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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Dogs, Crufts, the kennel clubs and how all this shows humanity's ugly side.....

I watched a programme this evening about pedigree dogs and how their inbreeding has left many breeds in utter devastation.  Most suffer horrible health problems, some leading to horrible, painful deaths; others have breathing problems that can kill them and all because of the inbreeding that's simply to achieve the holy grail of pedigree dog breeders around the world - the British kennel club's Crufts ultimate champion.  

Anyone from inside this almost cult like group that speaks out against it is, as in so many cults, cast out and branded a crank or bitter crackpot by those still inside it’s secretive world.

Three years on from the original programme that had left my whole family, including my normally stalwart husband, in tears, the new programme showed that – bar a few minor concessions by the Kennel Club executives – nothing had really changed.

The breeders, it transpires, are still breeding from champion show dogs they know to be defective; they’re still resisting change to ensure the breeds they specialise in manage to survive into the future, sickness and deformity free.  It seems they prefer their dogs sick and deformed so long as they look 'right' - according to the Kennel Club breed standards, or their own (sick) ideas of ‘perfection’ and 'beauty' at least.

And there we have it once again; even the animal world doesn’t escape our twisted ideas on what 'beauty’ is and how to achieve it.  There are dogs, Pugs and English Bulldogs predominantly, that have to sleep sitting up, or at least with their heads propped up, because otherwise they can’t breathe.  Their muzzles have been so deformed by the constant inbreeding in search of the elusive breed ‘perfection’ that they can no longer use the chamber within their muzzle to cool themselves as other dogs do.

Many suffer from heatstroke even on cooler sunny days that other dogs shrug off; some even die.  That rasp you hear them make, if you’ve ever met one, is not a ‘cute snuffle’ as the breeders call it – it’s the poor dog struggling to get a breathe......basically suffocating to a degree every second of its life. It must be terrifying.

The English Bulldog along, once again, with the Pug is one of many breeds that needs help to breed and help to deliver their litters (by caesarean section). A deformity of the spine means the males find it difficult to mate and the females find it almost impossible to give birth naturally.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is another breed that suffers horribly from constant inbreeding by breeders.  The skull deformity is the worst and it’s this one that always makes me cry.  The skull is so deformed that its cranium is very small; however, the brain isn’t.  In a lot of the dogs where inbreeding has been very prevalent, this deformity means that the slightly larger brain presses – constantly – against the rigid and unmoving skull.  

It causes the dog immense and enduring pain, and even fits in some cases; usually the distraught owner can’t stand to see their pet suffering and so the poor dog is eventually put down.  Still the breeders insist it’s alright to inbreed their animals to ensure this tiny cranium is retained and, possibly, even reduced further in the everlasting hunt for canine ‘perfect beauty’.  

To be honest I find these sorts of breeders abhorrent and as bad as puppy mill breeders; because they put ‘breed standard’ before their animals wellbeing only because it earns them more money and so, to me at least, they’re no different.  

Oh their dogs might only have a few litters a year, they might be well kept and the parents wheeled out to show prospective owners of the pups how beautiful they are; but don't be fooled, money is still their end game – the more the better.  It’s always about the money; money over the dog's wellbeing and health – it’s the same as the puppy mills; the only difference is one regime the Kennel Clubs of the world recommend, the other they condemn.  

The British Kennel Club was the one featured tonight and three years ago but, apparently, they’re the same the world over.  It’s all about beauty and perfection, and very little about health and quality of life.  Of course the rest of the public is as bad; if they didn't want these 'gorgeous' (to their minds) dogs, then of course the breeders would have to stop inbreeding and start correcting the defects.

Here's an example - the Cavalier King Charles didn't always look as it does today.  No; in actual fact the inbreeding that has led to the deformities that cause the horrific pain so many suffer only started in 1922 - a mere ninety years ago. From healthy and happy to hideous existence in ninety short years; that's got to be a record even by human standards.

