A Dilemma

The morning radio rouses us with the news that the supermarket shelves were being emptied by shoppers stockpiling – panic buying had taken hold and the locusts have swept through all the land. Sainsbury, Tesco, Safeways and Aldi’s shelves were being stripped bare by the minute, decimating the High Street as we know it. Hardly a can of beans or a packet of Hobnobs to be seen, let alone that rarest of commodities, the ‘anti-septic hand gel.’ One rumour going the rounds suggests that bottles of hand gel have even been stolen from hospital wards, presumably by thoughtless (mindless?) visitors.

Was this really true, or just the Broadsheets drumming up custom for their tired old rags and looking for new horror stories to add to the overload of ‘Corvid-19 disinformation? Maybe so, but a tiny seed of doubt is easily planted and begins to germinate – soon to grow into a fully fledged anxiety. ‘Do we have plenty in the store cupboard, is there enough in the freezer? Should we do a bit of shopping ?’
‘Yes/No/ maybe…’ This really is a very current DILEMMA.
We are in a quandary, a predicament, we’re muddled and perplexed. Is it silly to rush out and buy a stack of groceries when no real restrictions have been announced? Of course it is, keep calm and carry on enjoins our heroic ‘Churchillian’ leader. Though still niggling away at the back of the mind is the disquieting thought that there has been a suggestion that some supermarkets would be rationing certain items, or at least reducing the range and quantity of products on offer. Will we still be able to get those lovely double choc chip cookies of which we’ve grown so fond? Or should we stock up on multiple packets of pasta?

We could be faced with a difficulty of diapers, a predicament of pineapples,or even an uncertainty of onions. Our fruit and vegetables are now to be found between a rock and a hard place, (rather as they have often been presented to us,) but more to the point, will they be found at all? Will toilet rolls be wiped out, tea in a tight spot, sugar in a jam and pickles in a pickle? Window cleaner could be a no-win niche, and dog food in dire straits.

Maybe we should just pop in to the shop and get a few bits and pieces, while we think of it. It wouldn’t hurt after all… but is this the right thing to do? What about ‘fair shares for all?’ If everybody just takes things easy, there should be enough for everyone, one’s logical mind insists…

…On the other hand, what if? What if we’re the only ones daft enough NOT to stock up? Where will we be then? We’re on the proverbial ‘Horns of a Dilemma’ – fear and panic are lurking on the sidelines, maybe more deadly than the virus itself. It’s a seemingly ridiculous situation in one of the wealthiest countries in the western hemisphere. Idiocy  has taken over from common sense; on a recent visit to Nymans Gardens, we learned that in the very stately pile which is also open to the public, toilet roll thieves have been at their wicked work and cleaned up there .

How have we descended to this? Will we have black markets springing up instead of our friendly local one? If we don’t join in the madness we could be left out and short of supplies, but if we follow the herd, swallow our pride and stock-pile goods?

It’s a double-bind, a paradox, Catch-22…
Let’s hope for better things…

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The Park

The pretty little seaside town had been plagued by gangs of bikers, drug dealers and hooligans all summer long and the local people were worried, frightened and angry. The Mayor protested that he’d no authority to instruct the Police and the police claimed they had no proper powers to act appropriately.

In the park nearby, where the leader of the council took his lunchtime stroll was, as usual, the friendly man selling his sweets and ice creams. He stopped by the van to chat and bought one of the famous ‘extra special’ ice- creams to cheer himself up from his troubles. He looked around at the excited crowd of kids running and playing in the sun, and he couldn’t help but notice their delight at the sight of the gaily coloured van and how they rushed and jostled to buy as soon as they heard the chimes.
“You know, these really are magic,” he remarked, as he tucked in enthusiastically.
“Very special secret family recipe,” replied the ice-cream man, “can’t beat ’em.”
So they soon got to talking about how the community felt intimidated, abused and terrorised by these awful gangs and that the councillor didn’t know how to deal with the problem either. He so dearly wished he had a workable solution and explained at length how nothing had so far been resolved by the powers that be.

The man listened carefully and finally offered his help, “I have ways that you wouldn’t believe to persuade and encourage troublesome folk to go,” he said.
Somewhat surprised but now rather desperate, the councillor wondered if there was really an opportunity here to (a) solve the problem, and (b) improve his standing on the council and gain some much needed votes in the upcoming local elections. Taking a chance, he made an executive decision there and then.
“You know I happen to be in a position to offer you a substantial financial reward if you can clear out these rough-necks from our lovely town. What d’ya say?”
“I could certainly arrange to move them on and ensure they’d never come back, if that’s your brief?” was the confident reply.
“Well, if you’d like to come to my office tomorrow at three, we can discuss the details with the board… and your name is?”
“Tim, Tim Whistler at your service,” he smiled.
“Well Tim, pleased to make your acquaintance and I have every confidence of a successful outcome,” he puffed, feeling that he’d made a good move.
“Just ask for Joe Palmer.” So saying they shook hands and parted.

