That darn soap!

I saw the good doctor P – my oncologist – yesterday and had my tummy jab. All things are going well. Thank the good Lord for modern medicine. Afterwards, the Old Boy and I drove across town to visit Father-in-law, in another hospital. The poor old fella’s been battling a nasty infection that made him really ill. Thank goodness the antibiotics seem to be kicking in and he’s finally making his way back to “normality” (whatever that is). These two occasions set my little grey cells a-whirring. What a difference the invention of stuff like penicillin and antibiotics and chemotherapy and radiotherapy and vaccinations etc have made to the world! The marvels of modern medicine have ensured that I am still here in the land of the living and so is my father-in-law. If it was the early half of the 1900s or less, we’d both have been dead years ago. So…this morning I’m thinking about humanity’s ability to invent stuff. For example: What strange little spark of genius would cause someone to invent the first piece of soap? Who was the first person to see some animal fat lying in the cold ashes of a fire and think, ‘You know, I could take that down to the water hole and I reckon I could work up a real lather of bubbles with that‘?  The discovery/invention of that stuff must have been revolutionary. He/she would have wandered back up to the cave and people would have said, “Who is that strange light-skinned person?” And the inventor would have thought, ‘Why have I never noticed before how much everyone smells?’ As a species, we’re certainly impressive when it comes to inventing stuff. I look around at buildings and roads and pipes taking stuff from one place to another and electricity and dishwashers and I am in awe that someone somewhere was the first person to think of such a thing. Yep, when it comes to ‘stuff’, you can never overestimate a human’s ability to invent new and better versions of it. Why then are we so crap at finding ways to get along? Why can’t we figure out that we’d all be better off if we stopped treating those who are different to us as the ultimate threat to our existence (so we’d better kill them first) and, instead, embraced diversity as something to celebrate? Maybe it can be traced back to the invention of soap. Before soap, everyone looked and smelled the same. After soap, people were divided into the clean and the not-so-clean. That darn soap! News update: Mrs Golden Orb Spider and her rapidly expanding bottom section is still with us. Her web still shines golden in the late morning sun. (I have no idea what it looks like in the early morning, as I don’t do early.)...

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Life is beautiful

We have a golden orb spider that has taken up residence in our back yard. It can thank its lucky stars it’s not a redback or it would have been dead ages ago. But, it’s a rather interesting shape: a greyish-white abdomen (which is growing bigger and bigger), a dark head and tiger-striped legs. Its web, which takes up  one whole section of the pergola, shines a glorious golden colour when the angle of the sunshine is just right. Its many victims are lined up in a neat, tidy queue behind it. It’s an excellent catcher of flies, for which we cheer it on, but occasionally it catches a bee and that’s not cool. It’s been fascinating watching it do its thing but now I’m beginning to get a tad nervous. I had hoped it was a male and that when its life was over, we could sweep away the web (that is more a spider apartment complex than one single web) and life would go back to normal. However, the ever-expanding abdomen is making me nervous. What will we do when the baby golden orb spiders are born? I can already picture the entire external structure of our house, layered in fine golden webbing, with hundreds of little spiders lining up their kill behind them. Ewwww. But, do we then kill them? I once had to kill a mother huntsman with her babies piled up in a heaving mass on her back. She’d made the mistake of giving birth in a corner of our bathroom. When I tried to herd her out the back door she took off up our corridor, shedding babies right and left as she ran. I then sprayed them all, crying the whole time and saying, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” I thought to myself, “I’m a mass murderer!” I had trouble sleeping for days afterwards. Can I put myself through that trauma, all over again? Will the Old Boy, who has grown extremely fond of the golden orb arachnid, be able to deal with the situation? I can hear you now: First world problems. And, intellectually, I agree with you. (Emotionally, I don’t.) I wonder: how do those people in IS or Boko Haram or other murdering terrorist groups, sleep at night? I get upset over killing a mere spider but they seem to take the lives of fellow human beings without a second thought. How is it possible for one human soul to become so desensitised towards the taking of a life? For me, man’s inhumanity to man is proof that humanity needs saving from itself. For now, the golden orb spider lives on in its glorious golden...

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Farewell Mr Pratchett, sir.

