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You Might Not Be Able To Chose Your Genetics But Is That Really The Ony Sort Of "Family" There Is??? (Or - Some Close Friends Can Turn Into A Kind Of "Family")
3/31/2016 12:04:11 AM
Families can be strange things, can't they???  You have relatives who you see often - yet you may also have relatives whom you cannot really be positive are not a figment of someone else's imagination because you have never seen them in your life.  (I have got quite a few of those in various places.)

That is before you get into the realms of the "Religious" families - as in Nuns, Monks, and "Brothers and Sisters" in whatever religion you follow.

I must admit that I seem to be building up a collection of very close friends who I consider to be my "alternative" family.  I have mentioned nearly all of them on here at one time or another.

Depending on whether you see "family" as based on genes, adoption, or even based on shared interests, or just plain feeling so comfortable in someone's presence you wish they could adopt you (or even you adopt them) - families can take in a rather "flexible" existence.

Even though your actual biological, genetic, or adopted family may die I believe there are people waiting in the wings to take their place.  The bonus is when you find yourself having "family" members who you never had in the first place - I haven't got any brothers or sisters of my own but I am really thankful that I have collected some very good friends who I consider to fulfil that role.

As long as someone is prepared to be there for you in the same way that a relative would be - you should consider yourself extremely lucky (or blessed).

Now You See It - Or Do You??? (Or - An Attempt At A Taster Of My Sight)
3/30/2016 11:28:33 PM
Every so often I decide to try to give you a taster of what life is like with a sight problem.  Most of the time I use the medium of words for this attempt - which even I hve difficulties with sometimes - so now I decided to try something a little different.  See what you think of this.

I have written before about some of the difficulties I have which may not be immediately obvious.  I have even put some photos on my blog posts in an attempt to show you some of them.

Anyway - this morning I was standing in my hallway looking out of my "crinkle cut" window (it reminds me of "McCoys Crinkle Cut Crisps" whenever I look out of it) and it gave me a brilliant idea for a puzzle for you to try to solve.

I want you to ignore the crinkle cut glass in the photos (I couldn't be bothered attempting to get the camera as out-of-focus as it would have needed to be in order to take the photo properly for the desired effect - so I cheated by using the window) and tell me what you can see in the two photos below;

(In order for this to work properly you have to imagine the glass in flat - do not alter anything else in the photo.)

Your job is to work out what is in the photos.  I am not talking about the house - that would be far too easy - concentrate on the bit before the house.

In fact - looking at both photos you have still got it a lot easier than I would have if I was looking at it without my glasses on.  There are too many definite edges for the second one to really be as difficult as I thought it would be.  You may have a bit more difficulty with the second photo.

Ignoring my front garden (the only truly blurred bit on both photos) what can you see?  As in - can you see anything which might pose any kind of danger???

If your answer is "Yes you idiot - I can see a car on each photograph" give yourself a round of applause.  (I admit I was also hoping the lighter car would not have the sun on it so it would look slightly more blurred into the scenery.)

Good luck with attempting to work out which way the cars are travelling.

Of course - you may be able to see some other hazards in those photos which are not usually so obvious to those of you with 20/20 vision.  One of them is a hazard I face even with my glasses on my nose.

Have a look at the grey stuff nearest the house on the other side of the photo.  Does it look like it is on one level in both photos???  Or does it look more like there could be a difference in height in one photo???

The photo with the white car in it has got slightly more definition in it - this tells me that there is a kerb and a pavement .  The one with the red car in it looks more like the "pancake-flat" surface I am used to seeing when I encounter shallow steps or staircases.  In my world - for "shallow" please read "flat floor".

(I am not joking when I say that I feel like walking around with a can of bright yellow paint so I can paint the edges of kerbs and steps, etc.)

This next photo is a bit more realistic - even though I did cheat slightly.  If I had taken it from the angle I originally wanted to use you would have been able to see the answer immediately.

Your puzzle is - can I get to the building on the other side of the darkest fence without having to attempt to climb over it??? Or is that fence blocking my way???

(A clue - If I had taken the photo from the angle I originally wanted my question would not have been about the fence.  It would have been about the distance between the fence and the van some idiot had parked behind it.)

I will leave you with another puzzle.  Even I know you will find these photos as frustrating as I did - you don't need to have seriously bad sight to have a problem with this poster.

Have Arriva decided to allow their passengers to participate in darts or archery whilst the bus is moving???  Or am I supposed to realise there is some useful information on that poster???  Just looks like Target
Practice to me!!!

Nope - Still can't see it.  Now the sun is obscuring half of it anyway.

Apparently Arriva would like to inform their passengers of changes to the fares in Leicester and the surrounding area.  Good job I have got a Disabled bus pass because I would need to almost have my nose touching that poster in order to be able to read any further information on it.  And that is with my glasses on my nose.

I know that this blog post only gives you a very small taste of some of the difficulties I face on a day to day basis.

I hope to give you a bit more of an insight in future.

From The Madness Of Sunday Afternoon In Brussels To The UK Media Silence Of Rotterdam On Sunday Evening! (Or - Funny How The UK Media Are Only Interested In One Side Of A Story)
3/30/2016 9:39:56 PM
Even I could have predicted that the Belgian Police were going to bring the Water-cannons out in Brussels on Sunday.  Before you accuse me of knowing about the trouble in advance I can in all honesty say "I was not there and I had nothing to do with it".

However, I was absolutely stunned when nobody at the BBC (or any other Media Outlet in the known universe didn't seem to realise that they were playing into the hands of the "self-described Belgian Fascists" (BBC's words - not mine) by reporting on the Memorial event.  The Media should have stayed away as the Belgian Police had requested that the March/rally not go ahead due to safety concerns.  However, with the 24 hour news channels we have now - it would seem that there is no limit to the capacity for the Media not only to report the news but also (on occassion) go out of their way to create news reports in order to fill airspace.

I noticed that the UK Media almost singularly failed to report on a story which might have had some relevence to both Paris and Brissels later that evening.

I got home and switched my mobile out of "Do Not Disturb" mode (I had been at an Easter Sunday evening service) and nearly had a heart attack when I read the NOS website - as well as some tweets from Dutch Police.

The Rotterdam Police had had a request from the French Police to arrest a suspect - whilst they were doing that they found three other people who had been wanted by the Dutch Police themselves.

I am not going to name the streets where the arrests took place (that is not really relevant to this blog post).  What I will say is that I was not a million miles away from one of the streets last year (in fact, I was walking along it at one point).

Luckily there were no explosives (or anything else terrorism-related) found.

However - it could all have turned out so differently.  Whilst the Media were sowing the seeds for a major disturbance in Brussels - nobody was watching anywhere else.

I have blogged before about the fact that the Media play into the Terrorists hands - both by the 24 hour coverage of every single terrorist outrage (as well as splashing the gruesome pictures of the immediate aftermath every single second - or so it seems) and reporting events in a way which seems designed to highlight the divisions in society.

As a result of the media coverage of the Brussels atrocities I changed my plans this afternoon - and I am angry with myself for doing so.

I had decided to get a Skylink bus from Leicester to Derby and a train back to Leicester.  That was until a man boarded the bus somewhere near East Midlands Airport.  The man started off appearing to be reasonably "normal" (to the point where I thought he was just having a phone conversation on his mobile - if rather loudly).  I began to recognise the language he was speaking as some form of French - and he didn't sound like he was in the world's best mood either.

