Education

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What I really mean is, with apologies to Pink Floyd: “we don’t need no education.”  Actually, I am rather ashamed of this cartoon. When I drew it, I called it “Pussy Grab 100.” I was thinking of the need for sex education in schools and at all levels of society. Then I thought of all the ways in which people were actually learning to abuse each other, rather than learning what ‘the other’ is about and how to get on with her or him or them. Sometimes we forget that man is born of woman, not the other way round, in spite of the mysterious magic of the legendary Adam’s Rib. And remember: there was only one Adam and only one rib. In addition, not many people, adults or children, leap full grown and  fully-armed from the thigh of an Alpha Male Greek or Roman god. Respect for the mother and the potential mother, surely this is the first thing that every child in every walk of life must learn.

Men should be learning to treat women with dignity and respect, not to trample upon them and abuse their rights. Women should be learning to respect themselves and their bodies. In my book women should maintain control over their own bodies. If there is indeed an international code of human rights, and if it is indeed still being respected, then surely we should be thinking of a parallel international code of women’s rights. It would contain the right to self-determination, the right to be protected, not by superior male members of the same family, but by a code of laws that allow women to move forward as independent human beings with inalienable rights of their own. These would include  a right to health care for themselves and their off-spring, a right to education and self-education for themselves and their children, a right to a space in which to bring up their families in safety and in harmony with the earth and its more humane principles.

I hear a whisper in my ear … but the principles under which human beings live are the laws of the jungle, nature red in tooth and claw, might is right, entitlement to the amount of justice that humans can afford to purchase, the right of the powerful to grab everything they want and make it their own, the right of the male head of the family to determine the fate of his women and off-spring, the right to attend male sex education classes that begin with Pussy Grab 100 and continue with a series of lessons that would make the venerable Marquis de Sade blush and turn over in his grave. And remember, while the Marquis de Sade wrote in impeccable French, such modern day lessons can now be found online, in verbal and visual form, and for free.

Democracy: for me, one of the keys to democracy is the way in which the majority treats the minority (or minorities) over which it has gained power. Is there an understanding of the minority point of view, consideration of the needs and desires of the minority? If so, then democracy functions. If not, then cultural rights, language rights, educational rights, human rights are swept away, legislated out of existence, scattered like leaves before a hurricane force wind that shows no mercy. When that happens, we have de-mock-racy not democracy. When de-mock-racy happens, it’s winner take all, and may the gods help the hindmost to help themselves to scrabble for whatever remainders they can glean.

Brexit 2

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So, I called Mrs. May, the British Prime Minister, this morning, in search of clarification and she very kindly agreed to send me the road map she had drawn up for Brexit. As you can see from the above photo of the road map, it is very simple: the truth of the matter is that in Brexit ‘the truth points the way’. So, just follow the arrows and you will arrive at a satisfactory solution that will please all parties.

Thank you so much for this road map, Mrs. May. It reminds of the RAC maps that led us through France to Spain by following one straight line that never deviated. I remember trying to follow that one straight line through Bordeaux one year, in the rush hour crowds that followed the end of a soccer match and a rugby match. Marvellous. I can’t remember how many times we got lost in the twisting turning narrow streets we encountered when we once took a false turning, away from the packed streets of revellers, while looking for our RAC booked hotel.

In the end we  picked up a street urchin and he drove with us for another half hour tour of the city before we realized that he too was ‘just taking us for a ride’, so to speak. In the end, we stopped outside a large, five star hotel, unbooked, and spent the night there. My my father and I were in the elevator, going upwards to the Nth floor. The elevator stopped and three large, husky, obviously foreign men walked in. They looked at my father in great surprise and one of them spoke to him.

“Tis the map of Ireland written all over your face,” he said in a thick Irish brogue. The other two nodded their agreement.

“Yes,” said my father in an even thicker Welsh accent that he had picked up working in the Rhondda Valley, “I am Irish, but I was born in England.”

Ah, road maps: they lead you anywhere and everywhere. You can always trust them. And they always turn out just right in the end. All you have to do is follow that one straight line for page after page and never deviate from it. Ask the RAC: they will tell you.

 

Brexit

 

What a mess! If anyone thinks that they actually do understand what is really happening, please enlighten me. Please, pretty please, with sugar on.

In my cartoon above, the road to hell is clearly paved with good intentions: but what are those intentions? To remove Britain from Europe under the donkey’s nasal bray that ‘the people once they have spoken may never again change their minds’? It would seem so. It would also seem that many are still speaking, and most of them at cross-purposes. I want to know what the conditions are that will  be applied after the British Exit from Europe? I haven’t seen them clearly set out nor have I been able to read the small print. The devil is in the detail, indeed, and the devil is waiting in the fiery furnace to the left at the bottom of the cartoon. 

Will the United Kingdom morph into the Once-United Kingdom? It certainly seems to be the Dis-United Kingdom at present. Once again the nationalist and separatist movements are waving their flags: Scotland for the Scots (and stay in Europe), a united Ireland with no borders, political or otherwise (and stay in Europe), Wales for the Welsh (and, according to Plaid Cymru, also stay in Europe).

