Who Wants to Live Forever

A few days ago I watched the very clever video below of a woman aging from a child to a late middle age woman. What struck me the most was how beautiful the woman was throughout the process. More than anything it seemed to confirm, for me at least that age is mostly a state of mind. Of course it is a little bit more than that as we are all destined to die from the moment we are born. However, for most of us who are lucky enough to be able to be the architects of our own lives, we can make that long journey, that circle of life in a myriad of very different ways. Although the end is always the same, the life-span the quality and the grace with which we do age on our journey are all up for negotiation, all very changeable. Anyway, before I go any further please watch the clip and remember to make sure your speakers are on, as the music is an integral part of the experience:

Of course I can spout on about the beauty and honesty of aging naturally until I am blue in the face, but few people would wholeheartedly agree with me. We have after all been raised during a time when youth and youth culture seems to be prized higher than most things; usually by advertisers and media companies and absolutely by the billion euro beauty industry. There is after all a long tradition of slapping this or that on our bodies and in recent years even injecting inert deadly bacteria and chemicals like botox into our faces. Nutrition is also an area the marketers have been keen to seize upon under the banner anti-aging. Although, this off shoot of the beauty and lifestyle industry is still regarded as a bit of an upstart because it has barely been around for more than a couple of decades, it has not been slow in making people quickly rich. I won’t try and deny for a second that I have not been influenced by the claims of both industries, I have taken supplements in the past and must confess that I have been moisturising my skin, with this cream or that for many years. But does it work, does any of it really work for long?

There was a time, perhaps up until about 10 years ago when I was a healthfood shop’s dream customer. I took multi-vitamins, multi-minerals, antioxidants, fish oils, extra B vitamins, Coenzyme Q10 and stuff like gingko biloba. However, after studying the science a bit more closely and eventually co-authoring a couple of bestselling books on the subject, I realised that my normal diet was giving me almost everything I needed, even as a vegetarian/ pescatorean (fish and seafood only). So I stopped almost all of these supplements and now only take a multi B vitamin and a spoonful of ground linseed on my breakfast muesli, which makes up for any shortfalls in my diet because I don’t eat meat. I should also point out that if you take nothing else – a spoonful of linseed (make sure you grind them as whole seeds mostly just pass through your body) is possibly one of the most beneficial things you can take for your body.

Pharmacy Drugs
Photo by Health Gauge

Health foods and vitamin supplements may be one thing but what about the magic creams and potions we rub, spread or inject into our skin every day? I won’t deny that there are some visible benefits – especially if you want part of your face to lose its muscle strength so your wrinkles temporarily decrease as with Botox or dermal fillers in your face and lips. But because these have no significant long lasting affects you quickly become a tidy cash (or credit) sum of repeat business for whoever injects these things into your face (not always a doctor or surgeon). However, most beauty creams are little more than expensive moisturising creams – which despite a dizzying array of pricy ingredients all essentially try to do the same job. It’s about here that you point out that I just confessed earlier to using a moisturiser and you would be right to a certain extent. What I do use at night, in order to lock in moisture and hence keep my face looking a bit fresher and less lined, is a baby-bottom-butter. Waitrose baby-bottom-butter to be precise. This inexpensive (about £3) cream, initially intended for the care of a babies delicate skin actually came top in a 2011 survey and pushed aside other creams that retailed at over £100+ for the same amount. So go on try it and save yourself a load of money!

There are many other alternatives to achieve similar results as those declared in most expensive product marketing, which far too often stray towards making unrealistic claims and telling downright lies about this product or that. These industries rely to a certain extent on baffling the consumer with science and fancy ingredient names such as sodium lardate, lardium or tallow (all lard), ambergris (whale vomit) or hyaluronic acid (human placenta). Let’s face it you wouldn’t pay too much for anything containing these things if they overtly told you the common ingredient name for what you were about to smearing into your face… or would you?

Anti Wrinkle
Photo by Traveller_40

How a word count creeps up on you – I actually wanted to give you a list of about 25 or so beauty or nutrition industry myths that could be debunked, but I must end here with a promise that if there is enough interest I will return to this interesting but sometimes very confusing area later in the year. Until then, if you want to look good and age more gracefully: eat well, stop smoking or drinking too much, avoid stress as much as possible and oh yes get moisturising at night with baby bottom butter!

So… was that enough of a departure for you guys who needed a change from my thoughts on the disintegrating situation in Turkey… what too Metrosexual? Really? Oh well I’ll definitely fix that for you next time!

