The World in Chaos

Open any newspaper or magazine and be prepared to feel suicidal! Obviously only negative newsfeed sells! Death, destruction, new untreatable viruses, new research on which foods cause cancer, the mess being created by so many politicians all over the world – the list goes on and on. What does one do to try to remain positive when surrounded by all this negative hype?

Emigrate? Where to and who can afford to emigrate anyway? The super rich are probably not in the slightest bit affected by negative news stories. With enough money and time on one’s hands it is easy enough to jet off to a paradise island where one can be pampered and waited on hand and foot and to heck with the rest of the world! No need to relocate if you are in a position to flit all over the world as the whim takes you. However, that is not the situation for the average human being.

Most of us have to try to find ways to constantly look on the bright side of life. Getting rid of televisions, radios and cancelling newspaper deliveries may seem like a good idea for some, but that really is taking the ostrich approach. After all, an intelligent human being does need to keep relatively in tune with what is going on in the world especially when one is dealing with people on a daily basis in one’s line of business.  I know a very well qualified woman who practices alternative treatments  who has absolutely no idea of what is happening in the world outside her practice due to no television, no radio and no newspapers either.  Searching for Utopia is really a pipe dream!

“Learn from yesterday, Live for today, Hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is to not stop questioning” – Albert Einstein

Handling the negative articles is the trick.  Maybe one should limit the amount of news that one watches or reads and search for at least one feel good article to balance things out. The trouble is that often the graphics are so vivid relating to an horrendous world event, that it is virtually impossible to blot out the mental images which remain. Exercise has been proven to improve one’s mood positively due to the influx of endorphins which the brain produces during vigorous routines.  Then it makes good sense to try to fit in a regular exercise regime as often as is possible during one’s normally weekly schedule.

Owning a pet can be therapeutic – depending on the particular animal’s behaviour pattern. Making the time to just stroke the cat, or walk the dog or, if one is a fish fancier, to watch them glide by in the fish tank can calm one down and minimise or even dismiss negative thoughts. I don’t know how true it is, but I did hear that psychiatrists often have a fish tank in their rooms as an antidote to stress? Is it to de-stress themselves or their troubled patients?

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I know that when I was studying psychology, I did find that several of my lecturers who had their own private practices seemed to be more in need of therapy than some of their patients possibly did. One in particular couldn’t stop fidgeting with a string of some or other totem which to some extent reminded one of worry beads. He was possibly a chain smoker, but whilst giving his lecture was under great duress, having to forego his favourite brand. Thus the fidgeting, whilst disturbing his students, may have been his means of controlling his urge to light up.

Then there was another lecturer who had assisted in setting the final paper and he gave us what he called very important tips on what were the most important areas to study on when preparing for our final exam in abnormal psychology. We were told what to highlight and what could be ignored. Come exam time and none of the areas he had told us to concentrate on were even mentioned in the paper!  Surely he must have had psychotic tendencies or was he just a mean devil!

Unless you are in a position to hibernate and ignore everything that is going on around you, then finding your own personal form of coping with the world at large really is a lifetime occupation. The majority of us manage to get on with life despite the curved balls we receive on a regular basis. The well-known saying of “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone” probably goes a long way to helping us to think twice about jumping off that bridge and floating into oblivion. So, let’s turn off the media, grab the dog’s lead and, with a smile on our face, go for a well deserved run in the park!

Just before I post this article, it is extremely saddening to read of the extent of the damage caused to the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris and one can only hope that, with all the donations which have already flooded in for repair purposes, it will one day be restored to its original magnificence.

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Easter and the Bunny

Easter is a very important part of the Christian calendar whereby the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ is commemorated.  However, regardless of the religious connection, children the world over have learnt to associate Easter with that much loved chap, the Easter Bunny. He is often used, nowadays much like Santa Claus, as a blackmailing tool by parents to ensure that their offspring behave well in the days leading up to Easter in order to receive delicious chocolate eggs.

