Little Red People? Here We Are, Come and Get Us!

They are doing this on our behalf, without consulting us, droned the guy on the radio.  What could he be talking about?  Brexit?  They are sending out messages without any idea of what the consequences could be for our culture.  Definitely Brexit.  If alien life is out there we are basically sending them a signal that says, ‘here we are, come and get us.’

Could still be Brexit… but no: turned out the guy was talking about signals sent out in the hope of contacting alien life.  He was worried that instead of making friends we might be advertising our existence and possibly inviting an invasion.

My first thought was, my god – what a paranoid vision!  But then it made me think because yes, to be fair, they are doing this without consulting the rest of us – though how world-consultation might be achieved is not clear – but also there does seem to be an assumption that this is a risk-free process.  Do we see the rest of the universe as benign and ourselves as the only wicked species?  I think perhaps we do.  Could we be wrong?  Of course we could.

Not knowing what to think about this, I consulted the oracle.

Me:  Do you think it’s dangerous to try to contact alien life?

Jeeves:  You already know what I think. 

Me:  Oh, do I?

OH:  Yes, I told you before.

Me:  Oh well that’s all right then.  Obviously I know

OH:  Obviously.  (Come to think of it, OH is sounding more like Sherlock than Jeeves.  Not nearly polite enough.)  Anyway, I blogged yesterday. 

Me:  Oh, what about?

OH:  About Dalek.

Me:  Daleks?

OH:  No.  About Galek

Me:  Garlic?

OH:  No!  Galek!

Me:  What the hell is Galek?

OH:  Galek!  The language!

Me;  Oh for god’s sake!  You mean Gallic!

OH:  (stubbornly)  It’s pronounced Galek.

Me:  You’d always rather be correct than be understood, wouldn’t you?

Anyway, back to the aliens – because OH’s view is, as I was subsequently reminded – that any species as wicked as us would have wiped itself out already, so whatever remains must be benign (definitely more like Sherlock).  I’m not sure I go along with that as we haven’t yet wiped ourselves out, (though that may only be a matter of time) so why would these other hypothetical races?  And yet the idea that people some people view alien life as potentially hostile is utterly depressing to me, giving rise as it does to visions of star wars and galaxy wars and the whole disgusting scenario being played out over an ever-widening area.  Are we really no better than that?  If that’s the best we can do then we probably should be wiped out.

*Sigh*

One of the most interesting aspects of the play I went to the other night (I’ll say more of that in a minute) was the number of peace initiatives which sprang up before and during the First World War.  I hadn’t heard about any of these and needless to say none of them managed to stop the carnage before it ground to an inevitable halt.  What scares me is that war has its own momentum and that once you put measures in place it’s very hard to stop it.  But god knows we have to try because if we start regarding alien life as hostile before we’ve even discovered it, what hope is there for us?

Anyway, the play was called Remembrance.  Written by Bill Brookman the narrative centred on letters between a Sergeant on the front and his wife at home, the action spanning a number of wars between 1916 and the early ‘sixties.  It was a story not only of war but of the Home Front and the emancipation of women and the action was interspersed with songs and hymns, some of which the audience joined in.  It was a great evening.

And a propos of female emancipation here’s a statue of Leicester Suffragette Alice Hawkins made out of Lego:

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Kirk out

 

 

 

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A Senior Moment?

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OK I’ll be honest: I qualified for a Senior Railcard more than a year ago but didn’t get one.  I resisted; I put it off, partly I wondered whether I used the trains enough to justify the expense but mainly, if I’m honest, it was seeing that ‘S’ word that stopped me filling in the form and stumping up my thirty quid.  But now I guess the sting of hitting sixty has faded a little (life in the fast lane, eh?) plus I’ve made a conscious decision to drive less and take the train more, so here we are: yesterday I filled in the form, stumped up the cash and received confirmation which seemed to be competing to get the most repetitions of the word ‘Senior’ in one email.  Dear SENIOR citizen, thank you for applying for your SENIOR railcard now that you are a SENIOR person.  Get all the SENIOR benefits from you SENIOR card… OK, I get it!  I am now Senior.  I am having a Senior Moment and will go on having one for quite some time.

