Sunday, 3 July 2016

Bored? - The best is yet to come.

 
[Image description: slogan - "THE BEST IS YET TO COME"; © n/k]

I am coming up for fifty-two and I genuinely say and believe that the present is the best part of my life. No regrets. Live each day to the fullest you are capable of. Most days I am trapped abed; but the days I am up & about are very precious. Nonetheless, even those days I am trapped in my bed-cell, through the æther I live to the fullest extent I can.

If you are bored - go for a walk (something I can no longer do);
If you are bored - read a book (something I can rarely do);
If you are bored - cook a meal for a friend (something I can do from time to time with some assistance);
If you are bored - draw, paint, create whatever (something I can no longer do);
If you are bored - go out and dance alone (something I can no longer do) and dance and dance and dance;
If you are bored - write a poem (something I can still occasionally do on those days when I have some nous);
If you are bored - well, you only have yourself to blame. As Zelda Fitzgerald said, "she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn't boring." ;)

 
Live life whilst you can -
you never know when it will be taken from you!


[video: Pet Shop Boys - Being Boring]

 

Friday, 24 June 2016

Brexiteers' Pyrrhic Victory*


Well, I suppose we all have to wait to see what the PM decides to do. Treaty withdrawal requires an Act of Parliament, but I imagine if he so chooses, he can consider the ‪‎Brexit‬ referendum a mandate to notify the European Union of our intention to withdraw.

From what I have been reading in related news-articles this morning, it sounds like Gove & Johnson [prominent Leavers] have drawn up a list of EU directives, and ECJ [sorry - European Court of Justice] rulings they are now going to rip up ahead of any formal withdrawal. One more goose-step towards ‪‎totalitarianism‬.
 
Very sad day for the United Kingdom, that now will be broken up. Scotland voted remain in every single one of its authorities. The more liberally minded Scots will want to remain in the EU. Surprisingly - to me at least - Northern Ireland has similarly voted for remain. And as I predicted, moves to re-unite Ireland are already being mooted.

The Pound has dropped to a 31-year low: so that's all imports that are going to go up in price from fuel, heating costs, food, wine, etc. And the ensuing result will be a steep rise in inflation and thus mortgage costs and then rents. So unless one happens to be independently well-off - like most Tory MPs - the cost-of-living is about to become very burdensome.

And don't be counting on your pension: the pension funds have just lost £millions and that will be the continuing trend for the foreseeable future.

The ‪‎NHS‬ will lose many of its highly trained European staff - we do not produce sufficient doctors & nurses to fully staff the NHS. So service at hospitals and even GP surgeries - who often rely on EU docs to cover weekend and night-time call-outs - will deteriorate. Who knows, I bet access-charges are just around the corner. And remember many of our meds have to be imported, so that will probably mean prescription-charges will shoot up.

Pensioners, disabled, sick, poor, unemployed, low-employed, homeless folk will all lose out. The younger generation, already brassed off with the raw deal that baby-boomers have left them, will become ever more jaded and cynical with the scraps they are begrudgingly offered.

And university costs will soar, because there will be very few high-paying foreign students entering here. So expect several unis to collapse in bankruptcy.

And don't forget the navy, army, airforce, etc. have been cut to the bone - they will not be able to take on extra border duties and continue with the prestigious international affairs our oligarchs are always so keen to participate in.

So well done all those of you who thought you were doing Ole Blighty a favour: you have just shot the Nation in the foot!

'Bye-'bye Europe! I don't suppose we shall see the EU flag (below) flying here for very much longer.

Such a sad, sad day………

*


* "A Pyrrhic victory is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way. However, the heavy toll negates any sense of achievement or profit. Another term for this would be "hollow victory"."

Per Wikipedia.


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Is this the beginning of the end…?


I try to be a reasonable, rational and liberal (note lower-case ell) person. I am and always have been non-partisan when it comes to politics, having never agreed with the party-political system using whips that we have in the United Kingdom. It cannot be viewed by any sensible person as democratic, for it is essentially oligarchic. My parents held opposing political views and my siblings and I were raised to try to see the other's perspective. My personality - and that of very many ordinary Brits - is one that cares about one's neighbours and neighbourhood.

