Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife

Night fell a couple of hours ago. The shops are closing. Celia and Charlie have left for Brighton. Octavia is in Yorkshire. In the block of flats where I live, only a handful of residents are at home, and in the section where my flat is, only my lovely neighbours opposite and I are here for Christmas. We’ve decorated our shared landing and exchanged gifts.
Inside, I have candles and fairy lights, tinsel that has so far survived MasterB’s interest, clean sheets, and parcels piled up on the table. Nanci Griffith’s voice fills the air from an old cassette tape.
I am feeling Christmassy, but not Christmassy enough to play CDS of carols. Anyway, I have managed to miswire the CD player of the stereo and sorting it out is beyond me right now. Continue reading

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Living in Pre-Apocalyptic Times

In films, when things are going badly wrong, you see the characters consumed by events; they are intense, focussed, driven.

In reality, in between throwing your hands up in horror, you spend much of your time doing the usual things as though the world might not come to a premature end. You get up, eat breakfast, chat with friends, watch Gogglebox and Graham Norton.

The world right now is in a bigger mess than I have ever known. Maybe the Cold War days were just as apocryphal, only I was too young to understand the threat hanging over us. Krushchev banging his shoe on a table was something I learned about in history lessons. The holocaust has continued to have repercussions, but its power to appall and shock seemed to be nudging us into greater awareness that, as Jo Cox said, we have more in common that we have that divides us. Out of that terrible evil it seemed we might finally understand the importance of interfaith dialogue, human rights legislation and anti-racist education.

Then along came Brexit, and the realisation that there were an astounding number of people about who wanted to blame someone, something, anyone, anything for the things that weren’t working. Not unfortunately the actual people who were to blame, politicians who have dealt a toxic cocktail of short termism, and fake successes, financial deals which are supposed to help the country but where the cash ends up in the bank accounts of a privileged few. Meanwhile papers like the Mail and the Sun ramp up the fear factor about ‘benefits cheats’, ‘health tourists’, illegal immigrants’. Continue reading

Ninety Per Cent Vegan

“So what’s the other ten per cent?” asked Cousin’s Husband, “Do you eat sausages?”
I don’t think it was a serious question, and certainly he was quickly shushed by others in the room, but given the attitudes of some vegans, my other ten per cent might just as well be a love of rare steak.
It’s not though, it’s vegetarian. The odd bit of dairy, usually in the form of a hidden ingredient, still creeps into my meals. Then there are the eggs from hens kept as pets. I don’t have them very often, but they are there. A lot of my food is made from the same ingredients it always was, but used in different ways. I never used to eat butter beans in salads, or tofu in sandwiches. I didn’t have tahini spread on toast in the morning topped with fresh fruit, or with tomatoes, capers and olives. But the tahini, the tomatoes, the olives, the fresh fruit, the tofu, the butter beans were all staples.
The capers? I used to love capers, then suddenly, inexplicably, went off them. I haven’t eaten them in years. Then a neighbour brought some to our Equaliteas event, and since then I have eaten loads of them.
As I have said before, I don’t know that I shall ever be fully vegan. It is more of a lifestyle than vegetarianism. To reach nirvana all animal products including wool, leather and honey need to be excised. I still have quite a bit of honey inherited from Aunt. As I don’t eat it often, that statement will probably be true for some time to come. Equally most of my footwear is leather and unlikely to wear out overnight. Despite the best efforts of the moths (London has suffered a moth invasion this year) I still have some woollen jumpers. Now I am wondering about silk. I guess that might be on the forbidden list too. Maybe I am only eighty or eighty-five per cent vegan. Continue reading

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I think I've redeemed myself with WestieBoy. After taking him for a walk shortly after arriving on Tuesday I went awol in Belfast for the next two days, but today the snow meant our other plans were put on hold so it was a two walk day.

The worst of the weather was elsewhere, but we have a nice dusting that feels seasonal and right.

 

I was wrapped up in warm clothes from London and the one of the hats Cousin has knitted.The first walk was the best. We only met two vehicles. We saw sheep in the fields and birds in the trees and hedgerows but no other living creatures.

