Clouds moving in

Friday, 27 January 2012

Another move

Doubt this will be a surprise to anyone, but yes, all future posts for this blog will now be over here.

Thanks for reading, commenting and supporting - and hope you continue to visit me at my new Wordpress home (which to be honest I had totally forgotten that I had set up and continued posting on here!! - getting older huh?)

Monday, 16 January 2012

Dreams and aspirations

This post is partly inspired by one from my friend Blue - over here.
I'm not writing about the same topic - but, in some ways perhaps I am.

Who doesn't have dreams and aspirations when we are young?

Crap that we are brought up with (in my personal case), garbage that society feeds us about a woman's role in life and the eternal prince who will one day arrive, and then, as we get a head on our shoulders - we find our own dreams. (without a shitty prince)

A great career. Travel the world. If we are lucky - maybe a good relationship with someone. That's probably the most difficult one. But I thought I did most of those.

One day, we sit down. We know some of those dreams won't come true. And it hits hard I tell you.

When I told my mother i was going to chuck the UK and live in Spain - she said dismissively - 'Castles in the air,' - but it was the one she visited in the end. So, maybe not a castle, but I still got there. To my personal castle in Spain.

But now, where I am I? Able to afford those trips to Africa, South America, Central America etc etc etc that I wanted? Of course not. I'm counting the pennies per day. I joke not.

You make financial plans. You add net present value (yeah I can do that) - and, NPV doesn't quite equate for the glorious US of A fucking up the world economy so well.

What else? Well the UK govt decides to keep increasing the pension age. Thanks. That is so unhelpful. I paid 40% fucking tax, shagged my arse off and I can't even get back into the country where I was born and get jack shit nada.

Oh, this wasn't the point of the post.

My dreams and aspirations are now only hoping to be able to survive. A bit like my friend.

When you realise you can't realise your dreams - the hope dies. I know where she is coming from.

And then - you have to change your aspirations. Ain't quite the same though. Can I earn enough to live - is not the same as - can I plan my trip to South America?

More simply - where do I get the money to even live?

Oh and to any smug bastards who think people have not been 'prudent' - don't even go there. We all try for a life. Any critics and I will have your fucking arse. If you dare go there.

Monday, 9 January 2012

A few good points about geocaching

After my extremely negative post about geocaching, readers may be wondering why on earth I indulge. So here to redress the balance, are a few positives.

1 After forking out vast sums of money for the techy gadget aka the GPS, at least we learned how to use it. After a fashion.

2 You do get to visit nice places/locations that you might otherwise not have seen. Three random favourites off the top of my head are:
Sometimes you get a decent walk out of it, sometimes you just visit an interesting location, with some history, maybe an old building, or some stunning views. Those to me, are what make a good cache. Puzzle caches are fun - when they are not too difficult, which they invariably seem to be to me, - and the quirky or unusual types deserve a point for originality.

3 It is good to be able to find a cache. At the moment, Partner and myself are nearly falling over each other in our rush to get to the more obvious caches. We are then so incredibly pleased with ourselves that we walk around with stupid grins on our faces. And as we invariably go caching first thing in the morning - nothing else gets done that day due to our momentous achievement of finding one small and easy cache!

Well, there we have it. I can't think of anything else to add to this somewhat short list. The attraction is that it gets you out and it can be fun. Not much more to say other than that. That's probably why I've only got 33 to my name in three years. I don't think I'll be awarded my geocacher's anorak just yet.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Five Seven things I don't like about geocaching

I started geocaching out of a spirit of perversity. Nothing new there.

As I am not prone to rewriting stuff - you can read my first adventures here (1) and here (2).

1 The first post highlights what has always been one of my gripes about geocaching - the need to buy a consumerist technological gadget.

And as my first post also says, I totally failed to find a local cache without a GPS. I probably wouldn't have found it with one either but that's another matter. The truth is, it's pretty difficult to go geocaching without a GPS, although ironically the last two we found in Spain (here) could probably have been found without one. So - cost of a GPS is a disincentive, and they can be expensive. They certainly are in Gib.

2 The international geocaching site is free to join. Great. But - and there is always a but. There is an elite group of members known as premium members. If people want to pay extra for bells and whistles that's fine, but when they make their own caches only visible to other premium members, that smacks of discrimination and elitism.

