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More Good Reads

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I've been on a bit of a reading binge again. First up, Alan Cummings autobiography, Not My Father's Son. This was an interesting read and for anyone who doesn't know him, he played the role of Eli, in The Good Wife which is how I came to know him.  Alan's father was a bit of a psycho and he suffered badly from his bullying and abuse.  But in spite of all that, he got out and did very well for himself.  I won't say anything more about it, I don't like to give too much away but a good read and I would definitely recommend it.

On a similar theme, I was in the library 2 weeks ago and saw Operation Lighthouse by Luke and Ryan Hart.  I had heard them on the radio, the day before, talking about their lives and the book they had written.  Coincidentally, it was on the recommended display in the library when I went in to return the Alan Cummings autobiography so, I thought, I would give it a go.  

Luke and Ryan's father was also an abusive bully, controlling and manipulative.  He was never physically violent until he was completely murderous, and he shot and killed their mother and sister and then shot himself.  Their reason for writing the book was to show that while a relationship may not always be violent, it can still be abusive through the use of coercive control. Their father wanted to control every aspect of the lives of his family and did so through his bullying and demanding behaviour. They were also appalled at the sympathy shown to their father by the media after he murdered their mother and sister and how little sympathy was directed towards his victims.  I would highly recommend this, if for no other reason, than to open our eyes and minds to the quiet acceptance of abuse in society and the tendency towards victim blaming in the media.

Another, in the real lives genre, was Gavin Edward's biography of River Phoenix, Last Night at the Viper Room.  This tells the story of River Phoenix's life, from birth until his death, at aged 23.  Best known, in my house at least, for his role in Stand by Me, the Rob Reiner directed film, from the short story by Stephen King, The Body.  A favourite of my son's when they were growing up and one I still watch fairly regularly. 

River's parents were a couple of hippies who became part of the Children of God cult in the US and who travelled around and lived, for several years in South America, preaching and recruiting on their behalf.  The leader of the Children of God cult, David Berg, advocated sexual relationships between children, and between children and adults.  River's parents parted company with them when they started prostituting women to attract more recruits but there is evidence in the book, of River being introduced to sex, at a very young age.

There is no doubt his death was a tragic loss. He was quite heavily into drugs and although, he had been clean for a couple of months while shooting, what turned out to be, his last film, the moment he got back to LA, he was straight back to the drugs.  How much of his drug use was a result of his upbringing, we can only guess at but the lack of education and involvement with the Children of God, I'm sure, played a part. 

I never knew that he was interested in music but it turned out that he was more interested in making music than movies and there are some videos of him with his band, Aleka's Attic, on Youtube, if anyone is interested.  Sadly, the talent he had, never got to play out into maturity, like so many before him. That's the thing about drugs, it only end one of two ways, you either stop or die.  But an excellent read and highly recommended as it also contains snippets about many of the other actors who came to prominence in the 1990's, like Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Leonardo Di Caprio.


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Strike Out!

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In case anyone missed it, the 'yoof' had a day off school on Friday.  They went on strike for the day, to demand us grown-ups do something on climate change.  While I admire their enthusiasm, I think they might have been better off staying in school and studying some real science as opposed to 'environmental' science.  They might have learned a thing or two about C02 and realised that, like King Canute trying to stop the sea, they have about the same chance of stopping 'climate change'. 

The other thing about all this 'save the planet' stuff is the arrogance.  How self-righteous and arrogant do you have to be to think you can 'save the planet'.  What is it about us here in the West, that make us think we know it all about everything and are so sure of ourselves, we don't even have to bother to check the facts.  That's not to say there aren't issues that need addressing especially around plastic pollution but when I look around me, I see a much better world than the one I lived in 40 years ago.  

There are many more trees now and not just around my town but across the entire country.  The rivers and waterways are all much cleaner and most of our rubbish is now recycled too.  There are still many more green spaces than urban and people aren't getting shot or blown up every day either which is a really big improvement!  


