Rearranging

High quality ostrich feather duster

Over the last couple of days we’ve been doing a bit of decorating and deep cleaning. We’ve also rearranged the downstairs, something I’ve wanted to do for a couple of months now. It’s amazing how moving a bit of furniture around can make a room or a home feel completely different and new. It seems to revitalise everything.

Now that we’ve done the house I think it’s about time to do a little ‘life’ rearranging. Move some of my furniture about. Sometimes we all have to do some deep cleaning and decorating of a more personal nature. Get out the feather duster and sweep away some of those mental cobwebs that tend to hang around the nooks and crannies of our mind.

Maybe slap a coat of paint over the whole mess. Or maybe just the odd room or two. Sometimes we just need a little tidy up and things feel fresher and newer.  And perhaps change the room layout or swap rooms around.

Sometimes we need to get rid of all the clutter. Have a mental car boot sale or yard sale and put up the placard that says. “Everything must go!” Or trade our old furniture for new and get a ‘new look’ on life.

And speaking of life, it may well be that our life is what needs rearranging and not our mental state at all. No cobwebs or clutter or dust kitties to be swept away. Just our life’s direction or location.

Are we headed in the right direction? Should we be going south instead of north? Should we stay where we’re at or go some place completely different? Should we be moving at all?

It could be that we are in need of a fresh new start. That the road we are travelling down has turned into a mud-filled rut. If that is the case, do we just tighten our shoelaces and trudge that little bit harder or do we jump up and out of the rut we are in.  I think we all find ourselves in ruts of one kind or another it’s just up to us to figure out what to do.

I have ‘started over’ more times than I care to think about. And really friends and neighbours, ‘starting over’ is the same thing as a fresh start. Both of these phrases starting over, fresh start mean the same thing. They are both acts of rearranging your life.

It can get to be addictive, this rearranging lark. You start wondering whether or not you are going a bit stale, a bit sour, or a bit too lackadaisical. Everything starts feeling the same, as though you’re caught in a grey and featureless world. One that is devoid of colour and the contrast is too fuzzy to see anything clearly.

Does this addiction to change of mind and attitude equal a change of location? Or are you so caught in that rut that you’re overlooking what you need. A sort of forest and trees scenario.

If you are suffering from an almost irresistible urge to decorate, clean and rearrange; start small. It could just be that all you need to do is re-think. It could be that simple. But if it’s not?

Well, it’s probably time to hold that yard sale and pack the things you want to keep. Your ‘new’ life changing experience is just over that next hill.

Garage Sales
Garage Sales (Photo credit: Ecstatic Mark)

 

An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country

Flag of the United States of America
Flag of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My daughter and I were discussing the differences between America and England. She had read a blog or two about Brit’s abroad and living in the US. I thought that they must be interesting and then wondered why I hadn’t thought of doing something similar.

I have always enjoyed living in England. Growing up and watching Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce playing as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s great double act, Holmes and Watson made me long to tread those foggy streets of London. When I was given the opportunity to live here courtesy of Uncle Sam, I couldn’t believe my luck.

I will point out that I have actually lived in the United Kingdom longer than I lived in the country of my birth. I have thought of this castle filled country as my home for at least the last eighteen years. I got out of the USAF as part of the force downsizing drill in the nineties and not too long after applied for citizenship. Luckily for me, I did not have to ‘give up’ my status as an American citizen so I’ve always had the best of both worlds.

Despite the fact that I came to this country with a cloud over my head (that would soon be replaced by the real clouds that so frequently fill the sky in this country) I felt that just walking the streets was a great adventure. For years I would be driving somewhere and see the ruins of a castle or a picturesque thatched cottage and think, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m living here!”

Of course I have now lived here so long, that I don’t have many occasions where I have trouble with the local language or have to learn about traditions or quaint practises of the country. I have, though, developed a strange accent. One that is an odd blend of Arkansan,  American, and English. I live in Suffolk, one of the more rural areas of East Anglia, where you can get trapped behind a tractor for miles on a narrow, two lane road and the local populace all talk like an English version of country bumpkins.

It is a beautiful countryside that still plays havoc with my sinuses, despite having lived full-time in the county since 1990. And each year I await the rape and mustard season with dread knowing that my eyes will water and itch and my nose will steadfastly refuse to work properly until the blasted stuff is harvested.

But back in 1982, I didn’t know about rapeseed and mustard and how much it can affect you. I only knew that I really needed a change of scenery and the positive press I got from my  commander made it sound a bit like heaven. I got my orders and flew to RAF Mildenhall, the “Gateway to Europe” and arrived on the 5th of July 1982. My sponsor, a Staff Sargent from my new unit, met me and helped me get settled in my room.

