Freedom

The tensions in the Middle East over the last month or so are having a profound affect in the region.  The ousting of President Mubarak, the longest serving ruler in Egypt, has shaken the foundations of many of the existing rulers in the region; they may be considering that their hold on power isn’t as absolute as it once was.  Even the notorious Colonel Gaddafi has reportedly fled Libya and gone into exile in Venezuela after fierce demonstrations resulted in him slowly losing his country.  Even if he is still holed up in Tripoli, his reign is destined to be short lived either violently or with him fleeing his country.

So, what is going on in the region.  In simplistic terms, it appears that the citizens of the countries concerned are sick of being under a dictatorship and want freedom from it.  How and what is going to happen when the vacuum of the previous government has to be filled is anybody’s guess.  Will the people that demonstrated so earnestly get the freedom they want?  Will the deaths rid their country of corruption and ensure that human rights are introduced?
These are probably a few of the questions the ‘experts’ will be considering and, no doubt, we will all hear what the ‘experts’ from the various news channels will think.  The overall question that I have been thinking about is, what exactly is freedom?  Do any of us actually have it?

Freedom is an ethereal concept.  We, in the ‘civilised’ world believe that we have it and those that are oppressed should be entitled to it.  But what is it?
The Oxford dictionary definition of freedom is, “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants” as well as, “absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government; the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity.”
A lot of words.  Now think about how you would define freedom and if it has any resemblance to the definitions above.

So, are we free?  I live in England, a civilised, democratic country.  Am I able to act, speak or think as I want?  Well, we can all think what we want.  As yet, there is no power on earth that can dictate what we think.  Or can they?

Humans are social animals.  Most of us crave company.  We, in England, have a unique society.  When I was a child, I was raised to believe in certain things and behave accordingly.  I was taught to think a certain way and the laws of the land enforce the way I am supposed to behave.  Is that freedom to think as I want?

We all know that we cannot act the way we want.  There is no way the law is going to allow you to walk into the nearest Rolls Royce dealership and drive off with a car.  Not unless you pay for it, that is.  So, we are allowed to do as we like within the limitations of our laws.  Is that freedom to act the way we want?

Going back to the demonstrations in Egypt, I remember seeing one man, on the news, say that he was tired of not having enough food or being paid enough.  He was tired of a corrupt government that were lining their own pockets with the money from the people.

Even though England is supposed to be a modern, civilised country, we still have poverty.  There are people who are starving, especially now in this period of austerity.  Living here costs a lot of money and our taxes have been increased making it even more difficult for those barely above the level of subsistence.  Even in our civilised, democratic country our leaders have been found to be lining their pockets with the cash of the tax payers.

So where is the difference?  The only difference is in the degree of corruption and the level of subjection.  Is this what those demonstrators gave their lives for?

There is no way to be truly free.  You could live on a boat in the middle of international waters.  That way, you wouldn’t be subject to any one law – oh, wait a minute, ahh yes, there is an international maritime law.  a desert island then?  I know that you can buy them but am unsure about the laws governing them, if there are any.

Freedom is about as real as fairies at the bottom of the garden.  For us humans, anyway.  We decided, long ago, that we would create societies and countries, each with our own beliefs and laws.  When our ancestors did that, they took whatever freedom we had and made it nearly impossible to regain.  That was the price we paid for civilisation.

Freedom is for the fish and wild animals on the Earth.  For the rest of us, it’s something we can dream about or even write about, but will remain as attainable as time travel.

Pets

Not an American Bull Terrier

The look of love

Pets are strange, don’t you think?  Why do people own them, for a start?  And the types of pets some people own are just downright weird!  I’m not going to go into those heartless individuals who don’t care for or abuse their pets; how anyone could do that to an animal is just unbelievable!  I am talking about the pet lovers, the ones that have pets and take good care of them.

And before we go any further, we have our first topic of weirdness.  I have two dogs and I love them to bits.  They don’t do much.  Well, my puppy runs around, chewing everything she sees and is basically a furry mass of energy.  My male dog  just eats, sleep, runs around a bit and looks at the puppy with a sense of bemusement.  That’s what dogs do.  Some people have working dogs, be they hunting dogs or even guide dogs.  Although they can be classed as pets, they work for a living.  I’m going to discount those and go for the pets that don’t really do a great deal apart from cost us money.

