performance at that, was insipid, cringe-inducing but more importantly, false. I thought that when I first saw the snippet on the news before I knew any of the details and now after everything I've read and seen, I'm even more convinced.
The alleged assault took place 36 years ago when she was 15, and Brett Kavanaugh was 17, but these details may not be true and in earlier reports she alleged it happened in her late teens. No one among her friends from her teen years could corroborate her memory of a party attended by Mr Kavanaugh. She couldn't remember the house, and couldn't remember how she got to the party or how she got home afterwards. The memory of the assault was from a recovered memory (which have been shown to be notoriously unreliable) from 2012 when she was in therapy although, no mention was made of Kavanaugh in her therapy notes, notes too which her lawyers refuse to allow the Supreme Court judiciary to see. As assaults go, on a scale of 1 - 10, I would class it as a one. She was, allegedly, groped by a drunken teenage boy, but made it sound like she was about to be gang-raped and/or murdered. These were just some of the holes in her allegations.
If I hadn't watched the testimonies for myself and had only judged this on media reports, I would have been led to believe that Brett Kavanaugh was a bully and an uncontrollable drunken lout, not a man with years of experience as a lawyer and, as far as I know, an unblemished record as a sitting judge. While Christine Ford has been portrayed as a paragon of virtue, truth and righteousness.
I would have described myself as a feminist. But it seems that within the feminist community now, there is an expectation that any woman making any allegation of assault, sexual or otherwise, should be believed on her word only and without any corroborating evidence. There was a rape trial here in NI earlier this year involving two NI rugby players. In that instance, I believed the girl because her testimony rang true with what I know of assault and related behaviours. Nothing about Christine Ford's testimony rang true for me.
I'm also a leftie and Brett Kavanaugh is as far from me politically, as you could possibly get so I certainly couldn't be accused of bias in that respect. I believe he is innocent and I haven't seen or heard anything to contradict that belief at this stage, and is not guilty of anything other than being a Republican.
The bias in the media against Kavanaugh, like his questioning by Democrats, is more to do with the ongoing campaign to unseat Donald Trump from the Whitehouse than any great search for truth or justice. On the whole, nothing these days is about real truth or justice, it's all a propaganda war to get into power and to use any piece of dirt you can get your hands on, no matter how low you have to go, to try and discredit your opponents. I feel the Democrats have shot themselves in the foot with this one. It'll be interesting to see what happens in November's mid terms.
Latest from my art class, not an original piece but a copy of another work but I loved the colours and it got the painting muscles going again.
As the Novichok row still rumbles on, a question comes to mind. Now, the poison was apparently in a perfume bottle and was sprayed on the Skripals door. If this substance is so lethal, how come the alleged poisoners didn't poison themselves with it. Was it a windy day? Try controlling a spray outside even with a light breeze, some of it is bound to get on you somewhere, even a little on the finger pushing down the button. Something to think about!
And another thing, when Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned, there were pictures of him lying in a hospital bed all over the news but to date, we haven't seen one photograph of either of the Skripals.
So, Autumn returns, even if it feels like we just skipped from summer to winter. The heating has been back on for several weeks and the sandals have been packed away and the coats on again. We did ok with the allotment too, considering it was our first year. I had intended sharing some photos but I lost the iphone my sister gave me so that put an end to that. I've never lost a phone, ever, and I cannot understand how I lost this one. I had it in my bag and it is a fairly deep bag, and I had gone to the allotment with the express purpose of taking a few photos and when I looked for it, it was gone. I've come to the conclusion that smart phones turn into drones, the minute your back is turned, and fly back to the factory, forcing you to buy a new one!
But we had good crops of potatoes, peas, kale, cabbage, beets, brocolli and various types of beans. Our carrots didn't do as well but we seem to have done better with our second sowing. We also have a second sowing of peas in. The brussels sprouts are looking good and we'll definitely have home grown for the Christmas dinner this year. Our corn doesn't look as if it is going to have much but we didn't get anything planted until May so it was more of an experiment as we didn't know you could grow corm here in our climate. Our neighbours had a good crop so we'll get ours in earlier next year. The tomatoes were late too but have started to ripen now.
Overall, it was a busy summer, we had a couple of new arrivals in the family too, both girls, so I was also busy crocheting blankets for them.
And now that September is here, art class has started again, yaaayyy!, and Culture Night is on this Friday. I'll be heading to Letterkenny for it as North West Words are having an open mike night, and there is also a comedy gala in An Grianan. I was out last week to see the Ulster Orchestra. They were playing in the stunning Guild Hall in Derry, they played Richard Strauss's Don Quixote and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, two beautiful pieces of music, and a thoroughly enjoyable night was had by all! They're coming back in December to do Handel's Messiah and a Christmas show of favourite tunes. They have also a Vienna night of Strauss waltzes planned for the New Year and I will definitely not be missing that!
The God of Rock returns in October but to Dublin this time, headlining with Van Morrison in the 3Arena or as I still call it, the Point Depot. I don't have a ticket yet as I'm still debating whether to go as I'm going to England the following weekend for Bonfire Night, All the standing tickets are gone and I'm not a fan of the tiered seating in the Point and the Hotels prices are ridiculous. It's going to cost the guts of €300 and that's just for the room and the ticket! Decisions! Decisions!
Since finishing the degree, I have re-discovered the joy of reading for pleasure again. It took a few months after finishing to settle down as I kept getting the anxiety 'I should be studying' attacks, then realising that no, I didn't actually have to study anything and could indulge in reading for reading's sake.
