Thursday, 27 August 2009

'Liberal' and 'socialist' as terms of abuse in America.

I was very interested to hear an item on our BBC Radio main morning news programme today which said that in America the word 'liberal', which was formerly used as a political insult, now no longer seems to carry the weight it used to, whereas 'socialist', when voiced by the 'right', does still carry the same disparaging clout. (I ought to say that in the UK neither word is used in particularly condemnatory fashion - indeed, even some Conservatives here are proud to declare themselves as 'liberal' on social and/or economic matters! ) The subject came up relating to the sad, but not entirely unexpected, demise of Senator Kennedy - almost universally liked and admired here, I dare venture to say. But it seems that defining him merely as 'liberal' is not pejorative enough for right-wing American commentators and politicians - the word 'socialist' carries more demeaning weight. Actually, to call Kennedy or Obama as 'socialist' or even Obama as being just 'liberal' is almost outside our comprehension here - though, of course, one sees things through the political prism of one's homeland and its history. But if there actually is this change of mood in American right-wing thought, it is something to be welcomed.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

New neighbour and his dog + my latest food fad

Although there hasn't yet been a repetition of that dreadful experience of my new downstairs neighbour's first night there are occasionally still disturbingly loud thumpings and bangings coming from his flat. However last night was also rather disruptive. I was awoken at 1 a.m. by his TV or radio at loud volume - it seemed to be some programme about The Rolling Stones' (a DVD of 'Shine a Light'?). He turned it off about 45 minutes later though I was left wide awake for at least a further hour. I fear that this might turn out to be regular disruptive behaviour on his part. A couple of days ago as I went out, having to pass his flat, his door was left wide open (hardly any furniture, the floor strewn with bits and pieces) his dog came out to greet me, tail wagging, jaw slack in 'smiley' fashion. It's a big, handsome beauty which allowed me to stroke it. But in the four days it's been here I still haven't heard an audible peep from it - certainly no barking and no whining either. I can't help wondering if the poor thing has been 'de-barked'. There's no discernible sign of it being mistreated, thank heavens. When I see him taking it out it holds its head up, tail erect, with no appearance of cowering in his company. And so far my own pussies have successfully managed to avoid it though I suppose a confrontation sometime is inevitable. Anyway I still haven't exchanged a word with the guy though it's only a matter of time before I'll bump into him when I'm going out or returning. So, my apprehension about what the future holds between us is undiminished.
About a week ago I decided I'd really like to take a further step on my road from vegetarianism to veganism, at least while I've still got the time to do it. So I started buying soya milk instead of cows', though I still have to get the latter for my cats - they won't go anywhere near the other. It's taking me some time to get used to it. That caramel-like taste was initially quite off-putting but slightly less so now. I do appreciate how carnivorous humans can be irritated by the presence of or just hearing from veggies/vegans. The latter can seem to be preachy just by their conspicuously different food intake - with a condescending unvoiced air of superiority. But although I hope I'd never try to talk others into changing their own behaviour to accord with mine, my zoophilic conscience has been nagging me all my life and I feel a bit more at ease now that I'm moving in the right direction for me. The question is "Will this soya-milk phase last?" However, getting weaned off eggs (my favourite food of all, together with potatoes, tomatoes and cauliflower) is going to even more problematic. I have been eating only 'free-range' for decades - but, to be truthful, I'm not quite sure why one should deprive oneself of a natural product, when, as far as I can see, as long as the eggs are unfertilised, there has been no animal suffering involved. But no doubt someone will tell me that hens shouldn't be reared just to produce eggs and then be slaughtered at the end of their egg-producing lives. Meantime my conscience in that respect I oh-so-conveniently put on hold.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

New neighbour moved in - could he turn into the neighbour from hell?

Yesterday a guy moved into the flat under me - by himself. So, sadly, it wasn't the possible gay couple I was told it might have been. I've not properly met him yet, only having seen him through the window. He looks to be in his 30s, but nothing in his mien makes me think he might be gay - but, of course, one can never be sure. He was talking to my next-door neighbours quite cordially. Then yesterday evening I was wondering why my two pussies were being so cagey about going in and out of the kitchen back window. I assumed it was just that they'd noticed a stranger, but then to my surprise and alarm saw a fully-grown Alsatian in the back garden. (Not that I personally mind. All animals are my friends.) But that was totally unexpected. Then I retired last night at 9.30, noticing that downstairs was in complete darkness so I assumed he was maybe out walking the dog. Then at 10 o'clock there was the sound of his coming in. The nights have been so sultry that I've been sleeping with all windows open with my bedroom looking out onto back garden. Then I got the smell of his smoking out there - and soon the 'nostalgic' smell of Amsterdam bars - grass being smoked. Although I've never tried it myself - not even smoked a 'normal' cigarette, actually (Ooh! Get her! 'Virgin Lips!' - at least as far as cigarettes are concerned! ;-) ) I've got nothing against cannabis smokers - loads of my past friends smoked it regularly, and I certainly didn't mind then. But with whatever combinations he was inhaling and probably imbibing, at first there was a mumble which grew and grew until his slurred words were discernible. I couldn't decide if he was talking to himself or to his dog - but the language was certainly 'colourful' - 'effing and blinding' loudly. That lasted for about an hour. He then went inside where I heard him bumping around - sounded like he was either knocking things over or falling down himself. For a brief period he had pop music on - loud! - then he went back to stamping and bumping around the flat. I was still awake at 3 a.m. I had to rise at 5.30 to put out the bins for collection. (I had feared I might be subject to a canine attack, having to enter the back garden to get the bins out. But I haven't seen or heard at all any signs of that dog since yesterday afternoon - so I hope he was only temporarily minding it for someone. Should find out today.) So as at this moment I've just got out of bed once again after trying to catch up on missed sleep. I've already heard him stirring about this morning. So I'm full of trepidation how this may turn out. He doesn't seem like the type of guy whom I could trust to care for my pussies if I'm called away. Meantime I'm hoping madly that last night was just an aberration and that he may turn out to be a nice, reliable guy after all - though the signs don't exactly look encouraging.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Thrills on the telly

I'm really in my element watching the current World Athletics championships from Berlin. This competition is second only to the Olympics. Phew! - watching those big, beefy, often hairy, bodies working up a monsoon of sweat as they pump their taut muscles up, down, this way and that, it really gets me so excited. And watching the men is even better!

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!