Extinction

I’m relieved Extinction Rebellion have quietened down. The upside to what they are doing is they are attracting attention to the fact that everyone could do more for climate change and the environment.

The downside is, in my opinion, they are only attracting traction from people who might already care a bit about the environment. I don’t think Joe Soap on the street who uses sandwich bags every day instead of beeswax coated cloth or buys a disposable coffee every time he goes out really cares.

The people Extinction Rebellion should be targeting are the big corporations and China and the USA, who, lets face it, are the biggest culprits when it comes to environment and could be the biggest influencers for good.

I resent that Extinction Rebellion seems to expect the government should do more to nanny people into subjecting to a better world. Whether this be through eliminating plastic in supermarkets or by mandating we should be eating less meat. Sure, government could do more, they could go after big corporates and tax them into greener policies, they could enforce a system by which only people with justifiable reasoning could travel long haul and in cattle class so that each ecofoot print is lower.

But what of the implications therein? More taxation and enforcement just means corporations driven by money would make their services more expensive, impacting on the poorest of the poor first and, when left to choice, given them inadvertently, less disposable income to make intelligent green shopping choices. Enforcing what people can do creates a nanny state and a loss of freedom. It also implies instead of educating a community how to be better people, you are just telling them, so instead of breaking a cycle of pollution at grassroots you are just bullying behaviour and encouraging lawbreaking.

There is no connected holistic thinking from a lot of these protesters. No practice of what they are preaching. Many of them are safely middle class, in a comfortable position to complain. Do many of them, in fact, wear only second hand charity shop clothing, purchased only when necessary to save landfill? And in biodegradable fabrics instead of synthetics (And don’t tell me ‘vegan’ leather is better for animals when much of it is created using plastics and oils that will pollute the world for years after the leather is disposed of)? Do they forego their regular holiday sprees to exotic far off destinations or regular visits to their short hop holiday homes in Europe (taken by plane)? Do they turn down their thermostats in the winter by a couple of degrees, not to save money but to save the draw on energy?

They are backed by celebrities who make a big deal about climate but who then board planes to fly first class or private charter, with the excuse ‘I offset carbon emissions by paying for a wind turbine’. Which doesn’t really negate the fossil fuels burned to get you somewhere quickly and in comfort without the commoners.

BBC showed a picture of a thank you bouquet sent by a XR supporter to Brixton police station for their peaceful support. It was made up of oriental lilies which, at this time of year, I doubt were grown outdoors in a garden. No, they clocked airmiles or greenhouse energy requirements at the very least. More appropriate would have been a hand picked bouquet out of a local garden.

Of course there are some exceptions to the rule when it comes to green protesters. Like a German in a forest in his homeland who has sacrificed his job as a maths teacher to quietly protest against the destruction of that forest. But most of those people camping in London? Besides being a huge inconvenience and problem a dream for intelligent homeless people who could have begged free refreshment by pretending to be one of the crowd, what value are they really adding?

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Oh Potato!

Strange to think the humble spud came from South America. It is not like it is a staple starch there. Instead I was reading an article of people being poisoned there when they didn’t process cassava roots properly the way they do in Africa. Apparently it’s a mulitlayer process to break down the toxins. Maize and rice seem to be equal carb options too there.

Either way. So much adoption of cultures and foods.

Personally I am not a massive potato fan. I know in theory you can do many things with it. Bake it, fry it, mash it, boil it etc etc but it’s still quite a clangy starch. And if fried, potentially a greasy oily one.

But I am intrigued by the uptake of the spud in Europe. Mostly because in our little trip to Lisbon any time you ordered fresh seafood it seemed to come with mandatory boiled potatoes. (these were surprisingly tasty as they seem to boil them in huge amounts of salt). If you ordered a meat or chicken based dish heaps of sliced fried potatoes seemed to be the order of the day. (sometimes confusingly, with rice)

It made me think of my Polish friend who thinks every meal should contain a boiled potato. But then he also thinks some sort of pickled veg should also be included. Also cabbage in some format. Sometimes a double whammy of pickled cabbage.

And here I thought it was the Irish that were all about potatoes.