3 There are people who cheerfully raid the tat pots of treasure for all the nice goodies and don't put anything of equivalent value in the cache.

4 There are people who claim to have found a cache when it has been archived or is not temporarily unavailable! How can you do this? Talk about being obsessed with numbers. I know people do this because when one of our caches had been totally destroyed - someone subsequently 'found' it. I mean really, that is just farcical. There was no cache there to find, so quite simply my dears, you did NOT find it. As in all walks of life, bluntly speaking - there are cheats. (Rather polite for me, I could have been a little stronger there).

5 As mentioned above - there are people who trash caches. I doubt they are geocachers, although in a way they obviously are as they manage to find them to destroy them. But why spoil someone's harmless fun?

6 Caches in boring places, pointless places, with no purpose to them, no outstanding walks or views, and no decent buildings or history. Link here for an example of a pointless cache.

7 Not finding a cache. The truth is, if you are going to find one, you invariably find it in the first few minutes. The longer you spend hunting around, the more frustrating the whole exercise becomes. Maybe if you have found thousands of caches the odd DNF (did not find) is statistically insignificant. I guess it's just as annoying though - not that I am ever likely to be in that amazing position having not even approached 100 caches yet :D

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Week One

To date:

One less internet friendship (although I have no idea why, as for once, I did not break it off).

A letter from the newly appointed management company for the block informing us that the proposed budget for next year will include a 40% hike in communal charges. Needless to state, most of this is to cover, guess what? The fees of said management company. None of which will go on block maintenance of course, which, unless I have missed something somewhere, is what most, if not all residents want to see. Said management company also seems to think it is their role to call the annual meeting. Er hello, I thought I was a director and that is MY role.

So most of yesterday was spent drafting an agenda for our annual meeting, emailing to and fro with the company adminstrators for our block council of management, and faxing the management company to inform them the directors call the annual meeting. Not some employed agency that hasn't been confirmed by the council of directors.

We tried out the washing machine again. It still leaked. Shit. Nothing is open today in Gib as it is Saturday. A week's worth of dirty washing looms.

Increase in management costs plus new washing machine = at least £500.

I do hope this is not an indication of the way this year is going to go.

Oh, and I have a cold sore too. I wonder why?

Friday, 6 January 2012

It ain't my day

And now the washing machine goes pear-shaped :(

Oh well

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Sometimes I wonder

I was going to write yet another boring post about internet fallouts. And really, who gives a fuck apart from me?

Thanks to those of you who have sent olive branches.

And to the one who is no longer around, who has dumped me unceremoniously for whatever reason. My patience wears thin. I don't take kindly to being ignored. At least I normally have the courtesy to tell people why I am annoyed at them. Even if I don't win any popularity contests by doing so.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A Cloudy 2011? - A Happy 2012

As the dogblog and my news/reportage blog are getting their annual reviews of 2011, I thought I would write one on here too, of the more personal type.

Readers may remember my dilemma back in March when I was invited to a summer house-warming party in the UK by a university friend, with whom I was pretty close for some years. I received some excellent advice in the comments, and dithered for a while before making my decision.

At the time, work was thin on the ground, so therefore, cash was in short supply too - thus giving me a suitable get-out to appease my conscience. Could I really justify upwards of a grand going to the UK on a jolly? No.

And my usual yardstick - what would the other person do in my situation? Well, given that she has ample money, and took more than five years to come and visit me for one night (en route from a dressage course near Jerez) I didn't feel like a high priority in her social life. So why should she become one in mine? I wrote more about that here ..

I mentioned in one of those posts that my university friends are my longest standing relationships. I visit them on the rare occasions I am in London, and we exchange Christmas cards.

So what happened this Christmas? Well, as we all know, I am not a fan of Christmas cards. I am so miserable that I think it could be money better spent. But there are a few people and dog people that I exchange cards with, for whatever reason. And that natch includes my three university friends, who never fail to contact me at Christmas, even in my sulky non-Christmassy card years.

First card received from university friend number one before Christmas. Sent to Mr and Mrs Partner's name. (Did this guy know me at university under my own name? Yes. Why does he persist to call me Mrs Partner's name?). Written to Me and Partner on the inside of the card. We knew who it was to, that wasn't really necessary. Didn't bother saying who it was from. Lucky I know the writing eh?

