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.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

There's the bucket, pee in it

Once upon a time, my partner went to do a job in an expensive part of the city.

Actually it was a posh suburb/village/sort of thing where aspirational people lived.

Two bedrooms, a dining room, all to be painted white, and at the time, approx cost £750. Including paint.

Partner and his employee - a smart and totally respectable young man - turned up on the job.

They were busy unloading, dust sheets, tools, equipment, paint etc, when the Lady of the House came out.

She kindly pointed out the bucket in the garage. 'That's for you to pee in.'

'Simon, load everything back in the Land Rover,' he ordered. Simon was still reeling with shock anyway. I don't think anyone had ever told him to pee in a bucket. Certainly not in Darras Hall. FFS his mother lived there. He drank with Ant and Dec (I think they are TV people).

'I'll take you to court,' said the Lady of the House.

'I don't think you'll win,' said Partner.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

You've got cancer and you're sick? Get back to work.

A good friend, who has gone through the gruelling ordeal of cancer treatment, has alerted people (on FB) to the latest really clever proposal by the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK.

Apparently having cancer does not mean you are sick. Oh no.

When I worked in the UK health service, the standard comment among clinicians was that there were three ways to treat cancer - butchery (surgery), burning (radiotherapy), and poisoning (chemotherapy).

Right, but having all those treatments so means that you are capable of going to work, having a back to work interview, and just skipping on with your life.

Hello, incredibly greedy grasping people at DWP and your political leaders. Have you thought about the impact this sort of treatment has on people? Physically? Mentally? And, do you really really think they are going to waltz into that wonderful crappily paid job you are going to offer them (anything to get people off benefit) and be able to give their absolute utmost? Maybe, they might have other things on their mind? Wondering how long they will live perhaps?

I am not a fan of Macmillan but they have organised a petition against this stupid proposal. Link here.

To summarise.

It seems that cancer patients receiving radiotherapy treatment, and those receiving non-intravenous chemotherapy (oral), have not been exempted from work interviews or medical assessments. Hell, what's a bit of radiotherapy? Or poisoning by taking tablets? No side effects from any of that surely?

But cancer patients on intra-venous chemo, ie nasty needles stuck in veins and sucking poisons for hours, were exempt.

Not unreasonably IMNRHO, cancer charities asked the DWP to end this anomaly and treat all cancer patients the same. Because, actually patients on radiotherapy and oral chemo amazingly also suffer side-effects. And possibly they do not feel very well.

Anyways the bright sparks at the DWP seemed to think that the best way to sort this was to take away the exemptions from the intra-venous chemo patients. Gosh! What a very clever way to go!! Total equality for all extremely sick patients.

I have had three good friends die of cancer this year. One of them I was lucky enough to meet before she died, the other two I didn't. The thought of any of them having to go through interviews to go back to work makes me want to poke someone's eyes out. Another friend has recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer is not nice. It doesn't discriminate. The treatment is not nice either. It is invasive whether it is surgery, chemo or radiotherapy and there are physical and mental after effects whatever the treatment.

And when all these cancer patients are offered jobs while THEY ARE STILL POORLY - will they get time off with pay for chemo? Cos how many employers will want to pay for that?

I read some shite about the UK on the internet, and this one really, really, leaves me cold. Make sure you don't get cancer if you live in the UK, 'cos you need to be right back to work the day after you have been diagnosed.

After all, you are hardly sick are you? Stop bludging and claiming those benefits to which you are not entitled.

You've only got cancer,

Monday, 5 December 2011

Donna, donna, and Joan Baez? Just another hypocrite?


When I was a kid at junior school, ie below 11 years of age, we sang this song.
I couldn't sing it without crying.

Couldn't bear the thought of the poor calf being killed. Vegetarian before I knew it maybe?

Joan Baez is tougher than me. Puts human rights before animals. Her choice. Great that she takes on Czechoslovakia in 1989. But whoever speaks for the animals? And the calf with a mournful eye? Using a sad Jewish song with your beautiful voice to gain political points? Crap sweetie. However lovely your voice and your right-on politics. Even if you may possibly have been vegetarian for a few days back in 1968. Possibly.

So my dears, eat your steaks sweethearts. And enjoy. After all who gives a shit about one more dead animal if it tastes nice.

Cows are easily bound and slaughtered - of course.

Oh, and here is the lovely record with the absolutely unbeatable, almost unbearable, voice of Ms Baez.

Ms Baez who don't give a shit about animals.

Friday, 25 November 2011


There are lots of good things about the internet. Mostly, in my opinion, that includes sharing information for free.

But there are an awful lot of bad things too. Truth is, I'm not sure what value it has added to my life. I managed well enough before.

Fax, 'phone, mail order worked fine.

But, let alone the abhorrent, pornographic, and violent garbage that is on the internet, there are also your average arguments.

I'm more than qualified to speak about this as I have argued with the whole world on the internet.

