Thursday, 31 December 2009

Sylvester Abend

Last day of the year - went to Ikea, it had to be done. Ikea have now installed some self-service checkouts. I love the self-service checkout, of which Superstore is the ruler. However, although I tried to stand in another queue, the screens and scanners called to me with their siren .... scanneriness. But then, standing in that queue, I became annoyed at the slowness of the people using them. 'For goodness sake,' I said, using entirely my inner voice, 'it's not rocket science people.'
But it turned out that it was. Spoilt by Superstore and Home Depot, the Ikea system has its own little quirks. Fortunately, I go there often enough to be able to get the knack quite quickly.

Last night we watched 'Revolutionary Road.' I loved this film, I love to watch characters being painted, ordinary situations being explored. And I was absolutely awed by Kate Winslet's performance, the sheer skill of her portrayal of any-woman of the mid nineteen fifties. Sometimes, you can see a picture that makes you 'get' art. And sometimes you see a performance that makes you get acting.

Today, there has been some interminable programme on TV of 'one hit wonders of the 80s'. At first, I was unfamiliar with most of them, but as we got up near the top, I was recognising more and more. Now I would certainly never argue that Haircut One Hundred were not a one-hit-wonder group, but then it gets weird. Big Country? What? And Dexy's Midnight Runners? And the 'one hit' of Dexy's wasn't even their biggest one. And then Soft Cell. Pardonnez-moi? Soft Cell?
Of course, as Kev pointed out, it was a US American show, many of the bands mentioned weren't even one-hit wonders in Canada, let along in the UK.

Ah well.

I have as yet no New Year's resolutions. I'm not sure I even see the first of January as the new year anymore. But officially it is, so to one and all, I wish a Very Happy New Year and may it bring us all clarity and peace and may our gods walk among us.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Am Sechsten Tag

...erschuf Gott den Menschen. But, to be fair, it wasn't the sixth day of Christmas, just...the sixth day.
On the sixth day, God created people, women and men and fashioned them in God's image.

Odd really, this need to see ourselves as a reflection of God, or, more accurately, God as a reflection of us, in all our bigoted, greedy, uncaring vileness.

And while we're at it....we women, humourless harridans that we are, are supposed to accept being called men, and just suck it up. 'Man', we are told by the terminally stupid, means men and women, humans, it's the species.
So why does my male dog get called a man then? 'Little man', 'wee man', well, duh! It is because he's male. Species : dog, canis familiaris; gender : male, man, boy.

On the news, an RCMP officer who was suspended, has stabbed and killed another officer. Now that he is in custody, they have put him on suicide watch. Why? Oh yes, we must stop him killing himself because that's our prerogative, not that we have execution in any civilised country, but his life belongs to us now, the people, Jo and Joe Public, to do with what we will, and I'm not saying that bit is wrong, just the idea that he must be stopped from killing himself.
In the days when civilised countries did kill criminals, then we made suicide a crime, and one that meant the victim/criminal, could not be buried in consecrated ground. I dunno, maybe the ground would vomit them back up or something, because it seems to me that God wouldn't be too fussed either way.

And on a reserve, a 12 year-old boy has murdered a 14 year-old girl. Everyone on the reserve is shocked. I mean male violence against women, that hardly ever happens.

The new security measures for flying from Holland to the States are going to compromise privacy. How? Because the new scanners allow the security staff to see your naked form, well, more shadow really, plus any bomb-making equipment you might have strapped to your body. AND....don't let us forget that the machines come with software that DOESN'T in fact allow the screeners to see your naked shadow, just anything that shouldn't be there. FAR more intrusive than lubed-up latex fingers probing your various orifices.

I am reading 'Wolf Hall', winner of the 2009 Booker prize. It's one huge tome. But it is fascinating, following the lives of Thomases Wolsey and Cromwell as they try to give King Henry VIIIth what he wants. And although, obviously, to go into the day-to-day detail and dialogue, the author is clearly fictionalising, as least the historical events are fact, well, accepted fact. I'm glad, something must be done to redress the damage done by the poisonous TV series, 'The Tudors'.

On the sixth day, God created humans. God shortened, quite considerably, the jaw muscle that was stopping our skull from expanding, and thus our brain from developing, and then God did a slight readjustment on that thumb, so that it was opposable.
Splendid.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Day Five

This former abbey is near where Austen and Sue live, in Titchfield. It was built in the 13th Century, but was later converted to a Tudor mansion, and Shakespeare staged plays there.

Am I being picky? No of course not, but the neighbour's tacky lights detract from our more tasteful ones. I wonder if I could ask them to move on these grounds.

A couple of days ago, we experienced a drive-by Whisky Worship. A large, white car slowed down and drew up alongside of us. Slowly, the window went down and a cheery man leant out, calling, 'Whisky!!!!' Beside him in the car I could see Toby the Schnauzer.

More snow in England, Wales and Scotland...well, that's Britain then....has caused a surge in cat litter sales. Not because the inclement weather makes the cats pee and poo more, just that people are using it instead of salt on the icy paths and so forth. Probably their cars too. I imagine a lot of folks are driving around with cat litter on their bonnets.

At the hairdresser's this avo, were the most horrific little brats and their stupid enabling mother(s). The brats in question were aged around four. They were having tantrums and the mothers kept whining and promising them sugar filled crap if only they'd let the nice lady cut their hair. One of the mothers at some point told one of the boys to, 'go and look at the hot girls in the magazines.' There is SO much wrong with that I don't know where to start, and nor do I need to, since tis obvious.
I wanted to get up, with my hair all clowny, and slap all four of them, but I thought of how my hair would fall out when the RCMP came and arrested me before the hairdresser had finished, so I got a grip and settled down to seethe until they had gone.

Monday, 28 December 2009

On the Fourth Day

The Christmas Season is upon us, the turkey is being eaten little by little. Sadly, the sprouts have run out. I do like a nice Brussels sprout, me.

And of course, airline security has been stepped up. The thing is, the security measures that were already in place were probably enough, were they being followed. How can a syringe needle not set off the metal detectors? And chummie was on the UK's terrorist watch list, why wasn't that information shared, or if it were, why was no action taken?

A British man faces execution in China, for allegedly smuggling heroin. The heroin, we are told by the Chinese, 'could kill 26,800 people'. How does it do that I wonder? I mean, it's not like Anthrax is it? You have to take it, and then, some people maintain a habit over a lifetime and don't ever die. I'm on shaky ground here, because I'm getting my information from Soaps, and I haven't watched one for about fifteen years, but I'm pretty sure heroin doesn't just kill people.

Basically, the man may or may not have smuggled four kilos of a drug that you have to actually take for it to do you any harm, and he is facing the same sentence as Saddam Hussein who oversaw mass torture and slaying of his own people and an attempted genocide of the Kurdish people, none of whom, agreed to any of it.

Meanwhile, the fourth day of Christmas at the Schloss has been spent tidying things, my desk, the wardrobe. I have been listening to a lot of Bowie, and whilst some of his work has more Zeitgeist than the Zeit itself, he did have a rubbish period as well.
I have also been catching up on missed tellie.
Dexter, series ender.
Oh my.
The next series could be....well, quite the series.
I have finished all my downloads of Beautiful People, sadly. The more I saw, the more hooked I became.

And now that I'm back in Canada, I realise what a relaxing break I've had from sexist language, (church service notwithstanding), although I did have to complain to the management of the Co-op for using the word 'manned' instead of 'staffed' in one of their notices, bloody peasants. British Rail's notice said, 'staffed'. Quality.

I also note that Whisky is attuned to Dean Martin. My friend send me a Power Point e-mail of snowy scenes with 'Let it Snow' playing in the background. Whisky ignored the intro music, but pulled his head whence it was buried, deep underneath the cushions, as soon as the old crooner's voice started up. Maybe channelling my mum.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Peace At Christmas

We have awoken to a white world this Christmas Day, not that it has snowed, but the frost is so thick that the world is truly white and sparkly at and around the Schloss.
Yesterday's journey back was uneventful, in spite of my fears of travel disruption, hardly unfounded since there had in general been travel chaos whilst I was over in the UK, people had been stranded in the tunnel, stranded on either side of the tunnel, runways closed, trains not running and people snowed and iced into cars.

