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Thoughts of Eggcup

I find myself wondering about things sometimes and want to see if others feel the same.

Offering Syrians refuge. I posted this 2 years ago and thought it was worth re-posting:
05 September 2015

I believe I have a really good idea for David Cameron; an approach which he can pass on to Barack Obama and other leaders, concerning Syria. It is an approach which could avert a potential World War Three and bring all nations together.

The idea is that all willing countries offer asylum on a shared basis to any Syrians who want it and who are able to leave the country. Firstly, this would involve offering sanctuary to all refugees who have currently fled the country. This would send the message to other Syrians that we want to genuinely help them in their hour of need.

There would be many complications, not least ensuring that dangerous rebels and/or others gain access to our countries, but if the load were spread between many countries, including Russia, this would also be a way of bringing the countries together and avoiding hostilities. It would obviously have serious financial implications, but so would a military strike.

It would be a fantastic humanitarian gesture and may lead to Syria being temporarily depopulated; Assad can then rule over a vastly diminished population and over the next decade or so, maybe things could change within that country which enabled people to return.

I believe this could also show Cameron as a world leader with ideas which can change the world.

I sent this as a letter to the Times and Telegraph last Saturday, but they didn't publish it, instead publishing letters saying 'military action won't achieve anything,' or 'we need military action.' No, what we need is constructive ways ahead, and ideas regarding the positive steps we can take. I believe the leaders are blinkered at the moment and hope that they can at least consider this as a way forward.



Like 0        Published at 22:22   Comments (0)


Don't get walked over in Spain.
14 July 2014

I would like to share with you some advice that has occurred to me from re-reading my last few posts on my Arguing Over Olives blog. This might be relevant for anyone starting up a new life in Spain (NB. I am generalising with this advice, to a certain extent, but it is based on my personal experience).

1. A lot of Spaniards, when they see a foreigner, see euro signs and can be quite annoying continually trying to flog you property. You will sometimes think you have made a friend because these people can be really friendly and invite you around for a meal etc. Watch out if after they have plied you with booze they start mentioning a piece of land or house they want to sell.

2. Don't be fooled by some Spaniards who look scruffy, but are razor sharp when it comes to money. These are particularly prevalent in rural areas.

3. Be highly suspect of rich people in Spain: where and how did they obtain all this wealth? Does it go back to the Franco days?

4. Sometimes, you have to be a bit false and 'keep in' with certain locals who wield a lot of power, at least until you've got what you need. Then, if they're bad people you can have a nice big row with them if you want.

5. Don't get walked over by trespassers and bullies. Stand up for yourself. You will thereby maintain your self-respect and also gain the respect of others.  Also, you will usually manage to get the bad ones to go away and find a different victim.

6. Don't aim to be liked at all costs, when you want to integrate. That way you'll get continually ripped off.

 

Feel free to add any other advice you might have to assist newcomers, in the comments section below.

To see our current properties for rent take a look at: 

http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p86636

And also another of our completed projects:

http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p475271

 

 



Like 0        Published at 15:44   Comments (7)


