Just so that we’re clear, I came equipped with the usual set of pre-programmed physiological responses and they’re all here and accounted for; I assure you that I am just as fazed by the sudden sight of anything potentially dangerous as the next person. My fight, flight or freeze reaction is alive and well and easily triggered by creepy crawlies, the fact I am willing to extend my hospitality to an occasional charismatic arthropod notwithstanding. It’s just that I don’t continue panicking after having judged a stimulus mostly harmless and as far as I know, all central-European arachnids including my flatmate Brunhilda the diadem spider are harmless to the point of being helpless against humans, save for their potential to send us running by the sheer power of their presence. I am not fearful of Brunchy but if she catches me by surprise… Well here’s a video of what transpired when her delicate claw-foot made contact with my fingertip as I was attaching a snack to her web:
As demonstrated here, the FFF response of this particular human is accompanied by an alarm call. The volume of the distress signal may range from a loud gasp if the room acoustics are deemed adequate to a blood-curdling screech reserved for open spaces, but invariably there is some degree of vocalisation. (Yes I’m a shrieker and unabashedly proud of it. As luck would have it, one of my neighbours wails like a banshee when startled and hilarity ensues each time we unexpectedly bump into each other in the basement. Since the birth of humanity, it was people like us who had kept their fellow humans safe by instantly alerting them to threats real and imagined. These same individuals also excelled at obliterating the element of surprise from hunting expeditions whenever a scary bug moved into sight, which just might have been the driving force behind humans largely giving up on hunting for their meals and settling down to take up agriculture instead. So yeah, we shriekers have shaped history in ways you can’t begin to imagine.)Read the rest of this entry »
Nothing particularly strange has happened while I’ve been busy foraging for dragon eggs. Just so that we’re clear, a whole lot of interesting stuff has been going on but most of it doesn’t qualify as weird. For example, several Slovenian state-owned companies are being privatised and the process is complete with all the mandatory drama, yet utterly devoid of unexpected phenomena. If you’re from a country where companies need privatizing, you should already be familiar with the usual mess this sort of affair entails, and if your country hasn’t gotten to this point yet, well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, save for a small forewarning: when talks of selling off anything state-owned begin, the public figures form two camps and stop at nothing to rally the ordinary folks to their cause. The first, usually the more powerful and loud camp, is headed by distinguished individuals accustomed to sucking money from state-controlled companies with a large straw. The second camp is led by hopefuls who either think they may get to profit nicely from the sale or simply want to see the first camp cut off from its source of power and wealth. The people who genuinely believe that companies need to be privately owned to achieve any semblance of efficiency and profitability do exist but they end up where those thinking about the benefit of somebody other than themselves usually do: somewhere so far in the background you can barely make out what they’re saying. We’ve been witnessing all this in Slovenia for a while now but until an assassination or at least a super juicy sex scandal occurs, I shan’t consider anything weird enough to report on. Anyway, if you’re lucky enough to be from someplace where companies are already privately-owned, you should keep counting your blessings, at least until you realise that while company stock may be private its losses might not be. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m proud to declare this report late for all the right reasons: I sneaked away on holiday, which in itself qualifies as one of the least usual events around here. It’s true. I, a full-time professional translator, escaped the confines of my office and went frolicking about in Gorenjska*, a place so spectacularly beautiful you have to see it to believe it.
