What I Reckon: Bullfighting in Spain

Last year when I visited Spain I found myself in Seville at a special time of year for the locals. I found myself there during the bullfighting time. Many people told me this is a vulgar and awful practice. Many of the locals defended it saying that it is not a disgusting thing and that there is a lot of respect for the animal and that it isn’t cruel. Not being one to back down from things that are confronting, I weighed up whether I should or shouldn’t and decided that an informed decision was better than an uninformed decision and that I wanted to go and experience it for myself and make up my own mind.

Admitting this to people was a rather difficult thing. Some of my friends abused me for doing it because they felt I was supporting maltreatment of animals, others were not really understanding of why it is that I would want to go there to begin with. But as they say, when in Rome, and so I went. With reservation, but I went.

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The parading at the beginning before the fighting begins

I found myself sitting in the ring next to a couple of people that spoke enough English to be able to explain some of the things that were going on to me. Between this and the information that I learned from the museums I visited up until that point I could figure out what was going on.

I could imagine that the whole affair resembled a similar scene to that of the Roman Gladiators. There was a lot of pomp and circumstance with brass bands playing loud music and horses parading around. Each matador gets to fight 2 bulls each over the space of the evening. There are generally 3 matadors per bullfight.

So the bull enters the ring. The matador waves the cape and assesses the bull for aggression. After that they get the guys on the horse to come out and they lance the bull in the neck while the bull locks its horns into the side of the horse. For the first bullfight I ever watched, the bull actually knocked the horse over and the bullfighters assistants had to go in and distract the bull to get the horse safely up.

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2 of the horses in the initial proceedings

After they have checked out the bull with the horses, the matador’s assistants go in to face the bull. They have these pom pom like sticks that are decorated in streamer type material with sharp ends on them called banderillas. The aim of these is to weaken the muscles around the bulls neck and to agitate it. After they have had a go sticking about four rounds of these things into the bulls neck, in which the bull is now bleeding enough to see, the final stage begins.

The matador enters the ring to face the bull alone with his cape and a sword. He hides the sword under the cape and uses the cape to assess how the bull is moving and the kinds of passes the bull makes. After a few passes, the matador drives the sword into the neck of the bull. If done correctly, the bull will usually sit down within the space of 30 seconds and the matador’s helpers will come out and sever the spinal cord so that the animal doesn’t suffer anymore.

The first bull I watched was excruciating. The matador missed where he was supposed to put the sword. It took three passes and three swords through the neck for the bull to go down and it made me cringe every time. This part of bullfighting is most awful. The thing that I did find utmost heartbreaking though was the utter confusion of the bull in the ring for the ten minutes it is there to fight for its death. Sometimes the bulls look around and don’t want to fight. Sometimes they are so confused about what is happening you can actually read the confusion on their faces. Sometimes they get angry and they just charge and charge and charge. Despite making the decision to go here, I cannot say that I really enjoyed it. However I did now feel that I could make an educated opinion on what I felt about bullfighting. And my decision was that it is in many ways barbaric and cruel. At the same time I cannot say that it is any better in abattoirs where they slaughter animals for food. The entire thing left a bad taste in my mouth.

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The matador with cape and sword preparing to kill the bull

One thing I will say is that despite killing them, the matadors seem to have a great love for the animals. Despite meeting a horrid death, these animals are kept in really good environments with good standards while they are alive. They are well cared for. And their deaths also do not go in vain. Every bull gets sent to the butcher and used for meat. Many of the restaurants in Seville have bull meat on the menu during the bullfighting season. In this sense I have respect for the process. However I don’t think I will be going again. I just don’t think I could stomach any more of it and call it entertainment. Best leave me to a chick flick or something less morbid. But if the movie boys could wear pants like those of the matadors, that would be great. Their butts look hot in those things!

 

I Don’t Know Who I Am Anymore

It’s not my usual style. But at the same time I felt the need to share. Especially for those who also don’t have a clue who they are right now either.

