Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Not a Village Story Any More

Well, when the insurance agent didn't let us know after 10 days, my husband decided to go to his house and 'prod' him. But he was out and about and his wife promised to tell him that we really did need to know what was happening.

We had had long discussions about what we would do if the company decided to write the car off and agree only to minimal costs. It seemed to us that because the car was so old that is what would probably happen -- and we agreed that we would then ask that we also get the car back, as my husband was quite certain that the car was not irrepairably damaged and that he could do the job himself.

It never occurred to us that the insurance company would decide that my husband was at fault. We never imagined that the insurance agent would claim that according the the French Code de la Route that it was our fault because we were turning left from a major to a minor road and that traffic coming from behind us had the right to pass us first! Nevermind that he was behind us. Nevermind he was travelling too fast to stop, going around a bend in the road. Nevermind all that, because the good news was that the insurance company was going to pay for the repair of his motorcycle -- of course we would loose our 'no claims' bonus. And since we were covered for 3rd party only -- too bad, nothing.

Oh, yes, and when we said we did not accept this, that we would be seeking a solution with lawyers -- the insurance agent told us that we would not find a lawyer to take the case.

So we've left France this year with a sense of relief. We are pursuing the insurance company and leaving the agent out of it. After all he is in the middle -- Representling two clients -- one a true villager and the other a 'fair-weather resident'. It's too bad it could not really be a fairy tale 'just' ending. It seemed to start out that way -- in the end people are people and business is business. And business ends up pushing people around. We feel 'abused' and that we are 'getting the short end of the stick' because we are the foreigners, the ones who don't speak French well enough. And that last is our fault.

But the accident -- that wasn't our fault. No way, Jose! I don't know what will happen now. We do have French relations that are taking up the gauntlet -- so at least we can make a stand and have our say. At the end of the day the most important thing is that the young motorcyclist wasn't killed and barely had a scratch -- and that the four of us in the little Peugeot 106 were also unharmed.

And that is more than justice. That is miraculous.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Village Story Part 3

The friendliness and helpfullness of the small French Village!

Such relief to see the young man, albeit with bandaged foot, sitting at a table, with his girlfriend, filling out the insurance forms. And how welcoming the insurance agent and his wife. We waited several minutes while the young people filled out their forms. The girlfriend sat there and drew and map to indicate how, what and where the accident happened. We were pleased also to discover that she spoke English quite well and was thus able to explain what to fill in and so on.

That is, when it was our turn. She even drew our map for us and labelled it carefully in French. In addition when my husband explained to her what happened she helped to accurately translate it all into French. So amicable. So civilized. So French Village!

The young man, Jean Francois was so contrite and apologized several times for what had happened. He hadn't seen us, he said. We were hidden by the car behind us. We told him we were just so relieved that he had escaped any injury -- other than a bruise to his foot. We left hoping to hear from the agent within the week, the outcome of our claim.

It's a shame insurance companies are not so amicable. So civilized. So French Village.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Village Story -- More

Flying through the air with the greatest of ease, one might say in hindsight. The young man landed feet first and slid into the soft narrow ditch along the side of the road as if caught by an angel and carefully set down.

Finally the ambulance arrived. The boy was conscious and it seemed that he would be all right although the medics very carefully lifted him onto a stretcher, neck brace carefully in place. About 20 minutes after the departure of the ambulance for the hospital, the gendarmes arrived!

As my husband carefully explained in limited French, imagine our surprise when the gendarme replied in perfect English, it's all right, I speak English! My husband explained what happened, the witness corrorborated the facts as we described them -- we had indicated, the motorcycle had come up from behind us a great speed, etc. The gendarme told us that it appeared that the boy was not seriously injured and that since no one had been injured the incident would in all likelyhood be handled by the insurance companies. After taking photographs the gendarmes left to interview the boy in the hospital.

Later that evening it was with great joy that the English-speaking gendarme telephoned us with the good news that the boy had suffered only minor bruising and there would be no further police involvement.

Two days later we were to all meet in a very civilized fashion at the home of our mutual insurance agent.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A Village Story -- Accident

But the chances are this story would not have a happy ending. Here we are summering in France at our home in Aynac in the Lot, France. It's August -- the time for visitors -- very busy.