I had an invite to his place later in the day for a barbecue and he left saying he would come back and pick me up later. I wandered around the wide open base. In those days RAF Mildenhall was pretty much open to the public. The only part of the base that was fenced off was the flight line area. Everything else was easily accessible by everyone.

At the edge of Mildenhall’s archaic base housing was a bus stop and a place called Mickey’s T bar. It boasted American style food and seating. I went in and ordered a double cheese burger. When the owner brought me the burger he pointed to an American style mustard bottle and said if I needed mustard on it, to help my self. I grabbed the squeezable bottle and lathered my cheese burger with mustard.

I then went to a table, sat down and took an enormous bite of instant fire. Eyes watering, I looked at the burger I’d just taken a bite out of in surprise. I hastily grabbed my can of coke and gulped the entire thing down in an effort to stop the burning in my mouth. I carefully put the cheeseburger down on my plate. I went back to the serving counter and bought another coke and asked why the burger was so damn hot.

The owner looked at me oddly and said, “Well of course it’s hot mate, I’ve only just cooked it.” I explained that I didn’t mean temperature hot, but spicy hot. He then started chuckling.

” You didn’t put mustard on did you?”

“Yeah,” I said, “Of course I did.”

“Well that’s not Yank mustard, mate. It’s English. We like our mustard a bit hotter than you lot like yours.” He continued chuckling to himself and after he sold me my second Coke stopped and thoughtfully rubbed his chin. “You know, I probably should mark the bloody thing. We get quite a few of you Yanks in here straight off the plane. Did you just get here?”

I nodded and he offered to make me another cheeseburger, no charge since I’d ‘ruined’ my first one. I said he didn’t have to do that, as I could  just scrape off the excessive amount of mustard that I had put on.  I finished my burger and wandered back to my room for a nap before the barbecue that afternoon.

My first day in England and already I’d learned two valuable  lessons. Not everything was what it seemed here and don’t put too much mustard on your burger.

English mustard.

Cargo (2009): This Swiss Science Fiction Ain’t Cheesy

Cargo (2009 film)
Cargo (2009 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you’re a film nut (or geek, or buff, or lover, or add descriptive word of choice here______), you will take a chance on a film you’ve never heard of. Often this unknown film is incredibly cheap, which can indicate that it is laughably bad and worth the paltry purchase price just to watch it and roll about the floor in uncontrollable mirth. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you Cowboys and Vampires aka Dead West as evidence and will rest my case.

But…

Sometimes you find a fantastically great film, that for some obscure reason, has been placed in the bargain bucket. The 2009 Swiss film Cargo  falls squarely in that category. Wikipedia will tell you that Cargo is Switzerland’s first science fiction film what it will not tell you is that the film is a mystery/thriller that just happens to take place in space.

Directed by Ivan Engler and Ralph Etter (Engler also co-wrote the film with another six people) Cargo is stark, moody, cold,  huge and brilliant.

Main Cast List:

Anna Katharina Schwabroh …      Laura Portman

Martin Rapold …                            Samuel Decker

Regula Grauwiller…                      Anna Lindberg

Yangzom Brauen…                        Miyuki Yoshida

Pierre Semmler…                          Pierre Lacroix

Claude-Oliver Rudolph…               Igor Prokoff

Michael Finger…                            Claudio Vespucci

The film is set in 2267. The earth has been polluted to such an extent that it is now uninhabitable. People now have to live in an enormous ‘space city’ that is overcrowded and affected by sickness and apathy. There is one other place to live.  A planet called Rhea. It is a Terra-formed planet that looks like a paradise. Anyone can live on Rhea if they have enough money or are lucky enough to win a lottery to move there.

RHEA

A young medical doctor, Laura Portman  hires on to a decaying cargo vessel that has been contracted to deliver building materials to a “way-station” that will be the mid-point for travel to another solar system.  She will make enough money on the eight year trip (four years out and back) to pay her way to Rhea where her sister Arianne lives with her two children.

Laura boards the ship and meets the five member crew, Captain Lacroix and his second-in-command Lindberg, Yoshida the ship’s engineer and the two maintenance men Prokoff and Vespucci. She learns that the journey will entail the crew having to man the vessel in eight month shifts. Only one crew member will be actively monitoring the journey while the others are in cryosleep.

On this particular journey the now six member crew will be joined by a security officer named Decker. Decker is there because of an increased threat from the terrorist group “Maschinenstürmer” (Machine strikers) who target and blow  up cargo vessels. Six of the now seven member crew then don their cryo-gear and enter the sludge filled tanks.

Three years and four and a half months later Laura is on the back end of her shift. She spends her time sending messages to her sister on Rhea, exercising (working out on a punch bag) and checking the crew and the ship’s status. She begins to hear unexplained noises.