When he had not stopped talking/shouting between East Midlands Airport and Derby Railway Station I became a little concerned.  When he got off the bus at Derby Railway Station I decided to change my plan and get off at the bus station instead (and get the Skylink back to Leicester).

Had I not been conditioned to treat everybody who behaves even a little bit "out of the ordinary" with extreme suspicion - especially around transport hubs - I might have followed him off the bus with no problems.

I understand the need to be extremely vigilant.  However, I wonder what is happening to the idea of "innocent until proven guilty"???  After all, the man's only "crime" was to be speaking a form of French in a rather strange manner.  He could have been havng a heated argument with the person on the other end of the line for all I know.

Obviously we have no idea what the next terrorist is going to look like - or where they will be - but allowing ourselves to be conditioned into treating everybody else with extreme suspicion is only going to play into the terrorist's hands. 

The True Definition Of "Independence" - (Or - Why Society Keeps Making The Same Mistake)
3/24/2016 5:52:22 PM
Here is a question for you - What is your definition of "Independence"???

I ask this because I am aware that the "Choice Unlimited" Roadshow is fast approaching - with its desire to empower Disabled people to live independently and make their own choices regarding how they live their own lives.

Society seems to have the idea that "Independence" means a Disabled person being abandoned and left to get on with it - either that or "Independence" is too dangerous to consider allowing Disabled people to have.

I could point you in the direction of a couple of my acquaintances who - on first sight - appear to be totally incapable of living an independent life but are actully capable (with a few adjustments - like a Personal Assistant) of almost having a fuller life than me.

However, independence doesn't just relate to the physical aspects of someone's life.

Independence is also connected with someone's thoughts.  This can either be because of the barriers that people put in their way which may make the idea of leaving the house seem like an impossible dream, or because they just don't have the energy for the battle of wits which is sometimes required in order to convince a "normal" person that the Disabled person has - and knows - their own mind.

Trust me - I can still remember the struggles I had to convince someone (who shall remain nameless) that I knew all the consequences and risks involved in something I wanted to do - and that battle was over 10 years ago.

There was one chain of events which - even though I can laugh now as I look back on it - I found extremely insulting - not to mention puzzling.

A few years ago I recieved a letter from the NHS telling me that they had made an appointment for me with my GP to discuss Healthy Eating, etc.  This appointment was apparently mandatory for me to attend.  So off I trundled to my GP where I saw a rather surprised nurse.  The reason for her surprise became startlingly obvious when she had spoken to me for a few minutes - apparently I had appeared on her list because I supposedly had "Learning Difficulties".  Hmm - someone who can speak two languages, and find their way to a Doctors' surgery under their own steam (and having a complicated conversation with said nurse) having Learning Difficulties???  Someone had obviously made a mistake somewhere along the line.

They had indeed made a mistake - as I found out after I had made a rather indignant complaint.  The reply I received to my complaint didn't even offer an apology - it just stated that due to the fact I had been a late developer when I was little I was still on their records as having these supposed Learning Difficulties.  However, their records would be changed immediately.  (I never got another letter of that type again.)

True independence means being able to do your own things and think your own thoughts - knowing there is help available when you need it.  Not to forget the necessary fall back of knowing your complaints will be listened to and treated with the same respect as any "normal" person would expect.

I have been lucky enough to be able to travel abroad on my own - I don't think anything of going on long train journeys by myself.  I know my own mind - and I am not afraid to speak up if something is not to my liking.  Some people have had the dubious "honour" of finding out exactly how stubborn I can be when I really want to do something.

I want to leave you with a song which puts what I am trying to say here more eloquently than I will ever be able to.


Why Dinosaurs Are Not As Extinct As Yoy Might Have Thought We Were!!! (Or - When In Doubt Argue Like Crazy!(
3/24/2016 4:39:45 PM
Yes - you did read correctly! I did refer to myself as a "Dinosaur".  Apparently this term is applicable to people who do not see any sense in modernising things for no reason - especially when the things which are being "Modernised" are slowly grinding to a halt as a direct consequence of the "Modernisation".

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of arguing about something which is not really in my resume of experience - and being backed up by at least one person who did have experience of it.

I say "I had the distinct pleasure" because it was one of those instances where I could actually use my experience of something loosely connected with the subject of the argument.

This may surprise you but - according to me - there is not that much difference between being disabled and being a Police Officer.

(Don't worry - I can imagine Constable Chaos, Nathan Constable, and the rest of the UK Twittercops, now attempting to work out how to find me so they can arrest me for saying that.  I just hope they take the time to read my explanation before they set off.)

Taking myself as an example might help you understand what I mean.

Most people will take one look at me and decide that the fact I wear glasses means I can do everything the rest of the world can at the same pace and in exactly the same manner.  The poor deluded fools.

Yes - I can appear to be the same like everybody else.  In most circumstances you will see very little difference between my behaviour and the behaviour of those around me.  This is down to my "Social Training" - the first lesson of which being - "Do not draw negative attention to yourself by complaining about things you cannot fix yourself".  The second lesson is "Thou shalt find a way to be the same as everybody else even if you end up making yourself seriously poorly as a result - or even putting yourself at risk of serious injury".

This means that I usually manage to hide any difficulties I have (or find inventive ways around them).  You will very rarely get any glimpse of the struggles I have to go through sometimes.  Nor will you have any idea of the mental energy I sometimes have to expend just to fit into your world.  It is usually easier for me to take a deep breath and get on with what you want me to do - even though I would seriously love to have a 6 hour argument with you on the subject of exactly why I cannot see, or act in the way you expect me to.  (Chances are - ypu would ignore my complaints any way.)

I know what you are thinking - "that is all very well Ineke but what on Earth makes you think your sight problems have anything in common with the Police???".

Well - and I really hope the Twittercops will forgive me for saying this - The Police are trained to do two things.  They are trained to uphold the Law and arrest people who break the Law (they may be trained in differing ways of achieving these objectives - driving fast cars with blue flashing lights, or pointing firearms at them if they resist arrest - but upholding the Law and arresting those who are suspected of breaking it are their core business).

What they are not trained to do is a very long list including (but not limited to) acting as Mental Health professionals, acting as Search and Rescue on behalf of Social Services at 4.55pm on a Friday afternoon, Marriage Guidance Counselling, etc,  As in - every other service which is supposed to exist as a barrier before the Police get involved but are so stretched (and so used to calling the Police in as a first resort instead of a last resort) that the Police end up having to do those jobs anyway.

Basically - from my conversations on Twitter with a wide variety of Police humans - I get the general idea that the Police are now being forced into a position where they have to be all things to all men (and women). However, unlike the Junior Doctors, the Police do not have the option of going on strike in order to attempt to restore the balance.

A bit like me having to get on with living in your world without complaining about the numerous barriers you have a habit of putting in my way (either deliberately or unintentionally).

So you may now see that there is not that much difference between the perception of how people with disabilities are expected to behave (as in - being put in boxes they don't necessarily belong in - as a result of society's perception of Disability) and society's perception of the Police as being the "Roadsweepers" and clearing up every single problem merely because that is what we have all come to expect the Police to do.

I know I probably should not have linked two such different subjects in this blog post but I am beginning to feel nauseous and fatigued as a result of listening to arguments about them both.

It Helps If You Show As Well As Tell Someone You Believe In Them (Or - Maybe I Might Be Useful To Someone After All)
3/22/2016 3:59:22 PM
Yesterday I had a very interesting discussion with someone about an idea I am extremely interested in.  I don't want to say too much about the who and what just yet because I am waiting for everything to come together.

There was something which came up during the conversation which left me pleasantly surprised though.  I ended up feeling more valued by a couple of people that I had before I walked into the building.