I can list other stories too;  I can tell you of one about a mongrel who was bought from a local dogs home in the US to experiment on by a young man who wanted to be a ‘scientist’.  The details I read of what he did to that poor dog have stayed with me for many years; I read the book only once, I was sixteen – I am now forty-six and I could tell you word for word what was said in that particular section; what he did, how the dog reacted before finally dying and what the man said afterward he was challenged over his actions.  

But, frankly, even to recall it myself makes my stomach clench and heart turn over; so I don’t want to cause you to have the same futile anger against this person, and the equally as futile need to save a dog long dead, that I still suffer to this day. I still get choked up, my eyes still prick with tears of frustration that we can do something so abhorrent to animals that are nothing but loyal and loving to us.

We inbreed them into dying things to make them reflect what we think of as  ‘perfect’ and ‘beautiful’ because we, as a sick and twisted species, see beauty (and I use that term loosely here) as the only thing worth attaining.  So not only do we cut, butcher and poison ourselves – we do it even to our pets. 

I cannot put into words how shameful and offensive I find all this; we drive our babies to eating disorders before they even go to school – our teenage girls are either starving themselves to death through anorexia or ‘bingeing and barfing’ due to bulimia.

We see older women who would otherwise be beautiful, instead looking like weird wax dolls where even their lips barely move and now, to top it all, our pedigree dogs are born suffering and live and die the same way.  We do all this in the name of ‘beauty’.....

But even worse, mongrels are bought and butchered by sick individuals who think it’s ‘intellectual’ to do so; who merely coldly marvel that the poor beast, despite all the butchery that was done to it, licks their hand before finally dying.......I am actually choked up as I write this, as I remember all that I’ve seen and all that I’ve read, not only tonight and in that book – but over the years inbetween.  

All the animal rescue shows, the animal undercover shows, the books and articles that have shown animals being killed for parts of their bodies that are supposed to keep people young, to aid their sex drives and so many other ailments that cause bears, rhinos and even tigers to be killed; the ever growing tidal wave of animal cruelty in all its hideous forms – and all in the ever desperate search for the best delicacy to eat, ultimate beauty and perfect health.  

It seems that we like to think we’re kind and caring; but then we take videos of dogs falling asleep sitting up, with stupid music edited in, because it’s ‘cute’ and ‘funny’ – but we ignore the fact the dog is only doing that because to lower his head as he lays down would mean he suffocates and so he falls asleep, sitting up, out of pure exhaustion....

Now don't misunderstand me, I’m no tree hugging vegan; I eat meat and wear leather – I understand how the world works.  But if it’s true that our pets are an extension of us, then perhaps these dogs that suffer from their very first breath merely show us as we really are – sick, deformed and diseased at our very core.

Beauty is only skin deep they tell me; this proves it – inside we, as a species, are hideous to a monstrous degree.  So much, it actually terrifies me.

This is Simi, thanks for reading......

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Zimmerframes, walkers and something the fashion houses might be missing......

So today I decided that I would look for a wheeled walker on E-Bay in the hope that having something to lean on, with wheels and a small seat, would mean I can leave my wheeled chariot behind faster than the currently stated, and vague, ‘sometime’......

I thought there wouldn’t be too many to look at in my chosen distance (they have to be collected in person), but boy was I wrong.  There’s one’s with baskets under the seat, some with ‘caddys’ under the seat (basically a fabric version of the basket), some with brakes, some without.  

There’s four wheeled versions, three wheeled and two wheeled.  In the latter case there’s actually four legs but only two have wheels – not sure why, perhaps two fell off?  Though there’s an awful lot that happened to if that’s fact.  The three wheeled version is a V shaped contraption and so hence no seat or basket; if you had those there’d be nowhere to stand to walk, which would make everyone wonder why you had it.

The strangest thing is some are very....snazzy looking; it’s the only term I can think of.  They look modern and sleek; almost fashionable – now I know the disabled want to be as fash conscious as the next person.  But with our walkers?  Really?  Is fashion so necessary to that depth in our lives – will we see the ‘Sex and the City’ gals all shuffling round the Big Apple with their Gucci walkers and Prada zimmer frames in years (and movies) to come?

