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the other land of oz

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The Other Land of Oz has moved.

If you follow this blog please feel free to come follow me at

theotherlandofoz.co.uk

where you will find an updated version and some new writing.

Sorry for any inconvenience, and I know I’ve been extremely quiet of late, but rest assured I shall endeavour to keep things ticking over as much as I can.

See you on the other side!

Oz.

xox

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Meow

As I type there are two kittens ensconced under my bed. At least that’s where I hope they’re ensconced. Being kittens they could be anywhere, but under my bed seems like the logical choice. If I had been completely uprooted, put in a box and for all intents and purposes kidnapped from what I knew and loved, hiding under a bed would appeal to me too. Even more so once I got to where I was being taken only to be confronted by some huge slobbering over-excited beast. No, not my dad. I’m talking about Molly, the dog.

moll&kittens
No Molly, they are NOT toys. And they are certainly NOT food.

Yes, I have extended my family with the additions of Alfie and Elsie, named after those great British sitcom characters Alf Garnett and his long-suffering wife Else. Why those? Well, the kittens were essentially my dad’s idea and the TV show Alf Garnett appeared in was always one of dad’s favourites. If you decide to research Mr Garnett please bear in mind it was a very different time back then. Please don’t judge me.

We’ve had pets for as long as I can remember. Hell, at one point my dad literally had a veritable farm behind his small business in the ‘burbs of north London. Goats, chickens, ducks and turkeys all happily living in secluded suburban bliss. Until the environmental health people stepped up their game and realised a small farm probably wasn’t the most hygienic thing to have behind a grocery store. And so off they went to wherever unwanted farm animals go. Maybe to another farm? I don’t know. Anyway, undeterred my dad decided that he would only stick to rabbits. No harm in that, right? The thing about rabbits is that they breed like… um… rabbits, and before we knew it they were burrowing into neighbours’ gardens and dining on their prized azaleas and stuff. So eventually they went the way of the unwanted farm animals.

In case you were wondering my dad is a bit of an animal lover (he also likes antiques, but not antique animals – go figure). Even now, in his eighty-seventh year, he still gets excited at the prospect of watching a new David Attenborough show. He adores Molly despite the number of pairs of his slippers she’s devoured, or armchairs she’s remodeled. We used to have a cat called Tony who absolutely adored my dad, and vice versa. They had a very special relationship which was really quite sweet to behold. Unfortunately Tony, clearly not a dog lover, took one look at Molly the puppy and ran out the house never to be seen again. He had a bit of a reputation down our road for being one of those shameless cats that has more than one household to call his own, so I’m fairly confident he has shacked up somewhere else getting all the love and affection he deserves.

Back in the day I had the same combination of pets i.e. two cats and a dog. The difference in that situation was that the dog was smaller than the cats when I first got her. She was a West Highland terrier, a tiny little ball of scraggly white hair and fluff called Bailey. The cats in this instance were Tango and Pepsi, both well into adulthood and neither going to put up with Bailey’s nonsense thank you very much. That poor pup was whipped into shape quicker than you could say “inter-species bullying”, so much so that I am convinced Bailey eventually thought she was a cat. Tango and Pepsi lived up to the ripe old ages of seventeen and eighteen respectively. Bailey’s life was cut short by another dog, but she’d had a happy seven years.

And now here we are. Molly, Alfie and Elsie.

At just over a year old Molly is still very juvenile in her ways. Imagine one of those spinning tops that you have to pump up and down to get spinning, but the pump mechanism is permanently pushed down meaning the spinning never stops – that’s Molly in a nutshell. Add two new little balls of fluff to the equation and we’re talking spinning of such epic proportions Molly’s created her own small tornado. To her credit she did calm down. Eventually. I think the bag of doggie treats helped. I think I’ll be going through lots of bags of doggie treats over the next few weeks. I might have to take out shares.

For their part the kittens were, understandably, quite perplexed. Elsie is definitely a little firecracker – she was hissing and spitting like a good’un. Alfie was a bit less melodramatic and spat occasionally but wasn’t really committed, leaving all the hard work to his sister while he cowered in the corner of their box. I think we know who’s gonna be wearing the trousers in their little relationship.

