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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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 

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

Friendship Part 3

FRIENDS WITH A DIFFERENCE

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Can there be any friendship that is more rewarding than one between a human being and a beloved animal. The unconditional love that is shown by an animal to its owner has to be experienced to be fully understood and children who grow up in homes shared with animals have the advantage of knowing from their early years the pleasure that pets can bring. There are certain people who will keep a dog as a protector but, due to their religion, never even fondle the poor creature, which surely is a shocking form of emotional abuse. This was told to me by a vet who found it very difficult to cope with this kind of pet owner.  Unfortunately, culture plays a role in many communities and having an animal as a pet can be taboo. Children brought up with this unfortunate background often scream hysterically whenever a dog or a cat comes near them. I have been witness to a child screeching like a banshee when a little Jack Russell dog just wanted to say hello to the girl in question. The poor little dog was terrified by this unexpected and totally unnecessary outburst. Worse than that is when adults have gone hysterical just because a cat has come near to them.

If children are being prevented from having any form of animal in their home then it would be a very good idea for nursery schools or day care facilities to get such youngsters more comfortable around small creatures. I wouldn’t advocate a teacher bringing her Great Dane into a classroom, but to have a bunny as a classroom pet or even a hamster could teach children how to care for any pet they may own in the future. The child who grows up on a farm where there are not only domestic animals but also a variety of farm animals such as pigs, cows, goats, donkeys, ponies as well will probably never realise just how fortunate their childhood is compared to someone who has never even owned a puppy.

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We read accounts every day in various newsfeeds about the amazing deeds which animals have performed whereby human lives have been saved and warnings given regarding health issues as well as preventing dangerous occurrences. Dogs are being trained in some countries to be partners of children who have life threatening illnesses and to bark a warning when, for example, an epileptic fit is about to occur. This must be an absolutely fascinating form of animal training which must take hours of dedication and love for the job at hand. The same goes for people who are involved in puppy walking future guide dogs for the blind. We humans think we are so clever, but we know so little about the potential and intelligence of our four legged friends. The best we can do is to respect them, love them and care for them and appreciate the value they bring into our lives.

A sad part of growing old is that in many cases the elderly are prevented from taking their often equally elderly dog or cat with them into a retirement home. Having to leave a house they have often lived in for most of their adult lives is traumatic enough without the heartbreak of having to be parted from a beloved pet. The reason given by management of many of these retirement homes is that the pets can become a nuisance to other residents. The truth of the matter is that most of the time the dog or cat is content to sit at the feet or on the lap of the elderly person with a minimum of exercise required so that reasoning seems to be inconsequential to say the least.

“Animals are such agreeable friends; They ask no questions,
Pass no criticisms.” – George Eliot

A pig can be a wonderful pet and despite all the negative comments about pigs, they are actually very clean animals. So it really is an insult to the porkers to align them with grubby, messy humans!  The downside of having a pot-bellied pig as a pet is that they can grow extremely large and I believe can become rather aggressive. It is also much easier to take a puppy to puppy socialisation classes than a pot-bellied pig! Just thinking about the reaction of all the dogs at puppy school if a pig had to join the class is rather disturbing! I have heard though of a sheep going to dog training classes, so maybe taking your pig along isn’t so far fetched after all.

Just a last thought. Have you ever been ill or been forced to lie in bed to recuperate after an operation and your cat has slept on your bed the whole day, purring and keeping you company? You just never feel alone if you have that four legged family member to give you that unconditional love. Whether it’s a dog, a cat or even a pig on whom you lavish attention, the emotional rewards cannot be measured. That wonderful warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you return home after having been away for even a few hours and your pet bounds over to lick you or rub himself around your legs, has to be experienced to be understood. That is true friendship of the highest order.

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The Bourdain Burger

For years, I have been trying to cook and assemble the perfect burger. I’d experiment with different seasonings in the patty, adding finely diced onion, chilli, herbs and even blue cheese on occasion. The number and combinations of toppings, and sauces, are endless, and everyone has their own favourite. Often, my experiments resulted in interesting and great tasting burgers, sometimes the combinations were not so great. However, the more “creative” I got, the more I felt I was moving away from the basic simplicity and flavour of what a burger should be. I then came across a video of the late (and great) Anthony Bourdain where he shares his views on what makes a great burger (you can watch it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZwyLVUAS5Y ). My burger recipe below includes a lot of his suggestions (and I include his name in my version, as a small tribute to the great man). I prefer to use cubed beef chuck for the patty, and grind it myself, as I find the meat to fat ratio perfect for a burger. Of course, you are entirely free to include whatever toppings and sauces you wish. Personally, I think the simplicity of the toppings and sauces I use in my version, allow for the full beefy flavour of the patty to really shine through. But ultimately, the choice is yours. Whilst many people label the burger as  “junk food”, I prefer the term “fun food”, as one really should enjoy the process of cooking, building and eating this iconic food.

