Human/Animal Rights

So I had a call today about an industrial unit which has basically been repossessed. We’ve always had a suspicion the rodent problem in the area may be due in part to this unit which was a ‘flour factory/bakery’ . I’ve seen reports of health and safety issues centred around cleanliness in the days when it was open.

Anyways. It’s been locked up for a few months now and at last inspection I was told there was a cat inside that had refused to leave. Although somewhat concerned about it, they were unable to chase it out and eventually decided it might be getting in and out via some other means although the unit looked sealed up. (Same as the rats)

It emerged today skinny but alive and very keen on rubbing its flea ridden self up against the guys taking stock of the situation. They called the RSPCA who, I believe, referred the case to a cat charity who said they would come past to pick up the animal. Who had clearly somehow survived on drinking water from a tap and rats/birdseed/coffee/flour/kidney beans or who knows what that the place is still fully stocked with. I assumed it was feral but the guys were informed by the neighbour this WAS actually it’s home – unlike the definitely feral furries who roam a few units down and who’ve I’ve seen lolling in the sun and doing unspeakable things in public. It had been brought in as a pest control measure by the owner who had left behind not just a fully stocked unit but his ‘rat trap’.

A few hours later I had a call back. The charity had now back tracked on coming to pick up the cat and were now claiming it had ‘roaming rights’ and should not be interfered with. We suspect the shelter might be full.

Either way. Someone tried to pick it up (fleas and all) and got scratched for his trouble. Probably a lawsuit in that somewhere if the scratches get infected. They then tried to chase it out but it wised up to its possible eviction and scuttled away. They’ve had no choice but to lock it back in for another few days until we work out what to do about all the contents in the unit, which will now include one evasive kitty.

We can only assume if it survived this long it can manage over the weekend. Even if it can’t, we can’t apparently interfere with its ‘roaming rights’ for the time being.

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Ferry nice

Plus one insisted that he didn’t like planes and somehow forced upon me the idea that it would be better to travel by train and then ferry rather than fly to Europe. Personally although I part see his logic, I also think it is part demented because you are now limited to places the ferry goes to and from for holidays. And YES you can get all the way to Bilbao, Spain like this but it takes a bloody long time and my holiday time is over by then. And then you’d probably rather be on a proper cruise ship known for luxury rather than practicality like a ferry.

It was the most surreal experience getting the overnight ferry from England to France. The one other time I did it before I was part of a massive youth group and we all jumped excitedly from a coach to run around the ship for a few hours before sinking into an exhausted heap somewhere like a litter of puppies. I have no recollection of actually eating anything or doing anything particularly constructive on the boat or indeed that it took that long, which it must have.

This time around there was just the two of us as foot passengers on an overnight journey. We had a rudimentary little cabin with two bunk beds, pale pink duvets and a teeny bathroom pod with toilet and a shower with surprisingly hot water at strong force. It was exactly luxury but it wasn’t slumming it either.

A lot of people had chosen to skimp on the cabins (there are, to be fair, also more people than cabins) and had taken the ‘sleeper seats’ instead. You could see some were seasoned travellers at this. They came on board with cooler bags of supper, their own blankets and pillows, tracksuit bottoms and the determined look of people ready to camp it out in public. I’m pretty sure they also had a car to return all these belongings to having said that.

To be fair, the ‘sleeper seats’ have more – much more – room than economy cabin class in an airplane. But the seats still don’t recline all the way down and you still land up napping with the hope that noone nicks your bag while you are asleep. (This is probably just ME being paranoid as a South African thinking like that having said that.) I did think however it probably wasn’t too bad when, on the return journey, I could feel the boat moving and in the windowless cabin had to lie very very still or risk feeling very very ill because I am one of those fools prone to motion sickness and highly confined spaces with artificial air blown into them don’t really help.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the ferry. It had a proper sit down restaurant and a canteen fast food one and some random cafe up top plus a bar with horrendous live evening entertainment. Not to mention a whole duty free shop, two tiny cinemas in a basement somewhere and a games arcade for the kids. I’ve always thought of ferries as highly practical big boats like buses on water that just tote you from one side of the harbour to another, not something that had actual facilities on board.

