Sincerity in a hectic world

“Time is the most valuable thing that a man can spend.” – Diogenes

Most of us spend a good deal of each day using verbal skills to communicate with friends, family and business associates as well as casual acquaintances. This can result in a huge amount of conversation and the choice of many thousands of different forms of syntax, regardless of the language being spoken. However, how much of what is being relayed qualifies as truth and how much is pure dreaming or just saying what you think the other person wants to hear?

How often do we hear the phrases, “we must have coffee soon” or “let’s make sure to get together before too long”? So easy to let these words float out of our mouths, but what is the point if they are purely being used flippantly? I had an occasion recently where someone whom I had known for many years accused me of being of no use to her in my business endeavours as I was obviously too busy to do a good job, as I had never bothered to have tea with her! Being told, “Oh, you must pop in and have tea one day” does not constitute an invitation and being self-employed, there is very little time to socialise, and certainly no time to just “pop in” on the off chance that I may be welcome. In trying to explain to this very obnoxious woman that my time is constantly being taken up with my business and trying to earn a living, I was very abrasively shouted down. However, if she really had wanted to speak to me over a cup of tea or coffee, she should have made the invitation genuine and I would have certainly made the time to see her.

Since the advent of social media, things seem to have become far worse as far as meaning what one says and being genuine instead of trying to just make an impression. We see all these flowery “Love you my angel” with the response “Love you more”, etc. etc. and one wonders why anyone would need to put comments like these out there for the world to read instead of just telling the person in question the very same words?

Basic RGB

What is it about the human race that there is this need to be seen to be other than who one really is. Not to say that we need to show our bad side to others, but let’s try to be genuine instead of fake. How much better to only use certain words of endearment when the person you have strong feelings for is hearing them coming out of your mouth and not splashed on a screen for all to read. So often these comments are totally cringeworthy – especially in cases where you know just what the people concerned are really like.  The results of a recent survey showed that the happiest relationships are those where the people involved do not post personal comments on social media.

Nothing boosts our mood more than having a friend or acquaintance phoning us or sending a personal message to say that they are thinking of you and when can you meet? Now there is a genuine desire to get together and it wasn’t put out there as public news.  I get the feeling that the reason there is so much loneliness in the world today is due to us not taking the time to say and do the meaningful things which, as human beings, we all need in order to make us feel cherished and worthwhile. It’s just become far too easy to get so involved with one’s own life and day to day existence that to clear one’s conscience with those flippant words, “we must get together for coffee soon!” have become way too common.  Putting messages out there in the social field could also be a quick fix which eliminates the need for giving up on personal time.

Christmas_2

So many wonderful words are spoken at memorial services after a friend or family member has died, but when they were living did they ever hear the same words being said to them? In many instances they have been more or less abandoned by these self-same people due to their busy lives and them preferring to spend leisure hours doing more exciting things than paying a visit or making a phone call. Sincerity often means making sacrifices of one’s time in order to do it right when it actually can make a difference in the other person’s life. Young or old, the need to feel special is part and parcel of the human condition and it is often those who appear to be totally self- sufficient who drastically crave the human touch.

Very often just making the time to do the right thing turns out to be an extremely rewarding experience. When you realise just how much your selfless act of sharing some of your valuable “free time” with that other person has cheered them up as they face life’s challenges, then you are usually rewarded with a feeling of self- worth and satisfaction. So being sincere in caring has two-fold benefits which are not achieved by sending meaningless messages via social media just to show all those “friends” (many of whom you have never met and probably have no desire to meet either!) what a great person you are.

template 1

A friend of mine who sells intricate beaded ornamental items at a flea market stall told me of someone who also used to have a stall at the same flea market who suggested that they become friends on Facebook. My friend was actually angry at the request because the person in question had never ever bothered to pass the time of day with him having been in the same place, weekend after weekend over the past 10 years. Again, is this sincerity or just idle words and why bother? If you cannot make friends with another person face to face then what on earth would you have to say to them via social media? Having hundreds of these so-called “friends” may be great for one’s ego, but what is the point unless it is purely to try to sell your product or advertise your business. That may well be the case, but if you really do want a friend, you have to be prepared to be a friend, in the true sense of the word. The Oxford dictionary defines “friend” as “one joined to another in intimacy and affection”. By the same token, the word “sincere” means “not simulated or assumed” i.e. genuine.

This is not intended to create feelings of guilt at all, but many of us are like the proverbial hamster spinning around and around on his wheel and we need to sometimes jump off the wheel and do the right thing by that other person. Just a thought!

“And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count.
It’s the life in your years” – Abraham Lincoln

Pasta with Anchovies

Spaghetti with Anchovy, Capers, Chilli and Garlic

This is a really easy pasta dish which can literally be made in under 15minutes. An important note however – never, ever underestimate how under salted pasta can impact negatively on the final flavour of a dish. It is often said that the water you cook pasta in should be as salty as the Mediterranean Sea!! I cook my pasta in a pot with approximately 5 litres of water. I use 3 heaped tablespoons of table salt, and this produces pasta with the right amount of saltiness. Alternatively, if you live close enough to the beach, you can always pop across to the water’s edge and fill your pot with sea water!!