Perhaps the fashion houses are actually missing a gap in the market here.......designer mobility aides?  You could have the Rolls Royce group of mobility scooters; the Versace season of zimmerframes, the Vera Wang collection of walkers and finally the Louis Vuitton range of designer baskets, caddies and bags for all of the above.

I'm sure they'd make a killing from the more mature fashionistas who are, ahem, aging somewhat now and yet don't see anything to meet their exacting fashion needs in the shops, stores and malls around them.

However, for me it just needs to be cheap and move; a seat is brilliant (I can sit down when my knees, hips and lower back threaten a riot) and a basket is a useful addition for my arch nemesis - the supermarket, with its ubiquitous ‘shopping shuffle’.  You know what I mean; that almost zombie like shuffle that carries you a certain way around a supermarket.  

And God help anyone that goes ‘against the flow’; I remember a pensioner once saying a woman “should be shot” because she was going the opposite way to the rest of us zombies and was fighting ‘upstream’ to the washing powder she’d forgotten to pick up.  

He seemed to think that kind of madness would obviously lead to an Armageddon of biblical standards.  I recall to this day his puce coloured face and strident barking at her retreating back before he was swept away in the dogged plodding of his zombie brethren.

So I finally decided, with the help of my husband, to pick the one that had the nicest drive to get it, had the most genuine reason for selling and the best price.  I’m afraid I didn’t go for one with a carbon or chromed frame, ergonomic grab handles, sleek inline brakes with their 'easy grip' levers and bump absorbing wheels.

Still, I do wonder how I will fare with my new style of wheels in the shopping shuffle; I mean being in a wheelchair is bad enough – especially when, like the washing powder lady, you try to turn back for something you forgot.  I haven’t managed it yet in the wheelchair, the tide is just too strong – but perhaps the walker is my first step back to self propelled freedom.  

It will certainly make a change being able to choose where I go rather than husband or daughter dictating it.  Now there’s a thought – film magazines and chocolate here I come......

This is Simi, thanks for reading......

Monday, 27 February 2012

Versace, Lagerfeld and why topless protests never work.......

So I read yesterday that a group of ‘feminists’ launched a protest at the Versace fashion show because they were angry about the use of size zero, and below, models on all the catwalks (I used inverted commas because there’s no actual evidence that these ladies were feminists, aside from the papers assertions they were).  

Sadly though, the whole point of their protest was lost amongst the ribald jokes and nudge, nudge-wink, wink stares of all the men and not a few of the women who were looking on.  Indeed the media seemed more concerned with their lack of tops than what they were protesting about.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the human body in its naked form.  No doubt, if I was a lithe, toned beauty I too would be happy to go topless on beaches abroad and such.  But that’s the point - I would do so where it was acceptable, not in the middle of a catwalk show.

The protest was extremely relevant as well and one I agree with; our daughters and indeed all women should not be made to think, via anorexic models and airbrushed pictures, that these razor thin bodies are the norm.

Yet Versace and Lagerfeld, neither of whom is stick thin and beautiful themselves, act as though this is the norm and anyone who’s over two stone in weight is obese.  Lagerfeld definitely proved this with his comments about Adele, and Versace not's been quiet either about only ever using ultra thin models for all her shows.

It’s not just women either anymore, men are becoming anorexic too and children, of both genders, and as young as four and five years old are displaying worrying eating habits as they try to stay slim.

So I applaud these women for trying to raise public awareness of this situation; to want to bother to try to change it.  I just wish they’d kept their tops on to do it – as most people seem to only remember it as “those women who got their tops off” and the not the reason for the protest.

We should, most definitely, take these ridiculous designers to task – to make them stop using these painfully skinny models; to allow these girls to actually become a healthy weight.  Perhaps it should be made clear to them that they might sell more clothes if more normal shaped women thought they could wear them.  

In the middle of an economic depression surely that’s the most important part of remaining solvent – selling your goods in numbers bigger than single digits?  If you sell five £20 thousand ($31.5k) dresses a year and yet the production costs of both your collection and the fashion show is ten times that then the odds are on, you’re going to go out of business.  No business can survive long term running at a loss, especially right now with banks resembling Scrooge with their lending.

