Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Update on this and that...

This is just an update - bloggers who know me are aware that I tend not to use my blog as a diary, and the simple reason for this is because my life isn't interesting enough to tell you what I'm doing day by day.  If I tell of myself I prefer to do so through stories or in those posts where we list things about ourselves...

The delay is because I'm researching a story I'm going to really enjoy telling you when it's finished, about two women of the O'Gorman family in the Argentina of two hundred years ago.  The stories are well known to people who read Spanish, but I don't think English speaking people will know them, and I think you'll like them.  I think I'll make each section (or post) longer than I did with The Dressmaker, whose chapters may have been too short.  Do feel free to comment on anything about the stories - if writing is so important to me (which it is) then it's equally important to accept criticism gracefully and gratefully when it's offered.  By all means tell me if they're awful - but please be constructive and take the trouble to tell me why, because I'd like to improve.  Writing-wise I'm feeling my way at the moment, and for now love the story-telling style.

Nothing much to report on my lapband - I'm certainly not losing weight at the moment, just treading water.  It'll come.  I enjoy what bandits have to say about it though, and leave comments here and there. 

Last weekend I did have a real-live drama.  My ginger cat Rusty was clearly ill when I returned from work last Friday, and I was told there had been nothing in and nothing out, and that he had been trying to climb the cage we use to take him to the vet, which he normally hates.  He was lying beside it, barely able to mew. 

We took him straight to the vet, who diagnosed a blocked urethra due to crystal deposits in the bladder - common with male middle-aged cats (he's 10).  We were told that if we had waited till the following morning he would not have survived the night.  The vet kept him in for three days, and they have vet nurses who stay all night with sick animals, so after washing him out they kept an eye on him.  Once he was comfortable he was  very friendly apparently; he purred loudly and head-butted everybody who came near him, which they liked.

He's now on a special urinary diet for the rest of his life, and my other cat Banjo will have to be too.  It was lovely to have him home, running round all his old haunts, as if he needed to re-discover them all.  Banjo ignored him at first - I'm told because Rusty would have smelled funny for the first few hours, but all is fine now.

The Photo Finish this week consists of digital and non-digital pictures of two old favourites, Patagonia and Fuerteventura, but I hope none you've seen before.  I'm teaching myself Photoshop, and love how I can lighten and darken sections of the image.  By some miracle I had backed up my several thousand images on an external drive the week before my computer "went down" - and it's in inverted commas because when my IT man arrived to listen to my tearful supplications he was able to point out that the reason for the on-off crashing several times a day was because the plug had got partly dislodged at the back due to -er- feline intervention.  I felt like the stereotypical female driver who says her car doesn't work and then gets told it's because she hasn't put petrol in it...


Photo Finish:
from Lonicera's archives

Patagonia (digital)

Fruit plantations in the autumn, Río Negro.
This original was very different because the triangle in shade was completely black, as were the tree leaves in the top left corner.  All I did was lighten, and feel it adds so much space to the picture.

Same story, taken nearby.  The foreground and all of those two trees was black.  My inexperience shows half way up where I was trying to get rid of a big black electric cable (not the telephone wire and pole, look further up).  I've made a right pig's ear of it, but when I learn more I'll go back and improve it.

What I did here was give a very slight green tint to the grass in the foreground, which was completely brown.

Fuerteventura (non-digital)
Yup - love waves, and actually anything watery.  Lots more in my archives...

Apart from cropping, all I did here was lighten the centre of the palm tree, and that hanging balcony, which was black.  I think it improves the picture to see it.

The apartment-hotel where we stayed on our first holiday in Fuerteventura, with a salt-water pool that took me 10 minutes to swim across.

And here it is again at night, when sand from the Sahara turned the sky blood-red.  All I've done is crop out a rather bright light on the right.  When I learn a bit more I'd quite like to clone one of the lit-up windows and stick it in the middle where it's dark. 
Watch this space...

 Don't look too closely at this one, because it's not pin sharp.  In my enthusiasm to get such colourful scenes I forgot that I needed fast shutter speeds (and I also forgot that the back of my legs were going to turn lobster red if I stood there like a lemon for an hour at noon, snapping pictures one after the other).  Now that I have a digital camera, I've learned that in these situations the best thing to do is to under-expose by two stops so that there's no camera shake, then lighten up the picture once I have it on the computer. 
Didn't know that then...


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Would you give up a year of your life to have the perfect body?

I was so surprised by this article that I'd like to share it with bloggers who struggle with their weight. 

The abstract below is part of the article that was written by an academic from the University of the West of England, one of Bristol's universities, and made public on national TV and the media recently, and seems to be yet a further sign that body image is becoming the most important factor in our lives.  As a bandit blogger I know and share the thought that being the right shape is important to our self esteem and therefore happiness, but I think this article shows that the DEGREE to which it is so, depends on our age.

