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Tailor-Made Talking But With A Keyboard (Or How I come Up With Some Of My Crazy Ideas)
9/29/2014 3:12:35 PM
The funny thing about loving reading as much as I do is when you find styles of writing you like and you want to use yourself.  (It is at times like this when I am thankful that I have left things like singing and photography to the professionals - or at least to amateurs who are a lot better than me.)

If I am perfectly honest I sometimes wish I could be as sarcastic in my writing as people like David Mitchell (Guardian columnist and star of "Would I Lie To You"), Jeremey Clarkson (Top Gear presenter), or Bill Bryson (Author).

There are other times when I wish I could be as commanding as Dr Derek Lee (Clinical Psychologist), Nick Robinson and Robert Peston (BBC Journalists), or Michael Parkinson (Retired TV Chatshow Host).

When I am not wishing I could be like any of those I am probably wishing I could be as hypnotising as Steve Bowkett (ex-English Teacher, Roving Author, Runner of Writing Workshops), Sir Jackie Stewart (Retired Formula 1 Racing Driver), or Kristyna Myles (Singer Songwriter) - if anyone told me I was anywhere near as good as those last three I would be very happy indeed.

However, I realise I am just me.  Quirky, strange, weird, odd, whatever you want to call me.

I seem to have collected a few fans as a result of writing this blog - I am also finding that friends are actually admitting to liking my writing (or rather - ramblings) when they talk to me face to face.

Last night one of my friends said something interesting to me.  I had asked Julie (who I had met through Kristyna Myles) if my writing was anywhere near as good as Kristyna's - she replied with "Of course it is - it's just a different talent".  Put it this way - Julie happens to be the biggest fan of Kristyna I have ever had the pleasure of talking to.

You may have noticed that I have a habit of putting my own spin on things I read or hear about.  (Sorry - I cannot do straight "Newsreader" blogposts - especially if they are on a subject which either affects me directly or I am passionate about.)

Any other blogpost is usually dug up from the realms and recesses of my brain.  Unless - that is I am writing about things like bad parking, etc, which affect us all.  The only thing is it may affect me more than or in a different way to everybody else.

If I have to be totally honest the blog posts I really love writing are the ones where I feel I am contributing something to someone else's existence.  These are usually the "Reviews" or the blogposts where I introduce you to someone whose work I admire for whatever reason.  At least then the spotlight is on someone else.

You may not realise this but my biggest critic is sitting on this side of the keyboard typing - me.  I may ask a few well-chosen friends/fans/readers for their opinion but mostly I am the one trying to tread a fine line between writing for me and remembering there are actual real live humans out there who appear to like reading my ramblings.  There are some posts I have wanted to write and had a total rethink about them because they were not "appropriate for a public audience" - usually because there are times when even I cannot put a nice, polished, spin on my thoughts, or when they were meant as daggers for one particular person, or even when the "sarcasm rating" would be off the scale (and - believe me - I can be cuttingly sarcastic when I want to be).

Never believe someone when they tell you that blogging is easy.  It is easy when it comes to sitting behind a keyboard and a screen and typing your guts out.  The difficult bit (at least for me) is trying to let go of it when I have done it - Have I offended anyone? Does it read like a lecture? Does it make sense to anybody apart from me?, etc.

The biggest shock I have ever had was when someone I went to school with told me that they found my blog both educational and entertaining - so much so that they got their youngest daughter to read it.  Quite where the education comes into it I am not entirely sure???  I just write about what interests, annoys, amuses, and inspires me.

As long as I can help you see the world a bit differently to how you are used to seeing it that is all that really matters to me.
Lights, Cameras, Inaction (Or Where To Get Good Tips For Planning Your Wedding - And A Brilliant Photographer To Take The Photos)
9/29/2014 1:49:48 PM
If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I will try to give my friends a shout out if I like their work.  This one is a little different as I have no intention of getting married (which kind of rules me out of partaking of his services) but I think his blog is very well written with plenty of good advice.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine who likes my blog (for some reason these people will insist on coming out of the woodwork at the srangest times).  The good thing for him is that I had had a look at his website and blog and I felt the same way about his work.  Apart from that he is a brilliant photographer (he took part in an exhibition I attended a few months ago and his photos looked very good indeed).

I suppose I have to confess something in the interests of openness - I have known Steve Brown for approximately 30 years.  However, I didn't know about his photography until I went to the exhibition.

www.stephenb-photography.co.uk/ is an easy to use website (and easy to see and read).  If you like my style of writing in this blog you will love his style of writing - trust me - Stephen sounds the same way when he speaks (just have a vaguely London accent playing in your head as you are reading it).

If you are looking for good advice (and a photographer who will put you at ease the minute you meet him) you cannot go far wrong with Stephen Brown Photography.
Landmarks And Story Trails (Or How A Picture Can Paint A Thousand Memories)
9/29/2014 1:37:08 PM
I was talking to one of my friends on Twitter about a project that a mutual friend of ours has got going on in connection with something they are doing when I was reminded of one of my favourite photos.  I was going to put a tag-line on it and share it as part of the project but I decided it sounded too much like hard work.

