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Anonymity, Authority, And Playing With People's Lives (Or - Be Careful What You Say Because Your Words Could Be More Harmful Than You Think)
2/29/2016 8:50:40 PM
If you know me personally you will know that I hate people who feel they can play with other people's lives and not have to face the consequences of their actions.

This may go some way towards explaining why I am absolutely fuming about how two of my friends have been treated recently (one of the situations is ongoing).  I am not going to name my friends because it is not really relevant to this blog post.  What I will say is the situations are almost exact opposite sides of the same coin.

I found out that one of my friends has had an anonymous complaint made about them regarding something in their professional life.  This complaint could potentially have lost them their job.

Now - I understand that "Whistleblowers" who uncover bad practise or seriously dangerous situations should be anonymous because they could themselves be put in great danger if their identities are revealed.

The people who should not be allowed to claim anonymity are the people who post nasty comments on websites and Social Media, and - particularly - the people who decide that because someone has upset them they are going to put in a serious complaint about them over the slightest thing which may cause them serious distress.

I have put my real name on this website for the simple reason that I am prepared to stand by every word I type.  If I have something bad to say about someone I will tell that person face-to-face if at all possible.


Well - I know what it is like for people to be nasty to or about you without fear of any comeback on them.  I even worked for someone exactly like that.  His only problem was that he was the kind of person who thought the world was beneath him - he didn't even bother hiding his dislike for most of the humans he came across.

The other friend is being told one thing by one group of people and another thing by another group of people - neither of which are actually giving them the help they need to make proper decisions about a serious and ongoing situation they find themself in.  So my friend is getting rather stressed out by it all.

If only people thought before they spoke or wrote anything in a comments section.

My Mum had a great poster at my Dad's house on that very subject.  The poster was written in German (and I cannot remember the whole thing) but I remember the first line translates into "If you speak - speak out of Love".

Maybe we would all do well to remember that.

There Are No More Fairytales (Or - Why I Am Hoping The EU Collapses)
2/29/2016 8:10:43 PM
I promised myself I would not blog about the EU and the "Hokey Kokey" debate on that boring subject of whether or not Britain should stay in it.  What changed my mind is the reports about the suspects for the Paris Terrorist Attacks being able to cross national "Borders" without being picked up - followed by the problems with migrants in Greece (with particular interest in the reactions of the rest of the EU to the plight of both the migrants and the security situation in Greece.)

Every time I think about the "Schengen Agreement" three letters and a placename come into my mind.  The letters are "I", "R", "A", and the placename is Roermond.

I can still remember sitting in front of the TV at the house which was lent to my Oma by some of her friends (or relations - I lost track at that point), in Zeist (some years before Zeist got requisitioned for the Lockerbie Bombing trial) watching the Dutch news when my Dad said something which alerted me to the fact something very serious had happened.

The IRA had detonated a bomb in the Dutch town of Roermond (I think it was at an Army Base) and escaped over the border into either Germany or Belgium.  The unchecked border - where they could just drive through without being stopped.

As my Dad pointed out - surely, if there was a bomb explosion (or other terrorist incident) the borders would be manned and every single car crossing the border would be checked???  Apparently not even in the early days of the "Schengen Agreement".

You may find it strange that someone who identifies as a "European" by parentage wants to go back to the days before the "Schengen Agreement".

You may find it even stranger when you learn that my Mum looked into getting a British Passport but either Britain or The Netherlands refused to let her keep her Dutch passport at the same time - it was 1972 after all.

But it is not about whether or not someone can have dual nationality (even though I agree with my Dad that children with one or more parents who are not from the country the child is born in should have dual nationality as an automatic right - that would mean that I would still be dual Dutch-British nationality without having lived in The Netherlands).

It is about being certain that Criminals who decide to come to this country are stopped before they get here.

It is also about not trying to force 28 totally different countries with their own complex problems to sing from the same hymnsheet on every subject going.  In fact, I am surprised there has not been a major conflict (as in war) between members of the EU between it being set up and now.

To be totally honest I have felt uncomfortable crossing between nations in the EU after the borders came down.

In fact, I wish the UK would adopt the Dutch way of keeping track of who is where in their country (as far as residents are concerned).  This would mean presenting yourself at the Council of the place you move to and signing yourself in as a resident (after signing yourself out of the Council you moved from).

As it is we have no way of knowing exactly how many people are in the country or their reasons for being here, never mind knowing exactly where they are.  The Electoral Roll doesn't help with that as you are not legally obliged to put your name on it immediately after you move house.

Not only would this help with prevention of terrorism but we would also have some ideas as to which parts of the UK are massively underfunded and under-resourced as far as "Public Amenities" are concerned.

Part of me wants Britain to remain in the EU if only to be in a position to cause the burocracy to implode.

I read two news stories about the EU which made me smile.

One of which was an EU Burocrat attempting to convince reporters that he was a "Civil Servant" and not a Burocrat.  Not even the UK has two levels of "National" Government directly overseeing us - the EU has got the European Parliament (I wouldn't recognise my MEP if I saw them) as well as the Eurpoean Commission.

The other one was Guy Verhofstadt being "astonished" by the reception the EU deal has had in Britain.  He went on in his article in the Guardian to say that even though he is Belgian (and they are into surrealism) he cannot get his head around the idea that Michael Gove (among others) doesn't think the deal is legally binding - something about that concept even being outside the boundaries of surrealism.

Britain is its own country with its own ideas about how to do things - same like The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Spain, Finland, etc.

From where I am sitting there are too many factions in the EU for it to work properly - if it ever did.  It has got far too big and clumsy to work as a single entity.

I am beginning to think the EU should quietly disband itself and go back to being an Economic Area including all the countries (with their original currencies).

As for David Cameron's assertion that "if Britain leaves the EU it will trigger the next world war" - has he not noticed that the two countries most likely to trigger that are not even in the EU???  Last time I looked neither Russia nor Turkey were members of that particular club.

However, in order for me to make my mind up properly as to whether or not Britain should leave the EU I need something which is very thin on the ground - facts.

I have heard a lot of talk from both sides of the argument but nobody has been able to provide me with any cast iron information as to what will happen if we leave and if we stay - just pie-in-the-sky stuff about what might happen.

For this reason I am leaning ever closer towards the EU exit door.

Porridge And Flapjacks (Or - How A Different Mix Of Characteristics Can Have Surprisingly Similar Results)
2/29/2016 6:45:12 PM
I was having my breakfast one morning when I suddenly realised something which I found interesting.

My breakfast that morning was porridge (cheat's version which comes in a pot so all you have to do is add water).

As I was eating it I suddenly realised that - if I had chosen to put melted butter or syrup in with the oats instead of water - I would be munching flapjacks instead.

This got me thinking about a couple of friends of mine who are alarmingly similar.

I feel I should say that these two friends have never (to my knowledge) met but I know they have been in the same building at the same time - I was in the same building at the same time.

In fact, I kind of ended up liking (and trusting) one of them because they reminded me of the other one.

Have you ever been in a situation where you have met someone and ended up having to convince yourself they are not one of your friends (even when they don't look anything like them)?  Or does that only happen to me???

Both of these particular friends have a certain way of speaking to me - along with a similar accent (well, they both originate from roughly the same area - give or take a county boundary).  They both have a name in common (one has it as their middle name).  They are both the same gender.  Oh and they both appear to like reading my blog.

