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The Archive 2004

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

I’m done with my Christmas shopping for this year! Well, not that that’s any great achievement, I only had two gifts to buy. But I managed to snap them both up without so much as breaking a sweat and we are continuing the deBondt tradition of eating out on Christmas day so there is no need to purchase the necessary truckload of groceries!
Therefore you can imagine my smug scoffing at a recent television programme that instructed the viewers on how to avoid losing one’s temper (and sanity) over the Christmas shopping season.
Some of the recommendations for how to cope with crowds, long queues and traffic jams was to have calming baths before or after your excursion, eat light so as not to compound your anxiety with heartburn, wear layers of warm clothing so that you can remove one or two items should you find yourself uncomfortably balmy while standing in a long line, leave plenty of time to shop so that you aren’t making rushed decisions, and my personal favourite, try to find a babysitter for the kids. As though any parent anywhere in the world needs to be told that it might not be a good idea to drag the cherubs along to a crowded, overheated store! Trust me, we know better even without the benefit of a spiritual guide!
These suggestions are nothing more than common sense. The majority of people manage to shop 364 days of the year without counselling. So why the need for a training programme for just one event in the year?
Perhaps it’s all part of the commercialisation of Christmas. Maybe someone somewhere has figured out that there’s money to be made from making folk feel as though they can’t even manage to purchase a turkey and all the trimmings without first consulting the grocery-gods.
At this rate, I half expected to see an hour-long documentary on how to select the best sticky tape for that perfect gift wrapping – and next week: Bows!

Tour or hunt, lecturer or guide, potAto, potOto … really, what’s in a name? And it isn’t so much that I didn’t enjoy myself on that freezing night in Ely while we marched from one hypothetically (or, more like, hypothermal) spooked location to another. Or that I wasn’t absolutely enthralled by the thespian ghost-alikes who freely gave their time to illustrate what an apparition might look like if we were lucky enough to see one – that reminds me … did I mention in my previous article how I didn’t get an orange? No? Well, far be it from me to accuse anyone of unfairness but a fellow ghost-buster received an orange from a passing phantom maiden who, according to the lecturer … sorry, guide, seems to have had a rather risqué reputation before her demise and evidently feels the need to carry on her improprietous ways even after she’s gone to that big brothel in the sky. But despite that she had a basket of oranges; only one male member of our group received fruit. I’m just saying …
At any rate, I did enjoy the excursion. I did ultimately appreciate that all proceeds went to pay for the Christmas lights in Ely – I really must investigate a little further before I participate in things because at the time I had no idea that that was the raison d’etre. Don’t get me wrong, a worthy cause indeed. But on the contrary, my lack of awareness could have had me unwittingly contributing to a Pro President Blair crusade! If Ms. Haynes thinks I nitpicked over the ghost hunt, sorry, tour, she wants to thank her lucky ghouls I didn’t find out she was part of Tony and Co!
Nevertheless, in my defence, I was cold. It was dark. I could barely hear what was being said for the howling wind (and church bells) and I was hungry – not the fault of the guide I know, but you see, fair play with the oranges might just have prevented my bad behaviour
So I humbly apologise. I truly chastise myself for not taking the evening more seriously. I promise to behave next time … any chance that the event could be scheduled in June next year – at say 2ish?

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

What the hell is the matter with today’s television programmers … or is it the audience… or is it the contestants? Whichever it is there seems to be an intolerable amount of bug eating, cockroach infested, worm crawling, grotesque sexual innuendo making – did I mention the bug eating – two-timing, wife swapping stupidity passing as entertainment these days!
I can’t imagine what type of brain-dead person would actually find this craze for sleaze amusing or interesting, but they need help – of the therapeutic kind – they shouldn’t be rewarded with a vast array of programmes to choose from.
Not only is it degrading to be a part of a generation who appears to enjoy such bizarre attention getting stunts, but it’s also frustrating.
I can’t turn on the television without having to exhaust the batteries in my remote control with my hurried zapping past one victim imprisonment programme after another. If it isn’t big brother and its very staged and scripted bust-filled sexploits, it’s this tropical forest foolishness that supposedly produces a “winning” superstar who simply out ate other bug eaters! And let’s not overlook the new and equally dippy contribution to all things airhead ... the Sleeping With Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend show. Now there’s some intellectual viewing, huh!
I mean, we the television watching audience, have now sunk so low that we consider the surviving victims of these brain drains to be some sort of renewed superstar upon their departure from whatever torture chamber they’ve emerged? Why? Just because they’ve outlasted all the other idiots, they’re to be deemed as some sort of super hero? In my book their “win” just makes them the biggest idiot, not Rob Roy!
Bring back the day when entertainment meant humour, wit or intrigue. Hell, I’d even settle for a red nosed clown riding a dinky bike around and around in circles until he fell off before I willingly sat through this current garbage.
And this voyeuristic appetite for the weird and absurd will come back to haunt us. In twenty years time when nostalgic reminiscing takes a look back at today’s popular television programmes, we’re going to have a lot of explaining to do.
Be prepared to defend why a screaming match between imprisoned housemates turned into a slug fest (requiring police intervention) was considered riveting viewing. Or why we thought swapping incompatible wives was good TV. Or why being forced to eat a jungle creature was worth the honour of tabloid fodder for a month.
I plan on blaming the damaging side effects of microwave cooking for the popularity of such bad taste!

Perhaps I’m wrong but isn’t the first impeachment action brought against a serving Prime Minister for almost 200 years news? Tony Blair is finally being asked to account for his gross misconduct in the run-up to the war! Surely that warrants bold headlines.
Yet I only caught a quick snatch of information on a news programme, a snippet in a local newspaper and heard just the slightest mention on the radio. And all I’ve been able to gather so far is that there’s a committee formed by Conservatives, back benchers and MP’s who want Tone & Co. to answer for the suspected lies told to Parliament. I have no idea how far reaching this will be or even if it “will” be due to the inadequate coverage.
I mean, I know the man isn’t squatting on a remote island somewhere trying to win lunch for the cabinet by fishing with his bare teeth, but surely someone somewhere should be making more of this than an aloof article buried on the back pages. Correct me if I’m wrong, but to have an impeachment act brought against a serving PM is still important, right?
We get the gory details every time President Blair changes his hair-do or dons new spectacles … is it asking too much that we are likewise informed when he’s raked over the coals for his incompetence?

