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The Italian Man Shares His Views on the UK

25 Nov

Earlier this evening I popped into a new local eaterie managed by an Iranian.
There was only one other person there, an elderly gentleman who told me who was from Italy.
We engaged in conversation. Or rather, the Italian man spoke, and i listened.

He told me he had a passion for food, had worked in the catering trade for many years and had travelled the world. He shared his views about the food on offer in the UK:

“People in this country don’t know what they are eating. They don’t want to pay for quality food. The high streets are full of kebabs, fish and chips for less than £5. Everything is catered for the students, with lots of offers and discounts. They eat any shit and either are sick or have dysentery. Now, these students always want cheap food. But they go to university. For what? To become doctors, professors, or whatever and earn a high salary. Now, when they qualify, do they consider discounts for the people they serve? NO! They want to save money and earn money!
So they want cheap food but don’t accept the food offered is also coming from a business!”

This led to a diatribe and he expressed his feelings about how people in the UK don’t take care of the food they eat and the quality of service. He said the craze for buffets was shit! and embarrassing. He asked why people are avarice for copious amounts of food for as cheap as possible. It’s not like how soldiers are fed to build up strength, stamina, energy and physicality and one or two chefs could cook for 6 – 700 soldiers and churn out anything! He said soldiers are given boosters to help develop immunity ( he claimed he was a soldier when younger) and ordinary people should look at what they are consuming and order quality food.
He discussed competitve rates offered in the UK e.g. £2 -5 for a pizza and how this type of competition would not be tolerated in the rest of Europe. If a restaurant in Europe or Italy offered a meal at £80 and a place down the road offered one pizza at £2, the business which offered the cheaper pizza would be razed to the ground. That’s not a way to run businesses!
He said he couldn’t understand how one of the richest countries in the world (UK) would have people wanting the cheapest food from eateries.
This led him to talk about “dirty people” and how Italians would not tolerate unclean or smelly individuals or apartments. He said one phonecall and the police would have them out!

He continued about the beggars and homeless people in the city of Birmingham and said within 10 mins of being in the city, he was accosted 5 times by beggars. He said if they are begging or homeless, they’d be better off robbing a bank or something bigger and going to prison. Why? he asked, because that way, they’d be fed, sheltered, warm, go to the gym, gain access to courses and gain skills. He said they have more support from professionals than if they were to continue begging or sleeping rough on the cold streets.

He continued that hard core criminals should be beheaded. He said when someone kills many, why should there be campaigns to provide clemency to the perpetrators and allow them to live ? The one perp can live for many years, but many have lost their lives through his actions…

He then talked about immigration and said the Italian government try to help a million asylum seekers from all over the world. He said when passengers pay over £5k to travel in a small dinghy over choppy seas with babies and children in cramped conditions, how do they eat and go to the toilet ? He said human trafficking is really bad and cruel.
He added that in Sicily, there’s hardly any Italian speakers left and more languages spoken from other countries. He said he almost forgets he’s in Italy when he goes home.

At which point, after listening to the Italian for 30 mins, i collected my belongings, bade my farewell, and left the premises.

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We’re not in Iran

2 Oct
We’re not in Iran
You can’t put me in a burka
I am not your slave
I am not your servant
You are not my God
I am not your wife
I am not your mother.
I am your girlfriend.

Today a man will look
It doesn’t matter if you’re in a hijab, a burka or a burkini
Today a man will look
It doesn’t matter if you’re in a niqab, a habit or a bikini
Today a man will look
It doesn’t matter if you’re in a maxi, evening gown or a mini
Today a man will look
It doesn’t matter if you’re in a T shirt, jeans or a sari
Today a man will look
And look and look and look
It doesn’t matter.
He looks
Today a man will look and look and look and look.
Look look look.
Objectify and look.
Look look look
Objectify.

The beats of the drum

24 Jul

As I spoke to my friends’ sister-in-law, I could hear the beats of a tabla ( a percussion instrument) being played in the background. It evoked strong memories of my mother, who used to play at numerous social gatherings, dinner parties, weddings and Mehndi nights. “Oh, Mrs ——! Why don’t you play?”  “Please Mrs —–, sing for us! Play the tabla!” The women would plead, implore and encourage mum by placing a spoon in her hand and pressing her clenched hand onto the table.  Mum would react with some reluctance at first, displaying modesty and humility. But the beats of the drum would easily sway mum to become absorbed in the sound of the music. Meditative, delightful and passionate. Sometimes, you would hear laughter. Other times, tears. But overall, a joyous occasion shared by women.