I had been prepared for extra security and extra security there was, certainly at Heathrow, resplendent in its Christian holiday madness. But extra security in the most British way possible. Yes, every step was monitored and checked, and believe you me, I am not criticising that, but the ACTUAL security queue at Terminal three was knee deep in uniformed staff, pre-trained in officiousness, which was slightly marred for me by the young woman standing at the place where your checked hand luggage comes through, whining at a colleague,
'Oi, you gotta come and take over from me 'ere, I need to wee, I really need to wee,' ah yes, don't we all at all times and in all places.

YVR has become even more awesome. Previously, the ONLY thing Heathrow had over YVR, was that on arrival, EU and other passport holders were channelled into different queues and so entry through immigration was relatively smooth.
Now, YVR has actual machines for holders of Canadian passports or Permanent Resident cards. The card or passport is scanned, your customs declaration is scanned, and lo! You passeth through with no further ado. Much too early for your luggage to have arrived of course, but so efficient, and it must make the lines for non-residents shorter too.

At the Schloss, all is ready for the great feast of Christmas. Kev has been planning and preparing for days, anything that could be done in advance has been. The lights are up, the fridge and the liquor cabinet are full, everwhere is tidy.

So, at this time of Christmas for Christians, and for those who wish to celebrate it, I feel very blessed. I have been able to spend the last fortnight of Advent with part of my family, I have returned uneventfully to the rest of my family here, I have celebrated the Eucharist with others that I hold dear, and the world, for just this moment as I write, is still.

This Peace, the Peace that passes all understanding, isn't just a Christian ideal, it crosses the Faiths and beyond. At Christmas, I wish Peace for all my friends and family, for those I know and those I don't, for the living and those who have gone before. For all women and men and whoever else may be out there,
Peace, Salaam, Shalom.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Sin and Blasphemy

Sunday took me back in time. Funny how soon I have forgotten how much I have, surrounded as I am in the church where I usually worship, by like-minded women and the odd troll. No, seriously, there are a couple of odd trolls there. But the time machine took me back to a church where God is an Englishman.
He, him, his, king, Lord, father.
Bollocks.
A book I am reading by Brian Wren, describes such language as blasphemous and sinful - speaking of God as male, not the bollocks bit.

Today, blasphemy and general bad language could well have abounded, were it not for the well-known Dunkirk spirit.
I had organised, no, to be fair, Alex had organised to see her Godfather, a long-time friend of mine. We were to catch a train from the local station to Chichester, there to swan around, meet Julian, dine in the Café Rouge and return at our leisure.
Oh fickle and cruel fate. Well, British Rail really.
We were given a lift to the station at midday.
So far so good.
But wait, what is this gaggle of disaffected youths hanging around looking seriously pissed off? Yes, yes, I know that is tautology. Disaffected youths always look seriously pissed off.
We waited for the ticket window, or guichet in French.
I know, I don't know, just...I must be missing French labelling.
'We want to go to Chichester,' said Alex.
The man leant forward and said in an ohmygod-I-feel-so-sorry-for-you kind of way,
'I wouldn't travel today if I were you.'
'Oh,'
'There haven't been any trains yet today,'
'Ah,'
We phoned the Godfather, who consulted the interwebs.
'There's one at 13.50 that ISN'T cancelled.'
We went for coffee.
We came back nearer to 13.50. The train still wasn't cancelled, but the ticket window was, it was closed.
We bought tickets from the machine and went across to the platform.
A lady in red came out and hailed us across the rails,
'Where are you ladies hoping to travel to?'
'Chichester,'
'I can't guarantee that train'll run,'
'Oh.'
And it didn't, but by the time we knew it wasn't coming, there it was, the Dunkirk spirit breaking out all over the platform.

And the time we had had our tickets refunded and rung Austen for a lift, we were drizzled into submission. We found a pub and watched as the rain became torrential, then turned to sleet, then to snow and then became blizzard-like.
Such fun. And we were very pleased to get back in the warm.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Breathe

Have finally fallen ill. Yesterday, after an exciting overnight snowfall, and whilst it was still snowing, I managed to help Alex take the children to school (she-does-everything-and-I-tag-along sort of help) and then more or less collapsed, slept all afternoon, felt like crap and then collapsed again on the sofa. I was supposed to go up to London to meet my sister, but when I rang her to tell her that any movement was impossible, it seemed as though she was in the same boat, croaking, creaking and generally crook.

BBC i-player rocks. Sadly, we can't access it in Canada, so whilst I'm here, I can watch all kinds of great stuff, Miranda, Gavin and Stacey, Life, but in Canada, where BBC Canada can be quite tardy and rather random about these things, they won't let me view them. And frankly, I'd be happy to pay the BBC money to be able to do so. Why don't they offer poor ex-pats this service?

Then there's the question of heating. Why does the same room temperature, heated via radiators, feel so much more comfortable than when heated by forced air? I can't even begin to see the logic in it, and yet......

This morning, I could happily have stayed in bed for an extra, ooh, two days to be honest, but Alex brought me coffee, prodded me back to life and got me out shopping. By the end of it I felt like death (barely) warmed up, and yet after another rest, I was able to get going again, and do feel a great deal better now.
At least, I was able to drink alcohol again, which is the same thing really.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Overnighter

Ah, tis Thursday. Spent the night at Sleepy Mansions, was wined, dined and entertained in the time-honoured Sleepy Mansions fashion.
Rue Albert seems, in my opinion, to be tastefully dressed for the Yuletide season, and in comparison to the environs of Schloss Schneewittchen, so was Aliens Strasse.

Today we had flurries, followed by hail, which filled the cat's bowls in the garden and edged the lawn. Tomorrow we may or may not be forecast snow-dumpage. Hampshire doesn't appear to get a mention in Met Office dispatches, but on the BBC map, we're coloured orange. Orange for 'Be Prepared'.
At the very least, it sounds windy out there tonight.

Yesterday was my friend British Karen's birthday, retro-active Happy Returns Karen, I hope it was enjoyable.

Nearly Winter.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Ms.

Jetlag and perimenopause have something in common. Both have you waking up full-on at 3.00. This isn't funny. And then just as suddenly, as though your clock had wound down, just as you hear the alarm, you fall off again, into a deep sleep.

Austen and Sue have moved from central Southsea into rural Titchfield, far from the madding crowd. And it is indeed very pleasant here, and yet so far from the madding crowd that it's difficult to get anywhere without a car. Even the ubiquitous railways station is far enough away to make it awkward to get anywhere.

Yesterday was Ellie's second birthday. She's bright and is talking clearly and well. One of her birthday presents was an angel costume from Tesco's 'Nativity' range. I was quite surprised to see that this range includes a blue fairy outfit, complete with wings. I could only surmise that Mary has been supernaturalised.

In the Hampshire branch of the Schnee family, an interesting discussion has been taking place. Austen wondered about the mystery of the title 'Ms.' He feels it has not been accepted here, and in fact has negative connotations. In my job, where I see a procession of different teachers, it is the most common, overwhelmingly common title, that is used, often by female parents as well.

I find the most worrying thing that apparently, here, it is often associated with 'Feminist' or 'lesbian' and more to the point, that these are seen as negative.

'Ms.' was supposed to get round the discrimination associated with a title that referred not just to your gender, but to your marital status. I know a couple of people who avoid this altogether by refusing to use any title. I never give a title, but when pushed, certainly choose 'Ms.' I am married, but I do not choose to use my partner's surname. So I'm neither a Miss nor a Mrs. And then, is there a negative connotation associated with those too? At my age, is it better to be a Miss or a Mrs.? I'll stick with Ms. or nothing at all.

But the whole thing could be avoided completely, AND your earnings be increased, by adopting a man's name.

Makes you think.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Tale of Two Airports

Thursday saw Ben's return to the UK, head-scratchingly uneventful, but for the fact that he didn't let anyone know that he had arrived. Then Friday, after my final performance as Mother Nature, during which the real Mother Nature played along by squeezing out a few flakes of snow, I was taken to the airport.