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Labour Split

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No sooner than I call for a change in the political structure, than 7 MP's split from Labour with Chuka Umunna leading the charge.  In his statement, he said,"It is time we dumped this country's old-fashioned politics and created an alternative that does justice to who we are today and gives this country a politics fit for the here and now - the 21st Century," 

I wonder if he was reading my blog at the weekend??  While it would be nice to think that Chuka et al were just what I was looking for, I don't really have much confidence that they are the great hope for the future, I had in mind.  They are long on rhetoric but rather short on actual ideas and since they're all Blairite pro-Brexiteers, I don't envisage a startling and original manifesto being issued anytime soon.

But just in case they're looking for a few ideas to get them started here's a few of mine...

Complete re-structuring of the Government with a move towards issue-based politics.  This will take some time to set up but if it is done one issue at a time it is manageable.  I'm not sure how many politicians we would actually need but we may not need more than one or two for each county.  Changing to issue-based politics would also get rid of the need for general elections as we understand them now and instead, you would have a ballot paper with the issue on it instead and I envisage this working on a county by county basis and getting rid of the constituency model we have now.  So, if the country was to go to war, for example, it would be up to the people to make that decision.

Proportional representation would be used until the changeover was complete and anyone standing for election would have to have been a resident of that constituency for a minimum period of 2 years.  

Ministerial positions would then be advertised as jobs and given to the most qualified and experienced.  This would reduce the size of government further because all you really need is a leader and a good accountant to dish out the money.  

Overhaul the tax system to ensure everyone pays their fair share.  This would stop the rich and obscenely rich from paying nothing.  Devolve some tax powers to the counties with more of the tax raised staying within their areas.  Put the betting tax back on and stop gambling being advertised on TV.  

Fair employment legislation.  This would break up the 'old boy networks' that have reduced social mobility and would help to build a competency based society not one based on who you are and what your daddy owns. Get rid of the Honours system.

No public money for private schools and an overhaul of the public education system with parenting as part of the school curriculum along with philosophy and personal &social responsibility. This would get people thinking again and as parenting is a basic for the foundation of a good society, as good parenting produces good people (mostly), especially when they've been educated in their personal and social responsibilities.

No public money for the private sector unless they pay into the system,

All large companies to have worker's representatives on their boards.

Well, that's a few to get started on, I'll have to start fleshing things out now, you never know who could be reading and who knows, someone, somewhere might be interested in creating a real alternative, some day!  


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Idealism vs Reality

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Saturday, 16 Feb 2019, 11:27

We haven't had a working government in Stormont for 2 years now.  It's a political stalemate between the 2 extremes of Irish Republicanism (Sinn Fein) and Unionism (DUP) which are, in all probability, irreconcilable.  Especially, since the DUP hold the balance of power in Westminster and are keeping Theresa May in office and the Conservatives in government.

The same political stalemate is happening in the US with the stand-off between a Republican president threatening to close down the Government again and the Democrat-controlled Senate refusing to fund his wall.

Then, we have the political shambles of Brexit with Theresa May incompetently lurching from one crisis to the next and unable to deliver a 'deal'.  There is political stalemate with Europe refusing to renegotiate and neither the Left nor the Right anywhere able to fully grasp the reality of life outside the Parliamentary bubble for the rest of us and deliver what we want and need and not just on Brexit.

The stagnation of politics in the West at the present time is because we are caught between 2 irreconcilable positions, the Left and the Right, or public vs private and there is no-one of competence, capable of stepping up and delivering a coherent and practical alternative. (Well, apart from me!)

The other problem is that the political structure and the policies of the Left and Right are years out of date and do not serve the world of today.  The Right dominates at the moment because the Left have collapsed and failed to address the reasons for this.  Tony Blair did attempt to move Labour from the old policies of the 70’s that had kept them out of office and towards the middle but unfortunately, he kept going in that direction and ended up more right-wing than some Tories. 

