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The Day A Cafe Lived Up To Its Name (Or Never Mind "Bewiched" I Was Captivated!)
8/24/2014 6:27:29 PM
"I love this place and I haven't even bought anything yet!"

Yesterday was the first time I said the above words aloud on entering any kind of retail premises and actually meant them.

What could have caused such a spontaneous reaction???  Being allowed to retain some independence and feeling able to let someone do their actual job without having to ask them for help.

I am a simple creature and it is reasonably easy to keep me happy when I am roaming around in the wild on my own.  Do not make me feel that I need to find a pack to be part of in order to enjoy whatever it is you are trying to offer me - especially if I have entered your premises on my own.

Three things got me intrigued enough to walk through the door of "Bewiched" in Kettering.  Someone had mentioned it to me when I had reviewed the Costa Coffee places in Kettering for my original blog.  The name was quirky enough to grab my attention.  Having a bicycle with flowers on it outside the window* definitely caught my eye.  (Well - I am half-Dutch.)

If there is one thing I absolutely hate it is having to ask complete strangers to read things out to me (to be honest I am not very keen on having to ask friends to read things out to me either but at least I know they won't mind doing it).  The way I see it is - getting me to enter your shop, cafe, etc, is the easy bit - actually keeping me in there long enough for you to sell me your product or service is where the really hard work starts.

A large menu on a coloured background with easy to read type will definitely help you if you are in charge of a cafe.  A menu large enough for me to read even though it is stuck behind the counter definitely works in your favour.  In fact, that is what made me say the sentence I started this blog post with.

The cafe was also well-lit (even though it was daylight - I have walked into some cafes which made me wish I had purchased a lantern before entering during daylight hours).

Comfortable looking furniture was set out in such a way that I could navigate my way around even with a tray in my hands.  The place looked like it had plenty of space inside.

When I ordered my mug of tea it was served in a large - solid - mug*.  To me this indicated that my custom was actively encouraged and I was allowed to linger over my drink.  I am sorry but serving me drinks (even cold ones like milkshakes and iced coffee) in a plastic container - even when I have stated I wish to stay in your premises - does not make me feel welcome.  Although I am a bit puzzled as to why the milk was served in something which ressembled an old fashioned vinegar bottle which had lost its stopper.

I chose a very comfortable armchair to sit in as I drank my tea (and ate my Teacake which was served with butter and apricot jam).

What made the experience even nicer was the lightshades*.  They were such a pretty pattern and left me wondering how they had been made (along with where I could get them from).

In fact, there is only one minor problem with "Bewiched" - there isn't one in Leicester yet.  When I was handed my Loyalty Card I asked the man behind the counter if they could open one in Leicester.;  Now I have to find a way of getting to Peterborough or Corby if I want to visit another branch.  (I actually wanted to move in to the Kettering branch but I had a bus to catch.)

*I did take a photo of the bicycle, the mug, and a lightshade.  If you want to see them go to the Photos Section of the website.

When Gatekeeping Should Be Seen As A Criminal Offence (Or How A Few Wrong Choices Can Literally Cost Millions In Lives AND Money)
8/21/2014 7:05:02 PM
This afternoon I had a heartbreaking experience involving headlines, statistics, and choices I really found difficult to make.   Why did I find the experience heartbreaking???  The choices involved choosing headlines and statistics which would raise awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness - both to make people think about them (and how easily it could affect them personally) and to annoy certain people in the (I fear - vain) hope that they will reverse some of their decisions.

What made the decisions worse was the fact that they shouldn't have had to have been made in the first place.  In a caring, compassionate, city there should be adequate access to help for vulnerable people.

Some of the statistics were fairly run-of-the-mill stuff like the amount of people who live one paycheck away from homelessness, the amount of young people who are sleeping rough, the percentage of homeless people with Mental Health issues, homelessness increases the likelihood of people who come out of prison re-offending, etc.

