However you celebrate and wherever you’re from (and wherever you’re at for the festive season), I hope you have a very merry Christmas!
For lots more seasonal reading, click the links here!
I’ve written before about the weird things that people leave behind in places like the Tube network and in hotels (as well as the bizarre items people pinch from said hotels!), so naturally I couldn’t resist when I came across this list of strange things found on planes by cabin crew from around the world. I wonder if any of these items were ever reclaimed by their owners?
A bag of sand
Box of dried fish
Bag of diamonds
Bag of onions
One egg (without packaging)
Written marriage proposal
I’m aware how exhausting air travel can be, and I’m pretty sure that some of these items of lost property are probably explained by excitable passengers attempting to join the Mile High Club, but one wonders just how forgetful you would have to be to to leave something like a double bass on a plane? Or a bag of diamonds. Or your wedding dress. Or even a live falcon – although I guess I should be grateful I’m not having to discuss snakes on a plane…
No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
Nelson Mandela 1918-2013
A remarkable, inspirational life well lived.
Rest In Peace.
Here’s a bit of fun.
WordPress have recently introduced country stats, which means I can finally be nosy and find out where all my visitors are from. The stats go back approximately a month, and, in my case, contain some rather interesting information…
Unsurprisingly for a British-based blog, the vast majority of my readers during that period hail from the United Kingdom, with the United States and Canada lagging a long way behind in second and third.
I also seem to get a lot of European visitors – in fact, during the period covered by the stats, readers from twenty one of the twenty seven European Union member states popped by (I’m only missing hits from Cyprus, Estonia, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia, so if you know anyone in any of those countries, send them a link to Another Kind Of Mind NOW!).
But I also get hits from some slightly more exotic, far-flung and, frankly, often unexpected places, including Argentina, Mexico, the Netherland Antilles (where’s that?), Bermuda, Mongolia (wow), Paraguay, Vietnam, Morocco, Japan, Tunisia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Korea, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.
I’d had no idea that Another Kind Of Mind had such an international reach – thank you to all of you, wherever you are, for your visits!
Call it street harassment, call it eve teasing, call it public sexual harassment – call it what you want, but it is a huge (and hugely under-reported) daily problem for a frightening number of women from all around the world.
And street harassment has an impact on all women. It doesn’t matter how a woman is dressed, what she looks like or how old she is; women of all ages, all ethnicities and all backgrounds have experienced street harassment of one form or another, often repeatedly, day in and day out. The continuous bombardment of what is a disturbing form of aggressively sexual objectification can (and often does) ultimately result in physical and/or sexual assaults on women.
Aside from the obvious trauma such assaults cause, street harassment can also lead to psychological harm to women, making them nervous, wary and hypervigilant in public spaces, especially after dark – and, particularly in the cases of women who are survivors of rape, abuse or domestic violence, it can trigger upsetting and difficult PTSD-type symptoms such as flashbacks and panic attacks.
It was just after 1am on February 27th 2008. I was still up and at my computer when I heard what sounded like a loud crash. My first thought was that my noisy downstairs neighbours were playing silly buggers again, but then everything started to shake. The earthquake – for that was indeed what it was – only lasted a few seconds, but it was strong enough to make its impact felt in large parts of the UK.
At a magnitude of 5.2, the earthquake I and many others felt that night, although deeply disconcerting, was absolutely nothing compared to the massive quakes experienced in recent months and years by countries as diverse as Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, and now Japan (in fact, some of the many and continuing aftershocks that have resulted from Friday’s terrible Japanese quake have been significantly more powerful than that).
As a demonstration of the enormous and unstoppable power of nature, the sheer destructive force of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on Friday was truly awesome (in the original sense of that word) – and, scientifically, as it reached a magnitude of 9.0, it was also one of the most powerful recorded quakes of the last 100 years or so.
The results of this powerful earthquake have been devastating, even in a country as well-prepared for and as used to earthquakes as Japan. Many settlements on the affected coastline have been swept away by tsunami waves up to ten metres high, and a number of the country’s network of nuclear power stations have been seriously (possibly catastrophically) damaged by the quake.
March is both Women’s History Month and International Women’s Month, which includes the marking of International Women’s Day on March 8th. In particular, as a history graduate and a feminist the former appeals to me greatly, and I decided to dig out a blog post I wrote way back in May 2007 (on the subject of one of my historical heroines) in honour of the occasion. Almost three years on, it naturally needed a little dusting off, a little editing and a few slight re-writes in places (and it’s also a little long) – but I hope you are as fascinated by the story of Noor Inayat Khan as I am.