I remember all too well the Quebec separation referendum here in Canada. The comedians called it Separation H (after a well-known medical application to a certain part of the anatomy). However, I saw the anguish and the hurt and the damage that the Quebec referendum brought to all Canadians and I would not wish that on anyone. Yet, the British people seem to be going through not the same, but a similar, deeply-felt existential anguish over Brexit. 

According to the proverb, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed  man is king. So what far-sighted, one-eyed man or woman will rise to the top of the bonfire to sort out this mess? I crave enlightenment. I want reason to return to an emotional tangle of mashed advertisements, baffling propaganda, twisted tweets, and mingled myth and legend. 

Rex quondam, rexque futurus: perhaps King Arthur, the once and future king, will return with his knights of the round table to sort all of this out. One thing is certain: he’d better bring Merlin the Magician back with him, or nothing will get sorted, and that’s for sure.

Nota Bene: I no longer live in Great Britain and, as a result, I am neither for nor against Brexit. I would just like to understand what is happening and what the eventual results will be. Perhaps, as Blake once wrote

“I shall not cease from mortal strife, /
nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, /
till we have built Jerusalem, /
in England’s green and pleasant land.”

However, I notice that Blake didn’t mention Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, nor did he offer us a timetable, nor did he say where the money and the [re-] construction material was coming from. Perhaps there is a glorious and wonderful future ahead for all of the people who live in Britain (no longer great and a kingdom no longer united)  … but, looking at the wild fires in California, and the hurricanes in Puerto Rico, and the flooding in the Carolinas, and the early snow outside my window, I somehow doubt it. I also doubt that, right now, smaller is better.

Bad Hair Day

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Bad Hair Day

          It all started when I rolled over at 4:00 am and heard the grandfather clock in the hall strike three. I double checked my watch with the alarm clock. It was definitely four o’clock. The grandfather clock, older than me, had to be wrong.

         I sat up in bed and blinked. The light of the telephone flashed on and off. Someone had left me a message. The message machine was downstairs along with the grandfather clock. No way I thought I’m not going down there, not even to kill two birds with one stone. I rolled back the other way, stuck my head under the blankets, and tried to go back to sleep. I could sense the flashing light, even if I couldn’t see it and the Westminster Chimes played false notes, sometimes one too short, sometimes one too many. I counted them instead of sheep and couldn’t fall asleep.

         At six o’clock, with the room in darkness save for that ever-flashing light, I struggled out of bed. I had dumped my dirty clothes in the laundry basket and I needed everything clean and fresh. I hobbled to the chest of drawers and pulled out clean socks and pants. Then I went to the clothes closet and took a clean shirt off the hanger. My pants went on more easily than usual and my shirt just slipped over my head. I hauled up my jeans and placed my first sock on the sock machine. It felt a bit awkward, but went on with no real problem. The same with the second sock.

         I removed my pocket flashlight from Teddy’s ear where I keep it overnight and tucked it into my shirt pocket. It fell to the floor. I checked my chest … no pocket. I noticed a bulge on the right hand side where no pocket should be … pocket … but inside the shirt. I reached up to the buttons and they too were inside the shirt. To hell with it I thought I can’t be bothered to change. I slipped my Birkenstocks on and felt a lump under my left foot. The heel had slipped under the arch. My sock machine had failed me. I checked the right foot. I could see the heel all right: it was in the middle of my foot just above the toes.

         By now I needed the en suite bathroom so I hobbled across to it. No flashlight in my non-existent pocket, not wishing to turn on the bathroom lights, I fumbled for a moment or two and then for a lot longer. Why, oh why, was there no Y-front to my Y-front pants? Ours not to reason why … and then before I could control myself it all happened. Clean pants and all.

         So, I turned on the light and checked myself out. Socks upside down? I took them off. Clean pants on back to front and twisted and now slightly more than damp? I took my jeans off and my pants with them. Shirt on inside out? Off with it and anyway, it was wetter than it should be and I knew I hadn’t been sweating that much. I looked at the clothes in their little pile on the floor and I kicked them as hard as I could.

         Of course, I stumbled and only saved myself from being part of the statistics of bathroom accidents by lurching for, and grabbing, the towel rail. It came away from the wall, towel and all. Luckily, I grasped the window ledge and kept my balance so I didn’t fall.

         I got into the shower, washed myself down, climbed out again, toweled myself dry, and climbed back into bed. I stuck the flash light into Teddy’s ear and then I took it out again. In a fit of pique, I hurled Teddy at the still-flashing telephone. Bull’s Eye … or should that be Teddy Bear’s Eye? Anyway, the darn thing stopped flashing and I was able to go back to sleep for about an hour.

         When I woke up the second time, I dressed very carefully. Socks with the heel in the right place, check! Y-fronts with the Y where I need it, check! Shirt the right side out, check! Go downstairs and erase the overnight message, check! Light stopped flashing, check!

