Refugees & Lip Fillers

I wanted to call this post ‘Our world is f*cked’ but then several people who know me would find this type of language offensive and besides, it’s not in my usual style to use expletives in my writing. However, this world really IS f*cked. This isn’t about the effects of climate change nor about our war on waste, it’s about the unfairness and the madness of it all.

Earlier this week, Chief and I watched a BBC documentary presented by Simon Reeve. Simon, former journalist now presenter, travels to Burma and Bangladesh. He meets the locals and we learn of the country’s long and troubled history. He also visits the northern area of Rakhine, the state where the Rohingya Muslim minority reside.

Summing up the long and complicated history of Burma; a series of Anglo-Burmese wars, led to British colonial rule which came to an end with the country’s independence in 1948. Since then, the country has been ruled by the military in various guises, and in the process has become one of the least developed nations in the world. It was the military who decided to change the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar, overnight.

Today the Rohingya people have become one of the most persecuted minorities on earth and you can find out why here. In the last two years more than 723,000 Rohingya people have been driven across the border into Bangladesh, seeking refuge from violence, torture and rape.

Simon Reeve visited Kutupalong Camp, the refugee settlement which has grown to become the largest of its kind in the world, with more than 600,000 people living in an area of just 13 square kilometres. The vast majority reaching Bangladesh are women and children, and more than 40 per cent are under age 12. Many others are elderly people requiring additional aid and protection. They have nothing and need everything. (excerpt from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees website)

The terrors inflicted on the Rohingya people are captured in one confronting scene in the documentary, when a young boy speaking to Reeve is visibly frightened of the video camera, having confused it for a gun. “It was a deeply upsetting journey to undertake,” says Reeve. “A beautiful country, but the story of what’s happened there is horrifying.”

It was incredibly moving to hear the personal stories of the people Reeve met, especially the children who have nothing and have never known any different, except that now they are in relative safety. It really brought home to me just how fortunate I am to have been dealt such a great and fortunate hand in life. Why was I chosen to live the privileged life I lead and not one of persecution, violence and poverty?

© UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

And now let me bring you back into our crazy western society; a couple of days after watching the documentary, I was ordering my morning coffee and I struck up my usual chit-chat with the familiar barista behind the counter. She was just recovering from having her lips injected with filler. I tried to offer her sympathy, but I had no words. I even tried to demonstrate some empathy – at least I should be able to appreciate what she had gone through in order to make her lips look – look, well, fishy couldn’t I? The young girl had also had injections under her eyes because she was fed up with having grey circles under them – she’s in her mid-20s. I looked at the other girls behind the counter wondering if any of them were thinking what I was thinking but I realised one of them had also had her lips plumped and one had eyelash extensions – eyelash extensions – f*ck me!

Photo by Guido Fuà on Unsplash

I couldn’t help but wonder what the Rohingya women in the refugee camp would have made of this. If Simon Reeve had told them that in western society women were having their lips injected with fillers to make themselves look like fish, and eyelash extensions to make themselves look – ridiculous, they wouldn’t have believed him. If he explained to them that women who live a more fortunate life are never satisfied, that they have so much self-doubt and self-loathing that they can’t accept themselves for who they are anymore, they would think us all totally cuckoo and this is what’s so totally f*cked!

Allison Joyce/UNFPA

At least the people in the refugee camp now have access to clean drinking water and latrines plus several health and nutrition units across the site. Also 50,000 basic shelters have been constructed out of bamboo, rope and tarpaulines. Unfortunately because many refugees arriving from Myanmar have not been vaccinated, diphtheria and other diseases such as cholera, hepatitis E and measles pose a high risk. To top it all, the camp sits in an area prone to flooding and landslides during the monsoon season.

© UNHCR/Adam Dea

The refugee women would be living from day to day, caring for their children, keeping them safe and trying to prevent them from catching diseases – the last thing on their mind would be lip-plumping and eyelash extensions.

It’s a crazy world in which we live in for sure.

(Information from UNHCR)

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Lens-Artists Challenge #56

The theme for this week’s lens-artist challenge is Seascapes and/or Lakeshores. I’ve dipped into my favourite shots of Brighton Beach in South Australia – taken some time ago now, my son and friends playing on their skimmer boards in the evening sun. I love the action in it.

