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The Dangers Of The Mythological Stereotype (Or - We Are Not The Same So Don't Pretend We Are)
7/16/2017 7:01:51 PM

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.

Introducing The Inimitable Jonathan Morley
7/16/2017 6:54:04 PM
For today's “Inspirational Person” I would like to introduce you to someone who – if I am totally honest with you – I didn't like one little bit when I first met him (don't worry – this hasn't come as a newsflash to him).

So – how come you asked him to do this questionnaire? (I hear you ask).

Well, if anybody can make my opinion of them change in the space of a one hour conversation – to the point where I actually look forward to speaking to them again – there must be something unique about them.

Seriously – the reason I asked Jonathan Morley to take part in this is because he shows that “Men of the Cloth” can also be really funny (as in witty), caring, and human.

Enough of my ramblings – over to you Jonathan.

1) Let's start by you telling the readers of this blog in your own words how you know me.

I have known Ineke since September when I came to be Minister of Sutton Elms Baptist Church, of which Ineke is a member

2) As this is about "Inspirational People" can you please tell me three people in your life who have inspired you and how they have done so (they can be teachers, colleagues, friends, etc)?

There has been many that have inspired me over the years but here are three to elaborate on.

Without meaning to give a Sunday school answer, Jesus would have to be one. Without all that He did and does I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am, and for that I am truly thankful.  I think we need to be inspired by Jesus more if I am honest.  It is so easy, even for Christians, to be impressed with Jesus, but not inspired.  Inspired takes what we are impressed with and enables us to do it.  That’s the short form anyway. ?

My parents would also be one.  Being the main role models in my life, particularly my formative years, they raised me and taught me as best as they could (they seemed to have done an okay job?).  Being in a Christian home, my dad an AOG minister and both leaders within the church), faith in God was central in our lives. Not just a passive “I believe in God and go to church faith” but one that was living and active and dependent on God.  That said, I didn’t always walk in that fullness of faith at times but that’s another story, however their faith in God inspired me.  Faith for provision when there naturally wasn’t any, and it came. Faith for healing when there was sickness, and it came. Faith that trusted God in impossible and unpleasant situations, He carried us through and made a way.

3) What qualities do you look for in a friend?

I have never really sat and compiled a list of qualities I look for in a friend. Is this going to be put into an advert?  FRIEND WANTED: apply within!  In all seriousness, I think we all long for people we can relate to, who are honest, kind, have a sense of humor, people we can trust and open up to.  It’s good to be able to help each other out and have difficult conversations when needed.

4) How would your other friends describe you?

Caring and considerate. Finds it hard to just ‘sit back’ and let the world go by. Has an Infectious laugh and tries to look for the positives in most things. Thoughtful and spontaneous (with random moments).  Some would say an extrovert but I would say an introverted extrovert!

4) Finally, please tell me something about you that I don't already know (please make sure it is something you don't mind sharing with the rest of the world)?

I had my nose broke by a cricket ball.  Yes it hurt! I have also cooked for David and Victoria Beckham, the Neville brothers and a few other celebrities.

Thank you Jonathan.

The Effects Of Bullying Are Wider And Longer Lasting Than You Might Think (Or - Dead Or Alive)
6/26/2017 7:50:59 PM
youtu.be/rWVgbTBlH9M "Wanted (Dead Or Alive)" by Bon Jovi

Please listen very carefully to the lyrics of this song before you read this blog post.  They may have started out being about some kind of cowboy fantasy but - to me - they describe the effects of bullying so well.

I am always amazed at people's perceptions of the effects of bullying – especially if they have never been subjected to it.  They seem to think that the effects only last as long as the bullying itself does (maybe fractionally longer).  They also seem to think that the only person who has been affected by it is the person who is bullied.

Here are some other words which I consider to be very closely linked to bullying – Terrorism, Genocide, Murder, Manslaughter, Assault, Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH), Actual Bodily Harm (ABH), Mental Abuse, Torture.

I wonder how many of you would tell me that the above only affect the person who they happen to???  Or, how many of you would tell me that the effects don't last for a very long time???

Of course, you might well look at the list of words I consider to be very closely linked to bullying and think I am either exaggerating or I have totally lost the plot.

The answer to that is – neither.  I am what some would call a victim and others would call a survivor of bullying and I wanted to tell you about my experience of the ways in which bullying has affected myself, my family, and my friends.