Unfortunately you will have to look at my Twitter profile to see the photo I wanted to use (it is my header).  However, I have put a different photo of the same building below;

The tagline I was going to put on it was something along the lines of "No matter how weird you look you are still one of us"!

The ironic thing is the photo is of one of my three favourite buildings from my childhood.  Not only is it the only building on the Rotterdam "Tourist Trail" which I actually like - it is the only one of my three favourite buildings left standing in its original state - at least it was the last time I saw it earlier this year.  (Yes - people do live in those flats.)

If you want to see those flats in real life I would suggest you catch a Metro Train (sorry - Underground or Subway Train) from Rotterdam Central Station to Rotterdam Blaak station.  Go out of the station so you are on a big plaza type space then look up.

(In case you are wondering what my other two favourite buildings are - or rather were - one was the first block of flats my Oma used to live in on the outskirts of Rotterdam and the other one was a farmhouse which one of my Mum's aunts lived in approx 10 minutes from Rotterdam city centre by car.  The farmhouse was demolished and replaced with a hotel.)

It got me thinking about landmarks and buildings which have meanings for me.  (By the way - my version of a landmark may not quite meet your definition of the same thing.)

Forget well-known buildings - my landmarks more consist of petrol stations, bridges, pubs, etc,  Things that don't general move in other words.  If the building has been demolished chances are I will still use it as a landmark.  This can get very interesting when someone is talking about a "new" estate which was built (approximately 15 years ago) near my Dad's house - I still know it by the name of the scrapyard which used to be in the same place.  (Funny how "Melton Waste" doesn't have the same ring to it as "Speedwell Drive", isn't it??)

I digress.

I couldn't tell you for the life of me how to get to Oma's last flat from Hook of Holland by car (even though my parents and I did that journey hundreds of times) except for one thing  - you had to turn right near a "Colourroll" (or other carpet retailer) store.  I was fascinated by the multicoloured circular lights when they appeared out of the darkness.

My favourite landmark from recent times is a circular block of flats on the outskirts of Rotterdam.  This block of flats is reasonably non-descript apart from the fact every side is painted a different colour (in vertical stripes).

Apologies for the poor quality of the photo but I was on a Metro Train at the time (If you look at the tall circular building to the right of the photo you may just make out some stripes on it).

That building is interesting to me because it is almost the centre point of where in Rotterdam you can find a large amount of my Mum's family.  It is also the building we used to pass when we visited my Mum's favourite aunt after she was unceremoniously evicted from the above-mentioned farmhouse.

As I said - it is funny how a photo can paint a thousand memories.

Paint, Glitter, And More Than A Touch Of Myles' Magic
9/29/2014 12:15:00 PM
OK so this post hasn't been strictly inspired by the news (as in the usual "State Broadcaster" or Mainstream Media News) but it has been inspired by some very interesting news about a very good friend of mine who happens to be a very good singer/songwriter - that is why it ended up in this category.

There are very few people who could easily turn me into a gibbering wreck in their presence if I am not careful.  Most of the people on that list are people who scare me to death for one reason or another.  However, there is one person on it who is the nicest, most down to Earth person I know.  She also happens to be a gorgeous, extremely talented, singer/songwriter.  Not only is she incredibly good-looking on the outside she has a gorgeous personality on the inside (put it this way - if she spends time with you she makes you feel like you are the most important thing in her world at that moment - and she remembers small details about you).

If you have never read this blog before (and/or you have never met me) you may not know that my favourite female singer is Kristyna Myles.  You may also not know that I count myself lucky enough to have been taken on her journey along with her (usually by her parents giving me lifts to some of her gigs).

Right at this moment in time I am honestly having a difficult job realising that the approximately 5 year old girl who I first remember seeing in church playing a keyboard (which - if you stood it on its end - would have been taller than her) has turned into a GT Award-winning and MOBO-nominated singer/songwriter.

Her latest venture is to take her fans (and friends) on a journey towards making her second album.  She has teamed up with an outfit called Pledge Music to start a Pledge-campaign to raise funds for the recording of "Paint A Brighter Day".  If you visit www.pledgemusic.com/projects/kristynamyles you will find some brillliant things to pledge for (including her painting a room in your house).  When you pledge you will find an exclusive video of one of the tracks on the album as well (she is putting one up every Sunday during the 60 day campaign).

I know I probably sound like a broken record but please support up and coming live music talent by seeing them perform in your local venues.  It is a better way of supporting talent than merely voting for people on things like "The Voice" or any of Simon Cowell's "Mock-fest" programmes ("X-Factor", "Britain's Got Talent", etc).  If you are lucky enough you may find yourself being taken on their journey with them.