Of course shows and films like the ‘Sex and the City’ franchise has a lot to answer for; as well teen shows like ‘Pretty Little Liars’, ‘90210’, ‘Gossip Girl’ and their ilk that show stick thin actresses running around in designer clothes.  It means teen girls have role models and fashion idols that are unreasonably thin and yet they still try to emulate them.

As Victoria Beckham is now a fashion designer, she should be the first to stand up and say enough.  But, as she seems to survive on one grape and a cube of ice a day I suppose that’s a ridiculous dream.  It appears, even to her, that emaciation isn't a problem, it's an ideal.  However, until the fashion world in particular, and the media industry in general, are made to stop doing their best to make every model and celebrity absolutely flawless then I can’t see size zeros leaving the building any time soon; nor can I see the rising tide of eating disorders abating either. 

This is Simi, thanks for reading....

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Hyaluron, Botox and the miracle of wrinkles......

I read today about another ‘look years younger’ serum (in this case five) that’s already sold out in America at an eye watering cost of £45 ($71).  Although the dropper bottles hold 30ml, that’s not a lot for that amount of money.  

It's from a company called Swisscode and the product is called Hyaluron and of course they're delighted that most beauty counters sold out in around forty-eight hours after the launch.  In fact even it's pre-order sales topped ten thousand as women flock to see if this is really the 'fountain of youth'; after all, five years is still five years to a lot of women.

Will it work?  I doubt it; they never do.  The fact is we’re all growing old and when we do gravity helps bits of us to go south; it happens, it will continue to happen, so why are we so worried about it?  I know people will tell me that movies/fashion has a lot to answer for on that score, but it’s not all down to them - we've been like this for thousands of years.  Ancient Egyptians had beauty products, and Roman women even underwent an early form of plastic surgery (God help them).

Take me, alright I’m already ugly, but even so I know I will never be seen out socialising with the likes of George Clooney or Gerard Butler.  Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd will never come banging on my door declaring his undying love for me, while the paparazzi snap away.  

So, bearing all that in mind, why should I make myself ill worrying about whether I have a few wrinkles?  Surely worrying about it will only make the problem worse anyway?  I remember my paternal grandmother telling me more than once as a child that frowning would give me wrinkles.  

However, I defend myself on that one as her Siamese cat, Ming, was the demon cat of hell and lashed out at anyone and everyone – the postman was more afraid of him than my grandparents dog.  When you’re nursing a bleeding and bitten hand, ankle or shin you are going to frown, nothing's going to stop it.

We have to acknowledge that nothing short of botox or rigor mortis will stop us frowning, or smiling for that matter – unless you’re called Victoria Beckham of course, who appears to actually be allergic to smiling; that's the only reason I can think of for her to merely pout at everything.  As a side note, I really think it's cruel that no one's told her that pouts look cute on a two year old, but not so much on a thirty-seven year old mother of four.

Back to the subject at hand though; why do so many women become determined to fight fate?  Time is not our friend, we’ve known that for eons so why do we always act so surprised about it when we sprout grey hairs and gain a few wrinkles?  I know I did - as if shocked that I, like everyone else, was getting old.  It's not just grey hairs and lines either; other parts of our anatomy, female naturally, head rapidly towards our knees.

So why don’t we just accept the inevitable and move on?  For instance: put Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, both naturally gorgeous women, next to Joan Rivers and Melanie Griffith and I can guarantee that the men wouldn’t pick the two Plastic addicts.

Besides I, personally, like a few laughter lines around the eyes, a few frown ones over the brow; it lets people know that we’ve been around the block, we’ve survived who knows what in our lives and come out the other side. Surely that’s more important than being like Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue and a slew of other celebrities who can never show any emotion because their facial features can’t move, and so they’re now going to go through life with a face like a mass produced android?  