The sky turned from white to blue and then grey again. More snow fell, and the wind made it dance in the air around us. Slieve Gallion was all but invisible, and this tree stood alone in a blue white fieldpp.

WestieBoy found plenty to sniff at but tugged and even whined when I wanted to stop and take pictures.

Continue reading

Not a Bad Life

As timing goes, it was pretty good. I'd been back on dasBoot rather less than thirty seconds after a longish (in terms of time rather than distance) walk with my camera when the heavens parted and there was a brief but determined shower of rain. Now it's shaping up to be another lovely evening.

 

Today I had decided to write. Some of you will now that a few years ago I started a collection of short stories about the Greek gods. These grew until I had around 18,000 words and I realised I was writing a novel. Lots of things happened at the same time: Mother's death and its aftermath, giving up my salaried part-time job and going completely freelance, Aunt beginning to fail. I think these things contributed to the cessation of my Greek gods stories, but the main reason was feeling I needed to structure what I had written, to think about what the point if the stories was. I stopped enjoying them and stopped writing them.

 

However, they have stayed with me. From time to time I have wondered how Hera is getting on, if her walking boots are still conker bright; if Hades and Persephone have managed the makeover of the Underworld; if Zeus has seen even a glimpse of the light regarding his behaviour; and how Poseidon and Amphitrite's business is going. I have wondered what Max and Dr Jones are up to, if Evangelia has moved to another job, if the Goddesses'Guild is thriving. Continue reading

Close Up Combination Post

I can't say where the time has gone, but since arriving last Tuesday I have not had time to post. So this'll be a bit of a catch up while I try to recall what I have been doing. The weekly photo challenge is Close Up, so these photos are my contribution.

Today we had a bit of walk around Upperlands, a walk down memory lane both verbally and physically. At one point two swan families blocked our path, and we had to retreat in the face of the fluffed out wings and lowered heads of the males.

Fracked Off

I wasn’t at the Olympics when they booed George Osborne last year, but I saw and heard it on the televsion. I hope all those people and more are booing him today even louder after he has announced tax breaks for firms extracting shale gas.
Ungorgeous George reckons the UK must be leaders in this market. He might as well consign half the country to a watery grave and kill off all unborn children. Yes, it is that serious.
Of course if it were just the UK that will be affected by this exploitation of the earth’s resources, we could pack our bags now, bid a nostalgic farewell to lands that were a byword for green and pleasant, and remove to a more environmentally sensitive world.
But behaviours in one country affect all of us. A bit like the flap of the butterfly’s wings in New Mexico that ends in a hurricane in China. Continue reading

Plotting for the Future

Open Studios, Open Squares, Open Gardens. It’s all been happening this weekend. I didn’t manage any squares, but Friday night kicked off with a visit, minus camera, to some local artists studios. I went to look, not to buy and took just £5 with me. The plan was to spend an hour or so there and then come home. It was a gorgeous evening. People were sitting in the sunshine enjoying food and drink. Children were running about. The dog friendly café had some happy tails wagging under tables. Despite meeting a friend and having a longish chat, I kept to schedule. I just didn’t visit as many of the studios as I had intended. I deliberately didn’t visit my favourite ceramiscist until today. She always has seconds for sale on Friday night and I knew I might cave in and buy something I really and truly don’t need. I went there this morning instead. The day has been dull and chilly. Maybe that discouraged people from attending, because it was quite quiet.

Clements Yards

Clements Yards

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Staying Awake, Growing Your Area

MasterB has been in all evening while I have been at a meeting and then in the pub. My eyes want to close, but it is only fair he gets a run around outside for a while.
The meeting was good; lots of ideas about greening cities; our connection, or lack of, with the land; how this area might grow more of its own food. There was a thought-provoking and entertaining Ted Talk by Carolyn Steel. You can watch it here.

I like the idea that the Roman Empire was extended shopping trip. I don’t like the fact that five multi-nationals control some 80% of food production.
How did we drift into this state of affairs where we rip up rain forest, mine islands into oblivion and demand tomatoes that are regular and uniform in size, throwing away the ones that aren’t? Continue reading