Not in My Backyard…

There’s a lot of mileage in that phrase – Not In My Backyard or NIMBY as it’s also known. For example, a lot of people object to having recycling facilities / renewable energy  close to them. But it got me thinking…

…yes, I know that’s dangerous…

… like the Smog that Britain has been covered with this week. The UK has clean air policies which means we don’t produce as much Smog as we used to (no pea soupers in London anymore) yet, we still get the Smog from other countries.

There’s even a website that will show you what the air quality is like in your country –

Picture1From – http://aqicn.org/map/world/

But while I was thinking about this, the thought occurred to me that the whole world is our backyard now. There are people who I talk to every day on Facebook who in the “Real World” (as opposed to The Internet) are hundreds and thousands of miles away from me, but we carry on conversations about various things as if we were leaning on the fence in the back garden, or having coffee together …

…actually in some cases, we are both drinking coffee even though we aren’t in the same place.

I can talk to someone in Australia, several people in america and a couple of people in Asia (Japan / China / Thailand) at the same time as talking to someone in London and Edinburgh, while having a separate conversation with TOH in my living room about the kids or what to have for dinner.

When I was a kid, the phone was something that sat in the hall on a wire. Computer games ran through a TV and we had to pay through the nose to talk to our dad in the USA… Now, it’s all so commonplace and unremarkable.

The whole world is our Backyard.

Air Pollution, Global Warming, Wars –  They’re not Somebody Else’s Problem anymore, we all have to deal with it.

And that is scary.

Some thoughts about Guns…

TOH is playing Watchdogs. For the most part, he likes it because you can sneak around playing the game without hurting any of the civilian characters that are wandering around the city.

There are puzzles and you can choose the way you play so that you become a Vigilante rather than Terrorist (the opposite end of the reputation bar.) You can protect civilians, stop them getting hurt and attacked.

The story line is quite an interesting one. It looks at the way that information is used in the real world and just how much information everyone puts out there that can be twisted or used to hurt. It’s a scary concept, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

Like with many of the games now, you get digital trophies for certain things – for example, the number of police scans you evade. Most of these are easy enough to do without hurting anyone. However,  TOH being who he is, likes to get all of the trophies, and there was one that he couldn’t figure out; you had to escape a level 5 police scan.

So he went online and googled the problem. He was not happy with the result, but try as he might, it was the only one he could find. So he did it this morning before he went to work.

He took the character to a crowded place, pulled out a machine gun and let rip. It must have killed between 15 and 20 civilian characters before the scan meter was at level 5. The noise was horrendous and it attracted both my attention (and made me muck up the pattern I was knitting) and the baby’s attention (she’d been playing with her ducky ball).

It was realistic and I started having a panic attack. I picked up the baby and cuddled her away from the noise.

Now I can think logically about it, it wasn’t what was on the screen that was panicking me. It was the noise. The realistic sound of the machine gun he was using on the game. It took me back to a particular incident that shaped my life without me realising it.

* * *

When I was 16, I was in the Air Training Corps. It’s the cadet branch of the RAF and I was seriously considering a career in the RAF at the time. One of the last events I went to was a joint exercise with the local USAF base. The Military Police there had put on an exercise for the local ATC units complete with full military training gear. This meant we were wearing the laser vests that they used and carrying blank adapted M16’s with laser equipment to “tag” the vests.

And yes, you read that one right. They were allowing teenagers to use M16’s. There were also two M60 ‘s set up the same way, one for each team. We were given the guns and put through training exercises – stripping, cleaning, reassembling in a set time, practice on a range with live bullets and on a stationary dummy wearing a laser vest with blanks in the gun.

All stuff we had done before at ATC with the 302 rifles we’d used for ages on our range.

We also were given a small strip of ammunition and allowed to shoot the M60. This was to show us how the rifle worked and make the point that the only people big enough to carry the things were two of the biggest boys I had ever seen in my life… and I wasn’t a small, dainty little girl.

Anyway. It wasn’t the experience of shooting the M60 that did the damage. That was funny because the gun moved me back in the heather by about 3 feet. It wasn’t even the “capture the flag” exercise we played next, albeit with the M16’s on our shoulders. We’d done that before with LR98’s and laser equipment on a RAF Base.

It was the Night Exercise.

We’d been told that we were being treated like Military Academy students and that when they were on exercise, they carried their guns at all times. So we had to. I literally slept that night with an M16 next to me. We were all in one camp, both teams together.

I say slept. Others slept. I didn’t. I couldn’t. The gun felt as hard and dangerous as a knife and while I knew it was loaded with blanks and the safety was on, I was terrified that it was going to go off in the night.

