Grow your own…

The other day I was doing a little channel surfing. For those of you who immediately think, Why not read a book instead?, I’ll just say one word: research. (I challenge you to prove otherwise.) I drifted into a science show by mistake and saw something quite remarkable: one of the boffins has managed to grow a new bladder, using cells from the future recipient. He says he’s working on growing a urethra next as these are “simple” organs and therefore easier to cultivate. I gather he’s working his way up to the more complex ones such as livers and kidneys. In the future people won’t need to wait for a transplant; they’ll grow their own replacements. (I had no idea there were people waiting for bladder transplants. That’s something you don’t hear much about on social media!) I immediately thought of all the sci-fi books I’ve read that had wounded soldiers/space explorers/space-cops etc, lying in “regeneration tanks” while their bodies grew replacements for the damaged or missing parts of their anatomy. For the fantasy nuts think: Wolverine. For the horror nuts think: Mila Jovovonich’s character in those amazing zombie movies. That made me think: how many times have sci-fi writers predicted future technology? Or, perhaps I should ask: how many scientists read science fiction? I remember when every good sci-fi movie had people talking to each other on the phone while seeing the actual person on a flat screen. Now every teenager can do it with the latest mobile phone. Then there’s the early Star Trek series with tasers and lasers. Now the police already use the tasers, so laser guns must be on their way. Jules Verne had humans going to the bottom of the sea and walking on the moon. They were both completely unthinkable things in his day, but now no one turns a whisker when the next submersible or rocket ship sets off. Can you think of other examples? I know there are myriads of them, it’s just too early on a Saturday morning for me to think too hard. However, it does prove a point: the scientific, rational, logical, “let’s not get too emotional or fanciful” types need the creative, fanciful, imaginative, “why can’t we build a time-machine?” types. It’s a necessary – dare I say, important – symbiotic relationship. It’s not a coincidence that our brains have both a left and right side. (My deepest sympathy and sincere best wishes to everyone waiting on a queue for an organ transplant, whatever it might be. I wish you good health and a long and happy future.)...

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A funny old week…

It’s been a funny old week. I went to do a little early (or late, if you’re my sister) Christmas shopping. The machine refused my credit card. We tried three times but…na da. I couldn’t understand it. Just two nights previous The Old Boy handed the card to me and told me to cut up the old one; which I did. The card should have had plenty of credit on it. Turns out the new card, which looked exactly like the “old” one – black, Visa – was a different Visa card. It was one I’ve never used. I’d forgotten that I even had it. I don’t know why he persists in giving it to me because, not only do I not use it, I can’t use it as it’s never activated. So, I cut up a perfectly good Visa card and replaced it with one I can never use. sigh. Later that same night I put a dozen eggs on to boil. I remembered them two hours later. Home-made hand grenades. We got a letter from the Tax Department. The Old Boy can no longer claim the spouse rebate for me. They’ve changed the rules. I missed out on being old enough by about four months. I’m not decrepit enough: I can still dress myself. I’m not in the armed forces serving overseas, and I’m not a full-time carer for a disabled child or demented parent. Therefore, I should find myself a job that pays enough to cover the shortfall. There’s a little problem with that scenario: who’ll employ a woman my age (mumble-mumbly) who has collapsed discs in her spine with arthritis mixed in so she can only stand or walk for about 15 minutes; with lymphoedema in her right arm; chronic tendonitis in her left caused by medication she’s on because she has terminal cancer? Hmmm… Let me think… Yep; it does wonderful things for my self-esteem. Then I heard that there was a kerfuffle about the Booker Prize. Hilary Mantel had won it for the second time. This is an extraordinary achievement. However, some people complained that the prize should have gone to someone else, to give support to the smaller publishers; to spread the publicity around; to give someone else a go, as Ms Mantel had already won it so she didn’t need another one. WHAT?!! If she was the best, then she deserved to win. Otherwise, why not just put some names in a hat – all the politically acceptable/artistically fashionable names – and then draw one out. Of course the prize will have no particular significance any more but what the hey: everyone should get to hold the trophy at least once, right? Tell that to Mark Spitz. Tell that to Brazil’s soccer team. The world is crazy. A 14 year old girl is shot in the face for wanting to go to school. A woman is verbally shot down for daring to win a prestigious literary prize, twice. A female Prime Minister is ridiculed for falling over in public. Yet, I can remember a male Prime Minister having a similar experience – and a US President, come to think of it – and the fellas basked in the sympathy. I feel for you, ladies. I could put it down to misogyny, bigotry and sexism…but it’s just as possible it’s because it’s been a funny old week. Perhaps the next one will be better. PS. I redeemed the eggs. I cut away the burnt bits and then mashed up the rest. I added some mustard, some salt and pepper and some mayonnaise, and made egg salad. It’s nice on toast. Waste not, want...