On forums, via Facebook, pms, and emails. Not on blogs as far as I can recall because I am a supreme dictator on my blogs and censor anything that I think is rubbish. Such power.

One of my - natch - ex-friends, described Facebook as the Work of the Devil. In a way she was right. But the truth is, it's not the (social - or anti-social) network site - whether FB or a forum - that is the problem, it's the online intimacy that develops between people who have never met. And may never meet. When there is a mix of dynamics where some meet and others don't, the situation gets even more complicated.

The reason I started this post was because I was saddened to read something on a FB wall. It was on the wall of one my friends (who I didn't meet) who died this year. Won't take a genius to work out who that was. I never fell out with her (!) and I respected her courage and strength. Wow! Was she tough.

There was a disagreement on that person's wall about posts after her death. And, all the points had merit, I didn't disagree with them. The bizarre thing about FB is that when someone has died, people go back to their wall and post, and say 'We miss you.' Or maybe they just go back to read, because you don't, or can't, just wipe out a lifetime with a flick of a key. Maybe people want to just look back and remember. Who knows? It's like a photo album, or reading through old letters or whatever.

To me, those pages should remain for what people want to say on there, if anything. People may want to leave messages to family, friends, and make commemorative posts. I have another friend who died this year, who I did meet. Her FB page is a peaceful place to visit. And that, to me, is how FB pages for our former friends should be.

If we want to spat about stuff on FB, there are other places to take it. Or even a link, but I really think it would be nice to leave the pages of all of our former friends as that peaceful place.

On FB, we all have our own walls, our own groups where we can share our hurt feelings. They are the best places to vent. Or maybe on our blogs.

And then, we take them down. Or at least I do. When someone has read my really fed up rant of the day, I can take it down and move on. Because taking it down shows you have put it behind you. To you, and to everyone else.

Arguing over the internet.

You see, sometimes we don't need to do it. I will share my golden PR rule for the zilliionth time, the one I often forget. Never argue with the stuff that doesn't merit it.

Because, arguing, gives that crap point credence. Leave it alone. There are different ways - and different places - to get your message across.

Hey - I always follow my own rules .....

Monday, 21 November 2011

Does your vote count?

Well, not much of a surprise but Spain seems to have gone for another right-wing government, yet again the Partido Popular (PP) is in power.

When we first moved to Spain, the PP was in charge under Jose Maria Aznar. But people didn't like the American alliance decision to invade Iraq, the horrific bombings in Madrid in 2004, and suddenly the PSOE (a left-wing party) was in power.

There are some things about the PSOE term that reminded me of the first idealistic terms of the Blair government in the UK. Not least, Zapatero was determined to make his cabinet equally balanced between women and men. How many other countries have ever done that?

He did pull the Spanish troops out of war zones that the local population did not want to support.

To remind you all, Zapatero's grandfather, who fought on the Republican side, was slain by Franco's soldiers during the first weeks of the war. Can you imagine living with that and not trying to do something about it?

Our neighbour's father was killed in the far north of Spain, in the prison in Oviedo, and she still cries on the anniversary of his death. After that, she spent her youth picking beans in the field. She still can't read and write. What a great legacy Franco.

Her husband's younger brother was killed aged 21. In a gunfire fight between - who knew who was who, and on what side? These memories continue on, but perhaps for not so much longer.

Just thought I would add a few points about the Civil War in case anyone hasn't heard about it.

But was it really Zapatero's fault that the world economy crashed and Spain's did too?

Come on Spaniards. The world is in a recession and has been for some time. Know why? Ever heard of American bankers?? Spain is a bit player in the world economy. Just like most of us.

The most surprising thing about this Spanish election though, is that the PSOE was kicked out of Andalucia. As most of us know, Andalucia is the home of poverty, peasants, subsistence agriculture, and communism. No longer it seems. It is now the home of people who don't believe the socialists can do anything for them and they need to look to the right-wing party.

Hell, there ain't no construction, there ain't no great house sales, there ain't no tourism, and there ain't much else tanpoco in Andalucia.

But, things are looking good for Spaniards because it seems that all those who voted for the PP now expect a job. Yeah, right.

Because to me, Rajoy's austerity measures don't sound like more jobs for anyone.

En sus suenos.

And next up, Gibraltar elections.

Oh and as a total sideline. I recite a tale from my rather capitalist/conservative/right wing parents.

They so loved it when a labour (ie left-wing) government was in power. Why? Because there was more employment, and more money to go around. So more money for people to spend with them.

You all vote right wing if you want. You will have no job, no money, and you have no conscience. Be it on your own head.

Not such a sideline. Think carefully before you vote in Gibraltar if you want a job.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Poets Day

As everyone knows, today is Poets Day.

No, this is not like World Awareness Day, Meditation Day, Ingrowing Toenail Day, Wear a Blue Ribbon in your hair to show solidarity with Oppressed Bankers in America Day, or any of those other days.

Because this, and every other Friday of the year is Poets Day.