Don't get me wrong - all the above are important statistics and issues which need to be resolved.  However, they pale into insignificance for me when it comes to the choice between a headline which says words to the effect of "Charities say that Housing Options and Councils are Gatekeeping Homeless Services" (as in not posting people to the correct places to get the help they need) - and one which says "Women who are victims of Domestic Abuse stay with their partners".  I went with the "Housing Options" headline - and I will explain why in a while

Now - I know there are reasons people give for staying in abusive relationships.  I also know there are charities who provide advice and support to people who want to escape abusive relationships.  What I don't know is where the victims of Domestic Abuse are going to flee to if the Councils decide to close all the refuges and hostels for them to escape to.

What little training I have had in the decision making process that the Councils should go through when deciding to help people who are homeless (or at risk of becoming homeless) is that the most vulnerable people should be helped first.  Top of that list are victims of Domestic Violence and people who have been in care (there are a few other groups on that list but I forgot what the others were).

So why did I choose the one about "Housing Options Gatekeeping" instead of the one about the "Victims of Domestic Violence"?

Mainly for one reason which you may or may not agree with - if Housing Options were not busy acting as Gatekeepers and turning desperate people away from accessing services for Homeless People there may be more of a chance that the Victims of Domestic Violence/Abuse would have somewhere to escape to.  This may cut their chances of going back into the same old cycle of Domestic Abuse - especially if the hostel or refuge they were sent to had qualified staff to help them with their onward journey out of that situation.

I may not be the most educated person on Planet Earth but I do know that if Councils keep cutting support for vulnerable homeless people so they can save money - someone else is going to have to deal with the consequences - and pick up the bill for doing so.

The most likely groups who will find themselves picking up the peices are the NHS (including the overstretched and under-resourced Mental Health professionals), the Police, and the Prison Service.  I could be completely wrong here but I get the idea that all three of those groups are under-resourced and under-funded.  (In fact, I was on a bus going past Leicester Prison when I saw a banner advertising vacancies for Prison Officers.)

Surely it would be better to adequately fund the provision of Services for Homeless People - stop places like Councils (particularly their Housing Departments) barring access to these services - and open more hostels and refuges instead of less???

Or are we really willing to sit back and watch Councils make decisions which end up costing millions in lives as well as financially - just because they want to save some money on their Budgets???

By the way - by  "costing millions in lives" I don't just mean the amount of people who die as a result of homelessness.  I mean the amount of lives which are ruined as a result, through drink or drug addiction, Mental Health issues which may arise from being homeless, loss of self-confidence, etc.

A civilised community should be willing to help the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable members of society, even if it means taking money and time away from the richest.

Access All Areas??? Not For All Abilities!!! (Or The Multi-Cultural City With A Mobility Problem)
8/14/2014 9:53:36 PM

We would all agree that Leicester is an ethnically diverse place as far as race, religious beliefs and cuisines are concerned.  In fact, you could probably go on a world tour just by walking through the city centre.

Leicester also has a name for holding big events like the Comedy Festival and the “Simon Says” Festival (also the “Big Eat” event).  It is also home to some brilliant talent of its own.

However, would you be surprised if I told you there was a darker side on the reverse of the “Public Image” Leicester chooses to portray to the world?  What about if I told you that there is one section of society which Leicester doesn’t welcome with open arms (in some cases to the point of actively discouraging their presence)?

I first noticed that not all of Leicester’s venues are “Disabled Friendly” as a result of attending some of the performances at a few Comedy Festivals in the past.  This is particularly the case if you are in a wheelchair (or – like me – you can walk but your sight makes staircases an interesting concept and you do not wish to highlight your difficulty by walking around with a white stick or asking for help).

The irony is that the Leicester Comedy Festival has worked with a wide variety of interest groups regarding raising awareness of subjects like Mental Health, Men’s Health, etc.  What is the point if half of the venues only have staircases to the performance areas with no trace of a lift?  (Some of the performance areas are really too dark for someone like me to find their way to their seat even if I do manage to negotiate the stairs.)

Apparently us Disabled People have to ring in advance to ensure that the venue can cope with our arrival and our needs.  By law we should not need to do this.  After all, able-bodied people do not need to warn the venue when they decide to attend a performance.

Even if the building cannot be altered enough to accommodate a lift – surely it would be possible to set up some kind of “live relay” video link to the performance and allow the wheelchair users to view the performance from the Ground Floor?

