|This blog post has been bubbling away in the back of my brain for a few months now. It is also a blog post which I am actually the least qualified person to write as I have no direct experience of the topic – as yet.|
A few months ago we were talking at Scribbles when Mike Southwell told us a horrifying story about a man who he knew and their Bank Account.
I cannot remember the exact details of the whole story but I will tell you what I do remember.
The man was what would be considered a Vulnerable Adult. He also had a Bank Account. For some reason (which escapes me at the moment) if the man wanted to get some money out of an ATM he asked passing strangers to type his PIN in. Eventually, it was noticed that quite substantial amounts of money had gone missing from his Bank Account (the man only withdrew small amounts). This is where the problem started.
As Mike pointed out – Banks don't disclose details of Bank Accounts to anybody except the person named as the Account Holder. That is fair enough you might say – and I would agree with you in most cases.
But what happens when you have someone with Bipolar who is in their Manic cycle, or, like Mike's friend above, they are seen as having Mental capacity but need physical help with certain things??? Or if they can be classed as a Vulnerable Adult for any other reason???
At the moment there only appear to be two solutions to the problem (both of which remove the independence of the vulnerable person to a greater or lesser extent). You can either go for “Power of Attorney” or you can open a joint Bank Account.
However, they are both things you have to do. The Bank wouldn't get involved in any other way (except when they start charging for unauthorised overdrafts).
I was discussing this with another friend of mine whose son is classed as a Vulnerable Adult, and she confirmed that she will not be informed about anything connected with her son's Bank Account. I asked another friend – who has experience of dealing with Vulnerable people both as a Police Officer and in one of his other roles – who confirmed what I stated above about the Power of Attorney and the Joint Bank Account are true.
There needs to be a system in place where the Account Holder (or a relative) can nominate someone for the Bank to contact in the event of suspicious or unusual transactions. A bit like arranging for the Bank to contact you if you make a large purchase if you have previously been a victim of Identity Theft. Instead of the onus always being on the friends and relatives of the Account holder to know that they need Power of Attorney or a Joint Bank Account – which many do not realise until it is too late.
How can a Vulnerable Adult (who wishes to keep as much of their independence as possible) be assisted to achieve this???
Also, what happens when the Account Holder becomes so incapacitated they end up in hospital, or deceased, before anybody realises what has been going on???
The entire Banking System needs a total overhaul to put the Account Holders (and their nominated representatives) in charge – or at least stop the nominated representatives from having to jump through legal loopholes in order to find out what is going on.
|Sometimes I do things which even surprise me. Personally I hold one of the people who I work with responsible for the latest episode of “Inky's Adventures”. Well if they hadn't advertised the fact they were within a 50 mile radius of me (and I knew they were accessible by bus), I wouldn't have gone to find them.|
You may remember I do some blogging for a company called “Simple Solutions”??? This company is based down in Fleet (in Hampshire). Living in Leicester and being unable to drive makes getting to anywhere on the other side of London in a reasonable time-frame an expensive venture. This meant that – although I had spoken to both the people I work with on the telephone (as well as keeping in contact via Social Media and email) – I had never actually met either Roger or Lucy.
My latest adventure was to change that.
Roger and Lucy went to the “Emergency Services Show” at the NEC. Now – there was something I found puzzling about this. I had known that Roger had been in the Police (Inspector Nield – as he was then – was the reason I started working with Simple Solutions in the first place, after contacting him on Twitter), I also had had an idea that Lucy (his wife) had also been in the Police. However, I have never seen a Police Officer in a red uniform before (on the first photo of himself that he posted on either Twitter or Facebook from his time at the NEC – Roger was wearing a distinctly red t-shirt).
So – off I went to the NEC.
Between you and me I was actually expecting not to be allowed anywhere near the exhibition – due to one minor difference between myself and Roger. I have never worked for any Emergency Service. Until I had found Lucy I was actually convinced that I was going to get kicked out – more precisely – I was on the verge of abandoning my mission myself as I felt out of place.
Anyway – I eventually found Lucy standing at a stall (I really love surprising people by being where they least expect to find me – when I said “Hi Lucy” the smile on her face made my adventure worthwhile). She was wearing the same sort of t-shirt as Roger had been wearing on the photo – turned out that they were there as part of “Surrey Search And Rescue”. Hence the t-shirts.
However, there was also another very good point to their presence at the NEC. Roger is a Trustee of a charity which was set up by someone else with a connection to Simple Solutions. NESM (National Emergency Services Memorial) has been set up to raise money for a memorial to all the members of the Emergency Services in the UK who have been killed.
To find out more about the charity (and buy one of their badges) please visit - www.nesm.org.uk
You may know that I have family connections with both Leicestershire Police and the Rotterdam Police. I also have friends (including Roger and Lucy) who have been serving Police Officers in England. I even have one friend who still is (at time of typing this blog post) a serving Police Officer in Rotterdam – and I have lost count of the amount of serving and ex-Police Officers I follow on Twitter.
You don't need me to tell you that the Police (and the other Emergency Services) put their lives on the line every time they go to work. (If I hear about an incident involving a Police Officer in an area where I know one of my friends works I get worried – even if I have never met the Officer concerned.)
There needs to be some public form of recognition of the sacrifice made by the Officers who have lost their lives – apart from people lining the streets at the funerals.
Yes – I know my link with “NESM” can best be described as tenuous. However, one thing which cannot be described as half-hearted is my support for this idea.
I was just thinking – we have things like “Help For Heroes”, “Vulnerable Veterans”, etc, to help ex-Military people but is there anything to help ex-Police Officers who end up having to leave due to physical or mental health issues they sustained whilst on duty??? I know there is a charity to help their dependants – but what about the Officers themselves???
It is all very well setting up statues and Memorials for Officers who have lost their lives but I think we should also look after the ones who are forced out of the “Job” due to ill health as well.
One other thing before I finish this blog post. Not every Police Officer who dies is killed whilst on duty – some of them kill themselves as a result of the pressures and stress they face as part of their job. A Wise Owl of a serving Police Officer said - either on Twitter or on their personal blog – that they had had to deal with some horrific situations but were practically left to deal with the emotional and mental aftermath they faced on their own. Surely this cannot be allowed to happen???
One of the myths surrounding the Police is that “The Police Are The Public”. Sorry – in my eyes the Police are Superheroes – and should be treated as such.
I have been following a debate on Twitter with great interest. The debate is around the subject of whether or not somebody should be arrested for putting part of their training into action as part of their lawful duties.
To me – that sounds like telling me I cannot type letters as part of my duties as an Office Administrator, even though I have been trained in the correct way of typing them, I have certificates which will prove that I am trained in this, and I have 15 years experience of successfully doing it (as part of my last job), because the mere act of me sitting at a typewriter or laptop is illegal.
Yes, I know the above may sound ridiculously absurd but it is a scenario faced by some of the people I follow on Twitter – except it isn't typing letters that they have to worry about the legality of. These humans have to worry about whether or not they will be prosecuted for driving a motorised Baked Bean Can - with Blue Flashing Lights on its lid - in strict accordance with their training in the event of them having an accident.
Now – according to me any vehicle which comes with Blue Flashing Lights fitted as standard should be subject to the rules of the Highway Code the same as everybody else. Except when the aforementioned Blue Flashing Lights are in fact flashing and their Deafeners - Sirens - are going (I wish the UK Emergency Service Vehicles had the same sirens as the Dutch ones – my ears prefer the more musical Dutch version). This may have something to do with the fact that the Flashing Lights and Sirens might indicate that they are on their way to an emergency (or – in the case of the Police – trying to stop a suspect either before or after a crime).
I suppose I was a bit like some of you might be when I first read about Police Officers being worried about being prosecuted if something went wrong and someone got injured or killed during a pursuit. Then I remembered one Twittercop had given an extremely good example of how a Police Officer is trained to drive even without Blue Flashing Lights. SgtTCS (yes – the brains behind the “Don't Stream And Drive” campaign) had actually recorded audio of himself on his drive from home to work saying exactly what he was looking out for and what he did (more importantly why he did it as well). I would still have my reservations about the idea of sitting in a car when he was behind the wheel though – this might have something to do with another time when Constable Chaos live-streamed SgtTCS approaching a roundabout (I am surprised the car didn't end up on the roundabout).
The thing that really woke me up to the idea that the Police might have something to grumble about was reading an article (or a Blog Post) by Sgt Harry Tangye detailing what a Police Officer legally has to say during a pursuit. It is not a case of the officer deciding to put the “Blues and Twos” on, floor the accelerator, and just enjoy the ride – far from it. They have to demonstrate they are in full control of both themselves and the vehicle at all times. Sgt Tangye even stated his exact qualifications for what he was doing (as in – the fact he is something called a “T-PAC Driver”).
Call me crazy but – if a Police Officer is qualified to drive with “Blues and Twos”, at high speeds, and has a duty to preserve both their own life and that of other road users – surely the onus is on the suspect (and the rest of the road-using public) to ensure they don't get caught up in any chaos caused by the pursuit???
Let's just say I was amazed to learn that a Police Officer needs special training before they can get behind the steering wheel of a Landrover type vehicle – whilst civilians can walk into any dealership and drive off in one providing they have got a licence and insurance (not forgetting having paid for the vehicle and got the consent of the seller first).
