Floating in the Blue

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There is so much negativity about just lately. Brexit, rampant racism, politicians falling over themselves to stab one another in the back, job insecurity – it all conspires to create a dark night of the soul, a black void of disregard for our fellow man. Well, I for one refuse to go along with it. I wholeheartedly and resolutely refuse to allow this swell of negativity drag me down, and in doing so, I hope to throw a lifeline to all of you who feel yourselves caught by the tide.

So how do I propose to do this, I hear you ask. Why, by indulging in a little light pareidolia, or, to give it its more common description, “finding shapes in the clouds“. A. A Milne once wrote, “How sweet to be a cloud floating in the blue.” How sweet indeed! And even sweeter if such cloud happens to take the form of a Scottie dog wearing a curly wig! (Seriously, that’s what I’ve just seen!)

Thus far this afternoon I have seen (these are in no particular order): a six-breasted Miss Piggy, Kenneth Williams, a pig wearing a wig (maybe he borrowed it from the aforementioned Scottie dog) and a “scream” mask. As I read back over what I’ve just written, I’m sure that should any psychologists stumble across this piece, they would have enough material in this paragraph alone for an entire conference!

I often indulge in pareidolia when I’m on a flight. I remember on one particularly tedious transatlantic flight, I seemed to spend hours just gazing out of the plane window, trying to find the most outrageous or ridiculous image I could. I succeeded in seeing four monsters emerging from a swamp, something which made me nudge my husband awake to see if he could see it too (he could, and then promptly fell back to sleep). Reading through some notes I made in a little notebook at the time, I see that I wrote that I had also seen “clouds that appeared as waves crashing against a rugged shore”. It would have been nice if such an image was a taster of what awaited me when I disembarked from the plane, but given that my destination was Brussels…no such luck!

I hope, my dear readers, that I have brightened your day a little (if brightening your day by bringing clouds is not too much of an oxymoron). Negativity cannot drive out negativity; only positivity can do that. And perhaps we would all feel a little more positive if, for just a short while, we forgot the real world and instead allowed our imaginations to run free amongst sweet, cotton candy clouds floating in the blue.

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Echoes of Gary McKinnon

Reading the story of the proposed extradition of Asperger’s sufferer, Lauri Love, in yesterday’s Independent newspaper, I am reminded of an article that I wrote some five years ago, about Gary McKinnon. Like Lauri Love, Gary McKinnon was an Asperger’s sufferer, who was set to be extradited to the US to face charges of computer hacking, after he allegedly broke into the computer systems of NASA and the Pentagon. Eventually, the Home Secretary intervened on Gary McKinnon’s behalf and the extradition was halted. There are now calls for that same Home Secretary, Theresa May, to intervene on Love’s behalf, after he was accused of breaking into the computer systems of NASA and the US military. And so, without further ado, here is my original article on Gary McKinnon.

Gary McKinnon – Originally published in 2011. Copyright Eleanor Parks 2011.

It was with utter dismay that I watched the mother of Gary McKinnon this morning as she was interviewed on the BBC Breakfast programme. I have followed this story since it first hit the headlines in 2002, and every time I hear or think about it, it is with the vague hope that common sense will prevail. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly given the calibre of the British government, this seems ever less likely to happen.