I am not the sort of person who seeks praise for the sake of it.  In fact, past experience has led me to feel a bit upset when someone praises me to the Heavens - usually because there has been a "but" somewhere along the line.  Either that - or I have been left feeling as though I am being praised for overcoming their limitations for me - even though I have fallen a long way short of what I expect from myself.

I am my own hardest critic - if I cannot do something which I expect most of my friends to be able to I can get very angry with myself.

So being told that a couple of people like my way of doing something is nice enough in itself - but having both of them telling me separately that they want me involved in their group as a result of it (and trying to find a way of achieving that objective) means the world to me.

Actions speak louder than words.

I look forward to telling you more when things really begin to happen.
Why Terrorism Thrives In A World Full Of Intolerance And Disrespect (Or - Time To Break Down The Barriers)
3/22/2016 3:37:26 PM
When I heard about the Terrorist attacks in Brussells this morning I was in two minds about whether or not to do any blogging at all today.  My mood could best be summed up by the song "My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms" by Bon Jovi - with particular reference to the lyrics "I can't write a love song the way I feel today - I can't sing no song of hope - I've got nothing to say - Life is feeling kind of strange".

The I remembered a conversation I had with someone yesterday on the topic of inequality - that gave me the jolt I needed to write this blog post.

I have read a lot of opinions on Belgium in the past few days.  Most of these appear to focus on the different layers of Government and the different languages spoken.  In fact, one article I read tried to imply it was a "failed state" because of the differences.

(It kind of strikes me as a little ironic that the country which cannot decide which language to have as its main language for Government - out of Flemish and Walloon-French is one of the seats of Government for the European Union with their vast variety of languages.)

However, "terrorism" comes in many different forms - not just physical weapons and firepower.  People being under threat of losing their jobs, access to Social Security, etc, or people being threatened and bullied for being "different" in whichever way from the normal "standards" society leads us to expect.

I know this is probably going to sound like something which is easy for me to say but I will say it anyway - we need to be more willing to accept the differences which exist between people (and even countries and religions).  We need to have conversations which may make us feel uncomfortable so we can learn how best to support people who have differing beliefs and abilities from us.

Most of all - we need to help give them the power to stand up for what they want - even when it is the exact opposite of what we would like them to want for themselves.

Too many countries have been ruined by "The West" attempting to impose our version of Democracy on them - without taking into account any historical facts, existing tribal loyalties, etc.

To be perfectly honest - we haven't done a brilliant job of integrating people in the UK.  I am not just talking about the fact that there appear to be "enclaves" even in so-called "multi-cultural" cities like Leicester where you find large groups of one nationality, either.

There are so many barriers to be broken down it is difficult to know where to start.  Gender equality, racial, religious, disability discrimination, the gap between the wealthy and the poor, etc.

Before we can beat those who wish to cause us physical damage and disunity we need to work on repairing the invisible damage caused by the inequality in our society.  It would also help if we could stop exporting inequality to other countries in our race to "democratise" the rest of the world against their wishes. 
But B
Mind Expanding And Keeping Your Eyes And Ears Open (Or - How Can I NOT Be Inspired???)
3/22/2016 2:42:25 PM
Yesterday I received a rather interesting email which contained an intriguing question (I know it wasn't phrased as a question in this instance - but I have heard the same question from the sender on several occassions).  I found the question intriguing due to the fact that the email was written by part of the answer themself.

Now I have probably totally confused you I will attempt to explain what I meant.

The sender of the email wondered how I "manage to find things to write about each week in an entertaining way".

Well, I must admit that I cannot be held responsible for how entertaining you find my ramblings.  I just sit and type about things which interest, inspire, educate, anger, annoy, frustrate, entertain, and irritate me.  If I can give you a glimpse into my world in a way you find palatable I am more than happy.

So - where do I find all the subjects I write about???

The easy answer is everywhere.  Regular readers will know that I blog on a wide variety of topics.  These can be based on my past, my experience of life as I find it today, conversations I have with people (which is why I said the email was sent by part of the answer), things which puzzle me (usually connected with languages), things I read about, etc.  Seriously, the list is endless.

If I am perfectly honest though - I must admit that my favourite blog posts to write are the ones where I am able to give you my own take on things, as well as the ones where I can showcase people and ideas I believe in.

The strapline to the original "Inkyworld" blog was "A Sideways View Of Life".  People who know me personally will tell you that I am not exactly the most conventional thinker on the planet.  Put it this way - if you want an idea which would never have crossed your mind in a million years - feel free to ask me for my help with a problem you have got.

My only hope is that you at least manage to follow some of my more "sideways" trains of thought.  Even if you wouldn't come to the same conclusions yourself.

For me - life is about learning from people we meet and situations we find ourselves in.  If I can entertain you along the way - even if I am rambling on about hard-to-talk-about topics or topics you may not find interesting at first glance - I will be very happy indeed.

The Difference Between Languages, Dialects, And Accents Is Fascinating! (Or How To Say The Same Thing And Get Completely Different Reactions From Your Audience)
3/19/2016 7:44:01 PM
On Wednesday afternoon I decided my Creative Batteries needed a recharge so I went to see two very good friends of mine.  These two friends have made a few appearances on Inkyworld but I have never named them on here (mainly due to my policy of never naming or quoting any of my friends directly without their permission).

The couple are both a lot older than me - but they don't seem like it.

Alan Window is a retired member of the Australian Airforce (with an accent to go with it) and Viv, his wife, is originally from England.  They are both very entertaining people with a wide variety of stories about all sorts of subjects.

Never mind "Human Library Books" - Viv and Alan are Libraries or Encyclopedias on their own.

One of my discussions with Viv reminded me of a blog post which I was tempted to write a very long time ago on the subject of language and dialect.

You will probably know that there are certain words which your average Australian will pronounce completely differently - to the point of having a completely different word for it in some cases.  ("Flipflops" being one very memorable word - I get the idea that an Australian would process that as "thongs"???)

It got me thinking about other differences and similarities between different languages.

For example - when Stena Line used to have the safety announcements in the public areas on the ferries between Harwich and Hoek van Holland, they were broadcast in English, German, and Dutch.

I have to admit that the best way to send chills down my spine is to stand me anywhere where an announcement is played which starts with the words "Meinen Damen und Herren".  Those three words still carry a hint of an implied threat when I hear them in a deep voice - they used to scare the daylights out of me when I was little.

There is a kind of strange connection between English, Dutch, and German, as far as me and my parents are concerned.  All three of us learned those languages in slightly differing orders.

My Mum learned them as Dutch (obviously), German, English.

My Dad learned them as English (obviously), German, Dutch.  He worked in Germany before he worked in Holland.

I heard them as English and Dutch (sometimes simultaneously - and definitely in the same sentence more often than not - especially when my Mum was talking to me as I was growing up) followed by German.  The order they appear in as far as me getting any qualifications in them is concerned is - English, German, Dutch.  If I had had my way the German would have been ommitted and I would have learned Dutch at school instead.

I have blogged before on the similarities and differences between words in English and Dutch.  I may even have blogged about the similarities between the original lyrics of the Dutch national anthem and the German language.

I must admit to feeling slightly more comfortable listening to someone with a "musical" accent - Dutch, Glaswegian, Irish, Welsh, Yorkshire, Norfolk, etc, than a "flat" accent such as London, or RP (Recieved Pronunciation - or "Posh").  This is only because my ears are used to hearing someone's mood in their voice as they speak to me.  I suppose that is what comes of hearing a Dutch person as they repeatedly run through the entire spectrum of emotions in both English and Dutch over several years.  Trust me - you don't need to understand a word a Dutch person is saying in order to learn what mood they are in - they have a very distinct speech pattern for each mood.