However, if you were to be able to look at their backgrounds and their appearance you would think they were completely different - as well as asking me how I could possibly think they are remotely similar.  However, I know there are three other things which connect them - they both share at least one hobby, their careers have involved working with people who could be described as "vulnerable", and they have both got children.

A bit like the differences between the porridge and the flapjack I suppose.  Both foodstuffs involve one ingredient.  What makes the difference is what you add to the ingredient (water or melted butter).  They both taste nice - even if one is more time-consuming to make than the other.

I am now just wondering if you could use a pot of a certain "Just Add Water" porridge mix to make the base for a cheesecake???  (The one with different sorts of grains and nuts in it.)

I am now making myself feel hungry so I think I had better finish this blog post.

Even I Know That A Red Traffic Light Does Not Mean Drive As Fast As You Like Through It! (Or - Maybe We need Drastic Action Before More People Get Killed)
2/25/2016 1:23:09 AM
Apparently some bright spark has decided that the roads would be a lot safer if road markings and traffic signs were removed from the roads???

Speaking as someone who nearly got cleared up (as in knocked down or run over) twice on Monday I would definitely disagree with this argument.

In fact I would love it if there was a set of spikes at every set of trafficlights.  This set of spikes would be like those rising bollards which you get at the entrances to Pedestrianised areas to let certain traffic in and keep the rest out.  As in - they would be hidden in the ground until they were needed.

These spikes would only be activated when a vehicle approaches a red light too quickly for the vehicle to stop in front of the lights.  Not only would the spikes puncture the tyres (bringing the vehicle to a rapid halt) they would also cause a large amount of damage to both the underside of the car and the sides of the car (with varying levels of damage equivalent to the speed the vehicle approached the trafficlights at.  (If the vehicle was visibly slowing when it went through the lights the damage to the vehicle would be minimal.  If - like the the two idiots which went through separate red lights as I was waiting to cross the roads - the vehicle was travelling at nearly the national speed limit - the vehicle would be a complete writeoff and the insurance would be rendered null and void).

I know this would probably have some legal issues but I am fed up of apparently blind idiots being in charge of a flammable motorised baked bean can on wheels.  Especially when you consider that someone with my eyesight would give the DVLA a heart attack if they attempted to put in for their Provisional Licence (and - after my experience of driving a Double Decker bus at an Open Day for my local bus company several years ago - I fully understand why this is the case) because my eyesight wouldn't pass a Driving Test.

I happen to know someone who has colourblindness and they are a very safe driver (apparently the contrast between red and green in trafficlights is clear enough for them to distinguish between them) - so that is not the cause.

Maybe the idiots just need to learn patience. 

Why Professional Will Never Be As Good As Vocational! (Or - Why Are The Best People Starting To Leave?)
2/25/2016 12:49:29 AM
I have been reading a very interesting argument on Twitter which kind of ties in with a discussion I had with two of my friends last Friday about a slightly different (yet related) subject.

The discussion I had was about Nursing and how the quality of the care provided by some of the nurses appears to have changed since Nursing became a "Profession" instead of a "Vocation" - as in you need a degree before you get a foot in the door.

The argument I have been reading was about another "Vocation" which is in danger of turning into a "Profession" - Policing.

When I was thinking of writing this blog post I posted a simple survey on Twitter.

The question I asked was; "When you joined the Police what did you see it as - Profession or Vocation?"

Out of 104 people who responded 41% said "Profession" and 59% said "Vocation".

Now - call me crazy if you want to but - according to me - any job where you are dealing with members of the Public who may be in distress, or where you have any kind of "authority" over them, should be treated as a Vocation.

There is one very good example which I can give you of the reason I said that.

Teachers are not my favourite people on Earth.  I have come across far too many of them who appear to think that students should fit in "easy to teach" boxes - or at least that was the attitude shown by most of my teachers.

The one teacher who I left school not wishing to seriously damage was also the one who showed me that I mattered.  In fact, had that teacher and my Year Head at the time swapped places I would have stood a better chance of explaining why I wanted to leave that school after half a term.  Had that teacher been my Form tutor I might not even have got into that situation in the first place.

You can have degrees coming out of your ears but if you cannot show the students your human (and humane) side how do you expect them to trust you???

The same goes for every other Public-facing role I can think of.

I lost count of the times when I was either used as an encyclopedia on the subject of my Grandma's Medical History or practically told not to be so stupid when I raised a question about some aspect of her treatment.  The most insulting incident was when my Grandma had had a major operation - and she had expressed her wish for me to be informed in my earshot (in fact - one of the nurses had rung me up about the operation because my Grandma's next-of-kin - my Dad - was out of the country on business) but when I asked how it had gone I was flatly informed that the nurse would only discuss the outcome with my Dad (who was - fortunately - back in the country at that point).  For some strange reason - one of the nurses was quick enough to inform me when one of the nightstaff had accidentally fed my Grandma (who was on a pureed diet at this point) a piece of toast to counteract a "hypo" - dangerously low bloodsugar - and narrowly avoided (if not killing her) doing some serious damage.

One of my favourite Twittercops is seriously considering leaving Policing and I am actually rather upset about this.  I have never met the Officer concerned but - from our conversations on Twitter - he seems to be one of the "Vocational" Officers.  Not for him the idea of Policing being merely a "Profession" - he lives his job.

I have suddenly realised that by using the words "Profession" and "Vocation" I may have led you to think that I equate Policing, Teaching, and Nursing, to something like the Priesthood or joining a Convent???

What I actually mean by those words is as follows;

"Profession" - you do it as a job and you work for the money you earn - nothing else.

"Vocation" - you do it because you are passionate about making a difference in the lives of the people you serve.  The fact you get paid for it is something of an added bonus.

Of course - there are "Professionals" in every job - some with very high level qualifications but zero levels of people-nurturing skills.

However, my favourite bus drivers, teacher, Twittercops, etc, have all got one thing in common - they are all "Vocational".  As in - their job is not about them and what they can get out of it.  Instead it is about what they can ut into helping others.

The "Vocationals" are rapidly moving from the "Endangered Species" list to the "Extinct" list - we need to turn this around before it is too late.

The Interactive Overload! (Or - Why I Am Getting Tired Of Being Asked To Do The Media's Job For Them)
2/24/2016 11:54:19 PM
There used to be a time when I could sit down and watch a TV programme without being invited to participate in it - either by sending in photos of me doing crazy things or by passing comment on stories or items which - frankly - I have zero interest in.

It has got to the stage where I sometimes half-expect the soaps to sudden break for a vote on which way the storyline should go next.

Don't get me wrong - I have no problem with people who are at the scene of a major breaking news story being used to inform the public about what is going on.  They are being useful (except when you get newscasters speaking to approximately 5 people who all give the same version of events - but I think that is the price you pay for 24 hour rolling "news" coverage).

It is programmes like "The One Show", "The Voice", etc, where the viewers appear to have been given the job of finishing a half-made show as it is on air.

But it is not only TV programmes which appear to have succumbed to this dreadful outbreak.

Some newspaper websites appear to have the same problem.  I know most of the newspaper websites are free.  However, surely the journalists are paid enough to do a proper job of creating their own content without my help???