I was sitting happily in our revamped civil service office in Notting Hill. It was Friday afternoon and not much was happening (fortunately). We'd dealt with the pesky anti-government reporters from the Observer and Saturday's edition of the Guardian, and no-one else was giving us any grief.

'Right then, I'm off,' said one of my colleagues. 'It's Poets Day.'

I looked up, interested. Colin was rather arty, into amateur dramatics, and had a nice posh plummy southern voice. Well spoken, is the phrase that comes to mind. Not something that us lasses from Yorkshire usually get labelled.

I wondered which particular poet he was talking about. Or was it a group of them? I started on the interrogation, which Colin - and everyone else - enjoyed immensely. He finally put me out of my misery.

Here in Gib, the mass exodus starts around noon. You can tell it's Friday because the car horns start tooting as people absolutely MUST leave the Rock as quickly as possible. I have no idea why there is this burning urge to get out of Gib (apart from people who live in Spain of course and want to go home) but the few roads we have are clogged.

The money exchange around the corner has a queue down the street - and if you get there too late they have invariably run out of euros. We never see anyone in there during the week, they seem to exist solely on the currency exchanges they make between noon and 3pm on Fridays.

Building sites close at 2 or 2.30pm. Construction workers can be seen falling into the pub for a quick one, at the exchange as most of them live in Spain, or just walking/cycling home across the frontier. A few even live in Gib.

After that peace descends on Gib. To me the weekend is the best time to be here just because it is so quiet. Half the shops close on Saturday because the proprietors are Jewish. No offices, banks or building societies open, and on Sunday, the only shops open on Main Street are the ones catering for tourists - selling perfume, tobacco, spirits, jewellery and electronics.

But when you don't work - Friday can be a stressful day. No really, I'm not joking.

You see, when it gets to Sunday evening, there is no gloomy 'It's Monday tomorrow' feeling. In fact, Monday is rather to be looked forward to, as everyone else has to go to work, but you do not. You remember having to drag yourself into that ghastly office - and revel in your freedom. So you don't do anything on Monday. Your reward for being chained to that desk for so many years. Tuesday is pretty similar, after all the week isn't even half way over yet.

But by Friday, you realise that you have done stuff all this week, and if you want to achieve anything more than sewing a button on, or ironing a few T-shirts, you need to get a move on. Especially as government offices close at lunchtime. The only thing that opens late on a Friday is the library which keeps going until 7.30pm. About the only place in Gib still open at that hour.

So when it gets to Friday, I have to do everything in a few hours that I have failed to do all week. And Friday should be a day for winding down and doing very little. After all, it is Poets Day.

Piss Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday - in case you didn't know.

Monday, 14 November 2011

I want that dog/puppy/designer lifestyle :(

Today on Facebook (which I really try not to look at very often) - I saw a dog who looked just like mine.

It is the strangest feeling to look at a dog in a KILL shelter - THAT MEANS, IT WILL SOON BE DEAD IF NO-ONE ADOPTS/FOSTERS - who looks like yours.

You think to yourself, I rescued my dog, and for the last eight years, he has been safe. It could have been different for him.

You look at that other dog, and think, they may not get the chance.

Please people, put away your pedigree puppy aspirations and rescue a dog who maybe only has hours, let alone days to live.

Does that designer puppy really mean so much to you that you will condemn a different dog to death?

Because that puppy you buy, means one more dog, that no-one wants, will end up dead in a shelter (that isn't really a shelter at all - more of a staging post on the way to death).

Friday, 11 November 2011

Rubbish recycling?

Recycling - what? Plastic bags - or profits??

Sadly Morrisons in Gib has gone down the road of charging for plastic bags. I think they cost 2p and any proceeds (note - not profits) go towards local charities.

In fact, they tried this one on some years ago, but it failed miserably and free bags were re-introduced.

But aided and abetted by the likes of Eroski, Mercadona and Supersol (to name but three) supermarkets in nearby Spain, Morries has gone down the same road again.

Naturally this move is to help the environment by encouraging people to reuse their bags.

Hello, Morrisons (and every other supermarket under the sun). We DID recycle our plastic bags quite happily. 1) They got used in our rubbish bins and 2) they got used when we took out the dog.

It doesn't take Brain of Britain (and/or Gibraltar/Spain) to work out that no free bags from the supermarket means you have to acquire them from somewhere else. But where?

Sadly, we accepted the miserable fact that we might well have to buy some plastic bags. I picked up a bag of pedal bin liners. They cost £1.75.

We were standing at the check-out and I was gazing at 40 bags for £1.75 and doing the sums. The first thought was that 40 went into 175 more than four times - 4.375 to be exact.

So actually buying rubbish bin bags means paying more than twice the price of a previously free and now 2p carrier bag. Am I going to use any less bags for a) the rubbish bin and b) picking up after the dog? No. Is it going to cost me more? Yes.

There may well be people who got free carrier bags and chucked them in the bin. If so that was extremely silly of them. We did not.