I have written a bit about the differences between some words in both English and Dutch (even when the words are either pronounced the same or use the same letters in exactly the same order with a totally different pronumciation - or even when written and pronounced in exactly the same way).

There is a very famous author whose surname I can guarantee you will mispronounce when you read it.  Ready???

The author is Corrie ten Boom.

(This is an even better test than the "Scheveningen" test that the Dutch used to keep the Germans out during the Second World War.)

If you are an English-speaker you probably pronounced the third name as "boom" as in loud noise???  Wrong! It is pronounced to rhyme with "home".  (By the way - "Boom" is Dutch for tree.)

Put it this way - my Mum's Maiden name has been known to cause English-speakers a big headache - try to pronounce it for yourself - Hoogendoorn.

Of course there are some English words which have different meanings depending on which county, or even country, you are standing in.

To me (standard English) a "lid" is a covering for the top of a box or a jar.  To my friend Deb Maher (a Liverpudlian) a "lid" is a friend.  To any of my Dutch friends or relatives a "lid" is a member of a group.

To me (standard English) "drop" is to allow or cause something to fall from your hand, etc.  To my Dutch friends and relatives "drop" is licorice (a particularly salty version too).

It is funny how languages can be so different.

Why "Sport Relief" Showed Up All That Is Wrong With The BBC (Or - Until The BBC Stop Showing So Many Repeats They Should Exempt "iPlayer" From The TV Licence!)
3/19/2016 6:19:04 PM
The BBC have a great service called "iPlayer" which I use to catch up on TV programmes I have missed.  (Very occassionally I use it to stream live programmes.)

Apparently some people want to bring the "Catch up" part of iPlayer under the TV Licence.  This is because they want people to stop being able to watch repeats on catch up for free.

Now - I would have no problem with this idea if the current BBC output was not either made up of actual repeats of TV shows which were made years ago or recycling ideas from TV shows which were made years ago.

That is before you account for the absolute rubbish which passes for things like "comedy" nowadays - never mind the sensationalised "documentaries".

Last night I sat through as much as I could of that telethon called "Sports Relief" (my italics).  All I can say is that I am so glad it wasn't a "Comic Relief" year - the programming was dreadful.

I have blogged before about how I feel that the best people to highlight the plight of people in Africa and other places in the world are the natives of the countries themselves.  However, in this case, that is beside the point.

It really is a sorry state of affairs when the funniest thing - and (for me at least) the best thing I saw on that telethon - was an updated version of a TV programme from over 35 years ago with the original main actor.  Michael Crawford was brilliant as he reprised his role of Frank Spencer in "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em".  (I was left thinking that it was such a shame that John Cleese had alresdy done a "Specsavers" advert with an updated version of my favourite scene from "Fawlty Towers", as well as most of the original cast of "Dad's Army" being dead - I would have loved Arthur Lowe, John Le Messeurier, John Laurie, Clive Dunn, and Ian Lavender, to do an updated version of a scence from one of their episodes.)

When the offering of "Sport Relief" became too embarrasingly awful I ended up skimming though an old episode of "Top of the Pops" from 1981 which had been shown on BBC4 slightly earlier in the evening.  This was much more entertaining to watch.

The main problem with the BBC appears to be that they seem to have decided to go for the lowest common denominator when it comes to programming.

Gone are the days when you could sit down and be truly entertained by a comedy show - or educated by a documentary without wondering what the premise behind it is.

Even Saturday evenings now seem to have been swallowed up by low budget gameshows.

Sometimes I really long for a rollback to the time of things like "The Two Ronnies" or a proper entertainment show.

I would even prefer to have the old "Grandstand" back in the evenings - both for its ability to focus on sports which don't get a look-in nowadays - unless it happens to be an Olympic years - and for it not being yet another gameshow.

You could even do a lot worse than bringing back a show like "Parkinson" with a proper heavyweight host with the right blend of gravitas and humour, as well as guests who people might nt have heard of before.

Failing that - try putting one of my former favourite programmes from the News Channel on either BBC1 or BBC2 during Saturday evening Prime Time viewing.  "Hardtalk" is an excellent programme on the subject of world affairs.

I read a column on the Guardian website a  few weeks ago by David Mitchell, talking about how futile it would be to make the BBC less popular.  I think he has missed the boat with that one.

The BBC should be about education and entertainment without bias or the desire to cause offence.  For me - the recent output has failed on all those levels.

For example - Graham Norton has his place on the TV schedule (preferably after midnight as far as I am concerned) but to treat him as "the new Terry Wogan" just because he is Irish is an insult to Sir Terry.

We have lost those people who used to make the BBC a broadcaster to be proud of - and (from where I am sitting) we have failed to find adequate talent to match it - both in front of the camera and behind the scenes (particularly in the creative department).

No wonder I wish I could watch foreign broadcasters on my TV - I find them a lot more educational and inspirational.

Why Geert Wilders And The UK Parliament Are Not So Different (Or - We Should Be Able To Take Our Politicians To Court!)
3/19/2016 5:33:42 PM
Sometimes I think the Dutch Judicial System has got the right idea about MPs and their connections with the Electorate.  As in exactly how answerable the former are to the latter for their thoughts, actionsm and Government policies.

Let's face it - even though various UK Politicians have landed themselves in Court for various crimes - not one UK MP or Government Minister has landed in Court for what can be described as "Hate Speech" or any other form of discriminatory practices or policies.

On the other hand the Dutch MP, Geert Wilders, is now on his second Court case (that I know of) for whatever the Dutch would call "Inciting Racial Hatred".

Mr Wilders is the sole MP for the PVV (Partij voor de Vrijheid - or "Party for Freedom" in English) - just think UKIP on steroids.

Mr Wilders has only ever said one thing which I actually agree with,  This was during his first Court case.  He was speaking to the Judge (the Dutch "State" news broadcaster streamed the Court proceedings during his last trial) when he stated that he defended the Court's right to bring him to trial to answer for his remarks.

The reason I am so interested by the furore surrounding Mr Wilders is actually connected with the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith as Work and Pensions Secretary.

Mr Duncan Smith's reasons for resigning are beside the point as far as this blog post is concerned.  What this blog post is concerned with is the apparent disconnect between the UK Government and the Electorate.

I have vague memories of a man called Michael Foot appearing on TV when I was little.  Apparently he was the leader of the Labour Party at that point.  From what I can remember he was almost ready for his pension when I first saw him.

At least he appeared to be a "man of the people".

With the current Parliament seeming to consist of either people who should not be anywhere near the House of Commons due to being sons and daughters of Lords, etc, or career Politicians with family money behind them - you will have to excuse me for asking how on Earth they can be accountable to people like me.

Even though the last Labour Governments had a very bad press - at least they had Ministers who had actually held down jobs in "the real world" - Estelle Morris was a teacher before she became an MP.  They even had one Minister who was visibly disabled - David Blunkett being blind.

Where are the Government Ministers who have been lowly GPs or Police Officers, or who are visibly disabled?

As in - where are the Ministers who I could honestly say I feel can relate to me???

Why can I not start proceedings to take the Prime Minister to Court over some of his more discriminatory utterances regarding the Disabled and unemployed???

When will I be able to feel that my opinions - as someone who has to pay twice every time I buy a pair of glasses (the first time financislly and the second time thrugh discriminatory advertisements) - are going to be listened to by my MP and acted upon???