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

Having long finger nails makes you stupid! It’s been reported that the craze for keeping your talons long (acrylic or natural) can cause you to lose your intelligence.
Evidentially the brain-drain has something to do with your fingertips needing to be frequently stimulated by touch and when the nail grows long it inhibits this from happening. In the long term, the lack of contact can cause one to lose ones mind! Well, ok, maybe not lose your mind per se, but defiantly there’s a loss of sharpness.
I love these types of studies. If for no other reason than the entertainment it will now give me to add another feature to my people watching forays.
I mean, far be it from me to upset the growing league of women who worship at the alter of all things synthetic, but I have long since suspected that gals who go in for fake hair extensions, acrylic nails, boob-jobs and botox injections are swapping their intellect for Barbie-appeal. To have some proof that I’ve been right is just icing on the cake.
And before you condemn me for being spiteful and judgemental … let me just say that I know there will be a few of you who, after reading this, will also be tempted to invite the next long nailed female you see to perform an impromptu math problem on the spot!

“A C of E school has been told to drop the word "saint" from its name in case it offends other religious groups. The practice of calling schools after saints or bishops alienates people from other faiths and non-believers, say officials and councilors in Islington, north London.” One can only guess how long it will be before other public traditions or religious customs are terminated because they represent a personal or spiritual principle. I suspect that next on the hit-list is to stop ringing the church bells on a Sunday. You know, lest it reminds other non C of E factions that they don’t get to ring a bell! And perhaps there should be a ban on using Christ in the word Christmas so as not to alienate the atheists who just want to celebrate the season for commercial purposes. Wait, but eliminating Christ from Christmas would leave us with the word Mas which might conjure up the word mass, which is still connected to the Sunday service. Ok, so the word Christmas is out all together. How about Commercial Gift Day? There can’t be anything even remotely offending with that title. Well, unless of course you happen to be of the minority who still respect the original intent of the day. But obviously you don’t count for anything anymore. And since we’re being ridiculous, what about getting rid of the phrase “bless you” when someone sneezes? Surely it’s just as offensive as the word saint or Christ to have someone wish you such a sentiment … therefore the immoral salutation should be outlawed. Incidentally, when I worked for a firm in the States a few decades ago, I made the unthinkable mistake of “blessing” a sneezer who sat across from me – And for my kindness I was promptly reprimanded by my boss when the said sneezer complained. Evidently she was of a faith that frowned on my being arrogant enough to think that I could bless her or anyone else …. Needless to say, for the rest of the day, I made of point of loudly blessing anyone and everyone who even looked as though they might be about to sneeze. You know, because of my belief that it’s good to be blessed! And obviously, this many years later, I still find the practice of dumbing down a public display of faith or good intention pompous and egotistical. Anyone whose feelings are so fragile that they can’t tolerate alternative lifestyles is a whiny, self indulgent baby who shouldn’t be encouraged or rewarded by successfully banning anything. They should be treated as the juvenile tantrum thrower they are and threatened with time out in a corner somewhere!

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

I’m pretty sure that my grandmother never had to be told what not to wear. I’m equally certain that she never relied on lifestyle gurus to tutor her on what not to spend, what not to eat or what not to do with the kids. I seem to recall that she just got on with life and made her own decisions … fancy that! Of course, to be fair, she didn’t have the benefit of watching these dopey programmes on gargantuan television sets – perhaps she would have followed mindlessly along had she been able to view the gifted gurus in life-size proportions! These Life Watch programmes (or Reality TV as they are popularly known) are the bane of society. What is it about having a stranger coerce us into following their twelve step programmes that’s more appealing than just winging it? When did we lose the ability to approach a situation with our own common sense … when did common sense become unreliable? Every bit as exasperating is the nose job for free (or extreme make-over programmes)! There seems to be just as lucrative a viewing market for folk reconstructing their bodies to someone else’s preference as there is for folk renovating their households, lifestyles and bank balances according to the latest bookselling, series plugging maharishi. Evidentially we are no happier with our appearances than we are with our money spending habits. Where will it all end? When will the pendulum swing back and we see a return to the day when people trust their own judgment and get through a tough situation without having to resort to relying on the hallowed words of Trinny and Suzanne when deciding what not to wear to the free facelift after going to the bank and finding out that you can’t afford the extension after all?

Tessa Jowell, the Gambling Bill MP, has eloquently defended the government’s decision to allow an influx of local gaming houses because we are adults and it is our personal responsibility whether we risk it all on high-class casinos or pay the rent.

Isn’t this the same government that banned cigarette advertisement from sports venues because they didn’t feel we adults were capable of watching racy cars go round-n-round without succumbing to the temptation to smoke? Well, there ya go, I suppose we’ll all sleep better for knowing that our caring and considerate government will make sure that there isn’t any influential Marlborough ads in the soon-to-be abundant (and profitable) dens of iniquity!

There has never been an American President so unable to form a coherent sentence as George W. Bush (hence the need for an earpiece when delivering speeches), and yet the Americans have amazingly elected him to a second term. There has never been a world leader so obviously incapable of leading (resulting in many fellow Presidents and Heads of State declining to support the war effort). Nevertheless the Americans felt that somehow ole George might be more influential on the universal political stage the second time around! But what's more I can pretty much guarantee that this means another term in office for President Blair unless the voting public in this country come to their senses. Or maybe, just maybe, unlike the American’s, there’s a glimmer of a chance that we decide to oust a leader that has let his people down so very badly. Because Tony Blair may well be able to speak in public without the need for a two way radio system. And he may well be able to rouse other leaders to his cause with charm and personality. But there has never been a British Prime Minister as anti Britain as President Blair. Another four years of Bumbling Bush is bad enough. Combined with a further term for Toady Blair and his henchmen and I fear anarchy – no, wait, that’s I pray for anarchy!

