Goodbye, 2020.

I shall be very pleased when this year is over, although things clearly won’t magically improve overnight. Our area in the West Midlands, UK, is now in Tier 4, which is currently the highest state of lockdown. We can buy food, or get medication, but that’s about it. Any doctor’s appointments are by phone, unless the doctor asks to see you. We’re just awaiting our vaccination letters. Hubby will get his first, as he’s 75. I’m 65, almost 66, so will have to wait for mine. Even then I don’t expect things to suddenly improve.

Decided I’d read fiction at bedtime, non-fiction in the day. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. Currently reading “Rage” by Bob Woodward, which is interesting to say the least. The Trumpster didn’t co-operate with Woodward over the last book, apparently regretted it, and has co-operated with this book. Just the conversations/interviews between the two men are interesting. I can only cope with a couple of chapters at a time, because it’s all quite intense. I am highly relieved I am retired and never had to work in such a high pressure environment.

Then we watched an episode of West Wing last night, which restored my faith in humankind. Without that, I would have no idea about how the US political system works. Mm.

It took me weeks and weeks to finish this jumper. I knitted up the whole back before I realised that I’d knitted it a size too big, and wouldn’t have enough yarn (discontinued, of course) left to finish it. Sigh. So I undid it all and started again. It has been well received, and this particular grandson is, shall we say, quite particular about what he will and won’t wear. Phew. He loves green, so I was hopeful. Love this little guy. The yarn is Bergere de France Magic+ (Aran weight), and the colour is Lichen. The pattern is called Jake. (US$5) When I was (much) younger, knitting patterns were numbered, not named. Mm.

I did have a small crochet moment or two (I was referring to it as a “frenzy” but my sister called me out on it!) and made four of these. It’s simple craft cotton, DK, and I used a 4mm hook. The pattern is Crochet Coasters (free) by Coats.

And here is some snow falling. It didn’t stick, but it is very cold and frosty here.

I wish you all a much, much better 2021.

Busy, busy.

For me, anyway. Busy for me does not equal busy for other people.

However, I have crocheted three small items (gifts so no details), continued knitting for one of the grandsons, and actually managed to wrap most of the Christmas presents. Normally most of them go into gift bags and are handed to the recipients, but of course this year they all need to be wrapped and posted. We have family and friends in Dublin, Malvern, Brighton, Southampton, France, and New Zealand. The last of these I already posted and has actually arrived.

The crochet was a bit fraught, though. I started on a thing I’ve done before, three times, without any problems. This time I just could not get it right. The edges were all over the place and the stitch count was always wrong. Eventually, after six re-starts and a new pattern, and watching very useful YouTube video tutorials on how to turn and where to poke the hook for the first stitch, I finally got my head round it. Phew. Now I have ordered some more appropriate yarn and will do some more when it arrives.

Also took the plunge and ordered new bras (see what I did there?!) We shall see what transpires.

Have spent a lot of time sleeping lately. Today I did get up but had to go back to bed at 10, and slept till 1 pm. Got up, showered and dressed (always an achievement).

We’ve been watching a three-part series on Berlin in 1945. Old diaries and old films have been skilfully put together. It was difficult to watch, particularly for me, as I have Jewish heritage, but worth it. I felt quite sorry for the people, except for one young woman who worked in an office, when she wrote how dreadful it was for “we Germans” to demean themselves. She was talking about the manual work, collecting and sorting bricks. When I’ve seen the photos of women doing that I’ve always assumed they self-organised. Nope. No. They were organised by Russians, or British, or Americans, and clearly resented that, and doing the manual work. Hmph.

Have also just finished reading “The Good Germans” which was very interesting and surprising. I read “The Good German of Nanking” years ago and was profoundly touched. I also have “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, which tells a very different story about how normalised and widespread anti-Semitism had been for many years before WWII. So it was heartening, and good for me, to read about high-ranking Nazis who were what was referred to as “Beefsteaks” – brown on the outside and “red” on the inside, which means that they were secretly anti-Hitler and did all they could to subvert his policies. For example, one particular senior Nazi was also a Quaker, and managed to arrange for various Jewish people to be sent to Quaker houses in America.

Sometimes I think some of us (certainly I do) live in an echo chamber, so that our own views are reflected back to us and hardly ever challenged. So I do try to understand other points of view when I can.