So, back onto the topic of those who care for their pets.  There are varying degrees here, from people like me, who feed, clean and walk their dogs, to those that preen, spoil and even dress up their pets!  We’ve all seen them, whether it be on television or even in real life – a poodle walking down the street in full leathers, with it’s owner walking behind – in full leather!  Now, does the poodle realise it looks ridiculous or does it like the feel of leather?  I often wonder if they are overheating under some of their clothes – lets face it, dogs have their own form of keeping warm and adding leather to it can’t really be that good for it!

And then there are the ‘pet’ dogs.  Dogs so small they could be eaten by mice!  The things that someone like Paris Hilton would carry in her purse.  Why on earth would someone want something like that?  My cousin owns a pet terrier (like a normal terrier except a lot, lot smaller – and terriers aren’t that big to begin with!) and every time I go an visit, I am terrified that I am going to stand on it and squash it.  The strange thing is, she (the pet terrier called Masie) obviously thinks she’s the real thing, as she barks and growls like she is actually some sort of threat!  In all honesty, if a ladybird decided to do some damage to her, the terrier would lose!

So, that’s dressed up dogs and small pointless dogs covered.  Let’s not dwell on that and move onto something that believes it’s the owner and not the pet.  Yes, the cat.  Cats are absolutely gorgeous when they are kittens.  All dependent and vulnerable, relying on you to keep them safe and warm – awwww.  But as soon as they grow up, well, you can forget the vulnerable part, and the keeping safe part and in fact anything that even relates to looking after them unless they want you to.  That’s the crux of it, cats think they own you and you are expected to do what they want when they want it doing.  I don’t even think marriage is as bad as that.  So, what’s the point of them?  They cost a fortune to keep, don’t want to know you most of the time, you never see them and when you do, they just want feeding and somewhere to sleep before they go off again.

At least cats don’t mind being petted, when they feel like it.  What about fish?  Ever tried to pet a fish?  The last time I did, it was covered in batter and came with a side order of chips!  And talk about expensive!!  The tanks they live in can cost the same as a small house and then there are the fish themselves.  Some cost thousands of pounds!  Then you just put them into the tank with a myriad other fist and hope that it doesn’t get eaten by one of the others!  Forget about cuddling them, even if you did have a wet-suit.  Apparently, watching fish can be therapeutic.  I think therapy might be cheaper, and watching a load of fish swim around and around and around…. well, I’ll let you decide.  It doesn’t stop there, by the way.  Oh no!  You have to make sure that the water is cleaned, that they are getting enough air (can you believe that!) and ensure they are fed just the right amount, or they explode or something, I don’t know.  And the return?  Well, you can watch them, I suppose, but if that’s what you want, why not get a screen saver with fish swimming around?  It’s cheaper and just as much fun!!

Reptiles are another favourite.  As we all know, reptiles are loving creatures that like nothing more than to relax in the sun and, in some cases, poison you if you annoy them!  Great!  Ok, not all reptiles are poisonous, but again, you have to consider the return you’re getting.  Firstly, they’re not as cute as a puppy or kitten, even when they are young and secondly, when they are fully grown, they eat puppies and kittens!  Again, they’re not cheap to keep, either.  You have to get a glass container and make sure the heat is just right and that there’s the right amount of vegetation for them to be comfortable in; and that needs replacing constantly.  Then you have to feed them, not always puppies and kittens, but sometimes mice and your wife.  Forget about cuddles, the best you can hope for is the snake not choking you to death when you wrap it around your neck, showing off in front of your mates!

No matter how weird reptiles are or however pointless fish are, insects have to be number one on the why the hell list!  Praying Mantis, ants, Black Widow spiders!  As pets!!  I can’t even begin to try explain the logic behind them.  Some really would try and kill you, whilst the others are just something you can look at.  And they’re not particularly cute, nor do they do tricks or anything.  They tend to sit in their glass containers and stare malevolently at you from some of its numerous eyes, daring you to open the top!  But collectors spend a fortune on them; the weirder the better as far as they are concerned and for what?  No one knows, and if they do, they certainly aren’t telling me!

