Saturday, 8 October 2011

Two things that make me seethe - but I say nothing, while boiling inside.

1) Shoes on train seats
When I was young this was considered to be one of the heights of bad manners, disrespectful to anyone who might want to sit down in that place, even if that person was not yet on the scene. If this uncouth habit was done at all it was only by unthinking youngsters who could be guaranteed to be told off by nearby or passing adults - and certainly by train conductors and inspectors. Now everyone does it, irrespective of age -  leaving me to just sit there, trying to bury myself in a book but my mind not on it, while my blood pressure rises and rises. I know that if I said anything I'd almost certainly be ignored, told to "Go away!" or laughed at or even be set upon. Train staff themselves, passing through, hardly ever seem to care. It wouldn't be quite so bad (though still bad enough), if the seats were bare wood or plastic or metal, something which could be easily wiped clean. But they are invariably upholstered with some kind of fabric which retains the dirt and would need professionally cleaning to get it out. Very occasionally one might see the 'offender' taking their shoes off or, better still, placing their shod feet on a newspaper spread out on the seat. That I can live with, though it is very rare.
I can't help wondering if in their homes they place their shoes on chairs, settees etc. Actually on TV I see that nowadays they do indeed do that - even sometimes raising their shoes onto beds, for crying out loud! I can fully understand that such people might not respect others whom they live with. That's their own business. But in public places I was brought up to assume that the other person, even if a total stranger, was automatically entitled to respect. To my mind, putting shoes on seats where other members of the public may sit, categorically flouts that. Just what is society coming to?

2. Plastic carrier bags
It must be a good 20 years ago when I stopped using these environment-damaging items for shopping, turning to re-useable cloth bags. Yet even now, despite ALL the publicity, every time I go to a supermarket, most of the customers in the queue at the cash till ahead of me are using several bags. I've recently counted one person using no less than TEN! And they can't be re-using them - they just cannot be!. Each time they go to the shops they'll ask for more - and more - and more - as though using these receptacles is an essential part of shopping procedure.
   I've heard that each of these bags can take anything from 200 to 1,000 years to degrade. A statistic that brought it home only last week was that in Wales alone (population 3 million), where it has been decided to put an insultingly lowly price of 5 pence per bag, around 400 million of these bags are used every single year. Of course there are the predictable vociferous complaints about this levy - "nanny state", "personal choice" etc.- as though there's no such thing as community responsibility, or that it should at be an 'option'.
  We've all seen the dire damage these polluting items can do to wild life, both animal and plant-life - and the hideously painful and slow death they can mean to those of the former who ingest them thinking that they are food. But even if the users aren't moved by this I would have thought that at least that they'd be concerned about the damaging effects they are leaving to future generations - and to their very own children and grandchildren in particular. But no, it doesn't occur to them. Even if it did, they don't even seem to care!
I find the same as with climate change. Even though I say it myself, it seems remarkable that so many of those with greatest concern for the future are those who are without children of their own. Not every single one, I grant, but certainly those I've known and worked with who do have children are the ones most likely to laugh off such concerns.

Maybe I just ought to accept that my attitudes on the two matters above are conclusive proof that I'm really an old-fashioned, wingeing and crusty fuddy-duddy. Oh well, maybe there won't be too long to wait before I'm finally 'out of it' for good . But if there is an after-life, and on the carrier bag issue especially, I'm still likely to be biting my nails as I look down and see what's going on.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

5 on the 5th for Stephen Chapman's blog

Pleasure #1 - Enjoying an unseasonally hot Autumn sun. 
This is Worthing seafront on what was the hottest October day ever recorded in southern England - 30 degrees C (87 F) in one area. Although this pic was taken at 3.30 p.m. the lower sun at this time of day gives the scene a somewhat eerie feel, rather like during the very nearly total solar eclipse, seen here in 1999 . Although it's all very well to enjoy this unusually late hot sun, I'm also a little apprehensive as to it being yet another worrying sign of climate changes on the way. The number of oddities in the weather, though they may be dismissed individually as mere chance variables, just keeps on increasing.

Pleasure #2 - A burst of Autumn colour
I'm not one who appreciates the visual arts such as painting, architecture, sculpture, design etc, very profoundly as some do, though I am familiar with basic facts and can usually recognise the work of renowned artists. But there is little 'response of the soul' there, as there is for me with music and literature. However,  one visual experience which does touch me within - and that is seeing flowers - any flowers, singly or in bunches, displays etc. Even simple wild flowers like the humble dandelion, buttercup, daisy etc just knock me out with their beauty when I stop and gaze at them.
I couldn't resist snapping this wonderful profusion of yellow in a garden just down my road. I don't know what flowers they are but they seemed to have sprung out of nowhere, lasted for a few days and now, alas, have largely gone - rather like a wonderful flash of lightning. Lovely sight!