Leicester is trying to make a name for itself as an All-Inclusive Multi-Cultural city.  Unfortunately, until the wheelchair users and those of us with vision problems are catered for in all the venues the city will not live up to that name.

Destination Where??? (Or First Leicester Have Played A Blinder With Their Motorised Rainbow)
8/14/2014 9:49:08 PM

I was going to wait with writing this article until First Leicester had completed their roll out of the colour-coordinated buses but I decided to write it now as, to be honest, I have seen enough and it has made my eyes hurt too much.

A few years ago First Leicester had the bright idea of colour coding their routes.  Their bus maps now resemble the London Underground Tube Map.  When they had this bright idea they decided to paint a strip around the bus of the colour of the route (as well as flashing it on the destination board).  As someone with a vision problem I could live with that as I could see the destination of the bus on the destination board.

Fast forward to the present day.  In their great wisdom First Leicester have decided to take this idea one step further (and a step too far if you ask me).

The first I saw of this new phenomenon was when an eye-shatteringly bright yellow fronted bus passed me as I was waiting on Charles Street.  I had no way of finding out the destination of the bus as the brightness of the yellow had all but hidden the destination board from view (is it me or have the new buses got smaller destination boards anyway?).  Helpfully painted on the side of the bus was the number 54 - the route number of this particular bus.  I wonder what will happen when they run out of buses which have been painted in the correct colours for each route and one breaks down???

I had been hoping that First Leicester would have toned down the brightness of the colours as they rolled more buses out on different routes.  No such luck.  So far we have Yellow, Blue, Green and Orange having been rolled out – none of which colours make the destination board easy to see.  (Even those people with “normal” sight have a problem seeing the destination boards on the coloured fronts.)  For me catching a First Leicester bus on any of the coloured routes has turned into a guessing game where I have to know which way the bus is pointing in order to attempt to work out its destination.

As someone who – through no fault of my own – relies on buses to get me from A to B, I would actually like to know where the bus is going before I get on it without having to either consult a coloured route map or speak to the driver.

In the future I will attempt to avoid First Leicester buses and find a route operated by an alternative bus company.


The Best Place To Start Is At The Beginning (Or Allow Me To Present The Most Inspirational Person I Have Ever Met)
8/7/2014 1:17:18 AM
If you remember this section from the original "Inkyworld" blog don't worry - all the important people who made it into this section will make their way back eventually.  This time I wanted to start properly though and introduce you to the strongest, kindest, friendliest and bravest lady I have ever met.  She also happens to be the person who inspired me the most.

It is strange how when my Mum was alive I used to hate it when people got me mixed up with her but now I consider it a great honour and privilege when one of our mutual friends calls me "Coby" by accident.

She was one of those people who really put the motto "Sterkte Door Strijd" (or "Strength Through Adversity") into practice.  That motto is the motto of her native city of Rotterdam.

Seriously - everything life threw at her was somehow coped with (even when I would have given up) - the best thing about her was that no matter how much pain she was in or if she was struggling herself she would go out of her way to help her friends and family.  She had this thing where even the grumpiest person who she spoke to was not allowed to leave without some form of a smile on their face.

When I was born I had a hole in my heart (we were to eventually find - some 30 years later - that she had a hole in exactly the same place as mine which had never been picked up).  I have been told on numerous occassions that I was very poorly - to the point where I had to be operated on ASAP or I would have been dead by five years old.  I was operated on at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London then shunted between three hospitals - including the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, where I was born.  I think I was eventually released into the wild at approx 8 months old.

If this wasn't bad enough my Dad had a very serious accident which left him in another hospital two months after I was born.  Let's just say I am honestly thankful I was born during the time of the three day week.  This meant that my Mum's nearest relatives (my English Grandparents) could act as a taxi service ferrying my Mum around between hospitals.  She had only been in England for approx a year when I was born and she couldn't drive.  Her Mum was stuck in Rotterdam.