My step-son is here with his son for a week. Today is their last day and the weather has to put a positive side to it, been changeable. As well as 'cool for the season'. (Roughly translated) So off we all went, the four of us, late in the sunny afternoon to Saint Cere for a bit of a shop and a drink in a local cafe/bar. We bought some foie gras and some chocolate walnuts (divine) and two darling tiny porcelaine piggies -- for the grandson -- and climbed back into the little red 'cent six' (Peugeout 106) for the picturesque drive up the old route home.

As we approached our turning -- I was thinking about getting the food on for Grandson Callum. He eats earlier as I'm notoriously slow getting dinner ready and we always eat late. My husband, Neil indicated left, the car behind slowed as we began to turn and that's when everything went to the angels.

I believe in miracles. Wham! Suddenly there was splintering. Glass, plastic and from my position in the front a motercycle and its driver were flying through the air -- the driver had left the 'moto', as the French say, and was somersaulting through the air landing in the ditch to the side of the road. We thought he was either dead or paralyzed.

My step-son, Neil James -- the James is to differentiate this Neil from his father -- apprehensively, but steadily, made his way to the victim, fearing what he might find. Neil J is in the British Territorial Army and trained to deal with injuries and emergencies. He just didn't know what to expect on the long walk to the rider. The lad had removed his helmet and was definitely 'winded' but how seriously was impossible to tell. Neil J's French is a bit limited, but he knew enough to indicate that it was 'ok' and not to move. More quickly than it seemed to him, the driver behind us was there to talk to him. We were all somewhat reassured because we saw the lad move his arms and legs and hoped that was a good sign.

In the meantime passers-by stopped and offered more much needed aid and assistance. The next one to stop had a mobile/cell phone and called the 'pompiers' for an ambulance. Husband Neil had managed to get the car of the center of the road and onto the edge. The fellow who called the ambulance (pompiers -- translated as firemen, who you call in an emergency where there is injury) came to the car where I sat with my grandson to ask if either of us were wounded. That was when it occurred to me that we might have ourselves been injured or suffered damage!

All either of us could think about was this poor 'jeune' (youth) flying through the air like a circus acrobat.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Old Age Question Isn't Answered Here

My Dad isn't very well. For the past few years we've thought he was suffering from Altzheimer's - but two days ago I discovered that he is not! He's suffering from Dementia caused from a series of mini-strokes over a number of years. At least that's what the doctor thinks now!

I am not sure why he has been taking outrageously expensive drugs developed for people with Altzheimer's Disease. And I'm not sure why the diagnosis changed or even why it was made in the first place. And I'd like to know more about when these mini-strokes started and why.

Thankfully, my father recognizes all of us and still has the ability to speak and to reason -- but very slowly. My husband and I think it could have started with a botched cataract operation. It was immediately after that that he lost the will/interest/ability/who knows -- to talk about everything -- to have endless things to say -- to go on and on .... This was over twenty years ago. It's been a long and painful and very slow decline.

And needless to say there have been many 'should have done's' and 'wish we hads' along the way. We seem to know so little about getting old. Suddenly I'm there and I've no idea where I am. He wasn't but a few years older than I am now when he had that operation. What is 20 years any more -- it's almost here.

My father would rather nap now undisturbed. He is very very tired, but tries valiently to hold on. For the moment anyway he is in a nursing home -- unable to live with my mother, who sits with him every afternoon willing him to go on. Daily he goes through physical therapy -- tries to throw a ball or a bean bag -- it's difficult because the good eye that he did have from the successful cateract operation, now is afflicted by macula degeneration. He still tries very hard. But he is so tired all the time.

And as my parents struggle to come to terms with what their life has become they are also assaulted with the trials and tribulations of a whirlwind of complicated and expensive paperwork that must be written up and disseminated among various departments of medical and health care institutions that are probably what keep the economy of the United States going. This is a terrorism that is insidious and pervasive. It is engulfing and digesting the country as slowly and unremittingly as mini-strokes have been my father.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Comments for President Bush

I added the following comments to a petition organized by Air America Radio.

Mr. President,

if you do not fire Karl Rove, could it be that he was just 'following orders'? Could it be that the 'buck' really does stop with you?