So what if we’re getting old and our faces, our bodies, show it?  Most of us have had tough lives and so we should wear wrinkles, lines, sags and droops with pride; there’s no ‘quick fix’ for the passage of time and ravages of life – no miniature bottle of miracle fluid to wipe all that personal history away and make us look twenty one again.

Samantha might swoon, Carrie might curse, Miranda might moan and Christina might chastise – but the simple fact is, for some of us at least, aging isn’t something to fear; we welcome our lines as marks of our time here and what we've done with it.  Indeed they show a life lived with laughter and tears; they show a life lived – and why, at the end of it all, would we want to deny that?

This is Simi, thanks for reading....

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Geeks, Cosplay, Sex and the City and it all means the end of the world......

So I’ve spent most of this evening searching for a grey shirt, black pleated skirt, turquoise ribbon and tie all my for daughter’s friend whose as nuts about anime as she is, and so she wants me to make her friend a ‘Miku’ outfit.

I said yes thinking that, as there was no cursed sailor collar involved, it would be fine.  Her father said yes so long as it was done on the thinnest of shoestring budgets; and therein lays the rub.  ‘Shoestring’ means thin, and so I know he means for me to spend as little as possible.

But does anyone know how hard it is to buy a grey sleeveless shirt, turquoise anything and a black pleated skirt when the pounds you have to spend on the entire outfit is around the ten mark ($15).  That is not a lot of money let me tell you and whilst I said I persevere and all that, there’s a limit; I have a headache from trying to buy something that barely exists at the prices I need to remain on the £10 marker.

So my daughter, bless her, thought she’d ‘help’ by giving me about five other ‘cosplay’ outfits this character wears, and all the ways I could possibly put them together on the cheap.  By this time my brain was not only boggled, it was leaking out of my ears.  It's now 2:04am my time and I'm actually no further forward than when I started at 7:00pm, seven long hours ago.

Because, you see, it has to be a certain type of grey shirt; not striped, no matter how much you can barely make the white stripe out, every cosplayer will know they’re there and so this goes for every other kind of pattern.  The body of the shirt must skim the trunk of the wearer and come down to a point on the front – the collar must also be quite wide.

The black skirt was meant to have only box pleats, but she’s managed to find out that wide pleats will do in a pinch.  I, not unreasonably, asked if this was all really necessary.  She got a bit uneasy and said yes because some long time older cosplayers can become quite upset if the cosplay you’re wearing is in any way wrong.  It seems they think you’re not taking it seriously enough and feel you're bringing the cosplay world into disrepute.  what kind of 'disrepute' exactly, still remains a deep dark secret as my daughter and anyone else she's spoken to doesn't really know.....

So to me these people are sort of the fashion police of the Geek World; so it seems you even have to be beautiful and popular when you’re a geek now - even in the weird and strange world of 'cosplaying'.  It seems even geeks have their pecking orders these days and they're as implacable as the high school ones.  Indeed wasn’t there a song called ‘High School Never Ends?”  They weren’t wrong, it certainly hasn't in the Cosplay Realm; but geeks of the world should unite, not allow themselves to be sucked into the shallow realm of the ‘Plastics’.

A world of fashion frenzies (albeit cosplay ones), sport (charging round a food hall trying to ‘kill’ your mortal enemy from whatever world you’ve plucked your characters from) and trying to win the most popular girl/boy award (this means, in the cosplay world, the ones who stayed in character, struck the best poses and were the most gracious in allowing their photos to be taken; oh and who could dance the best on stage to the anime music - no, I am not kidding; trust me, I was there and I’m still having nightmares about the zombies dancing.......)

I’m a misfit, I always have been; I’ve never followed a fashion trend in my life, nor have I bothered to try and be popular (not that I could’ve, given that I was shy and had ginger hair, braces and glasses – the bullies had so much material to work with that they usually had to formulise a game plan before getting me).  I have raised my daughter to be the same; so to find her being forced to conform in a hobby set around one of the strangest past times I’ve seen in my life (and I’ve seen weird honestly) really gnaws at my rebellious bone.