I've got through several tomes and a few stand out in the memory, Jon Krakauer's, Into Thin Air, for one. You may have seen the film that was based on the book, Everest, starring among others, Jake Gyllenhaal. I had read Jon Krakauer's, Into the Wild, a few years ago, which was also made into a film and I really enjoyed it. I could also certainly identify with Christopher McCandless's wish to escape from the drudgery of life and go live in the wild, but climbing Everest is something that in a million years, I would never have a desire to do. Even if I had ever entertained the notion, this book would have killed it off forever. The pain, the suffering, why would anyone want to put themselves through it? Cerebral oedema's, pulmonary oedema's, it's beyond me, or maybe I've just suffered enough!
Another stand out, is Waris Dirie's, Desert Flower. Waris was a desert nomad from Somalia who went through female-genital mutilation at 5 years of age. She ran away as a teenager to escape an arranged marriage to an old man and ended up becoming a model in London, and hung out with people like Naomi Campbell and Iman, David Bowie's wife. It's amazing how she came through it all and how it all happened. Definitely, worth a read.
Other notables in the biographical genre are Tom Michell's The Penguin Lessons, a heart-warming tale of a man and a penguin; Carol Drinkwater's The Olive Farm, and that other famous tale of life in France, Peter Mayle's, A Year in Provence, both of which had me dreaming of upping sticks and moving!
On the fiction front, I enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and The Savage Garden by Mark Mills. I got the Mark Mills book in a local charity shop, and it still had its original receipt in it. It was bought in Borders Books, Music and Cafe, Briggate, in Leeds in August 2007. It's interesting to see how it has travelled since it was first purchased. I wonder who the original buyer was!
Another gem I've had sitting on the shelf for a while, and finally got around to reading, was Irving Wallace's The Seven Minutes. It was given to me a few years ago by a friend. It was originally published in 1969 and it does show its age in parts, but on the whole a good read and quite a long one too, at over 500 pages.
I read mostly biography and one of the most heart-breaking, and frustrating, was When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Paul was a brilliant, highly-driven doctor and this is what made it quite a frustrating read. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and I just wished he had stayed off work longer and given himself time to recover but he didn't. Maybe the outcome would have been the same but then again, maybe not.
So, there’s a few recommendations, I'm now on Philippa Gregory's, The White Queen. I'm not a fan of the historical novel, it was lent to me by a friend but I’ll give it a go and it isn’t too bad so far. I still have many more to get through but with the telly being so bad at present, at least books offer a respite from 3rd rate reality shows and endless cooking.
So, Il Duce is coming, sorry...Il Papa, is coming to Ireland this week, hot on the heels of the Grand Jury Report from Philadelphia (for a World Meeting of Families, no less!! You couldn't make it up!) which outed a stomach-turning 300 plus paedophiles who operated in the Philadelphia area, and who abused more than a 1000 children over 70 years, and also detailed how their crimes were consistently covered up by the Roman Catholic Church.
The Pope issued a half-baked apology promising to do more which means nothing considering how long this issue has been going on and also considering, how little has been done so far. I watched the video of the Grand Jury report and the details were sickening. I really don't know how anyone with a 'Christian' conscience could continue to support this organisation. But in my experience, I have found that the better Catholic you are, the less 'Christian' you are. Does the actual reality of what has been done never fully hit home? Grown men, so-called 'men of God', raped and sexually abused children, some as young as 18 months old! How can anyone be ambiguous about that? But, unfortunately, they will and I include members of my own family in that, it's like talking to a wall. It is so ingrained in their lives and their thinking, they can't envisage a life without the Catholic Church, too scared to let go and driven by some perverted sense of loyalty, their Catholic identity intricately tied in with their Irish identity and unable to separate the two. Like the DUP supporters and their Britishness who turned out to support Ian Jr recently; it's their side, so they'll stand by them to the death, regardless of how rotten or corrupt they are.
But as sickening as this is, what gets me even more is the cowardice and hypocrisy of the clergy, those so-called 'good' priests within the Church who are supposed to be decent people and who stay silent, and kow-tow to the hierarchy, refusing to condemn the horror in their midst and helping, still, to cover it up; too lazy and/or too scared to rock the boat, settling for the easy life, going along to get along.
Most of the priests and nuns, I’ve ever known, were priests and nuns, not out of any great spiritual experience but because of family pressure, a way of avoiding life or as a place to hide out. In Ireland, not so much now, as back in the day (but it still goes on too) it was the perfect hide out for homosexual men and women; a way of gaining acceptance and respect in society without any awkward questions ever being asked. It also provides an easy life; they never have to worry about bills, where they will live, or where the next meal is coming from. They are taken care of, they never face any real challenges and, as a consequence, they never really grow up either.
But my biggest problem with the whole Catholic ethos is the perversion, not just within their ranks, but the perversion of the life and legacy of Jesus. I mean, if Jesus Christ was here now, what do you think he would say about an institution that has covered up the rape and sexual abuse of children? ‘Suffer little children to come unto me?’ I don’t think so.
But Catholics do love to suffer, it’s an integral part of the whole religion, how Christ suffered and died for our sins. His suffering on the cross, the suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, the slaughter and suffering of the Holy Infants when he was born, John the Baptist's suffering, Mary’s suffering at losing her son, everybody suffering under the yoke of the Roman Empire. Keep piling on the guilt trips because this was all done for you, you, worthless ingrate! At least, that’s what they tried to tell us.
Well, I never asked him to, quite frankly, I think it was a waste of his time. By the way, the whole ‘coming back’ thing, I don’t think it’s going to happen, I mean it’s been 2000 years, something tells me, he’s not coming.
However, this narrative plays out so well in Ireland because we suffered too. We suffered at the hands of the British Empire, we suffered under their yoke, we suffered to hold on to our Catholic faith when it was outlawed by the state, and we continue to suffer. We suffered under the hammer of the Orangemen and still we suffer…have you seen our politicians? And, the weather is crap at the moment too and the Tories are still in power, aarrrggghhhh! My God, this suffering never ends!