Much can be researched regarding the origin of the Easter Bunny and why he brings eggs as well as the significance of eggs at this time of year. For, after all, bunnies don’t lay eggs! It all has to do with eggs and rabbits being symbols of fertility, dating back to pagan times, although there is a connection with German Lutherans who believed in the ”Osterhase” or Easter hare. When these German Lutheran immigrants arrived in Pennsylvania, USA, in the 1700’s they took this tradition with them. Apparently, the Easter Hare was originally depicted as a kind of judge of children’s good or bad behaviour.  Only the well behaved children would receive Easter eggs. The tradition of the rabbit bringing eggs was then passed on to future generations and still prevails.

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It must be rather confusing for children to make sense of a bunny bringing eggs, but all things considered, the end result isn’t confusing at all! However, I have heard of several occasions where the bunny decided to hide the eggs all around the garden, and in the morning all that was left was shreds of shiny foil wrappers. The family dog had woken up after the bunny had fled in fright no doubt, and devoured the entire hoard of chocolate delights long before the children had woken up.  Apart from heartbroken children, it is to be hoped that the dogs in question survived the feast with no ill effects!

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Anyway, as we approach the Easter weekend (except for the Orthodox Greeks who celebrate Easter later than other churches) it is to be hoped that the bunny is up to the momentous task of delivering all those eggs and that the family dogs are kept safely out of his path.

May I take this opportunity of wishing those of you who are taking a break from your usual routine to enjoy this time with your families and to stay safe wherever you may be, especially if you are travelling. A very happy Easter to you all.

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Fragrant Prawn Curry

This prawn curry is really simple to make and takes no time at all., however care should be taken not to overcook the prawns.

Ingredients

  • 750g – 1Kg raw peeled prawns, tails left on
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 heaped Tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tsp castor sugar
  • 1 Tbsps. tomato paste
  • 300ml fish stock
  • 1 tin coconut milk 400ml
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Basmati rice to serve

Method

  • Add the turmeric and lime juice to the raw prawns. Gently mix to ensure all prawns are well coated and marinade for 20 minutes.
  • Heat a good splash of olive oil in a pan and when hot, fry the prawns in batches making sure not to crowd the pan, until coloured but not cooked all the way through
  • Remove prawns and set aside, covered with a dish towel whilst you make the sauce.
  • Heat 2 Tblsps. of olive oil in a heavy based pan and gently fry the cumin, fenugreek and mustard seeds until the mustard seeds start popping and spices are fragrant
  • Add the chilli and curry leaves and fry until curry leaves are wilted
  • Add ginger and garlic gently fry for about a minute or two, taking care not to burn the garlic
  • Add the tomato paste and fry for a minute
  • Add the fish stock, coconut milk and sugar to the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer and continue to simmer the sauce uncovered for about 15-20 minutes
  • Add the prawns back to the sauce and very gently simmer until the prawns are just cooked through – about 3-5 minutes
  • Season with salt and pepper according to taste
  • Serve in bowls with basmati rice

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Homophobia

Just a while ago I heard on a news report that in Tanzania (as in many other parts of Africa), it is a criminal offence to be openly gay. This on a continent where those who have fat cat bank balances (often through foul means rather than fair)  tend to be ardent fans of designer clothes, accessories and top of the range motor vehicles. Perhaps those who advocate homophobia and wish to punish same sex couples should take the time to think about those items which they love to flout. It is a fact that many artists and designers are gay. It would appear that there is a strong correlation between right brain activity and, therefore, creativity, and homosexuality. Therefore, if you are obsessed with heterosexuality and are negatively disposed towards gays, lesbians, and transgender people, you should avoid purchasing anything which comes from the creative genius of someone who may fit into one of the aforementioned categories. Something to ponder perhaps.

What is it about being gay that offends homophobes? Is it perhaps that psychologically they are projecting their own unexpressed personal tendency to homosexuality onto those who are living a gay life? How on earth, in the age in which we are living, can people be prevented from being honest about who they are and who they wish to have as their partner? This is not about molestation, paedophilia or any of the other totally unacceptable behaviours which are just too prevalent in the world, but rather about freedom to be who you were meant to be.