Am I totally sold on this being the way to travel every time? I’m not so sure. But I think I could be biased by the slight sea sickness and the fact that it is really hard to see the world from a boat like that. If, indeed, you manage to get a window at all.

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Technologically challenged

So someone pretty close to me – I shall not say who because it’s frankly idiotic and embarrassing – upgraded their phone.

I complained the day I synced my fingerprint to my work phone, I clearly had really rough skin or a big cut or something on the day. But it does not recognise the whorls about 90% of the time. Fortunately, the technology allows for five fingers to be imprinted. And my other finger mostly works.

So this other person says but they don’t think five fingers is enough… We all looked confused. Most people have a preferred finger or two per hand so four is usually more than fine with a spare for a loved one to get into your phone.

The phone this person used to use was just touch activated. Apparently (and we had a demonstration of how this worked) they sometimes use the one hand or the other. And almost all digits, including the RING finger. ‘HOW,’ demanded their other half incredulously, ‘are you using your ring figure on your non-dominant hand to activate the phone? Why wouldn’t you use your index finger, or maybe your middle finger which is longer? And why use the hand you don’t use for anything else?’

‘Oh, you know,’ said the person, ‘sometimes you are sitting there working and then the phone rings and you choose the closest finger.’

‘And it is your ring finger?’

‘Yes and then you know, sometimes the phone is on one side of the table and then maybe it’s on the other so you want to use your other hand and then when it’s IN your hand you want to use another finger… the phone needs to be able to accept more fingerprints because this is confusing to me.’

Perhaps, my dear. But only confusing to YOU. The only person I know who tries to apparently hit all sorts of random digits at random locations to activate their phone.

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One of those Africa moments

Flew back through OR Tambo a few days ago. I left going through the departure gates with what I thought was ample time but it turned out everyone and their dog was trying to leave the country. (Or so it seemed.) Chaos in the queue as people rushed to get through before their planes departed.

I did wonder why some people left it til the last minute before trying to get through the gates. Some had genuine issues because SA does have the fun issue that you can’t book luggage and yourself directly through when you transit but have to check in and check out again for connecting flights if you touch on international space.

But there were people who just being plain crazy. And ironically, a lot of the crazies were British. Usually in Britain they are proud to queue. This is ACTUALLY a thing. They frown on people who jump the line and make tut tut noises and will often verbally abuse you if you try shove your way in. In Africa however, away from their homeland was another matter. There were a number of them getting really jumpy, shoving forward even though they had loads of time (I suppose we all need time to shop for giraffe curios) and getting really irate with the customs officials and the passengers around them. As if it was somehow our fault for getting in the line in front of them.

This one bolshy woman literally elbowed out in front of me. Then stood there berating the customs official about the queue and quizzing him how long it would take to get to the departure gate. I’m not too sure what she thought he was going to do if the answer turned out ‘it takes half an hour to walk there’. As it is he told her there was loads of time and she should get moving. But she stood there yelling at him for awhile anyways.

Which meant I couldn’t go get my passport cleared as she was now blocking MY way and making herself even later in spending this completely futile time screaming at someone.

She should have looked on the bright side. Security compared to England may have full body scans etc but is relatively fast moving as they don’t really like swabbing every fifth bag for explosives and drugs.

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Diary Reads

I have to admit I’ve often thought if I was to become a bona fide author I’d consider a diary format novel. It has the simplicity of being able to start and stop and rant at random for long or short clips as it suits you. Because that’s what real diaries probably do.

The one possible exception being Anne Frank’s diary. I’ve always found that a tedious and difficult read, not to mention depressing. Almost every entry lasts forever as she had nothing else to do except write. Poignant yes. But I’ve never managed to share the enthusiasm so many others have for the book but saying that out loud is a no-no. Like admitting you are a blatant racist who kicks puppies for a hobby.

I took the latest Bridget Jones’ Diary out the library. I detested the first book and never read the second as consequence. Funny enough, I don’t mind the movies as much. My issue with the books are they really are written like someone who can’t be bothered to put words down for eternity but feels compelled to write something down. In truth, they also read a lot like emails from a certain member of my family who assumes you already know the context of whatever the story is. And who leaves out random words that would help the flow of language because somehow this works out as ‘abbreviation’ and ‘time saving’. Bridget Jones’ Diary is written in exactly the same same style. The style of one who knows better but can’t be asked to spell check or pause long enough between brain and keyboard to ensure that all the words in their heads have actually made it onto the page.

