Monday, May 18, 2015

In or Out, It's a Referendum They Shout!

In my last post Rosaria Williams asked in her comment, what the disadvantages were for Britain not being in the EU. That is a question that will be dominating UK politics from now until the promised referendum is held -- by 2017 at the latest.

I fervently hope that this country decides to stay part of the European Union. But I can understand why more and more people now have a negative attitude to our membership. First there were the annoying rules from Brussels that seem to most of us to be ridiculous -- from the curves in bananas and cucumbers to how food must be labelled. Why were certain countries allowed to become members when they did not meet the financial criteria that were supposedly required for membership. (France did not meet the financial criteria and it was one of the original members!)

When a country joins the EU they join as an equal member -- with the same rights and privileges as every other member state. And part of the equality is that its citizens are allowed to travel and settle in any other member state. Many people in Britain and in other of the wealthier countries are very unhappy with number of immigrants that are now here quite legally -- because there is work and because there have been very generous benefits given by the State.

The Man and I have several Polish friends who have very freely admitted that the reason they have come to Britain is because "of the benefits"! But now that they are losing many of those benefits, they are busy getting themselves second and third jobs -- jobs that are all low paying -- wives are no longer staying at home, teenagers are finding work after school and on weekends. Every foreign worker that I have met is contributing to the economy, many with jobs that no Brit can be found to do.

Two of my sons have had jobs in the EU -- one now in Italy and the other a few summers ago, in France. The Man and I can visit our vacation home in France as often and for as long as we like. We can travel throughout the EU freely, buy goods and bring them home pretty much without restriction. We even have a medical card which gives us the right to receive the same care as each state provides its own citizens.

But the most important disadvantage to Britain not being in the EU is 'commitment' to Europe. By being part of the Union we are giving substance to the belief that we are part of Europe and that we can find ways of working together to solve problems and find solutions -- both economic and social. Seventy years ago we began the process of ending our mutual history of being one of many warring European nations. The EU has been part of that process and Britain was slow to become part of it. To quit now seems to me a backward step and one made out of fear -- to the detriment not only to Europe, but especially to this country.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Home Again, Home Again, Windblown and Fit

Well, the election is over, my visit to the States is over and now life gets back to its more or less ordinariness.

Since my political leanings are more to the left of Centre, I am not exactly thrilled with the outcome -- but satisfied at least the we have one of only 8 Liberal Democrat MPs. I am now in the midst of filling out my citizenship application so that next time, God willing, I shall be allowed to cast my ballot and not feel 'left out' of the proceedings!

I sincerely hope that by the time of the next election the UK will still be a member of the European Union -- that will be the next big fight. And the Conservatives will probably be doing most of it amongst themselves! Apparently, One of the first bills to be put through by the new Government will be the Abolition of the Human Rights Act. Sounds ominous to me -- doesn't quite have the same 'ring' to it as say the Abolition of Slavery...

It is good to be home, though it would be nice to suffer from a bit more warmth in the air. The winds are up, but the sun is out. The cherry blossom lasted all of two days -- one of which was all but lost on me due to jet-lag. And speaking of the 'lagged-jet'!

Our arrival back to Britain was delayed by 10 hours, which means that we are each receiving compensation from the airline to the tune of 600 Euros! The Man remembered reading that EU passengers have the right to compensation for delays over 4 hours and so he duly wrote to the airline and was rewarded with a prompt and positive reply.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

everything went well until the text on the way to the airport

Despite the sadness that caused our visit to the US we have had a very happy trip. I will write more about that another day.

It has been a lovely New England Spring day in Boston. We left my niece and her family at 4.00 to be sure of ample time for returning the car and getting booked in. En route to the airport I received a text that our flight to Paris would be delayed from  20.45 to 00.35! If there is one thing to drive The Man around the bend it is to have to wait for just about anything for even 5 minutes. Instead of arriving at Manchester Airport at 13.30 we
Will now arrive at 21.30!!!

The staff claim the delay is caused by technical problems in Paris. However, i don't believe them. I believe the flight was cancelled because they didn't have enough passengers  to come close to filling the huge Airbus 380 originally scheduled  to fly. Saying it is technical means they don't have to fork out compensation.

Ho-hum! And Logan Airport  only offers 45 minutes of complementary wifi so I better publish while I still  can!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A New Toy for The Broad

As part of my regimen for staving off the fall into dementia, I quite regularly challenge my ability to cope with new techie challenges. In fact I find it quite a challenge just keeping up-to-date with all the new gadgets and challenges on offer!

So with a few excuses to myself I have recently acquired a new toy. To be precise a 'Wireless Mobile Phone Monopod'.

"What's that?" asked all three of my boys, to my bemusement. When I told them, each one of them in turn laughed out loud  at me and shook his head. On thinking about it for a few minutes, the eldest of my children -- who is in his 40's decided that perhaps it wasn't such a bad idea after all. But his children, the eldest of whom is Sam age 14, laughed...

