Best We Forget (or 11.11.11)

Something in my heart makes me refuse to wear a red poppy at this time of year.  It could be a number of things and I hope to bring them to the surface through this blogpost.   I should make it clear firstly that I am eternally grateful, as many others are for the sacrifices made by those in the armed forces who were brave enough and were prepared to give their lives to protect their country. This post is not a opportunity for me to “have a go at people who serve their country” it is a possibility to look at the options we have to honour and remember them in a different way.

From the BBC website, we can see the history of the wearing of the poppy and why it has become the way we honour the the sacrifices made in past wars.   These scarlet corn poppies (popaver rhoeas) grow naturally in conditions of disturbed earth throughout Western Europe.  The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th Century transformed bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers.   Canadian surgeon John McCrae first mentioned the poppy in his poem In Flanders Fields in 1915 to and it since became a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen.

Its understood from the British Legion website that the money raised from the poppy appeal provides ways for commemorating those who are no longer with us and can provide for the families left behind when those who serve in the front line do not return.  Very sad.

The main issues I have fall into the following:

  • I do not believe war is a solution to a problem.   What do we wear in memory of the innocent victims of war who have not chosen to join the armed forces?
  • I do not think dressing war veterans up in their old clothes / badges / medals is the way to move forward to a peaceful world.  In my opinion this glorifies war and if you keep looking into the past, your future will simply begin to look the same.   We should learn and move on to a future that does not require ‘celebrating war’.
  • I do not think we should label people in the armed forces as “Heroes”, they are no more heroic than doctors, nurses or fire fighters that risk their lives and the lives of others every single day.
  • I do not think people in the media should be ‘forced’ to show respect by wearing a poppy, that simply devalues it to the level as a fashion accessory.   Also another interesting article. 
I hope and pray for a day of peace where we wear white poppies (including this gentleman) until we no longer need to wear one at all.   Its a disgrace that these white poppies have been banned in churches, schools and in the news.  Surely we would rather have a peaceful world than a world where we are pressured into wearing a symbol of unnecessary loss of innocent life?   Its time we think about what we wear and why we wear it, and what statement are we making?

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NRG drinks: a poem

What are we becoming?
I ask myself this
gazing from an empty carriage
at the overweight children
eating crisps and drinking “so-called” energy drinks.

Monster, Red bull & Relentless
Hello, OK & Heat
Paris, Jordan & Brooklyn
the words have lost all meaning.

When did the wise men decide to call it Xmas
forgetful of the child in the manger?
When did Valentine and Patrick lose their christian names
forgetful of that ever important 2 letter abbreviation?
Have I said to much, or maybe not enough?

So the carriage is full now
and the air is still empty
all except the radiation handhelds.
We have lost conversation
We speak in codes
We need to turn it all off and look at each other
for what we really are.

Have I said to much, or maybe not enough?

So I Married a . . . .

Its been 4 years now since Joni & I were married.  I thought it would be an ideal time to update the blogpost that I previously had written about married life.

As a teenager I knew I wanted to get married at some point in my life and looked forward to having a family and spending time with my wife and children.  Its only when you decide on settling down to this lifestyle do you realise the pace at which life moves.   Its terrifying and exciting all at the same time.  Now that we have little Amélie Sofia on the scene its even faster, I can’t believe its been six months since she was born.

Joni and I waited until we were married before we lived together for purely religious reasons (both of us being Roman Catholic) and wanted to celebrate our wedding and beginning of our ‘new’ life together in the way it was once seen as the norm among young couples.    We began our journey working on the house we now live in and spent a year preparing the house to make it livable  – it was a challenging time and a time I learned and developed new skills and countless limitations to my skills and by skills I mean both skills as a handyman and worker in a physical sense and also as a husband and a person in an emotional sense.   Nothing can really prepare you for the day you have a daughter and you hold her in your arms for the first time, the sounds, the smells and the emotion that you experience all at the one time – it surely must live with you forever, I know I will struggle to forget this moment.

We are blessed in the lives we have and the friends & families we have that surround us; we have a laid back relaxed lifestyle that allows us both to be great friends and not take everything seriously.   We spend a lot of time outdoors in the garden with Amélie and enjoying the world around us and try to enjoy things together rather than apart; surfing, gardening, going to gigs, travel, visiting friends.

Lastly I think being in a marriage gives you a stability that cannot be described in words, just knowing that you will have support and understanding from someone whenever and wherever you need it is a truly unique gift.   It took me a long time to ask Joni to marry me because I had worries about money and security for us both and always seen myself as someone who would be a ‘provider’.  This is not the case for a number of reasons; We never have money worries because we never have money & also there is only one ‘Provider’ and its not me, He is much bigger than any of us.