I even feel a little bit (only a very little bit) sorry for Trump. He is acting, in my view, like a spoiled 74 year old child, refusing to accept he lost. Thank goodness the judges and the courts are upholding the law and ignoring the tantrums.

It feels a bit calmer now and I have hope that a smooth transfer of power can actually take place. Mm.

Musings

Well. Have given up knitting for now. Also gardening. The last bit I did caused so much pain I just can’t deal with it again.

So we’re investigating getting a regular gardener. It would be good if they mowed the lawn as well, because my guess is they’ll do the edging too, which hubby does not.

Getting quotes for trimming the leylandii, the willow, the lilac and the winged spindle (which has got way too big for its boots), and getting the front lawn laid to [moss] clover, not moss! The one guy has sourced [moss] clover turf, which is great, and means it won’t need to be seeded. Also a small rockery in one corner of the front to stop people reversing over the lawn. And lawn edging of some sort – the same guy suggested wood. Just waiting for the quote now.

None of this will happen until September, when the growing season is done.

Quizzing tonight. Hubby is insisting on reading out the questions, despite the fact that I’ve gone to a deal of trouble to make each round accessible via WhatsApp. I’ve told him that’s fine for his rounds, but for the ones I’ve devised, I’m not going to. Things may change before the quiz starts. Sigh.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ve been noticing a great deal of white people saying stuff publicly on social media like “but we abolished slavery!” “but we’re not racist!”. It’s making me so cross. It’s as if there is no such thing as white privilege, because white people aren’t on the wrong end of it, so they don’t see it. “We abolished slavery” does NOT absolve anybody for it being a thing in the first place. A lot of the UK’s money came from slavery. It’s dreadful. It’s very uncomfortable. But we need to acknowledge it and understand it, however awful.

There’s a guy called David Olusoga, a mixed heritage historian and presenter,  who shines a light into the darkest recesses of history, gently but firmly. He’s excellent. Then there’s Akala, musician, rapper, university professor, and writer.  Also mixed heritage, and as sharp as a tack. I’ve just read his book “Natives” and it’s really excellent. Made me think. A lot. I mention the mixed heritage because it means that these guys are regarded as Black, and have been on the receiving end of all sorts of crap. So they know what it’s like. They’ve been there.

And police brutality. Hmph. Suspension is just not enough. In my (not so) humble opinion, if a police officer is deemed to have used too much force, suspension should be the start of it. The end of it should be in court. It’s not ok to just discipline them. I acknowledge and am glad that many police officers are wonderful, helpful people, with exactly the right mindset to do the job. But – and it’s a big but – some aren’t.

And as for The Trumpster, don’t even get me started. I might get a bit ranty, and that would not be a good thing. Seems to me like somebody is trying to start a civil war.

And on that happy note I’m going to stop now.

 

“interesting times”

Well, in the UK, at least.

I’ve been trying not to get too depressed about the news, but today I was cheered up a little because Scotland’s highest civil court has ruled the suspension of Parliament unlawful. There will be an appeal next week but fingers crossed.

It’s “interesting” because we’re just watching a series on TV about the rise of the Nazis, and we’ve just got to 1933, when government simply got rid of all the inconvenient checks and balances and took over the police, the press, anything that got in their way. As I’m of Jewish heritage (from my dad and his family) I am particularly interested in this stuff.

Anyway, anyway. Did a bit of gardening yesterday – hubby got out the electric handsaw and pruned some very over-exuberant shrubs, I picked up the debris, cut it smaller, and put it in our green wheelie bin. Which, I may say, is now full to bursting.

Today went to the hospital for my eyes to be checked. Tomorrow off to the osteopath. And all last week was not at all well with an infection which actually needed antibiotics. A three day course and I’m much better now, if somewhat thinner. (no, not D & V! I just don’t eat when I’m ill).

Managed a bit of knitting, finally, and it’s a toy, so small pieces. Quite satisfying really.

Just drinking a very welcome cup of tea after my afternoon sleep and then I’ll do the shopping list. We have it delivered so it’s “do the list, log in, order it all, and wait for them to arrive”. Excellent. Much better now we have broadband. In the early days with a dial-up connection (remember those?) the whole thing would crash half way through an order. Very frustrating.

 

What a mess!

Election.
Brexit.
London Bridge attack.
Grenfell House fire.
Mosque attack.

It couldn’t really be much more depressing.

