Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Ethical Living - give a thought to those that prepare your meals.

This rant has a few twists. The result of a rather convoluted mind at work. Bear with me.
"Animal Lover" is now a term  that can be used to describe almost anyone with a conscience. The waves of pressure on communities to care for creatures that cannot help themselves, has over the past few decades, gone from kooky to mainstream. Although, it has to be said, it now seems to be slowly veering off towards the kooky in the other direction. But that is another rant. It is admirable and worthy that people feel and act on a sense of  responsibility to care for the creatures that share the planet with us.
Look at our Facebook posts and  see the love and devotion that we show towards our pets. Our pets are now "a part of the family"  and we carry with us, in this regard, the burdens and joys that go with the commitment that one has for a family member.
Most of us are are aware of the problems that are faced by animals in the wild, their diminishing habitats, poaching and an ever increasing number of animal speices being added to endangered lists. We believe in sustainable eco-tourism  and visit elephant sanctuaries and other such wildlife rehabilitation programmes when we go on holiday.
We are, for the most part, well aware of the conditions under which the livestock that will be our dinner is reared.  We are able, if we earn enough money, to make choices about what we will eat based on how our dinner is treated for the duration of its life  and during the slaughtering process that end its live. We agonise about what we eat. Just how free range is free range? We don't want to eat cruel meat. Some of us go so far as to become vegans in our quest for kindness.  We want our food to be raised for the table in humane conditions. We want to live and eat  "authentically".  
We want to be able to afford a good dinner out without feeling guilty about it so we sit in restaurants and grill the serving staff over  the source of our dinner to ensure that we are not being poisoned by or being cruel to the food.  And now I am getting to the point of all this......all the while, more often than not, giving very little thought to the people serving up our dinner.


The below link is a timely reminder that we need to focus on our fellow man.  It is not enought to care about the animals we eat. We have to show respect and compassion for people. And we need to focus close to home. It is easy to feel empathy for a starving child in the back end of nowhere and be outraged by the misfortune inevitably inherited by the coincidence of a  third world birth far away - over there. Most of us, regardless of where we live or come from, can relate to the below clip and the following link Ethical Eating.

“Men feel that cruelty to the poor is a kind of cruelty to animals. They never feel that it is an injustice to equals; nay it is treachery to comrades.” G. K Cherterton.

Now here is the killer, having been guilt tripped  by the video what do we do about it? 
I am not going to offer up solutions and suggestion on what we can do. I did start to rabbit on about it. Well I would - wouldn't I. I am opinionated and bossy, but as I read over what I had written I realised that all I was doing was sounding like a self righteous prig preaching way more than I really need to. And that won't do at all. What we can do to help our fellow man depends on where we live and our own circumstances. So gentle people, spare a thought, or a dime, or a vote or volunteer to make a difference in your community.
The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied... but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing. ~John Berger

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Lacking inspiration and feeling sorry for myself

This is how I feel.
You know how one sometimes get totally shagged out by a long squawk?  That’s me. Having ranted and raved over the last few weeks about computers and having a hissy fit at Poor Old Bryan (is this the beginning of menopause?) over the  house guest  (mentioned in the computer rant) who overstayed his welcome on account of Bryan not being totally upfront with me about how long the house guest was staying (but let us not go there) I am all deflated.

Now that I have my home to myself and my calm demeanour (peanut gallery keep your comments to yourselves) is restored I am all of a funk. Well not so much a funk as a “can’t be bothered”.  Also, when I say "I have my home to myself" I mean entirely to myself.  Bryan had a work thing in Jo’burg and has taken the opportunity, whilst in that part of the world to get a bit of peace  and quiet from his Witchy wife  and to gad about South Africa visiting his mum and the boys.  By the way, when should I stop calling my sons “the boys”? Consequently I am home alone.

The first few days were bliss - sheer unadulterated bliss. But I have had enough of that. I have no one to annoy.  And I don’t have Bryan forcing me to do things that I don’t want to do  that get me out and about and having fun. And it is summer in Dubai and the humidity is killing me. Oh I must explain. I love the heat and I really don’t have strong feelings about the humidity but my lungs have a very strong reaction to the combination of heat and humidity. If I walk across the road from our building to the building that houses Sophie’s (one of the few places in Dubai where you can get a cup of coffee during Ramadan - if you were wondering why I was crossing the road) I am wheezing in a tight chested I have smoked 200 cigarettes a day for 120 years kind of a way.  And it is just plain exhausting. I am also back in the gym with my wonderful trainer Fairel. Ho hum  - one of the triggers of asthma in me is exercise. So the combo of time of the year and exercise resulting in a semi-permanent state of discomfort and  being alone has me feeling sorry for myself because I have nothing to distract me. I am exhausted. I am in bed by 10pm. Pity party is in full swing. I can’t help but think that I should have gone with Bryan to South Africa, BUT there is one thing that is worse than feeling like you have been run over by a truck and that is feeling the bitter winter Antarctic wind whipping around about you in Cape Town at this time of the year.

