I saw a lovely picture of an English toff, dressed up to the nines, at an English country wedding on Sunday. Black morning coat, grey-black pin-striped trou, grey waistcoat – but you couldn’t see it. Instead there was a grey baby cradle firmly pinned to his chest and looped around his shoulders, holding a very newborn baby. Instead of a top-hat, he was carrying a blue and white spotted bag holding, presumably, all the disposable nappies, wipes and other paraphernalia a Western baby requires.
He was actually the English Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, but it was his role as a Dad which looked so impressive, as with broad smile on his face, and without a trace of embarrassment, he strode into the wedding behind his wife who was holding their toddler.
Time was when a man like him wouldn’t have even been seen pushing a pram. It’s a great leap forward for men, and mothers and their children, that men are actually not bashful any more about being seen to be caring sensitive fathers, or even sensitive new age guys ( Snags). So it seemed all the sadder to read another item on the same page about how the National Health Service has banned the use of the word ‘Dad’ in its information pamphlets, using ‘partner’ instead, so as not to offend same sex couples.
As I thought about this, I thought how much of our lives these days is taken up with not offending people – Moslems, lesbians, gays, among others – these are the ones that spring to mind, maybe because they seem to be offended more often. But are they? And do we take the same trouble not to offend Christians, men, children, and animals who all also get their feelings trampled on sometimes too. Do we have a license to be offended these days if we belong to a minority group or even a majority group?
It seems to me that when we allow ourselves to be offended by the innocent use of an archetypal word like father or Dad, we are actually taking it personally, and making everyone else responsible for offending us, which is another way of saying,’ making us angry.’
But life is a lot happier and less stressful if we don’t take offence and take everything personally. In his wonderful book called ‘The Four Agreements’, a book which must have made a lot of people feel happier and more fulfilled, Miguel Ruiz deals with the question of taking things personally, which usually means feeling hurt or offended – ie angry.
The Second Agreement reads “Don’t take anything personally.”
‘Nothing others do is because of you’, he writes. ‘What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be a victim of needless suffering’.
He reminds us that by taking responsibility for our own feelings, and giving up blaming other people for hurting our feelings, we can give up being offended and feel free instead. Maybe instead of writing politically correct pamphlets and destroying the use of words that have been valued for centuries, bureaucrats could instead, give the offended a copy of “The Four Agreements”! And maybe pigs Could fly too!
In spite of resolving to give up carbohydrates after reading that too many are what cause arthritis, I still have to feed the resident male, which means carbohydrates. But I found a way of eating my favourite vegetables, parsnips, which I fear are full of carbohydrates and sugar too, without causing too much damage. (I hope)
Roasted of course with the meat, they ‘re par-boiled first. Then drained and thrown around the pot with the lid on to make rough edges on them. Add some flour and bang them round the saucepan again, till they’re covered in flour. Then spoon hot oil or fat over them in a roasting dish. At this point I usually sprinkle them with maple syrup or brown sugar, but found a better way this time. I sprinkled them with stevia powder, the sweet herb which substitutes for sugar. You buy it in health food shops. The taste was sublime! Crunchy sweet parsnips with roast lamb and all the trimmings.