I mean, let’s be honest, this is a hobby – it’s certainly not a lifestyle choice.  I don’t often see my neighbour going to work dressed as the Black Butler; nor do I see women walking through my local supermarket dressed as this Rin or Miku, or any of the myriad of other scary characters that are out there.

So I suppose I could say that Carrie and Co from ‘Sex and the City’, and the real life fashionistas that inspired their characters, will sleep more peacefully in their designer beds tonight, amongst their silk designer sheets, knowing that even the geeks are succumbing to the “assimilate or perish – resistance is futile” chant of the Perfect Plastics.

God help our species if even the geeks are getting shallow – it really is the end of the world.

This is Simi, thanks for reading.......

Friday, 24 February 2012

Syria and the big picture with the tiny detail.......

I can see why Syria is such a huge concern to the rest of the developed world; how can we sit by and watch women and children being slaughtered by an oppressive regime?  However, from the world leaders points of view, how can we intervene?

Libya is being cited as an example of the West being able to be more proactive in Syria’s conflict without actually joining it; but there is a telling difference – the Libyan rebels wanted us in there to help them.  The Syrian ones aren’t sure; no doubt concerned (whether rightly or wrongly) that accepting Western intervention will bring the wrath of anti Western arabs down on their heads. 

Of course the Syrian civilians, the innocent party in this seventh circle of hell, are only trying to survive the next twenty-four hours at any given time and see things significantly differently.  Especially those poor souls being bombed into obliteration in Homs; they don’t care who does it, they just want someone to stop their utter destruction.

So where does that leave the rest of us?  Should we go in, should we stay out?  Either way the blood of innocents will be on our hands; rest assured that the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, won’t take kindly to the West’s intervention into his country’s political, and literal, bloodbath.  I think he will immediately step up his genocide of anyone opposing him; it's been done before, and only a few decades ago.

Hitler did the same with European Jews; when he knew the end of the second world war was looming, he sent out an edict telling the camps, such as Auschwitz, that they had to 'eradicate the European jews' above and before anything else.  He was another dictator that cared little for his people and even less for others outside of his country; like Assad, he only wanted power - at any price.

But does that mean we should therefore abandon the people of Syria to their fate?  Therein lies the Catch-22 for the West and those that agree with them; either way they are, as the paraphrased old saying goes, “damned if they do, damned if they don’t.”

Russia and China have vetoed any attempts by western powers to intervene through the United Nations by saying it’s just a thinly veiled attempt to ‘corral’ the Arabic nations for their own purposes – neatly omitting their own reasons for blocking the various resolutions.  Basically that, whilst they will not gain in hard currency or power from a regime change in Syria, continuing to allow the bloodshed to carry on unabated sends international attention away from their own regimes and their less than stellar leadership. 

Putin is still reeling from the fact it’s been made clear his own election ‘win’ was rigged, as people who’d been dead for years were suddenly finding themselves able to vote.  I personally never knew that zombies/ghosts had the right to vote, and even came back from the dead to do so; of course it’s more likely that he just concocted the use of dead names and details to ‘bump up’ the numbers of his votes and thus ensure his victory – never thinking, his ego being what it is, that anyone would actually check the numbers.

His general eroding of the democratic freedoms that have been enjoyed by his country since the fall of the Berlin wall and Russia's gradual, but sinister, slide back into the Soviet Republic style of leadership much beloved by Lenin and Stalin should bring a chill to the rest of us; but of course, as Putin intended, most of are too busy looking at Syria.

As for China; well, their own human rights record is hardly the stuff of democratic legend is it?  Those of us old enough to remember the violent crushing of their own rebel uprising that called for regime change (and democratic freedom) in Tiananmen Square in 1989, will recall they were not averse to running their unarmed protesters down with a tank.  It’s somewhat (sadly) ironic that the Tiananmen Gate that’s located in the square is also called the ‘Gate of Heavenly Peace’ – hardly a fitting title when it’s forever tied to the bloodbath in 1989.

For those of younger years, there is also now the subjugated Tibetans that, without any other hope, are setting themselves on fire to try and bring their plight and the plight of their country to the attention of the world. Self emoliation is an horrific way to die - slow, agonising and torturous; it's certainly not an easy death to choose and shows their utter desperation.