Oh - one final thing - I would strongly advise you to see Kristyna Myles sing live before she starts singing at venues which charge extortionate prices to get into.
Why Sight And Vision Are Not Necessarily The Same (Or Am I Really More "Disabled" Than You?)
9/22/2014 6:18:03 PM
Yesterday morning I was sitting in church listening to the sermon when I heard something which made me sit up and take notice.  This was because I understood exactly what was meant.

Apparently there was a blind lady who was asked what she found most annoying about being blind.  Her response was, "the sighted people who don't have any vision".

Whilst I am not technically blind I immediately understood where this lady was coming from.

My motto goes something like this "I may be the one who society sees as 'Disabled' but - until you have got to know me and my ways of working - you are the disabled one because I know for a fact what I can and cannot do.  You just assume you know my limitations".

My sight could place some serious limitations on what I can and cannot do if I let it - starting with rendering me totally housebound during the hours of darkness, making me freeze with fear when faced with a descent down a steep staircase between me and my intended destination in the absence of a lift or escalator, and making me give up too easily when I really want to do something or go somewhere which everybody else (as in the "normal-sighted" population) can do or get to easily.  You might say that my biggest fight is against my sight.

I would argue that my biggest fight is against other people's vision.  That fight can be against their outright prejudices.  These usually come in the form of "you don't look Partially Sighted" - yes someone did say that to my face - or "you are the only one complaining - its your sight which is your problem" - someone else said that to my face too.  (The only thing stopping me from punching their lights out was the situations I was in at the times they were uttered - the first was in a job interview and the second was at my church.)

Or the fight can be against people's total disregard for any difficulties I or any other Disabled person may have when it comes to little things like shop layouts, lighting, those stupid and frustrating grilles which have a habit of appearing on the lights of Pedestrian Crossings (which actually obscure the lights so I cannot see them), and those tiny 5 pence coins (which are neither use nor ornament to me because they are too small).  Oh and roads without pavements.  Not forgetting the seemingly random selection of sizes of Destination Boards on buses.

I admit that most of the above are more likely to fall into the category of "mild annoyance".  However, things like shop layouts, anything to do with roads and traffic, etc, come under the category of "potentially damaging and/or fatal".  These are usually the things which are designed by people who feel the need to follow any plan they are given to the letter without deviation or hesitation but with plenty of repetition (usually of mistakes).

Surely you really don't need to be in a wheelchair or have a sight problem in order to have enough vision to realise that cluttering a shop with racks, rails, shelves, stands, etc, without any visible (to me at least) gaps between them is not exactly conducive to either of those groups desirng to enter your premises? Or, even worse, risk a repeat visit once they have fought their way out of your premises?

Oh - and yes - I do realise that cars belong on roads and pedestrians belong on pavements but, if given a choice between walking through fields in a smart suit to get to a job interview, and walking on a road without a pavement I will take the road thank you very much.  (That is the exact choice Google Maps gave me on Friday.)

Yes I do have a sight problem - however my sight problem can either help you gain the knowledge in order to help you make life easier for both me and you, or my sight problem (and the sometimes crazy "Ink-Logic" that goes with it) can simply be a tool for helping vision when it comes to taking photographs or any other creative medium.  Don't believe me?  Have a look at some of the photos I have put on this website or on Facebook.  Even better - come for a walk with me (camera optional) and I can just about guarantee you will see ordinary everyday objects completely differently to how you saw them before.

My sight problem has the effect of making me see things differently - both literally (obviously) and metaphorically.  In fact, I think that is why I like writing so much - I find it easier to explain what I see by writing.

There are times when I honestly wonder why it is so difficult for "normal sighted" people to have the vision to be able to see the world in the same way as I do - and alter their plans accordingly.  Or even still see the world in a completely different way to me but have the vision to be able to discuss our different viewpoints and know we can both be correct in our own way.

Love Versus Money (Or How To Get The Best Out Of Your Job!)
9/22/2014 4:57:47 PM
I am standing on the threshold of something very exciting for me.  The venture I am shortly going to begin is one which - if I am honest - has the perfect job description for me.  In fact, I have actually been doing it for approximately 6 months already (just without an official Job Title).

If you had told me, even a few weeks ago, that I would have the opportunity to combine two of my biggest passions on an official Voluntary basis - including Job Title - and possibly (or should that read "hopefully") eventually end up getting paid for it I would probably have advised you to make an urgent appointment with a Mental Health Professional.

I say "Official Voluntary basis" because I have actually been combining them both for quite a while - and you have been reading the results on here (and on the original "inkyworld" blog).

Little did I realise when I got involved with DNO (Or "Down Not Out" a news and support agency for homeless - and vulnerable - people in Leicester) but I have been given the opportunity to use my passion for writing to raise awareness about issues regarding vulnerable people - primarily homelessness but also the Unemployed and the Disabled - and I have loved every minute of it.  I have also been educated on issues which I would never have come across until I met that lovely group of people.