But again, this is all to a point, because the more you suffer, the greater your reward will be in Heaven, like those fanatical Muslims and their 76 virgins, their reward for martyrdom! Funny, I was wondering about this the other day, (I know, I really need to get out more!) but what happens after you’ve shagged the 76 virgins?
Anyway, back to the suffering…what this does, is to allow for suffering to continue, it’s imbues it with honour, just stay on your knees and keep praying for things to get better, or for the ‘strength to endure the suffering’. Oh, they like that one, the strength to endure. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Plays right into the whole martyrdom thing. Instead of saying ‘Right, that’s it, I’ve suffered enough, I’m going to get up off my knees and do something about this, you endure your suffering, you wear it like a badge of honour, where everyone can see it, especially, where everyone can see it. You keep enduring, wallowing in self-pity at your hard time because you do it for 'God' and your faith! Like the abused Catholic wife, enduring the assaults, the infidelity, the misery of it all because she has 'made sure' everyone knows what a bastard he is but she will keep going because she's a good Catholic, and she made her vows, and because she knows she will get her reward when she is DEAD!??
Now, I’m not saying a little suffering or a hard time can’t teach you some life lessons but come on, let’s get some balance here. You will suffer at some point in life that is guaranteed, we will lose people we loved and cared for, we will run into 'bastards' along the way but to make the life of Christ into a marathon of suffering and endurance is to miss the point completely. It's a perversion of what Jesus was about. The Christian Church should be about what he said, how he challenged the Pharisees and their hypocrisy, how he stripped away the social hierarchies and treated everyone as equals. Those things have been lost in the midst of the suffering, the re-writing of history, the attempts at social control and most importantly, the money-making.
Yes, because in reality the Catholic Church is business first, I was going to say, spirituality second, but there is absolutely nothing spiritual or sacred in an institution that protects the vilest of humanity and covers up their crimes. There is no second, apart from protecting their wealth and position at all costs. The details of what happened in Philadelphia and what was covered up, is nothing more than the tip of a very large iceberg. This has been going on for decades, not just in Philadelphia but around the world, I dread to think what they got away with in places like Africa and South America and are, in all probability, still getting away with. Those that stayed silent, who helped to cover up the abuses and who continue to obstruct justice, are just as culpable as the perpetrators. And the faithful? What of them?
Ireland has changed a lot in many ways since the last visit by a Pope. I remember it well, the whole place was decorated with Pope flags and thousands headed off on buses to see him. I wasn’t among them. Now, there isn’t a flag in sight, other than in the local churches and I don’t think there will be too many bus loads this time either. However, some things haven’t changed and they still maintain a lot of control through the schools which is why the majority here still go along to get along. Weekly attendance at mass may have gone down but the congregations still turn out for the occasions, Christmas, Easter, Holy Communions etc: Social Catholics rather than devout followers. But the point is, they still keep turning out which keeps the Church going financially and institutionally, and as long as the money keeps rolling in, and they aren’t being fully held to account, then there is no incentive to change or fully address these issues head on.
It will be interesting to see what kind of reception he gets, and how many do turn out. There is opposition and some quite vocal opposition but Ireland as a whole, is still too eager to please, too keen to show the world how grown-up they are, or think they are, too willing to overlook and forgive the unforgivable. Because it’s easier to say I forgive and turn away with false humility than to address it head on and call it out for what it is, an appalling abuse of power and dereliction of duty against the weakest and most vulnerable in society.
So, Boris (the buffoon?) has upset many with his comments on burkas. I managed to catch a bit of the debate on the Jeremy Vine show the other day; completely by accident, I might add, as I actively avoid news and talk shows as much as possible but I'd left the radio on while I was out doing a bit of gardening and had come back in for some lunch. Of course, many were getting very self-righteous and demanding he apologise, but it seemed that equally as many were in support with the media, as ever, getting hysterical and doing its best to whip up a frenzy. I'm not a fan of Boris Johnson and although we were on the same side in the Brexit referendum, he would definitely not be a natural ally. I would, however, be a huge fan of his mother’s art and if you ever get the chance to go see it, then I would highly recommend it. Her name is Charlotte Johnson, for anyone who’s interested.
On the whole burka debate, I have to confess having had similar thoughts myself on the whole, head to toe in black, garb but it wasn't letter boxes that came to mind. I remember the first time I saw a picture of a fully veiled woman, I was immediately reminded of a show I watched when I was young, Bentine Time, with the inimitable, Michael Bentine. Now, I don't remember many details but I do remember he used to do these little puppet shows and there was one with spies or some such, and they were all in black with only their noses visible and that was the first thought that popped in to my head when I saw the picture. Is that racism or Islamaphobia? I don't think so, it's not racism because Islam is not a race. Islamaphobia? Hardly, it’s just a thought, my mind making a connection between two things that had similarities. I get the same thing here when the Orange Order or any other group starts on about marching and their right to march. The first thing that pops into my head is Barney the Dinosaur, my daughter was a big fan when she was young, saying march, march, march! Maybe it’s just my natural instinct to draw comparisons between the absurd, the farcical and the comic, I’ll leave you to decide which is which.
This whole debate centres around what Muslim women wear and their right to choose and this is the problem I have with the burka. In many cases, it is not a choice, it is an imposition, a cultural imposition in a patriarchal society dressed up as the ‘will of God’. Now, there are those who say they choose to wear the niqab, hijab or burka as a symbol of their faith and they should have the right to do so, but I am not convinced. I do, however, understand the mentality of women who defend that decision. I remember back in the worst of the troubles when the British government took up a stance against all things Irish Republican and banned Gerry Adams from speaking on air. Because I was brought up as an Irish Catholic and this was against 'our side', then you supported them even when it wasn't doing you or anybody else any favours. But since I've never been convinced of any particular group's right to martyrdom or sainthood, especially when your so-called 'saviours' are the very people keeping your community down and subjecting them to terror and thuggery, as you grow up you question these ‘loyalties’ more and begin to see through the propaganda and brainwashing that allows the ‘believers’ to be exploited by others.