The plan is to keep the kittens in my bedroom for the time being, and gradually introduce them to Molly and the rest of the house. But mostly to Molly, let’s be honest. She does have a very jealous streak, which is hardly surprising seeing as she’s had me mostly to herself for just over a year. She’s going to have to get used to not sleeping in my bedroom for a while, which I can guarantee she will not be happy about. Definitely lots of extra cuddles and attention for her. Funnily enough I bought her a new toy yesterday, an elephant soft toy thing guaranteed not to come apart easily ‘cos of the double stitching blah blah blah. I woke up this morning and I kid you not, the bedroom floor was covered in white fluffy elephant innards with Molly wagging her tail and looking very pleased with herself. I tried not to take it as an omen.

I’ve been in to check on Alfie and Elsie a couple of times and while they are nowhere to be seen there is definite evidence they have eaten and the litter tray has been used. The one great thing about cats is they need very little help from us humans and they are pretty much self-sufficient once they get past the weaning stage. Dogs on the other hand…

So that’s the current state of affairs here in the Land of Oz – a cranky octogenarian, a mildly stressed forty-something, a mad year-old dog and two eight-week-old kittens. There’s a joke there somewhere about a zoo, I’m sure of it.

catpoop
Oh I can’t wait for this part. No really. Can’t. Wait.

 

Fairy

So yeah.

It’s been nearly a year since I last put finger to keyboard and meandered through a blank screen with my words. The reason for my absence? Laziness and the lack of any motivation mostly, and the fact my last post caused a certain good-natured soul to go to my boss and tell her that I was probably suicidal. Or something. To this day I have no idea who that good-natured soul was but seeing as I’d got into trouble over an earlier post I think my brain just decided nope and The Land of Oz was left floating, cold and alone, in the ether of… erm… wherever blogs go when they’ve been abandoned.

But, for some reason, the Inspiration Fairy has paid me a visit so here I am.

inspirationfairy
Yes, this is EXACTLY what the Inspiration Fairy looks like. No, I don’t care if you disagree.

So what have I been up to for nearly a year? Well, the highlights include becoming a dog owner for the second time and passing my driving test after an eighteen year abstinence (after the last test in 1997 – you don’t need to know how many there were in total – I just came to the conclusion that London had a perfectly good transport system thank you very much. I also had a job interview that day. I didn’t get that either). There’s a joke there somewhere about old dogs and new tricks but I’m too rusty with this blogging thing to come up with anything even remotely funny. Plus it’s been a long week and I’m tired.

Going back to the driving for a moment, I have no shame in admitting that buying a convertible VW Beetle was my mid-life crisis moment (and much more sensible than a boat or a motorbike I feel). She’s called Cilla and I love her. The dog’s called Molly and is as mad as a bag of hammers. And I love her too. Cilla, Molly and I have had lots of adventures together, most notably staying in a converted train carriage in the middle of a Suffolk field. Fun times. Our biggest adventure yet is due in the summer. We shall be mostly driving around the UK visiting all the places I’ve always wanted to see. We’ll keep going until the money runs out or I get bored. Hopefully it’s neither of those outcomes.

Anyway, the writing. Yes.

I’m not gonna make any promises about how often I’m going to blog or what I’m going to write about. I’m just gonna ease myself back into it and see what happens. It does feel good to be back here though, and I know certain people will be very happy to see the Land of Oz return. Those of you that aren’t, tough titty.

So that’s me done for now. I have sushi on the way and a week’s worth of TV to catch up on. And I have to feed the dog.

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Not Molly. But it might as well be.

 

Happy?

So here’s the thing.

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The last time I sat down and posted anything on here was a month and a half ago. In the grand scheme of things, a month and a half really isn’t that big a deal. I’d like to say that the last six weeks have been so fun-filled and have kept me so busy that I haven’t had much time for writing.

Yeah, I’d like to say that.

Without going into too much detail (‘cos the last time I did I got myself into all sorts of bother at work – damn me for having an opinion)  I found myself in another work situation which was far from fun. In fact, it was so far from fun I found myself contemplating resignation. That’s still not out of the realm of possibilities, but for now I’m just biding my time. No need to cut my nose off to spite my face. Not yet, anyway.