I am not going to tell you the exact details of the bullying I received (I don't want to be responsible for giving anybody else ideas on how to make someone's life miserable to the point of wanting to end it).  I may give you the odd hint though during the course of this blog post as a means of explaining how it has affected myself and others around me.

Bullying can take many forms – Physical, Mental, Intentional, Implied, etc.  If you are subjected to any form of it for any length of time you will hit the point where you believe every bad thing anybody says about you and you will believe you deserve all the bruises and pain you receive.

Here is a hypothetical question for you – what would you do if I walked up to you in the street and punched you for no apparent reason?  Probably attempt to have me arrested for punching you.  You would probably have a stronger case against me if I had picked on one aspect of your person I didn't like and used that against you – at least then you could probably sue me under the applicable Act (Racial Discrimination, Religious Discrimination, Disability Discrimination, etc).

I am going to start with the one “side effect” of being bullied which I have never been affected by – but I can honestly understand why people do become affected by it – Substance addiction (Drugs, Alcohol, etc).  You could say that the side-effects bullying has had on me are rather more easily hidden and have little or no financial cost unless I choose to subject you to them.
If you meet me you may think I am a pretty tough cookie.  The truth is more in the word “cookie” - they crumble easily if you bend them too far.  Calling me “tough” is like calling a jelly stiff and unmoveable.  Jelly is supposed to be wobbly – if it is stiff you have obviously made a mistake when reading the instructions on how to make it.

You may also think (second thoughts – chances are you will also think) I am the prickliest character you have ever met – and you would love it if I were to shut up and let you get a word in edgeways.  Trust me – you do not want me to shut up on first meeting you.  If I am talking to you you still have a chance to convince me that you are trustworthy.  If I go silent you have a big problem (unless I have asked you a question and I am waiting for your answer) – my next course of action will be to leave your presence by the quickest means possible never to (willingly) return again.  Me going silent on you after first meeting you means that I consider you to be a mortal threat to me.

Here is something else – the less friendly you appear at first the more likely I am to talk to you.  Experience has taught me that the friendliest looking humans are the ones who are the most likely to cause me trouble, pain, and heartache.  However, on the flip side to that – I am one of the people who is least likely to judge you on either appearances or your life story so far.  What I mean by that is – you can look like the most dangerous human in existence and decide to tell me about your past drug addiction, or your Mental Health issues and – unless you do or say anything to damage me  - I will not judge you for it.  The minute you make me feel uncomfortable all bets are off.

Hmm – apparently those of us who have been subjected to bullying will be all too happy to inflict physical violence on other people whether or not they deserve it.  Here is a confession for you – I have only ever wanted to inflict physical violence on one person (by which I mean cause them serious physical injury) – and that was because I felt they were putting me in a situation not unlike I had faced when I was being bullied – more to the point - I didn't think they were listening to me because I felt like they were trying to steamroller me into submission.  Of list of many and varied reasons for me not attempting to inflict serious physical damage on this individual was actually their job (and – no – they weren't a Police Officer).  In the end I merely got more stubborn and vicious in my arguing.  (It is a massive surprise that they are still talking to me.)

I find it extremely difficult to trust people – even now.  I may give the impression I am totally comfortable in your presence but be very careful.  One wrong move and my prickles will come out.

On the other side of that – once I do trust you - you have found a friend who will do anything for you.  I will support you, turn into a Sounding Board for you.  Basically – I will do anything in my power to make your life that little bit better for you.  I am also extremely protective of my friends (unless you do something to break my trust – in which case I strongly suggest you leave me alone otherwise the consequences could be very nasty for you).

I said I was protective of my friends, didn't I?  Well, you can say whatever you want to about me – I have heard every negative comment you could make – but - the minute you start badmouthing my friends or family - watch out.  And don't think you will be protected if you were my friend to start with because you won't.

This may surprise you but I am not very confident – I wish I could be the sort of person who isn't afraid of blowing their own trumpet or “bigging themselves up”.  In fact, I am the exact opposite.  Don't just praise me for something like writing what you think is a brilliant blog post – I won't believe you (unless you have ended up in my “handful of heroes” who I trust with my life).  Prove it by doing something concrete that will show me you like it – you can offer to help me with something you learn I have a difficulty with as a result of reading my ramblings, you can tell me that you have treated someone differently, you can even take me to events so I can review them, etc.  Even better – throw ideas at me for blog posts which you might like reading.

