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Never Mind Asking The Driver Where We Are Going - We Need To Know Who The Driver Is To Start With!!! (Or - My Prediction For The Police Version Of "The Living Daylights")
10/26/2015 3:16:51 AM
There is an old song by A-ha which has been playing in my brain as I have been reading the tweets from different Twittercops (and their supporters) on the subject of the Police cuts.

No it is not "Cry Wolf" - much to Theresa May's probable disappointment - but "The Living Daylights".

The first verse of that song goes something along the lines of the following;

Hey Driver, where we going? I swear my nerves are showing.  Set your hopes up way too high - the living's in the way we die.  Comes the morning and the headlights fade away - hundred thousand faces - I'm the one they frame.  I've been waiting long for one of us to say - save the darkness - never let it fade away!

You are probably looking at the above verse - scratching your head - and wondering if I have completely lost the plot???

Allow me to explain (or attempt to).

The Police appear to have a couple of big problems - at least from where I am standing.

This may sound crazy but I think the biggest one is a mistrust of the general public when it comes to telling us the whole story.

Setting aside which ranks are seen as fit to commune with the public via the "Mainstream Media" for a minute - there is a clash between the ranks who are willing to speak out.  The last time I remember a Twittercop daring to put his head above the parapet and blow the whistle about something affecting the Police and how they do their work - the Officer concerned found himself being forced out of his job (via an attempted Gross Misconduct charge).

No wonder the "Rank and File" Twittercops now appear to be split into three camps hen it comes to tryng to inform the general public of the cuts the Police are being subjected to.

We have the Chief Constables who are now being percieved as "Worst Case Scenario" merchants - 'We're doomed - I tell ye - doomed - but don't panic - you may have to do our jobs for us in some instances, that's all".

Next - we have the Retired Officers.  These are more able to say what they think (you cannot sack someone if they are already retired).  They are the ones who are caught between the Chief Constables and the "Boots on Ground" ranks - there experiences of policing msy be out of date but they still have a desire for the Police to be seen as a useful force again.

Lastly - we have the "Anonymous" Twittercops - who are vaccuuming up people like me for their cause merely by tweeting the truth as they see it day to day.

The public should not be allowed to exclusively hear one side of the story.  That side being the Government - who - ironically - have a great interest in having a working Police force which is fit for purpose.

Instead of doing the Police down all the time the Government should be enabling a proper, serious, grown-up conversation about the role the Public want the Police to play in Society - along with how best to fund them in order to achieve it.

Firstly someone should go on "Mainstream Media" and spell out exactly what the Police do which is over and above their call of duty - and give them the stark choices about who should fund this work (if the Police are to continue doing it).

I really hope someone can convince the Government and the Senior Ranks that the veil of secrecy about exactly what the Police do including fighting crime - as well as how much it costs - and which services should really be taking up the slack - should be lifted so the darkness fades away and there are no more secrets.

"I Want To Break Free" - So Stop Putting Me In The Same Old Box (Or - Why It Can Be A Case Of "Damned If You Can Prove You Are 'Legally' Disabled And Damned If You Cannot!)
10/26/2015 2:30:51 AM
This blog post was inspired by a tweet I read from Cate Moore which really upset me.  I am almost 100% certain it was not her intention to upset me but the sentiment in the tweet was something I had (rather stupidly it would seem) hoped never to read about again.  What makes it worse is that I face a different version of the same thing every day.  I am not going to quote what she said - you may get a big enough clue from what you are about to read.

There are times in my life when I wish I could teach "able-bodied" people what it is like to have a disability and be forced to fight it in order to "conform" to everybody else's idea of how I should behave.

What makes it worse is when it is made clear to me that - in order for me to get what is rightfully mine (extra time to complete certain tasks, assistance to do something which other people may find easy, etc) I actually feel like I have to revert to my status from when I was at school.

I have said before that - if I were to complain as much as I actually want to about things which make my life difficult - I would sometimes feel as though I never shut up.

It is bad enough knowing I am defective without someone else (who has never met me) deciding on how visible I should make my defect (or should I say - the side-effects and symptoms of it) if I want to gain access to services, etc, to which I am entitled.

The irony of living in a "Mainstream" World is that I can never be certain where the "trigger" is which encourages people to decide if I am "normal" or not.

Let's face it - the current UK Government wants every Disabled person to take a full and active part in society - up to and including holding down a job (no matter how unsuited it is to their particular needs and abilities).  However, that is exactly the same criteria they seem to use to clear people off the "Benefits" Merrygoround.  The more someone can apparently do independently the less money (Disabled Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment) they get.

I am honestly in two minds about this.  This is for one very simple reason.

On the one hand you could be forcing claimants to exaggerate existing symptoms (in some cases forcing them to go for the "worst case scenario" which may result in regressing to when it was the worst it could get - even when the claimant has recieved treatment or therapy to alleviate their struggles).

On the other hand - there are certain disabilities which are either totally invisible (Mental Health Issues, certain other diseases or conditions which are life threatening, etc) or - worse - the human you are looking at is displaying signs of their disability but not necessarily displaying the exact extent of the disability at that particular moment.  Finding out the exact extent of my sight problems and how they affect me in daily life would involve you spending at least a day with me - simply because things like lighting conditions, etc, can have a drastic impact on what I can and cannot do.

What upsets me the most is the thought of having to ignore the hard-earned progress I have made in learning how to overcome my difficulties - and dance to someone else's tune - in order to prove what should be the "blindingly" (pun intended) obvious.

Society has a choice - either they can trust disabled people to make their own judgement (or their carers, etc, to do the same) and root out those who are faking it - or they can treat all disabled people as criminals, thereby forcing them to act as exactly that - whilst leaving those with genuine needs to fend for themselves.

I may be trying to be too clever when I say that "Mainstream" society can do a hell of a lot more to help disabled people integrate with them.

The first thing which needs to happen is for the accusatory questions and statements to be removed from the Media and Public Life.  I will happily talk to you about my sight in person - what I will not do is stand around whilst you make decisions about me and my needs based on a three minute conversation (especially if I was not the person you had the conversation with.