“Nothing, neither her nationality, nor the traditions of her family, none of these obliged her to take her position in the war. However she chose it. It is our fight that she chose, that she pursued with an admirable, an invincible courage” – Madame de Gaulle-Anthonioz at the memorial service for Noor Inayat Khan.
The memory of Noor Inayat Khan is, in the main, ignored in this country; unlike in France, where she is justly considered a heroine – ‘Madeleine dans la Resistance‘. But who was this girl with the pretty, exotic name, who is so revered by the French? And why should we care about her today?
We should care because this woman did something amazing, something most modern women (and men) would probably find almost impossible – considering our pampered 21st century lives.
Oh Thierry Henry, what did you have to go and do that for? You, of all people. Despite being a life-long Spurs supporter, I have always been a great fan of yours; you were one of those rare and special footballers it was always such a pleasure to watch, no matter which team you played for. One of those players who, despite all the greed and arrogance in modern football, made me remember why I fell in love with the Beautiful Game in the first place.
But then, in a crucial World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland last week, you did a Maradona, and the poor old Republic unfairly went crashing out after neither referee nor linesmen spotted your blatant handball. And blatant it was too. Quite ridiculously so. You even compounded the offence with your comments after the game: “It was necessary to exploit what was exploitable”, you said, as if that somehow justified what was, without question, cheating. How could you?
However, Henry’s out-of-character double handball is not the first instance of blatant cheating in sport this year. In some cases, this cheating has just been childishly sad, as with the deliberate F1 crashes, while in others it has veered towards out-and-out fraud, as with the outrageous and notorious Harlequins ‘Bloodgate’ incident (and what with Quins being the rugby union side I support, this scandal made me particularly angry), and the recent Champions League match fixing arrests.
It is difficult to know how to remedy such examples of dishonesty, because if sportsmen and women – as with pretty much anyone else in any walk of life, unfortunately – think that there is the slightest possibility they might get away with it, they’ll try to do just that.
BENEATH THIS STONE RESTS THE BODY
OF A BRITISH WARRIOR
UNKNOWN BY NAME OR RANK
BROUGHT FROM FRANCE TO LIE AMONG
THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS OF THE LAND
AND BURIED HERE ON ARMISTICE DAY
11 NOV: 1920, IN THE PRESENCE OF
HIS MAJESTY KING GEORGE V
HIS MINISTERS OF STATE
THE CHIEFS OF HIS FORCES
AND A VAST CONCOURSE OF THE NATION
THUS ARE COMMEMORATED THE MANY
MULTITUDES WHO DURING THE GREAT
WAR OF 1914 – 1918 GAVE THE MOST THAT
MAN CAN GIVE LIFE ITSELF
FOR KING AND COUNTRY
FOR LOVED ONES HOME AND EMPIRE
FOR THE SACRED CAUSE OF JUSTICE AND
THE FREEDOM OF THE WORLD
THEY BURIED HIM AMONG THE KINGS BECAUSE HE
HAD DONE GOOD TOWARD GOD AND TOWARD
Inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey
The Western Front, 1916:
The Reverend David Railton is doing his rounds as a frontline chaplain for the British army in France, providing spiritual and pastoral support for the young men in his care, many of whom have been fighting in the trenches for upwards of two years. His is not an easy job, but, as a Church of England clergyman, he feels he has both a calling and a responsibility to look after these soldiers, some of whom are no more than boys.
He is rapidly becoming more and more appalled by the death and destruction he sees around him, and is particularly moved by a simple, makeshift grave he comes across in a garden near Armentieres that day. The grave consists of a rough wooden cross, carefully inscribed in pencil: “An Unknown British Soldier of The Black Watch”. The simple inscription and the care taken in commemorating a fallen comrade sets Railton thinking, and eventually results in one of the most famous and moving war memorials of them all…
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me–
and there was no one left to speak out for me” – Martin Niemoller.
Martin Niemoller was a controversial figure, whose motives and actions are still debated by historians, theologians and political theorists to this day. But his words (above) ring as true today as they did in the 1940s. Like many Lutheran pastors (and other religious leaders) in 1930s Germany, Niemoller was an anti-communist who opposed the democratic experiment of the Weimar Republic and its associated ‘decadence’, welcoming the Nazi accession to power in 1933 even to the extent of apparently having official meetings with Adolf Hitler.