Monday, June 25, 2012

Understanding Anger

“I recognised the connection between my anger and my will to live. My anger was my will to live turned inside out. My life force was just as intense, just as powerful as my anger, but for the first time I could experience it as different and feel it directly. In that first moment of surprise, I had a glimpse of something fundamental about who I am; that at the core of things I have an intense love of life, a wish to participate fully in life and to help others to do the same. Somehow this had grown large in me as a result of the very limitations that I had thought were thwarting it. Like the power of a dammed river. I had not known this before. I also knew that in its present form, as rage, this power was trapped. My anger had helped me to survive, to resist my disease, even to fight on, but in the form of anger I could not use my strength to build the kind of life I longed to live. And then I knew that I no longer needed to to it this way. I knew with absolute certainty that my pain was nobody’s fault; that the world was not to blame for it. It was a moment of real freedom.”

from 'Kitchen Table Wisdom' by
Rachel Naomi Remen MD

Monday, June 18, 2012

Maureen Dunlop de Popp R.I.P.

Another incredible and unsung heroine has died. Maureen Dunlop de Popp was an aviatrix par excellence. During the Second World War she was one of a pioneering group of women who flew the latest fighter and bomber aircraft with the Air Transport Auxiliary. The Telegraph obituary notes:

"With all ATA pilots flying the same aircraft and facing the same risks, Sir Stafford Cripps arranged that the female pilots should receive equal pay with their male colleagues and this small group of women rightly considered themselves as pioneers of sex equality. Many, including Maureen Dunlop, wished that they could have flown in combat, but this was considered a step too far and was forbidden. 'I thought it was the only fair thing,' she remarked. 'Why should only men be killed?'

She was one of 164 female pilots and, during her 3 years with the ATA, she flew 38 different types of aircraft, among them the Spitfire, Mustang, Typhoon and the Wellington bomber."

The rest of the obituary may be found here.

There are and were so many unknown female flyers. Most people may have heard of Amelia Earhart. Some might have heard of Amy Johnson. I know my friend Emily's mother Carla. However, the only way interest in their lives might be engendered is if a major tv network created a smash hit series based on their lives. Any takers?

Brisfully Unaware

The concept of circumcision for an 8-day-old Jewish boy is thousands of years old. Fathers may faint and mothers may cry, but it is an unquestioned ritual at the traditional end of the spectrum of Jewish observance. It is a day of joy and celebration.

However ... I have never seen it celebrated in quite such a ridiculous way. Thus, words fail me.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Nose (The Hours)

The movie "The Hours" is on tv at the moment. I am trying, again, to watch what is supposed to be a wonderful film. Nicole Kidman got an Oscar for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in this movie. But whenever she is onscreen, all I can do is try and see if I can recognise Nicole behind the prosthetic nose and the prosthetic accent. Mostly the nose, though. And then I see Julianne Moore and how small her nose is. And then Miranda Richardson appears and her nose is even tinier. I guess it's easier to obsess about the nose rather than think about how sad they all are.

Back to the nose ...

Road to Nowhere

Michael Winner writes a weekly column in the Sunday Times called "Winner's Dinners". This was the beginning of today's column:

"I hate Baker Street. It's a nothing street that starts near Oxford Street (another horror), goes in a straight line north, leads you one way or another to St John's Wood (don't like that either) and then goes on through Hertfordshire (nice), the north (strange) and Scotland (adorable) and ends up at the North Pole. I suppose, if it had the energy, Baker Street would carry on down the other side of the planet and go to the South Pole."

I don't know that I necessarily HATE Baker Street. After all, without it, my father would never have been able to become one of Holmes' Baker Street Irregulars. But it's defo a nothing street. A one-way road to nowhere. Can you tell me any of the businesses and enterprises that abut the tarmac full of double decker buses and taxis? Apart from the food chains and phone shops?
In the end, its reputation rests only on a fictional detective and a 1978 single by the late Gerry Rafferty. Am afraid I shall have to agree with Mr. W. Don't tell!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Triumph and Defeat

There's something about tennis ... it's a sport, a game, a pastime that can enrich one's life by engendering good health and fun. It can also be quite enjoyable on tv, especially when it is televised against the Jubilee weekend!

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the French #1 played yesterday against Novak Djokovic, the World #1 in the quarter-final of the French Open tournament at Roland Garros in Paris. The ups and downs of this match were quite heart-rendering (as the Omi of ravaj used to say). Tsonga didn't show up for the first set, and was trounced 1-6. Then somehow he clawed his way into a 2 sets to 1 lead. In the fourth set he had several match points, but couldn't put them away. And he lost the tie-break.

Djokovic was incredibly tough. The nearer to defeat he got, the harder he played. And it broke the will of Tsonga. He crumbled in the final set.

What I find so fascinating about this sport is the influence the mental state of the players ultimately has on the result. They are physically so fit and so talented and so experienced. What often tips the balance between losing and winning is their mental toughness. And that is what Djokovic had. At the start of the match I was rooting for the fairytale of the Frenchman in Paris. I decided that Djokovic was growing a goatee to hide his unfortunate resemblance to President Assad of Syria. But Novak won me over. It was mostly the power of his will to win. However, the piece de resistance was that in the middle of his struggle, he was able to applaud when his opponent beat him with a superior shot. More than once. There's nothing I love more than a good sport!

So bad luck Monsieur Tsonga, and well done Mr Djokovic. I hope you go on to make a proper Grand Slam.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

King Bee or not King Bee

Adam Gopnik on the BBC website has pointed out that Shakespeare thought the bee in charge of the hive was a gentleman bee. He cites Henry V I:2

"For so work the honey-bees,
Creatures that by a rule in nature teach
The act of order to a peopled kingdom.
They have a king and officers of sorts;
Where some, like magistrates, correct at home,
Others, like merchants, venture trade abroad,
Others, like soldiers, armed in their stings,
Make boot upon the summer's velvet buds;
Which pillage they with merry march bring home
To the tent-royal of their emperor:
Who, busied in his majesty, surveys
The singing masons building roofs of gold,
The civil citizens kneading up the honey,
The poor mechanic porters crowding in
Their heavy burdens at his narrow gate,
The sad-eyed justice, with his surly hum,
Delivering o'er to executors pale
The lazy yawning drone."

He then very kindly did some Googling for us so we didn't have to:

"the bee sex confusion goes back at least to Aristotle, and was only solved in the late 17th Century, when Swammerdam found that the king was, so to speak, cross-dressing and really had ovaries."

For more details, the rest of the article is here.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Moving Right Along

Saw these lovely poppies in someone's front garden on the way to services yesterday evening. No camera can catch how deeply bloody red they were. What Jubilee weekend?