Next thing I want to happen is as follows - for employers to realise that disabilities are not contagious and they usually involve less work than you think when it comes to making alterations, etc, to buildings.

Basically what I am trying to say is - a bit of cooperation goes a very long way in helping the long-term unemployed person with disabilities back into work.

Someone Old, Someone New, Someone Borrowed, And Someone Blue (Or How Four People Combined To Make A Special Evening!)
10/26/2015 1:29:48 AM
I know I usually start any review of a gig by Kristyna Myles with a play on the title of one of her songs - so why have I decided to give you a title which makes it sound like I may have attended a wedding instead???  (A big clue is in the word "Someone" - see - I still managed to slip one of her songs into the title of this blog post.)

Have you ever turned up to a gig and felt like you left a completely different one to the one you thought you had attended???  The three singers were as advertised (with a bonus singer thrown in for good measure).  I don't quite know how to explain it but the gig just seemed more magical than usual.

The first act definitely fulfilled both the "Someone New" and "Someone Old" categories - even though I was originally convinced she was meant for the "Someone New" category only.

Nina Schofield has somehow managed to step into a close second behind the Myles-Maestro herself as a solo singer/songwriter - and that is after hearing a handful of her songs.

She was new to my eyes and ears - but her voice reminded me of a cross between Kate Bush and Annie Lennox (which is were the "Someone Old" comes in).

Now - I have to admit that usually it takes a lot for a female singer to impress me on first hearing.  Nina more than impressed me - and she complemented both Kristyna and Ben Montague very well with her singing style.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember any of the titles to her songs (I was too busy being caught up in the scenarios she wove in my mind to worry about things like that).  One thing I do remember (and I think I will have a hard job trying to remove this idea from my brain) is one of her songs was apparently either inspired by or based on a Sociopath.  You could say her range of topics for songs was a very broad genre.

I did take some photos but I think I was standing in a perfect place to hear the singers - even though it was actually a lousy place to take photos as the light was wrong.

Next up we had Kristyna Myles, who - although she didn't sing the song mentioned in the title of this blog post - did kind of combine with someone else to fulfil the "Someone Blue" category.

Among the songs she sang were "Heavy On My Soul", "Heaven Knows", along with a song which is slowly moving up my personal chart of favourite songs by Kristyna Myles - "I'm Not Going Back".

How can an upbeat song like "I'm Not Going Back" be put anywhere near a category with the word "blue" in it???  Easy - the blue refers to the colour of the national flag of Scotland.  Last I heard Dumfries was in Scotland???  Put it this way -
since a very good friend of my called Julie Kirkpatrick explained what it means to her - every time I heard "I'm Not Going Back" I wished she was with me.  Tonight I got my wish.  Julie was standing next to me when Kristyna sang that song.

I was a bit surprised to see Ben Williams armed with just a guitar - usually when he and Kristyna are playing together he has a tambourine-stompmat combo so he can provide basic percussion accompaniment.

Ben even played "Hold Your Fire" during Kristyna's set.  (I never get tired of hearing Ben sing.)

Closing the show (or should I say "headlining" it?) was another Ben this one with the surname of "Montague".

I have a confession to make about Mr Montague and my previous experiences of his music and performances. I always thought there was something missing - don't get me wrong - I thought they were OK as far as they went - they just didn't seem to have the necessary "hook" to draw me in.  The first time I saw him he was with his full band and I found it a little bit too noisy for my tastes.   The second time I saw him he was with a guitar and singing acoustically - more quiet but still lacking that spark to totally ignite my interest.

Tonight's gig finally had that hook or spark I was looking for - and it came in a very unexpected format.  And it appeared to be based on a shared experience.

"My Father Said" was the song which finally hooked me in.  What Ben Montague could not have known was that for the past couple of years I have dreaded the arrival of 29 October.  That date is the anniversary of the death of my English Grandma - my Dad's Mum.

So to hear him sing a song which was inspired by a conversation he had had after the death of his Grandma was particularly poignant for me.  It also talked about having one chance in life.

My second favourite part of the gig tonight could be filed under "Someone Borrowed".  Ben Montague borrowed Kristyna for a duet on the song "Liberty Road".

All in all it was a very good evening's entertainment.

The City Which Never Stops Changing But Always Welcomes You With Open Arms (Or - Come With Me To My Favourite City On Earth)
10/22/2015 3:54:40 AM
If there is one thing I hate about "Tourist Guides" it is the way they never give you a chance to explore the place you visit and experience it in the same way as the locals do.

Rotterdam is a perfect case in point.  Even though I am only technically half-Dutch through my Mum being born within the city limits of Rotterdam - you could say I was born within the "24 Hours of Rotterdam" (to paraphrase that song "24 hours in Tulsa" - more commonly known to me as "24 Toasters From Tooting" after an advert on British TV a few years ago).  I was born on 31 October - which, when you write it in numbers, is 31 10 (the International Dialling Code for Rotterdam).

My parents met and got married in Rotterdam.  Up until I was 20 years old my parents and I used to go at least once a year to visit my Oma (and a few other relations).  Even though my Mum died 8 years ago my Dad and I still go over to Holland when we can.

I suppose that - as a result of my trips - the Rotterdam I know and love would not feature on any Tourist Trail or in any Guidebook.  In some instances - "the Rotterdam I know and love" has turned into the Rotterdam I knew and loved due to the constantly changing face of the city.  More about that as we go along though.

One thing which has never changed about my beloved city though is the welcome I feel whenever I am there.  As the Mayor of Rotterdam says in "Kom Mee Met Mij" (Or "Come Along With Me" - the promotional song for Rotterdam) - "Here is the city with arms wide open" (English translation of "Hier is de stad met armen wijd open").

In order to experience the "True" Rotterdam which I know and love you really need to give Schiphol a miss and arrive by ferry into Hoek van Holland.  (I am sorry but I refuse to call it by the English name because it is a mistranslation.  "Hoek" is corner in Dutch - so, instead of "Hook of Holland" it should be "Corner of Holland".)