Pleasure #3 - a delicious meal (some people may say "Yuk!")
While my Friday main meal is almost invariably a variant of omelette, and Sunday's is a veg pie, on Saturday it's nearly always an oriental something like this - lentils with cauliflower and fried onions on a pile of (usually Basmati) rice. I don't skimp on the curry powder, salt and pepper - and always add a sensibly-modest amount of turmeric. This delicious meal is about as advanced as I get in cooking - largely because I can just set things on the stove and go away and read while things are simmering away. Yummy!

Pleasure #4 - My own 'Cinema Paradiso'.
Although there are about 20 cinema screens relatively easily accessible to me - here in Worthing, westwards in Brighton and eastwards in Chichester - I see 75% of films at this place, the single-screen Duke of York's in Brighton, This 'art-house' cinema (one of the very oldest in the entire country) is where I see nearly all films which do not get a cinema release in the big multiplex chains, including non-English language films. My life would be a lot poorer if there was not this admirable establishment within reach. Almost a kind of life-saver, in a way.

Pleasure #5 - Flea comb
The pleasure here is really for my cats, though it  pleases me too to see them content. While Blackso will purr loudly for any reason at all, such as just picking him up, Noodles here only seems to purr when I give him his daily flea-combing. He gets so stimulated that he wants to rub against anything in sight but if I continue too long it pushes him over the edge and he'll try to bite my hand - while still purring. Timing is of the essence. It's a sort of "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours"  - the hand! (Ouch!)

Friday, 23 September 2011

Cities where I got an unexpected........ 'welcome'!

In a previous blog I've told about my one and only visit to New York (1969) and the very first time I went out of the hotel when, within a couple of minutes, I was menaced for money by a gang of youths who surrounded me, one holding out his hand with a big grin on his face, knowing they had got 'easy meat' - which they indeed had. In my naivety, I'd gone wandering out alone, camera hanging round neck, looking up in wonder at this famed place, which everyone knew of and, at least at that time, few non-Americans had visited.. I was a sitting duck - and I'd advertised it..
    That was an unpleasant lesson which I've never forgotten. Ever since then I've tried to look as inconspicuous as I can and walk purposefully, even if it's in a place where I've never been before.
   However, there have been experiences less alarming, though not particularly edifying - like my first visit to Amsterdam when, again after leaving my hotel for the time to take in the marvels of the city, the first 'marvel' to greet me was the sight, in broad daylight, of a man having a wee into a canal.

In the mid-1980s I went to Vienna for the first time to spend a week and a half in this city, surely the ultimate destination for those with cultural tastes and aspirations. Arriving at the Westbahnhof (by train from Munich) my mind was buzzing, overwhelmed with thoughts of "Ah, Vienna! Here you are at last! Glorious home of sophistication, beauty, elegance, incomparable history. What wonders have taken place here!" (My distracting inner musings somehow made me take an 'Ausgang' which was not the main way out. But no matter. Here I was!)  - "......Ah, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, Johann Strauss, aristocratic delights....balletic horses......towering intellect.....Freud! Einstein!.......
I walked out of the station - and lo!.....there, facing me, chalked on a wall in clear letters at least two feet high, was a somewhat unsavoury graffito. And what did it read? It read:-

                                              F U C K   O F F       


It was a few years after that when I made my first visit to Bonn (I was shortly to take up a three-year residence in nearby Cologne.) A major reason for visiting Bonn was it being not only the capital of the then West Germany, but more importantly for me, it was the birthplace of Beethoven, one of my two ultimate 'music-gods' (the other being Bach, since you ask.)  I'd already visited the great man's shrine-grave in Vienna but here I was in the very place where he first drew breath. I knew that in Bonn's Beethovenplatz there was this statue (left) of the hero. Her gracious majesty, our Queen Elizabeth herself, had left a bouquet at the foot of the statue on a state visit a few years earlier. So I approached, camera at the ready, hardly able to believe that after all these years I was about to achieve one of my longed-for goals, to be present here in person at this hallowed place.
 I was nearing the statue from the side, my heart thumping in anticipation. But I had to get a full-on front shot first. So, camera poised, I moved to the front. And there - below the glorious name of 'Ludwig Van Beethoven', was spray-painted in large red letters:-

                                       " .......IST EIN ARSCHLOCH"
                                       (Translation:   " an arsehole".)

