My last postcard was going to mention allergies, to add to the gender and mental health issues that seem to be hot topics in this second decade of the C21st; I ran out of space but didn’t want my thoughts to be solely inward focused.
When I grew up it seemed no one had allergies – or if they had they had died because they were allergic to something and no one knew. Now we are very much aware of how individuals can be agin some aspects of life, mainly food. Nuts are often the main culprit. Recently there’s been an inquest on the death of a teenager who had bought a baguette from Pret a Manger. She was allergic to sesame seeds; the wrapper did not mention these specifically, in fact they were part of the bread mix and now every manufacturer is rushing to ensure every ingredient is mentioned. Wise after the event huh!
Sharwood’s Green Label Mango Chutney – ‘may contain nuts’
Some time ago I saw a packet of, I don’t know, Trebor’s Extra Strong Mints; I am making this up but somewhere on the wrapper it said ‘didn’t contain nuts’! What a pickle we’re getting into; a band wagon has started rolling and everyone wants to jump onto it; a badge to wear, part of our C21st life. I sympathise with those who truly are allergic as I’m fortunately not ‘allergic’ to anything, not a Hay Fever sufferer, not allergic to dust mites, insect bites, latex, food which includes eggs, cow’s milk, nuts or shellfish. Celina is allergic to the last item; fortunately she found out with a very allergic reaction many years ago so carries an Epipen and asks about cross-contamination in the kitchens of seafood restaurants. Anaphylactic shock, in extreme cases, can be life threatening.
Using language and sayings that have arisen as part of our culture and history are what defines us, us British. Other nations have their own repartee, slang and ways of relating. But in this globalizing interconnected world anything and everything particular is under the judgmental microscope; some are necessary, for sure, but some are simply aimed at creating a bland environment devoid of colour. (Whoops! You see! I write the word ‘colour’ and think ‘have I written something racist?’) For example, in English we have used the saying ‘Whiter than white’, to mean ‘absolutely pure’ in a moral sense, morally beyond reproach, since the early 1900s. Historically of course the forces of Good and Evil are often represented as white and black. Then Persil started claiming that using their washing powder would produce white clothing ‘whiter than white’. But in September a detective superintendent used the phrase in some briefing, about the need to be faultless and above reproach in carrying out inquiries. ‘Someone’ complained, and the detective’s been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct for ‘poor use of language’. How come? No newspaper reported what the complainant had said. If I assume that it was thought he was using the phrase in a racist sense (?) then that’s stretching imagination beyond Young’s Modulus! Outrageous! But sadly no one really got on the soapbox and put the Thought Police back in their box. It seems to me a little like the suggestion, currently being seriously discussed here in the UK, that misogyny and misandry should be criminalised. So now if we think something offensive, that’s enough to be fined or even sent to prison? How effing ridiculous! (See PS)
George Street Hove with local people doing their thing
Are we becoming oversensitive … to everything? I feel we have become ultrasensitive to perceived slights, are quick to judge and quicker to turn to anger. When I walk down George Street, people come into and out of my vision. I might notice one individual more than another, just for a millisecond. I might even make some judgement about the way they look, their manner, their ‘air’, their sense of purpose, but it’s a fleeting thought and doesn’t linger; other thoughts quickly take its place. My glance could be interpreted as homophobic, misogynistic, misandry, anti-obese, racist, sexist etc but it’s only in my head. But then what we think determines how we feel and consequently how we act; it’s the latter that sometimes gets us into trouble!
The rollercoaster of our lives continues, exciting, challenging; for example, for the last six months we have been practising Yin yoga. In addition to our daily hot yoga obsession, once a week we do the complete opposite. Whereas hot yoga is all about using your muscles to try to obtain certain postures, a Yang activity, Yin yoga is practised on the floor, adjusting your limbs into a certain posture and then staying in it for 5 minutes or more, without using muscles to maintain it. Practising Yin is like applying WD40 (see note) to your ligaments, tendons, joints, cartilage, fascia and other connective tissue. After the first session I didn’t feel anything – until the next day. Wow!
This got me thinking about the Yin and Yang of our lives, living this rollercoaster; playing safe here, chancing our arm there, hanging on! An analogy that occurred to me is being like pebbles on a beach (for those of you who only know beaches of sand, come to Hove!). The sea washes the pebbles, sometimes gently, sometimes with such force that they are drawn back into the waves, or thrown violently up into the air, to land in a different place, in a different time. And the rhythm of the tides means that for some periods they’re completely submerged and at other times high and dry, basking in the sun. Some will crumble with the continuity of movements, becoming grains of sand, other pebbles will resist. But these inanimate objects of nature can’t think, can’t move of their own accord, can’t reason; we can and we should. So I scribbled some contrasting experiences you may have had or may yet discover:
Becoming a parent, a unique experience; losing one – not a unique experience.
Falling in love (again) and again .. and falling out of love, that deadening realisation that it’s over
Going for the first job interview and being chosen; being told you are no longer wanted, are redundant and rationalising it’s the role and not you.
Becoming a grandparent and holding the little mite, knowing your own DNA is in there somewhere.
Travelling somewhere exotic and seeing the mundane of where you live on your return.
Getting to the end of a book and wondering how you struggled to finish it, or wanting to have yet more pages after ‘The End’, such was the gripping, imaginative tale.
Going to university; attaining that special qualification.
Walking the dog, having a dog in the first place; and then that awful decision about end of life.
Being told you have some form of cancer; being told you’re in remission.
Buying your first shed/flat/house or your second one and borrowing beyond your ‘maximum’; paying off your mortgage.
Worrying about the quality of the politicians and realising there isn’t much you can do except vote them out next time around.
Making friends and losing them when you divorce, move!
Writing your first story in some lonely café; when the bills are piling up.
Walking for miles across the country, grateful for your waterproof boots; clearly for not being on a wheelchair.
Whistling when sailing, when there’s no wind and your sails flap, as folklore suggests you’ll get more than you wanted; then an hour later wishing you hadn’t whistled as the wind howls in the rigging and you hang on!
Let go and go with the flow.
Richard 15th November 2018
Note WD40 Actually named after ‘water displacement 40th formula’ from 1953 – prevents corrosion by displacing the water molecule, eases joints, and loosens nuts and bolts. An essential aid in any household.
PS The Times columnist Giles Coren reported on Tuesday that a 69 year old lady, Jane Savidge, had been reported to the police for sounding her car horn on a garage forecourt, in an effort to get the car in front to move. The driver of the car in front was coloured and Savidge was charged with a Racially Aggravated Public Order Offence. I wish this was ‘Fake News’ because if it’s an actual fact, God help us.