 The slogan reads:

I'm voting
REMAIN
FOR
OUR NHS

For most Brits social justice is, or used to be, at the very core of our values; the quintessence of Britishness. Just look at all the folk who raise money for charities &/or who volunteer, or the folk - not just relatives - who take on caring duties. Most are happy to support our NHS in any way we can - despite the on-going privatisation by successive governments. And just look at the out-pouring of care whenever there is an international disaster! We are not, however much the likes of UKIP and other extremist parties might like to believe, little Englanders. We have always been outward looking (- not always necessarily for the best as huge mistakes were made in relation to empire). Nonetheless, to this very day, millions of Brits reside in countries outside the UK and are spread right around the globe.

With the exception of a rather hateful era when Jews were exiled from England, we have welcomed workers from abroad whether refugees, merchants, traders or artists and artisans. Not only has this contributed to our rich history and culture, but this stand-point has substantially benefitted our economy.

A vote for Brexit will not mean that these folk will be forced to go back to Europe. Many have set up businesses and employ folk - who will certainly fight to retain their jobs. Most have grown networks of friends, neighbours & colleagues within communities - who will certainly fight to retain their valued members. Such folk should surely vote Bremain.

A vote for Brexit may very well mean that many of the few million Brits residing in Europe will be forced to return to the UK. The pressures on housing, other infrastructure and the NHS will remain at least the same or heighten - for many of the folk who will return will be pensioners who will need healthcare and social care due to being removed from their support networks and inclement climate here. So, if one is concerned, even worried, about immigration then one should surely vote Bremain.

A vote for Brexit will permit this and any future government to do pretty much as they please with no international oversight. The previous and current governments have acted as they please, ignoring judicial orders to obey the law of the land. Cameron has even repeatedly stated that he wants to abolish the House of Lords, which, whilst archaic and in many ways undemocratic, nevertheless is often the only check & balance on the power of the Executive (thus paradoxically acting democratically!). There is a democratic deficit within the European Union. The Executive, in this case the European Commission, has usurped too much power (rather as has the United Kingdom Executive). I agree wholeheartedly that the democratic systems within the EU have to be changed and improved so that European citizens believe and know that they are heard and responded to. However, the only way to change a system is from within. If Britain votes out, then we are immediately locked out of any kind of influence. So anyone that wants to change the EU for the better should surely vote Bremain.

Today and tomorrow one of the United Nations' committees is quizzing the UK over its treatment of disabled people, having collected a wealth of data and documentary evidence to demonstrate that we are being abused, mistreated, scapegoated, demonised and starved of funds & access due to social security (welfare) cuts, propaganda and mainstream-media misrepresentation. (See for example this article for a more in-depth analysis.) The EU has and continues to draw up laws and rules for pan-European access to goods, services and support. Here in England & Wales, the government is only now, after a couple of decades, going to try to enforce the law which is supposed to prevent taxi-drivers from refusing to take disabled passengers - yes, this has and continues to occur to hundreds of individuals each and every day. Without European oversight, I very much doubt that a laissez-faire - let alone an overtly disablist - government will pursue expanding disability access rights. If you know someone who is disabled or chronically sick, and you care about them, you should surely vote Bremain.

The slogan reads:

I'm voting
REMAIN
FOR
WORKERS'
RIGHTS

I could write about many, many other areas that the EU improves for each and every one of us - such as environmental laws that ensure clean water or the labelling of clean/dirty beaches; or laws that protect workers rights to pay, conditions, holidays; or laws that ensure our human rights§ (like not to be arrested and detained without trial, and so on). However, I have limited energy and resources. If  the reader is interested, please do your own research. Once you have done, you will surely vote Bremain.

The EU has much that is wrong with it, just like our very own political system here in the UK. Whilst one has the opportunity to vote to leave the former, one cannot exit the latter. Tomorrow I shall be voting Bremain.

*



§ Technically this is due to human rights laws (based on British submissions & jurisprudence) via the European Council; but it is the intention, I understand, of the Conservatives with UKIP support to withdraw from both the EC and the EU if the Brexiters win.