Well, all I can say is "Is nothing sacred? Really!!!"

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

No, don't worry. I am NOT going to get all Bible-preachy!

I couldn't let this 'event' go without a few pithy comments:-

I've just completed my SIXTH cover-to-cover reading of this book.
This time it's been read over 14 months, a couple of pages (sometimes more) per day - with my making, or rather, adding to, notes from previous readings.

My first time of reading was when I was around 20 and, being then a still-practising and seriously devout Catholic, read the 'Church approved' version - the Douay-Rheims translation. The exercise was more of a 'duty' on my part then, though there was no outright instruction, as such, that one ought to read it through. At that stage of my life the reading would have been unquestioning and blinkeredly uncritical .

My next two forays were into the more modern Church of England 'New English Bible' published in the 1960s with translations claimed as being not only up-to-date but also more accurate. (Even the Lord's Prayer was revised! - And why not?)
I suppose after then, at around the age of 50, I was having serious doubts about the veracity of the Bible. (I'd kept my Catholic faith up to my mid-20s, but even after discarding it, still considered myself a Christian for about a further 25 years, being quite an active member of the Gay Christian Movement for some of that period).

Then it must have been on my fourth read-through (now it was the turn of the authorised King James version) that I felt that my disbelief was starting to outweigh any residual faith I was still clinging onto. Some of the narrated incidents, claimed as historical fact, were striking me as not just implausible but practically inconceivable, even preposterous. Furthermore my notes started throwing up inconsistencies and contradictions (just within the four gospels alone, for example) as well as, frankly speaking, obvious injustices being held out as being manifestations of 'God's wisdom' - and therefore not to be challenged.

Now after the sixth read my notes have expanded even more. Each time I see a lot of things not noticed before. It would be easy to say that I'm now only looking for things to criticise (which was certainly not the case for at least the first three readings) but I do make a conscious effort to stand back and observe the subject-matter dispassionately.

   I'd be willing to bet that most people in the U.K. who define themselves as 'Christian', even Church-going Christians, have never read the entire Bible through even once. So why do I do it?  Simple. Intellectual curiosity! I can't stop wondering why it is that so many people find this book so appealing. There's a compulsion about this inquisitiveness.
At the beginning my own readings started as a self-challenge. Then it became a desire to share what others were experiencing, as though I am the one missing out on something. (I still get this feeling of exclusion when there's a piece of music, or even a type of music - in my case, jazz - which I can see gives enormous pleasure to many, yet I myself cannot appreciate it.)  But the result of my Bible-study has been that every time that I notch up another reading I become even more convinced that it's largely fantasy (not completely - I do believe that Jesus actually existed, - and was almost certainly crucified) but masquerading as fact.  It's hardly the reaction which might be hoped for by those hard-line Christian zealots who exhort us all to read the Bible every day!
Well, who's to say that my views won't change sometime in the future? But time is running out for me - and fast. Anyway, I don't particularly want to undergo a re-conversion, feeling perfectly comfortable (in fact, more comfortable) in my current highly sceptical state of mind.

I was actually going to make this blog into a listing of some specific examples of things I've found in  the 'Holy Book' which are inconsistent, unjust and contradictory. I may indeed do that in a future blog, but I know it's bound to raise hackles in some quarters and I don't particularly want to offend any of the score or so of the band of kind followers to my blog, each of whom honours me with their time, something which really causes me to feel humble. But we'll see......

Okay, then. Now that this particular task is over, tomorrow I'll start on my eighth through-reading of the Koran. So, let's think -  which of the six translations I possess shall I read this time round?

Friday, 16 September 2011

EEK! - The invasion has begun!

