Tuesday, 8 March 2005
The Equal Rights of Women
Topic: Special Days
. In some countries, this day is a National Holiday but here in the United Kingdom, we now seem to take the emancipation of women for granted. The majority of English women are not oppressed and women's rights are widely recognised. Perhaps we don't always have equal pay for equal work but we are not enslaved.
However, there are women in this country who are enslaved. Some are enslaved against their will in the sex trade. In many cases, these women have been tricked into coming to this country from Eastern Europe, told that jobs or education courses have been arranged for them. What a job! What an education! Other women from ethic groups with different cultures are not free to choose their paths in life, to get an education or to marry whom they choose. I'm not saying that arranged marriages are a bad thing, many work very well, but only if the girl is happy to comply with the wishes of her family. So called 'Honour Killings', because a woman has formed a relationship outside of her ethnic or religious group, baffle me. I can envisage no greater dishonour than a father or a brother murdering a daughter or a sister. Nothing a woman has done can possibly excuse that barbaric custom.
Not so long ago, women were oppressed in Spain. That only started to change after the Spanish revolution when women's rights began to be acknowledged. Even in the 1960's, women were expected to obey their husband's unquestionably and to wait hand and foot on them. The 'come immediately when I whistle' syndrome was commonplace as was the 'I must not be seen to be carrying the shopping or pushing the pram' syndrome. The idea of a man sharing the household chores and his wife going to work in an office was untenable as it reflected on his ability to support his family and his wife would have been in the company of (God forbid) other men. For reasons of modesty, a married woman could not join her children in a public swimming pool, as other men would see her in a revealing swimming costume.
The lack of education amongst the poor classes in Spain also meant the virtual enslavement of many young girls forced to work long hours as live-in maids. They had to clean the house (and I mean, clean) every day, strip and air beds, prepare food, wait on table, do the laundry, mend and iron clothes from the moment they got up to the moment they dropped into bed. If they were lucky, they had a day or an afternoon off every week or, in some cases, every month - all very similar to the conditions in this country in the 19th century. Today, the education of women has changed all that and the middle classes can no longer afford the luxury of permanent live-in maids or even a daily help. However, this exploitation of the poor still happens in many countries today where women and children work for a pittance. Some of it fuelled by the greed of the Western World for things like cheap clothes.
Another violation of women's rights is violence. Violence in the home is an obvious problem but there are other forms of 'accepted' violence - one of the worst being female circumcision. A custom that mutilates a women severely leaving her virtually unable to experience a sexual climax and unable to give birth without being cut first and stitched up afterwards. In some case, the removal of tissue in young girls is so severe and the stitching so tight that she will have difficulty in emptying her bladder and further problems can arise when a girl reaches puberty.
Women are human beings as are men, not a separate species. We are the heart and soul of the family, we nurture and give values to our children, we can and do achieve great things if given the chance. In Britain we have women doctors, surgeons, lawyers, engineers, scientists and company directors, to name a few careers now open to women. We have even had a woman Prime Minister. We should celebrate and give thanks for our freedom. We should remember that all women worldwide have the same basic right to be educated, to be emancipated, to be treated with respect, to be free.
Saturday, 5 March 2005
My son, who lives in London, emailed me this lovely photograph of Andrew meeting Mr Snowman in their back garden a few days ago! Andrew, who is fourteen months old, seems to be very interested in Mr Snowman's nose! I bet he was thinking, "Ah, I like carrots!"
The picture reminded me of this silly verse:
|Let It Snow|
I made myself a snowball,
As perfect as could be,
I thought I'd keep it as a pet,
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas,
And a pillow for its head,
Then last night it ran away,
But first - it wet the bed.
I wonder what Andrew thought of the snow? They seem to have had quite a lot in London. Down in our part of the world, we have seen a few snow flakes but, apart from an 'icing crust' on top of the car one day last week, nothing has settled for more than an hour or so!
Thursday, 3 March 2005
All About Books
Topic: Special Days
It's World Book Day! What do you like to read?