 

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All foetuses begin life as female – hence the fact that both males and females have nipples. The gender of the foetus is only determined around six to eight weeks after conception. If the amount of male hormones called androgens which are needed to ensure that the developing foetus becomes a boy are out of sync, then the result could be a male child with a brain which is more feminine than masculine- a little boy who would become more and more gay in his behaviour as he reached puberty.  Another scenario is possibly a boy being born with a fully functioning female brain but having male genitalia. This child could become transgender –growing up always feeling that he is trapped in the wrong body. These are the people who often try to have the necessary, albeit radical, surgery in order to function more fully as their preferred gender. This subject is one which has been discussed and documented by many experts in the field of not only psychology, but physiology and no doubt gay rights organizations as well, so let me not gravitate too much away from the initial reason for this post.

Once people understand that homosexuality and same sex preference in choosing a partner possibly occurred in the womb, and is not a matter of choice, then surely there should be a total turn around in attitude towards homosexuality and transgenderism regardless of the country in which people happen to live? One can argue for hours about nature or nurture being the cause of someone being gay, but the fact of the matter is that many gay individuals were possibly the result of the incorrect amount of hormones at the time when the sex was being determined in the womb.

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An absolute travesty is that in Tanzania, and many other countries in Africa, as well as other parts of the globe including China, being gay is considered a crime. It seems crazy that, in ancient Greece, it was considered the norm for wealthy Greek men to have sex with good looking young men.  No-one was jailed for homosexual acts in those days! Religious beliefs have been instrumental in creating many evils in the world, as well as barbaric events, but it is unthinkable that people are being encouraged to report anyone suspected of being gay (in Tanzania) with the result that those being reported face being incarcerated. If one considers that being gay and living one’s life without interfering negatively with the well-being of other people then it just doesn’t make any sense to treat gay people as criminals. It is a fact that in many of the areas in Africa, where being gay is a crime, these same countries still advocate female circumcision. Potentially permanently damaging female bodies in the name of tradition surely constitutes a crime against humanity whereas being gay and choosing a partner of the same sex cannot in any thinking person’s mind be deemed to be a crime. Something just does not gel.

The more one ponders the many ridiculous laws as well as outdated, and more specifically, inhumane practices in many quarters of our complicated and diverse planet, the less one can understand the human race! As I mentioned above, there are little girls still being forced to undergo female genital mutilation in many non-Western countries. In years to come many of these girls become incontinent after giving birth due to the damage done when they were circumcised.  As these circumcisions are not being performed under hygienic hospital conditions, children can bleed to death during the process. There are lobbyists trying to have this barbaric practice outlawed, but it is no mean feat to change tradition especially when the mothers of these girls are in favour of the practice.

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As the saying goes: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change! Many countries on the African continent have no desire to change and that is why it is so unsettling to realise that one takes freedom of choice very much for granted. Thus the reason to be concerned when one considers those children born into oppressive, backward thinking societies who are very unlikely to ever be in a position to live their lives free of all the prohibitions which their forebears have accepted unquestioningly for centuries. So much to think about and to celebrate if you are someone who is free to make choices as long as those choices do not harm another individual.

“It is not for me to judge another person’s life. I must judge,
I must choose, I must spurn purely for myself alone
.” – Herman Hesse 

The Armchair Travelogue

Interesting places to visit.

It is a fact that if one is able to travel to other countries outside one’s own, the experiences gained  and the memories made often shape one’s attitude to the world at large. Depending on where one lives permanently it may be a stone’s throw to visit neighbouring countries at a fairly reasonable cost.  For others it could be that travelling overseas is a once in a lifetime occurrence and much planning may be needed to get the most out of the trip.

My plan for this segment of the blog is to whet the appetite of those fortunate enough to plan their next holiday or sightseeing trip as well as to entertain those  who are too busy to travel or who through their circumstances are avid armchair travellers. I sincerely hope that over the next few months you will find something of interest in at least one or two of the articles I plan to post. It could even be that you are tempted  to visit some of the places which I will be writing about in the future.

Ivrea – Northern Italy

The industrial city of Ivrea, the headquarters of Olivetti, known world-wide for being innovators in the past of typewriters, and later computers, situated in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, was declared a world heritage site in 2018. This came about due to the successful and unique design  of the area in order to develop the testing ground for the headquarters of Olivetti (incorporating the factory as well as accommodation) by leading urban planners between the 1930’s and 1960’s,to create a modern version of the relationship between industrial production and architecture.

