It’s official, animals have lost their last remnant of respect for us. We people have changed and shed some of our feistier habits that used to keep them in check. In the old days, people went vegetarian only after they’ve run out of animals to hunt and any beast foolhardy enough to wander into a human settlement was facing two possible outcomes. In the highly improbable case it was judged too ugly to eat, the creature was greeted with a hailstorm of sticks and stones and sent from whence it came, its self-esteem curbed somewhat. Given that people weren’t such fussy eaters in days of yore, it was massively more likely the intruder was interpreted as a surprise food delivery and treated accordingly. After the humans were done picking its bones clean and rhythmically banging them together thanking the God of Foolishness for the feast, they tanned its hide and made it into warm slippers and a new handbag for the village First Lady, and if the creature had antlers or fangs of any consequence, they were repurposed as spear tips to welcome the next rambler of its kind with added efficiency.
My grandfather always knew right from wrong. It seemed that his inborn sense of justice was so strong it rubbed off on even the most hardened crooks and made them realise the error of their ways. What was especially amazing about it was that this effect wasn’t limited to people; well at least we, his family, are at a loss of how else to explain how gramps succeeded in making a deer repay what it had stolen, and quite dramatically at that. There’s a well-travelled saying of ‘Treat others like you want to be treated’, also known as the Golden Rule (which happens to be the reason I’m hoping that the few masochists I’m bound to run into sooner or later are as little ethically-enlightened as possible). There’s a substantial volume of theoretical substantiation of why the reciprocal approach works but I’m probably not the only one who’s felt that it would be nice to have some actual proof too from time to time. And sure enough, my grandfather stepped up and provided the factual corroboration I had hoped for.
Inside, grandpa was a gentle soul but it didn’t stop him from being as tough as a coffin nail. Born a son of humble charcoal makers, his childhood was rife with hardship and he used to say that his family was so poor they couldn’t afford to feel sorry for themselves. He grew up to become a steel worker long before occupational safety was a thing but not before he was taken prisoner during WW2 and made it back on foot, so suffice it to say his adult life wasn’t much gentler to him than his youth. Not that it held him back much; against all odds and despite all the rust he had eaten at the steel plant and the frostbite he had to remind him of the horrors endured in the POW camp, he lived to a ripe old age – way too old for his liking – and he regularly complained about having to wait so long to join my grandmother. Reckoning you can’t know for sure if there’s an afterlife until you’ve found out by yourself, he worried that there was one and, knowing his wife, he feared she was up to who knows what.
Those two sure were an odd couple if ever there was one. Luckily, they were married way before the notions of soulmates and irreconcilable differences became all the rage they are now, when you’re supposed to keep searching for a mate who shares most of your traits and interests until you end up marrying a sibling you didn’t know you had. Gramps was a level‑headed man of few words with the wait-and-see attitude of a well-adjusted St. Bernard. Granny was his exact opposite; bubbly and animated with the try-and-see approach to life of a happy Boxer. They sort of agreed that one never knew what the future would bring but the motto he thought this dictated was ‘waste not, want not’ while hers was ‘spend it while you’ve got it’.
I can’t think but of two things they had in common – they both deeply loved the person they married and they shared a serious passion for motorbikes. I’ve been told that when grandma was young and people were still walking into lampposts if they saw a girl riding a motorbike, there was this time when she hopped on her bike to go check out a shoe store in the next town but when she got there she thought, heck, let’s see where the road takes me, and she only turned back when she got to the Hungarian border and realised she’d probably need a passport to continue. Gramps on the other hand was less of a nomad and more of a speed fiend. He used to dart around on his red-and-white motorcycle well into his advanced age and it took a wicked fall and a split kneecap for him to kick the habit. Together, they made well-balanced kids, for which I am grateful because one of them ended up being my mum, and she is a legend in her own right. Read the rest of this entry »
Okay, so maybe I’ve been guilty of not taking people too seriously when I heard them talking about how their cat was the coolest one ever. We might as well set this straight once and for all: your cat may be cute, adorably silly, feisty or whatever but, with all due respect, it is NOT the coolest cat ever. This distinction is reserved for Bon, a majestic tom that had once reigned over our neighbourhood. He was the rudest, toughest, meanest and the most inconsiderate cat imaginable with a commanding presence and some serious swag to boot. He didn’t take crap from anyone, didn’t care what anybody thought and never ran from an adversary. Well actually he never ran at all but merely accelerated to a leisurely trot if he deemed it appropriate, and if that’s not a super cool cat then show me one that is.
We came under Bon’s rule when my father, oblivious to what he was getting us all into, accepted a weighty pet carrier from a frail old recluse who claimed she was getting too old to continue taking care of her cat for much longer. In retrospect, she most likely feared for her dear life and thought it would be best to unload her rowdy beast on a family of able-bodied individuals. My mother and I had no knowledge of dad’s noble dealings and we arrived home to find a puzzling note on the boiler room door, a blood-stained piece of paper with the words “DON’T OPEN SIAMESE INSIDE!’ scribbled on it. Intrigued, we pried the door open and were promptly greeted by, well, not so much a growl than a proper roar. Clueless as to what but a royally-indignant lion could produce a sound like that, we deemed a hasty retreat a fitting response. An emergency congregation later we embarked upon investigating the source of the petrifying noise and cautiously peeked under the central heating unit to be met by an icy glare from a pair of piercingly-blue eyes. Incensed at our failure to keep a respectful distance, the owner of the frosty peepers hissed and spat at us, which prompted my mum and me to decide that her sillier half should be committed to a special institution for whatever it was that he had brought to our house this time.
