Friday, 14 August 2009

American health issue - Feathers ruffled here.

The appearance of Daniel Hannan, a British Conservative MEP (Member of the European Parliament) slagging off our National Health Service on Fox News (where else?) has certainly caused a stir here. So he 'wouldn't wish (our NHS) on anyone', would he? Well, he can afford to buy his own private health care. The vast majority of us can't and (you know what?) I wouldn't change the present system for the world, just the same as, I believe, over 90% of the British population! Knowing that one has the safety blanket of pretty good or very good care should one need it, no matter what one's income and resources are, even if they're nil, is a great comforting thought ever-present in the background. Of course there are particular areas of the health service which can be improved. There always will be. But I've got no complaints at all about the services I've received throughout my life - and I don't think anyone I know, including those who've been in hospital, somewhere I've never been myself (touch wood), would hold a different view. I heard it said by American commentators that here one has a doctor assigned to one and one has to make do with whomever one is given. That's news to me. I can apply to be registered with any doctor I wish and, when granted one, I can change to another without giving any reason.
I always feel reluctant to pontificate and criticise on the political systems of other democratic countries when, heaven knows, we have so many faults of our own, though I was at first bemused at seeing the nature of the campaigning against Obama on this issue but it really has turned distasteful and nasty now - even distressing. Portraying the man as Hitler is just so ridiculously OTT. But then the word 'socialist' is uttered by these same people with the same repugnance as they say 'paedophile' . It strikes me sometimes that even being 'liberal' is akin to being a rapist. Oh, and by the way, the said Mr Hannan has been rapidly slapped down and (alas, too tamely) dismissed as an 'eccentric' not only by our Conservative Party leader who re-asserts that the National Health Service here is his 'number one priority' but by an array of seniors from that very same party - as well, of course, by any number of government ministers and prominent spokesmen from our own socialist (at least in name. I wish it was more so) Labour government. Okay, now that I've got that off my chest let's move on!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Relief for my pussies

My landlord came into the flat yesterday for the first time in several years. He needs to do repairs on some rotting window frames. At first I said I'd give him a ring when I was ready to let him in but then decided to get it over with and told him to come straight up. Both my cats were here in the kitchen - it's the first time he's seen them. (Under the tenancy agreement no pets of any description are allowed) But from his initial "Hello there!" I could see he also was a cat person. I plunged in and told him the truth that they had both chosen me to live with rather than stay with their previous owners. To my great relief he wasn't at all fussed and doesn't seem to be going to make an issue of it. And here's me for ages working out what I could do if he'd insisted on my parting with them - they are my best, in fact my only friends 'in the flesh' as it were. So I can now exhale a huge "phew!" Only potential problem now is the still-to-materialise new tenants in the flat under me. He said it could be one of several, including a couple of men in their 40s (interesting!). But that's all for the future. In the meantime my greatest fear hasn't materialised. Lucky pussies - and me!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Brighton Gay Pride

I wrote a little while ago about this, the country's largest such annual event outside London - and that for me it feels like the loneliest place on earth when you've no one to go with . Well, it took place yesterday and I went this time determined to at least talk to someone there, anyone! But it turned out to have the usual outcome. Came back feeling unwanted and dejected. Something is stopping me from participating fully, but exactly what, I don't know. Well, I do know, actually. It's that fiendish demon inside which grins and gloats whenever it succeeds in making me feel inadequate through my own actions/inactions. I can even now feel it swelling with the satisfaction and schadenfreude it has 'earned'. Having said that, even though the event was very well-attended (it always is - surely at least 100.000, probably a lot more) the weather left a lot to be desired. So those religious zealots who each year pray for God to rain on our parade, this year, very unusually, got their way - though it only really started after the parade had reached the park for the funfair and festivities. But even though I was there for only a little over 3 hours all that standing around and walking with very slow-moving crowds took their toll on my legs, especially feet and knees. When I got back home felt completely 'plum tuckered out'! And this morning could only hobble painfully to the newsagent to collect my usual Sunday morning paper (liberal-leaning, natch!) So it seems that age is quite evidently taking its toll too - which must additionally delight that little demon inside. Oh well, so that was 2009. We'll have to try harder next year - but that very same resolution is also a repeated annual event.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

A film that ought to have been so much better.