I’ve covered just a few of the weird pets people have, but rest assured, there are others.  Llamas, pigs, goats, panthers, lions (a pet that is above you on the food chain is just sheer stupidity as one of those gay performers in Vegas found out – don’t mess with anything that considers you food!) and porcupines, to name just a few.  People can be strange, but strange people can be weirder by some of the pets they have.

For me, a pet is something that you care for and it cares right back.  I am obviously a dog person.  My dogs are loyal, loving and pretty dumb, but I love them for it anyway.  I have no doubt that no matter the pet, the owner may love it just as much as I love my dogs.  No matter how weird we may think they are, at least they care for them, no matter what the cost.  A pet is for life.  Sometimes their lives can be a month, sometimes yours can be, especially if you like Tigers!!

Writing… it ain’t that easy!

I like to write.  It hasn’t always been the case, I know I hated it at school, having to write an essay of five hundred words or more!  Gaah!  I wanted to go out and cause some trouble somewhere.  I think that as I grew older, ok, a lot older, it became something therapeutic.  You can just sit down and write whatever nonsense you want, then tear it up and throw it in the bin.

The internet and blogs have changed all that.  There are now millions of us who sit in front of a computer and tap away, revealing thoughts, emotions or, like me, just writing drivel most of the time.  You could spend a lifetime reading all the blogs out there.  Some will be written well, some not so well and others as if a three year old doberman had been walking over the keyboard!  Ok, maybe that was a little unfair.  I know most dobermans are more literate than some of the posts out there.

However, credit where credit’s due, they tried.  Some are naturally eloquent whilst others have to try hard.  I think I am one of the latter.  Writing, for me, isn’t easy.  It’s not just the distractions, the wandering thoughts and writers block, it’s the actual creation of words in some sort of order and making them interesting to read.  For others, they can sit down, distraction free or even with an earthquake around them and create a masterpiece.  I wonder if the best selling writers are naturals or people, like me, who struggle to create coherent sentences?

A couple of years ago I became disabled and all the things that I used to enjoy in life were impossible for me to do again.  That left a bit of a gap in my lifestyle.  Actually a huge gap as I could no longer work, either.  So, I am sat at home, depressed, hurting and feeling sorry for myself, wondering what on earth I am going to do for the rest of my life.  That’s when it hit me.  I can become a world renown, best selling author!  It was so simple!  I would sit in front of the computer and create a masterpiece in words, the sensation that the English language has been patiently waiting for since the last edition of the Oxford dictionary!

Well, it didn’t happen.

Like that was a surprise!

I started on one piece of fiction and, with a proud flourish, presented it to my mother to proof read.  It wasn’t a completed book, just the first couple of chapters.  My mum sat down and read it.  She then turned to me, as I was waiting expectantly like a new father, and told me that it was too linear.  The story was too simplistic and some other things.  By this stage I had tuned out and was contemplating art or something.

She was right.  After I re-read my supposed masterpiece, I realised that it had been written very poorly and it was extremely linear.  It was that simple.  Obviously I wasn’t going to be a best selling author overnight.  Ok, I was never going to be a best selling author; it’s just not in me.  I struggle to write, my imagination is limited at best and my mind has a constant habit of wandering off.  I blame the massive amounts of pain killers for that, but who knows!

So, I wasn’t going to write a best selling novel, become rich and famous (or maybe I would have remained mysterious, writing under a nom de plum) and enjoy all the benefits thereof.  What else was left?

It was then I realised that I could just write my linear ramblings on a blog!  Perfect.  Maybe there would be no worldwide recognition as the creator of literature that would wow the masses, but I could still get my work published – sort of.  I have dabbled in writing a blog before, but it was sporadic as I was too busy doing other things.  Now, however, I have fewer distractions of that nature.  The blog was perfect.  The chances were that nobody would read my words but I could still enjoy writing them, pretending that people were reading and enjoying my dark wit, subtle style and total lack of modesty.

