International Women’s Day

International_Womens_Day_2015It’s always been hard to be a woman. In the past and in any place in the world. Things got better in some places. And not in others. It took a lot of women and a lot of sacrifice over a long time. But, I’m not going to write about it here. Instead, I’ll write about what I know and what’s in my heart.

I was a girl born on the in SFRJ. A girl/woman on the Balkans. Looking back, I don’t think female offspring was appreciated as much as it should have been. Now, I realise the same is still true in many parts of the world today.

On the 8th March we did little handmade cards at school as children for our mothers or grandmothers and were taught to show our love for the crucial women in our lives. It’s a really nice thing to do as a kid. It’s a good attempt to teach children about the role and position of women in history, and also how we should treat our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, etc. It would have been great if that idea had a better footing in the society as a whole.

I was often called a boy, because of my short hair and trousers. When my mother was a young girl, she had been told that red lipstick and red nail polish were for only suitable for prostitutes.

When a woman applied for a job, she was asked if she was married, how old she was and if she had any children. Because she’ll need time off for maternity leave, and then more sick leave for her child. If a young woman was offering child-minding services, it was often thought she would be game for anything else required.

When young women or teenage girls complained that adult males twice their age in positions of ‘power’; (teachers, vicars, psychologists, etc.); behaved inappropriately (to say the least) – they were told that it was normal. Often, no support was offered best slimming pills. The word that should have been used is commonplace, not normal. It was also normal that a young good-looking woman would often be patronised or flirted with by a bored male employee of a shop or a bus company. It was also very normal that a woman would be asked by the priest in a confession if she was using contraception while having sex with her boyfriend/ husband.

It was also normal to ask any teenage and young woman if she has a boyfriend and, if not, what she’s waiting for? And if she didn’t have a boyfriend yet, then something must clearly be wrong with her. Something must be wrong with her if she’d rather read books, not cake tonnes of slap on her face and not follow fashion blindly. Surely, something must be wrong with that (young) woman, because her role in life is to get married, have children before she is 25 years old. Because, women’s only role in life is to get married and have children. I write this with heavy sarcasm. What about their wishes, their talents, their passions, their interests, etc?

In some parts of the world women’s rights are better than they have been in the past. Or should I say haven’t been, as mainly they were non- existent. Yet, despite this, there were and are women who have set examples to their daughters, sons and husbands, that it’s not OK to be treated like this. They have succeeded despite all the obstacles, and have followed their dreams. They have turned those NOs into a lot of moving ONs. They bravely faced the odds stacked against them and pursued their dreams. These women have become successful in their careers and become role models for younger generations.

One thing has become clear to me:  education is the way out. The way out for every woman. When I say education, not just the education of self, in schools and universities, but for our own futures, and that of our daughters, we should educate the world to give women their rightful place in society. Because, otherwise, nothing will change and people will still not know or think any differently.

Happy International Women’s Day!

A Cup(ful) of Loving

Heart-brooch
This lovely heart brooch was made by Angela Cuthill at artysmarty

It was Valentine’s Day yesterday. The hearts, cards, chocolates and everything else for Him and Her has been in the shops’ windows for ages, since early January. The red hearts and roses and everything else is screaming at you from shop shelves, ads on TV and radio; special books and films coming out, CDs or singles being released, etc. It’s all coming out of your ears, there’s SO much of it, absolutely everywhere and you can’t escape it! Or maybe you don’t mind at all. You not only don’t want to escape it, you also can’t wait for another excuse to buy your loved one some flowers or chocolate or have a whole Valentine weekend. I wish you happy Valentine’s Day for yesterday and I hope you had a lovely and happy day (evening and night included) and that you are still enjoying a lovely Valentine weekend with your loved one(s).

I say it only today, a day later, because Husband and I have been disgustingly busy and haven’t had a moment free to ourselves. So we spent our Valentine’s Day travelling on a train home very tired and grumpy, but still very loving to each other. Then we zombied out on the sofa with loads of tea, a mind numbing book and telly.

But being overwhelmingly busy doesn’t mean we didn’t appreciate each other or express our love and gratitude for each other. I told him in advance not to get me anything or do anything special because I wanted to protest against all this retail and money spending circus (just my grumpy opinion – you don’t have to share it). And I told him not to expect anything on the day slimming products. The day before or after is fine, just not on the actual Valentine’s Day. Why? Well, because I think we should express our loving feelings to our loved ones anytime and any day and not on demand and when we’re told to by retail or radio or TV or advertising companies.