When I was young the elderly used to be called Senior Citizens if you were being polite and old people if you weren’t, but nowadays nobody is actually ‘old’ because being ‘old’ is next-door to being dead and no-one wants to talk about that.  Death has long since replaced sex as the great taboo; we postpone it for as long as possible (no death before seventy, please) and most of us never see it happen.  Death is tucked away in clinical environments, hidden from view: even accidental or criminal death is very soon hidden behind forensic tents and crime-scene tape and few of us actually witness the death of a loved one.  My sister and I insisted on staying with our mother when she died (she’d been unconscious for ages) and though it was hard, I’m glad we did.  It was peaceful and I’m sure it helped the grieving process.

In the midst of life we are in death.  Oo look, I’ve gone all biblical now: but I think that’s something we tend to ignore.  We have an uneasy relationship with the dead, being unsure how to commemorate their passing (do we dress in black and look sad?  Do we wear bright colours and celebrate?) and funeral corteges go at quite a clip compared to when I was a child, so as not to hold up the traffic; after all we can’t have the dead inconveniencing the living, can we?

I have to confess, I’m not a fan of the ‘wear bright colours and celebrate’ trend.  I dislike being told to ‘wear bright colours’ (though to be fair, I dislike being told what to wear in general) because there’s an implication that one is being told how to feel – and I may not feel like being glad and celebrating: the mourning gets squeezed out, somehow, in these events.  But then I’m not a huge fan of everyone wearing black and being deadly serious.  There should be laughter and joy as well as mourning.

It’s hard ain’t it?

But this remains one of my favourite funeral scenes, containing as it does both laughter and sadness, joy and grief – and of course, poetry:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPgkl2dPqGw

Kirk out

 

 

 

 

Half the Sofas, Double the Posts

Something weird happened yesterday and I’ve only just twigged: not only did the sofa post reproduce itself (a tad ironic, since the post was about reducing the number of sofas) but it failed to include the saga of the toaster.  I don’t know how that happened but I think I can guess: I got lost between two blogs.  I knew I’d written about the toaster somewhere but I couldn’t find it, so concluded it must be languishing in the Drafts folder (things do a lot of languishing around here; they must be taking languish lessons.  Ho ho.)  Anyway, I did find it in a draft over on the other blog.  It gets very confusing having to sign out and sign in again as my profile over there is a Quaker one but over here I’ve doffed my Quaker hat and donned my Lizardyoga costume (incidentally did you know that the reason Quakers are traditionally shown wearing hats is that, as confirmed egalitarians, they refused to take their hat off to a ‘social superior’?)

I have a distinct memory of copying and pasting the toaster saga into yesterday’s post – yet when I checked, there it wasn’t.  Most mysterious.  Anyway, here it is:

Last week I went to a repair cafe, organised by Loughborough Transition Network, toting my defunct toaster in a big black bag.  It was a four-slice toaster and I was pretty sure that one side at least would still work but the knob wouldn’t stay down.  I passed the toaster across to a lovely guy who spent the next 3/4 hr on mending it; most of that time in trying to get the very stubborn casing to open.  But though the screw was stubborn Stuart was more so, and eventually we prised the plastic base off the metal housing and looked within to a hell-hole of dust and crumbs.

It’s part of the ethos of the cafe that you stay and watch the repair so that you learn from it.  I learned loads about the inside of a toaster, how there are magnetised parts inside which are brought together when the knob goes down and released when the timer finishes, and how once the element is gone there’s not much you can do except buy a new one (hardly worth it.)  Enough crumbs came out of my toaster to make a new loaf; and whether it was the cleaning of the crumbs or the polishing of the magnets or the stubbornness of Stuart convincing the toaster to give in and jolly-well work, he got it going again.  I did try to freecycle it but unfortunately the pop-up device isn’t working so it will stay with us as a back-up toaster.  But I can’t describe the satisfaction I got from having something mended that was previously defunct.  It really felt like one in the eye for pointless consumerism – and don’t even get me started on built-in obsolescence.

If you’re in Loughborough, check the transition blog for more details, and if not then google your nearest repair cafe.  You’ll thank me.

