Saturday 31 October 2009

Feline Fear of Fireworks

One of my cats, Blackso, hates this time of year especially. Of course it's Hallowe'en tonight, but for us in the U.K., the kids are only warming up to the 'proper' bonfire/fireworks just five days from now - and there'll be occasional or frequent bangs right up until then when, for poor animals, it must seem that all hell has broken loose. He's right now cowering, terrified, under a large, easy-chair where I've put down a multi-folded large bath towel to give him something soft to lie on and draped old curtains down the sides to give him a sense of safety. I had to push him outside this afternoon because he'd been refusing to go out since yesterday evening. Just ten minutes later he was down at the front looking up at the window with eyes pleading to be let in. He's particularly frightened by the fireworks that whistle before exploding though it's odd that my other cat, Noodles, doesn't seen half as bothered.
When I was growing up Hallowe'en wasn't marked as a special day. It was only after I moved to Oxford in 1975 that on this date I had my first taste of the annual event when a young lad came knocking at my door and when I answered he kept saying what sounded like "Triggertree?". After repeating this mysterious word several times with a smile on his face, he saw that I hadn't a clue what he was going on about and he gave up with an "Aw, okay." and disappeared. When the next day I mentioned this in the office I was told what it meant.
That was then. Now, due entirely to American influence, it's all over the place - pumpkins, 'scary' costumes and, of course, fireworks. I'm not complaining. I'm sure if I was at a suitably young age I too would be participating. Just sorry that for poor animals it must be mental torture - even moreso because here, as I say, the two dates are so close together so that as far as fireworks are concerned it's a prolonged relentless period of bangs for successive evenings. At least after next weekend it ought to die down - but only for a couple of months until New Year when we have the influence from the continent taking over, which we also didn't have until some thirty years ago, and all it starts again!

Thursday 29 October 2009

Tony Blair - President of Europe? Gawd help us!

Much heated debate here about whether the 'grinner' should become the first long-term President of the Council of Europe - an (unlected) figurehead, a post he apparently wants very much. Up to now there has been a rotating 6-monthly tenure so that each member state has a crack of the whip sooner or later but it's been felt that one unchanging leader (though only with limited powers) would be better able to represent the Union. I don't detect much support for his nomination, even here in the UK, apart from those political allies who stood by him through thick and thin. But I think it can fairly be said that for the majority of Brits he just carries too much negative baggage with him, in particular his disastrous foreign policy adventures as well as his inadvisable cosying up to 'Dubya' despite reservations from all over the continent, not least from his own country. Nevertheless he does appear to be front-runner - in fact the only other candidate, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, is so far behind it's all but settled. But if Monsieur Sarkozy and Frau Merkel get their way it's too early to give up hope that he won't be accepted. Actually it seems that the only other major European leader who supports Blair for the post is that joke-on-legs, Silvio Berlusconi. Say no more! Blair, like Thatcher and Gorbachev (and B. Clinton?) historically carries more respect outside his home country than domestically. I did indeed vote for Blair back in 1997 - not just to kick out the tired old scandal-ridden Conservatives but at that moment he did seem to be a breath of fresh air - though that same air grew fetid remarkably quickly. Having said all that, we gays must never forget that it was his dogged determination, more than anyone else's, in the teeth of strong and often hysterical opposition, which was responsible for bringing us legal parity across the board. So we must be eternally grateful for that, of course - though there are still religious leaders and others still yapping on about their right to discriminate against gays on 'grounds of conscience'. So no surprise there. But now, after he converted to Roman Catholicism shortly after leaving office and his active support for religious foundations (of whatever faith) Blair has tarnished himself in a way I find difficult to overlook, though it would be the appalling historic legacy that I would regret most of all in him as President. I certainly wouldn't want someone with such a C.V. to speak for me! - and, I repeat, it'll be an unelected post. Mind you, he might have had his ambition's guns spiked by the Conservative opposition (who will almost certainly win next year's election) declaring that they would regard the appointment of Blair to the post of President as a 'hostile act'. Nice one! So, we'll wait and see what happens. Interesting days ahead.

Monday 26 October 2009

My next read.