My little life.
09 June 2014

My head is a busy one. Thoughts whizzing around all the time - about the houses we rent out, the problems, the vacancies that must be filled, the possibly dodgy couple who viewed yesterday; then, how my son is getting on in his exams this morning - has he read the question properly?; our forthcoming trip to Spain - what'll go wrong this time? Will we have an accident? Will we get stopped by the Guardia Civil? Will the 'plane crash? 
Then, what about my growing intolerance to white wine?  The last chance saloon for alcohol as I don't like anything else - even one glass now leaving me with a headache; a blot on my day. And the middle finger on my left hand seems to be damaged - a repetitive strain injury from too many years of picking up a large skinny latte at Costa while writing with my right hand. A more litigious type would sue.
Then, what's this with that bit of phlegm that just won't clear from my throat? It's been more than a week now. There was something about going to the doctors if a cough lasted too long. Have I got throat cancer? In which case, I'd better edit those books of mine quickly or I'll have no legacy and my life will have had no meaning (she writes, as she peels the sticker off her McDonalds coffee cup - six stickers on a card equals a 'free' regular coffee).
And so the thoughts continue day in, day out, in varying annoying combinations. Plus maybe an irritating song at the same time -'Oh, they built the ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue, and they thought they had a ship that the water would never go through.' Or: 'She's a la-dy, wo,wo, wo, she's a la-dy, talking about the little lady, and the lady is mi-i-ine.' (sung to the dog, usually.)
Christ, if I could clear these thoughts and this noise from my mind, I could have a nice, clean, crisp, empty head. I could then carefully place some positive and interesting thoughts into it; I could maybe have an idea which would change the world. I could think like a world leader.
I bet David Cameron's head doesn't annoy him as much as mine does me. He'll be thinking about  Putin (what a bastard he is and how he can contain him) and other world leaders like Obama and Merkel (how to keep them sweet), he'll be thinking of ways to monitor the scheming Chinese.  He'll have to think up strategies for dealing with back-stabbing colleagues and how to keep the opposition in its place. His mind will be filled with ploys and strategems. 
When he's got time, some of his thoughts will be about his family, his relationship with 'Sam,' his dead child, his Dad. He won't be thinking about that annoying person who never reciprocates when he buys him a pint. He won't care that Sam didn't fold his pyjamas before putting them under his pillow. His mind is reserved for far greater thoughts.
But I do not envy him his big life. As much as I'd like power and influence in this world, I'd be useless as a politician. Once Putin had pissed me off even in a tiny way - like he'd ignored me when I asked him to pass the salmon encroute, I'd refuse to have anything more to do with him. I'd rely on Adrian talking to him. That's my usual method of dealing with people (it's why I've got no friends).
So here I am, in my little life - a life focused on a family of four, plus dog. A life I once thought would be so much bigger.
And not for the first time I ask:
AM I WASTING MY LIFE? 

We have some availability for this summer at our two Spanish rentals:

(NB I might slag off living in Spain, but it's a great place for a holiday smiley

http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p86636

And:

http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p475271

 

 



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What do you say to a grief-stricken mother?
08 June 2014

Unlike my usual posts, this isn't one where I am going to pontificate and set out all my arguments against something or other. I'm looking for advice.

My Spanish friend's adult son has died. We don't yet know the circumstances (could be illness, accident, suicide, foul play). We are going to Spain soon and I have no idea what to say to her. 

I've always been useless at dealing with other people's bereavements and as I get older will have to learn as it's going to happen more often. So I'm looking for ideas on the do's and dont's. What can I say to her? I don't mind answers in English or Spanish - obviously I'll be talking to her in Spanish, but it's more the content of what you should say in these circumstances. We're neither of us touchy-feely - she's a different generation - in her 70s. 

Any ideas appreciated.

[NB. I'm not putting the question on the Forum, because it's not the right kind of forum]



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'You can write any old drivel.'
07 June 2014

