I have now lost all hope for January snow — one thing I could rely on until last year. What’s particularly infuriating is that it’s snowless but cold so we’re not even saving on energy for heating. Besides the feeling of betrayal by nature — with the help of humans, scientists say, though I doubt climate change works with such lightning speed — here’s what I did this week.
Some Sort of Royal Trouble
It hogged headlines on news aggregators. It trended on Twitter. It was tense. It was dramatic. And I never really understood what the big fuss was all about. As one Facebook contact put it in a meme, everything I know about these two I’ve learned against my will. And from headlines only, I would add. But part of me can relate.
Celebrity obsession is a real thing and it can be a very bad thing. You would not believe the amounts of mental energy I spent a decade ago arguing about whether or not Kirsten Stewart and Robert Pattinson were dating in real life. I can’t believe it and I was there. Celebrity obsession is one of the greatest time wasters.
It is also a great way to find a crowd, a gang, a group you belong to. It’s probably sad that we have nothing more substantial to bond around but celebrities and yet it feels so good to belong. Besides, I exaggerated. There are plenty of more substantial things we can bond around, such as TV show fandoms. But royals? So not my thing I could cry. Only I wouldn’t, of course. My republican (that’s republican as in, quite passively, anti-monarchist, not as in GOP supporter) genes wouldn’t allow the waste.
Okay, I’d say that’s enough attention given to things that do not concern me but have poked me in the eyes for days. Thankfully, the drama is over and it’s Brexit everywhere again. I swear we’ll all grow old with that drama.
The Joy of a Good Meal
How often do we really pay attention to what we eat? I mean pointed, thoughtful attention rather than “Oh, that’s good”/”What the hell did you put in this, it’s horrible!” We don’t do it often, do we?
Food deserves better and I realised this a few days ago when I made gyuvetch for dinner. Gyuvetch (there are alternative spellings, too, all googlable) is basically a meat-vegetable-potato stew, traditionally made in an earthenware pot, which is called güveç in Turkish. The recipe itself probably came from Turkey for imperial reasons but it’s become a Bulgarian staple and, like any staple, there are as many recipes as there are people you ask how to cook it.
I used to be lazy and make it with canned vegetables. Then I continued to be lazy and made it with fresh vegetables that I put straight into the pot. Now that I’m older and wiser, and also pickier about food, I saute the veggies as they deserve to be sauteed, to release all the flavours and whateverelses that make a gyuvetch not just tasty but delicious. I’m not ashamed to admit I could eat half a pot all by myself.
I think there are two secret ingredients to a good meal and they have nothing to do with the scientific knowledge of what combines with what and how to prepare it for best taste. One secret ingredient is attention to details. The other is enjoying what you’re doing. Cooking under stress, while it will often produce decent, reasonably tasty food, will never result in a truly delicious meal, at least for the one cooking and then eating. You just can’t enjoy food you’ve cooked grudgingly or anxiously that much, can you?
it is exactly like writing, if you’re not bored beyond death with my comparisons between the two things I love to do most. If you don’t put your heart into it, you’ll have something decent, even good if you’ve been doing it for a while, but you’re pretty unlikely to have something remarkable, something people can’t get enough of. Such is the wisdom gyuvetch teaches us.
What’s Wrong with Violence?
Well, obviously, almost everything is wrong with violence except for one thing: hurting someone to protect yourself from them is perfectly fine by me. Cat had a sort of incident last week, when one boy grabbed her from behind and didn’t let her go even when she insisted. She complained he had squeezed her so hard her belly hurt. She didn’t get scared, apparently, but she wasn’t happy about it either. I was even less happy when she detailed that while that boy held her, another two guarded the escape routes. In fact, I was so far from happy I felt quite violent.
I can’t say I have a lot of experience with physical violence. I slapped and kicked at boys from my class when they started getting interested in girls’ bodies. That was usually enough to discourage the unwanted attention. (Note to younger readers: That was in the 1980s. We could complain to the teachers but there was precious little they could do about it. It was part of growing up, I suppose.) But I do have an unpleasant memory of one of the bullies in class cornering me and just staring at me for a while. I had no self-defence skills so I did nothing.
Cat goes to aikido. Both Big C and I were adamant she needed to learn a martial art and luckily, she wanted to “learn to fight”, too. We picked aikido because it looked like the least offensive of them all while perfectly good for learning how to defend yourself. She’s progressing in leaps and bounds, that’s how much she loves it. And yet, when that boy grabbed her she had no idea what to do.
This changed at the next practice when the sensei taught them some practical tips. These involved causing pain in the attacker’s thumb and arm. Causing pain certainly constitutes violence but this is the kind of violence I wholeheartedly condone. One twisted thumb (not sprained, you understand, just twisted far enough for the bully to let go) is a small price to pay for squeezing someone who doesn’t want to be squeezed.
But I went further. Martial arts are fine but it takes time to learn them well enough to practise them effectively when you need to. So I shared with Cat my simple three-step action plan when encountering a bully. Step 1, tell them to let go. We’re civilised people, after all. Step 2, if Step 1 fails, shout for help or scream at the top of your lungs. Sometimes loud noises startle people and they loosen their grip on whatever they are holding. Step 3, should Step 2 fail to produce a result, become violent.
While I stopped short of advising her exactly where to aim a kick because I don’t want to risk serious injury in an eight-year old kid who’s having a stupid moment, I was perfectly clear in principle: do what you have to do to break free. And you know what? I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt for this advice. If you have to defend yourself, use all you have to do it.
Ballad for the Internet Troll
Your hate is so amusing
Your life perhaps confusing
It’s always someone else’s fault
A vicious scheme, an evil plot
A stab of sarcasm here, a sneer there
Self-righteousness online a gift most fair
Where’er your energy springs from
You use it craftily, pick every bone
Where less beings seek joy in booze
You’re far above that crap, the web’s your muse
What others may find sour to you is sweet
A Facebook comment is your arrow, your knife a tweet
Your magic armour’s name is anonymity
No argument or fact can wake your magnanimity
You can’t make people like you so you make them cringe
You are a troll and you don’t even have a bridge
Clearly, I have a mighty poetic gift. I’m particularly proud of my anonymity-magnanimity rhyme.