You could drive between Hoek van Holland and the centre of Rotterdam itself but I really would not advise it - unless you like driving on the edge of your seat.  It is not for the fainthearted.

Dutch Public Transport is cheap compared to English prices.  It is also clean, reliable (more reliable than the English version anyway), and comfortable.

Catch a "Sprinter" train from Hoek van Holland to Rotterdam Centraal Station (or Rotterdam Central Station).  It passes through some rather interestingly named places - Maasluis, Vlaardingen, and Schiedam (the station "Schiedam Centraal" was formerly known as "Rotterdam Schiedam") on its way to Rotterdam.

One of the drawbacks of the safety concious times we live in is that they have changed the announcements which came over the address system when the trains reached their ultimate destination.  The announcement no longer says "the next station is Rotterdam Central Station - this is the end of the train" (trust me - that is the exact translation of the announcement whenever Rotterdam Centrsl Station was the last stop on the journey).

Another thing which has changed about Rotterdam is the Central Station itself - it was rebuilt.  I found the spaciousness of the new station with its shops, etc, difficult to get used to.  Yes - the old station would have needed lifts to the Platforms anyway - but I actually missed feeling like a sardine as I walked (in some cases it felt like I was being carried by the sheer volume of the crowd) along the "tunnel" to and from the platforms - with other sardines coming and going as they either went to a platform or came down from it.  And the word "tunnel" is not as much of an exaggeration as you might think it is - the back of the station opens out into a suburb of Rotterdam.

I suppose I felt that - by putting shops in Rotterdam Centraal Station (particularly in what would have been the "tunnel" if it wasn't so bright and spacious) - they were ripping its soul out.  Now it seems like every other identikit station I have ever been in.  The cafe above the new Ticket Office is a nice relaxing place - pity I cannot say the same about the Ticket Office itself - that needs a lot more seats in it.

On leaving the Central Station you have three choices of Public Transport - bus, tram, or "Metro" (pronounced "May-tro") the Rotterdam Underground system.  All three of these are easily accessible from the station.  In fact, the tramlines used to be in front of it but now they are tidied away to the left as you leave the ticket barriers.

If you cross over the tramlines and keep going straight on you will find yourself in front of the "Nationale Nederland" building.  In this building you will find what could be classified as the "Dutch Costa Coffee" but in reverse - the "Douwe Egbert" Cafe.  I say "in reverse" because - unlike "Costa Coffee" "Douwe Egbert" primarily exists to sell coffee in dry, powdered format (ground or instant).  "Douwe Egbert" seem to use their cafes not only to serve coffee (and tea) in liquid form - they also seem to use them to showcase and sell their range of utensils to serve coffee (and cakes).  I saw a cake plate, with a useful looking dent in it to store your cakefork, for sale.

Only in Rotterdam would you expect to watch a football match in a "tub" and go shopping in a "Drain" without anyone batting an eyelid.  Don't believe me???  Feyenoord play in a stadium known to the locals as "De Kuip" - or "The Tub" in English.  If you are looking for the doubledecker shopping street which passes through the "Beurs" Metro station the signs will direct you to the "Beurs Traverse" - your friendly Rotterdammer, however, will direct you to the "Koopgoot" (nearest English pronunciation - "Cope-goat") or "Sale Drain".

(A word about Rotterdam's annoying station and bus stop naming "system".  If you are on Public Transport be very careful if you are in the city centre.  The different stops and stations may have the same name but be in slightly different places.  "Beurs" is a perfect example of this.  The "Metro" will stop in the "Beursplein" itself - however, if you are on a tram or a bus, the stop marked "Beurs" is outside the old Rotterdam "Beurs" building itself.  "Beurs" is Dutch for "Stock Exchange".)

If you go to the "Beurs" Metro Station and walk along one of the platforms, go up an escalator and walk on to another platform you will find yourself in another bit of the station (this part used to be called "Churchillplein" (or "Churchill Square").  Look on the map for a station called "Blaak" and catch a train to it.  When you come out of the station look to your left and you will see the Cube Houses.  (This and the nearby Market Hall are the only two "Tourist trap" buildings I like in the centre of Rotterdam.

There is a building in Rotterdam city centre which I used to love when I was at school.  Unfortunately, the Dutch developers got their paws on it and wrecked it.  In its original format this building (which is still on the Binnenwegplein) was a luxurious department store (along the lines of Fenwicks or Rackhams in the UK) called "Ter Meulen" - I remember having a sundae in the cafe on the top floor of the original building.  There are now some small shops in the ground floor but it is nothing like it was.

Another old store I could spend hours in when I was younger (usually trying to find my way out of it) was a large department store called "Vroom & Dreesman" (or "V&D" for short).  Both the shop and the building were still there when I went in June this year - I am not sure how long the shop will last for though.   "V&D" seem to be going through some financial troubles.

If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Rotterdam you could stay in "Hotel Rotterdam Oost" which is part of the "Campanile" chain.  It is not a million miles away from Rotterdam Alexander Metro Station - and the "Alexandrium" Shopping Centre (or - as I know it - the "Oosterhof").  For a true and accurate description of the shopping centre try something like a Westfield Shopping Centre but keep it all one one level accessible only by escalators.

You could say I have a family connection with that hotel.  Well, not the hotel exactly, more the ground it is standing on.  Before that hotel was built there was a farm complete with farmhouse (and little summerhouse) on that land.  How do I know this???  The lady who was turfed out of the farmhouse - and put in a flat overlooking the demolition of her former home - was my Oma's next oldest sister (Tante Jannie).

If you get the Metro back from Rotterdam Alexander into Rotterdam Centraal Station you will go past a personal landmark for me.  It is a circular block of flats with multicoloured vertical stripes.  Now - this block of flats doesn't feature in any guidebook but it used to be almost the centre point of an imaginary compass with most of my Mum's family living at various points on it.

If you can get to Rotterdam in September - and you like ships - I would highly recommend a visit to the "World Harbour Day".  This is when Europoort is open to the public - they will even let you roam on some of the ships.