The truth is, I am too tired to even know who I am anymore. The only thing I seem to enjoy in this world right now is sleep because I am so damn deprived of it. And even when I manage to get loads of sleep, I still feel like I am roaming around like a part of the zombie apocalypse that modern society is creating with its “work ethic”. I get up tired. I go to work tired. I deal with children all day who have behavioural issues and many of whom don’t want to learn. I sit through meetings asking us to do more. I get given more work and then I go home. Once I get home I am too tired to cook dinner so in goes the microwave dinner discounted from Sainsburys. I then sit like a vegetable, take in some semblance of a story line from Law and Order, churn out some more work, then attempt to sleep while my brain still stirs with stressful thoughts about work. After 6 or so shitty hours of tossing and turning and dreaming about stressful crap,  the whole thing resets itself and on goes the Groundhog Day. I get to the weekend and all I dream about is sleep to try and catch up on what I have missed.  The truth is a weekend is never enough. And if I do go out and try to socialise I feel even more exhausted for trying to have a normal life. I took some time to go home and rest and was confronted with a whole lot of things that weren’t great and quite emotionally confronting. It didn’t allow me to get the rest that I needed. I came back feeling numb and unable to process any of the feelings I had about anything.

And with that, I decided that something has to change. When all you do is the daily grind and you are too tired to even remember what you like anymore let alone do any of the things that you like then your life isn’t about you, it becomes about feeding into the system. A system that I always said was not as important as my quality of life. And yet somehow I find myself swallowed so deeply in this system that I am not entirely sure how to get out. It makes me question how society teaches us our value as a person and how to foster our self worth. Because everyone trying to make a buck on this earth will have you believe it is proportional to how hard you work for them. Which is a load of shit.

I know right now I am not the only person on the planet that feels this kind of exhaustion from being abused in a system that doesn’t love you and doesn’t want to help you. I have to remind myself constantly that nobody’s gravestone ever said “was awesome at their job and spent loads of time working”.  In the end of life people value who you were to others and whether you were a kind and good person. It’s hard to be these incredible things to others when you have no time for yourself. It is hard to be amazing and kind when you’ve given so much of yourself to your work that you have nothing left for yourself let alone others. It is hard to remember how to be excited and how to feel anything when all you feel is tired.

And with that I made my decision.  I quit. I gave my notice, I booked my bus to leave. Then I booked a flight to the place I dream of. And so I plan to go and find myself. To remember who I am. Remember what I like. Remember how to go and have fun. Remember how to be loved fiercely. Things I barely remember right now, but know deep down that these things are so very important. Because this life is short. And I choose to live it. For myself, and for those that can’t anymore. I’m taking back life.

 

The Worlds Wackiest Museums


I’ve travelled about quite a lot and at the time of writing I have hit about 54 different countries. During this time I have done a whole speight of museums and some of them have been just downright odd. So here are just a few of the world’s wackiest museums that I myself have been to.

Devils Museum – Kaunas, Lithuania

This entire museum is dedicated to one man’s collection of devil statues. There are devil masks, devils fornicating, devils drinking vodka,  devils of all nationalities, paintings of devils… you get the idea. So many devils, but it is quite an interesting visit.

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The devil pouring vodka down the throat of a clearly unwilling participant…. in Australia we call this ‘helping out a friend’

Natural History Museum – Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala

This museum should really be renamed “The Museum of Shit Taxidermy”. I nearly made my mother cry sending her a picture of two taxidermied budgerigars that looked proper retarded. If you have a totally sick humour however and are keen to check out some really weird looking animals, then this is a very cheap and entertaining way to spend an afternoon. They’ve even managed to make some of them look like hybrids of other animals or incorporated cardboard into the bodies…..

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These birds are just so pretty,,,,
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Check the eyes on this one….

Museum of Broken Relationships – Zagreb, Croatia

This museum is basically a giant collection of memorabilia from relationships around the world that have gone wrong, whether it be romantic or otherwise. I think my personal favourites are the ‘toaster of vengeance’ (basically the chick got pissed with the guy and stole his toaster), the caterpillar and the shoe from the prostitute.  The caterpillar was a symbol of a long standing relationship between two people who used to pull a leg off the caterpillar every time the saw each other. When the caterpillar became legless they were to move to the same place. This didn’t happen however. The caterpillar isn’t a total cripple and still has a few legs left.

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The semi crippled caterpillar of a fully crippled relationship

The Corn Palace – Mitchell, South Dakota, USA

Who the hell decorates an entire museum building with corn and dedicates an entire museum to shit made out of corn….?? The Americans, that’s who! This glorious beast is redecorated every single year with different corn. They also have an inside area that is dedicated to murals made with corn. All kinds of corny murals (but in some ways it is kinda cool).

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Everything you see here is totally decorated in corn kernels…. it’s insane!