Anyway - My Dad and I both survived our ordeals and we were eventually reunited when I was released into the wild (I have always had a dislike of hospitals - not as bad as my English Grandad though.  The only time I ever saw him anywhere near a hospital ward - the inside of one anyway - was when he was himself dying of cancer.  My favourite family photo is of my parents, me, and my English Grandma actually in the hospital ward when I was a baby with my Grandad standing outside peering into the window at me.  Apparently he had had Polio as a child and it made him hate hospitals with a passion even I can only dream of.  He would give various relatives lifts to hospitals he just refused to set foot in them himself.)

Even when she ended up in hospital with a very bad back and ended up with what we suspect was one of the earliest cases of MRSA she remained cheerful.  The same with her second stint in hospital with a back complaint.

She treated everybody with respect (even on the few occassions when she didn't actually like them).  She was a great organiser with a good heart for the community.  It got to the stage when I almost couldn't move in the village where my Dad still lives for people whose lives had been touched by her in one way or another.

If there is one word I can use to describe my Mum it is "Dutch" with a capital "D".  Her speaking accent may have almost disappeared by the time she died but - as she herself said - "I was born Dutch.  I am Dutch.  I will die Dutch".  (In a way I am glad that either the British Government or the Dutch one refused to let her have Dual Nationality.  Even though she spent more time living in England than she did living in Holland.)

The Dutch have got one very famous trait (which I do share with her) - they are blunt and to the point.  Dutch people are not the best people to be employed by the Diplomatic Squad either - tact and diplomacy are the last two words I would associate with Dutch people.  Put it this way - I have always said that the most dangerous question to ask a Dutch person consists of three very small words, "How are you?".

What the Dutch maybe are not so famous for is the fact that - if you are lucky enough to be our friends - we will go out of our way to help you if you are in trouble.  I told you that my Mum was a great organiser?  Meals on Wheels, Housebound Library, etc.

She was also very protective of her family and friends.  You could tell her your problems and know she would keep them secret.  However, if someone upset any of us her friendly nature would turn decidedly frosty towards them.

I know some people may think this is a cop out me saying that my Mum is the most inspirational person I have ever met but I honestly think that if my friends think as highly of me as her friends did and still do of her (over 7 years after her death) I will be very happy.

Seeing Versus Observing (Or How Easy It Is To See The Impossible When You Are Told About It)
8/7/2014 1:13:30 AM
I should have realised that something I said could and would be used to identify me.  It's just that you never expect someone to accuse you of giving them the visual version of an "earworm" (where you put a song in their head that they cannot remove no matter how hard they try).  Or at least I don't.  You would have thought I had performed some kind of hypnotism on them (chance would be a fine thing).

Apparently this poor person now has difficulty seeing streetlights.  Don't worry - they can actually see the streetlights.  They even - in their rational mind - recognise them as streetlights.  Or rather - according to them - they did recognise them as streetlights until I happened to point out that one of them looked to me like a spoon.  I had not even been anywhere near them since the last time we had met (approximately 4 weeks before this conversation).

What made me smile was the fact this person went on to attempt the impossible - as in convince me that I am "normal".  We were discussing an idea I have had which I would like to use on this website to illustrate some of the "fun" stuff with my sight - as in what I can actually see without my glasses on.

This concept was to later backfire on them when we had been talking about photography and what people can see.  I was a bit shocked when they all but told me that I am "normal" as far as seeing things is concerned - when I queried this I enquired whether normal, rational people thought streetlights looked like teaspoons.  The answer came back along the lines of "only if they are observant".

I am not sure about this.  I am convinced it has something to do with how my eyes process things even with my glasses on - especially in certain lighting conditions.  (Trust me - pop up or 3D advertisements can be really scary when you realise that what you are looking at is not a pop up or 3D advertisement but actually a human who was standing slightly too close to a backlit advertising poster on a bus shelter in the dark before they decided to move away from it slightly.  The walking trees when it gets to dusk can give that book "The Day Of The Triffids" a run for it's money too - until you realise it is a human standing or walking in front of you at dusk.)  I definitely don't need illegal drugs to get the kind of hallucinations with people might associate with either being high or a bad "trip" - all I have to do is tinker with the lighting and I can get scary visions that way.

We all see things differently.  Some of us even use different parts of or body to "see" with - as in our hands and our feet.  I never wear shoes inside my house if I can help it - my feet tell me if I am standing near an edge, etc.