In this part of the globe September is Spider-month.
I've lived in this present flat and (surprisingly, considering the state of the place) I had never seen a spider in here - until about five days ago. In the bedroom, parked motionless high up on a wall, was one of these creatures, at least 4 inches leg-tip to leg-tip.
I've always been an arachnophobe but, since my teens, have avoided killing one. As for all non-humans, I always automatically put myself in THEIR place and try to see things from their point of view. And anyway, I shun any thought of snuffing out a life when it just isn't necessary.  So,  gritting my teeth, I got a small brush and a plastic bucket, stood up on the bed and, hardly daring to look, tried to give it a gentle sweep into the bucket, intending to tip the creature through the open window. Of course the spider was easily dislodged but, naturally, it missed the bucket, landed on the carpet - and ran under the bed. I wasn't going poking about under there while still shuddering inside.. When bed-time came round I just had to block out the thought of where it might be. Forcing myself to dismiss any thought of it, I haven't seen it since.
   I was just starting to recover my composure when last night, while watching 'Watchdog' with Anne Robinson (the very same who had a moment of worldwide glory as questioner when 'The Weakest Link' started on American TV), I detected a a movement in the corner of my eye. Then - a similar sized arachnid scuttled over the carpet, right in front of me, and lost itself among the stacks of cassette tapes amassed below the T.V.  My blood ran cold - an automatic response. Usually at this time my faithful friend Blackso is sitting in my lap for a couple of hours nap before his nocturnal prowling, but it would have to be that last night, very unusually, he wasn't in the room. He might have solved the problem for me. If he hadn't noticed it I could have let him sniff around - though even if he did find it, after a moment or two's curiosity, he probably would have got bored and returned to his slumbers.
  So here I am this morning, knowing that as I type this somewhere behind me, lurking in a cranny, is a creature that makes me recoil with seemingly hard-wired, uncontrollable revulsion. It's very probably waiting for evening time to come out and run around again - and somewhere in the bedroom is still that other one. One? I suppose they could well be the same one. But couldn't they also have families? - There could be dozens and dozens of them......Oh NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Biding my time.

Last week, sitting on a blowy Autumnal-feeling sea-front at Brighton (well, Hove actually) awaiting emergency dental appointment to replace filling which fell out, just 5 days following six-monthly routine check when I was given the thumbs up. Even under our admirable National Health Service had to pay for both visits. Oh well. Better that than no treatment at all.

Friday, 9 September 2011

She who gives an extra polish to the word 'lovely'.

Doris Day was an integral part of the soundtrack of my infant and pre-teen years. How clearly I can recall every one of her dozen or so hit records, even her very first British hit in November 1952  - 'Sugarbush'  (with Frankie Laine). Actually this was at the time of the first ever official British 'pop' chart - Number 1 was 'Here in my Heart' by Vic Damone, which I also recall. 'SugarBush' reached number 8.
    I mention this beautiful lady today because tonight on one of our BBC channels there is a three-hour D.D. splash. A documentary with film clips, a 1992 interview of her talking to Betty White (of 'Golden Girls', of course) which I've never seen, and a 1971 TV show of hers, with guest stars Perry Como - and Rock Hudson!  But, dammit, the Doris-fest starts at 9 p.m., a time when I'm preparing for bed.
I'm an early retirer (this morning getting up at 3.15), so if I can't stay awake tonight I'll have to watch the progs on the computer later. Fine, but it's never as comfy as watching TV. (Being on a digital channel I can't video them.)
    The Divine Doris reaches 90 next April. (Or is it 88? - the sources I look at differ.) When her time is up I know I'm gonna weep buckets. She was - and still is - mine!

Growing up as a devoutly-practicing Catholic boy, it seemed that from about the age of 11 or 12, whenever I went to confession I was owning up to having 'impure thoughts'. I never ever got round to confessing actual acts, except just the once when I got so tongue-tied and stutteringly incoherent I was berated by the priest for not being 'explicit' enough. He wanted to know ALL the details - sitting there behind a wire grille in his little darkened box. (Any further comment is superfluous!) After that humiliation I never dared attempt verbalising any 'impure' actions again. (Oh, the mortal sins that deliberate omission must have brought down on my head, further compounding the 'evil' of those unmentionable acts! And it gets even worse. I was still going up to receive Holy Communion every Sunday - so that my family and school mates wouldn't ask questions about why I didn't go. Horror upon horror! I reckon that when I meet my Maker, being condemned to an ETERNITY in hell still wouldn't be long enough.) Anyway, what I was going to say was that whenever I mentioned these sinful thoughts, my penance, in addition to being instructed to say one or two 'Our Fathers' and a few 'Hail Marys', was always to pray to the Virgin Mary to deliver me from this wicked temptation, which I always did, but which never seemed to work. I can't help feeling that a more efficacious target of my prayers would have been to Saint Doris, who at least she was easier to picture. It certainly couldn't have been any worse. (Sorry to have taken so long to get back to the subject of this blog. I admit the connection is tenuous, to say the least.)).

Btw: I remember when there was talk about the filming of 'The Sound of Music', around 1962/63, they'd narrowed down giving the role of Maria to either Julie A. or Doris Day. If they'd gone with the latter I wonder how it would have looked and worked out. I don't know if their respective ages had anything to do with the final choice (Doris was elder by 13 - or is it 11? - years). I imagine it would have had quite a bearing. But it's an intriguing thought.

And now, my friends, let's have a chorus of a song whose lyrics resonate with a lot of us:-