The monopod was just challenging enough for me to deal with and feel a sense of achievement at mastering its technology. I learned how to assemble it and how to turn it on and re-remembered how bluetooth works. After initially failing to successfully operate it when I pushed the handy button, I discovered once again how important it is to read the directions. Actually, to be fair to myself, I had a bit of bother finding the directions -- but that was just a momentary lapse on the learning curve! I wish I had had it in Korea. However, it will be very useful on my upcoming trip to the States when all the family will be together. Though I can understand why it is banned in several high profile places!

Yes, fellow bloggers, I am now the proud, if laughed at, owner of what is generally known as a 'selfie stick'! Click!

Monday, March 16, 2015

From Not Writing, to travelling, to Mary

The great urge to write, to communicate never really left me as much as I left it! At least I think that is what happened. Maybe it is all part of coming to terms with grief. Partly that, I expect. I am uncomfortable writing about how things make me feel when the feelings are deeply felt. Overall, life really does go on and I don't want to dwell on matters of 'what might have been' or 'if only' -- so I don't.

I am so glad that winter is finally coming to an end. I have been busy making arrangements for The Man and me to go to the States in April. We leave the  Wednesday after Easter and return to the UK three weeks later. The joint memorial service for my brother and my mother will be on the 18th. Throughout the 3 weeks of our stay we will be seeing close family and friends and travelling from Boston to Vermont, to Connecticut, then to Washington, DC before returning north to Cape Cod and then again to Boston to fly back. The Man will do most of the driving!

The trip to DC will be a nostalgic visit. It is where I went to University, where I lived for 17 years and where I met The Man. I haven't been back there since the 1980s. I have not blogged much, if at all, about my life in the Nation's Capital. It was there I did most of my growing up, had my hippy days, made foolish mistakes, had wonderful times and met wonderful people.

Yesterday was Mothering Sunday/Mother's Day here in the UK. I learned something in church that in light of current affairs and our concerns with things ethnic, in particular, I found very interesting. The service yesterday included children in the Parish and the scouts. The vicar asked them how many times they thought Mary, the mother of Jesus, had been  mentioned in the New Testament. The children guessed figures from 'zero' to a thousand, but the one who came closest said '14'. My guess would have been '10'. The correct answer is '12'. Then the Vicar asked how many times Mary had been mentioned in the Koran. Nobody got that right! The answer is '36'! Not only is she mentioned three times as often in the Koran as in the New Testament, there is even a chapter in the Koran (Chapter 19) called 'Mary'. Food for thought...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Battling the Elements, so to speak...

Yesterday, on my way to tea at a girlfriend's house, The Man took me first to Morrison's Dry Cleaners to pick up my down jacket. I was anxious to get it  because the weather here has turned decidedly chilly -- especially when considering the wind/chill factor. Suddenly, instead of the plus three the thermometer was reading, it was feeling like minus eight. (We are talking centigrade, here, folks!) I picked up the jacket and before leaving the store I took off the padded raincoat I was wearing and donned the much warmer downy replacement and followed The Man who had left a few minutes earlier to wait for me in the car.

Just as well I had donned the down! Several paces from the store a sudden fierce whirlwind took hold of me and spun me around -- I was holding the coat I had been wearing earlier, which didn't help. At the same time a mixture of rain, snow and sleet lashed down upon me making it almost impossible to see. It was difficult to stay on my feet, but I did manage to make my way slowly toward the car. At last, I was nearly there only a few more seconds ...

when what to my wondering ears did I hear, but the car starting up and thrown into gear!

Horror struck and wind blown I watched as the old red Volvo wound its way to the other side of the car park to the entrance of the store I had just exited. Snow and rain and hail, not to mention wind continued to pummel me and I began to try to get to where the car now was. Then The Man saw  me and slowly made his way back to where I was standing. I opened the door -- not easy in the wind and with the elements making their way into the car before me and The Man bawling me out for not waiting for him in the store like any sensible person would do!!!

I closed the car door and the wind stopped, as did the snow, as did the rain, as did the sleet. Then The Man took me to my girlfriend's house, where I had a very nice cup of tea and a delicious piece of cake!

Here are some pictures from my friends in Cape Cod where a blizzard is a blizzard:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Mother, Going with the Flow...

Early the morning of January 9, my dear mother died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 95. Only 11 days before she had moved to a new home to be nearer to my youngest sister in the state of Vermont. Unfortunately, she had  contracted the flu and was no longer strong enough to recover. Last August the same thing happened and despite being warned that she had only hours left, somehow threw off the illness and survived another 5 months. 

As frail as she was before the illness in August, she become much more frail and was wheelchair bound. And she also had long periods of being extremely confused about where she was and who she might be talking about. So, without a doubt, she was ready to 'go home'.At the time of her death, she had not been told that my brother had died.

In the last months of her life she often spoke about being ready for death, but as various ills befell her, she simply replied that, "I'm just going with the flow"! In fact, when my sister visited her on the second day of her last illness, expecting her to be close to death, she had in fact rallied again and was quite lively and chipper, and repeated what had become her mantra of 'going with the flow"...

In April there will be a joint memorial service in Kent, Connecticut in the same church where we had the service for my father. A few days before her ashes will be interred next to my father. It is all being arranged and we all agree. We all know that the tragedies of the past weeks all for the very best, but, of course, we are all very sad.