Having once been fortunate enough to have lived in Ivrea, for several months, I remember how I faced the prospect of the move with a great deal of trepidation. I had a two year old child, and had visions of doing the daily washing down at a local stream with a load of unsophisticated local women. Oh boy, how wrong can one be – thankfully! All the mod cons were available and the furnished apartment we rented had a washing machine!! The local people were anything but unsophisticated and my husband and I both had Italian lessons with a lady from whom we learnt not only to speak the language, but also to appreciate some of the culinary delights.

Such an absolute privilege, looking back, to have had the many experiences we had during our sojourn in Ivrea, and later in Milano. Our time in Ivrea actually coincided with the traditional Carnevale d’Ivrea and the battle of the oranges, which takes place annually shortly before Lent. The only year it was cancelled was in 1960 due to the death of Adriano Olivetti. Watching the following video confirms that many traditions have stood the test of time and will no doubt continue to do so.

Firstly, a short description of the town of Ivrea. Steeped in history, there are still cobbled streets in some areas which are juxtaposed with modern shops and restaurants – old and new side by side.  Situated at the edge of the Aosta valley, Ivrea has the Alps on one side which, during winter months, are capped with snow. Close to ski resorts such as the town of Cervinia, which is located at the foot of Mt. Cervino (known world-wide as the Matterhorn) and a relatively short train journey to the Swiss border, it makes good sense for tourists to take the time to discover this mediaeval treasure.

If one is able to visit Ivrea at the time of the annual Carnival then it really is an amazing experience to be part of the festivities of the Battle of the Oranges. Dating back to around 1808 this battle commemorates the time when in medieval times  Violetta, the miller’s daughter, refused to be bedded by the local Duke who took it upon himself to sleep with all newly married women. She actually cut off his head, and the oranges which are thrown in their thousands during the battle are meant to depict his severed head. The teams of revellers are all dressed in ancient costumes and the ones on the horse drawn carts wear helmets whilst those on foot do not have this protection.

As visitors to this spectacle you are advised to purchase and wear a red hat which resembles an elf’s hat, as this is meant to protect you from being bombarded by oranges. It doesn’t always work though, and I remember being able to choose to view some of the battles being fought behind a wire fence erected for the purpose and still having to duck regularly to avoid being hit by a citric missile! The thousands of oranges used during the festival turn the entire town centre into something resembling a gigantic juice extraction plant. One can hardly bear to think about the huge amount of cleaning up which has to be undertaken once the festivities come to an end.  I think the consumption of oranges probably declines dramatically for quite a while after the Carnivale!

The carnival is not just about the orange fight though as there are stalls selling amazing sweet and savoury treats along the banks of the local canal. More information is freely available on Google and well worth the read.  All in all several days of merriment for both young and old to enjoy, despite the chilly weather.

 

 

AWOL – Where is she now ??

The hoover’s given up the ghost
The fridge is on the blink
The kids are going crazy
I’ve been told I shouldn’t drink
To drown my stress and worry
But what’s my other choice
I’d better get control again
Bang doors and raise my voice!

To just sit down and ponder
And remember bygone years
Is really not the answer and
Will just bring me to tears
Life is full of challenges
All my friends have problems too
But the only time I’m in control
Is when I’m in the loo!

Troubles come in bundles
We all know that for sure
To dance and sing and have a laugh
Is meant to be a cure
I’ll try to be more positive
And see the good in life
It’s no good being grumpy
As a mother or a wife.

The day is almost over
And it’s time to plan the dinner
Making macaroni cheese
Is bound to be a winner
Oh no, I can’t believe it
It really can’t be true
There seems to be no power
What on earth am I to do?

I grab the phone and make the call
We’ll have Chinese tonight
Heaven help the lot of them
If they dare to get uptight
I’ll down my tools and take a break
Once they have gone to bed
Amazing how some me time
Helps so much to clear one’s head!

Judy Binns Nemeth