And apparently the English. (I have a work colleague who inexplicably only had spaghetti bol in his late teens/early twenties. I asked how that worked out and it turned out he’d been raised by his gran who was a strict meat and two veg type of gal and the only carbs generally found in their meals were potatoes and bread. No messing around with strange foreign foods like pasta, noodles or rice!)

Personally though if I was to pick only one starch I had to live with for the rest of my life I do not think potatoes would be it. Even if I had the choice of jersey royals, king edwards and those strange purple ones that start out an intense dark purple when raw and fade out to a gentle lilac like a old lady’s rinse or a unicorn haired millenial.

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Tourism in the Handmaid’s Tale?

So I was in Lisbon a couple of weeks ago. And I live in the Big Smoke. Both brim with clueless people speaking the ‘wrong’ language and wandering around aimlessly getting ripped off by the last restaurant TripAdvisor highly recommended which has nice tablecloths outside.

And let me tell you, even in random places like Johannesburg and Beirut (but a bit less so) you realise drifting past you more often than you would want are a bunch of people who are essentially tourists.

Places like Jhb and Beirut are actually quite charming because you have to look and listen a bit harder for visitors because most people are local – or at least, from the country or live in the country full time having emigrated there.

But in most European cities and quite a few other places I’ve been around the world, pick the wrong area (ie the cute pretty trendy one) and foreigners far far outnumber the locals.

The Handmaid’s Tale is making a resurgence in the public eye following on from the tv series. For those of you not in the know, in this dystopia, America has become uber conservative to the point that the Amish are party animals. They are also having major issues with fertility resulting in a patriarchal society in which everyone stays within the box assigned to them – work wise, accommodation wise, clothing wise, sex wise (the bit that so much controversy hinged off of ) etc etc They all subsist in an almost communist regime with very little in the way of personal possessions or personal identity.

In the book (I never managed the tv series) Japanese visitors come to see the country. The women – shock and horror – wear skirts cut above the knee and lipstick and have their hair uncovered. There is a very clear distinction between them and the locals and not just because they look oriental in a sterile mid-West.

Travel to the country is very restricted it seems. The implication is these people travelled in on business or as media guests. A bit like going to visit some of the ‘Stans, North Korea or maybe even Iran, you need a number of visas and reasons to want to go visit. But Iran for example is still apparently an amazing place to see.

How would tourism have worked in the Handmaid’s Tale? It would have been a major hit on the economy if people couldn’t go to Disneyland and New York anymore. And decanting New York of all it’s immigrant foreigners must have been a major thing.

How and why would you control this flow of money and people coming in? It’s a porous old border which is why Donald Trump wants to build The Wall.

I imagine you’d toe the line as a tourist, like people have to in North Korea. But it would sure be a hard 180 when you look at where the States is now in terms of tourism and hedonism in some of the top tourist hot spots.

This is definitely one of the better sci-fi/fantasty/dystopian dramas dreamed up. And details like this aren’t really the point.

But it bothers me when I try visualise people doing selfies in front of the hooded figures that the oppressed who were originally liberal Americans would just stand by. And that the doors would just swing shut on the world. Even if this book was set pre-Internet/smart phone. Completely meaningless observation and irrelevant to the themes being developed in the book.

But.

Just saying.

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Holiday accommodation

I have realised that as I have gotten older my taste in accommodation when vacationing has evolved.

In my childhood we NEVER went away. But if we did it usually resulted in a (whole!)weekend at Sun City. So my experiences of hotels were based off five star resorts with breakfast buffets that allowed ice cream at breakfast, turn down service, burgers under cloches and uncomfortable sofa or trundle beds.

After that in my student days I learned how to sleep on people’s floors/sofas/random location in house if it meant a cheap and easy trip with someone else basically letting me camp under their roof. There were also a few terrible camping experiences thrown in. When I camp, it inevitably rains. A lot.

I realised youth hostels -who’s multibed scenarios I could not contemplate if it was a roomful of snoring strangers I don’t know – not so much from the snoring point but the will my belongings still be with me when I wake up thing- often have private rooms. You often still have to do the dodgy flip flop in the shower walk of shame to the communal toilet thing but you can shut the door on the people you don’t know. And when you get better at this you start to book the hostels with the en suite bedrooms. Even if it means you are sleeping in a loft space.