This bright shiny environmental move to encourage recycling is going to make JSN difference in this household. Apart from costing us more.

Far be it from me to say kind things about the many tobacco smugglers who take their fags out of Gib and into Spain with more than the legally allowed limit - but at least when they take them out of the cartons and stash them in their cars/motorbikes - they throw away those lovely black bags.

We didn't buy the pedal bin liners. Just in case anyone was interested.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Sexism at its best/worst

- depending upon your perspective.

I share with you this link. Wow! These men are so funny and sharp they are going to be cutting themselves on their pistons. Or some such similar piece of kit.

Land Rover Dating

PS I think I have sorted my blog problems. Next on the list, patriarchal society, sexism, misogyny, violence against women. Shouldn't take me too long to sort them too hopefully.

Dilemma dilemma - what to do??

I am going to have to do something with this blog.

All the old posts have just blurred into one huuuuuuuge paragraph.

Do I reformat each post individually?

Change templates with blogger?

Migrate the whole lot to wordpress?

Just move the popular ones?

Because this is the problem. When you are coming up first on a google search, or in single figures then you want people to have an easy read. And ploughing through one huge paragraph is not easy at all.

Any suggestions out there while I muse on this one??

Friday, 4 November 2011

Breast screening - do I? don't I?

The lovely blogger does not seem to want to let me separate my paragraphs with a gap so this post is available for viewing (complete with separated pars) on roughseas. I won't be closing this blog down as people do read previous posts when they are searching for info, but I'm unlikely to write again until it lets me choose a format I want. Blogging should be easy.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Tick tock the clock goes back

And about time too.

I am not a lover of summertime at all. I see no reason for people to faff around with hours - so that there is an extra hour of daylight in the evening or some garbage like that. Just, why?

Personally, I like to get up when it is daylight, and go to bed when it is dark. Or even before it is dark in my case, being something of a Sleep Monster. So people tell me.

In fact, I don't mind getting up half an hour or so before it is daylight. Coffee, waking up slowly etc etc just about uses up that pesky half an hour.

But when it isn't daylight until after 8am - what on earth is one supposed to do for all those hours? (This is assuming a getting up time of somewhere between six and seven).

You can't go cycling, you can't go walking because it is too dark. Damn nuisance. I have gazed at the clocks and the calendar throughout October, waiting for that magical Sunday when it will be daylight again at 7am.

I always thought it was strange that people said it was a wonderful opportunity to have an extra hour in bed when the clocks went back. Because, as it is Sunday morning, most people can stay in bed as long as they want - in theory.

Winter hours were a nuisance in the UK I have to say, but that was because there was so little daylight. It didn't matter how you cut it, you went to work in the dark and came home in the dark. It was so depressing when it started to get dark after 3pm and you had no chance of going home for two or three hours.

But as I don't live in the UK, any more, that's now of no interest to me. At least here on the southern end of the Iberian peninsula we can look at daylight from approx 7am until 6pm during winter.

Back to Sunday when I was in Spain waiting for the clocks to tick tock backwards. We all woke up at the usual time. By which I mean everyone woke up at what would have been the same time had the clocks not gone backwards. And everyone got up.

I don't just mean us and the dog. The goatherders next door went to work - by the clock an hour earlier, but really it was just the same sort of hour they would normally have gone - about half an hour before it got daylight. The guy who drives tractors and ploughs all the local fields drove down the street a few minutes before daylight.

It doesn't matter to campo workers, and to a similar extent, to construction workers, what the clock says. People need daylight, so that's when they start. In fact I did wonder if people n the village have clocks at all.

And in summer it seems so irrelevant because everyone (except us) stays up in the dark nights because it is cooler. Andalucians are used to living outside in the dark.

So I shall enjoy the next six months of 'proper' time, and dread the arrival of summer time when I will be jet-lagged for at least a month due to the clocks going forward.

I thought I would look up something about summertime. I vaguely remembered it was introduced when I was a kid in the 60s/70s to combat the energy crisis. Wrong!!! I was obviously getting confused with the Harold Wilson experiment of staying on summertime all year in that period.

In fact summertime was first proposed in 1895. I was stunned to read that, I have to say. London-born Kiwi George Vernon Hudson apparently liked collecting insects and valued later daylight hours for this. Great. We all get our hours changed for someone to collect insects??

Hudson's proposals failed but meanwhile British builder and outdoorsman William Willett was cantering around on his horse in 1905 before breakfast and was horrified to discover how many lazy Londoners were asleep in the morning in broad daylight. Hello, Mr Willett. Those lazy Londoners may well have been knackered labourers who didn't have a horse to ride around on in the peaceful early morning and valued what little sleep time they could grab.

Nor did Mr Willett like having his evening round of golf interrupted by dusk. That really says it all doesn't it?

Anyway it wasn't collecting insects, lazy idle Londoners, or cutting short the evening's golf that brought about the introduction of summertime - it was the first world war. The Germans beat us to it in April 1916, with the Brits following a month later. Initially it began towards the end of May and ended at the beginning of October. Well. I think that would be an improvement if we have to have summertime at all.

