Wednesday, 11 June 2014

It really doesn't matter to me if you believe in God.

It just so happens that I don't. I do not believe that there is a god, or a 'supreme presence' in any form. I am not superstitious, I do not believe in spirits, ghosts, life after death, or a the entities of 'good' or 'evil'.

I do believe that everyone has the right to make choices, and if you have a faith in any of the above, it isn't my job or right to try an make you change your mind. Why do so many people spend so much time and energy trying to impose their thinking on others?

I'm sort of OK with doorstep evangelists, because I can appreciate that if you have this 'great idea' in your head, then it is quite natural to want to share it. Just so long as they accept that some of us just don't want to join their club.

Just as I have the right to tell you what I think, you have the right to tell me your thoughts. Neither of us has to listen to the other, and we are free to listen, to understand and then make choices. This is true not only about thoughts on faith, but also about how much weight we place on choices presented by television commercials for stuff we don't need. It is OK to be exposed to the idea; we don't have to listen, and if we do, we have the choice about buying into the idea.

I really am baffled as to the thinking that drives followers of any faith to think that it is right to kill those who oppose their views. To wage war in the name of your faith to spread your faith, because your religious leaders tell you to do so, and so that you will have a reward in 'the after life' is all a sort of mass madness. It is the result of blind belief without thought, brought about by generations of brainwashing.

What was Pope Urban thinking when he launched The Crusades?  

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Hand Written Envelopes

Christmas card envelopes; hand written or computer generated? It’s Christmas time; the postie pushes a bunch of cards through the letter box and it’s time for another game of ‘guess the sender’. I don’t actually play this game, but Carol does. She weighs the card in her hand, forensically examines the franking marks, and judges the handwriting on style, colour and texture. Well, maybe not all that, but anyway; it’s time to guess who it’s from, which has to be done before opening the envelope.

Have no fear my friends, your card does not just get ripped open and thrown on a heap. Every part of it is used to build a picture of the sender. Once the card is out of the envelope, the back is checked first to see where it comes from, which charity it helped by the buying of it. Sometime around Tuesday we discover who actually sent it. Every last thread of sense is extracted from the cards we receive.

The handwriting on the envelope is a major part of this discovery. It takes time to hand write every envelope. Therefore the person doing it was applying thought to the process of creating the address, it would be impossible to write an envelope to a friend without thinking of them. Each handwritten envelope is a positive wish on its own even without the sentiments expressed within the card.

So why do I use the computer to produce a run of labels? Because I’m lazy. I know that a handwritten envelope is far nicer. I also know that my writing is extremely bad; it’s so bad I could illustrate a GP’s prescription like a medieval scribe embellishing the written word to magnify it. When I was at school I had a lot of trouble with spelling and taught myself to not write letters, but to use ‘word shapes’ so that the teachers couldn’t see the spelling. It’s a difficult habit to break. So, I apologise for my computer generated labels that were a novelty when I started to de them, but now just look that a reminder from a mail order company.

And to all those who hand write their envelopes, I salute you. You are sending something creative and far more personal than just a label peeled off and slapped on. Do you want me to show you how to do them; you’d save a lot of time?

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The taste of Food

I do like my food. Not quantity, but quality. I define quality as taste; which means that, if it tastes good – I like it. I over eat on food I like. So, at over 60, I’m short and stout like Pooh Bear. A suitable epitaph would be: “He liked his food”.

Take salmon. There is a lot of salmon about for you to buy. There’s bright pink soft fleshy fish in the supermarket now which is OK. It’s fish, it’s high in omega whatists isn’t it? It doesn’t taste a lot, but you console yourself with the thought that it seems pretty good value, and is supposed to be good for you because it’s high in fishy oils. 

Then there is the organic salmon lying next to the bright pink salmon. The organic salmon is delicately coloured, a subdued flesh, less Technicolor, more like ‘English Rose’ than ‘Mediterranean Beauty’. When you cook it, the flesh is very delicate, the taste is very subtle, you get a glow from knowing it is organic, but it doesn't actually taste particularly different from its bright pink neighbour on the slab.

Then there is wild salmon. Dense dark rich coloured, exotic and heady, the taste is robust and of the wild sea and tumbling rivers. The taste, like the appearance of the meat is defined, not flaccid. This fish has had to work for its food, it has grown naturally, working for a living, not sculling around in some cage in a Scottish loch, and I can both see and taste the difference.

So what is it about ‘organic’ meat? If we chose our meat solely according to what it is fed on, then maybe we are missing a vital factor. For like me; if the food is too easily come by, and in too great a quantity, then the animal is over fed. It will be fat, flaccid, lacking in texture and taste. (Believe me, I do not taste good).  

However, if the fish, chicken, lamb, or whatever, has to work for its food, gets plenty of exercise, grows at a natural rate, then it will taste better. Maybe natural growth it is just as important for the development of food as the ‘organic’ label.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The sound of protest

It is 5 to 7 and we make a Skype call to our son Miles Drawmer, who lives in Kadikoy a suburb on the Asian side of Istanbul.
“Oh good.” He says, “You have called at a special time.”
It was just before 9pm local time, and Miles took us to the open window. The computer camera accentuates the evening light and we can see down into the street.
At 9 o’clock the sounds started. Hundreds of residents of one of the world’s mega cities, leaning out of their windows at the same time every night and registering their protest by banging pots and pans.