The government is in complete disarray, having failed to win a working majority. So now they’re trying to do a deal with the most right-wing party they can find who actually have some seats at Westminster. Trouble is, this party (the DUP) don’t believe in evolution, they are anti-abortion even in the case of rape, they’re almost fundamentalist Protestants. So that’s not going terribly well, really.

Brexit – after all the bluster and braggadocio, we have caved on Day One of negotiations.

London Bridge – more terrorism, more people hurt and killed.

Grenfell House – a disaster just waiting to happen. Dreadful tower block fire, we still don’t know how many people died, and there are still survivors who have nowhere to live/sleep.

And a lone man drove his van into worshippers outside a mosque, hurt several people and killed a man who was already receiving first aid on the pavement. More terrorism. What is it about religion that makes people so damned angry?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On the positive side, there’s what? the weather? I hate it. Hate it with a passion. The heat and humidity reduce me to a sweaty puddle. Thank goodness it’s normal temperatures now (17 deg C). Roll on autumn, say I. Much more my bag.

But LCS did like the Superman outfit I knitted for his baby doll. And I’ve made one shawlette (Pimpelliese) and am happily knitting another one (Close to You).

And the garden is looking fabulous, though I did manage to kill a potted lavender through sheer neglect. Oh, lavenders like it dry, I thought to myself. Until I had a look this morning and it’s sort of grey and crispy. Oh dear. The poppies have been spectacular, my single peony looked lovely, and I have plans to plant and pot up more stuff. But need a new lavender now. Oops.

 

I can’t believe it’s April already!

Have been meaning to blog for weeks and weeks now. I’m not sure, to be honest, where the time goes. I’m retired! but my diary is fuller now than ever. Note to self: Keep at least two, preferably three, days a week clear.

Had a wonderful birthday a couple of weeks ago. A lovely, relaxed day, dinner with hubby that night, excellent. And last night we went for another meal out as it was our 16th wedding anniversary. We’ve been together for 25 years now, but it took us a while to tie the knot  … … …

ESW is now three months old and an absolute delight. Happy, chuckly, coos and gurgles. There are still some difficult nights but generally I think she’s turned a corner. Mum and Dad are looking less fraught and more relaxed too.

LCS is almost 17 months old, also a joy. Happy, happy little boy. Smiley, cuddly, fun to be around. Love them both so much.

Been knitting and crocheting up a storm. I learned how to do Amigurumi style crochet, and although I need some more practice, it’s going ok really.

Starting a new project tonight – in a beautiful linen yarn – and it’s a shawlette. Love shawlettes. Who knew?

Also went and supported the junior doctors in their strike action a couple of times – first time it was really cold and raining. Second time much more clement weather. Made a two-sided poster, which is fairly sturdy. So I’m quite pleased about that.

 

And what about the Panama papers? about damn time. Very interesting that only three members of the Tory cabinet were clear about their non-use of off-shore tax havens, the others would not reply. Ha.

Need to get in the garden more. I’ve done some spring-cleaning, but now I need to give the lilac bush a jolly good talking-to, in the form of a hard prune, and I also need to get some ericaceous compost, cut the haggard pieris back, and top dress it. Next week hopefully.

Feeling a bit ranty.

Went to a hustings on Wednesday night about the NHS. Five Parliamentary candidates were there, Labour, Tory, Lib-Dem, Green and UKIP.

Questions were asked by the audience and taken by the panel, with time to read them first.

I sat next to a guy who was clearly a rabid right-wing Tory.  Every time equality, or tax, or narrowing the gap between rich and poor, was mentioned, he tutted loudly or groaned aloud (along with a sizeable portion of the rest of the audience). At one point somebody else, while making a point, said he was a member of the union UNISON. And this guy next to me muttered “There’s a surprise”. I couldn’t hold back any longer. Up to that point I had managed to contain myself, and clap loudly the Labour or Green candidates, and ostentatiously *not* clap the Tory/UKIP candidates. But this was a step too far. So I turned to him and said “That’s a Bad Thing, is it?” and he had no response.

How can people openly be scornful of equality? what is wrong with equality? How is it a Bad Thing? I suppose if you’re very rich you just don’t want to share your goodies with the very poor. The attitude seems to be that rich people are rich because they’re better, somehow, innately superior, and poor people are poor because they’re just stupid or inferior in some way. I have actually heard this said. There seems to be a selfish meanness among many middle-class people. Resentful of the poor, who are portrayed as taking away their “hard-earned” money, and resentful of the rich, who are what they aspire to be.

