Explanations

Here’s a scenario for you all to consider. I’ve criticised my current Audible read in a previous entry, but it does provoke some thought.

The woman, originally from the C20th, has been transported (somehow) to the C18th.
The man is, and always has been, of the C18th.
The tale is set in the C18th, when they are also married to each other. Bear with it – if you bought that she could get back to the 18th century in the first place, this other should be no problem!

They’re having a row. She snaps at him, “why d’you always want to behave like bloody John Wayne?” Obviously, the response is “who’s John Wayne?”

Think about it. To try to explain movie star, you first have to explain movie. You probably then need to go back to still photography, how an image can make its way onto a piece of film…

What a bloody nightmare! 🤣

Giving Up

A friend of mine happened to mention that her mother-in law was 87, was in a nursing home with dementia, and was diabetic. She likes chocolate cake, so my friend and her husband take some over to her when they visit.

I can fully go along with that. At that age, and with the other things going wrong, I too would place her pleasure ahead of her sugar levels.

I happened to mention that a few of the stroke survivors I’ve seen have been smokers. I just shrug my shoulders at this, for exactly the same reason. Whatever gets you through the night. Having a stroke is a shitty experience, more often than not you’re left disabled, so if you can derive some pleasure from smoking a cigarette, go for it.

Interestingly enough, my friend disagreed. I mention it because it made me think – exactly how did she see that giving somebody chocolate cake (known to be bad for them) was different to somebody smoking (also known to be bad)? It seems to me that you’re storing up long-term issues for a short-term gain.

I do like this friend but sometimes they say something which surprises me. None of us is immortal and I do think that there comes a time when it is appropriate to give up on life.

75 Years Ago

I must admit I can generally be quite immune to things like Poppy Day. There is a certain insincerity about a politician who, in one breath, says “we will remember the fallen” and who, in the next breath, is ordering troops to drop bombs on people. The single most important lesson we must take from conflicts is that we should avoid the failure of dialogue, where we can, to prevent this sacrifice from ever being required again, and frankly, I think some politicians have trouble with that “where we can” bit. They’re far too willing to give up on dialogue in favour of force, especially now that we (the western powers) have the means to fight wars remotely, such that the public don’t experience the horror of war.

Anyway, I saw this clip on social media – I’ll post the link to Facebook but I’ve managed to download a copy of the video and upload it to my blog, just in case. This is obviously as we are coming up to the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings. I used to visit the Normandy a lot and know the debarquement beaches very well, including the serenity of these cemeteries. Listen to the May birds singing in this video. The caption alongside the video reads:

Veteran Alan King, East Riding Yeomanry, at the grave of his friend Louis Wilkes, who he carried from his Tank after Louis had been hit in the head by a sniper. He could not save him. Never Forget.

This sums it all up for me. No politicians with crocodile tears, no cenotaph, no world leaders, no tv cameras, just a guy paying his respects to his comrade.

European Elections

Here in the UK we’re a bit skewed. You can take this weekend’s EU elections as simply a vote on Brexit or not. Either “it should never have happened” or “get on with it”.

But I see that the in the rest of Europe, there is also the fear of “right-wing nationalism”. Those are the BBC’s words, not mine.

I don’t know about right-wing. I’m certainly not right-wing. Nationalism, perhaps. To the extent that countries don’t wish to receive instructions from Brussels, but would rather decide their own course.

I do hope that the EU doesn’t see these numbers just as a protest, dismissed with a “fuck you”. That certainly seems to be how they’ve reacted to Brexit. Brexit happened for all sorts of reasons, including how the EU is run, so to simply dismiss that discontent…well, you’re just asking for trouble. I predict other countries following the UK, and concluding that their only way is outside of their club.

As for the UK, Cameron’s requested reforms would not have satisfied me – he was more concerned with his own popularity than in making the system fairer – but certainly the EU’s stance that “there is no appetite to re-open treaties” didn’t help.

I hope, therefore, that these elections lead to a period of introspection by the EU’s governors. At their next meeting, they might wish to ask why they are in 5* surroundings while some of their citizens are using food banks, why they have set themselves as the elite, at the expense of taxpayers.

