Saturday, 5 October 2019

In An Oculus World

Darkness... not night-time with its accompanying glow of silver starlight, nor that of a closed room with the inevitable seepage of street light around the edges of curtains and doors.   This was the blackness of the tomb, a complete absence of all light.   It was the kind of darkness that could suck eyeballs out of sockets such is the desire to find any stray radiance.   The disorienting inability to see your own hand centimetres from the face, not knowing where the phalanges are hovering till the shock of a touch on the tip of the nose sends you crashing to the ceiling, that sort of darkness.

When vision returned it was to find myself in a domed habitat, furnished in warm wood and sleek, low slung, modern furniture.  A floor to ceiling  window looked out over a valley where other domes glowed like grounded fireflies,  mountains loomed in the distance, snow covered, vast, glowing pink in the setting sun.   
Luminous flowers floated into view, slowly opening to display a profusion of multi coloured petals as silver drops of dew glistened and rolled to the ground exploding in a shower of diamonds, throwing prism rainbows joyously all around the room.

No, the jeni hasn't been sampling hallucinogens, she has been inducted into the wonderful world of virtual reality via an Oculus Quest headset. To my amazement i walked into a fully functioning alternate world where i could touch, throw, move items around, walk from room to virtual room, communicate with other Questers, change my surroundings, play games.  How real can it be?  Well, if my son hadn't shouted "don't sit down" i would be nursing a bruised coccyx from dropping into an office, swivel chair that wasn't.  Wasn't what?  WASN'T THERE !!!   The virtual is so incredibly realistic the brain very rapidly accepts it as actually existing corporeally.   As you walk around this constructed world handling and moving objects, interacting with others, you become so immersed it becomes your universe, an insulated world where you can be whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want limited only by the apps available.
Imagine how this technology can be used as it is perfected...  for good and for evil.   The ultimate opiate of the masses.   Plug the impoverished in and feed them an unlimited diet of false promises. slums transformed into palaces, junk food become a feast for the eyes if not the taste buds, a blasted, barren land devoid of all beauty can thrill to the Sound of Music even as it is buried by landfill and pollution on the 'outside'. In a potential future of high unemployment, untrammelled poverty and spiralling inequality living in a phoney Pollyanna universe would be preferable to a daily dose of actuality, so a government could find it kinder on the public purse to dispense headsets instead of  addressing privations. Classic dystopian  society.  A malign government would have the ultimate torture instrument, Room 101 become incarnate.  Fill that room with huge virtual spiders indistinguishable from the real beastie and i would consign my grandchildren to Guantanamo Bay for crimes against the state in a nano instant.

But also imagine being elderly or severely disabled and spending your waking hours bed bound or sat in a chair unable to set food outside your room without help, an existence where television is the only company to fill the long hours, human presence a half hour call by harassed carers.   Wouldn't it be wonderful if, when your life is full of daily indignities and loneliness, it were possible to step out of your chair and wander around the world's capital cities, see the texture of ancient stones and participate in the richness of a multitude of cultures.  Or travel to the stars, dance with a super nova, swim in the milky way, dive into a black hole.  We all could walk the streets of Atlantis, freshly risen from the waves.... once the appropriate app had been written.   

Those isolated by dementia could revisit their past, spend time in old style shops and pubs.  Family members,  also wearing a headset, could meet with their elderly relative in a replica of a childhood home where everything would be familiar and safe.   The article below talks of apps that  are being trialled to help reduce falls by giving a virtual space to walk in, those who are prone to wandering needn't leave their chair to widen their viewpoint.

77% of women using virtual reality goggles in labour report experiencing less pain as the pleasurable experience of watching scenes from nature releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters that act as nature's pain killers.   How lovely to give birth in a woodland dell or your own candle lit bedroom when in reality you are in a maternity suite surrounded by the clinical accoutrements necessary for unplanned emergencies.

Do you ever wonder why when poorly you always feel worse at night?  One reason is there aren't the distractions that abound during an active day to take your mind off your miseries.   Some are able to train themselves to focus on a pleasant thought or image and step outside their physical discomfort, most of us lack the mental discipline and training for this type of meditation and need something more tangible. The potential for helping people with chronic pain  escape their torment for a while is huge.  Instead of lying awake becoming more and more consumed and desperate simply plug into a summer wildflower meadow and fill your soul with birdsong.