Miles tells us that it has been going on for two weeks now. Every night at the same time, this noisy citizens’ protest against their government.
This isn’t a bunch of hooligans and foreigners; this is the people of the city raising a clamour for change.
The noise is both jarring and moving as one realises the number of people involved, and that there’s probably very little the police can do about this with their water cannons and tear gas.

“I’ll call you back.” He says.
Good job too, it was far too noisy to make conversation with. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told hundreds of thousands of supporters at a rally in Istanbul on Sunday that the protesters were manipulated by "terrorists". These citizens aren’t terrorists, and they’re not listening to him.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Toilet Roll Runner Beans

I never was a gardener. As a hobby, gardening passed me by. My father said to me soon after our wedding: “Never have a garden bigger than your wife can cope with.” A phrase I repeated rather too often for Carol’s comfort. In fact I used to proudly state that I was a: “non-gardener and a non-smoker”.

However things change, particularly since we moved to this house which, as it turns out, has a garden that isn’t bigger than I can cope with. I now find that since it no longer takes half a day to mow the lawn, and working on just a small bed makes a difference that one can see straight away; that I’ve actually begun to enjoy being in the garden.

Today I planted out our runner beans. These are ‘toilet roll beans’. I saw somewhere that toilet rolls could be used instead of those expensive fibre pots for raising seeds. So we collected toilet roll centres for a year, and then I sowed the beans singly into the cardboard tubes full of compost.

Some of them started to undo when they were watered, so I stood them all together in a seed tray and run some string around them to keep them in place. Today I set up the bean sticks, scooped out holes and dropped the bean plants in. 

They have developed into good plants with a nice root growth, and have had minimal disturbance to be planted complete with their cardboard tubes which will just breakdown in the soil.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Wooden boats, jubilee nostalgia

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. There’s to be a river pageant on the Thames today, it’s a bank holiday weekend, and there’s little news. So, despite the continuous rain, the Jubilee obsessed BBC is showing continuous coverage of damp people preparing for the event. A wave of nostalgia washes over me, there’s a flotilla of sailing boats, and some of them have been based at St Catherine’s Dock next to Tower Bridge.

Some years ago (1990?) I was invited by Ian Wollen to be part of a crew to take a sailing Brixham Trawler “Regard” from St Catherine’s Dock to the Isle of Wight to take part in a Cowes Classic rally. Regard was built in 1933, originally named “Our Boy” and changed to “Regard” in 1954. Wooden boats have a ‘character’ all of their own, some love it, and some put up with it. There’s a history of her on this page, but as the boat is sold I don’t expect the link will last for ever.

Regard had been kept in dock for several years, and was suffering from a lack of maintenance and a surfeit of decay and dirt. It was arranged to take her out onto the river (Thames) for a shakedown trip before venturing out to sea. I really don’t remember much about it apart from getting very dirty, as everything we touched was covered in grime. Wood swells when it gets wet and this is what makes wooden boats waterproof. If the wood dries out, it shrinks and gaps appear between the planks. Gaps had appeared in the deck and all that part of the hull that is above the static waterline whilst just floating in the calm waters of the dock.

The original design had not given a lot of thought to an engine, the consequence of which was that the propeller was to one side of the substantial rudder. This meant that turning to port was inevitable and rapid, whereas turning to starboard was recalcitrant and slow. This made the tight manoeuvring required in St Catherine’s quite interesting, and I was only watching. Once out on the river, we motored down river towards the sea.

As soon as Regard started to move on the water, and roll in the wake of other boats, the water started to come in. Lots of it. We had to clear everything away from the hull sides and man the pumps. It wasn’t threatening but it was wet. We also found that the deck leaked. In heavy rain lying in your bunk getting dripped on is not fun. I remember Ian remarking about: “That’s the reason we have fibreglass boats”, and some die-hard traditionalist crew members muttered about his suitability as Captain if he didn’t appreciate the ‘Character’ of the boat. The other members of the crew were two guys with a vast amount of experience, tales and fun, and one twat who actually knew everything; but nearly ran us onto the well marked submarine defences off Southsea.

On the trip around Kent we found a Thames sailing Barge with an Aga for cooking and real ale on tap. We also found that old engines in boats can give up at any time. I earned my keep by making water pump gaskets out of brown paper with a ball pein hammer. It was a great trip for me, and I got treated to a most spectacular thunderstorm at night over a dead calm sea. It was my first sailing passage, as prior to that I had only done day trips. Thank you Ian for the experience.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Mystery Shoppers. Fake buyers who waste your time; or a valuable way to assess real performance and find out how buyers see you? On balance, I’m in favour of mystery shoppers. I work in a regulated industry, and the company has a right and duty to make sure that the point of sale activity is effective and compliant.

However, I get VERY PI55ED OFF when my time is valuable, and the ‘shopper’ is no good. I accused a caller today of being a mystery shopper (little things like the pronunciation of the town, Bicester): “Have you lived there long?” well, in 10 years you’d think she would get it right, wouldn’t you?

Anyway – she denied it; so I rushed through the rigmarole of a sale and yes, just at the point where I collect the money – she declares herself to be a mystery shopper. What upsets me is that I don’t get the choice to say that I don’t want to play your games ‘cos I’m busy; and worse than that; there’s never any bloody feedback!
And breathe; Friday tomorrow.