Wednesday, 30 March 2016
The world's going to pot.
Britain's going to pot.
The planet's going to pot.
Armies fighting each other.
Religions fighting each other.
Governments fighting each other.
Refugees by the million.
The rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer.
Prejudice of every kind against other human beings.
The British government demolishing every public service in sight.
Oceans full of plastic.
It's depressing and alarming and shocking.
I just want to run away and hide.
Shut it all out.
Live in a little isolated bubble in the middle of nowhere.
With just a cat to keep me company.
And Jenny of course.
We'll tell each other stories
of beautiful, unspoilt places.
We'll sleep and dream and smell the flowers.
We'll watch the sunrises and sunsets.
We'll listen to the birdsong.
No one will know where we are.
No one can bring us news we don't want to hear.
No one can spoil our solitude.
Just imagine that.
Saturday, 26 March 2016
It's hard to forgive someone why has deliberately insulted you or exploited you or cheated you out of something. It's not as if they made an innocent mistake and didn't really know what they were doing.
Likewise it's hard to forget something that had a big impact on your life, that ruined a relationship or lost you a job or wrecked your health. How can you forget something that had a lasting influence and can't be reversed?
I can't forgive my parents for keeping me at a school that was clearly unsuited to my personality and abilities, and where I was obviously unhappy. I can't forgive a particular boss for putting me through a nerve-wracking disciplinary process for what I thought was a quite trivial offence. I can't forgive politicians who have made life worse for so many people. I can't forgive the neighbours who kept us awake time after time with their all-night parties. Nor can I forget all these things, unless I suddenly develop total amnesia.
So no, I think forgiving and forgetting is a pretty tall order. Maybe the saintly gurus and holy men can manage it, but for most of us it's a non-starter. What is practical though is to say, I don't forgive and I don't forget but there's nothing to be gained in dwelling on these things and wishing they had never happened. And there's nothing to be gained by fuming with rage or seeking revenge. That won't remedy anything, it'll just turn me into a sour, bitter old sod.
Even that's too much for some. People nurse their private grudges for years, even when the person who prompted them is long dead and buried. They go on pushing for "justice" when anyone else can see they're asking for the moon.
Forgive and forget? You'll be lucky.
Monday, 21 March 2016
- Never having to worry about money ever again.
- Constant warmth all the year round (move to Australia perhaps?)
- Perfect health into old age
- Beautiful clothes (satin pants? dresses? skirts?)
- Delicious food from my personal chef
- Several good, close friends
- Brilliant paintings in every room
- Go to gigs by all my favourite musicians (no expense spared - wherever they may be)
- A chauffeur for long car trips
- A private swimming pool (or even a private lake)
- Travel to the world's most exotic places (business class naturally)
- A photographic memory
Those are merely the ones that came to mind. I'm sure there are many more.
Not that I find my present-day life lacking or frustrating. On the contrary. My life is fine just as it is. But it's fun to imagine those little embellishments that would make it even better. There's nothing wrong with daydreams.
Tuesday, 15 March 2016
The Catholic Church, which owns over 1,100 cinemas in Italy, has decreed that the film "Weekend", from the same director who made "45 Years", is irreligious and has banned it from all their cinemas.
According to the Italian Conference of Bishops' Film Evaluation Commission, the film is "not advised, unusable and scabrous (indecent or salacious)." It claims that the film's main themes - seen by critics as love and identity - are actually drugs and homosexuality.
So now it can be seen in just ten independent cinemas not controlled by the Catholic Church.
The film is in fact about two gay men who meet in a club and spend the weekend together. They talk about sex, relationships, coming out, careers and aspirations, before finally separating.
Says Cesare Petrillo, the distribution company's President, "I cannot see any other explanation than a problem of homophobia in the church. They decided that it was unacceptable, that it should be censored, and they have used their power to paralyse the distribution."
What gives the church the right to censor a film, or anything else, and declare that people can't decide for themselves what they think of it? What gives them the right to say their views are the only valid ones and other views count for nothing?