Since the last time I flew out of there, which must have been January, YVR, already probably one of the most attractive airports in the world (bearing in mind that I haven't by any means flown around the whole world) has been upgraded to state-of-the-art readiness for the Olympics. It, quite simply, took my breath away. I feel it is not only ready for showing Vancouver off to the best possible advantage this February, but well into the future. And the staff all greeted me in French, followed by English. I was beyond impressed.

And this contrasted most starkly with Terminal three at Heathrow. What a complete shambles. Immigration - as usual there, smooth, well-oiled (not in the alcoholic sense mind) and efficient. Luggage.....-ish. But once through customs, things start to deteriorate. No ladies toilet unless you schlepp all the way over to departures, then back and the endless, ENDLESS trek to the central bus terminus. Once there, you have to deal with polite inefficiency in order to buy a ticket, although what I would commend is that anyone who ISN'T polite gets short shrift. That, I like.

But realistically, the world is going to be coming through Heathrow in two years time for London's Olympics. I'm sure that Terminal Five is burnished brightly, but all of the terminals need attention and the service of the people peripheral to operations there, is not up to snuff.

My 'plane was at the gate by 13.00, I was not on a coach out of Heathrow until 14.30. That really is a poor show. But things were about to get worse. The trains down to Portsmouth were also delayed since the legendary 'engineering works' were going on on the line, so you had to get out at Petersfield, get on a bus to Havant, then back on a train to the Portsmouth stations. Austen chose instead to come and collect me from Petersfield.

Arrival

Ok, it's Sunday and I am en Angleterre. More to follow, but just letting everyone know.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Join the Dots

So...let's join the dots.

Last year, a research study from University College London, showed that although there was no overall difference between the intelligence of men and women, both women and men perceive men to be more intelligent than women. They perceive their father to be more intelligent than their mothers, their grandfathers more intelligent than their grandmothers and their sons to be more intelligent than their daughters.
Huh.

Then women are marginalised and made invisible by the use of male gender language to stand for both genders.
Huh.

Then when people do that, we find that they actually associate male words with maleness.
Huh.

I see more than just a pattern emerging.

Meanwhile, if the patriarchal Catholic church is losing its sheen for you, oh, and you happen to be Irish, you can asked to be excused by filling in the forms on this website. You will be joining almost 5,000 others who have already done so.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Laurence and Nick

And Ben and Whisky.

Oh my.
Now that my voice is almost restored, I am starting to feel a little crook, especially in the mornings after I've had a good cough. I don't have any clearly definable symptoms, just feel a little...under the weather.

My sweet tooth has been almost completely replaced by a salty one. A salty tooth, sounds like something a sailor might have, before she sailed into Iranian waters with or without evil intentions that is.
Whisky, on the other hand, has a cardboard tooth. He is both tortured and fascinated by the Christmas decs box.

The Roumanian dentistry has been going well. For the first time ever in my personal relationship with teeth, the dentist's chair has been relaxing. And I've even been spared the horrors of the unfreezing face, where your flesh itches so much you want to scratch it off.
Ironically, the original reason for abandoning the Aussie and South African practitioners of the British National Health Service in favour of a local fix, the broken tooth, remains broken, but the front part of my mouth has been restored to a semblance of pearliness.
However, I do not scorn the NHS, far from it. Utilitarian it may be - a large amalgam filling where the more market driven Canadian system will put a white one, for example, but it provides affordable dentistry for young families, for students, pensioners and the unemployed.
Oh, and presumably work experience for Antipodians.

Today is Laurence's birthday. We have feasted at the Memphis diner. More meat than is necessary in a year.
And it is St. Nicholas's day.
And it is the 20th anniversary of the Montréal Massacre of women engineering students at the Université de Montréal, Ecole Polytechnique.
A vicious atrocity committed by a vile excuse for a man.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Camels and Needles

Someone please explain to me, why, after thousands upon thousands of good women and men gave their lives to defeat Hitler, we are still living in world where a sector of our society are demonised. I don't mean paedophiles, no, quite fair that they should be demonised, same for rapists, spouse beaters, murderers.

Over the past week, a complete tosspot and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic church, has announced that homo and transsexuals will not enter the kingdom of heaven. How does he know this? Because St. Paul says so apparently. Clearly not emphatically enough however, since even the Vatican has distanced itself from this nutter.
Not only that, but how, pray, does St. Paul have such arcane knowledge? No, right, he can't do, he was just a chap who never even met the person whose teaching he was spreading. And not only that, but St. Paul has to be the most mis-represented and interpreted writer of all time. He must be up there beside himself with frustration at what (mostly) MEN have twisted his words into.
Then there is the rather I feel, pertinent point that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Oh who was it that said that? Ah yes, of course, Jesus of Nazareth. Clearly he wasn't too specific about how rich you had to be, nor whether it applied to women as well, but I haven't noticed any Cardinals banging on about rich bastards being denied entry recently.

Then we have the Ugandans. Not only should they be so bloody relieved that they're no longer having their testicles attached to electrodes by Idi Amin, not to mention being hung by their own flesh on meathooks, that they would love everyone. Yet no. They want to make homosexuality a crime punishable by execution. Why? Seriously, what is it they fear? That it's catching? Most of the African countries are being desolated by AIDs, and it isn't being spread by rampaging gangs of homosexuals forcing their unwanted attentions on an unsuspecting population, no, it's being spread by MEN with misogynistic attitudes. Oh yes, yet again, where we find homophobia, we find misogyny.

And then there's New York State. For pity's sake, WHY is this allowed to happen under the United States constitution? In the 21st century, many parts of the USA seem to be travelling backwards in time, un-progressing. How can this be allowed to happen, how CAN it happen? What is wrong with these people? Why does it even matter to anyone whether two people of the same sex want to get married? How does it affect anyone else? It's no argument to say that marriage is for the procreation of children, because then we wouldn't let anyone past the menopause get married. Or that in some way, same sex marriage interferes with the sanctity of marriage, because many of the celebs they worship do just that with their in-your-face shenanigans. We allow child molesters and rapists to get married - so long as it's to someone of the opposite gender, we let convicted criminals get married, people of different cultures, colours, ages, religions, so WHY NOT TWO PEOPLE OF THE SAME GENDER WHO WANT TO?????
Well they can in Canada.

Frankly, I'm aiming higher now. I don't just want to see a woman as next President of the USA, I want to see a lesbian in the White House, but long before that happens, I want to see Obambi putting an end to all this hate crime.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Cats or Rats

Alright, so this morning we woke up to a heavy frost, absolutely beautiful, and way up high in the clear blue sky, were a pair of eagles, circling slowly, enjoying the their own being.

My voice was sufficient to the task of Mother Nature yesterday, and today I could even sing. I thought it was good to have a croaking Mother Nature - sends a message.

A frosty morning is so not the morning for anyone to have their pavement drenching sprinklers still going. The pavement turns quite quickly into an ice-rink. I'd say idiots, but in fact, I would have to find something stronger, because people can get seriously injured by these jerks. Why the hell anyone's sprinklers are on when we've had the sort of rainfall we have had is beyond comprehension.

And this I find on the way to taking Whisky for his walk, after the impromptu skating, I have to keep removing chicken bones from his mouth. Some other jerk has spread them around the park. The other dog walkers point to a house and indicate that the culprit, a teenaged boy, lives there. He has pushed over the post box last week.
Now I know from dogs past that dogs mustn't have chicken bones - they are for cats, and it occurred to me how rarely one sees cats here. Really,almost never. Back home we would just put chicken bones out for 'the cats' - neighbourhood cats, here, you daren't do that for fear of rats. I imagine if your neighbourhood has enough cats, it doesn't have too many rats.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Ouch

Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.