The paragraphs that struck me most forcibly are in bold.  I'd be very interested to know what you think.

>>>Almost one-third of young women would trade at least a year of their lives to have a perfect body, according to a new survey of British undergraduates.

The survey found that 16 percent of young women queried said they'd trade a year of life for their ideal body weight and shape. Ten percent were willing to trade two to five years, and 2 percent were willing to trade up to 10 years of life away. One percent said they would give up 21 years or more.

But there is past science suggesting such body-loathing is common. The stigma against fat people is going global, according to a recent study. A study published in October in the journal Sex Roles found that even preschool girls are fixated on thinness.

About 320 women with an average age of 25 were surveyed on university campuses around the U.K. by researchers from the University of the West of England (UWE) and U.K. eating disorder charity The Succeed Foundation.

"The findings highlight that body image is an issue for all women, and not just adolescent girls, as is often thought," survey researcher Phillippa Diedrichs of UWE said in a statement. (This is her website at UWE -

The majority of the women surveyed were dissatisfied with how they looked, the researchers found. Although 78 percent of the women sampled were normal weight — or even underweight — 79 percent of the survey group said they wanted to lose weight. Only 3 percent said they'd like to gain weight.

Negative thoughts about body image were almost universal: 93 percent of the women said they had negative thoughts about their appearance within the last week. Almost one-third had those thoughts several times a day. Almost half of all women surveyed said these pressures weren't entirely internal: 46 percent had experienced ridicule or bullying because of their appearance.

In addition, 39 percent of the women surveyed said they would have cosmetic surgery if money was not an option. Three-quarters of those women wanted multiple procedures.

Many women were also willing to make other sacrifices for the ideal body, the researchers found. About 13 percent said they'd give up 5,000 pounds ($8,138) a year in salary in return for their perfect body. Eight percent would give up a promotion at work, and 6 percent would give up earning a degree with honors. Nine percent were willing to give up time with friends and partners, while 7 percent said they'd trade in time with their family. Another 7 percent said they would sacrifice health to reach their ideal weight.>>>


Photo Finish -
from Lonicera's digital archives

My computer has temporarily died on me so my usual source of pictures is not available.  Instead I'm posting pictures I took last week at the dress rehearsal of the annual production by the Bristol Gilbert & Sullivan Operatic Society:
Gilbert & Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard.

Reluctant suitor proposes to the delight of the lady...

Jack Point the clown dies of unrequited love


Saturday, 2 April 2011

Tales from Elsewhere – The Scorpion & the Warthog

It was 1984 and my 7-year old marriage wasn’t going very well. My husband wanted a slim wife and he also wanted to be a father. I didn’t cooperate in either direction, and as I have described elsewhere (Part 5 of Chubby Chops – a Life in Pictures) I was given an ultimatum and ended up in Johannesburg, South Africa, where my parents were living temporarily. I stayed with them for a couple of months where I tried by means of diet and exercise to lose weight. But that’s another story, and I’ve told it before.

At the beginning of my stay my husband was with me, and together with my parents we travelled to various interesting places in South Africa. Cape Town was the most beautiful city I had ever seen, and Cape Point where the roiling Atlantic and Indian oceans meet took my breath away. Stellenbosch… Durban… it was all wonderful and new, and my husband enjoyed it all too. He seemed much happier and I hoped that we might build upon what we had.

One of the last places we visited was Kruger Park. I was looking forward to seeing zoo animals in their natural habitat, even though we had to get up at 4 in the morning when they would be active, drive no faster than 30 miles an hour, not descend from the car under any circumstances and keep the windows closed – on a hot day. We arrived one late afternoon at Olifants Camp, and after dinner were guided down the hill to two charming rondavels (round thatched bungalows)…

(Google image)

We got ready for bed, and in my nightie I padded towards the bathroom to brush my teeth. I never got there, because I suddenly felt a hot searing stab on the side of my right foot. I screamed and looked down, seeing a narrow, 4cm brown creature scurrying away sideways. I sat down on the bed, crying with fright, which steadily escalated to panic as I felt my foot go numb. My husband meanwhile was terrified, and had jumped on his bed and stood there with alarm written all over his face and saying “call your parents, quick”.

In fact they had heard my screaming from their rondavel next door, and my father came running out in his vest. Without even pausing to put a shirt on he ran for his car keys and all four of us jumped in the car. I was crying hysterically with fear because the numbness had by this time spread up my right leg to my groin, and I thought – truly – that I was about to die. Dad raced the car up the hill to the main building and the men ran in to look for a ranger. We knew there were no telephones at Olifants, and that all communication with the outside world was via radio. How would they get me to hospital? And oh God I suddenly realised I was still wearing my nightgown.