Interactive programmes and journalism has its place.  However, I would much prefer to be allowed to sit down and watch a TV programme in peace (ie, without fear of being asked either to send in a photo of me throwing myself off the nearest high cliff or being asked to vote on whether or not I really think Jalopeno flavoured coffee is the best thing since sliced bread).

I suppose I am now going to make myself sound positively Jurassic but I much prefer the TV programmes we used to get.  Particularly the Saturday evening programming.  You know - proper variety shows, comedy which could entertain the family as a whole, the occassional gameshow like "Blankety Blank", etc.

Instead of that we (the audience) seem to be forced to make our own programming.

I hate to say this but I have recently found myself watching the "online" content produced on things like YouTube, Periscope, and even (sometimes) Blab, more and more.  The content provides a good variety of topics by people who do it for the pure joy of entertaining people and educating them.  Plus I know I am not going to be requested to vote or provide content whilst I watch them.  I don't mind being asked to leave a comment after I have watched their output from beginning to end.

Periscope is slowly becoming one of my favourite ways of learning about different subjects.  I am free to comment if I wish to but I am also free to just watch the proceedings and read everybody else's comments as they scroll up the screen.  (I even get free Dutch practice when one of the people I follow on Twitter is patient enough in his Periscope broadcasts to allow me to brush up my best Dutch and ask him questions in it.  Trust me - writing in Dutch when you are having to think in English at the same time can be very tricky.)

What is the difference between something like Social Media, YouTube, etc, and the Mainstream Media? As in - why do I object to the Mainstream Media requesting my participation in their shows whilst at the same time being prepared to quite happily interact with complete strangers on things like Periscope, etc???

I suppose it comes down to one thing - did I pay for the output to start with???

I pay for a TV licence which should exempt me from having to participate in shows unless I absolutely want to (ie, in the very unlikely event of me either being a contestant in a quiz show, or being used as an expert on a news item about disability).

On the other hand - I do not pay anything directly towards broadcasts on things like YouTube, etc.  All I pay for is internet access - the actual content I watch is free.

I am starting to wonder if there could be some kind of scheme whereby the more "audience interactivity" the show involves the less the audience have to pay for watching it.  A kind of sliding scale if you want.

Maybe then we might go back to having proper programmes on TV as well as a proper dividing line between Majnstream journalists and (although I really have this term) "Citizen Journalists" like me - who "report" on life as we see it.

I would really like it if the "Citizen Journalists" were given our own slots on the Mainstream Media.  If only to prove that you don't need degrees coming out of your ears in order to report on a good story.  Time and again the Mainstream Media appear to have missed the "real" story in their news reports on the major issues of the day.

There is a time and a place for "interactivity" - we just need to rediscover that balance.

The Weird Sense Behind Proverbs (Or - A Scribbles Exercise For Your Enjoyment)
2/24/2016 10:54:56 PM
For those of you who do not know what "Scribbles" is - it is a Creative Writing Group I belong to in Market Harborough.  We meet up to write and to chat once a month.  Some of the exercises we get can have very interesting results (usually because you get five completely different interpretations from five completely different people).

My favourite exercise is the one where we write for five minutes on a word or sentence - this is because I find it concentrates my mind.  The trick is to write the first thing which comes into your head and go from there.

Yesterday at Scribbles we got a rather interesting twist on my favourite exercise.  Instead of writing for five minutes on a word or a sentence - we were asked to write for five minutes on a proverb.

The proverb which was chosen was "Carrying Coals To Newcastle".  (For those of you who have never come across this proverb before it is about doing something which is completely useless.  Newcastle upon Tyne used to be one of the largest coal producing places in the UK.)

Below you will find what my brain came up with.

Carrying Coals to Newcastle reminds me of another saying which is similar in its futility if you attempt to carry it out.  The Dutch version of it translates into "carrying water to the sea".

This has reminded me of the other proverbs which my Mum used to use.  The only trouble is - I am so used to hearing her say them in Dutch I can never remember the English version of them.  Oh - don't worry - I can translate them into the English language but remembering the English equivalent of a phrase informing you that "you cannot pluck feathers from a frog" is hard work.  (I think the English version is "You can't get blood out of a stone".)

As for the English one about cats and bags?  Well - the literal Dutch translation is "There comes the Monkey out of the sleeve".  (I heard a rumour that it could also refer to an Ace - as in the playing card - but I think the "monkey" works better.)

But my favourite Dutch proverb or phrase is the most logical one of the lot.

Instead of telling people not to "borrow tomorrow's troubles" just inform the panicking human that "the soup is never eaten as hot as it is served".

This brings me nicely back to the coals (which can be used to heat the aforementioned soup).

A Quick Explanation About "Inkyworld" (Or - Why I Refuse To Blog About One Specific Subject All The Time)
2/23/2016 12:45:51 AM
There is one question which puzzles me every single time I am asked it.

The question???

"What do you blog about?"

Unfortunately I cannot give them the answer they really want because I know they want me to stick to one topic.

If I was trying to be like some of my favourite bloggers and vloggers (blogging but on video camera instead of via the medium of the written word) I would probably pick one subject - become an expert in it - and blog about it nonstop.

Then two things would happen;

I would get bored of writing about the same thing every time I sit at my computer.


This blog would not seem like a conversation.  The tone would get very monotonous.

Oh - and - if I picked certain topics I am passionate about the blog posts would go back to reading like lectures.  I don't want to use this blog as a soapbox.  I want to be able to feel I can be open and honest with you.

I try to imagine us sitting having a cup of coffee (or a beverage of your choice) and having a fun conversation.  Maybe there is some serious stuff thrown in - maybe you learn something unexpected (either about me or about another topic) - maybe you end up laughing at something I have said or wanting to argue with meabout something.  Maybe you end up thinking about something completely differently.

I know I am not the most eloquent person on the planet - there are people who are miles better than me at writing.

However, I can guarantee you one thing (and I know this because quite a few of my personal friends have told me) - when you read this you get to know the real me a lot quicker than people who I have spoken for years (and who thought they knew me inside out).

Put it this way - I am not my own favourite subject.  In fact, I would much rather listen to your story.  You are much more interesting.  Maybe you have got an interesting accent, or you have the ability to make your job sound interesting, or any of thousands of other reasons.

You are especially interesting if you allow me to ask "Ink-style" questions and let things sink into my brain in the way which is easiest for me.

Of course - there is nothing wrong with blogging about the same topic all day, every day, if that is what you choose to do.  You might be an expert in your field who wishes to impart encyclopedic knowledge to your followers.  (The only trouble with that is - sometimes there is a tendency to get a little too technical and assume that the casual reader or viewer has a degree-level knowledge of your specialist subject.)

I admit that some of my favourite bloggers (and vloggers) do seem to spend most of their lives blogging about one subject but they are the ones who have found different "mini-topics" in their chosen field to have fun with as well.  They also break it down into nice easy chunks of learning.  Either that or I like their output because it helps me brush up on their language as well as teaching me about their chosen subject.

So - I could stick to bloggng about one subject but - have you ever had a conversation which stuck to one subject all the time???

Apart from that - blogging about different subjects helps me brush up different writing styles to suit the subjects.

First "Commissioned" Blog post.
2/22/2016 11:58:14 PM

Below you will see my first proper "commissioned" blog post.  It wa written for John Coster but I thought you might like to have a read of it as well.