So - where does the "Love Versus Money" part of the title to this blogpost come in???

Well, I can now honestly say that I know the difference between having a job which - on paper at least - is ideal for you (you have been trained in it, etc) but you can honestly say you hate every minute of it and just work from paycheque to paycheque (if you actually get paid that is) and a job which you love so much you see any paycheques you may get as a bonus.
I must admit it was a complete leap into the unknown when I started blogging for DNO.  It is difficult to know who was more scared - me or Mags Scragg (the lady who rather nervously allowed me to blog about something we had discussed in one of the meetings).  After all, it is all very well me enjoying writing and blogging as much as I do but I had never offered my blogging services to anyone else (unless you classify you reading my blog as having been offered my blogging services???).  It could all have ended very badly but, luckily for the pair of us, she and Simon Parker (the other person who sometimes fed me information and ideas) seemed to think my writing was OK and I have continued off and on ever since.  (If I have found something interesting about one of the topics discussed in our meetings I have always asked for permission from either Mags or Simon before I blogged about it - and they have been known to feed me information for blogposts on subjects they wanted highlighting.)

I also welcome the opportunity to offer ideas to the group.  In fact, DNO is the one place where I can honestly say I feel comfortable enough to offer even the strangest ideas I can come up with - knowing they won't immediately be rejected without at least being thought about for a few seconds.  Trust me - coming from a situation where I was left wondering whether or not to try using my initiative for fear of further bullying by my rather temperamental former boss, followed by a period of unemployment where I felt like I always had to play exactly by the rules, this came as a very welcome breath of fresh air.

Sorry to go on about this but - feeling like I am valued because of what me and my sight can bring to discussions instead of in spite of it is a very strange feeling and is still taking a bit of getting used to.  I am so used to either having my views completely ignored or people just paying lipservice to them and then going their own sweet way anyway - leaving me wondering why I opened my mouth in the first place.

That is why I can honestly say I am looking forward to my next venture.

Vision on Reading
9/22/2014 3:45:59 PM
I thought you might like to read something I have written in connection with the "Everybody's Reading" Festival in Leicester.  To cut a rather long and complicated story short - I got in contact with the "Everybody's Reading" Festival to see if I could maybe give a talk on Blogging in connection with people with sight problems.  I had missed the cut off date but they very kindly put me in contact with someone connected with it who suggested I wrote an article on either Disabled People or Homelessness.  After I had looked at their website I realised that the topic of Homelessness couldn't be connected with it but Disability could.  Please see below for the resulting article.

I wonder if there is a school subject which causes more discussions and arguments among the politicians and academic elite of this country than "Reading".  I also wonder if there is a skill which allows more active and passive discrimination of people than "Reading" does.

 I can read and understand literature and signage in more than one language so I am hardly illiterate.  Although I know people who have dyslexia I am not one of them.

 So why do I feel discriminated against when it comes to one of my favourite hobbies?

 I am seriously shortsighted - to the point of being Registered Partially Sighted!  Being brought up to work around and hide my difficulties means that I don't look that much different from the rest of the population (no White Stick, Magnifying Glasses, etc) apart from the glasses on my nose.  This is unless you put me in a situation where I am forced to read what I would call "small print" or any other kind of reading material which my eyes cannot really cope with.  This is where life gets interesting - both for me and for anybody else who has to deal with me as a result.

 If I had my way all books and newspapers would be printed two font sizes bigger.  Times New Roman 12 point is too small for me to read comfortably.

 I also suffer from something called "Photophobia".  This means my eyes don't like bright lights - which makes any kind of PowerPoint presentation involving a white background torture for me to look at for a long period.  The white background shrinks the size of the font.  However, I am always amazed by the attitude of some people when I ask for a printed handout so I can follow the proceedings.  According to most people I have eyes in my head and glasses on my nose so I should be able to read the same as everyone else.  I wish I could.

 There is another thing which people don't realise.  Colour plays a big part in reading as well.  Red writing hurts my eyes when I try to read it.  (There are certain other colours which have a slightly less painful effect too.)  Not everyone can read writing in all colours of the rainbow (just think of the colourblind).

 There is one final thing which can make reading difficult - after considering your font size and colour (font and background) - how much information am I supposed to get from the page?  More to the point - how much of the information is immediately relevant to what I intend to do next?  There is no point in having a magazine with its price buried in a corner in a font which I need a microscope to read - especially when you have "sold" me the magazine by advertising your main feature in print large enough to be read by passing aircraft.

 When it comes to reading (unless it is for pleasure) I want to be able to see, read, and comprehend what I am reading in the same amount of time as a literate person with normal sight and in the same way as them if possible.

With a little consideration EVERYBODY can enjoy reading without being made to feel like an outsider just because of their sight.