Kirk out

The Reduced Sofa Company

You’ll all be relieved to know that the number of sofas in this house has been reduced to one, thanks to those lovely guys from SOFA.  I highly recommend these people if you have furniture to donate: much cheerier than the British Heart Foundation and far less sniffy than LOROS who won’t even take something if it has a bit of dust on it, these guys set to with a will, undeterred by ink spots and merely concerned with how sturdy the structure was.  Now that’s my kind of recycling.

In the process though, I have found a couple of useful bits of info, to whit Leicestershire and Rutland re-use network (though the website is temporarily offline) which actually carry out repairs and upcycling, and www.freeuseit.org (though they merely give suggestions rather than taking stuff).  It was also suggested I might try the Red Cross who help refugees to set up home (legally, lest any Daily Mail readers should start frothing at the mouth) and any of these would have been my next port of call.  Failing all of them I’d have freecycled the bits as foam cushions and pieces of wood.  I was determined to save it from the tip.

Give that woman a gold star!

I mean it.  I want my gold star.

Now, a propos of all this recycling and retoastering (did I tell you about the toaster?  Possibly not; I’ll get to that in a minute) I’ve started another blog in conjunction with Loughborough Quakers.  It’s all about our efforts to live more sustainably and you can find it here.

Kirk out

The Fast Show?

It may well have escaped your notice that the season of Lent is almost upon us.  Lent is a period of fasting, as is Advent; and whereas people used to fast before the feast, now we forget the fast and fast-forward to the feast.*  And how: Easter eggs are already in Sainsbury’s and Easter is not until April 21st.  It’s not even Lent for another three weeks.

*see what I did there?

Not that most Christians actually fast during Lent.  It’s more common to give something up – chocolate, say, or booze.  The last church I went to had a more imaginative approach to this, suggesting that one might give up TV (we did that and ended up getting rid of it for good) or swearing or being critical (I’ve tried that and it’s really hard.  God, I’m so bad at it.  I’m a terrible person…)  This seems more conducive to spiritual growth than a token avoidance of chocolate, though if one is addicted to chocolate it would be beneficial.

What’s interesting is that while these fasting times of Advent and Lent are largely ignored in a frenzy of chocolate and present-wrapping, the emphasis has shifted.  We still have periods of abstinence, only now the emphasis is on physical health rather than spiritual growth.  And the periods have time-shifted: instead of Advent we have Stoptober for giving up the fags and Go Sober for October for giving up jokes (just kidding: I could never do that.)  Then there’s Dry January alongside all the other post-Christmas health kicks – so instead of December we have October and instead of March, January.  Everything has moved back a couple of months.

Hm.

But as for actual fasting as in abstaining from food and drink, I think the only folk to do that are the Muslims.  The difficulty of the Ramadan fast varies according to the country and time of year as it takes place from sunrise to sunset and is compounded in hot countries by the need to abstain from drink.  You are nil by mouth: some more zealous Muslims, so I’ve read, even refrain from swallowing saliva.  As for me, I find fasting extraordinarily difficult.  It’s not only the gnawing hunger that gets me, it’s a deep-seated fear which I can’t quite put my finger on: a fear of fainting, perhaps, or more probably a fear of death.  Anyway, since I’ve failed to lose much of the weight I put on at Christmas and am now borderline overweight, I am going to try OH’s watermelon fast.  This consists of eating watermelon.  Fast.  (Just kidding; if you’re trying to lose weight you should eat as slowly as possible.)

Oh, and the sofa should be being picked up today.  I’ll keep you posted on that as well…

Meanwhile just for a laugh, here’s a clip from the actual Fast Show:

 

 

Kirk out

Bee-owulf Movie

Strange noises are coming from the laptop next to me: I look over and see that OH is watching a trailer for Bee Movie dubbed into Old English. 

‘What really annoys me,’ says OH when the video is finished, ‘is that they keep saying eu instead of eu.’

‘What instead of what?’  I always get sucked into these conversations and I always regret it.

‘Eu!  Instead of eu!’

‘How dare they?’  I mean honestly, when people don’t even pronounce diphthongs in Old English correctly, what is the world coming to?  Is nothing sacred?  Do Old English vowels mean squat these days?

