Thursday, 12 August 2010

Sleeping alone - can't beat it!

I've often wondered why so many couples sleep together. Is it just me who finds that sleep is an activity best carried out in solitude? Don't get me wrong - heaven forfend that I should advocate abstemious celibacy! No, what I mean is that a large/double bed is very useful for certain 'pleasures', but when it comes to slumbering I'd far rather be alone. Actually it's been many years now since I even had such a choice, but I must admit that on those occasions when I did, either in my own home or that of friends (or even strangers!), manners prevented me from saying what I really felt once the, erm, 'physical business' was over with, and we both wanted to sleep. Even in my more affluent days when I had my own large place with a spare bedroom and bed I could never bring myself to suggest we sleep separately for fear of offending my visitor. So I spent the night 'suffering in silence' whilst we spent the night turning over at different times, me getting very little sleep indeed, (I'm also told that I tend to kick out in my sleep) or, even more irritating, being held with the other's arms around my chest (or somewhere else) whilst trying to sleep. Often I just wanted to yell out "GET OFF ME!". Then there's also the issue of the other person snoring.
I just wonder how many more there are out there who feel as I do, but who daren't voice their true feelings. Only hope I'm not causing arguments to break out. But maybe I'm a rarity.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

'Inception' - my own penn'orth.

Yesterday I went to see this film for the second time - and it certainly was money well-spent. I know some say that it tries to be 'too clever by half', but I don't think so.
Thought it might be useful to register a couple of comments.
On first viewing I hadn't quite grasped the significance that in dreams events take place in a world which moves faster than reality. In the film 20 times as fast is stated, though I don't know if that's based on any research. But the basic point is correct. We've all experienced an extended dream which seems to cover hours and then woken up to find that only a few minutes have elapsed since we fell asleep. I wonder if the film might have been helped by having just an occasional split-screen, maybe for just a half-minute or so, to show what was happening simultaneously on the different levels of consciousness. Just a thought. It might have explained to me why, on first viewing, that van was taking so long to fall into the river. (Maybe I was just slow on the uptake?)
Normally C.G.I. effects leave me feeling unmoved and uninvolved ( as in 'Avatar', for example). The physically-arduous old-style of creating spectacular action scenes used to excite me much more. However, 'Inception' is different. I thought the effects were quite awesome, perhaps aided by the fact that although in dreams they appear quite matter-of-fact and 'normal', actually seeing them created so realistically on screen was mind-blowing. The fight in the hotel corridor was particularly brilliant. (How on earth did they do that? Multiple shots in a free-falling airplane at zero G? Surely too intricate just for green-screen and superimposition?)
Btw, although I'm going to get a few raspberries for even mentioning it, I'm not sure that every member of a cinema audience gets the cinematic 'wink' that Chris Nolan gives in choosing a particular song to provide a 'kick' out of the dreams whilst having Marion Cotillard among the main cast, who won the Oscar for her lead role in 'La Vie en Rose' a couple of years ago. (No, I hadn't seen or heard it referred to before I saw the film.)

Right, now should I pay to see the film for a third time? Maybe I ought.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

I'm re-reading the Bible - but don't worry, folks!

This is going to be the sixth time I'll have done a cover-to-cover read, but emphatically NOT for religious reasons, though the first couple of times maybe were. (How many 'true' Christians have read the Bible right through, even once? Only a minority, I would suggest.)
When I'm asked "What made you 'lose' your faith?" I take satisfaction in replying "Reading the Bible." which rather stymies the nosy enquirer, as their antidote to disbelief would almost invariably be to read the Bible more. (And why do they always refer to one as losing one's faith? It seems to imply that one has misplaced something valuable that one would like to have back again. I didn't lose it - I intentionally discarded it as being both erroneous and useless!)
Anyway, as with my previous reads it's very much a piecemeal affair - maybe a couple of chapters every morning, taking notes as I go and scribbling in the margins. (My own most overworked word on previous readings has been "WHY?".) Each time it usually takes over a year to get right through.
My reason for undertaking this seemingly masochistic task is partly to get even more informed as to what I'm talking about when countering 'Bible- thumpers' and 'God-botherers' but also to get further ammo for any future confrontations (not that I'm actually looking for any).
But having so far re-read only the first few chapters of Genesis it's again so evident to me what a hodge-podge of half-baked ideas and inconsistencies the Bible is. As the chronological history it purports to be, it's in hopelessly incoherent and contradictory order. Presumed to be written by Moses, you'd think that God might have made a better job in 'inspiring' him to write this sequence of events properly (even if intended to be allegorical) with some logical flow. How so many maintain that it's directly the word of the Creator and it's got to be taken literally is just beyond me. You'd think that they (and God) would grant us the intelligence with which we are supposed to be endowed and favoured.
Could continue further in this vein but I'm sure there'll be loads to say on the subject in future blogs.