Your integrity and honesty are once again on the line, Sir. You are the President of the United States. Isn't it time you assumed the mantel of the office? If Karl Rove is not called to account by you, his employer and President of the United States of America then how can you demand or call to account any one or any nation?

You say you will fire anyone 'found guilty'. That is not enough. When suspected of wrong-doing, policemen, soldiers, and others are suspended -- sometimes with pay, sometimes without, until there is a final outcome.

This is not about loyalty. This is about the integrity of your office. Guilty or not, Karl Rove has brought into question the integrity of the Executive Office and how it is seen to be. At the very least, he must be susupended until the questions about his role in this matter have been answered.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Extraordinary People, Extraordinary Times

Do not think the terrorists have won this round. There is shock, there is anger, there is turmoil, to be sure. But the chaos that was sought by the perpetrators of the horror, is fleeting. The British people have not been bowed by the Luftwaffe, nor the IRA and the people of London in particular will not be intimidated by these blood-thirsty and callous criminals.

9/11 was a spectacular success for our enemy. The economy of the USA was dealt a blow that took a long time to overcome. The confidence of people was shattered and many of us were afraid to travel, to invest, of the future. But even terror can be lived with -- we adapt to our traumas and uncertainties. Our perspectives change. Witness the slight faltering of the world markets this time around.

The emergency services are to be most highly praised for their immediate response. The people of London are to be congratulated on their ability to cope with the drama and inconvenience of the day. They got on with it, as they always have, they got home, they did not panic and they are as back to normal as is possible in less than 24 hours.

And what a lesson in life. The day to day routine is always on the edge. One day there was great jubilation at winning the Olympic bid only to wake up the next to catastrophe and pain. But there are still days of jubilaton to come along with lessons still to be learned and murderers we must try to thwart -- probably for many years to come. We may need to compromise our freedoms in this effort by complying with the necessity of identity cards and by withstanding more and more security checks. I am sure that the British people, by and large, crumbling along the way, will endure it all with forbearance and good humour.

This is a story about resiliance and bravery in the face of murder and evil hatred. It is about people standing together in their suffering and insisting that 'good' will prevail.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Let Freedom Reign

We are hearing a lot these days about 'Freedom'. It is claimed by some to be a God-given 'right'. Hmmm!

What is 'freedom'? Is it the same thing as 'liberty'? What does the Declaration of Independence mean: 'all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness'?

I know what 'Life' means, maybe. But 'life' doesn't seem to me to be an 'inalienable' right as far as governments are concerned, anyway. Particularly in America, Land of the Executioners. In fact the only 'right to life' for some is the 'some' who are not yet born. In fact, for some, the 'right to kill' would be a more apt description of an 'inalienable right'.

The only way I can begin to understand the concept of 'freedom' is to think of it as being able to choose our personal 'limits' and 'boundaries' -- for good or ill.

'The pursuit of 'Happiness': Well, where is the 'truth' in that?

It is an error to consider these concepts as 'rights' given to us by God. They may be 'aspirations' or 'needs' that are integral to our nature and necessary to our fulfillment as humans and that may have something to do in our relationship with the Creator -- but ultimately 'inalienable' rights are rights we give each other.

I do not belief that God is absent from this process. But I do believe that humankind is the catulus from which our life, our liberty and our pursuit of happiness is enabled. I believe that what is important is not always the solution that working together we can agree upon. What is important is how we work together in our struggle to pursue divergent aspirations and needs.

And Freedom? Freedom is in the mind.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, etc

At the end of January my doctor told me that I am diabetic -- among other things. I have type two diabetes which is being controlled by a combination of diet and medication. I count myself fortunate that the NHS surgery where I am a patient. They have modern facilities and a staff committed to preventive medicine. It was because the surgery initiated contact with me suggesting that I should have a routine blood test that my diabetes was diagnosed. I am also exempt from having to pay for my prescriptions. (Eat your heart out America!)

But now here is the rub. After discussions about the diet I should follow and how to read sugar levels on packets of food, etc. I have discovered the shocking levels of sugar in the food that we buy in the UK. And especially breakfast cereals. Two cold cereals in particular amazed me with their high sugar content -- higher than what a diabetic should eat -- mixed grain Cheerios and Kellogg's Special K. In the U.S. these cereals have no sugar, but here they are sugar coated. In fact, it is very difficult indeed to find sugarless cereals in this country.

