19 Aug 2016

Europe's Bogus Green Economy Leaves a Trail of Destruction

If you believe that doing the right thing for the environment is to follow governmental advice and feed wood pellets to your pellet stove, you are buying yet another corporate lie they sold you! Screech to a halt right here and ditch the pellets while I spill the beans...

Forest-based biomass is no panacea. Rather it is an ecological disaster disguised as 'sustainable' replacement to fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas) and nuclear energy by our governing puppets. Let me be clear about this: by buying wood pellets, Europeans are contributing to the catastrophic deforestation of Europe, Canada, Brazil and southeastern America, and the utter destruction of (mostly) untouched primeval natural habitats. Besides biofuels are also responsible for Indonesia's vast deforestation, in which case the lowland tropical forests are being eradicated to make way for palm oil monocultures (for bioethanol).

'Struggle Between Heaven and Earth', Mount Rarau, Romania, by Robert U., via National Geographic

Back to the West, not only are mature trees chainsawed en masse in order to produce virgin lumber pellets, but every wildlife component of the woodland is affected too: the undergrowth, flora and fauna, not to mention soil erosion, aquifer and marsh disruptions. Road infrastructures, lumber mills and processing plants effect the landscape further, totally transforming it beyond recognition. And from there onwards is an open-door policy for further looting of natural resources under all its guises and the transformation of natural woodlands into man-made wastelands and monocultures.

"... the benefits of biomass burning for carbon emissions may be bogus, while its consequences for forest ecology are becoming all too evident. The threat to the continent's forests is big and immediate." - Fred Pearce, Up in Flames

To put it simply, woody biomass is Europe's own legalised EU-funded Borneo jungle disaster right on our doorstep - or a few hundreds miles away, depending on where we live. The demand for biomass was engineered by Big Corporate in collusion with governments under the thinly-veiled green revolution nonsense purported by Agenda 21, Al Gore and consorts, in a way that has nothing to do with ecology. It accelerates further the destruction of our planet via lucrative bogus schemes. This is nothing but a big bucks ecological disaster!

Saruman's oeuvre? Enviva facility in Ahoskie, North Carolina (US), supplies Drax power plant (UK)

Prime ancient trees are being felled in places like France's Cévennes, Slovakia's Poloniny National Park, and the Carpathian old-growth forests of Romania all the way to Poland. Likewise across the Atlantic, North Carolina wetland and hardwood forests are reduced to those moulded, compacted sawdust pellets that are then shipped all the way to Europe to produce energy. According to Fred Pearce who conducted research on the wastefulness of biomass, 'Almost half of wood harvested in the EU is now used for energy, while 60 per cent of the renewable energy is generated by biomass burning for electricity and heating. It supplies about five per cent of EU energy needs.' The figures add up to an ecological disaster!

"... this sector [Southeastern US] has been driving the destructuion of wetland forests and conversion of hardwood forests into pine plantations in an area that has already lost most of its unique wetland hardwood forests." - EU Bioenergy

The logged trees are trucked to the plants to be processed: dewatered and pulverised to sawdust - yes to sawdust - then compacted to a paste - yes to a paste - and spewed out into pellets. The process is wasteful, CO2-intensive, and therefore an aggravating factor to climate change. Thus how governments justify biomass as sustainable is beyond me. Wood as renewable energy is another idiosyncrasy because clear-cut old-growth (i.e. the chopping down of secular trees) contradicts the very notion of renewability, itself skewered under a short-term fast-turnaround natural-resource-intensive model that the industry operates under.

This makes UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change and France's Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy (to name just two) farcical by name and by nature since they are indeed, like other fellow EU member states - and in compliance with EU's bonkers legislation on renewable energy - to be held accountable (alongside the EU technocrats) for the destruction of European and Pan-American forests.

"Using forests to produce energy is like pouring gasoline to put out a fire." - Larry Edwards, Greenpeace

Meanwhile resilient yet vulnerable protected ecosystems that have survived to this day are already or soon-to-be getting loggers' attention, and this is bad news. The 8,000-year-old Białowieża Forest stretching down the border between Poland and Belarus is Europe's very last primeval European forest, and home to the European bison and a plethora of remarkable pedunculate oaks - some of which have even been individually named as if they were pets. Yet despite its UNESCO World Heritage protection, the forest is under threat:-

"The property protects a diverse and rich wildlife of which 59 mammal species, over 250 bird, 13 amphibian, 7 reptile and over 12,000 invertebrate species. The iconic symbol of the property is the European Bison: approximately 900 individuals in the whole property which make almost 25% of the total world’s population and over 30% of free-living animals. " - UNESCO 

Don't fall prey to governmental garb, they're the ones promoting the destruction of our woodlands! Do yourself and the Earth a favour: ditch woody biomass and stay away from the catchment area of power plants fuelled by such! Spread the word around and share this article.

Further Resources:

13 Aug 2016

Driving Motown Back on Track

Detroit's road to recovery will need more than a Berry Gordy song and the pep-talk speech of a presidential candidate but big things start small. Detroit stands forlornly like a forcefully doomed industrial Gotham and has become a purveyor of choice to the Urbex back catalogue.

