February brings the sun

This is February, typically the coldest month of winter, a month associated with low temperatures and even snow. Yet today I was out and about in my shirt sleeves, opening windows wide when indoors. I can’t deny I enjoyed it. I had the morning earmarked for dusting and vacuuming. The sunshine had a downside though, mercilessly showing the amount of cat fur chez IsobelandCat.
Just how much fur can one cat shed over the course of a winter? A lot it seems. Each time I thought my duster would come up clean from the carpet there was another clot of fur. I resorted to the rubber glove technique to speed things up. I haven’t broached the drawers under the bed where MasterB often likes to sleep during the day. I know the cat fur there will be mega.

This seat needs some fur

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Twenty Minutes Apart

After Dry January (which I did not do, but Octavia did), Veganuary (which basically I do all year) it’s now Frugal February. Not, at least so far as I am aware, a national or international thing, but having received a bank statement which brought the unwelcome news that I had spent far more, despite already thinking I was being frugal, than I had made, I am wondering what further economies I can make.
So lots of good intentions which immediately got thrown aside when I had to buy a new printer cartridge costing £20.00 – £20.00! But at least I have the money. As a self-employed freelance, I know in my particular field January is not a good month. Neither is February. March tends to pick up, but Brexit is changing things and my sector is already suffering, so I can’t count on March, April or May to be busy.
I don’t earn a huge amount, even in a good year. If I were a foreigner there is no way the government would welcome me into the country. This is not a sob story, a plea for self pity. I chose to do what I do, gave up a part-time salaried post where I was bullied and miserable, I love my job. And I am lucky; I have paid off my mortgage, my outgoings if I am careful should be within my budget. I have choices.
But what of those who do not have the same securities? For some families that £20 unplanned expenditure wouldn’t be a setback, it would be the difference between eating or not eating, having the heating on or turning the heating off. When I hear politicians saying the pain we shall inevitably go through after the UK leaves the EU is worth it I simply don’t believe them. Today I saw Jacob Rees-Mogg’s new house. I’ve seen it many times before, but now he lives there. It’s in a very nice street, a lovely location, walking distance to the Palace of Westminster: further to the nearest branch of Poundland. As it turns out, a Poundland very close to where I live. About a twenty minute bus ride away.
It’s amazing how different neighbourhoods twenty minutes apart can be. Continue reading

Sanity Television

Tonight there are more moves in Parliament to try to resolve the difficulties of Brexit. Ideally, we shan’t leave the EU at all, but leave or remain, the fallout will continue for years, probably decades. The referendum revealed schisms, rifts so deep in our social fabric they make the Grand Canyon look like a ditch. If we leave, the campaign to rejoin will begin at once; if we remain, the campaign to leave will begin all over again. The EU has been our whipping boy, our scapegoat, our blame hound. You could be forgiven, listening to some virulent leave supporters, for believing that the UK has had no say in EU legislation for the past forty-seven years.
That meaningless yet emotive phrase, the will of the British people, has made a recent reappearance. It is all profoundly depressing. The Labour Party wants a general election. I’m with Brenda of Bristol on that one. I’m not all that keen on a second referendum either. Our positions have become so entrenched we could have a similarly narrow result to leave, which leaves us just where we are now. Companies are leaving the U.K. the damage has been done. But it can be stemmed.
I’m no fan of Tony Blair, but I do agree with him that we elect our MPs to work for us, and having looked at the consequences of leaving the EU, I have little doubt that a cross party consensus would agree that we should cancel the whole shebang. Continue reading

Divided not Ruled

I feel immensely cheered by Parliament tonight. At the eleventh hour, seeing their party leaders sitting on their hands or worse, cross party MPs are finally doing something to stop a total derailment at the end of March.
I have long believed the pro Leave vote was more a vote against the government, this one and any number of previous ones, than about the EU. The EU has been a scapegoat. Divide and rule is an ugly, but in the short term often effective, gambit. Pro Brexit voters voted against people taking their jobs, or doing jobs they wouldn’t do for the low wages those people accepted. So who wins in this low wage scenario? Well, goodness me, the people who pay the low wages and make lots of money. But instead of pointing the finger at them, the low wages workers and those who won’t take such a low wage become enemies and the exploiters laugh all the way to the bank. Nuts. Continue reading

