Saturday, 23 March 2013

Would You Eat Your Cat?

I recently read this book by Jeremy Strangroom which appears to be an odd choice for a devoted cat worshipper such as myself but becomes a little less mystifying when you know the sub title -Key ethical conundrums, and what they tell you about yourself.

This is not a book review although I do recommend it if you fancy a few mind benders before bedtime - the questions posed in this book can really mess with your head if you think about them hard enough. What I learnt about myself is that I am not the outright utilitarian I had always considered myself to be and as I get older some questions become a fuzzy grey colour whilst others stand out in stark and uncompromising black and white. This would be easy to deal with if there was a formula I was following but I seem to have different answers for very similar questions and many of them just don't have a yes/no answer. I found many of the questions very satisfying food for thought despite not finding any easy solutions to the problems presented.

The most disquieting section for me was Crime and Punishment where at first glance the questions appear very straight forward, even silly, such as 'Should we punish the innocent?' and 'Can worse ever be judged morally better?' but as I was encouraged to examine the various situations more deeply I found myself getting sucked into a way of thinking that was not normal for me and I lost myself in the twists and turns of ethics for the modern world which I smugly decided was stretching my intellect and making me a more informed person. It wasn't until I had finished the book that I realised there were, of course, alternatives to my clever clogs theory and it was entirely possible I was either very easily lead and with enough effort I could be persuaded to believe anything with a plausible sounding argument behind it or I was once again guilty of one of my persistent failings - overthinking everything. I still haven't made up my mind on most of the questions but I certainly know where I stand on 'Would you eat your cat'?

At first glance I assumed (I know I shouldn't but it was kind of hard not to) this was a eat your cat or starve to death scenario because, quite honestly I couldn't imagine any other reason for eating your cat although I doubt a common moggy would keep starvation at bay for long. The premise however turned out to be much odder than that and one I couldn't envision anyone I know considering. In this question a woman loved her cat unconditionally and was completely devoted to him, the relationship sounded almost like a lover to me but I guess if the cat was your lover the question 'Would you eat your cat?' would be a whole lot easier to answer. The woman had made a decision some time before that when the cat died she would eat him so that he would be a part of her forever (I told you it was weird). The answer to this question for me was a no brainer - no, I would not eat my cat under these circumstances, but that is too easy because the question really been asked was - do you approve of the woman eating her cat in these circumstances?

I think the knee jerk reaction for most people would be 'of course she shouldn't eat her cat - she is one sick kitty to even think about it' and I wholeheartedly agree but really the ethical dilemma is this - is this woman morally wrong to eat her cat so they can be joined as one forever and while I still hold onto the idea that we need some mental health professionals in this story I can't actually see any moral issues with the poor grief stricken woman with no friends eating her faithful companion so they may live together as one entity. It is certainly eccentric but I can't be convinced it is fundamentally immoral. Those of us who eat meat cannot really consider the eating of an animal as wrong without declaring our own actions morally corrupt. I concede most of us don't usually bring pets into the family with the intention of eating them but is it really any different to a farmer eating animals he has raised from birth for the table?

This lead my tired brain down another path which as a life long meat eater I am morally obliged to wander. When is it not ok to eat an animal? If I could cope with someone eating their pet where would I draw the line? Interesting question and while I am still exploring the answer I think the line in the sand is a long way off for me as the only circumstances I can think of that would prohibit me from eating an animal is the state of the animals population and future security. I would not, for instance, eat a tiger or a tuatara but if I was hungry enough any animal that isn't endangered is up for grabs providing they have been humanely dispatched. Having said that I know I have been guilty of eating meat that has not been slaughtered to the humane standards we have in this country but for my host country the method used to slaughter the beast was normal practice and they were very proud to offer the animal to us, their guests. In that situation I have already broken one of my own rules - does this make me flexible and culturally adaptable or do I have flimsy and brittle morals?