Once hailed as Motor City, the Michigan automobile heartland revolutionarily put wheels on America and made it mobile and packed its car radios full of smoochy love songs that engendered the next generation of Americans. But the city has long lost its manufacturing panache. Trouble crept up in the late 1950s with the closing down of the Packard Motor Company, already a sign of the restructuring automobile sector, and trouble never left town. Detroit has now become the stuff of nightmares: a major redundant ghost city potholed in limbo, lumbered with high unemployment and poverty rates slammed against a high exodus rate, resulting in thousands of empty, unsaleable private properties and public amenities crumbling away with neglect and the passing of time.

Flower House Detroit installation, 16-18th October 2015

It is difficult for someone like me to remain indifferent to the human, economic and historical tragedy of a city like Detroit. By the same token, it would be easy for most to look away and drive past and write it off with the strike of a pen, which is exactly what has already been done when the city declared itself bankrupt in July 2013. Yet rather than look at it as a town doomed to decay further, some - mainly artists and visionary entrepreneurs - see it as a sleeping giant waiting to be jump-started back to life, with sorry looks, decrepit figure and raw talent to be capitalised upon.

In the political realm, it would be easier for a presidential candidate to bypass Detroit and aim for sunnier climes and shinier streets than chance stopping over to address an audience of would-be voters in a once Democratic, Trade Union-led, working-class stronghold. You would also have to pen a speech - because in its current state of abandonment, Detroit would indeed require a tailored speech. Donald Trump and his VP acolyte Mike Pence hit the brakes nonetheless and stepped in. The Republican candidate never shies away from a challenge and his speech in Detroit was invigorating and well received. It stated the stats and packed the punches. But above all, it put Detroit firmly back on the (road)map. Trump believes in Making America Great Again (his motto!) and with employment his utmost priority, as with Americanism over globalism, the billionaire businessman aims to address full-on the rigged economy that has laid off American manufacturing in its swathes, and he has vowed that the renaissance shall start in Detroit.

Flower House Detroit ibid.

I believe in purpose, I believe in work. I believe in a country that is industrious and autonomous, with a strong economy, and relies on homegrown: strong agriculture and manufacturing base. I believe in a government that is non-intrusive and empowers its citizens through free enterprise and the spirit that goes with it. I believe in minimal bureaucracy and lighter taxes. I believe in hope and faith and dream and opportunity and feasibility for all. I believe in quality education and those good old-fashioned Christian family values. I also believe in Law and Order and national sovereignty. Detroit, America and the West at large have long been forced to relinquish what used to make them functional and prosperous, and there they are now - to different degrees - shadows of their former selves.

Like Mr. Trump I have faith and refuse to accept what current governances are forcing us to accept as inevitable: widespread unemployment, low-paid ungratifying jobs, large-scale imports, foreign takeover of national ressources and assets, warmongering politics and meddling into the Middle East affairs, and redundancy of talent and creativity in order to fit the tight uncomfortable mould that we are being forced into by the oligarchs. I believe that Detroit can and will resurrect under a constructive, populist, work-centric governance. And I might as well say it with flowers... because big things start small.

Flower House Detroit ibid.

14 Jul 2016

The Dawn of the European Superstate is our Doom

If you are a world supremacist wannabe looking to build a superstate, look no further than the European Union for inspiration. In order to construct the European Union behemoth, warts et al, you have to deconstruct each and every country that is a component of the so-called unity. To achieve this, you need to deconstruct national sovereignty in order to construct the so-called European sovereignty, an unelected sovereignty deeply entrenched into the Agenda 21 principles. Welcome to the globalist dystopia that is being put in place!

'Athena', fantasy art by Cynthia Sheppard

First off, in order to deconstruct national sovereignty you need to tone down national identity. Then amalgamate national pride and patriotism with fascism and racism, which has been going on in France and elsewhere stealthily for the last 35 years. This is key to undermining the strength of a nation. Once national pride has been cleverly associated with fascism, it is put down, and the orchestrated erosion of national values triggers an open-door policy for imports (goods, services and investments, hence cash-flow). The same applies to people (mass immigration), ethics, views and politics that get unified under a fake right/ left, right/ wrong, rich/ poor, black/ white paradigm. Alongside this, in order to construct a European unity, you need to deconstruct unity at its cellular level (family unity, race unity, national unity, etc.).

For European unity to exist under the globalist model, expect no elevation of spirits and values and quality of life. Expect no flourishing prospects in terms of wealth and prosperity, education, employment, trade, industry or philosophy. Expect the exact opposite. Any sensible individual capable of reflecting upon current affairs, will have realised by now that each of the countries that make up Europe is in serious trouble. I acquiesce to this with all my while, having lived in the thick of the 'Union' all of my life, and long enough to realise that things are not adding up in favour of growth, but in favour of ungrowth. We Europeans live its absurdities with every breath we take. You will therefore have to excuse our dulling joie de vivre...

'Momentum' by ibid.

