Questions: A-Z, Yes or No?

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week is related to this month’s ongoing A-Z Challenge. He asks:

Have you been participating in the 2023 A to Z Blogging Challenge, either officially or unofficially? If yes, have you posted daily (except Sundays) without missing a day? If yes (or no) have you made a point of also reading the A-Z posts of other bloggers who are participating? What are your thoughts so far on this year’s challenge?

I signed up for the official challenge at the last minute, and so far have actually managed to post every day, on the assigned day. I started off enthusiastically checking a few blogs from the official spreadsheet every day, and have actually found a couple of new-to-me bloggers on that list I now follow, so that’s good! But now, two weeks in, although I’m still checking the A-Z posts for people I follow, my regular looking at the spreadsheet has most definitely tailed off.

The thing is, quite a few bloggers I follow are already participating in either the official or unofficial A-Z Challenge, so keeping up with them takes up time. And of course I also want to check the posts of all the other bloggers I follow all year round who are not participating in either A- Z Challenge, and that too takes time. But there is only so much time in a day I want to spend online, so as ever, I’m struggling with the whole ‘checking out everyone else on the list’ thing…

I was quite pleased to have come up with a theme that motivates me to paint more, but to be honest I’m not sure it was such a good idea, as it puts pressure on me to create paintings when I might not have done otherwise. So not every letter has a corresponding painting, but I think I’ll keep going with it for now and see how it all turns out at the end of the month! 🙂

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My Dad and Dementia

Hold your memories close to your heart
For dementia will rip them apart
Tattered shreds haunt your mind
Broken threads hard to find
Shattered images fade, then depart...

I realise I haven’t written about my dad lately… He’s still with us in body if not always in mind, but it gets harder to see the tiny little differences in him every time I visit him in the care home where he now lives permanently. It’s as if he is slowly withdrawing from the world, day by day.

My dad will be 87 next month, but has had vascular dementia since he was 80, so over the last seven years the dad I knew and loved so much has slowly been disintegrating mentally in front of our eyes, piece by piece, memory by memory, which is just heartbreaking to experience.

In the last decade dad has had five strokes, each one leaving him with even more reduced mobility than before, and since the last small stroke just before Christmas last year he no longer has much speech. He whispers a soft ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when asked a direct question but not much else, so it’s difficult to know where he is in his mind any more, because he can’t tell us what he’s thinking or where he’s at, neither in time nor place.

In the past, sometimes dad would know I was his daughter, or at other times he would think I was his sister but as long as I knew where he was in his mind on that day, we could usually have a reasonable conversation regardless. And now I simply sit with him and hold his hand, talk a bit about life a bit, then go home and cry…

One of our neighbours, a sprightly 83 year old man who reminded me a lot of my dad as he used to be, died suddenly a couple of weeks ago. He had one massive stroke one day and was gone, just like that. It’s strange not seeing him around, but it’s made me think a lot about dad and his drastically reduced quality of life, and it hurts to remember that’s always how dad said he wanted to go – at home one minute, living a normal full life as usual, and then just gone…

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks simply – How are you? And I realise I am grieving for someone who is still alive, but not really living any more. Grieving for the loss of connection, and the closeness we always had, and the beauty of wholly belonging in someone’s heart without question.

Because now the question is, does dad even know who I am any more? Does he recognise me as his daughter, or does he still think I’m his sister, or is the occasional look of recognition he gives me just a vague familiar feeling that this is someone that I should know?

I still love my dad so very much and always will, but it saddens me so much to see him this way. The physical lack of mobility after the strokes I could cope with, but the mental deterioration of vascular dementia has so cruelly taken my beloved dad away from me, from all of us, and that reality makes me fiercely determined to live life while I can.

So don’t waste any more time procrastinating if there are important things you want to do before you die, because you never know what cruel twist of fate is waiting round the corner for you…

A-Z 2023?

Fandango’s multi-part Provocative Question this week asks

Are you planning to formally and officially register for this year’s A-Z Blogging Challenge, pick a theme, and participate? Why or why not?

Or are you planning to informally and unofficially participate in this year’s A-Z Blogging Challenge on an ad hoc basis?

Or are you going to skip the A-Z Challenge altogether?

