Saturday, February 25, 2017

What We Can Learn From Pinocchio


For those of you who want to know what’s happening in the world today, just shut your eyes. Your ears too, because what you see and what you hear doesn’t really seem to matter much anymore. What counts these days is whatever turns agendas—political and otherwise—into realities.

All of which brings me around to the subject of this week’s post: Pinocchio.

An epic character, perhaps the most well known character in children’s literature, who stands as a universal symbol of the perils of prevarication to one’s proboscis.

Carlo Collodi
It all began with The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) a children’s novel by the Italian writer Carlo Collodi, in which a kindly old carpenter, Geppetto, carves a marionette in the image of a little boy who lives a literal wooden existence dreaming that someday he’ll be human.  But between him and his dream stand a series of trials and a singular moral defect: Pinocchio’s penchant for lying and bad behavior.

Though some literary types have equated Pinocchio’s journey with that of epic literary heroes such as Odysseus, I think for purposes of today’s post it’s better described by Jack Zipes in an introduction to a book on Pinocchio, titled Carlo Collodi.  To him, it’s a story about those who venture out into the world naively unprepared for what they find, and get into ridiculous situations.

Enter the “nose knows.”

Alas, if only we had as ready a way of separating truth tellers from charlatans today.

But there’s another lesson to be drawn from Pinocchio.

The list of Pinocchio productions and knock-offs is endless, but undoubtedly Walt Disney’s 1940 version, praised as one of the greatest animated films of all time, is the most well known. 

What isn’t as well known is that, as originally written, Pinocchio was an obnoxious boor, whose end was not intended to be pleasant.  Disney though didn’t see that sort of character as appealing to the masses, and so he turned him into a more likeable, innocent mischief-maker, who ultimately achieved his dream of becoming real.

Today’s opinion-shapers still turn the obnoxious into the likeable, and far-fetched cinematic dreams into realities, but they’ve have added something else to the mix.  They’ve turned the common sense adage for truth—“As plain as the nose on your face”—on its ear (so to speak) by libeling any nose other than their own as a Pinocchio protuberance, not to be believed.

In other words, we now live in a world where up is down and down is up.  But that’s from another children’s book, for another time.

Assuming we get there.


Friday, February 24, 2017

The Abduction Of Lady Grange

Rachel Chiesley, known as Lady Rachel Grange, was by all accounts, a bit of a girl and rather a handful. She is best known for being abducted, by her husband, James Erskine, Lord Grange.

Rachel was born on Skye  in 1679 - just as the Jacobites were starting to flex their tartan muscles.

She was one of nine children. Her father rather famously shot dead the Scottish judge who had dared to pronounce a verdict against him. He was found guilty of that murder by the Lord Provost  and he was sentenced to death by hanging, before the sentence was carried out his right hand was cut off and the pistol he had fired was hung round his neck.

Rachel herself was one of ten children, she would have been nine or ten years old when her father was executed so I guess we could say her childhood was troubled. She was considered very, very beautiful, very passionate with a temper to match. She married Lord Grange, a successful lawyer, at the age of 28, probably after she became pregnant. Although the marriage was never happy, they had nine children together.

Her husband’s family, the Erskines, were known to be Jacobite sympathisers. The younger Earl went by the rather lovely name of ‘Bobbing John’ due to his political machinations.

Rachel was a bit bonkers – probably the result of the nine children she had. She talked of suicide often, a huge scandal at the time and it is rumoured that she slept with a cutthroat razor under her pillow – probably to keep her husband away .  She also threatened to strip naked in the middle of Edinburgh just to embarrass her husband. (This is the noise of people in Edinburgh being outraged… ‘tut’)

Rachel swore in the street ( in Edinburgh!!!) and disrupted church services, saying that her husband was a Jacobite and she had in her possession letters that would show he had plotted against the Hanovarian government in London. She insisted that he should be executed as a traitor. She used to abuse her children in the street to such as extent that they would hide in the local pub until she either calmed down or went away, and that might take two or three hours.

James Erskine, the Lord Grange dismissed divorce as a solution to all this. He decided to have her kidnapped. He paid some close friends to do it, then explained her disappearance as her sudden death and gave her a decent funeral. Interesting to note that this time he was playing fast and loose with the charms of a local coffee house owner. More interesting to note that her children,  the  eldest being in their  twenties, knew their mum had been abducted  by their Dad and did nothing to get her back. Their tutor is on record as saying that the kids were terrified of their mother and her spontaneous angry outbursts. And their mum had disinherited them all at birth.