The Right believe in capitalism, especially Free Market Capitalism which has been the doctrine since the 1980’s.  It doesn’t matter that it collapsed in 2008; those on the Right still refuse to acknowledge its failure or to acknowledge that it worked best when it came with a social conscience as it did in the time of people like Cadbury and Rowntree.

The political doctrines of the left and right were drawn up when the parties were formed, either in response to or opposition to, events or social and political conditions as Labour did after the Second World War when the populace demanded change.  The Welfare State was set up to address the demand for better health care, education and housing and to provide a safety net against poverty.  However, the Conservative Party detest the Welfare State and have been doing their best to dismantle it since then.  Their belief in the private over public is best seen in the way they sold off and privatised all the nationalised industries. 

Here in the North, Sinn Fein are becoming strangulated by their ‘ideals’.  Their refusal to sit in Parliament was a policy drawn up a hundred years ago as a protest against British rule in Ireland.  Since they have signed and accepted the Good Friday Agreement, they have accepted British rule in the North so why are they not taking their seats?  They also have a problem with the oath to the Queen but let’s be realistic about it, would anyone think they really meant it? Or they could do what Tony Benn always did and cross their fingers.  If they were in Parliament, they could at least drum up support against the oath from other Parliamentarians and get rid of it altogether.  Ironically, if they had taken the seven seats they won after the last election, they could have made life very difficult for the Government and since they were able to change their position on the EU from anti to pro within a couple of years, I don’t see why they can’t make that change.

The doctrines of the Left and Right, like Sinn Fein and the DUP are based on certain ideals.  Each has their own belief in what the world should be from their perspective and they try and shape it to fit in with those ideals.  That’s not to say that having ideals is necessarily a bad thing but when it translates into policies and dogma that are unchangeable and cause political stagnation then it becomes a problem. 

The politic world is ripe for change, a middle way has to be found between left and right, a balance between public and private because as history has shown us, neither of these options has worked when put into practice. It is time to abandon the doctrines of the past and move towards a new way of working. Brexit has shown that issue-based politics has driven a wedge through the left and the right but it also offers hope of a better way of working in the future.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) it would mean the parties within Westminster would have to abandon their dogmatic political position and work to deliver a solution where politicians would work together to resolve the issues instead of trying to impose a party-based solution more concerned with keeping a government in power but which cannot deliver in the long term.

We need a complete restructuring of the political landscape.  We should decide on the issues, healthcare, housing, transport, security, education, what are we willing to support through taxation, what kind of society do we want and what are we willing to do to create it?  In abandoning party politics and moving towards issue-based politics, we would be dealing with the actual problems, free from the dogma and rhetoric of the past and instead, focussed on finding a solution to today’s problems. It would also mean a reduction in government and an end to cronyism and corporate predominance. 

There should also be rules in place so that only people who actually live in a constituency have the right to stand for election in that constituency. This would get rid of the London-centric politics which has split the country and left those outside the London and Parliamentary bubble feeling disconnected and forgotten.   

While many are worried about Brexit, we should see it as an opportunity to redraw the political landscape.  Once Britain is free from Brussels, we have the chance to start over, to wipe the slate clean and rebuild society and the political structure.  Margaret Thatcher once said ‘there is no such thing as society’, this was a very famous quote but it was only part of what she said, she went on to say, ‘There are individual men and women, and there are families.  And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after ourselves and then look after our neighbour.  It is time to look after ourselves. 

Change will come, the disaffection of the people with politicians and the political structure is evident across the world.  We have hit an impasse and Brexit has revealed the failure of the Left and Right to find a way forward or to offer a solution.  If we are to move forward, then we have to address the realities of the world today and create a political structure that serves the needs of the people and the country first.  The day of party politics is coming to an end, change can be frightening but with a little courage and imagination, there is no telling what kind of society we could create.  All it takes is the will to make it happen, we can be idealistic and wish for a better world but at the end of the day, it is up to us to create it.  Idealism does have its place, it can and does inspire us to action, great men like Mahatma Ghandi were idealistic and achieved so much but it was achieved through action and by facing and dealing with the realities of the day.  