Canada's environmental reputation has been well and truly trashed by George Monbiot, environmental writer of great note. He has actually broken his self-imposed ban on air travel, in order to fly to Toronto to fight the environmental corner against such thundering losers as Nigel Lawson.
Monbiot's article is long, but incredibly well-written and I found that as I read...and read...and read...my jaw dropped ever lower.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Voicebox

I'm not so much a horse whisperer as a hoarse whisperer at the moment. I haven't felt ill, apart from one night of a high temperature and then a day of croakiness, but by Saturday morning the larynx had given up.

I had this happen once at Mayhem. I dreaded going in, given that many of my pupils were little short of psychopathic and as head of department I had most of the recalcitrants who did our subjects, and at that point they ALL did our subjects, trot through my classroom. So I was expecting...well, Mayhem.
But in fact, they were amazing, best ever, they all shut up and co-operated like troopers, Dunkirk spirit and all that.

I need my voice back by tomorrow. Tomorrow our new programme, 'Seasons of Mist and Sparkle' starts. Although Mother Nature being silent might give a stern message.

Ikea has come up trumps again. They are donating some of the proceeds from selling Christmas trees to the Homeless Shelter. That would be the extreme weather shelter for the homeless we don't have in Richmond you remember.
Somewhere in the team, working with us Proddies, is Sister Cecelia. I haven't met her, but I like that she called the mayor a liar. He had promised money for a women's shelter, withdrew it, and then said it had never been promised.
I wonder if Sister Cecelia could get my voice back.

Today was Saint Andrew's day - the patron saint of Scotland, unlike the Rabbi Burns, who isn't.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Geological Pace

The bit of the Anglican church that CAN be distinguished from the Taliban, has won a small legal victory this week, over the part of the Anglican church that can't.

Four church buildings that are owned by the Diocese of New Westminster - of which Vancouver is a part - were being occupied by groups of insurgents, although they would consider themselves to be 'traditionalists'. Others might call them conservatives, or, probably the most appropriate term would straightforwardly be bigots.

These bigots had decided that the Anglican church was getting too full of women and homosexuals, and in fact the women were encouraging the homosexuals. Once you let women in, gays come in through the back door so-to-speak;)
So they decided to break away from the Anglican church (the abstract entity), but not from the actual church buildings, no, they thought they'd hang on to those.

It has taken a long, long time, and has had an impact on other progress. Last year the Diocesan Synod would not move forward on blessing of same sex marriages - you know, the marriages that are allowed by law here - because this was sub jucidice. Now, the Supreme Court of BC has ruled that they had no right to those buildings and they have to give them back.

Our bishop, Michael, has issued a letter in which he emphasises inclusivity, warns against 'triumphalism' - rather British of him I thought - and then says that he will appoint new clergy to those churches.
Nicely done.

Just to hammer the point home, I thought I'd include a funny that Sleepy sent on to me this week. It pokes fun at the reasons which get given for why women shouldn't be priests.

Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not be Ordained.

10. A man’s place is in the army.

9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.

7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshippers.

4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, change the oil in the church vans, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Elves

Bloody elves. I can't remember which Gospel had the bit about the elves, but really, did it say green satin anywhere? Or maybe everywhere? Like the elves.
I saw one in the mall who rolled like a sailor. The elves are like stealth harbingers of Christmas.
Then there was the one who looked like...well who looked like...the sensible, though not boring one of your circle of friends. You know, the one who you can have a laugh with, a joke, a drink, but when you do something stupid, you ring them up. The one who has no pretensions to elfishness and yet who suddenly finds themself completely sober, yet dressed as an elf, standing in the mall next to the rolling sailor. The one who is having a Kafkaesque moment.

Leaving the Mall through the Bay, another totally normal-looking person, a woman about my own age and carrying a plastic bag from the store, set off the alarms. Just that the alarms said loudly, in a man's voice,
'We're sorry, but we must have failed to take a security tag from one of your purchases. Please return to the cashier who will be able to assist you.' She too, looked stunned. I'm no Tim Roth ('s character in 'Lie to Me'), but I would say she was genuinely shocked.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

On, Off

Further to your letter of 9th of Never, I have discovered, through someone else's blog, the results of a 2007 study - none too out of date really, considering I am still loving my Office 2007 and finding that I am continually having to save to an earlier version for many other people - which showed that when men used, were exposed to, or not challenged on, sexist humour, they developed sexist attitudes. Who'd have thought eh? But I'm not getting at the study, no ma'am, because without having the science to back it up, even though it seems a no-brainer, people will always say, 'yeah, but where's the science to back it up?'

In 1936, Gretel Bergmann set a German national record for high jump. Two weeks later, it was discovered that she hadn't in fact set a record, owing to the fact that she was Jewish. Harsh?
This is harsh. Finally, in 2009, her record has been restored. Good, but why did it take so long? Fortunately she survived the horrors that came after, and is still alive and living in New York.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

At the End of the Day....

It has rained so hard today that animals are lining up in pairs.

My day ended with two Russian women scraping the coffee stains off my teeth and telling me I was very brave. Although actually they were Rumanian. My teeth have never felt so clean.
I have broken a tooth, so although my teeth are now stain free - at least until the morning - I still can't smile too widely. And I will obviously be seeing the Rumanians again.

Then my day ended - again - with a foray into an Indian restaurant for takeaway. Goat Curry for Ben - I couldn't bring myself to..... and then the usual suspects, korma, tikka masala, naan, pulao.

And then the day ended once more with Modern Family. Cam's clown and Jungle Tania.

Then finally the day ended with an Ibuprofen. The rain and the stop-start overheating in shops and offices has me by the throat.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Pink Gloves, Marmite and Innuendo

Three degrees of separation.

This video was sent to me by a friend, whose good friend is the mother-in-law of the woman who made it. It totally rocks anyway, but this is the message that came with the e-mail.

"Emily (MacInnes) Somers, created, directed and choreographed this in Portland last week for her Medline glove division as a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. This was all her idea to help promote their new pink gloves. I don't know how she got so many employees, doctors and patients to participate, but it started to really catch on and they all had a lot of fun doing it.

When the video gets 1 million hits, Medline will be making a huge contribution to the hospital, as well as offering free mammograms for the community. Please check it out. It's an easy and great way to donate to a wonderful cause, and who hasn't been touched by breast cancer?"

Yesterday evening, as I was travelling to my friend Anne's house, there was a news item on CBC radio about 18 jars of Marmite that had been stolen from a shop in Kingsthorpe in the north of England. I know. It beats me too how this made it onto a national radio newscast in Canada but there you go.
The piece was prefaced by stating that the British and New Zealanders, were the only people on the planet who liked Marmite.
If you are interested, you can find it under 'Marmite Thief' as a podcast for Monday 23rd November, here.

So, the presenter, talking to the shopkeeper, asks him if there were any theories about why the Marmite was stolen. He makes a few suggestions and then says that eventually, it descended into sexual innuendo.
'I'm sure I don't have to explain to you,' he said,
'Er, well, yes, actually,' she said, but he didn't.
Arriving at Anne's, I asked my friend, a New Zealander, if she could think of any sexual innuendo involving Marmite, and between the two of us - we couldn't.
Over to you then.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Pledge

An unfortunately worded news item on the radio yesterday morning, informed us that H1N1 is now available to anyone who wants it.
I think I'll pass if that's ok.

The weather yesterday evening was...well, biblical. Thunder, lightning, sleet, flash-flooding, hail, bigger hail, intense hail that the windscreen wipers couldn't cope with, and then more thunder and lightning.
Over the past week or so, three metres of snow have fallen at Whistler.

If you haven't yet seen this video clip of a ten year-old boy in Arkansas who is refusing to stand for the pledge of allegiance until it actually means something, please, please watch it. It speaks to me in many ways. Normally, I can't stand precocious children, well, and that stands, because this kid doesn't come across as precocious at all. He is just a very bright kid who can't see why the words 'liberty and justice for all' in the American pledge of allegiance, doesn't include gay people, and why there is still racism and sexism in the world.
He intends to be a lawyer - if in fact he survives the constant homophobia he is now enduring at school.
I'd like to say, I think he'll be a very fine one.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Prodigal City

The weather outside is wild, a very solid wooden chair has just gone scooting along the balcony. Kevin has taken the hanging baskets down and Whisky is going to have to cross his little puppy legs.