As for the ‘religious freedom’ side of this debate, I have absolutely no sympathy. You are free to believe in whatever God you wish but it should be a private matter between you and the God you choose, had imposed upon you or were brainwashed into believing in. Because the reality is, very few people ever actually choose their religion, it was usually chosen or imposed on them by their parents and/or the society they grew up in. How many of us would believe in the religion we were brought up in, if we had never been told about Jesus or Mohamed or Buddha or any of them? Would you even have a belief in a God if you had been left to decide for yourself purely on your own experience and if you did, what form would your ‘God’ take?
As to the question of burkas, what logic is there in an all-powerful, all-knowing being, who allegedly created and controls the entire universe, concerning itself with what a few women wear here on Earth? If this powerful, all-knowing deity made everything then, ‘it’ made women too, and if you truly believed in your God’s ‘greatness’, then how could a woman be a lesser thing than a man? Surely, this God’s ‘creations’ would all have equal value; for how could something created by a ‘God’ be less than perfect? And I’m absolutely certain an omnipotent, omniscient deity does not need some uptight, over-zealous patriarch acting on ‘its’ behalf and handing out diktats on clothing, cutting off anyone's genitalia or fighting its battles either.
As to women in burkas looking like bank robbers, I have to disagree with Boris on this one. Bank robbers these days are more apt to look like Boris. The traditional idea of a bank robber as someone who goes in and steals the bank’s money, sorry, our money, has actually reversed. Now, the robbers are the bankers, gambling and losing our money and then robbing the public purse (with the complicity of the Government) to cover their debts with our money again!!! Funny, I don’t hear the media getting too hysterical over that one!
DUN DUN! Du du, DUN! DUN! Du..du, DUN! DUN! Du..du DUN!...Your mission should you choose to take it, is to go see the latest Mission Impossible instalment and report back...
Well, just back from watching the latest outing by Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible series and what a wild ride it was!! I thought the MI series might been getting a bit played out by now but I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised, I loved every minute of it! Not everyone's cup of tea, I know, and I also know Tom Cruise has many detractors but I'm not one of them, I do love the Cruiser! Well, he is one of the heart-throbs of my generation. I'm not a fan of the Scientology, or any religion for that matter but you have to admit, it's working for him. He's been at the top of his game for many, many years and still going strong.
But...back to the movie! If you like a good action film, and I'm not really a big action movie fan to be honest, I've never seen a Jean Claude or Steven Seagal film but I do like the Mission Impossibles. Maybe its the music...like the Grand Prix...those opening bars send a little shiver of anticipation up the spine and deliver a nerve-tingling thrill a minute! Believe me, thrills are thin on the ground around here...what's a girl to do? Ya gotta takes 'em, where ya gets 'em!
Anyway, I won't bore you with any details or give anything away but it's a good enough story with plenty of twists and turns so if you're into action movies or Tom Cruise or even Simon Pegg (who I first got to know in Spaced and who I am so jealous of, getting to work with, not just Tom Cruise but also getting parts in Star Trek AND Star Wars!) then, go see, and enjoy!
As for me, this message will self-destruct in..Phut!
Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk and said goodbye to the circus, off she went with a Trumpety-trump! Trump, trump, trump!
Ah, more innocent times...when trump was the sound elephants made as they packed up and marched off into the sunset but which has now taken on a whole different connotation…business man, big towers, golf courses, fascist, bigot, misogynist…to name but a few. And how they turned out in their masses to protest the strange hairy one from across the pond...demonstrating to the world how not like Trump they are, they're liberal, open-minded, welcoming to all immigrants (at least until they show up on their doorstep!) and what better way to demonstrate this than to get out and let the 'leader of the free world' know he wasn't welcome here!
Well, I suppose they had to find something else to do this year with Glastonbury not being on. They even had a big one in Belfast too! The self-righteous boarded buses, whole families heading for a day out to demonstrate their liberal principles and let that 'fascist Trump’ know he wasn't welcome here either. I know because their posts were all over Facebook…and what a story they'll have to tell the grand-children in years to come when they ask, 'What did you do grandad when Donald Trump came to Britain? They will be able to hold their heads high and say, 'Yes, I was there - demonstrating!'
Well, it was news to me that fascists weren't welcome here because I thought they had been running this place for years! Well, it used to be the Catholic Church (not too liberal and open-minded there, as far as memory serves) then we had the Orange Order (again not renowned for their liberal ideas and open-mindedness), and not forgetting the military arm of the British government who were stomping around here for many years too. Then, of course, we had our own home-grown fascists who have been as busy as little beavers these last few weeks, building bonfires and terrorising their own communities, just like those little fascists on the other side who have been out rioting and burning vehicles for the last week too.
But, fair play to the people of the Bogside in Derry, they turned out on Friday night to tell those same little fascists, that the people were sick to death of them and sick of their communities being held to ransom and being terrorised. Of course, this demonstration didn't get the 1000's who went to Belfast to protest against ‘The Donald'. No, all they got was a few hundred friends and neighbours who have suffered years of oppression under these petty thugs and bullies. And the difference between the people in the Bogside, and those in Belfast? Well, it’s that old chestnut again, working class vs middle class. And it is just much more fashionable to jump on the bandwagon that doesn't really make any demands and which gets more publicity, like demonstrating against Donald Trump, than to confront the fascists in our midst.