So I am having a friend over for tea this afternoon courtesy of Ramadan working hours. A gentle feminine afternoon of cooing over a new baby is exactly what I need. I don’t have pets you see.

I have crocheted a baby blanket for the visiting baby.  Here it is.

I did toy with the idea of being stylish and trendy with the design and colours but I am terribly traditional in my choices of craft executions.

On the subject of needle work I still have Cameron’s blanket to finish ( that will be terribly vibrant) and a wedding sampler to do. Between keeping up with my reading  ( people STOP making wonderful  book reading suggestions) and TV watching  ( my addiction – so much better than being a middle aged soak - although not as interesting it has to be said) and needle craft I really should not be falling into bed at 10pm. Tomorrow is FRIDAY. I am reading and crafting all day. DO NOT DISTURB.
Oh, oh, oh I have to do a shout out today. My nephew (I am Greek its complicated) is competing in the World BMX Championships in New Zealand this week. GO MATT. Show ‘em what Zimbabwe has.

Matt Denslow - super biker


Friday, 12 July 2013

Shake your Bootie Baby.


My friend posted a video clip on face book of Ottawans  "Hands Up" and it MADE MY DAY.

Memories of Mabelreign Girls High School Disco's came flooding back. Click  the video clips ( or links if you are using a mobile device) and be cheered up.

YouTube - Hands Up
Ottawan - Hands Up
My poor father had the unenviable task of acting as a "bouncer" at the infamous MGHS fund raising Discos. It served him right. There is nothing more uncool than having a parent on the PTA.  I would go, dragging my heels to the School Hall doors because I had to get a lift with him. I was torn because I knew that it was only because he was acting as a bouncer and all round herder of teenagers that I was allowed to go at all. It did not help that of my friends a handful had an almighty crush on him. I would be mortified by their sing song "Hello Mr Panas"  accompanied by hair tossing and a flurry of giggles. My father did not understand girls. He had no sisters. Girls did  not play rugby and were not  interested in shooting. He went to all-boys boarding schools  pretty much from kindergarten. He totally understood boys. Totally. And nothing shocked or surprised him about them. And in relation to his daughters he kept a beady mistrustful eye out. Which of course is a total waste of time. He would have known this if he had had sisters and knew anything about the cunning of a teenage girl.... But I am being side tracked.

Yes Sir I can Boogie

Baccara - Yes sir I can boogie

Once at the Hall I would tear off to the bathrooms to plaster my face with too much make up and sexy up my disco outfit from "appropriate for parents" to frankly, and in retrospect, just plain bloody awful. Of course I thought I was just the bee's knees with my headband and strawberry flavoured lip gloss and just been punched eye make up. I would then spend the better part of the night trying to avoid my father. Skulking in dark, damp corners of the school property with boys of disrepute or disco dancing with friends. If I was not doing that I was commiserating with some hysterical girlfriend about how cruel her now ex-best friend was or being commiserated on the same. A fair amount of time was also spent leaning against the wall of the hall looking unapproachable.

Call Me
Blondie - Call me

All that teenage hysteria , testosterone, and angst. God we must have been a bloody nightmare to supervise.

I would have to stay until the bitter end of the discos to get my parental lift home. PTA members counted up the door taking "That cash can be added to the squash court fund" and cleared the property of unruly youth and the discarded remnants of prohibited alcohol. Older teens would sneak in what they could - and what they could afford. I do remember on one occasion finding a loaf of bread that had been used to filter methylated spirits. My father went ballistic. I had no idea what it was all about or how stupid is was to do. Needless to say the discos did not last forever. MGHS and Ellis Robins had a bunch of reprobates attending their schools. Polite ones mind you but reprobates none the less. I may have caught a whiff or two of dagga but at that age had not a clue.

Those discos were a great experience. A thrilling introduction to music and mayhem  for a young teen hell-bent on destruction - in a reasonably safe environment. I don't think, at the end of the day, there were the wisest fund raising exercises the PTA ever organised but I am so glad they did.

The Bee's Knees half in school uniform

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Istanbul the Old Beauty

Domes and the sea. 