Photo: commissioned for a 40th wedding anniversary

Dad didn’t quite have the same “musicality” as mum . He did however, have a strong sense of verse and poetry. He would be sitting in another room, surrounded by men, his peers, long term friends and new acquaintances.   His reputation surpassed his knowledge. People would invite him to recite poetry, “ghazals” and verse, write articles, poems and provide awards, receive rewards of recognition and accomplishments. His words, strong and emotive, would reverberate around the room, halls and amongst the crowds. The tone of his voice resonated, the audience murmuring assent, applauding the sound of words, spoken with aplomb.

However, I chose to ignore, didn’t understand…

But now I cry, soft tears roll down my cheeks, memories strong for the love of my parents I long…

Love is like...

 

Respect for Elders

19 Jul

 

At the same occasion of the House blessing, something else was highlighted to me – that being, no matter how old we are, we still seem to bow down to the commands, requests and directives of our elders.

This feeling was compounded by my Sikh friend, aged 44 and a teacher at a Secondary/High school. He invited me into his home, I accepted. We were or are 2 people with common interests, independence and our own family units.

So, he called me in. He offered me a seat, which I accepted as I had already explained the physical symptoms of my back pain. But just when I was about to open the folding chair which was proffered, his older brother made an accusatory remark and commented that I should sit on the floor as a mark of respect to the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Holy Scripture) and to the others who were present, sitting cross legged on the floor. I was embarrassed and without further ado, I complied to the bidding of the elder. I sat on the floor, albeit in an uneasy and uncomfortable fashion.

 

Afterwards, my friend asked : “When my brother asked you to sit down, did you feel like a child?”

“Yes”, I replied.

“I’m sorry,” he said “I felt so embarrassed for you. My brother does that to people.”

 

We agreed that it wasn’t so much his brothers approach , but the attitude or response we provided in return. Even though I’m 44, it’s only now, in the last 3 years that I’ve attempted to speak my mind, be outspoken and assertive towards my own siblings. I keep telling them that I;m not 12 or 126 anymore. I have my own life, issues and challenges to face without being treated further like a child.

My friend and I conceded that the relationships and boundaries we have with our own Elders is a challenge in itself and a cultural attitude which needs to be addressed and the cycle broken.

 

A Single Blessing

5 Jul

2014-06-25_19.13.36

I was invited to a housewarming party by a Sikh acquaintance. Well, actually, he’s not an “acquaintance”. He’s an old school friend but after our college years, we went our separate ways. We rekindled our friendship several years ago after bumping into each other on the street.

But I digress…The housewarming was really a low key event, and can only be described as a “blessing”. The holy Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib was placed on a low bookstand and we sat around it whilst verses were recited, chanted and absorbed.

It was embarrassing for me as I couldn’t understand the spoken word or even its meaning. I heard several words here and there that just about provide me with the general gist of the reading: it seemed that the recitations were about “bringing harmony, sweetness and peace” to the loves of those who live within and for those who visited the home.

Although I couldn’t understand, my spirits were lifted and felt a sense of belonging.

For all of 30 minutes, it offered up an opportunity to relax, meditate and reflect on past events. For me, not only was it a “blessing” for the house, but a blessing just to be invited to the occasion.

 

The Learned Kat

Watching The World

28 Sep

 

 

Antiques 1

 

I am

watching the world screaming the headlines

masses tweeting tweets

chattering classes

nattering faces on books for fools

ogling not Googling on Youtube channels

dirty faces needing a towel

needles thrown dirty in The Channel

Syrian wars and Nairobi crimes

child pornography & criminal minds

pension prizes leaves no surprises

Council binmen could hire the Hitmen

drugs of white lines

MPs drawing time & expensive red wine

schools closing

children suffering

Fashion followers & football swallowing millions

to kick a ball

Doctors doctoring, nurses bellowing

stop the Aged taking falls

diet debating & pie stuffed faces

can’t bend down to tie our laces

energy supplies higher, internet usage slower

& still we are fixed to our screens.

Animals are dying, fish no longer diving &

still we think we are Green.

Big Brother watching,

Sat Navs are not matching routes and the

Rulers rule on.