International UFO Museum and Research Centre – Roswell, New Mexico, USA

This museum is dedicated to the “supposed” UFO sightings in Roswell in the 1940s. The whole town has gone stark raving mad. There was a pretend alien in a casket which is supposed to be reflective of what they found. There was a woman in the museum acting like the thing was a real alien. There are space ships that look like an art project done by a five year old. Loads of information anout the supposed sightings and debris from space ships. The whole thing is hilarious and worth the giggle if you don’t take it too seriously.

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A proper riot this museum

The Sex Museum – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Where else can you find a giant vagina-shaped lounge that is capable of swallowing you whole as you sit on it? Enough said. Actually, not enough said. There are all kinds of weird bits and pieces of things here. A kazillion porno pictures, a kazillion penises, vaginas everywhere. Only in Amsterdam….

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A vagina seat

If you get the chance, definitely stop in on these places and marvel at how strange some people and some things are. It really is marvellously odd.

Shit I Learned In Macedonia

I was only in Macedonia for a couple of days but while I was there I came across one of the most entertaining tour guides I have ever met! He was downright hilarious in the things he was saying and most of the shit I learned, I learned from him during my time in the capital, Skopje.

  • Mother Teresa was born here. Even though she lived a large amount of her life in Albania, she was born in Skopje in a house near the centre of town. It no longer stands but there is a plaque there to recognise the site.
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The site of Mother Teresa’s birth

  • ‘Stan’ is the Arabic word for ‘place’.
  • There was and earthquake in 1963 that levelled the city. The US and Russia came to help try and rebuild the city. The clock at the train station is stuck at the time the earthquake happened. The double decker buses like the ones in London were bought in to help after the time too and they eventually stayed.
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The train station with the clock that stopped

  • The mayor of Skopje suffers from ‘copy paste’ syndrome. He likes stairs in Rome. Bring them to Skopje. Whatever he sees elsewhere that he likes, bring it to Skopje! To the point where the locals now call the place “Skopjian Disneyland”. They ask you to pray that the mayor never visits Venice and decides that Skopje needs canals.
  • Despite that all of the buildings in Skopje look old and are in the ancient Greek style most of them are no more than ten years old.
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The new buildings of Skopjean Disneyland

  • They made so many statues in rebuilding Skopje that they now don’t have enough places to put them all. There are statues on the bridges, statues on the rooves of buildings, statues everywhere…. never before have there been so many damn statues. They even have statues of the shoe shiners that worked down the main street in the centre of town. The sit along beside the people who work as actual shoe shiners….. Distastefully, they also have a statue of a homeless person here as well. Because there weren’t enough as it is without making a statue of them too….
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Just a few statues…

  • The Macedonians lay claim to Alexander the Great. So do the Greek. Of course this leads to a giant pissing contest in which they try and outdo each other. Greece has a giant statue of Alexander. So Macedonia makes one. Then the Greeks crack the shits and are all ‘you can’t call this statue ‘Alexander the Great’ cause he is ours’. So they call it ‘man on a horse’ instead. Ridiculousness. Greece also won’t accept Macedonia as being a part of the EU unless they relinquish their claim to Alexander the Great….. what ridiculousness!
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“Man on a horse” – clearly Alexander the Great

  • In bazaars, the old market places, the corner shops were always worth more money. As such they would design the streets so that there were as many corners as possible.

Well that is about it for my fabulous visit to Macedonia! It was a lovely place to visit for a few days and would definitely recommend the visit!

What I Reckon About: Manners (or lack thereof)

I am not entirely sure whether it was always this bad or whether since the introduction of smartphones and reality TV they seem to have removed the part of the brain that controls consideration of others. The other day I helped out with a school play and afterwards sat to watch the kids perform. The audience was small, less than a hundred people and the kids were super nervous. Unfortunately, about 6 people were late and decided to walk in front of others during the middle of the show. Despite being told that phones were to be turned off, at least three phones rang in the first 30 minutes and one woman even had the gall to actually answer her phone in the middle of the performance and start having a conversation in the front row. Then after about two minutes of a conversation took it out into the hall and started loudly talking on the phone so it could be heard inside over the top of the play. I felt incredibly sorry for the kids. They are trying their hardest in something that takes a lot of guts to do and people sit disrespecting their own kids. Disgusting.