Gary’s mother, as ever, spoke eloquently and passionately about her son’s mental state at this moment in time, and as she spoke, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the torturous ordeal suffered by Winston Smith in George Orwell’s seminal classic, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. For here is a man being taken to the point of destruction, being forced so far beyond his own limits and understanding that he is detaching from himself. Here too is the threat of Room 101, with its horror that cannot be conceived or endured – in Gary’s case it is being cut off from his lifeline of routine and the love and support of his mother, to be transplanted into a world that is as alien to him as the moons of Jupiter would be to any one of us. Of course, “Nineteen Eighty-Four” would not be the same without the maniacal O’Brien, played in this instance by every Home Secretary from David Blunkett to the current incumbent, Theresa May. Each one of them, like O’Brien, seems to relish shooting down in flames any argument which goes against their own illogical, Benthamist view. Likewise, the American government is “The Party”; for why else would it seem as if our own Home Secretaries does not wish to block the extradition because “The Party” does not wish it.
I am reminded too of the case of Derek Bentley, a case which draws parallels with that of Gary McKinnon. Like Gary McKinnon, Derek Bentley had committed a crime and had a case to answer. In Derek Bentley’s case, his crime was the attempted breaking and entering of a warehouse. Gary McKinnon broke into the computers of NASA and the Pentagon. Derek Bentley was vulnerable and impressionable, suffering from epilepsy after sustaining head injuries during The Blitz and had the mental age of 11. Gary McKinnon is vulnerable, suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, a severe form of autism, and despite being 43-years-old, does not function at the same level of you or me. Derek Bentley paid for his crime with his life, despite the fact that he had neither killed nor hurt anyone. Gary McKinnon has not killed, nor has he hurt anyone, and yet he is so vulnerable that he too is in danger of paying with his life.
There are many who will argue that Gary McKinnon has committed a crime and should be brought before the law. I fully agree. However, the fact remains that the crime in question was committed on British soil. Let us say, for one hypothetical moment, that he had broken into a shop in Newcastle. The court hearing would be heard in Newcastle, as that was the place of the crime. So why, therefore, should a crime committed on British soil be tried in America?
If the current coalition government, supposedly led in part by ministers who call themselves Liberals, does not do what its own ministers appear to be calling for and amend the UK – US Extradition Treaty, it will have proved that it advocates justice without compassion. If that is the case, then we may as well do away with the adversarial system of our courts and revert back to that of the early 1700s, when defendants were placed at the mercy of an arbitrary judge or jury. We can sweep away all the hard fought and hard won reforms of Sir William Garrow, for there will be no need for defence counsel, nor any need to plead for the life of a defendant who, through factors beyond their own reasoning or control is in jeopardy. Nor will it even be required to bring forth mitigating circumstances.

At its core, therefore, the case of Gary McKinnon is bringing to light a decision, one which anyone who has the remotest interest in ensuring that all who come before the law are treated fairly should not see as difficult. We have a choice: Justice with compassion, or judicial totalitarianism. I can only hope that the incumbent Theresa May has the courage to stand and be counted on the side of true justice.

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Nigel Farage – A Dangerous Mind

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I have started today feeling more than a little confused. It began when I read the news reports about the leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, coming out in support of Donald Trump during an interview for CNN. I am confused, primarily because I can’t work out why the story has made me so angry.

As I sit here at my desk this morning, my freshly brewed cup of coffee steaming nicely beside me, while my cat, Snorky, takes a break from walking over my keyboard to drift off into slumber behind my laptop, I am starting to realise that the source of my anger lies in the fact that I perhaps stupidly, naively, blindly – call it what you will – believed that Nigel Farage was better than that.

Borrowing the four words which politicians love to use – let me be clear. I am not a UKIP supporter, nor am I a Nigel Farage supporter. However, I have, in the past, found myself quite liking Farage for the simple reason that he presents an image that is the antithesis of a politician. A pint in one hand, a cigarette in the other, you can imagine him to be some kind of hybrid between the politically savvy man on the street and Keith Floyd. He also has a habit of turning off the filter between his brain and his mouth, the results of which have often flown in the face of the British stiff upper lip, and have, on more than one occasion, made me laugh. Yet, to use Farage’s own quip to the European Parliament yesterday, I’m not laughing now.

To be fair, I stopped laughing yesterday when Farage failed to condemn the hideous display of racist behaviour played out on a tram in Manchester. Perhaps he chose to switch on the filter between his brain and his mouth, therefore preventing himself from angering his party by saying that there is no place in society for ignorant Neanderthals who take it upon themselves to abuse someone else. Incidentally, when I watched the tram footage yesterday, I was struck by the mock bravery of all those on the tram, those who challenged the behaviour of the societal disgrace once said disgrace had left the tram. Still, in spite of Farage’s failure to condemn such behaviour, I would have liked to believe that he was not so ridiculous and ignorant as to come out in public support of Donald Trump. I would have liked to believe that behind that grinning muppet-frog face, there was an iota of sense. Sadly, no.