I prefer my own company. Don't get me wrong – I like being with my friends.  However, there are times when I feel like I have to pretend to be exactly like everybody else.  There is nothing more mentally tiring than acting “normal” especially when all you want to do is have a major “meltdown” - crawl into a corner and either hide or die (depending on how stressed you feel).

Depression?  Yes – I have had it.  Suicidal feelings? Same.  Actually seriously considered attempting suicide???  At least three times in my life.  In fact, little do they know it but one friend actually stopped me from acting on it last week.  I am not going to tell you who they are or what they did but I really appreciate it.

So – you see – bullying doesn't just affect the person being bullied.  Nor do the effects only last for fractionally longer than the actual bullying.  After all, it has been nearly 30 years since I left compulsory education and nearly 10 years since I got made redundant from E & F Services Ltd (where I was also bullied by the man who ended up being my only boss) – and I still feel the effects of it every day.

Some days I consider myself to be a victim of bullying - other days I consider myself to be a survivor of bullying.  The one thing I wish we could do is create a society where noone has to suffer bullying of any kind – no matter how old they are.


Hospital Stay (Or - This Is A Genuine Excuse)
6/26/2017 7:31:54 PM
I feel like I owe you a massive apology for my absence from my blog for so long.

It is no exaggeration for me to say that there were times when I honestly wondered if I was ever going to be able to blog again.

If you follow me on Facebook I will let you skip this blog post if you want to – you know what I am going to talk about in this blog post.

The short version of the story is that I ended up in hospital.  Yes – as in my second least favourite establishment in existence.  I have been out for a couple of weeks now and have finally managed to get my head together enough to get back to blogging.

So – what happened???  How did I end up in hospital???

The short answer to that is – extreme shortness of breath.  To the point where I was walking from lamp post to lamp post.  Not being able to get down my driveway without getting out of puff is what actually convinced me that I should go to a Dr.  What convinced me that I might be poorly was missing a gig by my favourite female singer and not actually caring (put it this way – if I had been even 50% fit I would have tried my hardest to get there and been really upset if I didn't make it).

Anyway – I ended up getting a taxi to Leicester Royal Infirmary Accident & Emergency Dept.  There was no way I was going to ring for an ambulance – Ambulances are for emergencies and (to me at least) that means you either have to be flat on the floor unable to move or unconscious.  Being able to walk – no matter how slowly – doesn't qualify you for an Ambulance journey.

In fact, I was absolutely convinced I was going to be sent home after being told off for wasting precious NHS resources.  Shortness of breath didn't feature anywhere on my list of “reasons to annoy a Medical Professional” - no matter how extreme.  This is because I knew there is one thing I have never suffered from and that is asthma.

So – I get to A & E – report at the desk – get paperwork and get told to sit and wait for my number to come up on a screen.  That was the first thing which I found slightly aggravating.  You would have thought that a hospital would have designed the “foot passenger” bit of their new A & E Dept to cater for everybody who walked in???

Sorry – they fell into the usual trap of “people with sight problems don't exist in our world”.

It was OK when the number came up in the “holding screen” because that was white text on an black background.  When my number came up it turned into white text on a light green background – and nobody was calling the numbers out.  (They can be very thankful that I was too poorly too really complain about that – or they would never have heard the end of it.)

I was seen by a very nice ACP (Advanced Care Practitioner) who ran some tests on me and decided that I warranted further investigation.  So I was told to lay on a comfortable looking trolley bed and wheeled off into what turned out to be the “High Dependency” bit of A & E.

You would have thought that seeing a poster from the corner of my eye which said words to the effect of “if you find yourself in here you are being assessed for potentially life-threatening conditions” would have given me some clue as to exactly how serious my situation was.  Good job it was extremely late and I wasn't firing on all cylinders as far as my mental processes are concerned – or I would probably have started to seriously panic at this point.  As it turned out even one of the Drs who examined me said there was only a 50/50 chance of me being admitted..

I woke up to exactly how serious things were when I found myself in an ambulance on my way to Glenfield Hospital.  If you don't know anything about Glenfield Hospital it is a Heart hospital (in fact – it is one of the few centres in the UK which has an ECMO machine).

So – I find myself being admitted into Glenfield Hospital.  (Did I ever tell you exactly how much I hate hospitals???)