The person I spoke to did say something else to stun me though.  They decided they wanted a peek into my world and - apparently - stuck tissue paper in font of their eyes (don't try this at home).  In the next breath they informed me that the did something I never do even with my glasses off - they veered off to the left and right bumping into things.  I suppose I do have one advantage over them in that instance I know how to orient myself so I can walk in a straight line even without my glasses on - and this does come with experience.

What I should have told them I suppose is that they have totally altered my view of the original teaspoon I told them about - to the point where I am actually slightly afriad to wait for a bus near it.  Works both ways!

Can We Go Back To The Motoring Future Please? (Or The One Car I Really Wish I Could Have Driven)
8/7/2014 12:27:12 AM
It is with some irony that I learned that Leicester is supposed to be about to turn into a tect circuit for driverless cars.

The irony being the only car I have ever actually wanted to drive (out of all the cars owned by both my Dad and my Grandad) having gone to that great Scrapyard in the Sky when I was about 16.  I am not ashamed to say I cried when I saw it being put on a skip lorry.  (It was one of only two vehicles which I first remembered Dad owning - the other was a Commer - or Comma - whatever the Campervans were called.)  I think Dad had been hoping to get it roadworthy again at some point but never got round to it.

The car in question was a bottle green NSU.  I seem to remember it was an original "H" or "K" registration (as in when the date letters were on the right of the number plate instead of the left).  It may not have looked very special to most humans but - according to me - that little car looked beautiful.  In fact, it is in my top three of cars owned by my Dad and my Grandad - in second place was the first car that I remember my Grandad owning (a maroon coloured Hillman Imp) and in third place was the second car my Grandad owned (a snazzy grey Mini with woodwork trim on the outside).

I have to admit that there was one make of car which I wish either of them had owned (even though I cannot stand the modern version) and this had nothing to do with the car itself.  It was more connected with the hub caps.  (Those hub caps and what I called the "Milk Bottle Tops" shiny hub caps you got on buses where an source of endless fascination for me.)

I suppose you would have to be at least 35 years old to remember the old Mercedes cars with their colour coordinated hub caps (complete with the Mercedes logo on them).  I whiled away many hours looking at those when we got off the car ferry in Rotterdam.  Funnily enough I seem to only remeber seeing them driving around near ports (and thinking the cars were very expensive as a result).

Of course, if someone would like to manufacture a working example of KITT from Knightrider I would be the first to ask to be able to be driven around in him.

The Joys Of Mechanically Recovered Food (Or - How I Can Sometimes Be So Easily Amused It Is Unbelievable)
8/7/2014 12:02:17 AM
There is something I really miss about Holland.  Oh - I can now get most of my favourite Dutch foods over here if I so choose (either at Continental Markets or over the internet) - but there is one thing which I think the British Government would try to ban on sight if they ever saw one.

A Vending Machine which will sell you hot food cheaply (the maximum cost is approximately 3 Euros per item).  OK - so the size of the portions is maximum of two mouthfuls but at least it is "burn your fingers and your mouth" hot.  Plus the food is either made or heated on site just before they put it in to the back of the machine.

I must admit that finding one of these machines is the only time when I actually let my English side out to play when I am in Holland.  It almost turns into some kind of weird fruit machine which dispenses food if you are willing to play the game.

The best place to find one of these machines is at a large railway station in Holland (Rotterdam Central Station has got one parked between two platforms on the main walkway through the station).  Usually situated in or very close to a "Smullers" concession.

When you first look at it it can be quite confusing for the uninitiated.  All you see is small glass doors with coin slots on every column.  You can either waste money consulting a Dutch phrasebook in an attempt to decipher the names on the labels at the top of each column or - you can pick a column and see if the contents either look appetising or are recognisable as something you have eaten at home.

After making your selection you insert your coins (exact money please) into the nearest column.  When the money has percolated through the system you pull the door in front of your choice and remove it prior to walking away and munching it.  However, I would advise you to invest in something else first - oven gloves so you can retrieve your food without burning your hands.

