Sunday, 18 September 2022

The Queue

 .. for it shall be forever known as just that.

There is something soothing and yet very sad in watching the live feed of Her Majesty the Queen lying in state. ("Lying-in-state" ? I'm not entirely convinced about that one.) Several journalists facing the "we've run out of things to write" problem have touched upon it. Here are a few thoughts from me. I've had the feed running since it started and I've been watching it on and off while crocheting, knitting etc. I need the big screen to see the pattern now and the office is the warmest place in the house when no-one dares put the heating on.

The most striking thing is the looks on the mourners' faces as they reach the top of the steps and look down into the hall. The coffin seems small, as do all coffins, and for those who have lost a parent it brings back memories of that coffin in a horribly sudden way. Just looking at a crowd of faces I could tell you exactly who has attended a parent's funeral. You're chatting to friends and family you haven't seen for a while, you're trying to be cheerful as your Dad - in my case - would have wanted and then you see the coffin and the sense of loss is unbearable.

Once down the stairs "all life is here". No-one is told what to do. You can just walk by, bow your head, curtsey, blow kisses, clasp hands in prayer, make the sign of the cross, do whatever you feel moved to do and those behind you will wait respectfully while you do it. Try as they might to move the queue along in a gentle manner  the stewards will let you pay your respects as you choose.

As I watched there were children who had practised bowing for hours and were either determined to get it right or were too shy to try, families who all lined up together for a group bow, (mostly) young men who actually got down on one knee, groups of lads there for a laugh who weren't going to bow until one broke away and decided to do it.

Many arrived in national dress and other uniforms and costumes. There were off-duty police, firefighters, paramedics, Brownies, Guides, Scouts, druids and several "I wonder what those people do every Wednesday" outfits I hadn't seen before. There were priests and leaders of all faiths. Then there was the moving sight of members of the royal family performing their vigil. How hard it must be to grieve while the world is watching.

All this punctuated every twenty minutes with the tap, tap tap of the officer's sword to usher in the new guard.

A few people will stick in my mind for a long time

- the old soldiers in berets and regimental blazers sporting many, many medals who gave their best ever salute, bowed their head and walked away in tears, cruel camera operator staying with them as they left the hall.

- the Native American chief in full headdress, an elderly and very dignified gentleman.

- the lady who, from her deportment, was obviously a dancer and gave the most graceful, elegant curtsey ever then walked away as if her feet weren't touching the floor.

Speaking of curtseys - and believe me I will every time I get the chance - ladies, please learn to do it and teach your daughters. You never know when you might need the skill, as teachers at my school told me. They were right. The bodyguard said he was impressed with mine when I met Prince Charles, as he then was. It's not difficult but if you get it wrong it looks downright weird and you might fall over. You don't want that! Learn about centre of gravity first then practise a bit. I learned at such an early age from my grandmother, reinforced by learning it at school and in drama classes, that even being an old lady I can do it without thinking about it. It's the thinking about it that messes it up.

I feel sad that I couldn't join in The Queue but dodgy knees would not allow me to stand for hours and walk six miles - and if I'd made it I would be faced with steps I couldn't get down because there are no railings. You would have thought some kind of railing could be set up. There are plenty of people not needing the accessible route who would still have trouble negotiating a long run of stairs. I saw a couple stumble and fall while I was watching. Stewards and others rushed to their aid, of course, but those were unnecessary falls.

Queuing is a great British skill and we did it well (there's an interesting article here about the science of queuing).

We have lost a wonderful Queen. God bless you, Your Majesty. 

"Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life." [Revelation 2:10]

God save the King.

Saturday, 22 January 2022

This Retirement Gig. Making All The Things.

I retired from my accountancy practice in late 2019. HMRC apparently didn't get the memo and still send me letters threatening to strike me off their anti-money laundering register. I respond in suitably snitty vein when I can be bothered. I'm not sure many people noticed this retirement as I'd been reducing the workload after too many stupidly stressful Januaries. I discovered that reducing the workload meant all the stress and half the money each time so the exciting "Be An Accountant" project was consigned to the "Sod This For A Lark" drawer.