If we expect the Police to keep us safe they should be allowed to do their job without fear of arrest when things go wrong – provided they can prove that they have acted both within the limits of the law and the limits of their training.
The same goes for Firearms Officers. As long as the armed Officer doesn't start randomly firing at anybody and everything they see – they should be allowed to use their discretion and training to inform their judgement and actions.
The Police are our Protectors – but sometimes they need to be protected from the vagaries of the complicated laws which they are paid to uphold.
The way it started was as follows. One child in the playground would decide they wanted to play a game of “Tig”, or “Poddy 1, 2, 3”, etc. Then they would realise they needed more children to join them so they would stretch their arms out on either side (at shoulder height), and start walking around the playground shouting “All in who wants to play...” and insert the name of the game they wished to play themselves. As other children started to join them the shout would get louder. Then came the decision as to who would be the first to be “it” - this was decided by the very clever means of “putting your feet in” (the children would form a circle and each put one foot into the middle). A rhyme was said as one child touched each foot in turn. When the rhyme finished the child whose foot was being touched was “out” and withdrew their foot. This carried on until there was one child left (he or she was deemed to be “it”) and the game would start. At my Primary school there was a word which was used whenever someone wanted a break from the game – unfortunately I cannot type it even phonetically because it is very close to what is now considered to be an extremely offensive racial term.
Why did I tell you all this???
From where I am standing we seem to be moving towards a kind of “society” which is more like a Primary School playground. Not only are the world's “Political Leaders” currently behaving like a pack of infants but everybody else seems to be following suit.
We also have bullying going on. Not just at school and work – the current bullying culture is becoming a saturating flood of nasty remarks, leaving different sections of the population out, advertising which gives false hopes of being included in a status group if you buy such and such a product, etc.
I must admit most people don't seem to realise the damage that the most innocuous-seeming form of bullying can do. The trouble is it is not a “Direct” attack on the victim per se. In fact, the victim doesn't even realise what is happening before it is too late. Before you ask – I am not talking about scams and phishing, etc. Instead I am talking about the role so-called “Celebrities” play in convincing people they need Plastic Surgery in order to feel good about themselves. Never mind the “Celebrities” - the fashion industry are also partially to blame.
When I was growing up and becoming “fashion Conscious” it was in the era of bra tops and cropped tops. (Thank Heaven those days are gone.) If anything is guaranteed to knock someone's confidence it is the thought of having an imperfect body on show. It doesn't matter if the scars originally saved your life – if they are ugly enough for you not to wear the latest “fashions” they are really ugly. Or at least that is how I was made to feel about mine.
Don't get me wrong – I am not totally against Plastic Surgery when it is deemed appropriate by qualified Medical Professionals – in the case of a major trauma which results in major disfigurement, for example. However, I look at some people today and think they are beautiful already (and some of them should really make an appointment with a Psychologist or Psychiatrist if they are really that unhappy about themselves).
There is too much pressure on us to conform to unrealistic expectations – or even conform to expectations which might be achievable for some of us but not all of us. (A clue – I could get seriously depressed whenever I see adverts for new models of cars. Why don't they have the same kind of adverts for buses???)
This is before we come to the idea of “Fake News” and “Alternative Facts”. This seems to be another thing lifted straight from the Primary School playground. In fact, it kind of reminds me of something else I remember from Primary School - “Am yer! I'm telling.” Or even that stupid little rhyme “I'm telling on you – you jumped in the lorry and you never said sorry”. (The fact that no lorries were involved in the preceding events was – apparently – beside the point.)
Now we come to the “Mainstream Media” who appear to be content with both dumbing everything down so you only need a very short attention span and jumping on the latest Bandwagon. In fact, I watched “Newswatch” on the BBC News Channel when the Grenfell tragedy was still a major news story. One of the viewers wrote in and accused the BBC (correctly in my view) of making a bad situation a lot worse by whipping up the simmering discontent to epic proportions – then reporting the results as though they were a valid news story.
I know – it is all very well me sitting at my laptop – typing away – having a go at people. However, I do try to do things in person as well. I may not be the world's prolific protestor (far from it) but – if there is a cause I can respect the aims of – I will give it my whole backing.
Finally – we come to the “Anonymity” issue. I admit this is more connected with Social Media than anything else. However, I do know of Bloggers who blog under a pseudonym for whatever reason. Please note – I am not one of them. I have always been open about giving you my real name (as well as certain other details about me).
Here is my opinion on the whole “Anonymity” issue. There should be a register somewhere where the real names of the holders of “Anonymous” accounts on Twitter (as well as a”Anonymous” Bloggers) are stored – whilst allowing the people themselves to remain anonymous if they so wish. This register could then be used to track down the people who abuse their right of “Anonymity” to make life difficult for other people.
One of these days I really hope someone manages to drag “Public” Life back out of the Primary School playground so we can have a grown up debate about the issues which really matter. I also hope that we can go back to the era of being able to watch Documentaries which actually educate us – instead of pushing the agenda of whoever is behind them.
We are in danger of losing the ability to think for ourselves – we have so many people who claim to be able to think for us. The only trouble with that is we are all individuals with our own experiences of life. For example, I can only give you a small taster of what it is like to be me at any given time. I type – you read my ramblings – you get a small glimpse of my life – however, you cannot possibly think that you fully know how my (sometimes twisted) brain works just from reading my blog or my output on Social Media. If you want to know exactly how my brain works you will need to supplement your reading diet with spending time with me and getting me to feel comfortable with you. You might be shocked by some of the difficulties which have shaped me into the patchwork which is typing this – you might be amazed by how I work around different challenges I face (or even the things I consider to be a challenge which you might be able to do without thinking about them).
All In Who Wants To Be Treated As An Adult!!!
I was reading a very interesting review of a play this morning and it got me thinking about who has the right to tell our story – us or the people who have only seen it from the outside?
I can't remember the title of the play or the name of the reviewer – what I can remember is the reviewer actually had experience of what the play was supposed to be about. The play didn't match the reviewer's experiences at all. In fact, the memorable line from the review was “the play appeared to be an English view of Northern Ireland”. The reviewer then went on to give his expert opinion of what actually went on during the time and situation in which the play was supposedly set (apparently the reviewer came from the place where the play was set and had personal experience of what actually happened).
The funny thing is – we see people attempting to tell stories they have no real experience of all the time. Or – and in some cases this is even worse – they try to tell a story which they only have partial experience of. I admit that there are some people who can actually succeed in doing that but there aren't very many.
When I say “attempting to tell stories they have no real experience of” I am obviously not talking about people who need to be professionally dispassionate when they relate the story – as in journalists. I am talking about people like writers, comedians, etc. Sometimes even people like you and me.
Let's just say – the minute I hear someone getting the old “paintbrush” out in a conversation I become very wary indeed. “Paintbrush”??? I hear you ask. Yes – a useful device for applying paint to surfaces, sometimes even surfaces where you have no intention of paint being applied. A bit like when someone speaks in such a way that every single human in a particular group share the exact same characteristics – based on the single member of that group which they have met in person or read about. You know the ones I mean - “All Muslims are terrorists” because a single human who claimed to be a Muslim carried out a terrorist attack, “All Disabled people are Benefit Scroungers” because one person who claimed to be Disabled got caught cheating on their Benefit claims, “All Asylum Seekers/Foreigners are here to cause trouble/steal our jobs, etc”, because one person got their nose put out of joint because an Asylum Seeker/Foreigner might be better qualified and therefore have got the job they wanted.
Try turning the story on its head and looking at it from the point of view of the person at the centre of the story. Whilst you are at it you might as well try to think how the particular group they belong to might feel on being told they are exactly like the last person you met or read about who is a member of that group.
I am a Disabled person. I am also the daughter of someone who would legally be classed as an immigrant. The highest qualification I have is a Level 1 NVQ in Business Administration. I have got GCSEs (“C” Grade and above) in four different languages. My first name isn't exactly common in England. I have been diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer and Heart Failure.
I can tell you about my experience of all the above – using my own words. I can even make a joke out of some of those things – whilst being greatly offended if someone with no experience of them tried to do the same.
One of my friends said something which kind of relates to this. I had commented on their Facebook status after they had done one of those quizzes about who would be their “Life Partner”. This friend happens to be one half of a pair of identical twins (guess who was picked as their “Life Partner”???). I made a semi-serious comment along the lines of “of course this person would be your Life Partner – you were together before you were born”. Of course I cannot claim to know what it is like to have any brothers or sisters, let alone be one of a pair of twins. However, I can definitely claim to know what it is like to be friends with a pair of twins.
I can still remember when I first met my friend and their twin – mainly due to the fact that I nearly asked my Mum to book me in for a sight test when I got home from school that day. I was standing in the dinner queue during my first term at Lutterworth High School when this pair of identical-looking girls stood in front of me (one in front of each eye). I still haven't worked out exactly who said, “Got double vision, have you?” - and that is after 32 years. (I still get them confused even though they now have totally different hairstyles and hair colours.)
What I am trying to say is – if you want to tell someone else's story try to keep it accurate and keep them in the centre of it. Try not to fall into the trap of thinking that everybody has the same experience – because we don't. You and I can be in the same place, doing exactly the same thing, but I can guarantee that we will have differet experiences and memories of it. The same goes for myself and another person with a similar sight problem (Heaven help them). As U2 sang “We are one but we are not the same”.