Most of all though I detest how ridiculously sanctimoniously fortunate Bridget is. Oh, yes, of course, especially in the third book she has undergone great personal tragedy. But then many others have too. Most people do not, however, manage to live in the very centre of London (even if it is run down and noisy) by themselves in a one bed flat. They don’t manage to not only stay employed despite blatant incompetence, personal issues and hangovers but get promoted, moving steadily onto a dream job. Despite gross indecision and rash behaviour have the option of landing a few men at the same time and being given enough second and third chances to pick the right one. They don’t naturally land up being able to somehow stay on the borders of Hampstead Heath where property is at a premium playing at being scatty, bohemian and despite everything, ‘lovable’.

I remember rewatching the movie when I was single and convinced I’d be alone forever. I still have those days. The movie was screamingly more funny than I remembered because I WAS now old enough to be that singleton, which hadn’t worried me so much when I first watched it. And tragically more sad when it ended and I realised in frustration Bridge had, despite everything, landed a man, The Man. And I was still, like she was at the start, sitting on my sofa in my PJ’s, in a dead end job, single, with no clear indication how to move on.

 

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Bit of paranoia

Time for me to renew my travel insurance. I tend to keep an annual multi trip policy that I let expire and then randomly renew before I think I’m going to step into international waters again for whatever reason.

I HATE going through this. A friend told me to just buy and stop overthinking as it probably won’t make a blind difference what I do, the policy holders will wriggle out irrespective of who they are if I try claim. Why is it we assume insurers are part of the rings to hell and out to screw us all over? Possibly because I have never once successfully managed an insurance claim for anything I’ve ever been insured for.

Nevertheless it doesn’t stop me on a paranoid mission to scour the comparison websites, the ‘unbiased’ reviews of people who have purchased policies I have an eye on and ultimately, the greatest penance of all, trying to work out how much of the small print has shot me dead in the water before I’ve even begun the doggy paddle.

I’m actually quite indifferent to baggage or money loss being insured. I figure that’s why you should probably not travel with anything too valuable and these claims are near impossible to prove anyways. WHO still has the receipts to all their electronic goods and valuable luggage items? (Even as I write this I can tell someone is putting up their hands proudly, looking at their neatly indexed and filed folder of expenses.)

I’m more concerned about a policy paying out for medical bills. Not ‘serious’ ones like an emergency tooth filling or a bout of food poisoning or a few stitches. But actual serious ones. Ones that require a stint in hospital and the sinking feeling (literally) you are too ill to deal with the bills of the hospital and travelling back to wherever ‘home’ is. And the repatriation of my body and maybe someone to accompany me, dead or alive. These claims are hard to test without actually claiming on them though.

In the meanwhile I searched for five star reviews. HOW is it possible an insurance policy with only three stars has over 95 activities covered? While one with five stars has only 31? (Which, incidentally, exclude all sorts of things like safaris, motorcycles and kayaking (even on water like glass, limiting you pretty much to walking.)

I’m telling you it’s all rigged.

But they know that I know that to travel without anything is really asking for it. Like jumping out a plane without anything strapped to your back. As opposed to jumping with a heavy pack that MIGHT be a parachute that MIGHT open before you impact on the earth. (And MIGHT even be covered in insurance!)

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Dying Young

Plus one and I were chatting and he mentioned how old he was before he attended a funeral. It was pretty old. Like university or beyond. This seems the English way. Either they don’t know anyone important to them who has died (first world problem, people live forever!) or they aren’t ‘allowed’ to go to the funeral when they are young.

I can’t really relate to this because, culturally, I was taught memorials and funerals were the last chance to say goodbye. (And potentially my parents were just bad at finding babysitters).

One of my cousins died when I was pretty young. He was a good few years older than me but on that side of the family, the closest in age to me. He was, however, eternally adult in my eyes, two heads taller than me. I did not particularly like him. He spent his time either ignoring me or teasing and tormenting me and I remember him throwing my dog into the pool while I cried hysterically in order to prove that ‘all dogs can naturally swim’.