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The mighty pen.

Right now a 14 year old girl is fighting for her life in a hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. She was shot in the head and neck by members of the Taliban, for daring to encourage other young girls to get an education. They ambushed her as she walked home from school. They claim that the girl’s online diary about girls’ education is an “obscenity”. Whereas shooting a defenceless child in the head; or executing someone at half time during a soccer match because they fly kites, or listen to music, or fall in love…isn’t an obscenity. It’s just part of the righteous war against everything and everyone who isn’t as pure as the Taliban. They promise to target the girl again, and this time they’ll make sure she dies because she’s a “secular lady”. It doesn’t matter that she worships the same god as them, or that she attends the mosque regularly, she’s “secular” and therefore dangerous, because she wants to go to school. Oh no! We can’t have females learning stuff. They might realise just how poorly they are treated. They might decide they’re human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity, kindness and – here’s a radical thought – with respect. But the Taliban espouse a peaceful religion and we shouldn’t be prejudiced against them. Heaven forbid that we should disrespect their theology and culture. Everyone knows that it’s the Christians who are the real war-mongering, spawn of Satan. After all, it was a Christian who brought about the end of slavery in Europe; a Christian who ended child labour in the UK; a Christian who instigated prison reform; a Christian who started schools for poor children; Christians who help poor communities in the Third World get clean drinking water and create opportunities for the destitute to find shelter and jobs; Christians who rescue girls sold into sex slavery… Yes, those terrible Christians are ruining the world. Whereas the Taliban are making it a safer place for us all by shooting 14 year old girls on their way home from school. They say the girl was “playing a role in the war against the mujahideen”. How brave of them to take on this militant, scary teenager all by themselves! Of course, they’re right: the pen is mightier than the sword. They should be afraid; very...

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Dream a little dream of me.

It’s been a number of years since my parents died: nearly ten for my dad and about three for my mother. I’ve read a plethora of stories about people seeing their loved ones in a dream, shortly after their passing. In the dream the departed person reassures the grieving dreamer that they are now in a ‘better place’, or they express once more their eternal devotion, or they reveal where the family jewels are hidden. I half expected the same would happen for me. It never did. All these years I’ve remained un-visited…until now. For the last two nights I’ve dreamed of my parents. In the first dream, they came to stay with us for a couple of days. We took them on a drive out to my friend’s house, in the mid-north of South Australia. Dad particularly enjoyed seeing the historical sites. Mother liked the rolling hills and the occasional glimpse of a kangaroo. They both enjoyed eating at my son-in-law’s bakery. We had a happy day together. For deceased people, they both looked well. Mum was back in her right mind – no sign of dementia – and Dad could hear perfectly without his hearing aid. They didn’t leave any significant message; obviously the family jewels must remain hidden. On reflection, it’s disappointing that they both looked the age they were when they died. I hope it doesn’t mean that we spend eternity being old. If that’s the case, I’m rethinking my aim to make it to 100! Last night I dreamed The Old Boy and I were in the back yard of my childhood home. My dad had died but my mother was still living. However, we had to prepare the place for sale as she couldn’t stay there any more. She remained inside the house, while we looked around. I was appalled at the state of the garden. Just about everything was dead. The plum tree was so dessicated a branch snapped off as I walked past. The flowers were black, shrivelled up wisps of dead foliage. I said, ‘This is terrible. Dad used to work so hard keeping this garden healthy, tidy and weed free. He’d be devastated to see it like this.’ It used to have fruit trees, flowers, some vegetables and green lawn but now it was a blackened wasteland. Then I dreamed I was driving home. I saw two men fighting in the street. One fell down in the middle of the roadway. I drove past, but I could see the fellow didn’t get up and it wasn’t safe for him to stay there. I pulled over. As I looked in the rearview mirror I saw The Wonder Dog running up the road. I’d left him behind! I went to help the fellow up, and then put Rex in the car. The poor lad has already been abandoned once in his life. I felt so bad about forgetting him that I actually woke up, went looking for him (he’d gone outside for a wee – yay!) and gave him a big hug. He seemed a little startled, but lapped it up. Okay, dream-interpreters, have at it! PS I’d blame the medication but the dreams started before I had the monthly jab in the gut and, no, I didn’t eat pizza before going to bed.  ...

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