Idealism fails when it doesn’t deal with reality as we have seen only too well in the last century. 

Albert Einstein once said, ’Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow’.  I think we should learn from yesterday, act today and tomorrow will take care of itself’.

A few weeks ago, a bomb went off in Derry; a stark reminder of what can happen when the ‘ideals’ of the past, impinge on the present reality.  When vacuums open up in politics and leadership (quite often between their ears!), the worst elements step in and try to fill them. 

 


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Atom Heart Floyd

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Sunday, 10 Feb 2019, 22:53

I took my life in my hands and headed out on Friday night to see Atom Heart Floyd in the Balor Theatre, in Ballybofey.  I didn't realise at the time, I was taking a chance with my life by going.  Storm Eric was forecast, it was raining and a bit windy but nothing overly tempestuous.  However, by the time the show was over, Eric had arrived in full force.  Between the howling gale and the torrential rain, it was a treacherously slow drive home, much of the time on the wrong side or in the middle of the road, to avoid the pools of water.

Was it worth it?  Definitely!  A great time was had by all!

Atom Heart Floyd hail from the south of England so keep an eye out for them if you're a Floyd fan, they put on a good show and if they come back this way again, I'll definitely be there.

They started off with some early Floyd from the Sid Barrett era and finished the show with Comfortably Numb.  They had a large circular screen and throughout the show, there were mini films projected on to it featuring, among others, Sid Barrett and other surreal graphics and images.  During Brain Damage, from the Dark Side of the Moon album, they showed film of politicians from the 80's, Maggie Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Yasser Arafat, Saddam Hussein, Boris Yeltsin, Gorbachev and a few other less notables.  While listening to the lyrics and watching the screen, I was struck with the thought that at one time these people were all giants on the political world stage, inspiring admiration and loathing in equal measure.  Now, practically all of them are dead.  

Considering the state of politics in the world at the moment, this was a comforting thought, because it made me realise that no matter how big they are politically or how much power they might wield, eventually, their time will pass, things will change and they too, will become a footnote in the history books or an image on a screen, reminding us of the past insanity of our 'leaders'. I can safely look back now to all the anti-Russian rhetoric of the 80's and the threat of nuclear war that hung over us like a cloud of lead and see that it was nothing more than egotistical grand-standing by idiots with too much power and not enough sense to realise the limits of their time on earth. They could have done so much good but most of them wasted it.  In a thousand years, who will even remember them?  So, if you're worried about Trump, Putin, Brexit or anything else in the world, political or otherwise, take comfort in the fact that it won't last forever or as Shakespeare so brilliantly put it - 

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

 

 


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Wall

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There's an old saying, 'Good fences make good neighbours' which basically means take care of what is on your side of the fence and recognise where the physical and psychological boundaries or borders lie between you and your neighbours.  

There is a place called Wall in the film Stardust which is in my DVD collection and which I like to watch on a fairly regular basis.  It's a nice movie, ideal for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I might even watch it this week as I've a few days holidays to take.  So, sometimes 'wall' can be a good thing and borders too, especially when they are filled with flowers.  Even fences, when they are well built, the US is built on the ideal of the 'white picket fence' in the neighbourhood.

Trump is still looking to build his wall between the US and Mexico and threatening to shut the government down again if he doesn't get the funding from Congress.  I for one,am quite happy for Donald to build his wall...but with one condition.  He keeps the US military on their side of it and I mean all their military.  

Now that they have decided to pull out of the INF nuclear proliferation treaty, there is a real possibility of the US deploying their nuclear bombs in Europe as a defence against 'threats' from Russia.