As a result of said situation I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and thinking, none of which has proved particularly helpful or insightful. I have heard and read often over the last few weeks the phrase “Just do what makes you happy.”, and I have come to realise I have so much issue with it, I really do.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of happy is:

feeling or showing pleasure or contentment

Now the reason I have issue with that whole happy thing is because right now – and for a considerable amount of time – my life has been devoid of any pleasure or contentment. And as a result I just haven’t been… me. In fact, the overriding emotion has been anger more than anything else. That and wanting to hit things (mostly heads, or rather one particular head). Hard. With a baseball bat.

And I have come to realise that the reason I haven’t been happy is because I don’t know what makes me happy. Not any more. So when someone says “Just do what makes you happy.” I just wanna scream back at them:

“WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! TELL ME!”

When I was in my late twenties/early thirties I had this romantic notion that my happiness would be reliant upon a combination and balance of five things (in no particular order):

  • Job
  • Home
  • Relationship
  • Friendships
  • Family

If I could attain all five of those I thought, all would be glorious with the world and unicorns and rainbows would abound. And for a while, miraculously, all five did happen and it was one of the best times of my life. Now whether it really was because of the combination of the five, or whether it was because it was simply (finally) my time, or whether it was because the stars aligned in one glorious astronomical conflagration, I can’t really say. But all I do know is that I was happy. I truly was.

It didn’t last very long – about two years – and then things just got… complicated. I was in another long-term relationship, this one meaning so much more to me than any that had gone before. I took a risk and decided I was going to go back to university to do my masters. Things were difficult, but they were relatively good. I had the support of my family and friends and things felt they were going my way again. But within the space of a year I was jobless, single and living with my dad. So I packed up and moved to Singapore for a couple of years. As one does.

I’ve been back from Singapore nearly two years now. I’ve somehow become quite estranged from my old friends, as if that two years away has wedged something between us – I am so (selfishly) stuck at the moment I can’t bring myself to be around others that have moved on with their lives. And I do sincerely apologise for that. I’m still single. I’m still living with my dad. And as for work, well let’s just say I have never, in twenty years of being in education, looked forward to a summer break more.

A while ago I had a conversation with a cousin of mine. She’s someone with whom I have always been very close to and despite what life throws our way we have always managed to be there for each other. We were reminiscing about our childhoods. I have such vivid memories of us being at each other’s homes, playing, being silly, having fun, being innocent with no worries, being happy. I told her I had never envisioned my life being the mess it was now, and with regret in her voice she agreed.

Now I know no-one envisions their life as anything but positive. We all have hopes and dreams and aspirations. But how many people truly live happy lives? And what is it exactly that makes someone happy? I realise that’s a totally subjective question – only we know what makes us happy in the end. But what if along the way one forgets or doesn’t know? What then?

I really cannot answer those questions. And for all the self-help books that line the shelves and all the new-age websites that exist on the Internet, and for all the religions and holy books that supposedly provide answers, I honestly don’t think anyone can. I do believe it comes from within but finding those inner resources is quite daunting.

I keep telling people that all I want to do is run away and find a tropical beach somewhere and sell coconuts. Or something. A little fantasy to hide the fact that all I really want to do is run away again. But I know that as fun as being a beach bum would be initially I’d soon get bored and find myself back at square one.

I keep coming back to the point that I just don’t know any more, and that worries me if I’m going to be honest. If I don’t know what makes me happy, how can I do anything about it? Aristotle said:

Happiness depends upon ourselves.

Which is all well and good, and I can see the truth in what he says. But what happens when the capacity to see inside oneself and utilise one’s inner resources just stops working? I’m going to be forty-two this year. According to Douglas Adams that number is the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Quite a bold claim as well as quite a disappointing answer for those who asked the question. Satirical comedy aside, I hope what I’m looking for presents itself soon because I don’t want to become one of those bitter forty-somethings full of regret and resentment and disappointment.

I want to be happy.

I want to be me again.

Is that really too much to ask for?