And the wind has blown in my youngest lad, Ben. Yep, I noticed the ridiculously low price of flights on Monday, Wednesday, he's here. He had asked me not to tell Laurence, so Ben had the pleasure of waking his brother up.
'Am I awake?' asked Laurence, 'am I dead?'

The prodigal son, Ben that is. Laurence works hard, he gets up at three every morning and goes to bake bread. He doesn't slack off and he's only sick when he's actually sick.
Alex works hard, granted she plays hard too, but she's no slacker. And neither can understand how the prodigal one breezes in, knows how loved he is and we kill the fatted calf. And I can see all of that and I can't not kill that calf.

I felt like that at the meeting I went to last night. I've mentioned before that my church runs the extreme weather shelter in Richmond. There are a handful of beds for men at the Salvation Army, but nowhere for women and children, or the rest of the men.
We applied this year to extend the provision, so that we would be open throughout the winter months. We couldn't do this without Provincial funding, which was turned down.
Last year's shelter was run by a teacher-consultant who works full time. She would pull night shifts, go into work, and organise all the volunteers during her breaks. The whole thing was run on the kindness of others, volunteers who gave up their nights to supervise, donations of money, clothes, food from people who care that there are people who have to sleep on the streets, and some funding from the Province.
The City of Richmond do nothing. They don't acknowledge a problem. Councillors have claimed there are no homeless in the city - more difficult after a particularly bitter winter last year, and the church sheltering those people.

The church's committee have been preparing all year for this winter. After muddling through last year, they have lined up paid staff will be more able to do the job since they won't be having to do a separate paying job, and who are to be trained in how to deal with the drug and alcohol issues and behaviours the homeless frequently exhibit.
The city promised them money.
They produced a budget and submitted it.

The city rejected it because 'they thought the shelter would run on the same budget as last year,'
'We had no budget last year,' said the committee, 'we ran on goodwill and donations because you won't give the meanest shelter to your citizens, this year we thought you were going to step up to the plate.'
Silence.

Even last year, there was a strong voice within the congregation who said, 'if we do this, then the city won't.' Turns out they were right.
The committee cannot do this again, they cannot.
But I know they will. They have said they won't, but they will. They won't let those men and women and children have nowhere to go when the wind is blowing hard enough to push a hardwood chair along and the rain is horizontal.

But the city will.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Speech Therapy

Really? Really? I want to say. You're fed up with the subject, well I'm fed up with jerks and arseholes not keeping their ears clean, or being too lazy to sluice out the passages between ears and brain.

Two plus two equals four. That's not a matter of opinion, it's not even a pragmatic truth, it's a simple matter of definition. It's a tautology. Mathematical truths are necessary truths.

When you use a term that has the meaning of 'male', that is to say, a gender specific term, and you apply it to both genders, you are using sexist language. That is what sexist language is, or at least the biggest definition category. You cannot argue that that isn't sexist, you can argue that you don't care, but invisibility defines one group, the major group of sexist language.

Let me push the point home. Man. I am not a man. Kevin is. So man means a male person, it doesn't mean all people, because if it did, then this sentence would make sense,
'When I see man breastfeeding, I realise that man is a mammal,' and clearly it doesn't.
This one does though,
'When I see humans breastfeeding, I realise that humans are mammals.'
This one,
'You men should come into the labour ward to give birth,' and so on.

I am not a man.
Man doesn't mean all people. Man means a male. When you use the term to stand for all people, you make women invisible.

And as it happens, there is research that shows that when you use a term that IS gender specific, like 'postman', 'policeman', 'he' and you expect it to mean both genders, people think of the actual gender. They think of male.

When you are writing which font to use in html, you can write a list, and the first one that the browser comes to that it CAN read, it will. It seems that we do the same.
If you read 'he', you will visualise male. A man will be more likely to visualise male when he reads 'he or she', or even 'they'. A woman will be more likely to have female as well as male images. BUT, if the man reads 'she or he', then he will be more likely to picture a female.

Why is there a difference?
If you read the university lecturers' forums on inclusive language, you will come across a comment from a man who reports a conversation between two women, one black, one white. The white woman thought that what the two of them had in common was being women.
'When I look in the mirror,' she is reported as saying, 'I see a woman,'
'But when I look in a mirror,' says the black woman, 'I see a black woman.' The white woman has the privilege of not having to worry about her colour, her race, it's not an issue because it's 'the default'.
The man who was writing, said that this was a cathartic moment for him, because he realised that when he looked in the mirror, he just saw a person. That HE was the default gender. He wasn't aware of gender because he didn't have to, and at that moment, he understood what it meant to be privileged and what it meant to be invisible. The less acceptable sex.

The research paper points to the inevitability of implications for behaviour and practice.
Inevitability.
Almost, but not quite, a simple statement of logic.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Nog

Ah, Noggin the Nog, thank-you Di for that. I remember it well. Well...kind of, ok, maybe not that well at all, but I DO remember it.

Anyhoo, quite appropriate since we're already drinking egg nog here. I dunno, it's a Kev thing. Mince pies for me, egg nog for him, that British-Canadian Christmas-fusion. No excuse really for why we're drinking it in November, but then, there it was, provocatively showing off on the supermarket shelves.
And besides, it's our wedding anniversary. Four years today, and we've opted to stay in with our little dog.
On the other hand, Kev's cooking beats that of any restaurant I've ever been to.

For some reason, Whisky is wrapped up in one of his blankets - a black, Ikea, six dollar jobbie. It has reminded me, that whilst I was out tilling the soil of the un-garden last weekend, ready for next spring's planting, I could see the grim reaper working across the way. It looked more like a she than a he somehow, but maybe that's because at first, I thought the garment was a burqa. But then I saw that it was someone wearing a black, hooded coat, rather like the Sand people in Star Wars, or of course, DEATH. But this grim reaper was using a rake rather than a sickle.
It still seemed rather a bizarre outfit to be doing the gardening in, but then who am I to judge? I'd love a grim reaper coat.

I am hoping that the mince pies will be M&S ones this year - although I still have a ton-and-a-half of last year's most excellent mincemeat in the freezer. I will be in the UK for the pre-Christmas insanity. I leave here on the 11th and return on the 24th.
My dance card is ready.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Friday the Thirteenth

Fred Barker and Ollie Beak. Random sixties TV.

Apocryphal weather. Hail, lowering skies, more, sudden, violent hail.

Last week, at the checkout in Zellers, I noticed a box with a product called 'Bumpits'. Yes, bum-pits, what the hell could it be?
Well, upon investigation, it turned out to be some kind of device for giving you bigger hair. Something to help you 'bump-it'. Yes, I know, still bizarre, but dreadful naming.
Today in the supermarket, the checkout assistant was wearing latex gloves and a face mask. Appendectomy with your granary bread?

I'm unhappy with certain parts of the US medical system today. Not that I can give too many details of my discontent, since they have legal implications.

My friend's partner has been treated appallingly by the hospital she was working at and Kev's parents nearly died when they were left by the cruise ship they were on,at a hospital on the spiral arm of the USA where they received no care and where no-one spoke English. Kev's dad was suffering from possible food poisoning and subsequent dehydration and the stress sent Kev's mum into arrhythmia.

So, maybe a reason to learn Spanish. But another one is that loud arguments in Spanish are so passionate and satisfying. By the end of a Spanish argument, no-one knows what has happened, but everyone feels they were heard.

Vivaldi. Best ever composer.
Random again, I know.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Going Global

Remembrance Day is a day of rest out here in BC. This is odd, like working a really short week, then having a really short weekend, then having another really short week. I know Christmas can work out to being midweek, but you don't sort of notice because...well, it's Christmas, and you have been kind of working up to it for a month and a half, and then it goes on for another two weeks, then it continues a bit longer and so forth.

On Sunday, at church, all the seniors wore their uniforms and medals, and it was all very emotional. Well, I was emotional, as was the vicar, everyone else seemed to be more stalwart. They sang the Canadian national anthem, which I don't feel I should join in, because it isn't my native land, but I stand of course. Also, the version we have in the hymn books is outrageously sexist, they all sing, '...true patriot love of all thy sons command.' Apparently it's been fixed, just not in the hymn books.