Every time I hear about the US and their nukes, I go back about 3 years ago, to the morning I was listening to Radio 4 and there was a general on talking about the plan to go to war with Russia within 3 years because they had these new limited nuclear bombs which they wanted to try out.  I have mentioned this before on the blog.  John Humphries was interviewing him and basically said, 'that's insane!'.  But the election of Trump threw a bit of a spanner in the works, Hilary was supposed to get in which is why Obama had started to build up the anti-Russian rhetoric towards the end of his tenure in anticipation of the coming conflict.  

Unfortunately, it seems that Trump has now been leveraged by or sold his soul to the Halliburton's and the other corporate hawks (assuming, of course, that he had one to begin with!.) From here on in, there will be more and more anti-Putin and anti-Russian propaganda in the mainstream media.  Don't believe a word of if although, tensions have certainly increased now that Russia has decided to withdraw too. 

Those who make war, don't fight them.  They profit by them at the expense and with the blood of ordinary, usually poor and/or working class. For everyone's sake, don't let your children or your neighbours children be sacrificed for corporate profits!


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Vice

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In spite of the cold, I ventured out tonight to see Vice, the biopic about Dick Cheney, starring Christian Bale as Cheney, Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld and Sam Rockwell as Dubya.  What can I say? I have looked upon the face of evil and lived to tell the tale...

Brilliant performances all round.  Christian Bale is truly deserving of the accolades he has received for his performance.  Steve Carrell was so good as Rumsfeld, I've even forgiven him for Finding a Friend for the End of the World and Sam Rockwell was outstanding too as Dubya, I got the feeling he was enjoying every minute of it. Mind you, you never go too far wrong with Sam.

The downside is that they were all so good, I came out feeling like I needed a shower after being in the company of such slime for 2 hours.  I had always thought Rumsfeld was the real evil in the Dubya camp, but Dick Cheney is a man??? Well, a male person anyway (I think? Possibly made in Area 51c...) He's cheap, nasty and soulless.  He reminded me of a description of the character, Annie Wilkes in the book Misery.  'You could stick your thumb into her and she would just be solid the whole way through' or something like that.

The other downside is that because of Dick Cheney, I'm never donating any organs.  My car tax and insurance were up this week and I was online getting it sorted the other day and coincidentally, there was a form for organ donation.  I started to fill it in and when it came to the liver, I thought, I need to think about this one, I don't really like the idea of my liver being given to someone who has drunk themselves into ill health (yes, I know I'm being judgemental but I don't care, not when it comes to alcohol).  So, I didn't fill it in.

In the film, Dick Cheney gets a heart transplant after years of heart trouble.  The big surprise was that he actually had a heart!  I remember thinking the same thing when it was announced Martin McGuinness was having heart trouble.  A bit of a coincidence too, now that I think about it!

So, that's why I'm not donating any organs because you don't know if they'll be given to some evil toe-rag to extend their life and I don't want to be responsible for keeping the Dick Cheney's of the world alive.  

But apart from that, anyone with an interest in politics or the Iraq War, should check this movie out.  It shows how rotten the whole political world is, not that we didn't know that anyway, but we just don't get any in-depth investigations into their dirty dealings anymore.  At least, none of the calibre that we used to get in World in Action and Panorama.  And the worst thing about it, is that they got away with it!  Cheney, Bush, Blair, the whole rotten shower of them, they got away with it and made a fortune.  Disgusting!  But go see the film anyway!


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Courses, books & movies

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Sunday, 27 Jan 2019, 12:33

My brain has been itching for something to do recently so I tried out one of the OU's free online courses, Living Without Oil.  I had started it when I was off after my op (which I had forgotten) but I finished it this week.  It was interesting, at some point in the future humanity may have to live without oil and as we have lived without it for many more years than we have had it, I don't really think it will be a problem. Humans have shown themselves to be incredibly creative when needed and are great problem solvers.  The thing is, we could easily cut back our consumption if the will or necessity was there.  All houses could be insulated to a much higher standard than they are at present and there is always the option of ground source heat.  Public transport could easily be improved too with trams and trains.  I'm not losing any sleep over it, we'll adapt when the time comes, I'm sure.