Not everybody has the same story – so they shouldn't all be swept up in some mythological idea of what their life seems like to an outsider who has no experience of it. Nor should they be subjected to the quickest stereotypical label you can apply to them. After all – if I tried that trick I would probably alienate over half of my friends very easily.
Here's an idea – if you don't understand why I am doing something you may find odd – or if I am not doing something which you would expect me to be able to do – try asking me about it. As long as you don't open by muttering, “Can't you read?”, or, “Everybody else does... so why can't you?” -ao or look at me with pity or as though you think I should be locked up for my own safety – I will be willing to tell you my reasons. After all, how can we learn about things we don't know without being taught about them???
Stereotypes are barriers which really need to be broken down – and mythological ideas about different sections of society really should be replaced with true facts.
The best people to do that are the people who have the experience to back their words up. In fact – the best people to do that are you and me.
Tears For Fears released a single called “Shout” way back in the 1980's (I think). The chorus came into my head as I was thinking about writing this blogpost - “Shout! Shout! Let it all out. These are the things I could do without. Come on – I'm talking to you. Come on.”
Before you think that this is going to be yet another rant about Politics or the current state of the world – well, it is and it isn't.
We all have our own opinions about the current state of the world and the people who appear to think they are in charge of it. However, what would happen if we put the real Politicians in charge???
You might be looking at the above paragraph and thinking, “Ineke has finally lost the plot completely – the real Politicians are the ones who are in Councils up and down the land, as well as Westminster. What does she mean by 'put real Politicians in charge'?”
Let's just say that my opinion of the current Political Establishment can be summed up by re-arranging the following words into a well-known phrase or sentence - “Idiots” “Are” Self-serving” “Politicians”.
So – who do I consider to be the “real Politicians”???
Anybody and everybody who has acted in such a way that they have attempted to improve the lives of the people they come across – in whatever way they choose. Also, people who have used their personal experiences to educate people about a side of life they might not otherwise realise exists. Let's not forget those people who have stood up for what they believe in – be it by putting their job at risk through blowing the whistle on corrupt practices, or by joining a protest for a cause they believe in (be it setting up camps in a city centre to highlight the treatment of homeless people, or by helping in another way).
I have a list of people who I consider to be the “real Politicians” (the fact that two of them have actually been what is commonly known as Politicians – Councillors – is something I can forgive them for). With your permission I would like to name some of them (yes – some of the names have appeared elsewhere on my blog for other reasons but some names will be new to you).
James Patrick – ex-Metropolitan Police Officer – now attempts to educate people about all sorts of issues relating to the Politics of the world. Also an author.
James McLean – If you live in Leicester you will definitely have heard about this man. He is passionate about the Homeless (he has been Homeless himself). He has a habit of setting up camps in and around Leicester City Centre. He is also the brains behind the Homeless Party.
Derek Lee – a Clinical Psychologist who claims to be retired. Last heard of running the Brighton Marathon to raise money for the charity “Mind” to help fund facilities for Mental Health provision (see what I mean about him claiming to be retired??? I am not entirely convinced that Psychologists ever retire).
Roger Nield – retired Police Officer who now plays a role in a scheme down in Surrey for Military Veterans.
Wayne Naylor – ex-Leicester City Councillor who has a very big heart for the community with particular focus on those people who are on the outskirts of society.
Nathan Constable, Mike Pannett, Constable Chaos, Police Commander John Sutherland, Sgt Harry Tangye – all connected with the Police Service (one theoretically retired) – This little lot (plus a few dozen more I could mention) all use Social Media, blogs, and their own appearances on TV, to educate people about the real stories behind the headlines regarding Policing.
John Coster and Laura Horton – Well, what can I say about these two??? Both of them have a big heart for Disabled people (well they do both work for LCiL). John is also responsible for a concept called “Social Media Cafe” where groups of people can get together and learn from each other. Laura plays a big part behind the scenes in an event called “Choice UnLimited” - which is a kind of Marketplace type roadshow where Disabled people, Carers, etc, can speak to providers of goods and services face to face in a non-threatening environment.
The gang at The Real Junkfood Project (Leicester Battalion) – Not only does this group of people cook meals from food that is perfectly edible which shops throw away – they also are one of the friendliest bunches of people I have ever had the pleasure of being involved with. They volunteer their time willingly to – as the slogan on the tshirt I am currently wearing says - “Feed Bellies - Not Bins”. There are other Junkfood Projects all over the UK.
Julian Harrison – This man divides his time between his Mental Health work and his work for the Holocaust Memorial Trust. If you get a chance to hear him talk about either subject you will come away feeling educated without feeling like you have been lectured. He has personal experience of Mental Health issues and the discrimination faced by Jewish people.
You may think there is someone missing from that list – as in the human typing this blogpost???
There is one very good reason why my name is nowhere near that list – I do not consider myself to be remotely Political. Yes – I try to educate people about the challenges I (and others) face through my blog. Yes – I have been known to volunteer for both LCiL and The Real Junkfood Project. Yes – I do work with Roger Nield. Yes – I do support the various causes and organisations mentioned in this blogpost. And – yes – some of my blogposts do end up with a Political twist to them. But – to me – being Political is a whole different ballgame involving more noise than I am willing to make. I am the one who is usually found behind a computer keyboard – although I will speak up in person if the issues being discussed are ones I have personal experience of (for example – the “Purple Pound” Discussion Panel) - or if I think the topic is one I can usefully speak out about (just try to tell me that the Police are there to be abused, or they shouldn't eat or drink – let alone carry a firearm in public – and see what I have to say about that. I consider the Twittercops I follow to be friends of mine).
I want to finish with sharing things which two Wise Owls said to me (on separate occasions – some years apart). The Wise Owls will know who they are.
The first one said, “You will never know what it is like to be a 50 year old man”. (Well, I was a 30 year old female at the time.) That one taught me that we all have different experiences of life. However, the Wise Owl also taught me (later on) that we can use our differing experiences to help each other.
The second one said something which actually keeps me blogging even when I feel I have nothing important or Earth-shattering to say. “It is all very well signing an online petition but that only takes 5 seconds and then it is forgotten about. It takes hard work to make a real change in the world and your blogging is an important part of that.” The Wise Owl is still one of my biggest supporters when it comes to blogging.
I have a challenge for you – find something you are passionate about and start trying to make a small difference to that situation. It can be Mental Health, Homelessness, Lousy designs for objects you use regularly, etc. You can write letters to your local paper, start a blog about it, become an activist (or a “Highlighter” if you prefer), or just speak about it, or volunteer with an organisation which is dedicated to that particular cause. You could even run a Marathon.
There are times when I really wonder which planet our Government actually resides on. Put it this way – it is not my version of Planet Earth.
You might be thinking this is going to be a rant about the never-ending “Brexit” arguments. However, you would be completely wrong.
Just before I had to fight the extremely tempting desire to put a brick through my Dad's TV yesterday evening (I was cooking our usual midweek meal at the time) I found my intelligence being insulted by some Government Oik on the subject of “Self-employment”.
According to the aforementioned Oik people apparently opt for Self-employment soley for Tax reasons (as in they want to pay less Tax).
Well, I suppose the Oik has kind of got a point – even if he got it the wrong way around. Someone does want to pay less Tax as a result of recruiting Self-employed people. The trouble is – it is not the prospective “Self-employed” employees who want to skew the playing field – it is the companies who are doing the employing.
Leave the headline grabbing companies (Uber, Deliveroo, etc) out of it for a minute. I know of companies who have advertised full-time Administration jobs with the information that the candidate will be “Self-employed”. This means the company employing the candidate doesn't have to give them the same rights as workers who are directly employed by the company. It also means the company doesn't have to worry about a high Tax bill as a result of dodging the PAYE and NI (National Insurance) contributions they would otherwise have to pay as a result of properly employing the candidate.
There are quite a few reasons for people deciding to go down the “Self-employed” route – none of which include lowering a Tax bill.
You might want to go Self-employed because you want to have more freedom regarding where and when you work – if you have children for example.
Your skillset may not be used to its full potential by a “Mainstream” employer. This could be as a result of the limitations placed upon you as a result of Company Rules, etc.
Your Mental and/or Physical Health could be put at risk if you stay within “Mainstream” employment. This is particularly true if you have any kind of pre-existing Health problem or Disability. It is also particularly true if you become a victim of a bullying culture at work. (Trust me – a combination of those two would finish anybody off. It nearly finished me off.)
We all know the damage lack of sleep, etc, can do to our general wellbeing.
The irony is that (in my case in particular) sometimes the idea of going Self-employed can actually be kicked off by the idea of you being in charge of when you get paid. As someone who went through periods of not being paid for at least two months at a time in my last “Mainstream” job – I could cope better with the idea of not having to deal with an employer acting as a Middleman and pushing me towards the bottom of the “foodchain” as far as being paid is concerned. (Yes – I am aware that when starting out as Self-employed you don't have the luxury of a regular income anyway. However, at least you get a chance to work towards it.)
Another reason for someone becoming Self-employed might be because there is no way on Planet Earth that they can get a job any other way. They may have a Criminal Record, etc.
If you ask me – a fairer way to deal with the problems in our Economy would be to pay everybody a Basic Income and scrap the idea of Tax and National Insurance completely.
Instead of paying Taxes and not having a say in how they are used – we could simply pay out the full price for every single Public Service we use directly from any money we actually earn. The only mandatory thing we would all have to pay into would be Social Security (which would be deducted at source). If you decided to have children you would be responsible for paying the full costs of their education. You would have to pay the full price upfront every time you used the Emergency Services or the NHS.
