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.

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.
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.'
'There haven't been any trains yet today,'
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?'
'I can't guarantee that train'll run,'
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


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


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


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.


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.

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

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

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.

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 jaw dropped ever lower.