It seems to me that it would behoove the makers/distributors of these cereals to make the sugarless -- or nearly sugarless -- versions available to a population that needs to have this choice. More and more of us are going to be diagnosed with diabetes as the population ages and already the studies of obesity in the population at large indicate that we need to be ingesting a lot less of the stuff.

How about it, Nestles? How about it, Kellogs?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

UK Election: Aftermath

This is the first election I've experienced where one could almost say there are no winners. What is so interesting is that this is precisely the result most people in Britain wanted! And it's peculiar that the lib dems and the Tories have managed to relish the euphoria of victory despite defeat!

On the other hand, labour's behaviour is defeatist and bitter. None of the exultant behaviour of the Bush administration claiming to be vindicated in their decision-making and claiming a 'mandate' from the people. The press claims Tony Blair has been chastened and shocked at the outpouring of rage he had to endure. That he felt chastened is to his credit -- perhaps he will keep his feet in the real world for a while longer.

What began as a lacklustre campaign is now a fascinating political drama as the British Prime Minister tries to wend his way through the maelstrom of party shennanigans and seething ambition. Will he won't he be able to soldier on; can he can't he forge the necessary alliances to end his premiership with authority, dignity, and successfully deliver his would-be agenda?

Will the labour party be able to work together to assure its present leader the support he will need to pursue his goals and thus provide a stable base for the succession of Gordon Brown?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Election UK: Dialogue and Challenge

It's election time in Britain. Always an interesting experience for this American. Serious electioneering that lasts only a month! What bliss. The television set has not been taken over by party political advertising either.

And guess what!!! The protagonists, excuse me, those running for office, actually face tough questioning and it can be probing and sometimes overtly hostile. It was fascinating for me to watch Question Time a few nights ago. Since Mr. Blair was not willing to participate in a debate with the other main candidates, each candidate faced the audience alone -- and if this audience was partial, I wasn't able to figure to whom. And if the candidate tried to evade the question, the way politicians are want to do, Mr. Dimbleby was there to follow-up and reign in the prevaricating fellow. Not only that, but from time to time it was permitted for the questioner to follow-up and comment on what that answer might be.

In all my years of watching political debates in the United States, I have never seen candidates face the kind of confrontation with the general public that I have witnessed in every general election in Great Britain. The fact is there are few American politicians able to suffer that kind of dialogue.
That is not to say that there are no set political answers -- but the edge is taken off these answers by a public that is allowed to follow-up and challenge the rhetoric.

Within a few moments of facing the audience, Tony Blair had broken into a sweat. And so it should be. The public hired him, the public can fire him and he's not for leaving -- yet!

Saturday, April 02, 2005


The times seem to call for reflection about the meaning of life and the meaning of death. I am up early today because I couldn't sleep for thinking about what seems to be the imininent death of Pope John Paul II. This at the same time as the death of Terri Schiavo bring together issues which have compelled many of us to think long and hard about our attitudes and our ideas about living and dying.

I am surprised at my own sadness because I disagree fundamentally with his attitude toward women and the issues which affect them. But I also remember that he began the tearing down of the 'iron curtain' and that he did extend his hand toward reconciliation with the Jews and Muslims.

I saw him once -- soon after he became Pope. It was in Washington, DC on a beautiful sunny day -- before the necessity of have a 'popemobile'. My young son and I found a place at the foot of the Capitol building where the Pope's car would turn from Pennsylvania Avenue, to carry on down Constitution. He stood in the convertable --tall and silver-haired with a black cape lined in scarlett, that swirled behind him as the car turned. I couldn't help but think, 'My God, it's Superman' as His Holiness passed by us. And in many many ways I got that about right.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Moral Idiocy

What on earth is happening in the United States of America? It cannot be true that the US Congress has become involved in such a personal issue as what is happening in Florida. The House of Representatives is crazy. I can only hope that the member of the Senate will vote the issue down and bring some sensibility to what can only be described as an insane use of Federal power. Politicians have taken what is a personal tragedy and twisted it into a national drama that is perverse and disgusting. This is not the stuff which serves the national honour.