Other things that seriously shit me are:

  • People who take up the entire sidewalk walking in a line and have their heads jammed so far into their phones (up their own arses) that they won’t let people pass
  • Arseholes who get onto a full bus and leave an empty seat beside them so nobody can use it.
  • People who see you reading something at a museum exhibition and on purpose just stand in front of you like you weren’t there reading it in the first place.
  • People who cut into lines in front of others who have been waiting for a long time.
  • People constantly checking their phone while you are having a dinner or conversation with them.
  • Watching 15 people get off the bus but the bus seems to still be so “full” because people won’t move down in the bus that you wind up getting left on the side of the road because the driver can’t open the front doors.

I am pretty sure that things weren’t this bad with disregarding manners fifteen years ago. What I do know is this. This current society is becoming more and more selfish and less and less considerate of others. How this has happened? I am not sure. But I feel that a great deal of it can be attributed to media celebrating celebrities who are morons and behave atrociously.  Enter the Kardashians. People seem to spend more time embracing a culture of those who are so self absorbed that they have nothing to offer and give to others. I sit and watch kids take selfie after selfie after selfie. Their ideas of self importance don’t seem to extend beyond themselves to anyone or anything else. That to me is incredibly sad.

I also attribute it to increased use and reliance on technologies. People are so addicted and attached to their phones that they cannot seem to be able to sit through a movie or an hour long performance in a theatre without checking their phone to see if anyone has messaged them. This constant need to be checking and communicating through phones has decreased our ability as a society to have actual intelligent conversation with another person. Our kids no longer have the ability to communicate in a polite manner with each other because it is all done through text. And adults are getting just as bad.

Thirdly, and I am not entirely sure where this even comes from but people in western societies seem to have such little self awareness or awareness of others. I know where people are around me when I am walking down the street. I am aware of how my body fits and moves through a crowd. Self awareness seems lacking and maybe this is why people are constantly standing in other peoples ways, cutting lines and running into others. Perhaps this is extending from a lack of play with the younger generation now that a large proportion of parents choose iPad’s to babysit their kids instead of throwing them out the backdoor and saying ‘entertain yourself in the backyard’.  Perhaps it is because they can’t see what is happening because they are too busy seeing how many people liked their Facebook post. Perhaps it is that we have forgotten what the word community means and seem all the more focused on the ‘me’ in every equation.

Shit I Learned In The English Countryside

On my weekends to try and get out more and see a little more of England I have been taking tours to different parts of southern England. I did one tour through the Cotswolds which was really beautiful, I went to Shakespeare’s birthplace and home in Stratford Upon Avon, wandered the streets of Oxford and then headed south into Kent to visit Dover and Leeds Castle. On the way I picked up a few fun facts…. here they are!

  • The phrase ‘waiting on tenterhooks’ comes from the medieval days. In the castles, the place is usually freezing cold and when the royalty arrive, they have to wait for all of the tapestries and curtains to arrive to hang over the walls. The hooks they use to hang up the carpets are called ‘tenterhooks’. As such, waiting on tenterhooks is waiting on the carpets to come in an uncomfortably cold state.
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The lovely green town of Bibury

  • ‘Curfew’ is derived from the phrase ‘curb the fire’. Back in the days of Shakespeare the people used to have fires burning inside their houses to keep the house warm. There was a time that everyone had to have the fire out by and this was the ‘curfew’ or the time to ‘curb the fire’.
  • During these times they also used rope beds. The ropes were crisscrossed in a pattern across the bed and you would lay a blanket down and sleep on it. ‘Good night, sleep tight’ refers to wishing the person that the ropes on the bed would stay tight so that you wouldn’t slouch down in the middle of the night while you were sleeping because the ropes came loose.
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The room where William Shakespeare was born. Note the pull out rope bed

  • Cherries are a traditional symbol of innocence. ‘To pop one’s cherry’ or to take their innocence comes from this traditional symbol.
  • Up until the age of five, they used to dress boys in dresses like they did girls. This is because it made them easier to toilet train. Only after the boys were toilet trained were they then allowed to be dressed in pants and were identifiable as boys instead of girls.
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A boy…. dressed as a girl… for potty training.