The next morning the council offices were a-buzz with excitement as the leader introduced Tim who told them about his project and how he had previously achieved a very successful outcome in another town in the north. He explained that though his plan was confidential it would be provided on a strictly ‘no win, no fee’ basis. All were delighted at the prospect and so keen to action it that the proposed large remunerative sum was voted through without question. Apart that is from the Finance clerk, a man always somewhat reluctant to spend even if it wasn’t his own money. Ever aware of costs and balances though, the Mayor took him aside and managed to sweet-talk him into agreeing.
“It’s not a problem, don’t worry I’ll see to it when the job’s done,” he assured him privately, giving him a wink.

So the stage was set and the deal arranged for the following weekend when the town would be awash with visiting hordes for the annual Firework Display on the Saturday night. The very night when there had often been quite a bit of disruption from incomers in the past. The only condition from Tim was that all the children should be safely home in bed by 11.00 at the very latest in case of any trouble, which made good sense as the towns people had already chosen to stay indoors after dark since the problems.
Saturday evening arrived with a bang and the ‘family entertainments’ and displays passed off with little trouble; but as the events finished and the night drew on there were pockets of scuffles and the pubs began to swell with unruly drinkers. The townsfolk quietly withdrew and firmly shut their doors as the next ‘fireworks’ seemed likely to be of a completely different kind. The marketplace was overrun by rowdies and drunks until the town clock chimed midnight, but it then seemed to go on chiming for far longer than was usual. It’s old mechanism appeared to have jammed somehow and the chime had changed it’s usual note to a slightly sinister minor key. An hour later, though it was finally silent and the streets were completely deserted, except that is, for the gaily coloured van and gentle Tim who was making his way home.
Sunday morning brought peace and sunshine to the central square and a self-satisfied smile to the face of the council leader who could hardly believe what he saw. Once cautious locals spilled out on the streets to find their little town clean and tidy and apparently free from the scourge which had made them all so unhappy ’til now. This was the place as they knew and loved it and a cheer went up from the gathering crowd. The whole day was spent enjoying the restoration of the happy, untroubled atmosphere of old. The Councillor’s delight with the resulting success knew no bounds.
Monday morning however, Tim was seen leaving the Mayor’s office with a far from happy look on his face. Rumour had it that the Mayor, in an attempt to take credit for the success of the operation, had stepped in and withdrawn the payment approval as excessive, effectively reneging on the whole agreement. Most of the rest of the council also voted with the Mayor, judging that the improvement was now complete and that such a large payment would be better kept for the town’s own coffers. So following the Mayor’s announcement of a public holiday to celebrate the return of the town to it’s former happy state, preparations were promptly set in train and the big day was fixed for the first Sunday of the next month. There was to be a fairground in the park, with rides and carousels, ‘gallopers’ and a ghost train were ordered. Street food stalls were to be permitted, subject to council regulations of course and a marquee and beer tent for the adults.
The excitement was rising as the big day grew closer and finally the dawn broke bright and clear and all was ready. At 10.00 o’clock, the Mayor stood up on a plinth in the marquee and made a long speech to the assembled crowd about the splendour of the town and it’s loyal and trusted populace. Most of the children got bored and had sneaked away to the fairground hoping to be first in the queue for the rides. As the day wore on, the most popular one seemed to be the ‘Ghost Train’ and squeals of delight emanated from it each time it ran. By teatime all the kids were lined up to take the last trip of the day, desperate not to miss out. All aboard and the little train chugged towards the first tunnel and as the last carriage slid in, the chime of the ice-cream van could be heard on the hill across the park.
“Oh dear, they’ll miss their ice-creams,” shouted one parent. “I’d best run and buy one for my little’un, he’ll be out soon,” and she rushed off towards the sound. Several others stayed behind to wait for the returning train, while another small group of mums followed, only to see the ice-cream van driving away still chiming it’s enchanting little tune, but sounding strange and slightly off key. Disappointed and somewhat out of sorts they returned to the fair to find a state of utter chaos outside the Ghost Train. Parents were running around in hysterics and everyone was talking and shouting at once.
What’d happened nobody really knew, but the little train had completed it’s circuit and returned to the entrance – EMPTY! No children to be seen or heard. Pandemonium broke out. Crazed dads plunged into the tunnel shouting and calling, but there was no response. Not one child, nor any sign of one to be found.

