My Boy Next Door

Fandango’s Provocative Question asks this week – How did you meet your spouse, boyfriend/ girlfriend, or significant other? Ah well, now there’s a story to tell!

In 1973, the year I turned 10 and my husband turned 12, North Sea Oil was big business and my father in law moved his family from Louisiana to the North of Scotland to open an oil rig construction yard close to where my family lived. We became near neighbours that summer, and soon my dad also began working for the same company.

We were all friends the way neighbouring families are friends, socialising together in either our house or theirs, and when I was 14 and my husband 16 he fancied me but I couldn’t stand him. Then when I was 16 and he was 18, I fancied him but he was no longer interested romantically, but we stayed friends anyway.

His parents went through a very acrimonious divorce, and my husand left school and moved away. I stayed close to home and married someone else and had three children in quick succession. But still we stayed friends, and kept in touch. Stuff happened, I got divorced, years passed, life carried on for both of us and we grew older, but we always stayed close friends.

And then in our late thirties, we decided that maybe we loved each other after all, so we got together as a couple. We actually lived together for thirteen years before we finally decided to get married, and here we are seven years on, having just marked twenty years together, and this summer we’ll have been friends for forty seven years… 🙂

Provocative? Hell, Yeah!

Fandango has come up with a humdinger of a provocative question this week – well, actually three questions, all variations on a theme, about Trump and the current Iran crisis. (Caused, incidentally, by Trump himself. HE pulled America out of the Iran deal, and imposed severe sanctions on Iran – and then when Iran was clearly unhappy about it and started making things difficult instead of doing his bidding, Trump assassinated one of their top army guys. Who was definitely a bad hombre, but that’s not the point.)

To be honest, whatever the particular topic of the questions, if it’s to do with Trump then I’d probably find it provocative – that dumbass arrogant oversized-bully-boy of a man provokes the hell out of me just by breathing! Someone give him a pretzel to choke on. I can feel my heart-rate rising erratically even just THINKING about him… Grrr…

Anyway, here are the questions:

Do you feel that Donald Trump was justified in ordering a drone strike that resulted in the assassination of Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike in Baghdad last week?

Do you think this decision will lead America into a hot war with Iran?

Do you think Trump’s motives are political and self-serving?

And here are my answers:

Chucking all your toys out the pram just because you don’t get your own way is never a good global strategy for any high-ranking political leader, especially for a bossy, swaggering, narcissistic wanna-be autocrat who thoroughly believes his own hype and thinks he rules the whole world, not just one country, however large. So no, not justified in my book.

Luckily for the rest of the world – and surprisingly – Iran seems to be behaving more like the sensible grown-up in this crisis to Trump’s childish, thoughtless tantrum-throwing, so thankfully it looks today like war may well be averted after all. Maybe. No thanks to you-know-who, however much he bigs himself up.

Everything Trump does is self-serving, because he’s a self-centred narcissist who thinks he’s the best and thinks he knows best about everything, even stuff he knows nothing about – like diplomacy, and foreign policy, and running a country properly without alienating said country from the rest of the world… oh yeah, and being a decent human being.

Fandango’s Provocative Question

Awks, Obvs…

For this week’s Provocative Question, Fandango asks if people these days are going overboard with their use of emojis in social media communications? Oooh, great question! Emojis, of course, are a popular addition in texts and emails (and blog posts too, of course!), but I suppose it’s one of those relative shades-of-grey questions – how does one gauge how much is too much? Hmmm…

It’s a bit (IMHO) like those acroynms that developed out of maximum character messages, where the need to be succinct required a GSOH and an ability to be able to LMAO in order to understand exactly WTF is being communicated so cryptically at any given time? Not quite WYSIWYG, but a kind of creative join-the-dots short-hand BOGOF, wordage limiting LOL-fest.

Personally I find I myself use the optimum amount of emoticons and acronyms (BTW, is there a sarcasm emoji?) – just enough to lighten and enlighten the context of my textual communication, but not so much that people need an emoji-decipherer to work out precisely what I’m trying to communicate. Less than I use is not enough, but more than I use is too much, making the whole thing stilted and far too awks, obvs… 🙂

The Resonance of Music

For this week’s Provocative Question Fandango asks if music is a universal language that transcends national borders and resonates across different cultures and beliefs?

Personally I think it always has done, and always will do. There’s a question of taste, of timing, of cultural preferences of course, and there will always be fads and fashions across different genres, but for me music at source – the rhythm, the beat, the heart and soul of it, crosses all boundaries and speaks to us all, one way or another.