Hmm… I’m a bit slow off the blocks this year, I definitely intend to participate in some form but so far I’ve got absolutely no idea what theme to go for, so definitely no potential theme reveal as yet… And that’s about as far as I’ve got with it all, so for now I’m not at all sure what I’m going to do…

Home is Where the Heart is…

Fandango’s Provocative Question asks this week:-

Which of these four types of community to you currently live in – urban, suburban, exurban, or rural? Are you happy there? If so, why? If not, why not, and which type of community would you prefer to live in?

We currently live in the midst of an urban community, by choice, and I absolutely love where we live. Three and a half years ago we bought a detached 1930s bungalow with private garden front and back in a mixed business and residential area within the town of Inverness in the North of Scotland. Our intention was to buy somewhere we could grow old in – basically our retirement home, bought early enough that we could do what we wanted to it BEFORE we actually retired.

As a plan, it’s sort-of worked so far. We are within easy walking distance (10-15 minutes) of four different supermarkets and one dedicated freezer store, not to mention our doctor’s surgery and dentist. And it only takes 15-20 minutes to walk into the middle of the town centre, so everything is reasonably accessible for us here. We are also on a bus route so that when walking is not so easy, public transport is an option for us, and there are always taxis to take where necessary.

We are also within easy walking distance of both the River Ness (which we have to cross over to go into town) and the Caledonian Canal (on the western-most edge of town) so have easy access in either direction to somewhere pleasant and tree-lined to stroll along just for enjoyment. Location-wise, then, it’s the perfect place for us, a best-of-both-worlds urban home situated on its own little garden plot with easy access to business and pleasure, amenities and nature.

The house itself is a bit of a fixer-upper on all counts – we bought it understanding that everything would need to be redone or replaced eventually, but nothing needed doing immediately as long as we lived with whatever dated fixtures and fittings and decor were already there. So far we’ve replaced all the windows and the two external doors, have fixed the ageing roof, have replaced the ancient heating/ hot water boiler, and have replaced all the light fixtures.

There’s still lots to do but we’re getting there at our own pace, work and health issues and family and everyday life often taking precedence over the never-ending list of DIY jobs to be tackled, but even though much remains as yet undone in the house, I love it no matter what and thank my lucky stars that this particular house should be on the market at exactly the right time for us to buy it.

I remember the first day we came to view it, I saw a tired but clearly much-loved old house with loads of potential, and the minute we walked through the front door I simply knew it was going to be the right home for us. And there’s not one day since we moved in that I’ve thought any different. I realise an old fixer-upper house changed bit by bit instead of all in one go is not to everyone’s taste, but it has a character and an eclectic style all of its own and it suits us just fine… 🙂

Hasta La Vista, Baby

Interestingly, this week Fandango has allowed an artificial intelligence application to generate his provocative question, and it has come up with:

What would happen if AI surpassed human intelligence?

As I’m one of the pre-compterised, pre-digital generation, I firmly believe that artificial intelligence in all forms is a good servant but a bad master. I grew up with the dystopian viewpoint of the Terminator movies, of something futuristic that becomes terminally detrimental to humanity, something destructive that will simply never stop, and so for me there is a definite possibility of us having too much of a good thing when it comes to allowing robotic ‘machines’ of any description effectively to run our lives for us.

And I find the whole concept of ‘self-thinking’ machines troublesome, to be honest I’m not even keen on all those ‘benign’ household digital assistants (especially the inbuilt one on my mobile phone) listening in to our every word, or those deliberately-constructed algorithms used by software companies in choosing for us which items to prioritise in any given social media newsfeed. It’s invisible, but I think it’s intrusive and invasive. Computers already ‘decide’ what they tell us, and we seem to accept that reality without question.

I do worry about people’s everyday reliance on computer programmes to make unquestioning decisions that have huge impacts on people’s lives. For example, what about the dodgy software that allowed all those perfectly innocent UK sub-postmasters to be formally criminalised for nearly two decades until the ‘mistaken technology’ was finally recognised and all convictions were eventually quashed – it’s the real-life nightmare that the ‘computer says no’ sketch in Little Britain made potential fun of all those years ago.

Honestly I’m not a complete luddite, I think computers definitely have their place in modern life but real living, breathing human beings should always be in ultimate control of what is electronic equipment. For me there always need to be fail-safes, solid common-sense ways of checking on the validity of all digital decisions to ensure that ultimately, people always have the final say, not the computers.

The Cult of Likes and Acolytes

If you could, would you want to be famous if it meant sacrificing your personal life and privacy? Why or why not?

