Sunday, 16 October 2016

Beautiful England

We're enjoying warmer than average temperatures and a good excuse to hit the pub for a long, leisurely lunch of roast beef with all the trimmings and wine of course followed by a most decadent pudding. A quick walk along the canal afterwards and how wonderful to be alive!

Today in Northamptonshire:

Photo copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The death of femininity

I recently moved to a 17th century village in the heart of the British countryside, far from the madding crowd. The downside of this bucolic environment is a longer drive to work, a price well worth paying or so I thought. The reality is that most days however I want to scream. It has dawned on me that the worst drivers are actually women and the worst offenders seem to be around thirty to forty years old, driving a  maximum throttle vehicle which they revel in using to bully anyone sharing the road with them. I take a dual carriageway straight from my home all the way to work. I have lost count of the number of times I have been forced to accelerate because some twit is right up behind me, dangerously close. It is inconceivable that these idiots do not consider what would happen if I were to brake suddenly. Even if I drive in the left lane (we overtake on the right here in the UK, so the left is the slower lane), at say 60mph, I find myself in the same situation. More mind boggling is the blatant disregard for the highway code- no one bothers to indicate and flitting in and out of lanes at high speed is de rigueur. I recall overtaking in France and forgetting to switch my indicator off. That warranted being pulled over by the police and a check was instantly conducted- was my insurance up to date, did I have a driving licence, and I was also fined. How I long for the police to do the same on my daily commute!

Women in particular, showing a complete disregard for both the law and lesser mortals gives rise to a philosophical dilemma- what does it mean to be a woman anymore? We live in an age where we have transgender, aka completely confused, and also in an era where anything goes. Women have breached the divide in terms of work equality (more or less), enjoy the same rights as men and can also appease their insatiable desire to have and do whatever they want. IVF has provided women with the choice to bypass men altogether in the conception of a living soul since sperm is easily available to buy on the internet. No touching, no pent up desire exploding in the sublime act of lovemaking, no feelings in other words.

Acquiescing to the PC brigade of the day who demand that women should be free to do as they please makes a travesty of the concept of freedom. It also highlights the rank stupidity that pervades our society. Let's get this straight: a woman is not a man. Curves and breasts mean that a woman does not have the strength of a man. Nor should she want to. Some women seem to take great pleasure in being as bland and as unwashed as possible almost as if appearing feminine is derisory.   Biologically a woman, yes but also completely unfeminine. To see how grown women dress these days as if they had just rolled out of bed, is frankly disgraceful- note the word which means an absence of grace something which since time immemorial has been synonymous with the 'fairer' sex.

We hear every day of young girls throttling their classmates or worse yet, killing someone for the hell of it. A trip to the supermarket where the great and good congregate is a useful indicator of where society is headed. Usually one can hear the women screaming at their children. A glance into their shopping baskets always reveals that their complete lack of awareness is replicated in their diet. What are the chances of seeing a well groomed woman these days? Oh, I hear the wail of lack of time whilst bringing up children. Our forebears did ten times more every day and still had a hot homemade meal on the table. Perhaps they were just more organised?

To be a woman is not to be man. There is no shame to be had in wearing makeup, dressing like a woman and being the embodiment of femininity. Ironically and this is what those rabid female drivers don't get, is that there is an inherent softness and gentleness in women that men don't possess. In behaving like men, women are pushing men further away and one has to wonder what will happen in the future from an evolutionary perspective. In wanting it all, women  are unconsciously destroying the future for their own daughters. Isn't that worth thinking about?

Photo copyright SvD.

Monday, 3 October 2016

How to Stay Young

Western society is obsessed with finding the elixir of youth. Plastic surgery, Botox, all reek of insecurity. If one doesn't actually like oneself and value the process of aging, it is easy to fall prey to the promise of eternal plasticised beauty. Human beings are complicated and no two people will share an identical outlook on life or even enjoy the same foods. As I get older, I am often aware of how little I actually know. In my 20s I thought I had all the answers and read philosophy at university in order to grasp more knowledge and become invincible in my understanding of well, everything. In my 50s I have watched the world, had many encounters with friends, acquaintances and lovers and even been desperately let down by my own blood. At this stage of  my life, who I am is etched in my face- there are lines and liver spots. And my hair is very grey. My hands are deeply scored on the palms and moreso on my left hand which I use for everything except peeling vegetables (for some unknown reason). My body is by no means Hollywood starlet. I would rue the hardship a washboard stomach would entail not to mention the deprivation. I put butter in everything when I cook (which is daily) and slather it liberally on my bread. I'm from a generation which believes that some flesh on your bones will keep you warm in the Winter. I love red wine and drink it every evening with my supper. I also enjoy a cognac or whisky before bed. If I fancy a bloody steak, I have one. The same goes for chocolate. The best part of meat is the fat and whenever I ask the counter assistant in the supermarket to leave it on, the look on their faces is priceless. I eat vegetables and fruit every day, bread, potatoes, all carbs in small amounts only. I stopped smoking but how I love the idea! Dairy doesn't agree with me and milk makes me feel ill. I do not believe that we need to drink milk for calcium which I get from other foods. Dairy farming is against my principles and it doesn't hurt to still have some in this second half of my life.