It’s funny, because not long ago I finished reading Ken Clarke’s autobiography. It struck me that when he was at large departments like Health and Education, he concentrated a lot of value for money. I think he came along with the attitude of “concentrate just on what you’re good at”. Identifying a narrow purpose and concentrating on delivering it. I don’t necessarily agree with him that value for money is the main goal, in nationalised industries – the society as a whole has more dimensions than just the finances of a nationalised industry – but that is his view. It’s a shame therefore that nobody ever put the EU into the spotlight, and made it focus on perfecting its strengths. I’m not just

My own reservations are more along the lines of how well the EU represents me – I never had a say in Jean-Claude Junker being president, for example, or Donald Tusk or Michel Barnier. I have no way of recalling my MEP if they’re doing a bad job. Fine, I can vote them out next time around but that is five years away! What other employer would commit themselves to hiring an employee who turns out to be no good, and only having a five-year get-out clause? And Brexit has certainly had people highlighting how “democratic” the EU is – if this is the case, ask your local MEP to show to you some legislation they introduced. Ask your local commissioner how they got their job.

If yon want my support, show me a level playing field.

Audible (23 May 2019)

I mentioned the other week about my last Audible read, with some hope for the new one. A report so far…

This one is called Outlander, and I’m only about a third of the way through it. It starts just after WWII, when an English couple are on holiday in the Scottish highlands. She is miraculously transported back in time 200 years, with the highlands full of the old clans and the countryside interspersed with Redcoat forts.

She’s a fish out of water, very English in very Scotland, so regarded with suspicion by the Scots although taken to live with a clan. In the Forties, she’s meant to have been a war nurse, so has a smattering of French and some healing knowledge. That she has French makes her suspicious to the English too, but that she has nursing makes her a bit useful.

I mean, at that point, it was kind-of interesting. I thought there were a few ways in which the story could go, not least how to use her 20th-century knowledge to try and help people (whilst presumably managing not to be burned at the stake!), trying to explain how she’d got there in the first place. You can imagine that she might have wanted to get back home, but how on earth do you explain “home”? And so on.

But actually the direction that the book has taken is not so interesting, for me anyway. She’s taken in by some Scots but is wanted by the English. To try and protect her, she’s forced to marry a Scot, After just a month or so. Thereafter, there’s a lot of time spent describing the many and varied times they shag as newlyweds. I mean, I was a bit surprised because I tould assume that these sex scenes would titilate a man rather that a woman, and the book was written by a woman. Maybe it is written like that purely because men would appreciate it, and maybe buy the book?

I mean, all of that is harmless enough but it turns the book more into romance than sci-fi. I can obviously handle the sci-fi aspect – hence starting the book in the first place – but I’m not so much interested in the romance. We all have our own experiences of romance so, to me, other people’s are not something I’m particularly interested in.

It is a bit more sinister than that though. I don’t know whether this is just the story being faithful to the time, but I’ve picked up on this woman behaving very deferentially to the husband. In the scene I just read, this guy wallops her – that’d be enough for me to walk. I mean, you maybe don’t have a choice about the walloping, but you do have a choice about the dynamics of the ongoing relationship. In my world it is very simple – men and women are just 50:50, so I tend to notice when one partner becomes dominant. But as I say, that might just be the author’s portrayal of 18th-century Scotland.

Telltale Signs

When I worked in the City, people (agents) would often call me to see if I was interested in a new job. I got into the habit of asking them to sent a spec (specification) over to my email address. Why? The spec itself might go on to be important or it might not, but relly, in the first instance, I just wanted to satisfy myself that a spec existed. A spec showed that the clients had, at least, put some thought into what they wanted. Furthermore, clients often need to produce a spec internally to receive budget, so a spec helped me to know that there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I’d sometimes get some bright spark of an agent saying, “this role is so new that there isn’t a spec yet”, to which I’d just say, “well, when there is one, send it over”.

Another thing with the type of work I used to do, was the duration of the work. The role I did took a few years, normally. So if a client wanted to offer a short-term contract, that raised an eyebrow. Okay, there might be good reasons for that – a probation period, for example. Alarm bells started ringing, though, if a client said they wanted a designer for just a couple of months.

So I ended up looking more for things that should be avoided, rather than things with potential. The things with potential were the ones left over after I’d discounted the things which fell at one of the hurdles.

It is the same, really, now, although there are altogether fewer vacancies locally so the scale is smaller. Indeed I haven’t seen anything in almost a year which ticks all the boxes.