So I do just that whenever I feel like it. And so does the Husband. A random card, or loving words or flowers or chocolates/biscuits or whatever it occurs to either of us, or something small and insignificant act of loving for each other. And then it’s a wonderful surprise. And it’s treasured just as much, if not more.

Having said all that, we both apologised to each other for not getting anything for one another. He bought a little box of heart shaped biscuits and I bought a silly little card for him. So much for not being part of the Valentine ‘madness’ crowd!Cupf-of-Loving

And now that there’s still some of the Valentine’s weekend left, I’ll go and spend it with him.

How did you spend the Valentine’s Day and the weekend? Do you have little rituals or random things you do throughout the rest of the year and then ‘protest’ on the day?

Happy Valentine’s for yesterday and what’s left of the Valentine’s weekend!

This ‘n’ That in the New Year

UNION-JACKIEThe New Year of 2015 is now well on the way and so many things have already happened. I planned a little post about my Great British Christmas, as Valentina has asked for the details. If anyone else wants to read about it, from a Balkan point of view let me know and I’ll happily oblige, even though that theme is (a bit) passé now.

I hope you all had a good break and spent the holiday time with your loved ones. And that there were no ‘big explosions’ (somebody’s glass usually gets overfull around that time when the family are gathered).

It was getting rather overwhelming before and after Christmas and also immediately after the New Year, so I decided to take a break from social media, lay low for a while and gather my thoughts (no, I wasn’t wool-gathering!).

I have been following some Balkan blogs over the past two years. Some of them are beauty and lifestyle blogs and some are different; more of a … venting kind. Where bloggers vent their feelings about the everlasting sorry state of Croatian/Balkan lifestyle in a perpetually bad economy. One could say that I’m looking back to my roots…

As Nigel Farage is now in the UK Parliament (Thanet Constituency in Kent) and vocal about his views, I started thinking about the fact that I am an immigrant myself. Then Charlie Hebdo events reminded me that I grew up in a time when freedom of speech was unheard of in our part of the world. And that that still might be the case. So I decided to write a bit about the UK from my ‘immigrant’ point of view.

Because there are plenty of great people here and in other countries who are also immigrants for one reason or another. We started new lives in our new ‘abodes’ and we contribute to our new country. I love the UK and this is where I feel at home. I want to write about why I love it here, from the point of view of somebody who’s grown up in the Balkans (might as well be Mars).

Do you know an immigrant? Are you one?

Black Friday

colourful-bags I don’t think the UK had a Black Friday before 2013. I asked The Husband where the name Black Friday comes from. He said it must have something to do with accounts and banks: if the state of the account is good, black ink is used; and debt is typically written in red ink. Of course, it means retailers’ accounts, not consumers’ accounts. Then I googled it, and discovered it has something to do with Philly cops during the 1950s and 1960s and the problems they were facing with pedestrian and vehicle traffic on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Today’s start was a ‘cheerful’ one for me by hearing the ‘surprising’ (not!) news on the radio about the shopping disasters around the country. Mustn’t miss the 6 o’clock news tonight: what fun, I thought, to watch shopping madness and ‘rioting’ around the country from the comfort of my own living room!

The word ‘black followed by a name of a day sounds a bit dark and pessimistic to me. Especially if I think about shopping. Am I the only one who feels like this? Shopping and I have a love-hate relationship dating back to my ‘socialist’ childhood. I remember seeing newsworthy queues in front of small local food shops before they opened. My older cousin and I would queue for milk and bread in one shop. Our granny for something else in a second shop, and my mum and uncle for yet other essentials in a third shop.Roblox Robux Hack 2017

I remember standing in one queue for bread and my cousin (3 years my senior) in another queue for milk. When my queue came half-way towards the bread counter, a nice lady standing behind me suggested I go ahead and ask if they ran out the bread I needed to buy, so I wouldn’t waste my time and stand in the queue for nothing and she would save my place in the queue. Off I went, only to be told off by a very scary and unpleasant (to a little girl) ‘older’ man not to be trying to jump the queue because he wasn’t born yesterday and how dare I even think about trying such tricks! I got rather scared and got back to my place in front of the nice lady who was very cross with the ‘bully’ man, but decided not to do anything about it because things could have become ugly. What a character-building experience!