To come out and publicly state that Donald Trump, the Cheeto-coloured, racist, sexist, misogynist, heartless, unintelligent, devoid of any class whatsoever, pathetic excuse for a man, would be better for Britain than Obama has been, to me shows Nigel Farage’s abhorrent true colours, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Robert Kilroy-Silk stopped pretending he was nice and allowed his racist self to have full rein.

With Nigel Farage not necessarily at the helm, but certainly in a position of power, post-Brexit Britain is embarking on a dangerous journey – and it scares me. I am not scared for myself (I no longer live in the UK), but I am scared for my family, my Muslim and Hindu friends (the racists wouldn’t know the difference if you drew them a picture), my Moroccan and Turkish and Jamaican friends who have no religion but who nonetheless already feel targeted because of their ethnicity.

Recently, I took a trip to York Castle Museum. One of the feature exhibits of the museum is a mock-up of WWI trenches that you can walk through as you look at weaponry and armoury, getting a sense of the horror of war, and reading the personal testimony of the sacrifices which the soldiers – these brave, ordinary men – made in their fight for freedom and against fascism. At the end of the exhibit, you come out into a circular room, the walls of which are filled with blackboards. Guests are invited to write their thoughts about WWI or war in general, on those boards. I thought about the fact that WWI was supposed to be “the war to end all wars”, and yet, a century on, we are still fighting, still killing each other, still hating on the basis of creed, colour, race or religion. We haven’t learned a thing! What I wrote on the blackboard (see the photo above) was a product of the anger I truly felt. Given the words of Nigel Farage and the silence of those who fail to challenge him, it is an anger which shows no sign of abating.

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The Camp Bed

Disclaimer: This story features swearing, sexual references and recreational drug use. If you are offended by either of these then please do not read any further. If, however, you are like me and none of that bothers you, I hope this entertains you as much as it does me. Oh, and I should probably point out that it is a true story, and is told almost word for word as it was told to me! 

It was the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last. My best friend, Danny, and I were spending a Saturday evening in, dispensing with our habitual routine of going on a pub crawl around town, getting noisily drunk, before staggering home with someone whose face we wouldn’t remember in the morning, and having some disappointing sex. It was, by now, around ten o’clock, and we were both getting giggly and silly by drinking beer and smoking weed. Mind you, it had done wonders for our conversation. Thus far we we had touched on many topics, including the varied merits of getting a goat to avoid having to mow the lawn. 

I had just rolled another joint – our third of the evening – and handed it to Danny as I pondered upon which delights our our enlightening conversation might next alight. Danny took a long toke on the joint and inhaled deeply. He exhaled slowly as he handed it back to me. As I put the joint to my lips, I was acutely aware that our conversation was floundering and that unless some bright topic was introduced soon, one or both of us would end up raiding the fridge, freezer or kitchen cupboards, or very possibly all three. Just then, Danny looked lazily over to me.

“Did I ever tell you about the incident with my girlfriend and the camp bed?” he asked.

This sounded promising. I wanted to say no, but given that I had a lungful of weed, I just shook my head.

“It was a few years ago now, but I was seeing this girl called Emma” he began, “Her parents hated me, didn’t think I was right for her at all. Her dad virtually out and out said that she could do a lot better”

“Imagine them thinking that of you,” I laughed, as I watched him take another long pull on the joint while scratching his balls with his other hand “I wonder whatever made them think that”

“Do you want to hear this story or not?” I held my hands up.

“Sorry, I’ll behave” I said, with mock humility.