It seems to me, a life-long introvert, that the type of 21st Century ‘fame’ many people crave today is the kind of superficial, short-term, social recognition that’s built around being a highly visible ‘celebrity’ rather than on achieving real success in something that truly matters. As if ‘being famous’ has become a ‘thing’ all of its own, an imaginary perfect shiny destination gained without planning for any meaningful, mapped-out life-long gut-wrenching journey counting off the hard-won milestones along the way.

But it seems to me the main ‘thing’ with this all-pervasive cult of celebrity is that it generally requires the constant and invasive adoration of others, based almost entirely on the accumulation of likes and acolytes, craving attention and admiration at all costs. And psychologically that cost is inevitably the sacrifice of any kind of meaningful personal or private life.

I suppose if fame was the result of doing something spectacular like finding the cure for the common cold – a by-product of a lifetime of hard work and dedication – then maybe I might be OK with it? But then again, probably not. I’d probably still be hiding away…

So basically my plain and simple answer to Fandango’s Provocative Question this week is a categorical ‘Nooooooooooooo…! 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Plain

Absolute Favourites

For this week’s Provocative Question Fandango simply asks us about our absolute favourites, so it seems rude not to oblige. However please allow the caveat of ‘absolute’ meaning ‘whatever is in my head right at this moment’ when it comes to any favourites listed here…

So here we go…

Song – Off the top of my head ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ by Simon and Garfunkel which I’ve been singing in my head all day – ‘when tears are in your eyes I will dry them all…’

Musical artist or group – Absolute all-time favourite? Meat Loaf… or maybe Queen… no, Abba… no, The Beatles… good God, I don’t know… how does anybody choose?

Book – ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett for a childhood favourite, and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen for the absolute joy of Lizzie Bennett locking horns with Mr Darcy and holding her own

Author – Agatha Christie for sheer quantity

Movie – ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ starring Maggie Smith – it’s the absolute creme de la creme

Television show – Can’t choose one, but I love moody British detective dramas like Endeavour or Vera, or classic period drama whodunnits like Poirot or Miss Marple… Oh, and I love Downton Abbey too

Movie or TV actor – Clint Eastwood, because a man’s gotta know his limitations and he just does what he does extremely well. And much as I love all his spaghetti westerns and Dirty Harry cop stuff I must admit to having a real soft spot for Robert Kincaid in ‘The Bridges of Madison County’, just because…

Stage play or musical – Jesus Christ Superstar

Live concert – D’Angelo, Brixton Academy, London 2000 – the Voodoo Tour… It was amazing! 🙂

My Last Day on Earth…

What a surreal provocative question Fandango has come up with today – he asks:

What will your last day on earth be like?

Ideally I wouldn’t actually want to know it was to be my last day on earth, because that feels like it would put far too much pressure on me to get it just right and I’d risk messing it up somehow, somewhere along the line.

If I knew beforehand, I’d feel obliged to say I’d want to see absolutely everyone I love and spend some quality time with all of them before I go, but of course that’s a really stressful ask for only one day and as well as the sadness of saying goodbye there’s always the problem of the inevitable ongoing family tensions between different people getting in the way of things running smoothly enough for my liking.

So instead I think I’d hope that my last day on earth fell on a regular, random day I simply wasn’t working and had nothing pressing to do other than enjoy the nice weather kicking about in my beautiful garden, enjoy a lovely evening meal with my husband, and then after a lazy day of laughing and loving and living my life fully with a very private and understated passion, finally fall asleep in my warm cosy bed and just not ever wake up again…

Of course, taken another way the question might be asking about a last day on earth in the sense of moving to mars or something equally ‘out there’? So in that unlikely scenario (as someone who’s not generally a keen traveller), I’d make sure I’d packed my intergalactic passport along with enough universal currency to see me through my journey and a few days more just to be safe, make sure I’d put all my affairs in order well beforehand and tidied up a bit more than I might otherwise, then probably spend my last day pretty much as I’d indicated in the previous scenario… ❤

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Passion

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Surreal

The Long and the Short of it…

Fandango asks for his Provocative Question this week:

Do you have a preference with respect to the length of blog posts you read? Does the number of words in a post affect how you read it or even if you will read it? What is your average post length?

I suppose on average I tend to prefer reading shorter posts, including flash fiction, although occasionally I do read longer posts, especially personal stories. I suppose as a rule the subject matter matters most to me, and the style and tone of writing – in general something too densely written is rarely read by me regardless of length.

