Saturday, 24 January 2015

Kevin's way with words

Unbelievably, Kevin is now in his fifteenth year.

A teenager.

And in true teenage style, this week the Kevinettes wined, dined, laughed and chatted about all and everything, including the books - one which we all hated (facts, facts, more facts, names, more names, names that were referenced then not mentioned again until seven chapters later, more names, more factszzzz I have lost track... you get the picture), and one which only LCM loathed (blame it on the time of year, it just bugged the hell out of me even though the others loved it). We had some very lively conversations going.

It was almost a full house with only the Wine Writer absent. We all blame her husband, not the fact that she lives out in the sticks and has a good one hour commute each way to attend Kevin's rendezvous unless hosting them herself. Tsk. Totally inconsiderate.

Anyway, amidst all the banter - and the food and the wine, of which there were copious amounts of course, we are a serious bookclub after all - there was a sudden change in topic as the Kevinettes started announcing random English words they love which are not frequently used.

"Conundrum!" said the Botanical Artist.
"Inertia!" declared the Doctor of Psychology.
"Conniption!" stated the Lovely Radiographer.
"Nonplussed!" offered the Aussie Solicitor.
"Cantankerous!" countered Tough Mudda.
"Paraphernalia!" shouted LCM (necessary, it was getting very rowdy).
"Parasol!" said La Diplomat.
"Parapluie!" opined Belfast Blonde, our host for the evening.

The room went silent.

"That's French!" we all said in unison.

"Oh," answered Belfast Blonde. "I just liked it! What does it mean?"

"Umbrella," we replied, again in unison.

And then promptly moved on to more important matters by asking what was for dessert (lemon polenta cake, delicious btw).

By the time we finally took our leave, it was raining.

No correlation at all, I am sure.

(c) Schultz


Friday, 16 January 2015

The right to the right of freedom of speech

Warning: rant alert.

I read one of the most articulate articles this week about the post-Charlie Hebdo fall-out. 

Suzanne Moore puts it so succinctly when she states: 

"Critique is not blasphemy. Texts can be reinterpreted. Tolerance has to be reciprocal or it is not tolerance at all. We should at least be honest now. Those who don't believe in any god have as many rights as those who do."

Hear hear, I say. Enough of the hypocrisy and concern about individuals being offended if what you state - intentionally or not - is unpalatable to them.

I have been scolded in past years about my cynical posts depicting unsuspecting members of the general public and poking fun - with sarcastic commentary - about their attire.

"Someone might take offence," I was told (by a Facebook 'friend' no less, who has since been purged from my circle for double standards), as if I were a naughty child who had scribbled rude words on the classroom wall. I cannot believe I subsequently added a disclaimer to appease this individual (it's still there, see for yourself).

An aeon ago when this blog first started, I had a Paranoid Former Employer who took offence at anything and everything ever posted, claiming (indirectly, never to my face, out of fear of upsetting me no doubt) it must be about them, and threatening libel, slander and the proverbial kitchen sink. Anonymity did not cut it (nor did the fact that the posts were entertaining) but the PFE was seriously unpleasant. Interesting how they are now under investigation by the SFO for fraud.

I can think of at least half a dozen cases recently where I have been chastised (nicely, of course, because no one wants to offend me either) about proposed measures or discussions that need to take place within my own working and community environment. I put appropriately worded texts together, send them to a reviewing party and get replies that inevitably make me bang my head on the table.

Why? That old chestnut again. The need to "tread carefully". Not wanting to "upset anybody". Needing to "keep the calm". In effect the unwillingness to call a spade a spade, or even a fucking shovel despite the situation demanding it. 

It's okay. I get it. I understand, I can see beyond my own limited power of observation the need to take other people's concerns into account. It drives me insane and I could waste endless hours thinking about it. I don't. I have far more pressing matters to deal with.

But now the Pope - the Pope, for crying out loud - wades into the debate with his stance on the matter, stating that, "One cannot provoke; one cannot insult other people's faith; one cannot make fun of faith."