 

Penance (II)

coffee

The man with the dark eyes watched as the woman ordered her coffee. She was wearing the dark suit today, the one that he liked. Her hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail, and while he preferred it to be loose and around her face he still appreciated what he saw. He watched as she took her change, smiling a thank you at the barista as she did so. That perfect smile, with those perfect lips, which today were wearing a delicate shade of pink. He averted his gaze as she turned around, knowing that she was looking for somewhere to sit. Her preferred spot was occupied by an elderly couple, and he hated and despised them for her. He clenched his fist under the table, his nails digging into the flesh of his palm. If he was feeling any pain he did not allow his face to convey it. The woman decided on a table that was directly in front of him and his heart began to beat faster, his breathing suddenly shallower. This had only ever happened once before, the situation so intense he had had to leave. The inadequacy that moment had made him feel had caused him to do… things. And while they were things he enjoyed, it was that feeling of letting her down, of not being the man she deserved, that permeated his being. He had vowed that should the situation ever present itself again he would prove to her that he was not weak. And now here he was, panicking like a silly little boy. He dug his nails deeper into his clenched fist, the action giving him something to concentrate on other than the panic welling up inside of him. He could do this. He had to do this. His breathing began to normalise, his heart began to slow. The woman, with her back to him, had now settled into her seat not four feet away. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply through his nose, hoping to catch her scent. In the confines of the busy café, with so many aromas and the general stench of people, he convinced himself he caught a whiff of her perfume – something classy and tasteful. He opened his eyes and for the briefest of moments it was just he and her, and in that moment he imagined reaching forward and stroking her long dark ponytail… Her phone rang – a sound he instantly recognised – and the clamour of his surroundings came crashing in with it, whisking away his fantasy. He realised he was highly aroused and was equally disgusted and enthralled by it. That this woman could do this to him. That he had no control over his body because of her. That she allowed herself to be the subject of his lustful thoughts. Surely he was not worthy of such feelings? She was talking into her phone now, laughing, tilting her head to one side. He wasn’t interested in the conversation itself – it was the sound of her voice that he strained to hear. That lilting soft enunciation of every letter, the cadence, that one day – he knew – would be used to utter his name. And what a day that would be… He looked at his watch and was dismayed to see that his break was almost over – he would once more have to return to the drudgery that was his job. He stared for one last moment at the woman sitting in front of him, taking all of what he saw in, every detail, so that he could replay the moment again and again in his mind later. It was only a matter of time before they would be together he knew, but things were not quite ready, he was not quite ready. Bolstered by this knowledge he stood up and walked past her table, not daring to turn around but imagining her staring at him as he walked. Staring at him and wanting him. The sound of her voice sang in his ears as he smiled and left the café.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Award

Well now here’s a turn-up for the books. I’ve won an award. Me.

squee

Out of all the insanity that is the internet someone has very kindly not only taken the time to visit my little blog, but has also liked it enough to nominate me. Thank you so much Eva Marasca – I’m really quite thrilled and touched.

Now I’m going to be honest and say I’d never heard of the Liebster Award until the notification from Eva popped up in my email inbox, and after some investigating I found out that it’s an award that only exists on the internet and is given to bloggers by fellow bloggers. You can find out more about it here.

liebster-award

It’s kinda humbling to think that out of the millions of bloggers out there, Eva chose me as one of her nominees. I’ve been letting the writing slip over the last couple of months for one reason and another, and this has given me the kick up the bum I needed to get back into it.

Now it turns out the Liebster Award comes with some rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  2. List eleven random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the eleven questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.
  4. Pick five to ten new bloggers (must have less than three hundred followers) to nominate. Do not re-nominate the blogger who nominated you.
  5. Ask them eleven new questions.
  6. Go to each blogger’s site and inform them of their nomination.

The cynical amongst you (and yes, I will put my hand up and say that included me as well) will immediately be thinking that this is just a way to promote one’s blog, as well as promote others. And it is. But getting our voices heard and getting as wide an audience as possible are two of the things that blogging is all about, and if that means connecting with fellow bloggers and sharing our writing (something which I have to admit I have been woefully rubbish at), then so be it.

So without further ado, here are my eleven random facts:

  1. I love cheese on toast. And I especially love cheese on toast when it’s been dipped in tea. There is something quite delicious about the combination of the savoury cheese and the sweet tea that I have never fully understood but know that it tantalises my taste buds and satisfies me no end.
  2. I own over thirty ties. For someone that hardly ever wears a tie, that’s quite a lot I feel.
  3. I can be the world’s biggest flake at times.
  4. I spend a lot of time looking at clouds.
  5. I have amassed a collection of new books, comics and graphic novels that I’m not sure I have time to read. And I keep procuring more because I am a completist and must have full sets of everything. I blame my mum for this – her china and cut-glass collections were something to behold.
  6. I find cutting my toenails a very satisfying endeavour.
  7. No matter where I am, or in what situation, I have to count the number of steps as I climb stairs.
  8. When I was little I used to try to get to Narnia and was always disappointed when I’d hit the back of the wardrobe.
  9. I get very involved in the TV shows I watch and sometimes have to put off watching them for a while because I get so tense, invested and even angry.
  10. When I leave for work in the mornings I am often jealous of my cats who are fast asleep on my bed.
  11. I’ve learned that writing eleven random facts about oneself is actually quite hard.