         I limped to the IMac and turned it on. Then I opened my documents … I open my documents … I ope … but the error message keeps flashing across the screen. I can’t open my documents because I need a new app. The current app is no longer functional on the new system the IT men installed just yesterday. I abandon the IMac and go to the PC. I open the documents with no problem at all. I start to work on a poem and ERROR … ERROR … ERROR … Norton needs to be uninstalled and re-installed . URGENT … ERROR … ERROR …

         I shut down the PC and walk into the kitchen. The floor is wet and slippery. I think for a moment that, with the willing suspension of disbelief, I am really walking on water? But no, I’m not. Sad reality strikes again: the cat has thrown up and I’m skating on a hairball.

“My gran pappy told me there’d be days like these: ain’t nothing shaking but the leaves on the trees.” Eddy Cochrane.

Bad Hair Day was first published in Bistro. This collection of short fiction was one of three finalists in the 2017 NB book awards (prose). It is available on Amazon.

Westminster Chimes

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Westminster Chimes

Not all clock towers and churches ring out with Westminster Chimes, and that is particularly true of churches where the carillons are so distinctive and those who toll the bells are so unique. That said, the Westminster Chimes are probably the most famous in the world: 4 sets of 4 notes, striking on the full hour, followed by the clock tower striking the hour itself. The build up is basic: 4 notes for the quarter hour, eight notes for the half hour, 12 for the three-quarters, and 16 before the hour strikes.

Last night I awoke at 3:15, just in time to hear the hall clock strike the quarter. The initial sounds lost themselves in the mist of sleep and I only caught the last two notes clearly, hence the bell tower of Ste. Luce-sur-mer, above, partly disguised by the St. Lawrence river mists. Doze mode, I guess, and I heard the notes at half past, then again at a quarter to, and finally the hour. I wonder how many remember the rhyme that the clock chimes? I repeat it every night as I lie awake, listening: 1/4: All through this hour, 1/2 All through this hour, be by my side, 3/4 All through this hour, be by my side, and with thy power, 4/4 All through this hour, be by my side, and with thy power,  my footsteps guide.

Dozing through the night is a funny thing and the mists of sleep walk through one’s head in many forms. Often, I count the chimes, only to find that it is not three o’ clock, but four or five. The mists have crept into my head and I was sleeping when I thought I was waking and 1 and 2 and 3 are not always followed by four and I wonder if there is a life-lesson in there somewhere that will help us through this current upside-down world of carnival and topsy-turvy pan et circenses, predicted by Juvenal in his satires. The Wikipedia definition of the second-century phrase is fascinating: “In a political context, the phrase means to generate public approval, not by excellence in public service or public policy,  but by diversion, distraction or by satisfying the most immediate or base requirements of a populace— by offering a palliative: for example food (bread) or entertainment (circuses).” O tempora! O mores! (Cicero).

Sometimes we have to take steps backwards through time to fully understand the meaning of our own times. In the meantime, we can look out of the window, here in Island View, and see the ruins of the summer garden, slowly crumbling before our eyes. Then we can quote again, this time from Samuel,  ‘Ichabod, Ichabod, the Glory has departed.’

 

A Cobbled Life

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A Cobbled Life

I have been writing away, but keeping it to myself. No more posting original material on Facebook or the Blog. I feel a little bit knotted and washed up by the tide, tied in knots, so to speak. Never mind. There’s lots of old material and photographs to work with. I am tired of reading “publishing on your blog or social media counts as a publication.” Like heck it does! Try going before the Promotion and Tenure committee with articles from blog, photos from Facebook, and a collection of letters to the editor of the local newspaper.

Obsolescence

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Obsolescence

The programs that no longer work.
The files you can no longer access.
Photos that vanish
leaving a blank space in the album.

Memory that goes on the blink.
Forgotten phone numbers,
the birthdays of family members,
that carton of eggs left in the store,
your cousin’s face, her name,
the parking spot where you left your car.

“What day is it today,” you ask,
for the second or third time.
“What time is it?”
“Who’s that coming for tea?
Are you sure I know them, dear?”
“Where did you say we were going?”

“Just round the corner, to visit a friend.”
Or should that be … round the bend?

Comment: Apparently I placed this poem on Facebook a year ago, but I have found no trace of it here, on the blog. This time last year, I lost both of my computers to what was diagnosed as obsolescence. Luckily I had most things backed up. The group who swore they could transfer 99% of my hard-drive material to the new machine, migrated just 1% (my desk top) and the other 99% went on walkabout. I was able to piece much of it back together, but obsolescent programs and out of date apps no longer functioned. So much material was deemed irretrievable. This experience made me realize, yet again, how fragile is our hold on our possessions, our memories, our sanity, and yes, our very lives. For me, it is a very sobering thought that, with a flick of a switch, I, like my computer, could be turned off, and 99.9% of the wonders of my beautiful existence would totally disappear from the memory-banks of this earth. Some say, and I believe them, that, like my computer, I will be re-cycled, recirculated. I will become a part of the wider oceanic world-consciousness. Alas, we can have faith in whatever we wish to believe, but sometimes, we really don’t know.