“See that you do, otherwise there’ll be no story. Now, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…again! Like I say, her parents hated me. Especially her mother. Christ! That woman loathed me with a passion! She even went so far as to say that if she ever caught me with so much as a toe inside her house, she’d happily throttle me where I stood and claim provocation in court! Well, in light of what she said, I thought it best if me and Emma started seeing each other on the quiet, and well away from her place. At first Emma said that she didn’t care what her Mum said. I was her boyfriend and if her Mum didn’t like that, well then, she’d just have to grow up and get used to it. I wasn’t having any of it though. I mean, call me a chicken…”

“You’re a chicken” I said, accepting the invitation.

“Thank you. But I didn’t fancy taking my chances with some psycho-throttling-mother-from-hell. Anyway, I managed to talk some sense into her, and we decided that we’d see each other on the sly, just for a little while, and then if things started to get more serious between us, well, then I’d have to have a chat with her mum…from a safe distance of course…a couple of hundred miles, say”

“Such bravery and chivalry, my liege”

Danny gave a mordant bow of the head in acknowledgment before continuing.

“Anyway, we’d been seeing each other as much as we could, ducking and diving here and there and generally keeping as far away from her Mum’s meaty throttlers as we could, when Emma came to me with some news…”

“She was a lesbian?” I ventured.

“No!”

“Pregnant?”

“Of course not!…Hey, why d’you say lesbian first?”

“I don’t know” I shrugged, “Horniness?”

“But it’s not ‘cause you think she looks like a dyke, right?”

“How the fuck should I know what she looks like, I’ve never met her for fuck’s sake. Look, are you gonna carry on with this story or what because pretty soon I’m gonna be starving or sober and I’m not sure which is more dangerous”

“OK, OK” said Danny, holding his hands up. “Where was I?”

“You’ll be six feet under if you don’t get a move on. Emma came to you with some news”

“Oh yeah. Yeah, she said that her parents were going away to Paris that weekend and so seeing as how she’d have the house all to herself, she thought that maybe we could spend the weekend together at her place”

“Sounds sweet”

“I know, right. She said she’d asked her Mum to let her know when they got to Paris, so she knew they’d got there safely. Then, once she knew they were there, she’d text me and tell me to come over. So the day finally dawns, and about two o’clock…”

“In the morning or afternoon?” I asked

“Does it matter?” replied Danny.

“Of course it matters, I want to get a mental picture”

“It was two o’clock in the afternoon, Mr Holmes”

“Very good. Proceed”

“Thank you. So, around two in the afternoon I got a text from Emma to say that her Mum and Dad were safely in Paris and that I was to come over. Now, she lived about a half hour walk from me, but no word of a lie, I was there in ten minutes. We practically fell on each other as soon as she answered the door and, being the horny beast that I am, I fucked her right there in the hall”

“Which hall do you mean?” I interrupted again.

“Fuck off! You know what I mean” Danny laughed, and threw a handful of Doritos at me. This naturally set us off giggling again, and it was a good ten minutes before our juvenile merriment had subsided.

“Fuck! I’ve forgotten what I was saying now!” said Danny.

“You were fucking Emma in her hallway” I said, and we nearly set off again, but just managed to contain it.

“Right, yeah” Danny nodded, picking up the threads. “Well, after the hallway we did it in the kitchen and the bathroom. Emma wanted to do it in the conservatory but I appealed to her mercy to let me recover a little and so we ended up cuddling with a sandwich on the sofa”

“Why were you cuddling a golf club?” I asked.

For a moment, Danny looked puzzled, but eventually the penny dropped and he said “I said sandwich, not sand wedge! Honestly!” And another handful of Doritos were launched in my direction.

“We spent a lovely day together. About 8 o’clock…in the evening, Mr. Holmes…we sent out for pizza and watched The X Factor. We had a shower together and had sex in the shower, and then when it got to about 11 o’clock, I suggested that it might be best if I went home. “Why?” she said, “My Mum and Dad are miles away in Paris. I mean, I know my Mum’s got 20/20 vision, but I doubt even she can see that far” I said that I was just nervous that they might come back early or something, but Emma assured me that that wouldn’t happen. So, with that decided we snuggled up on the sofa and watched Chicken Run”

“Chicken Run?” I queried, as I rolled another joint.