So, Yes! I love being married, I love Joni, I love spending time in our house with our beautiful daughter Amélie, we work hard and as much as  struggle everyday leaving the family home to go to work, I love going home to the same beautiful understanding woman every night and waking up next to her every morning. . I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Scotland’s Shame

Now that England have been ejected from World Cup 2010 by the hands of the mighty (and extremely organised) German football force it seems like the ideal time to dissect the ‘friendly hatred’ that exists on the ‘correct’ side of the border here in Scotland.

Prior to the tournament there were already t-shirts for sale bearing the slogan “A.B.E – Anyone but England” which were constantly selling out of all retailers.   It reminded me of a story my Grandfather used to share when watching Celtic where he’s say he always supports two teams; Celtic and the team playing Rangers!

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So what reasons do we Scots have for hoping England are unsuccessful in their world cup campaign?

They’re simply better than us at football and there are hints of jealously?

We can’t bear to hear about the victory for another century (1966)

The commentary is so embarrassingly English with complete disregard for any other team

These points strike me as the main reasons but maybe the vein runs deeper into historical facts and fiction with tales of the highland clearances, outlawing our national dress, and the many other ways Scotland was kept under the English rule.  I’m unsure how this makes me feel; on one hand i think its history and it should be history so there is no need base your support on a football team because of it – this is why there is a Celtic / Rangers divide in Scotland.   On the other hand I also think you’ll find that the people who make most noise about “Its because of our history and those English keep us down” know very little about “Our history” but seem to make the most noise about it.

In conclusion, I must be honest and mention that my heart leapt when the German goal went in, I was delighted!  I cannot explain why, it could be conditioning, maybe its some of the points I mentioned above.  I’m unsure.   I think I fall into the category that is completely sick and tired of hearing these English commentators discuss how “we” are playing and what “we” could to do to win the game and never actually mentioning the other team.   It only took one day for them to begin mentioning how great the English linesmen and referees were once the team were out and how worthy they were of being in the final.

Lastly I refuse to believe that if Scotland had been the only british team tomake it through to the tournament ‘we’ would have the same media attention and obviously one-sided commentary, there would be no pop ups on screen of other games for the “big-game starring Scotland”.  No extended slow-motion footage at the end of the show as we all chant “Sing Sing Africa!”

Cathedrals of Compassion/Consumption

At this time of year I enjoy walking around the city in the winter cold, wrapped up and desperately trying to stay out of the busy shops that have huge queues of people seeking to buy something for their friends or family. I think its partly the security I feel because I’m warm and comfortable in my own life and although I’m not ‘rich’, I can afford to feed my wife and myself, I have somewhere to lay my head, I can heat myself if I get cold and I have faith.

These moments as I pass others in the busy corridors of consumption I examine the difference and can’t help but compare myself to fellow shoppers. Patience is currency at this time of year where you find yourself in a long queue in a shop and its a test of patience to see who can last the longest in the long lines. I feel sometimes that the whole thing is madness. I mean its great to buy things for your loved ones and its also great to receive gifts from others, but its insane the level to which people go to make you come into their ‘Cathedral of Consumption’ to spend your money.

As I passed a busy coffee shop i noticed the female barista spraying fake snow on the windows of a well known coffee house. Underneath her was a homeless man asking for money to buy some food. He has no interest in gingerbread lattes, mint choco mochas and hot fudge cappuccinos. He only needs to fill his stomach so he won’t freeze through the night. As I stand I count around 10 people being served their ‘gourmet coffee’, a total of £25.00 spent on coffee and milk in the 5 minutes as the homeless guy receives nothing. I feel hypocritical here because I also walked past giving the man nothing but a smile as I passed because I had no ‘spare change’, however this stops here as I’ve decided to make a decision to be more generous as the season rolls towards Christmas.

Spending predictions for Christmas 2009

– Christmas sales forecast to hit £44.7 billion, compared to £43.9 billion in 2008, a year-on-year increase of £832 million
– Consumer confidence has improved from unprecedented depths of -18% last summer to 5% now and retail confidence has risen from -46 in December 08 to -1 currently
– Industry ‘cautiously optimistic’ following ‘Black Christmas’ of 2008, when sales fell £-27 million, resulting in 20 major retailers going into administration, the loss of 40,000 jobs and shop voids rising to 10%
– Christmas retail sales expected to represent 18.5% of total retail sales for 2009
– Welcome boost could result in up to 4,500 new jobs by January
– Online spending to reach £8.9 billion this Christmas, representing 20p in every £1 spent – equivalent to 20% of ALL UK sales and a 24% increase on previous year

taken from http://www.eauk.org/

This is not saying that you shouldn’t spend money at Christmas and buy people presents – its just really about being aware of what it around us at this time of year, as we enjoy that latte can we not treat the guy outside the coffee shop to one as well. That could be the only present he gets this year and you could be the only person he shares it with.   I know that the season brings all these problems to the surface for me and I don’t know how many nights I close the curtains on the cold, wet world and say to my wife as my mother used to say to me, “I’m glad I’m not homeless on a night like this”.