I wonder exactly how many Government policies would get off the ground if the general public could decide for themselves whether or not to pay for them. I get a strange feeling that being forced to pay directly for things like Trident might change a few people's minds about them.
We keep being told that the lack of money in things like Education, the Health Service, the Emergency services, etc, is driving down standards. We also keep being told there is not enough money to fund these things properly – either at a Local Authority level or a National level. As for asking the very highly paid people like Footballers, Members of Parliament, etc, to surrender any earnings above two times the national average wage in order to pay for the proper funding of the above??? Forget it. Not every rich person is nearly as generous as George Michael was.
If we cannot fix the Employment situation so that everybody can afford to pay their fair share of Tax and National Insurance contributions – as well as giving people to vote with their hard-earned spending power about what exactly the money collected will be best spent on – we will either need to scrap Tax completely and pay for everything ourselves or we will need to turn the extremely (to the point of obscenely) wealthy on their heads and shake them until their money falls out of their pockets. We could also make them surrender all property they own apart from the home they actually live in. This would solve the Homelessness crisis at a stroke.
So – next time you think that the Self-employed are the best targets for Tax and National Insurance hikes – remember – they are the ones who are putting their lives into the Economy. The ones we should be targetting are the Millionaires, upwards.
|Last night I watched a very interesting TV programme with a very good argument at its core.|
The programme asked the question "Will we ever have a Black Prime Minister?"
I thought it was a very informative programme for a slightly different reason to the one the Production company might have expected.
With the current uproar about the election of Donald Trump (and how the Polls got it completely wrong) - as well as the UK Mainstream Media trying to claim it is the second stage in a "Political Domino Effect" (with the Elections in France and The Netherlands being the next "ones to watch" for signs of a Populist uprising) - I remain amazed that nobody has asked the most obvious question.
"Does Democracy - in the form we are currently presented with - work in reality?"
Forget the "Electoral College" idea that the US Presidential Elections are subjected to (my brain just exploded when I attempted to work that out) - Does "Democracy" give everybody an equal say in what goes on in our "Political Scene"???
All UK Nationals who are over the age of 18 have a right to vote in our General Elections. If you choose to move to the UK but not go for UK Citizenship or Nationality you can live here for the rest of your natural life and still have no say - even if you pay UK Taxes. (Given a choice between keeping her Dutch Passport and getting British Citizenship - my Mum opted for the former. That was in the 1970's. Her mantra was "I was born Dutch, I am Dutch, I will die Dutch". The fact she ended up living in England for longer than she lived in The Netherlands was beside the point.)
However, the programme concentrated on something which I have experienced my entire life - the challenges faced by people who are not seen as "Mainstream". Even though I am White there are barriers which my sight raises regarding how differently others can see me.
The programme discussed the differences in how Black people are percieved throughout their lifetime compared to both their White peers and White people who have the benefit of a Private Education, access to the top Universities, etc. Let's just say that someone from Theresa May's background has a 90 times higher chance of being the Prime Minister of the UK than a Black child from somewhere like inner city Birmingham.
We all know that people in the top jobs in the UK are all cut out from the same mould - White, able-bodied, people.
Surely, in an ideal world, your background shouldn't bar you from your ideal career choice, nor should any disabilities you may have???
Have you noticed that there are actually more Black and Minority Ethnic MPs in the House of Commons than there are obviously Disabled ones? In fact, the last obviously Disabled MP who reached the ranks of Government Minister was David Blunkett a few years ago.
I am supposed to elect an MP from a choice of candidates who have no idea of the challenges I face in my life. I have never actually seen my current MP in the flesh.
I really feel we should all be able to represent ourselves in Government. After all, "Democracy" comes from the Greek "Demos" - of the people.
Just over a week ago we commemorated Guy Fawkes - who was caught after the failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Now - I am not for one minute suggesting we should have a re-run of that event. What I am suggesting is - we find a system of Government where everybody can represent themselves and their own lives.
I remember an advertisement aimed at encouraging people in the UK to go out and vote - it suggested that if we didn't vote we would let the Extremists in.
There was one thing about the US Presidential Elections that I wish we could see over here. In some States they had another box on the Ballot paper marked "None of the Above". I - for one - would be more happy about exercising my Right to Vote if that appeared on UK Ballot papers for all Elections.
First Past The Post (the current UK Electoral System for General Elections) is definitely not representative. Proportional Representation is only slightly better as we are still forced to choose between candidates.
Having "None of the Above" would be a clearer indication of the feeling in the Nation.
However, my ideal scenario would be to create Total Democracy and allow everybody to represent themselves and their own choices - with a small (unpaid) Panel to decide the major issues of the day.
Not only would this free up a lot of funding (no reason to pay Parlimentarians vast sums of money) - it would also create more of an even playing field as far as the ability to achieve Equality for Everyone is concerned.
How can people who have no experience of life in the "Real World" be expected to make Laws which benefit everybody??? How can the "Career Politicians" have any idea of how the world has moved on since they became an MP???
We need to claim "Politics" back for the people it is supposed to serve. Otherwise there will be more generations of people who feel left behind through no fault of their own as they watch the companies they work for close without any credible alternatives being put in place, or who find the system for applying for Social Security too difficult to bother attempting and live in poverty as a result, or who find themselves in jobs which are totally unsuitable (unstable pay, crazy contracts, bosses who waste no opportunity to make them feel too poorly to work, or employment which is unsuited to their health) with no obvious means of escape.
We need to somehow become a country where the people who are on the margins of Society are the ones who have the real power to change things for the better. They (or rather - we) are the ones who could make a positive difference for everybody if only we were given the chance.
|There are times when I just want to give up on the idea of continuing to exist in any format - online and in real life.|
According to me there are two groups of people who are too busy doing the exact opposite of what they are supposed to be doing to be of any remote use to people like me.
These are the Mainstream Media and Politicians. One lot is supposed to attempt to educate us in an unbiased manner about the issues of the day - the other lot are supposed to represent us when it comes to the governance of our country.
Right now - it seems that both groups are either too busy fighting amongst themselves about the "right" spin to put on any issue you care to mention - or - too busy turning everybody against each other and making life difficult for those of us who cannot argue back.
Last night I was watching a TV programme presented by Jeremy Paxman about the US Presidential elections and the farce that has turned into. I wish I could say I was horrified. I also wish I could say I was left feeling worried that the same thing might happen in the UK. Unfortunately - in both instances I felt the exact opposite.
Allow me to concentrate for a minute on why I wasn't left feeling worried that the same thing might happen in the UK. The same thing is already happening in the UK. It is just that the Mainstream Media appear to have a deal with the UK Government not to expose the sheer hypocrasy practiced by some politicians.
We need a Government which is open and transparent as well as a Mainstream Media who are not prepared to run stories of very little apparent public interest about Politicians and their Pubic and Private Lives - just to sell newspapers or justify the money they spend on programming - but are prepared to dig deep and find the real stories affecting the world as we know it.
I have made no secret of the fact that I would like to see the current form of Government in this country totally abolished and the BBC shut down in its entirety.
I honestly believe the people (us) have got the means and motives to both govern ourselves and run our own Media outlets so we can tell the real stories as we see them.
I wish I could say I would be 100% happy with the idea of having the Government of the UK (in its current format) moved from Westminster to another area of the UK. However, I do not feel that would resolve the issues surrounding the disconnection and disenfranchisement felt by myself and others.
I would be much happier if the people of the UK were allowed to properly determine our own futures through a form of "Direct Governance" - bypassing what passes for a Government in this country completely.
If we have found a way to create jobs through Volunteering and the "hidden" sectors of our economy which can meet the needs of local people - surely we should be able to find a way of governing ourselves through small groups of likeminded (and not likeminded) people who can see the needs we all face and find ways of dealing with them accordingly?
Then - and only then - will I feel able to say that I am a proper citizen who is happy to play my part in the running of this country.
Because - right now - I don't believe the country actually thinks I have a right to exist - never mind have an opinion on the things which affect me and the rest of the country.
|I realise what I am about to say is very controversial (and some of you may find it offensive). Please note - these are my personal views as well as decisions I have made about my own life. I respect your right to your own opinions, religious beliefs, decisions regarding any medical treatment you may be prescribed, etc. This blog post will also touch on some subjects which you may find disturbing or triggering.|
One of my favourite songs from my time in Secondary School is "The Living Daylights" by Aha. My favourite lyric from it may surprise you - it is very different from the uplifting lyrics I usually quote - "I've been waiting long for one of us to say - save the darkness - let it never fade away". I am sure that those lyrics have some connection with the "James Bond" film the song was the title track to but I can actually see another use for them.
We all know that the NHS is in financial difficulty. Patients are expecting ever more expensive drugs to be prescribed in their apparent search for that Holy Grail known as "Immortality". We are all being encouraged to race to our GP at the first symptoms of serious illness (whilst being told to avoid GPs and A & E Departments when we have symptoms which could - or - according to the Medical Practitioners - should) be treatable at home on our own. The fact that a cough (which according to a Medical Practitioner is treatable at home) which doesn't clear up after three weeks should send you racing to your nearest GP surgery is where the lines start to get blurred. (I know that it takes me over three weeks to get over a cough anyway.) That is before you take into consideration the fact that some of us (myself included) live with what some people may classify as symptoms of diseases serious enough to call an ambulance every day (blurred vision, spots in front of your eyes, eyes sensitive to bright lights, etc).
