On airstrikes

Right. So Parliament has just voted to send airstrikes to bomb Syria in the hope of obliterating the disgusting totalitarian fascist monsters that are Daesh/Isis. I do hope their information is right and that we don’t live to regret it. I hope that airstrikes and more bombs falling on innocent civilians as well as terrorist targets don’t end up doing more harm than good in both the short and the longer term. My fear is that this escalation will make the conflict and bloodshed worse and further drawn out.

I am not a pacifist, as you know,  but I had severe misgivings about this airstrike policy. It doesn’t seem to have done much good wherever we’ve engaged in it in the Middle East in the last few years. I’m not anti-war per se, I can see why military action is sometimes necessary. Sometimes it is impossible to reason with people but if we came across one of these people on an individual level, we’d walk away. I don’t really think that doing nothing and pretending that it’s someone else’s problem is an option for us but it’s difficult to know exactly what to do for the best.

There are no guarantees that even the best thought-through strategy would work to destroy these people and my sneaking suspicion is that airstrikes, far from being a strategy considered in depth at length, is clutching at straws. And I hugely resent being labelled a terrorist sympathiser for having misgivings, for a lack of blind faith in the pronouncements of any political party.

I also feel disgust for people who are calling people on “the other side” names and making threats against them. To me, the decision seems finely balanced and there is no justification for taking an extreme view to the extent that one insults the other side. After all, the other side is supposed to be those bloodthirsty murderous hoodlums, isn’t it?

I’m sorry for the lack of coherence of this post. My mind has been on other things this week, as you know. I wanted to say something, but it’s late and I’m tired.

Paris

That’s what these people want: to take or disrupt the ordinary lives of ordinary people. How twisted do you have to be to espouse any ideology where hatred and bitterness and misery and pain subjugate beauty and fun and love?

Carry on. Maybe be vigilant but love your life. The people who did this hate that.

Best actor in a supporting role

Such a busy day again. So tonight I’m going to post a link to an article by Melinda Gates in today’s Financial Times, which pretty much sums up what I’ve thought for ages.

http://on.ft.com/1L8HNnQ

I’ve often thought about doing a blogpost which would detail the value of unpaid carers to society. Think about the (very approximate) annual salaries of the professionals who would charge for  their time instead of carrying out these tasks for free:

Live in Nanny:  £25,000 per annum

Chauffeur:        £26,000 per annum

Cook:                £10.00 per hour

Cleaner:            £10.00 per hour

Dog walker:       £10.00 per hour

Babysitter:         £ 7.00 per hour

Tutor:                 £21,000 per annum

Nurse:                £23,000 per annum

PA:                       £25,000 per annum

Lifecoach:           £24,000 per annum

Personal

shopper:             £17,000 per annum

 

OK, so these are rough and ready figures but they soon add up and there are things I’ve been too sleepy to quantify such as laundry person, a personal therapist; a hairdresser; a relationship counsellor or maker of costumes: that sort of thing.

It has become clear to me when sorting out this blog post that all those occupations listed up there, performed for free by a carer at home (whether it’s caring for children or an elderly relative or whomever) is not exhaustive. For example, I was a music teacher to my children when they were young, as well as a sergeant major. You see my point, though.

Perhaps it’s about time we started valuing people who perform these functions out of love or duty or because it’s the right and responsible thing to do. They might have made a lot of sacrifices in their own lives to do all this. They might not be economically productive in a way quantifiable by conventional (dare I say it, patriarchal) economics but the economy could not exist without their support.

 

Some further thoughts on Remembrance Sunday

Some further thoughts on Remembrance Sunday

 

9186450440_619cfc0cd8_poppy

 

I have written copiously before about Remembrance Sunday and if you want to see those posts of previous years, perhaps just search Remembrance up there to the top right hand side of your screen. There’s little need to repeat all that stuff here.

However, I have had a few more thoughts this year:

For many years, I noted Remembrance Sunday but it only became really meaningful when I had children as, suddenly, I identified with the sacrifice of families with lives torn apart by war, who lost children or simply lost their dreams.

My poppy invariably falls off my coat and is lost well before Remembrance Sunday so I often used crocheted poppies or badges instead.  I always buy a red poppy and donate to the Royal British Legion charity: I am only too aware of the impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on ex-servicement and women who have survived conflict and need constant support which, often, they do not receive.

Others decide not to wear a poppy at all perhaps because they refuse to participate in what they see as the glorification of war; perhaps they are pacifists; perhaps they refuse to co-operate with bullying from far right groups such as Britain First who engage in twisted bullying on Facebook and other social media and imply that people who do not wear a poppy (or who simply aren’t wearing one THAT day and on THAT coat) are somehow unpatriotic and anti-British.

When I was a teenager, I wore a white poppy one year and braved the scowls of a lot of people. At that time I was a member of the Campaign for Nucleatr Disarmament and an idealist pacifist. I am no longer any of those things.