Ironically as a result these rooms have shot up in price and now rival a three star (read two or one star in Africa/SE Asia) dodgy hotel in terms of financial set back. And you still (or I still) have the inconvenient bias of being convinced people who frequent such hotels/hostels may be carriers of bed bugs and are the sheets washed? Or in some instances, ARE there sheets? Never mind are there towels.

So I’m back to a higher end hotel again. Sometimes.

I think AirBnb has a lot to answer for. But I do like the fact that it and competitor sites  (who do NOT allow the hosts to cancel at whim) offer self catering flat(lets) at competitive prices. This means there is a chance the room is a bit bigger than a hotel room. And there is a fridge and I can eat breakfast in my accommodation. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE breakfast. But there is something miserable (and I have done this) in getting up a bit late, still having to get dressed for the day and then starving and consequently having a huge argument with the person you are travelling with because you are hungry and they will not agree to go to some dodgy eatery but need a ‘nice chic cafe’.

I’m hopeful I’ll manage to scale my lifestyle up one day though. So I’m back to the five star hotels with the guaranteed comfy beds, the triple ply toilet paper and all you can eat breakfast buffets.

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#MeToo

I was sent to a single sex school. So that I would learn independence. The ability to pay for myself, open doors for myself and that girls could do science and maths. That an ineptitude to do certain things may be because you were lazy or lacked the physical or mental ability, not due to being a woman but because you were genetically disabled.

Then I reached the real world and discovered that actually it is not sexism but politeness that dictates a guy opens a door for you or buys you coffee… the same way you stand up to let an old lady sit down on the bus. A sign of respect. Not because someone is trying to get into someone else’s (granny) pants.

Now I’m stuck in this strange world which has blown up about famous successful people who have been abused or harassed. I’m not going to lie either. I had a job interview where the (male) interviewer admitted after a few drinks (it was an informal interview) that one of the selling points for me for the role over someone with the same qualifications and experience was I was a woman. It would look better to the board.

I should have been insulted but living abroad with a foreign qualification has meant I’ve spent a lot of time fighting to prove I’m equally competent – nothing to do with being female. Some things are what they are. Life isn’t fair and if the dice are going to roll my way on this one so be it because they could just as easily roll against.

I do feel bad for anyone who has been a victim. Of course it could happen to me. Of course I believe women get a bum deal when people think you might pop a baby – or you did pop a baby – with regards to climbing up the career ladder. It is easier to excuse men as still 100% invested in their jobs. But this is partly because most men still don’t ask for shared parental care, not just how companies view it.

It’s up to you to change mindset. It’s up to you to show your company you think co-parenting is a thing if you are a parent. It’s up to you to not be a victim. It’s up to you to believe you deserve to be there. Of course I’ve gone into meetings that I haven’t really ‘owned’. Where I’ve been insecure. But that was because I was badly prepared or out of my depth. Never because I was a woman. And never, so long as I’ve know I was in the right and informed, can I honestly say I have been treated as a lesser participant in those meetings. It’s up to you to own the moment rather than have the moment own you.

#metoo is only a thing if you let it be a thing.

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Constant communication

My company allows for remote working – in a sense. In theory I can connect to wifi and then access the server and continue work wherever I am. This is particularly important because I could be in a few different locations while I am ‘at work’.

Lately though I’ve been having an issue. When I connect to wifi at home and then the server, I get a blue screen dump within two minutes. Without fail. This means I can work off anything that is only internet based but I can’t actually save anything back where everyone else, including myself can find it again.

I tried to tell IT this. So they removed my wifi drivers. When they did it I did question at the time if this wasn’t a little bit like sawing off the branch I was sitting on with me still sitting on it but hey, they were the experts. For an hour after that we struggled with the realisation that to reinstall the driver I required the internet. Which required wifi. Which I no longer had because the driver had been removed.

Anyways after bothering a load of other people it all sort of worked out.

Except it didn’t because the computer still crashes at home. So I’m sorted of back where I started.

I guess they are saying don’t take your work home with you as the thing seems to work everywhere else?

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And more time in the queue…

I read a really trashy romance novel once (go figure, my friend thought it would make great holiday reading for me. I don’t know how she can know me so well and yet so badly). I can’t really remember much about the book – obviously the girl got the guy in the end.