So the Lady was taken from her home sometime during the night of  22 January 1732 by some Highland noblemen. There was a bit of a scuffle, or a bit of a rammy as we would say, and the bold Lady was removed from the premises in a sedan chair and then taken by horse to Falkirk, where she was held for six months in a empty tower. At that time she would have been about 50.

The kidnappers took their role very seriously, tearing out her hair and knocking her teeth out. They   took her off for a very long tour of the very remote Scottish island on the Western coast, ending up in Hirta of St Kilda and left her there. It sounds awful… alone in a stone walled hut with a grass thatched roof,  right beside the sea  with only goats and sheep for company… and an awful lot of whisky- actually that sounds better than living with her husband.  Until you remember the  horrific wind up there that never ever stops – most folk who lived inany part of St Kilda were deaf due to the noise of the wind and sheep knew not to go too near the edge of the cliff for fear of being blown off.

The locals were told not to give her food or clothing, and she probably didn’t share a language with any of them.
 In the end she managed to get a message to Edinburgh, to the minister of Inveresk. He was horrified by the conditions she was living in and he paid for a boat with armed men to sail to St Kilda ( no easy feat ). It had already set sail by 14 February 1741, but it she had already been moved on.

He probably got wind of the rescue attempt. (?)

Her husband lawyer had already blocked a legal application for a search warrant for St Kilda so he must have known that somebody would attempt a rescue.

Now, at Hirta on the St Kilda archipelago, a pile of rocks  are the only remains of Rachel’s house. A cleit, twenty feet by ten. In the winter she would have been scooping the snow out of her bed with her hands.  Even in a good day, the island is a bitter, inhospitable place- fortyfeet waves are quite normal.

Rachel died, without regaining her freedom on 12th may 1745, aged 66 by which time she had been effectively jailed for  13 years, and her life  has been constant fodder for stories and songs that have now passed into folk lore.

I just wonder if she was bi polar.

 Caro Ramsay 24 02 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How I Survived Christmas and Other Stories - Chapter 4: Killing time

Leye - Every other Wednesday. 

Chapter 4: Killing time

Photo: Ask Joanne

When people come up and stand next to me on a platform, I always feel the urge to confess to them that I don’t know where the train doors will stop. Of course, I never say anything, being London, you know. You don’t want to go about greeting strangers and being helpful and all, or else you’ll be a weirdo.  So I just stand there warming my hands in my pockets, and when the train stops and we’re all facing windows instead of doors, I simply shrug off the guilt and I engage in polite shovelling with the people I’ve misled. Every damn time, like yesterday when I rode on a South-Eastern train to keep my date with Cold Shoulder.

Cold Shoulder. Not only was she free to meet, she also suggested the café we went to the first time. Of all places, there. But I shouldn’t read much into that, right? Too late. I already did. Signs everywhere. She kept my number after all this time. She’s single – I think. She jumped at meeting up with me. She chose the place we both had our first date.

So, the train journey. It took two hours in total from my office to the café. We’d agreed a time and I was on time, but Cold Shoulder wasn’t there when I walked through the café with my coat still on because I wanted her to see how good I thought I looked in it. It was rather toasty in there and I began to sweat under the synthetic wool pretty sharpish so she didn’t get to see me in it. I found a table for two and waited. I could see the door from where I sat. I could see the entire road, for that matter. Glass. I could see her before she saw me. I moved the chairs, rearranged the standing-upright menu on the table, and I chose the perfect waiting pose and I waited. And I waited, and I waited, and I waited. And I remembered how on our only date that many years ago she’d been late as well. And I waited some more, and in the time I waited, I started to think of all my deal-breakers and how tardiness was at or close to the top of the list.

Up there with not being on time is a behaviour that has divided my friends. Something that really screws with me. Roughly half of my friends agree with me that it’s just not on while the other half think it’s cute. The first half are mostly men, the other half mostly women. And it is this: taking food from my plate in a restaurant. Arghhhh! I just can’t stand it. I see that uninvited fork encroaching upon the airspace of my food and I go do def con 4. The nukes are warming up. And what makes it even worse is the lame, afterthought attempt at justifying the theft: ‘Do you want to try some of mine?’