I have plenty of time for religious teachings in general. People like the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Buddha and Jesus have helped many troubled individuals to live better and more productive lives. But what repels me is when religions aggressively seek converts and try to control other people. When they turn into ruthless empire-builders rather than spiritual advisers. That's when humility gives way to arrogance and the rot sets in.
Pic: Chris New and Tom Cullen in "Weekend"
Friday, 11 March 2016
No no, it's not bullying; no no, X is not a victim, X is not being unfairly treated. You're looking at it the wrong way, you're over-reacting.
Your boss is piling on the pressure, loading you with extra work? He's simply trying to get the job done, trying to improve productivity. The other boys are picking on you in the playground? Well, you're such an easy target, you won't make any effort to fit in.
And of course, the old chestnut - women get harassed and attacked by men not because men are uncivilised louts but because women ask for it. They dress provocatively, they're on their own, they're in a dodgy neighbourhood etc.
People are afraid of the bullies, reluctant to challenge them. Or they want to curry favour with them, because they're in a position of power. Or they really believe that toughness and arrogance get better results than kindness and sympathy.
But the more the bullying is justified, the worse it gets. The bullies get cocky, assuming they'll always get away with it. You only have to look at the British government, which gets more ruthless by the day.
All sorts of everyday phrases condone bullying. Constant talk of "tough decisions", "the age of austerity", "deterring scroungers and skivers", "the workshy". All excusing casual cruelty and victimisation.
"Do as you would be done by" has become a quaint old notion seldom heard outside the pulpit.
Saturday, 5 March 2016
Personally I think one of the bravest things is simply to be yourself - to stand up for your own opinions and convictions when everyone around you is saying something totally different. And when they may be violently hostile if you disagree with them.
Openly defending women for example, when you're surrounded by men being aggressively misogynistic. You can be met by frosty stares, ridicule or personal abuse. Plenty of people would keep their mouths shut rather than speaking out.
Then again, some people would say that isn't really bravery, it's just self-assertion. Real bravery, they say, is taking serious physical risks - on a battlefield, or fighting a fire, or rescuing someone in danger. Disregarding your own safety for the sake of others is the real test of your inner mettle.
A lot of people talk about someone's brave fight against cancer. But what's brave about it? You fight cancer because you have to - either you fight or you die. You aren't taking a physical risk, you aren't challenging anyone, you're just doing what you have to do.
Or people say it's brave to make a new start in life - to move to another country, or change your career, or remarry. But again, is that true bravery or just doing what you have to do - abandoning something you never felt comfortable with?
I think we should use the word "brave" more sparingly, more accurately, and not chuck it around like a casual compliment. Otherwise genuine bravery - like that of Malala Yousafzai - gets overlooked and devalued.
Tuesday, 1 March 2016
Whether my posh voice is an advantage or a liability, I've never quite decided. Sometimes with trades people and shop assistants and call centre staff it seems to get me more respect and better service. And they often call me sir, which is ridiculous but it seems pedantic to object.
At other times it probably gets me worse service because people promptly nail me as a snooty English git and give me the minimum respect and service they can get away with. Of course I'm assuming that because they'd never openly admit it. But anti-English sentiments often lurk under polite Northern Irish exteriors.
The stereotype isn't entirely false either. The English can be very snooty indeed if it suits them. They whine and whinge about everything and customer service is never quite good enough for them. Whereas the locals tend to be more laid back and more inclined to adjust to a situation than complain. But I digress....
I've never had any wish to change my voice. I know some people find a posh tone embarrassing and they deliberately change it to something more ordinary like Estuary English or a regional accent. But my voice doesn't bother me, I think partly because I like it, partly because I'm so used to it and partly because I don't have to listen to it. To me it's just a sort of bland vibration inside my head.
But I do object to the surfeit of oily posh voices on TV, and the lack of shall-we-say vocal diversity. When do you hear any alternative accent, be it regional, ethnic, cockney or whatever? Not often. Which is a shame because there are some wonderful accents out there. Starting with Irish and Northern Irish.
So that's abart it, guv. Nuffink more to tell yer. Gawd bless.