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

What a storm in a teacup! All this noise being made over Mr. Buttiglione, a staunch Catholic and close friend of the Pope, and his remarks that “homosexuality is a sin, that women should "have children and be protected by their husbands" and that single mothers are "not very good people". Also increasingly targeted is European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, who gave Mr Buttiglione “the sensitive job of dealing with justice and home affairs policy - including fundamental rights, discrimination, minority rights and civil liberties.” Evidentially the opinions of the controversial Italian right-winger Mr. Buttiglione are so offensive that opposing political parties are ready to excommunicate him from any position within the EUC.
Why the outrage?
I don’t happen to agree with Mr. Buttiglione’s alleged comments but I think today’s carte du jour of government titles is made up of so many different personalities, personal life choices and individual qualities that one man’s opinions – no matter what his political ranking is – is no longer the stronghold it used to be. Furthermore, can anyone deny that had Mr. Buttiglione remarked that homosexuality was a good thing, that new mothers should hire nannies and go out to work at the first sign of a milk tooth or that single mothers should be applauded for their bravery, that he’d have come under the same fire? Because I guarantee that there are just as many folk who agree with Mr. Buttiglione as disagree with him, it’s just not politically correct to have a puritanical opinion these days so a meal is being made of his transgressions. There was a time however when you would have been tarred and feathered for not voicing his type of cautious outlook! And what is political representation anyway – European or otherwise – if it isn’t to stand up for a wide range of modern disputes or debates? I dislike knee-jerk reactions. I dislike them even more when the tactic is used merely to provoke insecure or marginalised people.
And just in case you worried that I wasn’t political enough this week …
Support it or not, agree with the logic of it or not, this country is at war. Therefore there is absolutely no justification whatsoever to broadcast the scripted pleas and admonitions of unfortunate victims of kidnapping by Iraq splinter groups – our intended enemy. By allowing such publicity the media is playing into the hands of the hostage takers and what’s more, the hostage takers know it and are using the opportunity repeatedly! Given that it’s not in our power to persuade our government to meet the demands of the abductors, we should know nothing about their crimes or causes. No amount of public pressure will change the rigid policy of not dealing with blackmailers or extortionist, therefore a complete blackout on the sad circumstances should be observed. Hell, even certain minor domestic issues are granted media blackouts due to the sensitivity of their case – on this level of importance it should be compulsory! Without public sympathy (which makes absolutely no difference to the outcome of the abductions whatsoever), the kidnappers wouldn’t be deluded into thinking that they hold any bargaining power. And the government would be left to deal with the offenders as they deserve to be dealt with … that is, not at all.

I am sorry to be saying farewell to Ann Powell. I will miss her Riverside commentary immensely. Her affectionate musings and knowledgeable local history was also a firm favourite with my family in the States. Until reading her column I am must confess that I had little knowledge of the goings on down by the Riverside. But now I fear that as much as I look forward to reading the inheritor of Ann’s space, it just won’t be the same if the Muskogee ducks aren’t given a frequent mention!

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

I dislike filling out questionnaires or applications because I’m never satisfied that my information won’t fall into unsanctioned hands once my details are employed.
For instance, just recently I enquired about a Christmas party being advertised at a very nice Cambridgeshire hotel. The receptionist informed me that she couldn’t handle the bookings but that I could fill out their reservation form and she would pass it on to the person who was handling the bookings. I was also informed that the superior being handling the bookings would get back to me promptly thereafter.
Now, aside from the fact that it was only a local festivity for goodness sake and not a garden party at Buckingham Palace, taking a booking shouldn’t have been all that difficult for an establishment that supposedly does this sort of thing all day long, why the need for a separate department to deal with a simple reservation, is beyond me. But nevertheless, I kept my discomfiture to myself and agreed to have a look at the form.
I glanced over the information required and found all to be in order until coming to the part where I was asked for my complete credit card information.
I understood why the number of people expected to attend was important and that my name and telephone number would be necessary in order for the superior-booker to contact me regarding my enquiry, but why the need for private payment information if I wasn’t being allowed to book yet – or to see the menu, for that matter?
I quickly raised this point with the minion not able to take my booking and was told that, surprise, surprise, she couldn’t help me on this point either but that she would take my name and telephone number and pass it on to someone else who would then contact me and assist me in passing on my original enquiry to the God-like person who was able to handle all enquiries! I half expected her to produce yet another form for this new query but happily, I was allowed to scribble onto a hotel stationary pad!
You can imagine that by this point in the conversation I was seriously considering throwing my own Christmas party. But curiosity was getting the better of me – I just had to see how this was going to end so I left my telephone number and resigned myself to wait.
Unsurprisingly it took seven days for the booking God to contact me. Of course, by this time I was no longer interested in reserving a table, stating that I had made other plans. But I couldn’t help myself … I had to ask, why it was necessary to submit personal details such as credit card information before even being given a menu?
The answer…? I was coolly informed that it was to ensure all enquiries were serious.
Despite my amusement over such a self-important attitude, I was perplexed that no one else had complained about leaving such pertinent information lying around, unguarded, just in case one might want to attend a party!
Anyway, I mention all this because, conflictingly and completely out of character for me, I don’t see what al the fuss is about concerning doctors and nurses now asking pregnant women if their partners beat them.
But evidentially this straightforward question is as an outrage to those unaffected by domestic violence because they feel it’s accusatory!
Why? Surely there’s no disgrace in saying no, my partner doesn’t beat me. On the other hand, being able to potentially save a mother and her unborn child years of abuse and cruelty by offering an opportunity to talk is a good and caring thing.
Like the overindulged booking God at Hotel Ego, some people are so caught up in their little worlds that they refuse to admit there is a nasty element to life and that not everyone is a saint, even if they are one!

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

Is it me or is gambling (more the growing availability of it) becoming a bit of a concern? At a time when pension funds have dwindle down to a worrying and almost unliveable level and the economy looks to be headed in the same direction, is it a coincidence that placing a bet is now being upheld as a credible way out?
Under the title of “Creating Sustainable Communities” the government is devising a plan to allow gambling in more rural areas … the ploy is referred to as A Safe Bet for Success!
“On the plans which have been set out in A Safe Bet for Success casinos will no longer have to operate as private clubs, with a statutory interval between membership and play, and they would no longer be confined to limited "permitted areas", and subject to a demand test. They will also be able to:

· Offer live entertainment
· Advertise;
· Offer betting and bingo as well as table games;
· Offer larger numbers of gaming machines, linked to each other to offer potentially large joint jackpots.”

Further sections of the regulations lay out floor space requirements, local assessments, marketing approaches and other such details.
Nevertheless, despite the reputable face being put on such an absorbing activity, it’s the fact that gambling seems to be losing its cautious, if not wary, charms and being promoted as acceptable as shopping at Woolworth’s!
Gambling is a mugs game. No matter how enticing the advertising, throwing the dice (in any matter) will never benefit the player as much as it rewards the organisers. The fact that the government is looking to increase our exposure to it in a user-friendly way is a hefty clue that the gambler is on a slippery slope… don’t you think?!

Beckham did apologise, Blair won’t apologise and Bush is … well … just plain ole sorry. What a week! Shame footballers don’t run the country … or is it a shame politicians don’t get yellow carded for their bad behaviour?