More to the point - when will the House of Commons finally have the guts to kick Messrs Cameron, Osborne, and the other children of Peers of the Realm out???

(I read a little bit about the fight and Court case that Anthony Wedgewood Benn - aka Tony Benn - had to go through in order to renounce his heriditory Peerage and become an MP.  Unfortunately we seem to have gone too far the other way.)

Mr Wilders has just made inflamatory remarks about one section of the Dutch population and found himself hauled up in Court.

The UK Government have sprayed their brand of discriminatory policies indiscriminatorily (please excuse the pun) without one single trip to Court over them or their consequences.  Instead the UK Government hide behind unaccountable Select Committees.

To me this is a long way from how true Democracy should work.  My MP and my Government should represent me and my views - as well as being accountable to me when things go wrong.

If a Court Case in The Old Bailey or whichever Cour is deemed to be the highest Court in the UK is what it takes to remind the Government who they should be representing - as well as who their policies have the greatest effect on - I am all for it.

Have We Hit Mass "Critical" Mass Yet??? (Or - What Happened To The Protesters From The Punk Era???)
3/15/2016 1:31:21 AM
OK - so I really shouldn't have put this blog post in the "Inspired By The News" category.  To be honest - it was more inspired by one Maverick (who shall remain nameless) and me slowly becoming further addicted to old episodes of "Top of the Pops", as well as the occassional news report, and conversations with a couple of my personal friends.

I missed out on the early 1980's.  Yes - I was alive at that point - but I was too young to really appreciate some of the things which happened.

I am particularly thinking about some of the songs which made it into the charts at that time.

One of my favourite songs from that era could be played today - with the same sentiments behind it - and it would still be as relevent as it was then.  Maybe even more so - due to the current spate of youths carrying knives in the UK as well as the shootings in the US.

My favourite lyrics of "Stand & Deliver", by Adam & The Ants, are "stand and deliver - your money or your life.  Stand and deliver - try to use a mirror not a bullet or a knife".

Whilst I admit to thinking most of the music from that era was either pretentions rubbish or just bubblegum for the earholes, there was some good stuff around.  (Put it this way - I now have a new appreciation for Toyah Wilcox - even though I still wouldn't rush out to buy her music.)

What we seem to have lacked from those days is the element of protest.  What I mean - the element of protest about things which are really worth fighting for.

Most of the protests I read about and learn about on the news seem to be about attempting to change the course of history.  Apparently, the deceased should still be answerable for their crimes against humanity, and there should be a mass exchange of items which have been stolen, or otherwise removed, from countries - so the items can be restored to their rightful owners.  Never mind the fact that some of the countries do not appear on any modern map or atlas.

I am still trying to work out how removing a statue of a long-deceased "statesman" from a building at Oxford University is going to change matters in the present day - unless the students who wish it to be removed would also be prepared to forfeit their grants which he provided in order for them to study at that self same university???  Or even bulldose the entire university - juat ao hia memory is completely deleted from history???

Then we come to the idea of banning or "no platforming" speakers who people disagree with.

I am sorry but - if you wish to ban someone from your presence soley because you disagree with anything they say - I feel very sorry for you indeed.

Most of the world is capable of being able to listen to someone and disagree with every single word they say without feeling the need to make the fact they have taken offence front page news.

We seem to be losing the art of being able to think for ourselves.  When I was thinking about this blog post I had a very from the Bible come into my brain "We like sheep have gone astray" (Isaiah 53 verse 6).  The uptodate version might be more like "We like lemmings are too busy following the crowds".

I can think of one job where I have been led to believe that "critical thinking " is no longer a requirement - in fact, it would appear to be greatly frowned upon nowadays.

The one meaningful (and useful) protest which is on my radar at the moment is the one by the Junior Doctors.

There don't seem to be any more protest songs on subjects like the Social Security cuts (I am sorry but I refuse to use the term "Welfare") for the disabled and unemployed, housing, the numerous cuts to and reviews of Policing, fat cat politicians voting themselves payrises, etc.  Or even the general reduction of Democracy in our country.

We are now being fed a diet of argument and counter-argument on the subject of the EU Referendum - however, nobody has even tried to sit down and work out what the real facts are or what the consequences will really be for each course of action.

I read somewhere that the people who protested in the 1980's were so vocal because they faced the very real threat of their democratic rights being removed from the (especially in the event of an invasion by Russia).

We are facing another real threat to our Democratic rights.  However, it is not from the Middle East, Turkey, or Russia.  The threat is coming from our on politicians - who seem intent on keeping us in the dark for as long as possible.

We really need to find the spirit from the early 1980's again - before it is too late.

Sometimes The Best Way To See Something Is Out Of Focus (Or - There Are Times When We Just Need To Change The Picture Completely)
3/15/2016 12:29:51 AM
There are times when you can look at something for a very long time and still not understand what you are seeing.  Maybe the object is out of focus or you are just not used to seeing it in the way it is currently presenting itself to you.

We all have our own ideas about life - as well as our own tastes in things like art, music, food, books, language, etc.  Just because I cannot stand any music containing screeching violins it doesn't mean that the entire works of Strauss, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, and the rest of the Classical composers, should be deleted from the music collections of the world.

Nor does it mean that you are allowed to question my judgement when I tell you that my favourite "closedown" tune for Radio broadcasts is "Gute Nacht Freunde", by Reinhard Mey.  It reminds me of listening to Dutch radio with my parents late at night - we would all sing along.

I will admit that my tastes in some things do tend to veer towards the slightly surreal.  Especially when it comes to things like photography and other objects.  (To give you an example - I have two perfume bottles in my bedroom which remind me of a rather odd-looking sculpture near the Market Place in Delft.)

A few weeks ago I blogged about having seen a photograph which showed me what I could see without my glasses on even when I had my glasses on.

Well, I have found a photograph which had the same effect on me - but it was by a different photographer.  (Yes - I know I go on about Derek Lee's talents with a camera but - to me - he is too good to be hidden away.)

Your mission - should you choose to accept it - is to tell me what is in the photograph I am about to show you.

Here we have one of my favourite sorts of photograph

Chances are you are now looking at that photo and wondering if I have completely lost the plot.  It looks blurred and out of focus???  You cannot see any detail in it whatsoever???

Ladies and Gentlemen - you are now experiencing something not unlike my vision without my glasses on in a "real" environment.  (The photo is more representative of what happens when I am squinting at something without my glasses on - however, the principle is still the same.)

There are a few clues which might let you know what you might be looking at - if you know what to look for.

The biggest clue is actually the smallest thing on the photograph.  The white dots which (if the photo was as out of focus as my eyes are without my glasses on) would look as though they are in mid-air - tell me that what I am looking at has lights as part of it.  They also tell me that I am looking at something big.

You may remember that I told you never to ask me to explain how I can "see" solid objects without my glasses on???

Look at the brown semicircular blur near the top of the picture.  See how the top of it appears slightly darker than the rest of it???  That tells me there is a solid edge to it.

Moving downwards we have some other interesting things.  The mass of purple isn't important - in fact - it is more of a distraction than anything.  The orange colour is what we are interested in.  More to the point - the position and angle of the orange colour.

(Actually - the orange colour is the closest to what I would actually see without my glasses on without squinting.)

The orange colour would suggest some form of streetlights.  It would also suggest I am looking at something hollow due to the spacing of it.

So I am looking at a semi solid structure with lights both on top of it and (potentially) inside it.  The structure is also extremely big.  Well - it does take up the width of the photo.