My mother always thought it was quite tough on him, as he was so different looking from the rest of the family, he knew he was adopted. My aunt did dote on him but her brother was always one to rub in that blood is blood and he was clearly not blood so I’m sure my cousin must sometimes have felt the slight of this. That, and growing up in a small town in South Africa in the dregs of the apartheid era where being ‘different’ probably wasn’t the best thing.

His life and his hobbies are captured in his room like something out of ‘Boys Own’ of the 70s. There are vintage cars on the curtains, a crochet blanket on the bed. A weavers nest with pride of place above it. A loud ticking clock and framed butterflies which he used to catch in the veld beyond and then mount, neatly labelled.

That was the innocent side of him. The side that teased me got caught kissing a girl in the house when he thought his parents would be out and perpetrated mischief in the neighbourhood.

Still only 17 he and his friend went driving on his friend’s farm, both underage but not a big deal in farming society. I imagine they were still inexperienced and reckless and wound the windows down and went really fast, yelling and shouting with teenage joy. The car hit some stones, rolled and the friend was killed instantly. The coroner said my cousin lived on for a bit after the crash but it is unlikely he suffered, that he was probably not conscious due to the head trauma. I’m not sure that wasn’t said to make the family feel better. Either way, both died at the scene.

It was a closed casket funeral. The body was not in any state to be viewed. The men of the family who did in order to identify it said it was not a pleasant experience. I know the funeral was not shared with the friend who died. Strangely I have no real memories, which one would expect, of my cousin’s classmates rallying at the funeral or of them standing up and speaking for the dead. I mostly just remember my family taking over the whole day, the little that I do recall.

I remember not feeling particularly sad. If anything, a little bored. And maybe a little thrilled at wearing nice clothing for the day. It’s only when I got older I wondered how it would have been if my cousin had been with us longer, would our relationship have evolved as the age gap ‘narrowed’ in the way it tends to once you reach adulthood. Or would he still have remained the elusive tease I dreaded seeing?

 

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Ageing gracefully

There is a lady who catches the same bus as me most mornings now. It sounds cruel but if one were to describe her, you are likely to use the words ‘drab’ or ‘stodgy’. Her hair is regularly coloured and clipped, but lank and limp. She’s picked up a few kilos over time and tries to hide this with dark coloured shapeless long skirts, blouses and jackets. She walks like someone who struggles a bit with her health.

If she was a bit richer or vainer, she’d probably get hair extensions and blow dries, structured designer clothing and maybe a personal trainer who would shape up her figure and add a bit more vim to her walk. If she had more natural flair (like my beloved blogger friend, Footloose) she’d just exude flair irrespective of what she was wearing. She’d give off a sense of vitality and energy. As it is, everything just seems a little bit run down for her.

My mother used to be very vain. Even when there was very little money while I was growing up she somehow found petty cash to perm and colour her hair. As she got older, she got a bit more indifferent to exactly how good her hair looked. (To be fair, she has pointed out once it thins to a certain point, it’s optimism and nothing else that will allow you to do anything with it). She’s also thrown out dressy in favour of comfy. The woman who would wear skirts so short and tight she couldn’t sit now believes stretchy pants are the way forward.

Some people never seem to cross that line between image and comfort. Some slide oh, so easily over it, even in youth.

I’m wondering which way I’d go?

It’s hard to say when elements like health, wealth and time must obviously feature in a massive way on this, unless your ego is so massive it overwhelms all of these external factors.

 

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All Change

I was standing on the platform last Friday, waiting for a train. The notice board tiresomely said ‘next train not in service’. Which seems to happen a lot on that line. It’s like at that junction point they remove a third of the trains from service because they think there is a lesser population stupid enough to go northwards to nowhere.

Which is sort of true except an INSANE number of people, including myself, want to go one stop north and we want to get out the barriers as soon as possible which is at the front of the train. So I shuffled to the head of the track and tried to position myself near where an entering door might ultimately stop. This was not helped by the fact that, as usual, what are usually young east European or Asian (see ‘Indian’ if you are South African) women – not to generalise of course – tend to quite aggressively calculate where the space is and then park DIRECTLY in front of it. So they bump backwards into you when a train stops and people have to get off to let them on. They stand as close to the edge as is possible without you pushing them onto the track and elbow outwards with their oversized tote bags to maximise surface area (of very skinny girl) in front of the doorway. There was one there on Friday.