That has reminded me of something else I half miss.  This object was in my Oma's first flat (as in the first flat she lived in when I knew her) and it used to frighten the living daylights out of me.  I thought of it as the "Water Heater From Hell".

Now, in most houses and flats I have ever been in the boiler is tucked away out of sight - and most certainly away from the hot water tap in the kitchen.  Not only was this boiler on top of the hot water tap in the kitchen it also had an open flame.  I was scared stiff of it.  I suppose there was one good thing about it though.  When you did the washing up the water was almost guaranteed to be scalding hot - this meant that you didn't need to boil a kettle to wash up.  Unless of course someone was in the bath or washing their hair in the bathroom.  The kitchen water would be ice cold then.

However, if you really want to know how to keep me amused for hours on end - find the first TV I remember my Oma ever owning.  I can still remember it now (and I was pretty upset when it had disappeared on one of my trips to see her).  This TV was rather unusual in one very big way.

Most TV's from that time (1970's to 1980's) either had buttons down the front in a line or had a dial to change channels.  Not Oma's.  This one was like a proper puzzle (the jackpot being if you actually pressed the correct combination of buttons for the channel you wanted to watch at that moment.

It had two horizontal rows of buttons to the top right next to the screen.  The top row was "A" to either "D" or "E" and the bottom row was 1 to either 4 or 5.  in order to select a channel you had to pick a letter button followed by an number button.  Put it this way - when you realise that even in those days (with only two State Dutch TV channels) you could get Dutch, German, Belgian, and the BBC all on the same TV - you may realise the confusion it could cause.

Yes - I know - I did say I am very easily amused sometimes. 

Why Positive Discrimination Is Still Discrimination By A Different Name (Or - Call Off The Parachute Regiment And Allow Talent Before Looks Or Gender)
8/6/2014 10:25:43 PM
I have been reading with interest about the furore surrounding the resignation (and apparent "over-promotion" before her resignation) of Baroness Warsi.  This is because - for me at least - it taps into one aspect of society which I simply cannot either understand or stand for.

Recently we have had endless debates about how certain sections of society are under-represented in the media and in Government - along with how we should rectify the situation to everybody's satisfaction.

Solutions have included parachuting female "comedians" into TV programmes such as "Mock The Week" and "Have I Got News For You" (I will explain the quotation marks in a minute), or (if one Lenford Henry Esquire has his way) creating a section of the BBC run by and employing people soley from the Black and Ethnic Minorities.  I am sorry but has Mr Henry not watched "EastEnders" recently???

The female "comedians" being parachuted into quiz show panels like "Mock The Week" have actually spoiled the programme for me for two reasons.  The first is they have obviously been parachuted in (one female per programme is hardly likely to raise the standard for women). and secondly - this may surprise you because I am female - I find most of the female "comedians" on TV seriously unfunny (I actually find some of the female "comedians" way more offensive than I find the male ones).

Baroness Warsi is a Muslim.  She was the first Muslim to be a member of the Cabinet in any British Government.  Baroness Warsi also happens to be female.  Apparently she is also the only Member or the current Parliament (House of Lords and House of Commons combined) to stand by her principles and her religious beliefs - as her resignation has proved.  So much for Mr Cameron's idea of putting her in the Cabinet as a token Muslim and a token lady from the Ethnic Minorities.

Seriously - I don't care who presents my news or acts in a programme I watch or holds a position in Government.  I just want to know they are the best person for the job.

Why don't I care about what they look like or how old they are, etc???  Mainly because I understand that the Media and "Public Life" bear little or no ressemblance to my life and they never will.

Much as I would love it if there was a character in a soap with a visual disability which was properly explored in a storyline, or a documentary which told people the true story about the real issues the disabled, unemployed, etc, face without "sexing it up" to win some mythical ratings war, I know it is never going to happen.  Controversy and ratings get exposure and exposure means money.

I will admit that people like Mary Beard, etc, do have a slight point when they say that the more mature female should be on the TV more.  However, I would go back to the point about being there on merit instead of being parachuted in to fulfil some mystical criteria which has been dreamed up by someone with too much time on their hands.

