Saturday, 27 April 2013

Bitchy New Doctor

I HAD to (very reluctantly) skulk into my new doctors' surgery yesterday thanks to nearly running out of medication. I was seriously put out by Dr Benderson the senior GP I saw. First off, she was none too pretty and yet plastered in makeup ~ this on a 50something year old Aussie woman. Seriously she looked a bit ragged. Like she'd just done a double shift down the whorehouse then come in here. She was extremely offhand with me: "Well I don't know who you are or where this last clinic you say you attended might be ... You'll just HAVE to come back with an empty packet and write down the names of the last doctors you've seen on paper then I'll give it to you." So she did give it to me. But I was distinctly unimpressed.

Anyway apart from that no news. Except that the local mental hospital is filling up with maniacs (of the bipolar variety). Lots of singing and dancing going on down in that locked ward Binky is on. One, according to Binky, showed her a handful of magic seeds which she said would detoxify her, plus that she was able to command the weather what to do. Then she said the word and right on cue, RAIN CAME DOWN. Binky said, "you'll know who she is as soon as you see her."

And sure enough I did. A very loud young middle class girl with braided hair and a homemade crown of leaves saying Was I Binky's son? I'm not THAT young. And Binky is only about 8 years older than me.

Then I asked her to play the trumpet (she brought a trumpet in with her) and to make it snow. But this somehow made her panicky and she pinged out.

I was most disappointed by this, as I was hoping video of this girl playing the trumpet in late April amid sudden swirls of snow would hit Youtube and go viral...

Then a Bulgarian woman, who insisted her only mania was for cleaning, started a singalong. I'm wearing dark glasses because of my flickery, glaring vision. Binky said they don't make me look TOO much like a Nazi torturer. Talking of Incomprehensible Individuals, I've just finished The Wild Swans by Jung Chang and I'm now reading her biography of Mao Tse Tung. I'm being very politic here when I say: he was a wild one one! (Have to be careful what I spout on my blog: don't want to be turned down in some distant time future for a Chinese Visa!)

Anyway gotta go hope you're all well

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Exceptionally Unexceptional

IT'S HOT! Summer has arrived and everybody else's muscari is in bloom while mine looks at death's door.

Well I'm doing very well at Spanish. On unit 19 of 30 (what was I on last time I wrote?...  o dear lesson 18. Well it's slow going ~ all these imperfect tenses, subjunctives and "moods" (a mood is a thing like an imperative where you say "do this!" or "don't do that". In Spanish you use the subjunctive for negative commands. But the tú and vosostros forms are different. Ie you'd say ¡no vueles! (do not fly) but ¡vuela! Meaning do fly. Or something like that. I'm sure I just got that wrong but hey. So I'm drowning in information and I've found out if you go over the same thing for too many hours per day some law of diminishing returns kicks in. Which is why I've started learning Italian as well. So as not to get confused in all this, I'm translating the Italian sentences I learn into Spanish. Eg Italian: un pacchetto di sigarette per favore ~ Spanish: un paquete de cigarrillos por favor. The word for "packet" is pronounced nearly the same in both languages ~ "packetteh" vs "packetto". This is what I have to pay such close attention to. Cigarillos in English are things you only come across in customs declarations ~ you're allowed 200 cigarettes or 200 of these (sinister little cigars of the type a cat-stroking James Bond baddie might smoke). But in Spanish, cigarillos are just ordinary cigarettes.

I have had several traumatic experiences lately. All involving people turning up at my house. And I didn't want them there anyway. One time the gas man came and I just felt really weird. It was "too early in the morning" for me (actually about midday, but I'd woken up feeling just odd). I said "oh do excuse the mess" but I was so ashamed of the legion carrier bags spread everywhere on my bare concrete floor (which I sleep on) and he looked at me all pityingly. I knew I was acting mentally ill but just couldn't help it. My druggieworker says I'm in real danger of spiralling downhill fast and I absolutely have to get another antipsychotic prescription. I've been wandering around feeling unreal. The other day the book I was reading started "weeping" that is the ink ran off all the pages all over me. Of course it was just an illusion. But I was stuck on a bus, everybody in strange stage makeup feeling stuck in some surrealist dream. Also I don't feel that great physically. My eyesight is flickery, as if migraine is coming on. My worker said I should ask the dr about my vision. I did have a GP appointment this morning but I turned up ten minutes late. Loads of people were in the waiting room. Everybody seemed to stare at me. I was wearing far too many clothes for the hot weather. Sweating and feeling terrible. I know I was giving off a strange vibe as several people said offish things to me in different situations. Eg security in the pound shop enquring whether I hadn't just slipped some unauthorized item into my baggage. I pointed out that said bag was full to the brim with my own discarded clothing and showed him a handful of pound coins (change I'd just been given) and said "with everything costing £1 here you'd have to be pretty desperate to resort to shoplifting". That seemed to appease him and he left it at that.

