Sunday, August 30, 2015

Europe Under Siege

From Africa, from the Middle East, and from parts of Asia, they come in their thousands. By boat, by train, by car and on foot, with no invitation and nowhere to go they come week after week. A human tide of migrants and refugees pouring into Europe looking for salvation and a better life. 

Some are genuine refugees from war and strife and others are merely economic migrants, taking this opportunity to merge in with the rest that are fleeing for their lives. By so doing they don't need passports or identity cards, just the clothes they're standing in. Their hope is that force of numbers will enable them to overcome all obstacles and enter where otherwise they would have been sent back lacking as they do any papers.

Hundreds and hundreds of them have already perished at sea attempting the crossing of the Mediterranean, others on land in the back of lorries, but they still come undaunted, convinced that thus may be their only chance before the doors close as more and more European countries take action to limit the incomers.

Many will indeed be taken in and many others corralled until a decision on their future can be taken, and many of these will be returned to their countries of origin. Many of those may well make further attempts to get back into Europe and some may succeed, it's hard to know. Their need makes them obstinate and bold and even foolhardy and they no longer fear the police or border guards.

I suppose the question to be asked is how many migrants and refugees can Europe take? Certain countries, such as France, Germany and Great Britain, already have large immigrant populations, sections of which have never really integrated, let alone been assimilated. The migrants are overwhelmingly black Africans, Arabs, and Asians, most of them Muslim, and the countries they're making for are overwhelmingly white and Christian and with very different cultures, all potential points of conflict. But the migrants have little care for this and they keep coming, and the more that are taken in the more are encouraged to try their luck. 

When the flow of wretched humanity will come to an end no-one knows and in the meantime Europe is at a loss as what to do. Send them back is easier said than done and may be condemned on ethical grounds, but to let them all in, hundreds of thousands, may well destabilise Europe and create social unrest and upheaval, a terrifying prospect. That is the last thing that is wanted. But when people feel threatened by large numbers of incoming foreigners, so different in their looks, speech and faith, they become less tolerant and more resentful and often there is a violent backlash from them. That is a normal reaction.

I may come back to this in the ensuing days as this human tragedy unfolds, as it is unlikely to end anytime soon and there may be worse to come.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Day Called 'Frustration'!

You know those days in one's life when hardly anything goes the way you want and when you wonder why you bothered to get out of bed in the morning. They are not tragic days or days of great sadness, and in terms of serious setback they rank very low and I would not even pretend they come anywhere near, but they do end up with you trying to pull your hair out and fuming as you stomp around in less than righteous anger at the frustrations of that day. Well, I had one such day a little while back and this was it:
I decided after lunch on that day that I would take a break from my work to get a long-overdue haircut. I work for myself, so in theory I can do this anytime. I stress the 'in theory', as it's seldom that straightforward, but alright, it's nothing out of the ordinary.
As I was on the point of leaving the house the phone rings and, not wanting to lose a possible job, I answer it. However, the caller drones on and, though it is about a possible job, it does not result in anything and I put the receiver down, irritated at the needless delay it has caused me.
On checking my change, I find I don't have enough cash to pay the barber and there's nothing for it but to make a stop at a cash dispenser in the high street to withdraw a few readies.
So I drive off to the high street where all the cash machines are, but, as luck would have it, I cannot find a parking-place even after two passes down the length of the street and I am forced to use the local car park where I have of course to pay a parking charge and then walk all the way back to the nearest dispenser.
On arrival at the nearest dispenser I see a message on the screen informing me that it is out of service. As it's starting to get a bit late in the afternoon, I decide to phone my barber and find out what time he will be closing on that day, as he is in his late sixties, works alone and closes earlier than the normal business hours. However, as try to make a phone call, I find that my mobile phone is switching off at each attempt and I realise it's out of charge and that I cannot use it.
With little cash, no working phone, I decide to drive to the nearby supermarket where I can do a quick shop and get some cash-back at the till and then head for my barber's in the hope that he hasn't yet shut up shot.
At the supermarket, madness befalls me and I take a large trolley which requires a refundable fee before it will be released and, still gripped by some sort of lunacy, I make for the gardening section to load up with a bumper-size bag of compost, only to find there isn't any of the supermarket's usual, just smaller bags twice the price, and so as my blood begins to boil I drop that and content myself with a couple of items which I didn't really need anyway but which will enable me to get cash-back at the till.
I join the queue at a cash-desk - well, when I say queue, it's composed solely of one little old lady - and when the moment of payment arrives she asks for a cash-back of £50, the maximum. When my turn comes I too ask for cash-back but I am duly informed that that is the last bit of cash available for the day and that instead I can use the cash dispenser in the supermarket, which is what I do, realising at the same time that I could have done that in the first place and not bothered with the handful of groceries. But there you are, we are always wise after the event or at least we are not to know that at the time.

