Friday, 31 July 2009

Where are you going?

So there I was, standing at the bus stop as you do, when you are waiting for a bus. I'd been there about 15 minutes and the bus was due soonish. Suddenly a car pulls into the bus stop, and the driver opens the window. Did he want directions? Or was he going to talk on his mobile? (Unlikely as most Spanish continue to drive while talking on their mobiles). 'Donde va?' he said. (Where are you going) 'Málaga,' I dutifully answered. 'Viene?' he asked. (Are you coming) 'No' and then I added 'Gracias.' Now why I should thank some strange guy who has suddenly pulled up at the bus stop where I am quite clearly waiting for a bus is beyond me, but old habits die hard, and so I politely thanked him for offering something I didn't want. The truth is I was totally taken aback. If I had had my wits about me, when he asked where I was going I would have replied by asking where he was going. Or maybe I should have given my ultimate destination - Algeciras, or La Linea, or Gibraltar, or El Peñon. But I just answered honestly like an idiot. I didn't even have time to panic or freak out which I normally would have done. Bespectacled middle-aged women standing alone at bus stops do not expect young Spanish men who they have never seen before (nor do they want to see them again) to just pull up and offer them a lift to - wherever. I'm sure he hadn't noticed my shoes which were oozing mud after the short cut down the (usually dry) river bed. I don't think he would have liked mud in his nice shiny go-fast-goody. So I only really thought about it later. The bus stop is on the main road, but no houses immediately near. A small farm on the other side of the road, a few houses further up, and further down, and a plastics firm on the other side of the road down a track. In a way it was quite isolated. Perhaps I should just have started walking away from him when he pulled up, but how unnecessarily panicky. At least he didn't get out of his vehicle, and at least there was only one of him. But how strange. I live more or less equidistant between two bus stops. I may start using the other bus stop though. It's outside some houses and more people tend to use it.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Spilled milk

Storytime. Once three people, by chance, met up in a chat room. The only apparent thing they had in common was a forum that they had all visited. I'm feeling unimaginative so let's call them A, B and C. Even more by chance, two of them happened to live not just in the same country, but quite near together but had never met. I too flitted in and out. A and B struck me as being reasonable, interesting and amusing people. C struck me as being slightly strange, so if C was around I rarely stayed. Some time later, C was upset about something and cleared off for a while, so I started chatting with A and B. We seemed to get on well, so B started up a new chat for us so that it didn't look as though we were trying to take over the initial chatroom. A few more people were invited and visited regularly. As with all groups, the dynamics change with more people and different personalities, but it was still an interesting and lively chatroom. Sometimes A, B and I were there together and continued to enjoy the same interesting, witty, fast and stimulating conversation that we had started off with. A few other people were invited but didn't visit as regularly as the now extended core group. They were totally outside my time zone, or rather the hours I keep, so sadly I rarely spoke to them. And as with all groups there were arguments, or disagreements, or whatever you want to call them. Some serious, some apparently less so. If we can't disagree with our friends and move on, then there is an inherent problem. A and B argued. I argued with A too on more than one occasion. It had become increasingly rare for the three of us to enjoy our previously easy-going and carefree chat. Everyone had external stresses too - personal, financial, work, family, the usual. We traded insults, either deliberately or unintentionally, and sometimes there was tension. But A and B reconciled their differences. I on the other hand fell out spectacularly with A, and decided I was better off out of there. When it gets to the point that there are more bad vibes than good, and the good times have faded into the past it is time to leave. Later I heard that A left the chat too. So out of the three who started off in the spin-off chat, there is now only one. When there is more pain than gain in any relationship either for you or for others, whether virtual or real, there is no point prolonging it. That's an example of (small) group dynamics, where for whatever reason, things didn't work out despite a promising and very good beginning. One to one relationships are the same too. Friends, lovers, work colleagues,family - doesn't really matter, but the same rule applies. When all you can concentrate on are the negative points, the disappointment, the disillusionment, the feeling that you have been let down, deceived, or just that you really don't value any more in someone's scheme of things, it is time to take that decision. The good times have faded into the past, and are far outweighed by the bad things. Better to get out while you still have a few good memories to look back on. Time to let go. And not cry.

Saturday, 11 July 2009


For some reason this seems to be a controversial issue. The only reason I consider it to be controversial is that someone else wants to tell ME what to do with MY body. Don't.