Brighton SA

This photo is also Brighton Beach shot on a different evening after a sweltering day of heat. The water was as calm as a mill pond.

Brighton South Australia

Falling from Grace

When does “I fell over” become “I had a fall”?

When you’re well into your seventies? When you reach adulthood? Is it the difference between young and old?

I pondered this question after announcing to my fellow co-workers last Friday morning that I had fallen over the evening before. After their initial concern and sympathy, one of them announced “you’ve had a fall dear!” To which we all had a laugh but it got me thinking. Falling over is all about grazed knees and running home in tears as a child or overpaid footballers faking a tackle, whereas having a fall conjures up zimmer frames and walking sticks.

I’d just finished a follow-up physio appointment – not far from home – no more than a ten minute walk. I needed to pick up some provisions for dinner and I stood on the pavement umming and ahing as to whether to go home and pick the car up first. I decided no, don’t be so lazy, and turned in the opposite direction towards the supermarket. I was mindful that I had to lug everything home but by the time I had gone through the check-out I realised I had two heavy bags of groceries – that’s ok, I am a gym user after-all!

By this time it was nearly 6 o’clock and practically dark. In some places, the pavements aren’t well lit, but that’s okay – eyes down and pay attention to where you are walking, right? I passed a man walking his two aged huskies. We exchanged pleasantries and carried on in opposite directions. I must have looked up to check my way, just at the precise moment the pavement dropped down a couple of centimetres. My foot went over and so did the rest of me. I came to a stop with my head resting on the pavement – fortunately my body had soaked up the impact before my head did. I must have landed on my right hand because that was hurting and so too was my right knee.

The man walking his dogs was heading back towards me, just as I was scraping myself off the pavement and checking the shopping for damage. I had a vision of his dogs bounding up to me and licking me to make sure I was okay but they were so old they just stood there panting at me. The man asked if I was okay and would I like a hand home with the shopping? The dogs gave me a ‘don’t you dare’ look – ‘we just want to go home’. No, I was fine, thank you very much – just a bruised pride. I’m only around the corner, thanks anyway. The dogs looked relieved and turned towards their home before the man did.

I gathered myself up and limped the rest of the way home. To my surprise Chief was already home and waiting for me, so we could shop for dinner. Idiot Luce! He is so rarely home before me that I hadn’t even thought to call him to see if he could come and collect me and the shopping. Mobile phones can be a really useful tool sometimes (note to self).

The damage? A bruised and grazed right knee and a swollen right hand inbetween two of the knuckles. I don’t think there are any broken bones but I’m not sure what’s causing the swelling as there is no bruising.

So there you have it. Did I fall over or have a fall? I certainly didn’t require the assistance of a zimmer frame or stick to get back on my feet, nor the arm of a stranger. I definitely fell over but who knows how long it will be before I have my first fall. I’m off to write to the council.

Focus on the focus

Focus on the focus

Thanks to Debbie Stott for the inspiration to post these photos; I was inspired by her Kew Gardens in Patterns.

Considering we have just entered Winter here in Brisbane, some days I just have to pinch myself; Winter in the sub-tropics does not compare to the chilly months I was used to in Adelaide nor the freezing months and months endured in the UK. And just to prove it, last Sunday was a glorious sunny 24 °C. By the end of this week we’ll be seeing 27 °C but that’s beside the point.

I decided to take my camera for a walk in Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mount Coot-tha. Although it was early, the car park was already chockers but parking carma was on my side and a free space was waiting for me.

A couple of Saturdays previously, I had joined the Brisbane Photography Group for a casual meet up in Roma Street Parkland. The topic was taking shots at different angles but the lovely facilitator, Evelyn, was only too happy to have a one-on-one with me to ‘sort my focussing out’. And all I have to do now is practise and that was my priority last Sunday. So without further ado, here’s the pick of my faves. My number one is the water droplets on the leaf. How is my focus doing?

