2014-04-09 Long expedition ahead

Long expedition ahead

It's Monday 7 April and just two days before I set off for Sweden and the UK for a total of two months, two trips to both countries.

We've had some significant evening storms in recent days, though my village has been spared the major damage from hail and wind that some places nearby have suffered. My house has heavy, cement tiles, but many local homes have only corrugated cement sheeting that won't resist fierce winds or big hail. The rain has been very welcome for clearing the air, suppressing dust and freshening up the countryside.

Rotten TV News

I'm sick and tired of the BBC and CNN. With a few noble exceptions, reporters these days seem incapable of uttering s single sentence with starting with, 'Well,' and them umming erring their way through stumbling ideas; newscasters throw their hands about as if they were doing some kind of weird aerobics, and any number larger than one has to be vocally inflated to the realms of incredulity and marvel. There are more than a few newsreaders (especially on the BBC) who don't appear to have much of a brain. This evening both channels have abandoned the world and are broadcasting every last miserable detail of the Oscar Pistorius trial from the courtroom: who cares about Oscar Pistorius? We've had hundreds of hours of this wretched soap opera in the last months at the expense of serious news about a world that is, more or less, falling apart. He's an interesting - maybe unique - man going through a personal tragedy, but he's not in the least important to anything much that matters to a suffering world-wide audience.

And this mysterious Malaysia Airlines MH370: do we really need hundreds of hours of hearing how no-one's discovered anything and endless absurd speculation about issues for which there is not the slightest shred of evidence yet? It's all intriguing and absorbing (and, of course, dreadful for the families), but five minutes an hour would be more than enough.

Shouldn't the supposedly great new channels be feeding us with more substantial stuff than this? And don't get me started on 'after the break' and all those thousands of repeated trailers and ads and irritating promotional jingles. We're given nothing but an intermittent pale soup with little nourishment and frequent unholy portions of irritating, repetitive crap.

Rant over.

While I was away teaching in the south, my hotel offered the English language Russian TV service (RT) as one of the channels in the package. It was quite stunning to hear about the world according to a Russian perspective, especially during the Crimea crisis. Same places, same events, but, oh my! what a radically different view of it all, and a profoundly uncomfortable one: was the Western narrative nearer the truth than the RT one? They were irreconcilable and, consequently, deeply unsettling. The same was true about most of the news stories (MH370 included). There was mercifully nothing, as far as I remember, about Oscar Pistorius.

Oxford cottage prospects

I'd been looking on hotel sites for a place to stay while I was in Oxford on my trips during the next two months. I was a bit shocked at the prices for even quite modest hotels and B&Bs (at least GBP100 per night in most cases). Then I went to the Oxford City site where they had 'holiday lets' and the like. After a few enquiries, I found a lovely three-bedroomed cottage under the walls of Worcester College. After minor haggling, the owner and I agreed on a price for my ten day stay at the end of April. I suddenly realised just how preferable independent living and self-catering were in a temporary location when you weren't going to work every day. And I can entertain and put up friends, if there are any free and thinking about a night in Oxford.

The owner gave me a couple of contacts with friends of hers who might just have property available for the longer term, so the hunt for a home in the UK is on again! My friend and his retirement home purchase project haven't delivered any new opportunities yet.

Youngsters in my life

Ui, my part-time foster-son, seemed quite distressed at the prospect of my being away for two months. It's nothing to do with his finances (we handle all those by bank transfer), so I guess he's just going to miss me. He hung around for some time yesterday before he gathered himself up and said goodbye. (He's now fifteen kilos lighter than he was a year ago, something that he (and I) am very proud of.)

A flock of very small village boys (including Ui's nephew), all about four years old, have taken to invading my premises rather often during these school holidays. They come to wander, open-mouthed, round the house, struggle to set new records on my exercise bicycle and queue up for cookies and plastic cups of Coke and water. I occasionally give them pencils and paper and they settle down for a few minutes of juvenile art. A couple of them came about five times yesterday while I was working quite seriously, and, in the end, I had to shut the front gate and shoo them off.

Leaving tonight

It's now Wednesday, and I fly to Sweden this evening. I looked up the weather and found that today the temperature in Stockholm was plus three degrees, but 'feels like' minus two. So I have to travel in my light tropical clothes (it's well into the 30s here and in Bangkok) and have my winter togs ready to snatch out of my luggage when I arrive in Stockholm. I thought I was going to Europe for spring, bloody hell.