When world changing technology comes along the inner Luddite of human nature stirs, raises it's head and growls.... "HUMBUG, if we were meant to fly God would have given us wings."   It turns out He didn't need to, instead He gave us intelligence, creativity, technology and the imagination to implement them.   Virtual Reality is now Analogue Reality, it's here, it's being used, it will become normality, we need to embrace it's positive applications and pray it's potential dangers are recognised and contained.   

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Cape And Tiara

On Monday i donned my cape and tiara, became a superhero for a week and saved the world.   Noticing my stock pile of loo roll and kitchen roll was severely depleted i ordered a bulk batch from Traidcraft.  What's Traidcraft i hear you ask.  It's a UK charity that works overseas to fight poverty through trade and they are building a nice range of household items.  Recycled, fair trade, Tyneside based what's not to like.  I considered recycling the old toilet roll but until the politicians turn us all into serfs again it's definitely a step too far.
On Tuesday I saved the world.   Fair Trade, organic coffee, tea, sugar and cocoa.   guilt free beverages that nurture the soul as well as give a caffeine boost provide the best start to a day.   Saving the world is hard work you know, a girl needs all the invigoration she can imbibe to bear the burden of that cape on her shoulders and don't let anyone tell you a cosmic tiara is lightweight.  It's not martyrdom unless it hurts.
On Wednesday i saved the world.   Had a huge rag rug that was past it's sell by date, not good enough condition to sell pre-loved or put in charity shop but with a lot of wear still around the edges and nowhere near manky enough to add to our landfill mountain.  It's been sitting in my airing cupboard since being given a new one for Christmas two years ago.  Advertised it on a freebie selling page and a lovely girly who has moved into her first home and has nothing to soften the hard edges staggered off into the night with said rug rolled under her arm. Warm tootsies for her tonight.   I remember stepping out of bed onto bare boards, splinters in toes, not fun.
On Thursday i saved the world.   Been feeling guilty for some time about all the paper going into my recycle bin but not quite ready to give up the tactile joy of newsprint and move to internet news. There's something satisfying about starting the day with breakfast in bed and a copy of The Guardian.  I don't know if it's seven decades of book browsing but information on a screen doesn't seem to adhere to the brain cells permanently, it's as though the fingers are synaptically  attached to the mind so the act of holding a newspaper reinforces the memory. Do you think i have evolved eyes on the tips of the phalanges as part of my super hero outfit?   Whilst browsing the freebie page an advert caught the eye from a lady wanting newspaper for her wood burning stove so my weekly paper output will be heading her way.  OK its only half saving the world as her fire increases pollution but half is better than none.
On Friday i saved the world.   Planted tomatoes for salads and sarnies  then sowed wild flowers for the bee's and butterflies, organic bug spray and feed naturally.  Thank you Ruth for all your help, will post some toms when they grow.  As garnish a dear friend gave me a grow your own edible flower kit for Christmas, nasturtiums, cornflower and viola. A superhero needs a healthy diet, all that nobility is energy intensive.
On Saturday i saved the world.   Have started buying from the fresh counters in supermarket.   Bread and fish wrapped in paper,  veg and fruit in compostable bags, fabric carriers to lug it all home and everything lying loose in the trolley.    Plastic is kryptonite to  the sustainable, super hero shopper, impossible to avoid but possible to minimise. 

On Sunday....... i became unsustainability incarnate, destroyer of worlds, sweat shop enabler, air mile guzzler, habitat wrecker, biodiversity burner.   My tiara slipped over one eye and slid down the nose, that glorious cape of pomposity ceased billowing and dragged it's hem through the mire.     What was the catalyst for this plummet into ecological degradation ???  a gorgeous duvet cover in China, made with inorganic cotton which was most likely harvested by underage, underpaid pickers, printed with radioactively vibrant colours that are definitely not natural, shipped or flown from the orient to be handled by zero hour workers in an Amazon warehouse.  Why is saving the world  SO  HARD ???? !!!!