It seems, reading Wiki, links here and here, that people have been messing around with the clocks for nearly a hundred years now. And the amount of studies carried out, to work out whether or not there is any financial saving, energy saving, reduced number of accidents, defies belief.

And guess what, yes, people are still faffing around introducing bills to change the hours this way and that. I would have thought the British government would have more important things to consider than messing around with an hour at the end or beginning of the day. How about homeless people? Unemployed people? Especially all those pensioners who won't have a pension until they are 70 - or whatever the ever-expanding goalpost is - and won't be able to get a job either? The list is endless but I bet most people wouldn't put daylight saving(s) at their top of priorities for the government's Must Do list.

Messers Hudson and Willett, you would not be on my Christmas card list (assuming that a) you were around and b) I even sent them). Truth is though, that reading the tedious history, it would have happened without entomologists and horse-riding golfers.

Monday, 31 October 2011

And then there were three ....

They say things go in threes don't they?

So when I read the email with the sad news that an internet friend had died of cancer, I wondered who the third one would be this year.

The young and lovely Sharon died on her birthday in April aged 37. Originally she had breast cancer, but it spread elsewhere and her death earlier this year marked the end of a very courageous and selfless fight against an unrelenting illness. I wrote about meeting Sharon and Fiona some twelve months ago here.

My partner pointed out that I had forgotten someone. Probably because I hadn't known him, but Partner had worked with a young man (let's call him T) in the construction industry who was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year. Six months or so later, he too was dead in his late 30s, again from rapidly spreading secondary cancers.

So that made Claudette the third one this year after all. For those of you who read Clouds and don't know her, here is some background info.

Claudette and I came to be friends, like so many of us, because we all had blogs about our dogs. Or rather dogs with blogs, ie we write from the perspective of our dogs.

I never met her. We started our dog blogs some four years ago, she starting Lacy Lulu's blog about six months after I had started one for Pippa, and she quickly found Pippa's.

She was one of his regular commenters back then in the days when comments ran to 20 or 30!!, and often, one of the first to comment on a new post.

Unlike Sharon, but like T, Claudette had lung cancer. I don't remember reading her very early post that said she had it, but oddly, I do remember reading about her having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sent some well wishes to her for that.

A couple of years ago (where does time go in blogland??) she wrote about having a biopsy to assess how far the lung cancer had spread and the news wasn't good.

The trouble with having worked in cancer services is that you tend to look on the gloomy side. And there aren't too many bright sides to look on when it comes to lung cancer. I was saddened to read her news back then, and hoped against hope that she would still be with us for some time. And - she was.

Friends all around the world rallied round to keep her spirits up and let her know she was in our thoughts. Anne, Snowball's Jie jie in Singapore, gathered a few of us together to help make 1000 cranes. This is an eastern belief, apparently Japanese, that says making 1000 paper origami cranes grants a wish for someone, perhaps long life or recovery from illness or injury.

Not too difficult I thought, being an origami fan in my youth, until I couldn't find any origami paper to buy here in Gibraltar. But then I read that any paper would do, and with a little practice, I was happily ripping up magazines with colourful adverts to make lots of multicoloured cranes.

At the same time, Brooke from Australia, who with her partner, set up the dogs with blogs internet community, organised a rota for us all to send a small gift to Claudette, so that she received something each week. Not sure how well that worked in terms of timing given the postage from Europe to America but anyway, I packaged my gifts for Claudette in bubble wrap, a card, and sent my share of the cranes at the duly appointed week.

When I read the email telling me of her death, I thought sadly that the cranes hadn't worked after all. And then I thought, perhaps they had helped to give her some extra time. Who knows?

We mailed occasionally and we shared facebook pms too. It seems every tribute I have read to her talks about messages to so many people, so I don't know where she found the time. Perhaps that says something about her generosity and willingness to make time for everyone.

Claudette was a brave woman who shared the unpleasant details of her treatment, and the side effects, with us all. Like many other courageous people with cancer, she posted pictures of herself after chemo treatment, laughing and discussing the best choice of wig.

And, realising, there were many other people out there on our dog-related network who either had cancer, or had friends/relatives with cancer, or just needed some support, she set up a new group on facebook for people to share their experiences and knowledge.

What I will remember most about Claudette is probably her honesty and openness. Her friendliness to everyone. Her lack of judgment against others.

Most of all though, what I will miss, is her droll sense of humour. In spite of everything, and suffering lousy cancer treatment, she could still come out with some witty jokes and turns of phrase that cracked me up.

Claudette brought smiles to many peoples' faces and I guess that will be how she will be remembered. Someone who shared happiness and merriment and enjoyment of life even when she knew time was running out. Sweet dreams Claudette, and to Floyd, we send you our condolences.