Ingredients

  • 1 small tin (or 50g) anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 medium brown onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 – 2 chillies finely chopped (you can use as hot, or as mild as you wish – I prefer hotter for this dish)
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons capers, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large handful Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • Zest of one lemon finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 1 packet spaghetti

Method

  • Heat a pot of well salted water until boiling and cook the spaghetti until done – “Al Dente”.
  • Whilst cooking the pasta you can make the sauce.
  • On a low – medium heat, gently sauté the onion in a good splash of olive oil until softened – about 6 -7 minutes.
  • Add the chillies and gently fry for about another minute or two.
  • Add the garlic and gently fry for about 1 minute.
  • Add the chopped anchovies and stir through.
  • Add the capers and stir through.
  • Gently cook for about another minute adding another splash of olive oil if the sauce seems a little dry.
  • Remove from the heat and stir through the parsley and lemon zest.
  • Drain the pasta.
  • Serve the sauce over the spaghetti adding some cracked black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

    Nice! and Tasty – Chris

 

Attitude can make all the difference

Isn’t it amazing how, when you begin your day in a negative frame of mind, everything under the sun seems to be against you and there is just one disaster after another just waiting to happen! However, if you stop and consider the positives that the negative situation has created, things can be so very different!

“Keep your values positive because your values
become your destiny” – Mahatma Gandhi

It’s 6.30a.m. and you panic as you are already 30 minutes behind your usual schedule. Strange how dark and quiet everything seems to be and then the proverbial penny drops. There is no electricity and there was no warning either! So, you stumble to the kitchen to put on the kettle and then the realisation kicks in – you have no power and how can you boil the kettle?  Then you remember that you have a gas bottle in the back room which will allow you to make the coffee, and the donuts from yesterday are in the bread bin and will do very nicely for breakfast.

Next step is to have your morning shower. You turn on the water and wait for a few minutes, but it just doesn’t warm up! The geyser has been out of action due to the lack of electricity. Cold showers are meant to be excellent for your circulation and complexion, so you get on with it and the chilly water isn’t all that bad after all. There are so many people who do not have the advantage of having running water. Having to walk a long way in order to fill a bucket from a communal tap is a far cry from taking a cold shower in a comfortable bathroom.

Time to leave home and face the traffic that is going to be exacerbated by all the out of order traffic lights due to the power outage. Oh well, you try to be philosophical, at least the office will have electricity and, after all, there’s not much food in the fridge and freezer at present at home, so if it goes off it’s not the end of the world. Your householder’s insurance should cover any loss or damage to the appliances due to a power surge as well as loss of food once the fault has been repaired.  Now there’s a good excuse to try out the new fish and chip shop around the corner – they have a generator, so they will still be frying tonight! Your well stocked candle supply will add a peaceful ambiance whilst you listen to your favourite music on your ancient battery operated c.d. player.

You turn on your car radio and are feeling much more relaxed as you join the snaking line of vehicles all chugging along at a snail’s pace to get onto the motorway. Oh darn it, you have been so busy singing along to one of your favourite songs that you realise in dismay that you are in the wrong lane to turn onto the freeway! You desperately try to catch the eye of the person in the correct lane who is parallel with you and indicate with morse code –like hand signals your dilemma. Wonder of wonders, they smile and shepherd you in to the queue in front of them! Yes, today will be a good day after all and manners really do maketh man ….. and woman too!

Life is full of ups and downs for most people, with the occasional curved ball thrown in, just for good measure and it’s not always easy to stay positive in the face of challenges. However, there is some truth in the old adage that “every cloud has a silver lining”- it’s all about having the courage to look for the silver lining when those clouds are bearing down on you.  Trying to laugh when you really feel like crying, and counting your blessings instead of concentrating on your mountain of woes and worries – sound like easy solutions. For many people they are actually very difficult to achieve and it’s at times like this that you often need to ask for help, whether from a friend, a colleague or a professional . Attitude is very important to our being able to carry on in a world which is by no means perfect, and we are not superhuman. To ask for support in order to regain a positive attitude is a tough call for many of us, as we all like to appear to be confident and coping members of the human race. It is, once again, a case of our attitude to asking for help that can make all the difference when the road ahead seems to be very rocky. Fortunately, it is a fact that “this too will pass” and we can often look back at our difficult times and feel triumphant in the knowledge that we survived and are able to once again enjoy the many pleasant things which make us human.

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference” – Winston Churchill

Mushroom, Spinach and Gruyere Tart

This is a great vegetarian dish and incredibly tasty. You can use any wild                                mushrooms.

Ingredients

  •    800g mushrooms thinly sliced
  •    200g gruyere, grated
  •    2 bags baby spinach
  •    3 cloves garlic crushed
  •    2 small shallots finely diced
  •    2-3 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
  •    Puff pastry
  •    Olive oil
  •    Salt and pepper
  •    200 g wild mushrooms – enoki, shimeji, chanterelles, oyster

Method

  • Turn the oven on to 180.
  • Butter and line a tart tin.
  • Roll out your pastry and lay into the tart tin, gently pressing into the sides.
  • Prick the base of the pastry and bake blind for about 15 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven.

Filling

  • Blanch the spinach in boiling water until wilted.
  • Remove from the pot, drain and roughly chop.
  • In a pan, sauté the shallots in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil until softened – +/- 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and mushrooms and thyme, and gently cook until the mushrooms have softened +/- 5-8 minutes.
  • Add the spinach and stir through.
  • Remove from the heat and stir through the gruyere.
  • Taste and season as required.

Finishing

  • Transfer the filling to the cooked tart base and cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
  • Whilst the tart is cooking, sauté the wild mushroom on high heat in 1 tablespoon butter.
  • Remove the tart, scatter the wild mushrooms over the top.
  • Allow to stand for a few minutes, remove from the tart tin and serve.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

 

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?

Chaos 2 350x196

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.

Chaos 3 350x233

 

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.

 

Homophobia 2 380x271

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.

Homophobia 1 550x412

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.

Homophobia 4 380x271

 

 

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