What I do remember is the statement that it can only be good if you are in a queue to get in, because New Yorkers love to queue. It’s a stamp of approval on the eatery.

Same thing here too… usually for places that serve meat for some reason. Generally speaking this means I miss the next big thing because I am too lazy to hang around long enough for it to happen. I rely on happy coincidence. I’ve brunched once at a very trendy modern fusion Indian/Iranian spot once. But only because when I walked up to the door they let me be a walk in. Gracefully. Even though I was clearly smelly from the gym and said I would be joined shortly by a girl and a pram. I am happy to extol their virtues to others (the food was also good) but not to queue to get in. And at certain times you do queue.

So my friend suggested we go to a place known for quality but cheap steaks. Guess what? There was a queue. We thought at just before 7pm we weren’t that far behind in it. Turned out it was just the queue to get your name on the list. The wait was estimated to be 80-90 minutes. I wanted to walk right there.

For the sake of friendship I agreed to place us on the list and go somewhere. We went for a drink and I fought to find a signal in the bar we were in so I had to keep popping out to paranoidly check if we had a message.

When we went down an hour later to be informed the kitchen was shut due to some or other electrical problem.

Huh.

They offered if we emailed them on our return they would give us a free drink. Didn’t really help me all that much as they still hold a no reservations policy and for the sake of £5 for a drink, my sanity would still be stretched.

That is part of the reason I never agree to wait in a queue. It’s like getting a dress tailored for you. In theory, great idea. In fact. You just don’t know what you are committing to.

There’s an hour of life I’m not getting back and I am still craving steak as a result.

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What is democracy?

There was a big protest this weekend. People jumping up and down again about how we need another referendum because the people who voted for Brexit were obviously mistaken and have all changed their minds (according to the people protesting) and therefore the country deserves to have another shot at voting. Something about ‘the People’s Vote’.

Now whether or not you voted remain or Brexit I have an issue with these protests. A massive one. If they succeed and we have to vote again, you have undermined the whole point of democracy.

You get to have a referendum. You do a bit of research. You vote. You don’t necessarily like the consequences of that vote but THAT is the idea behind the people have spoken. If you didn’t vote then you don’t get to complain. If you did vote and you didn’t do your research you don’t get to complain. If you did vote and you did your research but you didn’t campaign your whole neighbourhood to take up arms and follow you BEFORE the vote you don’t get to complain. You move on and try work out how to make the result work.

I come from a country where for years a large portion of the population was denied the vote. When it was finally given, it was a gift worth standing in the sun for hours to use. A lot of people don’t like the party currently in power but the expectation is that this is something that may pass and in the meanwhile, you make your vote count or you get out and emigrate. Our history and the history of our neighbours has taught us that a FAIR democracy is supposed to involve accepting the results of a properly run election (where noone has cheated – okay this can get debatable) even if you don’t like it. If you don’t like the results and you keep redoing the election/referendum/whatever, it is no longer a democracy. It’s just a bunch of people or a person being autocratic and forcing everyone down the path you want them to follow. Just keep trying again til I get the result I want why don’t I?

A few countries succeed like this – like Singapore, where to all intents and purposes, one party has still resulted in a successfully run state. But that is the exception not the rule. Generally speaking when you have one party – or the illusion of other parties but everyone has to vote for that one ruling party who are destined to win anyways, it is NOT a democracy and moreover NOT  a nice place to live. I don’t see all of you moving to North Korea.

I’m not saying I’m pro Brexit at all. I’m not saying I’m against either. What I am against is people taking away a fundamental right I thought I was accessing in living in England. The idea that my vote meant something the first time. And yes, maybe this is bigger than one political party winning for a few years then getting voted out. But that’s just more proof that you should think more carefully before you put your sticky fingers on the ballot page next time. A wake up call because so many people here are complacent about their vote. And whatever the result of that ballot, that you find a positive way to move forward from it once it’s over.