“Yeah, Chicken Run. What’s wrong with that?”

“And they say romance is dead” I murmured.

“It is romantic!” Danny protested, “The bit where Mrs. Tweedy’s footsteps pass agonisingly slowly past the door of the room where Ginger is hiding, is well scary. And when you’re with a woman, scary means she cuddles into you even tighter” And just for good measure, in case I hadn’t already got the drift, he winked at me. I rolled my eyes as well as my joint.

“Well,” Danny continued, “Emma had already told me that I’d have to sleep on a camp bed in her room, because there wasn’t enough space for two in her single bed. I thought about mooting the idea of sleeping in her Mum and Dad’s bed, but since she hadn’t mentioned it, I thought it best not to. I’m guessing it was about two in the morning when we finally went to bed. We had a cuddle on her bed first and then I got onto the camp bed and we both fell asleep. Next morning, I woke up with a massive hard on. I mean, I’m talking full blanket tent pole…”

“TMI dude, TMI” I protested, “Do I need to hear this?”

“It’s important!” said Danny. I waved my hand through the haze of smoke I had just exhaled to tell him to continue. “So, I’ve got this hard on,” Danny continued, “and of course, needing to do something about it, I gently woke Emma up. I had no idea that women can be just as horny as us fellas first thing in the morning, and as soon as she saw my bed tent, she was on me like some kind of ravenous vampire. We really went at it. First she was on top and then we switched so I was on top of her. We were really going for it!”

“I’m sensing a but coming here, if you pardon the expression given the subject matter”

“Ha! Well that’s where you’re wrong, Mr. Holmes. There’s no but…but there is an ‘and then’” Danny said, triumphantly.

“OK, so and then” I prompted.

“And then the bed collapsed”

“Is that it?” I asked “I thought you were going to say something really dramatic happened”

“Something really dramatic did happen!” Danny retorted “The bed collapsed and because I was bracing myself with my hands on the floor, it trapped my hands underneath it. I couldn’t fucking move!”

“Oh my god!” I gasped, practically choking on the smoke I had just inhaled. For a full five minutes from this point, Danny was forced to suspend his tale as I embarked on a spluttering-laughing-coughing fit. This in turn made Danny laugh, and for a moment or two it seemed as if neither of us would be in any fit state to carry on.

Finally, once our mirth had subsided, Danny got up and got us both a beer, then sat back down to finish the story.

“So, there I am, on top of Emma, both of us stark bollck naked and me with my hands trapped underneath the camp bed. With both our weights on it, there was no way I could get myself free. Emma was telling me to lift up and I was telling her that if I could lift up, I would have done so by now. Honestly dude, as time went on I started having visions of the police searching the house and finding just our skeletons, still trapped in the same position”

Repressing the urge to giggle again, I managed to ask how they managed to free themselves. “After all,” I said, “you must have got free otherwise you’d still be there, right. So what happened?”

“Her Mum and Dad came home, that’s what happened” said Danny.

“You’re kidding!” I exclaimed.

“I wish to fuck I was, dude. I’d just asked Emma if there was any way she could slide out from under me when we heard the front door open and then heard her Mum and Dad. “Only us, love” her Mum shouted. “I know we’re home early but we basically got there and came straight back. Paris isn’t as romantic as everyone makes out. It’s really a…” “Shithole” her Dad said. “Language, Arthur!” said her Mum. Both our hearts are going ten to the dozen and I’m pinning all my hopes on Emma being able to wriggle out from underneath me, lift up the bed just enough for me to get my hands out, and then I can quickly hide in the wardrobe and she can jump into bed and pretend to be asleep. As it turned out we didn’t have time for any of that. Her Mum came up the stairs, poked her head around the door, saw my hairy arse pointing straight at her and screamed. Her Dad must have thought there was a burglar or something, cause he came bursting in with a hammer in his hand and I’m convinced he’d have done me a mischief if Emma hadn’t poked her head out from under me and said “Hiya. You’ve met Danny haven’t you?”