Alan, our painter, had come around for payment this morning and we were sitting at the kitchen table, when Adrian showed me an article in The Telegraph about a woman I knew in University - Nicola Barker. It was a profile of her life and she came across very well - she was a lovely girl all those years ago, and we often met in my college room, planning to break into nuclear bases, as you do.
But I still immediately got into competitive mode, trying to make out my life was better than this Man Booker prize shortlisted, established, famous author - another person I knew at University who has become successful (but she was also very open about her health problems, how she likes to watch soaps and so on; a thoroughly nice person). The ones I thought would 'make it' I've never heard of since.
'I've got children!' was my trump card. 
Also:
'And I don't have to write for commercial [or even critical] success! I can write what I want.'
'Yes, you can write any old drivel,' Adrian said. 'And it doesn't matter if no-one reads it!'
Actually, my dear, it doesn't matter. The point of writing isn't to be able to say that millions of people read what you write (although that would be fabulous). The point of writing for me is to attain some kind of self-realisation. To amuse myself. To laugh at my own jokes. To register in a tangible way some grievance I have (which the writing seems to dissipate).
When you're a successful author, there is pressure to come up with the goods and also to write more books in whatever genre you're in. These writers of fiction aren't always free to write what they want. Personally, as I have little imagination I have to write about real events which are often stranger than fiction anyway. And of course my niche is to focus on the problems in life.
Once or twice, on this website, I have been pushed into writing something 'positive' in response to pleas:
'Please tell us it worked out for you. We're moving to Spain and we're petrified we'll suffer like you did. Tell us about the good things. Please. It couldn't have been that bad. You have to reassure us we're doing the right thing.'
Actually, I don't have to do anything and I won't be influenced like that again. I won't write about sun-dappled meadows in bloom and skipping gaily through the scarlet poppies. Or about the hilarious time I sat on a bag of eggs I'd forgotten were on my carseat or how much I enjoyed a fiesta (I hate fiestas) and how I was chortling and guffawing in my new, highly successful Spanish life. I've read a few books which are full of this tedious 'positivity.'
If I ever come up with anything like that, I give permission to those who read my blogs to smack me across the face. 
In the meantime, I will carry on writing about the fights, the scuffles, the run-ins, the angst, the depression, the corruption, the altogether seedy side of Spanish and expat life. Anyone who doesn't like it can go and do one. 
And that concludes my thoughts for today.

We have some availability for this summer at our two Spanish rentals:

(NB I might slag off living in Spain, but it's a great place for a holiday smiley

http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p86636

And:

http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p475271

 



Like 0        Published at 17:18   Comments (6)


Is sexist violence getting worse?
31 May 2014

It was in the news yesterday that two Indian girls, aged 14 and 15, were gang-raped, murdered and hanged from trees. It was said that two police officers and two civilians were the perpetrators and initially the police were going to take no action. It was only when the villagers staged a protest below the girls's hanging bodies that they were forced to act.
Such terror and horror for them and for their families and friends; and a warning to other girls everywhere that men have the power to do this. Is there to be no end to this sexual violence against women and girls?
My young teenage daughter was just this week writing an essay for a Spanish exam. The question was whether 'la violencia machista' is the main worry for women today. I gave her my opinion, which is that while it will be a terrible reality for millions of girls and women in the world, women also had other pressing worries, such as how to feed their children or get them medical help when they are ill. 
Of course many of these women will face these challenges without a supportive (if any) partner to help them. They may also be facing these more economic issues within a family and/or community context of violence against women.
My daughter finished her essay by saying that such sexist violence has always existed and will always exist.
But how can we accept this? In the West there have been some invidious developments, especially related to the internet, in terms of tolerance of sexism and sexist violence against women (an excellent programme by Kirsty Walk was broadcast on this theme this week). We must combat these trends for the sake of society in general, for the sake of our daughters (for whom it is so upsetting and confusing) and also for our sons (so that they can lead more decent lives and not become brutalised with twisted notions of gender relations). 
Clearly, the issue of sexist violence is much more serious in countries like India, where rape is endemic and on another scale to that in the West. But we should be leading the way and exerting pressure on these countries, while at the same time tackling the increasing tolerance of sexism in our own countries. 
Is it so much to ask that women and girls be treated with the same respect accorded to the male of the species?

 



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Fantastic Spanish pop music: 5 great songs for you to listen to.
24 May 2014

When I lived in Spain I found that most of our British friends knew very little if any Spanish or Hispanic pop music. They often tended to write it off as rubbish compared to the fantastic and brilliant British and American stuff.
Through listening to Canal Fiesta Radio (and the lovely, bubbly-sounding D.J Api Jiménez), we discovered some amazing Spanish pop music. Off the top of my head I'm going to name some of my favourite songs and post Youtube links so that you can see and hear these people in action (you'll have to cut and paste). 