Three other tributes to Claudette here: Maryann, Greg and Brooke, Bren

Monday, 10 October 2011


Some millions of years ago I did an MBA with the Open University. It suited me at the time, work paid for the fees, and I was hungry and career motivated enough to fit it in at weekends and evenings.
There was one summer school that really stood out for me. It was near Peterborough at a hotel, and pretty reasonable accommodation. That always helps. So did the fact that on the last night I gaily flitted around the place being bought drinks by people I hadn't even met all week. Oops. I staggered back to my room, and I mean, really, really staggered.
We had an interesting group, ie during the week you all get assigned to a working group of eight or so people. We got on well, and one of the instructors said they were pretty amazed by how well we gelled together. As a group, we ate together, drank together, worked after hours together, and happily chatted away.
They were nice people in the group, easy to get on with, and no, I'm not in touch with any of them. Future contacts never even came up. Just as well, as I'm not a believer in the 'we'll meet up in 20 years time in Trafalgar Square' sort of syndrome.
One of my colleagues, Robert or whatever he was called, was talking about stress to me one evening before dinner. We did this whole thing well, you see. Drinks before dinner with our colleagues for casual chat. We were probably quite exclusive, in retrospect, with our own little corner and our select group.
'Why don't you try transcendental meditation?' he suggested. I respected whatever his name was, and liked him, so I didn't dismiss the idea although I knew fuck all about it and thought it was sort of hippy beatleish stuff.
Much later, I tried to get my boss to fork out for the TM course but he wouldn't have it. Stress, I said. Worth a try though. So I paid myself.
For my first appointment, I had to provide a piece of fresh fruit and a white handkerchief, maybe something else. Well, money obviously.
I sat on a plain chair in someone's room, closed my eyes, and was given a meditational word. I still use it. Or near enough, as it is the sound that matters, it was given verbally.
I practised on the metro. I practised in bed (or rather, on the futon at the time) and invariably fell back to sleep. I practised when I was going to sleep, that was an easy one.
I went for individual tuition and later for group sessions. To be honest it was not expensive. Partly because the tutor I used was independent from official TM stuff as he thought they were too expensive for most people.
One evening we were sitting in a somewhat tawdry hotel for a group med. Whacky huh? Eight or ten people sitting around a table together meditating.
The next minute, or rather five minutes or so, I floated on air. OK, I didn't do that. I have only ever done that many years ago when I got nice painkillers in hospital that blasted the shit out of me.
But I did experience a huge release of tension as everything suddenly lifted off my shoulders. Hard to describe. I shifted slightly in the plain chair and something went somewhere into the depths of Whitley Bay. And, well, I really did feel I was floating upwards.
Group meditation is meant to be more powerful because there are more people and more vibes. I went to some more group meetings. Never happened again. Maybe it was the seedy venue that made it work.
I still meditate and it still sends me to sleep. Thanks whatever your name was on the MBA summer school back near Peterborough.
And for those of you who want the nitty gritty. I think my group had all gone to bed that last night and I was in party mode. I've also always easily flitted, and fitted, into and out of, other groups. As it was an MBA course, back in the 80s there were an awful lot of men and not a lot of women. I had to pass so many people to get through the drinking areas. Nightmare, I tell you!
I fell into bed at something like 3am and promptly picked up the 'phone to report back to base to inform my partner I was pissed. He took a hell of a long time to answer. And then I went happily off to sleep.
The next morning I even turned up for breakfast. Uff, it was hard, but I was there. Didn't bother to go for the ghastly course wind-up stuff, just packed up and went home.
A great week, and the TM recommendation was so appreciated. Doesn't really matter what type of meditation you choose to try. As they say, don't knock it until you have tried it. TM works for me. Has done for nearly 20 years.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Fire alarms and wholemeal bread

Never a dull moment at the supermarket is there?

So the other day I tripped off as usual to see if there was anything new on the shelves, stock up with paracetamol products (joke), and give myself some exercise with the forty minute walk round trip. The walk is the best bit, I could cheerfully walk there and back without going inside, but needs must.

No sooner had I picked up a pack of chestnut mushrooms (we get through a lot of those) than there is a strange whooping noise.

I looked around puzzled. Was it an alarm? Fire? Bomb scare alert? (days of going to school near a high security prison and working in London kicking in here) or just some miserable electrical failure?

Staff started walking purposefully for the door but there was no screaming and yelling. Eventually customers followed them.

I was still near the door. I sadly put down my basket which had the last remaining punnet of chestnut mushrooms and hoped to hell no-one would nick it.

As I walked out I was fascinated to see people walking out with their trollies. With goods in, unpaid for. They didn't go anywhere but stood by the entrance. Eventually the penny dropped. Or rather the pound. Perhaps they didn't want anyone to nab their trolley and take it to the trolley park and retrieve their pound deposit. How sad. And I tell you if that was a real fire, my one pound coin would be the last thing on my mind. That's assuming I had a trolley which is most unlikely given that I never buy that much.

The staff trooped across to the far side of the car park. Two staff stood in each side of the entrance doorways to block any naughty customers sneaking back in (and nicking stuff no doubt).