Special Places

Special Places

I’ve recently returned from a three-week trip back to the mother country. It’s been two years since my last trip and that was for when Dad was awarded his MBE and, by special invitation, we made the journey to Buckingham Palace. Here’s a little reminder of that (sorry for the poor quality of the photo – it was taken through the picture frame)

Dad and Charlie Boy

I spent the majority of my three weeks staying in Suffolk with mum and dad. We did quite a lot of walking – in bluebell woods, coppice woods, along an old railway line – now a walking track and along the river to see a bevy of swans. During the middle week, Mum and Dad accompanied me on a road trip to Somerset – home to cider, cheddar cheese and the Glastonbury Music Festival. This part of the country was my home for eighteen years.

Bluebells

Mum and Dad moved down to Somerset after my brother died and I followed suit not long after. We felt a sense of connection to the happy times we’d all spent down there on our family holidays.

We lived on the Quantock Hills – designated in 1956 as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and comprising ancient woodland, heath and agricultural land. Our cottage was just a little further up the lane from Alfoxton House where poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy lived for a short time. Another claim to fame for the Quantocks is that Bryan Adams filmed the video for (Everything I do) I Do It for You, there.

Our family holidays were spent on Exmoor, a National Park of moorlands, valleys and woodland; of red deer and Exmoor ponies and clotted cream teas. Of Minehead, an old shabby seaside town with its pier and amusements, and “Kiss Me Quick” hats and candy floss. As kids we played in the not so crystal clear waters at the beach and lost our pocket money to the one-armed-bandits in the amusement arcade on the pier – Ah! the memories!

And so it seemed fitting that my brother’s ashes were scattered at our special place on Exmoor (no, not Minehead pier!) I hadn’t visited our special place for some time and felt the need to go. It was a damp day but as we parked up just below Dunkery Beacon and donned our wet-weather gear, the rain stopped and the sun tried hard to break through the clouds – Paul was watching over us for sure.

It’s been 34 years since Paul died and our special place has not changed at all in that time. It gives me a sense of calm and peace. It’s a wonderful place to reflect and to remember. I draw comfort knowing it will remain that way for ever and a day and that when I next visit, it will still be untouched and will remain timeless.

Flying High

Flying High

In exactly two weeks time I will be flying high above earth as I make my way to the UK for a three-week visit. I’m a little nervous about the flight – not because I have a fear of flying (shouldn’t it be a fear of crashing?) but because I hope I can keep myself together and not embarrass myself like last time. It was after my week in the UK two years ago, when I made a special visit to attend Buckingham Palace with my Dad. I was just one hour away from Brisbane after a long, long flight plus four hours stopover in Singapore. The cabin crew were trying to stuff another meal down us just in case we’d worked up an appetite from doing absolutely nothing for the last couple of hours. I wasn’t feeling too flash so I disturbed my seat buddy so I could get to the toilets. The next moment I was teetering on the edge of the abyss of horizontal sleep; it was a glorious sensation and I just wanted to stay there. The only problem was, it wasn’t sleep – I’d passed out as I made my way down the aisle – in front of a row of Japanese schoolboys. Oh! the embarrassment! I came to with my legs up on a hostie’s lap and realised my head was cradled in the lap of another one. A male passenger was striding over me as he tried to pass. I must have held up the queue! Couldn’t I just please stay there for the rest of the flight? My head was on a comfy pillow and I was finally horizontal – it was bliss! The hostesses knew my name by this stage and were helping me to sit up. They helped me into a jump seat which meant I was facing the passengers – Beam me up Scotty!

An orange juice put me right and although the lovely crew offered me a wheelchair exit, I decided I was well enough to disembark with the other passengers.

So, that was me, and then there was Dad who was taken ill on their flight home from Australia last October. Following a three week stint in a Dubai hospital and three stents later, he was well enough to fly home.

Flying is a risky business and this time I will do all in my power to remain healthy – and conscious; flight socks, no alcohol (do you think?), and not being tempted to eat every meal going. I can’t help the sleep situation as I’ll be travelling cattle-class but I’ll have a travel pillow and might investigate some natural sleep remedies to help out.

What do you swear by to stay healthy on a longhaul flight? Do you take knock-out drugs? Drink yourself into a stuper? Are you one of these annoying people who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat and sleep for 12 hours straight? I’d love to know your tips.