Distractions might take the unguarded off course, as for instance with the Anti-Brexit millennials who took to the streets of Britain on the aftermath of the referendum berating the 'old white people' that they wish would die, including - I imagine - their grandparents? But let's not be fazed; Paul Joseph Watson got it debunked for us in less time than it takes for a pop song to play.

Socialism, otherwise known as the Liberal left, the Democrats - or in more gauche terms as Tony Blair's New Labour - have made Europe their hotbed. And wherever socialism goes, ungrowth follows, all under this forced collectivism and communitarianism, multi-culturalism and other '-isms' and chasms that the individual is forced to surrender to... Here are a few examples:-

  • Private liberties are being eroded.
  • Political correctness paralyses free speech and makes us all potential suspects; it prevents politicians and other people in the public eye from expressing themselves without having to justify a word in lengthy ways.
  • Burdening through over-taxation, over-bureaucratic nonsense, over-politicisation of public and private life with our puppet governments at work dismantling the democratic values of the Republic, so we are falling each day further down into state-controlled economy, which itself is at the mercy of global elites like the divine (deviant) George Soros.
  • Biased media and institutions bought out by the corporate elite.
  • The over-interference of the state into our everyday lives through all sorts of crazy legislation is meant to break our spirits and especially spirit of enterprise and financial independence.
  • Debt-ridden nations, directly or indirectly selling off their 'family jewels'. (Examples in France: Toulouse airport, PSG football club, Alstom Energy, Peugeot cars, Hôtel de Crillon (Paris), Gevrey-Chambertin château and vineyard). Our heritage is being sold off!
  • Meanwhile rampant unemployment, with our shipyards, foundries and traditional manufacturing industries relocated to the Far East.
  • Open-border policy for a tsunami of unregulated uncontrolled migration that pours into every nook and cranny of Europe, tipping the balance further for costly unproductivity to replace ROI productivity to channel passive consumerism! 
  • Wahey, it looks like we are truly being snookered!

'Libra' by ibid.

The European Union is a socio-economic lab, a model in the making that is being used to be carbon-copied to other select parts of the world, namely Western economies, in order to collapse them and therefore rewrite history.

What is happening to Europe is a cautionary tale for the USA. Other there, you need look no further than your current President as a living exemple busy undoing the moral values and work ethics of the working classes in order to feed the Welfare State, tentacular federal agency aid programmes and an increasing federal policing of regular tax-paying citizens, through sophisticated centralised surveillance systems (by whichever invasion of privacy they might operate under, down to smart meters and biotechs) and other ways of interference. At this point, it is offensive to turn a blind eye to what is really going on in the West right now.

"The goal of socialism is communism." - Vladimir Lenin
"Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." - Winston Churchill
"Shattering the myth that poverty is the fault of the poor and a generous benefit system, [...] show that the blame lies with the massive social and economic upheaval that has shifted power from the workforce to corporations and swelled the ranks of the working poor, a group increasingly at the mercy of low-pay, zero-hour contracts and downward social mobility." - Breadline Britain: The Rise of Mass Poverty (review)

Further Resources:

9 Jul 2016

Shirley Baker: Snapping the Ordinary to Write Local History

Of my 16 years living and working in Manchester, England, my biggest regret is to have taken hardly any photos of the city itself, so caught up was I in my own life, and whenever I had a moment to snap away, it would be outside the city boundaries, down the scenic coast, up the Lakes, a nature preserve or a quaint photogenic Peak District village. Manchester didn't come to mind because I lived there, and I was of the opinion back then that photography had to be escapism from everyday life.

'Two Girls Swing on a Lamp Post', Hulme, 1965, photography by Shirley Baker, via The Photographers' Gallery

Thankfully some talented - yet unsung - individuals like Shirley Baker (1932-2014) have meticulously reported back from the nitty-gritty of the frontline. For it would be a great loss to local historians if the photography-enclined had all overlooked Manchester the way I did because then the fast-changing socio-economic fabric of this industrious mill city and its industrial demise followed by its reinvention as a service- and leisure-driven metropolis wouldn't have been captured and immortalised in this poignant visual exactitude that words fail to transcribe.

"If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint." - Edward Hopper

Shirley Baker got late recognition in life for her work as a street photographer and photojournalist of the mundane, snapping street scenes, capturing life as it occurs, spontaneously, lived by the ordinary folks, not the celebs, not the royals, not the captains of industry. She was her own Robert Doisneau and Henri-Cartier Bresson, the latter she admired. She made it to the broadsheets (The Guardian and The Telegraph) obituaries when she sadly passed away, which is - I guess - a form of posthumous recognition of her art and talent.

'Women and Young girls out in the Street', Hulme, July 1965, ibid.

Meanwhile I am looking up to the Mancunians (the inhabitants of Manchester), who since the inception of the Industrial Revolution, from the rising of Cottonopolis to the post-industrial cultural errances of Madchester and beyond, have had to adapt to an ever-changing physical, social and financial landscape and show resilience, acceptance and adaptability to conditions forced upon them, and ultimately turn away from despondency, and turn adversity into opportunity in order to survive the transformation and earn a living within a reconfigured, unrecognisable city. I would sum it up this way: -

Manchester is - despite itself - a fascinating social laboratory and an architectural experiment that has explored - and keeps exploring - the good, the bad and the ugly. 