Anyway back to the doctors. I just couldn't face anyone asking whether I was OK. Or talking to me. Or looking at me. So I skulked out of there and walked home feeling terribly guilty for wasting an NHS appointment. If they have a go at me for having to rebook I'm going to say I felt ill and had to go outside to get air. Well that is kind of true. I don't know whether I should be popping psyche pills at all. I know some people I know have hinted not. I do take the prescription, but since I moved house my dr's surgery has changed. Because I'm a new patient I can't just come in and fill out a repeat prescription request. The doctor has to actually see me. And it's paranoid shyness that's eating me up. I was meant to see the nurse a few weeks ago but was so depressed I couldn't get my head around showering or getting ready so I just phoned and cancelled. I'm not depressed now. (Not manic either.)  I just feel like I need a brain scan. I've felt like there was something wrong with my brain for years but consoled myself that if it indeed was a tumour, it should hopefully kill me. If I did have a tumour, surely I should be dead by now...?

Bloody hell how did I get on this morbid subject..? As usual. Well this IS my diary. Other things: BINKY ~ STILL confined in hospital. She's not feeling well at all. Sounds very vague on the phone, as if she's fading away as she talks. She has some drastic mood problems too. Of a different flavour from mine though... I came to see her today. Had to take her money from the post office ~ hundreds of pounds of it ~ and pay it into her bank. She has about a half dozen home shopping catalogue accounts going so she always owes something. That's how she got that 50-inch+ TV that dominates her room blaring out Dog The Bounty Hunter all afternoon. 

Personally I try and avoid watching TV in English. It's not "educational" enough. I've got a new German dictionary and I'm using it to decypher police dramas in German.

Other stuff I've caught includes Arab Idol (I kid you not ~ I know it's called this; the writing was in English)... oh, and the Armenian version of the X-factor (Armenian has a very distinctive script ~ which bears a closer resemblance to Thai than Russian). There's also an Indian talent show called something like "Little Masters" ~ kiddies dancing. Some are very good... Also last week, I caught the Afghanistan Music Awards. Difficult to know who had won as I don't speak their language and cannot read Arabic script... Some of the performances were endearingly unpolished. I know it was from Afghanistan and nowhere else as the EPG told me so... I actually get about 2- or 300 channels in Arabic. Arabs seem to watch a hell of a lot of television! I don't spend all day glued to the box, by the way. I'm more likely to spend the day glued to Spanish. (Can't believe it's taken me a whole week to get through two units though...) I got stuck on the bit where Señor Muñoz tells his plane sick to pop a travel sweet and let it dissolve in her mouth". The bit "let it dissolve" was really confusing... (To my ears, at least.) 

Back to Binky I don't know WHEN she's going to get out...

I haven't got any little parrot birdies. I'm thinking more of getting a ferocious attack dog instead. (A really bushy-furred cute one, of course.) I'd really like a female white Akita. I'm feeling increasing need of a bodyguard after something untoward happened to me...

O damn and blast I'm running out of time... have to go. Take care everyone!

Illustrated: Armenian X-factor...

Friday, 19 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher: After the Funeral

I WATCHED Margaret Thatcher's funeral live across the news channels. Interestingly CNBC didn't carry it, neither did Russia Today ~ but CCTV, the Chinese news channel had some pretty good commentary. In the end I switched off BBC World in favour of France 24 in English where the studio guests made some very insightful comments. (I did try the French version, which you can get on Hotbird but they were babbling on about Reagan's White House more than her so I switched over...)

Wasn't (granddaughter) Amanda Thatcher's Bible reading (Ephesians 6: 10-18) impressive?

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

I wish I could read like that to a group of international VIPs and a television audience numbering tens or hundreds of millions and remain so composed.

So typical of me to make some ridiculous statement and not explain it. "I love a good death" doesn't mean I'm glad Mrs Thatcher is dead, but that I like it the TV and press tributes to her life. I'm still very undecided about what to think about the woman. I was seven years old when she got into power, so during my teenage years for as far back as I could remember there had been Mrs Thatcher and the Queen and it felt like it was going to be that way for always.

I do think Margaret Thatcher was a great politician ~ but more important than this she was a truly great stateswoman who defended British interests abroad. Many foreigners, who didn't have to live with the effects of her domestic policies, looked on her with admiration. She was so obviously superior to her international counterparts (especially Ronald Reagan). She DID "get Britain working" ~ but also forced millions into long-term unemployment. She started hacking into the welfare state. Suddenly you had to pay for eyetests, dentistry and prescriptions (although you pay a flat-rate prescription charge (currently £7.20 ($10.99) ~ not the retail price of the drugs)). Then there was the vastly unpopular poll tax, replaced by the even more unfair council tax (the poll tax to fund local goverment was levied per person; with the council tax you are "jointly and severally liable" meaning if you share an address with fly-by-night types you are liable to get hammered for their council tax as well!)