"I know. Let's do fun things and cruise lecturing and go out a lot and travel and do some entertaining and...Covid."

Luckily we have a nice home and a ready made office for John to work from. One with no "Wow, they really should tidy up" background, just a cupboard door showing. We occasionally put a witty poster up there.

I bought an embroidery machine with cancelled cruise money and turned the dining room into my craft room. Well, no-one was coming round to dinner... I also learned to cut hair. Luckily again I have the same hairstyle I had when I was six and Monsieur John colours it so that was easy.

Two years later we're still watching in amazement as silly people abandon social distancing and going to the pub is more important than staying alive. "You've got to live your life," they say. "I'd prefer not to live my life as a widow," says I. Anyway, that's a whole other rant...

I'm reluctant to give up my blogs and websites, being fanatically proprietorial about my name, and the Coastal Scrapbooks and family sites might be useful when, respectively, we attract P & O's attention again and my family deign to look at their own history. So, I'm going to bore everyone with photos and intricate details of Stuff I Have Made. 

I've always made stuff since Mum taught me to sew and knit when I was about four. I probably give people a very blank look when they say, "I can't sew". What do you mean, you can't sew? Mum and I made clothes for the whole family. Then we made dolls' clothes and a truly horrible quilt with the leftovers. It had crimplene fabric in it. Ew.

Watch this space if you suffer from insomnia. I'll cure that for you. You're welcome.

Here's a suitable, albeit a bit late, embroidery project. Sweet Pea, an Australian company, make little flag designs that you can - maybe - make in a day so we have several of those about the place. I literally finished this at 30 minutes to midnight (what with having no party to go to...)

Friday, 28 November 2014

Marketers 1: Gullible People 0

Black Friday. It's American. And it isn't even named for retailers being in the black. Read this article and you'll see history has been rewritten.

Here it is in 2014 foisted upon us in the UK. You might get some bargains. I've got good deals on software on Amazon. On the other hand I could have bought paint Shop Pro X7 - which arrived today - cheaper from the manufacturers. Silly me. What you might get instead of bargains is an old version of that TV/Camera/tablet and then kick yourself when a new one comes out in a few weeks' time. A fool and his money are soon parted.

Is it a good idea for the shops? Not necessarily. What happens next year when people wait for Black Friday and sales fall in the early part of November? Cash flow is king when you're a retailer, not profit.

We're stuck with it now. It's part of our culture like all the Halloween junk and, as with the alleged Halloween "traditions" (sorry, kids, if I don't remember it as a child then it's not tradition ...), the great British public is conned into thinking we've had it for years. We haven't. Even Amazon only started it a couple of years ago and they were the forerunners in the UK. No doubt those people believe Father Christmas has always been called Santa too.

There will always be daft gullible people and the marketers laugh at them. I mean that literally. I've been in marketing meetings where ad executives have laughed at the prospect of "They'll go for that, no problem" "They can't touch us, we'll convince them it's about the charity" They're laughing at those people who think Sainsbury's aren't selling anything in their tacky disrespectful Christmas ad. All the Christmas ads are about brand recognition and all want you in the stores. Obviously. Why do you think someone at John Lewis is in trouble for not ordering another half a million toy penguins? I'll hold my hand up and say I love that ad, by the way.

Any TV ad, any marketing email, anything convincing you subliminally that Black Friday is a traditional fun shopping day - it's SELLING to you. It's not a difficult concept to grasp. Caveat emptor.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Justice v. Revenge

Or, as Judge Masipa put it in her sentencing of Oscar Pistorius,

“Society cannot always get what they want. Courts do not exist for a popularity contest but only to dispense justice … The general public may not even know the difference between punishment and vengeance.”

They most certainly don't. They want revenge and revenge is not justice. It worries me that "public opinion" would like to turn the legal clock back 500 years to get what they want.