Stronger Through Adversity – The Dutch Second World War Story


When English people think of the Second World War and The Netherlands they only seem to think about Arnhem, and the film “A Bridge Too Far”. After all, the Second World War was over 70 years ago.



The Dutch story goes a lot deeper than that – so do the scars - as well as the memories.



My Mum was born in Rotterdam during the Second World War (she was 2 and a half years old when it finished).



There are only three pre-Second World War buildings left standing in the Centre of Rotterdam – bombing took care of the rest of them.



However, you don't have to look very far to find monuments to it. You just have to look down at the ground in certain areas. A German artist has found records of all the people who were transported to the Concentration Camps and put little plaques in the pavement outside their former homes. These plaques have the names of the people – as well as the date they moved in and the date they were taken away.



I had known that one of my Mum's uncles had ended up in some sort of Camp in Bergen op Zoom (in the south west of The Netherlands). Apparently – when he was released (or escaped) he had some kind of tattoo on his arm.



Even my Dad and I both got caught up in the aftermath in a way many years later.



When my Mum told my Oma (her Mum) that she had met my Dad – the first question out of Oma's mouth apparently was “Is he German?”. (Apparently, Germans, Italians, and Turkish people were seen as undesirables.)



My first meeting with how much my Oma didn't like Germans came as a result of me actually trying to learn Dutch at school. Unfortunately for me – the nearest equivalent language which was taught in the secondary school I attended was German. You could say Oma was not best pleased when (after a term of me learning German) she detected a German accent when I spoke Dutch. (The fact my Dad used German words when he spoke to her was forgiven.)



However, it was only after my visit to Groningen (right in the north of The Netherlands) that I learned a couple of things about my Mum.


Every time she saw a British or American Second World War Veteran she thanked them. Oh – and she had an aversion to watching German goose-stepping in War films.



Groningen is the exact opposite of Rotterdam (as far as the scenery is concerned). The city centre is full of buildings dating from before the Second World War.



It was only when I went to a gallery that I learned the full story in black and white detail.


I went into this little room with a table. On that table there was a small folder stood like a flip chart. As I looked through the pages I saw photos with captions in Dutch which did not need translating into English. From looking at the photos, and reading the captions below them, I learned that – prior to the Second World War – Groningen had been the Capital of the Dutch Jews. During the Second World War most of the population had been sent to the Concentration Camps.

Last year I went to a place called Leeuwarden, in the province of Friesland. Whilst I was there I went to the Fryslan Museum – where I found yet more information on the Dutch experiences during the Second World War. This exhibition not only included almost life-sized photos of various people from that era – it also had some artefacts (including a motorbike).


The first part of the title I used for this blog post (“Stronger Through Adversity”) has a very strong connection with the Second World War. It is the English translation of “Sterker Door Strijd” which is the Motto Queen Wilhemina granted Rotterdam in 1948, in recognition of their experiences during the Second World War.



Introducing LCiL and the Choice Unlimited Roadshow (Or - Why I am Pleased To Support Two Brilliant Groups)
2/22/2016 11:37:16 PM
If you are new to Inkyworld you have probably noticed I am a bit passionate about Disability???

I could go on and on about what it is like having a sight problem (as well as the difficulties I face each and every day) - you may think I already go on about them too much.  However, I passionately believe that if I don't tell you what life is like for me nobody else will.  In the words of that dreadful song by Chesney Hawkes ("The One And Only") "No one can be myself like I can - for this job I'm the best man....I am the one and only - Nobody I'd rather be - I am the one and only - Can't take that away from me".

Another thing I believe in is giving people the tools and the opportunity to speak for themselves.  You can tell your own story far better than I can using your own words.  Some of my favourite "Human Library Books" are the ones with hidden stories apart from the ones everybody else knows.

Back to the point.

A few years ago I was introduced to LCiL (or "Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living") which is an organisation set up and run by Disabled People for Disabled People, in Leicester.

Not only that but they have a couple of added extras which I happen to quite like.  One of which is a "Pay As You Feel" Cafe at the Westend Centre on Andrewes Street, Leicester, on a Thursday evening between 7pm and 8.30pm.  The same group of people do the catering for the Social Media Cafe between 12pm and 3pm on a Friday.  (You really should turn up just for the food - it is delicious.  And by munching their wonderful meals you are saving perfectly healthy food from landfill.)

But the venture I really wanted to talk to you about is the Choice Unlimited Roadshow.

This has been running for around 5 years now.  It is a "Marketplace" where companies and charities offering goods and services to Disabled People and their Carers are gathered in one place.  You can also see some really interesting demonstrations.

Last year was the first year it went on a tour of England.  At time of typing the only definite date they have got for this year is at the Leicester Tigers Ground on Welford Road, Leicester, on 20 April 2016.

Even if you are not in Leicestershire I would advise you to come and have a look around our Roadshow as it is a very interesting experience.  Apart from that - it will give you some idea what to expect when they come to a venue near you at some point.

You might even see me hovering around there.

The Dying Civility Of Respect (Or - Why It Is Not Only The Young People Who Show A Lack Of Respect)
2/22/2016 10:44:41 PM
Respect and civility are becoming extinct species.  I suppose they are two separate strands of politeness or etiquette.

To me the "Respect" part is about how you speak to someone and how you treat that person - whilst "Civility" is more applicable to wider society.

It always makes me laugh when people say that you can get away with anything in Holland - put it this way - the rules I was brought up with were a lot stricter than you might think.

For a start - I was in Holland at one point when an interesting debate had made front page news in a national newspaper.  It has nothing to do with any kind of Political Debate, no "celebrity" had passed away, the "Oranje Elftaal" (Duth National Football Team) had not staged one of their implosions - in fact, life for the Dutch seemed to be ticking over quite nicely thank you for asking.

So - what was so interesting about the debate???

The headline was taken up by one question - Should Dutch people be allowed to address each other as "Je" (Informal singular "you") in the office???

I saw this headline approximately 20 years ago.

Yes - the Dutch still operate on the "Formal" and "Informal" modes of address.  (I think I have written on another blog post on here about how the worst English term of abuse is actually a very polite form of telling someone they can do something.)

I will always address strangers as "Sir" or "Madam".

Oh - and if you want me to feel like I am able to treat you with respect on first being introduced to you please tell me both your first name and your surname - especially if you are a lot older than me.

I felt extremely uncomfortable the first time when I went to Scribbles because the rest of the group introduced themselves by their first names only - I was the youngest by 20 years and some of the members were a lot older than that.

The reason for this is - I feel more comfortable calling you "Mr Suchandsuch" or "Mrs Soandso" until you decide I am allowed to call you by your first name.

(There was one time when my personal rule of address saved someone from being told exactly what I thought of their attitude towards me.  For some reason they seemed to think that being verbally abusive towards me was conducive to creating friendly feelings towards them.  They tried to get me to call them by their first name and got a bit uppity when I told them that I would prefer to address them as "Mr Soandso".  They were the ones who later apologised for what they had said to me.)

I could go on about how children seem to swear at each other as though the F word, the "C" word, and (in some instances) the "T" word are part of normal everyday language - as well as their apparent love of holding conversations at the tops of their voices (particularly in enclosed spaces - like buses).

I could also go on about how children never give up their seats for the elderly or disabled - as well as putting their feet on the seats on public transport.