*

The images I have used were sent to me by the Labour Party. Their use here does not imply any kind of support on my part for Labour, other than the stances contained within the slogans.


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Madonna: Six of the Best!


I am not the biggest fan of Madonna's work. However, there are some tracks for which I have a great deal of love &/or respect.

For me, mainly due to memories from when I turned twenty, my first song has her playing a born-again virgin, "Like A Virgin" (1984). The video really takes me back to the hairstyles and fashions of the mid-1980s. Another reason for liking this song is that back in the late 1990s, it was one of my two staple karaoke tracks, which I sang in an acceptable (and oddly appreciated!) baritone:


My all-time favourite Madonna song with video is "Frozen" (1998):


I find the video intellectually, emotionally and spiritually stimulating: intellectually because my degree in Theology & Religious Studies comes to bear; emotionally as I recall an ex-lover who just would not let me in; spiritually in the numinous moments I experience whilst listening.

It is interesting that the Wikipedia article, which is really far better than I at discussing the track, in so doing fails to make any mention nor reference to the mythological Djinn let alone witches. Nor in their article on Djinn is there a cross-reference in the popular cultural references section.

There are a couple of paintings that I personally see as perhaps having a pictorial &/or symbolic connection with the video; thus adding a further emotional connection for myself.

The first is Malcolm T. Liepke's portrait of a shapeless woman swathed in all-encompassing black robes with flowing black hair.


The second is a painting by Giovanni Sagantini entitled "Le cattive madri" translated as "The bad/evil Mothers" (1894, purchased by the Austrian state in 1902) which usually hangs in Vienna's Belvedere Museum.

An interesting essay on the painting suggests the following:

Above all, she is an erotic-orgiastic woman in whom Segantini conjoins the biological conflict between motherhood/sexuality, freedom/captivity.

These are themes upon which Madonna's œuvre has frequently touched.

Perhaps interestingly and co-incidently, Madonna begins the next video also attired in black with wind-blown, long black hair. I love the way the song commences as a plaintive cry of desperation and ultimately explodes in a gospel-choir hope-filled crescendo. It makes me horripilate every time!

Herewith, "Like A Prayer" (1989):


My next two favourites are related to films (movies). The first is from a film panned by critics, but which I oddly adored (despite being far from a fan of Warren Beatty). Madonna, as far as I am concerned, entertained best on celluloid in "Dick Tracy". Here you go with a bit of spanky (perhaps receiving six of the best*!) in "Hanky Panky" (1990):


And the other film-track is from a film in which, apart from singing the eponymous title song, she also played the rôle of a sword-wielding dominatrix named Verity. (Her second-best acting part to my mind.) Of course, it is the James Bond film "Die Another Day" (2002). It was refreshing to see the credits of a 007 picture used to further the tale rather than just being an excuse to showcase semi-clad &/or nude females.


Finally, a track I love to listen to due to the sample from "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Man After Midnight)" by ABBA and due to it bringing to mind my best friend & ex-partner. This is a fantastic fusion of ABBA & Madonna which produced a revivifying dance anthem mixed with a nostalgic tang. Alas, Madge's choice of attire, makes the accompanying video hard to view without squirming! But perhaps that is just my hang-up? Herewith, "Hung Up" (2005):


Hope you like my selections. Do you agree with my top Madonna choices? If not, which tracks would make your list and why? To assist here is a link to her full singles discography.


* = "six of the best Brit., chiefly historical or humorous a caning as a punishment, traditionally with six strokes of the cane." (sic)

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Quotidian Losses: IMEAD2016

[Image description: an eternal circle of blue ribbon; the slogan reads -

Ever felt you've lived this day
a thousand times already?

With M.E. …
Every day is Groundhog Day.

© @batteredoldbook]

*

[Apologies: blogger will not let me alter the size of most of the text to 'normal'.]
 

By now many readers will be aware that May is International M.E. Awareness Month. Today, 12th May, is International Awareness Day. The date co-incides with the birthday of Florence Nightingale, thought to be one of the earliest recorded cases of myalgic encephalomyelitis, although obviously it was not named such in the nineteenth century.