The rent-a-mob will never be satisfied. Those who believe the only good man is a dead one will never be satisfied. There is "outrage on social media". Ah, yes, that bastion of legal knowledge and common sense. Personally I really couldn't care less what those on "social media" have to say. They are mostly ignorant people who haven't even followed the case and just want a few quick likes and retweets. I always knew the internet was the realm of the ignorant and stupid but the last few months of following this trial have brought that home to me. I followed it on Twitter at first but had to close my account due to abuse and threats. The voice of reason is not allowed, apparently you can only be part of the mob.

Much has been said about Oscar being made a special case because of his wealth and fame. I believe that has gone against him. Would the case have been televised if he hadn't been famous? Would the media have thrown (unfounded) accusations around for months? Would the prosecution have brought in their heavy hitters forcing the defence to do the same and ensuring an inordinate amount of time was spent on the case? Would every blonde bimbo and her dog be writing a book? Would Oscar be in danger while in prison?

No, of course not.

Now every bit player will be cashing in. I hope the family have enough money and the gumption to sue for libel.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Hours of Amusement ...

I've been having a play with my personal website You can now see fancy moving pictures along the top.

Of course if you're on a phone or tablet you'll see nowt so you can click HERE to see a gallery of what's in there. There wouldn't be much point in adding a slideshow here as you won't see that either. Sometimes, folks, you need to get on a real computer and see what you're missing on the big screen!

Instead, here's a day from our exciting life. John had a week off recently and we sneaked a few days out as well as getting some work done on the house so more scrapbooks coming soon.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Trial By Media

Oscar Pistorius' trial for the alleged premeditated murder of Reeva Steenkamp begins tomorrow.

I'm among his many supporters but, like them, I'm not allowed a voice. He has been tried and found guilty by the media. Comment anywhere - Facebook, Twitter, Disqus, on articles etc - and we're shouted down. Any Facebook page has a bunch of trolls on it, no matter how carefully it's moderated.  One idiot hijacked my thread the other day with a diatribe which ended "whatever you say you won't change my mind". Well, guess what, we don't need to change your mind. Justice is not about collecting votes in a country thousands of miles away.

I'm so sick of all the nonsense being spouted.

"We saw him out shopping". Bail, you silly people, not house arrest.

"He shouldn't have got bail, he did it." Please read up on the purpose of bail.

"Someone said he said ...." OK, let me stop you there. Go and read up on hearsay.

"We know he's guilty so we don't need a trial" Ah, a time traveller ...welcome to the 15th century. We've struggled for hundreds of years to create a justice system and you'd like to throw it away.

"New facts have emerged". No, actually that was a journalist making something up to sell papers.

Here's a sinister one: "Innocent until proven guilty is just a legal fiction. No-one believes it" Really? I studied law for four years and worked with lawyers for most of my professional life  and never met anyone who didn't believe it.

Were you there?

Do you know Oscar personally?

Are you familiar with South African Law?

Have you read up on crime statistics in South Africa?

No? So basically you gleaned your opinion from the Daily Mail, Facebook, your mates down the pub? Just what do you think a trial is for?

Yes, Oscar does have the advantage of money to pay for expensive lawyers and poor people don't. That is the same the world over and that particular injustice is not something that can be laid at his door.

I'm not a blind lovestruck Oscar fan. I loved watching him run, who didn't? I admire his massive achievements - and know more about them than most folk do - but actually I believe he's been rather stupid in how he's reacted to his fame and fortune. No more stupid than any other person would be with that level of fame and fortune at that age but nonetheless stupid. Hanging out with the so called friends who only want him because he's famous, spending ridiculous amounts of money on racehorses and fast cars, saying utterly stupid things on Twitter that you just knew (and told him ...) would come back to bite him, his acknowledged love of guns. I won't bore you with what I think about guns (again). You can read what I said about it further down this blog in regards to America and multiply that several times for South Africa.

I don't think he has been well served by the professional people he's been paying over the years. His PR team have been dreadful. They allowed outrageously offensive and libellous - and not just against Oscar - Facebook pages to run for months on end. It did rather look like someone had lost the password ...