There are many good politicians and great ones who make lousy statesmen (and women). Example: former (Labour) health secretary Patricia Hewitt, who was so obviously oily and slippery and yet totally rivetting to watch. I remember the time the BBC were interviewing her when her only response to a sticky question was how insulted hardworking doctors would be to hear such an impertinent enquiry. I thought she made a cheap shot there and I wasn't the only one to be totally unimpressed by her interview performance (which was usually fascinatingly flawless) or her lousy performance in high office.

Then of course there's Tony Blair. Amazingly charismatic at the beginning of his reign. And still able to be (apparently) disarmingly frank at the end of it. He gave every impression of being George Bush's lapdog and leading Britain into a war with Iraq that nobody I knew (and hardly anyone across the country) actually wanted. Or a war in Afghanistan that nobody understood. As of 2010 we were supposed to have lavished £20,000,000,000 ($30,492,453,118) on these escapades. And now the government's complaining it's running out of money!

Back to Margaret Thatcher: one of her greatest and most controversial legecies was that she allowed millions of people to buy their council houses and flats. Which I think would be a brilliant idea ~ if only local authorities had been required to replace all accommodation sold with new housing stock. Now we're in a situation where demand massively outstrips supply for public housing. The new Conservative-Liberal coalition are introducing a £14 ($21.34) a week "bedroom tax" where parents of grown-up children will be forced to pay extra for the now-empty bedroom. Which will undoubtedly cause a massive population cascade from 2 and 3-bed properties into single-bedroom flats. Leaving almost nothing left for vulnerable single people who would otherwise be in emergency accommodation. Or just sleeping on the streets. (Or in squats, like I used to do.) I was in temporary accommodation for about eight years before I finally got housed (and how that happened I have no idea. There was a process called "bidding", which I was told happened automatically, though you could somehow express an interest in particular properties. Anyway I got one I really like so I'm happy.

Other news about me: I'm still learning Spanish. Amazingly. I watch a Spanish-language Iranian TV channel on Hotbird called Hispan-TV. They do some quite good (overdubbed) dramas. I also get direct feeds from South America, eg Argentian president Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner's address to the nation. If I were in power I'd refuse interviews and do presidential-style videos too.

After the Spanish Linguaphone has been done and dusted (I'm still only on lesson 18 of 30) I would like to pick up some Italian too. But I'm terrified of getting the two languages mixed up. Just about every Spanish verb form (and there are loads of very complicated ones) seems to have its parallel in Italian (essentially the same thing, just spelled differently) and I know that if I don't really force Spanish grammar to seep into my very bones and my soul I'm just going to get hopelessly confused and not actually speak anything at all. While I only get four TV channels in Spanish, I get over 150 in Italian, including Rai 1, 2 i 3 i QVC Italia etc. Which means ample opportunity to practise. In my experience, apart from the close study of grammar, the major predictor of success in foreign language acquisition is PRACTICE. If you don't use it you'll lose it. So when I'm not tuned into Ethopian folk music all night I let them babble Spanish at me while I sleep. Somehow my befuddled brains dub this over into strangely mangled English. Which means I can't speak Spanish very well (because nothing like that happens with German or French telly). You see why I wanted Hotbird now? 1300 TV channels cannot be wrong!

Well I've gotta go. Binky is languishing in the mental hospital. For the FIFTH time in less than 12 months. And I have to bring cigarettes, scented candles, hair mousse etc etc etc etc etc before she flips her lid...


VIDEO: Amanda Thatcher's reading at her grandmother's funeral...
(by the way, Amanda is only 19; "we are a grandmother" was her older brother Michael...)

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

I do love a good Death

SO MARGARET THATCHER IS DEAD! I can't think of a single other person who polarizes opinion in Britain so much. I would put myself at a central point in this ideological schism. Half me loves her (well, being as I'm Southern, middle-class and didn't grow up on a sink estate) I loved her when she was in power), the other loathes the woman.

While she was selling off state monopolies in telecommunications, power, steel, oil, railways etc I thought "privatization" was a great idea. Now I see it as nationalized theft. If it's good business to generate a load of electricity and sell it off in bulk cheap to companies who then sell it on to us the customers ~ why can't they sell it that cheap to begin with? Cut out the middlemen and give the discount to the consumer?

Thatcherism was, after all, supposed to be a consumer-driven society.

It's SHE who put millions on permanent state welfare handouts by destroying industry and employment in the North.

I do like the pretty buildings ~ you know, the skyscrapers and all ~ that Thatcherism (and neo-Thatcherism) generated.

Also there's "Thatcherite food" ~ which tastes a lot nicer than a lot of bland traditionally "British" fayre ... pasta with loads of pesto and foccaccia. What used to be called "foreign muck" is now the Daily Bread of the bourgeoisie!

Hey and according to today's Sun newspaper Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead is now number one in the download charts!

I would love to go on but I'm in an internet cafe and about to be terminated. Hope you're all doing well.