This year rather than looking directly at symptoms, I am going to look at areas of quotidian life that most able-bodied folk take for granted, but which have been lost to or can so easily be lost by M.E.-sufferers.

Sleep

Whilst it is very true that those with M.E. tend to sleep a lot, what is less commonly realised is that it is not deep nor refreshing slumber. Rather, one wakes up to being as tired or more so than when one went to bed. On top, many folk suffer bouts of insomnia or reversed sleep patterns (asleep during daylight, awake during night-time).

During my first few years of the illness, I on average slept for approximately twelve hours in every twenty-four. Now, after some twenty years of the malady, I sleep for around fourteen-and-a-half hours each day. For the past few years this level has been stable and has not further deteriorated.

Wakefulness

A healthy person after normal sleep, after an initial rousing period, will typically feel awake and ready to take on the day. An M.E.-sufferer, awakens to an unrefreshed state and may not feel awake before falling back to sleep again. This is not an occasional incident, but occurs day in and day out. Without taking medication, it is as if one has been medicated.

If the reader has ever had a course of anti-depressants or taken regular anti-histamines, one will have some notion of what it feels like to be in this awake-but-not state.

Dyscognition

Dyscognition covers various M.E. symptoms: an inability to concentrate, even for very short periods of time; the failure to recall the names of even the sufferers' nearest-and-dearest; the inability to remember words, even for the most common of objects; and so on.

In the early days, when still working (and walking!), I used to go every Friday (by which point my symptoms had flared up due to fatigue) to my local bank to withdraw monies for the forthcoming week. I always went up to the same cashier. One week, the latter had a client with a multitude of tasks to perform. I let several folk behind me in the queue go ahead of me; but finally I had to see the other cashier (whom I did not know). The first thing she did was ask me my name. I went completely blank. Thankfully, my known cashier leaned over and vouched for me.

Many folk discover they can no longer listen to music or watch television because, for example, they cannot follow the plot or lose the plot after a period of time.

I tend to watch programmes on DVD. This means I can stop when I tire. Or rewind if I realise I have missed a chunk of the tale. I also watch the DVDs several times, as familiarity assists me in obtaining enjoyment from what I am viewing.

My degree is in Religious Studies & Theology. As such I was used to pondering, recounting and debating philosophies. Now, it takes me several days to construct a blog-post. I have lost the ability to think deeply.

Just imagine how you would feel if you could no longer debate or even forgot how to cross the road safely!

Dyslexia

Along with the increase in dyscognition, comes the connected symptom of dyslexia, the inability to read & write. For some this happens only when their symptoms pejorate; for others they suffer for blocks of time; and, for still others they permanently lose their literacy skills.

My spelling always deteriorates as I tire. As a previous pedant and pedagogue this is abhorrent to me and my amour-propre. Whilst on good days I generally can read small amounts of text, I cannot usually read long newspaper articles and definitely not novels nor academic tomes. However, periodically, my ability to read for longer periods and especially for enjoyment returns. As a bibliophile, for me, this is one of the most hurtful symptoms.

Thank the maker for spell-checkers!

Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia relates to the loss of the abilities to plan, co-ordinate and actuate movements. An able-bodied person will rarely if ever even actively think about this, but will just get on with activities the body is used to. But for those who suffer from dyspraxia, the ability to do everyday activities becomes quite difficult.

Some of my personal issues in this area include; tripping over oneself when trying to walk; not being able to lift a cup to one's mouth without missing the aperture; and likewise with a fork of food; dropping objects I think I am holding firmly; not being able to turn pages in books, etc.; and so on. For myself, I do not suffer from all of these at the same time. I have good days and bad days like many M.E.-sufferers. But those suffering from the very worst state of M.E. have permanently lost these abilities.

Hyper-Acuity

Many folk with M.E. develop hyper-acuity: the ability to pick up the quietest of sounds. Unfortunately, this also means that louder noises are augmented to an uncomfortable or painful level. Many sufferers are forced to wear noise-reducing head-phones to escaped this unsolicited cacophony.