There is only one minor problem with Society's current way of thinking about Life and Death. It puts too much emphasis on postponing the inevitable - and as a result it has almost bankrupted the NHS as well as making it extremely difficult to publicly discuss what should happen at the inevitable end of your life - never mind how you would like your life to end.
(Another of my favourite songs from my time at Secondary school is "I Quit" by Bros www.youtube.com/watch.)
I find death fascinating. In particular I find the way that Life and Death seem to have undergone a strange separation extremely fascinating. Instead of death being seen as a natural continuation of the life process (in the same way that birth is seen as the natural beginning of the life process) we seem to have turned it into a Taboo subject which should not be discussed in Polite conversation. What is worse (particularly to me) is the double standards which are applied to the subject by the Media. Murders and killings by Terrorists are almost glorified - yet Suicides are only discussed in terms which do not encourage people. In fact, people who speak of thoughts about Suicide (never mind intentions of actually committing what some might call "Self-Murder") are told to discuss such thoughts with friends, Medical Practitioners, organisations like The Samaritans, etc.
As for the discussions about Euthanasia??? I have heard the arguments for and against. However, there is too much "white noise" coming from both sides for us to be able to have a sensible debate about it.
I believe that death is a natural progression from life which cannot and should not be avoided. I also believe that if I find myself seriously ill I should have the right to refuse treatment (transplants, expensive drugs, etc) without being told that I am being selfish or I need Psychiatric evaluation as a result of my decision. This is because I believe - in my case anyway - that further expensive treatment would be a waste of money which could be better spent on someone who actually wants to attempt to achieve Immortality at the possible expense of their actual Quality of Life.
You may be surprised to learn that I have actively considered (as in come extremely close to actually) committing suicide on two occassions. The first is a matter of relatively common knowledge - it was during my first term at Secondary School. The second occasion was as a result of my time at E & F Services Ltd (due to the treatment I recieved from one of my bosses - who ended up owning the Company before it went into Liquidation). In fact, I only stayed there as long as I did partly out of respect for the Founder of the Company and partly because the treatment I recieved from the problematic boss left me feeling too useless to work for anybody else.
The second time I felt actively Suicidal I made the mistake of telling my GP who prescribed me Anti-Depressants and put me on a waiting list for Counselling (which never actually happened). (That - combined with other factors in the Medical history of both myself and certain deceased close relatives of mine - finished off my trust in the Medical Profession completely. I haven't visited a Dr in over five years and I have absolutely no intention of ever doing so again.)
There is a saying "Life is a sexually transmitted condition with a 100% Mortality rate". I would rephrase that slightly to - "Life is a sexually transmitted disease with a 100% Mortality rate as well as both an unknown built in time limit and no known cure".
I remember attending Oma's funeral - ironically approximately 6 months after I had learned that she had had Cancer 3 times before it finally killed her. It was the first (and only) Dutch funeral I attended. I was intrigued by the way the Funeral Director and the coffin bearers all seemed to treat the coffin as though it was a living object - they kept bowing to it and thanking it (I am not sure why they thanked it). As for the contraption over the grave that the coffin was placed on - with the handily placed lever next to the Vicar in charge of the burial. Let's just say that had the circumstances been different I would have giggled at the thought of the lever being pulled and the coffin going down rather more rapidly than the respectful speed at which it was lowered.
It was as a result of arranging my English Grandma's funeral service that I decided that when it is time for me to shuffle off this Mortal Coil I don't want any kind of Funeral. In fact - even though I don't think it will be legally possible - I would like my remains to be placed in an incinerator for Clinical Waste which has been connected to the National Electricity supply so the burning of my remains can be used to create electricity.
I want to leave you with the song which always sends me back to my time at Lutterworth High School every time I hear the haunting introduction. "Wanted (Dead or Alive)" by Bon Jovi might well have been written as a result of a discussion about some kind of cowboy fantasy which Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora had - but the lyrics describe the after-effects of bullying more eloquently than I ever could. In fact - disregarding the lyrics about a "steel horse I ride" and the alcohol-problem signalling "Sometimes you tell the day by the bottle that you drink" - you have got my battles with the school bullies and some of the teachers summed up in one easy to learn song if you care to learn it. www.youtube.com/watch
|So we have again reached the stage where the general population (egged on by the Mainstream Media) appear to have decided that the Great Britain Olympic Team should all be knighted or turned into Dames merely for doing what is effectively their day job.|
I am beginning to wonder what has happened to the idea of being rewarded for actually giving something back to society.
I have blogged before about how I feel that the last Sports Personality who deserved any kind of Honour was Sir Jackie Stewart. After all, he actually did something to improve the safety in not only F1 but also in road cars.
There are very few people who have the ability to turn me into a gibbering wreck when I see them. I happen to know five of them personally (one I have known for almost my entire life). I suppose if you were to stand me in front of someone like Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Bill Bryson, Billy Connolly, or Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill (the writers of my favourite comedy programme "Still Game"), things might be different. However, I can behave reasonably normally around most humans I meet.
There are lots of sayings which tell us how alike everybody really is. There is a saying "No Man Is An Island" - on the flip side to that there is also one which says "Hell Is Other People".
There are videos on Facebook which show how easily racism can be put back in its box - merely by showing that everybody is related to everybody else in some way. (You could say I am a good case in point - My family has got links with England, Holland, Scotland, Germany, France, and possibly both Canada and New Zealand. My friends are from England, Holland, Scotland, South Africa, the Czech Republic.)
Of course - there is a hidden danger in the adulation or idolisation of famous people. We start to compare ourselves to them - even when we don't have a chance of being like them. Some people take this to extremes - plastic surgery to make them look more "socially acceptable", extreme dieting (to the point of anorexia and other eating disorders), entering "Reality" TV shows or even programmes like "X Factor".
Even organisations like the UK Government and the Mainstream Media are getting in on the act. The UK Government have decided they want us all to be physically healthier and the BBC have decided that every single sporting event they feature (even though there are not that many unless the Olympics are on) should inspire people to take up sport and get fit.
I have to say that I can see a couple of problems with this approach. The main one being the way the athletes are presented in the media. They (particularly the females) are presented in such a way that their physical bodies are more important than how they achieve their goals in their particular sports. Apparently you cannot even start to take up exercise unless you already have a toned abdomen and muscles all over your body.
The other problem is that there is very little focus on Mental Health - either in the portrayal of the athletes's stories or in the wider world.
Yes - I understand that exercise releases endorphins and improves Mental Health to a certain extent. However, what about those people who take it to extremes. Or even those who do it for the wrong reasons.
There is too much pressure on everybody to have the perfect life and to dress, behave, think, and look, a certain way as it is.
We need to teach people to accept everybody as we find them. This means more realistic portrayals of a wider range of people on TV. We need to be exposed to a wider range of views - however distasteful we may find them.
I have been pretty open about my views on things like Plastic Surgery, Disability, Mental Health, Inequality, Bullying, even (to some extent) religion, on here. And - before you say it - I don't just hide behind a keyboard and computer screen. I am prepared to get on my soapbox in person as well.
I believe we have all got a duty to speak out against intolerance, racism, Hate speech, etc.
However, I also believe the Government and the Mainstream Media could do a lot more to put out a positive image of the most despised in society - as well as tackling things like the way rape is still usually seen as a "women's problem" instead of being the fault of the rapists themselves.
Another issue which could do with more work is the decline in respect in this country. As in respect for the people who put their lives on the line very time they go to work in order to keep us safe. This is not just from society at large- it stems from the ideas of successive Governments, as well as other organisations and bodies who should really have their best interests at heart.
Until we get back to something approaching a society where everybody is respected and valued for themselves - as well as being given proper opportunities to help themselves and others - we will keep seeing the divide between different sections of society getting wider and wider. The rich will become richer at the expense of the poor - the able-bodied will feel even more superior than the Disabled. As for the divides between the employed and the unemployed, and the different religious and cultural minorities - just don't get me started.
We need a total rethink about how to get people to feel comfortable with themselves before we even begin to sort out the differences between all the various factions in Society.
I could end with a variety of quotes from Facebook on the subject of how similar we actually are - however, I have decided to give you an Inky-style quote;
Even the best looking person on the planet is reduced to a mass of blurs when I take my glasses off.
|Earlier this week I had a rather interesting conversation with someone. One of the topics was how the other person switched between their day job and the reason for us sharing airspace at that moment. The fact that the two things - as far as I could see - were not all that different was apparently beside the point.|
You see - they both involved a mix of theoretical knowledge and two kinds of practical experience.
Allow me to attempt to explain what I mean by that.
The theoretical knowledge part is easy to explain. It is what we learn every time we attempt to do something new. This can either be the stuff you learned in an official "Educational Establishment" or from reading the manual on your latest and newest gadget.
The two different sorts of Practical Experience are a bit more complicated.
The first sort is where you begin to put into practice what you have learned in your "theoretical knowledge" sessions. It could be a case of finding a native speaker of Chinese and attempting to speak to them in their own language when you have just done a GCSE course in it). Or driving on a motorway. Or using your new gadget for the first time.
The other sort of Practical Experience is the one I am most interested in.