Friday, 10 July 2009

On going out

I am not a big fan of social engagements. It's ironic because in my younger days I would love to have led an exciting life full of nights out and partying-on. Every night spent in alone felt like I was the social reject of the world. But these days, I like to spend my evenings at home, with my partner and my dog, a decent meal, a glass of wine, some conversation and maybe a book - or a quick internet browse. And an early night. One of the reasons I am not terribly sociable is that I do not like explaining for the zillionth time why I have made certain choices in life. It is sad but true that the people I know/meet are not feminist, vegetarian, animal rights supporters, left-wing, environmentalist etc etc. It's unlikely that they will be really, as my views are not the most run-of-the-mill conventional ones. And any conversation is guaranteed to raise at least one of those issues. At any event with food, it is fairly clear that my plate is bereft of flesh, fowl and fish. So then the inevitable questions start about 'Are you vegetarian?' invariably followed by, 'Well do you eat fish?' Yawn. I am lucky if I get away with not being questioned about my marital status, lack of children, lack of wedding ring, and separate names. And even in a situation with so-called dog-friendly people, you can see them cringeing with horror when I say my dog came off the street, and they are wondering if the ticks and fleas are jumping across the table to land on them. I don't ask other people why they have made their - to me, unthinking and unethical choices - what gives them the right to stick their nose into my decisions? So I was not, in all truth looking forward to last night. An invitation to the official opening of where Partner has been working. Free drinks and food all night, starting from 6pm. The chefs had even included some vegetarian options on the menu. No, said the owners, get rid of that rubbish. That, and a few other niggles, made Partner wonder why on earth he was even thinking of us going out for the purpose of consuming a couple of free beers with a bunch of wankers. We didn't go, and had a lovely evening in. Ah, old age - it has its advantages. (I should probably have said middle age.)

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Those who don't know history.....

.... are destined to repeat it. (Edmund Burke 1729-1797)

This quote often gets confused with the later one by Santayana: 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'

But as Santayana came a good hundred years after Burke, I shall use the Burke attributed quote. Especially as Santayana seems to get rather more popular coverage than Burke. I wonder why that is?

However this is not a post about philosophy at all, or whether Santayana plagiarised Burke, just that the Burke quote is the most obvious title.

It is about modern day intervention aka invasion/imperialism/21st century colonialism - take your pick of description.

While searching on the tinties, I found this gem of a vid. Excellent visuals, a very neat summary, and some good points succinctly made. You may need to turn the volume up, the recording is rather quiet.

Note at the end, the mention of women's rights when questioning the intervention in Afghanistan. At least it got a mention. And no doubt we are repeating our own history with seven British deaths this week alone and 176 deaths for British armed forces in total since our involvement. Here is a link with details of the ones who have died to date, including serving members in the British forces from Fiji, Nepal, South Africa and Zimbabwe. And that pales into insignificance compared with the number of civilian deaths.

So just why are we all there yet again?

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Birthday romance?