I myself can no longer endure electric clocks or other mechanisms that use electricity within my bedroom, as I can hear the buzz of the electricity. Most days I cannot listen to music, although recently I have been able to listen more regularly to Auntie Beeb's classical music station, BBC Radio 3. Nonetheless, whenever something loud comes on I either have to turn down the volume or switch off completely, as the loudness sends searing pains through my head.

This also means I find it very difficult to attend the cinema. However, for the last Star Wars film, I was determined one way or another to see it. I donned ear-plugs and was able to cope with the sound levels without them making me swoon.


 [Image description: internal, closed blind with light spreading around the edges]

Photophobia

Sufferers often become intolerant of light. Those who suffer the most have to wear blind-folds &/or dwell in completely darkened spaces. Like hyper-acuity, the effect of photophobia is intensely painful with searing agonies in one's eyes.

I often keep my blinds completely down to limit the light entering. On other occasions I don sunglasses within my home, even with the blinds down.

Mood

Due to medications &/or hormones it can be very difficult to control one's mood when one has M.E.

There have been times when I have been unable to control my temper. Inside I am aghast at how I react, but am incapable to calming myself down. I usually have to exhaust myself and fall to sleep.

Depression is common in those with M.E. Whilst some folk may have personalities pre-disposed to developing depression, the vast majority of M.E. folk I have met developed depression after they became ill. A couple of years after my M.E. on-set I began to mourn my lost life. I became depressed. Thankfully, I was referred to a psychologist who over the course of a year assisted me with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This worked wonders for me. I developed self-confidence I had never had. To this day I still regularly put into practice the CBT aids I was taught. Unfortunately CBT has had a bad press amongst the M.E. world due to poor praxis and unsympathetic practitioners.

Sex-Drive & Sexual Relationships

Many folk with M.E. become asexual. Both the desire for and engagement in sex require energy, something which tends to be in very short supply for sufferers. Even masturbation can be beyond our capabilities. Even just being touched, caressed can prove too painful for sufferers.

Those in relationships prior to the on-set of their M.E. find it very difficult to fulfil their partner's desire for sex. Very often the relationship collapses or, at the very least, changes from a partnership of equals to more of a child being cared for by a parent. Intimacy is lost.

For those not in a relationship or whose affinity collapses after the on-set of M.E., they find it very difficult to find a new partner. With the extreme variability of our conditions from week to week, day to day, and for some, hour to hour, we cannot be relied upon to turn up to a date. Furthermore, there are very few individuals who are willing to invest time in getting to know disabled folk.

Friendship

If we cannot hold on to partners, it is even more difficult to keep our friendships in good order. Virtually everyone with M.E. loses many or most of their friends. Some take issue with our unreliability. Others do not want to be emotionally dragged down by seeing and being with someone who is always ill. For those friends who stick by us, there is a genuine reassurance that these are our true chums.

Family members often react in the same way as friends. Most folk with M.E. lose contact with unsympathetic relatives.

Quotidian Activities

M.E. sufferers, we have seen above, lose the abilities: to read & write - so no visits to the library; to watch television or go to the cinema; to listen to music whether at home, a concert-hall, a pub or the park; to hold on to affinities or develop news ones; and, to enjoy sexual activity.

We also lose the ability to do exercise, whether going to the gym or swimming-pool or just strolling through the countryside to enjoy nature.

We can no longer go to the shops unless with assistance. However I have found I can do my shopping on-line, even if it does take me a couple of hours, and have it delivered to my kitchen-table.

We cannot cope with full-time working or any kind of employment at all, depending on the severity of our symptoms.

We lose the connection to civic society, such as local politics or supporting local community groups/actions.
*

We lose a heck of a lot, but we M.E.-sufferers gain very little, other than a great deal of pain & anguish.

On International M.E. Awareness Day, please consider searching for and supporting an M.E. charity whether financially &/or with time.



[Image description: a tangle of blue ribbon; the slogan reads -
"help us untangle M.E." (sic)
© @batteredoldbook]