I have started to write another book.  The going is very slow, it’s taken me months to write just 15000 words.  My mind still wanders and I am easily distracted.  I struggle to put sentences together in a coherent fashion and am seriously considering buying a three year old doberman to do my work for me!  But I have the blog and it doesn’t criticize me or make judgments about my writing style.  It’s just there and it publishes my ramblings no matter what they say.

I have learned that writing is a gift that we don’t all have.  I bow with reverence (if I could bow) to those who struggle to place one word after another and still create something that is worthy of praise.  I seethe with envy at those who can sit down and write a bestseller during their afternoon coffee.  Finally, I take back all my sarcastic comments of those who have tried, like me, in vain to write something barely legible.

The one thing I think we all have in common, though, is the fact that we enjoy writing, no matter how good or how bad it is.  There are an awful lot of us and many of us will never see the creations of others.  But I do understand the effort that goes into it and appreciate that words have a habit of not quite saying what you mean.  Writing is something we all need to do but those of us who try creative writing must be gluttons for punishment.  Writing just ain’t easy!

Another Day in Paradise

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but England, in February, is dreary.  In fact, horrible would be a better word to use!

You wake up in the morning (well, most of us do) and look out of the window to see…..

… well, not much actually.  It’s dark, it’s overcast, it’s raining and it’s cold.

England has a reputation for being cold and wet.  Ask anyone from the US or anywhere else outside of Europe and they’ll all say the same thing.  It’s not exactly fair or true.

Considering how far north we are, our weather is pretty mild.  The question is, which would you prefer.  A cold, white, snow-covered landscape or the grey misery that is February?  I definitely prefer the grey!  I hate snow, I hate snow on the roads and I hate snow!  Ok, I’ve said that twice, but it was just for emphasis.  Snow may look pretty, it makes everything look clean and pristine but it’s nothing more than frozen water and frozen water that makes life difficult.  Imagine slippery roads, burst water pipes, no electricity because the snow and ice have torn down a pylon.  Get the picture?

So, all in all, a bit of a miserable post, you may be thinking.  Well, you are right to a degree.

It’s not all doom and gloom.  The weather here is getting warmer.  Ok, it grey and wet out there, but it’s the transition from winter to spring.  The birds are chirping (probably complaining because they are wet!) and the trees are beginning to show signs of life.  The sun pops out, every now and then, just to remind us that it’s still there and will be making more appearances soon.  Come spring, England will be warm again.  Sure, there is a misconception that it’s always wet here, but we have had some brilliant weather during the spring, with hot spells that beat the Mediterranean countries!  Soon, the trees will be in blossom, the air will have the sweet scent of the numerous flowers (people with hayfever will start to complain!) and the fields will shine a brilliant green as the crops begin to grow.

England in the summer can be a beautiful place.  The rolling landscape, the forests and fields and the wide variety of wildlife that comes out to play.  Visitors come here and are surprised by the beauty of it all and go away with fond memories.

Ok, it may not be the Caribbean or the Maldives.  There is no pristine, azure sea where you can see through clearly to the coral beds beneath, but you don’t come to England to see that.  You come to this little island for many different reasons.

Today it’s grey and miserable.  Tomorrow may be the same, who knows?  All I know is that the seasons will change and with it, the weather.  Soon, this little island will be a different kind of paradise and I will wake up, each day and it will be ‘Another day in paradise’!

And if you believe all that, you’re madder than a sack full of squirrels!!!!

Reality Television

As I sit here, relegated to the computer while my wife watches the X-Factor finals, I can hear the crowds of people screaming on the show.  I’m not sure which is most annoying; the screaming or the singing!  The fact is, no matter what I think (and probably the majority of heterosexual males), shows like this and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ attracts thousands of viewers and probably generates a ton of income.  I found out yesterday that, apart from 2009, the Christmas number ones for the last four years have been the winners of these shows!

It’s not coincidence that these shows start in the middle of the year and end a week or so before Christmas.  With the number of avid viewers throughout the progress of the show, they are practically guaranteed a Christmas number one by the show’s winner.  A neat little money earner!!