If you don't mind going off the beaten track a little more - take a train from Plstform 16 of Rotterdam Central and disembark at a station called "Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel".  Congratulations - you are now in the lowest part of the entire Netherlands.

I could reel off a list of Tourist trap destinations - like Gouda, Delft, The Hague, etc.  However, there is a place which I mentioned very near the beginning of this blog post where I would highly recommend you visit.

Schiedam probably doesn't mean very much to you.  However, I can guarantee you can name one of the things it exports an alarming amount of.  A clue - it is a horrible yellow colour, consistency of very thick custard, usually drunk (or should that read "eaten") around Christmastime.  (I have tried it once - never again!)

Yes - I am talking about "Advocaat".  This is made by Warninks (who were bought by "De Kuyper").  De Kuyper have a distillery in this picturesque little town.  You can go on a tour of the distillery - and I dare you to try a "Schiedams Koffie" whilst you are there (but definitely not if you are driving anywhere afterwards).  From what I remember of this drink it was like Irish Coffee but with the alcoholic component replaced by what seemed like half a bottle of brandy - It was very strong (and I don't mean the caffeine content either).

Before I finish I want to leave you with two more ideas which may sound slightly strange to you.

The first one is take the Metro from Rotterdam Central Station to Schiedam Central Station (or take the train there and the Metro back).  When you get out of the Centre of Rotterdam you will notice something strange about the Metro system - it spends most of its life above ground level.  In the case of the bit between Rotterdam and Schiedam it is literally above ground level.  The Metro comes in at a higher platform than the conventional trains - so if you are on a train pulling out of Rotterdam Central Station and you suddenly see a silver train going up a ramp looking like it is going to take off - you are near Schiedam Central Station.

The final suggestion I have for you involves buses.  If you time your buses right you can have an enjoyable scenic tour to Delft and back by service bus.  Jump on the 40 to Delft Station (Or "Station Delft").  When you arrive get off that bus - maybe have a walk around Delft - then get a 174 to Rotterdam Noord Station before getting a train or a tram to Rotterdam Central Station.

Sometimes you can see more when you travel by bus.

I hope this has given you some ideas.

What Are The Police Really For??? (Or - Have We Missed Our Chance To Keep The Services We Want And How Do We Choose?)
10/15/2015 4:49:44 PM
If "The Police Are The Public and The Public Are The Police" we could see a very different picture emerging in the very near future.  We have already had Chief Constables from some Police Forces warning that the budget cuts being forced on them will mean the amount of Officers will sink to dangerous levels.

In order to ask what we want our Police to do I think we really need to ask ourselves two questions.

The first being - what are Police Officers?

The second being - how can certain sections of the Public help them more?

Through my dealings with some of the massed ranks of the Twittercops (there are always a few which give everybody else a bad name) I have learned that the best way to describe a Police Officer is as follows;

A hero disguised as a human who will go into situations I would run away from.  They put their lives on the line every day.  They take all sorts of abuse from all sorts of people and they still come out and rescue them if they are in trouble - often with little or no thanks.  They are funny, kind, caring, compassionate, full of stories to tell and experiences they may wish they had never had.  They belong to someone as their father, mother, brother, sister, wife, husband, son, or daughter.  They will go above and beyond the call of duty if asked to.  They are also used as a receptacle for blame when things don't turn out for the best.  They find the missing, talk down the suicidal, comfort the distressed, arrest the bad guys and try to bring them to justice.  They also do jobs which should really be done by other organisations (but have gradually been passed to the Police so long ago that I doubt the other organisations would know what to do if the Police stopped doing them).

Oh - and they have the Legal Power Of Arrest - in exchange for which they seem to have the worst working conditions in the UK.  How many other employers would ask their staff to be on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year - with the possiblity of Rest Days being cancelled at short notice???  They uphold the Law but Employment Law doesn't seem to apply to them.

The Twittercops I am in contact with are also people I would consider as my friends. 

Even though I have only met a couple of them I feel like I have met them all because they are so open.

What can other sections of the Public do???  (Apart from not committing crimes.)

Well, the Government should heed the various warnings which the Police have given (and are still giving) about the lack of resources and funding.

The people with the Statutory Powers to deal with people (Social Services, Mental Health Teams, etc) should go back to seeing the Police as a last resort instead of the first option when someone goes missing, etc.  Yes, Yes, I know - the Social Service Departments and the Mental Health Teams are overstretched, under-resourced and understaffed as well - but that is no excuse.

What can we do???

We can show our appreciation for them by letting them get on with their job.  Try talking to them as well - after all - they are just like you and me.  The only difference is - they go where we daren't.

Speaking Out And Doing Something About It (Or - How We Should All Be Grateful For What We Have Got)
10/15/2015 4:10:14 PM
I was watching the "DIY SOS - The Big Build" programme on TV last night.  It reminded me of my favourite Christian worship song (click here to listen to it www.youtube.com/watch).

Now - I try not to force my religious beliefs on you via my blog (someone once said it is better to see a sermon instead of hearing it).  However, if there is one thing I try to do on here it is speak out against things I don't agree with in the world.

I realise I am privileged to have an audience for my ramblings.  I also realise (through speaking to my friends) that I have got it a lot easier than some people.  Incidentally, I am trying to pluck up the courage to ask one of my friends if I can share her story with you - her life at the moment seems to be one big battle after another.

Back to the point.

If you don't know what "DIY SOS" is - it is a TV programme where a crowd of builders and volunteers descend on the house of someone who has been nominated - and promptly do it up for them.  The house is usually not in a fit state for their needs to start with due to disability or sudden (usually terminal) illness affecting one or more resident.

"Big Builds" are where they take on massive projects - in this case renovating condemned houses for ex-Service personnel to move into.

The selfless generousity shown by the tradespeople who give up their time and effort to get the job done (and some of the stories they give as reasons) is really heartwarming.

I could say it is the "Big Society" in action - but I don't actually believe it is.  I just believe it is a group of people who hear about someone who is worse off than them and - decide to throw them a ladder to help them out of the hole they are in.