Last Thursday, I asked my Grandchildren what was their favourite book. Elliot didn't hesitate, "The Cat In The Hat", (by Dr. Seuss
), he said. Stephanie smiled and then said, "Pants". No, not a childish imprecation but apparently the name of a book showing animals wearing all sorts of coloured pants. When I went upstairs, I had a peek at all the books on the shelf in their bedroom. Couldn't see it. Mentioned it to my daughter when she came home. "Pants?", she looked puzzled, "No she hasn't got a book called that - must be a book in the school library." So, my curiosity aroused , I searched the Internet and found this book
by Giles Andreae. Must be the same one!
When I was a small child, I loved a book called "Mr. Tumpy and his Caravan", by Enid Blyton
, about a caravan that could fly. There were lots of little pictures telling the story - a bit like a comic book, I suppose. As I got older, I read avidly all the Tarzan books I could find and then all the other books by the same author (Edgar Rice Burroughs
) on Mars, Venus and Pelucidar, that strange world in the centre of our own planet Earth. I remember reading about the 'purple sward' on Mars and rushing to the dictionary to find out what 'sward' was. The late Dr. Carl Sagan
, scientist and astronomer, also grew up reading the Mars stories. He once admitted to standing with outstretched arms towards the Red Planet as had John Carter (the fictional hero of these Martian tales) who was transported through space to wake up on the planet. Silly stuff? Maybe, but it certainly awoke an interest in astronomy in the young boy and set him on his path through life.
A bit older still and I was borrowing all the books I could find by Jules Verne
from our local library. He was probably one of the first science fiction writers to 'invent' things which were ahead of his time and which we take for granted today. I also liked reading poetry and I remember coming home from the Church summer fête clutching two old and tattered poetry books I had found - both with pencilled additions and comments and obviously much loved by their previous owners. My mother did not seem to be too impressed by my 'grubby' purchases but I still have those books today. In one of them, I discovered "Horatius
" an epic poem by Lord Macaulay
- one of my favourite poems. Talking of epic poems, my father once gave me an old and beautifully illustrated book of Longfellow's poems which had belonged to his adopted mother and I loved reading, "The Song of Hiawatha
". Never lend anyone a book you treasure. I took it to school when we were studying poetry and stupidly lent it to another girl. A few weeks later, it was the end of the summer term and I was leaving. I never saw that book again.
More recently, I have enjoyed reading the Earth's Children books by Jean M. Auel
, particularly the first of the five books, "The Clan of the Cave Bear
" (which I couldn't put down). The other books are: "The Valley of the Horses", "The Mammoth Hunters", "The Plains of Passage" and "The Shelters of Stone". Although these stories are fiction set in the twilight days of Neanderthal Man and the dawn of Cro-Magnon Man, Jean Auel has woven into them many real archaeological sites dating back to the Ice Age and has described artefacts and ornaments which can be seen in museums today. She also meticulously researched plants and fauna living at the time and this enormous attention to detail really brought the stories to life for me. I am looking forward to the sixth book which is currently being written.
I can't leave non-fiction books out in the cold. If, like me, you are interested in genetics and the mysteries of life on Earth, I can highly recommend, "Almost Like A Whale - The Origin of Species Updated", by Steve Jones
. It is thoughtful, brilliant and witty and very interesting indeed without being too scientific (if you know what I mean!).
Why don't you visit your library or your local bookshop today and find an interesting book. It will make a change from some of those boring old programmes on television!
Monday, 28 February 2005
Not One of my Favourite Jobs!
BRRrrrrr! I'm sitting here warming myself up with a cup of coffee. Just spent an hour and half washing the car and, 'Baby, it's cold outside'! Sometimes, I wonder if I am going a little bit daft because the car is booked in for a service tomorrow and the garage will probably pass it through their car wash! It's not that I am ashamed of bringing in a dirty car - it was a bit muddy and salt sprayed from the road gritting, but not that bad. No, the reason I shampooed the car is because it was overdue for its coating of "Surelook". What's that? Well, it's a special wax treatment that also leaves an antistatic protective coating on the car. I had it specially treated when it was new two years' ago and I am covered for damage to the paintwork provided, of course, that I keep applying the treatment! At the time, the advice was to do it every four weeks! Four weeks
- every four months (or more!) is more like it! My mileage is very low and the car only gets used two or three times a week so it isn't as if I was driving 60 miles to work every day. Or so I tell myself.