However - seeing as they seem to learn from their parents - I think I would be fighting a losing battle.

Another source of education on "How not to behave in public" is the Mainstream Media.  No - I am not talking about the soaps for once.  I am talking about News reports and "Discussion" programmes - where the rules seem to be "There are no rules".

(In fact, I put this blog post in the category of "Inspired By The News" because - even though it was sparked off by a conversation with one of my friends - I was so infuriated by the behaviour of some of the allegedly grown up adults on both the news and the programme about the "EU Referendum" tonight.  I thought a debate or a discussion was supposed to be about listening to the other person's point of view - not trying to drown them out with your own opinion???)

I am not one to always want to go back to the past (and I certainly wouldn't want to be forced to work out which cutlery to use for which course at a 12 course banquet) but I really think we should go back and relearn how to be polite and civil to each other (and treat everybody with respect - whether or not they do the same to us).

Why I Think Public Transport Needs A Major Overhaul (Or - Why Do UK Train And Bus Companies Seem To Only Cater For One Form Of Disability???)
2/18/2016 2:00:46 PM
In the most recent issue of "RAIL" Magazine (dated February 17-March 1 2016) I found a couple of articles which demonstrate precisely why I hate using Public Transport in the UK (with particular reference to trains).

Apparently (according to the articles) the Railway Industry should be paying more attention to the needs of wheelchair users when it comes to accessibility issues.  The rest of us can seemingly expect to have our issues ignored.

Yes - I realise that wheelchair users can have serious problems accessing trains at certain stations.  One of my friends refuses to use her local railway station (Market Harborough) because only one platform has a wheelchair accessible ramp from the main station building.  Luckily the track has not been electrified - yet.  Market Harborough Railway Station does not have any lifts.  This means (I have been reliably informed) the poor wheelchair user wishing to travel to London by train directly from Market Harborough has two options - either get a train to Leicester and use the lift to swap between platforms, or be pushed across the tracks at Market Harborough Railway Station.

However, I have taken to avoiding using the UK Railways as much as possible because they do not cater for my needs either.

If I am not faced with a train which has what I classify as "Somersault Doors" (the ones which you have to lean out of to open - which make me feel like I am about to fall out of the train as I open them), it is a range of issues from gaps between the train and the platform, to electronic timetable displays on platforms (which I need a stepladder in order to be able to see properly), to poor lighting in the station itself, to the absolutely useless "tickertape" style electronic displays on the trains (these are rumoured to tell you which station your train will be stopping at next).

You may remember blog posts I typed on two separate stations within a 40 mile radius of each other (Birmingham New Street and Leicester London Road)?

It has got to the stage where (unless I am visiting my friends who live within walking distance of Market Harborough Railway Station or I have to get back to Leicester as a matter of some urgency) I actually prefer getting an Arriva "Sapphire" X3 service bus between Leicester and Market Harborough.  The seats are comfortable for one thing and the buses have reasonable-sized screens on which show you the next stop for the bus.

The other major problem is that (unless you happen to live in a major city like London, Nottingham or Newcastle upon Tyne)
bus stations and Railway Stations are usually kept some distance away from each other.  So - if you want to get from Leicester to Desborough (in Northamptonshire) for example, you have to walk from either Market Harborough or Kettering Railway Station to the local bus station, or you can travel for an extra half an hour between Leicester and Market Harborough on the X3 in order to change buses at the Market Hall.

Compare that with Public Transport in The Netherlands.

In The Netherlands I usually only use the bus for one of two reasons.  Either to get me to the nearest Railway Station so I can top up my OV Card (Dutch version of an Oyster Card - I blogged about this after my last trip to The Netherlands), or because I want to travel via a scenic route.  The rest of the time I prefer to travel on rails - be it by train, tram, or underground.

I must admit to being disappointed when the Dutch Railways swapped from their old "Rolodex-style" type of boards to show which train was due at the platform (you could put that down to nostalgia I suppose) but I was very pleased when I saw how big the new Electronic boards are.  Put it this way - I think you could fit at least two English boards - both lengthways and widthways - into a single Dutch Electronic board.  The font is a lot bigger as well.

Not quite the original "Rolodex-Style" boards but this one is still almost an extinct species)

The other thing I love about Dutch Railway Stations is that you either have a Bus Station right outside it (in most locations) or within a very short walk (with the exception of Schiedam - but at least that has got an underground station in it).

The Dutch trains are something else as well.  OK - so not all of them are exactly accessible for wheelchairs (which is a bit strange when you consider that Dutch Railway Stations have recently begun to discover this brilliant invention called a lift).  Having said that, I am sure that you could quite easily drive a car onto a Dutch train - and have space to turn it around - the doors are so wide on most Dutch trains - you would just need a ramp to get it onto some of them.

A Dutch "Sprinter" Train - these are usually used as "Stop Trains" or local trains between a very long list of destinations (the shortest route you will find this train on is the Hoek van Holland to Rotterdam Central Station one).  If you are travelling with heavy suitcases these will be easy to board as their floor is level with the platform.

I know - you probably won't believe me but this is miy all time favourite train to travel on (either in the UK or The Netherlands).  I am even prepared to overcome my extreme dislike of going down strange staircases if it means I get a choice between travelling on the upper deck of a Double Decker train and a single decker one.  Just avoid the lower deck as you (a) don't get that much of a view, and (b) get deafened by the engine noise.  These trains really come into their own when you travel between Rotterdam and Breda, Roosendaal, or Vlissingen (Flushing) - the view over the water as you travel on the top deck is something to be experienced.

The best thing about Dutch trains though is the screens inside them.  These even beat the ones on the Arriva "Sapphire" buses as they not only tell you the nest station but the list of the following stations with expected arrival times (they even have a helpful list of transfers when you get to major stations telling you which platform your connection is on).

In short - I realise that the wheelchair users who travel on trains in the UK have reasonable grounds for complaint - however - please don't concentrate on that section of the Disabled population at the expense of those of us with other disabilities which may not be as visible.

Mental And Physical Health Portrayal In Soaps (Or - Why Is There A "Dividing Line" Between The Two?)
2/18/2016 11:32:45 AM

This blog post came about as a result of a discussion with Dr Derek Lee (it is the first time I have ever used him in his "official/professional" capacity as a Clinical Psychologist on here - I usually raid his Flickr account for brilliant photographs).

I was complaining about the differences between the portrayal of Mental Health issues versus Physical Disabilities in soaps when he kindly agreed to provide the "Commentary" at the bottom of this blog post.

Recently we have seen storylines in British Soaps portraying the “extreme” forms of Mental Health issues (Bipolar, Nervous Breakdown, Suicidal feelings, Post Partum Psychosis, etc).



Last year I attended a conference which was run as a collaboration between Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living (LCiL) and DeMontfort University in Leicester. One of the topics of the talks was about the portrayal of Disabled People in the media. The example used at the start of one of the talks was the difference in the portrayal of the athletes in the London 2012 Olympic brochure (where the athletes were photographed in evening wear) and the London 2012 Paralympic brochure (which focused more on the athletes playing the sports (and, in some cases, focusing on the equipment they used).



The discussion slowly expanded to the portrayal of people with Mental Health issues in the soaps (EastEnders being the example stated). One of the questions from the floor was about why the soaps seem to insist on portraying the most severe Mental Health issues (people in crisis) without showing people coping with the milder variations in their day to day lives without any major difficulties.