I have said this before but there is more to making life easier for someone than just liking a Facebook protest, or signing a petition, and forgetting about it.

Go and speak to someone - but make sure you really listen to them when they tell you about the challenges they face - and act on what they tell you not what you think you are hearing them say.

Please Mind The Gap (Or - The Lift Departing From Platform 2 Will NOT Get You Directly To The Main Entrance Of This Station!)
10/15/2015 3:39:42 PM
There are honestly times when I wish I could drive a tank or a JCB (Bulldozer version).  I can tell you exactly where I would drive them to - Leicester London Road Railway Station.

A few years ago the Railway Station got a bit of a revamp.  A bungled revamp if you ask me because they changed the wrong side of it.

The Railway Station had a perfectly useable carpark before they cut it in half and decided to use half for car parking and the other half for steps and ramps, etc.

Please don't misunderstand me - I like the ramps.  I just wish they had bothered to spend as much time sorting the platform side of the Station out.

In every other Railway Station I have been to which has lifts the lifts have been in the same place as the stairs to the platforms.

Not in Leicester.

If you want to get to the lifts at Leicester Railway Station from the main Ticket area you have to navigate an unmanned Ticket Barrier (not so good if you have a bus pass).

In fact, the lifts are so well hidden you will have a job to find them if you do not know the layout of the station.

Head for the back wall of the station - when the passengers turn right to go through the ticket barriers leading to the stairs you should proceed straight on (I think there is a very small sign above the doorway saying "Lifts" but I cannot be sure).  Go through the doorway and follow the corridor.  Feed your ticket into the barrier and keep going.  Eventually, you will come to two lifts on your right hand side.  Incidentally - the lifts let you out very close to the stairs on the platforms.  I just don't understand why they don't start near them on the "Bridge Level".

Hopefully, if the electrification of the tracks ever goes ahead, the back of the station may get rebuilt.

I am not holding my breath though.

What Have A Pot Noodle And A Bottle Of Laundry Detergent Got In Common? (Or - Please Put The Marks Where I Can See Them!)
10/15/2015 2:44:20 PM
You are probably looking at the title to this blog post and wondering what on Earth I am going to ramble on about now???  After all, Pot Noodles and Laundry Detergent have very little in common.  You can eat a Pot Noodle but you cannot drink washing detergent (unless you want to become very poorly indeed. They are both available in shops (in different aisles).  They both come in containers.  Er, that's about it.

Not quite.

They both have the ability to drive me mad with rage.

Allow me to explain.

When you see a Pot Noodle for the first time you will see it in a pot with a foil lid on.  When you remove the lid you will find your food in powdered form - to which you need to add water.  Now - seeing as the water goes in the pot - why on Earth do they put the level marker on the outside of an opaque (ie, not seethrough) pot???  It wouldn't be so bad if the marker was also on the inside - even better would be if the Pot Noodle was sold in transparent pots (like pasta salads, etc).

I have recently found out that Ariel, Persil (and probably every other manufacturer of washing powder) have decided to do the same thing with their liquid detergent.  As in supply contraption to get liquid from bottle into washing machine drum which involves needing better eyesight than mine.

When I moved into my house my Grandma (who was the previous owner/occupier of it) had left a large box of washing powder to be finished up.  Now - I soon realised that me and washing powder do not get on - the measuring confused me too much and I was never quite sure which bit of the drawer to put it in.

So - when I had finished the washing powder I decided to make life easy for myself and try the Liquitabs.  These are brilliant for someone like me.  Put Liquitab in drum of washing machine - put washing in - close door - select programme - switch on and wait for it to do its stuff.  No measuring or confusion.

This week I reaslised I was on my last Liquitab and I couldn't be bothered to go to either Asda or the big Tesco in South Wigston to get a large box of Liquitabs cheaply.  So I went to the Tesco round the corner from my house.  They were selling Liquitabs for prices I would consider to be bribery and extortion.

As I was looking I found a bottle of liquid washing detergent which they were selling for half price - so I bought that.

"Fill it to the first marker for light laundry or soft water but fill it to the second maker for heavy laundry or heavy water", said the instructions.

The first marker was easy to find (even on a dark pink opaque object) as that marker was the dent which you use to put the contraption back in the hole in the bottle.  The second marker was more of a ridge on the outside.  Stil, I managed it.

Don't people realise that idiots like me require a simple life when it comes to measuring things???  Can they not put the things which either need added water (ie, Pot Noodle) or need to be measured accurately (ie, Washing Detergent) into clear pots with properly visible markers on them???

Oh well, only another 23 loads of eyestrain before I can go back to my preferred Liquitabs.

When Two Parts Of The Same Law Collide (Or - Legal Discrimination Even Though Discrimination Is Illegal)
10/15/2015 2:26:39 PM
Question for you - can you name the one occassion when you can legally discriminate against me even though I have a recognised disability???

I will give you a clue - it is connected with something which you may or may not own, and which some of your associates may use with varying levels of frequency.  This item is portable and wearable.  We refer to this item in the plural even though it is one item.  This item is mostly worn on the face (although it can be worn on top of the head, hanging out of a shirt pocket, on a chain, etc).  It has also (in my lifetime) been seen as a fashion accessory.

If this item is removed from my face I can be rendered totally immobile - it is certainly not a good idea to send me for a walk down my road without this item on my face.

Yes - Ladies and Gentlemen - Stand by for the big reveal.

Even though I am covered by the "Equalities And Discrimination Act" due to the fact I am Registered Partially Sighted - meaning you cannot legally discriminate against me on the grounds of my disability - the fact that I wear glasses is not covered by the aforementioned Act.

In plain English - this translates into the fact that I need glasses in order to function as a reasonably normal independent human being still doesn't prevent me from legally being discriminated against.

In plainer English - anywhere that sells glasses or contact lenses is legally free to refuse to let me over their doorway.  The fact that through refusing to sell me glasses they render me unable to function (thus activating my rights as someone who is Registered Partially Sighted) is apparently beside the point!!!