Some more tests are run on me – and they seem to wake up to something else I told the ACP at Leicester Royal Infirmary (which I later end up wishing I had kept silent about – the reason for that will be explained as we get a bit further on).

One of the tests they ran on me is the one I call the “Jumpleat Test” because it always makes me feel like a car which won't start (take car that won't start -  attach wires to battery and attach other end of wires to the battery of a car which has got it's engine running – and your car should eventually start) – I think the official name is an ECG.

Eventually I get the first diagnosis.  I have fluid in my chest.  First things first – that need to be tested to find out what has caused it.  “We need to put a drain in to get some of it out.  A Drain???  Now – if you ask me to describe a drain to you you will be informed that it is very big – definitely too big to fit between someone's ribs.  Certainly not the diameter of the ink containing bit of a biro (which the drain turns out to be).  After some confusion involving me mishearing “Cytology” as “Psychology” (only one of them can be performed on liquids) – the temporary drain goes in and some of the fluid is drained out of me.  This improves my breathing slightly for the grand total of approximately 12 hours before it gets drastically worse again (and when I say “drastically worse” I mean it is a good job I am in a place with oxygen on tap because I cannot breathe very much at all).

So I end up on oxygen (“Oh Joy – Oh Rapture Unforeseen”).  I also end up getting a permanent drain put in (this involves three injections of Local anaesthetic – each one deeper that the last) to drain the rest of the fluid out.  Then I am informed that the drain will not be coming out until the results of the Psychology – sorry – Cytology test come back.

Remember I said I had mentioned something to the ACP in A & E that I ended up wishing I had kept silent about???  Little did I know but this was going to be the cause of the next two bombshells and one puzzle to hit me.  I had mentioned a lump in my left breast and a lump under my left armpit.  The lump in my breast was going to be the focus of the next lot of investigations.  (Could have been worse – one of the Drs did threaten me with a biopsy of the lining of one of my lungs.)  I had expected it to be Cancer – all the signs were there before I went into hospital (in fact – had it not been for the extreme shortness of breath which got me into hospital – I was quite happy to let nature take its course and let the Cancer kill me on its own).

The first bombshell to detonate itself was being told one night that – yes - it was Cancer and an Xray and a CT scan had shown up traces of it on my bones and lungs.  (the next thing to do was put me through an MRI scan to find out for definite how far it had spread).  The next bombshell was more like a clusterbomb.  One minute you hear the words “Palliative Care” mentioned in relation to your condition – then you find yourself faced with a visit by two groups of people who you wish you never see again – one lot is the Oncology guys from the Infirmary and the other lot is the Palliative Care nurses.  By this point I am wishing Euthanasia was a legal option (if only to escape the visitations from the Palliative Care nurses – their appearance just served to depress me and make me wonder if there was any point in trying to carry on living).

So -let's see how far we have got so far.

I am in a Respiratory ward – due to fluid in the chest.  I have been viewed by Oncology and Palliative Care nurses.  However, I have yet to have had the one test which I will definitely believe when it tells me one way or the other whether or not I actually have Cancer – the famous Biopsy.

The next two groups of people who decide they would like a piece of me are the two groups who – if I was a betting person – I would have given you very good odds on actually being the first in the queue to run tests on me – Cardiology closely followed by Heart Failure.

Why would I say that???

Simple really – remember I had a hole in my heart when I was born???  Remember it was mended when I was a baby???  Nobody was ever going to convince me that that operation would be a lifelong success.  And when I say “lifelong success” I mean I never had any great expectation of hitting that Biblical “Three Score Years And Ten”.

So now I still have the drain in me – and we have two definite possible causes for the fluid in my chest.  It is either Cancer or Heart Failure.  (Me??? I am actually hoping for the former.  The latter is not something I even want to consider.)

By this point I have already been put on water tablets (intravenously) to further help with the drainage.  I later get switched to tabet form for these.

Then I start to get really annoyed with one group of Drs.  (This is the time when I start to realise I am getting better – until this point the Drs could have said absolutely anything to me and I wouldn't have batted an eyelid.  Me getting annoyed by what I see as disorganisation and people not talking to each other whilst seemingly expecting me to quietly go along with anything they say is most definitely a sign that Inky is on her way back up.)

What happened is that one Dr had told me that they were planning on putting me on two different types of tablet (ACE Inhibitor and Beta blocker) but they were not going to do anything with them until the drain came out.  Fair enough – this was simple enough for me to file in my brain – no heart tablets until chest drain comes out.