Two rangers helped me to a chair and while one examined my foot the other squatted down, took me by the shoulders and spoke to me firmly, which stopped me crying. “Think”, he said, “did you see the scorpion?” I nodded dumbly. “What colour was it?” “Dark brown” and I showed him with my fingers what size it was. “Then I’ve got good news for you” he said gravely “you’re not going to die. The bad ones are orange, and from the sound of it yours was little more than a baby. So you can stop crying.” He turned to my husband “you should have urinated on the place where it stung her. It helps with the pain.” My husband blinked.

He went on to explain that the scorpion had probably dropped from the thatched roof (there was no ceiling). He said the numbness would go, but that the following day I would probably have a high temperature and feel ill, and the foot would be sore for a few weeks. I seem to remember they gave me a pain killer, but nothing else.

It was a terrible night. My temperature started to climb almost immediately and my foot to swell; the throbbing sensation felt as though my limb had a life of its own and was a character in a Walt Disney cartoon, expanding and contracting in time to my heartbeat. My husband was still frightened, and insisted on sleeping with the ceiling light on as he endlessly scanned the inside roof for more of the critters – which would have been perfectly camouflaged by the thatch, of course.

The following day I was too ill to go anywhere, and my parents weren’t going without me, so we stayed in our rondavels as I slept fitfully. My fever started to come down by the evening, and we decided to drive round the park the following day – it was too special and brief a visit to waste without trying to see some animals.

On the second day we were up at daybreak. The swelling had come down a little and my temperature was back to normal, but my leg was very sore as far as my knee. I sat on the back seat with my leg up, looking at animals through the window as we bumped along at 30 miles an hour. The day went by in a bit of a blur, though I remember seeing some interesting animals, including a warthog.

(Google image)

For some time now there had been an uneasy joke between my husband and myself about his mixed doubles tennis partner. Though I did not consider myself to be a jealous person I felt he saw her too often, and in view of her turned-up nose I used to refer to her rather unkindly as ‘the warthog’. I now feebly made some joke about not being able to get away from warthogs even in South Africa, but got little response. Later on at the Olifants souvenir shop I purchased a small wood carved warthog and gave it to him as a joke…

The numbness shrank back to my foot a few days later, but it was a full three weeks before the pins and needles and sensitivity to hot and cold water disappeared altogether. But that was in the future – right now there was another humiliation to contend with.

I used to have the stupid habit of trying to use up the last of what was in a tube of cream, ointment or toothpaste by rolling it up from the bottom – in the days when you could and the tubes weren’t made of plastic. Then when I’d rolled it up tight and there was none left, I’d roll it back a little and bite the exit end between my teeth to extract that final little drop. Desert island tactics, and totally unnecessary. Since that day I have never done this again, for as I bit firmly into it I heard in my head the sound of breaking glass, and splinters of my front crowned tooth came away in my hand. All that was left was the stump.

There was nowhere to go until we had returned to Johannesburg, so for the final few days before my husband flew back to England, instead of meaningful conversations with him, I was limping around and unable to smile without showing an old crone gap in my tooth, to his great amusement. I’m afraid I was too self-conscious to find it funny.

Before he returned home there was an important business meeting he had to attend in Durban. He was gone for only two days, and when we met him at the airport on his return he was extremely subdued. The reason his plane was late, he explained, was because on takeoff, as the aircraft was climbing, something failed and they found themselves in a nosedive over the city. The pilot had managed to recover control after what seemed like a long time, and my husband had felt it was now he who was going to die. They managed to limp back to the airport, and the passengers were put on the next plane.
A few days later I said goodbye to him at the airport once more, and I was never to see him properly as my husband ever again. I believe the incident over Durban made him realise that life was too short for wasting it with the wrong person, and as soon as he was back in England he and his mixed doubles partner – the warthog – reached an understanding which certainly did not include me.

I returned home six weeks later having lost two stone and very brown and fit, but it was too late. He moved out of our home, and as soon as I found a flat a few weeks after that, I packed up all my things to leave, so that he could return to the house. I couldn’t bear to stay there any longer, knowing what had been happening during the six weeks he had been there without me.

As I went in to each room to check I had left nothing behind and to bid a silent farewell, in the bedroom I caught sight of something on the carpet in the corner of the room, and realised it was the little carved wooden warthog. I picked it up, dusted it off and placed it carefully in the middle of the flat top of the double bed’s headboard before leaving the room and shutting the door behind me.

(Google Image)


Photo Finish -
from Lonicera's non-digital archives 


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