04
Aug
12

end game


And with death, comes perspective.

This journal has been on hiatus for months. I know it’s because my life’s taken a different turn, and writing for public reading has become less of a priority for me – I figure my need to externalise with others, be it through articles or poetry, has lessened.

For this reason I am archiving this blog, and any further projects (possibly purely poetry related) will appear elsewhere.

I wish you all well, and perhaps we’ll meet again in some other corner of cyber space.

Best,
ErithBabalon.

04
Aug
12

Forgive but do not forget


My father passed away on Wednesday 1st August. The Celts celebrate that day as the fruition of the crops and a time for sporting celebration.

How ironic.

My father did not pass away peacefully but fought for eight solid days against failed kidneys and the slowly collapsing dominoes of his other internal organs. We stayed by his bedside day and night, and undertook a gruelling lesson in the value of Euthanasia; something we do not have access to in this country. Doctors slowly incremented the morphine in tiny doses, for fear that antiquated British laws that might find them guilty of deliberately killing him, so instead they said they would up the dose in stages, only when his discomfort became apparent – which was most days.

They killed him anyway – he was nil by mouth for that entire week.

Watching someone you have known all your life slowly die from dehydration is not a humane nor a dignified path to death. Even if they are pumped full of drugs that are supposed to place one in a ‘relaxed and dreamy’ state or supposedly numb down the pain (by how much?).

What they do not tell you with their brief, dull ‘information’ leaflet at the start of this process, is that the person undergoing nil by mouth will slowly start to turn into a living skeleton: a death rattle gurgle develops as internal secretions start to fill up their lungs and throat, their breath turns to sewer stink, and their mouths, hoarse with lack of water, have to be regularly swabbed and daubed with moisturiser to stop them cracking. Regular writhing fits of pain and anxiety accompany when it becomes apparent that the latest incremental dosage is no longer effective.

Apparently someone in this state is supposed to only last two to three days.

The doctors found it unfortunately surprising that my father lasted well over a week due to the fact that his heart was unusually strong and outlasted every other organ in his body.

I wish our family had been so robust.

Stress turned to frustration and anger, we turned on each other, snapping, arguing, placating, flailing; short of sleep and decent food, because my mother insisted on playing the dedicated wife to her darling husband, and so the children had to in turn support the mother who seemed dead set on a dramatic meltdown of sleep deprivation psychosis (which happened twice).

I say this ruefully, because she seems to so easily forget that darling father dearest was not an angel by any stretch of the imagination. Death in it’s finality seems to wipe the slate clean for many people – and in a sense I can understand why. My mother wanted to believe in a cause – her cause was the dignified end for her idealised husband.

I chose, in a quiet moment alone with my unconscious father to say to him, that despite our severe differences over the past years and a troubled father – daughter relationship, that as far as I was concerned, we were calling it quits. I’ve chosen to let go the violent memories of past years gone by and become the better woman. I’ve chosen to let it go, and in turn forgive a flawed and angry man because why hold grudges against a dead man?

Death is transformative for the living too. My mother had to care for my father in his long term illness for twenty years. She’s now going to have to get used to the idea of living her own life independently. I’m going to have to get used to the idea of having one parent, and no longer blaming my slow burn anger on things that happened with my father thirty years ago.

I get angry at injustice. I see that the lack of a right to choose a dignified, quick death is an injustice that is all too common and deftly hidden away within silent hospices and hospital wards and cold medical terms.

There should be a definitive right to informed choices about your own death and the impact it will have upon your family. An ending that should come quickly, without pain and with dignity. A right to euthanasia.

18
Feb
12

Noised Up


This morning I was awoken by a dawn chorus of hammering on the walls upstairs. At 8am.

I recently noticed that the guy upstairs had been pretty quiet (even by his midnight standards of soft shoe shuffle), and then my suspicions were confirmed last weekend when I heard a large number of voices upstairs in the stairwell discussing about how to move things out. By the looks of it, my elder neighbour has passed away and the family has taken over clearing out and cleaning up the property.

So, it would appear, one or two of the family are employing DIY upgrades upstairs, at early hours, on the weekend.

I riposted their opening chorus by a loud grumping and stomping around the house myself, which probably woke up my student neighbours downstairs. Considering they, themselves, are prone to wine fuelled shriek-fest parties until 1am in the morning, I’m a little ambivalent about my own noise factor.

Inevitably, when people live in high density accommodation, noise is always going to be an environmental nuisance, and some degree of toleration has to be adopted. Across the road, a young girl and her boyfriend own a psychotic Scottish terrier that spends most of its days staring out of the window and frenziedly yelping for hours at a time. High maintenance dogs should not be left alone at home, no matter how small they are, but people have tolerated the noise for well over a year.

The question is: does intrusive noise irritate us so much simply because it’s an invasion of our space, and no matter how social humans may be, we’re also territorial in nature so we find loud and raucous noises to be almost like a stranger stepping into our home?

