Monday, July 27, 2009

The right to die

There's a big hoo-ha in London at the moment about assisted suicide and the right to die, as well as the ethics surrounding it.

This comes after the Royal College of Nursing moved to a neutral position on assisted suicide (from being opposed to it) and has called for more guidance on the issue. Understandably, this has opened up an entire can of worms and has sparked a heated debate focusing more on terminally ill patients than on highly-strung teenagers who off themselves for random reasons.

This got me thinking - who are we to tell a person who is living in agony that they have to continue living in agony until they die naturally? Surely if that person's quality of life has no chance of improving, it is entirely their choice whether they want to end it or stick it out? Personally, I think the bone of contention here is the word "assisted". Granted, it is quite a morbid thought that someone would help a family member commit suicide and this would undoubtedly have knock-on effects for the former's mental health, but again, is it not a matter of choice? If the family member is convinced that he or she will be better off, and they are comfortable with helping, then why not?

Ironically, humans are quick to euthanize an animal who falls deathly ill - are the animals ever asked if they want to live or die? No. And that's because we believe they can't make those kinds of decisions for themselves (not taking into account the fact that we can't communicate with them, of course). But the difference is that humans CAN think for themselves and if they want to die, if they KNOW they do not want to live out the last few months or years of their lives in pain and uncomfort, why put up barriers? They'd do it themselves if they had the means to anyway. We had a Boxer who I was hopelessly attached to and, in his old age, he developed a heart defect. The poor animal could not walk or breathe properly and lay, slowly dying, on the dining room floor. My dad made the difficult decision to put him down even though the vet said that with a traumatic operation and feeding him pills everyday, "he might last another six months". Why do that to him? Is it not more cruel to force him to live another six months in pain than to kiss and hug him and wish him well on his journey to doggie heaven?

While discussing the topic with friends the other day, one brought up the issue of abortion and referred also to animals whose lives are snuffed out without a second thought if they are born with a disability. He believes that it should be ok to abort a human baby who is going to be born mentally disabled and will never have a chance at a normal life. While I have never thought of it in this way before, I think he has a point.

Concerns have been raised that if assisted suicide was legalised in the UK, then the elderly would feel pressured into committing suicide, rather than becoming a burden to family members as they lose the ability to care for themselves. While incontinence may not be pleasant, it definitely should not fall into the same disability category as being permanently paralysed or brain damaged from a car accident. I know that if I had become a vegetable as a result of my accident, I would look back on my life, say it was a good one; and then ask for kisses and hugs and well wishes as I continued with my journey to the after-life.

But maybe that's just me.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Say what?

The Brits and I seem to be having some trouble understanding each other. Up until a few weeks ago, I honestly thought the South African accent was one of the easiest to understand. Apparently not. Neither is the British accent.

I started realising this while going about my daily working activities. Most of our piercings cost 30 quid; but whenever I tell this to the Brits, nine times out of ten, they hear 50. It’s not easy correcting them when they’re already in a state of shock – £50 for a piercing?! “No, no,” I say, “It’s thirty, three-oh, thirty.” They look back at me, their faces blank, they’re still hearing thirty. Now I have said the words ‘thirty’ and ‘fifty’ over and over to myself, but I’m not hearing the similarities – even if I pronounce them with a British twang.

One of my recent misunderstandings definitely deserves ‘priceless’ status. I walked into a coffee shop and asked how much their filter coffee costs. The dude behind the counter looked at me as if I’d just crawled out of a piece of particularly smelly cheese and said, “Photo copies?!” Yes – that’s what I said. I walked into a coffee shop and asked for photo copies. Right.

Besides struggling to get used to the accent here, I’m still trying to adapt to the different names they have for some things. For instance, it’s not a pram, but a “buggy”; it’s not an ATM, but a “hole in the wall” (?!); it’s not lip-ice, but “lip balm; and it’s not a braai, but a barbeque.

I definitely am not used to being called “love” and “mate”; while I’m still not sure how or if I’m supposed to respond to the standard greeting of “All right - (insert above-mentioned ‘love’ or ‘mate’ here)?” Rhetorical question, perhaps?

If somebody gets you “nicked”, they’re reporting you to the police; if somebody tells you, “See you next Tuesday,” they’re not being polite; and a Yorkie is not a small dog.

I guess it just takes a little time to get used, ‘innit?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

How do you take your Smarties?

So I heard via the grapevine that Nestle has relaunched Smarties in SA sans artificial colouring – and that the end product is dull and tasteless. While this brings SA in line with the UK in terms of taste and colour, there are a lot more options available in London, making them a bit easier to, erm, swallow.

So how would you like your Smarties?


As they are? (Smarties come in a tube here, not a box).


In a packet of tubes?


Or just in a packet?


Perhaps in the form of cake bars?


Or maybe cookies?


How about mini bites?


Or just plain mini?

If you’re more partial to ice-cream, you have three options to choose from:




Or maybe you prefer yoghurt?


Planning a birthday party? Like Smarties? At least you don’t have the cake to worry about!




Or the cupcakes…


Or even the doughnuts…


But if that STILL doesn’t cut it, you can just make them yourself.




Wednesday, July 1, 2009

There’s a heat wave in London!

I never thought I’d be saying this, but good grief it’s hot in London! The temperatures have been stifling over the last few days with no one knowing where to shove their heads to hide from the sun and extreme humidity.

As I write this, my house-mate is hosing down his cat and dog to provide some much-needed relief to the poor animals. Children and the elderly have been advised to stay indoors and the truth of the matter is that I don’t think London is prepared for heat like this.

Before we left home, everyone was harping on about how cold London is and how we’re not going to manage; but the difference is that London is actually prepared for winter: insulated houses, central heating, thermal clothing, thermal blinds, built-in heaters, the list is endless; but come summer and its sweltering temperatures and everyone seems to have been taken by surprise.

Every single shop we went to in search of a fan or air conditioner was sold out and despite being told by shop attendants that they would not be getting new stock anytime soon, the steaming Brits still stared intensely at the shelves, biting their fingernails as if some would magically appear.

The local weather service, Met Office, has issued a level three (out of four) heat wave alert – the first time it has done so since June 2006 – with temperatures expected to hit some 32 degrees Celsius. While this doesn’t sound too warm, it becomes stifling when combined with the humidity. The situation does not improve when the sun goes down, with night-time temperatures hovering around 18 degrees.

Walking down the street is extremely uncomfortable and it’s not long until you’re a dripping, sweaty mess. But it’s not only the humans that are suffering; according to reports, rabbits in Biggin Hill have been given special ice packs and are sheltering under umbrellas, while dogs are standing in containers of water to keep cool. Bristol Zoo Gardens is feeding its monkeys ice-cream cones topped with carrot sticks, while monkeys at another zoo are munching on fruit pieces that have been frozen in ice blocks.

Of course, fingers are being pointed in one direction – climate change – with warnings that summer temperatures could hit 40 degrees this year, bringing with them flash floods; a huge knock to the economy as people pull sickies to take advantage of the sunshine; and an increase in insurance claims as many are expected to leave their windows open to air out their houses, leaving them vulnerable to burglars.

I just feel sorry for those poor tennis players in Wimbledon. Now, where did I put that ice-cream?