Evidentially the Ladette culture is over. Or perhaps slowing down. Or maybe we older generational types just had young girls of today all wrong.
Supposedly present day gals have greater concerns for the future, are interested in family values and a stable home life and sit more exams than anyone else (and don’t think they’re worth it). And most poignantly, 70 percent want a return to the death penalty!
That’s very conscientious indeed.
However, someone forgot to tell the reliable, preserving, forward thinking lass standing ahead of me in a queue at our local paper shop the other day that she was representing a softer, more assiduous future.
Because had I ever dared to stroll beyond my bedroom door dressed in ripped fishnet tights, a mini skirt so mini that the hem of my underwear was exposed and a fag hanging precariously from my over-glossed lips, I would have been beaten beyond all recognition … you know, in 50’s moral style!

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

I think it’s a fair comment to say that I don’t trust politicians – of any party.
And you only have to look at the track record of our current government and its policies of lies and spin to realize that politics is now more about putting on a good show than standing for anything substantial... you know, like prosperity, honour and a noble goal for a strong country.
Likewise, the American Presidential campaign has highlighted nothing more than a severe lack of character for its contestants – and that’s despite all the money the Presidential contenders are spending on their magic shows. So far all Kerry and Bush have achieved is to put a spotlight on their talents for bellyaching, hot air and name calling.
Can anyone here claim to know what either candidate stands for other than a feigned and obviously manufactured dislike of the other guy? No … and neither can most Americans who will be asked to vote one of the two front runners into the most powerful office in the world in a few weeks time!
Frightening, isn’t it. But ask yourself this; What does our current government stand for in this country? What is their proposed goal for us? Why exactly are we still fighting this so called conflict? If we don’t know the answer to those few concise questions then Tony and Co. aren’t doing the job they were hired to do!
Following the recent televised Presidential debate in America the media concentrated more on the fact that Kerry kicked Bush’s backside than his purpose in running for office. At the end of the head-to-head, Americans still had no clear insight as to which man might be better for the job than they were before the boxing match began. No hard questions were answered and no solid platforms for the future were set out – but we know Kerry thinks Bush is a liar and Bush thinks Kerry would be a dangerous leader!
How ironic. Win, lose or draw, we’ll still have the same man – that is, the same kind of man – in the White!

Just a follow up to last week’s article concerning commercial space travel…
The Federal Aviation Administration chief said, “Our first concern will be the safety of the uninvolved public, to make sure that the people who go into space understand the risks.
The FAA has been studying what the average passenger will face from G-force and psychological factors, and what type of medical fitness he or she will require (when going into outer space). There is also a question of what information a passenger should have, about safety records, for example, to assess risk and make a meaningful informed-consent statement.”
I don’t know about Messer’s. Branson et al, but I foresee the potential for lawsuits a plenty when this program finally gets off the ground! I mean, the minute the term psychological anything is used there’s always a danger that someone will take advantage of the opportunity to concoct a reason to sue the corporation. How long do you think it’ll take before some nutty passenger claims that they’ve suffered irreparable damages from being weightless, or experienced permanent scarring from their close encounter with an alien?
Aside from all the masterminding, maneuvering and engineering it’s going to take to blast normal folk into outer space, some egghead better spend as much time on an airtight consent form to eliminate screwballs demanding compensation for the psychosomatic effects of star burns!

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

Sir Richard Branson aims to “Bring space travel within the reach of ordinary people by pioneering space flights at affordable prices.”
Could the man be more out of touch with the meaning of the words ordinary or affordable? Because I don’t know what’s more laughable, the fact that mega-moneyed Sir Branson thinks £110,000 is affordable, or that he considers anyone wanting to be blasted into the cosmos ordinary!
I mean, let’s be honest, for that sort of money an ordinary person would be buying a house or a fleet of flash cars or a villa somewhere hot and sunny, not blowing it on being blasted into a galaxy far, far away – for just three hours!
And I’m not too sure that I’d trust folk who can’t get trains to run on time here on earth to take over from NASA! A delay in Poole is one thing but a hold-up somewhere near the Milky Way is a whole other matter!

I’ve always said that I would have been a failure as a 1950’s housewife – hell, I’m barely passable in the new Millennium!
But I daresay a three-part television programme aiming to rediscover the days when husband’s dictated the household rules and even determined what clothes their wives wore will prove me right once and for all.
The long-since-ditched persona of being perfectly dressed, coiffed and presentable first thing in the morning and then carrying out all other household duties throughout the day in a pristinely starched pinny and high heels will be given a rerun as modern couples try to emulate the era. And here is a sample of what 2004 gal is up against:

Home Economics High School Text Book, 1954
Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal, on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.
Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so that you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.
Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, dishwasher, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad he is home.
The Goal: Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
(Sounds fair to me - Ed..!;-)

I plan on watching the series carefully. Not that I have any qualms about my inadequacies. I’ve never wanted to clean and scrub while wearing a ribbon in my hair. Nor do I regret my decision to be a modern woman – you know, strong, confident, noisy and a little less than gay when the mood should suit me. Not to mention, perfectly happy to live in a dusty house …
But it will be fun to watch the programmes and salute other anti-goddesses while they too disappoint their lord and masters.
I’ll just be sure the other half doesn’t watch it with me. I wouldn’t want him getting delusions of grandeur! It’s taken me over 20 years to convince him that no woman on earth can cook and clean!

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

When is a protest unacceptable? When is the issue urgent enough to justify us taking “matters” into our own hands and demonstrating?
In the past few weeks we have seen everything from residents refusing to pay taxes in order to impress their feelings upon the local councils, to Batman and Robin scaling the walls of Buckingham Palace with the intention of highlighting the plight of Fathers 4 Justice.
And then there’s the more recent security breach where rebels infiltrated the hallowed House of Commons to protest their indignation at the ban on foxhunting. All the while outside other fellow supporters were being beaten back by the police when their supposedly friendly demonstration turned violent as tempers and truncheons flew.
In any of these cases were the disputes resolved or improved by the actions of the common man? Were fathers suddenly reunited with their estranged children thanks to a lofty stint upon the royal residents or were the dynamic duo just fodder for clever tabloid headliners? Did the disgruntled locals get restitution by illegally withholding their council taxes or were they privately encouraged to find other more legal means of protest or face worse penalties than their original complaint?
Is foxhunting to be allowed after all because human blood was shed instead of fox blood?
I don’t knpw. Nor do I know if any of the other issues are better off for the demonstrations because the outcome of a protest rarely receives the same sensational news coverage as the carnage.
Yet regardless of the noise dissenters make or the level to which they are willing to go to advance the awareness of their cause, it is their right to protest. So the answer to my initial questions has got to be that no protest is unacceptable so long as it doesn’t descend into terrorism. And that any cause is worth fighting for if you feel strongly enough about it providing it isn’t a thinly veiled terror campaign.
Apart from whether or not I identify with their convictions, I am always, without fail, impressed by a person’s passion and enthusiasm to make this world a better place – even if it’s only their world that they’re hell bent on improving. A protest or demonstration is just loud Democracy!