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Debatable eating

I’m watching this thing on BBC about how a celeb chef is fighting obesity in Britain. He was going on about how the major cereal companies don’t put a traffic light system onto their products like supermarkets here do to warn you if an unhealthy element is in high concentration in the food. Lots of the parents with him said they used the traffic lights. I made pfff pfff sounds in the background. I tried to use it once. I landed up substituting a traffic light that said high in sugars for a ‘healthy eating’ yogurt only to discover it was stuffed full of colourants and that funny taste in my mouth was artificial sweetener. The ‘better’ product was far worse than the original. I switched instead to a low fat natural yogurt and started adding my own fruit into the mix instead.

So I was in Holland and Barratts and looking for a snack or two. This is the ultimate in ‘health food store chain’. It is the perfect one stop for vitamin supplements, wholegrain wheatgerm and manuka honey. It is also the place a sales assistant once chased me down the aisle with the enthusiasm of a true evangelist that I should eat according to my blood group to be healthy. The assistant claimed the store had trained them for this. I’m highly dubious of that. It felt more like a hari krishna had got into a Baptist church and was looking for converts- I do not mean that sacrilegiously but the guy was seriously converted to this blood group thing. Personally I refuse to follow a system that says my blood cells dictate I can’t have steak or peas or something because I’m not an O positive or whatever.

The fact of the matter is I can’t really call H&B a ‘health food’ store either. Who’s kidding who? Raisins, which I believe some Americans call ‘natures goodness in a box’ – who puts them in a box for petes’ sake! – are full of sugar. Bombay snacks are full of salt and fat…

Basically everything in moderation. Unless like me you aren’t too sure where the off switch is.

 

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Filed under Fitness, Food, modern living, shopping

Gotta love a Yankee

I was standing outside the bus stop last weekend. It was unusually warm – proper summer. These northern hemisphere people do not adjust to this. Aside from wearing dodgy inappropriate clothing to try get as much vitamin D exposure as possible, tempers fray. Partly because of transport issues but I believe the heat plays a factor. They still walk as fast as they do when it’s cold to keep warm. Then they overheat and get grumpy. They don’t realise that in hot places people just move extra slow and think extra slow when it gets too hot to literally not get hot and bothered about stuff you can do nothing about – like weather.

Anyways. The bus was there but the driver wasn’t letting us on. If they do it’s an additional health and safety thing I believe because then he is effectively taking responsibility for you on his bus even if it’s not time for the bus to go anywhere yet. You could still fall off a stationary non-moving chair and nut yourself on the bar on the way down.

These Americans came up behind me. Americans are a funny sort. They can be giving, loving, generous, friendly, intelligent. They can also sometimes be incredibly obtuse and need a few months out of their native land if they are from some small hick town to understand how the rest of the world works.

This lot had one of them singing the first line of the cartoon Spiderman theme tune over and over and over again. Like that was not annoying. They then went into a full rant about why this bus driver had the nerve to not just open the bus up and get moving now that they had arrived and were ready to go (as if he was waiting for them). That, at the very least he should let them go inside the bus to wait. Which made no sense because they were, all three, able bodied and boarding early would save maybe 30 seconds if that for them to get in and it was like a hot tin can pressure cooker in the bus so why the bus driver was even in there I don’t know. (UK municipal buses are NOT airconditioned).

They were quite loud in their rude tirade about the bus driver being a horrible man. I am sure he could hear them and this purposefully made him delay letting us on even further, especially when the one girl commented that her app said the bus should be leaving now and it clearly was not.

They then leaned over and started to comment disparagingly on the fact that I was playing Candy Crush while waiting to board (yes, this is a guilty pleasure of mine when standing around). It then occurred to me they may not realise the bus driver could hear them. Maybe they also thought he couldn’t understand them. Whether because they thought American English was a whole different language to British English or because they thought he was a foreigner. Because the way they were talking about ME certainly alluded to the fact that they thought I was either deaf or unable to interpret what they were saying. Kind of like when South Africans are stupid enough to think that if you speak Afrikaans in London noone will understand you. Well, yes. Someone will. ALWAYS. And if not perfectly, enough to understand if you are insulting them.

I was so tempted to ask these three if this was the case. But then I thought, it’s too hot to waste energy on this. And honestly, I’d just annoy myself because anyone dense enough to think people in England can’t understand your English is certainly not going to understand when they are being told off.

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