How sad to see the news of late from Turkey. And yet also inspiring, it is heartening to see people rise up and say “No, this is not what we want. We want and demand something different.” Mind you that is the history of Turkey. Forceful, powerful, inspiring leaders that do great things and then forget who  they are and how they got to be where they are and become part of the problem. And good for the Turks that they consistently do not put up with it.  I am not in any way trying to simplify the complicated social and political  history of Turkey but you have to admire a people that don’t take anything lying down. 

Meadow grass and tulips
Last year, at the end of April, Bryan and I visited Istanbul with our dear friends Sharon and Shaun. Here is a link  to that Trip. I knew as I boarded the plane home at the end of that short holiday that I wanted go back. Now, please bear in mind that I am not a well-travelled person. I know that there are a great many places that I should visit for the first time before I revisit a spot but  the heart wants what the heart wants and this heart wanted to go back to Istanbul.

Crumbling Beauty
I recently blogged about our wedding on the occasion of our 25th anniversary. We don’t usually celebrate wedding anniversaries, actually we usually forget altogether. We have the delightful (?) distinction of NEVER remembering on the day. We always remember that it's coming up some time soon but ALWAYS forget at the crucial moment. Telling? Well I don’t know but I think that if we have made it through 25 years of marriage without contemplating slitting each other’s throats while bringing up children, moving continents and suffering the losses one does in the course of a life - then we are pretty solid. Anyway, we decided that 25 years of marriage really was an occasion to celebrate. I insisted that we go to Istanbul again. So for a few days at the end of April and the beginning of May we spent three glorious days in the warm spring sunshine in the charming and romantic city of Istanbul.

Domes and Sea at sunset.

Domes and Water and Boats and ferries and ships and tugs and and and....
We saw beauty everywhere. The spring flowers at their best. Tulips, violets, daisies, daffodils, forget-me-nots, and baby’s breath. Meadow grass, strewn with delicate flowers, and oh so many more pretty, plant things. Everything growing green and fresh and new. The ancient, historical buildings. Crumbling walls, stained leaning wooden houses, cobbled streets, alleys, avenues. Walking up hills and down again. The promise of a view of water at every turn. Fishing boats, tugs, ferries, pleasure boats, and tankers - chugging, gliding, bobbing, hooting, honking, the life of a city with water as its centre, water as a cultural divide, two continents together, East meets West. The sea playing with the light, sparkling  shimmering, breeze whipped and salt scented.  Seaways so busy and yet calming to watch. The freshest of fish. A fisherman with a cigarette in the corner of his smile, admiring his catch of silver shards of sardines dripping wet, wriggling and fresh - still on the line.

Fresh salads.

Squirming fresh fingers of sardines

And fresh Juice!
When we last we visited  Istanbul, old family friends Nikkiforos Metaxa and Vassiliki Papageorgiou were in Greece so we missed seeing each other. This year we met up and had a lovely meal in the oldest Greek restaurant in Istanbul tucked away in the spice market.

Nikiforos and Vasiliki

Nikki and Vassiliki gave us a few pointers and we set off around the city hunting down recommendations mainly of the mosaic and tile variety. Bryan was determined to do this using every available type of public transport so we got about via the by now familiar trams and we tried out the buses this time too. Bryan dragged me off to use the world’s 2nd oldest tunnel train in the world after London’s Underground and my first ever ride on a funicular, yes you may break in to operatic song. Istanbul has two.The Tunnel" inaugurated in January of 1875. How historical is that? We also used the more Modern  Kabataş-TaksimFunicular. There is still one form of transport hat we have missed. The cable car, but never fear there is always next year.

In the spice souk district beautiful tiles in a Mosque

Tiling details
I even allowed Bryan to follow his sense of direction to get us to and from destinations . That took a lot of sucking it up on my part let me tell you. It was worth it. On our adventures we came across, quite by accident, the ingenious and delightful Panorama 1453. What a gem. Considering that it was built only in 2009 it is a bit old fashioned, but oh my word, what a treat for museum lovers. The 360% view of one of the fiercest battles of the Constantinople siege, the event that gave Sultan Mehmet II his title of Fatih (the Conqueror), should be on your list of things not to miss. Terribly nationalistic in nature and consequently wonderfully grand. I loved the whole experience. I loved the soundtrack, the models, the amazing painted dome. I felt like a 10 year old child on a school trip. It was just so cool.

Under this dome there is magic! Panorama 1453


a model of the real thing to give you a taster.