Basically I don't believe he had any reason to kill Reeva. If he had wanted to kill her, he wouldn't have shot at her through a locked door. That could mean your victim doesn't die and you leave a living witness to testify against you. As for the reasonableness or otherwise of shooting someone you believe to be an intruder, I presume there is case law to cover that. I wouldn't know.

Supporting Oscar is hard to do. Not because my belief in him wavers but because of the constant attacks from the pitchfork-wielding angry mob. Last year I got loads of abuse and threats because I joined in a campaign to get people to buy chocolate rabbits at Easter instead of real ones. When people hate and despise you because you love rabbits you can imagine what they do when you support Oscar. It's driving my husband barmy. The favourite phrases are "You can't do anything to help Oscar and he wouldn't expect you to get stressed like this" and "Discussing anything on Facebook is like arguing with a drunk".

No, I can't do anything to help him other than pray for him but it's time to stand up and be counted. I will lose Facebook friends but then I don't want the angry mob amongst my friends. "Innocent until proven guilty" is not just some throwaway phrase to me. It's a basic tenet of civilised society. If you can't respect it I really don't want to be your friend.

For anyone who wants to follow the trial without all the sensationalist drivel I suggest you follow David Smith on Twitter @smithinafrica and/or read his summaries in the Guardian. I followed every word of the bail hearing and he reports fairly and succinctly without making it up. Sky News were an absolute disgrace. If the judge had said it was raining the reporter would have tweeted "the judge remarked on what a lovely sunny day it is today". Perverse is the only way I can describe it.

I won't be following every word. My lawyer friends will alert me to what I need to follow in detail otherwise internet and TV will remain switched off.  I'm tempted to tune in to the audio of cross-examination of the aggrieved ex-girlfriend but then we know how that will go, even if she hasn't worked it out yet.

It will be a ludicrous media circus. Whatever happens, the angry mob will stick to their "verdict". Whatever happens, Oscar's life is over. Whatever happens, nothing brings Reeva back and her parents spend the rest of their lives in the Hell only experienced by parents who have lost a child.

I wish we could all turn the clock back.

God bless you and keep you strong, Oscar. Time to publish and be damned ...

Monday, 23 December 2013

Adventures in Time and Space

I love Doctor Who but I'm pretty fussy about the bits I love. I'm old enough to remember the first episode and the first few series of "kids' stuff". It was different and exciting and we had to watch it from behind a cushion. Looking back, though, those early years do nothing for me despite the best efforts of the "50 years but with huge gaps" marketing army.

The "Nu Who" is a different kettle of fish with fantastic acting, the money to spend on sets and effects that was lacking in the early days, and mostly good writing. I say mostly because there are far too many unresolved story arcs and  Dei Ex McGuffin for my liking. I wasn't keen on Ecclestone. I'm afraid I think "miserable so-and-so" every time I see him in anything and that has been reinforced seeing him as John Aspinall in Lucan recently. That was a depressing programme if ever there was one.

David Tennant was cheeky chappie with tragic background. I loved the jibe about him being Dick Van Dyke in Day Of The Doctor. The acting was first class and he was very very good BUT ...

Enter Matt Smith. After almost a year of the mean viewing public - and even meaner critics - saying he was too young he knocked it out of the ball park with his debut episode. Search Eleventh Hour on You Tube to remind yourself of it. It was an amazing mix of young and old, playful and extremely powerful, and it worked.  It's worked ever since despite some ropey story telling so I'll be sad to see him go. Women my age could be in love with him because he was over 900 years old and not in his late 20s. Don't think that didn't escape the attention of the marketing gurus. Not that I'd kick Capaldi out of bed on a cold night. Oh, I don't believe I just typed that. Now it's going to be embarrassing if I ever meet him...

I think I might just cry during the Christmas Day special. I watched "Adventures in Time and Space" the other day (had it recorded ...) and I was shocked at how moved I was by the last scene, which I won't describe in case anyone is reading who hasn't watched it yet. Spoilers .... Hubby says I actually went pale!

Thank you Matt Smith, David Tennant and Christopher Ecclestone and everyone who broke the ground before them. Break a leg, Mr Capaldi ;-)