  • Grapes are a traditional icon of fertility. This is why they use dried grapes and fruit in wedding cakes. The top tier was traditionally saved for the christening of the first born to wish for the fertility of the child however these days most people save it for their first wedding anniversary.
  • Each of the different houses in the Cotswolds has a different fenlight window pattern above the front door. This is because in the days before house numbers, people could identify who they were visiting based on the pattern on the window.
  • There are 2600 toilets in Wembley Stadium
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The famous Leed’s Castle

  • It was the Romans that invented road signs. They placed markers along the side of the road that later became known as milestones and these told you how many miles to your destination.
  • Dry stone wall building is an incredible art and it takes approximately one tonne of stone to build one meter of wall to ensure that the rocks all fit together snuggly for the structural integrity of the wall.
  • In the small town of Bourton on the Water, they have a football match in the town every August bank holiday. The catch. They play the football match in the water…. not sure how but I would like to check this out at some point…
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Apparently the world’s most beautiful street, Arlington Row.

  • To support the wool industry of the Cotswolds, several laws were passed by the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth the first made it law that you had to wear a wool cap to church on Sundays. Charles the second made it law that if a person dies that the coffin they are buried in must be lined in wool and that the person must also be dressed in wool.

So that is it for now with the things that I have been learning as I have travelled around this glorious countryside. Stay tuned for more interesting things I have learned on my travels about the place next week!

Teaching, Stress and Depression

Hi. I’m a teacher.  I am stressed to the eyeballs all the time. Because of this I find myself not sleeping, lonely, gaining weight and slumping into a state of depression.

Everyday I get up and travel an hour on public transport to get to school. I teach long days and am at school between 8.15 and 5.30 most days. After this I travel another hour to get back home and I attempt to go to my boxing class that I normally love. Some days I am so exhausted I can barely keep my hands at my face. Some days I don’t have it in me to even punch the bag. So I turn around, go home, attempt to make dinner, shower and get to bed. I usually don’t find myself in bed until some point after 9pm. Then I sit down to try and do planning. Or marking. Or some other form of work. I get 6 odd hours of sleep and the cycle starts again.

By Friday I am so exhausted I can barely function. I go home and go to bed and sleep for 10 hours just to make up for the lack of sleep during the week. By the time the weekend rolls around I have to actively force myself to do things or try and see people. For the most part I feel like I don’t have the energy in me to move. I don’t have the wittiness to hold a proper conversation. I am just spent. I am depressed. And come Monday, I have rested just enough to take the edge off to start the cycle again. I do this for 7 weeks in a row until I have really burnt the candle at both ends and then I get a week to try and get myself back on track before it all starts again. And I dread it. If I force myself to go and do something, I start the week off even more tired and the cycle continues. I don’t have many friends here. The friends I do have I see every couple of weeks. I don’t have time to date. If I met someone I would barely have time or energy to spend with them, not that they would probably want to spend time with me anyway considering the kind of person I have become.

I hate how negative I have become. I literally hate everything. I find no joy in anything I used to. I resent that for someone usually so social that I cannot be bothered to speak to people. I resent that for every time I try to make a positive change that I feel like I am pushed backwards by some other problem I have to deal with or more work that I have to face. I resent constantly feeling like whatever it is that I do is not good enough. To the point where I don’t feel like I am enough anymore. I am not enough to be in a relationship. I am not enough to be someone’s mother. I am not enough to do this job. There just isn’t enough of me left as a person to be anything that I once even thought I wanted. And yet for the sake of others I spend the entire day pretending like everything is fine when it really isn’t.

If it is not enough to have to mark piles and piles of exams. I have piles and piles of books to mark. Eleven piles actually. Every three weeks so they can be taken away and ‘scrutinised’ by someone who can tell me I am not doing my job well enough. Oh and the homework marking. Then there are the endless observations chewing up your free time. The neverending behavioural issues that never get dealt with and then get worse because they never get dealt with. The constant fighting and arguing with disrespectful kids who do not feel that they have to follow any instructions you give them or even speak to you in a tasteful manner. I don’t want to do it anymore. I feel like my life isn’t mine and that I am running on autopilot. I don’t remember a time when I felt rested. I don’t remember a time I felt good about the things that I was doing and good about my job. I don’t remember when I last felt good about living. And yet I am stuck dealing with this and I don’t know how to get out. All I know is this….

When you have nothing of yourself left, you have nothing of yourself to give.

Teaching is too stressful. And too much stress leads to depression where I am concerned because my hormones and cortisol levels become really unbalanced. And that is no way to live a life. So what now???

A woman's lifelong aversion to the word 'No'….