The Mayor and the police were called and the park was searched from top to bottom, no stone unturned, but still no children found. The blackest mood of doom fell upon the whole town and accusations began to fly. At the council offices a very different mood hung over the building. Where was the Mayor? Where the councillor? Who had arranged the deal? Where was Tim? Was it his fault? Who had cheated on the payment and why had no one been held to account?
Eventually the Mayor resigned and the councillor lost his job. He often spent his time in the empty park, now deserted of children, where the silence hung as heavy as the rusty swings. Years went by and the sorry town sank under the weight of it’s pain. Many people moved away to forget their misery and the town grew silent and joyless. No cheerful laughter or delighted squeals of children ever enlivened the near empty streets. No visitors came to this gloomy town, not even the hooligans who could find nothing doing in this, the saddest of locations. The playground stood deserted, the tennis courts were overgrown with weeds and the climbing frame had fallen apart. Sometimes a hopeful movement in the bushes was only revealed to be a solitary dog as he searched the shadowy greenery for his playmates. A stiff breeze through the chains of the swings sometimes brought a jingling, chiming sound rather like an ice cream van to the Councillor’s ears, but maybe it was just his imagination he thought…

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Lazy Sunday

Housework don’t shirk
No fun get it done
Don’t fuss just dust
Change sheets press pleats
Boost power clean Shower

What’s for lunch no hunch
Bowl of soup give a whoop
Vac floor oil door
Iron shirts mend skirt
Clean sink wouldn’t think

Of going out as gutters spout
Wind and rain what a pain
Take a look rather read a book
What can you say
Let’s leave it to another day

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Lunar New Year’s Eve

 

Chinese New Year’s Eve is the day before the Lunar New Year. Celebrating Chinese New Year’s Eve has always been a family matter in China,a most important reunion day for every Chinese family. It has evolved over a long period of time. The origin of Chinese New Year’s Eve can be traced back to 3500 years ago and originated in the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046 BC), when Chinese held sacrificial ceremonies in honour of gods and ancestors at the end of each year. Then in the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256 BC), the phrase “Nian (Year)”appeared certain cultural practices became popular among Chinese such as honoring the door god, and burning bamboo.

Gathering
In most parts of China, especially in south, people are used to having grand family banquets to celebrate New Year’s Eve which is known as “Happy gathering”. Since it is the last meal of the year, the family members must sit together to enjoy the delicious traditional dishes and everybody in the family is allowed and encouraged to drink. After the grand family banquet, all family members sit together around the fireplace, chatting, singing, laughing or playing cards and stay up late to the dawn of next morning.

Burning bamboo and firecrackers
There’s an ancient myth that a devil lived in the western mountains and people would fall ill if they come across it, but this devil is afraid of the sound of bamboo. So Chinese will burn bamboo to make the sound and it’ll keep the devil out of their house on New Year’s Eve. Nowadays, Chinese people like to burn firecrackers instead of bamboo on Chinese New Year’s Eve not just for keeping the devil out, but also for having fun.

Send in the Kitchen God
The kitchen god is regarded as the ambassador of the Jade Emperor to each Chinese family. It is said that at midnight on Chinese New Year’s Eve, the kitchen god from each family would go to heaven to report the family’s deeds during the year. On lunar new year, the kitchen god returns to earth and each family welcomes him by pasting a new picture of him in the kitchen.

Welcoming the Door God
On Chinese New Year’s Eve, each family would invite the door god by pasting its picture on the front door as a talisman to forbid any devil to enter the family. The most popular door gods are Zhong kui, Qin shubao and Yu chigong in different area of China.

Peach wood
Traditional Chinese would make a bow of peach wood to guard the door and exorcise the devil that caused plagues. A custom which dates back to the Qin Dynasty. The entrance-guarding god was closely related to festivals and peach wood was regarded as having a supernatural force with which ghosts could be driven away.

Traditional foods for Chinese New Year’s Eve
The family reunion dinner is crucial to Chinese culture. The New Year’s Eve feast allows all the family to sit together. Some of the most popular dishes are:

Spring Rolls
Spring rolls are a traditional dish in East China. It is a Cantonese dish made of thin dough rolls filled with vegetables, meat, or something sweet, then fried to give them a golden-yellow.

Dumplings
In north China, dumplings are a traditional food on New Year’s Eve, while in southern China very few people serve dumplings as Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner. Minced meat (pork, shrimp, chicken, beef.etc.) and vegetables are wrapped in the elastic dough skin. Boiling, steaming, frying are the most common ways to cook these dumplings.

Glutinous Rice Cake
Glutinous Rice Cake is called “Nian Gao” in mandarin. The sound of Nian Gao has a good meaning, suggesting ‘getting better year by year’. It is made of sticky rice, sugar, chestnuts, lotus leaves, and is a common dish in southern Lunar New Year Eve reunion dinners.