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Above All Put On Love

Some years ago in a random moment of selfless nobility i offered to help with the washing up at a post funeral gathering, i don't usually do funerals but sponging dishes was a support my fragile psyche felt able to offer. The passed person wasn't a friend or family member, not even an acquaintance, so the emotional connection was tenuous therefore it felt safe.

As the day approached a chance comment about dress code sent me scuttling in a panic to the alternate universe in the corner of my bedroom that calls itself a wardrobe and, as i feared, it was stuffed with a multitude of colour, glitter, sparkle, emerald lace, purple velvet, gold satin, pink angora, a rainbow of fabric but...... NO BLACK.   Armed with a selection of the least flamboyant i paraded my glad rags in front of those involved and invited them to pass judgement.  Each item was deemed unfit by merit of style or shade.  in order to be a crockery wallah funereal fashion was more important than the ability to wield a tea towel.
A short while later a friend was wailing on my shoulder about an upcoming family wedding where she had been asked to be an usherette.  Said friend was in full on goth mode at the time, black clothes, boots, tights, make up, the only concession to colour being vampire red lipstick.   She too had suffered the indignity of being informed her services wouldn't be required unless she was prepared to invest in a more "suitable" outfit, her appearance being more important than her presence.   

I was informed that lack of black was a mark of disrespect, my friend was reliably advised that black on her back would also be a mark of disrespect.  But if it had been a Buddhist farewell white would have been acceptable, in South Africa red has been appropriated for grieving to symbolise the blood shed during apartheid, my purple would have been totally appropriate if the dear, dearly departed had been Brazilian.  Traditional Catholic brides in Spain wear black to symbolise their devotion to hubby until death and in Japan the colour to embrace is red for good luck.   Like my wardrobe cultures have a rainbow of hues for the same event, all classed as showing respect.   Imagine the conundrum if you attended the funeral of a Buddhist married to a Brazilian in South Africa? 
Then there's the question of to whom are we showing honour, is it the bereaved or the soul whose life we are remembering.   At the goodbye of a devout Newcastle supporter whose family are paid up, card carrying Sunderland fans is  Magpie black and white or Black Cat red and white the courtesy colour de jour?   If you think Brexit can split families you have never been in the presence of football fans of opposing loyalties.  Here's a thought.....  what if it's a family of naturists????   would you bare all as a sign of respect?  Answers in the comments below or on a plain postcard if not fit for family viewing.

When my turn comes to shed earthly garb please come and say goodbye in whatever clothes signify your personality and comfort zone. Daughter In Law has already promised to pass out glittery butterflies and flowers to anyone who shows up.   I'm pretty sure there will be a goth with DM's and vermilion lips, a businessman or two, i hope some much loved girlies will have their piercings and tattoos on display, there will be tight jeans, leather jackets, low cut tops, floaty dresses, smart trousers, track suits, maybe even a couple of hippie tribute acts.  It doesn't matter what you put on just come and be yourself, to me it's the person that matters not the persona.
"Above all put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony"  The Bible

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

The Pyrophytic Life

Fire Poppies.... noooo not a new narcotic on the block, nor the flowers that remind us each year of the awful events of the First World War.  Papava Californicum,  it's an amazing plant whose seeds lie dormant in the ground until fire ravages an area then they burst into bloom in the aftermath of conflagration. They are called Pyrophytes. They can be found in the form of flowers, trees, shrubs and their fruit, seeds, cones can wait decades until that random spark from discarded cigarette end, hastily abandoned barbecue, reflecting broken bottle crackles into existence to stimulate their awakening and every fire fighter's nightmare.

It's the smoke that does it for the poppies, it sends a message to the seed that it's time to wake up, a vapourous alarm clock.   No fire, no poppy.    No desolation, no regeneration.  No death, no rebirth.  Reminds me of the Tate and Lyle motto, "Out of the strong came forth sweetness". Dead lion, swarm of bees, golden syrup, rotten teeth.... oh, sorry that doesn't work.
Sometimes it takes disaster to push us into change and without change there can be no growth.   Humans aren't good at embracing new things, be they personal, social, generational.   Our puny minds find it easier, more comforting to gouge a rut for the synapses to fire along rather than take the off road challenging route.    I suspect a futuristic imaging system of how our thought processes work  would show a map like the London Underground within most of our skulls, all straight lines and right angles, no curveballs or switchbacks, a calcified cranium  trained from childhood to be resistant to anything that screams ADJUSTMENT !!