The station master was getting quite fed up with staring across a cold platform at what were clearly, to him, mentally deficient people. ‘The train on Platform 2 is terminating here. Do NOT get on the train. It stops here. If you don’t want to listen to me, at least try observe and notice that when everyone gets off, you should not get on because the train won’t go anywhere.’ And when it pulled in, ‘To the people ON the train, get off the train. This train terminates here. Follow the other people who already got off.’

So the train departed and the top end of the platform crowded up with all the idiots like me trying to get on a carriage near the exit on the next stop, bunched up together like penguins in a polar gale keeping warm.

‘There are two minutes until the next train, I’d advise all of you squashed up at the top to move down the platform. You have a better chance of boarding if you move down the platform. The train after the next train is not in service and this next train will be full. You have a MUCH better chance of getting onto this next train if you move now. You have two minutes and you have legs, I’d advise you to use them and move down while there is still time… or you can just stay where you are and ignore me.’ (Obviously we were ignoring him.) In all fairness, he had guessed right, the next train WAS full and it WAS very hard for people to get on. I was just lucky to be hot on the heels of the crazy chick as I’d actually been on the platform before her and before most of the crowd of people.

Oddly enough I seemed to be the only person on the platform who was amused by the conductor’s sarcastic personality. The rest of them didn’t seem insulted either. They all seemed to be deaf to what he was saying. So maybe he was onto something when he questioned our general listening capability and/or understanding of English?

 

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Homeless

Homelessness is a growing problem. What with refugees and economic migrants escaping into ‘safe’ countries then falling through cracks, ex-military staff, people escaping abuse, drug addicts, the list goes on and so does the list of homeless.

I once thought if I was ever about to become homeless I would use the last of my savings to buy a ticket to somewhere permanently warm and verdant, like the north of Brazil. Where I would require less clothes to sleep on a beach and be able to poach coconuts from neighbouring trees.

Apparently there is a growing list of people who may hold jobs but still not be legally living in sheltered accommodation and paying rent. Difficult conditions, especially in the northern hemisphere where, this weekend for example, the sun shone gloriously and the frost sparkled underfoot as we ran through the park. But sitting freezing in the park overnight… that may be a different story.

This weekend I got on a train and immediately thought, I need to move seats. But unfortunately, have been in Britain just long enough, my blunt SA self would not kick in to allow me to very obviously get up and move half a carriage down from a man passed out face down across two seats. He smelled vaguely of sick and someone who had not properly been (literally) face to face with hot water and soap for awhile.

What was worse was when he finally got up and started scrabbling around in his bag. We all pretended we couldn’t see him. As much as it is no doubt terrible to be stared at, perhaps it is worse when people act like there is an invisible black hole around you.

He was scrabbling for a cigarette and succeeded in lighting up a stub of very ‘fragrant’ tobacco, causing a bunch of us to choke. Still we said nothing although we all stared at each other shifty eyed. None of us looked at the Problem however. You could see us thinking, ‘Maybe he will go away soon? What if he gets violent if I ask him to stop? Is someone else going to do something?’.

In the end the Problem resolved itself in that the stub only had a few drags in it and Mr Man stumbled off the train shortly after.

But I felt embarrassed how I had handled the Condition of Being Alive. The same way I am slightly embarrassed and irritated that, after texting a man to donate to him quite a good oil heater and having someone meet him to hand it on (it’s very hard to donate electrics in the UK, they need to be safety checked and ‘normal’ people have gas/central heating with no need for oil heaters), he, who is on some dodgy verge of being homeless, although has somewhere to plug this heater in, promptly bombarded me with requests if, please, Sister Juliet (that is NOT me but the person who put me in touch with him), I had blankets and warm clothing to help him out. On top of my work place looking for help for Syria.

I have more coats than I really need. And I can say I worked hard to have them, therefore deserve them. I have enough food in my belly. I could drop a few coins a few times into a number of hats that may or may not convert to food or drink. But where does it end?Others would say, there, but for the grace of God, it could be me so should I not be sharing them? As my eyes slide over that space where ‘invisible’ lurks…

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