A Trip Back In Time (Or The "Albert Heijn" Effect)
9/18/2014 8:52:03 PM
One day last week I was bored so I decided to browse YouTube and see if they had any interesting videos to watch.  Little did I know that the video I picked to watch would be doubly funny for me because I knew exactly what the comedian was talking about (from both sides).

The comedian was an English man I had never heard of called John Fealey - the subject was one which had fascinated me ever since the first time I remember walking into one of them (I was probably around 5 years old).  I sometimes get intruigued by them even now - over 30 years later.  Correctlion - I can spend hours in these places just mingling with the natives and watching their behaviour - a bit like a David Attenborough nature film.

The subject was one of my list of top five Dutch shops (Ter Meulen and Konmar have shut, Vroom & Dreesman isn't as good as it used to be.  Hema does great Rookworst - or smoked sausage - cheaply.  Albert Heijn is in a league of its own.

Albert Heijn is a Dutch supermarket (it did have a branch in Herefordshire at one point).  The connection between Albert Heijn and Heineken is that they were both started by Dutch people of the same name as the company (in the case of Albert Heijn it was literally started by a Dutchman of that name.

The comedian and I were apparently both fascinated by the Dutch method of purchasing fruit and vegetables.  No fussing around putting your fruit and vegetables in a bag and taking it to the tills to be weighed and priced for the Dutch.  The Dutch are allowed to play "Snap" when buying their fruit and vegetables (outsiders may even learn some simple Dutch words too).  The machines have pictures (or more drawings) of every fruit and vegetable they sell in their department.  The aim of the exercise is to match the item in your bag (or "zakje") with the drawing on the corresponding button on the machine.  Then attempt to work out which button to press to get the label for your bag.

I might be encouraged to buy more fresh fruit and vegetables if the shops over here did the same thing.

Referendum For The Opportunity To Rule Ourselves (Or A Chance Missed)
9/18/2014 8:10:24 PM
So we should soon know if Scotland will be left in the hands of a Power-crazed Scottish Politician or left in the hand of a bunch of people who apparently live in Cloud Cuckoo Land (formally known as Westminster).

Whilst I am totally fed up with (and slightly puzzled by) the vitriol being poured out by both sides of the Scotland debate - as well as the lack of real understanding of Scottish history by either side (just Google "Darien" and read the articles) - I am really angry at the missed opportunities.

Forget the fact that the Scottish independence debate affects two of my friends who live in Scotland (both Scottish) and me - yet only two of us got a vote in it.  What has got me so angry is that we should have framed it as a debate about the whole of the UK getting independence from Westminster and London.

London has become a country in its own right.  The best thing we could do is move the seat of Government from London to a more central location (ie, Birmingham) and force the MPs to have lived "real" lives before standing for Government.  The currect crop of politicians can stay in London.

Why "Extremist" Should Never Be Used In The Same Sentence As Any Religion (Or The Media Really Need A New Dictionary Or Thesaurus)
9/18/2014 8:02:48 PM
I have been slowly losing my mind (as one of my friends would say) whilst I have been watching the reports on the latest atrocities committed by the Un-Islamic State.

Now, I have never read the Koran but I am pretty certain that it is like the Christian Bible (as in it preaches peace to all men and is against killing).  Put it this way - when I have walked around areas of Leicester with a high proportion of Muslim residents I haven't felt that i was in danger of being killed for being a non-Muslim (there have been certain "white" areas of Leicester where I have felt more threatened -I am white along withj Churches where I have felt judged by humans).

"Extreme", "Extremism", and "Extremist" are very dangerous words to apply to religious beliefs or faith.  This is because I feel that they are open to too much interpretation in that context.

For example, I worked for a Roman Catholic family.  Whilst they didn't start each day with a prayer meeting in the office, my former bosses refused to eat anything but fish on a Friday (I am not sure of the connection between Friday and eating fish in the Bible but there you go) as part of their religious observance.

I also know people who leave me scared to introduce a non-Christian to them for fear that they will immediately attempt to convert them using the most complicated, flowery, religious language possible.  (If I am scared of them when they go into "Conversion Mode" I dread to think what non-Christians think.)  In fact, I nearly blew up at someone for exactly that reason.  This person was a Christian who was quite judgemental about someone who I had met who had had some pretty difficult personal problems.  Not content with judging the book by the cover and the index she tried to get me to do the hardsell conversion on them by handing them a Christian book.  Sometimes the best way to convert someone to your faith is to be a friend to them in their time of trouble and leave it at that.

However, my definition of "Religious Extremist" is more like the two examples I have given above.  Nobody gets physically damaged or killed as a result of their contact with the followers of the religion or faith.

My definition of words like "murderer", "Terrorist", and "Twisted Maniac" are more in keeping with people like Un-Islamic State, IRA, etc.  I fail to see how religious texts actually require believers to murder people for refusing to convert to their faith - in fact I think that falls under the definition of "Genocide".  Put it this way - we are still bearing the scars of the last group of people who decided to completely delete an entire group of religious believers from the planet - and more and more peope are forgetting about what exactly happened to the Jews in WW2.

