About Me

"Setting the world to rights"...one blog at a time! Plus anything else that comes to mind

Monday, 31 October 2011

Settling in

I'm sitting here listening to the call to prayer from the four mosques close by. I've heard some people complain about it after they've visited Muslim countries, not for religious reasons, just that they find it strange or intrusive but I like it. It's part of the country and I find it soothing. I'm sure I'd feel differently if I heard it every day several times a day in Malmesbury or while I'm trying to get a night's sleep ready for work, but here...it fits, like the church bells on a Sunday in England. It's somehow comforting.

Apart from the heat, and I'm not a lover of heat which is why I came at this time of the year, the other main differences are also sounds. I'm used to birdsong and while there a certain amount of traffic it's mostly engine noise. Here's there's a constant background of raised voices and car horns day and night. Drivers sound their horns all the time. Drivers, and pedestrians, here are without fear and totally insane from an English point of view. They could save themselves a fortune in paint by simply not using lane markings, nobody pays any attention to them. There don't appear to be any rules other than 'survive'. Overtake anywhere you like, however you like, pull in front of fast-moving traffic without notice, take a stroll across a six-lane carriageway through speeding cars, taxis and mini-buses. I have a tremendous respect fom my friends and am quite content to leave all the driving to them. Under no circumstances is this coward going anywhere near the driver's seat!

Yesterday we drove down the Corniche to a restaurant for lunch and ate a wonderful Lebanese meal of mixed dishes where we all helped ourselves to whatever took our fancy instead of having a dish a-piece. Our table overlooked the sea with the windows open to the sea breeze.

The only little difficulty in my life just now is my friends' cat, but we all need a challenge in our lives. She's beautiful and adorable but being born feral is also highly territorial. Various grown male cousins and handymen go in fear of her, even to sitting with their feet up on the chairs or perching on shelving to avoid unseemly bloodshed. My friend's son found her in a gutter as a still-blind kitten, brought her home and hand-raised her. She was a week old last time I was here and I helped feed and cuddle her. I still think she's gorgeous but she doesn't return the feeling, especially with relation to my feet. I've given up going barefoot or in light slippers round the house, resorting to the outdoor shoes I arrived in. She's sporting enough to spit and hiss a warning, and I've learned to peer round corners before proceeding and stop dead when I hear the hiss to pinpoint her position before working out an alternate route.

She's a whole lot faster than me, and her claws are a whole lot sharper so she's won most of our confrontations to date. She's drawn blood three times now but I had a small triumph this morning when I spotted her and managed to get my foot out the way just in time and she missed. Hah! Chalk one up for the two-footed contestant.

Well, it looks as though this blog might turn into a travelogue for a couple of weeks. Saves on stamps!

Egypt or bust

A short while ago I booked a trip to Egypt at considerable expense and the following day there was civil unrest. Pardon my selfish outlook on things but I did wonder if I'd left it a day I might have got cheaper seats. Then there were violent protests in Cairo during the first weeks of October. Not to be outdone, one of Iceland's volcanoes decided to stir giving concerns about more flight disruptions.

Finally everything went quiet and came the day...

The plane was an hour late leaving Heathrow on Saturday but only quarter hour late getting to Cairo. There were surprisingly few people around and as I more-or-less know the ropes by now I sailed through Visa application (after going to three wrong windows), passport control and security. It was all very leisurely and finally I was on the plane for Alexandria in good time with very little waiting around.

I completely forgot to text my friends when I landed and, long story short, confusion reigned for a short while before we found each other.

When I was last here eighteen months ago Mount Unpronounceable erupted in Iceland and I was looking forward to an enforced extended stay. Sadly, flights resumed by the time I was due to come back - message to Katla...feel free, I'm here! Wrong attitude boss, I know, but hey - work or play? Hmm...no contest!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Government Bureaucracy

I received this on a circulating email thingie that's doing the rounds...it made me giggle so I thought I'd share it. It's just such a shame that it's likely true.

"All you Need to Know about Government Bureaucracy:

Pythagoras’ theorem: ...........................................24 words.

Lord's prayer:..................................................... 66 words.

Archimedes' Principle: ........................................... 67 words.

10 Commandments: ............................................ 179 words.

Gettysburg address: ............................................ 286 words.

US Declaration of Independence : .................... 1,300 words.

US Constitution with all 27 Amendments: .......... 7,818 words.

EU regulations on the sale of cabbage:....... 26,911 words.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Proper organisation

I've just finished watching a television documentary about the exploitation of foreign children in the UK. They are brought to Britain and used to beg in London and other large towns. In addition, their families claim benefits fraudulently and send the money back home where they have large, well-appointed houses and big, modern cars.

I wasn't very impressed with the documentary itself as it seemed contrived in a lot of places but I accept that the situation exists. I've seen the beggars myself, with children obviously being directed and controlled by adults. I don't find it too much of a leap to believe that the same people indulge in benefit fraud as well.

These days I'm not often in a position of being begged for money, living in a small community, but on those occasions when I have been approached I've been torn. I'm quite sure there are some people who are genuine and I don't like to think I'd turn my back. On the other hand, I'm well aware there are con-artists around and I don't want to be conned. I wish I was a better judge of people to be sure I'd be making the right decision in giving or with-holding money.

Thing is, in the UK there's really no reason to have to beg, the social security system provides basic living conditions, to it's illegal. However, benefits are open to too many people who should not be entitled. Because of the open borders policy of the EU money bleeds out of this country, supporting people who have not should not really be benefiting. In order for a benefits system to be fair it needs to be uniform but each country has its own values and methods. For example, the levels of benefits received in the UK may cover only the basics here but is a more than comfortable income elsewhere. This makes it worthwhile coming here, claiming and sending money home - so money is bleeding out of this country.

I think the EU is a fair idea in principle but it has progressed far, too fast and in wrong directions. It's not going to work while we are all so different from each other, with different values and needs. Surely we can trade easily without having to disappear into one big melting pot, surely it's possible for us to say who we will and won't allow into out countries, surely it's possible for us to retain the differences that make us all so interesting? I think we need to retain our national borders, laws, economic independence. There are so many of us in Europe, with so many differences, that trying for a central administration is pie-in-the-sky - it's unwieldy.

Wouldn't it be easier to tackle the begging and benefit fraud problems with smaller boundaries? Bigger isn't always better.

Reading this post back to myself I can see it's a bit woolly, not at all well thought out but I'm having trouble articulating my concerns here. I just felt the need throw my thoughts into the online mix in the hope that it might be seen and taken into account...somewhere, somehow.