Things Ain’t What They Used To Be

We aren’t what we used to be either as we grow older, but manufacturers don’t take this into consideration. I strongly suspect in an attempt to make certain things childproof they are inadvertently stopping the elderly use these things. For instance, matches and lighters. My mother, a smoker all her life, can no longer use cigaret lighters because they are now made too difficult for her weak thumbs to operate. So we went over to matches, but these too are made so that the striker on the edge of the box wears out long before the matches do. The ‘Ship’ matches sold by most newsagents are absolutely useless. If you can still get them (few shops stock them) ‘Swan Vestas’ are better, since the striker doesn’t wear out so quickly. Cooks’ matches by Bryant and May and others also have the ‘Ship’ style strikers of dots, still called ‘safety matches’, but the strikers are not nearly as effective and long-lasting as the continuous brown striker on the old matchboxes by Bryant and May and others.

Caps of jars are also made almost impossible to open by elderly people. I bought an implement for opening these, which was marvelous till nearly all the manufacturers changed the design of their lids, making them curved at the edges, so the implement will not longer grip them properly. We usually have to pierce the lids in order to let in the air in order to open them.

Sachets of tomato sauce, salad cream, vinegar, mustard, not to mention condoms and lube are also very difficult to open for a lot of elderly people with a weak grip.

As to the food itself, salt I’m sure is deliberately mixed with something else to dilute it. You now need 10 times as much salt in cooking and from a salt cellar to even be able to taste it. The same with teabags, unless you manage to buy the ‘extra strong’ variety you might as well be drinking a cup of hot water.

It’s not that we have lost our taste buds, other foods still taste the same. I suspect it is because the experts say salt is bad for you, and the taste for herbal teas has made strong Indian tea less popular, but elderly people still like it.

Vegetables and fruit. When did you last see gooseberries in the greengrocers or greengrocery department of the supermarkets? When did all these strange trendy vegetables come in which many old people don’t like? Sweetcorn, courgettes, etc. And with the traditional green vegetables like spring greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, runner beans, etc. nearly always undercooked so they are crisp? Because it is more healthy? Old people like these boiled for about 20 minutes until soft. And who started this mania for carrots? Served up with sweetcorn or in mixed veg as the trendy vegetable nowadays. My mother and I spend ages picking out all the carrots and sweetcorn from mixed veg. Carrots are OK for flavoring stews and soups, but on their own – ugh!

Red meat is nearly always overcooked in cafes and restaurants nowadays, even in Carveries who ought to know better. Lamb and beef should be served pink. Overcook them and you might as well be eating boiled rag.

Light bulbs used to give sufficient illumination, now they have these ecology-friendly ones which take ages to give decent light, and which, despite the claim to last about a decade, rarely last more than a few months. I’ve gone back to traditional bulbs.

And don’t even mention the railways, buses, the mail, post offices and utility companies, which before privatization run much more smoothly, with no pressure to change supplier and confusing fare/price differences. Surely it makes sense for these organizations which use national grids and networks to all be run by the State or publicly owned monopolies?

Probably I’m just dismissed as another grumpy old man who thinks everything was better in the old days. It wasn’t, but some things were.




I’m sorry, but I fear I’m becoming rather xenophobic. While I’m a firm supporter of the EU and would renounce my British citizenship in favor of EU citizenship were we to have a federal United States of Europe, I’m fed up to the back teeth with foreigners from outside Europe who either don’t speak English while living in the country, or only speak very bad pigeon English, or who impose their alien cultures on us. Also all these foreigners from the Indian sub-continent who keep ringing me with surveys and other cold-calling. I’m afraid as soon as I hear that accent asking to speak to me I hang up.

Examples of the pigeon English I’ve heard or read recently include a few years ago when I still had a film camera, took the film in to be developed at my local chemist and the foreign girl behind the counter said: ‘Velop? What is velop?’

Then there was the Muslim woman who rang me at my mother’s place and said: ‘Police! Open up! Police! Open up!’ It was, in fact, supposed to be a plea to open up the Residents’ Association Clubroom, though it wasn’t my turn on the rota to do so that day. She couldn’t pronouce ‘please’ so it came out as ‘Police!’ She didn’t seem to know any other English.

Then the note from one of my mother’s carers the other day which read: ‘mummy oat hot hot finish’ which by the empty packet of Porage Oats on the table I gather meant her breakfast cereal had run out. It is worrying though should an emergency occur while one of these foreign carers was present. What would she do? Probably ring someone and say: ‘Police! Mummy down down floor!’ or something equally confusing.