By now, of course, it's getting late and I realise it's too late to go for my haircut, as I will have to pay to park and the chances are that the shop will already be closed, so I decide to admit defeat and leave it for today. There can surely not be two days like this one in the same week, can there? My laughable ill-fortune is however not over for the day. There is more to come to crown it all and assure my complete frustration!

Before returning home, however, I drop by the petrol-station to fill up. On arrival there, all the pumps are busy and so I join the queue to await my turn. Eventually my turn comes and, having filled up, I go into the shop to pay and join another queue there. On coming back out, I see an uninhabited wilderness before me: not a single car to be seen on the forecourt and all the pumps available for use. It seems the congestion only occurred for my benefit and once I had been through the mill everything cleared up again. Nevertheless, to disprove this cockamamie theory of mine I decide to linger at the forecourt for a moment and see when the next car comes. After waiting in vain for some time, with the forecourt still deserted of all life and with my theory of my supernatural persecution confirmed, I start up the car and just as I am heading out I spot in my rear-view mirror one car and then another entering the forecourt. Theory empirically proven!

The final indignity comes when I get home and realise that I have forgotten to collect my anti-cholesterol pills from the self-same supermarket in which I had been earlier on in an attempt to get some cash for the barber's. As I'm too drained of energy by now and weakened by frustration, I decide it is best left for tomorrow when, hopefully, Sod's Law will have eased up and allow me to get something done. Today nothing can be done, at least not without maximum frustration and loss of the will to live!

This has been a day to forget. Over and out....

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Into the New Year...

We're well into another year, 2013, and for the superstitious the 13 on the end may not be too welcome, but could it be worse than the last year, or, come to that, the last few years with all economic crisis and all the doom and gloom that accompanies it? We'll see, and we haven't long to wait. By all accounts, it's more of the same and so far doesn't look very different, but let's be fair and give it a chance, it may surprise us.

After the Christmas festivities and the emotions of New Year's Eve, the entry of the New Year can only be an anticlimax. I had hoped we might get some snow around Christmas, but it was not to be. Last year it came in February and was substantial and made up for none around Christmas. Weather patterns have changed quite a bit since I was a boy and the seasons seem to have shifted. But why should the weather not change over the years, everything else has!

The world today is a very different one from that just 2-3 decades ago, and if we go back a little further it's like being on another planet! Thanks to scientific discovery and technological invention our world is in constant rapid change, with computers and mobile phones and other electronic devices leading the way and transforming our lives for better or worse. Either way, we have no control over these developments and we strive to at least keep up with them, not always with success. But there seems to be no other way to go even if we wanted to.

As our world around us changes, we too change with the advancing years. Some of us change in tandem with the changes going on around us and some of us lag behind, the gap growing wider with each successive technological innovation and new way of functioning in an ever more complicated society. I know that as electronic gadgets and devices become ever more advanced and supposedly easier and more intuitive, instead of simplifying things for me they complicate my life. The phone and the computer which were so easy to use once upon a time now require a lot of concentration and effort from me, as they are so replete with functions and options that I hardly know what I'm doing anymore. Even what seems to be a straightforward list of options presented to me becomes an almost insurmountable barrier of proposed new changes that leaves me spoilt for choice but confused for the same reason, so I tick one box and hope it's the right one for me!