What can my memory banks make of all the above information???  Well - the white lights look a bit too big to be stars so they could suggest that objects are likely to follow the lights.  This indicates to me that the structure could be reasonably useful.

The orange lights could combine with something else to tell me exactly what it is.  The orange lights suggest that something may go through it (whatever it is).  Either that or they could crash into something - the angle doesn't let me see if there is a gap anywhere.

What I really need is one more piece of information.  Audio - as in noise.  This would tell me exactly how solid the structure is around the lights.  A loud crash would indicate it is some kind of wall (the crash coming when an object attempts to go through the orange lights and hits a wall).

The signs would indicate I am either looking at a bridge or a very ornate wall.

Shall we have a look at what it would look like to someone with "normal" vision???

Yes - it is a bridge.

I could have attempted to explain how I attempt to tell the difference between smaller objects - human dressed head to foot in black, wheelie bin, bollard, and black motor vehicle, for example - or my difficulties in seeing "small" objects like bikes, cars (especially when they are the same colour as the background), etc.  However, I decided to make it (hopefully) a bit easy for you to understand.

I will leave you with one thought - if I may.

Not being able to see anything but blurs and fluffy clouds without my glasses o (unless objects are very close to my face) has ;eft my brain with a rather unusual "filing system".  For example - all I have to see is a bright yellow blur on a "street scene" kind of blur and I know there are roadworks.  Another example is how I "file" people in my brain when I meet them - put it this way - me attempting to describe someone as my brain has filed and cross-referenced them usually just leads to confusion.  (A tip - unless the pattern on the clothing that someone is wearing is big enough or bright enough to be seen from the International Space Station please leave it out of your descriptin of them.)

We may have different ways of "seeing" things - which might make us like or hate different things but -  until you find a way of being able to expereince my vision for yourself (and I would strongly suggest a trip to A & E in the event of this happening) - please do not tell me I can see more than I can.

My sight is one of the things which makes me unique.  It can also make me very useful to you if you are openminded enough to accept it.

I am flexible and adaptable (after all - most people don't realise I have a serious sight problem until something happens that dras their attention to it).

I also have a rather "sideways" way of seeing things.  If you want someone who always goes straight for the "obvious", logical, solution I am not your ideal human.

Oh - and I try not to judge people until I have given them a chance to prove themselves.

Maybe sometimes seeing things "differently" is the most useful skill I have got.

How Songs Can Affect People In Unexpected Ways (Or - Time To Shuffle That Mental Playlist Again!)
3/10/2016 4:42:15 PM
I was browsing the internet on my mobile phone when I accidentally hit the "Bookmarks" tab in my browser.  In my bookmarks of weird and wonderful websites I have visited in the past I found a website I used to love visiting - before the person in charge of it decided to make it clear that - instead of being for the "Psychologically Curious" it was actually for "Psychology Professionals".  This made me feel locked out of it.  However, when I found it on my mobile phone I decided to have a rummage through it and see if I could pick up any gems.  Here now follows a blog post inspired by the gem I found.

You may have noticed that I have a habit of quoting seemingly random song lyrics in my blog posts?  These are usually when I am trying to explain something in my mind so you can (hopefully) understand it better or to illustrate a topic - mainly because the author - or lyricist - can put an idea way more coherently and eloquently than I can.

I was rummaging around in Dr Derek Lee's "Professional" website when I came across something which really made me think - just not necessarily in the way he intended his readers to think.

The page I found the gem for this blog post on is www.psychodelights.com/therapy/.  (Scroll to near the bottom of the page to find the song lyrics in question.)

(I must admit to being slightly shocked when - on asking Dr Lee if I could borrow something from his "Professional" website he didn't bother asking either what I wanted to borrow or why I wanted to borrow it.  Good job he knows me.)

The lyrics which caught my attention were strange because I immediately started singing the song - and to say I cannot stand "Love Is All Around", by Wet Wet Wet, is something of an understatement.

(You could say he has previous for this - in a slightly different way.  After reading one of Derek's blog posts on one of his various other websites I ended up having "Another Brick In The Wall", by Pink Floyd, playing on a loop in my brain.  So much so that I had difficulties getting to sleep - and he didn't even directly quote any of the lyrics - the subject of the blog just made my brain select that song from my mental playlist.)

Back to the point of this blog post though.

The lyrics are "My mind's made up by the way that I feel" - he decided to use it as a teaser for a topic about "Automatic Negative Thought - Emotional Reasoning" - However, this topic went way over my head.

So my mind went on a trundle through its own playlist and - strangely - came up with the following lyrics - "This one's lost its taste - try another flavour" from "Ant Music", by Adam and The Ants.

(As I was searching for the webpage so I could share the link with you I found another lyric connected with food - "Life is a Minestrone".  Trouble is - Derek forgot my favourite part of that song - "Served up with Parmesan Cheese".  10cc wrote some really good songs.)

Where was I???  Oh yes - I was rambling on about song lyrics and how they can have a strange effect, wasn't I???

I don't just mean songs which have a deep, personal, meaning for you either because of the situation you were in when you first heard it, or because they remind you of someone who is dead (or who might as well be dead).

I mean songs which you haven't heard for a long time which pop into your head for seemingly no reason - and you later realise why (or is that just me???).

You could say that the playlist I have got in my brain contains a wide and eclectic variety of songs - After all, I have subjected you to some lyrics from songs you have probably never heard before.  Not to mention using the title of one of my favourite songs as the title of one of the categories of this blog.

Whilst I am here I suppose I could give you a bit of an explanation of why I used the title of "Being Me", by Plaeto, as the title of what is probably the scariest category for this blog to write blog posts for.

(I was trying to find a link for it on YouTube but it no longer exists.  However, you can listen to the song on the usual platforms - Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, etc.)

I love this song because it is a "take no prisoners" kind of song.  It is also a song with a bit of a twist in the lyrics.  My favourite parts are the chorus and the "Bridge".

The chorus comes into my head nearly every single time I have the pleasure of people suddenly finding out things about me which were staring them in the face all the time - if only they had looked a little deeper than the surface.

The chorus goes;

Cause I'm being me.
Before the night is over you'll be here.
But you won't see.
No you won't see.
That I know.
I know - What you've got here.
You've got me.

And the "Bridge" goes;

Since when are you far away from me?
Since when do you live on exctasy?
Since When? Take time away from me?
I've got to have control.
Since When?  No time to ease the pain.
Since When?  No fouls along the way.
Its time to move the game to another crazy day.

I don't know whether it is because I have always felt like some kind of oddity when I am around other people (and I seem to spend most of my life feeling like I have to hide my true self) or whether it is because I have grown slightly too comfortable with "mailmerging" myself into my surroundings - but the lyrics to "Being Me" seem to speak to me more and more every time I listen to that song.

It is strange how some songs make me feel more "normal" than others.

I Need Your Help (Or - Ideas Required)
3/8/2016 3:17:41 PM
I will keep this as brief as possible but I could really do with your help.

As you know Inkyworld is a solo effort.  However, I would like to turn it into a "proper" job as well as using it as a springboard for other things like my work with Simple Solutions (not to mention a couple of other ideas I have going around in my head).

In order for this to happen I am going to need funding.  However, I would like to take you with me if I can - after all, you are kind enough to read my ramblings.

I have looked into things like Crowdfunding (that seems a little complicated to me) and I was wondering if you could come up with any ideas (or even if you knew of any sources of sponsorship I could apply for)?