But the thing is, the election of Donald Trump and the events in the Bogside are branches of the same tree and what they both have in common is the working-classes. The working-classes in America have suffered job losses and have been ignored by the government and the corporate elite for years. They have also been made to pay disproportionally for the flagrant abuse of money and power that caused the banking crash in 2008, just like here and in Britain. But no one bothered to listen, well, it’s only the working-classes, society is changing, work is changing and they just have to get used to it… at least that’s what they were told. Then, along came The Donald, promising the working classes jobs again, feeding into their hopes and dreams: he was listening to them, he knew they had been screwed over by the corporations and the government, he was going to get their jobs back, give them back their self-respect, he was on their side, he was on the side of the little guy, the ordinary working man, he would be their hero! He would make America GREAT AGAIN! So, they voted for him, because they had nothing left to lose, having already lost their jobs, their self-respect and any hope for the future.
Donald Trump’s supporters have been dismissed as bigots and racists, just like the Brexit voters here, because it’s a lot easier to dismiss someone than to sit and genuinely listen to them or address the issues that affect them. Easier to sneer at a ‘bigoted’ working-class man and jump on a bandwagon that feeds into the ego and lets you congratulate yourself on your liberal, open-minded principles than to open your ears and listen to those on the bottom or actually do something about it.
When the demonstrations end, everyone will go home feeling good about themselves, safe in the knowledge that they did their bit for freedom and democracy. What will it achieve? Donald Trump will go back to the US and will still be the president. Whether he will turn out to be a working-class hero or just another manipulator in a suit, has yet to been fully decided but I suspect the latter considering his actions so far. How the working classes will react if/when it turns out they have been lied to and screwed over again, is anybody’s guess, but history has a few examples, France in 1789 and Russia in 1917.
The working-classes have delivered a few shocks to the liberal elite in recent years both here and in the US but they’re still not being listened to. The demonstrations against Donald Trump ignore the issues that led to his election, just like here in the Brexit vote, a vote the liberal elite are still trying to reverse. So, keep ignoring those on the bottom, keep feeding your middle-class liberal ego, keep reading the Guardian and sneering down your nose at Corbyn and his supporters, and keep believing the narrative created and promoted in the media that keeps dismissing those ‘lower-class bigots’ and allowing you feel so smug and self-righteous, and you may just have a completely different story to tell your grand-children when they ask, ‘What happened after the demonstration, grandad?’
Just reading about the death of Dawn Sturgess and the exposure to Novichok. Thinking about it logically, and after doing a little research, I think someone in Porton Down or the DCBRNC has been involved in a little Breaking Bad!
Now, I know Porton Down is close to Salisbury and is the site of the UK Ministry of Defence’s, Defence Science & Technology Laboratory and known for their secretive work on chemical and biological weapons. But what I didn't know but found out is that the Defence, Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear Centre (or DCBRNC for short) is even closer at Winterbourne Gunner in Wiltshire. It is a tri-service site, with the RAF being the lead service and is responsible for all training issues relating to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence and warfare for the UK’s armed forces.
As, Baby Herman says, 'it stinks like yesterdays diapers!
Well, I re-joined the ranks of the gainfully employed a few weeks back and between learning the new job and the allotment, there has hardly been a spare moment. I'm now doing TECH SUPPORT!!!...that's what I get for watching Vanilla Sky all those times...and of course, the minute you get a job everyone wants you. I had just about given up on the chance of anything like a 'career' and along with 'world domination' and the chance of meeting a 'mature' male in Ireland, had consigned all such ambitions to the dustbin of maybe, probably not and yeah, right! But lo and behold, I have now been offered 5 different opportunities in the last few weeks and will probably opt for the public sector one which although is initially only for a year, holds out the chance for progression and also offers the best pay and conditions.
Part of my problem with 'careers', is that any time I found a job I liked, it never lasted for one reason or another. I worked mostly in factories, everything from machinist to credit control, and administration of one kind or another, but all those factories closed as the owners moved the work abroad to second world, more exploitable economies. The paradox in this, as I often pointed out, is that although those jobs are gone, we're still expected to support a first world economy by buying the stuff we used to make here. Then being an old 'commie' at heart, I could never sum up the ambition needed to manipulate and wheedle my way around the bosses in the drive to succeed because as someone once pointed out, even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat!
So, part of me is now settling, settling for something close to home, not too stressful and reasonably paid which with a bit of luck will see me through now to retirement and which, more importantly, gives me time to pursue the things I really want to do like writing, my allotment, painting, knitting and hopefully a bit of acting again, come September.
I was looking for something to watch at the weekend and was trawling through Netflix (making the most of it, in case the broadband has to go!) and came across this movie, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The premise looked interesting and starred Keira Knightley and Steve Carell, the basic story was that a huge asteroid was on course to hit earth and wipe out humanity and everything else so, I thought, I'll give it a go! Well, with The Donald threatening WW3, we could be facing a nuke off any day now and figured I might get a few hints and tips on how to handle it, just in case!
The characters in this are 2 Hollywood stereotypes/archetypes. Carell is the boring, middle-aged insurance salesman (Gee! How original!) the earth is going to end in 3 weeks and he's still going to work! Keira is, of course, the other old Hollywood staple of what has come to be called 'Manic, pixie, dream-girl'; flakey, irresponsible, drifting along and eccentric.
I won't bore you with any of the details but I will say, there is only so much belief you can suspend when it comes to Hollywood but in a million years, and I'll say it again, in a million years!!! - I would never have put Keira Knightly (33 is her real age but I think she was supposed to be 28 in the movie) as the romantic interest of Steve Carrell (aged 55). This was wrong on so many levels that when she kissed him, my stomach turned and I nearly threw up. The story line was supposed to be about him looking for his true love and her trying to get back home to her family before the big one hit because that was what the blurb said but somewhere along the line this changed and we were supposed to believe Keira was really his true love! Completely unbelievable! I could believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy before I could believe this! I am, however, grateful for one thing, at least we were spared the sex scene, believe me, the thought of it was enough! Euuuggghhhh!
So, if the Donald kicks off with the nukes, seek a friend for the end of the world by all means, have the party, try the heroin, find the one who got away, sleep with them if you get the chance but remember that even if the world isn't going to go down in flames, that life is short and will bring its own pain, so spare yourself a little bit of suffering and give this movie a miss!
I was supposed to be getting some money from Universal Credit today and I have received the princely sum of £29. I stopped working on 30th March or rather the job ended, and because I received a week’s salary and a few days holiday pay the following week, I am only entitled to a grand total of £59 for this month, paid in 2 instalments of £29 today and £30 in a fortnight's time. I have been living off that last salary payment for the last month, it doesn't even matter that I had to pay a week’s rent out of it or that I had other bills to cover as well, it was received in my claim time so it counts. Strangely enough, if I had put in my UC claim the day after, it wouldn't have counted and I would have received more. So, I have £59 to live on for the next month and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all you Tory voters for helping to screw over not only me but the rest of the working classes, especially if you are working-class or from a working class background, you deserve special attention, you bunch of deluded snobs!
I was looking at a post on Facebook earlier today from Jo Brand on the crisis in the NHS. The NHS is being asset-stripped by the Tories and their friends and has been for many years going right back to the New Labour Tories and the bank crash of 2008 or rather the 'engineered financial crisis' (a blog for another day). This 'crisis' has been used as the excuse to dismantle the public sector and drive the poor and working-class into penury, low-waged unstable work and 3rd rate services. Someone on the post asked why the people of Britain were allowing this to happen and I replied - because the smug middle-classes turned their noses up to the working classes while they strived to join the upper classes. Because that is what happened.
The middle-classes turned their faces away when the pits were closed down and the miners thrown out of work. They didn't bother to look either when the factories were closed and more working-class jobs disappeared offshore. Britain was changing, we were told, from an industrial economy to a service economy, ‘it was the way of the world, there was ‘nothing you could do’ and the middle-classes bought it and stayed silent because it was only working-class jobs which were changing and that was of no interest to them.
When council housing was sold off, many of those former working-class bought cheap and then sold out to private landlords as they social-climbed their way to smug middle-classdom, convinced of their new superiority. No-one bothered to consider the long term view or how working-class communities would be affected, just grabbed the money and ran. Now, most of that housing stock is in the hands of private landlords who charge exorbitant rents for what are oftentimes, badly maintained properties. Those houses are easily identified in working-class areas; they're usually the most neglected and run-down. This is not just an English problem, here in NI where they railed for so long against the terrible actions and legacy of English landlords and how they treated the Irish (there are few around here who couldn't tell you the story of the Glenveigh evictions) they have shown that the smug middle-class Irish are every bit as avaricious and socially ambitious as their English counterparts. The rent on the council house I live in which is a standard 3 bed, is up to 80% more expensive under private landlords who are all local. Can't blame the 'foreigners' for that one!
Our middle-class business people are also every bit as bad as the Victorian English mill owners or rich Saudi's in how they treat their staff. Several locally-owned businesses will sack you if you try to join a union or start one in their factory. They won't tell you that, of course, they'll make it about something else and when you start work you can be on probation for up to a year so they can just get rid of you without having to give any explanation. They don't profit share or pay very well either, minimum wages as much as possible. At least, people now get a minimum wage, one of our local companies used to pay £1 an hour before the minimum wage was introduced and have threatened to get rid of all their older workers if the living wage is made compulsory.
Class division is just one of the reasons why 'they' get away with it because the elites with the help of a complicit media and the socially deluded, keep us divided against each other whether it's by race, skin-colour, religion, ethnic back-ground, national identity or any other item they can find; to keep us distracted and afraid. Then, while we're being distracted with stories of migrants getting money and jobs and houses, or scare stories around religious fanatics or other cultures, they can just keep on screwing us over because there is just so much to distract us with; celebrities, royal weddings, terrorists, celebrities, Putin, royalty, war, celebrities, Harry & Meaghan, more celebrities...
Meanwhile, down here in the working classes, the vacuum created by governments who have abdicated their political and social responsibility, combined with the complicit apathy and actions of the middle-classes, has been filled with greedy landlords, unstable employment, not to mention the drugs and gangs, the result of which is killing off the young and not just on the streets of London.
But now the middle-classes are starting to realise they have been screwed over too and the chances of their children being able to buy a home or having a well-paid steady job have disappeared into the ether. Today's proposal to give all 25 year old's £10,000 to help them on to the property ladder (but is really to stop them getting angry about how shit their prospects are and possibly start a revolution) is another sticking plaster on a cancerous tumour. If they were lucky enough to have even gone to university that would hardly cover their student loans! Realistically, a Tory government is never going to hand £10,000 to working-class children.
I just bet Janet is middle-class (See Universal Credit 1). As for Alex and his Universal Credit, maybe Alex needs the broadband to look for work because most jobs are online these days and if his local library has been closed because of 'austerity' he can't access those jobs. Maybe the fuel is petrol or diesel for his car so he can travel to interviews, not everywhere is accessible by public transport or maybe he just needs transport because he has young children.
I am debating keeping my broadband, it's £50 a month, I can just about manage it this month but if I'm not back in work before the end of May, it'll have to go. I was lucky, I thought I would be on UC for a while and friends had warned me I could be without money for 6 weeks so I had set some money by just in case. Good job I did, or I would be up shit creek without the proverbial paddle.
But as long as there are people with the same attitude as the Janet's of this world nothing will change. Those who look down their noses at the working-classes and people on benefits are just luckier, not better, luckier. Not everyone is born into loving, caring homes, not everyone is lucky or smart enough for University, not everyone has the advantage of good physical and mental health. It doesn't mean that because they didn't have those things that they should be treated as something less or that their lives should exist on the bare essentials and nothing else. Life is precarious, we all hang together by threads, and no-one knows what the next minute, hour or week may bring. It can be different and it can be better for everyone but there has to be a will to make it happen. But as long as we allow ourselves to be divided by religion, culture, money or social status then nothing will change. But history has shown us that certain conditions drive change, when those on the bottom reach the end of their tether and start a revolution or the middle-classes experience a shift in social consciousness, then change does happen, let's hope we don't have much longer to wait for it.
Another day, another interview or 2, and another 'we regret to inform you'. Not that I really mind, I'm in no hurry back to the daily drudge and I'm enjoying my time out especially now that I have achieved, or rather acquired, something that I have wanted for some time now, an allotment! I got it on Monday and had a great day out in the sunshine, I met so many people I know and hadn't seen for years but unfortunately, the weather has turned again and now it's back to the wind and rain.
I was surprised how fit I was, it's a bit overgrown so I got stuck in clearing beds on Monday, I was there for a several hours and thought I would be wrecked on Tuesday but I was fine, a few aches in some muscles but that was it. I was back over today as the persistent rain has given way to more showers but the ground is still too wet to do much and it gives rain for tomorrow again so that's another write-off. But I'm crocheting a blanket at the moment and doing an oil painting, both presents for friends so that'll keep me occupied on wet days, in between job-hunting and interviews, of course!
Had the dog out for a walk up around the river on Sunday, it's amazing how everything has bloomed within the space of a week and fishing season is open again. There are a few pools of water is some of the fields and they are full of tadpoles so the rain is needed as some of them were quite shallow and could dry out before they are fully grown. I'm going to take a jam jar up this week and collect some. I have a water trough in my back yard and might put a few in there, thought it would be interesting to show the grand-daughter how frogs grow, takes me right back to childhood too!
I am sharing the allotment with my nephew, I was visiting him and he was telling me he has started growing his own veg and showed me his trays of seedlings so as the conversation developed I suggested we get an allotment as it was something I always wanted but thought it would be too much to take on myself. We initially agreed to take on a half plot but we're going to go for a full plot now as we want to get some chickens too and the half plot would be too small.
We're going to follow the Charles Dowding organic, no-dig, method but we have to dig first to clear the ground of weeds and no chemicals are allowed anyway in the plots. I got his book a few years ago and have been making my own compost with a view to improving the soil in my own garden which isn't great. Once you get the garden planted, you just keep adding compost and nutrients to the soil and weeding regularly, and that's it, not too much hard work involved. There's a lot of talk and interest now around the link between gardening and mental health and one of our other allotments has just signed up Paul Brady to help raise awareness around how gardening can help with things like depression.
Election day tomorrow too, another round of 1690 vs 1916! This one could be interesting, it's a fairly safe Sinn Fein seat but people are fed up with the lack of government in Stormont so they might not get the result they're expecting, and why should they, when they're getting paid for a job they're not doing? Not that the line-up of candidates is inspiring, no new ideas, same old parties and the same old claptrap and a serious lack of vision all round. It's quite depressing because several of the candidates are in their twenties but still churning out the same old rhetoric their predecessors did and all the old self-righteous grandstanding, it's hard to listen to - I'm between a rock and a hard place! There are several countries around the world which include the option None of the Above on their ballot papers and there is an online petition to have it included as a viable option on ballot papers in the UK too, just follow the link below if you're interested in adding your name to it. I just did!
Ah well, sun's out again, back to some potting and plotting!
I had a lovely weekend in Gormanston, Co Meath at an artist's training day. It was through Children in Crossfire and we are hoping to have a 2 day residential later in the year, to do more work and maybe get some projects started. I met some great people and it was like the UN, we had people from Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, Moldova and Zambia to name but a few.
There were some great conversations about activism through art, and aid programmes, and the seeds of some ideas have certainly fallen on fertile ground. I had fallen out of the acting loop for a few years but I'm inspired now to get back to some serious writing and acting and maybe get a play written. I've the bones of several but need to start getting some flesh on them!
Many of the other artists told stories about things they had been involved in and are going to send on some links for opportunities to work abroad and possible funding. I'm seriously re-thinking my future at the moment, I've several job interviews this week but honestly, I really don't want to go back to working in an office although I'm probably going to have to for a while or at least until I decide what to do or get the opportunity to try something else!
One of the things that came up in a conversation is how Western 'aid' can end up causing more problems than it solves. One of the women told me how the Mexican fishing industry was destroyed by Greenpeace. When the Mexican fishermen caught tuna, sometimes dolphins got caught up in their nets so Greenpeace came out with a campaign against the nets they used and the fishing and canning industry that existed along Mexico's coast was effectively destroyed, allowing US companies a free run to takeover.
One of the guys from Africa also questioned African aid and why despite money being received for many years, nothing had changed and the basic problems remained. We were also given a booklet outlining the UN's sustainable development goals or SDG's which they launched in 2015. There are 17 of them covering work, inequality, poverty and the environment and while it's important to have a target to aim for, they are based on the West's idea of how people should live and are industrial and capitalist in outlook. Not everyone wants to live like that, I live under this system and I don't like it or want to live that way and where does that leave tribal societies like the Masai? Now, I'm all for a fair day's pay, for a fair days work but how does trying to create sustainable development and clean energy, work alongside economic growth or the idea of 'sustainable industrialisation'?
They certainly have some admirable ideas, wanting to end poverty and hunger, and providing quality education for all. But, as I was reading through them, I thought, these things are all achievable and could be done tomorrow but the same problem prevents it happening, banking and corporate greed with the elite creaming everything for themselves. So, until the corporations are brought under control, and war for profit is ended, then these problems will persist and will never be resolved.
