Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It costs a bomb . . .

May I share a caption that I read recently, 'This car might be a rocket,' it said, 'but it costs a bomb.'

Have you noticed how frequently we use that expression?
"It costs a bomb . . . " we say, either as a term of approval, or as one of regret.  The only certainty being that all weaponry is extremely expensive.

At any other time those words might have made little impact.  But, with the recent Arms Fair in London, together with the current outbursts of violence throughout the world, it echoed in my mind.

It also made me wonder whether those words would imply that, in economic terms, the only real beneficiaries at times of conflict are the arms manufacturers, the so-called defence industry?

For that is the irony of the terminology we use, the arms industry is always spoken of as being that of 'defence'.  Surely, if the arms were only intended for defence, and never for attack, the manufacturers would have limited opportunities for repeat sales?  As it is, their continuing profits form an important part of the economy.

Could it be, as many suspect, that bullets produced, side-by-side, on the same production line are frequently being fired at each other from opposing sides of the same battle-field . . . ?

War is costly . . . did you know that the Taliban fighters are having to curb their attacks after the cost of explosive devices quadrupled in the
past year?
Did you know that insurgents building lethal booby traps now pay up to £500 for each bomb?

The world of economics finds me floundering.  I find it hard to understand my own finances, let alone the complexities of national or international economics.  But even for me a few facts are painfully clear.

It costs a bomb to send humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees.
It costs a bomb to maintain the hospitals on the front-line and to care for the injured and dying.
It costs a bomb to destroy stockpiles of chemical warfare.

In Syria, despite prodigious use of costly weaponry, the outcome is stalemate.  All that's been achieved is mass evacuation, death and destruction.

What if we were we to surrender our faith in weaponry, lay aside our fears and, following the guidance of The Movement for the Abolition of War, invest in peace, trust and collaboration?
There's no doubt it would cost a bomb, if only in terms of converting missiles into surgical instruments, and turning tanks into combine harvesters.

But surely that would be one bomb whose resounding impact and subsequent fall-out would be universally beneficial . . . ?

Monday, September 16, 2013

A spider's view

I'm tempted to say nothing in this letter.  I'm tempted to keep silent and let the spiders speak for themselves.
After all, no words of mine could possibly enhance the beauty of these autumnal webs, particularly when they're speckled with raindrops.

But, even if these photos impress you, believe me, my best efforts at photography have failed to convey just how breath-takingly beautiful the garden looked yesterday.
Imagine the sun's rays sparkling on those droplets . .  imagine each web stirring slightly in the morning air . . . imagine the birdsong in the background . . . I'm sure you get the picture.

There must have been at least twenty webs in the perimeter of the pond and no two were even similar, far less identical.
Each spider had created an unique masterpiece.

Perhaps, in the mind of a spider, the intricacy and novelty of the design is an additional factor in attracting flies . . . who knows.  Who can attempt to know what's in the mind of a spider.

That being said, there's one thing I do know with certainty . . . for the spiders who wove those webs the concept of photography would be impossible to grasp.
No spider, intent on ensnaring the greatest number of unwary flies for breakfast, could fathom the purpose of a camera.

As for the idea that an image of its web could be sent through cyberspace . . . that unknown humans in unknown locations might, at some future date, be admiring both itself and its handiwork . . . ?
As any rightly sceptical spider would scoff, "Tell me another!"

Unlikely as it may sound, I find this rather absurd thought strangely reassuring.  After all, aren't we, in a way, rather like those spiders?

We can create the most amazing technological marvels . . . explore outer space . . . find ways of defeating disease and extending life . . . but our understanding also has its limits.

Do we know what life is?  Do we know what time is?
Can I say with any certainty where I was . . . what I was . . . or even if I was . . . before this lifetime?

The spiders who wove those webs are industrious, creative and patient (although doubtless some are more industrious, creative and patient than others), but, as a species, they're totally unable to comprehend that humans view their fly-traps as works of art . . . works of art, what's more, that can be photographed and shared.

What this line of thought opens up is not a sense of ignorance, but one of gratitude for undreamed-of possibilities.