It’s just mean, mean-spirited, nasty and selfish. I’d happily pay more tax if it would make a fairer society, or help the NHS. It would make hardly any difference to me, and so much difference to those less fortunate.

What is bad about being in a trade union? I suppose if you’re a boss of a company you see the union as a barrier to exploiting the workforce even more than they’re already exploited. But if you’re an employee, being in a union is absolutely essential to make sure you aren’t taken advantage of (to put it mildly), summarily sacked, employed with unfair or unreasonable terms and conditions, bullied – the list goes on.

Is tax a bad thing? If you’re really rich you can maybe afford your own security guards, private health and private education. So you wouldn’t, like normal people, like me, need state-provided health care, education or police. In Scandinavia the taxes are much higher, but then the state-provided services are much better. And it’s a much fairer, more equal, society.

How do rich people manage in a recession? they sell a house abroad, or possibly a field, or maybe a horse or two.

How do poor people manage in a recession? they decide whether to eat or heat the house (for which they may be paying extortionate rent). They go to food banks and eat what they’re given.

Take a look at this page. It explains in detail how benefits are dished out. You can clearly see that a very large proportion is on pensions, but the right-wing would have us believe most of the money is spent on “skivers” rather than “strivers”. Why are the poor demonised? let’s have a go at the bankers, who caused, let’s not forget, a global recession, not just one in this country. And they’re still laughing all the way to the, erm, bank.

I saw one stupid rich woman post on the internet that the way for poor people to eat better is to “plant a small orchard”. What planet does she live on? where does she think they will plant one tree, never mind several? how does she think they can afford to buy a tree? how long do trees take to bear fruit? Honestly. And I can’t remember which politician said that poor people don’t know how to cook, and when she was called on it, her excuse was “oh I was speaking unscripted.” That means she meant it, and wasn’t following the autocue. That’s not ok.

There is a sharply defined class system in this country. There is a forelock-tugging sycophancy to anybody remotely royal/rich/upper class. Why? I was delighted to hear Andy Murray’s wedding today described as “Scotland’s Royal Wedding”. At least he’s done something to deserve the adoration and fuss. Go you, Andy Murray.

During the French Revolution, there was undisguised panic by the upper classes in this country. What if the masses decided to revolt like those across the Channel? I don’t understand, I really don’t, why there isn’t a “Peasants’ Revolt” brewing now. Maybe there is, and the media just aren’t covering it, because the media know on which side their bread is buttered, and by whom.

Social media helps. Stuff that isn’t broadcast by the press is often on facebook. There are lobbying groups like sumofus.org and 38degrees.com. Owen Jones is a very interesting, articulate guy. Go and see him if you can. He’s on TV a lot and very good.

Think I’m done now. But I’m still quite cross.

 

Feeling a bit ranty

Went to see Owen Jones on Wednesday night. He is amazing. A left wing journalist now author, he’s inspirational. And I knew I would get all harrumphy, and I am.

So here’s what I think.

  • Let’s stop blaming poor people for being poor.
  • Let’s stop blaming immigrants for taking our jobs (they’re not) or claiming benefits (they’re not).
  • Let’s place the blame squarely where it belongs. With the bankers, the powerful wealthy, those who made huge mistakes (or even possibly committed fraud), and caused the recession.
  • Rich people, when money is tighter, have to decide whether to sell the horses, the paddock, or possibly even their holiday home abroad.
  • Poor people, when money is tighter, have to decide whether to eat or keep warm. Or whether to eat or catch the bus to work.
  • The government, and the media is actively complicit in this, like to divide us up into groups, and then set us all against each other. That way they stay powerful. For example the phrase “workers and shirkers” implies that people at work don’t need to claim benefits, but people without jobs do. The greater part of benefits claimed is actually by people who are in work, but are so poorly paid that they still can’t afford to live.
  • A proper living wage, properly enforced, would make a huge difference to this state of affairs.
  • Immigrants are blamed because they are immigrants. It’s a visceral, tribal response to anybody who is different, or “other” from us. But we’re all people. We all need warmth, food, shelter, and somewhere to bring up our children. As long as we all obey the law of the land we live in, what’s the problem?
  • And don’t even get me started on religion.