On ‘Countryfile’ the other day when I was in a local pub I saw a piece on Hal-Al and Kosher food, and a discussion on whether religious ritual slaughtering should be banned in this country because of animal welfare regulations. Apparently a number of European countries have banned it. I would not go that far, but I do think Hal-Al and Kosher slaughterhouses and retail outlets should be strictly limited. The situation should not be allowed to exist where, for example, in my borough of London you are hard pressed to find any non-Hal-Al takeaway or butcher. One high road in my borough has many butchers’ shops, every one Hal-Al. My immediate area has two only, both Hal-Al. All the local take-aways are Hal-Al. All the local shops are run by Asians, and all except Tesco Express (also run by Asians) don’t stock English pies of any description.

The local State schools are all over 95% ethnic. White pupils apparently nearly all go to private schools. I saw on Facebook yesterday that some schools in the country are banning pork and only serving Hal-Al meat for school dinners. This is fair enough if it is an Islamic school, but State schools should all have a mix of pupils and ethnics should NOT be allowed to be in the majority. In America they adopted the policy of bussing pupils to different schools so there was an mix and no one racial group dominated any particular school.

I don’t consider myself particularly xenophobic, after all my father was Greek-Cypriot. But people who come to live in this country should learn to speak the language properly, and respect our local culture. Having said that, neither my father not many of my Greek-Cypriot relations who have lived here for decades ever learnt to speak English properly because they mix with Greek-Cypriots, read Greek-Cypriot newspapers and now watch Greek-Cypriot TV via satellite. It is just as bad with Britons who go to live in Spain and read English newspapers, watch British TV on satellite, demand a full English breakfast at local cafes and never learn to speak Spanish, Catalan, etc.

Respect the country you are living in, and learn to speak the language properly. That’s not too much to ask surely?

Crisis in the Ukraine and elsewhere

The current crisis in the Ukraine is basically caused by the fact that two different peoples/cultures exist in that country. Similar to Ireland, Cyprus and Palestine/Israel.

To avoid civil war there should be an immediate peace conference to sort out a solution. The Russian-speakers in the East of the country want closer links with the Russian Federation, while the Ukrainian speakers in the West of the country want closer links with the European Union. The only logical solution would seem to be to split the country, with Kiev as the capital of Western Ukraine, and Kharkov as capital of Eastern Ukraine. Western Ukraine would apply to join the EU, while Eastern Ukraine would join the Russian Federation.

Feelings are so strong that while protestors in the Western half of the country ousted the previous President who wanted closer links with Russia, those in the East went so far as to wave Russian flags and protect a statue of Lenin.

One cannot help thinking there was none of this trouble when the USSR existed. Fifteen Soviet Socialist republics lived together peacefully in friendship under Socialism with a common goal of one day achieving Communism. It may well have developed from the legacy of the Tsarist Empire, and the Baltic states were forced to join after the Second World War when the Red Army liberated them from Fascism, but, as in former Yugoslavia, the various republics lived together in friendship and peace.

Some would say the price of democracy and freedom to demonstrate is this sort of uprising, though by all accounts there was little democracy in the Ukraine.

On a broader scale, while all countries have the right to independence, and this includes parts of countries which consider themselves separate, all countries need to come together in larger federations and ultimately there needs to be a global confederation under the auspices of the UN, with a permanent UN international security force replacing national military forces.

Take, for example, the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence. I am all for it for two main reasons: I oppose the replacement of the obscene and illegal Trident nuclear-armed submarine system which is currently based in Faslane near Glasgow. I hope Scottish independence would mean the Trident base is kicked out of Scotland, which would effectively kill off Britain’s so-called independent nuclear deterrent, which is neither independent nor a deterrent. Secondly, as a republican, I am against the Monarchy and therefore any United Kingdom. I would be for a proper federation with state legislatures in each member country, not the mess we have at the moment.

I would therefore be in favor of England, Scotland, Wales and a united Ireland becoming members of a federal European Union, rather like the United States of America.

Federations only work if the individual member states reflect the local culture and have equal devolved state legislatures, whatever their size. This means places like Cornwall, the Isle of Wight, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, the Basque Country, Catalonia, etc. must, if they opt for independence and then apply to join an EU federation, be given equal status to countries like England, Spain or Germany within the United States of Europe.

As to the Ukraine, a split of the country into two separate states seems inevitable as a long-term solution, probably as member states of the Russian Federation and the EU respectively.