This is the one where you either don't have the theoretical knowledge to start with - or you find yourself having to bend the theory to the conditions and circumstances you currently find yourself in. Then finding out that the theory and your current circumstances do not match - and probably never will.
A good example of this would be when my Dad drives in The Netherlands. He passed his driving test in England - his automatic reactions tell him to drive on the left, oh and his brain is hardwired for English road rules.
My Dad has considerable experience of driving in The Netherlands. However, it still takes him some time to adjust and "flick the switch" as it were when he puts his front wheels on Dutch tarmac. Let's just say that driving on the left in The Netherlands is not exactly the smartest idea in the world. Although - one of my favourite memories of him driving in The Netherlands was when one Dutch driver had taken one look at the English numberplate of our car at one point and decided that Dad would be the typical English courteous driver (and let the Dutch car off the small ferry we were on first). I can still picture the look on the Dutch driver's face as we zoomed past them.
What happens when you find yourself in a situation where you do not have the benefit of theoretical knowledge before you gain practical experience???
This can be the most dangerous situation of all. The gap where the theory should be is either a total vacuum waiting to be filled with inaccurate "knowledge" or it becomes filled with what you find yourself having to learn through practical experience alone. This means that the "recieved wisdom" theory doesn't get any room.
This also means that it can become extremely difficult to translate your practical experience into theoretical knowledge that other people would be able to understand.
For example - hand me a camera, hand an amateur photographer a camera, and hand a qualified professional photographer a camera. Then stand all three of us in the same place at the same time and tell us to photograph the same view. The chances are you will not only get three different photographs but you will also get three different explanations of how and why we took them.
The two photographers who have some theoretical knowledge will probably be able to bore you about the composition they used, the lighting, the choice of film or digital, the shutter speed they used, etc.
Me??? Well - my monologue on the photograph I took will not include any of the above. My monologue will probably include why I took it in the first place. I have three main reasons - I liked the view I saw with my own eyes and I wanted to capture it and show other humans, I had a problem with seeing the view with my own eyes and I wished to make it easier to see, or I saw something the other two wouldn't understand and I wished to show them.
In plain English - I sometimes use my camera as an extention of my eyeballs. If I have difficulty reading things (and I am in a place where I am allowed to operate a camera) the zoom function suddenly has a very practical function indeed. (The other two photographers would probably tell you that the zoom function on a camera is the spawn of Satan.)
There is also another danger concerning the battle between practical and theoretical. It is called the Mainstream Media.
These beings all have some kind of agenda to push regarding life and how we should all live it.
We have all read and seen reports about such things as Disability equalling "Benefit Scrounging", Immigration equalling "stealing jobs from the native unemployed" (or even Immigration equalling "Everybody who comes into our country is a Terrorist", or worse "Everybody who comes into our country wants to live by their own rules and not mix"), and an Armed Police Officer going into a supermarket to buy their lunch equalling "Imminent Armageddon via indiscriminate firing leading to genocidal-scale mass murder".
Those of us with practical experience which proves how wrong all three of the above statements are find ourselves being drowned out. For example, I have only claimed what I was entitled to (and I did that reluctantly), if you have ever had the pleasure of meeting my Mum you will know she fully submersed herself in English life and played by the same rules as everybody else, oh and I have been up close and personal with an Armed Police Officer on my own and survived the experience without injury. I also follow a few Armed Police Officers on Twitter. They are almost friendlier than the non-armed Officers in some cases.
I could ramble on about how my practical experiences of the world around me do not match up to the theoretical knowledge presented by the "Mainstream Media" until I am blue in the face. I could also round up a few of my friendly "Human Library Books" and get them to tell you their side of the story. However, until there is a major culture shift - resulting in a Society where everybody's practical experiences of the world as we know it are treated as being equally valid to the received wisdom theory of how the world works - I honestly cannot see a way forward to a more just society.
Yes - that is the internationally recognised "No Entry" Sign
The "Disability Discrimination Act" should be a wonderful piece of legislation which enables those of us who either classify ourselves or are classified by others as being "Disabled" to have exactly the same opportunities as the "Able-bodied" members of society.
However, it doesn't quite work like that in my experience (or the experience of other people with various disabilities).
In fact - you could say that in some cases the "Disability Discrimination Act" shares more characteristics with the "No Entry Sign" in the picture at the start of this blog post.
I have blogged before about the fact that the purchase of glasses (as in "spectacles") is not covered by the "Disability Discrimination Act".
However, there are a few other things which I wish were also covered by the Act. Apparently I am covered by the Act when it comes to getting into a shop, cafe, or other building. (Handrails, ramps, etc, should be provided to enable me to get into the building.) The actual layout, lighting, etc, inside the building doesn't seem to be covered though. I have lost count of the amount of times I have walked into a building of any description and found myself unable to access the reason I entered the establishment.
You may call me slightly crazy if you want to (to be honest I am past caring) but - if I manage to enter an establishment on my own - I do not expect to have to leave and return with other people in order to achieve the objective of my visit. It is all very well training your staff in helping people to access your goods and services - but if I find myself needing to ask your staff for help in reading a menu, etc, your system has failed before our intended transaction has even begun.
Put simply - the only time when I will happily ask for help is if I find myself in a situation where I am faced with reading a language I cannot speak or understand a word of. For the rest I would prefer to be given exactly the same chance as everybody else.
Of course - the way I access the goods and services provided by your establishment may not be the same as everybody else. For example - I much prefer being able to hold things like menus, notices, etc, in my hand - instead of either having to locate a stepladder and a microscope or having to stand nose to wall with a notice which has been "helpfully" attached to a wall - because the idiot who designed the aforementioned notice appears to have forgotten that there are humans who cannot actually see extremely small print.
Another object which frustrates me no end is your friendly local ATM (or cash mashine) - and the associated "Chip and Pin" machines.
I will start with the ATM. Leaving aside the fact that the ones outside buildings are usually not shaded from the sun (in fact most of them appear to be in direct sunlight most of the time) for a minute. The major problem I have got with most of them is the size of the flipping contraption - more precisely - the size of the screen and the font. If the screen was bigger you could have spaces between the buttons around the sides of the screens. As for the font-size - I usually end up wanting to laugh whenever I use the "Fasttrack Banking" (or whatever those machines are called where you can get printed statements, etc) at HSBC banks. They let you have a choice of font-size for the screen. You can either have "Small" (for my eyes please read "Microscopic") or "Normal" (for my eyes read "Small"). I heard a rumour that they were considering having a "Large" font-size as well (for my eyes read "Normal") but I have yet to see it.
The "Chip and Pin" devices are the worst offenders though. I never know what sort I am going to be faced with when I want to pay by Debit Card - will I need to squint at the screen because the font is very small on a dark green background? Or will I need to find a welding visor to protect my eyes from the brightly backlit screen (even though the font is actually a readable size for once)???
My biggest bugbear which isn't covered by the "Disability Discrimination Act" is one which I have been known to face alost before I leave my home. In fact- they are two bugbears of mine.
I have blogged before about those things I classify as "Mobile Discos" (cars with music blaring from windows which are apparently sealed shut - and I can hear the music before I can see the car approaching). According to me - the only vehicles which should drive around making that level of noise so loud it drowns out the noise of the engine are as follows - Police, Ambulance, Fire Engines, and that is only when they are on "Emergency" calls. There is something about hearing a siren combined with seeing blue flashing lights which gives the general impression the driver is in something of a hurry. This ensures I keep my distance. On the other hand - hearing the latest chart-topping "tunes" - or even a halfway decent song by a group like Bon Jovi or Queen (if I am lucky) at top volume just makes me want to submit the driver of the vehicle to an urgent hearing test. The funny thing is that the drivers of the "Mobile Discos" usually manage to drive like one of Meat Loaf's songs - "Bat Out Of Hell"!!!
My biggest bugbear is one which I really think should be covered by the "Disability Discrimination Act". Mainly because it discriminates against the highest proportion of people (whether or not they are actually "disabled" themselves - they could actually be pushing a pram or a pushchair).
I know I have blogged about this several times before - but parking your car with most of it draped over the pavement is actually extremely dangerous. You parking your car like that may not pose any danger for you - but for those of us who cannot judge gaps (in particular), or who are in a wheelchair, or pushing a pram, and end up having to enter the traffic on the road (where you are actually supposed to find cars) this has been known to turn into a case of "Take Your Life Into Your Own Hands".
If you are too lazy to actually find a carpark (I believe these are actually designed for the purpose of parking your car safely) I have a favour to ask you. After you have finished draping your car over the pavement - please open the door on the side of the pavement to its widest extent. If you cannot open the door so it is at rightangles to the car - find somewhere else to park. This is especially true on sunny days (at least for me because my limited ability to judge small gaps becomes non-existent in bright sunshine).
We have all heard about reports of Disabled people being discriminated against - for example - Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs not being allowed in Taxis, buildings not having adequate ramps and things to help people access them, etc. These are covered by the "Disability Discriminination Act". However, as you have seen - in my opinion - it doesn't go nearly far enough to actually prevent discrimination of disabled people.
There again - I wonder how many disabled people were consulted before the Act was written and passed into Law???
We need to be able to have confidence in things like the "Disability Discrimination Act" covering all scenarios which disabled people may face - without having to consult other laws (or even the HIghway Code) and without having to work out which law contradicts the Act itself. Or even - having to know that I cannot use the "Disability Discrimination Act" to cover me when I want to buy a pair of glasses - but I can use it because I am Registered Partially Sighted (which - correct me if I am wrong - would suggest I need glasses more than most people???).