The Global Gender Gap Report for 2009 has just been released. Fabulously, the UK is only 15th out of 134 countries surveyed. Wouldn't it be great to be up there in the top three alongside Scandinavian countries such as Finland, Norway and Ikea? Canada, sadly, is even further behind, at number 25 - Oh, Canada:( - and the US comes in at number 31 in the charts.
The country of Ikea btw, has just appointed a Bishop who is not only a woman, but is also married to one. Being women of course, there is so much that the bigotosphere can criticise, like the fact that one partner (the bish) is 55, and the couple have a three year-old child. No-one's beeswax but their own, but just wait....

Québec! I try so hard to support you. Sometimes you make it easy by doing amazingly planet and woman - friendly things, and then you go and ruin it by being totally out of order when the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visit. Bunch of plonkers.

In Maine, where for some bizarre reason, the general population were allowed to vote on whether same sex couples should have the same rights as opposite gender couples to marry, a bunch of Catholics supported the same-sex rights, and yet the bigots won out. Why is this allowed to happen? There's a great post about it on the Gaytheist Gospel Hour blog.

The Online Shop Pharmacy have e-mailed me and offered 'tabs for doin' it nasty'. Tut tut, people really should learn to use adverbs when appropriate.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Spirits

My nephew, a fan of London's Mayor, Boris Johnson, tells me that Boris did something good. Not only was he cycling, but he also saw off some scum buckets who were attacking a woman.
Well done Boris, on both counts.
However, one swallow does not a summer make.
I suppose he could be given some kind of international award though, and that might encourage him to become a good person.

Sleepy sent me a link from Auntie's website, about Spirit Bears and how they have survived by being less visible to salmon, and thus more successful at catching them. There is an absolutely brilliant video attached to this article.

I really don't understand. The RCMP have arrested and charged an immigrant in Ontario, with war crimes related to the Rwandan genocide. This is an outrage, it means he must have lied on his immigration form. I specifically had to sign to say I had never been involved in a genocide. OR...maybe he didn't lie but they don't look at the forms properly until later.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Sky

Hands up anyone who's currently having to work in similar temperatures to those endured by Satan's little helpers. And that's just my office. I'm lucky enough to be able to open a window. Grieves me to have to do so, rather than turn the thermostat down, but that's all the control I have. But for most of the day I am either outside or can find some reason to be so.

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are here in BC now. Victoria today, Vancouver tomorrow.
I wonder if they might pop into Ikea tomorrow for a plate of meatballs, or just to look at the cushion covers. OR....get a few tasteful Chrimbo decs for their little pile in Gloucestershire. If so, this could be my chance to persuade them to buy a nice condo here from which they can trainee rule the Dominion.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Good Job

Most times, I find the French on products, more accurate a description than the English, but some biscuits caught my eye in Save-On today. The English name - 'Ginger Kids' huh, the French, 'les petits gingembres' huh, huh.

Today the Calgary Flames hockey team have been heavily criticised for having the Swine Flu vaccine ahead of other people. And yet just over a week ago, the government were fretting over how to persuade everyone to get the jab. Indeed, I overheard Bozo arguing with another friend who thought the government should just have the right to force people to get the injection. So, it seems to me that one good way of persuading people, especially a hockey obsessed people, is to get your hockey players to be vaccinated.
Sometimes we behave like the townsfolk of Springfield.

On the radio, the manager, coach, whatever, of the German winter Olympics team was saying there was no need, it - H1N1 - would all blow over long before the competitions. What I couldn't quite catch was his name, it sounded like 'Wolfuck' or 'Wolfart'.

Luckily, we have the tour of Canada by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to distract us from H1N1. Oh no, wait. Every time we see them, a comment is always made about how they are shaking hands without gloves, a high risk activity. Prince Charles also stalwartly doesn't wear an overcoat. This impresses people. Yesterday, some little man in a small town in Newfoundland, after Charles had given a short speech, said,
'Good job'.
My toes curled.

Why do we always start eating our dinner when 'Bones' is on? They are always cutting up the MOST disgusting cadavres whilst I'm cutting up my food.

Across the road from our house, there is a house which has had red and green Christmas fairy lights up since Thanksgiving. Red and green. They are the old-fashioned energy vampire type. But then this man is barking. I mean he is literally barking. When I took Whisky for his walk the other day, the man was winding two other dogs up by standing on his lawn and barking at them, they were seriously wound up, and their owner was trying to drag them away.

This evening I went for my squishogram. Very efficient, friendly and professional service. Having been through it once now, the whole boob squishing starts much earlier here, so Canadian friends the same age as me have been being squished since they were 40 - I was far more relaxed about it. It really isn't too awful, and I had forgotten that your mind is taken off the discomfort because the technician suddenly says,
'Stop breathing now.'
'Wha'?'
By the time you've worried about it, the thing's over.

Monday, 2 November 2009

All Souls

All Souls. This reminds me of a name on those standard lists of pretend names that boys give you when you go to a new school and get to cover someone else's class. Wayne King, Mike Hunt and R. Soles.
That's about it actually, they're rarely very inspired.

Tonight we had a candlelit walk of the Labyrinth in remembrance of our dead. I love the labyrinth, of being entirely in your own space but passing people all the time who are in their own space, the same and yet utterly different.
The part of your life after your parents have passed is another phase, a discovery of them, of their experience of life, that you can only explore once they have stopped interacting with you.
It's a bizarre time of growing up, after your parents' death.

Across Canada, the H1N1 experiment is going awry. Having announced it had two doses of vaccine for every resident, they then started the three phase programme of vaccination. Low risk people like myself would be last, and would get their injection from clinics that have been set up, the third week in November.
Then they polled the people and it was found that only half of the nation would be taking up the offer thank-ye very much.
Phase one started. This didn't go very well. People from all risk groups have been lining up for up to five hours and the vaccine is running out.
Shambolic it is.
Oh well, I blame the government, me. Oh, and the twonks who don't do as they were told.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Samhain

Stir the pot and look within,
A time to bring the last crops in,
Play the shadows as they grow,
From dark of Samhain to still of snow,
And deep inside each woman's soul,
The mysteries of the cauldron roll,
And warmed by blood of sacred earth,
Sleep and silence bring rebirth.

Cerydwyn

But the picture's Witch Hazel.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Qu'est-ce que c'est?

This is my friend Bozo5. In my opinion, this is the BEST Hallowe'en costume EVER!!!! I love it. And yes, I got Bozo's permission before posting - which he gave, but I have to share any revenue generated :)

Today is, it seems, at least in the UK, Equal Pay Day. What this means is that, since the average hourly rate of women's pay compared to men's is 17.1% less, 30th October is the day after which, women work for free.

At work, children came in costume for Hallowe'en Howl today, as did the adults. Mostly the girls were going to be witches or dead cheerleaders. (sic) One girl with a long, blonde wig was going to be Hannah Montana, this, I told her, was truly scary. The programmes all overran, since the children and adults were all hyper.

Taking Whisky for his teatime walk, exactly as Sleepy had pointed out, I could hear another dog owner calling, 'Whisky, Whisky, Whisky,' as I walked towards him. His dog, Toby, a beautiful Scottie, seemed to be wearing a raincoat, except, not as one might expect, a tartan, but rather, Burberry.
I will say no more.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Anubis

Scary quote from six-year old girl at one of today's Halloween Howls - 'Children are baby ghosts!'
Rrrrrrriiiiight.

Dog walking is a sort of encoded socialising. You see certain dogs and their humans. I think it may be different for me than for others, OR...it could be the same. Some dog owners allow their poochies to sort of air kiss with Whisky. They remember Whisky because he looks like an ewok. We talk about dog stuff, stuff that doesn't even remotely interest me. What interests me is people, the people behind the dog. And yet, I don't really want to talk to them in any depth. The dog air-kiss is an encoding because it allows you to swap a few sentences on the level of cocktail party banter and then move off before it gets awkward.