You may want to add some of your favourites in the comments section. I'd like to find out about some more good stuff (especially as I don't really discover new Spanish music now that I'm mostly back in the UK).
Here are my favourites:
1. Antonio Carmona and Alexander Sanz singing: Para Que Tu No Llores:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH66acLpd3k
I'm not actually a fan of Alexander Sanz (who is a massive star). He has one of those gritty, gypsy voices. In this though I think he's even better than the lovely Antonio Carmona. This is the only song I can ever remember where I felt the 'honda.' (I think that's what it's called, but if any of you know I've got that wrong, let me know and I'll correct it here - I don't want to teach people the wrong word). What I'm referrring to is that shivery feeling you get at a very special moment in a song (not promising you'll get it and I won't tell you where in the song; I don't suppose you can force these things.
2. Antonio Carmona, singing Vengo Venenoso.
If you liked the first one, try this other Antonio Carmona favourite of mine:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zi8dG7ChVYo
3. Juanes, singing Tengo La Camisa Negra.
I've chosen a more boring video, which just shows photos of Colombiano Juanes  (because I find the main video a bit sexist with the scampily-clad skinny women etc.)
My sister tells me this was a big hit in Germany. I think it was a big hit all over the world, but I don't follow that kind of thing. This song is undoubtedly not his best, but it's got something and is very catchy. The lyrics are also very clear, so you could learn a bit of Spanish studying these and other lyrics.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh9BbalDxRE
4. Juanes, singing Par Tu Amor.
This is probably more of a favourite of mine by him.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWkQbrfSvfs&index=5&list=AL94UKMTqg-9DFLFZsUzwkvlI1o9t38_ag
5. Chambao, singing Papeles Mojados.
This one is incredibly moving and really brilliant. It's about the Africans who drown trying to get to Europe. Worth watching, especially at a time when many of us are so anti-immigrant and can be pretty heartless. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oj8aNCtTHW4
Okay. That's enough for this morning. Got to walk the dog. When I think of more, I'll post them.

We still have vacancies for this year at the following two casas, if you know anyone who might be interested, maybe you could let them know: 

http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p86636

And:

http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p475271

 



Like 0        Published at 11:06   Comments (0)


I just did something amazing in the loo.
14 May 2014

In my third year at University, my friend and I set up boxes outside our rooms above the college bar. We had publicised the fact that we were collecting sanitary towels for women in war-torn parts of Africa and asked that students make donations. Over the period of a month we collected a lorry-load and another student's father paid for the lorry to take them to Africa. 
We were quite pleased with our initiative; however the London Evening Standard caught wind of it and reported how hilarious this evidence of the 'loony left' was.
Well, I just came back from a trip, where I stopped in a service station and while using the loo read a poster on the inside door - 'Do something amazing today!' All I had to do was send a text to donate £3 and the Government would match the donation. It didn't even prolong my visit.
What for? For sanitary towels to be sent to women fleeing the fighting in Syria and the Congo. Luckily, this is no longer seen as some 'mad' cause, but instead a matter of helping women preserve their dignity and not suffer terrible embarrassment and discomfort in addition to all the other dreadful things going on for them.
P.S. We all like to name drop now and again and I am no exception. I used to see Sam Mendes now and then outside my room (I don't know if he made a donation - probably, as he was a very nice boy). We used to say 'hi' to one another, while Sam waited for his friend who lived opposite me in the corridor to open his door. I had no idea he would one day become so famous and that I would go and see his National Theatre production of King Lear and also his James Bond film...
To donate £3 to ActionAid, you text KIT to 70111.
(you don't have to do it from the loo)
Also, those of you on FaceBook might like to spread this cause and get friends to donate.

 



Like 1        Published at 11:22   Comments (0)