I am aware that glasses prescriptions cover a very wide range indeed - from plus or minus 1 to plus or minus 40 (at least).  I am also aware that not everybody who wears glasses needs them practically welded onto their faces in order to be able to function.

However, if you have ever had the "pleasure" of walking into somewhere like "Vision Express" (other High Street Rip Off Merchants are available) and been virtually laughed back out of the door through which you entered - merely for having the audacity to attempt to take advantage of their offers - due to a high (or even complex) prescription - you may know what I am talking about.

Don't get me wrong - I am pleased that those people with very low prescriptions can take part in all sorts of offers presented by the aforementioned "High Street Rip Off Merchants".  After all - even I will admit there are likely to be a lot more humans who fit below plus or minus 8 (the highest prescription which is covered by any offer they choose to tempt you with) than those of us who are in the plus or minus 20's and beyond.

My problem is this.  Since the sale of glasses was deregulated they seem to have become like buses - as in the more popular the route the more buses the bus company puts on because it is more cost-effective (even if it leaves the people on the less popular routes stranded without a bus service).

So the "easy" prescriptions get all the focus and the good offers from your friendly "High Street Rip Off Merchants" - leaving people like me (who could benefit from two pairs of glasses for the price of one just so I have an uptodate spare pair) left out.

In my ideal world we would have two separate "divisions" of glasses (and contact lenses).  We would leave the "High Street Rip Off Merchants" with their "easy" prescriptions.  However, we would also force them to subsidise the price of the prescriptions on my end of the scale (as in those of us who walk around 24/7 with their glasses on our noses) so we could take advantage of the same offers.

(Obviously, I would prefer it if my end of the prescription range was brought back uner the NHS Prescription charging system - even I know that is never going to happen though.)

I would also use that dividing line as a marker for where the protection of the "Equalities Act" would apply to the sale (or purchase) of glasses.

One way or another we need the discrepancy regarding the "Equalities Act" and the sale of glasses to be resolved.


My Sight Matters Less In Other Places (Or - When My "Visions Of Inequality" Disappear!)
10/5/2015 6:21:42 PM
The Dutch have a saying - well I suppose it is more of a motto really - "Doe maar gewoon want dan ben je gek genoeg" (or - "just be yourself - you are crazy enough anyway")!

I suppose that saying partly explains why I have always felt more at home in Holland.  After all, I have never been made to feel like my sight is a problem over there.

Things like train stations were always places of fun - instead of the stress palaces they are over here.

OK - so if I had been in a wheelchair it would have been a very different story until recently. You would be forgiven for thinking the lift was a recent invention over there.

When I was younger (and before they attempted to drag the Railway Stations into the 20th Century) the boards announcing which trains would end up on which platforms were easy for me to understand.

They were like a kind of Rodolex mixed with a flippable calendar.  (My Oma has a clock radio that seemed to work along the same lines - the numbers would flip over during the day.)

The numbers were in bold blue font (reasonably large).  The final destination of the train would be almost the same.  The intermediate stations would be lighter blue an smaller.  Any delays would be in red.

I could live with that.

Then the Dutch Railways had the bright idea of "Going English" and using those horrible screens you get on the Platform at English Railway Stations.  That is not exactly true.  You see - unlike the English (who seem to like everything microscopic) - the Dutch have stretched their boards so I can actually read them without either having to search for a step ladder or having to find sunglasses.

The same in shops.  I hate going shopping for anything in England.

English shops are usually too cluttered with information written so small that I need a microscope to read it.

Dutch shops usually have signs which scream their offers at you.  Big fonts - bright colours.  Oh - and the assistants are helpful.

As for other printed material - ie, books, magazines, etc???

I have yet to find a Dutch book or magazine which has print which is too small for me to read comfortably.  Even the Dutch newspapers haven't managed to shrink to A4 size (yes - I know it is a bit of an exaggeration - some of the English newspapers and magazines have shrunk though).

I admit the Dutch suffer from the "English Problem" when it comes to cafes though - they will insist on gluing their menus to a wall and parking a counter between me and them.

I have just remembered - there is one brilliant exception to that rule near Rotterdam Central Station.  Head for the Nationale Nederland Building and you will find a "Douwe Egbert" cafe near there which has menus you can pick up and read.

Feed Bellies Not Bins (Or - A Project I Am Happy To Be Involved With)
10/5/2015 5:31:54 PM
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you will probably be wondering why I have recently started posting photographs of menus written on blackboards every Thursday evening???

It is my way of attempting to raise awareness of the "Pay As You Feel" Cafe run by the Leicester brigade of The Real Junkfood Project.  Yes - the observant among you have seen a review I typed some time ago.

I could go all "Evangelical" on you and bore you to sleep with the statistics about the amount of food that is sent to landfill in the UK - but I would actually like you to keep enjoying my blog so I will find another way of telling you how good the The Real Junkfood Project Cafe is.

The Real Junkfood Project was started up in Yorkshire by someone who must have been alarmed at the amount of - perfectly useable and edible = food which was being sent to landfill just because it was past its Best Before date and couldn't be sold in the shops,

By the way - the Best Before date is a guide as to how long something will be "Best Before".  The date you really have to worry about is the "Use By" date.  The "Use By" date tells you when a product should be Used by - if it passes this date it is poisonous and should not be consumed.

All the food which has passed its "Best Before" date could easily be used to feed people.

The Leicester Brigade of the The Real Junkfood Project include some brilliant cooks (why do you think I keep going back week after week???).  Also you can pay what you feel the meal is worth.

Why am I telling you all this???

Well, I will be getting involved "behind the scenes" on a voluntary basis.  I thought the project was such a good idea and the people who are "in charge" of it are two of the nicest people you will ever meet (also two of the most stressed people you will ever meet) - so I decided to help them out by using my Admin experience.

Less of my waffling about the two Saints (and they are Saints) who run the project in Leicester - I have serious information to give you.