30
Oct
11

transitory


Intense slices of gold ice
cut
through misted windows
stark rays
set against dark dawn skies
a late sunrise
warms tired eyes
and numb hands

rivulets of fake dew
slew down the pane
against the slow drone
of a monotone bus engine
driving to some unknown
destination

fleeting imagery
blurred shadow puppetry
passes lost, amongst
impassive passengers
voyagers of
books, i-pods, newspapers
anywhere
but here:

they miss
the quiet bliss
of seeing driving rainfall
painted all the colours
of a rainbow
chasing us across
field and fallow
as bright sunshine
cuts through the darkest of blue

the flight of startled
starlings
a tangled ballet of
black wings
spiralling upwards
outwards

against stark
harvested, stubbled land
hay bales, scattered
and furrows ploughed
trees bowed
exposed
against the wind

all lost
in the transitory moment
of head lift between pages
and i-play button presses

and soon, the sound
of urban surround
encloses:
traffic rush and
busy crowd
loud teenagers
deaf pensioners
late commuters

these fragile images
pass,
like fractured
memories
of a dream
broken
by a harsh alarm

with a quiet yearning
for the lost calm.

29
Oct
11

Do what you think


Is it just me, or are some people less willing to think for themselves these days?

Let me explain my question with two examples.

Yesterday, I wanted to take some money out from a cash ATM. So I walked into the shopping centre and made my way down the main area where three cash tills were. There was a huge queue waiting to get served – and yet ten metres down the mall another bank till in open view had just three people waiting in line to get served. Why were people so incapable of realising that they could get served quicker by accessing a till just a little way out of the ‘usual’ conduit?

I walked down and joined the queue. I then realised as I waited, that the three people in front of me were waiting for the one person up front to finish at only one of the two cash tills. Hmm… I thought.. maybe one of the cash tills is out of order.

The next person goes up to the ‘only’ machine working and starts punching in the pin numbers. My eyes drifted over to the other machine and I realised, actually, that the machine looked to be in perfect working order. By this time the person in front of me had walked up to the ‘working’ machine.

Sod it, I thought, let’s check out the other cash till. I was right: it wasn’t out of order. So I punched in my pin number and withdrew my money.

The point here is, that each and every one of the three people ahead of me assumed the till was out of order, because the people previously in the queue had acted as though it wasn’t working – because for some reason, at some point, a previous customer had probably had a problem with the machine refusing to process a request (probably not enough cash on their account). So they didn’t even look at the ATM to see it was, actually, in full working order.

Some people are willing to make assumptions based on other’s actions rather than by first hand observation: Sheep Think.

The second example happened on a bus ride going into work on Thursday.

A man stepped onto the bus. My hackles immediately went up, because it was the same man that had stepped onto the bus a week earlier and played a con trick on the bus driver. He was trouble: aggressive, and unwilling to leave the bus, even though the driver stated the ticket he was trying to use wasn’t valid. The man refused to budge. In fact, he seemed to take a peverse pleasure out of the power he felt from stopping the bus going anywhere. He wasn’t going to leave until the driver let him on the bus, and the driver was powerless to evict the man off the bus (due to UK law, physical eviction could be a president for the con man to take the bus company to court).

Fucked up? Yep.

It’s nearly 15 minutes in and I lost my temper. Mainly because no-one was doing anything about the situation. It was a Mexican Stand-off, and much longer of this con game, and I’d be late for work. Again.

Conman cockily says, “Driver – you don’t know your regulations – this ticket is valid. I have no cash, only cards” (he shows off his wallet like this is some kind of justification)..”You can call your head office, call the police, I don’t care.” He turns around and eyes the bus with a victorious gleam in his eye. Conspiratorially he leans in and adds “You’re going to make me late for work”.

At this point, quietly exasperated at everyone’s paralysis, I shouted down the bus and said – “You pulled this stunt last week”

“Excuse me?” Says the smug con man, taken aback that anyone had the balls to speak up.

“I said.. YOU, pulled this stunt last week – it’s the same con trick, and you’re delaying people.”

He stepped forward, weighing up the bus crowd and whether I was on my own in this. I think I was, but fuck it, I decided to brass neck it.

He narrows his eyes at me and then tells me, in no uncertain terms, to fuck off.

“No,” says I, “YOU fuck off. You’re making me, and this whole bus, late for work.”

I suddenly realised that by stepping out and actually engaging with this man, I was probably making myself look as much of a loony as this man.

He pauses a second, glances around, and decides maybe I’m a little too unhinged to engage with further. He turns around, and walks back to the driver; he says he’s going to complain to head office and call the police, and steps off the bus.

What happened next, made me even angrier.

Nothing. The bus was as silent as a graveyard. No-one came over and asked if I was okay.. no-one went up to the bus driver and asked if he was okay. I heard one woman lean over and mutter to her friend “I didn’t want to get involved”.