Good Fortune Fruit
Tangerines, oranges and pomelos are fruits that have traditionally been eaten at this feast. It’s believed that eating these particular fruits then can bring good fortune as they have a round shape, golden colour which symbolise fullness and wealth.

Longevity Noodles
These noodles represent Chinese’s wish for longevity. The length and preparation of longevity noodles are symbolic of the eater’s life, and are longer than normal noodles. They’re usually fried or boiled and served in a bowl.

Money gifts and Money trees
Children are given money gifts on lunar New Year’s Eve. Adults usually put money in a red pocket and hide it under their children’s pillows. In ancient time, Chinese money was the round copper coins with a square hole in the middle. These would be threaded with colourful ribbons to make the shape of a dragon and then put beside their children’s beds while the children were asleep. A custom which is very similar to Christmas gifts in the west.

The Money tree is a legendary tree which will shed coins when shaken. On New Year’s Eve, Chinese will cut some pine branches and put them in vase, then tie on copper coins, shoe-shaped gold or silver and pomegranate flowers to decorate the tree.

Good Luck
It’s considered especially good luck to wear red on Chinese New Year.

Taboos
After Chinese New Year’s Eve, all cleaning tools such as brooms, brushes, dusters must be put away as they believe that if they do sweep or dust on New Year’s Day, the good fortune will disappear.

Cooking should also be finished by the end of New Year’s Eve and knives put away. It’s believed that using a knife on lunar New Year’s Eve will cut off all the good luck and fortune for the upcoming year.

Hold on to your hat – 2020 is the Chinese Year of the Rat

Chinese New Year’s Eve
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

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Winter HAIKU

 

Wind whipped crisp skies

Landscape sculpted cool shadows

Pale sun’s warm offer

 

 

 

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Wunderkind

…or Lost Ambitions ?

Far too late for me
Too late for me to be ?
For me to be a Wunderkind
It’s too late now, I see

But is it yet too late to BE ?
For me it’s not, I’ll just be ME
An ageing child Prodigy
If Prodigy can ageing be?

That shall be the aim for me.
A person of talent and unusual powers
I’ll hold them wrapt for hours and hours
Yes that’s the thing for me

I have ambitions, wait and see

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No Change

No Change

Shifting trucks as bundled workers
Trundle loads to delivery bays
Open warehouse doors absorbing,
Devouring product for days and days
Vast deliveries for hungry shelves.
Crowds of shoppers, mass consuming
Thinking only of themselves
Stacks of food, warm clothes and goods,
All manner of exotic foods.

Christmas windows dazzling gems
Bargains of expensive items.
Spending frenzy, bling and glitter
Just ignore the human litter
Rushing past the huddled doorways
Piled with cardboard and old duvets
Hopeless, chilling isolation
Sleeping, bagged in their cocoons,
Winter dark in the afternoons

Nothing to look forward to
Lonely dreary drink filled haze
Cast off heaps in darkened doorways
Eke out endless long, cold days
As wet leaves cling to shoe and path
Wishing for a good hot bath.
‘Any change’ is what they say
But stark, blank faces move,
Embarrassed on their way.

Dear friends, in the aftermath of the wet and dismal weather… spare a thought (and a contribution,) for all the homeless folk who are sleeping on our streets.

www.crisis.org.uk

and

https://www.justgiving.com/theclocktowersanctuary

Who help homeless young people this Christmas

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Message in a Bottle…

Thank you dear friends for all the fun
The coffee and cakes and the welcome sun
The good times and all the merry laughter
And everything good that followed after

The long discussions and the chatter
Of all those things that really matter
For your support when troubles loomed
And comfort when one just felt doomed

For free advice when it was needed
Especially so when it was heeded
The outings, parties and the lunches
The local gossip and dubious hunches

All of this we hungrily devoured
For months and years for many an hour
But while absorbed in these happy tasks
There’s a simple question I have to ask…

Why does my wine group always insist –
(Or is there something I have missed,
Despite the literary themes and hooks)
…On spending time to talk about books?

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HAIKU

 

Autumn’s decadence

Season’s shadow dancing days

Apples litter gardens

 

Hedgehogs curl away

While insects worm in windfalls

In rustling corners

 

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Shipwreck

She battled through enormous seas
Storms nearly brought her to her knees
But she sailed on to our delight
And every time she won the fight

But the weather turned, the skies were black
The lightning flared and thunder wracked
And now she’s out there all alone
In the roiling waves and heaving foam

On dangerous rocks she’s run aground
And the breaking up of the timbers sound
Through heartless winds and ferocious skies
Like a wounded beast’s last battered cries

Helplessly we stand and watch
As she falls apart on the relentless rocks
That ship that brought such joy and pleasure
The cruelest loss of a peerless treasure

We who saw her struggle to survive
Are truly honoured now to be alive
And thankful for the memories we retain
Of precious times we shall not see again…

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