Whilst I am on the subject of parachuting people in to situations where they do not belong - can someone please explain to me why the nearest point of conflict is nearly always reported on by a British reporter???  Surely - in this day and age - there is at least one native reporter with a reasonable enough grasp of English to be able to report on the situation in their country???

As for the BBC's (they are the biggest culprits for this) nasty habit of deciding that the person who is reporting on a situation - and has made the mistake of stumbling anywhere near the studio when the "On Air" light was glowing - is not only an expert on whatever they have been reporting on but has somehow managed to miraculously morph into an expert on matters which have even the most tenuous link to the subect???  Do their contact books not have details on where to find proper experts???

Discrimination should be made illegal in all its forms - both negative and positive.  We need to foster a culture where people are judged on their talents alone.

The Mirage Of Identity (Or "If You Walked Inside My Shoes Then You Wouldl Understand")
8/3/2014 5:03:39 PM
It is funny how people seem to take great delight in deciding what someone is like when they first meet them and use that image throughout the duration of their contact with them - even though the exact opposite may turn out to be true.

You don't need to be Albert Einstein to take a couple of educated guesses about me and be correct.  I am a human and my first name is not from England.  (If you know anything about Dutch names you will know that I am female even without seeing me.)

For the rest I am not necessarily as advertised.

My passport, Birth Certificate, Educational History and Work History, will all tell you that I am English.  Born, educated, and employed in England.  Then ask me to define myself - Not once will the word "English" or "British" pass my lips.  My answers will range from "Half-Dutch" (technically correct as far as my parents are concerned), to "Dutch" (I feel happiest either in Rotterdam or on a car ferry heading to it), to "European" (also technically correct).

My glasses will tell you that I have a "slight" defect when it comes to my vision.  Put it this way - I don't call myself a member of the "Bat Brigade (Blind As A)" for nothing.  Whilst I prefer my world in its natural blurred state I realise that I have to conform to the ideals and limitations which society places on me and wear glasses wherever I am likely to interract with the rest of the human race.  (There is one good things about being almost technically - if not legally - Blind.  If I am nervous around someone all I have to do is take my glasses off and look at the blurry blob I am standing in front of.)

My CV  will tell you that I have experience of working in an office.  What it won't tell you is that I want to make a career in writing because that is my true passion.

I honestly have no idea what my friends would tell you about me.  (Every time I get asked that question in job interviews I end up wishing I had asked a couple for their telephone numbers so the interviewer could ask them direct.)  My friends nearly all have differing experiences of being in my world depending on our interactions.

However, there is one thing which really bugs me.  People who decide they know how I am feeling either because they have been through a similar experience to me or because they have some textbook "ideal" of how I am going to react to something.  (The textbook "ideal" is the quickest way to upset me.)

I know I have said before that "Someone", by Kristyna Myles, is my favourite song.  If you want to know why go to the "Big Issues" section of this website and look at the first post on it - then listen to the song.  I managed to shock someone when they followed that advice.

Another of my favourite songs is another "Speaking" song (as in the lyrics are deep and really get me).  This one is "Who I Am", by Richie Sambora (I nicked one of the lines from the chorus for the part of the title of this blog post in brackets).

One of the most applicable parts of that song is "Who I used to be ain't what I am - if you walked inside my shoes then you would understand who I am.  I wonder who I am.".  The other applicable lyrics - which I really should get tattoed on my arm at some point - are "Help me now.  Help me now. God I feel misunderstood.  Trust me now.  Trust me now.  Who I am is good.... Help me now.  Help me now.  Find some hope inside myself.  Reaching down.  Finding out who's hiding in this shell".  (Good job I hate pain or I would get them tattooed on me.)

Labels are meant for jars - that is the only time when the contents of the container will not change (unless they go off for some reason).  Trying to stick labels on people just causes upset and trauma.  I have lost count of the amount of times when I almost lost all hope as a result of trying to fight a label which was put on me by some well-meaning professional or other.

This is going to sound crazier than most of the things I say but the biggest compliment anyone ever paid me was actually meant as a put down - the person who said it was seriously exasperated with me at that point - "You are not like my other friends!!!".

As someone who tries to live each day by my favourite motto of "Doe maar gewoon dan ben je gek genoeg" (or "Just be yourself you are crazy enough anyway") I just want to find out what it is like to be me instead of trying to be like someone else.