Mind you a lot of the people I follow tend to post images, or poetry, or share their personal opinions on topical issues – snapshots and snippets of everyday life rather than journalistic style articles or full fictional stories.

I can ramble on along with the best of them at times but to be honest I have no idea what the average length of my posts might be – I don’t pay attention to my stats, and have no interest in checking my dashboard to find out… 🙂

A Rose By Any Other Name…

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:-

How do you feel about online anonymity? Do you believe that when people are hiding their real world identity, it encourages them to misbehave or to be offensive? Or does it allow people to reveal who they really are or possibly who they would choose to be and act all the time if they could?

When I first started blogging I didn’t use my real name or any real personal identifiers at all, although at the time I was actually on FaceBook wholly as myself, which seems in hindsight to be a bit counter-intuitive on my part – but in my defense it was as much beginner’s caution as anything else, a fear of the unknown. I was testing the waters and wanted to hide behind that degree of separation until I was sure what I was doing, and that I would continue blogging.

Eight years on and this is currently my fourth blog on WordPress, and having been more and more open about myself with every new blog I now comfortably use my first name online, but not my surname, and from time to time have posted random images of myself, too. Personally I just find it easier to feel like I’m being genuinely ‘me’ online, but I do try to be careful not to use names of family members, etc. So I suppose I try to protect my identity in some ways while being open about it in others.

Incidentally FaceBook and I parted company acrimoniously several years ago, not long after it floated itself on the stock market and changed from being a useful online tool to help me keep in touch with others to becoming an intrusive means of aggressively making money for itself at all costs – too many deliberately obstructive algorithms for my liking, too much about what benefited FaceBook and too little about what benefited me. Ultimately I deleted my account completely and would never ever consider going back to such a self-serving platform.

Basically my current blog on WordPress is my only online presence. As I said FaceBook and I long ago parted company and I’ve just never felt the need to join in with Twitter or Instagram or Snap-Chat orTik-Tok or whatever else is out there. For now this is it for me, so I’ll have to base my answer solely on my experience of blogging here on WordPress over the last few years…

I think there’s a big difference between someone being authentically themselves online while simply using a pseudonym, and someone creating a virtual persona that is deliberately false in all things (like for sexual grooming purposes, for example). I have no issue with a blogger using a pseudonym as a means of protecting their real-world identity. Or even a blogger creating an online character based on some particular aspect of life they choose to write about (I can think of one blogger I’ve followed for years who blogs as a very believable character, but not as themselves per se) as long as they are perfectly open about and consistent in what they are doing.

And for me, I suppose that is the crux of the matter. I don’t want to feel like I’m being hoodwinked by anyone. For a blogger to ring true in all things there has to be enough of a genuine human being that appeals to me behind the blog persona to let me want to follow them in the first place. Enough continuity to ensure the virtual person behind the blog appears ‘real’ in the basic essentials, regardless of the name they choose to use. So I suppose what I’m saying is ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ in that someone’s underlying character or personality or whatever needs to shine through no matter what name they choose to call themselves online, real or otherwise.

So to that end I always like to be able to read an ‘About’ page on any blog, preferably giving a little information on the blogger and their reasons for blogging, at least enough to set the background context for their posts. Of the bloggers I follow, some are male, some are female, some are older, some are younger. Personally I tend to follow people who, like myself, are just blogging randomly about life in general, posting images or poetry or opinions or rants about family and politics and the crazy world we live in. And it seems many in my little blogging community seem to be around my generation, there or thereabouts, even without specific ages being stated.

I’m sure there are many deeply offensive bloggers out there hiding their inferiority complexes behind their virtual anonymity, but I tend to keep away from them and if they try to troll my blog they just get their nasty comments deleted without a second thought other than a brief ‘Get lost, loser’ running through my head. I feel there are enough fuck-wit forums out there for them to get their kicks aplenty without defiling my blog space.

I do worry that social media space has been left to develop unfettered for far too long as a mouthpiece for partisan poison, but I don’t feel that anonymity alone is the problem here. And anyway some of the most vile and venomous vitriol comes direct from the people who are most proud to stand up on their spurious soap-box and spout their narrow-minded nastiness to all and sundry. After all one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and there’s no accounting for taste.

So to sum up, I have no more problems with someone blogging anonymously than with someone who chooses to use their own real name. What I do have a problem with is someone being offensive in their choice of blog content, and in my experience the two are not necessarily linked…