You could walk into any restaurant or cafe of your choosing and sit down at a table - order your meal - eat your meal - and leave - never once having met the people who cooked your food.  You could also pay a lot of money for a tiny portion of food without caring about what happens to the staff or the money, etc - never mind the leftover food.

Or you could go to a "Real Junkfood Project" cafe - meet the humans who cook the food, have a very nice meal (sometimes with a very interesting twist), save food from landfill.  Oh - and if you are brave enough - talk to the other humans who share your table.  This will leave you feeling like you have done something worthwhile as well as having a nice meal.

In our world of the "Throwaway Society" it is nice to know that there are people doing their bit to use up food (as well as donating some to homeless people and those in need).

We need to get away from the "Money For Nothing" culture we seem to be drowning in - and go back to a way of life which enabled us to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

This is why I am happy to help The Real Junkfood Project.

How Do We Solve A Problem Like Bullying???
10/5/2015 4:10:57 PM
As you should know by now I have experience of being bullied at school.  I have my own ideas and solution which could be used.

However, what I feel is missing from this whole debate is - well, exactly that as it happens.  There are so many ideas, schemes, and suggestions (most of which are not exactly helpful to the cause of finding a solution for it) but nobody - as far as I can see - has actually asked the people on the frontline (or recieving end of it).

Hardly a day goes by without some news report or other on the subject of bullying in all its forms (be it in school, Domestic Abuse, Workplace Bullying, Cyberbullying, etc) and the consequences of it.

I got a bit wound up by all the discussions because they all seemed to be focused on the symptoms and not the causes.

I asked a Twittercop to help me with this post by answering a few questions for me.  Some of their answers were quite surprising to me.  (My thoughts will be in italics.)

The first question I had was - Do you think that the parents of children who bully other children in school should be treated in the same way as parents who do not make sure their children go to school (ie, fines, etc)?

Hmmmm do I think parents of bullies should be held responsible in some way ?? yes. Children learn by example. They aren't born bullies - they have to learn that from their environment and the lead 'example' in any such environment is of course the parents. Not the schools, not the police, and not Spongebob Squarepants or whoever else is chosen to be the fall guy of the day.

The problem arises in that many parents of bullies lack basic social, parenting or other such life skills as a result of their own upbringing, combined with the recent dumbing down of society's values in the last 20 years and the liberalistic (with a small 'l') approach to discipline and the showing of right from wrong, or even winning or losing which for some years has also been a no no in our education system.

Interesting to note that the comprehensive school in my town, which is regarding as one of if not the best in the region (and regularly tops the results tables)  really did have zero bullying issues for many years. The local education authority decided in their wisdom to extend the catchment area to the outskirts of a neighbouring town with a lot of poverty and appalling school standards in the hope that some of the good work her would rub off. Result - instant increase in violence. bullying and theft crimes against 'local' pupils. But no one can see why apparently.

Violence breeds violence, whether it be from seeing parents beating seven bells out of each other or from watching increasingly abusive violent TV shows and films, or engrossing themselves in many modern video games, sometimes as an escape from the ails of the real world but the result is the same. Violence and self interest becomes the norm.

This is an interesting answer.  I agree wholeheartedly with it but it has made me think.  There is obviously something seriously wrong when we are in a situation where there is no legal escape from being bullied in school - due to the fact there is a legal requirement to send your child to school.

Instead of punishing parents for not ensuring their child goes to school - and possibly making the situation worse for the victims - we should be educating the parents of bullies (as well as fining them).  Unfortunately I know for a fact that some parents of bullies will come up with any excuse they can to try to justify their children's behaviour.

As the Twittercop says above - the parents are the ones who are responsible for how their child acts.

Next question - Do you think there should be a Police Officer somewhere on school premises so that incidents of bullying can be dealt with like any other crime - instead of the usual "flimsy" school punishment system?

Should there be police officers on school premises ?? Well there are regualrly in the good ole USA, and they are armed -- but it doesn't stop the violence and shooting/massacres there.

We also have a lot of schools this side of the pond already that has PCSO's based permanently within, as part of some half hearted attempt to resolve many of the issues that teaching staff are unable to control, not for want but because most of their power to control and discipline within the school environment has been removed and they in turn have no support against unruly and disruptive children and their parents within the school environment.

Should police be there - of course not. Whilst we are, it's another excuse for the Department of Education and wider Government to shirk their responsibility to the school staff and other pupils who actually want to achieve something with their education.

When I was at school, even primary school, you did not cheek the teachers, the head had the slipper (and later the cane) and detention meant exactly that. Parents didn't storm into the building  threatening and attacking staff and this was only 30 (ish) years ago so where has it all gone wrong ??

I agree with parts of this answer.  In an ideal world the Police should not be needed to sort out problems in schools.

I remember an assembly in Secondary School where the Head of my Year totally deranged himself because some of the local students had caused havoc in the town centre after school - he totally lost the plot.  I also remember another assembly on the subject of "The price of your good name" regarding stealing.

Where the Twittercop and I have a difference of opinion is the fact that bullying has a tendency to "leak".  I clearly remember having it drummed into me that the school's responsibility for me ended at the school gate.

There really needs to be some way of connecting the school's responsibility with the responsiblity of the "wider world".

I wish I could say that bullying only involves a bit of name-calling - however, we all know that bullying can (and in my experience does) escalate to some pretty serious crimes if not stopped near the beginning.

So - whilst I agree that - in an ideal world - the Police would not have to be within 35 feet of a school building (except to show Primary School children that the Police are not dangerous creatures and to introduce them to the delights of sirens) - I would have to ask about who is prepard to take up the slack???

Whilst I do not agree with liberal use of corporal punishment in schools (you cannot get to the root of a child's problems if your first instinct is to resort to violence when they misbehave) - there is too much "red tape" and there are too few agencies who are prepared to "join the dots" between school and home.  The agencies that are there have got staffing levels which are too low to be very effective.

My last question was - Do you think there should be better education around bullying and its symptoms (for children, teachers, and parents)?