If there's so much beyond the wit and wisdom of a spider . . . just what might be waiting in the wings to startle and amaze me?

After all, no caterpillar could possibly have envisaged such a colourful future . . .

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

One for the road . . .

Tell me, do you feel threatened by the modern car?
Is it me, or are they daily becoming larger, heavier and more aggressive?
Beautiful . . . ?  Maybe . . . but it's a brutal form of beauty.  High off the road, their windows darkened, projected bumpers threatening any invasion of their space, they dominate the highway and evoke fear rather than admiration.

Why the darkened windows . . . why the need for self-protection.  Why this desire to be seen as a threat rather than as a collaborative, fellow road-user?  Large cars were once a source of admiration.  True, they might have evoked envy, but never wariness or fear.  And, whereas the high-powered, modern car is almost invariably a sombre black, the resplendent cars of earlier times were gloriously flamboyant.

Am I right in thinking that modern cars share much in common with modern gated-communites . . .  a link primarily displayed by a sense of mutual, wary self-protection?  They are not an integral component of their neighbourhood, instead they shroud their passengers in obscurity and hurry past, en route to the safety of a protected home and a secure garage.  These cars don't speak of families, or picnics, or outings to the sea . . . they don't communicate anything other than their insistence on protection and exclusion.

Beauty, it's said, lies in the eye of the beholder.  So could it be that I'm at fault . . . I'm blind to what the modern car has to offer?

Perhaps, but I could also be strongly influenced by my travelling companion.  Why should Chloe, who loves nothing more than communication and admiration, want to be lifted way above the ground and hidden behind the shrouded obscurity of dark glass?  It's her enjoyment to look out, examine all that she's speeding past, whilst attracting as many admiring glances as she can from the passers-by.

A modern car . . . ?  No, thank you!  Our ancient, unassuming, old-fashioned model suits us both perfectly!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Not falling, but waving . . .

Hello, it's Chloe here.

Forgive me for butting my nose in, but I rather suspect that my Mum is planning to tell you a story all about me.  Call me mistrustful if you like, but  I wanted to make sure that you got the true facts.
Well, you'd want the true facts, wouldn't you?
My Mum, although a devoted slave in almost every way, can get a little confused when reporting a simple incident . . . particularly if the simple incident relates to me.

Take this idea of hers that I was chasing a squirrel up the fence.  Pure imagination, not an ounce of truth in it!  I've far better things to do than to chase squirrels.

True, when they jabber at me so rudely from the branches overhead I am inclined to reply.  But I do so very politely.  I just tell them, in best Bengali, that I think they're grey-furred scumbags.  In no way does this mean that I'd deign to chase them.

So, I wasn't chasing that squirrel the other day . . . I was just casually climbing the fence in order to examine the perch where the squirrel had been sitting.
Was there anything up there that I ought to know about?  It's always wise to find out.
You never know where you are with those scurrilous squirrels . . .  believe me,  I knew exactly what I was doing.

True, the fence was a little steeper than I'd anticipated . . . but, so long as you don't look down, there's no limit to how high an athletic and determined cat can go.

It was then that my Mum distracted me by taking out her camera.
Not the kindest thing to do.  No self-respecting young lady likes to think of her rear end, however beautiful, being featured prominently in a photo.

But, nothing daunted, I continued to climb and, as you can see, successfully reached the top of the fence.

This is the moment when, in my Mum's version of the story, I looked down and lost my nerve.


True, I looked down . . . but just to give an airy wave of the paw . . . and also to make sure that not all the photos were concentrating on my backside.

True, it looked a long way back down to the path . . . but, if my Mum tells you that I was stuck, that I called out to her to catch me, and then dropped down into her outstretched arms  . . . don't you believe a word of it!

It's a sad fact of life, but I'm afraid some Mums do love to exaggerate their own importance!

As for that squirrel, the one who caused all the trouble in the first place . . .  it's not that I mind what squirrels think, far from it, but I do rather hope that he wasn't watching . . . grey-furred scum-bag!