That’s a problem. If no-one wants to be responsible, no-one wants to be noticed, no-one wants to stand up and fight their corner or actually think for themselves, what are you?

No-one.

08
Oct
11

May you live in interesting times…


…is a memetic phrase often subtitled, The Chinese Curse, although no-one has managed to substantiate its’ origins.

It is followed by two more curses:

May you come to the attention of powerful people.

May you find what you are looking for.

Why are they described as curses? Because traditionally, the Chinese, culturally, were seen to want stability and prosperity unhampered by intervention by those in power. And …May you find what you are looking for… because if you find it, the journey is over, and you may unfortunately realise that what you find isn’t what you wanted. End game.

Isn’t life about trying to find answers about ourselves? Trying to understand the world we live in – make some sense out of the randomness of it all? It seems to me that most humans are in permanent conflict: as soon as they are settled, they become restless; as soon as they are satisfied, they want more or something else entirely.

The irony being that humans seek perfection and resolution, but the only place you’ll find it, is in imperfection and flux.

The search for answers will never be resolved until you either give up looking for them, or understand that the answers about life, self and the world around you will continually change.

May you live in interesting times.

17
Jul
11

On your guard


Ebay has become somewhat of a mainstay for most people wishing to buy and sell goods for lower than recommended retail price. It has even overshadowed the entrenched Craig’s List in terms of buy-sell supremacy.

This isn’t a tale about how ebay works – rather, it’s a tale of how humans work and that fundamental skill of haggling that we have used over the centuries. Ebay wasn’t designed to be a haggling market, but some nefarious individuals, have developed a new strategy for knocking down the price even further: buy it, then cry foul after the goods have been received.

It’s unfortunate that recent changes in ebay policy have given the buyer the upper hand in so called ‘rights’ whilst the seller has gradually had most avenues of redress whittled away. It’s one reason I am considering switching to direct commerce via my own retail site very shortly.

Recently I sold a very decent pair of virtually brand new bike knee pad guards for a good price (still under retail standard price). They’d been worn just a few times and were in perfect condition. All seemed well, I packaged the items up and sent them on to the happy purchaser first class post.

Two days later I receive an email headed “item not as described”. Curious, I open it up and to my incredulity, read that said buyer says one knee pad is worn and seriously rubbed away. How curious: only one knee pad. Then I realise that the descriptive photo had shown one pad frontal, one pad reversed. Said buyer was trying it on: “I think I should be reimbursed for the item being not new and the pad being rubbed away”.

I very courteously wrote back and stated that both knee pads were in excellent condition and questioned the validity of the claim.

“Send me your email and I’ll send you a picture to prove it” she responds.

I respond with observation that a) I don’t wish to take the discussion off -record via private email and would rather continue via a traceable ebay messaging system and b) with all due respect, that knee pad could have been scuffed after delivery.

Buyer is now like a Rottweiler with a bone, and responds that she most definitely should be reimbursed proportionally to the damage done. She’s like a stuck record hiccupping on the same refrain.

Did she even READ my response?

Pointedly, I respond back that if she is unhappy with said knee pads, she could package them back up and send them to me tracked, and I would reimburse her for the amount paid on ebay as per the rules. If she was still unhappy she could open up a dispute resolution via ebay.

The next thing I know, I have a missive from ebay stating the buyer has requested my *full* contact details through a nifty new tool available to buyers called ‘User Information Request’. Oho.. that’s something new I didn’t know about – seller beware… ebay will now disclose your personal contact details to a buyer who wants to stir things up. She now says, in addition to this, *if* she is going to send the knee pads back, she wants a full refund of the postage BOTH ways. By ebay rules, I am not obliged to pay for either of these. I inform her so, and also state that if she uses my contact details for any action other than discussion of the transaction, then she could be done for harassment and things could get legal.

Day three, and we’re still at it: by this time I am tired of the daily nonsense and explain, if she gets full refund on postage and on items, I will be out of pocket because of the original percentage cuts ebay and paypal take on any sale, and I’ll not get those back even though I provide a refund. I am even willing to reimburse her the orginal postage if she’s willing to foot the hefty cost of £2.75 to send them back to me.

It’s not good enough: apparently I have to cough up either a big discount or refund the whole bally lot, postage and all, to get my pads back. If I don’t go with either option, she’ll leave negative feedback which will dent my 100% perfect record and diss my reputation as a seller.

Folks… in older days, this would have been called extortion. It most definitely is scamming.

*Shrugs*

I took the hit – and now have a 99% rating because of one woman’s near sociopathic drive to get a discount. I didn’t back down, because if I backed down, the next seller she tries this on may not be quite so strong willed or patient.

As promised, the whining witch left negative feedback, which I at least had a chance to retort to on my own ebay profile. Due to revised ebay policy, as a seller I now can’t even leave her negative feedback.

Ebay isn’t meant to be a haggling bazaar, but some people seem to think it is. Buyer beware? No: seller, beware.