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Sunday, December 30, 2012

It's the End of the Year,not the World!


As  2012 draws to an end it's time to reflect upon the immediate past while it's fresh in our minds. In a previous blog I have already said that this has been our Year of the Miracle, so clearly, overall my opinion of the year is favourable.

The news from the United Kingdom in the form of the Olympics and the stunning performances from the Paralympics gave viewers from around the world great pleasure and new respect for human courage. We were simply amazed by what can be achieved after the human body has been destroyed. It has never been difficult to respect top athletes who are able bodied, but no longer will the Paralympics be considered "that other lot." That is a very good thing indeed!

Over in America confirmation was received that what the country did four years ago it is capable of doing at will, not by accident. America chose as its president an Afro-American in the form of President Obama simply because it believes that he is the best person for the job at this time, and that augurs well for the future. It is perfectly reasonable to expect a woman at the helm in the future, be she black or white,
if that is the correct choice to make when the time comes.

On a very sad note, America finds itself at another crossroad. There is overwhelming violence and anger in America, and there is virtually out of control gun ownership, and that is a perfect recipe for a tsunami of Sandy Hook killings to come. America must help itself by getting rid of the violence and anger, or the guns, or preferably both. Until that happens America should not expect the world around it to have sympathy when these things happen. I said when they happen because the next atrocity is already being planned and it will be bigger than Sandy Hook as that is the nature of shock and awe.

This past year has not been kind to Spain. The economic crisis has deepened leaving people in dire straits. The only thing to happen that has turned the situation around for a great many people is to win some money on the national lottery. However, the lottery was never designed to be a financial plan but for many it is the only source of hope.

Added to the country's woes our Summer has been extremely hot and dry and that has led to one massive fire after another that has affected the whole country and even the offshore islands. In a previous blog I reported that my own neighbourhood was over swept by high winds and fire that surrounded my house, burning my hedges and roses and arch and fruit trees, but the house itself was never touched because the fire came with very high winds that created a pressure system around the house that held the fire from actually touching the building. I can only show you where hot embers pitted my hammock and the plastic table cloth on the outdoor dining table. Our situation might have been a lot worse had our hero not appeared to ensure that it did not happen.

Our neighbour to the West, whose house lies in a little valley, has two sons. One lives in our village and the other lives in Valencia city. The son here in the village tried to contact his father at the height of the fire to ensure that he had evacuated, as the father lives on his own. He could not make contact, so he worriedly called his brother in the city at 5am. That brother arose from his bed and made the 50 km drive to our village, and proceeded by foot into the hot zone to see what the problem was with his father. There was no problem, the father had simply slept through the emergency. however, the son noticed that our garden and hedges were well alight and the fire was creeping closer to our house.

He jumped over our nine foot wall with barbed wire on top, picked up a hose and put the fire out! That is the description of a true hero. He doesn't flit from one building to another like a spider; nor does he have a cape and super natural powers, he simply takes action as is necessary to do what is within his power to affect a bad outcome. He is our hero! It is a very peculiar thing to have a real, genuine hero all our very own.

So, goodbye 2012! You have been many different things to many people. You didn't bring the end of the world, nor truthfully did we really expect that you would. You brought the end of life for far too many under circumstances that should have been avoided and that was a real pity. We lost a good and wonderful friend whom we would rather have had more years to share with, although she was ill and her passing was a release to her from her suffering. She has simply gone on ahead of us so we will catch up with her in the fullness of time.

Welcome to 2013, but as a year with the number thirteen the superstitious among us are already pulling their hair out. We will simply have to see what each day brings and take the good with the bad.

Copyright (c) 2012  Eugene Carmichael

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On Christmas Day, 2012

It's Christmas Day. We have enjoyed a late sleep-in, and awakened to a wonderfully warm and sunny day. There's no snow anywhere in sight, except our cat, blancanieve, although she is only partly white. Every time she returns home from her wanderings she is another shade of gray from the ash she picks up after the great fire in our region. In fact, she has been all  fifty shades of gray. (Sorry about that.)

Our next door neighbours, the ones below us are still screaming at one another as that is how they communicate with each other. I think the idea is that he who yells loudest gets heard.

The people who won money in the El Gordo lottery draw are still pissed as loons. The lines were long yesterday at the lottery kiosks with those waiting to go in having a look on their face that suggested they were about to have the best sex of their lives. Across the street stood those people who did not win with a look of jealousy/happiness for those who did win.