One of my personal observations that resulted into my 202-page University research paper about land planning management programmes in post-WWII Manchester, is how historically the northern city has been treating history: ruthlessly. This was accomplished along the years in a series of high-profile public, private and mixed land grabs and compulsory purchases repurposed as redevelopments, some of which badly needed (the slum clearances) and others of a more questionable nature. Redevelopments were/ are not solely limited to Manchester, for the blueprint was/ is applied to other major cities and their satellite towns.

As unconventional as I may sound, I  believe this is the way that Britain as a socio-economic collective deals with the past, and how this ruthlessness helps it move on. The nation refuses to dwell on the past too long for it refuses to become complacent and dictated to by nostalgia. It does however boast 500,000 Grade I and Grade II listed buildings, fondly and meticulously preserve traditions and memories (through, for instance, extensively-documented WWI and WWII commemorations, and lavish Royal protocoles), painstakingly curate ancient artefacts into museum collections, and document the past via specialist research and education institutes.

'Young Girls playing in the Street', Hulme, 1965, ibid.

Yet at the same time the nation's history shows how quick it is at making a clean slate out of, not just a couple of old buildings at a time, but large swathes of land, several streets at a time, that have been deemed ripe for redevelopment by a clique of office suits removed from life on the front line.

These drastic changes occur at the expense of the local communities that keep getting fractured, both externally and then internally, and lose their cohesion and identity, as the wards face their redundancy and economic fragility head on and their weakened state attracts social underdogs and castaways (drop-outs, thugs, drug dealers), who drag the wards down further through a climate of fear, before the bulldozers move in. The clearance of old housing stock started in the 1930s and resumed after WWII. Between 1955 and 1975, some 1.3 million homes were demolished nationwide to make way for modern accommodation with comfort and sanitation. However those came at a cost:-

"(...) many of the people lived in dreadful conditions and their houses had to be pulled down. Then of course, when they built up the new stuff, it wasn’t very long before they pulled all that down too.”- Shirley Baker

Let's bear in mind that Britain has been ruthlessly quick at wiping out its heavy industry and traditional manufacturing base over the last sixty years, leaving only a few traces here and there of its industrial past. And then the socio-economics that are linked to those sectors of employment have too been obliterated. In this 'sink or swim' environment, unless the locals move away altogether or retrain and relearn (which is not always possible), they become casualties, and long-term unemployment a fatality. Alvin Toffler's Future Shock springs to mind.

'Cycle Salesman', Hulme, 1965, via BBC

By making that clean slate, government officials, financiers, investors, economists, land planners, property developers, each contribute in effect, to directly or indirectly wipe out the architecture, culture, social fabric, heritage, legacy that root in the communities. The blue-collar workers, or what is left of them, are the social demographic most likely to be displaced within the city: the now-redundant factory workers and miners and their families, now either essentially workless and put under the patronage of the State through total Welfare dependency programmes for subsistence, or they take that post-industrial leap into unskilled low-paid service jobs, joining the ranks of the working poor.

"I cannot claim that my photographs represent anything other than a few wisps teased from some of the countless threads that form the intricate tapestry of our lives.” - Shirley Baker

On my last visit to Manchester 21 months ago with my mum, we drove through parts of East Manchester (namely Ancoats, Ardwick, Beswick, Gorton, Openshaw and Denton) and blimey, did I struggle to recognise anything! The last time I had driven down those areas had only been five years prior, in 2009... It seemed that what was left of the old industry-related (Victorian mills, depots, warehouses, sheds, traditional two-up two-down terraced houses and their end-terrace corner shops, workers clubs, stores, picture houses, small pubs, local banking institutions, etc.) had made way for sprawling housing estates, modernist tower blocks, supermarkets, shopping precincts, leisure centres, brand new roads and tram lines. I did not spot one major factory building still standing, apart fom the iconic Daisy Mill (now too due to be demolished!). The odd Victorian pub at a corner of Ashton Old Road or Ashton New Road woud stand out as both the only tangible, significant landmark and witness of a bygone era. Everything else had been flattened out, reworked and retuned in a tabula rasa exercise that has been radically transforming those areas since the 1950s, first off as part of the extensive post-war slum clearance programme.

As an aside, I must point out that the reworked cityscape looks bland and non-descript, like one long stretch of identikit suburbia, punctuated with tower blocks, mile upon mile, and the end result looks - dare I say - un-British. Indeed it has lost its Britishness. These areas, where locals were once involved in the making of the nation's wealth through their hard relentless unrewarded labour, had remained poor. Yet 50 years ago, the locals were still able to hold a job that helped them raise a family and have a roof above their heads, no matter how humble the abode, without the charity of the State, and making do without resorting to detbt. They owed society nothing and their pride and self-esteem were theirs.