I live in hope of the Act being re-written to cover all scenarios - but I am nt holding my breath.
Call me crazy if you want to but I am beginning to think that there might be a connection emerging between this sculpture I photographed in Delft and our current Political landscape. They both apparently serve no purpose whatsoever and nobody knows what the point of either of them is.
We have just had two major Political events - the EU Referendum and the publishing of the Chilcot Report into the Iraq war.
Both of these have completely destroyed my connection with British Politics - but for very different reasons.
The Chilcot Report seems to be the subject of several Post-mortems (it has got to the stage where I am awaiting the announcement of an Enquiry into the Report). Not only that but certain Media Outlets appear to have lined up Medical Professionals to cast doubts on Tony Blair's sanity (or at least his personality) without the benefit of a "Professional" appointment with him. I am not sure but I think this may be ever so slightly against the Professional Codes of Conduct of the British Psychological Society as well as the Royal College of Psychiatrists???
Then we have the British Referendum on the EU - which appears to have finally hit the "Destruct" button on both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.
Since David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister we have been "treated to" the unedifying sight of Politicians attempting to line themselves up to take over (as I type this the final Candidate to stand against Theresa May has stood down).
On the Labour side we have a party who is on the verge of Civil War with itself. I am too confused by the inner workings of the Labour Party to even begin to explain the process to elect a Leader.
What I do find ironic is that the Labour Party are attempting to get rid of a Leader because he stood up for his principles. I don't really like how Jeremy Corbin comes across on TV but at least he stands up for what he believes in (even to the point of not wanting anything to do with the Toxic Tony Blair - whether or not this would be detrimental to the "Remain" campaign in the EU Referendum).
The one thing I have got a major problem with in all the Leadership Contests is that they would seem to be using the MP's and the members of each party to attempt to decide how the rest of us would vote.
This sounds to me a bit like asking a Construction worker in Glasgow whether a Journalist in London would like a cup of tea!!! Without the Construction Worker having met the Journalist prior to being asked the question.
The Political parties only seem to be interested in their own little worlds. We have been threatened with not having a General Election before 2020 (something to do with the "5 year Parliament Act") even though David Cameron is no longer Prime Minister.
If I had my way the Leadership contests for both Labour and the Conservatives would both bypass the MPs - as well as the membership - of both parties and be put to a national vote.
My reason??? Well, the Political parties all want to choose someone who they think would make a good Prime Minister, don't they??? Someone who will lead the country and have the support of the majority of the population when it comes to General Elections???
So why don't we have a law where we (the public) automatically get a vote in Leadership Elections??? I am only saying this because of the controversy surrounding the spike in Labour Party Members who (allegedly) don't have the best interests of the Labour Party at heart.
As well as the above - I would scrap the "First Past The Post" Electoral system. I would like to see more Coalition Governments in future (without that stupid Law I referred to earlier in place).
I would make one final change to our Electoral System (if I could not abolish it completely).
I am sick to death of seeing MPs on my TV whom I have absolutely nothing in common with. Whether or not they are from the upper eschelons of Society, Millionnaires in their own right (self-made or through inheritence), Career Politicians - or even whether or not they have actually had a job I can actually relate to - I would love to see Politicians who I feel I can trust to understand me if I go to them with a problem.
If we had a Parliament which truly reflected the makeup of our Society we would see a lot less white faces (we might even see more people like Nick Clegg - white but with parents from other countries), We would see a lot less men. We would see more people who have had "lower status" jobs (instead of Doctors, Lawyers, Directors of Oil Companies, etc). We would also see a lot more people with all kinds of Disabilities. I am shocked when I consider that I can count on one hand the amount of MPs I have seen on TV with an obvious disability (and I cannot even name most of them). David Blunkett was blind and became a Minister in one of Tony Blair's governments (that was the only good thing Tony Blair did as far as I am concerned).
I seem to remember typing a blog post complaining about the stock phrase that Politicians always seem to use whenever they are faced with any kind of election - "We need a new kind of Politics".
Yes - we do need a new kind of Politics. One where the views of the entire population are taken into account, where the politicians are not allowed to say things when they are in Parliament which would get you or I arrested (or sued) if we said them in the street, where "Prime Minister's Questions" is actually seen as a civilised debate (instead of a kindergarten full of overgrown toddlers all grumpy because they can't get their own way). Most of all - we need a kind of Politics which I would be pleased to get involved in instead of shouting about it through this blog. This would mean that the Politicians we elected would display compassion for their fellow man and go out of their way (if necessary) to force the Government to change Laws which either intentionally or unintentionally discriminate against the most vulnerable people in Society.
The final thing the new kind of Politics would allow to happen is for everybody to speak out for those of us who do not have a voice.
Paalwoningen (or "Cube Flats") near Rotterdam Blaak Station
I think I can guess what you are thinking - Why am I looking at a photo of weird flats when you have told me this blog post is about the divisions in society which have been highlighted by the Brexit Referendum???
Allow me to explain (or attempt to explain).
This year I managed to psych myself up enough to actually set foot in the "Kijk Kubus" (or the show flat. Although I am glad I did it I don't particularly wish to repeat the experience because of the steepness and narrowness of the staircases I had to go up and down in order to experience the flat for myself.
What I am trying to say is - they are still my favourite building in Rotterdam to look at but you could say I have been there, done that. I would thoroughly recommend a walk around the "Kijk Kubus" if you can manage narrow and/or steep staircases.
Getting out of the flat and back down to ground level was the only time when I have felt discriminated against due to my sight in Rotterdam.
Chess board in Rotterdam Library (and - yes - I did see people play it)
If something good has come out of the Brexit Referendum as far as I am concerned - it is the fact we are being forced to look at our society and how divided it has become.
I could attempt to turn into some kind of "pseudo-Brainiac" and tell you that the photo of the chess board was supposed to be a metaphor for people in power playing different sections of society against each other. However, that would be over-complicating things.
Whichever way you look at me I am an outsider when I am in Britain (I certainly feel like one). For a start - I have never felt totally English or British even though I was born here and have lived here my entire life.
Compared to The Netherlands - where you cannot help being exposed to newspapers, magazines, and TV Stations from other countries - Britain seems to want to stick with English-centric media as much as possible.
I will give you an example. I live in Leicester - where you find a high proportion of Asians living in certain areas. I am used to realising that - if I walk around certain areas I will be in the minority because I am Western and white. I can expect to hear Asian languages being spoken in the centre. What I cannot expect to find (even if I was looking for one) is any kind of newspaper in an Asian language.
We have a large amount of Eastern Europeans in Leicester as well. They have given us Polish shops, etc. However, if I walk into a Newsagent I will have about as much success in finding a Polish newspaper as I will finding a Dutch one - none whatsoever.
I was split between my head and my heart when it came to voting in the Referendum - Head said "In" and Heart said "Out". I went with my head.
However, I am just waiting for the EU to collapse.
The racism which has been brought to the surface of British Society as a result of the Referendum also needs to be tackled. But I feel we need a proper "grown up" debate about it.
I read somewhere that "Political Correctness" enables people to communicate without causing great offence as a result. In most cases that is true. However, I am not sure that putting nice "acceptable" labels on the things we cannot say in public is a very good idea.
Personally I find it easier to discuss something when we both feel comfortable with the language used. Only then can we start to change some of the ideas that people have about other people.
As well as needing a debate on the best way to get a Parliament which truly represents the people it is supposed to serve (I thnk we should have Electoral candidates which not only reflect the Political views of the Electorate - we should have candidates who reflect the human population of the constituencies themselves. I would love to see more Disabled people in Parliament.) we also need a proper conversation about the benefits or otherwise of Immigration - as well as people's fears regarding Employment, etc.
Yes - you are correct - it does say "Brain Wash" - however - it is not somewhere where you go for Psychiatrict or Psychological evaluation or treatment. It is the name of a chain of Dutch Hairdressers,
The second part of the title to this blog post is actually some lyrics to a song I have been listening to rather a lot recently. "No More Fairytales" by City To City. I am not going to quote the entire song (you can get the "The Road Ahead" album on Amazon - and listen to the song for yourself) but I am starting to realise that it is the most applicable song for these times.
I have heard too many arguments blaming different sections of the Referendum as well as different situations which people have found themselves in (regarding employment opportunities, etc). I am also alarmed by people calling each other selfish as a result of their votes.
I saw something on Facebook which may put things into perspective. The general message of it was - people have fought and died in World Wars so you can have the opportunity to vote (and some of them were young people with their futures in front of them). So if you want to moan about how different people voted just be thankful they (and you) did have an opportunity to vote.
We have already had one person die as a consequence of this Referendum - we do not need any more people to lose their life as a result of it.
|Last night parts of Twitter went into meltdown as a result of a newspaper article in Cheshire. Apparently Firearms Officers were sighted in a Tesco supermarket somewhere in Cheshire buying lunch. If this wasn't bad enough - their guns were in a holster on display.|
I wanted to put a photo of UK Firearms Officers on here but all I could find were ones where either the Officers were dressed in their "Armour" or the Officers were armed with AK47s. Not small handguns like in the photo in the newspaper report.