If you love authoritarian regimes, go and live under one.
06 May 2014

I love writing. I don't know what it is about it; something about getting all my thoughts out on paper. It's so therapeutic. Maybe I'd go mad without it. 
And then I think of the countries in the world, past and present, where people can't or haven't been able to do this simple thing - express what they're thinking, either verbally or on paper. And because they're not allowed to express a thought, sometimes that will stop them from even having that thought.
Where do all these thoughts go when they're trapped and suffocated inside a person with no way of getting out? That terrible lack of freedom. Many people in modern democracies take our freedom for granted. I don't. I appreciate it and I'm grateful for it. I give thanks especially to all of the people between 1939 and 1945 who lost their lives, lost family members, lost their limbs, lost their homes... And I also will never forget the price paid by the Jewish people, when tyranny was allowed a free reign. Totalitarian regimes are always ruthless with any people they perceive to be the enemy. It happened in Spain, too, of course. Indeed, Franco's massacre of the opposition has been likened to a Holocaust.
If people hadn't fought against these various forms of Fascism and if we hadn't defeated Hitler, in particular, many of us could now be living under dictatorships and I wouldn't have walked down through my town this morning for my latte in the carefree way I did, not giving a damn what anyone thought of how I looked, what I wore or what I was thinking.
Instead, we could be in a dictatorship resembling North Korea or a pseudo-democracy like Russia (where no viable opposition is allowed to exist). A country where you express your views at your peril and you behave in a uniform way that you hope draws no attention to you.
I thus get particularly furious when in the Western world Islamists and other lovers of authoritarian regimes take advantage of our hard-won freedom to try and impose their anti-democratic beliefs on us. For example, the current conspiracies to take over some of our schools must be attacked aggressively by our Government. We cannot afford to be complacent.
I have also recently heard expressed the idea that these authoritarian leaders, past and present (specifically, Hitler and Putin), enjoyed or enjoy massive public support. How does anyone know what genuine support Hitler enjoyed in the Third Reich, especially towards the end, when there were several brave murder attempts on him, by his own 'supporters'? And the same goes for Putin.
Look at North Korea - all the population smiling and marching in unison, seemingly in adoration of their beloved leader. Some are brainwashed enough to think they do love him, but many will harbour very different thoughts and have to spend their lives acting when they are in public. What a terrible strain and burden to bear in life.
It's very easy for apologists from free countries where they don't have this dreadful experience to say these leaders enjoy massive public support. The same people never actually want to permanently go and live in these countries that they admire so much.
It is my belief that we must always be on the look-out and not tolerate any attempts to erode the freedoms won for us by the struggle of many in the last century and also now on various fronts, at home and abroad. However ugly it is to think about it, we must remember the evils committed by totalitarian leaders - the brutal tortures and murders of millions of innocent people - so that we can be sure it will never happen again.

 



Like 2        Published at 15:38   Comments (0)


Life is hard. You're a liar if you say it's not.
23 April 2014

I read today that Buddhists believe we have no right to expect happiness in this life; instead, it is best to view life as an endurance test with the aim being to get through it while causing as little hurt as possible to other people.

I like that. It can make you  feel  less of a failure, if you view life like that; less like you've made the wrong decisions in life - the idea that no chosen path would be easy, that the grass isn't greener.

Some people present their lives as though they were easy, however and this I find very unhelpful. Nigella Lawson was a case in point,  with her fabulous staged dinner parties. Why couldn't I have that lovely life with the canapes, the champagne, the twinkling Christmas lights, mingling amongst my interesting and vivacious friends? (We later find out people were paid to to be her 'friends' and the filming was in a studio and not her house and she had a miserable marriage).

I've also had friends who do the Nigella thing. And because I can't stand all that posing I don't want to bother with them. If you can't have a genuine, honest connection with someone, why waste your time with them? One life and you spend it putting on an act and competing, trying to prove your lifestyle is better than that of others? So I've ended up a bit friendless; it may be a temporary or permanent state. Who knows? It may also be my inevitable fate as a full-time mother who focuses her energies on the family and thereby becomes a bit isolated.*

So I believe that life is difficult (for everyone) and those who pretend it isn't are liars.

And that concludes my thought of the day.

*I have to add that it has annoyed me no end this week to read more than one article written by women journalists - saying they 'prefer to work' rather than 'not work' - they define full-time mothers as 'non-workers', rather than unpaid workers.  And yet childminders are workers? What a load of old-fashioned nonsense. They play right into the hands of the patriarchy when they put down other women's contributions in that insidious way.

 



Like 2        Published at 16:11   Comments (4)


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