Next - well - nothing before Christmas. I see. There is me, being so organised for once, getting all my cards sent before Christmas and I get one unsigned card from a uni friend. (Pippa and us, did of course, get some lovely dogblog cards).

But while I was in Spain, on roaming, I got a mail from my bestest university friend ever, wishing me Season's Greetings. On 29 December. Hello! Bit late for Christmas sweetie, that was 25 December. A bit like the birthday greeting that I got similarly late last year, via email of course.

Anyway, this really exciting email contained some photos of that wonderful party that I missed. As I was on roaming I wasn't that desperate that I wanted to spend money downloading them in Spain. They would wait for Gibflat. I eagerly clicked on them for a slideshow today.

Well, what a surprise. Did the photos blow up any larger? No, they were the tiniest possible things that you needed a microscope to look at. The luncheon party was hosted in a marquee. Sitty down at tables with posies of flowers every six inches. Endless bottles of wine and champagne. Of course. And there was me thinking it would have been a nice little help yourself buffet in the dining room and a wander round and chat thing. Then there was the 'after party' for those who stayed over. Another hundred people sitting down at a table outside this time. A very long table. Obviously.

Dear reader, I looked at those photos and nearly died at the thought of possibly even going there. Was I ever glad I declined.

The last photo was their latest new dog. Another pedigree cocker spaniel to be used for shooting. I may be wrong as she hasn't actually told me they are pedigrees. They may well be rescued cocker spaniels. I'm not going to be asking though. In fact both my partner and myself took one look at that dog and she so reminded us of one of our previous dogs (Paddy). You don't always need good breeding to look good. (Paddy was a glorious cross spaniel/setter/labrador/something).

Anyways, I decided I had misjudged her and figured there would probably be a card back at Gibflat, she had sent the mail to include the photos. Wrong. Come along, get real. This woman now corresponds by email, belatedly for whatever occasion it is, and is racked off because I didn't drop everything to attend her hi-faluting luncheon party.

But I did get a card and a decent letter from the last of the three university friends. He said he knew it wouldn't arrive in time for Christmas but at least I would have something to read in January. He made the effort though, and nice card and nice letter.

Well, that's the people I have known for years. What about more recent acquaintances - via the internet?

Readers may remember my posts about people who died this year from cancer. Sharon, aged 37, who died in April on her birthday. We had met her the previous year when she came on holiday to Spain with one of our internet friends. A very sad death and one that touched a lot of hearts.

Similarly Claudette, who died in October. Claudette lived in America, but was a dogblog pal with a great sense of humour and a huge amount of goodwill for people.

When she first said she had lung cancer, I was counting the weeks - but it never happened, and I began to think she would just keep going. But it doesn't work like that, and I should know as well as anyone. The end comes quickly, and for Claudette, sadly it came last year. She left a large and irreplaceable hole in the dogblog community.

And speaking of dogs - how many more dear friends - with blogs that I have never met, have gone to the Rainbow Bridge? And how many more remain on death's door, or at best, unhomed in a refuge? As with any year, I continue to be disappointed with the way people abuse and reject animals, the way some search for a 'designer status symbol' because that rescue dog isn't 'quite right' for their family, and the way some people will pay thousands of pounds for that pedigree pup while another person is struggling to pay vet's fees for a rescue dog. (link on Pippa' s for that one). And we all know that some of those lovely pedigree pups still end up being cast off and chucked out.

I have distinguished myself on the internet this last year by falling out with nearly all my nearest and dearest (internet I mean - I don't have any other nearest and dearest). Maybe it was one of those years.

I didn't fall out with all of them. Some of them fell out with me. Perhaps the biggest fall-out occasioned when I asked a genuine open question on Facebook about the proposed American shutdown. And like the American shutdown, I too fell victim to the anti-abortion lobby. Because in America, free speech seems to mean, if I don't like what I read, that you have written, or someone has written with your approval, I will shut you down too.

Now if someone disagrees with me, I am prepared to have a reasonable discussion. Not an emotive one, but at least one that includes a few facts. Because I don't base my views and opinions on biblical garbage (or any other religious garbage) or pro-militaristic, believe-everything-the-government-says sort of crap. So let's hear both sides? Yes?

Now, why should that provoke such repercussions around the boring old superficial internet? It shouldn't of course.