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Syrians in the Shrubbery

Firstly let me apologise for the apparently flippant title; it is not intended to diminish the real hardship that many refugees are currently experiencing. No it was done with the intention of pulling in a few more of the ever ‘shrinking attention span social-media’ (SASS) generation into a serious subject. If you ‘Dear Reader’ are one of these people then I guess it did its job, unless of course you have now taken offence at being labelled Generation SASS!

The title is actually not very far from the truth. About ten days ago I was woken in the early hours of the morning by voices coming from the direction of my garden. There was a Turkish voice but also a different Turkic sounding language being spoken, which I later learned was Syrian Arabic. This being the Turkish seaside in summer, people stay out late. It is also the middle of Ramadan, when the handful of my neighbours who still observe it properly rise well before the sun does to eat their breakfasts, so I just rolled over and went back to sleep. However, I had just nodded off when I heard shouting and noticed the coloured flashing lights of a Jandarma (Countryside Police Force) truck. The next day a neighbour informed me that a group of about seven Syrian refugees had been hiding in gardens waiting for a boat, they were told would leave from our beach at midnight. The boat they said they had paid for had seemingly never arrived.

I wish I could say there was something unusual about this story but sadly it is being repeated up and down the entire length of the Turkish Aegean coastline every single night. Desperate people trying to make it to Greece, which despite its own economic collapse is still seen as the gateway to the European Union. The Syrians I heard were heading for the Greek Island of Kos, which I can clearly see from my house most days. However, because so many other Greek islands also lie in close proximity to the Turkish coastline, they have received more than their fair share of people looking for political asylum. Only yesterday the large island of Lesbos declared that it has received more refugees than at any time since the calamitous end to the Greek – Turkish War of Independence in 1922, when in the space of a few weeks almost a million people fled from Turkey to Greece ahead of the victorious Turkish forces.

Syrian Refugees in Bodrum
Photo care of Hurriyet Newspaper

This week the United Nations confirmed that more than four million Syrians – a sixth of the population – have fled abroad to escape the conflict in their country. A surge in the number of people crossing into Turkey has increased this total by one million in just 10 months. Turkey is now home to the largest number of Syrians refugees – almost 2 million – and is reportedly preparing for a new influx as the conflict escalates near the Syrian border.

Syrians also made up about a third of the 137,000 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean from north Africa in the first half of 2015. In all, about 270,000 Syrians have gone that more dangerous route to seek asylum in Europe. However, Europe now seems so totally distracted by the economic woes of Greece and its almost inevitable exit from the Eurozone, that it appears devoid of any real will or ideas to come up with a sustainable solution to deal with the massive influx, beyond building higher fences and sending out more boats to collect survivors from those flimsy boats that sink long before they can make landfall.

Of course where ever you have a crisis, there will be those who can see a quick profit in it. Enter the people traffickers, who are now operating in a business worth hundreds of millions of Euros, anywhere in a long sweep of coastline between the African Atlantic coast all the way around the Mediterranean to the land border between Turkey and Greece. Be they mafia, smaller local players or just petty criminals with a single boat to sell, all are now trying to cash in on the unfolding human tragedy. For them the more miserable the better because that is what motivates the refugees to pay such high amounts for life threatening journeys often in conditions that most people wouldn’t even subject animals to.

Returning to my opening scene. People smuggling is now so widespread here that the crooks who run these operations along the Aegean coast now barely even try to hide their activities anymore and in some areas they have terrorised the local residents to such an extent that some of them have now banded together and taken up arms against the smugglers.

People Smugglers in Bademli Village
Photo care of Sabah Newspaper

Fed up with smugglers using their fields and empty houses for their operations to the Greek island of Lesbos, locals in Bademli village in the province of Canakkale recently argued with a group of smugglers they confronted on the coast. However the smugglers soon returned in a convoy of cars and opened fire into the air in the village square in an attempt to intimidate the villagers, who they did not realise were also armed with pistols and rifles. The villagers quickly overpowered the group and captured five Turkish smugglers who they photographed after tying to poles in the square. Some of the photos were then made into posters and put up in the area to make an example of them and warn off other smugglers. The men were then handed to Jandarma when they arrived in the village the next morning. However, only one of these men was arrested while some of the others, who were quickly released, returned the very next night. They were now scared to enter the village, but still fired into the air nearby.

One of the villagers who preferred to remain anonymous recently told Sabah newspaper that hundreds of migrants still descend into Bademli, every single night in taxi’s on foot or in smugglers trucks, which also carry boats. Nobody seems interested in stopping them so we now patrol our fields, to prevent them demolishing fences and walls and also any out buildings and summer houses, which is where the smugglers often hide the refugees until night falls. The two sides still occasionally exchange fire at night.

Until the World decides to deal with the catastrophic war in Syria once and for all, such scenes are undoubtedly going to be repeated and will probably get worse long before they get better.

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