My cousin came back from her queue and waited with me because I must have looked rather frightened, so her protective instincts squashed the ‘beat up the younger annoying sister/cousin’ instincts momentarily (because siblings with that age difference always fight at least until they are well into their teens). The bread we wanted was sold out, so we went into a third queue to pay. For a usually ‘obnoxious’ older cousin, she was really nice that day (or at least for that part of the day!).

shopping-bags-and-legsI somehow can’t see myself queuing for a flat screen TV or whatever else at stupid o’clock and then stampeding around, or being stampeded over, just to get a bargain. I think if I did that, I’d turn into a very ugly shopping monster flattening whomever happened to be in my way. Don’t come between The Bitch and her bargains, or else!!! I know I’d get like that, and that would take any joy out of shopping for me and anyone who is with me, or anyone who happens to have the misfortune to cross my path. I like my shopping experience to be a treat and not a battle for life and death. I taught myself to shop differently and remove any stresses I could from shopping. And I am not judging those who do.

I’ll go bargain hunting throughout the whole year to try to avoid any sales stresses, monsters and stampedes. I usually find the best bargains when I least expect it and sometimes in surprising places. We try to only replace things if they’re broken or well past their ‘best-by’ date (I don’t mean food!). Husband puts it very nicely by saying that the sales are days when things are more realistically priced. I think he’s right.

If you like your Black Friday and other sales, make sure you’re fit, well padded, mentally and physically prepared and that your peripheral vision is 20:20. Maybe footwear with steel-capped toes and a helmet, too. And a mini First Aid kit just in case. Luckily not all sales are as bad or newsworthy.

I’ll be writing another post about shopping and sales with no character-building memories, with more fun and wonder when I discovered shopping in the UK as a newly arrived immigrant from the Balkans. Until then, I wish you good luck with your shopping and bargain hunting, Christmas presents shopping, etc!

Omnia mea mecum porto / All that’s mine I carry with me / Sve svoje nosim sa sobom

Sparrowhawk_eating_on_guardThis is supposed to be an uplifting / ‘keep your chin up’ post. I don’t want it to be understood as a ‘soli mi pamet’ post.

If any of you have ever seen the film Leap Year (rom com) with Amy Adams and Mathew Goode, you might remember that question about the fire alarm and the most precious thing you would take with you. Even if you haven’t seen it, maybe you have asked yourself this question?

We are born into this world with nothing but ourselves – a tabula rasa. We die and leave this world with nothing, but lots of knowledge and memories and feelings (hopefully not many regrets) if we’re lucky enough not to get dementia or Alzheimer’s. We don’t get to choose where and what we are born into. But we have some choice in what we become and what we acquire.

A lot of people lost everything. How do we define everything? What do people mean when they say: “…lost everything…”? Lost all that was acquired in (part of) your lifetime, or over however many generations? Everything, including yourself?

You don’t lose the survival instinct. You don’t stop fighting for yourself and your loved ones. You may have lost your every possession, but you can still read and write. You still have your knowledge, experiences, imagination, sense of humour, ideas and yourself. Yes, YOURSELF. If you think about organ trade, ask yourself how much you would pay to replace any one of your organs that stops functioning for any reason. You may function perfectly or not, but you still fight. You don’t give up. You keep going.

And even if you get tired, with a bit of luck, someone will be there to give you a hand and help you along. It’s up to you to take that help. And it’s ok to stop and recover your spirits. In any way you can.

Evolution (Ooops, I said the “E” word!)

You know the phrase: “Uzdaj se u se i u svoje kljuse” (Just me and my [faithful] old nag)?

I’m a biologist. So I look at things in a ‘biological’ way. Evolve. Change. Adapt. You survived and got this far. Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. Trust your gut. Freeze any other shit out and listen to yourself. Earth is alive and the ground shifts under out feet, literally and figuratively. Land on your feet as often as you can.

Having studied biology, I often like to observe anything and everything. It gives me great comfort to watch a little snail glides across the table outside with its little eyes looking at everything around it. And to watch the birds fight with each other for food, territory and partners. And I watch how the creatures eat. In a park. In a garden. Sparrowhawk having raw ‘English breakfast’ in my garden. Anywhere, really. I like to observe the two-legged ‘wildlife’, too. (Yes, I mean humans!) The principles are pretty much identical. Can you guess where I’m going with this? I’m getting there.