If I did decide to go for the Crowdfunding option - what would you be prepared to pledge for???

Feel free to email me at icpoultney@yahoo.co.uk with your suggestions.

Thank you.

The Roa To Sustainable Employment (Or How I Think "Volunteering, Training, and Employment" Could Work Wonders)
3/8/2016 3:05:36 PM
I must admit that it is not very often that I hear about a venture which I get excited about because I can see a real need for it.

LCiL are going to launch just such a project at their Choice Unlimited Roadshow in April.

Called "VTE" (which stands for "Volunteering, Training, and Employment") it was described to me, by the person who I think is the Brainiac behind it, as a revolutionary idea to help people into work.

Instead of the Jobcentre sending you on placements which have no relevence to your chosen field of employment - the aim of VTE is to guide you through the steps to help you find a job.

I suppose you could say it is a bit of a "Ronseal" idea - as in it does exactly what it says on the tin.

First stage is to get you volunteering in your chosen field - ie, if you want to work in an office you could volunteer at LCiL's office.

Second stage is to supply you with training - either by sending you on a course in your relevant field or by another method.

Third stage is finding you employment in your chosen field.

(Can someone please explain to me why the Jobcentre didn't think of this first???)

As I said - I am looking forward to this venture being launched as it sounds like something which is definitely needed.

Loneliness Versus Being Alone (Or - HOw Different Loneliness Can Be From Being Alone)
3/8/2016 2:46:43 PM
On Sunday I got a YouTube alert about a video which was posted by a man called Matthew Hussey.  I was expecting it to be one of his usual "How to catch and keep your ideal man forever" kind of videos (I usually watch these for the pure comedy value I find in them - I am sorry but if you are asking a total stranger how to catch and keep your ideal man there has to be something seriously wrong with your circle of friends).

Instead it was a thoughtful video which kind of tied in with how I was feeling that day (not only was it Mothering Sunday but my Grandma would have been 94 years old).  The title was "You are not alone" and it spoke about the difference between loneliness and being on your own.

This blog post is my take on the subject.

The first line of the churus of one of my favourite songs is "Loneliness is what I feel but I will tell you the morning after" ("The Morning After" by City To City).  Although the entire song sounds like a version of a man's excuse for talking someone into a one night stand - I find the lyrics deep and meaningful on a completely different level.

The second line is - in a way - more important than the first at least as far as this blog post is concerned.

"There is still a wound to heal but I will tell you the morning after".

To me that speaks about feeling you have to hide your true feeling or problems - sometimes even from your closest friends - either because you know they wouldn't understand (even after you have spent hours trying to explain what goes on in your head) or because you have been taught that "it is your problem - you sort it" one time too many.

If I am perfectly honest - the times when I feel the loneliest are the times when I am with a group of people.  This is either because I know that I am going to have to make myself stand out in order to do something they can all do without any difficulty - or because I have had the same old argument with a different group of people and I can tell the result will be the same.  Or worse - when I feel like I am being judged for some unknown reason.

Loneliness can also be connected with being alone - even I have been known to seek company at times when I have been quite happily sitting on my own for a few hours.  We are presented with media reports saying how being alone can lead to loneliness - with ensuing health problems.  We are also told that we are not made to be alone (something about interdependence and no man being an island).

The question for me is - what happens when circumstances teach you that you are better off alone (as in being on your own)?  In my case - this is usually because I cannot stomach the idea of pretending to be "normal" (whatever that is) any more and I am likely to go on "closedown" any second.  Me on "full closedown" means that I am angry enough with myself to burst into tears for apparently no reason (and I hate crying).  When this happens just find me a quiet space and leave me alone.

I find it very difficult to explain exactly how I feel sometimes - I must admit this blog helps a bit.  Trying to break my feelings and history down into bitesized chunks can be very traumatic.

There is an example which I fear is about to happen again in a few days.

As you know I really hate Projection Screens - these are usually seen as an excuse for people with 20/20 vision to demonstrate exactly how bad my eyesight is.

My church has had an Audio/Visual display for quite a few years - they use it for song lyrics and other things.  They also use it to drive me up the wall - I thought this was an accidental byproduct but it seems to be intentional.

When they first had it I put in a couple of complaints due to the fact that I couldn't see half of the stuff on it.  This was because the people in charge of the controls had apparently fallen in love with the range of backgrounds which can be applied behind the text.  Result?  People like me were provided with a booklet of lyrics for the songs - PowerPoint projections for the sermons have not been included in this booklet but I let that one go.

Now - I would much prefer to be the same as everybody else - either reading the lyrics off the screen or from a book.  I feel less like a freak that way.

The last time I put a complaint in the person who replied turned round to me and said "It is your sight and your problem."  (Let's just say I try not to speak to that individual any more.)

Funnily enough the same subject is coming up for discussion next week.  This will be fun - I am mentally drawing up a list of problems I have with it so I can blind them with them.

There are times when I really find being alone (as in on my own) to be the best cure for loneliness,  I can read a book, watch TV, write this blog, or even just sit in silence thinking my own thoughts without feeling like I am "on display" and, therefore, need to be careful.

If I am in a group of people I am usually happiest just sitting and observing what is going on - before I decide whether or not to speak to someone.  Don't get me wrong - I will speak to you if you speak to me first but I will rarely start the conversation unless you seem like a particularly interesting specimen (or I think you have some information I need).

Yes - I am a loner but I am never lonely when I am on my own.

When Two Plus TWo Equals Zero (Or - What Price A Child's Future?)
3/8/2016 1:23:17 PM
If you have read my blog for any length of time you will know that I am passionate about discrimination as well as that cluster of children who fall into the category of "Special Educational Needs" (after all, I was one myself).  I am also passionate about giving everybody a chance to succeed at their chosen career without fear of bullying or stigmatism.  In my opinion - qualifictions are always superceded by experience (or at least they should be).

I am so glad I am not at school now.  Basically because I honestly don't think I wluld survive my first year at Secondary School if I was (it was bad enough in 1985).

Part of me feels quite sorry for the teachers - they are subjected to neverending changes in not only what curriculum is taught but also how it is supposed to be taught/  They also have to ensure their students float through school in such a state that they pass all their GCSE's at Grade C or above.

This does not take into account two groups of students - the non-academic students, who would be better off in some sort of Apprenticeship instead of GCSE classes, and the Special Educational Needs students who need more help in school.

The funny thing about this label of "Special Educational Needs" is that it can be applied to every single student who walks into a school.  I would classify someone who is particularly gifted in a subject as "Special Educational Needs" because they need more specialised teaching to help them achieve their full potential in that subject.  So why is the "Special Educational Needs" label always seen in such a negative light???

The media (as well as the Government) appear to see Special Educational Needs as a drain on resources.  Namely - money spent on helping children who come into the negative side of the category could be spent elsewhere with more immediate, more positive, results.  As long as nobody in the school goes seriously off the rails everything is OK - and if they do go off the rails the school can always blame the parents, etc.

I am very grateful to Deb Maher for allowing me to tell you about the struggles she is having with getting appropriate education for her nephew.

Her nephew has got Special Educational Needs which are in the process of being diagnosed (well - one of them is).

He has had problems in school (and she has noticed some things at home).  At first the signs appeared to point towards either Dyslexia or Autism.  Luckily his Mentor at school has a son with Autism so she could provide a bit more information.

Deb's nephew has 12 hours a week support in school of various sorts. Recently he was seen by an Educational Psychologist who I thought had definitely diagnosed Dyslexia.  Apparently they had only said he has Dyslexia-like symptoms.  Thus leaving Deb in limbo.