I fell into a half doze about three in the morning when my body refused to remain awake any longer.

At dawn the camp was attacked.

I lay in my tent, my hand on the M16, frozen with fear as an M60 opened up out in the woods around us and blasted us. Everyone’s laser vests started screaming at us and while some of the boys managed to rally and fire back, the rest of us lay there, scared out of our wits.

They were trying to make some kind of point apparently, because they’d noticed that some of the boys had got rather cocky, trigger happy and were being reckless. Our Officers had agreed and were joining in.

That noise has lived with me ever since.

I managed to complete the event without being hurt (normally I got an injury of some sort), cleaned and returned my M16. I even got a commendation for being able to complete the entire 1 mile obstacle course within a decent time.

I quit ATC  not long after that. My excuse was that I wanted to concentrate on my exams. The real reason was that I realized that the RAF wasn’t for me. At the time I didn’t want to think like that and I was being encouraged by my teachers to choose that career, so I acted out the charade a little longer and then when I got to University, I changed direction.

This morning, it was that noise. The machine gun going off on the TV that sent me straight back into my 16 year old self lying on the ground, listening to the M60 shoot over my head and the laser vest’s warning screaming in my ear.

I know now that should I have to, I can pick up a gun and shoot someone with it. To protect my life, to protect my children, to protect TOH, I will do it. But I’m scared of them, of guns. I’m scared that I found that in myself. I’m scared that I could kill another human being.

And I’m scared that all the war and violence that I ducked out of by not going into the RAF might actually happen over here. That I might actually have to pick up a gun to defend my children.

100 days to be happy: Catch up – My Top Ten ways to relax.

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting my happy reasons recently… well, doing this sort of kick-started my writing and I’ve managed to write two and a half chapters so far! So I’m really rather happy…

Anyway.

I thought today I’d catchup a bit by doing a sort of summary post… in the form of a Top Ten List:

My Top Ten ways to relax.

1) Breathe.
On of the things that happens when you are stressed is that you take shallow breaths, so the best thing you can do to relax is to take some deep breaths. Try my Breathing Exercise from my earlier post on Breathing.

2) Close Your Eyes.
Shut your eyes and you shut out the world. Yes, your hearing intensifies, but by shutting your eyes you put your body into that “pre sleep” state and it automatically relaxes. Just don’t keep them shut for too long or you might doze off…

3)  Listen to the Wind.
Find a quiet place and listen to the wind and everything it carries with it. Try naming the things you can hear. Don’t think about anything else.

4) Read a Print book.
There’s one thing that Print books have that e-books don’t. It usually occurs with older print books; that wonderful relaxing smell that reminds you of trips to the library as a kid…

“Scientists say that “old book smell” is more than just mustiness; it contains hints of grass and vanilla.  That’s because all the compounds used to make the book release distinctive odors as they break down. For example, lignin, which is present in all wood-based paper, is closely related to vanillin. As it breaks down, the lignin grants old books that faint vanilla scent.”
– Taken from ILAB website.

 

5) Listen to Japanese Music.
There is something ethereal about Japanese Music. Maybe it comes from the unfamiliar instruments they use or the inspiration of their beautiful islands, I don’t know, but listening to it can be very  relaxing.

Here’s a taster:

 

6) Go for a Walk.
Gentle exercise can be strangely relaxing. In fact there’s a type of meditation that relies on walking. You just focus on what your body is doing and forget about anything else. Sadly this doesn’t work if you have children with you…

7) Play.
This is fairly simple actually. Just let go of all those stifling adult inhibitions and play. It doesn’t matter what. Have a tickle fight with your partner, throw water balloons at each other on a hot day, play tag, find a playground and go on the swings, build a sandcastle on the beach… enjoy yourself. Who cares what it looks like.

8) Sex.
This tends to be something that falls by the wayside when you have kids. You’re tired all the time, they keep interrupting those loving moments with your partner and you can’t catch a break… so when you do manage it, it can be incredibly relaxing!

9) Stretch out those muscles.
I’m not talking about a full blown yoga session or a session down the gym (although those will work too), I’m talking about standing up from your chair and stretching. Just soft gentle stretches to the ceiling and floor, maybe some leg lunges to lengthen the calf muscles and ease the upper leg a little.
For some strange reason stretching the body out also relaxes it!

10) Get a decent amount of sleep.
I’m not just talking at night, although that helps. If you’ve been doing a lot of intense mental or physical work, or you’ve not had a good night’s sleep then having a nap can be incredibly refreshing.

Bonus Item:

You may notice that if you do #1,#2 & #5 all together,  you’ll probably end up doing #10 naturally. Do not fight this – if your body needs it, then it’s best to listen to it!