Besides, both the Russian and Chinese regimes have nothing to gain by, yet another, dictator being overthrown because, to paraphrase another old saying “there but for the grace of God go we....”

But they should remember that all the Arab states have oil; the new God of the world, as it continues its steady run to the last drop, has the ability to upset the already unsteady global economies if the price per barrel continues to hurtle ever upwards - thereby threatening the burgeoning wellbeing of China to a large extent and Russia to a much lesser one, but one nonetheless.   

The Arab League, who wanted the UN resolution passed, will not look kindly on Russia and China’s vetoing of it for their own purposes.  Whilst I believe the price of oil will stabilise eventually for most of us, I do wonder if Russia and China might find themselves out in the cold when any deals are there to be made?

Of course that leaves us no clearer on what the western nations will do about Syria; intervene as the Arab League wants – or stay out as China and Russia demand?

This could also lead to much bigger conflicts – America’s already teetering on the edge of removing Iran from the map; and even if they don’t, Israel’s very ready to do so.   So to aid the Syrian rebels would be merely a small detour in that particular argument for the US.

Russia on the other hand is more than willing to back up their fighting talk with actions by attempting to prevent any western intervention in Syria.  As proven by what they did last November when two American carriers, USS Bush and USS Stennis, sat calmly off the Iranian coast and Russian warships sat by the coast of Syria (names unknown as Putin refuses to tell).

Could all this trigger yet another world war?  And who would side with who this time?  Russia has always been an ally to England, France and the US in the first two world wars, but it’s doubtful this war would be the same as they’re on different sides of the argument.

So perhaps that’s why our leaders dither whilst innocents die; why they bite their nails and spout rhetoric and soundbites, but don’t actually do anything.  What if we, the people, can’t see the wood for the trees; or perhaps they’re even blocking our view for fear of panic?  Not a conspiracy of silence, merely a fear of social unrest in their own backyards for I don’t know of a single citizen anywhere who wants another world war, not with so many trigger happy nations now holding their own little red buttons that lead to big scary nuclear weapons.  North Korea anyone?

As the world watches this high level round of brinkmanship play out, I’m reminded of another standoff between Russia and America a long time ago – it was called the Bay of Pigs.  Nikita Khrushchev knew not to call the bluff of the American president; he was a lousy husband but a stellar leader for his people........John F. Kennedy.  But, tellingly, Putin is not as wily and shrewd as Khrushchev and Obama is definitely not the forthright genius that Kennedy was. 

So, do I blame the other world leaders for holding their collective breaths to wait and see who blinks first?  No; But I do believe more could be done for the innocents that are dying in their thousands out there – aid, food, water.......basics for life that could be smuggled in the same way that the reporters are and the injured fighters are being smuggled out.  

We cannot ignore them, indeed we must not; we must not ever have another Neville Chamberlain playing appeaser of a tyrant and waving a piece of worthless paper and crying "peace in our time"; who, with that one action, forced millions into subjugation for a peace that didn't even last a year.

For surely, when we look at this far bigger picture and we understand it for all that it could be, the thought that still rings through our head should still remain the overriding care of the innocents......the women and children.  The ones who die slow, painful and terrifying deaths in a battle they're not even fighting and yet, because of this much bigger picture, get lost in all the detail - their suffering, unwanted in every way, is seen but unseen.  We must remember them........we must.

This is Simi, thanks for reading.......

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Cooking, Sewing and why some of us are just not domestic goddesses.......

I realise that as I age I’m finally mastering the ability to ‘make things’ as my paternal grandmother did.  Whilst I’m never going win any awards for my sewing skills, I can (and do) make things and they look alright.

My cooking skills are likewise as good; when my husband and I first started living together I could, quite literally, burn water.  Now I can even make jam.  Alright, usually my first attempts are a little.....unusual; in that nothing ever goes according to plan.