Have a peek at it here Panorama 1453
We worked up an appetite and we  walked our meals off. Good trade-off I think. We did not revisit the big tourist attractions. There is plenty to do and see in Istanbul without repeating oneself.  Although we did stay in the same hotel that we stayed in before. This got us a room upgrade on arrival. YAY! It was a lovely gesture.The staff were, down to the last man, the same staff as last year and that was charming. We received the same care and attention and  the same delicious breakfasts that set us up for our hitting the streets for a lot of walking days. I definitely recommend staying there Click here to book; Best Point Hotel Fatih and his staff will make you feel most welcome.

Humble Hotel with a Huge Heart

I desperately wanted to visit the Mosaic Museum which was closed for renovations last year. This museum alone was worth the trip. The most splendid mosaics. Here is the blurb that I cribbed for the internet:

The museum hosts the mosaics used to decorate the pavement of a peristyle court, dating possibly to the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565). It was uncovered by Turkish archaeologists from the University of St Andrews in Scotland during extensive excavations at the Arasta Bazaar in Sultan Ahmet Squarein 1935-1938 and 1951-1954. The area formed part of the south-western Great Palace, and the excavations discovered a large peristyle courtyard, with a surface of 1872 m²,entirely decorated with mosaics. It was at this point that the Austrian Academy of Sciences, supervised by Prof. Dr. Werner Jobst, undertook to study and preserve the famous palace mosaic and to carry out additional archeological examinations (1983-1997) within the scope of a cooperative project with the Directorate General of Monuments and Museums in Turkey.

and what they found had me spellbound.

Mosaics in situ since around AD 550.

Mosaic Museum

Mosaic Museum

Once again the trip was not enough and we have promised to visit again. If I could become a cobble in  a street of Istanbul I would be happy.

I absolutley want to be buried under this fellow. I love the idea of become fertilizer under his paws.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Fake Plastic Souks: Book Post - A Week Of UBER-AWESOME Freebies

I would like a free copy of Alexander McNabbs book. And to get one I need to share with ten peeps. so here I am sharing.

Fake Plastic Souks: Book Post - A Week Of UBER-AWESOME Freebies: Okay, so here's the deal. this week (starting today, ending Friday 12th July) I'm giving away ebook copies of Olives - A Violent...

Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Pathetic Sad Person Story of my New Computer

This story is a sort of penance for being a complete cow. I do not come out of this looking good. Sigh. Here I go.

I use computers EVERY SINGLE DAY for MANY hours at a time but I still have to think twice about what is bigger 1GM or a 1MB. So from a “what specs should I get for a computer” aspect I am pretty hopeless. What I want is “fast with lots of space”. Make wavy arty farty shapes in the air with your hands. Sadly that does not translate into computer geek talk. I think it is perfectly obvious but somehow it is way more complicated than that. Or maybe it is a conspiracy of pretentious from the geek-o-sphere. It probably is not - as is the case with most conspiracy theories- sadly. I suspect I am just not interested enough to do anything about finding out more  but  am quite prepared to get annoyed (apoplectic really) by the whole process. So because of the just mentioned state of being, I happily, well not happily really, I lazily hand over the responsibility of computer geeky things to Bryan. You can see where this is headed can’t you?

So let’s go back a few years to us living in Botswana. Bryan, being the thoughtful man that he is, decides to surprise me with a laptop. Have I mentioned that I hate surprises? When I am presented with this surprise gift I think “well that was very sweet and I do need a new computer” so I get over the not liking surprises thing. THEN THE TORTURE STARTS. This computer is so slow that I can make a cup of coffee (grow the beans, etc) while I wait for it to do anything. This is not Bryan’s fault. But he did bring the beast into my life. And because he was so sweet I cannot say anything and I have to grin and bare, for F-ing years let me tell you, years! We move to Dubai  The useless F-ed up bloody laptop comes with me. I endure. Bryan sees that I am an unhappy camper with my revolting computer and I think that enough time has passed that I can blame my hating the computer on the fact that technology has moved on and my computer is now an old goat in computer years. Remember that I am an abdicator of computer responsibility so I dragged my heels re the whole computer thing. Did I want an I-pad, or did I want a laptop, or did I want a desktop? Hummmm-ing and ahhhhh-ing and much dithering, and not knowing what I wanted later, had me doing what I do which is try not to think about it too much. Or as other might say pretend the question is not there, stick my head in the sand and act like an ostrich. Bryan watched all this sympathetically and then as a lovely surprise (remember how I feel about surprises) decided to help me solve my dilemma. He very thoughtfully bought me a brand new computer. He went to a lot of trouble to get me a computer that was sort of a tablet, or is that a tablet that is sort of a computer, and to make my life super wonderful I also was given a big screen and a separate keyboard for when I wanted a BIG computer and when I wanted a tablet I had this funky thing that unclipped from its moorings and acted like a tablet. Wonderful win-win situation one would think. But no, ONCE AGAIN THE TORTURE STARTED. It was exquisitely, painfully, slow. It was throwing against the bloody wall slow. It hung all the time. I could not have two screens open at the same time.  If I tried to save something on my desktop it went on strike. If I tried to save more than three photographs in a folder it rejected them and me and went off on a sulk that makes teen sulking seem amateur. In short it performed as one might expect a sloth crossing Antarctica to perform. I have to ask you. What is the common denominator in my very bad experiences with computers? Not my inability to know for myself what I want. No, no, no. The common denominator is Bryan. It is all utterly his fault. I let that thought fester quietly for a few months but kept politely quiet about the second round of horror that was forced on me by my well-meaning husband and his surprise gifts. Then I started complaining about how bloody horrible “this godamned machine is”, there is after all only so much suffering one can take. Bryan politely suggested that maybe I should get another computer. I snarled at him that I did not want another computer I WANTED THIS ONE TO WORK. Which is clearly a stupid thing to say or think because the computer was a subversive piece of equipment hell bent on a cosmic mission to destroy my barely there serenity. Or is that sanity?