For example, music to march to, or to work to, tends to have a recognisably standard rhythm to help people keep time, keep up, the world over, whatever the instrument or nationality. Music to help soothe a baby to sleep – any kind of lullaby – will presumably have a similar tonal range and softness of voice whatever the language or external environment.

And Folk music carries within it culturally-specific stories of the past; for me it’s the Scottish lilts and laments of loss and hardship played on a fiddle or an accordian or the traditional Puirt a Beul, Gaelic Mouth Music sung unaccompanied. But that doesn’t mean I can’t recognise the worth in folk music of other cultures and understand the resonance of sharing these stories together into the future.

And from that initial sharing comes a symbiotic fusion across cultures and divides, a musical melting pot of sound humming with the potential creation of something new and vibrant and exciting, that is further shared around the globe in its turn. Look at how R&B grew out of an initial coming together of jazz and blues and gospel music, which in turn branched out into rock & roll and moved away in time and place from its instrumental jazz roots towards the more international lyrical pop sound we recognise today.

Rhythm is inherent in all of us, it comes from the very heartbeat of us with every breath we take. There are no borders to our own internal sense of rhythm, we carry it with us everywhere, so why should we think there are borders to the external musicality that springs from the joyousness of celebrating that rhythm? We are all human, and I think our humanity resonates at a perfect pitch recognisable to all of us 🙂

The Trouble with Truth: Fact or Fiction?

The trouble with truth, or so I learned at university, is that truth is always dependent on context. The question always to ask is, true for whom, and where, and at what point in time? Because the truth is that truth is always an invisible variable, so should not ever be synonymous with, or used interdependently with, fact.

For example, Jane Austen begins her novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with the well-known sentence: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’

Well, that may well have been true for Jane Austen and the rest of the landed gentry in the early 1800s in Regency England, but certainly not for the whole world at large across the entirety of time. It may well have been a truth, but not a fact – back in the day many rich men did indeed marry in order to produce a legitimate male heir to whom to pass on their estate. Good old patriarchy and primogeniture!

But it’s certainly not true now – does that make it a lie then? No, of course not – well, not necessarily – because what is true for one person or society or culture at one time in history may not be true for another person in a different era.

And what about these newsworthy things that happen to crowds of people all at the same time, but confusingly contradictory reports come out that seem to make liars of everyone involved. Are they lying? Probably not, because one person’s experience may be true to them in their internal situation, but the person physically standing right next to them may have an entirely different experience, equally as true to them.

A deeply religious person may experience a particular situation very differently from someone with a purely scientific or atheist or agnostic background. For example, Biblical explanations of the creation of the world based on the Christian faith (the only faith I know enough about to comment on) are regarded by some as the absolute God-given truth, therefore how these believers experience the world as individuals is necessarily predicated on that belief.

Alternatively, more earthly-based empirical explanations based on carbon dating and the existence of physical fossils etc. are considered by non-believers to show the truth of how the world began. And other religions may have their own belief systems to colour how they experience the world. But are any, either, or all of these explanations based on actual facts for all people and all time?

Hmmm… well even what counted as scientific fact in the past got things wrong sometimes, where the arrogant use of artistic licence or biased assumptions and interpretations in previous times often means that previously undisputed historical ‘facts’ are no longer always true in the modern scientific world. So does that mean they were always truths not facts? Surely facts require proof to back them up, but truths only really need enough belief in their veracity to be true. Surely facts are objective, truths are subjective…

Ideally it would be nice to think a fact is a fact is a fact, fixed and constant for all people and all time, and so there can be no such thing as alternative facts. Except… are even pure measurements absolute facts? Distances can change over time as roads change direction, weights can change as gravitational pull changes, but nevertheless there is a reasonable constancy there. We like to think that an inch is an inch is an inch (unless perhaps certain parts of a male anatomy are under discussion)…

And what about the accuracy of the political statistics bandied about by all and sundry when measured against facts and truths and experiences? It may well be true on one hand, for example, that a given high numerical figure of people find themselves suffering because of a particular swingeing cut in Government spending, but also true on the other that a set percentage rise in funding for what appears to be the same topic from a very different perspective has been achieved – both may well be technically factually accurate and the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Very confusing…

So basically I’ve just blown my own argument out of the water here – it seems that I’ve just proved to myself that sometimes facts are not necessarily that much more factual then truths after all… So I suppose I just have to give up here and end my treatise with the well-known words of Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus who wisely surmised that ‘the only constant is change’.