And so to the opposite of dog. God. Yes, even though it's mid-week, I have been thinking about God.
Coincidentally, Raymond touched on something I had been thinking about in a recent post.

Why, I was wondering, do we need religion? Marx said that it is the opium of the people and I think he didn't just mean that the establishment uses it to dope us into submission and non-thinking, but that we also develop an addiction for it.
What do people get from it?
Some people need to feel that there is a supreme being watching over us, others, that there is substantiation for their ethical system. I think some people like the outward pouring of religious feelings, I personally like the inward, the spiritual, the centring it gives me.

Why do we need to believe in God?
Like Raymond, I have studied Philosophy, it was my subsidiary subject for my first degree. And I taught it to A-Level for twelve years. One of the papers on the A-Level syllabus was 'Arguments for the Existence of God', which led us to question why this was important.
I felt it was important because the idea of God underpinned several ethical systems, some of the arguments about the nature of our own existence and some accounts of how we gain knowledge - Epistemology. We also looked at Freedom, Law and Authority - another paper on the syllabus, and many political ideas cannot be considered without considering notions of God and whether God has actual existence.

I do think that we create God in our own image. That doesn't mean I don't think that God has existence, but that our perception is altered according to our needs and experiences. But then it is in the nature of that which contains all perfections, to become all things to all beings.

And if you like dogs, you might consider Anubis, although not a god for the faint-hearted. Anubis protected the dead, brought them to the afterlife and weighed their hearts. A soul with a light heart would be allowed to proceed, a heavy one would be destroyed. Hopefully recycled. And indeed, Anubis' head is black like the colour of rotting flesh and the fertile and thus life-giving river Nile.
Through death we come to new rebirth.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Whisky, the Poo and the Blustery Day

Yesterday was a seriously blustery day. This seemed to please Whisky. Taking him out with a view to a poo, he instead wanted to lean into the wind, enjoying the feeling of his fur being blown back, and he chased every leaf he could - and there are a lot of leaves out there. Had I had the foresight to take my camera, I could have taken the iconic Canadian photo, dog gambolling amongst red maple leaves.
Oh well.

Turmeric has been found to fight certain types of cancer cells, I always add it to hummus, and Kev always adds it to soups.
It's not found in Peshwari naan, but I just wanted to mention that, as in mmmm...Peshwari naan. Turns out Bozo and I both miss being able to get that.

A definition that has been bothering me, in the way that it tickles away somewhere in your brain, until finally you take it out and scratch it properly.
A couple of times, a friend has mentioned a colleague to me, whom he has described as 'absolutely brilliant, but arrogant'. Try as I might, I can't square this. How can she be arrogant if she is absolutely brilliant? It's one of those mind games.
To be arrogant is to have an exaggerated sense of one's own skills or importance. This must mean that she thinks she is even more brilliant than she actually is. To make that judgement call, my friend must be more brilliant even than her, in which case, could he be being arrogant to think that, and if so, we need someone even more brilliant than him and so on. It's a never-ending ladder of brilliance.
Hohum.

Sleepy sent me this post about artificial virginity. It's a great post and says it all, but I think my favourite line is,
"If a $30 item that leaks fake blood violates your faith so profoundly that you must ban it, then what you have isn't really a faith. It's a fetish. And your fetish won't survive globalization."
But I also liked,
"Just don't ask God to protect your sick craving for wedding-night blood. She can't and won't."
Nicely done.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Saying Grace

Weird, I know, I guess I was 14 and in France and the world seems to have been somewhat...sloping. And b&w. But the good news is, it's up the right way now and in colour and the clothes are better.

My French pen-friend sent me this.

Sunday again, and food for thought. Visiting vicar.
This week, I was comfortable whilst the older worshippers shivered - it seems the heat had been mistakenly turned off after the 8.30 service.
The Sunday service leaflet has a picture on the front - a woodcut I would say - of a man kneeling before Jesus, his jaw thrust forward, partly covered by Jesus's oversized hand. I asked a couple of people what they thought the man was doing to Jesus, but I was careful who I asked, so not too many people were offended.

On 'Modern Family', the dad asked his son's partner whether, if they were in a bar, and the Righteous Brothers came on, he would find him attractive.
The son rolled his eyes and said to his dad,
'Please stop. You're really close to ruining gay for me.'

Friday, 23 October 2009

Maybe

Remember the Andrex puppy? So cute, taking the toilet roll and unravelling it adorably throughout the house?
Well it's not adorable or cute when your puppy does that! It's just flipping annoying.

Something else that is annoying is those round e-mails you get that swear to be real answers given in exams, but then show that they can't be.
I received one today that claimed to be genuine answers to GCSE exams set in Wiltshire, UK. Because of course, Wiltshire has its own examination board. Not.
There are then questions that couldn't have been set in any subject actually examined at GCSE and at a level usually associated with Key Stage 2.
But no biggie.
All I'm saying is, if you don't know what you're talking about, don't talk.

So the UK is in the grip of a massive postal strike.
Since being here, I have blogged about missing the sound of the post plopping onto the carpet in the morning, and particularly the Saturday morning post. But now, I guess I have gotten used to it.

A few years back, I would have agreed with Anthony Powell that books do furnish a room, I would have said how delightful it was to receive something by mail and that there was nothing like reading the paper on a Sunday morning.

On my birthday, I received many birthday wishes and greetings from around the world, er..or more, various parts of Europe and North America, via the blog, Facebook, e-mail and of course, telephone, but only two actual cards, and the fact is - I was glad of it. I am pleased to have reached this point. The physical post now annoys me, as do paper newspapers. And I am greatly looking forward to getting one of those e-readers.
Things have changed.

Perhaps a lot of people don't think the same way about the postal system as they used to. Maybe Parcel Force is what it's all about now. And perhaps the postal system is signing its own death warrant.
And maybe it's not actually true that 'plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.'
Maybe, sometimes, the more it changes, the more it actually...well...changes.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Cycles

Et voilà.

The new slugs performed perfectly. And I have dew worms masquerading as earthworms, no-one has called me on that one yet. Today, a girl told me that they had learnt that slugs and worms were girls and boys at the same time, but they weren't lesbians. Hmmm, if I were that kid's teacher, I'd want to follow that one up to find out what she was thinking, but then not everyone cares.
Apathy.

My new assistant cycles to work from Vancouver. She's an experienced and skilful cyclist, but every trip gives her the impression that it's just a matter of time before something happens to her. Drivers are so oblivious, or again, simply don't care.
Yesterday, during Kevin's ten minute cycle to work, he was almost killed five times.
This is immoral. Cyclists are the good ones, why should they have to put up with the general disrespect of motorists?

I'm loving the limited edition Billy bookcases that Ikea have brought out to celebrate 30 years of the bookcase that any of us could have designed but weren't given a workstation at Ikea's HQ to do so. Sadly, I have not a square inch to put them. I think it would be a tiny bit unreasonable to expect Kevin to buy a bigger house just to put bookcases that we don't actually need in.
Still, *sigh*, it's good to yearn.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Slugs

Another weekend and a day bite the dust. Yesterday we were suffering from a dearth of slugs - I'd have made do with any kind of slug frankly, and in fact I did. I found one leopard slug in our compost bin and one small European one in the otherwise empty banana slug tank at work. Sadly, the Leopard slug will eat other slugs, so the two had to be introduced at the last possible moment.
And then today - we went across to the east side of the Park - which is not actually joined to the west side, and there were banana slugs aplenty, all coming out to greet us. They had a jolly party in an old ice-cream container before being shut into a pumpkin, ready to make their acting debut tomorrow.
Enough slug-talk already.

It's not easy being green - mainly because the green make-up bottle was clogged up. I had to teach my new assistant how to put make-up on, and I've had to do that before. Amazing how many young men and women have no idea how to apply basic slap. Or...not amazing really, more worrying that I do.

I was rather pleased - perhaps a little too pleased, that a boy in the front row kept saying,
'I'm scared,'
'Good,' said I.

Yes, Witch Hazel is back.
As well she should be.