I've now moved on to a Philosophy course, Faking Nature.  I have too much on this year to commit to formal study but I think I may have to do something after the summer, my brain needs it.

I've still been reading a lot too.  2 outstanding reads are; The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Educated by Tara Westover.  They are both on similar themes, growing up in highly unstable environments, I would recommend reading The Glass Castle first.  You can also watch the movie of it on Netflix, I haven't checked it out yet so I can't comment on what it's like.  

Talking about movies, I ventured out to see the new Mary Poppins this week.  It started off well enough and was in keeping with the original but then it just went on and on, about 25 minutes too long and there was a bit at the end which didn't make sense.  Spoiler Alert!  They were racing to turn back the hands on Big Ben and then Mary Poppins flew up with her umbrella and did it.  I thought, 'well, why didn't you just do that to start with?'  And it's not that I don't enjoy a long movie, I'm actually sitting here at the moment watching one of my all-time favourites, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (today on Channel 5).  I actually have a limited edition Directors cut of this on video so when it's good, the longer the better!  

I've also just finished Jordan B Peterson's 12 Rules for Life, An Antidote to Chaos.  I only recently got to know about Jordan Peterson (again when I was off after the op) by watching videos on Youtube.  I am most definitely a fan and he has transformed my thinking and consequently, my life.  He is every man I wish I'd ever known, I wish there were more like him.  The book was a much more intelligent and spiritual read than I expected and I think listening to him has rekindled the desire in me to get back to study.  I'm now re-reading CJ Jung's Memories, Dreams and Reflections since Jung gets quite a few mentions in it.

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Laurel & Hardy

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Friday, 18 Jan 2019, 22:13

Just back from the cinema after watching the new Laurel & Hardy film starring Steve Coogan and John C. Riley.  There wasn't a dry eye in the house!  A very moving and poignant portrayal of Stan and Ollie's lives towards the end of their careers.  Just go and see it, that's all I have to say about it, just go and see it...and bring tissues!

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Art

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019, 21:05

Latest from my art class.  This is another practice piece and a copy.  I wanted to try horses again and I find I'm moving more and more towards oils.  A bit more impressionistic this time which is the great thing about oils, they're a much more pliable medium to work with.

Race

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Tories, U-turns and the NHS

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Monday, 7 Jan 2019, 19:19

So, Theresa May has a grand new plan for the NHS which involves making health care more 'community-oriented' instead of hospital based.  Back in the 1980's, we had lots of small community-based hospitals and I was lucky enough to give birth to my youngest son in our local hospital; he was one of the last children to be born there.  I say lucky because back then you stayed in for 5 days after giving birth (10 if you had a caesarean) and the nurses looked after the babies at night so you got a well-needed night's sleep.  The food was really good too; we had home-made scones for breakfast and good dinners in the evening.  I was so well looked after; I didn't want to go home!  Now, you're out in 24 hours and once the baby is born, you're basically on your own.  As for the food, after my recent stay (on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the worst and 10 the best) I'd give it a 3 and that's being generous!

Then, Maggie Thatcher closed them all and centralised everything in the larger hospitals.  The thing about this is that over here, they built 2 huge hospitals, one in Omagh and one in Enniskillen, at a cost of millions under PFI schemes which we're going to be paying for, for the next 20 years.   

Now it's all change again! Maggie may not have been for turning, but it seems Theresa may!

 


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Working Class Hero

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Wednesday, 26 Dec 2018, 13:13

As the Brexit shambles rumbles on with no leadership in sight, the country as divided as ever, and the war of words, long on rhetoric and short on truth, sincerity and substance, I came across a documentary film called My Generation on Netflix one night and thought this could be interesting, a look at 1960’s Britain (pre EU) narrated by none other than ‘Alfie’ himself, Michael Caine. 