Now that this week’s Fandango’s Provocative Question has provoked me into a thought-confused stress-headache, I must admit that it’s perfectly true that I’m off for an indulgent lie down in the middle of the afternoon – and that’s a fact! 🙂

Teflon Trump

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:

‘Do you believe that Donald Trump is an effective American President who should remain in office despite having accepted aid from a foreign adversary (Russia) and having committed obstruction of justice into the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential elections? Do you believe that Trump should or should not be impeached for his actions? Why?’

Ooohhh, interesting question, and most definitely provocative… perhaps you should prepare for a bit of a rant… Being a Brit – and a proud Scot at that – I’m so excrutiatingly embarrassed to think that Donald Trump has any Scottish genes running through his blood. You could say I’m black-affronted by his behaviour, and fair scunnered by his sense of superciliousness…

Even taking only the very first opening phrase of Fandango’s question, personally I don’t think Trump is an effective American President at all, regardless of any alleged complicity in proven Russian interference in the last Presidential election process. The man’s a bloody nightmare of a President no matter what, psychologically insecure with an obvious inferiority complex as long as his ridiculous tie and then some. And to be honest at this point I couldn’t care less if he’s impeached or not – as long as he’s not re-elected to a second term.

He says whatever he likes, whenever he likes, however racist or misogynist his particular opinion of the moment may be, then either avoids answering, contradicts himself or flatly denies it when someone calls him out on it. His behaviour is curiously childish and churlish, he yearns for constant attention but can’t accept criticism of any kind. He pretends to be a ‘man of the people’ by bad-mouthing whatever is the standard American version of ‘the establishment’ but in reality he is also as far removed from your average American as any other spoiled-brat dad-made millionaire.

His narcissistic, nationalistic plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ seemingly at the expense of undermining America’s previously secure standing on an increasingly growing international stage is, to my mind, worryingly misjudged and myopic. Trump clearly admires autocratic rule rather than democratic leadership – he schmoozes sycophantically with Putin and Kim Jong Un, smugly salivating at what he seems to see as their singular success.

And as far as pulling the US out of both the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Deal with such pompous political posturing – well, that may well backfire spectacularly in the long-run, speaking more of braggadocio bully-boy big-mouthed bluster and badly-judged brinkmanship than deft diplomatic discussion and decision-making.

Meanwhile his public picking of a pathetic playground fight with China over trade tarrifs is unashamedly ramped-up with more of the same social media spewing he rallies round and relies on so consistently. I’ve heard of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, but to many of us across the globe this off-the-scale level of divide-and-rule deliberate world order disruption is tipping dangerously close into megalomania.

Running a country is a very different beast from running a company – not that he’s necessarily got a good track record on that front, either. After all Trump is not CEO of USA plc – so when he inevitably screws up this time he can’t just let the country file for bankruptcy, pass on the losses to the poverty-stricken bulk of the population and walk away without a second glance, Teflon-coated to ensure nothing looking remotely like failure (financial or otherwise) ever sticks to him personally.

OK, I’m done…

Photographing People: Picturing Portraits

I’m a keen amateur photographer, but really struggle with the reality of taking everyday pictures of people. I love the idea of taking up-front and honest environmental portraits of people in their own domain, or just capturing off-the-cuff candid shots of strangers while out and about. But sadly to be successful that really requires a level of personal interaction I feel truly uncomfortable with, so historically it’s not something I’ve ever done.

I’d love to have the faith to just go for it with a kind of spontaneous confidence that over-rides my natural hesitation and reserve. If only I didn’t feel so uncomfortable about making contact with people I’d like to photograph, feel so afraid if rejection and of failing, there are so many informal portraits I could take, capture a real snapshot of that person at that moment in time…

Of course, living in London necessarily there are often multiple people visibly present in my images, but usually taken en masse from a distance, like a crowd on the river cruiser or in the tube, or fewer individuals closer up but taken from behind so they are unaware of my presence, like in the above images from Borough Market. I’m always sadly disappointed in the results though, as my attempts at capturing people going about their daily lives are inevitably half-hearted and lack-lustre.

But yesterday I decided to be brave and take a chance on not being rudely rejected, so I finally approached a friendly, chatty stall-holder and asked with a smile to take his picture, and here is the result!

Ok, so it’s only one simple portrait of one person I’ve never met before, but for me it’s a bit of a breakthrough. Even if only temporarily, I overcame my fear, my caution, my overwhelming reticence, and I finally did it! 🙂

Weekly Prompt: People

Fandango’s Provocative Question