(I had previously advised Deb not to send him to Mainstream Secondary School simply based on what she had told me about him - coupled with my experiences.  His Mentor said she thought he would be fine at a Mainstream Secondary School as long as he had some support.)

Deb privately took her nephew to a Child Psychiatrist who - apparently - took one look at him and immediately diagnosed Autism (the Child Psychiatrist didn't even need to run any tests on him.

Due to family circumstances - Deb's sister dying when her nephew had started school, her Dad having a stroke, and her Mum dying, all within a few years - I don't think the Special Needs were picked up anywhere near early enough.  (However, that is just my personal opinion.)

Before the Child Psychiatrist saw Deb's nephew they wanted all the information which had been collated on him.  This included a form for Special Needs Education help.  Apparently there was nowhere near enough information on the form which the school had filled in.  So the funding for extra help was refused.  The Child Psychiatrist requested that the form be submitted with all the relevant information on it.  However, the school refused to do this, stating funding concerns.  Deb's nephew should really have at least 25 hours of support a week.

The last I heard Deb had contacted her local Education Department to see what they could do regarding getting her nephew extra support (or even moving him to the local Special School - he has already got a place at a Mainstream Srcondary School.

But what about those students who aren't in the group labeled "Special Educational Needs"?  The ones who are put through even more strenuous tests regarding the latest "fad" in education?

You know the "fads" I mean - how to wreck "reading for pleasure" in one easy move (force the children to study each word and punctuation mark to learn if it is in the correct place or context) - baffle them with maths problems which have no Earthly use in the real world (and teach the ones which are useful in such a way that the parents won't have a clue anyway).

I have quoted Nathan Constable before now - he and I both have the same opinion of the current "education system" with the only difference being - he has got children going through it and I haven't got any children at all.

In order for the children going through school today to have a proper chance in life I really feel that three things need to happen (and soon).

Firstly - we need to stop all the pressure on both students and teachers alike.

I have a friend who is about to become a teacher and - to be perfectly honest - I am frightened to death for her.  She is a really lovely lady who can use her enthusiasm and experience in her chosen subject to really inspire her students to reach their goals (as well as telling them about the realistic side of things).

My favourite teacher left teaching to become a (properly) published author.  He has gone into schools to run workshops - and come out horrified at how the children are being taught nowadays.  The most honest thing I ever heard him say about himself was "I don't see chidren as pots to put information in - I see them as wells of enthusiasm to be nurtured".

Secondly - we need to have a proper system where the not so academic can be syphoned off into Apprenticeships and other courses which will help them to learn about what they really want to do in life - instead of forcing them to stsy in school until they are 18 years old, becoming more disengaged and disenfranchised by the minute.

Thirdly - we need to sort the "Special Educational Needs" system out so that every single student in school gets an equal chance.  If a student has a Special Educational Need we need to make sure that they do not miss out on the opportunities afforded to the "Normal" students - be it due to lack of funding, teachers, experienced Mentors, etc.

Personally I would love to see a class being taught by a teacher who shares a Special Need with a student in that class.  Or even a Mentor with the experience to show the student the way they cope with something.

It is all very well saying that Special Educational Needs students should be in Mainstream Education - however - we really need to think about the cost to the student (both whilst they are at school and in  the future).  Too much emphasis is placed on exam results and not enough emphasis is placed on how the Special Educational Needs student will cope in the big wide world when they leave school.

It has taken me nearly 30 years to put myself back together and realise I am not half as useless as I still sometimes think I am.  I don't mean to do survivors of abuse any disservice but - if you are physically and verbally bullied at school (whether or not you are a "Special Educational Needs" Student) it is the worst thing that can happen to you. We really need to put a stop to bullying and teach every single student to respect themselves enough to respect the differences in other people.

In the secound part of the title to this blog post I asked "What price a child's future?"

If we are really honest about answering that question we can answer one of two ways - either we cannot put a price on it because we see rhem as the valuable members of society they are - or - we price each child in the hundreds of thousands of pounds either in the professional support to help them recover from their experiences at school or the missed opportunities that they were unable to take due to the way their education turned out,

Either way - we cannot afford to keep making the same mistakes over and over again with our Education System.

A "New Day" For Newspapers! (Or - The Dawn Of A New Era)
3/3/2016 12:05:45 AM
After deciding to give the debut edition of the first new newspaper for some years a miss on Monday I ended up buying one on Tuesday, yesterday, and today (well - I did have to form a proper opinion on it which was not influenced by hype).

The first thing I should say is that I think the trial price of 25 pence should be the full price.  I would not be prepared to pay 50 pence for a newspaper - no matter how good it is.

I was surprisingly impressed by the layout and content of the newspaper.  It has more of a magazine/blog feel to it than your average newspaper.  And I didn't have to peer at the print because the print was larger than your average newspaper - something I feel the rest of the newspapers can learn from.

As for the content - it almost read like a feed from Social Media.  What I mean is that the articles did not contain any discernable bias but the people who wrote them had a good understanding of the subject matter.

Whilst I am unlikely to buy it when it goes to fuul price (unless it has something I really want to read in it) - I am impressed with it so far.  All that is missing is the website which I really feel would make more use of the content.

Sponges Can Only Absorb So Much - Why Be Absorbed With Yourself??? (Or - As Public Image Ltd Sang "There's Something Wrong With Human Nature"!)
3/2/2016 11:43:14 PM
As I begin to type this blog post I am listening to one of my favourite songs "Time Goes By" by a (currently extinct) Dutch group called City To City.  The lyrics are basically about someone who feels very sorry for themself.  I thought this was very appropriate for a reason which will become clear as we go along.

I am getting seriously worried about the world we live in these days - as in the world as portrayed by the Media (both the Mainstream lot and Social Media).

When we are not being deluged with images of the so-called "Perfect" person we are being told we should consider ourselves to be the best thing ever invented.  After all, we deserve that high-powered job, that model partner (and I am speaking literally), that expensive car - seemingly just for existing.

I was reading an article on the Guardian website asking if we were becoming too narcistic (or we were starting to love ourselves that little bit too much).  You sill have to find your own "Psychology Wizard" to explain exactly what "Narcissim" is - I thought it was to do with that flower which looks like a daffodill but apparently it is a proper psychological or psychiatric disorder.

The flip side to the "self-love" we are supposed to drown ourselves in is (in my opinion at least) slightly more dangerous.  All the "perfect" images we see - as well as the throwaway comments of "Celebrities" like Edwina Currie and the endless exhortations to eat more of something one minute and less of the same thing the next - has a disasterous impact on the wellbeing of those people with low self-esteem.

I have blogged before about the scars I have got from the operation to mend the hole in my heart when I was a baby.  Let's just say I was very relieved when cropped tops went out of fashion.

I wish people would realise that glamourising Plastic Surgery (sorry - I decided to use my pet hate as a perfect example) in newspapers and magazines which can be read by impressionable young people (boys as well as girls) is the best way yo drain someone's self-confidence - and I should know.  You have seen enough photos of me on here to realise I will never be a supermodel.  It has taken me years to finally be comfortable with myself.  I like the way I am on the inside more than the way I look.

I found a plaque which sums up my feelings perfectly.

What gives me joy is being the best friend I can to my friends, reading and writing, learning from people, travelling (when I can), listening to my favourite songs, spending time recharging myself, and using my talents to help projects I believe in.

They might not be the things which give you joy but we all need to find a source of happiness which doesn't involve the fight for the utopia of the "Perfect" life according to someone else.

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