When she attempts to track down the source of the noise she winds up at the cargo hold door. As she starts to look through  the ice covered door, something hits the other side. Frightened she runs away and bumps into Security Office Decker who says that he was woken from cryostasis because someone opened a restricted door.

Following the ship’s protocol Laura want’s to wake the remaining crew members. Decker insists that they only wake Captain Lacroix. Lacroix grumpily agrees to search the ship with Decker and Laura. He warns Laura that if they find nothing there will be serious consequences for breaching the Cryo protocol.

Once the three enter the actual cargo  area they split up. Soon after, Lacroix falls screaming from one of the higher walkways. After determining that Lacroix has died from his fall, Laura and Decker wake the remaining crew members.

Cargo looks fantastic, the cinematography, lighting and sets are reminiscent of Blade Runner and Alien.

The orbiting city at the beginning of the film looks spectacular and is the portion of the film that evokes the Blade Runner feel. You know that if you could walk the streets, they would be wet, dirty and crowded.

The cargo ship feels like it could be the Nostromo‘s ethereal twin, harsh contrasts of light and dark and the watery corridors that run through the ship like a damp maze. But unlike the mining ship from the Alien verse, Cargo’s shipping vessel is not built for crew comfort, it is cold, wet and icy (another type of contrast, if it’s not icy and freezing it is watery and cold). Although the crew’s area is at least dry, it is obvious that Kuiper Enterprises who own the vessel are saving money by not providing central heating for the crew.

The film is obviously science fiction if for no other reason than it’s futuristic space setting. But scrape away the space veneer and you will find a mystery thriller of the finest calibre. My daughter and I (both keen mystery fans and quite adept at guessing who’s who in most films) were constantly having to change our minds as to who the real ‘big bad’ actually was.

A lot of twists and turns in the plot area combined with an eerie cargo spaceship setting made for a wonderfully tense, suspense filled film.

The film was the maiden effort of both directors but you’d never know it by the quality of the film. Cargo builds suspense slowly but steadily throughout the entire film. The pacing is spot on and the acting is just great. The film is in German with English sub-titles. Thankfully the film makers did not go the ‘dubbing’ route as that would have surely destroyed the film.

The sub-titles aren’t ridiculously long so you don’t have to miss anything by reading a ‘Gone With the Wind’ type narration at the bottom of the screen.

An absolutely brilliant film that deserves to be placed in the same league as the above mentioned films, Blade Runner and Alien.

Where the Hell Did All These People Come From?

London 2012 banner at The Monument.
London 2012 banner at The Monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it’s the first day of the 2012 Olympics. Folks are flying small or large national flags in front of their houses to show their patriotic support. London is theoretically packed with Olympian fans from countries around the globe and amazingly the weathermen accurately predicted that it would rain on the evening of the opening Olympic ceremonies.

I will readily admit that I’m more impressed by the accurate weather forecast than anything else that might be happening in London or anyplace else for that matter. I know that the press has been predicting that traffic down to (or up to, or across to depending where you live in the country) will be horrendously congested as folks flock to the games.

Well, I don’t know but I think a whole group of them have gotten lost and wound up in my neck of the woods.

I just went down to pick up a prescription that I then had to drop off to the pharmacy of my local Tesco Metro. For those of you who don’t live in England, the Tesco Metro is a mini version of the Tesco supermarket. And despite the friendly folks who work there, is a giant pain in the ass. It is conveniently located so that older (aka retired) folks can get the essentials for their homes. It is also almost always crowded. There seem to be an awful lot of old people where I live.

Today it was worse than ever. Because today it wasn’t just the old folks shopping, it was every bugger and his dog shopping. The queue to the tobacco kiosk, with it’s very popular lottery till and scratch-n-win tickets, was so long I thought maybe the kiosk was giving money or cigarettes away for free.

Amazingly, I dropped off my prescription, paid for it in advance, did some shopping, and walked to the local library (only to find it is closed on a Friday) and came back to collect my ‘drugs’ and the queue was sill ridiculously long. On top of that the Metro itself was suddenly ass-deep in people.

I felt like a linebacker trying to make a touchdown against a team that had ten times more players than the side I was on. Now I know it’s a Friday, the day that is traditionally a pay day. But surely in this day and age of monthly pay-checks and electronic banking and shopping not everyone is going to flock down to the nearest store.

I mean it’s summer people! You should be on holiday with your over-weight sunburned children, in-laws and grandparents. You should be at the seaside or at the English home-away-from-home, Spain (specifically Majorca) or at the very least Bognor Regis and complaining about the English weather. Not at the Metro around the corner from my house.