The problem with religious texts is that they were written a long time ago when the world was a totally different place.  For example, the Old Testament mentions the word "Slave" a lot - last time I looked slavery was illegal in most countries I can think of.  We need to take the message of peace from the core of the religious texts - follow the Commandments (or rules) - and adapt the surrounding details for our own time and place.

We also need to be very careful how we refer to people who twist the religious texts for their own motives.  Calling them "Religious Extremists" only makes them more attractive to those lost people who are on the verge of radicalisation.  We should just call them what they are - murderers.

"Close Encounters" Of A Musical Kind (Or A Twisted Version Of A Life)
9/18/2014 5:48:37 PM
Last night I was reading a blog post by a friend of mine who had accepted a challenge to write about three songs which had a significance to his life.  This got me thinking about a song which has many and varied meanings for me (ranging from death, cancer, people I have met and situations I have been in - both because I actively wanted to get myself mixed up in them and I have just been caught up in them because I was there at the time, to the biggest search I have ever been involved in - the search for what I am).

I can remember when I first heard "Close Encounters" by Clouseau.  Before you say anything - this Clouseau is not the Inspector from the "Pink Panther" - they are a Belgian pop group.

The song is the English version of "Daar Gaat Ze" which appeared on their original album (even though the lyrics don't match when you translate them).

To see the video (so you have some idea what I am going on about) click www.youtube.com/watch

If you want a true understatement I will tell you that the song stirs up a few emotions for me.  Missing deceased relatives ("I'm praying - I won't be looking when you disappear"), feeling lonely in a group of friends, the sense of freedom to be myself which one friend gave me without realising it, the taste of "normality" I got after I had won a particularly vicious fight with another friend over it.  Mainly a feeling of searching for something I will never find - my true identity.

The chorus is "Everybody's looking out for close encounters of another kind.  It won't help me if I shout but I'm getting pretty close this time".  I always think it is a good job the writer didn't specify what kind of encounters they were referring to.

However, my favourite lyrics are the beginning of the second verse - "Don't worry - I should have told you to beware of me.  Don't hurry - come back to see whatever's left of me."  They remind me a lot of me - I am a loner who is happiest in her own company (I can never feel lonely when I am alone - I usually feel lonely in a group of people - especially when I feel I have to hide my true self for whatever reason).

When I get to know you and trust you I will do anything to help you - you want a non-judgemental sounding board for your latest crisis, or advice, or support with your latest venture, or even just a hug, I will do my best to help.  However, if you cause me to doubt you for any reason I will turn extremely volatile (although I have got better with that as I have got older) and go back into my shell.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that "Close Encounters" is a song I want to sing at quite a few people in order to help them help me.

Pass Me That Dictionary Please! (Or It Is Not Just English Which Is Confusing)
9/10/2014 2:25:18 AM
One of my friends posted two photos on one of his websites.  The first was of some apples and pears and the second was a staircase.  (Stairs are known as "Apples and Pears" in Cockney Rhyming Slang.

I was going to try to expand on that theme but with a slight difference.  My intention was to make a kind of "photo phrasebook" using both English and Dutch translations of words (both the words that are spelled and sound the same in both languages and those which are spelled slightly differently but sound exacty the same.

(If you thought "Apples and Pears" was difficult - try a photograph of a settee next to a photo of a bank.  Yes - the Dutch word for settee is "Bank".

I may decide to make a start on the dictionary at some point.

How Would You Cope With My Sight? (A Taster Of Maths Problems With A Difference)
9/10/2014 1:35:31 AM
If there is one thing which Maths lessons at school taught me it is that the Maths I learned there and the Maths I use in my daily life are completely different.

For example - even though I think potractors (those semi-circles of flat plastic which are theoretically used to measure angles) and compasses (the things you use to draw circles with) are the two most useless inventions known to man - my life seems to revolve around angles.

There are three angles which my brain finds easy to compute - sheer drop (90 degrees), flat floor (180 degrees), and a standard household staircase.  Anything outside those angles might as well not exist.

I will start by asking you an easy question;

How many angles are there in a Spiral Staircase?  Go on - have a guess.  I bet you said two, didn't you?  The angle of the stairs to the floor and the angle of the spiral???  You missed one very important one.  The angle of the steps themselves from the pole to the handrail.  (I just wish every spiral staircase had its steps removed and a crashmat parked at the bottom of the pole so people could slide down it - would be a lot easier.)  Those of us with a sight problem need to have some idea of the third angle so we know where to put our feet so they are reasonably solid.

Name two things which I rely on to tell me how fast a car is going???  Usually my ears (these we will file under "Hearing") and the car's wheels.  If I see wheels spinning quickly I know the car is in a hurry.

To say my "Speed to Distance" software is corrupted is an understatement.  If you stand me in front of a car I will happily tell you the direcion of travel using my sight but I will have no idea how fast it is going.