About three weeks ago a taxi driver flippantly joked with me that we Americans might just vote Arnold Schwarzenegger into office in the upcoming presidential elections, such is his popularity. Although I enjoyed the amusing edge to the accusation, and as capable as some Americans are of such an idiotic move, I quickly assured the driver that he was wrong and that we would be spared the possibility of a bodybuilder, movie star, Governor of California, President because Arni is barred by the Constitution from even running as he wasn’t born in the USA.
Imagine my disbelief then when I read a little while later that, under a new amendment introduced in the House by another Republican, that could change.
Measures are afoot to modify the U.S. Constitution to allow anyone who has been an American citizen for 20 years or more to run for president – Arni would then qualify. That means there really is a possibility of a Terminating Commander in Chief!

Apart from all the ridicule that will rain down on us, despite being the butt of all political jokes, aside from having to get used to a player with his finger on the proverbial button … Oh wait, there really won’t be much change from how things are at present, will there!
Ok, I suppose it can’t be worse than the hand-puppet running the place now. Bring on POTUS Hercules.
And I’ll owe the taxi driver an apology.

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

Fashion trends are a fickle thing. On the one hand we have A-list celebrities sifting through the racks of charity shops looking for classic discards or suitably tattered and worn out little numbers despite that they can afford the finest couture (or probably get it for free with a good endorsement deal).
And on the other hand we have counterfeit designer-wear doing a booming trade at car boot sales producing the oddest of combinations where an ordinary, run-of-the-mill gal would like us to think that she splashed out seven hundred pounds on a Lois Vuitton handbag, yet her flip-flops are held together with sticky tape!
But the oddest fashion contradiction I’ve seen in ages is the “seconds rack” at a well known department store where inferior jeans and Levis were being sold for a discounted price.
I mean, how would you know what the non-deliberate defect was? Today’s jeans are intentionally twisted, ripped, washed with rocks or sand to give a really worn out and faded appearance and frayed at the seams. What could possibly fail the quality control inspection? How on earth would you know that the flaw wasn’t a new designer trend?
I’ve long suspected that I could buy a pair of jeans, tie them to the back of our vehicle, drag them around for a few days, slash them from pockets to hem and return them to the store without the least bit of trouble because they’d still only look like they’d just come off the shelf!

I always thought it was a bit of a cheek for zoos or animal keeping facilities of any kind to have pet food vending machines near the animal cages or pens.
It’s always galled me to pay another fifty pence for a palm full of monkey nuts, pellets or fish food when I’ve already paid tens of pounds to enter the establishment in the first place.
However, there’s another even more incredulous trend making a monkey of the punters, the one where a popular restaurant stages a BYOF night. That’s where you bring your own food to the eatery and the chef cooks it to your liking! Supposedly you will feel more secure about the quality of what you’re eating therefore be more inclined to enjoy your meal.
Did I miss something? Isn’t the whole point of dining at a restaurant that you want someone else to worry about the supplies and the cooking? And far from alleviating any kind of stress over quality, I can pretty much guarantee that I’d be fretting over whether or not the table next to me got my steak – and I’d be the type to count the amount of spuds I’m served too. No good me bringing in five or six new potatoes and only getting four, there’d be hell to pay!
Is it me or are we losing track of the fundamentals of going out? Aren’t these places supposed to be providing us with the goods, hence their charge? If I’m paying to get in and paying to feed the fish, why not just stay at home and throw breadcrumbs to the birds for free? And if I’m having to grocery shop before going to the restaurant, why not just stop off at the chippy on the way home instead?
Where will it all end? Are we to bring our own beer to the pub so as to be certain it’s not watered down? Are we to take our favourite brand of shampoo to the hair-dressers so we can be sure they’re not using dish soap on our tresses?
This latest concept is either a very bad idea that will soon fade away or we really are schmucks!

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

It’s that time of year again … No, not the time of year where the Beckham’s stage their annual attention-grabbing ploy. I mean the post holiday blues advice time of year!
We will be relentlessly inundated with tips and suggestions on how to survive the hell of having to get back to work or routine now that the nights are drawing in.
In fact, I read a report just recently that claims, in some cases, the misery caused by people’s reluctance to get back into the swing of things is so severe that they are encouraged to seek counselling … counselling!

Some of the other suggestions in this report are:

1. Buy the CD of the music you enjoyed on holiday so that you can stay “in the mood” a little while longer (A word to the wise here … years ago a neighbour of ours had vacationed in Barbados and returned with a cassette tape of steel drum music he insisted on playing over and over again at full volume in his garage. Obviously he was following tips 1 and 2. But by the time I had heard the damn thing two days in a row I was ready to stage a whip round to send him and his cassette tape back to Barbados! So I advise you to splash out on a good set of headphones too.
2. When you begin to get stressed, visualise your holiday fun (This tip might explain the dopey look on some motorists faces as they sit in a traffic jam on the M1)
3. Live for the moment as you did on holiday. Avoid too much ritual. As opposed to the routine of daily life. (I wonder if I can get away with that one … you know, refuse to cook dinner because I’m still observing my holiday practices. Does it matter that I rarely cooked dinner before I went away on holiday?)
4. Go shopping for incidental and unnecessary things just like you did when you were on foreign soil (Yeah, try to find a piñata in your local High Street shops!)
5. Make sure you have some fake tanning lotion so that you can keep up the sun damaged look you acquired on the beach (This suggestion is my personal favourite. As though simply slathering on the bottled mahogany dye will make the mountain of laundry disappear or the kids quiet!)
Last but by no means least…
6. Organise a reunion with your new best friends a month after you return (Not only did this one make me laugh til it hurt, it reminded me of the time my other half and I actually hid from a couple we had just met while staying in Scotland. These people were impossible to shake off. And, trust me, I was rude. In the end we just avoided the dining room and opted for room service. So the thought of them reconnecting after only a month brings the word stalker to mind!
Forgive me for sounding a little less than sympathetic but come on! Are we really so childish that we need this kind of coaching just to get over a two week pause in our normal lives? Have we become such babies that we expect our every day to be a holiday and if it isn’t we descend into a pit of gloom?