What's In A Name??? (Or How To Get Completely Confused By A Seemingly Random Assortment Of Letters)
8/3/2014 4:59:34 PM
On Friday something rather unusual happened to me.  I spoke to someone with a first name which is more unusual than mine - by which I mean I had never come across it anywhere before.  (It turned out that I actually know three people who happen to answer to it if you spell it backwards - but more about that later.)

It got me thinking though.  Names are very strange things.  That seemingly random assortment of letters which appears on every legal document connected to you (from Birth Certificate onwards) forms part of your personal identity - yet we never give our own name a second thought.

I must admit to being so used to the following line being uttered whenever some stranger rings me that I hardly take any notice - "Please can I speak to....I am sorry I don't know how to pronounce this...?" .

This may come as a complete shock to you but I could never for the life of me work out how English people (yes - they are the biggest culprits for this one) managed to read and decipher my name into "In Eke" - until I started messing around with the letters of a name with the same amount of letters, as well as sharing three of the five in my name,

On the subject of pronunciations - I have two "official" pronunciations which I will answer to.  One of which is the original Dutch pronunciation.  Go to "Google Translate" (other translation software is available) select "Dutch" and type in "Ineke" then press the loudspeaker button to find out what that is - or find a friendly Dutch person to educate you.  The other one is designed specifically for native English speakers - just think crisps and football.  Knock the "L" and the "R" off "Lineker" and you will see what I mean.

When I was growing up I remember being envious of one of my Dutch cousins who has got the nearest thing to a true "English" name that exists in that side of my family.  However, I must admit that my brain doesn't compute the English pronunciation with the Dutch spelling.

Put it this way - anyone who introduces themself to me as "Martin" will find their name spelled with an "I".  Please forget any ideas you may have of "MartYn" being an unusual/posh/distinctive way of spelling Martin - mainly due to the fact that when the spelling M-A-R-T Y-N hits my ears my brain translates it into "M-A-R-T-I-J-N" - the Dutch "I-J" combination can be replaced with a "Y" - and pronounced accordingly (as in to rhyme with the large river in the most northerly place called Newcastle).  I have spent the best part of 40 years with this pronunciation lodged in my brain (Martijn happens to be my cousin's name).

Remember i started by saying that I was speaking to someone with a name which was more unusual than mine (but I know three people with that exact name spelled backwards)?  The name was "Kered".  Apparently their Dad had been called "Derek" and just decided to reverse the letters.

That made me think of one of my Science teachers at secondary school - Trebor Gnik - known to the remainder of the "rational" world as Robert (or Bob) King.  (I can still remember a slightly risque advertising slogan related to "Trebor Mints" in association with that particular teacher.)

Hmm - I wonder why nobody ever thought to reverse "Trevor"??? Or maybe they did and that is how the name "Robert" came about.  It is very easy for a finger to slip from the letter "V" to the letter "B" on a keyboard after all.  I like the thought of "Rovert" as a name.

Funnily enough - Mr King was the only teacher in living memory who bypassed all conventions regarding attempting to pronounce my first name and called me "Ink".  Even now I use "Ink" mostly as a way of making it easy for people to remember how to attract my attention.  None of this "Ink to my friends" stupidity - "Ink" is mostly reserved for those people who have mangled my name too many times.  (In fact, I only have one friend from school who I will answer when she calls me "Ink" - the rest of you may be allowed to call me "Inky" if you hit my "Liked, Trusted and Approved" list.)

When I was playing with the letters in both "Ineke" and "Derek" I found something strange with regard to one of my friends from the "Real" world.  If you rearrange the letters of "Derek" in a certain way then swap one letter with the one immediately in front of it in the alphabet you come out with how to formally address him!

I will leave you with this final thought about names and words relating to them - why do we talk about "addressing" someone when we speak to them???  The only thing I have been known to address is an envelope - this involves the application of ink to paper.  I don't think the Police would be very happy with the idea of writing people's name on their skin and sticking a stamp on them at the start of a conversation???  There again, with the explosion of tattoos on people with names and various other identification marks, I am not so sure about that.

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