So, if the car gets valeted tomorrow and goes through the garage car wash, it will shine like a new penny after its buffing! And, hopefully, it will pass the annual visual test for any marks on the paintwork at the same time. If it's raining and it doesn't go through the car wash, I can relax knowing that I don't need to shampoo and polish the car for at least another four months!Updated
: 2 March 2004
Well, they didn't give my car a clean up so I'm really glad I did it on Monday! What the garage did do, though, was to mislay my Service Log Book and my Surelook Guarantee! Seems they gave them to another chap whose car was being serviced and who also had Surelook. (Ye Gods!!) Very relieved when after a few 'phone calls, they were returned safe and sound. They offered to post them to me but I decided to pick them up today on my way to shop at Tesco.
Thursday, 24 February 2005
The Importance of Punctuation
Written language is nothing without punctuation. I like punctuation - it adds a punch(!) to the written word. (Perhaps I overdo it?) I once learnt an extremely humbling lesson: I was involved in the production of a Newsletter for a club I belonged to. When articles were handed in, I typed them out ready for printing and, at the same time, took the liberty of correcting the few grammar and spelling errors I spotted. Although, I must admit that my own spelling is far from perfect (I always have to look in the freezer when I want to add `broccoli' to the shopping list!).
One day, an article was handed in: it was really awful - yet, had the author read it aloud, it would have been very good. It was written in pencil, there were no capital letters for proper nouns, the spelling was another language (he was obviously dyslexic) and, even though he was quoting speech, punctuation was completely non-existent. I got to work. First, I corrected the spelling and the grammar. Then, without changing the order of his words, I inserted punctuation - lots and lots of it! I was very pleased with the result - it was as it would have been had the author read it aloud. With my extreme self-conceit, I'm afraid it didn't even occur to me that my `improvements' might embarrass him or land him in deep water. Well, that is just what happened - I landed him in deep water, very deep water.
At the next club meeting, nominations were invited for committee members. "Simon," (name changed) "Your article in the Newsletter was excellent. Absolutely, top class! How about taking on the position of Press Officer?" I cringed in my seat; what had I done? The poor chap, not knowing what to say, accepted the job. I don't think he lasted in the position very long and, certainly, I could never look him in the eye again!
That story apart, it seems that the use of punctuation on the Internet, particularly on personal websites and Blogs, is on the decline. Well, most people use the full stop, the comma and question marks, but colons and semi-colons are used less and less and apostrophes hardly at all - especially the ones used to denote the omission of a letter. That leads to errors of grammar such as the note once left in my old office: "Will someone whose here tomorrow please ring ..." instead of "Will someone who's here tomorrow ...". Even the use of capital letters seems to be going out of fashion, particularly in Blogs, with 'i' instead of 'I' ( I'm sorry, but I do find that really ugly).
Do you use punctuation marks? They really do add so much to the meaning of phrases and sentences. Have you ever thought that what you meant to say, and thought you were writing down, just might be interpreted by your reader as something quite different - just because of your punctuation or lack of it?
Here is a slightly tongue in cheek example of the effect of punctuation, which I found on the Internet.
Have a go at punctuating it:
dear john i want a man who knows what love is all about you are generous kind thoughtful people who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior you have ruined me for other men i yearn for you i have no feelings whatsoever when were apart i can be forever happy will you let me be yours gloria
Done it? To see the answer, View Pop Up
for the full-size page.
Tuesday, 22 February 2005
World Thinking Day
Topic: Special Days
Today, the anniversary of the double birthday of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, is the day when Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world remember each other and reaffirm their commitment to international friendship and understanding. My daughter used to be a Girl Guide - it is a wonderful organisation providing opportunities for all sorts of adventure and experiences. Camping holidays, for instance. Something I never did as a child but which my daughter and her family often enjoy today. Her best camping holiday was to the United States and she still keeps in contact with some of the friends she made over there. Now my granddaughter is following in her footsteps and has recently joined her local Rainbow Group, the youngest section of the Girl Guide movement.