Btw I don't intend to make myself out as viciously anti-ALL Christianity - or, indeed, all religion. I only direct my fire at those who see the Bible or the Koran (which I've now read eight times in five different translations - so far!) etc as set in stone and absolutely not susceptible to interpretation in the light of subsequent (scientific, biological and other) discovery and social changes. Actually I do have admiration and considerable respect for Quakers, certain other 'sects' of Christianity and Hinduism, but probably most of all, for Buddhism with its emphasis on taking personal responsibility for one's own actions and their consequences. That's religion that I have no argument with.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

When Noodles wants a snooze there's no stopping him.

This afternoon, for my own entertainment and relaxation I was playing the wonderful Irving Berlin when Noodles decided to jump up and 'accompany' me. The song? - 'I Love a Piano'!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Great news from Spain

I was so heartened to hear yesterday that the Catalonian regional Government has voted to ban bull-fighting throughout the area. (Actually I thought that it had already been outlawed in Barcelona but it seems that there was one officially operating bull-ring in that city - until now.) I've said before in these blogs that I personally extend the usual rule-of-thumb that one "should be able to do as one likes as long as it doesn't harm another" beyond just humans but to all animals too. I appreciate being in a minority here and that my views on not using animals for 'pleasure', be it their slaughter to provide food or clothing, most especially when there are alternatives available, or for 'entertainment' purposes (circuses, hunting, shooting, even fishing) are enough to give a perception of me as being nothing but a crackpot, a spoilsport, a fuddy-duddy interferer, and probably even an over-fanatical 'enemy'. But I do feel bull-fighting has always been indefensible - with the entire pack of cards in the hands of the matador - not to mention all his other assistants waiting on the ring periphery to rescue him if he gets into trouble. Blunting the creature's horns so that it can't even defend itself, indeed! If one is going to argue that it's a sport of 'skill' then at least have the guts to grant some equality of attack and defense and have the option of allowing the animal to escape. That might be more plausible, though it's still grossly unfair as the bull is not given a choice whether to participate or not.
But I know that even with this particular banning move there's still some way to go. I hear that bull-fights (fights? Ha!) are most popular in the south of Spain as well as in Madrid. But I'm still encouraged by this start - and I feel and fervently hope that it's the sort of move that is rather more likely to spread to other regions rather than being overturned. Surely, in time the sport is doomed. All progress on this and other so-called similar 'entertainment' can only move in one direction.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Surprising revelations re my downstairs neighbour