Men and birthdays don't go well together in my experience, not that I have much. Experience of the two together I mean. And I've also had more birthdays than men, but that's not really relevant. But as I celebrated my birthday some days ago, I remembered a past encounter. I had a 'boyfriend'. So to speak, as he was married and definitely not a boy, and I was single, and in my twenties. Pause from the anecdote to talk about affairs, I mean sex, with married men... 1) Do not even start with any criticism about my lack of morals. I was not married. He was. Is this clear? 2) Anyone who thinks that if a (single) woman refuses to sleep with a married man, that he will forthwith lead a blamefree and unadulterous life is seriously deluded. Absolutely and utterly certifiable. 3) Because, someone who is married and wants extra-marital sex, will find it wherever. 4) Truism number one. Yes, they really do say, 'My wife doesn't understand me.' 5) Truism number two. Yes, they really do say, 'I don't get enough sex.' 6) Truism number three. Yes, it is always the woman's fault for seducing that poor weak corruptible man. 7) And finally, there is no way that you can deny the fact that you get some sort of kick out of this. In our patriarchal society the fact that you are SO sexy, SO irresistible, SO desirable that you can lead a man astray, just does wonders for your standing. You are sophisticated, worldly, hot beyond belief. Right, back to the story...... The good thing about having sex with a married man, is that there is no commitment. You are the bit on the side, some fun, as and when appropriate or convenient (for both of you). Most of your time together is taken up with sex (obviously), eating and sleeping out (in nice hotels, usually on a company account), and maybe a few idle sort of dates - driving round the countryside or visiting a museum. Nothing heavy. No drudgery. No boredom. A few intense 'phone calls or passionate letters (well, on his part anyway). But remember. The obvious one to remember, is 'DO NOT BELIEVE HIM'. Oops sorry for shouting. It is fairly obvious though that if he is cheating on his wife, then he is a lying git and would do the same to you. So, keeping our wits about us, when they come out with guff about how they absolutely love us to bits, wish they had met us sooner, think about us all the time, blah blah boring blah. Just remember that it is guff. 'Do not believe him.' Stay calm, and in control. When he comes to visit you on your birthday, bearing a radio that you didn't want as a present, start to be suspicious. A radio that isn't even in a box because he dealt in stolen goods. Regardless of the fact that he brings you a rather ugly unboxed radio, drag him into a local city and make him buy you some nice gold and coral earrings. I still have them, although I can't remember the last time I wore them, not really my style any more and they would be hidden by my long hair. But start to think. This guy has bought you a 'present' for your birthday. It is not remotely what you want. It is not remotely 'romantic.' And, as an irrelevancy, it happened to be nicked (I assumed later, maybe I am doing him an injustice but he did end up on trial at Crown Court for fencing stolen goods). And when he walks out of the door, and you say goodbye as he goes back to wifey, you see the look on his face, and you know it's over. I thought it would be the last time I saw him, but it wasn't. Some weeks, or maybe a month or two later, I was going to a camping exhibition and he was staying somewhere near. Can't even remember why he got in touch again. But anyway I visited his hotel. I'd got up earlyish, ie 7am or so, had breakfast, and set off on the road, driving an hour plus. Reached reception and asked for him by name. 'Just go on up to his room,' said the receptionist. Ha ti ha. Should have twigged then, shouldn't I? Needless to state, he was still lying around in bed, and quickly started doing a few supposedly sexy gyrations. We had a brief chat and he asked me to get into bed with him. 'No thanks,' I said (or words to that effect) and walked out of the door without a backward glance, feeling like a clichéed film star. Or at least hoping I looked vaguely like one. And that really was the last time I saw him. A few more details for any of you who want the not remotely lurid trivia. We actually first got in touch over the 'phone and he had a sexy voice. He wasn't particularly sexy when I met him, but by then we had both got too sucked into it. I guess the 'phone was the precursor of internet contacts. His wife at some point obviously got hold of his little black book and rang me. Except I was in Australia at the time and my parents answered. Probably helped contribute towards my father's infamous comment some years later accusing me of 'trashing around'. This is not a bitter post. I have no bad feelings towards him. I have no feelings towards him. It is so long ago, he was fun at the time, and I knew what I was getting into. I thought it would be interesting to share the anecdote and reflect on the way society judges 'scarlet woman who seduces married man'. (Yuk) And, because I have said this to some people via email, if my partner chooses to have sex with another woman, then no, I do not think it is her fault. She is not some immoral whore while he is a poor innocent victimised man. He has the choice to say 'No'. 'No' is not difficult. If I can say it, so can he. 'No' is as easy as 'Yes'. Oh and back to the original point of the post about men and birthdays. I don't think in my youth that I ever managed to sustain a relationship long enough to last until my birthday. All the other girls at school seemed to manage endless relationships with boring boys and proudly showed off their birthday presents. I on the other hand, managed to lose the boring boys before my birthday, or before Valentine's day, or before Christmas. Always lost out on the accompanying status presents. And what happened when I did get one? A nicked radio. So there is a lesson there. A man who treats your birthday like crap is a man not worth bothering with. (Married or not).

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Impact v intent

Browsing on the internet this week I seem to have read a lot about misunderstandings. They happen every day. We rarely see the world from someone else's perspective. If we are lucky we occasionally share random points of view. I thought this: "impact is more important than intent--whether we meant to hurt is not really the point. It's how our actions were felt by the other person" was such a neat way of describing the dichotomy where someone is insulted/offended by words that were never meant to do so. (Credit for the quote to Bird, which in its original context was in relation to sexual harassment training). It's hard to apologise when you never intended to do anything wrong. But when you have been hurt and that's not acknowledged at all, it's even harder. It stays with you and colours your view of people you once thought were friends. I know. I've been in both positions. I wish I didn't get it wrong. But I also wish people didn't get it wrong with me too. Lack of communication and honesty ruins relationships of all sorts. It would be nice if we could trust people enough to be honest with them, to say when we are offended, to say what we really think. But it doesn't happen. And another relationship falls off the end. And for a good read on different perceptions, click here to read WhyI'mbitter's interesting post.