The Thinking Day theme in the United Kingdom for 2005 is 'One World, One Love'. A great way to teach youngsters about customs in other countries and about tolerance and understanding of the global community. Something we could all benefit from!
To all Guiders everywhere: Have a Great Day! And a very big `Thank You' to all the volunteers who give their time to this worthwhile organisation. Without them, there would be no Rainbow, Brownies, Girl Guides, or Girl Scouts.
Monday, 21 February 2005
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Days
Topic: Special Days
Today is International Mother Language Day
and it has been observed every year since February 2000 in all UNESCO Member States. `What on earth is that all about?' I hear you say. Well, it recognises the need to improve understanding and communication among peoples and also stresses the importance of safeguarding the linguistic and cultural heritage of all of humanity and to promote multilingualism.
I talked about Language in one of my earlier posts: The Language of the Future
in which I wondered what was happening to the World's languages, how many were about to die out and what would be the prevalent language in 2100. Sadly, there is now a serious threat to linguistic diversity due to global communication and the tendency to use a single language. Visit the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages
website to find out just how many languages are threatened with extinction. You will be amazed.
International Mother Language Day is also about teaching young children - who have a remarkable ability to acquire language skills at an extremely early age - to communicate in at least two languages. At one time, the teaching of French in some British primary schools was discontinued. Now I am pleased to see that my grandchildren are learning some French words at their primary school. However, to teach children a second language, they really do need to be totally immersed in that language for at least one day a week. To do this successfully, ALL lessons on that day need to be conducted in the chosen language and all other activities, in the playground, on the sports field or even in the school canteen, should also be conducted in the chosen language. Hopefully, a future goal for our educational system? (I believe this language immersion already happens in numerous schools around the world).
Of course, many children learn to speak one language at home and another one in the community at large. This means that in all multi-ethnic communities, children should by right receive tuition in their mother language as well as in their adopted language if they are to be truly bilingual. Often young children in particular will learn better in their mother tongue instead of struggling, falling behind, being labelled "educationally challenged", sent to remedial classes and going through life disadvantaged. Too often in the past children have been actively encouraged to forget their mother tongue.
English people in particular seem to have very poor language skills. We travel to Europe and to other continents and expect every one else to speak English - and mostly everyone does. I often see reporters on television interviewing `the person on the street' in some other country and I am greatly impressed by their command of English. If a German, Spanish or Greek camera crew tried to interview us "Brits" in their respective languages they would probably stand all day on our local `High Street' and be extremely lucky to find one person, other than a foreign tourist, able to string together enough words to form a sentence. We do have our linguists, of course, but they seem to be a rare breed compared with our European cousins. Although I must say, that to his great credit, our Prime Minister, Tony Blair, can converse extremely well in French.
Many years ago, my late sister, Pauline, decided to learn some Arabic before going on holiday to Lebanon and the Holy Land. In Beirut, she noticed a marked difference in the attitude of shop keepers in particular who were impressed by her few words in their language and who seemed to greatly appreciate her courtesy in making the attempt. Why don't you enrol in a language class this year? Learning another language is rewarding and will greatly enrich your appreciation of another country or culture particularly if you plan to visit that country on your holidays.
Saturday, 19 February 2005
Boys and Their Toys
Well, my husband is really over the moon with his early birthday present, the Hitachi Portable DVD Player! We went out today to buy some little external speakers for it and now it sounds really good. He is still playing with it upstairs trying out music CDs and film DVDs.
I would never have thought of getting him that if we hadn't gone shopping together in Portsmouth last Thursday. It is a brand new model out this year and I saved about £75 in Allders closing down sale (don't bother going there, it was the only one). Even the chap who sold us the little speakers today commented on how nice it was!
Thursday, 17 February 2005
Hey Ho - Off to the Shops We Go
Topic: Family Days Out
It's half-term week and my daughter and son-in-law took have taken some time off work to do some much needed decorating - they are sprucing up the small spare room for Elliot to move into. Originally, it was the twins' nursery room, with just enough space for two cots and a little chest of drawers, until they moved into the bigger bedroom next door and into large bunk beds. Only, before that happened, two rather naughty little people had enjoyed themselves tearing at and peeling away the lovely nursery wallpaper!