So what is the attraction?  It’s a bit like the national lottery.  Everyone dreams of being that ordinary someone who becomes a millionaire.  It’s the same with these shows.  Ordinary people having their lives changed and becoming superstars.  Well, that’s the theory.  The fact that the producers get a number one out of it has nothing to do with it – much!  How many of these people have gone on to have a successful career as a superstar?  I can’t answer that question, mainly because I don’t watch the c**p and I would never infect my computer by checking it out on the internet, but I’ll bet it’s not many.

Thousands of people try out for these shows, many of them face disappointment but that doesn’t deter them.  The best thing about these shows is that all the weirdoes emerge out of the woodwork and audition.  Like everyone else, I’ve seen clips of these idiots, either on TV or YouTube, cringing at every second, wondering how someone can demean themselves in front of so many people.  That takes us back to what I said earlier; everyone has that dream, even the freaks.  I wonder if the viewing figures are higher at the start of the season when everyone tunes in to see the current batch of nutters?  Everyone likes seeing people make a fool of themselves, I know I do!

But those shows are just a small slice of what has become a national infatuation.  There are serious shows, such as Grand Designs and then there are those I call the freak shows.  These are the shows that have the same sort of people who would appear on the Jerry Springer show complaining that their sister was two-timing them with their father!  People who live in squalor so bad that a refuse bin would look appealing!  There are shows where people try and sell things, make things, try things and cook things.  You think of it and there is a reality programme showing people doing it on TV, for all to see.

Life is strange and, when you think about it, you can’t blame these people for having their moment of fame or attention, no matter how weird they are or how low they stoop to get on television.  They are just common (if not quite normal) people with dreams.  However, there are another group of people who appear in these shows.  Burnt out celebrities or X-Factor winners.  Get me out of here, I’m an attention seeker is the prime show, where these sad failures are made to do something they find terrifying just to try and jump start their long decomposing careers.

The attraction for those shows is in sharp contrast to the other reality shows with common people.  Not because they are celebrities (although half the time no one knows anything about the contestant, so how they can be called celebrities is beyond me!) but to see someone who had the dream being forced to endure whatever hardships just to be someone again.  It’s hilarious in a very sad way and even funnier is the fact that they think their careers will go somewhere if they win!  It just goes to show what people will do to be famous.

With that in mind, it adds context to why a myriad of people will stoop to anything for a moment of fame when famous (allegedly) people will do exactly the same.  Yet the same fascination for their humiliation is like an opiate for the masses.

So, in a day or so there will be a new winner hoping for superstardom, someone else will have won the lottery and a line of down and out celebrities will be getting calls from their agents assuring them that public humiliation will be good for their careers.  All the while, people will be tuning in to watch them.  So, for a moment at least, they are famous and goes to prove that everything has a price.

But what of the masses who tune in to watch them?  They pay too.  Not just in money for the privilege of watching them on television, but the fact that those hours of their lives are wasted.  Gone.  Ended.  A step closer to the pearly gates and they wasted them watching reality programmes that are so far removed from reality that Star Wars seems normal.

As an aside, the minutes you spent reading my rant are totally lost as well!  You just can’t win, can you?

A New Piece of Madness

For those of you who think I have gone silent, or maybe even dead, think again.  I’ve just been elsewhere…

I have started doing more creative writing.  Some of it is a humorous insight into some of the most meaningless things others are a little more serious and have yet to be published.  I am also writing a book.  Just a piece of fiction, but it is taking me quite a while to write it.  This writing lark isn’t as easy as some people think it is.  I am also having to contend with the American spell checker that keeps trying to change my correct English into something with a ‘z’ in it or missing some letters.  I won’t let it beat me but sometimes it sneaks a word in and I don’t notice.  It’s like being invaded!!

I was writing on my own website, but have had to cancel it as it was becoming too expensive running two sites.  The other one was much more serious and is related to British Veterans, considering I am soon to be one.

Enough, I ramble too much as it is so should shut up now.

I will be posting my rantings soon, so if you do enjoy them, let me know!!

 

Keep smiling and the world will thing you’re simple!