It’s a tough contest but if I had to say which animal made me laugh the hardest, the honour would go to a dog I had when I was little, Fia the Doberman pinscher. It used to be quite common in Slovenia for parents to let their small children keep big animals. I suppose they hoped such a responsibility would instil some wisdom in either the kids or the pets, not to mention the added benefit of having would-be child molesters reconsider their life choices after losing a limb to a protective pet.
(Admittedly, keeping a dog wasn’t always the complicated affair it’s cranked up to be nowadays, as pooches used to have a set of clearly-defined duties – to chaperone the children, to protect the house, to abstain from mauling people without due cause and to refrain from passing gas indoors – which gave them a sense of purpose, and effectively prevented the likes of Cesar Milan from making a career trying to talk some sense into people who don’t know what a dog is for and what to do with it.)
In the rural areas where parents continue to expect their children to be smart enough to make it in the world without grown-ups constantly shielding them from all potential sources of harm, you can still see tots leading huge dogs, horses, cattle and whatnot, and when they’re not doing that they’re likely driving a tractor. From what I gather from my recent explorations of the Slovenian countryside, the age of eight is still considered ideal for country children to start operating heavy machinery. Anyway, my Fia was super clever about many things, a keen student of human nature and an astute exploiter of its soft spots, but like so many animals she tended to come up short when met with certain pitfalls of physics. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s not just people who get blindsided by their lack of common sense on an entertainingly regular basis. Animals, especially pets, seem to exhibit the same trait to the extent it makes me worry they might have caught it from us. I can’t help but think that one of the reasons that humanity developed such a penchant for scoffing at the consequences of one’s foolhardiness was the instant smartening-up effect that open ridicule seems to have on imprudent creatures, be they human or not. Have you ever laughed hard at your pet after it’s done something dim-witted, just to be dumbfounded by the animal proceeding to deliver its best impression of indignation and resentment as if it knew it was being mocked? Well if you haven’t, you’ve either never had a pet or you’ve fallen behind in your ability to recognise a valid cue for laughter, which may be something you should be looking into if you wish to make the best of the time you were given.
I’m far from unique in the fact that I keep guinea pigs, but those of you who share my bliss of having them as pets, have you ever seen one of them levitate? Well I have and here’s how it happened… Read the rest of this entry »
The second I let my guard down I become prone to having highly unusual stuff happen to me, ranging from outright embarrassing to downright pathetic. It’s not all that bad really as accomplished klutzes like me seem to have the power to draw quite a fan base, which leaves me with the hope that I’ll make a name for myself someday. My best shot at fame is probably the Darwin Awards website.
My special talents became evident quite early. When I was little but big enough to swing an axe – those were happier, relaxed times when kids wouldn’t dream of suing their own parents – I was sent out to chop some firewood. So there I was happily hacking away, Read the rest of this entry »
A funny thing you can’t help but notice if you happen to wander into the country called Slovenia is that it’s almost impossible to leave. It’s not like anyone is manning the borders; the country is in the Schengen Area which basically means everyone and their sister is roaming around freely. The traffic connections are superb and, with Slovenia being so tiny, you can step on it and find yourself somewhere else in a matter of minutes. Our neighbours the Croatians – who lay claim to a somewhat larger country which is as pretty as they come but shaped like a pair of spaying tongs – will gladly tell you that Planica (where our rather famous ski flying hill is) will never get a permit for a higher hill as then the skiers would be landing on Croatian porches, wreaking all kinds of havoc in the process.
(If it weren’t for the Croatians, we Slovenians would need to come up with our own jokes about Slovenia’s size but luckily enough our southern neighbours have been maintaining a steady supply of those for as long as I can remember.) Read the rest of this entry »
Though I normally don’t indulge in anger I allowed myself the rare treat of getting worked up after first reading that calling someone fat has become more offensive than calling them worthless scum and then Wiki-walking myself to the Anti-fat Bias and The Thin Ideal articles. The relief I couldn’t help but feel for knowing I inhabited the safe section of the human form spectre and was therefore exempt from being harassed on the account of my weight only served to further my aggravation. I’m not much into enjoying the thanks-god-it’s-not-me sentiment as I find it all too similar to the toxic schadenfreude for my emotional comfort.
But seriously, why is it suddenly so wrong to be chubby? Not so long ago, some meat on your bones was considered a plus; a woman with ample curves was seen as appealing while a man with a nicely-rounded belly was perceived to be well-off and a guy to be reckoned with. At least where I live, there hardly seems to be any shortage of sayings to this effect. An entertainingly inebriated chap once told me he preferred a heavily-set lady to a lean one any day. (Why? Because, according to this wise fellow, the skinny one is liable to be concentrating on sucking her tummy in even under the sheets.) Read the rest of this entry »
I never know with the Americans; do they even realise how wonderfully cynical they are? The current USA ambassador to Slovenia, His Excellency Joseph Adamo Mussomeli, who has earned quite a reputation for frequently voicing his opinion of our bickerings, recently said something like ”In the USA, politicians pretend to hate each other, but your politicians hate each other for real”.
(You gotta love this guy. He’s outspoken to the point of being brave, brilliant, with a great sense of humour. He succeeded in ticking off more people than all other ambassadors to Slovenia present and past combined. One of the few things about him that sort of fits what I’d expect from a diplomat is his undeniable charm and his skill at wooing the press – though he assures us that the media are always going for his throat.) Read the rest of this entry »