Watching wildlife like that focuses on life in its rawness and I can get an important message out of it. I don’t need a lot to be happy. And I mean truly happy and satisfied. If I lost everything tonight, I would still have me. I would be in an absolute state, but I would still have me. And if I’m to stay ‘here’ for longer, I would have to use what I do have and adjust it to help me survive that loss. I’d have to evolve – quickly. Because I would have no other choice. And if I didn’t evolve, I’d ‘get eaten’. By a sparrowhawk or whatever else ruffles my feathers (pun intended).

A door closes, a window opens. If the old ways don’t work anymore, try coming up with new ones. Spread your wings. Think outside the box, beyond limits, because what more have you got to lose, if you already lost everything. And if you haven’t lost yourself, then you still have something vital.

Remembrance

Hat_poppy_1914-2014When I first moved to the UK, I wondered why everybody wears a little poppy flower in November. Then I found out about #Remembrance Day. To be honest, I don’t think that we have a Remembrance Day in the Balkans as such. A pity.

I like that there is a time like that in the country I now call home (UK). I like it that the Brits remember and WANT to remember. People talk about it, about their and our past, passing it down through the generations. It needs to be talked about. It needs to be remembered. How else do we, younger generations, learn and choose a right path for ourselves and change our futures for the better? How would we pass the knowledge down to our children and grandchildren, together with the (harsh) lessons learnt from all the wars in our past?

I remember loving history and enjoying every moment of historical museum trips so much so that I would visit the exhibitions just by myself or with my father who explained how the guns exhibited would have been used. I read as many books about WWII as I could get my hands on as a child, which wasn’t many, but I reread them. Time and again.

Then times changed in the 1990s. I was growing up and reading about anything but the World Wars. Because another war was everywhere around me: in the newspapers, on TV and radio, on the faces of refugee teens who became my classmates…

I like remembering the past from ‘before my time’. Not only because I can learn from it through lives of other people still living, but because it makes me put things in the right perspective. It makes me appreciate everything I know and have today as an individual, as a part of a community, as a descendant of my grandparents and parents who were not so lucky and who suffered great losses during and after the wars.

I was very happy to come across a lovely book called “Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe” by Simon Winder in a local charity shop the other day. I bought it and started looking for some others on the Internet by some great authors who wrote about those times. I look forward to a good pot of tea, maybe some cake to go with it (if I’m good) and a good read herbal slimming pills.

I heal through remembering and take my hat off to the ones who gave their lives so we have a better today.

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Surprising meetings

You know when you meet somebody you have never met before and you just click? Like a key in a lock; like an enzyme with its substrate. Just perfect meeting of minds and tempers. You don’t meet people like that very often, at least I don’t have that fortune. But I met somebody like that very recently. It was really unexpected because the purpose of my travel and meeting was business.

I almost forgot the power and amazement of such a feeling of a ‘perfect fit’.

When that person you meet feels like a mirror of a large part of your ‘brain’, when your thoughts are travelling in parallel and you both find yourselves saying to each other: ME TOO!!! with smiles wide enough to split your faces in two. It was such an unexpected pleasure, such fun and I felt we could never stop talking. Simply put, it almost felt like our brains were having intellectual sex! I got the impression that our sense of humour and understanding of things were really similar and we could talk forever and a day. And even after we said our goodbyes before catching our own transports home, we continued texting. I couldn’t wait to tell The Husband about it, and share the happiness with him. The only downside to something like that happening is when it’s late and I’m still so happy, hyper and super-excited about it that I don’t feel like sleeping at all.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Without meaning to sound like a stalker, I really look forward to our next meeting / drink/ cuppa. I am looking forward to exchange of ideas, experience, learning new things cultural and anything else that pops into our next conversation. Further conversations may not leave you (almost) euphoric, but you will feel happy talking about everything, nothing and just being with a friend like that. You’ll learn from each other and undoubtedly grow as individuals. Your brains and thoughts will feed off each other in a good way.

Events like that are beautiful my latest blog post. They should be appreciated for what they are – rare and special.

Have you ever felt like this?