Can you imagine what the possibilities are for the future with a Federal government taking on case after case pursuing public support for emotional and emotive issues? The precedent is alarming. And it would seem that at the end of the day the courts can again intervene and decide that the legislation now being passed will untimately be thrown out as unconstitutional. Americans living at home have a lot to be concerned about here. Isn't it about time that the country should come to grips with the fact that it is NOT the worst thing in the world to die. And sometimes it really really is a blessing. In the meantime the personal tragedy will continue with no end in sight until the next victim for public humilation is found.

What can possibly be gained by keeping this poor girl in a vegetative state in that state. Life must go on and so must death come when it should. It would seem in this case that she is being forced to live instead of being allowed to die. This is a sad and tragic story. There is no happy ending, but there could be a peaceful and dignified death.

The government is now a threat to its people. The country is bordering on a nervous breakdown and could collapse under the strain of wisdomless leadership and lack of moral judgment. What should be a government of the people, by the people and for the people is becoming a government of extremest buffoons intent on implementing their narrow vision to the detriment of freedom, liberty, and moral character.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Grumpily thankful and falling apart

I watched 'Grumpy Old Women' last night -- again. Enjoyed it again! Related to lots of it -- again. It's been written about before many times, the terrible realization that life is zooming by, but that inside we still feel that we are the same person.

But of course we are not. It's just that I don't feel inside that I am 'old'. Outside though everything is falling apart. At the end of January I went for a check up -- if my husband hadn't been encouraging this I never would have gone. But now that I am back in England, I can afford to do this sort of thing again. Soon there appeared in the mail a letter from the doctor's surgery to please make an appointment as soon as possible. Oh, joy.

"You are diabetic", said the doctor -- well the first thing she said was, "there are a lot of things wrong with you!" In addition to the diabetes, I have an underactive thyroid and signs of liver problems. After a great deal of discussion with other doctors in the practice it was deemed that we would try to bring down the sugar count by diet. The doctor was 'relieved' to hear that I did have more than the 'good-for-you' amount of wine as otherwise my 'liver' indicators would be very worrying.

You see, this is one of the problems. I can't quite get my head around the fact that my body is showing signs of collapse (aging, etc) because for years and years whenever I thought I ought to see a doctor because of this or that complaint -- the results always confirmed that there was nothing wrong with me. In fact I usually ended up feeling that I was 'wasting' the doctors' time. Now that I'm older and "wiser" the last thing I want is to have anything to do with a doctor!

So now my social calendar is infused with varying types of medical appointments. And I actually have spent some time on the Internet looking up various illnesses and am probably going to turn into one of these boring people who talks about her ailments too much of the time.

But I do have the great fortune to be an NHS patient. I don't have to pay for my drugs -- even though I'm not 60 until June. This because I have to take medication for an underactive thyroid! Yes, there are certain illnesses that mean you don't have to pay £6.40 for each precription. I'm also fortunate to be registered with a great surgery with great doctors and nurses and dieticians. Yes, they are busy and it sometimes takes a long time for an appointment -- but they've just moved into brand new 'digs' and take preventive medicine very seriously.

One thing more -- at least I only have to worry about my health and what to do about it and I don't have to worry about how to pay the bills.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Wondrous Spectacle of Debate

Something wonderful is happening right now in Britain. In fact, Great Britain, because what is happening is one of the many things that make this country ''Great".

As I write, there is a battle between the two houses of government about fundamental democratic issues. One house is of the elected, the other has traditionally become one that 'advises' that 'warns', but in the end 'defers' to the wishes of the 'democratically' chosen. It is ironic that it should be the 'Lords' so concerned and so protective of the country's democratic history, decomcratic well-being. It is ironic that our democratically elected house should demand passage of a bill that will set such a precedent for the denial of its citizens the ancient right to a trial -- ad infinitum.

Time and again since my arrival in the United Kingdom, I have been impressed by the unelected House of Lords. It seems to me that while there is often a great deal of 'huffery' and 'puffery'; while there is a smattering -- maybe more than a smattering -- of pomp and red capes with ermine trimming, and yes, there really is a Woolsack -- most of the Lords who attend day after day, really believe the government and its role are important and very often above politics. The truth is there is a place for 'wisdom', for these guardians of what a government has been and should be and what questions need to be pondered about long and hard. It is a peculiarity of the system that the Lords is less politically corrupt from not needing to be elected. And more democratic because the entire group is entitled to participate in the debate and to vote.