'Ice Cream Van on Terraced Street', July 1965, photography by Shirley Baker, via The Guardian

Nowadays, as contribution to the nation's wealth has been robbed from these people, these former workers' wards/ districts have become wards/ districts of passive - i.e. unproductive - consumerism. This model is replicated throughout our Western societies and this passive consumerism, detached from production and purpose, is the sign of a fractured society. Because having a purpose in life drives you. Having no purpose other than wait for the cheque from the social, while the world is passing you by, is no driver in itself.
Meanwhile Shirley's photographic legacy reminds us that there are no rose-tinted ways of viewing poverty, only compassion, through the respectful, non-intrusive intimacy which her eye and lens share with her subjects. It is a social documentary with a heart, the photographic labour of love about a labour force caught in the midst of times achanging.

Looking Back to Look Forward should have been a motto for Council chiefs, private sector entrepreneurs and their acolytes to apply to Manchester for its successful transition into the future, while taking into account the best elements from the past (including values) and the expectations of four generations of the population (from cradle to the grave, if you pardon me the phrase), with the design fitting their lives rather than the other way around. I believe in integrated sensible redevelopment, based on brand-new builds based on classical design, and renovations of designated buildings. I do not believe that redevelopment should require the utter obliteration of the wards.

Further Resources:

Further Reading List - about today's working poor in Britain:

7 Jul 2016

Inspire Aspire - Looking Back to Look Forward

What's in a tagline? More than meets the eye when it conveys a powerful motto that strings two phrasal verbs that together convey past, present and future harmoniously like three peas in a pod. The tagline is a pep talk all to itself!

Brought to you by Primus Hotel Sydney

The context of the Looking Back to Look Forward tagline is in relation to a newly-opened 5-star hotel in Sydney, Australia, set in a 1939 heritage-listed Art Deco edifice that used to be home to the Sydney Water Board. The $2 billion refit was a two-year labour of love that not only integrated but also totally revived the old, to which was added that light touch of present modernity - just enough to take the Art Deco into the 21st century and beyond, with no compromise on either period elegance or modern comfort.

This called for equilibrium between the old and the new, a balancing act, a synergy that only a sensible, measured, concerted, thoughtful upgrade could create. That meant not ripping up the period features, as sadly we tend to witness elsewhere when architects and con artists are let loose in the 'now for the now' vibration, with no clear instructions or simply no intention to preserve original features. Here the original design stays centrestage, and the future of this building of character is written with its history and period features in mind. The PR tagline had to translate this fluidity, the flow of the past into the future via the 'renov-action' of the now.

A grandiose foyer set to rival New York's Waldorf Astoria! (AFR)

Looking Back to Look Forward is to draw on the past in order to build a lasting future. Rooting, anchoring the future in the solid, tried-and-tested foundations of the past applies to sensible architectural renovations like we would like to witness them more often. The tagline is smart, neat and to the point, and it has a certain familiarity to it, as experience teaches us that a past needs a future and a future needs a past, and how successful the integration of both into the present occurs relies upon our skill to interpret the values of the past and be able to carry them forward. This is what we call heritage and we need it bad, because heritage is history and history allows us to face the future.

This is a tagline that is relevant not just for architectural design but also for the way we design our lives. For life experience teaches us that as we stand in the present we should draw the lessons from the past and remember and honour our elders legacy, in order to create a strong, meaningful and (g)rounded future to pass on to our children. 

Cocktail functions in the lobby area

Meanwhile as the world is moving faster and the planned obsolescence of models and beliefs is getting shorter, society is being engineered to get stuck in the now of their needs and wants to their very consumerist levels, and entertained by their time-consuming social media hobbies. We witness the obliteration of our heritage by the governing and financial elites which are busy rewriting elements of our past to suit their agenda and ulterior motives, and disenfranchising us from the past. It remains therefore urgent for us to take that step back, acknowledge and own that past back in order to be able to move forward whole and empowered into a future filled with scope and perspective.

The only way is up!

Primus Hotel Sydney, 339 Pitt Street, Sydney, Australia, 2000.

12 Jun 2016

An Afternoon at the Beach and Tickle's Health Check

A couple of days ago Tickle and I went down to our local beach. It was nice to resume that sweet habit that we had been neglecting over Autumn and the Winter months. We walked down the main road and then obliqued through the back lanes, past a cluster of houses, and then embraced the lowland and the marshes, checking the wildlife as we strolled along, an eye to the right where just above the lush pasture line, the blue of the sky meets up in conversation with the blue of the sea and both shimmer and mesmerize.

We took that little curved lane that gently and whimsically leads us to the beach, past myrtle bushes and other hedgerow delights. And then the path opened up to the shoreline, cluttered with heaps of dried up Posidonia oceanica, otherwise known as Neptune Grass or Mediterranean Tapeweed, an aquatic plant endemic to the Mediterranean sea that grows as clusters and forms dense meadows on sandy seabeds (typically 1–35m deep, i.e. 3.3–114.9ft). The grass sheds its ribbon-like foliage either naturally or during storms, that ends up shored up onto beaches and accumulates into compact cushion-like stratae, resulting into heaps of brown narrow leaves that we call 'banquettes'. Those might look disgraceful once piled up there on the sand but think what they look like under the sea when they are still attached to their clump, dancing to the current like a mermaid's mane hiding in its strands a rich sea life and oxygenating the water at the same time!