Sir Terry Pratchett has wandered off somewhere with Death – probably gone to pat Death’s kitten and have a chat with Death’s daughter, Susan – and he won’t find his way back to us. No more wonderful Discworld stories. No more hilariously biting, intriguing satire wrapped up in fantasy, literary allusions and brilliant penmanship. Like the well-known Monty Python parrot, he has gone to sing in the heavenly choir; he is no more. What would be his opinion on his own demise? I quote from his book, The Colour of Magic. “You see, one of the disadvantages of being dead is that one is released as it were from the bonds of time and therefore I can see everything that has happened or will happen, all at the same time except of course I now know that Time does not, for all practical purposes, exist.” “That doesn’t sound like a disadvantage,” said Twoflower. “You don’t think so? Imagine every moment being at one and the same time a distant memory and a nasty surprise and you’ll see what I mean.” Let’s face it, I could give you quote after quote that would demonstrate his brilliance, his sense of fun, his mastery of technique but the big problem would be knowing where and when to stop. I’ll just pop a few down here, for my own amusement, and let you get on with reading his books for yourself (if you haven’t already). (And, why haven’t you?!!) “A person ignorant of the possibility of failure can be a halfbrick in the path of the bicycle of history. “If women were as good as men they’d be a lot better!” “Nanny Ogg tried to look haughty, which is hard to do when you have a face like a happy apple.” “In the bathtub of history the truth is harder to hold than the soap and much more difficult to find.” “He had a face that only a lorry tyre could love.” “Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.” “Never trust a dog with orange eyebrows.” Discworld grew out of Pratchett’s vast reading of world mythology and his keen observation of people. By writing about a strange world inhabited by fanciful creatures such as trolls, dwarfs, zombies, golems, werewolves and scientific wizards as well as human beings, he freed himself to write about the phenomenon of being human and all the intricacies of relationships, endeavour, creativity and a vast array of human foibles. And, to write it in a way that allows us to laugh and say, “He’s right, you know”, without ever thinking he’s taking a satirical poke at us. I’m so grateful a good friend introduced me to Pratchett’s books. I’m so grateful Sir Terry shared his wit, humour and insight with the world. I wish I could have met him to shake his hand and say, “Cheers, mate.” I’ll let him have the last word: “No one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away – until the clock he wound up winds down, until the wine she has made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of one’s life…is only the core of their actual existence.” Long may Pratchett’s ripples spread out into the world…...

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I’m a grateful woman

I’m celebrating International Women’s Day in a small way. (That’s me: subtle.) I’m going to brunch with a friend, who is also female. That’s right; we’re going out in public without being chaperoned by our fathers, brothers or husbands. We’re wearing what we like. We didn’t ask permission. And, we’re doing it without any fear of chastisement, abuse, unwanted sexual advances or arrest. We can do this because we live in a country whose laws are founded on Christian principles. Those principles include the following: Women are just as valuable as men. Women have the same legal rights as men. Women should be treated with respect. Women are encouraged to be educated, to have a career (if they want one) and to make choices for their lives. Women have the freedom to enjoy the sunlight, to interact with others, to have friends, to shop, to read and so on, just like men. Women have the right to do those things in public, while expecting that they will be protected by other sane, civilized citizens and by the law. If women are attacked while doing those things, either sexually, physically (other than sexually), verbally or all three the law will punish the offenders (the ones doing the assault) not the victims. I’m grateful for the country I live in. I’m grateful that over the centuries my religion and my culture has grown in understanding, compassion and wisdom and has recognised the rights of women and children to be safe, to be respected and to be given the same opportunities as men. Okay, we’ve still a way to go but, thankfully, we are getting there. My heart goes out to all the women and girls who are still denied the right to be considered as fully human as males; who are denied access to education; who are doomed to lives shut up in the family home and then the marital home with no chance to discover the world around them; women who are raped and then punished for being raped; women who are doomed from a very young age to be abused, browbeaten, threatened and ill-treated in so many other ways, simply because they’re female, and all the women and girls who are valued only as a commodity and a baby machine. So, while I’m having brunch with my friend, I will toast you all with my cup of tea and I will wish you better days. I will also, silently, thank all the men in my life who treat me with kindness and respect. God bless you...

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