People keep living

Miley Cyrus keeps twerking

& The World stops still for no-one.

Death is defying

Life is denying

& the Lives of Loved Ones have gone.

The Headlines are crying

The World is dying

& yet we fight to live on

With What?

Rep 3

The Learned Kat

Syria & The Playstation Generation

27 Mar

It’s snowing. It has been snowing everyday since last Friday and we are fed up and cold. Fed up with the fact that the cold penetrates through the walls and no matter what we do, no matter how high we set the temperature on the thermostat or combination boiler, the chill remains and we worry about the utility bills and how much it will cost to keep the heating on as the prices are spiralling out of control and the vulnerable and elderly are left to fend for themselves…The roads are icy and only the other day, my other half slipped and fell onto his side. There are people slipping and sliding everywhere and some are even literally snowed under or in their own houses. There have been reports of several deaths and some communities losing power supplies for several days…The Met Office reports that the cold snap and Siberian type weather maybe here until mid-April.

In Birmingham alone, 100 schools closed down due to the inclement weather and many stores have either closed due to lack of staff or slashing prices due to lack of sales. Many people have reported that they are not able to get into work due to their cars not being able to start, trains running late, flu or a number of other excuses or reasons. Valid or not, I’m not sure… I know I sympathise with those communities who are stranded up North or on several isles of the UK. The rest just seems petty. The snow in the City is not that deep. Maybe about 10cm or just above the ankle. But it seems as if life comes to a standstill…

Rock star and former hell raiser Rod Stewart (not that I’m a fan of his) was being interviewed last Friday on The Breakfast News by Charlie Stayt. Rod was asked about  a story in which it was reported that he had a swimming pool filled with blancmange and $100 bills thrown in so that his daughter and her friends could dive in to retrieve the money. Of course, Rod dismissed the story as newspaper fodder, stating that his children are brought up properly: ” to work hard and are allowed a small allowance”. He said children today “know the price of everything and value nothing!”

How right he is, I thought.

As it happens, the next day I spoke to  —–, a mother and business woman of two daughters.  She was attempting to scrub clean the stains off a pair of UGG boots, which cost £200. They belonged to her 16 year old daughter but unbeknownst to her, her 21 year old sister had borrowed them, walked in the snow, and had accidentally damaged the worth of the boots. There ensued a horrendous row and arguments apparently. So mum ended up cleaning the boots because if the perpetrator ( the older sibling) of the whole saga was to do it herself, “she would not do it properly”. “You’re spoiling the kids.” I said. “That’s what parents do” she replied. And carried on brushing and buffing the boots.

We are breeding a “I want” culture and there are many services and marketing brands out there that caters to these demands. LoveFilm , for example. caters for Games Consoles such as Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Smart Televisions, Blu-Ray Players, Tablets like Kindle and iPad and other devices such as PC, and set top box. When I was a child or even in my teen years, having one an item like the ZX Spectrum within the home, never mind the bedroom, was deemed to be a luxury. Today, children want them all. If not in the bedroom, in the lounge or kitchen or on their mobile.

The Playstation Generation would rather VIEW their lives away rather than DO.

In complete contrast, The Channel 4 News on Monday 25 March at 7pm ran a news story on Syria. I have to admit I am somewhat ignorant about Syria, its histories and conflicts, the current crisis. But I do know that the story which it covered had a deeply disturbing and profound effect on me. It formed part of a short series of films by German filmmaker Marcel Mettelzefan. The news reporter, Jon Snow, provided the introduction and  verbal warning to say that the item contained distressing images.

No matter what was going on around them, the young children and teenagers continued their lives as normal as possible. They didn’t whine, complain or show signs of fatigue. They didn’t WANT anything. Didn’t want anything but peace and the war to stop.

I saw children, young adults and older men pull dead, bloated bodies out of the river. Women crying and children playing in the debris and the remains of an exploded bomb…

I saw innocent young children talk as if they were mature beyond their years, boys as young as 11 wipe away the blood stains of a wounded adult. I heard a child say that when he first saw the blood running, he was scared and frightened but afterwards, he saw the blood “like running water”.

I saw a brave little boy lying dead on a table, his face contorted with shock and pain.

As I said before, The Playstation Generation would rather VIEW their lives away rather than DO.

The Learned Kat

View :  Aleppo: a city abandoned by the world? on link.brightcove.com