Wrong. You can. You can make the choice not to, and you can err on the side of politeness and what is deemed to be 'good manners', but you can. And in secular societies you certainly should be able to voice an opinion without being gunned down. 

As another commentator * has stated, "... it is not normal to punch someone who insults you [...] Verbal provocation is never an excuse for violence - that's the wife-beater's defence."

So, what's the point? The point is - or mine at least, for fear of 'offending' anyone, heaven forbid - that the 'right to freedom of speech' is one that we are all entitled to.

However the right to tell anyone, ANYONE, what you can or cannot say is something no one has in today's day and age. What you hear or read may be unpalatable to you. It may offend you. It may amuse you. It may go against everything you hold dear. 

But. It does not give you the right to tell the person perpetrating that view that they have no right to do so. 

Deal with it. Or answer with sarcasm. It's a wonderful tool.

And it's free.

* just in case you think I have a bias for a particular newspaper, given the articles quoted in this post, worry not, I read widely. I wouldn't want to offend anyone.


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The mysterious case of the disappearing toe covers

You may have guessed that this post is about cycling.
If you hadn't, guess what? This post is about cycling.

Well, cycling and how things that you can have on or about your person for some four hours then mysteriously disappear when you suddenly recall not having seen them for a while.

Familiarity breeding absentmindedness, perhaps? I have no idea. You be the judge.

So, in a bid to 'up' our cycling prowess to the same levels as the Wine Writer and the Aussie Solicitor - a rather fearsome task - LCM and Tough Mudda (also a fellow Kevinette, as are the other two, we live very sheltered lives you see within restricted social circles) decided to partake in an organised event on Sunday.

We even featured - albeit from a distance - in one of the organiser's official photos, proof that we were there I suppose:

Elegantly wheeling their bikes to the starting line, the ladies ponder whether
anyone will notice if they bunk off for a croissant and hot chocolate

Anyway. It was freezing. The thermometer said +2C. We pulled on leg warmers, arm warmers, under layers, thermals, socks, tops, bottoms, fleeces, beanies, jackets, full gloves and windproof protection.

I then pulled on overshoes - essentially a wetsuit-style neoprene cover for cleated cycling shoes - which although not particularly sightly, are very effective (my toes were still frozen until about the 47km mark, but never mind).

so elegant... sadly neither the legs nor the bike are mine

Tough Mudda got second dibs on the goodies and had to make do with toe covers, which are, funnily enough, just that: covers that go over the toes of your cycling shoes. Some respite from the cold but not enough (her toes also froze until the halfway mark when we realised her shoes were overtightened and hence restricting circulation... *sigh*).

much more fetching, yet not quite as warm as full PVC

But we finished. Some 66km later, the longest bike ride ever completed by Tough Mudda, in one piece albeit with *ahem* a few sore 'bits'.

Back to the car, racking of bikes, peeling off leg warmers, arm warmers, under layers, thermals, socks, tops, bottoms, fleeces, beanies, jackets, full gloves and windproof protection. And overshoes and toe covers.

Home to tea and pancakes. Bliss.

Two days later and I am suddenly aware of some missing items in the garage cycle-kit-storage-area-that-doubles-as-a-Halfords-showroom.

Yup. Missing toe covers. Vanished into thin air. (And yes, I did check around and on top of the car before leaving the cycling venue, have learnt that from past experience...)

Which in itself is no big deal. Except that they weren't strictly mine to lose as both they and the overshoes belong to someone else.

No one less than BB. Erstwhile training partner on her (rapid) way back from injury.

Uh oh. I haven't told her yet. Although she probably knows now if she reads this.

*practices happy apologetic smile*

I'll just blame Tough Mudda. She wore them last.

And she also lost one of her gloves. Just one, mind you, not both. So I think the toe covers are keeping the 'gant perdu' company somewhere in the wilderness of the A4 corridor. Or on eBay.

Now, where's that website for buying replacement cycling kit? I might need a tougher helmet as well.

(c) Doug Savage


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