Tickle & Posidonia oceanica

I sat on the beach and Tickle laid down by my feet. And there we were, soaking up the views and the sunshine. My little companion is taking life in a mellower stride these days but it never takes long for the boisterous JRT natural instincts to spring up to the surface! Notwithstanding age is catching up with him somewhat. Although I will never know for sure his exact age, having rescued him as a young dog from the pound back in August 2006, I can only assume that he may be 10 and a half years old, maybe 11.

With this in mind, I took him to the vet's two months ago in order for him to undergo a full health check. In his case, he fell under the Senior Dog Health Check. He was weighed (just under 10kg, approx. 20lbs, which is ideal for a JRT), had a general inspection of his body, and a blood test. The vet was satisfied with the fact that Tickle had been on a veg-rich diet all of his life, which is now becoming more significant as he's reaching his golden years. Then off for a little dental clean: his teeth had a scale and polish under light IV sedation in order to remove built-up tartar which - if left unremoved - will bring a variety of ailments. The result was impressive as Tickle came out with Hollywood gleaming white teeth!

A scratchy nose?

Then the mutt had an echography to check his internal organs and, thank God, he passed with flying colours! All in all, he was given the all-clear except for one (currently minor) health concern: early-stages cataract. This has been creeping up on his eyes for the last 4 months, I believe. The condition affects most dogs as they age and leads to blindness if left untreated. I had noticed a very faint very localised clouding towards the centre of his lenses but this isn't noticeable unless you are actually looking for it, and there it was confirmed to me by the vet. She prescribed an Omega 3-rich fish oil treatment combined to an amino acid food supplement that both claim to slow down the onset of cataract and will keep my little friend comfortable. Eventually his eyesight will get affected to the point that eye surgery may have to be considered, as the only viable treatment to reverse cataract. It is a common practice nowadays with excellent results - if undertaken by a competent vet surgeon. Mine doesn't carry out eye operations but she would be happy to refer Tickle, should we wish to go ahead with the operation.

If you are a pet owner, I would recommend regular pet health checks, especially as regards life stages. In any case, once they get to a certain age, I would insist you have your pet(s) undergo a thorough health check and then keep up with bi-annual visits at the very least, or as per the vet's recommendations. In our case, we'll be back at the vet's in 4 months from now for a follow-up. In the meantime, we'll keep on enjoying the little pleasures of life, and our walks down the beach are definitely one of them!

Further Reading on Senior Dog Health:

2 Jun 2016

Harambe to Homo Sapiens: 2 Degrees of Separation

Here's another irony. Only one week ago, we might have not heard of Harambe while he was still alive but now that he is dead, his Swahili name full of fortitude and noble grace has come booming centrestage as a rallying cry from behind the locked Gorilla World enclosure of Cincinnati Zoo - the second oldest zoo in the US - as a painful reminder of our human failings. Such a tragedy is imputable to us in our tampering with the natural order, with the laws of nature.

Harambe the Western lowland gorilla

It's all about control with us. Yet animals do not belong in zoos or circuses. As the manipulators and controllers of nature - that we never leave alone to sort itself out - we humans have thrown it out of whack. Today we are faced with a shrinking wildlife count, the looting of our natural resources by Big Corporate (TransCanada anyone?), pollution at every corner of the globe and a galoping worldwide population whose consumerist needs and fads cannot be sustained.

Here the laws of nature had been flawed from before Harambe had even been conceived. The magnificent Western lowland silverback male gorilla, part of a critically-endangered species (traditionally found in the dense Central African rainforests), was born in captivity (at the Gladys Porter Zoo) on 27th May 1999 and relocated to Cincinnati Zoo in September 2014 in order to fulfill the gene pool and as a star attraction in his own right that got the zoo a bang for its buck in the entertainment stakes. Then last Saturday, an unsupervised 4-year-old kid intent on getting close and personal with the young primate, fell into the exhibit moat at Gorilla World. By that point, the writing was on the wall, bearing Harambe's name.

"Despite its massive size and ferocious reputation, the gorilla is actually a peaceful and social animal. Gorillas and humans are close relatives, and share many things in common. They are very intelligent, have emotions and personalities, and live in family groups." - Cincinnati Zoo, Western Lowland Gorilla

The inquisitive gentle gorilla, described as 'very intelligent and curious' by the zoo itself, dragged the kid out of harm's way (see video footage). Harambe wasn't acting out of sorts or displaying any animosity towards him. Yet the keepers didn't take any chances, because as much as zoos are artificial environments, we are still dealing with wild animals forcefully confined into unnatural habitats. And in a country where litigation and media are trigger-happy, so had to be the next course of action. Except this was anything but happy. Taking a chance with an inquisitive wild animal was not on the agenda, so the zoo’s own SWAT Team, the Dangerous Animal Response Team, was dispatched over and put control back into the controlled environment of the zoo: they shot Harambe dead.