This all brings me to this week. It is possible that I have, maybe, complained a bit too much and long and loud about my computer and Bryan took that to be me hinting that it was time for me to back track on the “ I want this computer to work” statement.  Or (and here we get into the sub plot) he was feeling guilty about the fact that I think that having a car that is a squillion years old and falling apart is not a problem and that you do not have to replace a vehicle every few years to ensure an "optimum resale value" verses "cannot sell the heap of junk value".

Bryan started The Car Campaign some time ago. Because on the car issue he was wise to the no surprises thing.  I did not like it one bit. He dragged me around   the showroom and pointed out how very clever he was and what a good deal he was getting. The bloody car sales man did not help by praising Bryan on the amazing deal he got when he bought his previous car and how clever he was catching a similar jammy deal this time. I swear it felt synchronized. Anyway in the end I did an “oh well if you insist that this is absolutely the best thing to do then well go for it” all the while brooding with suspicion about MEN and CARS. And then nothing. Nothing seemed to be happening. It all looked like it had gone away and I would not have to agree to disagree re the car. UNTIL. THIS. WEEK. Suddenly the car was back in play and Bryan was signing papers. This counts as a mini-surprise so I had a hissy fit, and then backed down immediately and ungraciously. 

Bryan was supposed to do a video (modeling/acting stuff).  It was cancelled at the last minute and the video making peeps in an act of stupidity still paid him in full. Jammy Dude Bryan. Jammy Dude either through guilt or as a random act of sweet thoughtful kindness decided to surprise me (DOES THE MAN NEVER, EVER LEARN) by fixing my dreadful computer problem by using said dosh to buy me a new Super Duper computer. And how do you think I reacted? I went off the deep end. “What were you thinking?” I hissed. “Did I ask you to buy me a computer?” I snarled with gut  wrenching panic instinctively reacting to  surprise. The poor man splutters “But you need a computer. You hate your computer. I thought it would be a nice thing to do with the video money.” I am all bristling, with suppressed passive aggression, wondering if I am being played to keep me sweet about the car and quivering in reaction to “a surprise”. I honestly react to surprises the same way most people do when confronted by a spiting cobra about to strike.

We have a house guest at the moment who is witness to ALL OF THIS. And he pipes up from somewhere only angels and fools come and go from “Bryan said you did not like surprises……...” Are you bloody kidding me? Only a single young man would enter into the fray at that that point with that comment. I sulk off to gather myself together. The computer sits in glorious packaged isolation on the kitchen counter for 24 hours while I regroup. I have plenty of time to chastise myself for being a complete and utter cow. House guest decides that there is only so much of me that anyone should have to put up with (he does not say that but I mean you have read this what would you do?) and goes out for the evening. Bryan retreats to the TV room. I cautiously approach the computer package. Mind you not before I have reviewed the computer to hell and back and I am still wary. I really do not want to set myself up for another few years of purgatory.  What is it exactly that I did in my previous life that was so dreadful? Did I put a spanner in the works of the first round of inventing the wheel that has technology treating me so badly? I think I may have served my time. Or maybe Samsung is my soul mate. I have a really lovely new Samsung Notebook. It is fast and friendly. Just like my Samsung Galaxy phone. Bryan is back in my good books. Now I have to get back into his.

Wish me luck.

By the way reading this over it does sort of sound like I get a new computer every five minutes. That is not the case. This aga saga spans about 12 years.....