Our western culture is very narrow minded in the food resources it utilises compared with many other countries around the world and we have the luxury of turning our noses up at eating a dog or rat or guinea pig finding the notion unpalatable either due to the 'yuk factor' or the 'cute factor' depending on the species. Those Kiwis who have travelled in countries dominated by non western cultures are likely to respect the host's culture and tradition but only try the unfamiliar as a novelty rather than a viable long term menu option. How many travellers return from South America and set up a backyard guinea pig farm because they miss roast cavy - not a lot, although it is very easy to implement and could save money to help pay for the next overseas adventure.

All of this round about thinking has really led me to one conclusion which I have known all along so I could have saved myself an awful lot of bother - I will eat (almost) anything.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Caspule Wardrobe

I have a lot of kind and generous friends and family and they give me clothes, lots and lots of clothes which I am very grateful for. Some of these people are mere acquaintances and in some instances the connection between the kind hearted donor and me is very tenuous indeed. I never say no though - I am a junk whore and will accept almost any rejected item. I like to think of this as recycling but it is really just my inner treasure hunter looking for it's next fix.

Usually I really enjoy being the local drop off for the unwanted and past it - I love the sorting and finding but there comes a time when these new additions must be put somewhere. My catch all 'somewhere' is a pile of shopping bags plonked either in my bedroom on in the spare shower
(don't say anything, I know that's a little strange but strange is normal in our house and I bet the same goes for your place too). At some point the clothes migrate into my drawers and wardrobe and get used, all good so far.

This system came to a crashing halt recently with the delivery of a much appreciated small bag of sartorial goodies. As there were only a few items I decided to skip the store and wait step and put them straight into service whereupon I discovered a catastrophe - they wouldn't fit! The problem would not be solved with just a quick tidy and refold, I needed a hard core clothes cull - all you hoarders out there will know how that freaked me out. Sorting, categorising, folding, selecting and placing are all comforting activities, getting rid of stuff - any kind of stuff is not. Getting rid is incredibly satisfying after the event and you see rediscovered corners that can now be covered in new junk but the process itself is gruelling. You know that as soon as an item has left the property and is forever irretrievable the event, occasion or use it was specifically made for will become apparent and you no longer have it - this situation is a major stress inducer to be avoided at all costs.

So what to do about drawers breaking under the strain, wardrobes doors jammed open, hooking clothes hangers onto even more hangers and only being able to reach 3 outfits without pulling the whole house of clothes down on myself? There comes a point when rearranging and putting a pile of clean clothes into the wash to create more space won't work anymore so the teeth gritting moment had arrived - I had to face the fact I had too much stuff and some of it had to go.

I am no stranger to the clothes cull, I have done a great many of them and they all end up with the same result - less stuff to hand but not necessarily in an efficient way so I decided on a new approach. The capsule wardrobe, the small collection of clothes that always appears in the womens magazines around holiday time that will take you from a glittering dinner at the captains table to an impromptu tryst in the scented gardens with the porter (I have yet to find any outfit that has directly led to an impromptu tryst in any circumstances but I am aiming to include it my version of the capsule wardrobe). The idea behind the capsule wardrobe is everything must go with a least 3 other garments so you can pretty much look ok by choosing items at random which is my preferred method if getting dressed before 10am when my brain actually begins to function. The capsule wardrobe should also be small as it is designed to fit into expensive dainty luggage designed for 'the country retreat' or the 'winter sun break' and here is where I had the advantage over the holiday packers - I am very unlikely to be attending either destination and I can therefore add a few extras without straining my not so dainty clothing receptacles.

With the capsule wardrobe principles understood I set about making it so. Once all my clothing was laid out around the bedroom I really saw the scale of the issue for the first time and this lead to a panic attack - if I kept only a capsule wardrobe that would mean getting rid of so many items I would probably have to be hospitalised with the trauma and separation anxiety so did I need to abandon my brilliant idea in favour of something a little more obsession friendly? I really didn't want to give up on my new wardrobe makeover so with a little creative thinking my mentally healthy self came to a compromise with my mentally a-little-skewiff self and it was of course a complete epiphany. just because I had a capsule wardrobe didn't mean I had to get rid of the rest of my clothes; I just had to remove them from the bedroom! Viola, problem solved. This fantastic idea made the selection process of the capsule wardrobe so easy and not at all stressful because I knew this seasons rejects were just going away temporarily and could be retrieved at any time.