When he moved in almost exactly a year ago I was immediately complaining about the disturbance he was making, mainly by frequent playing of loud music into the early hours. Well, that has abated, though not stopped - it's now about once a week at the most instead of most nights. (And it's still usually the Stones or Susan Boyle - such an unlikely combo!).
I feared worse things about 10 days ago when, hearing me going out - "Hey, Ray, have you got a computer?" I wished I'd been a good liar but had to admit it. (I just can't tell bare-faced untruths, especially to someone in my physical presence - stuttering, red face etc.) It turned out he wanted a favour as he'd just got a job as a solar-panel salesman and needed to be informed each evening of the addresses of potential clients to call on the following day, though he did offer to pay me. So, unwisely perhaps, I gave him my e-mail address to pass onto his firm. But after a week of giving him daily details he jacked in the job. He now intends to be a double-glazing salesman, work he says he's done before, so I may still be needed for the same reason. Anyway, as he was telling me all this I gently enquired about his previous life. It seems that not only did he used to own a pub in the west of England, which, he said bitterly, had to close down due to loss of business following the national smoking-ban of a few years ago. But before that he'd been an army 'tank-commander' in the first Gulf War. However, to cap even that, it turns out that he is also a published author - and he gave me as a gift a hardback copy of a book published in 1998, which he inscribed to me. It's a 220-page modern fable of animals and humans fighting to prevent a motorway being constructed through a rural area. It's not a children's book, even though the animals are anthropomorphic - wearing clothes, talking among themselves, even smoking and drinking. All this is witnessed by one little girl who, uniquely, is able to interact with them - the other humans see the animals as 'normal' (unclothed and only making animal sounds). Notable, though, is how most of both the animals and the humans are continually smoking - cigarettes as well as cigars and pipes. There's hardly a scene in which one of the characters of both types isn't lighting up. (It's clearly an issue with the writer.) The obvious comparison of the book is with 'Watership Down' though I think my neighbour's book is better. (I found 'Watership' a difficult and actually quite a turgid read.) But I'm very impressed by my neighbour's command of language with such vivid imagery that's so alive - writing which is quite at odds with what I would have expected from a man who's not infrequently the worse for drink. But so many writers were (and are) heavy drinkers - and, indeed, smokers. But it is a pretty good book, I must say! I've checked on the web and this is the only book of his I can find. Even so, it's an unlikely and welcome surprise.
I don't know much about his personal life at all - whether he's married, been married, and/or if he's gay - though there's no 'indication' of the latter, and no acknowledgement of 'gayness' in any characters in his book, even while reading between the lines and looking for 'hints'. But additionally the guy, who must be about 40, is just not my type. The only visitor he ever gets is an old (older than me, that is!) fellow who sometimes comes round to walk his dog. I've never seen or heard any other visitors in the year that he's been here. His beautiful dog, by the way, still comes out to give me a sniff, but no wagging tail now - and then she walks away. I'm clearly just a crashing bore! It gets occasional excitements out at the back by lunging at my two furry flat-mates when they sit on the garden wall, but who scamper off at lightning speed as soon as they see her.
Before he moved in below my landlord had told me that one of the potential tenants was a guy who'd hit financial rock-bottom and had been reduced to living in a tent on grass verges. I reckon it must have been this guy - who had came back to this, his birth area, after his pub business collapsed. For that I have some sympathy as more than once I've come within a whisker of being in the same situation myself. So learning more about him has altered my perspective quite favourably. But I don't think we have enough in common to make me want to socialise with him. (He did invite me in for a whisky and a chat but I excused myself) Besides, there's all that smoking!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Wallowing in premature self-pity?

Getting increasingly obsessed with things I want to do before it's too late - like travelling abroad again, particularly re-visiting those old European haunts I got to know so well when I had not only money but also the energy it required to experience them 'properly'. In addition I so much miss not having the means to go to the theatre regularly, particularly to London's West End when I used to see practically everything of note - great plays, big musicals, huge stars, immense enjoyment! Then there's all those books I've yet to read and re-read for maybe one last time, music to hear, all sorts of experiences to have.......
Now as I start to approach my 64th birthday in October I'm becoming terrified of suffering something such as a stroke which would incapacitate me physically while I frustratingly retain all these unfulfilled desires, a true living hell. Not only that, but because I've never had a true 'relationship' or even a single long-lasting deep friendship, there is no one around who would really care and I'd be left to the mercy of one or more carers with all their well-meaning (I hope), but synthetic, sympathy. Particularly heart-breaking would be the fate of my two dear pets. Of course all this is a 'worst case' scenario which may never transpire, but just the possibility of it happening is making life a worrying experience!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Today's visit to the doctor didn't help

Just come back from my doctor - a regular visit to check on my blood pressure. (It's satisfactory) In our wide-ranging chat I told him that after a several-month pause I'd resumed occasional morning running again, which he approved, of course - and then I said I'd been wondering about the fact that I'm hardly ever ill from anything. The last time I recall actually even having a heavy cold, which had confined me to bed for maybe a single day, must have been a good 15 years ago. He put it down, after questioning, to the fact that I don't meet and interact face-to-face with other people. In fact any 'social life' at all has been completely non-existent since the early 90s. Then I wondered if it also had anything to do with my having been veggie for nigh on 50 years. I didn't expect the uncalled-for mini-lecture I then got on how it was more 'natural' for man to be omnivorous (like himself, he just happened to add) and that as human teeth are designed for eating meat (Designed? By whom?), my not eating meat (and fish) is more of a fluke to my being in good health than anything else. I wanted to riposte that my reasons for being so were purely empathic, in not wishing to partake, just for a few moments of 'pleasure', of the product of another sentient being's pain, distress and probably terror, often after an entire lifetime of extreme discomfort (to put it mildly!) and anguish - but I was so gobsmacked by his little tirade, albeit with a smug smile on his face, that I was left speechless. I left his surgery doubly irritated by his sanctimonious attitude (and it's us veggies who are usually lampooned for being 'oh so superior!') and also annoyed with myself for not coming out with a ready and justified answer to him. I bet that if he'd taken my B.P. at the end of the session he would have got a very different reading.