Ingredients

  • 720g Beef Chuck, cubed
  • 4 large round burger buns. I use sesame seed covered ones but again, this is your choice
  • Pickled Gherkins – sliced lengthways or into rounds
  • 4 processed cheese slices
  • Tomato sauce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lettuce
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Grind the meat using the course grinding wheel. If you don’t have your own meat grinder, simply ask your butcher to do this for you.
  • Divide the meat into four 180g portions
  • Shape each portion into a burger patty, taking care not to compress the meat too much. The patty should resemble an ice hockey puck.
  • Season the patty’s well with good sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • Heat a good splash of olive oil in a pan, over a high heat, until just starting to smoke
  • Add the burger patty’s making sure not to crowd the pan. You can cook them in two batches if necessary.
  • Fry the burger patty’s for approximately 3 minutes on one side, turn over and fry for a further 2 minutes on the other side. This timing will produce a burger which is med-rare to medium. However, you can cook longer if you prefer yours more well-done.
  • You are looking for the burger patty to have a nice crust on the outside but take care not to burn.
  • Remove burger patties from the pan, lay a slice of processed cheese on each, and set aside, resting whilst you prepare the buns. The cheese will melt from the residual heat
  • Cut each bun in half, and lightly toast.
  • Put a thin layer of mayonnaise on the base of a bun.
  • Add the sliced pickled gherkin
  • If you like extra cheese (as I do) you can add another slice on top of the gherkins
  • Add a burger patty, topped with some lettuce and tomato sauce.
  • Top with the other half of the bun and get stuck in!!!

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Friendship Part 2

TRANSIENT FRIENDSHIPS

Friends often tend to be transient – they come into our life at a particular stage and at the time can be an amazing support system. Then, years later when thinking back, you wonder why the friendship just petered out. There has to be a common bond in order for a friendship to start in the first place. You may find yourself connecting with a colleague at work, and the company and its politics, as well as your personal situations could be the common factor. When one of you moves on to another company, or starts working from home, it can be quite upsetting to find that there is very little that one has in common any longer and ultimately it becomes rather tedious to try to continue the relationship.

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Women often seem to find it easier than men to make new friends. This is more than likely due to women having, in many cases, better verbal skills than the majority of men.  A short hospital stay is often the place where women connect and continue to keep in touch long after they have both recovered from their illness and gone home. When a woman has a baby she may find herself bonding with another woman in the same ward. It can be a great support to be able to discuss common worries with someone who is in the same or a similar situation. Men, on the other hand, can be in the same ward as other men for several weeks after having an operation, but never find out the name of the person in the next bed.  I know this is a generalisation, but I have been witness to this kind of scenario. Men are from Mars?

“Wishing to be friends is quick work,
but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.” – Aristotle 

It can be disappointing when one tries to get back into a comfortable relationship with friends from the past only to find that you have absolutely nothing in common any more. This is why I wonder just how beneficial it is to search for past friends via facebook, or google and then spend valuable time trying to make up for all the years when there was no contact at all. If these so-called friends were really interested in keeping in touch then surely you wouldn’t have lost contact in the first place. Looking at their profiles and comments on line and seeing just how successful their lives appear to have been and how blissfully happy they are as a family, can be very distressing if your own circumstances are less than ideal. Scratch the surface of all the bragging and “look at my wonderful life” comments and the truth is probably quite different. At least when one has a “real” friend your interactions are less likely to make you feel inadequate and if that isn’t the case, then you can just cool the friendship somewhat and don’t constantly see more on line bragging.

My point is that, throughout one’s life, there is often an opportunity to make a new friend and, even if that friendship lasts a relatively short space of time, while it does exist it may provide you with a much needed emotional lifeline. Human interaction is a necessary part of having a healthy, well-balanced life (unless you have joined a nunnery or a monastery and taken either a vow of silence, or become a hermit monk) so we shouldn’t be too obsessed with the length of a friendship and enjoy the fact that many are transient in nature and that’s okay too.

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