Octavia is my Lab Rat

As someone who loves, and I mean loves, fairy lights the sheer range available in the pound shop in December was severe temptation. I was almost salivating. I had to get myself out and away before considerable damage was done to my pocket.
Now, in the cool light of January,my decorations down, cards undisplayed, but fairy lights still twinkling as they do here all winter, I found myself thinking of those lights again. I returned to the shop, imagining I might, in a more restrained, less Christmassy frame of mind, be able to choose wisely from the selection.
All gone.
We have moved onto St Valentine’s Day. So I could have bought heart shaped candles, various tacky objects in shades of red. No fairy lights. Perhaps it’s a blessing. But I am thinking that if they have the same wonderful array next year, all the friends to whom I give presents will get at least one string of lights for Christmas.
Meanwhile, Octavia made a fleeting return to the capital and we ate together on Sunday evening. She is my lab rat, or guinea pig if you prefer, when I am trialling new dishes on visitors. Unusually we ate at mine. This was because I was making soup and didn’t fancy carrying it around to her house. The chances of spillage which would have been messy, were too high. My experimental dish was a Freekeh salad. Now I have had Freekeh in a local restaurant but not been able to buy it. Apparently it sells out very quickly. So Lyn very kindly got some for me in Auckland, and then Celia managed to bag a packet which was part of my Christmas gift from her.
So now I am Freekeh rich, but with Brexit looming, I don’t think I’m going to be rich in much else. I am particularly worried about fresh veg as I eat a great deal of it. I might get by on home grown tomatoes in the summer, but there’s no chance of that in April.
Maybe by some miracle the MPs will put a stop to the madness and we can reboot. Brexit’s wounds are going to take a long, long time to heal, whether we leave or stay. The bitterness, the hatred, the anger the referendum threw up will leave scars.
I have just watched Brexit: the Uncivil War, a drama about the campaigns starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It left me thoughtful, and more than a tad depressed. I had seen part of it being filmed in 2018 and been told by one of the crew it was to air the night we left the EU. In that case, I hope I never see it, I replied. But we are still in the EU, and it has aired. Watching it on catch up I didn’t get the full complement of ads in the breaks (it was a Channel 4 production for anyone looking to find it) but I did get that it had been sponsored by Lexus, so presumably that was the type of buying power the anticipated audience was expected to have. Not I. Among the more ridiculous accusations levelled at remainers is the one that we are the metropolitan elite. Some of the poorest parts of London voted solidly to remain. My own neighbourhood among them. Apparently, and especially as I read the Guardian, I am also a member of the chattering classes, which perhaps I am, though not alas with any influence. The term was coined by Auberon Waugh whose politics were more than a bit extreme.
We are seeing the unedifying spectacle of MPs, journalists and others being racially abused; women having misogynistic comments hurled at them by a group of vociferous pro Leave protesters who gather outside the Palace of Westminster. How anyone hearing them could embrace a future where their views dominate is a mystery.
I don’t agree with Owen Jones about much, but when he says the right wing press and the language of hate and prejudice that adorn its front pages has much to answer for, he’s right. He didn’t mention the lies the Mail and the Express serve up on an almost daily basis. According to them, climate crisis is a lie, we are overrun with malign foreigners, the NHS is being bled dry by health tourists. All these stories have been shown to be false, but still they keep peddling them. It worries me that the newspaper proprietors push this trash, it worries me even more that people buy these newspapers and want to believe them. That is self-deception on a frightening scale.
But I can only take a little of Brexit at a time. It looks horribly like I shall be living in an ex EU country very soon. Any problems will be blamed on the EU which has become some sort of whipping boy for the right and far right. Any success, any minor survival, will be hailed as victory. And as I don’t want to see my country go down the pan, I and my fellow remainers will be doing our darnedest to make something positive out of this disaster, and not relying as the leavers seem to do on fairies at the bottom of the garden.
So expect recipes, pictures of MasterB, poetry, anything that distracts and keeps me sane while this lemming like race to destruction continues. Meanwhile, beneath the surface my legs will be paddling like billyoh.