I have goosebumps watching the parade between the houses as one says aye and the other nay and back and forth down the ancient corridors they travel to-ing and fro-ing, debating the foundation of western culture, the rights of man. It's important. It's everything we are; everything we've become. It brings tears to my eyes.

Bravo! Well done! Thank you.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Life's a bitch -- for the Moment

For me lately it's been a depressing old world. Winter in the north of England probably has something to do with my malaise. So does being an American. And the election in November. And my unhealthy habits have caught up with me enough to ring some alarm bells.

In my imagination this blog was going to be humorous and pithy. I was going to write every day. I don't feel humorous and pithy. Or like writing every day, for that matter -- nor have I.

Of course this kind of malaise is an indulgence reserved for those societies that do not worry about feeding mouths, or keeping warm, or having a roof over a solid house. In my 'blink-of-an-eye' lifetime the ideas and ideals of my bringing up have altered in such a way as to throw me seriously off-kilter. For example, I remember being taught in school the words on the Statue of Liberty written by Emma Lazarus:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Those words still move me. I don't really know how people in the US feel about immigration any more. But I don't think it's the same. We've left the idea behind, I think. I don't even know how I feel now. In England we feel over run by different cultures, different creeds, different languages. For me it is difficult any longer to see the US as a democracy. It is certainly not the kind of democracy that Britain is. I see the US as being much more authoritarian. The British are the only people I know of that could take the idea of having an unwritten constitution seriously! I still haven't been able to figure out how that works -- but I am convinced that it does.

Finally, for today: God bless you, people of Iraq. You did get out and vote. You risked your lives and I am grateful to you that you stood up to be counted. I don't know what the future will be for you, but I do believe you hold it in your hands.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Big Brother: Oh the Possibilities

I have been slow in recovering from the last US Election. I admit to being a life-long Democrat and more liberal than is deemed decent by certain elements of the American dream. I'm finding it difficult to believe that the election was won by the 'other side'. I suspect, though I don't want to admit it, or think about it too closely, that I now understand just how those steadfast opponents of Bill Clinton felt while I was celebrating his two elections. No one questioned that he won, though.

My husband reminded me yesterday that more people in the UK voted for Big Brother, the foray into TV voyerism than in the General Election which elected Tony Blair the last time around. And it occured to me that perhaps the time has come to consider that method for electing the President of the United States. In fact, it would work in any country.

Consider putting all the candidates, whether Republican or Democrat -- and include the primary candidates, too and the Green Party and Ralph Nader (I think he might be a party by now) and put them all together in a Big Brother house with TV cameras on them 24/7. For however long it would take, but no longer than a year (well that's a short time compared with what the rest of us have to put up with)

The General Public could then vote them off one week at a time, until there is only one left. Our new President! We would see all of them as they really are -- we might even get some real and honest debate, instead of the stilted soundbit variety we have now. We'd finally see what we will never see the way it is now when they are all made up and in their best suits or casual outfits. And it wouldn't matter how much money was coughed up on mindless and endless TV ads. Everything would come from the candidates own mouth. No one could speak on their behalf.

Oh don't worry about an incumbent President. From what I see they don't do anything much except campaign anyway! And maybe the way would be that when an incumbent is running we have to do it the way we do now. Just save Big Brother for the Free For All. We could start now and have it run 4 years until the next election!

Wouldn't the best thing would be to go back to paper ballots. It works in Europe. It's a very cheap and easy way to ensure that everybody can vote. No technicians needed, nothing to break down. A paper and a pen. And people who know how to count. At the very least every voter should be guaranteed a paper ballot should machines breakdown or not be able to cope with voter turnout. Period.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Art of Giving

Perhaps it's a particular peculiarity in Britain. But it would seem that no matter how altruistic a person may be, or how popular an individual, what great fun it is to raise him or her to great heights and then what great joy to see how far we can make them sink in public estimation.

After the devastation of the Asian tsunami the day after Christmas, there were immediate and generous gifts from the world-wide general public -- The last figure I heard about was around £2 billion. Governments seemed to be competing with each other to be the most generous. Some famous people donated $1 million. The general public put governments to shame, proving once again 'the power of the people.' Three cheers for us!!!

Last week the editorials and newspaper articles began. The began to judge the motivation behind the generosity of both the general public and governments. Part of the 3 estate's godhead, I presume. This sitting in judgement.

All of us have motivation for what we do. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good and probably most often both. The notion of whether or not what we have done or given is somehow tainted by whatever motivated us is too complicated and too unfair to be bandied about by newspapers and other media, especially that 'bastion of our morals' which has its own questionable motivations to answer for.

It seems to me that this outpouring of money has been an overwhelming tribute to the nature of the human spirit. That we are a caring and giving humanity. We do not like to see our fellow human beings suffer and that we want to help in ways that we can. We are even grateful for the opportunity.

Friday, January 07, 2005

An Olympian Event

Well, Christmas is over at last. The hurculean annual frenzy is laid to rest. The decorations are down and the Christmas tree is in the garden waiting to be unceremoniously dumped! I am still recovering from the onslaught of it all. The preparations, the cooking, the shopping -- the everything.

For many years I have believed it would be a great idea to have Christmas every four years -- to coincide with Leap Year. Then we'd have an extra day to get ready. Of course most men haven't a clue about this -- and whenever we try to explain it to them they get this horrible look on their faces that it might cost money and please just get on with it and stop complaining -- oh and keep me out of it!

I grew up in the USA. One of the great benchmarks of the American Calendar is Thanksgiving. It helps keep the season under control -- at least calendar-wise. This is also true in many European countries that don't have any decorations up in the stores until Advent. In England the madness starts before Halloween. Mid-October. In the past few years my Thanksgiving benchmark was to have all my presents bought by Thanksgiving. Didn't work this year.

Also I don't want to cook anymore than absolutely necessary on Christmas Day. Ideally, I would be eating out on that day, but the looks of horror on my husband and sons faces of not being home for the big Meal is best not described. But I'm the cook and I try to make it easy on myself -- no roast turkey and all the trimmings. No argument about this because we've just had it all for Thanksgiving anyway. We have fillet of beef (30 minutes in the oven) twice baked potatos (made in advance and frozen) a vegetable casserole (made the day before in need of reheating) bearnaise sauce (made in advance) and a Yule log (made before and frozen till the day). Also, I've trained my boys to share in the serving and cooking.

So, I've taken care of Christmas Day. But not the rest of it. Not the relatives visiting -- and a joy it is to have them -- the present wrapping and last minute shopping, the decorating -- this year, I could not get enthusiastic about the tree -- fortunately youngest son took care of that!

The thing is though -- I still remember the days when there was such a thing as 'Christmas Spirit' -- people don't really talk about that anymore. I am so old that I remember when each year right after Thanksgiving the little Carol books would appear for our music lessons in school. I can't quite picture the cover except that it was a night time snow scene with carolers. The first carol was, I think, Silent Night. We sang all the carols in the book -- and they were all there. We didn't really need the booklets for the first verses, we all knew them by heart.

For me, it's a sad cultural loss that our children no longer have that experience. Oh, they do to some extent if they go to Sunday School -- but then it's once a week. The Christian Culture is not just about creed, nor is the culture of any religion. I understand the motivation behind political correctness and the separation of church and state. But it seems that political correctness does not have to mean the exclusion of this part of our cultural history, but rather could mean the inclusion of a wider range of cultural history.

Christmas is now about celebrating. Politicians of Correctness now are using terms to deny the religiousity of the day. So what are we celebrating? Is 'Peace on Earth, Good Will to All Men' still an acceptible message for our children?

Is the Spirit of Christmas no more than the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

An Invitation to Think

Well, from now on, everyday, I can comment to the world about my opinion and without interruption. But what is the fun without feedback no matter how dire! I may amuse be amused or confuse and be confused -- one day's moody sumise, may be tomorrows comic surprise.

Old woman, grande dame, superficial and profound imp -- c'est moi. I am opinionated and know nothing. I am superstitious when not pragmatic. I am vulnerable, pliable and impossible -- fun and an absolute bore. But no matter -- I have now a voice that can now be heard round the world and possible more besides.

There is more work to be done. I have a website to activate and these pages, no doubt without comment till I do, to transfer. And then my voice shall be set free.