It was, as The Conversation noted, a lose-lose situation that claimed the life of a gorilla pottering about minding his own business, a curious kid who soon enough will realise the consequences of his decision, and the keeper who ruled out tranquilizer shots, and instead took the great ape's life. No doubt will that guy be forever haunted by his decision, despite it being for the kid's best interest.

There is no happy ending to the story and no winner. Just one hapless chain of events triggered by an unsupervised kid (where were the parents?!) that spelt disaster along the way, not only to Harambe, but to the other gorillas, his former caretaker, the zoo staff, the kid's family, the local community, conservationists (Dr. Jane Goodall), animal lovers, and the animal kingdom at large. Hereby we have witnessed yet another failed experiment of human foray into wildlife, snatching it from the wild, parking it into zoos for breeding programmes and boosting the balance sheets, and making spectacles out of jailed animals plucked out of their natural habitats for our eyes only.

King Kong (1933), movie poster revisited by graphic artist Laurent Durieux, commissioned by Mondo.

And you know what? I cannot help but think of King Kong as I am penning this. Do you remember how the story goes? A magnificent gorilla plucked out of the jungle and brought back to New York City, which he then tries to escape, cradling in his hand a young American woman he had saved earlier on from an unchartered faraway island. No happy ending for this guy either. Before I bow out to honour Harambe's memory and legacy, I shall leave you with a ponder:

"Surely we can begin to agree that animals which share 98 per cent of our DNA should not be kept as entertainment for us to gawk at in a zoo." - Mimi Bekhechi, PETA UK Director, via The Independent.

Please join me in signing the Justice for Harambe petition.


25 May 2016

Elderflower Glory

It is claimed that the oldest memory trigger is smell. One particular example of that experience in my life is everytime I walk by a blossoming elder bush (Sambucus nigra), in Spring. It reignites a nostalgic journey down memory lane. Not only does the sight of this old-fashioned hedgerow favourite and its tiny off-white flower clusters (corymbs) get my full attention but so does the delicate honeydew-like aroma that pervades! Watching with the eyes gets superseded by watching with the nose!

I get closer and bury my nose in the lacy inflorescence and the sweet balmy jasmine-like aroma envelops me into a comforting embrace and transports me back to my childhood days, when my friends and I used to venture on the edge of our small housing estate, eastbound of a sunken path that used to wind down past a bosquet and remnants of pasture and orchard, a surviving testimony of the countryside that was being fragmented into suburbia as my hometown of Saint-Quentin was expanding.

Back then, you could still notice those vestiges of mature, bucolic cottage gardens that were standing still in their semi-neglected state, rife for development in what had become an encompassing suburbia, yet still within walking distance from the countryside. And my most vivid memory is that hedge of closely-knit elder bushes that thrived on an elevation, our perfect adventure ground, vantage outpost and hiding place as kids. We loved it when the bushes were blossoming, less so after the flowers had wilted, and their swollen bases had turned into those clothes-staining dark berries!

Later, life took each of us kids down its wondrous and less wondrous ways, and off a tangent from those dreams and ambitions we had woven under the comforting canopy of those elder bushes. With higher education, relationships, marriage, family commitments, work, milestone achievements, celebrations, and some disillusions, losses and dramas along the way.

I moved 300 miles away from home to University. Then I moved to England. When I did come back to Saint-Quentin a handful of times a year, it was with joy and a pinch in my heart, always to witness things that used to be and were no more, people who used to be and were now gone. One day, I drove down the road and the land where the elder bushes once stood had been flattened. And in their place stood a rendered breeze-block wall that hedged a newly-built property. And that flattened landmark at that very moment defined in my mind the joylessness - and flatness - of suburbia.

Elderflower Cordial by Things {We] Make

Many years later, I found myself reacquainted with elderflower, this time in Britain, my country of adoption. I got to taste their fabulous elderflower cordial, the drink that I have been fondly associating with Albion ever since. Smell might be the oldest memory trigger but sight and taste are a close second!

Elderflower-scented Custard Tart by Belvoir Fruit Farms

P.S: Take the proverbial pinch of salt and read the fun elderflower facts compiled by Belvoir Fruit Farms.

13 May 2016

Pink Poppy Day

If I had to describe where I live in three words, it would have to be: (1) Medieval. (2) Corsican. (3) Hamlet. It sounds like a statement although I don't mean it that way, as the obligatory envious clichés are invariably bound to jump off the page: vacational island, coastal living, Mediterranean climate, panoramic landscapes bathed in the wonder of blue yonder, nature on the doorstep, and ancient off-the-beaten-track dry-stone buildings.

Those three words forebode a sense of adventure, I agree. Yet adventure is to be found at the start of your state of mind. Adventure may be found in 'Salford studio flat' or 'industrial Dusseldorf complex' all the same. It's that old chestnut again: life is what you make it. You may want to play it safe and never investigate your surroundings and that is your decision.