Government, the world over, really needs to grow a pair and start taking on the military/industrial/corporate complex and the mega-rich. Money should either be re-distributed or gotten rid of altogether, corporations should be abolished or at least, limited in their size and a very tight hold kept on their activities. Because without some real action from government, the poverty, inequality and war will continue and all the aid programmes will do, no matter how well-intentioned, is like sticking a plaster on a cancer patient.
The warm and sunny weather, I thought we were getting today, hasn't arrived here yet. So, all my gardening plans are on hold; it's still quite cold and windy out and doing its best to rain at the moment and I'm sitting here watching some daytime TV. I can only conclude that daytime telly has been designed by the government for two purposes: to either drive you out to look for work or, if you can't get work, is that watching it will slowly rot your brain whereby you lose the will to live and are driven to suicide, thus reducing the unemployment statistics, making it a win-win for them!
My seedlings have taken a hammering from the weather and I'm going to have to invest in a greenhouse next year. I was visiting a friend yesterday and even with a greenhouse, nothing much is happening for her, it's not just heat we need but sunshine as well. I had the dog out for a couple of walks around the river last week and I could see in the space of 2 days how everything was starting to spring into life, trees and shrubs budding with hints of green and yellow ochre.
Along the old railway line, a tree has come down from the weight of ivy on it and there are several others which will probably go the same way. I like ivy and have a few planted but my sister doesn't like them, for this reason. At Christmas, I made a garland with holly and ivy and maybe that is what we should all do because everything is covered with it. If we all went back to using real ivy in our decorations, it might help save a few trees and it would certainly be a healthier option than plastic or tinsel.
Another day, another load of job applications, why can we not just have one application form for all? A standard form with qualifications, work experience and personal details? The Health Service here has a website where you just fill in your details and it is stored so it can be sent with every application instead of having to fill out the same form over and over again. I suggested this to one of our local colleges, as I have filled out the same 12 page application form many times, and been rejected many times too, because there is nothing as depressing as spending hours filling in these bloody forms (one I filled in had 17 pages) and what do you get back in return, a 2 line email saying thanks but no thanks!
I do have a few interviews lined up next week so hopefully something might turn up soon.
I had a few nights out last week, I went to see the renowned flamenco guitarist, Eduardo Nieblo in the Balor Theatre, a great night was had by all! He is touring at the moment and is in Chichester in June and Colchester in July, definitely worth checking out. I had to fill in a(nother) form for a draw to win a signed copy of one of his CD's and I got an email yesterday to say I had won! That's my second win this week, I had Bless the Wings each way in the National on Saturday too. I only went for it because I had turned over the telly on Friday night and caught the end of the last episode of The Handmaid's Tale on RTE, where Aunt Lydia was telling the girls to take off their wings before the stoning of Janine. They say things come in 3's, must do the lotto too!
I was in the Balor again the night after Eduardo for a Tedx Talk on the subject of Borders. Not just geographical borders but the physical, emotional and psychological borders we may have. There was a great variety of speakers, covering subjects from Where do Humpback whales in Ireland come from by Simon Berrow, to Achieving Goals without Gender Roles by Katie McGloin, but the best on the night for me was comedian Paddy Cullivan who wants to do a Donald Trump in Donegal and build a wall! I'm not sure if it's up on the Ted site yet but keep a eye out for it, it's definitely worth a look.
Ah well, back to the application forms!
Just sitting watching the news (if it could be called news) on the topic of chemical weapons and Syria, one question comes to mind. If you bomb a facility which makes and 'stores' chemical weapons as claimed by the West, then surely you will be releasing more toxic chemicals into the surrounding area?
There is so much propaganda and lies, you wouldn't know who or what to believe. I still go back to Radio 4, (about 3/4 years ago, I think) when an army general announced we would be going to war with Russia within 3 years. John Humphreys was taken aback, to say the least and basically said, 'you must be insane', or words to that effect. The general then went on to explain that they had these new nuclear weapons which they wanted to try out. If that is where we are headed then, I take comfort in the fact that 2 other empires perished on the Russian frontier, France under Napoleon and the Third Reich under Hitler. So, go for it, they sooner it happens, the sooner it will all be over, and then we might finally get some peace! Come to think about it, Germany is being very quiet on this, I haven't heard a word from Merkel?
Talking about peace, why can we not just have peace? Why is Russia our enemy? Who decided that? The mentality of those in charge really needs to be looked at. In the US, they are all paranoid, living with a mind-set that is 60 years out of date and what is all the secrecy about? Why do we not just share our knowledge and try to find ways to improve the lot of everybody? Why can't the US and the UK just mind their own business? If the people of Syria want rid of Assad, then it's up to them to sort that out. If the West is so concerned with the well being of down-trodden others, will they be bombing Saudi Arabia now over their treatment of the people of Yemen? Of course, they won't, the hypocrisy is sickening! Why can't the US and the UK just stay in their own country and take care of their own people!
But at the end of the day, the buck stops with us too and we have to carry some of the blame for sitting back and shutting our minds to it all, for letting others do our thinking and for not questioning more. Going out to vote and voting for people who basically don't give a crap about any of us, which is worse here because all they do is vote for their tribe regardless of how competent these people are.
The media is complicit too, we don't have journalists any more, with the exception of Jon Pilger, all we have are reporters, who merely report what they have been told to say. Thank God for the internet, at least there, you can find out more and are able to access other opinions.
I watched another good documentary online recently, All Wars are Bankers Wars, (because you'll never get this on Sky or the BBC) worth a look if you have 45 mins to spare. But when all is said and done, I know the answer to all those questions, and as Tom Cruise says in Vanilla Sky, "What is the answer to 99out of 100 questions? Money."
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