Well this is why. I defriended everyone who was also friends with someone I had considered an internet friend and who suddenly decided I was persona non grata. I know half or most of my friends are Christian, non-vegetarian, pro-military intervention, probably right-on Republican. But I don't defriend them because of that.

To cut to the chase, sometimes you can sit on both sides of the fence but you need to know with whom you are sitting. And that one day - you too may be cut off without further ado.
In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

More about Pastor Martin Niemoller here.

I think these words are really powerful. And I hope I have the courage to always speak up for people whether they share my beliefs or not. And look for the facts and not believe every silly little governmental piece of propaganda that is churned out. But sticking your head in the sand is not the way to go. Nor is trying to be friends with everyone.

So there we go. Fewer internet friends. No Facebook account. Oh wait, the dog has one. Even though it is against FB terms and conditions apparently. Although he is, surprisingly, not the only dog with a FB account. But seriously people, that FB dog account is not there to spy on people who I can no longer see from my own page. Far be it from me to say, but mopping the floor is more interesting. The dog account is because, due to the dogblog, he has a few dogpals. Mostly he goes on, or rather I do (shock horror), to click on Save a Dog and try and get a few cups of feed donated to rescue dogs.

I think these last few paragraphs have more than demonstrated that it is a good idea not to be involved with Facebook. Or forums. Or really anything where you say more to people than hello.

Speaking of which, this month last year, one of my bestest internet friends chucked me. But good things happen to nice little girls and he finally bestowed his much-missed friendship on me yet again.

Everything went swimmingly after that and we exchanged new year greetings a few days ago. And since then? Ah well. I've no idea what I have done wrong this time. Looks like a long and lonely January, and February, and ..... Maybe this year I will get over it.

Happy New Year everyone.

May your friendships be warm and genuine, may you adopt rescued animals, and if you fall out with people - please don't slag 'em off on Facebook - it usually gets back.

And as we used to say in olden days, a prosperous and healthy new year. By prosperous I don't mean rich capitalist - just, enough money to make ends meet at least. Because a lot of people don't have that. And healthy - because that is what we all want. So to all my friends, whether people, or their animals, hope you keep good health and overcome any problems you have.

Uf. I need a week off after all that.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Just another day

There are lots of people who describe Christmas Day as just another day.

And sit down to a huge Christmas lunch with all the trimmings, open their presents from the huge pile under the tree festooned with bright ornaments, have friends and family round for food, drinks, games, chat, fun, and maybe even watch the queen's speech for all I know.

That, is not 'just another day'.

'Just another day' is:

When you get up at the same time rather than waking up in the small hours dying to open your presents under the tree - because there is no tree, and there are no presents.

When you don't have children, or any family, or close friends coming to visit.

When you don't prepare a special - and far too large - Christmas lunch.

When you have enough space for your cards.

When you aren't religious, so most of what Christmas should be about goes over your head.

Just another day is doing exactly what you do on any other non-work day.

I wrote similar feelings on Itchy Feet last year, and reading back over it just now, I was surprised I'd written about the memories of childhood Christmases. This year, they didn't even come to mind.

Oddly today, I did wake up not long after midnight. Probably because the cat bites were hurting. But what was going around in my head, apart from dreams of being savaged by a pack of vicious cats, was a song by Lindisfarne.

It was from the album 'Nicely out of Tune,' and wasn't a particular favourite track of mine because it was a bit dirgeful. I'm not fond of dirgeful music, unless it is part of a funeral service. So I usually skipped this track.

But my Partner liked it, in fact he likes all the tracks on the album, so these days it gets played through.

It is an appropriate song for the time of year. 'Winter Song.' One of my best husky pals reminded me that the Winter Solstice the other day marks the start of winter.

I'm not one for lyrics, so I never really listened to the words to this song. My idea of a good tune is one I can happily la-la-la along to without needing to know the boring words. You can tell that, because even now, after 40 years, I didn't realise there was a reference to Christmas in this song.

And that wasn't the line going round in my head. Because, the trouble with British folk/rock bands is that more than most bands, they sing quite clearly, and even I can pick out the odd few words.

It was this: 'Do you spare a thought for the homeless...'

Because for the homeless, Christmas Day really is just another day.

Lyrics here.

Song below.

Merry Christmas people.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve rants of the day ....

Today's post was going to be a light-hearted post about incompetent staff, parsimonious customers, and rich supermarket owners.