It told the story of Britain in the 1960's, and how the teenagers of that era, were the first generation to enjoy freedom and money in a way previous generations never had.  These were the children of the working-classes who had fought and sacrificed so much in the First and Second World Wars, who demanded the social changes that put the Labour Party into power in 1945, and which led to the creation of the Welfare State that gave us free healthcare, education and decent housing.

As a result of these changes, there was an explosion of working-class talent in art, film, music, fashion and politics that led to London becoming the centre of the 'Swinging 60's'.  The class barriers were torn down as they stormed into places previously denied them and they did so through sheer force of talent.  They were educated and confident, and not afraid to challenge the class barriers that previous generations deferred to, and instead of remaining 'in their place’, they questioned, challenged and created new places.  They marched against war and discrimination, demanding peace and equality for all, and were a beacon of inspiration and hope for others.  The baby-boomer generation; advantaged by the political consciousness, of their parent’s.  A new generation of working-class hero, as recognised in song, by John Lennon.

Looking back, I must ask, where did it all go wrong?  What happened to all that working-class energy, why did it not grow and expand to encompass future generations?  What happened to all the potential and idealism that since the 60’s, has seen the working-classes reduced to an object of sneering disdain, and led to the social and political stagnation we have now? 

There are several factors to consider which together created a perfect storm which has insidiously diminished the gains made by those previous generations.  One of those was in education.  While those on the liberal left despised grammar schools, they did give many the opportunity of a college education which had been denied previous generations and helped to fuel the explosion of talent in the 60’s.  We have the grammar school system to thank for educating people like John Hume and Seamus Heaney.  But even if you weren’t academically inclined, you had the option of leaving at the end of 3rd year and going to a technical college where you could learn a trade and become a plumber, electrician, joiner or brickie; there was also the option of secretarial courses with shorthand and typing.

The 1970’s saw the demise of grammar schools as the liberal left, in pursuit of equality for all, created the comprehensive system (which seemed like a good idea at the time).  The decision to try and create an equal playing field has unfortunately, over time, led to the dumbing down of the education on offer.  Some comprehensives still maintained a grammar stream in their schools but the chance to leave and get a ‘technical’ education at the end of 3rd year was taken away and there is now an academic requirement for GCSE’s in order to get on a plumbing or electrical course (at least that's what happened here).

Also, in the 1970’s, Unions that were set up to protect and fight for worker’s rights became more and more demanding, leading to strikes and, eventually, to the winter of discontent when they over-played their hand and lost the support of the public, leading to the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and almost 40 years of Tory rule since. (I include Tony Blair's New Labour in that)  It was the working-classes who helped elect Margaret Thatcher, she promised to give them the right to buy their council houses, brought in legislation to curb the power of the unions and promised to create a nation of shareholders in the great sell-off of public utilities; selling off to the few, what belonged to the many.

As the public housing stock was sold off (and not replaced) those who had been in council properties for a long time, received large discounts and with the economic boom in the 1980's, many of those home-owners saw the chance to make a profit and so sold their houses, many of which have now ended up in the hands of private landlords.  This happened to most of the public utility stock too, and the race for a quick profit meant that most of those nationally-owned companies and industries are now in private hands and/or foreign corporations, and the profits for the many have ended up in the pockets of the few.  

On top of this, Globalisation and Free-Market economics saw many working-class jobs either disappear abroad or disappear altogether.  The job losses, the Miner's Strike and the legislation to curb union power also had another effect, which was to close the door to a political career.  Factories and trade unions used to be where the working-classes learned, or were introduced to, politics.  They received an education in how to negotiate and fight for their rights and many started on the road to a career in politics and into the Labour Party through their union.  Since the 1980’s, the Labour Party lost its working-class edge and under Tony Blair became a middle-class party.  But, with the election of Jeremy Corbyn, there is a move back to the Labour grass roots, and the working-class are making their presence felt again and trying to wrest control back from the Blairites who, realistically, should be on the Lib-Dem or Tory benches. 

