Friday, May 29, 2015

Why Proposal Branded a Wedding Crime Was Not What it Seemed

There are a lot of images out there that are reasons to get uptight about - people being beheaded and persecuted, for example. I would suggest this is not one of them.



For an hour on the radio as I drove into work yesterday all of the conversation was about an incredible wedding faux-par in which a man proposed to a woman right in front of the bride and groom at a wedding. The female voice on the radio informed listeners that she would bitch slap anyone who had upstaged her wedding in that manner, adding that women are planning their big day from the age of three onward. Really?

The picture was posted on Reddit where it was viewed 1.3 million times in 24 hours. It attracted more than 1,000 comments - most of them scathing.

The Daily Mail ranted about the picture. Its reporter had clearly been granted an exclusive to the inside of the bride's head. "Her smile says 'congratulations', her eyes say something else entirely," the article stated while noting the guy who proposed went to the trouble of placing his bottle of beer on the bridal table before getting on one knee.

William Hanson, author of the Buffer's Guide to Etiquette was enlisted to say that while happy couples can be irritating on their wedding day (or any other time for that matter), it's never acceptable to upstage the bride and groom by proposing on their wedding day.

A day later some of the outrage at the commission of the ultimate wedding crime was removed from the situation. It turned out the bride - the same one whose expression clearly masked hate - had suggested the proposal. Oh and the lady being proposed to was the bride's sister.

But, of course, a viral picture paints a 1000 words - most of them scathing and we know best cos it's on social media - right.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Is This The End of Palmyra?

One sultry night in Luxor I got into a conversation with a group of Australians outside a hole in the wall cafe. I still recall the thick heat of the air and the walk a few hours earlier through the majestic ruins of the Temple of Luxor.



The pretext of the conversation was to borrow a roll of toilet paper. My partner of the time was having issued and inevitably there was no paper in the rest room of the cafe. Toilet paper is something of a must-have in Egypt. Even if you jettison the other basics of living. Fortunately, the Australians were well equipped hardened travelers.

The girl told me that had backpacked trough Syria and Lebanon and visited the lands of the Bible and the great temples of antiquity. She had seen the great ruins of Palmyra rise from the desert in Syria. This great city was built in the 1st and 2nd centuries, combining the influences of ancient Greece and Rome with that of Persia.

Although the Middle East has never been stable, I was fascinated by the girl's comments and decided I wanted to see Palmyra myself. Of course I never did. I got back on the Nile cruiser and drank some more cocktails. Even so the notions of these ancient civilizations continued to fascinate me. I visited Ephesus in Turkey, Caeseria in Israel and Dougga in Tunisia.

Such places seemed to defy the notion of the past as a place of darkness and barbarism. There was romance and the thrilling sweep of history in these cities in the sand.

I haven't thought about Palmyra much until this week. I never made it there and probably never will. Today the savage armies of ISIS are in Palmyra and it will probably be leveled by the end of the week. A city that had withstood 2,000 years of conflict including two World Wars in the last century may soon be no more.

I'm not sure who visits Luxor anymore but Egypt is governed by a regime so paranoid that you can be arrested for photographing certain places and the country's first democratically elected president in many decades has been sentenced to death.

On one side are the despots and on the other the maniacs. Egypt's new rulers may be frightening but at least nobody is dismantling the pyramids.

It's hard not to feel a lingering sadness at the death of civilization and the darkness that is descending on the desert. That sense of decay, ruin and the loss of glory the was described by Shelley in Ozymandias as as relevant today as ever.

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Days of Dust and Drift

I drive or walk past the house every day but it still disturbs me. Some of the old whiteness lingers but its dark heart is showing through the valiant white paint. The creepers have strangled the chimney, glass has fallen out inside the windows and the rampant vegetation has taken over the back yard.



It bothers me to see it because it bothers me to be back in this small town, even though it was my choice. River City was a pin on the map between the beach home of a now departed relative and the big conurbation. It reminds me of how I have been too long in this place, this country, this phase. The road out of here to there and back gets longer every day.

That old house disturbs me more because I remember when it used to be a home. Of sorts. I remember the kids' bicycles on the lawn. They guy who worked next to me. An odd guy. Introverted. Depressed maybe. I liked him.

When he gave up his job to be alone with his books for a year or so, I never bothered to visit him. Maybe I would have looked through him in the same way as I look through so many people I once knew in this town. There were rumors about things his wife was doing; a job in California that never came through. Then nothing, Just this house that fell apart by the day until it stood abandoned with a For Sale sign that is teetering over in the yard. The For Sale signs in this town are permanent fixtures. The houses never sell.

Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to them. Do families rot away like old houses or re-form and re-align and find new vistas? I wonder what dark deeds occurred between those four walls. Or maybe the darkness is in my head and there was no drama - just long days of dust and drift. Which are far more frightening when you think about it.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A General Election a Long Way Away

There's an election back at home on May 6 but you'd be excused for not knowing living over here.



When I was much younger than today the General Election was a massive defining event that dominated media coverage for weeks and whipped the whole country into a frenzy. It, therefore, gives me an odd sense of dislocation being over here and hardly being aware of the main players, let alone every twist and turn. It's not even easy to get British news on the British news sites because sites such as the Guardian, the Daily Mail and BBC have been Americanized - even if you type in .co.uk. Thank goodness for the reactive folks at the Telegraph.

I feel rather sadly disconnected from it all now. I met David Cameron, who happens to the the Prime Minister, on one occasion. I may have met Liberal Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg once, but seem to have forgotten. Labour leader Ed Miliband looks like he should be a playground monitor, I don't want to think too closely about the UK Independence Party and some Green party person.

The polls are close but demonstrate that while much has changed much remains the same - the election will either be won by Labour or the Tories, even if they need a bit of help from someone else.

When we grew up in the 1970s people were either fundamentally red or blue and it's still that way. You believed in the working man or woman in a flat cap or you had floral curtain and china cups and fondness for fox hunting. we were Labour in a fairly unenthusiastic way. There was a minor rumpus when my mother voted for Margaret Thatcher one time. She never repeated the mistake again but continued to flirt with the Liberals for some time. In the divisive 1980s I did some canvassing for the Labour party and joined a university group where people shouted a lot, sported frightening hair cuts and went on about Trotsky until I realized there were more exciting temptations such as beer and women.

Later in life I wrote about politics, although the people I interviewed have mostly vanished to sunken old homes in Surrey or wherever politicians go to be put out to grass. I remember a terse exchange with a grumpy Michael Heseltine at a suburban railway station and a pint with John Gummer who remarked on the noteworthy cleavage of the woman behind the bar. One time at the House of Commons while involved in a scintillating talk about badger culls I turned around to see a frail but somewhat fierce elderly woman and momentarily made eye contact with Margaret Thatcher.

For many years the Tories dominated and Labor was the underdog. Then the tables were turned and the country was ruled by Tony Blair who may as well have been a Tory anyhow and infamously got stuck up George W Bush's pants leg.

From a distance much of the emotion has gone out of British politics. I can't really relate to much of the Facebook hatred I see about David Cameron who seems cuddly compared to Margaret Thatcher - although the same could be said about a nest of wasps. And it's hard to feel much sympathy for the Lib Dems who spend the last four decades saying their time would come when they could be part of a coalition government and would push through voting reform that would change their fortunes.

Four years ago the Lib Dems finally got their moment in forming a coalition government known as Con Dem Nation. Now they are struggling at about 10 percent in the same old voting system that dogged them in the past.

When it comes to British politics, the faces may be different but the old notions of red and blue and left and right, still linger.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Goodbye to All That A to Z Angst

So that was the A to Z Challenge. It's all over for another year and with it those nights of hastily completing a post before midnight. I'm not sure why we do the A to Z Challenge. Maybe we just do it because it's become an institution like that other April institution, taxes. OK it's more fun than taxes but most things are apart from French kissing a camel.


That old apple badge - so passe - embrace your inner snake

This year I experienced very little A to Z angst due to the fact I wrote all of my posts in advance. There were a couple of chapters where I realized I had lost parts of a document and had to hastily revise but I didn't sweat the challenge much.

Nor did I hop as many blog as I would have liked or get as many diehard followers as I have picked up in previous year. Some of them followed me on this exhausting blogging road before finally fading away like the spectral ghost on the last days of Shackleton's trek who faded in and out of the snow.

If I am to be honest some of the blogs I found along the way left me as cold as the explorers on that nightmare ordeal across the ice. They left me asking why. I wonder now if blogging has lost some of the novelty it seemed to have five years ago or maybe I'm jaded and disconnected. I've seen a lot of good bloggers disappear along the way but this is probably symptomatic of life, friends, lovers and all of the rest.

Maybe because I spend so much of my day in the blogisphere I don't get out enough to choose life. Or maybe life changed imperceptibly over the last few years and became bloodless, our pulse replaced with a Tweet or an invitation to wish someone we barely know happy birthday on LinkedIn.

I'm not going to blame the challenge, though. My blog views were shrinking as fast as Bruce Jenner's man parts before this challenge. Now I am celebrating a very big spike. Call me fickle but there's such as thing as blog hit high.

Of course, like many people out there I have had invasive thoughts about not doing the A to Z Challenge again but the one year I sat it out it felt a bit like being in solitary confinement while the cool kids got to play on the adventure playground. I'll be back next year but I don't want to just go through the motions. It will be spectacular - no more A for apple right.