Phew. I’m glad that’s over.

And now my answers to Eva’s questions:

  1. Which random fact about myself in this post do you think is a lie? Hmmm, I think it might actually be number eleven – I don’t think any of the facts are a lie.
  2. What is your favourite breakfast food? Has to be a full English breakfast dripping with fat, protein and carbohydrates. Is the only way to start the day!
  3. If you could spend a day in a body of different gender, what would be the first thing you would do? I would like to get pregnant and have a baby. I think men really do miss out on this biological phenomenon. Would also make for less arguing amongst the sexes I feel.
  4. What is your favourite animal and what do you think you have in common with this animal (physical or behavioural)? Oooooh. Tough one. I have lots of favourite animals, but I think it would have to be a quokka ‘cos they’re just so damn cute and cuddly. Make of that what you will.
  5. What are you most afraid of? Dying and not leaving a legacy of some sort.
  6. Who is your favourite female hero – can be real or fictional – and why? Being a comic-book nerd I have lots of female heroes but my all-time favourite would have to be Jean Grey/Phoenix. She’s just awesome.
  7. If you could, what physical object would you wipe out of existence? Anything that has more than four legs.
  8. Life on other planets – possible or not? I don’t see why not. I think it would be very naive of us to think that in all the vastness of the cosmos ours is the only planet with life on it.
  9. What song are you listening to right now or what song was the last you’ve heard? Last song I listened to was ‘Put Your Hands Up 4 Detroit’ by Fedde le Grand.
  10. Your favourite acronym. I think it would have to be RSVP, ‘cos it means I’ve been invited somewhere nice.
  11. Would you prefer to know how to fly or how to breathe under water? Definitely how to fly.

And now my list of nominees:

  1. Mrs Jardin’s ART Room – one of my very good friends who travels the world teaching art. A truly inspirational site.
  2. Sci-Fi, Movies, Comics and Quiche from a Pop Disciple – a great site with great writing about all things geeky and nerdy.
  3. I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog – a quirky personal look at life and very entertaining at the same time.
  4. Just Kick The Can – somewhere to go when you need cheering up. A great collection of pictures, infographics, comics and cartoons.
  5. Ray Ferrer – Emotion on Canvas – official site of the artist Ray Ferrer.
  6. Some Offense Intended – the musings of a twenty-something nerd and pseudo-comedian.

And finally, my eleven questions for the above nominees:

  1. Cats or dogs?
  2. White wine or red?
  3. Dark chocolate or milk?
  4. Superman or Batman?
  5. Beach or adventure holiday?
  6. Coke or Pepsi?
  7. Madonna or Lady Gaga?
  8. London or Paris?
  9. Telekinesis or telepathy?
  10. Starter or dessert?
  11. If a woodchuck could chuck wood, how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

All that’s left for me to say is a big thank you to everyone that’s been reading this blog. I know my posts can sometimes be few and far between – life has a tendency to take over unfortunately – but when I do post the feedback has always been positive. And now that I’ve won an award for my writing, well, like I said earlier, it’s given me the incentive to hopefully be a bit more productive.

Bear with me. I’ll keep writing if you keep reading!

Penance (I)

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I have killed a man.

This isn’t the way I intended things to turn out, but it doesn’t really matter. Not really. If I had thought about it clearly, maybe been a bit more careful, perhaps certain things wouldn’t have happened. Perhaps.

I don’t feel any guilt about what I’ve done. The events which led to my sitting here writing this will no doubt have serious repercussions, but I don’t care. Things can’t be undone. And despite their outcome, I don’t really want them to be.

As I sit here staring at my computer screen, watching the words form, I’m fascinated with the ease with which they seem to flow, the ease with which my brain is able to unjumble thoughts into coherent phrases of prose. A stream of consciousness that – I’m sure – would make no sense if allowed to run unchecked. But there is so much that needs to be allowed to flow, so much that has to be imprinted onto the blankness of the screen. And so here I am, desperate to get down all that has transpired, not really knowing where exactly to start but certain that time is not on my side.

I have killed a man.

Five mono-syllabic words put together to form a grammatically correct sentence. That’s all. And yet the implications of that sentence will make most recoil with curious disgust because of its simplicity. It is a statement of fact. It is the truth. It is why I am here writing this. And it’s why you continue to read. Your curiosity has been piqued. Every fibre in your being is telling you that what I have done is wrong, and yet you want to know. You want the details. You may even want to know why.

Why. Why not? That would be the flip response, but then there would be no reason for these words. No, there is a reason why.

He deserved it.

I’m not looking for justification. It was my decision ultimately to end his suffering, and my decision alone. It’s a decision that I will have to live with regardless of the consequences, and despite the fact that one less human breathes because of me, the bastard deserved it.

I’m not writing this because I want you to agree with my actions. I’m not writing this to gloat in what I have done, and nor am I writing this for any kind of glory or recognition. I’m writing this because it needs to be written. I’m writing this because you all need to know what kind of man he was and why I did what I had to do.

His corpse is lying a few feet away from me. His eyes stare up at the ceiling, lifeless and dull. His mouth is open slightly, a small dribble of blood and saliva drying at the corner. He’s naked, his dark muscled skin reflecting the single bulb overhead, the drying blood around his head like a halo. His right arm rests lightly across his chest, the other above his head. If it wasn’t for the perfect hole in the middle of his forehead, you would be mistaken to think he was merely resting.

As I look at him I feel nothing. I light a cigarette and watch as the smoke finds its way into the light, swirling patterns that writhe and tumble and ultimately disperse.

So this then is my confession. I am not looking for absolution. My penance has already been served; the marks on my wrists and ankles are testament to that. The bite marks and bruises too serve as a reminder that my punishment was served before this particular crime was committed.

But I’m running ahead of myself.

My name is Diana. This is my story.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Valentine

Along with millions of others around the world, i am single on Valentine’s Day.

heart2a

Now before you roll your eyes thinking this is gonna be yet another outpouring of vitriol by a bitter and twisted cynical forty-something who is one cat shy from being classified as a crazy cat lady (even though he’s a man), hear me out.

I have been in two serious long-term relationships, one being more long-term than the other. Both very different, both lots of fun, both totally missing any form of romance whatsoever.  I will give my respective partners their due ‘cos there were half-hearted attempts, but in all honesty they just fell flat. I tried, lord knows I tried, but my attempts to ignite their romantic flames were doused by the fire extinguisher of indifference. (I have no idea where the fire extinguisher analogy is coming from by the way, ‘cos neither of them worked for the emergency services.)

In case you were wondering, I am a romantic.

There, I said it.

I don’t care that it’s a money-making day for all the card manufacturers out there. I couldn’t care less that florists make a mint. More chocolate sales than any other day? So what? Restaurants having special set menus? Bring them on!

I want to be wined and dined. I want to be spoilt. I want roses and chocolates and champagne (even though I can’t stand the stuff) and intimate meals for two in cosy little bistros.

Now I know what most of you are thinking – ‘Yes Oz, but you can have that on any day of the year, not just on February 14th.’ – and to you I say take your poo-poos elsewhere. Yes, one can have that on any day of the year, I agree. But to be with a significant other, on that one day when love is celebrated world-wide (and forgetting all the economics of it for a moment), that is kinda special. Well I think so anyway.

My very good friend Mrs Beaver (you might remember her from this post) shared this with everyone on Facebook:

nickyvalentine
Mr Beaver not quite grasping that signing off as ‘Anon’ is kinda redundant seeing as his name is at the top. But even so – bless!

It’s from Mr Beaver, obviously. In her caption Mrs Beaver writes – ‘Still making me smile after 30 years’. How cute is that?

So this post is dedicated to all the romantics out there celebrating today with their special person, be it with text messages or flowers or meals.

For my part, I’ll be celebrating with the cats and a movie. I might even push the boat out and buy some chocolate.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

xox

grumpyvalentine

Sochi

It’s not like me to get all political. I take everything in and weigh up the pros and cons but very rarely do I speak out. It’s just not in my nature.

Dmitry Lovetsky / Associated Press
Dmitry Lovetsky / Associated Press

The Russian youths in the image above are being arrested for attending a pro LGBT rally. Russia’s law banning the “promotion of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors” was passed in June 2013, giving it plenty of time to propagate in the national psyche and give President Vladimir Putin the right ammunition for his political survival. By passing this law Putin set into motion months of confrontation that would have a two-fold effect. Firstly he would show his opposition to the West, and secondly he would generate fear amongst the Russian populace, a fear that only he and his government could assuage.

As a result of this new law, vigilante groups have taken it upon themselves to kidnap and torture gay teens. An established group calling itself Occupy Pedofilyaj (Occupy Pedophilia – a play on the US Occupy Wall Street movement – who think homosexuality is intrinsically linked to pedophilia) have very publicly posted photographs on Facebook of their achievements and posted videos on YouTube. And the Russian authorities are doing nothing about it. In fact they seem to condone it.

russia3The young man on his knees in the picture above is one of many victims of these so called vigilantes. He was abducted, doused with urine, degraded and humiliated, amongst other things. He may now be dead according to the Spectrum Human Rights Alliance and a report here.

On August 12th, 2013 Russia’s Interior Ministry confirmed that the country’s new anti-gay law would be enforced during the Sochi Winter Olympics, stating that:

Any discussion on violating the rights of representatives of nontraditional sexual orientations, stopping them from taking part in the Olympic Games or discrimination of athletes and guests of the Olympics according to their sexual orientation is totally unfounded or contrived.

Alexander Zhukov, the head of Russia’s National Olympic Committee, took this further by stating:

If a person does not put his views across in the presence of children, no measures against him can be taken. People of nontraditional sexual orientations can take part in the competitions and all other events at the Games unhindered, without any fear for their safety whatsoever.

What exactly putting one’s “views across in the presence of children” actually means is anyone’s guess. Are children in Russia not going to be allowed to watch the Olympics then? Are they banned from all the events as spectators? Will their television privileges be revoked for the duration?  As far as I can tell those are the only ways they will be shielded from any form of evil Western “views”.

Jacques Rogge, during his final press conference as head of the International Olympic Committee conceded that nothing could be done to influence the anti-gay laws of Russia. He stated:

We have received some oral and written assurances about the fact the Russian Federation will respect the Olympic charter and no negative affect will occur for people attending in or participating in the Games. But one should not forget that we are staging the games in a sovereign state and the IOC cannot be expected to have an influence on the sovereign affairs of a country.

The opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi is this Friday. Within the Olympic Charter  there are seven Fundamental Principles of Olympism. I’m not going to go through all of them, but I would like to draw your attention to numbers four and six. They state:

4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

And:

6. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

I can’t help but feel that Mr Rogge and the rest of the International Olympic Committee need to be reminded of these principles. Surely Russia’s anti-gay laws violate the phrase “discrimination of any kind”. They certainly do not belong to the Olympic Movement as far as I can tell.

I have no doubt that economics came into play here. The Russian Federation would have had to have forked out millions in order to stage the Olympics, millions some would argue the country can ill afford. Preparations would have been well underway and indeed very near completion before Putin very cannily passed this anti-gay law. There is no way the IOC would have withdrawn Sochi as the host for the Games – how could they so near to the event? But that doesn’t excuse the fact that no public statement was made by the IOC standing against the Russian Federation. By not doing so they have called into question the very Fundamental Principles they hold in such high esteem.

And I would just like to add here that by insisting a boycott of the Olympics is the wrong way to tackle the issue, leaders such as Barack Obama and David Cameron have shown the world they are spineless. If this does not have repercussions I will be very surprised.

I am disgusted that Putin has used the Olympics to advance his own political agenda. And yet I cannot help but be reminded of a certain Summer Olympics in Berlin. Jesse Owens winning gold. In front of Adolf Hitler. If ever there was a moment in history that epitomized and encapsulated the struggles of the oppressed against the might of the oppressor, it was that one. Televised for the whole world to see in perpetuity too no less.

Regimes come and go, as do their leaders. I cannot help but feel that Putin has forever tarnished his country’s name with these outdated and barbaric violations against human rights. Ultimately it is the people that will decide.

Reporters Sans Frontieres
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