These changes are some of the main reasons for the disaffection that is driving the Leave voters here in the UK today.  At its heart, are the working-classes, ignored for years by the political establishment, and punitively targeted by that same political establishment with 'austerity', and made to pay disproportionately, for the reckless gambling of the private/corporate banking sector.  And now sneered at disdainfully by the middle and upper-classes over Brexit and dismissed as a bunch of ignorant racists. 

Looking at the My Generation documentary, I was struck by how many of those 'working class heroes' from the 60's turned their backs on the class they came from and are now firmly part of the establishment, including 'Sir' Michael Caine himself.  One of the most recent to accept the bauble from the Crown and tug the forelock, and one of the greatest disappointments, is 'Sir' Billy Connolly.  Like his fellow countrymen, 'Sir' Sean Connery, that great supporter of Scottish independence (ironic or what??) and 'Sir' Rod Stewart who, on a recent show, tried to excuse it by saying it's from the British people, not the Crown!  Then, we also have people like Dame Judy Dench, crying crocodile tears about the lack of opportunities for working-class actors while helping to support and maintain the very system that keeps the working-classes down and out. 

So, if anyone is worried about Britain after Brexit, it would do no harm to check out this documentary and get a look at Britain before the EU, when it was the centre of everything with a strong manufacturing base, and thriving home-grown industries: when working-class was something to be and something to be proud of. 

When Britain joined what was the Common Market back in the 70's, it was with the intention of making trade easier among the countries of Europe, which seemed like a good idea at the time.  It has now grown from a ‘common market’ into a bloated, bureaucratic monolith, expanding and growing beyond the remit of easy trade into a superstate, now with plans for its own army (under whose control, and to what or whose purpose?).  

Watching My Generation, has consolidated my belief in Leave.  Britain has the potential to do well as an independent nation but only if everyone in that nation is considered worthy and given the chance, starting with a decent education for all, so their talent and ability has the chance to evolve.  Those working-class who achieved so much in the 1960’s need to be reminded where they came from and instead of rushing to join the establishment, they should try extending a hand downwards to their fellow countrymen instead of pulling up the ladder after them.  

The working-classes believe they have found a hero in Jeremy Corbyn and all the sniping and sneering by Blairites and their supporters will not change that view. (Take note, JK Rowling! Another working-class, gone snob!)

The disaffection among the working-classes here, is now visible on the streets of France with the Yellow Vests, and is spreading to other European countries with many taking to the streets in solidarity.  The silent majority who have been pushed to their limits, finally making their voices heard.  

I sincerely hope the Yellow Vest protesters find a leader or spokesperson, if this movement is to become more than just a 'street riot', to be put down by the forces of the state.   I sincerely hope Jeremy Corbyn lives up to the expectations of those who have supported him and helped him become leader of the Labour Party.  He carries the hopes and dreams of the working-classes on his shoulders, something they haven't had for a very long time.  I sincerely hope he becomes the hero they think he has the potential to be, because if ever the working-classes needed a hero, that time is now.


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The Faller

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This is last nights effort. Oil on canvas board. This was an experiment since I've never painted animals or humans. I was happy enough with it as a first effort. I took it from a photo I took, from a race meeting I was at a few years ago.  The horse had just come over a jump and looked as if it was going to fall, I can't remember now if it fell or not!


The Faller

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Sunset over Lifford

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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,


Sunset

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Broken Sluice Gate

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Friday, 30 Nov 2018, 10:47

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.


gate


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Bohemian Rhapsody

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Thursday, 22 Nov 2018, 11:05

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!


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Tony Abbot on Brexit

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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

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Recovery

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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!


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Pain & Pleasure

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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.

 

 

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Climate Catastrophe!

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Tuesday, 9 Oct 2018, 07:26

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… 

 

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Ford vs Kavanaugh

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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.


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Art

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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.

Park




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Novichok again!

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Thursday, 27 Sep 2018, 22:46

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.

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Autumn and Allotments

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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!

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Reading for Pleasure

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018, 20:54

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.

 


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