As someone pointed out – not everybody with a Mental Health issue is a danger to themselves and others.



This started me thinking about physical disabilities and their portrayal in soaps.



I asked a question about why physical disabilities were avoided as much as possible. For example, you would never see someone like me being portrayed in a soap. The answer came back – soaps like to put a positive spin on physical disabilities. (This may explain why you never see a soap character - with what might be classified as an “invisible” sight problem - who may have difficulties seeing the bottles behind the bar even with their glasses on.) Apparently, people with wheelchairs and white sticks or Guide Dogs are seen as more “positive” than someone who tries to keep their independence as much as possible by acting like everybody else. Either that or they are simply more recognisable as “Disabled people”???



For the most part the characters on soaps have Mental Health Issues which are so severe the characters are a danger to themselves and others, or are wandering around with absolutely no Health (Mental or Physical) whatsoever.



Surely, there has to be a happy medium???





I think soaps can play a very important role in raising awareness of a wide range of social issues that impact on individuals and those around them. This needs to be done sensitively and proportionately, and has to be balanced against the need to have engaging and dramatic story-lines. Soaps are after all a form of entertainment, and their popularity makes them ideal vehicles for highlighting homelessness, physical disabilities, drug addiction, alcohol dependence, domestic abuse (I am thinking here of a current story-line in The Archers on Radio 4), dementia, PTSD (e.g. Sharon after she was assaulted a while ago ), bi-polar disorder and post puerperal psychosis.



It is difficult to see how depicting less severe forms of mental health problems could be portrayed in a dramatic story line. In some ways, all soap characters have “issues” of some kind, and these are played out in their inter-relationships and unfolding “soap life” stories. Are there many you would invite into your home?!


The same argument probably applies to the less easy to depict physical disabilities. I do not remember any characters with sight problems or hearing problems – maybe the national charities for neglected disabilities should be making the case to the programme commissioners?

Placeholders For Blurred Scenery (Or - The Day I Saw What I See Without My Glasses On With My Glasses On!)
2/15/2016 1:30:59 PM
There are times when I really wish I could lend my eyeballs to the rest of the population.  Not only would this give me a rest sometimes - it would also enable other people to see what I can (or more precisely cannot) see with and without my glasses on.

On Friday I had a meeting about my photographic project where I saw a rather disturbing photograph.  It was disturbing because it was the first time I had seen an almost perfect photo of a street scene as if I was looking at it without my glasses on.  (You will have to wait until either the end of the project or after the next meeting before you get a glimpse of it.)

The photograph had a "placeholder" at each corner which might tell you what you were looking at but the main picture was blurred to the point where I knew what I was looking at.

The photographer wanted to take the "placeholders" out as he thought it would give the game away as to what the photo was of (when people with "normal" vision looked at it).

I was really pleased with that photo because it told me that I had made my explanations easy for the photographer to understand.  I don't know if you have attempted to tell someone about something which you take for granted so they can go away and replicate it???  Trust me - it is hard work.  Especially when you know their instincts are telling them that what you are saying cannot possibly be true because it is too farfetched.  (If you want an example - and you see me - ask me to take my glasses off and tell you what I can see.  If you really want your brain to go on strike get me to explain to you how I can "see" a solid object without my glasses on.  You will be amazed - and you will probbly need medication for a major headache once I have finished.)

One of my favourite things to look at without my glasses on may surprise you.  It is the back of cars.

When I have got my glasses on I can see that the indicator light, backlight, and brakelight are all built in to the car - even when they are illuminated.

Without my glasses on the brakelights of cars and the indicators develop a more surreal quality than most other objects.  When the aforementioned lights are lit up they look like dandelion clocks but - obviously - in red and amber.  They also stand out from the car.

Maybe your "Solid State" world and my fluffy world are totally different on paper but I am really looking forward to welcoming you into my fluffy world and educating you.

After all, not many people on Planet Earth have got absolutely perfect vision.  I admit that I am in the lowest percentage of the population who have got any king of "vision" but everybody can teach everybody else about their life as they know it.  We just need to open our minds and expect the unexpected.

Tripping - Over - The Light Fantastic (Or - The Nightmare That Is Severe Photophobia)
2/15/2016 12:53:16 PM
This is a kind of "request" blog post.  I was talking to Roger Nield when he asked me a very difficult question - "How do things like sunlight affect you?".  Hmm - how can I explain it so people with no experience would understand it???

I have attempted to explain the effects of Photophobia in different blog posts before now but I decided that it was time to try to put it all together in one "easy" blog post.

First of all - I suppose I had better explain what Photophobia is.  Contrary to the literal "translation" of the name it has nothing to do with being scared of having your photograph taken.  The "Photo" bit refers to light and the "phobia" bit is misleading.  "Phobia" to me suggests an irrational fear of something - not a sensitivity to it.

Photophobia is a condition where your eyes are sensitive to bright lights.  In my case - sunlight, car headlights, fluorescent lights, etc, are all triggers.  Even something as small and innocent looking as a torch or a camera flash can disorient me.

I will attempt to explain how bright lights affect me without confusing you too much.

On a sunny day like today I know that the minute I leave my front door I will slmost be blinded by sunlight.  (When a photographer told me that bright sunlight was the ideal light to work in he got a shock when I told him it was the exact opposite for me - give me clouds any day.)

If I have got my back to the sun I am OK.  On the other hand - if I am heading into the sunlight the "fun" starts.

As I look out of my office window I can see a road.  If I look to my right I know I will have a clear view of the traffic.  Looking left - on the other hand - will put me in contact with the sun.

This means that I might as well remove my glasses and go by memory.

I am going to assume that your eyes have a "normal" reaction to bright lights.  As in - your eyes can still tell you if something like a car or a bus is heading towards you or you can focus on the small features on a house (windows, etc), or even better, you can see an actual human when they are standing a short distance away in front of you.

I face sunlight and all bets are off.  In very bright sunlight there is not really much point in wearing sunglasses without a baseball cap.

The first thng to go is the small view.  You come towards me on, say, a bicycle, from the direction of the sunlight and you will be almost running me over before I see you.

Traffic is another funny thing.  It can lose its shape and colour.  That big blue double decker bus at the traffic lights??? Trust me - that will turn black once it blocks out the sun.  Apart from which - it turns into a case of "Destination board??? What Destination Board???"

As for humans - do these exist???  I don't know if you have ever had the delightful experience of holding a conversation with a pair of shoes, jeans, tshirt, and jacket which appeared to be standing up with no visible meas of support - only for them to morph into a human as the sun went behind the clouds???

The major headache comes (sometimes literally) when I go from bright sunlight into a darker space.  Even accounting for the fact I wear Transition lenses (what used to be known as Reactolites) my eyes still take longer than most people's to adjust to the change in lighting - so my hands and feet come into play whilst they adjust.  Especially if I am moving around.

I would like to share a tip which will make both our lives easier.  If you are in what I percieve to be a dark space (maybe I have come into your space from bright lights) and you decide to speak to me please feel free to give me an idea as to which direction your voice is coming from.  This will save my neck from hurting as I attempt to locate your voice.

Please keep torches, car headlights (especially those alternating flashing ones which seem to come with attached blue flashing lights), and camera flashes as far away from me as is humanly possible.