So what is the secret to eternal youth? There isn't one. We're all going to age and eventually head to the great big oasis in the sky. While we're here though, the best part of life happens later- no more chasing fantasies or things we can't have but a determined enjoyment of the present moment. This very second is infinite because it's all we've got. My sanity is maintained by long walks which offer silent periods of meditation and contemplation away from the deleterious noisiness that constitutes humanity. In walking, I burn off the fat so I don't actually get fat. Walking in all seasons also bolsters immunity.

Youthfulness is a state of mind and certainly not one where I would still want to be. More important than staying young is being happy, contented and still amazed at the sight of a peacock feather which someone kindly offered me yesterday (there is a resident peacock in the village where I live. No one knows how he got there). Stillness, the ability to compose one's thoughts and to control emotions in order to be balanced has a higher value than a Botoxed face. Tranquillity, an easy smile and consideration towards all living things makes us happier, more able to accept life as it is.

I once came across two snails mating, both joined together and completely motionless. They were on the wall so I assumed they were still alive. Days later they hadn't moved. Eventually they came apart and one promptly died perhaps from exhaustion but we will never know. Life is a process therefore that eventually will end. Our usefulness in this life is measured in terms of the length of time we live and also by how we have treated each other. If only humanity would move away from the obsession of appearance to a closer examination of the state of the heart, what a wonderful world this would be. Growing old is the gift of accepting that challenge.

I searched for Narcissus when I found this lake on my walk. Photo copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Our unhealthy obession with celebrity

There is an expression in French which goes like this: 'I am what I am.' And while I'm at it, another comes to mind: 'It is what it is.' Perhaps we should ponder on these words in light of the #brangelina breakup which has so many supposedly shocked and even devastated.

Firstly, none of us know the two main characters personally therefore to be overwhelmed with shock and sadness is a bit of an exaggeration. Secondly, seeing a 'perfect' union dismantle seems to have surprised everyone. What is a 'perfect' union? People marry and get divorced all the time. There is no idyllic meeting of mind and body which lasts forever. Marriage is generally a compromise of wills with the sole objective of staying together especially if there are children involved. If there are no children involved, a couple may choose to stay together because they value the companionship and know each other sufficiently well to realise there is no greener verge to head to, at least not in the present moment. As one gets older and sees the clock ticking faster than normal, staying together makes more sense than being alone in geriatric bliss. Age brings a rationalism that the thrust of young, panting love simply cannot understand.

Our vacuous supermarket mentality and approach to all things means that we place celebrities up there with demi-gods and anoint them with higher powers of self awareness and intelligence than they may actually be capable of. Beautiful (tick). Rich (tick). Successful (tick). Attractive offspring (tick). OMG they tick all the right boxes, they ARE perfect and therefore indestructible.

A little lesson in philosophy: there is NO perfection on earth that involves the human condition. A bird may have perfect colour symmetry on its wings, a flower may appear extraordinarily beautiful because it astounds the senses but human beings are flawed. A good looking person is capable of being a complete nutter or sociopath. A successful person can appear to have it all but consider that domestic violence is the highest reported crime in prosperous Surrey* which has the greatest proportion of millionaires in the UK (*Domestic Abuse Strategy for Surrey 2013-2018).

Celebrities are in fact no different to you or I. They simply appear to be. Money elevates as everything the heart desires is quickly within reach. We can change the way we look, dress or even behave when money is no object but we cannot change who we are. Human beings have a disadvantage over every other species in the natural world- they have a proclivity to be miserable and free will gives them the choice to make mistakes. A mouse might make the mistake of reaching for the cheese in the trap but it is not conscious of making a bad decision. We, on the other hand, err with our eyes wide open, already knowing the consequences of our actions.

If all of life were a gilded ride with no obstacles to jump over or sadness to endure, humanity would never have evolved. There would be no artists, writers, painters, thinkers, statesman who literally changed the course of history or anyone for that matter who challenged themselves to be better at anything in particular. We would all still be stuck in a cave munching on a dinosaur leg.

Yes, even celebrities are forced to learn how to endure when staring at the harsh reality of living (that is if they are fully compos mentis and not addled in a haze of drugs and booze). Endurance without going stark raving mad is the human condition. It is simply put, what we're here for. I am what I am. It is what it is.

Photo copyright SvD.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Along came the spider...

I was reminded of the expression 'we are no better or worse than anyone else' as I watched a spider kill a wasp today. First the spider ensnared the much maligned wasp so cruelly despised in the British summer months. Once trapped in the deceptively powerful filaments that constitute a spider's web, the wasp flapped about helplessly. Along came the spider, casually striding over. The spider sized up his lunch and decided to wait a little longer. The wasp was becoming more tired and his imprisonment meant that any resistance would be futile. The spider saddled over to the wasp and began to strike him with his legs. The wasp's sting emerged but it could be that I saw correctly? The spider continued to hit the wasp and the wasp impaled himself with his own sting. Perhaps that is the romantic in me who thought that the wasp committed a type of harakiri but I shall never know. After the wasp's body had turned limp, the spider dragged him off and stored him in a separate web. All of this took place in my kitchen as I was cooking a beef stew.

Do remember therefore that there will always be those more powerful and cunning than us. Choose your enemies wisely.

Photo copyright SvD.

PS The spider has every right to inhabit my kitchen and so I have left him be along with the various corpses in his pantry.