Now - as you may know if you have either read my blogs before or you follow me on Twitter - not only am I a vocal supporter of the Police (following quite a few Twittercops on Twitter) but I am comfortable with the idea of Police Officers being routinely armed with handguns. (Dutch Police are armed with handguns as a matter of course. The rules regarding whether or not they actually draw them or shoot someone are pretty strict. Put it this way - even a Police Officer firing a warning shot in front of someone can make headline news on the NOS website.)
On the flip side to that story I found another story on Twitter which was more "newsworthy". This story was posted on Twitter by a Dutch Newspaper. The headline asked "How many times have the Community Police Officers in your area pulled their guns???"
Now - call me crazy if you want to but - according to me there is a big difference between a Firearms Officer roaming around a supermarket with their gun in tucked away in its holster whilst they buy lunch - and the aforementioned Firearms Officer suddenly deciding to pull their gun out of its holster and start aiming it at random people for no apparent reason???
The first one is not a newsworthy event - the second one would not only be a newsworthy event but (and I am sure Nathan Constable and Harry Tangye - among others - would correct me if I am wrong) also a possible case for investigation by the Police themselves as well as Disciplinary Proceedings against the Officer concerned.
Police Officers are human too. Actually - they are one of only five groups of people who I can think of who willingly put their lives in danger every time they go to work (Police, Firefighters, Coastguard, RNLI - Royal National Lifeboat Institute - and the Military).
Whatever you may think of them they actually deserve the utmost respect for the job they do - not hounding for things like needing to eat or even just being human.
For all you Police Officers who are reading this - I am sending you a big Thank You Hug for protecting the public.
I really hate the document in the above photograph. I admit I have to have it in order for me to travel to Holland - but I actually find the wording at the top of it offensive. There is no such thing as a "European Union". There is a collection of varied states which share the same landmass that are all politically and economically "connected" to each other via Brussels and Strasburg - and the UK and the Republic of Ireland are some way away by sea.
I have two major problems with the concept of a "European Union".
One of these is the fact that anybody who tells you that the European Union has lived peacefully for 70 years really needs to learn their recent history. The European Union has actually been involved in conflicts and wars since before it turned into the European Union. The Northern Ireland Troubles being one such example - and the former Yugoslavia being another (this is before you start thinking about Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc) - they may not have fought under the umbrella of the European Union but that is beside the point.
The other reason is that the European Union idea has been tried before in history and it wasn't exactly what I would classify as altogether successful (even though the country still exists today).
You may or may not realise this but the United States of America started off as a mix of different European nationalities all in the same country - UK, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, German, etc. Each with their different languages and customs.
Some of the existing place names in the United States of America reach back to the different countries of origin of the original settlers. Place names like Birmingham in Alabama, Harlem and Brooklyn in New York (from Haarlem and Breukelen in The Netherlands), Rome and Florence from Italy.
However, there is only one official language of the United States of America - English.
The separate countries which provided the populations of different parts of the United States of America have all merged to make one country with several States within it - all speaking the same language.
If someone decides to take the European Union to its logical conclusion we will have to decide which language everybody will be forced to speak. There will be no borders whatsoever - either physical or legal. The names of the countries which are currently recognised by every single legal entity which matters in the world will be reduced to mere "States" in a larger country.
If we do vote to remain we will not be able to avoid being sucked in eventually.
My idea of a European Union is to go back to how it was before the borders came down and the EU Parliament and Commission were set up. Trading with every country in Europe but having separate national jurisdictions.
I actually predict that the European Union as it stands currently will not survive for much longer. In fact, the longer the European Union exists (with the current refugee crisis) I think there will be more chance of World War III breaking out with Europe as its birthplace - much like the last two World Wars.
I read somewhere that Winston Churchill said that a Union of Europe would be a very good thing - as long as the UK stayed out of it. I think he had a very good point.
|As someone who has never actually set foot in the Richard The Third Visitors' Centre in Leicester (and - to be perfectly honest - has no intention of ever doing so due to the cost) - you may or may not be surprised to learn that I attempt to avoid "Tourist Traps" like the proverbial Bubonic.|
This is not just because I have read several articles saying how following the "Tourist Trail" in certain countries means you miss out on getting a flavour of the local life (as well as depriving locsl small businesses of income). My major reason is slightly different.
Playing "Tourist" can cost you a lot of unnecessary money but doing a little homework in advance of your trip can save you money. (By "doing a little homework" I don't necessarily mean buy every single guide book available on your intended destination either.) In this age of Social Media I am sure you will find at least one English account which will help you learn about things like Music Festivals, etc.
What got me thinking was a tweet by someone in Rotterdam (I think they were working for Tourist Information) asking where people would send tourists - this was in connection with the world's biggest Cruise Ship being in Rotterdam.
If I had to send a Tourist to any part of Rotterdam I would send them to a Tourist Trap Estraordinnaire - the area around Rotterdam Blaak Metro (underground) station. Within a few feet of that building you will find my version of "Tourist" Rotterdam - the Strange flats, the Market Hall, and the most strangely coloured Library building I have ever come across.
However, if you want to visit my Rotterdam you would have to be prepared to get a bit lost. You see - most of my favourite places do not feature in any Tourist Guide of Rotterdam. For example - Tourist Guides don't tell you about the experience of buying a half "Rookworst" (or Smoked Sausage - think the "U" shaped sausage you can get in supermarkets over here) in a small paper bag from a shop called the "Hema" - and burning your mouth when you attempt to eat it in the open air. Nor do they bother introducing you to the delights of a shop called "Media Markt" (this one really has to be seen to be believed - especially the Rotterdam version of it).
Come to think of it - I have never seen my favourite Shopping Centre on Earth appear in any Tourist Guides of Rotterdam. Formally known as "Alexandrium" (but known to me and my family by its former name of "Oosterhof") it is a bit like a smaller version of Milton Keynes but a lot more fun. (One of the journeys to get there is rather interesting as well - you can either get the train and get off at a station called "Rotterdam Alexander" or you can catch a Metro train which goes very close to parts of Rotterdam which I have great memories of.
If you really want to get off the beaten track I would take you to my all time favourite part of Rotterdam - Schiebroek. It is a rather non-descript kind of a place but it holds lots of memories for me. Apart from that - the journey from Rotterdam City Centre to Schiebroek will expose you to a pretty wide variety of the population. Put it this way - I really love using Public Transport in Rotterdam because I can just sit down and observe the locals as they go about their daily lives.
So - next time you decide to go on holiday to somewhere out of your usual routine - go and find the places where the locals shop,eat, live, etc. I cannot guarantee you will enjoy yourself all the time you are among them but you will get a true flavour of the place if you do!!!
|I have to admit that my heart sank when I read a news report about the new change to the Police Uniform. As someone who thinks that a Police Officer looks smart in their Nr 1 Tunic and shudders when they see Officers wearing shirts, fleeces, and Hi Visibility Jackets - you may understand that I think the new hats are a step too far.|
In fact, I was on a bus in Leicester City Centre yesterday when a Tactical Support Group van pulled up in front of it and unloaded what first appeared to be some kind of "boyband" wearing tshirts with "Tactical Support Squad emblazoned on the back. (I had a flashback of the band from the 1990's called "Blazing Squad".) The reason for my confusion was what was - or rather what was not - on their heads.
I don't mind a Police Officer not wearing those big "Custodian" Helmets on their heads when wandering around. I kind of prefer the hats with the peaks on them (with the "Chessboard" banding).
What I absolutely detest is the new baseball caps the TSG Officers were wearing. Put it this way - they do not say "Police" to me. Instead the baseball caps announce the presence of youths of a dubious intent.
I know I hated wearing a uniform when I was at school (what do you expect when the colour of one school uniform was a horrible dark brown colour???) but at least it meant something.
I am all for people feeling comfortable in what they wear as they go about their paid job but I would be very surprised if many bosses allowed their employees to appear at work in their pyjamas - especially if the employees had a customer-facing job.
I am sorry - but to me - Baseball caps should only be worn by Police Officers in their own private time.
I wonder if every rank is going to be forced to wear a baseball cap eventually??? They are going to have fun trying to sew the braiding on if Senior ranks are to be forced to wear them.
Please reverse this decision and go back to wearing the smart hats.
|Have you noticed something about the new Housing Estates which are springing up in different places??? As in - Have you noticed what size the houses are???|
There is one Housing Estate which is being built on what you might literally call a "Green Field Site" (it is being built on part of an ex-farm) near my Dad's house.
Now - I am as aware of the need for new house building as anybody. I have no problem with this. (In fact - as far as I am concerned houses can be built on floodplains and even in rivers if the Planners so decide. After all, we need to cram in as many houses as we can fit into our country.)
What I do have a problem with is the size of them. The board outside the Housing Estate suggests that "three, four, and five bedroom houses are going to be built on the site. Leaving aside the potential traffic problems for a minute - I have a serious question.
Who decides how many bedrooms are needed in which houses being built in which locations???
When I move house I don't want to live in another house which is too big for me. Instead I want to live in a house with either one bedroom or just a room these days.
There are some people who want to move house into somewhere small enough to fit them in - without having to so much as walk very far.
If you want to buy a one bedroom house which isn't a flat or a bungalow - they are very difficult to find.
Us single people who have no intention of ever getting married or moving in with someone need homes too.
I look forward to reading about housing estates with a proper mix of houses (including one bedroom) being built.
However, I suppose I will have to look for a bijou Shipping Container to move in to when the time is right for me to move.
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