Yet should you be seeking adventure in the mundanity of your surroundings, you are spoilt for choice. Any restrictions will be set by how far (or near!) you wish to expand your imagination and curiosity. In fact, the best way to turn anything into an adventure is to take nothing for granted because that Renaissance building that had stood the test of time till now might be gone tomorrow, because that noble cedar tree might be chopped down, because the sweet old lady down the road might sell off her bungalow and pack her bags before you've RSVPed her gracious invite for Pekoe tea and Bourbon biscuits. Because as it is, natural entropy is being accelerated by the planned obsolescence of our modern model, which puts us mere mortals at a disadvantage.

The transience of life expressed through our mortality needs to force us to be aware of every instant that is lived within the environment at large. To cultivate curiosity, be curious by nature about nature, and an explorer of life rather than a passive consumer fed by the media is what I recommend to young and old - especially the young ones - as the 'future-holders' of our world.

What is the relation of all that precedes with the Pink Poppy Day title, I hear you say? I haven't been on a diversion course; there would be no Pink Poppy Day post without this natural curiosity of mine and sense of adventure woven out of the mundanity of life. Now here is my story.

A couple of days ago, I went for a stroll up the hamlet and found that a beautiful wild poppy bush blossoming on an elevation by the side of the path had been pulled off the ground by a local landlord, and tossed down the path like a dirt bag. Sadly I encounter this attitude a lot around here, this total disrespect for nature's own floral gifts. Understand nature and the nature of wild plants: they come impromptu and spontaneous, like uninvited guests of sorts. But they don't come to burden you; rather they come to enliven your day, and their inflorescence - little bits of charm and beauty they scatter around their foliage - is free of charge. A big bonus if you want flower delight without shelling a dime! Yet instead of being left alone, the wild plants get pulled out or cut back or doused in herbicide, and this infuriates me!

I went on a poppy rescue mission there and then. I brought back home the pulled-out poppy bush, cut back its foliage and managed to fit the root system into an XXL jar with a little water in the bottom. In the next few days, I shall plant it in my parents' garden and we'll monitor its progress. Meanwhile I salvaged the blooms - which were looking sorry for themselves - and improvised them into a tabletop posy in an improvised vase, an empty glass jar! From that moment on, I witnessed the blooms gather strength and perk up.

I saved the poppies from their downtrodden state and they made my day in return with their charming blossoms that I couldn't cease to admire. Yet their place should have been out there in the wild rather than in a vase but I had to compose with the vagaries of the human mind, that interferes with nature because it wants to control it.

On the third day, my lovely poppies had scattered their petals by the time I was down for breakfast. I carefully picked those, and laid them flat inside a paper bag that I placed under a heavy contraption for a spot of drying before I use them in a paper collage at some point in the future.

This is how my Pink Poppy Day came about: a reversal of fortune for the wild flowers and an eleventh hour rescue from the ditch. The moral of the story is that nature belongs to itself and we are welcome to enjoy it, not tamper with it to the point of destruction. Yet you can bring positivity to a situation by turning the little drama around, and embracing it as an adventure in the everyday.

P.S: Jason Silva's Existential Bummer 'philosophical espresso shot' about entropy is bound to perk up your day and stimulate your thought! Three minutes of bliss!

6 Apr 2016

Blogposts with Attitude #BWA - March 2016

LBM squeezed every last drop of March before handing it to you, my friends. And what have we got in the #BWA department for the month that eased us from Winter into Spring with a little sweetness from a secret stash of Easter eggs? Read on to find out!

In this day and age of digital burn-out, it is easy to forget the basics - like how to write. National Handwriting Day (23rd January) pops in once a year to rekindle (albeit briefly) the dying art of putting pen to paper. Jewellery designer Emma Mitchell, the lady behind Silverpebble, has taken the exercise a few steps further, inviting her readers to join in the fun through The Handwritten Letter Exchange and enter into a correspondence with a penpal, with all the anticipation that goes with it: from the writing paper to the handwriting itself, and more elaborate calligraphy, to drawings and other embellishments that enter into the composition of a letter. And then pop a nice stamp on the envelope, and posted it goes onto its journey over to its recipient, bringer of glad tidings and joy! To take the time to rediscover the art of writing a letter is time well spent. If you are a little stuck and in search of inspiration, why not give Letters of Note a browse?
Emma @ Silverpebble's correspondence letter to Mirta Tyrrell @ Modern Botanics, (via Instagram)

04-May-2016 Update: Did that first paragraph of mine mention something about sweetness? Well, short and sweet is how I will have to keep this #BWA post because I am right in the middle of setting up a company with my husband, which is both very exciting and busy! It also means that certain things have had to give, hence my falling off the 'blogwaggon' over the last few weeks.

Now trying to play catch-up with this post - which I had published half-finished  four weeks ago with the hope of finishing it eventually - was just not gonna cut it. I shall however state that The Letter Exchange remains my favourite blog read of March! Get that lovely writing paper out and may you be inspired to pen a letter to a penpal or reconnect with friends and family members! In my busy schedule of late, I managed to squeeze in two letters, to aunties and uncles!

#TFISpring by Silverpebble


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