What with OH remembering Old English, my laptop now has dementia.  It was great to get a free model and after installing a hard drive we booted from a pen-drive (incidentally I wonder what folk from centuries past would have made of those terms?  A hard drive would be a long carriage-ride over rough terrain, and a pen-drive would be something like a whist drive, only for writers.  I ask these questions because I am watching the BBC’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ yet again, and it has set me thinking: how do you explain one age to another?  We have the benefit of history in understanding the past, not to mention its literature and art, but how could we ever explain our age to Jane Austen, should she arrive one day in a Tardis-carriage?  Impossible.)

Anyway, why does my laptop have dementia?  Simple.  We have not yet formatted the hard drive because I don’t know how and because the instructions, as ever, are written in language harder to understand than Beowulf.  It says this:

Please use your arrow keys to select the unpartitioned drive.  Press the appropriate key to create a new partition.  You will be asked to set the size of the partitions.  Use the default amount unless you wish to create more than one.  Select the newly-created partition on which you would like to install the Operating System and press the appropriate key to continue with formatting.

Now to anyone who understands computers this may be clearer than daylight; but whilst I get that you have to select and click and what-have-you, I am hampered by not understanding the terms.  What is a partition and why do I want one?  What does it do?  Why do I need more than one?  Why does Linux need more than Windows?  I know I could just follow the instructions but without this knowledge I feel I’m stabbing at things in the dark and hoping they’ll work.  Why don’t they explain this stuff?

Answer: because they assume you know.  They assume that, since you’ve managed to buy the correct hard-drive for your computer, you will understand the technical terms associated with it.  But that’s a bit like assuming that because you’ve bought a car you know how the engine works.  I think there’s a big gap here and it’s because – according to what I’ve read – Silicon Valley is peopled by young men who don’t have a clue what it’s like not to be young and techno-savvy.  And don’t even get me started on older people and computers…

So, due to the unformatted state of said hard-drive, I am booting every day from a pen-drive.  And the pen drive forgets everything when it shuts down: all passwords, all add-ons, all downloads and attachments – gone.

*Sigh*

I suppose I’m just going to have to ask OH to do the formatting thing.

Kirk out

The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name

I was reading an article in the Guardian today about how hard it is to be a Muslim in public life.  You get asked all kinds of questions like, ‘Do you think the state of Israel should exist?  Do you sympathise with terrorists?  What do you think of underage marriage?’  You become the poster-girl or boy for every horrendous act perpetrated in the name of Islam – and in the end you discover, as Nesrine Malik says, that the only way to win the game is not to play.

I can totally sympathise – if not empathise – with this, because it ain’t that easy to come out as a Christian these days either, at least not in Europe.  I would never suggest that Christians get abuse on the level of Muslims – for a start, we’re not easily visible unless we go out looking like these guys (the ones with crucifixes, not the ones with breasts).  Unless we open our mouths and start quoting the Bible, nobody can tell what we are.  But if you want to suck all the atmosphere out of a social occasion and have people edging away from you fast, just try mentioning the G-word.

These days I don’t even say I’m a you-know-what: if anyone asks I tell them I’m a Quaker.  This is partly because it’s more in tune with where I am, and partly because you avoid being blamed by association for everything from colonialism to the inquisition.  Being a Quaker is much more user-friendly because either people don’t know what that means and are interested, or they do know what it means and start talking about chocolate and world peace (usually in that order.)  Being a Quaker is – well, Friendly – and unless your interlocutor is wedded to nuclear weapons or radically opposed to chocolate in all its forms, you’re onto a winner.

Then again, it’s better to stick to the outward actions rather than touching on the inner revelation.  Mention ‘the spirit’ or ‘worship’ or ‘the light’ and people will edge away faster than the tide at Camber Sands (and believe me, that’s fast.)  Why is it so hard to talk about this stuff?  Why are people so hostile to anyone, no matter how tolerant or open-minded, who expresses a faith?  I’m not Billy Graham, for f***’s sake; nor do I think evangelism is a good thing.  Quite the reverse.

Sometimes I can’t help thinking that the evangelists are all atheists now.  Doesn’t Richard Dawkins want to make converts?  Aren’t some of the new atheists more intolerant than the believers?

Discuss.  (Politely, please – rude comments will be deleted.)

Kirk out