By this point, all hope was lost for me and I found myself as a teary, giggling mess on the floor. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t stop laughing; in fact, the harder I tried, the funnier it got. Eventually, I somehow must have managed to stammer something along the lines of “Then what happened” because Danny said “Well, her Dad managed to lift the bed a bit so I could get my hands out and I stood up, making sure to cover my essentials with my hands of course. Mind you, I didn’t really help myself there because ended up moving my hands away to offer a hello to her Mum. I’m telling you dude, the look on that woman’s face was enough to strike the fear of god into anyone. I swear, if I’d been alone with her I’d be a eunuch”

He looked around and smacked his lips.

“You want some more Doritos?”

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Tears From My Nanna’s Eyes

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A few days ago I thought I might try to go through some of the numerous boxes of junk and memorabilia that sits gathering dust in my loft. I’m not sure what prompted me to do so. Perhaps I simply had an attack of needing to have a clear out; or perhaps – as is more likely – I was having an attack of nostalgia, brought on by an impending milestone birthday that begins with a big fat 4.

As I climbed the ladder into the loft, I surveyed the myriad cardboard boxes that littered the floor and occupied spaces amongst the eaves. Many of the boxes had been there, unopened, since we moved into this house many years ago. What long forgotten memories lay therein?

Amongst the CDs, school reports, old letters, sealed and unopened copies of my manuscripts, I found two old and slightly battered notebooks. I’m not altogether sure how they came to be in my possession, but as I flicked through the pages, I realised that these notebooks once belonged to my nanna. The pages were filled with original poetry that she had written herself, poetry that primarily concerned the love she had for my granddad, a man who I sadly never met. There were poems about the loss of her son, Peter, too, a beautiful blond, blue-eyed boy who died of diphtheria just shy of his tenth birthday. They were a real eye-opener. We tend to think that people from my nanna’s generation – she was born in 1904 – were hard folk, that they simply got on with things and didn’t let life get them down. Oh! How wrong we are!

Written in my nanna’s own hand, her words flowing like water into an ocean of heartbreak, she told of how she felt she might be drowned in a tidal wave of emotion when her husband died. Such lines as,

“You said you would always be here

But the truth was not ours to see

I must have somehow angered God

For him to take you away from me”

and

“When it comes around to the time of year

When we turn the clocks back,

I wish that I could turn them all back

To the time when you were still here.

And then I would stop them forever.”

made we want to reach back through history, to hold her and tell her that everything turned out OK.

The words she wrote about the death of Peter were no less heartrending. Written in prose, she tells of how her own mother pulled her out of despair and taught her just what it was to be a mother. She wrote,

“I was lying on the bed, wishing and hoping that the angels would be merciful and come and take me, so I could be with him once again.

Mum came in and asked if I was still moping.

Still moping? How could she say that to me?

“I’ve lost my son!” I screamed, and sat to face mother.

Her eyes were red; her face stained with tears.

“I know, sweetheart” she said, “But you’ve got another son. He’s only 7 and he’s just lost his brother. He needs his mum. And you’ve got another little one inside you. Don’t you dare let either of them down”

As I sat there, on the loft floor, turning page after page, the tears flowed as easily as my nanna’s words. They were the tears of history, tears of nostalgia. More than that though, they were the tears of all the things I wished I’d known when I was younger, and the tears of tribute to all the mothers who carried my family through the generations and made it as strong as it is today.

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Midnight Meanderings of a Sleep-Deprived Writer

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There are many times when I feel as if I live my life backwards. I say this because, more often than not, I wake up feeling tired and go to bed wide awake. I don’t go out of my way to deprive myself of sleep, it’s just that my brain likes to play tricks on me by telling me that I’m tired and then as soon as my head hits the pillow, it says, “Only kidding!”

My husband suffers from it occasionally too, and on these nights of synchronised insomnia, we often stay in bed, perhaps drinking a cup of tea, and he will ask me about random pieces of trivia that I may have picked up since the last time neither of us could sleep. I’ve kept a kind of a log of all the topics our midnight meanderings have touched upon, and, as I read back through them, they are very wide ranging.