So anything that didn't fit and couldn't be a part of at least 3 outfits has been spirited away and I can now shut all doors and drawers and actually see all available options without getting the torch to see what has fallen down the back of the dresser. The whole process left me feeling empowered and floaty instead of the usual stressed self doubt, in fact I felt so good I even ironed some cotton and linen items (a rare occurrence) and mended 2 items (a never happened before occurrence).

So despite the crys of  'cheater'  from the back row (who listens to ther kids anyway?) I feel the capsule wardrobe idea was a complete success. No stress, maximum efficiency, virtous feelings and a very workable capsule wardrobe in my room while the rest of my clothes have a little r&r  - a capsule wardrobe break if you will. Of course knowing they are stashed in the kids playroom and can be picked through at a moments notice settles my often over taxed brain and the kids don't need all that space anyway - I just had a big clear out of their stuff.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Junk Whore

I am a junk whore - I accept all manner of discarded and exiled items from friends, family, friends of family, family of friends of friends, well anyone really. My house is a junk magnet as I am a junk lover (please note this does not mean I am rubbish in bed - I am in fact as fabulous between the sheets as everywhere else). My husband thinks I am a bag lady and it is true I have many, many bags full of what used to be other peoples stuff but I am slowly converting him and while he is not yet a bag lad he is certainly warming to his new role of repurposer extraordinaire and showing a real talent for scavenging or as our family calls it - treasure hunting.

Treasure hunting in it's various forms is one of our favourite family activities - beachcombing, second hand shops and friends homes. This of course works best with the friends who can afford new things and therefore want to get rid of excess items. Unfortunately this also severely limits the number of items we find at close friends homes as one of the reasons we are so close is our common bond of thriftiness which is just a trendy way of saying we are all poor and anything we might have to offer each other is likely to be broken (by the kids), worn out, obsolete or just plain ugly.

The kids also love collecting treasure from the gutters on the way to school, they find all manner of interesting and vital objects such as broken pens, junk food containers, empty lighters, wires and broken electronics which does raise questions about what goes on in our neighbourhood after dark. I am not so keen on this type of treasure hunting as I then have to keep said treasure in my handbag all day only to present them with a flourish after school with a smug indulgent motherliness only to be told - "oh yeah, I realised at school I can't use that stuff now so it is really just rubbish". On the upside we are slowly clearing the local streets but on the downside we are using up our rubbish bags at an embarrassing rate.

The recent trend for repurposing, upcycling, restyling, rehoming or what ever new fangled name you want to give it has spawned a new genre of reality tv. I am not a huge reality tv fan but mix together some treasure hunters, creative visionaries, practical sorts, design genii (I have always wanted to use that word) and I get very excited, sad but true. I do find it a little disconcerting though when the retrieved junk sometimes ends up as cutting edge furniture and fittings and are then sold on to the rich eco chic who believe they are saving the planet one purchase at a time. The good news is they are being totally ripped off so they must feel even more virtuous and us poor people who really are saving the planet because we can't afford to buy new things can get a good laugh at their expense. This slightly tarnishes my mother earth image but what the hell - I know you are thinking the same thing, well maybe you're not in which case you win the mother earth award.

While I embrace the current fashion for making new items from forgotten gems and hope the world discovers the joy of modern treasure hunting I know trends come and go. When the fashions slaves turn their heads to the next eco trend I will still be out there treasure hunting because I am a junk whore, always have been and always will be. 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Linoleum Room by Katie Robinson.

I like this book, I did find it a little disorientating at times but I think that was the intention and I rolled with it. another reason I have a fondness for the book is because although the setting was never given a name I live in the same area and I knew the locations described - it felt like a little secret I shared with the author. Of course this won't apply to most readers but it made it special for me.