Has anyone ever heard of the phrase “Cowboy up”? It’s an American saying that means take the rough with the smooth, tough it out, take the bad with the good. Stop whining! Honestly, there could be worse things in life than having to live it!

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

Team GB? What the heck is that? When did that sort of sloppy jargon sneak into our phraseology? It must be a “new thing” to cut the reference to Great Britain’s Olympic Team short because I don’t ever recall hearing another sporting event introduced in such a naff manner before. As far as I know the British Wimbledon tennis players have never been referred to as Team BLT (British Lawn Tennis) or the Manchester United Football players reduced to the MUF Side! So why this odd expression?
I mean, is it really asking too much that when competitors from this country are being hailed for their great sporting efforts that a respectable designation be used? Why demote the young and spirited contestants to such an absurd sounding idiom that seems more at home in text message than on an international stage of such great importance?
It’s bad enough that we feel the need to initialise people’s career positions instead of spending an extra second or so pronouncing their entire title with respect. But to hear professionals speaking in the dreaded text’ese clipped fashion as though all communications must be abridged lest they lose the audiences attention is depressing.
What next? The Queen and her entourage referred to as the Q Troop!

I deliberately avoid subjects that hover around religious issues. I am all too aware of how tetchy some people can be when questions are raised concerning their beliefs or should a certain celebrated and sacred event be doubted – no matter how valid the query.
Not that I don’t have faith … of some sort … I do, but I spent two years in a parochial school before being asked to leave, I know of where I speak, voicing an opinion can land one in hot water! So for the most part it’s just easier to live and let live as faiths go so as to avert a confrontation that will inevitably never be resolved.
But this latest debate concerning the Virgin Mary statue in the Ely Cathedral is different. I’ve seen it. I’ve peered closely and I still don’t get it. I don’t understand the offence the colourful sculpture is causing.
What are religions and all their symbols and icons if not self-interpretive? What is faith if not a personal pursuit of commitment?
Before the statue of Charlie Dimmock is resigned to the tea rooms or a local garden centre as a reader suggested, one should remember that not even Jesus appealed to “us” at first – it was centuries before the man known as the Saviour was appreciated!

Is it bad timing or are we just lucky that two very vociferous factions get to fill the newspapers with their version of events at the same time?
On the one hand we have the predictable global warming being blamed for the recent floods. “Europe is warming up more quickly than the rest of the world, and cold winters could disappear almost entirely by 2080 as a result of global warming, researchers predicted.” As though our itty bitty deodorant sprays are solely responsible for the annihilation of white Christmases as we know them – you know, in the Bing Crosby movie, not in real life….
And on the other hand we are once again being treated to the annual “A level standards are slipping” protests and grumbles. Because the older generation is frightened of the smarter and younger generation who are eager to take over.
Why don’t the folks from the anti-aerosol group and the members of the anti-modern education brigade combine their efforts and form the Nit-Pickers and Grouchers Party (Or in text’ese, Team Nag) and just issue one press release a year – preferably at the back of the paper!

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

It's so good to be back. And not just for the obvious reasons. After two weeks of enduring temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I was also impatient to land in cloudy London so that I could once again take a deep breath without the air scorching my lungs!
But all was not lost. Despite the draining heat, I still managed to visit with "my people" and compare life-stories and catch up on their goings on - albeit indoors and sitting directly beneath a constantly oscillating fan.
As I've mentioned before, I spent my youth living in the desert. I grew up with summers reaching 124 degrees … in the shade! But how my siblings are surviving their middle age living on the surface of the sun, I'll never know. I actually felt my skin melt!
Anyway, it seems as though matters are much the same in Phoenix as before. Half the people are on a low carbohydrate diet of some kind. The other half eats fast food. And everything is open 24 hours a day.
Although I did notice one difference since my last visit, there is an uncountable amount of Pro-American stickers pasted on just about all flat surfaces throughout the city.
Almost every car on the road now sports some kind of patriotic red, white and blue slogan reading: Dignity Pride Power. Similarly just about all shop and restaurant windows promote Unity Honour Pride. I even saw odd back-slapping statements on the backs of cash registers - lest we forgot to be proud while we paid for our ablutions, I suppose!
No other writing, no explanation … just everywhere you look, three forceful words meant to instil gun-ho'ness to a troubled people.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm as American as the next Yank and just as patriotic, but with newspapers and news programmes full of political unrest and dissatisfaction and with just about every division and subdivision of the American military being seriously dissected by anti-war lobbyists, it's a little discomfiting to boldly emblazon such brash self-importance.
And clearly, despite the Star Spangled Banner approach, the ability of the American people to be swollen with pride during one of their most challenging periods has nothing to do with their leader or his leadership. In fact, just the opposite. George W. Bush couldn't convince his public that the sun was shining at twelve noon such is his fast growing reputation for telling fibs, half truths and downright lies.
In my opinion the bumper stickers should be printed in anything but traditional red, white and blue typically reserved for political statements. Because if anything has been made brutally evident in the past few months, it's that we Americans don't have much to boast about when it comes to our political image!
It'd be more fitting to see bumper stickers in my home town boasting: Stubborn Sturdy Stoic
Now that's a bumper sticker I can get behind - red, white, blue or polka-dotted!

Sadly, upon our return from the States, my husband and I learned that a very, very dear friend had passed away.
Mr. Ken Gandy of Ely was one of the kindest, most respectable men we could have had the pleasure and fortune to know. He will be missed for so many reasons, for his unflagging friendship, his integrity and for his never ending supply of WWII stories, game shooting adventures and tales of his beloved black Labrador, Arran - the man lived a varied and amusing life.
My husband met Ken 1971 and they continued to be the best of friends until the all too sudden death. My acquaintance came much later.
We would have liked to know him for another 100 years. But, alas, we will have to be satisfied with remembering him for at least that long. Gentlemen such as Mr Ken Gandy are now few and far between.
Our deepest sympathies to his wife Patricia and their children.