Strange things have happened while I was away… I used to rely on my assortment of weird theories to keep the people around me from falling asleep. But I’ve been finding myself increasingly hard-pressed to come up with fresh ideas because my weird theories keep turning out to be true, upon which they join the ever-growing ranks of the weird realities of living in this country and lose their novelty appeal. I used to claim ownership to a theory that so many people in power ended up publicly shamed for their plagiarism simply because they had felt above writing their own graduate thesis while the chap they (under)paid to do it for them hadn’t felt above stealing somebody else’s original work. By the looks of it, this isn’t a theory anymore but rather a hard fact. Our latest Minister of Education resigned after five (5!) days in the office after she herself – here it comes – requested her alma mater to check her Master’s dissertation for plagiarism. It turns out that a significant portion of it had been purloined from another student’s paper. Read the rest of this entry »
Ever heard that urban legend where a sexual predator pretends to be a cop so that he can pounce on unsuspecting, usually-but-not-necessarily-female lone drivers? The one which isn’t really an urban legend but a cautionary tale inspired by true events? Well, the Slovenian general population may be mostly harmless, save for our ability to whine the joy de vivre right out of you, but our criminals don’t like to stay behind their foreign role models and it was just a matter of time before somebody figured out that a similar ruse just might work. A man barely into his twenties – these types do tend to start early – had been passing himself off as a plain-clothes police officer, harassing and unlawfully searching at least five females, of whom he sexually assaulted two and raped one, a young girl under the age of fifteen at that. Luckily for him, our judiciary system is a joke and he was sentenced to 4 years and 10 months in prison. What can I say, we’re super European in our reluctance to hand out proper punishment. While a story of another fake cop who tried to make a quick buck by stopping motorists and fining them for real or imagined traffic offences is still fresh (and quite funny), it must be said that people impersonating police officers remain a rare occurrence in Slovenia. But here, and for that matter anywhere else, it just might be wise to phone the police and check if the cop you’re dealing with is a real one before things go too far. Read the rest of this entry »
We seem to have had a minor spike in violent crime, like a son punching his innkeeper mum down the stairs with fatal consequences, we’ve seen a stabbing or two and sadly a young woman died when a guy handling a pistol shot her by mistake. (The last one makes me wonder what kind of upbringing do people have nowadays; one of the first things I remember my father teaching me was, don’t do anything stupid with a gun but if you absolutely cannot resist the temptation make sure the muzzle isn’t pointing toward any living creature.) Such things have the power to shock us natives because we haven’t grown accustomed to blood and gore yet, but the average foreigner would probably consider this a slow week, at least judging from the stories my foreign-born friends have been telling me. For example, the one about the event that spurred two of my English friends into leaving Spain for Slovenia; they expatriated to Spain as apparently all English people do sooner or later. One day they came back to their RV to find a group of suspicious-looking individuals crouching behind it. Halfway through the process of politely encouraging the strange folk to move away from their vehicle, they suddenly had bullets zipping past their ears and punching holes into the RV’s side. The crouching posse responded by springing out their own guns and spraying bullets at the police special forces who were shooting at them from behind the English couple; the latter hit the ground like there was no tomorrow and waited for the shootout to play out, grabbed their passports and hightailed it half way through Europe to make a new home for themselves here. For good or for worse, your chances of finding yourself in the middle of a gun battle between the police and criminals in Slovenia are about the same as being abducted by aliens and crowned as their sovereign, mostly because our criminals feel so perfectly safe here they seldom bother to carry firearms.
Our former Prime Minister Ms Bratušek has seen her house and several of her boltholes ransacked by armed police, allegedly over her ill-fated attempt at the position of the Vice President of the European Commission where they blackballed her faster than a herd of overfed rabbits scared shitless. Those unlucky enough to have seen her painful-to-watch confirmation hearing would have reasonably expected her to be accused of high treason over that fiasco but apparently the reasons for the house search were quite mundane. She is suspected of having nominated herself for the EC position which I understand is nothing more than a standard abuse of power that we’ve gotten used to seeing on a daily basis. Ms Bratušek herself said the police didn’t seem to know what they were looking for, which naturally makes me suspect they were hoping to at least find a cannabis factory, which would have partly explained the notable detachment from reality that the majority of our politicians have been exhibiting. Whatever, the whole thing seems intriguing and I might keep an eye on it.
Same-sex marriage got legalised!! I hope this lures over some tourists because nobody here is getting married anymore and I’m not sure our native gay couples will be any keener on tying the knot than their hetero counterparts. Myself I’ve recently come to realise that I’m likely to stay engaged indefinitely largely because there seems to be no benefit in getting married and you are in fact penalised for getting hitched; like if you happen to find yourself unemployed you are not entitled to as much jobseeker’s allowance as an unmarried person. What can I say, more power to those who still believe in marriage enough to go through with it. And when I think of it, I find it quite funny that certain vocal conservatives who’ve had so much to say against homosexuals marrying each other fail to realise that marriage-keen gays may be their last allies in the fight to preserve the sanctity of marriage. Read the rest of this entry »
I love it when Mother Nature steps forward to solve my problems. Until quite recently, a prominent grievance of mine were germ-taxies (houseflies). I’m locally famous for my knack at capturing them, which I suppose is fine. The thing is I’m keen on recycling and I felt bad for having little choice other than flush perfectly edible insects down the drain as I had no pet I could feed my prey to. That was, until Brunhilda came to my rescue.
The first time I saw her was when my darling lured me over to the bedroom by announcing he had something to show me and directed my gaze to the window above my side of the headboard. I was thrilled to see that while I was out, a newly-arrived friend had fitted it with a pure-silk, certified-organic flytrap that cut right through the airspace so cherished by insects. Brunhilda was sitting at the centre of her creation, looking a bit tense. I stood up on the headboard, inspected her up close, looked at my man and said, “Her butt looks flat, we need to fatten her up.” From then on, each captured fly has been presented to our new pal and she seemed to approve of this arrangement because Brunhilda, also known as Brunchy amongst her flatmates, is a diadem spider. And fatten her up we sure did.
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.