I was quite proud of myself reading through to the end (which was well worth the journey) as at times I found it disquieting and thought the story was going very wonky. If you want a story with a little bite and more than a little weirdness this is a winner - definitely not your average and I really like that.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Casual Vacancy by J.K Rowling

Not often is a novel published with such fanfare and because of that I was determined to keep away from it until the rumpus had died down but it was lent to me and I felt the need to see what all the hoopla was about. I admit having a slight preconception about J.K Rowling as I attempted reading the first Harry Potter book and abandoned it after only a few pages as I found the writing style not to my taste but I was keen to give The Casual Vacancy a go. I found this to be a real page turner and had to keep the book out of the bedroom as I tended to stay awake all night reading, I'm not sure why I felt like that as there are a lot of things I don't like about this book.

I don't want to be negative but I'm afraid I have to be if I am going to give an honest appraisal. What I don't like about The Casual Vacancy - stereotypical characters (I think this was on purpose but it feels indolent to me), overuse of clever and pretty language (story always comes first and this one could be have been told in half the time) and the ending (rushed, unconvincing and loose ends all wrapped up quickly in direct contrast to the bulk of the book which felt - I don't know really - odd, strange, jarring?

What I do like about The Casual Vacancy - I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened to the characters, in short it sucked me in. Would I recommend it? On balance no - this is a long book and I don't feel the satisfaction gained was enough to warrant the time spent on it.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Keeping On Top Of Things

I know the jobs I should 'keep on top of' but why do they have to be all the things I don't like doing? I am always advised (by the people who are not doing them) to 'keep on top of' the following -

Dusting, weeding, ironing, cleaning the oven, clearing the clutter, sorting out the pantry, clearing out the unmentionables at the back of the fridge, vacuuming, sweeping and various other annoying chores.

I am not a fastidious housekeeper, no one will ever put on my gravestone 'she kept a spotless home' and I don't care. Don't get me wrong, I love a clean and tidy home but I don't enjoy doing it. I love the results when I do get motivated however they last but a moment and then motivation deserts me.

There are plenty of enjoyable items on my to do list that I am good at 'keeping on top of' -

Reading, hugging my kids, catching up with friends, talking to my family, cuddling the cats, eating, watching the sun go down, feeling the wind in my face, swimming, listening to music and many more............I think I'll stick with 'keeping on top' of those instead. 

Friday, 1 March 2013

Book Reviews For Busy People

I love books, I read quite a few of them and like discussing them, I also like reading book reviews. I have looked around a few blogs looking for ideas of books to read and I am stunned at how many people post book reviews on their blogs. This is a good thing of course, intelligent people offering their opinions about books they have read to other intelligent people looking for reading inspiration.
However I found for the most part the books are categorised by genre (logical I admit but sometimes logic isn't what's required) and often the book reviews themselves are dauntingly long, almost a book in themselves! No doubt these are well considered and have taken a lot of time and effort to produce but all I have is one question - is this book worth the time spent reading it?

Most people living in our modern world are busy - families, work, commitments, clubs, hobbies etc all take a piece out of days and often large irretrievable chunks. I am not looking for an essay covering plot, tone, character development, themes and the like no matter how learned and passionate they are.

With this mind I decided to review and rate books in a different way although there are only a few on the list as yet I will add to it as time goes by. There are two reasons for the limited list - I have never kept a reading log so have only just started it and also I start a lot of books which, for various reasons I don't finish and I therefore cannot give an accurate opinion of them.

My book listings differ from the norm in two ways - I don't categorise them by genre but by the feelings they provoke in me. I will not write literary essays or include spoilers but the review will be independent, honest and sometimes highly personal opinions from an experienced reader.

The books I read are also unlikely to be new releases, I buy very few books and most of my reading material is picked up from my local library. I also don't pay for reserving the latest offerings - I am what you might call a frugal reader, some may call it something less fashionable. Therefore you will find oldies but goodies mixed in with some newer fare and the odd non fiction.

I will be posting book reviews haphazardly as the mood strikes me but in the meantime you can find my reading log listed in my own category system under the books tab.