Well, we've had the snows, the cold frosty weather, the icy winds, the flooding rains, the gradual thaw, and now in mid-February things have warmed up a little, but there's no guarantee that the sudden onset of mild weather will take us into spring. Many times before we've had worse weather as we've gone into March and April, and there have been years where we did not get any consistent warm-to-hot temperatures till July! From this you will deduce that here in the United Kingdom the weather is highly changeable and unpredictable from day to day, hence the reason we Brits talk about it so much and have made it our number one topic of conversation calculated to bore the pants of any non-Briton! But there you have it - it is what it is and has made us what we are and this isn't likely to change for several millennia to come when there might occur a massive meteorological upheaval. 

And this is where I finally conclude this post which has gone on for rather longer than I had anticipated and has been revisited various times by me over several weeks in an attempt to complete it before the end of this year and the advent of a new year, namely 1914! 

Friday, December 14, 2012

An astronomer and a gentleman

A few days ago I was saddened to hear of the passing-away of Sir Patrick Moore (aged 89), astronomer and broadcaster extraordinaire, who, among many other pursuits and accomplishments, was best known for hosting his flagship tv programme 'The Sky at Night' for a record 50 years plus. It is not my intention to list his many talents and achievements, these can easily be ascertained on the Web and elsewhere. The point of this post of mine is simply to record his passing and his significance for me.

In a way, Patrick Moore bears a similar relationship to me in my later adolescent and early adult years as did  the comic books I read in my childhood years (see 'Death of a comic book'). He represented a particular phase of my life which left its indelible mark on me. Through his programme he contributed to arousing in me a strong interest in astronomy which led me to read books on the subject and eventually, when I had the money for it, to buy a decent refractor telescope so I too could survey the heavens and identify cosmic bodies. 

Patrick Moore was perhaps the last of a dying breed of gentlemen scholars and amateur enthusiasts: eccentric but not over the top, enthusiastic but not ostentatious, passionate but not exaggerated, meticulous but not pedantic. I suppose the word that best describes him and which appears here more than once is 'enthusiastic'. And his enthusiasm was contagious to all those who had an interest in his field of expertise. He had the knack of carrying his viewer or listener along at a fast pace and of holding his attention right to the end. And by the end of his programme one always felt that one had learnt something.

With his monocle, rapid speech, single-mindedness and rather sedate manner of dressing, Patrick Moore may have looked every bit the part of the absent-minded and unkempt professor but he was certainly not absent-minded, rather very quick-witted, and his ungroomed appearance betokened a man more interested in sharing his field of expertise and his enthusiasm with his public and his followers than in preening himself! With Patrick Moore, you got what you saw and the impression I got was of a very genuine man absorbed in his subject and eager to share his knowledge with us.

The very little I have written above hardly does justice to the man but I have tried to portray the essence of the man in a few words and convey the place he held in my esteem and the part he played in my life as a teenager and a young adult. Later in life I got caught up in the maelstrom of adult life and all the responsibilities that come with it, but from time to time I would tune in to his programme late at night and somehow it was a comforting feeling knowing that he was there as always. Now that he's gone, it won't be the same without him, and I will miss the old soldier! 

Farewell, Patrick, Gentleman Scholar, may you rest in peace among the planets and stars in the heavens which were your playground since your boyhood years!

Winter Hues in Stained Glass

Winter Hues in Stained Glass
As the nights grow longer and the days grow shorter, the cold begins to tighten its grip.

The Fair Ophelia

The Fair Ophelia
Ophelia, thou fairest of maidens, what beholdest thou in thy reflection?

Autumn colours - As cores de Outono

Autumn colours - As cores de Outono
Trees in their multicoloured autumnal apparel, a kaleidescope of hues and shades.

Poppy Field

Poppy Field
"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us and Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today"