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

We are a lazy lot and the multinational conglomerates know it! The latest business to add yet another service to their catalogue of services is Starbucks Corp.
As well as coffee, books and magazines, customers can now create and buy CDs from a digital music library inside the coffee house.
Similarly we have grocery stores that offer everything from household goods to banking. Modern book stores that supply us with e-mail facilities and the ever-popular (and annoyingly foamy) overpriced coffee. An internet service that allows you to choose, pay for and send a gift without having changed out of your pyjamas - I'm not sure who it lets down more, the person able to give a gift without first seeing it, or that special someone we are lovingly sending the gift to!
Anyway, what's wrong with an establishment that simply provides you with a straightforward, single service without adding at least five other tasks to the mix or having to travel a little between errands?
No wonder we're unfit and getting fatter.
Wandering from shop to shop can burn as much as 193 calories in a two and a half hour trip. So to have all facilities a stones throw apart may be convenient for the couch potato generation but it clearly causes as many problems as it alleviates.
And, to be fair, coffee drinking or book reading isn't particularly taxing. I mean, I doubt the likes of Jane Fonda or Cher will ever be performing such routines on a fitness video - you know, going for the burn with a half-caf double latte and a good book. But undoubtedly we'd be healthier if we did more than drive to the local mega one-stop uber shop just to push a button.
Perhaps the next add-on service for Starbucks will be treadmills and dumbbells while you wait at the checkout to pay for your coffee, reading material, CD's and mortgages …oh wait, mortgages, that's grocery stores, isn't it!

Ever a pessimist and far from being impressed, I had a good chuckle at the news that electronic information displays are to be installed at certain bus stops in our area.
Not because such state of the art technology is funny. But because I can imagine that if these digital signs are half as effective as the ones situated at the Ely Railway Bridge, I predict pandemonium.
But what's even funnier to me is that I've never thought of the "sign" as responsible for the delays or cancellations. Now if the drivers could be digitalised….

By the time you read this some of you might have been to the Cambridge Corn Exchange to hear Lulu sing.
But like many other female veterans of the entertainment industry, it wasn't her vocal talents that blazoned the headlines in her pre-concert advertisements. Almost without exception the reviews were full of adjectives such as ever-youthful, stunning, age defying … and so on and so forth, to describe the pint-sized Glaswegian.
Now, not that I begrudge the singer her accolades, but even I'd look that good if I spent wads of money on cosmetic surgery, personal trainers and diet gurus - not to mention hair extensions and manicures.
Such naive praise brings to mind the celebrity mums who are lauded for their ability to act and bring up children.
The staff these people employ just to get them thru a day would even make it possible for me to look glamorous, produce a family and pretend to be someone else for a living!

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

Of all the things I am, persistent, determined, and single-minded; I am first and foremost a campaigner of value for money. Whether you're in a restaurant, on the shop floor or making a purchase as large as a house, if you are not satisfied, protest. If you didn't receive what you were expecting, return the item. And if the shop or business you are dealing with is reputable, they wouldn't want it any other way.
Incidentally, just a little digression here … I actually returned a house once. While balancing my pen over the dotted line, ready to sign mine and my husband's life away, I happened to spy a few well hidden clauses in the contract that were absent in my copy. Suffice it to say proceedings immediately halted and a tête-à-tête with the estate agent was demanded.
I'm happy to say that eventually, all ended agreeably. Well, for me it did. As you can imagine, the company in question was a little less than delighted to have to refund all expenses, including deposit, legal fees and compensation. But more importantly, they were forced to put the house back on the market and required to declare the cleverly concealed fly-in-the-ointment to any future buyers - up front and in plain English.
I mention the bottleneck in my character because I am also as equally capable of pointing out when I am satisfied with a product or a service. I just don't get much opportunity.
And who would have ever thought that an opportunity would present itself in Ely?
However I have found a place that more than satisfies me. I have been in the Street Café in Ely several times now and have found the place to be excellent on each and every visit.
The staff is friendly, there are enough seats, and the food is plentiful and of good quality.
Furthermore, whether I am stopping for a snack or a full meal, I am pleased to say that the service remains fast and continuously first-rate.
But the absolute winner is, of course, the full cup of coffee. Not half a cup so that I have room for my pint of milk. Not almost empty so as to exude a contemporary ambience. No, I am served a full, honest to god cup of coffee. And, let me add, without having to choose from a long list of coffee types, strengths, styles, brands, etc. etc.
You know, I think my faith in good ole' Ely might just be returning.
Now, if I could just get parked ….

What is the bizarre fascination television programmers seem to have with Reality TV? If we're not being offered half-witted jungle troupers eating spiders, we're watching a salon full of stylists doing everything but styling hair. And don't even get me started on the obsession with the tone-deaf wannabe's of this world. Weren't the Spice Girls enough?
But now I see we are to be treated to an upcoming series featuring male stars spending hours in make-up so they can try to pass themselves off as females - and vice versa.
This attempt at entertainment makes you think the programmers are stuck in the 1950's.
Someone should tell them that it's no longer shocking to see a man dressed up as his mother or a woman dressed as a … well … a woman wearing trousers! They should also be told that we get it - that they've proven beyond a shadow of a doubt the fact that if you offer enough money (or attention), there are people in this world who will do just about anything to get it.

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

I know snow can be hazardous. I am fully aware that driving, walking and just getting about should be done with care when the weather comes hard. Furthermore, there's no arguing that the elderly need special consideration this time of year.
But for goodness sake, it's only snow!
Do we need forecast after forecast for just a few days of sub-zero weather? I mean, really! You'd have thought we were to suffer Siberian conditions and a freeze-up to rival the Artic such was the fuss being made over one day of snowfall. When in fact we should have been well prepared for the moderate winter-like conditions since it is January and not June!
I actually heard one concerned weather girl advise viewers to wrap up warm when going out and not to forget to wear gloves. Ya think? And there I was headed out the door in my shorts and t-shirt. Phew, that was close, huh? Honestly, if you need telling to wear warm clothing this time of year you really shouldn't be let out by yourself.
And last year the gritters of Great Britain came under scrutiny because they underestimated a blizzard that caught almost everyone off guard and left hundreds of drivers gridlocked and stranded on motorways up and down the country.
So, as a way of making up for the lapse, this year the gritters were out in force from dawn til dusk and gritted enough to turn my shoes white and the roads into gravel pits even though we were only to get a middling amount of snow. And still, despite the near obsessive caution and warnings, vehicles were still stranded on frozen motorways, gridlocked and paralysed by the blizzard, forcing some to walk to shelter and others to hunker down and sit it out in their cars until the roads were cleared or thawed. Sound familiar?
What more could have been done? What more information do folk need before they stay put or prepare better for a bad spell of weather?
Even more inexplicably, some travellers grumbled that their flights had been cancelled due to the sudden downfall. I dare say they would have grumbled a hell sight more had their flights proceeded as intended and run into life-threatening difficulty. Call me overcautious but I know where I'd rather be when flight plans have to be changed.
Possibly if we took some responsibility for ourselves and paid a scant more attention to the changing seasons we wouldn't need weathergirls to mother us or disproportionate salt spreading for just a few days of icy conditions.
And you don't have to be Einstein to deduce that when it takes you three times as long to drive to the airport, chances are you'll be sleeping in the departure lounge that night waiting for the storm to lift or your flight to be cleared for takeoff.