March!

Even the media reckon there were around 700,000 people on yesterday’s march. That may well mean there were more. Certainly the streets were full, the mood good. A feeling of solidarity with people you don’t know about a situation that is all wrong.

I’m not saying we all agreed. I am not convinced yet about a second vote though I am slowly moving in that direction. My outrage is with the first vote where we know the rules were broken by the Leave campaign. In my eyes that is enough to suspend the whole process. Carrying on is a slap in the face for democracy, and democracy around the world has had its face slapped a lot in the past few years.

Trafalgar Square

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Monday Miscellany

I was watching Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 news interviewing a woman in Syria who is sticking absolutely to one line. Krishan is polite but insistent when she claims that her side is suffering few casualties. He’s witnessed the fighting, the casualties cannot be as minimal as she suggests. It’s frustrating all round; for Krishnan who isn’t getting answers; for the interviewee who is not a fluent English speaker.

The gap between different sides is evident in so many of the arguments we see on the news. Brexit is once more grabbing headlines. I just heard that dread phrase ‘the will of the people’ again a few minutes ago. It’s a phrase that simultaneously makes me rage and makes me depressed. The will of the people is presumably all the people. So as the referendum result was so close, I cannot see any justification for a Hard Brexit regardless of what Jacob Rees-Mogg and his 61 cronies want; talk about the tail trying to wag the dog.

Across the pond there has been yet another school shooting, where a young man with evident mental health issues combined with a taste for guns and the politics of the far right killed seventeen of the students at the school from which he had been expelled. This is horrific on so many levels. It seems that concerns were raised about this youth; this massacre could have been avoided. We have seen composed and articulate survivors speaking out against the culture of guns in the US, we have seen less of survivors who have injuries that will scar their bodies as well as their minds for the rest of their lives. Continue reading

Thoughts from Luton Airport

So far so good. Up betimes thanks to MasterB who anticipated the alarm by two minutes, making me wonder if he some special sense of when it’s about to go off. Breakfasted, showered, cat litter replaced, coffee grounds and banana skins deposited in the garden compost bin, crockery washed up and put away, and, with MasterB’s inimitable aid, bed stripped and remade with clean linen for Birgit.
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Imagine

Although I bought my copy of today’s Guardian shortly after breakfast, I didn’t look at more than the headlines until late afternoon. I was working, outside, on what must have been the coldest day this autumn, wrapped in warm layers, particularly blessing my thermal vest. Afterwards I went for lunch with a  friend in a blissfully warm and unassuming Italian cafe near Borough High Street,  away from the end that attracts visitors in their thousands these days. I could go on about how much Borough has changed in the time of my south London tenure, but I’ll leave that for another time and space.

At home, and after playing with MasterB and feeding him, I reached for the paper. For those of you unfamiliar with Saturday’s Guardian I should perhaps explain it has a number of sections. The main news section today was bulky, but I have found the news this week so profoundly depressing, and the attack on the mosque in Egypt so awful, I couldn’t bear to start there. As is my habit I flicked through the sports section to see if there were any pieces about women’s sports. The Guardian is a liberal paper, it’s right on about so many many things, but does not seem to comprehend that  its sports section caters almost exclusively for admirers of male athletes. You could be forgiven when you look at it for thinking that women have yet to hitch up their skirts and play tennis, and that there are no women to be lauded and  admired for their sporting achievements outside the four yearly fest that is the Olympics. Today one story about women’s football. But the lack of reporting on women’s sport is another subject for a different day.

The Family section which I always make a beeline for failed to thrill; I flicked through the magazine noting several long articles I shall read in a day or two. The food section has some nice lentil recipes I am extremely unlikely to make, so that’s now en route to my neighbour Jolita. Nothing in the travel section grabbed me, and I always keep the Review until last – apart from the crossword which I messed up almost immediately. Continue reading