Much work goes on in schools now every day regarding bullying, spotting the signs and victims and resolving the problems. EVERY school has to have a bullying policy, however from the number of calls we get from parents regarding schools doing nothing when they report matters, I would suggest many schools try and ignore the problem hoping it will go away.

Both of my daughters, whilst at the local school, have trained as 'bullying ambassadors' under the Princess Diana Award - http://www.antibullyingpro.com/the-diana-award/ - My youngest daughter is actually doing her training only this week. One of the ideas is to provide peer support and also train them to spot the signs teachers miss and flag them up.

Wow - a school which takes bullying seriously.

So - that is the childen sorted out - what about the teachers and parents???  Where can they get useful advice from???

I would love to be able to round up teachers and parents so I can tell them about my experiences at school.  OK - so my experiences are from 30 years ago but - trust me - the damage lasts a lifetime.

From the reports on the news every time a tragic incident occurs as a result of bullying the advice seems to change when it comes to "things to look out for".  The checklist for "symptoms of bullying" is starting to read like a checklist for Grooming by pedophiles, drug addiction, parental neglect, etc.

The other thing which I find interesting is - nowhere does there seem to be any mention of one of the causes (in my case) of bullying.  You can call it "Special Educational Needs" or you can just call it "being slightly different to everybody else".

Bigger schools, larger class sizes with mixed abiities, recipes for disaster if you have to cope with difficulties which set you apart from everybody else.

I must admit I always looked forward to detention and my days in "solitary" (a room on my own with a teacher) in the first few terms of Secondary school.  There were days when even a lesson taught by Steve Bowkett seemed like a "cruel, excessive, and unnatural punishment".

It comes to something when your Monday starts at 8.00am on an actual Monday morning and finishes at 4.00pm on a Friday afternoon - if you are very lucky. Going to sleep hoping I wouldn't wake up was also a regular occurence.

Yes - I admit that there has been progress in some things regarding bullying in school.  However, I feel we have gone backwards in other things/

The Death Of A Betrayal (Or - Test My Loyalty At Your Own Risk)
10/5/2015 12:46:34 PM
I feel like I owe you an apology for my lack of blogging activity last week.  I can only explain it by telling you that I promised myself I would never write blog posts which were deliberately harmful to myself or others.  The other way to explain it would be to tell you that I never want to use my blogging to fill time up when I should be trying to recover from problems in my "real world" personal life.

Just over a week ago I had an experience which shook my faith in both my own judgement and the way I treat my friends.

If you know me you will (hopefully) know that - once you have got past my defence mechanisms and reached the status of "friend" - I will go out of my way to be the best friend to you that I can.

What I hope you never find out is how easy it is to lose my friendship - permanently.

I try not to judge people by how they treat me - unless it involves my family or friends.

Seriously - you can say what you like about me and, if I think you have a point, I will listen to you (and be prepared to stand my ground if necessary).  If - on the other hand - I don't agree with you I will usually let it flow over my head.

Saying what you like about my friemds or family on the other hand can be extremely dangerous.

You may remember a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago where I spoke about how I think that Mental Health issues should be dealt with in the same way as physical health issues???  The post where I expressed my surprise at how someone thought that one of my friends would act completely differently simply because of their Mental Health issues???

That blog post was a warning shot aimed at someone who is now an ex-friend of mine.  (Unfortunately, that old English saying about being able to take a horse to water but not being able to make it consume said water turned out to be true in this case.  Even the friend I referred to in the blog post picked up what I was trying to do.  It is a pity the target just told me it was a good blog post!!!)

There are three main "Commandments" which I expect my friends to keep.  There are a few more of them but the three I am going to list below are the ones which are the dealbreakers when it comes to me deciding if you are about to be deleted from my "Friends List".

Thou Shalt Not Speak Badly Of My Friends In My Presence - Especially if they are not present and therefore are unable to defend themselves.

If there is one thing I pride myself on it is my loyalty to my friends.  I may have my own disagreements with them but I will defend them from attacks and slurs on their character unless I have witnessed the reason for your complaint myself (and agree with your views) - I will deal with my friends as I see fit.

This "Commandment" is even more of a dealbreaker if you and I both know they have any kind of issue which makes them vulnerable, ie. disability or Mental Health issue.  Put it this way - exercising your ignorance about any difficulties they may face without being willing for me to "educate" you on their behalf is enough to make me get rid of you.

Put very simply - testing my loyalty to a very close friend of mine (who I happen to know you have upset with your attitude towards them) will noy only result in you losing my friendship but will also be reported to them - so they can make their own decision about you.

Thou Shalt Not Make Me Think Thou Art Only Using Me To Get At (Or To) Another Friend Of Mine - My friendships with other people are to be respected and not used as a way of getting what you want.

My friendship with you may have developed as a result of us both liking another person - however - I will always keep my friendships separate/  If you want to gain access to a friend of mine you will have to find another way.  Especially if your attitude towards them gives me cause for concern as to your intentions.

If you give me any reason to think you may pose a threat to my friends - don't be surprised if I also decide you pose a direct threat to me and act accordingly.

Thou shalt Treat Anything My Friends Say To You As Though It Is Covered By The Official Secrets Act - After all, if you are telling me what they have told you why shouldn't I automatically assume you will do the same to me???

My trust is a very expensive commodity.  If I trust you you have reached a very high level indeed in our friendship and the more I trust you the easier it is for you to lose my trust.  Once I feel unable to trust you it is "Game Over".

Any combination of the above will make it more difficult for our friendship to get back on track.

If - one the other hand - you would like to smash our friendship to smithereens - feel free to do what my now ex-friend did and go for a "Full House".

I am honestly not sure what upset me the most - the fact that two people who I count as sisters were both the victims of what happened, the fact that I had to listen to someone's ignorance about an issue I feel very strongly about, the fact that when I told one of my friends what had happened they felt they had to protect me and try to cheer me up, or the sheer sense of betrayal of not only myself but two of my close friends.

I have never been a fan of those people who say "Any friend of So-And-So is a friend of mine" - I prefer to potential friends by my own standards.

I may just have to make my standards tougher.

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