NO! No, I do not want to try your dumplings. If I wanted dumplings I would have ordered dumplings. Do you see any dumplings on my plate? No. That’s because I did not want dumplings so I did not order dumplings. I wanted steak! I ordered steak! Now leave my steak the ef alone!!! (This is someone's rant. Not mine.)
Well, you get the picture. I go ballistic. But all on the inside, while on the outside I continue smiling. Wars are sometimes declared in silence. I have decided not to date someone because they were a plate invader.

Cold Shoulder was really keeping me waiting, so I had time to go over more of my bugbears. I even discovered one I never knew I had.  At the end of my retrospective session I’d counted ten. Ten deal breakers. Ten things I just couldn’t stand in a partner. To qualify they had to be something that had made me end a relationship or refuse to proceed with a potential. I even attempted to rank them and that particular exercise led me to a life changing realisation. All this time I’d been discounting people based on my deal breakers, people have probably been discounting me to. Foreclosing on any form of intimate future with me. I have my deal breakers, they have their. I judge them, they judge me. On what was I being silently judged? My obsessive time keeping? My insane irritation at the innocent action of a date stabbing her fork into a piece of my steak?

A catalogue of faces began to form, each with a title beneath it: ‘Weird laugh.’ ‘Eats too fast.’ ‘Watches the Kardashians.’ ‘Does not know who Stephen Hawking is.’ ‘Thinks we speak Nigerian in Nigeria.’ ‘Always wants to hold hands in public.’ ‘Never holds hands in public.’ ‘Loud chewer.’ And slowly the titles faded and only the faces remained. Faces of perfectly normal people. People I should have made it work with, but for my crazy, insane, infantile, deal breakers. Little bugbears that kept me single and lonely when I could have been a couple and happy.

And with this realisation came a resolve so powerful that I felt its force as a wave that swelled and swept through me. From now hence forth, I will become mature and stop looking for flaws.

I checked the time. Cold Shoulder was thirty minutes late. I picked up my jacket and  began to leave. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

le téléphone

In the early 90's Parisians were getting rid of le télépone comme ça.
France and Europe had jumped to cell technology faster because of their archaic land line system.
Much easier for them to grab on to the 'new' technology. Far faster than we did. I remember thinking how cool and special that was. How advanced.
One time in the Marais, a hairdresser, had come out of the coiffeur salon in Place du Marché Saint Catherine.
This was a warm afternoon, a time to sit in cafés in the square.
He had a cell phone to his ear, gesticulated with a cigarette in his hand during a conversation and sipped an espresso from a cup he'd set on the hood of parked car.
He was poetry in motion involved in a very intense phone call. In the middle of it, he'd gotten a call from another cell phone he had pulled from his pocket. Two cell phones! Was it his mistress? His wife?
He managed all of this; the two phone calls, smoking and sipping from his demitasse in pure acrobatic fashion.
This is Bernard Henri-Levy the rockstar philosopher, not the coiffeur but it reminded me of him and to give you an idea. Also, I remember he wore a white shirt, the buttons undone to almost his navel and gold chains. Marseilleise? Corsican coiffeur? But whatever he managed all this with a certain style, a panache, a je ne sais quo manner that I've never forgotten.
Especially when today on the street all one sees is robot-like behavior with people at that cell phone texting stance which brooks no human contact. In Asia they even have walking lanes
Ah, those were the days when cell phones were part of life, not life. Cara - Tuesday

Monday, February 20, 2017

Touring Around Cape Town

Annamaria on Monday

When Stan wrote a couple of weeks ago about the noon cannon
on Signal  Hill, I told him I expected a one-gun salute when I arrived.
  Here is my photographic proof, taken from a boat during our
 harbor cruise, that he kept his promise.  

My peerless hosts silhouetted against the equally peerless view of
Table Mountain from the harbor.

The view from Stan and Mette's terrace.

If you don't find the terrace view impressive enough, here
is the view from their driveway.

The entrance to the inner harbour

Nobel Square, dedicated to South Africa's four Nobel Peace Prize
Winners.  The work of these four courageous men's has more to
 teach the world about  waging peace than any other four people
 in history.  If only today's leaders could absorb their depth of wisdom and humanity. 

With apologies of Albert Luthuli, but the gull would not fly away.
Talk about a determined photo bomber!
Desmond Tutu

Frederik de Klerk

Nelson Mandela
Sights around the Waterfront

A scenic drive along Victoria Road: