Posted on July 8, 2008 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay24 Comments »

HenhouseOver at Mr Nighttime’s place this morning, there’s a piece up about children and racism. It seems that some idiot somewhere has decided that if a child reacts to a culturally unfamiliar food by rejecting it with a disgusted expression, then he or she, toddler or no, should be branded racist and Steps should be Taken. Needless to say, this made me hopping mad. Political correctness has gone way beyond too far. It is – as I told Mr N – one of the biggest social evils of our time, having the effect of branding half the population with exactly the sort of social labelling it professes to deplore, and making the other half paranoid with suspicion of everyone else and terrified that the finger will turn upon themselves if they dare protest.

My own dear OH (who is so morally and ethically upright he’s in a very small minority these days) has been known to remark as we innocently watch the children at play in the local primary school as we walk past, that he’d better not watch for too long or he’ll be put on some kind of register. But those who work for organisations such as the NHS or the Education Department have to be particularly careful what they say or do, for fear of losing their jobs and being blacklisted. This is no joke at all, because not only does it mean that those who don’t toe the line are hounded out, but it also means that in an effort to toe that line, the lesser worker ants get more and more politically correct and the whole thing snowballs until everyone is nice and everyone is equal and no-one can be blamed for anything because nothing can possibly be their fault, they’re all misunderstood and/or discriminated against – yes, even that evil bastard over there who makes everyone’s life a misery. Unless, of course, said evil bastard is doing something considered politically incorrect, then they’ll throw the book at him. Oh, wait … um … unless the evil bastard is a member of an ethnic minority, then they’ll hesitate to throw that heavy volume in case they offend the whole of his ethnic group by doing so.

The thing about BA is this: back in May, they decided that in order not offend Jews or Hindus, they would remove pork and beef from their tourist class menu, leaving vegetarian options, chicken or fish.

Um … EXCUSE ME!!! This disenfranchises me, and that offends me deeply. I am a white English woman, of no particularly threatened ethnic grouping (although the number of racist events aimed at whites is escalating rapidly) but I have a problem with that menu. Owing to a number of allergies, I cannot usually choose the vegetarian option and I would probably die mid-flight if I ate the fish. Also, very much to the point, I have a strong ethical objection to eating battery-produced chicken. A Jew or a Hindu could choose not to take a meal containing beef or pork, I don’t have that luxury because nothing on the menu is now suitable for me. Yes, I could ring and order a special, but in all my years of flying with various airlines, this only once worked out well for me and that was on the now defunct MAXjet.

I feel a letter to BA coming on. I didn’t like the airline much anyway, but now? I wouldn’t fly with them unless they were the last airline left on earth – and even then it would have to be a serious emergency.

I’m not a racist – I don’t judge people on race or skin colour or appearance, and I don’t think white English people are superior or due any special treatment. I just think it would be nice if everyone could be treated equally and we could maintain some sense of perspective.

And, excuse me, but isn’t the fact that they still serve these items to First Class and Club World passengers in itself discriminatory? Does this not smack of the suggestion that Jews and Hindus don’t travel in those categories? I think, if I were Jewish or Hindu, I might possibly be more offended by this than by having to share air-space with someone who is eating a forbidden food.

So, any Jewish or Hindu people reading this? What do you think? Feel free to set me right if I’m wrong. I’m always willing to listen and learn.

I don’t bite .. not unless I’m on a long-haul BA flight with no menu options, anyway.

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Posted on July 6, 2008 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay26 Comments »

This one was found begging outside Macy’s, in Union Square, San Francisco. Being a cat, he was doing it in comfort (naturally) and showed a typically feline disregard for the coins tossed into his stash.


Well, alright. He may have inclined his head slightly, in acknowledgement of my contribution. But there was a definite air of distain for the filthy lucre, and the necessity to acquire it. One could almost imagine that he had a servant to clean it for him before he could use it to buy his filet mignon.

Camera Critters!

Posted on July 5, 2008 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay12 Comments »

CoastRedwoodJust north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate bridge and up a narrow winding road with the occasional sheer drop and suicidal cyclist, is a National Park called Muir Woods. Okay, it’s not officially a National Park, it’s a National Monument, but that sounds kinda funny to this Brit.

Anyway, back in 1905, a far-sighted politician and philanthropist named William Kent bought 600-odd acres of the dwindling redwood forest on the northern California coast in order to preserve these majestic trees, and he generously donated nearly half of it to the Federal Government. This is Muir Woods, and thanks to Mr Kent, it escaped the logging which was widespread in those days and so it remains, cool and peaceful, and a haven for wildlife – among other things there are deer, and ten different species of bat, but surprisingly few birds and insects. I saw a Steller’s Jay, which was beautiful, but I have to admit I’m glad that I didn’t see a Banana Slug which sounds considerably less than beautiful. I have a thing about slugs, and not in a good way. A ten-inch long bright yellow slimy thing would not have enhanced my visit. Especially if I’d trodden on it.

The trees themselves, Coastal Redwoods for the most part, are simply incredible. To one raised in the UK, and used to England’s homely forest trees and a few varieties of imported pine, a tree which towers more than 200 feet above me, dead straight and majestic, is an awe-inspiring sight. And many of these trees are ancient. Ancient. As in ‘well over a thousand years old’ ancient. They have a slice of tree on display there to prove it, with the dates inscribed on the rings to show its age. One such inscription tells how old the tree was when Columbus landed in the New World.*

An interesting feature of the Coastal Redwoods is that they grow bumpy bits on their trunks, known as ‘burls’. These burls contain thousands of dormant buds and after a flood or a fire, each one is capable of growing into a new tree. That’s a burl on the trunk of one of the trees in the picture. I thought it was a wasps’ nest at first, but no, it’s the tree’s survival mechanism. Clever, huh?

*About 500 years old.

Posted on July 4, 2008 in Hounds by Jay23 Comments »

Miss JulyI know, I know. I missed June.

My poor Princess was languishing in a concrete cell with her Pirate and could not find it within herself to pose prettily – I can’t think why!

Still, here she is, back at home with us, and apparently feeling relaxed and playful again.

It’s a dog’s life, I tell ya.