One bright spark had the smart idea of asking if it was a real alarm or just a drill. It seemed it was a drill. Odd, I always associated Wednesday mornings with school fire drills. Things must have moved forward in life to Tuesdays. Just as well it was a drill really because the staff gaily marching off and leaving all the customers outside the entrance about to be engulfed by a conflagration wasn't very clever. I do hope in the event of a real alarm they will tell us all to move our arses, and fast.

Then the staff started moving back inside - and - what happens next? Desperate customers can't wait to get back to their shopping and start trying to push in front of them. Dear me!! As someone politely said, 'these people need to go back to their station' or something similar. What is it with people that they have to push back into the store?

Top tip. Always give yourself plenty of time when going to a supermarket on Tuesday in case they have a fire drill.

I found my mushrooms. Someone had moved my basket to stock up the table I had plonked it on, but it had been put tidily on the floor. I had put it on a table as I didn't want anyone to fall over it in the rush to get away from the fire.

Totally separately, I always used to take fire drills seriously. There is no point treating it like a joke because fire is no joke. I know. We had one in our house when I was a kid.

First things first. Shut the doors, preferably checking there is no-one in that room. It drove me up the wall when we had our fire drills at work and people wandered out of their offices without shutting their door. The whole point of a drill is to get it right if you ever need to do it for real, not treating it like 'just another fire drill so it doesn't matter.'

Yesterday it was Partner's turn to go to the super. As he was picking up some bread, he started listening to a customer sounding off to a bakery assistant about the fact that there was no organic wholemeal bread. Clearly if there isn't any bread out that means they don't have that dough mix in the store.

Bakery assistant patiently explained this. Ranty woman kept whingeing. BA suggested that she do what 'This gentleman had done, and buy organic white instead.' Ranty woman said it wasn't the same and her husband only liked wholemeal.

Partner helpfully said 'At least it's organic. Looks like another cranky day in Morrisons (ouch!!). Have a nice day.'

As he left, RW turned away and BA stuck her thumb up at Partner. I wouldn't have their job for worlds. What can they do if they have used all the dough and new supplies haven't come in? RW should bake her own I say.

And, it has to be said I did screw my nose up when he came in and said he had bought white because there wasn't any wholemeal ........

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Paracetamol anyone?

I was idly standing in the supermarket checkout, as you do. It was fairly early in the morning, and most of the checkouts only had one person going through so I hit the nearest one that seemed to be nearly finished.

The woman was chatting to the cashier about I have no idea what. Then the cashier picked up the box of Lemsip and some other cold thingy.

'I can only sell you two of these because they contain paracetamol,' she explained.

We then all listened entranced to the customer's heart-rending tale of how her husband had a cold last week ['you know what men are like', she added] and she needed to stock up the store cupboard right that minute.

Really? Now having a cold is bad news but it isn't exactly the plague or ebola.

Then there was a problem. Not only did she have a pack of Lemsip and whatever else, she also had one of those bottles of something for a cold. You can tell I don't do cold remedies.

'Does this one contain paracetamol?' asked the cashier.

'Probably,' said Ms Cold Medicine Addict.

The cashier looked at the bottle and again explained that the store policy was to only sell two paracetamol products and that she couldn't go against that.

Ms CMA started to get upset and explained how utterly vital it was that morning to buy a load of cold medicines just in case somebody in the household caught a cold in the next few weeks.

Then she pointed out that only a week or a few days ago, she had bought not only two packets of Lemsip but two packets of ibuprofen as well, which was much stronger.

Now, I am no painkiller expert, having never bought one in my 50+ years of life, but as far as I know, paracetamol and ibuprofen are not the same thing. They may well both be analgesic (pain-relieving) active ingredients that are found in other medicines, but their chemical make-up is different. Apart from anything else, ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and paracetamol is not. So, unless the store had a policy on not selling more than two packs of ibuprofen in combination with paracetamol purchases, Ms CMA's comment was irrelevant.

When I got home I decided to look up this strange rationing of paracetamol-based products.

Apparently back in the last century (ha!) new regulations came into force in the UK in 1998 that limited the number of painkillers that could be sold in one packet to 16. This was to prevent the 200 or so accidental deaths and suicides that happen every year due to overdoses. It seemed the government hoped to reduce the number of deaths by 10% - that works out at 20 by my reckoning.

Now while I don't advocate overdosing for one minute, faffing around with tablet packaging, virtually doubling the price, and supposedly limiting the sales to potentially save 20 lives wouldn't be a priority on my government list of new laws.

Especially when anyone with half a brain would just visit endless shops if they really wanted to buy lots of paracetamol-based tablets.

And this thought occurred to me while I was listening to this amazing drama unfolding in front of me. Why is Ms CMA not just shutting up and going to another pharmacy for another few boxes or bottles of whatever?

Because she didn't have any cash. She only had her American Express card. And she didn't think a pharmacy would like her buying a couple of cold remedies on her card. Even the cashier had suggested she go over to the pharmacy branch of the store and buy a couple of extras.