Here is a piece of information that any Police Officers reading this may find interesting.  If you are driving around at night with your alternating flashing headlights on - there is no point expecting me to see your front indicators.  They are too small and too dim.

I have rambled on about backlights and font sizes in recent blog posts - so I will give those a miss.

In a nutshell - my level of Photophobia means that if I am looking at (or near) bright lights that is what my eyes will focus on to the point where most other objects can (and will) be drowned out to such an extent where they might as well be invisible.

Sometmes The Hardest Thing Is To Be Like Everybody Else (Or - Why We Should Celebrate Differences)
2/15/2016 11:48:32 AM
Every so often I read a blog post which says exactly what I am thinking but in a more eloquent way than I ever could.

Amanda Coleman's blog post about swimming against the tide was one such occasion amandacomms1.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/swim-against-the-tide/.

There is so much pressure on people to behave in a certain way, think in a certain way, sometimes even speak in a certain way.

I honestly love it when people who (think they) know me in real life read my blo and find nuggets of information about me which come as a shock to them.

To be perfectly honest I have never been the kind of person you can treat like a computer.

What I mean by that is my programming is a little more complicated than a simple case of "If 2 plus 2 equals 4 then input 4" (I know my knowledge of BASIC computer programming is very - well - basic, not to mention rusty, but I think that would work as a like of programming).

My internal computer usually ends up processing a lot more variables that yours probably would when it comes to going about my daily life - lighting, angles, size of print, hidden obstacles, etc.  (My favourite being - how long will it take before I get run over as a result of having to walk in the middle of the road thanks to the inconsiderate oik who parked their car on the pavement???)

I think I have blogged about this before - or at least mentioned it in a blog post - but I have a particular difficulty with spiral staircases.

For those of you who can calculate angles at a glance I don't suppose your average spiral staircase poses too many problems???

Me???  I have three angles to work out in very quick succession.

The downward angle of the staircase itself.  The angle of the spiral.  The angle of the tread of the steps in relation to the central pole.  No wonder I avoid those things as much as possible.

Seriously though - we would all be better off if we not only accepted each other's digfferences but actively encouraged people to be themselves.  You never know we might learn something unexpected from the deep thinkers, the creative types, and those of us with a sideways view of life.

Sometimes what initially seems like the easiest route turns out to be the most difficult - especially when you get into difficulties and everybody else is too busy trying to save themselves to worry about you.

The Circle Of Life (Or - How We Are More Connected Than You Might Think)
2/15/2016 11:03:12 AM
Have you ever had the kind of conversation which inspires you to do something and also inspires a completely unexpected thought chain as a result of your activity???

Yesterday I had one such conversation and the thought journey (as well as my physical journey home along the Great Central Way) threw up some rather alarming connections.

It all started out so normally - what passes for "normally" in my world anyway.

I was standing outside after the church service yesterday morning when one of my friends bounced up to me and started talking. (When I say "bounced" I am not being rude about this person's weight - they bounced with enthusiasm for life.)

Apparently, Derek Deacon (remember that name as it will become useful as we go on) has taken up a hobby - cycling.  He was talking about the Great Central Way (which passes approximately half a mile from my home).

It was a nice sunny day so I decided to get off the bus near where I used to work and walk home.

As I was starting my walk my mind decided to throw ideas out (in the end I had to drown them out with music).  One of these ideas stuck.  Personally I blame Derek for inspiring this particular thought process as well.

I don't know if you have ever heard of the idea that we are all no more than 6 connections away from each other???  (Personally I am not entirely convinced about this theory.)

Well - my brain decided to try to connect as many random friends as possible (both from real life and from Social Media).  We are talking about a rather diverse bunch of humans from a variety of countries, in a variety of professions, some unemployed.

The most fluid (and unbroken) connection my brain came up with was a rather interesting one - mainly because it threw up the most random selection of people.

The list follows;

Starting with Derek Deacon, we move to one of the actual Deacons (Elders, etc) in the church - Dr Roy Smith who has got a PhD in some obscure subject (apparently like half of my friends - I seem to collect Braniacs like some people collect stamps).

From Roy we move on to another Brainiac - Dr Paul O'Leary (Photography wizard).

From Paul we move on to Andy Williams (yet another photography wizard) whose interest in all things computer and social media based links him to John Coster of LCiL.

From John Coster it is only a small jump to Joan Coster.  Joan has told me about occasions when four Costers (Joan, her husband, and both of her sons) have been sighted in "Costa Coffee" in London.  Ah - I know someone who is addicted to Costa Coffee.  We are now heading for Scotland to meet Julie Kirkpatrick.

Julie is a fan of Kristyna Myles, who went to university in Salford.  This is the same place where Roger Nield originates from. Roger is a Retired Police Officer who is now roaming around the wilds of Surrey - the county my Dad worked in for a very brief time.

A few years before my Dad worked in Surrey he went to university in Aston, Birmingham.  Now - my ears usually have a very difficult time attempting to distinguish the Birmingham accent from the rest of the similar accents.  This may explain why I originally thought that Lee Thomas came from Birmingham when I first heard him speak.  Another person who has got a man's first name as their surname is Dr Derek Lee.  Dr Lee shares his first name with - guess who??? - Derek Deacon.

Trust me - the connection could get a lot more random than the ones above.

But I find it fascinating how different people can be connected by the most random, tenuous links.  Especially when the people themselves first appear to have nothing whatsoever in common.

The Other Side Of Being A Carer For A Family Member (Or The Private Side Of An Under-rated Job)
2/15/2016 9:51:03 AM
The idea for this blog post came about as a result of my reviews of some of the stallholders at last year's Choice Unlimited Roadshow in Leicester

One of my friends (Deborah Maher) - quite correctly - asked me why I had focussed on the people who were offering help to carers instead of the carers themselves.

Through my friendship with her I have learned bits and pieces about what it is like to be a carer.  However, something always kind of held me back from asking her if she was serious about collaborating with me to tell her side of the story - until a couple of months ago.  I asked her if she was still prepared to go through with it and she confirmed she was - so - earlier this year I emailed her a very brief and simple questionnaire to fill in.

Here are her words;

Hi Debbie


I know you are a carer for your Dad (after his stroke) and you look after your nephew.  Can you tell me (and the readers) a bit about what this involves?

What sort of support do you get and where from?

A:- My Dad, who is paralysed through a stroke in 2012, has carers visiting the house - 2 carers 5 times a day. i.e

9am - up out of bed, with the help of a samhall turner. breakfast, tablets.

1pm - toilet, lunch.

4pm - toilet, cup of tea

7pm - toilet, changed for bed

9pm - bed.

In an ideal world – what would you like to happen as regards caring for your Dad?  (Ie, 24 hour care package, etc)

A:- in an ideal world,i would like a 24hr care package. My Dad's care means I have to consider where I go and when, and how long I have, as I won't leave Dad alone for too long.  I have previously come home to Dad's coat smoking (from a dropped cigarette).

You have to consider in all of this, I have the school run, as I look after my 10 year old nephew, who is being assesed for Aspergers. Dad takes up a lot of my time, washing, feeding him, making sure the house is clean, whilst also having to deall with my nephew, I have to consider how far I can take him on days out (Dad is at the day centre on Tuesdays and Fridays), I have to be back by 3.30pm, because I need to cook Dad's tea.

Thanks Debbie.