I think somebody put up a detour sign that funnelled all the Olympic traffic heading to London to the Metro. That’s the only explanation. It has to be, if that isn’t the reason, where the hell did all these people come from?

Hey! Maybe they are giving away money and cigarettes! I’d write some more on the subject, but I just remembered some things I forgot to get from the Metro.

First self service Tesco, St Albans, England Р...
First self service Tesco, St Albans, England Русский: Первый магазин самообслуживания Tesco, открытый в 1948 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All God’s Chillun Got Guns or Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

alamo
alamo (Photo credit: j3net)

Since the Aurora shooting (I’m refusing to refer to it by the press moniker of ‘Midnight Shootings) the nation has been up in arms (pun intended) about the issue of gun control and certain rabid liberals who just want to take away every American‘s firearms.

It is the ‘woolly headed’ thinking of these liberal ‘peace-niks’ that drives me to distraction. These are the same sort of people who instilled a deep-seated phobia about firearms and their place in modern society in the United Kingdom. And the argument that the constitution’s assertion that American’s have the right to own and use firearms for their own “self defence” is not really a right is ridiculous.

The Supreme Court upheld the notion that the constitution did guarantee American’s the right to own and use firearms in 2008. With the government’s overt and not so overt (Can you say Fast & Furious, kids? I knew you could) opposition to individuals having access to guns and their determination to control every honest citizens ability to use guns, I think we are in for yet another fight.

The government need to read more history. American history. I won’t go as far back as the War of Independence that we would not have had a chance in if it weren’t for private citizens and their guns.

No, in terms of history I will just say three words. Remember the Alamo.

Every American remembers the legend and the myth of the Alamo’s desperate last stand against the military might of the Mexican government. But has everyone forgotten what helped start Texas (that was part of Mexico) in their move to rebel against the government?

Gun control.

The Mexican government decided to put into practise a gun control law that prohibited citizens owning their own firearms. Admittedly this was in a time when the gun was necessary to these ‘homesteaders’ for personal protection in  a time when the Apache and other sundry tribes were still preying on these intruding white people.

The attempted confiscation of arms and the punitive measures taken against the ‘law breakers’ started what would soon escalate into a full scale military event that would see Mexico lose a part of their own country. And it all started with a sense of moral outrage felt by the Americans who were told to give up their guns

That that sense of moral outrage and entitlement has not gone away. The country itself may be more ‘civilised’ and we might have more law and order with a modern police force to help keep things ‘safe.’ But the police themselves admit that they are not in a position to provide protection for the average citizen.

The police are, by the very nature of their job, an ‘after-the-fact’ organisation. They arrive at the crime scene after the fact. Just the phrase ‘crime scene’ proves that the actual crime has already occurred. The police have stated that a well armed, well trained citizen can provide better protection for themselves than they, the police, can.

In case you missed it, the most important part of the above paragraph was the “well armed, well trained” bit. Instead of wasting everyone’s time trying to set up a legislation that, like the United Kingdom, will only allow the police and criminals to be armed, they should instead set up a program that requires gun owners be educated.

Proper lessons for new gun owners or for existing owners a requirement to prove they know how, why and when to properly use a gun. Whether it’s for hunting or self defense, a little education could go a long way. It’s been proven time and again that the current system is not capable of stopping the world’s nutters buying guns and using them on innocent people.

I’m not advocating turning American streets into a variation of the O.K. Corral with shoot-outs at noon, but I am saying we need to be very careful in disarming honest citizens. Because I can tell you, the next step will be losing your right to defend yourself or your family at all.

I’ve lived in the United Kingdom off and on from 1982 to 1990 and after that I’ve lived here full time (I’m a dual citizen) and I’ve seen first hand what living in a country that practises the total disarming of it’s law abiding citizenry is like..

In the United Kingdom you cannot even own a knife if the blade it too long. You are also very limited in defending yourself. Woe betide the person who uses too much violence to save themselves or their family from personal injury or death. I will just point out the the ‘anti-gun, anti-violence’ attitude and legislation forbids the use of tasers, spray cannisters (tear gas, pepper spray) and causing any sort of injury to the criminal who is attempting to murder, rob, rape or assault you.

Protecting yourself too vigorously will land you in court. You can, then depending of the circumstances, find yourself a guest at Her Majesty’s convenience. At the very least you could be fined a substantial amount of money for daring to protect your family and their (or your) safety.

Self defence is frowned on in this country. Violence, whether it is of a protective nature or not, is bad. And that will be the next step. Because the real disturbing truth is this. Gun control is just the first step in the government controlling you and trying to turn you into a cog in their mechanism.

Where they call allthe shots and you have no right to personally insure you are safe in your own city, town, or home.

Re-enactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corra...
Re-enactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Tombstone, Arizona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)