I'm not going to mention in my blogs every single book I read - anyway, my rate has been around 70-80 books per year for at least the last decade. But I'm currently with Joseph Heller's 'Closing Time' (1994) which is basically some of the characters from 'Catch 22' some 30 years on. I've read C.22 at least five times to date - you might guess correctly that I'm a fan. The film wasn't that bad either, though of course, translating a brilliant book into another medium is very nearly every time a flawed achievement, if it is indeed a success at all. But for me, now halfway through 'Closing Time', this doesn't have the easy flow of the earlier work with all its outrageousness. The effort involved in producing it is almost readable between the lines. But one can hardly blame Heller for not being as youthful as he once was! Nevertheless I shall proceed and try to prevent my mind from wandering too much. I've read others of Heller too - 'Good as Gold' being one of them but I've yet to read anything from that period as joyously anarchic as 'Catch 22.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Augusten Burroughs - my verdict after reading one book.

'Running with Scissors' - hugely entertaining. Can't remember the last time I found a book so amusing. Many laughs. Highly recommended. My next read of this author when I get round to it - 'Possible Side Effects'. Hope it's even half as good. (Thanks particularly to you, Wonderboy, for mentioning A.B.)

Monday 19 October 2009

Augusten Burroughs

I never even knew the name until Wonderboy (aka Idle Eyes and a Dormy) mentioned him a few weeks ago on his blog. Surprised that the name had been unfamiliar to me as I'm a positive glutton for books. However, feeling I was missing out on something worthwhile, I ordered two of his works over the Internet - 'Running with Scissors' and 'Possible Side Effects'. As the first was out of print here I had to wait a while before they eventually did send both books. They arrived three days ago. I'm already a third of the way through 'Scissors' and must say I do find it quite a hoot! I was a bit afraid that it might be 'too American' for a Brit, in that such readers as I would miss a significant number of the American cultural references - e.g. one of the puffs on the cover calls it 'The Brady Bunch on Viagra'. I've never ever seen 'The Brady Bunch', though, of course, I'm familiar with the name. I dare say that I am indeed missing the contexts of some of his remarks but even so I've already laughed out loud several times. And though it's such densely packed writing it's an undemanding read. So, going well. I'm only hoping it doesn't falter - but there's no sign of that so far. Grateful thanks to Wonderboy for bringing the writer to my attention.

Friday 16 October 2009

Reds are STILL baleful.

Two blogs ago I wrote of buying sweatshirts including, and daringly for me, a burgundy one. I probably haven't worn a shade of red in a main garment since as long ago as my teens when I starting observing that whenever I did so things rapidly went awry. So, thinking that I'm just being silly about it all, (how absurd to think that a mere colour can have such a negative effect!) today for the first time I put on this reddish sweatshirt - and, boy, I wish I hadn't! What an exasperating and maddening six hours I've just spent - all trying to get a replacement TV remote control. Things went so wrong. I've now divested myself of the 'culprit' shirt - but, alas, too late to avoid now being up to 2 weeks without TV. Too complicated to relate the full story (and boring for readers) but after no less than three back-and-forths between my flat and the TV dealers I'm now left with no remote at all and with the TV set locked into child-safety-lock mode - which can only be got out of by using - yes, a remote control!!!!! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Being the news-junkie that I am, seeing the news as well as listening to it is absolutely essential. Of course the temporary solution is that I'll just have to use the computer as a substitute until I get a remote again - but a computer is far more fiddly to set up, tune into, and less comfortable to watch, but I'll just have to grin and bear it. But one thing is clear - no more reds!

Friday 9 October 2009

An odd and very scary fantasy situation.

I've always suffered from a certain degree of vertigo, though not so acute as to be disabling. A few nights ago I had this thought during the 'twilight' period in bed just before one actually drops off into sleep - and it's been haunting me ever since.
A thin pillar-like structure rises so high that it dwarfs all surrounding buildings, even nearby skyscrapers. At the very top there is a tiny platform about 2-foot square. I am standing on it. There are no barriers. I am unsupported and unharnessed. (In the irrationality of dream-like situations, there is no indication of how I came to be up there.) I'm frozen in fear, yet fighting the overwhelming desire to throw myself off because of the feeling that it's just not right that there should be this huge distance from myself and the ground - and I'm actually conscious of a 'moral obligation' to close the gap. I daren't even sit down with my legs dangling over the edge as, apart from falling off myself, I'm afraid one of my shoes would come off and drop down into the immeasurable depths! Meantime as I stand paralysed into inaction this desire to eject myself manifests as an infuriating itching, specifically at the base of the spine and also between balls and bum-hole. Heart is thudding like a Zulu drum. How long can I hold out? I can foresee the acute relief that I would feel the moment I stepped off. The thought of the bliss of being released from this tension is overpowering. The open-endedness of the situation precludes any conclusion. Even now I'm still up there.
I'm wondering if there are others who can identify with my feelings and share the same fear of ever being in this, frankly impossible, situation - which in the stillness of night almost brings me out in a cold sweat.