You can read that one later.

For now, the first part is ....

Taking the dog out of the door for his lunchtime walk, Partner noticed next-door's cat in the stairwell.

This is not the first time the cat runs rampant around the block. Doing whatever cats do when they run rampantly around blocks.

Last time, I coaxed it upstairs, we did nice cat noises together, I picked it up and we did nice purrs. Partner and dog were able to leave the block in tranquility.

Well this time the little fucker was right outside our front door. Then it ran downstairs. By the time I got down to intercede, it was stand-off time. This, for anyone who doesn't understand, is where extremely large and fast dog who adores people, children and puppies, wants to kill cats that are encroaching on his territory.

When I say wants to, I mean will. Record to date: Pippa: a couple of cats, and an extremely large vicious rat. Cats and rats: 0. A couple of claws in his nose and a scratch.

Now, a cat with nowhere to go, is just not going to win this battle. I'll spare those of you with cats and rats the details of the dog's rather efficient technique. Suffice to say it works.

I went to move the cat out of the way in the hopes I would alleviate the situation. Hissing from cat and snarling from dog. Groaning from Partner.

They went one way and I tried to placate the darling cat who had been my friend before. I picked him up. Scratch, hiss, bite, went the little bastard. I dropped the fucking thing and cursed him to hell as he ran upstairs.

'I'll catch you up when I've sorted the blood,' I called after Partner and dog. Before I knew it the Vamps would be out wanting to chase cat, dog, and suck my blood. i shot upstairs too.

Owner of cat wandered out of her flat happily.

'Your cat was downstairs,' I snarled. 'It's happened a lot recently.'

'Oh, I know. My mother let him out for three hours the other day.'

Hello. Stupid fucking cow. You know? Why does your cat have the right to run up and down the block? Huh? When there are two dogs - to our knowledge - who live in it? And we have already told you our dog is not the most cat-friendly specimen in the world?

I am sure there are no bad cats, like there are no bad dogs. I'm not exactly fond of this cat at the moment, but I'm even less fond of his stupid fucking person.

Despite blood gushing out of my hand (ok maybe not dripping all the way down the stairs) she called happily upwards for darling gatito and seemed not to notice my Significant Injury. She didn't move her idle fat arse and run up there to find him. Why would she? If she was that interested in what the cat was doing she would supervise his very annoying block excursions and wander around with him.

All I can say is, wait till the nice Doberman upstairs grows up. Heh. Heh. Heh.

And the second story is ......

Anyway, there we were in Morrisons as usual. I'd bought finger chillis, at £5 a kilo, previously called Thai chillis, and then priced at £5.99 a kilo.

Pesky woman rang them in at £5.99. I queried it. 'They're £5.99 a kilo and only 18p,' she said. And looked at me scornfully. I withered on the spot.

Really helpful Placatory Partner said maybe the sign on the shelf was wrong. I always thought they had to sell stuff at the shelf price or not at all. But I was clearly in the wrong. All ways round.

I looked at the receipt. Thai chillis at £5.99. I went back to the shelf. Finger chillis at £5. I moaned at Partner but said it was only a few pence so what did it matter.

Well, lo and behold for Christmas. He jumped on his soapbox and said 'Imagine doing that 100 times a day. In every Morrisons shop. Not even as though the staff get anything out of it. That's why their profits are so good. You go and ask for that money back.'

Ah right. Me. I have to be the one making a total plonker of myself saying this price is wrong and I want a few pence back.

I mean, his point had logic, and why should Mr Morrison have lots of my money unnecessarily? But for a few pence? Three, by the way, I had now worked it out to be.

Truth was, I'd been had before on this chilli lark. I'd bought the Thai ones, for £5.99 and been charged for the expensive ones at £6.99, but because it was only a matter of pence I didn't have the brass neck to go and complain.

He plonked the shopping bags down and insisted. I slouched up to the customer services desk and cringed. The woman looked surprised and went off to sort it. Trouble was, the nearest cashier she asked couldn't find them on her till code thing.

In the end the customer service person agreed to give me 5p off. I was wrapped. I had made all of 2p profit. I signed the form and wished her a Merry Christmas and still felt like a total arse for making such a fuss.

'You know,' said Partner, as we walked home, 'it's important to sort these things out.'

I have the feeling Santa won't be coming down my non-existent chimney tonight.