It is up to individual people whether or not they wear a red or white poppy or a paw poppy (to remember animals used in warfare or caught up in it) or no poppy at all. That is, we are told, exactly why troops went to war: for our freedom to express ourselves how we choose.

I like to participate in public acknowledgements of Remembrance, even if that means standing by my steaming iron for two minutes, listening to the silence on the radio as I did this morning. I have always encouraged the offspring to take part in Remembrance ceremonies – we had a lovely rendition of the Last Post as usual in our BYCB concert tonight – as an appreciation of history is vital in our understanding the world. The Boywonder was telling us last week that he is anxious to attend Remembrance events when he leaves university. An ex-cadet, cadet bandsman, and avid History student, Remembrance has become enmeshed in his life.

If you want to wear a white poppy because of your beliefs, by all means go ahead. But I am dismayed at the increasing virtue signalling of the white poppy: public pacifism does not make people morally superior to those who choose to remember relatives who sacrificed their lives or those who, like me, choose to be thankful that someone is out there doing dirty work that I would never in a million years want to do. I want to stand in solidarity with mothers who have lost their children. I prefer to put humans before ideas.

Photo by lovingyourwork.com

Domestic Goddess politics

Much as I love my new slate kitchen floor, it took me well over an hour to vacuum and then steam mop it yesterday, and I had to admit that my new steam vacuum cleaner probably isn’t up to the task in its vastness. Best keep that for the bathroom floors then.

Long story short, I now find myself the proud owner of a George, the big brother of the famous Henry. Searching the Numatic website yesterday, I was somewhat dismayed to find a whole vacuum cleaner family: James, Charles, Henry, George and Hettie, who is, of course, pink. Here I shall pause for a massive eyeroll and link to the Pink Stinks website.

Here is George, a bells and whistles wet and dry machine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One reviewer related how he just sloshed a bucket of water over his floor and mopped it all up with his George but I think we shall be more refined than that and actually use the brush/squeegee attachment. With any luck we’ll finally remove the lingering paint dust from our grout inside and outside.

I’m not really looking forward to explaining to my cleaning lady exactly how it all works: there are so many bits and pieces and it all looks very complicated. Luckily I found a very good video on You Tube although I do wonder about what motivates someone to spend the best part of an hour demonstrating a vacuum cleaner and filming it. I’m glad he did though: the Numatic instructions are rudimentary.

Now, I have always enjoyed spending Sunday afternoons baking. My post last week seems to have prompted an epidemic of cookie baking so these are for you @Annette1Hardy and @LesleyJ28.

The chocolate chip cookies follow the recipe I used before and I cooked them for 17 minutes but the puritanical, at times orthorexic OH is ostentatiously dismissive of anything as self-indulgent as chocolate, so I tried to make apple and ginger cookies for him.

Unfortunately the extra water in the apple made the cookie dough mixture a little too wet and loose so next time I’d probably add more flour and bake them for a couple of minutes longer. I used crystallised ginger, too, which seems to have stuck to the baking sheet a bit, so I’m glad that I used silicone Magic Liner on my baking sheets. Incidentally I’m finding my new double-handled baking sheets very much more user friendly than the ones that have handles on only on side.

I have never baked cookies before this week. Part of it is because I still have that quote from Hillary Clinton in the back of my mind, when she, rather dismissively, said that she was not the type of woman to stay at home and bake cookies. In my mind I’ve always been rather more Hillary than me, so not baking cookies was an outward expression of my thwarted ambition. Thank heavens, then, for Nigella and her ironically-titled Domestic Goddess book which still invites comment when I tell people how it is my favourite cookery book. Even having heard of it seems to be a cause for raised eyebrows from men who think they’re being funny.

The point of the title, of the book, is that no-one has to make a pudding, a cake, cookies but the sheer satisfaction of having produced something so luscious and homemade far outweighs the skill and effort required. Plus you have the whole warm, fragrant kitchen on a Sunday afternoon thing, which I love so much.

Another huge plus of baking one’s own cakes and biscuits, in my view, is that I know exactly what’s going into them. I have pursued my one-woman boycott of orang-utan-murdering, rainforest-destroying palm oil for years. It’s not easy to avoid because palm oil is an ingredient in so many things. It does seem to add taste and texture to biscuits and cakes, and it’s cheap, which is why it’s so widely used. But to establish palm oil plantations in South East Asia, they are cutting down huge areas of rainforest, the habitat for all sorts of endangered species.

I tried to explain my reasons to someone in a shop recently and she looked at me through dead eyes. It was much the same story as when I used to explain to greengrocers the reasons why I refused to buy South African fruit. First they laugh at you…  Let us, for the time being, draw a discreet veil over the provenance of industrially-produced butter and the dairy industry. I’ll no doubt get to that another day.

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