Meetings, I hate meetings, did I mention that before? I'm sure Philip Larkin must have written a poem about how they frack you up.

Amusing, although not for the other passengers, that a flight from Spain to Edinburgh, was delayed because some twat had their mobile phone switched on whilst on the runway and then lost it somewhere in an air vent. The plane sat on the runway for three hours - about twice the length of time the flight would have taken - whilst the plane was partially dismantled. The plane couldn't take off with a mobile device that was switched on. Personally, I think the passenger responsible should have been made to sit through the flight with a dunce's cap on, or one of those big foam hands you get from Canadian Football games, angled down and pointing to them.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Meek

One thing I wonder about a lot is, why the meek shall inherit the Earth. I mean, obviously they'll be the last ones standing, but do they have any integrity, so I suppose what I'm asking is, why should they inherit the Earth?

Here's the thing. I don't think people really get what it means to be a peacemaker. Blessed are the peacemakers, right?
But that doesn't mean that we should all back off all the time. In fact really, if you back off instead of challenging what needs to be challenged, you're just being pathetic, you're enabling the wicked, allowing a bad status quo to continue, and god knows they had some bad tracks. Or...they had A bad track and just played it many times.

I know, a red herring of my own creation.

But think of this. Sometimes, some people say stuff they know will wind you up...just to wind you up. Now the smug and terminally lazy will say, 'oh, they know how to push your buttons,' ok, but then, still, you can't let it pass, because otherwise you give the message that it doesn't matter. And it always does. And if you think about it, people who deliberately wind other people up - well, that's kind of, at best, insanity, at worst, anti-social behaviour, and yes, I do see it that way round, because in general, people can't help their insanity.

This past week or so, I have heard of some amazing examples of women challenging things that were wrong. If they hadn't challenged those things, they would still be wrong. It goes from the personal to the global.
And Peace cannot be made until wrongs have been righted.

Last week, a friend sent me a piece of writing by a woman who was questioning something in her life, and asking why she let it continue. She draws a beautiful analogy,
"...an oyster is an organism that defends itself by excreting a substance to protect itself against the sand of its spawning bed. The more sand in the oyster, the more chemical the oyster produces until finally, after layer upon layer of gel, the sand turns into a pearl. And the oyster itself becomes for valuable in the process."

An oyster can never produce a pearl without responding to the challenge of the sand, the irritation.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Gold

Rain, torrential, beautiful, soil-drenching rain. It was raining first thing when I took Whisky out, and it was raining when I got home and took him out again. Just before the sun set there was a magnificent rainbow. Then Whisky and I went out in the dark. Life is just a series of walkies.

Scanning through the Guardian's website, I came across an offer for a trip to the Belgian Christmas markets, 5 days for 265. Why did this make the diodes somewhere in my head light up?
There was always something special about that autumn trip to the French hypermarket, Christmas is coming type of thing, like the smell of onions being pickled, pudding spices being added.
And there was the promise of the German Christmas markets. I mean, the promise of even more christmasness. How exciting, light spilling out somewhere into dark streets, bustling vendors selling interesting wares, Stollen, little tree decorations. Dickensian Christmases.
OR....
Another way of spending more money in order to spend more money on top of the overspending we already do.

And thinking of Christmas, does anyone know what Frankincense and Myrrh smell like? It's just that on Bones, Agent Booth sniffed a corpse - a mummy - and said, 'smells like Christmas,' because it smelt of Frankincense and Myrrh. I'm thinking more Cinnamon and Cloves really.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Michael Bublé and the Feminists

Business as usual. The 'Native Plants' programme. I ask the kids if they know the name of the local First Nations band who live in Richmond and the south part of Vancouver. (The Musqueam).
Nothing.
The teacher tries to prompt them,
'Begins with M,' she says, 'mmmm..., we did it in class, mmmm...'
Finally, a boy puts up his hand and says,
'Ooh, ooh, Michael Bublé,'
Huh.

There is a very perceptive article on the Graun's website about inequality in the world of the Arts, including Fine Art. The article is well-written and insightful, but as ever, trolls and general cretins make comments. As one more intelligent commentator on the F-Word blog remarks,

"My favourite comment...

'If you look for mysogyny everywhere, you will find it'

yes. yes you will find something if it's there...

sigh"

Yes indeed. Not difficult to find something that is not only there, but ubiquitous.


In the ongoing fight for inclusive language at my church, one of the things that is occasionally said, when the chips are down and everyone is just exhausted from the fight, is, 'Well, eventually they (the misogynists) will all die and then things will be better.' And then someone uncheers us further by pointing out that there are many younger women who use sexist language and who think it doesn't matter, or who think that the feminist fight has been won.

But that doesn't mean that all younger people think that way.

I'm very proud of my own daughter on that score. She's neither half-hearted about it, nor is she the sort of woman feminists are often portrayed as, a frumpish stay-at-home eternal spinster. And she challenges me, and at the same time listens to me, which I value beyond measure.
My niece also fights the good fight, and even my five year-old granddaughter Holly, who was recently heard telling someone that she and her sister were, 'not guys'.
And in between, via the Feministing website, I have found this blog for teenage feminists.

On Saturday, I sold cranberries alongside a young man who gave chapter and verse on inclusive language, and he was totally on board about it.
All of which is fantastic stuff.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Give Pres A Chance (Guest Post)

This is a response from Alex, to my comments about Obambi being given the Nobel Peace prize.

Obambi winning the Nobel Peace Prize must have been one massive PR headache. On one hand Obambi hasn’t quite managed to do anything yet, and Obambi would recognise that. On the other hand whilst turning the peace prize down would have of course seemed rude and obnoxious (that you know better than a committee designed for this purpose) but it would show the world he wasn’t quite that serious about nuclear disarmament – and that’s what we care about isn’t it? That Bambi is serious, that he hopes to live up to his promises.
Apparently not, apparently we are far too suspicious and easy to condemn a man willing to accept a prize he hardly solicited in the first place. It seems plenty of journalists and well I guess – any Tom, Dick or Sally with a computer that can blast their opinion online - has used that voice to hide behind anonymous virtual doors and tell him he is not only not worthy, but wrong to accept the award. Personally, this doesn’t sound like a very intellectual or enlightened standpoint. It goes to show that Bambi is leading the way, the good way for a country ready to pounce on anything that could possibly be construed as a mistake.
There seem to be two types of winner for the Nobel Peace Prize, one that we all recognise being the life time achievement type – Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, but there are only so many of those people – the other type of award goes to the people who are making significant attempts to change the world, people trying to make peace in Northern Ireland for example, it took a few Peace Prizes awarded to that cause until something came of it. The Nobel committee are clearly putting faith in Obambi, hoping instead of backing down on certain reforms, as it could be said he has on medical reforms (perhaps because of the unfounded amount of criticism he has received), he won’t back down, instead he will see this as incentive – appealing to the very moral side of Obambi that he won’t continue to back down on more incredibly important reforms.

In a way the Nobel Peace Prize committee are trying to change the future by encouraging Obambi – a very powerful man in a very powerful country. However, unfortunately America is also a very suspicious country – especially of Europeans. But what are they afraid of? I’m pretty sure it’s not still the 50s and America has somewhat recovered from the Red Scare – so that we can safely assume that Obambi is not, as he has been bizarrely called, a communist. Perhaps he is showing a reciprocation of respect – which we in Europe are showing him. Obambi means a lot to the world outside America (it exists, shocking), he has become this bastion of hope – something a world apart from the Bush days, which made a near laughing stock of American Politics.
Yes, there is justifiable criticism – that he hasn’t actually achieved much yet – but if he manages to do even half the things he has promised he will have more than earned his place in those first types of winners. Isn’t hope a form of peace?

I refuse to believe I am the only optimist but unfortunately it has become clear people have chosen something as wonderful as the Nobel peace prize and turned it into something damning. It would seem people love to slander – personally I refuse to be part of that mass, that mass that would rather see someone fail. I just hope America can get over it, see it as the positive thing it was supposed to be and support a man so thoroughly interested in supporting America.