Take my first attempt at jam making.  We have a damson tree in the garden and I thought I’d make jam.  I’d seen my Irish grandmother do it, I’d seen my mum do it – they made it look so easy and, I thought, even as accident prone as I am how hard could it be?

Very hard, as it turned out; according to the recipe you slit the damsons and when they’re boiling the pips are supposed to float to the top and you skim them off.  Only the pips had obviously not read the recipe and so refused to co-operate.  Cue me fishing them out in batches and picking the pips out of the middle myself; I had very burnt fingers by the end – they were honestly numb and you should’ve seen the blisters.  But I was a desperate woman.

Likewise the skins should’ve been easy to remove once the fruit was cooked; they weren’t.  By this time I was resigned to nothing going as it should and so settled down to do the best I could by hand; in the end I gave up and I used my hand blender to sort of liquidise them in the hope it would chop the skins up to the point it no longer mattered.  Of course, because of my fishing them in and out of the water, etc and the fact that damsons turn bright red when cooked, my kitchen was, by then, resembling an abattoir.

Seriously, if the police had called by on a neighbourhood watch recruitment drive, they’ve would’ve been straight out the back digging up my patio looking for the bits of the body.  Of course what didn’t help was the juice stained my skin and had somehow worked its way up to my wrists, got all over the worktop (the chopping board had disappeared in a wave of blood red juice) and even up my white cupboard doors.

Still, I persevered; even though I didn’t have an official ‘jam pan’.  But I used saucepans; I figured jam pans didn’t really matter.......apparently they did – a lot.  So of course the pans boiled over and the jam welded the pans to the hob (it’s electric) and caught fire.  Yes, you did read that right, it caught fire.  So I started running the cold tap to try and put it out in the saucepans at least (being electrocuted was the least of my worries at this point). 

Of course I was completely unaware that there was a problem with the drain on our old dishwasher.  Apparently the valve to stop the waste water from the sink back filling it was broken, so the water in the sink, instead of just running down the drain and away, was instead running down the drain and into the dishwasher.  I only became aware that the dishwasher was overflowing when I slipped in the water and land flat on my back.  The laughter that ensued was purely down to the rarity of my situation and not hysteria I’m sure.

I also take some pride in being the only person I know that can both set fire to, and flood, their kitchen at the same time.  It’s no mean feat let me tell you, it’s take a special kind of idiot to be that accident prone; and, apparently, I am that idiot.

Still, having come this far I decided to press on – the fire was now out and I figured that having freed my destroyed saucepans from the carbonised jam on the hob I could carry on, just not boil it.  So an hour and a half later, I had some very nice damson jam.  There wasn’t much smoke damage and it only took me four and half hours to finally clean up the mess I’d made.  Though, six years on, it’s only recently that the last of the pink staining has faded completely from the worktop.  Of course we needed new saucepans and, to be honest, the hob has never really recovered, but the jam was made.

I bet you’re thinking I never tried it again?  But you’re wrong, the very next year I did – but this time I cut the pips out and skinned them before cooking them and my father in law, by then retired from marmalade making, gave me his bona fide ‘jam pan’.  So suitably armed and tooled up I set about the task again......and it worked without a hitch.

The same happened with my sewing.  Of course I stitched through my fingers a few times, but thankfully there was no lasting damage was done to my digits; though, admittedly, I do tend to hand stitch things now as it gives me better control, though it is slower.  But I do use the embroidery thing on my sewing machine and I’ve, so far, been quite successful....touch wood.

So perhaps that’s the secret of my (sort of) success; blind, dogged perseverance in the face of utter defeat.  I can’t really say I snatch victory from it, but I certainly send defeat home mildly disappointed.

I can cook, sew, and mend purely because I don’t mind the A&E visits, I don’t mind the burns, cuts and blisters – because, deep down, I want to be able to say “I made that” without my in-laws and my father looking at it with barely concealed mirth. Okay it’s taken me until I’m forty-six, and I’m not quite all the way there yet (you really don’t want to know about my attempt at knitting.....); but I figure, if I can just live until I’m a hundred then I should be able to get most stuff under my belt.......

This is Simi, thanks for reading.......