When my business had to close it felt like a little death, it meant accepting the bitter truth that my health and mobility were heading in a direction i didn't want to follow, that my dream of opening in The York Shambles was merely that... a dream.  Added to that was the feeling of letting my team down at the height of our hard earned success. The fire of failure could have burned bright and become a bitterness that would have devoured the following years.  instead Lindisfarne life grew from the ashes and rather than losing touch with the lovely people who worked with me i was able to offer an island getaway, a spare futon and nine years of coffee shops, sea and serenity.    
We all have times when the fires of disappointment singe our phalanges and sizzle our psyches, maybe you are fighting the inferno right now alone and unsupported, feeling as though there will be nothing left below your feet but charred ground and clinker.   No words of mine or those who love you will take the heat out of that searing pain or speed the healing,  but i can reassure you that an oasis can spring from your ashy desert, beauty can bloom from the cinders and in time you might find a field of poppies waiting to be harvested.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

What A Difference A Year Makes

When a hiatus to this blog arrived unannounced it didn't occur to me that many would miss it or even notice it had gone walkabout.   I always hoped it was read and enjoyed, a few of you would leave the occasional comment or bring a topic up in conversation which always warmed my heart.   That it would be actively missed has come as a humbling revelation.  So thank you to all those who have encouraged me to make a comeback, here i am, i've come back.  

Why did BBSS62 disappear?  I can't claim there was nothing to write about.   The universe continues to confound, humanity still wends it's merry way blindly to oblivion, politics are as perplexing and pointless as they have been for millennia, the wonders of the natural world still fill the soul with awe, friends and family are an endless, constant source of amusement and affection, more than enough material for a mere mortal to weave into entertainment until the stars fall from the sky and the sun burns nova.
I could claim distraction by beastie, researching fish lore in preparation for my Finned Lodger, or taking on a homing role for Cats Protection alongside fostering but i would only be dissembling.  So no excuses but many apologies, and i hope you still want to come along for the ride.

There have been a few changes.   The Indomitable Fred finally became domitable and now fertilises a salmon pink geranium on the spare room windowsill.   Three fellow, homeless furries have warmed my bed since his demise before moving on to their forever homes and a little ten year old hyperthyroid, deaf girly with failing kidneys looks to be a companion till she joins The Fred in that Happy Mouse Hunting Paradise in the sky.   
A five gallon aquarium has taken up residence on a coffee table with a Siamese Fighting Fish lurking in the undergrowth answering to the name Senshi.  Senshi (戦士) is Japanese for "soldier", "warrior", "guardian", or "fighter". 

Too many hours spent researching his needs led to a fully planted tank.  Water gardening is pretty much the same as terrestrial except wrinkly skin is substituted for dirt under the finger nails.   Greenery is planted, fed, nurtured, grows and dies.... the cycle of life whether terrestrial or aqua.   fishy and companion nerite snail seem to be happy though at over a year his main battle is with advancing age rather than fighting for a mate.  a year may be a short time for man but it equals half a lifetime for a betta fish. 

Welcome back to the jeni universe and all who sail with her.  i hope you decide to stick around for the next part of the adventure, it wont be a work of literary excellence but i can promise it will be fun.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Missing The Bath

There has been more than a foot of snow lying on my garden for over a week.  fieldfares have flown in from the countryside in search of sustenance  and the wind skirling from the arctic has caused my poor arthritic spine to declare a National Emergency.   I recall winters like this from primeval times when i was younger and fitter, in memory they seem to have occurred more frequently and with greater intensity but maybe that's simply my mind playing tricks and forgetting the majority of bland winters because they were mundane affairs not deserving of taking up space in the hippocampus.