She was the last of her generation. I imagine them being all back together now and my brother with them. All  are free of illnesses and infirmities. That generation and the one before left our family a legacy rich in love and goodness and they all of them live in my heart.

What startles me is the sobering thought, that I am now the family Matriarch!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

My Brother

December was a very sad month for my family. My dear brother, Bill, died on the 30th of December of congestive heart failure due to Parkinson's dementia. I have written about the onset of his illness. Looking back over my posts in 2014 I am surprised to discover that I did not blog anything about my visit with Bill in April. I had not idea it would be the last time I saw him.

He was living in a nursing home in Raleigh, North Carolina, near his wonderful only son and wonderful daughter-in-law. They picked me up at the airport and I was welcomed with open arms.

When I saw my brother the next morning, he was greatly changed from the athletic 6 foot three inch 'big' brother he had been when I last saw him 20 months earlier. Bill had always stood straight and tall. When I saw him for the first time in the nursing home I was taken aback to see him hunched over on a sofa like a very old man.

He knew me right away and with a little prodding straightened up and was ready for a visit. I had been well prepared for his disorientation and confusion about where he was and what he was doing there. Since his collapse several months before his mind had become seriously re-wired. For example, as we walked along the corridor together he explained to me that this was the railroad station and we were walking along the track. Walking to his room later, he pointed out that several of the rooms were the offices of the CEO of his company. However, he was able to come back with me to his son's home where we enjoyed a barbecue and sat outside in perfect Raleigh spring weather -- no bugs and no extreme heat!

In November Bill had a fall and broke his hip. The prognosis was that we would be wheelchair bound -- probably permanently. In early December my two sisters were able to visit him for the first time and they had a lovely visit, which Bill and they very much enjoyed. His son told me that it was soon after that that he began to fail. He called me on Boxing Day, December 26, to say that his father had become very lethargic on Christmas Day and that his Doctor said to prepare for the end -- probably that night. They were surprised he managed a few days more. He was only 64...

The same day, my mother, suffering from old age dementia and very very confused, was moved from her nursing home to a new place 10 minutes away from my youngest sister. Life throws up such sudden unexpected changes. From one day to the next the world can turn upside down and turmoil reign. But when I stop to examine my life and my family, I see how fortunate I am that we are so loving and kind and caring toward each other and that is truly a great deal in this life.

Monday, November 24, 2014

About the Feast on Thursday...

On Thursday, we are doing Thanksgiving in the UK this year. I haven't done it for a while and hadn't planned to do it this year. Instead I thought I would attend the Restoration Dinner at church on Saturday. They have what practically amounts to a traditional American Thanksgiving day menu and it would be fun, I thought.

But my son and his girlfriend announced with great excitement that she had managed to get the day off work so that she could celebrate Thanksgiving with us! It would have been churlish to say 'no', wouldn't it?  So I've been digging out favourite recipes and deciding who to invite to join us for the occasion. It is now all in hand -- the turkey is de-frosting in the kitchen and the pies are ready to be baked.

In the past, before retirement, we would celebrate on the Saturday following the actually holiday -- which is always the 4th Thursday in November. Now we are free to celebrate on the day and for me I much prefer this. Robert's girlfriend, Cat will be arriving Wednesday night so it will be nice to have company and help during the day. Thanksgiving is a holiday that it is difficult to imagine if you are not American. Many of my British friends have likened it to the way the British celebrate Christmas. But, in fact, it really is not like Christmas at all -- even if the food is similar.

First of all, Thanksgiving is all about the food and friends and family. My tradition is that of  New England -- the weather is always frosty and the sky almost always leaden. The sound in the morning is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and later American football. My mother usually served dinner at 2,00 p.m. Dress was very casual. Guests always brought a dish of some speciality of their own. Besides Turkey and stuffing, there would mashed potato, sweet potato with marshmallows (big yuck from me!), cranberry sauce (two kinds) cranberry relish, creamed onions, and various other vegetables which changed from year to year. My mother always made four pies: pumpkin, apple, apple crumb, and mince. No one ever went home hungry or without 'care' bags of makings for turkey sandwiches made with stuffing and cranberry sauce!

Meanwhile at about 7.00 pm family members could be seen around the bird's carcass going for the makings of their own sandwiches -- and which I enjoyed more than the actual dinner itself! The next day was Black Friday, which in my day was just the Friday after Thanksgiving, and preparations for Christmas would begin. Thanksgiving weekend was the worst weekend for traffic jams. From the air the jam on Wednesday evening could be seen from Washington, D.C., where I lived, to New York City. The New Jersey Turnpike was unbelievable. Sunday night trying to get back to Washington was equally abominable. The last time I was in Connecticut for Thanksgiving I flew in from the UK a week earlier and left a week after. I did not venture out for Black Friday. Most sane individuals say well clear now as it's more of a shopping nightmare...

I see that Britain is advertising Black Friday sales. Somehow, I don't think it will ever be the same -- at least I hope not -- though I wouldn't mind if they adopted the Traditional American Thanksgiving Holiday every year on the 4th Thursday in November!