So, for a change, we went over last Tuesday evening so that Mum and Dad could go out for a meal and see a film at the cinema and today, our usual `baby-sitting' afternoon and evening, we had the whole day to ourselves. Decided to go shopping in Portsmouth, about twenty miles away from where we live. It was a dullish, slightly damp day but really quite mild for the time of the year. My, aren't the shops hot - hotter than we keep our house! All the shop assistants in their thin blouses or shirts and us with our tongues hanging out! Had to remove our coats and carry them about plus all our bags of shopping.
Still, can't grumble - we got some very good bargains in the sales, including an early birthday present for my husband (a little portable DVD player). We also bought two music cd's, jazz, of course - a difficult feat as we already have a huge collection - and I found a very interesting book on "People of the Past", reduced from £25 to £9.99. It covers the pre-history of human kind and early hunter-gatherers to the end of the Stone Age - should keep me quiet for a while. It was only yesterday that I got round to watching a video recording of last week's Horizon programme on Neanderthals. Did you see it? It was very interesting; especially the compound Neanderthal skeleton that was put together using all the various skeletal remains from numerous archaeological finds. It seems that no complete Neanderthal skeleton has ever been found and that we really do not know exactly what they looked like. They are often depicted as very hairy beings with huge beards but many races of humans adapted to extreme cold, such as the Inuit, have very little facial hair. Perhaps one day, a frozen Neanderthal will emerge from some glacier. Now, that would be an exciting find!
Have you noticed that Ladies' washrooms in public places often seem to have the automatic hand dryer situated too high up on the wall? Perhaps I am beginning to shrink with age but it is annoying to find water running up your sleeves because of the angle of your arms. They must all have been installed by 6ft tall plumbers!
Sunday, 13 February 2005
The Bombing of Dresden
Today is the 60th Anniversary of the Bombing of Dresden. On the night of 13th February, RAF Bombers dropped their bomb loads over Dresden in two bombing waves. Later the next day, American bombers dropped yet more bombs on Dresden's railways and bridges. In the resulting firestorms, between 35,000 and 135,000 civilians died (there is much controversy over the exact number) and the city was razed to the ground.
Sir Arthur Travers Harris, who was Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command from 1942 to 1945, ordered the obliteration of this historic city. With hindsight, it is indeed easy to condemn the wholesale bombing of German cities as immoral and as a 'war crime'. Nevertheless, one should remember that, at the time of the Dresden raid, the action was fully supported by the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and by the Allies. Shortly afterwards, Winston Churchill did have second thoughts about the policy of bombing cities purely for the sake of terrorising the population and disrupting communication and, within a few weeks, the Allies halted all area bombing. Churchill distanced himself from Bomber Command - the debate about the morality of bombing raids was already under way.
Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris was convinced that air power would be the decisive factor in winning the war and that strategic bombing would help to prevent the whole scale slaughter of forces on the ground as had happened in the First World War. In 1942, he instigated huge waves of bomber raids on big cities such as Cologne or Hamburg in the belief that he could bring about the swift collapse of the German Reich. Later on in the war, the selective targeting of Hitler's V rocket sites and attacks on oil targets was hugely successful.
However, the collective guilt over the bombing of defenceless civilians remains. One result of all this controversy was that Bomber Command was refused their request for a special campaign medal after the war. This is also an injustice. An injustice to the extremely brave men of RAF Bomber Command, many who died for their country. Did you know that Bomber Command actually suffered a higher casualty rate than any other part of the British military with some 57, 000 to 58,000 aircrew lost? The sacrifice these young men made should be recognised. The surviving veterans also deserve recognition for their extreme bravery and patriotism. The Americans got a campaign medal, why not Bomber Command? After sixty years, isn't it time that the British Government redressed this injustice to a heroic group of men who followed orders, who believed they were assisting the war effort and who undoubtedly made it possible for the Allies to win the war?
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