It could also be due to the fact that climate not only affected us when outdoors but it followed us when we came in so we were cold day and night. My three bedroom childhood home was heated with a small one bar electric fire in the living room.... THAT WAS IT !!!   no central heating, no heaters in our bedrooms, no carpets, no warm towel rail, no double glazing, loft insulation, wall cavity filling, just that one poxy twelve inch radiant bar that we bickered over continually.   

Surely anyone over sixty five recalls waking to the INSIDES of windows covered in the most spectacular ice ferns glinting in early morning sunshine, their spiky fingers spreading from corner to corner, a three dimensional, frozen lace curtain heralding the fact that the room had hit sub zero.

Bath night was a torture of goosebumps, damp towels, cold pyjamas, two inches of tepid water that barely covered the nether regions and a quick dash down the stairs to take a turn drying off in front of that tiny semi circular false promise of warmth.   Later, gypsying from town to town, one of my top priorities when flat hunting was a good sized bath and unlimited hot water, hardly surprising considering the traumatic experiences of home ablutions.   The best one was a cast iron monstrosity so deep and long that i had a foam covered, empty fruit box for the feet to rest on for fear of drowning in its bubbly depths.  

As age continued it's onslaught on my rickety skeleton a long, scalding, deep, Radox filled soak became the only way to warm up and ease the ache if i became chilled, so imagine my dismay when moving to Hexham to discover i had inherited a wet room with no tub.   my beloved children had numerous suggestions from a Victorian hip bath to a half beer barrel all of which i churlishly turned down whilst appreciating their deep concern expressed on my behalf.   

Whilst i love the comforts of twenty first century living with it's abundant warmth and softness and wouldn't go back to the not so golden age of the freezing fifties, i haven't learnt to love my wet room and probably never will but, as in all things, the benefits outweigh the loss.   safety trumps luxury every time.  I may miss the easing of aches and pains when the temperature plummets but surely the agony of a broken hip would be much, much worse.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Profit And Loss

In the middle of a conversation with a friend about coping with change, my mind went on a wander, roamed into the fiscal realm and decided to take  a walk on the allegorical side.   perhaps my bizniz alter ego took charge for a moment firing synapses that linked the acceptance of change to a profit and loss formula.   reducing emotions to the realm of practical finance helped remove the sting inherent in considering personal adjustments and enabled me to focus not on the "loss" but on the "profit".

Life consists of a continuous cycle, gaining and losing, losing and gaining, joy to sorrow, grief to celebration, a child is born a grandparent dies, round and round and round, nothing stays the same the only consistency is inconsistency.   as a wise man once put it "there is a time for everything under heaven: a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance."   perhaps, once we grasp that nothing is forever, we can find a certain equilibrium, an acceptance of whatever comes our way.
When my sons grew out of childhood and began emotionally moving away it felt as though i had lost an essential part of myself, my sense of purpose and identity went AWOL for a while.   i feared i would lose them, and i did.... in that incarnation.  but what i gained was far more precious in many ways.  we became equals and they CHOSE to be a part of my universe, everything was given freely, adult to adult not imposed by dependency.  i lost my babies but gained two wonderful, independent friends, and daughters in law, and granddaughters, and in them and their love i refound myself.   a nett gain in the Great Balance Sheet of life.  
More recently the move from Lindisfarne to Hexham was a huge heart wrench there was so much that had to be left behind.   Being a Bournemouth girl the sea is embedded in my DNA, the cry of the gulls a lullaby, the salt tang a taste of home, big wide open skies a gift from God to keep humanity humble.   being landlocked once again has reopened the void that island living filled for a decade, feet are now firmly planted on the ground,  water walking a luxury of the past.   

Another huge miss are the coffee shops, little oases where for a while i could escape the confines of home and surreptitiously peep from behind The Guardian, being the only socialist on the block, and see the comings and goings of my neighbours and tourists as i slurped an Americano by a log fire.   the blessing of having a cafe in the back garden all gone and listed as a loss in The Ledger Of Life but offset by other factors such as the ease for my children reaching me now there are no causeway tide times, the security of living in a fully fitted for disability flat, doctors and hospital on the corner.   The audit sheet balances as it always does if we chose to seek the profit and set aside the loss.