Which would go some way to explain why I get really upset when I am subjected to "Drum and Bass" or any other so-called music at least five minutes before the car which the stereo is in appears.  Unless there is a way to connect the CD player or MP3 player to the accelerator pedal I suppose I will have to suffer confusion.

How many different sizes of lettering are there on Destination Boards of buses?  Sorry - I cannot answer that one - I keep finding more.

Please Take Your Foot OFF My Brake Pedal (Or Why Leaving Me To My Fate Is Sometimes The Best Option)
9/10/2014 1:27:27 AM
Standby for a reasonably accurate description of me - I am a practically stubborn, seriously shortsighted (myopic, nearsighted), Half-Dutch person, who has the great misfortune of being of the female persuasion.  (Someone did call me feisty but it is not a word I would apply to myself - nor is it a word I can actually spell.)

Don't worry - this is not going to be one of those rants I sometimes read which wonders why we insist on dividing adjectives between the genders.  (I really think the people who write those rants should find a more productive hobby.)  There are certain words which describe aspects of the different abilities and personalitires of men and women better than others.  Unless you are planning to re-write the Oxford English Dictionary in such a way that gender specific terminology is totally removed - in which case I wish you good luck - there is no point moaning about our use of the English langusge.

I have to admit that my personal dictionary has evolved into something slightly different to the standard one when it comes to certain words - "Can't" and "Won't".

Those two words have slightly different meanings when applied to me both by myself and by other people.  If you tell me I cannot do something you are likely to get one of two reactions out of me - either I will take it as a challenge or I will wait for you to supply me with practical, tangible, reasons why you don't think I can do it.  The same applies to you telling me I won't be able to do something.

Remember I said I was "practically stubborn"???  Well, I was brought up to find my own way of doing things that the rest of the world can wherever possible.  One of my first memories of school was trying to get from one side of a climbing frame to the other side by swinging through the middle - missing my hold on the middle bar - and hitting the tarmac.  This was because I had seen some of the older children do it and I wanted to be like them.  I suppose you could say I have been attempting to be like everybody else ever since.

Be warned - there is a great difference between me telling you I cannot do something and me telling you I won't do something.

Unless I am telling you I cannot see what you are trying to show me (or small writing, etc), or I cannot speak Czech, etc, - in which case take me literally - when I say I can't do something I am usually saying I cannot do it on my own and I need help or advice.  Either that or your instructions need to be modified so I can do what you have asked of me in my own way and my own time.

If I start telling you I won't do something this means I have previously attempted all known methods, hit a brick wall, given up all hope of being able to achieve my objective, and you have no hope of talking me into another attempt.

Strangely enough - I always feel bad when I have to admit defeat and ask for help.  Put it this way - I would go down a spiral staircase before I asked for help (and those things are the most dangerous things known to man as far as I am concerned).

Of course I know that when people start telling me I cannot do something they are working from their own experiences and ideas.  That is where my "practically stubborn" side comes in.  Provided you have not told me that what I want to do is illegal or immoral, I will try my hardest to do what I want to.

I can give you a couple of very good examples;

When I have missed the last bus home from the village where my Dad lives (before Arriva put the evening buses back on) I have walked part of the way home on my own (one night I got nearly three quarters of the way home before I didn't feel safe enough to continue because it was too dark).

One day I was looking for a Metro (Underground) station in The Hague.  The signposts dried up at the bottom of a very steep staircase (made worse by the fact that the treads were open and the staircase itself looked flimsy - not to mention it had an open side underneath it).  I could have chickened out and got a train to my intended destination but I was determined to get the Metro.  The Metro looked like it was going to go through one of my favourite places in Rotterdam (it turned out that it didn't follow the original train line but that is another story).  I managed to get up the stairs - powered by sheer adreneline and a strong desire to catch the Metro - only to find myself in a bus station.  I was stuck.

I took one look at the staircase I had just come up and decided it was way too steep and flimsy for me to even bother considering dreaming about bouncing down it.  As I was wondering what to do I sae some humans walking towards shelter so I followed them and eventually found a lift which got me back into the railway station.  I eventually found the Metro line on the ground floor on the other side of the wall to the staircase.

Let's just say that if I am determined enough to do something I will find a way to do it.  The time you may want to spend arguing me would be put to better use either trying to help me or finding something else to keep you occupied.

I will tell everybody that my sight is too bad to drive.  I have been told by some poor delusional human that I could probably see well enough to read a car number plate from the required distance.  However, there is one reason why I know for certain that my sight isn't good enough to pass a driving test.  It involves the one thing I would love to be able to get a job driving - a Double Decker bus.  Yes - you did read that right.  A few years ago I decided to take part in a "Drive a Decker for a Quid" (one pound to foreign readers).  I am not sure who was more scared (the instructor at the beginning or me at the end).