I see, for example, that a couple of weeks ago we discussed the fact that not only are polar bears invisible to night vision equipment, but they are not white. My husband refused to accept this second fact, and actually made me switch on my phone to Google my explanation that their fur is actually a collection of clear, hollow, translucent tubes which reflect light, thus making the fur appear white. To my eternal shame, I did a victory dance in bed when he told me I was right!

We’ve discussed too, the topic of nominative determinism, which is the idea that your name determines what you do for a living. For example, John Baker would be a baker, Simon Plumber would be a plumber, and Donald Trump would be an arse that keeps spouting hot, noxious gas that you hope will disappear quickly. (For my dear friends across the Atlantic, “trump” is a primarily English synonym for “fart”)

We then moved on to the tragic notion that Albert Einstein’s last words are lost forever. The reason being that he spoke his last words in German, and the only person to hear what he said was a nurse who didn’t speak German. If only I had a time machine, I could go back to April 18, 1955 and record his last words for the world to hear. Maybe we would be astounded. Maybe not. We tend to think that the last words of such a genius would be profound or prophetic. But what if he’d said something really banal, like, “God, this bed is uncomfortable” – would we all be disappointed?

I think though, that of all the topics that have made up our midnight meanderings thus far, my favourite has to be the theory that the French mathematician, Descartes, had that monkeys and apes could actually speak, but that they kept quiet in case they were asked to do any work!

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Rabbit-Proof Fence

I should have known that I would get a letter from Auntie Glad. I should have known because the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence was on the other night, and whenever that movie is on, very soon afterwards I get a letter from Auntie Glad in Australia.

For those of you who don’t know, Auntie Glad is an amazing woman. She is 95-years-old and shows no signs of slowing down…come hell or high water! For her 80th birthday, she attended a fancy dress party, held in her honour. Her costume? A punk, complete with leather mini-skirt, fishnet stockings and green-dyed hair. At 90, she joined a gym…because she’d “never joined a gym before”. When, aged 92, she tore her leg open on a broken pool tile, the hospital’s demand for her to be admitted for surgery and a skin graft was met with, “I haven’t got time for that! Stick some stitches in it and give me some crutches. I’ve got a bloody plane to catch!” So, it was with great anticipation that I opened her latest letter, eager to read all what she has been up to since May.

I was not disappointed, with her exploits being as hilarious as ever. She told me how she’s been fine, other than – and I quote – “having to go into hospital for a day to have my heart thumped back to a normal beat because the stupid bloody thing went haywire.” It seems her son convinced her that it was not a good idea for her to drive herself the 50 miles to the nearest hospital, and that she should let him drive. “I suppose it was for the best” she admitted, both reluctantly and grudgingly.

Next week, she has been invited to, and attending, a large nurses reunion. Auntie Glad is a former nurse, practicing first in Liverpool, then in Canada and finally in Australia where she retired. She said that although she has a car, she’s going to be picked up, so that she can “have a little drinky”. Later on in the week, she will be flying by helicopter to help out with a Red Cross fundraiser, and then, if she’s “feeling up to it” she may get her son to teach her how to surf!

I’m not entirely sure whether anyone has told Auntie Glad that she is actually 95-years-old. Mind you, I don’t think she’d listen even if they did. I just hope that if I am lucky enough to reach such a grand age, I can be as fun loving and irreverent as she is.

Auntie Glad, I salute you! You are the epitome of the maxim that “You don’t stop having fun when you get old. You get old when you stop having fun!”

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Partners in Crime

A couple of weeks ago I published a Photo Challenge post concerning the love that one of my cats, Honey Mouse, has for her babies, even though they are now three years old. When I saw the new Photo Challenge was on the subject of partners, I thought about posting something on the subject of Brexit, but decided we needed something a little more lighthearted. Therefore, I again found myself turning to the subject of Honey Mouse and her babies.