The Disappearance of Innocence Is To Be Feared (Or - How The Lines Can Be Blurred In The Game Of "Accusation"!)
2/11/2016 12:23:43 PM
I have been in two minds about whether or not to write this blog post.  Mainly because it is going to deal with some issues which I know are controversial (to the point where I felt like I had to warn someone I am close to as to part of the content of it).

I would like to thank Emma Williams, from Canterbury Christ Church University, for raising the original topic in one of her tweets, as well as Constable Chaos and Nathan Constable for "clearing the field" (as it were) and making me feel comfortable enough to tell my story without fear of judgement (even though they didn't realise it at the time).

My thanks also go to my "Dumfries Sister" for her support.

Innocence is a strange thing isn't it???

Let's face it - if you are a victim/survivor of bullying you will know that innocence is the first thing to disappear.  Either through your own dwindling "self-belief" (if only I was brighter/better looking, thinner, not disabled, etc), or through the accusations of those people who are supposed to exist to help you (teachers, parents, etc).

But what happens when the pricetag gets more than a little higher (through either your own actions or someone else's, or even a combiation of both) and other people's freedom is put at risk???

What happens if it is your word against theirs with no witnesses???

Apparently the Metropolitan Police have decided to suspend the automatic right of a victim of Child Sexual Abuse to be declared "innocent until proven guilty".  (Especially if the victim is one of the "Historical" cases.)

Now - unless you are very new to my blog you will know that I was bullied at school.

What you will not know (unless I have told you in person) is a few things which happened to me later on - as well as how my experience of bullying at school led me to react to them.  (One of the incidents came as a result of the bullying I recieved in my last job.)

Warning - if you have been a victim of any kind of sexual offence, workplace bullying, or personal accusations which could have got you into serious trouble - you may want to leave this blog post here.

I was 18 at the time of the first incident where my judgement could have been called into question.  This was the only reason why I did not report it.

I am not going to go into details (because - for all I know - the other creature is still alive).

Let's just say that I was alone with them in their tent and I do not remember saying an outright "yes" (I seem to remember I was half-asleep at the time).  I hope you can put two and two together and make it add up to four.  I did accuse him in a letter after the incident but I did not have the courage to go through the Blame Game which would have ensued had I reported it to the Police at the time.

The next incident was more clear-cut - if only in the fact that the culprit (a different man) admitted it after I had reported him to the Police.

I was on my own in the office where I used to work when the window cleaner (who was a lot older than me) decided it would be a good idea to grope my breast.

When my employer came back I told him what had happened and he told me to report it (more about my employer in a bit - he doesn't come out too good either but for a different reason).  Luckily for me there was a Police Station very close to my office at that point (otherwise I would not have reported it) - so I went round and told them what had happened.

I even made a statement.  At that point I was fully prepared to go to Court over it.  You might imagine my disappointment on being told that because (a) it was a first offence and (b) he admitted it straightaway and showed remorse (not to me he didn't - I never saw him again after that), he was let off with a Caution.

Those are two occassions where the Police could have had a go at accusing me for allowing myself to be in those particular situations (on my own with both men).

But what about occassions which are more a case of hearsay and (in one case) outright bullying???  Or even - where you are implicated merely by association with someone else???

To say my last boss didn't like me very much is something of an understatement.  You could say we ended up enjoying a mutual hatred of each other.  He took pleasure in making my existence so unpleasant that I ended up taking quite some time off work with depression (and that was before he ended up as my boss).  He had ground me down so much that I had no confidence in myself - and consequently no choice but to go back to the same job when I was fit enough to go back to work.

(I found out that I was not the only person this had happened to as a result of a phone call which frightened the daylights out of me.  After three sleepless nights - when I decided whether or not I should tell him about the very serious allegation a customer had made against him - I bit the bullet and told him - only for him to sweep it under the carpet.  I still sometimes wish the allegation had been made by someone in this country so the Police could have dealt with it.)

However, the worst accusation was actually made against me personally (the person who accused me did later apologise to me and admit they had no right to say what they did).

Can I give you a very useful piece of advice???

Informing someone that - just because they happen to work for someone you consider to be "a liar and a thief" (because their employer happens to owe you a vast sum of money) - they are the same type of person - doesn't exactly help you get your money any quicker.  For all you know, the person who you have decided to tar with the same brush as their employer may have more in common with you than the employer.  They certainly cannot be held responsible for whether or not their employer pays you (especially when the person you have accused in person is a glorified Dogsbody).

What I am trying to say - in my own clumsy way - is there are two sides to every story.

Innocence can be a very tricky thing to prove (especially if you have got a motive to prove otherwise) and the Blame Game can get to such a stage where the innocent person might just want to throw the towel in and accept the accusation of guilt in order to get a semblance of an easy life back.

Yes - I know I have combined stories which don't seem to have very much linking them (apart from me being at the centre of them all) but there is a reason for that.

If one force decides to treat the innocent accusers of one crime as guilty before the investigation starts - how long is it going to be before every force decides to treat every innocent victim of every crime in the same way???

Yes - I do realise there are people who make up false allegations against people (and they should have the book thrown at them).

However, I am still naive enough to believe in that old saying "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" applying to victims as well as suspects.

Why The Makeup Manufacturers Have Missed A Trick! (Or Rollers Should Not Just Be For Paint And Deodorant!)
2/9/2016 4:33:38 PM
This blog post was inspired by me attempting to do something which most people can do without any poblems whatsoever.  The problems they have usually come as a result of the cleanup operation after Stage 3 of the process.  All will be revealed.

Every so often I somehow manage to convince myself that my sight is as good as that of most of my friends.  Then I usually start to "encounter some difficulties" (as Kevin Bridges might say).  The kind of "difficulties" which usually leave either myself and/or my surroundings covered in gunk of some sort or another.

Hairdye is a particularly pesky one.  I did finally find a brand which did not need mixing into bottles and applying (it was a foam or mousse type substance which you could apply to dry hair but I think Schwarzkopf discontinued it).

You do not need to be Einstein to work out that - maybe someone with my sight problems should steer clear of anything which involves the application of products to my face in the absence of my glasses - unfortunately I try to forget this sometimes.

On one such occassion I decided to apply a Peel Off Mask to my face (as in one which comes in one of those pesky sachets).

Stage 1 - Clean face.  Easy to do.

Stage 2 - Open Sachet and decant into hand.

Stage 3 - Apply product onto face.  (Funnily enough - the instructions never tell you to remove excess product from hands.)

Stage 4 - Wait for product to do its stuff.

Stage 5 - Peel off product and dispose of.

The above are the stages which most people follow.

Nowhere does it mention removing glasses - or the sheer guesswork required to apply product on face in an even layer without them.  Trust me - this is one instance when mirrors are not the most useful invention I have ever come across.

Imagine how easy it would be if - instead of selling facemasks in sachets or tubs - they were sold in the same packaging as rollon deodorant.

I could apply it evenly to my face as I could just roll it on.

The rest of the population - the ones with normal sight - could apply it without having to worry about cleaning the gunk off their hands as the only product outside the container would be the stuff on their face.

I know that you may have started reading this thinking that I was on one of my flights of fantasy - but I hope you can see the logic in my argument???

There are times when my sight problems can (and do) work in the favour of everybody else when it comes to finding a solution that I can live with.

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