Funnily enough I kind of choose my friends in the same way as I choose my obstacles.  Until you prove to me that you are bad news (damage me physically or emotionally, or do something to lose my trust) you can give me all the warnings in the world and they won't work.  I judge on actions not words.

Unless you are prepared to allow me to stamp on your brake pedal without knowing all the facts regarding what you are trying to achieve please keep your foot away from my brake pedal and abandon me to my fate.  I usually have some idea of what I am trying to do.

When A Camera Lens Shows You Your True Self (Or How To Use Photography To Unravel A Maze)
9/5/2014 4:26:41 PM
I don't know about you but I always find the facets of ourselves which we show to other people interesting.  The only thing I find more interesting is trying to work out why we show the ones we do - as in how we choose.

Forget the "Professional" personas we have to put on in order to survive our jobs (or which we have to put on in order to survive our interactions with "Professional" people).  I am talking about the "Private" personas which we put on in our own time.

I had a rather fun experience a couple of days ago.  Someone asked me for (and got) a full-strength dose of "Ink-logic".  Admittedly, he didn't start off asking for a full-strength dose but he refused to let me back off when I knew he was in danger of getting one.  The frightening thing was he thanked me for it afterwards and told me that what I had said had been useful.

For those of you who have never had the experience of "Ink-logic" in person - this usually occurs when my mind has been processing information and has decided to send a print out of its conclusion to my mouth for verbal broadcast.  The information has somehow managed to bypass the "Human Logic" software and (sometimes) the Grammar and Syntax software.

Put it this way - it can take some time to translate what I say into what I mean when it comes to full-strength "Ink-logic".

"Ink-logic" is not to be confused with bluntness.  In most cases "Ink-logic" is used when I don't want to be blunt even though the situation may call for it (I may not know the audience well enough to feel I can speak my mind without offending them - and when I say "blunt" I mean I pull no punches and say exactly what I think).

To give you a bit of background to this conversation.  He and I had been discussing his idea for a photographic project.  The concept had originally been nice enough but I hadn't been able to join the dots of it in my mind.  When he started to go into the mechanics of what he wanted to do I am afraid my brain just switched off.

I am not a Mechanical person.  If I want to do something I have to admit the mechanics of what I want to do are the last items on my list of things to consider.  (Admittedly because the mechanics usually involve my sight in one way or another.  I have been socially trained to avoid thinking about that unless I absolutely have to.)  The first two questions are usually "Why?" and "How much is it going to cost me in energy, emotion, etc?".

The other two things I am not are any kind of photographer (although I sometimes wish I could take photos of what I see with my eyes alone - trust me some of those photos would be interesting) or any kind of Psychologist (I just like unravelling complex people in my spare time).

My brain became transfixed by the prop he wanted to use (an apple).  Then my brain worked around that apple - slowly stripping away the symbolism he had attached to the apple, including how he wanted to show said apple - and put him around it.  More to the point, I put what he had told me about his backstory around the apple (along with the warnings he had given me about himself both verbally and non-verbally).

(The other bit of his original idea you need to know is that it involved a woman holding the apple.)

This called for the full-strength dose of "Ink-logic" I told you about.

My next sentence was "You want to be her!".  Maybe not the wisest thing to say to an ex-army guy who is 6 inches taller than you and a lot heavier than you who you have not known for more than two months (and not spent that much time with) - at least it got him thinking long enough for me to explain.  At least that was after he asked me if I was seriously suggesting he wanted to physically be a woman.

I explained that my logic was based on the fact that - whilst he didn't want to physically be a woman - he wanted to get some of the characteristics of the female personality back or at least rediscover them in himself.

Then I completely blew his mind by politely telling him to forget part of his symbolism for the apple (think Genesis) and concentrate on the "Knowledge" bit.  I went on to explain what I had heard him telling me.  At the end of my monologue I finished by telling him I thought it would be better with a man and a woman.  The man angry and defensive in black and white, and the woman open and vulnerable in colour.

He agreed!  This was frightening for me.  I am not used to people agreeing with me when it comes to arty stuff - especially when they can blind me with science about their chosen artform (and could probably find 50 ways to kill me).

Later that evening he told me that I am a puzzle wrapped in a conundrum wrapped in an enigma.  He was not surprised to hear me say the same thing about him.

What did surprise me was when he told me that he had tried everything he could think of to push me away.  Bad news for him was the fact at least three things he had tried just made me want to know more about him.  If he had really thought about it he could have scared me off quite easily by using the first peice of information he gave me about himself combined with his height and size.  What he ended up doing was making himself seem cuddly and protective with a steel cold streak.  A nice puzzle.

In a funny way - he reminded me of the first time I saw one of my other friends.  I can still remember how I felt when someone (whose photography and writing I later became a fan of - as well as considering him to be someone I can trust more than most people I know) walked into the room I was in as though he owned the building, looked straight through me, shook someone else by the hand and sat down.  Then I made the mistake of asking what he did for a living.  I nearly left never to return.

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