I would like to send my condolences to Mr. Ken Gibson's widow and family. I was saddened to read that the fine gentleman and WWII veteran had passed away.
He was always a great source of information and educated me well on the subject of prisoners of war and their long-running plight to achieve recognition and fair treatment.
I was always fascinated by the letters he wrote and newspaper articles he sent to me. He was by far one of the wisest and most determined men I have ever had the pleasure to correspond with.
I will miss his regular updates and missives greatly. I trust he'll rests in peace now.

Anne's View
with Anne deBondt

A clinic, which has centres in London, Glasgow and Hampshire, has opened its doors to help people who cannot stop sending text messages.
I know I can seem heartless at times. And for the most part, I am when it comes to folk and their self-pitying nonsense.
But can you imagine anything more embarrassing than having to admit yourself to a treatment centre because you can't stop playing with your mobile phone?
Forget sympathetic therapy, one thing that would surely cure these dopey dim-wits is an afternoon spent helping out in a hospital's cancer ward!

According to media reports, an alarming 90 per cent of teenage girls are unsatisfied with their figures and/or features.
And who could blame them?
Don't get me wrong, I don't think there's anything unsightly about the look of today's adolescents but the modern mania for personal make-overs and property renovations is becoming a national obsession that's rendering anyone without a constitution of stone inferior.
Nothing's sacred anymore. If Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen hasn't tweaked your teak furniture or a Hollywood style make-up artist hasn't completely stripped you of your natural beauty and reconstructed you in the image of you Marilyn Monroe then you're nobody. And dare you be satisfied with last year's wardrobe of clothing, you'll be damned and shamed for all eternity!
It's no wonder modern gals feel substandard or mediocre when popular publications show nothing but airbrushed or retouched images to give the impression of perfection. How can the ordinary possibly compete against such deceit?
But why the fascination with tarting ourselves up or constantly modernising our surroundings? What's wrong with letting things (ourselves included) age naturally or endure what life has to offer?
One of my greatest pleasures is to aimlessly roam around the antique centres in our area looking at bits and pieces from earlier times. To me theses places are museums … the artefacts, furniture, fixtures and fittings tell stories of how real folk used to live. Not to mention the old photographs, family portraits and clothing from days long gone, depicting how yesterday and its people looked. Without the thoughtful preservation by previous generations we would know little of life then.
And what will we be leaving? I'll tell you, MDF fretwork and synthetic décor - if such things survive the ravages of time. God knows today's idea of "long-lasting" means only until you see something better! We destroy and deface the unwanted without a hint of care.
Also, I fear in future, people will be just as puzzled by the frozen, botoxed images staring blankly back at them from family portraits as I am now. How will we explain that in our day smiling was frowned upon lest it produced wrinkles?
Or better still, what will folk make of the eternally preserved implanted body parts unearthed should burial sites be excavated for future development?
What a legacy we will be leaving, smile-less, characterless people who lived in temporary, flash-in-the-pan surroundings!
Still, one way to look at it … antique centres will be smaller. There won't be the need for large buildings to house our "stuff". I reckon an MDF shelf ought to do it.

I was perplexed by the recent drug allegations levelled against tennis player, Greg Rusedski.
Not because I'm a fan of his. Nor is my confusion due to the fact that I have an opinion as to whether he's guilty or not.
But am I alone in thinking that, of all the sportsmen and women who might take performance enhancing drugs, he's the least likely?
I mean, if he is guilty of taking nandrolone, he should get his money back from his supplier. Because the steroids clearly aren't working!

Anne's View
With Anne deBondt

Well, that's another year done and dusted. But is it? Because, if I've endured one "Year in Review", I've endured a hundred. Regardless whether it's the good, the bad or the ugly, do we really need incessant, unrelenting month by month chronicles reminding us of what we've just lived through?
Not that there's anything wrong with the odd remembrance. Nor was this last year so bad that I am loathed to look back But enough is enough already!
Wouldn't it be much nicer to begin a brand new year clear of the past? Not exactly forgetting or disconnecting from previous events but with a clean slate, keen for another chance to get it right.
It's bad enough that television programming has become nothing more than a diary of better days gone by. All we ever see on the box these days is classics revived from yesteryear's talent or sitcoms from decades ago that still have no modern competitor.
Must real life suffer to the same fate?

Despite the constant stumbling blocks and setbacks, I truly hope one of the contraptions repeatedly blasted beyond the cosmos discovers an alternative life form somewhere.
Although as I write, the latest attempt, BEAGLE 2, is reportedly stranded in a crater on Mars, producing nothing more than another anticlimax.
But the amount of debris being flung into outer space or left on these exploration sites is starting to concern me more than anything we might find or advances we might make.
Still, if all else fails, the abandoned rubbish could eventually form its own organisms. In future we could pretend to discover that!

I just knew one day I'd regret not taking my mother's advice to learn a foreign language while I was in school. Although, at the time, I couldn't have known that one day I'd be living abroad. My life looked destined to be spent in sunny Arizona for ever. I was pretty confident that a gal from the West Coast of America wouldn't have the need for German or French and that a scant knowledge of Spanish was sufficient to see me through my adult years.
Also, I'm ashamed to admit it, but way back then I barely knew where these far-off places were, let alone appreciated the value of being able to converse with the natives.
But dear ole' mom's words have come back to haunt me as I am now travelling to locations that require me to say more than yes or no in a local dialect. And amazingly enough, in some places, English isn't all that easily understood no matter how loud you shout.
But there must be people who agreed with my mother's counsel because increasingly large family restaurants now indulge you with foreign language lessons piped into the restrooms while you tend to business.
And despite the din of hand dryers, water running and other female patrons chatting, I have even picked up the odd phrase or two in Italian in one such establishment.
However, as accommodating as the gesture is, I fear I'll need more than just a few rushed moments in between meals before I'm able to converse with confidence.
Then again, should I ever become fluent in another tongue due to my frequent dining excursions; I'm not too sure how I'd go about admitting where I picked up the patois. I mean, no matter how well you've adopted someone else's language; it can't be very flattering to tell them you learned it in a public loo!

And finally I would like to thank Charlie of County Durham for the lovely calendar he sent to me at Christmas. I have situated the charming annual in a place of pride and will happily keep count of my grievances, full cups of coffee and accomplishments as requested.

Have a Happy New Year!

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