Meanwhile, the till next to me had seen at least three customers through in the time I had been avidly listening to the pill opera. I contemplated moving my half dozen items across for speedy service. But no, I was too gripped to find out what happened next.

'Shall I call the supervisor?' asked the cashier wearily.

'Yes please. I'm not happy with this. AT ALL,' said Ms CMA.

To be fair, she did keep apologising to me for the delay. Hey, free entertainment. I smiled nicely.

The supervisor appeared. We all listened to the same story about the whining poorly husband, the empty store cupboard, the possibility of even yet more colds in the next few days and the essential need to buy as much as possible this very minute. Oh and guests were turning up at quarter to ten. They probably had colds as well.

In spite of all those extenuating circumstances, the supervisor backed up her member of staff and repeated the two products only rule.

Supervisors get paid more to avoid confrontation and think smart. 'Shall I take these over to the pharmacist and see if they will let you buy all three?' she asked.

Ms CMA agreed. Off trotted the supervisor. The remaining items were all checked through the till and Ms CMA was given the bill.

Another problem. The cashier had rung through two of the paracetamol products and the supervisor had walked off with them. Ms CMA wasn't happy paying for them when she didn't have them in her sticky little hands.

Luckily the supervisor came back, and said - guess what? - the pharmacist wouldn't allow the sale of more than two products. I don't know how I kept a straight face.

And I'm thinking when I have a cold, I drink weak black tea, hot water and lemon, sometimes with honey, and if I could find the energy I might consider rushing out to buy a bottle of whisky to slug into it as well. I never do, but it's always an option. This reliance on Lemsip et al was fascinating me. I began to wonder what I was missing out on.

The cashier started ringing my items through. I wondered if I would be allowed to purchase toilet cleaner without ID or a prescription in case it could be toxic even though it was Ecover, but it went through without a murmur. So did the three bottles of cider for a fiver on special offer.

Ms CMA and the supervisor were still in deep discussion. I was still listening. Ms CMA repeated her assertion that she had been sold a million painkillers the previous week at the same store by someone else.

The supervisor looked very serious. 'If we find out who that was they will be in deep trouble,' she said ominously.

I could understand Ms CMA being racked off with what appeared like a bureaucratic petty store policy. Especially if she thought she had bought the same thing a short while before.

But hectoring and bullying the cashier was unreasonable and potentially putting someone else's job on the line because she wanted to prove her point and couldn't be arsed to go to another pharmacist to stock up that empty store cupboard was downright selfish. If the store has a policy, it isn't up to a cashier to break it and risk their job, and it is beyond the pale to dob someone in who may have sold you something in error previously.

In fact reading up on it, I doubt they did. An excellent thread here on a mountain biking forum for some bizarre reason !! pretty much summarises everything about the whole issue.

Must register on that forum. Wonder if they know as much about bikes?

Back to the checkout. Ms CMA and supervisor were still deep in discussion (?) I paid. 'Have a nice day,' I said, and grinned at the cashier. She smiled back.

Seriously though, and I guess most of my readers will know this. Cold medicines do not get rid of the cold. The analgesics lessen the headache and the other stuff decongests your nose for easier breathing.

I wonder what people did before Night Nurse and Lemsip? I use pine and eucalyptus essential oils for decongestion. The hot drinks I've already mentioned. Good food helps. Carnivores can indulge in beef tea or chicken soup, I tend to go for anything curried or with chilli/cayenne in it, a miso soup, or a vegetable soup. Headaches wear off, probably in a not dissimilar time to the effect of a painkiller.

There is life out there without cold remedies. But if you do choose to indulge in them, read the active ingredients listed on the packaging so you know what you are buying, and make sure you read the information leaflet so you don't accidentally overdose. No more than eight paracetamol in 24 hours. Shovelling in potentially dangerous drugs because you haven't informed yourself isn't clever.

To summarise:

1) I don't see any circumstances where it is acceptable to bully cashiers or supervisors, even though store policies can be frustrating for customers. If you do want to have a go at someone make sure it is at least a supervisor, or better still a manager - but not a checkout operator. They are not paid to make decisons about store policy and don't deserve to be the butt of our frustration.

2) If you take a load of paracetamol or any other painkillers for colds, please try to learn about what you are taking. Read the information leaflets and learn about active ingredients so you know what the risks are and what any adverse reactions may be. This applies to any drugs you may be taking, including prescription drugs. ALWAYS read the information leaflets. If you can't read or the print is too small, ask someone to read it out to you, or ask for a large print version (well, I live in hopes they may be available).

3) Consider using alternative ways of alleviating the pain involved with the common cold - which are usually a sore throat, throbbing head, blocked nose. Your cold isn't going to go away any faster or slower regardless of how many paracetamol or other cold remedies you take. And preferably stay at home, if possible, so you don't pass it on to someone else who really doesn't want your grotty cold.