I saw a funny one yesterday. Somebody was offering just a three-month contract for a Head of IT. Obviously interim – someone must’ve been taking a leave of absence and the company didn’t feel they could manage without, even for three months. But who do they seriously think will take that on? What do they think somebody can achieve in just three months? I must admit that I could happily take on a “head” role these days, but reall, I’d want to have a bit of time to see the effects of any changes I introduced.

More Veggie stuff

Funnily enough, on the same subject as yesterday, I had my first interrogation yesterday about my reasons for deciding to be vegetarian. From one of my fellow-volunteer friends. I think I did ok, although it is not really an argument I had presented before, certainly not to other people. Obviously I’ve mulled these things over myself, and come to my conclusion.

This volunteer is the wife of a beef farmer, which probably gives a clue what view she has. “I just don’t think a lot of vegetarians think it through”, she said, “they become vegetarian in order to see lambs gambolling around the fields, where in fact these lambs are only there in the first place as part of somebody’s commercial venture”. And, “a lot of land that is grazed by sheep or cattle is unsuitable for farming crops instead”. Both of which, I can imagine, are perfectly true. Certainly, a lot of this woman’s land is the water meadows surrounding our village. i.e, they flood in winter. I have no idea whether this also makes summer crops unviable although I don’t really see it as important.

My response was simply to say that I didn’t expect to see *more* animals, but fewer. Let’s have some rewilding instead. The only reason there are so many animals in the first place is because there is a market for them, so if I can help to reduce that market, so be it.

And, even if we *are* already farming crops wherever we can (I doubt that but there’s certainly something in what she said), then fewer animals would mean less animal feed, meaning that instead of growing crops for animals to consume, people could grow things for humans to consume instead. So it is kind-of recognising that we have force-bred animals for years, and simply doing less of it.

And, I already mentioned rewilding. I’m struggling to see a downside to this, if I’m honest, other than affecting somebody’s commercial interests.

It is funny debating with someone, because your feelings will inevitably reflect your overall opinion, but unless you actually discuss things with someone, those opinions are often not very articulate. It doesn’t at all surprise me that a veteran politician will have rehearsed and developed an argument for months or years, probably. They might well start off with a gut feel, but it takes them time to come up with something articulate, where they could maybe take the argument, run with it, and convince other people that they are right. I’m fortunate that the only person I need to convince is myself.

Vegetarian

I might have mentioned in the blog already that I’ve mostly gone vegetarian. It isn’t an ideological thing. I’ve read a lot recently about climate change, how many more resources it takes to raise an animal for slaughter, compared to “raising” a plant. So it is just a desire to be responsible for less. It isn’t something that I’m evangelical about – I’ve kind-of decided that, for the moment, fish and dairy are still on the menu – I had a fish finger sandwich yesterday! – but obviously this might change as I learn more.

Actually, I was vegetarian for several years, starting when I was a student at university, back in the Eighties. But my diet then was quite poor, pizza and chips, and this time around I have resolved that I must eat proper food. I always had a downer on ready meals – you never know exactly what is in them – so even though the selection is far better now than when I was first a vegetarian, I’ve been trying to cook for myself. One of my staples over the last few weeks has been tofu stir-fry. Probably four nights per week.

The funny thing is that I’ve seen really good results when I test my sugar each day. i suppose it shouldn’t be surprising, since the tofu is high in protein and the stir-fry is just vegetables. Rather than those sugary, ready-made sauces, I’ve confined myself to cooking in sesame oil and adding a little Soy Sauce. Soy Sauce is low in sugar but, I think, quite high in salt. It certainly tastes salty. Yesterday I tried Worcester Sauce instead, but that didn’t really work.

I mean, in the grand scheme of things, my sugar is only about 20% lower, but, actually, 20% is quite a lot. My average sugar over the last seven weeks has been just over 9mmol/l (about 170 mg/dl) but in the last seven days has been in the low 7s (130).

Mixed in with the stir-fries, so far, have been a couple of ready meals, although I’m weaning myself off them, there is still the one pizza per week, plus other assorted things from the vegetarian aisle – I picked up some frozen mushroom Kievs yesterday, which will prove to be interesting! But I’m still really in the experimental phase. I’ve found that I like tofu, but not so much Quorn. And not Linda McCartney stuff! These last few weeks I have gradually been getting rid of my meat meals in the freezer, e.g. chicken Kievs, to be replaced with veggie food, although I’m finding that quite a lot of veggie food must be eaten fresh. I need to replenish my supply of frozen fish, just in case I run out of fresh stuff.