I didn't win a thing in El Gordo, my numbers all stayed in the big ball until next year. However, this year my family and I won another lottery to have survived the great fire that roard over and around our house leaving no so much as a smudge on the house itself. My neighbours behind us and in front were not quite so lucky.

As a family we are together, my wife, our son and myself. My Bermuda family will all join together over the holidays and form the solid unit that they are. One of these days we will reunite into one big wonderful unit to share the Christmas spirit.

There are many wonderful things about Christmas time for families who are able to be together, but it is also the one time of the year that drives more people to take their own lives or to drink or drugs.  Anything that is wrong in your life is accentuated. Homelessness, loneliness, just divorced,  and inaccessibility to your own young children are some of the things that are so depressing. However, there are two things that top the chart of depressing factors:  The first Christmas without your partner, or parent, or grandparent due to their death this year. The other is the loss of your child because of an act of murder. I find it unbearable to think of the families in Newtown, Connecticut, or in Syria where wanton violence has ended so many young lives before they have even had a chance to start. I am absolutely lost for any idea of how the families are supposed to cope with their losses, or even of how to help them get through this time of year.

If you have your family around you today, I suggest you do not argue and fight over trivial things. Appreciate what you have and how lucky you are and give one another a hug, and say out loud, I love you, and I appreciate your place in my life.

It's not necessary to be a Christian to appreciate this time of year. You can look at it as simply the end of year celebrations and that you have survived the year so far. To have done so is not something to be taken for granted as 100 people were lined up at a bakery shop in Syria to buy bread, and they are all dead today.

On those thoughts of reality, I truly hope that you will make the best of today.

Copyright (c) 2012   Eugene Carmichael


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas! Merry New Year!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

So! The world didn't end on the 21st, nor did I win the El Gordo lottery on the 22nd. However, it's the 23rd and the sun is brightly shining and the skies are clear, and I'm wearing only a shirt and jeans because its as warm as a summer's day here in Valencia, so all's right with the world.

Well, not quite. I have some strong feelings about what America needs to do to sort out some of its problems, and there are a number of things that Spain needs to do to deal with the mindset of its wankers, ooops! make that bankers, although I think I was right the first time.

The Syrian problem must be put right, and there is much damage to be corrected in my own country of Bermuda, but all of those things will have to take a back seat as we prepare to celebrate Christmas and the other, just as important end of the year festivities.

To each and everyone, Season's Greetings, and I wish you, first and foremost, the Best of Health!

Copyright (c)  2012   Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hurray! El Gordo is back!

El Gordo, the Bringer of Happiness!

If it's Christmas it must be time to welcome back El Gordo. In some countries Christmas is recognised by shopping mania. We completely overlook the religious significance and look only to the question, :What did you get for me?"

Christmas in Spain, a Catholic country has never been about that. In fact, gift exchanging takes place on the 7th of January when the Three Kings come to town. However, in Spain the whole country goes mad with lottery fever. Unlike lotteries elsewhere where one person walks away with the top prize where the jackpot could top 100 million, or more, (nobody needs to win that much), here the winnings are spread over a very large area.

The full cost of a ticket is 200 euros. For most people that is far too much to bet on one number, so it is possible to buy a portion of a full ticket. The usual thing is to buy a décimo, or one tenth of 200 euros. i.e. the cost is 20 euros and should the number win, ten percent of the winnings is what is paid out. to  the ticket holder. If the punter is able to afford 200 euros it is probably more advisable to spread the money around.

That idea is taken even further to allow people with a limited budget to buy participation for as little as three to five euros. These are called papeletas, or little papers. These are used by clubs and charity groups to raise funds for their working purposes that are generally well supported. Of course much less is paid to the winning ticket holder, but every little bit helps.

On December 22nd, the day when the draw takes place, more than a billion euros are paid out to so many people, I don't think anyone really knows how many benefit, but it is easy to imagine how much sweeter Christmas becomes if you are one of the lucky ones to win a significant amount of money, at least enough to pay off some of those outstanding bills. That is the kind of gift that really means something and everybody will find a use for it.

So, Good Luck! If El Gordo is not kind to you, there will be El Niño close behind to try again.

Copyright (c) 2012   Eugene Carmichael