Just seen the new film 'Moon' directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie's son) with Sam Rockwell and the voice of Kevin Spacey, which I was looking forward to so much in the light of many positive reviews. But my enjoyment, such as it was, was much diminished by the ever-present irritation of a science fiction film yet again depicting sound in an atmosphere-less environment, in this case the lunar surface, as well as a couple of sequences in space. Why do they always do this? I could never enjoy any of the 'Star Wars' series for this very reason, depite the obvious cartoonish intentions of the film-makers. In fact there have only been a couple of films that got anywhere near the reality - '2001 - A Space Odyssey', of course (my all-time favourite film) - but then Kubrick was working with the brilliant, relatively recently deceased, scientist and author Arthur C. Clarke - and also, I think, John Carpenter's 'Dark Star' a few years later - though I may be wrong about the latter, not having seen it again since that first time in the mid-70s. But now over 40 years on from '2001' and we are still treated to a comic-book style of film-making when there's simply no justification for it. Another thing that bugged me about 'Moon' was this body having the same gravitational force as on earth (apart, oddly enough, for a brief passage towards the end) as well as lunar shadows having diffuse edges, like terrestial ones. The first of these might be forgiven as it would be virtually impossible and very expensive indeed to produce an entire film depicting a gravity force of less than 1g. About all these features maybe it's just me being pernickety - but Astronomy has always been a great interest of mine. In my childhood it was an obsessive passion. I'm sure that if I knew more about, say, chemistry, geology or medicine I'd be tearing my hair out over inaccuracies there too. But with space films the errors such as the ones I've mentioned pervade the entire film rather than for just a few seconds or a passing comment. An especial pity because in other respects I found 'Moon' a significantly superior film. And while we're on the subject of film-makers treating their audience as just too stupid to know - why do all films have sound travelling at the speed of light? Even if we see an explosion taking place miles away the resulting sound of it is always heard simultaneously. I would have thought there'd be real dramatic possibilities in showing the reality of an aural delay, but no, they just have to take the easy way out - as though we were just too 'simple' to understand how things really are! Grrrrrrrr!!!!!
Having got that of my chest I'll just also report that (a) there's been no sound from the dog next door for some days now, so I imagine they were just minding it while the owner was away - and (b) still no neighbour has moved in under me. I like it like that but still a bit apprehensive about the new arrival/s when it happens.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Dog days - and nights.

I'll be going to bed with some trepidation tonight. The last two nights, my sleep (such as it was) has been punctuated by the yelping of a dog which the family next door have acquired either for themselves or, I'm hoping, are watching for someone while they are away. They lock it alone in a downstairs room and, anyone with half a brain knows that such a pack animal will suffer mental agonies being left for hours locked away in solitude. It sounds youngish so I fear they may have got a puppy for themselves. Even keeping my bedroom window shut doesn't make that much difference - its pathetic crying is so piercing. I can't understand why the people aren't so disturbed by the noise themselves that they find it somewhere physically closer to themselves, but I've always been a light sleeper - in fact almost, but not quite, an insomniac. It's the distress of the animal that upsets at least as much as the noise. The suffering of animals, any animal, causes me such mental torments it's debilitating. I'm afraid to say anything to them as up to now I've had good relations with the large family and it could so easily turn nasty. So at the moment I'm taking the coward's way out and hoping that a new tenant soon moves in below me and they, being even closer to the poor animal, maybe will say something. (White feather time!)

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Summer musings

Blissful couple of hours sitting on the pier here in very warm sun in one of the best Summers we've had in many a year. Reading short stories by the hugely enjoyable Patricia Highsmith, alternating with listening to cassete - one of about 100 I've compiled over the years of relatively obscure classical works (today - Max Bruch's First Symphony). I always used to take a handful of these tapes with me when I visited my dear mum, increasingly frequently as she steadily deteriorated until the inevitable happened and she died four years ago. I'd played these tapes over and over again when on the train travelling up and down and also while I was with her so I got to know them pretty well. Today is the first time I've started playing them again since her passing so one can imagine the powerful poignancy. Bitter-sweet indeed.
The apartment below me still vacant though two days ago I saw the landlord arrive and heard him talking below with what sounded like a single female voice, though I didn't actually catch a glimpse of her. I assume that the expected Czech young lady with infant didn't materialise (she had been due to move in some 10 days ago) and that this is a potential replacement. So I'm still in suspense waiting to see the new tenant's reaction to my pussies.