As I’ve already said, the kittens are now three years old, and not only is Honey Mouse still remarkably close to her babies, Ringo and Dusty are as close to each other as she is to them. They are real partners (or should that be purrtners?) in crime, often going off exploring together, climbing trees and getting into scrapes. They defend each other too. Should either one of them cry out, the other is there in a flash! Believe it or not, it’s Dusty – the girl – who is the better fighter. Woe betide the cat that picks on her brother!

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Dusty (L) and her purrtner in crime, Ringo.

So protective – bordering on psychotic – is Dusty of her brother, that even the two neighbourhood stray tom cats – RD and Samuel L. Catson – both of whom can seriously handle themselves, are afraid of her! Girl power!

Still, she has her soft and sensitive side too. She loves her cuddles, especially if she’s cuddling with her brother. Mind you, I’m sure if she could talk she’d be saying, “Don’t you dare publish that photo! You’ll destroy my street cred!” Well, sorry Dusty girl, but it’s too adorable not to!

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Dusty and her brother!

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Steaming Passions!

This poem is a true story. The female protagonist is my Mum; the sleeping husband is my Dad. I have to say that when my Mum told me this story, I almost had an accident, I was laughing so hard! I hope it still raises a giggle or two!

One night she found that she couldn’t sleep,

Myriad thoughts ran amuck in her head.

So rather than stare at the ceiling all night

She thought she’d watch some telly instead.

Her husband was sleeping, the house was empty,

And so out of the bedroom she crept,

Then wandered downstairs to the chest of drawers

Where all their movies were kept.

She looked for something suitable,

Something to clear the thoughts from her head,

When she saw a film with a hand-written label:

“Steaming Passions” it read.

Her stomach flipped and her poor heart sank,

Galled and appalled in equal measure.

The film must surely belong to her husband

For his sickening desires to pleasure.

With anger building inside her,

She played the filthy DVD,

But the images which flickered up on the screen

Were not what she expected to see.

There was footage of the “Flying Scotsman”

And locomotives being lifted by cranes.

And the more she watched, the more she saw,

That the movie was all about trains!

The only passions that were steaming,

Were for engines being powered by coal!

And she felt so utterly stupid

That her laughter she could hardly control.

Never judge a book by its cover!

For the subject you can never quite tell.

But the valuable lesson she learned that night

Is that that goes for movies as well!

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Romance on the Stairs

Those of you who regularly visit my blog will have no doubt noticed that I haven’t written anything in around ten days. It’s not through lack of inspiration, or an unwillingness to put fingertips to keyboard. Far from it. No, the reason I haven’t written anything for a while is entirely down to the fact that my mum has not been at all well, and I have been in the UK to try and help cheer her up.

One of the ways in which I tried to cheer up my mum, was by whisking her and my dad away to York for a couple of days. Whilst my dad was party to my subterfuge, my mum was blissfully unaware and totally bowled over when I showed her photos of the hotel I’d booked and said we were staying there. She was gobsmacked, and almost made me cry when, after I’d said, “I’m glad you like the look of the hotel because we’re going there tomorrow” she looked up at me almost pleadingly and said, “Really? Honestly?”

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Romance on the stairs!

We stayed at the Mercure York Fairfield Manor Hotel. I certainly chose well, even if I do admit so myself! The hotel and its staff were wonderful. Nothing was too much trouble. However, one of aspects of the hotel which really caught both my attention and imagination was the staircase. To my eye, it appeared to be somewhere betwixt art nouveau and art deco, with its early 20th century elegant curve and 1930s decor. In the evenings after dinner, I would sit in the lounge, a large glass of wine in my hand, and I would look at the staircase. Often, I would fancy I saw Jean Harlow or Vivien Leigh coming down the stairs in some fabulous gown that was beautifully set off by a gorgeous stole.

Oh! You may scoff at my indulgence, or pass off my mindful meanderings as nothing more than the after effects of the wine. Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps it was a little of both. Not that it matters to me, for if we do away with romance, what else is there?

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