The next Dr to speak to me on this subject tries to inform me that I am going to be put on those tablets straightaway.  He gets politely informed of how I understand events are due to occur – he goes away to check and comes back around ten minutes later with yet another version.  I am going to be put on the ACE Inhibitor (Ramipril) even though I have still got the drain in.  However, if it plays havoc with my blood pressure they will have a rethink.

Ah – yes – my blood pressure.  Let's just say that that is a source of constant worry to the nurses who measure it anyway.  Apparently the top figure is supposed to be at least 110 for a live functioning human at rest – the highest I managed was 109.  The “Official” lowest was 92 (the unofficial lowest was 93 in my right arm and 76 in my left arm – taken at the same time – put it this way – a top figure of 80 iz enough to land you in hospital on its own).  “Do you feel dizzy?  Do you have a headache?”, Nope – I feel perfectly OK thanks.
So it is a bit stop/start with the Ramipril.  I don't like this one bit.  I hate taking tablets as it is but if you tell me I have to take them I prefer to follow your instructions to the letter.

The next thing they dose me up on is Iron tablets.  (The irony of me being in what I classify as the “Vitamin Bay” of Ward 29 isn't lost on me – the beds are all numbered B1 through to B10, which even I know are vitamins.)

Then I am informed I have been put down for an MRI scan.  “Do you get claustrophobia?”.  This turns out to be the most fun experience of my entire stay in hospital.  (Yes – I know - I am strange.)

There are two reasons for this – the first of which will be blazingly obvious to anybody who has read this blog before (or seen me in real life) – the lyrics “my eyes are dim – I cannot see – I have not brought my specs with me” from that old campfire song are extremely applicable here.  Even more applicable is the Dutch translation of “Dat wist ik niet en bovendien dat kan ik zonder bril niet zien” (or - “I didn't know that and above all I cannot see without my glasses”).  Ear Defenders on – glasses off – eyes closed – and away we go for what turns out to feel like a microwaving session with a round of “Name That Tune” thrown in for good measure (the Scanner itself played bits of tunes I recognised as it worked).

Eventually the results of the Cytology test came back and I was released from the drain – but not before the most frightening experience of my time in hospital.

I bet you thought that being told you have Cancer and Heart Failure would be the most frightening things that could happen to someone???  Nope – they were not exactly the easiest things to deal with I admit but at least they didn't involve someone approaching me with a bladed weapon with me not having much of a clue as to why.  The only three words I understood of the explanation were “Freehand Core Biopsy” (finally).  Now – I am used to listening to people with strong accents.  My Dutch friends and family have got pretty strong accents when they attempt to speak in English – my Czech friends are the same.  However, at no point (unless of course my Czech friends use a Czech word when speaking to me) do I need subtitles in order to understand them,  The Dr who did the Biopsy might as well have delivered the explanation of what they were about to do (and why) in Gujarati - or whatever their native language was – their accent was so strong I needed subtitles in order to understand them.

When you realise I hate hospitals and Drs to start with – and the two quickest ways to make me feel very uncomfortable are to give me any kind of medication without first telling me what it is, and, approaching me with any kind of sharp or bladed instrument (to the point where I hate making appointments to get my hair cut – never mind actually getting it cut) you will realise exactly how frightened I was.  In fact, the only thing which actually kept me in that room long enough to have the Biopsy done was the fact that – at that point – I was still attached to my tank via the chest drain – meaning I couldn't move as fast as I would have liked to.

I actually found out what the Dr had been talking about when I got home two days after the Biopsy to find a copy of a letter they had sent to my Dr explaining what they had done and why.

So – where are we now??  I have been released back into the wild.  I have also been discharged from the one Department who I really wanted to be kept an eye on by – Respiratory.  Have managed to (finally) get the Palliative Care nurses off my back for the time being.  Had my first appointment with the Heart Failure Nurse outside a hospital setting (I really wish I could have stayed with the nurses at Glenfield because I had come to trust them and feel comfortable with them).  Have got my first appointment at the Oncology Department at the Infirmary on Wednesday.

I will leave you with the one thing which told me I was ready to be released from captivity.  On the last morning I was in hospital the Tea Trolley came round – closely followed by the Blood Test nurse.  The Tea Trolley lady got a chirpy “Hello Jenny”.  The Blood Test nurse got a resigned sounding “Hello Vampire”.  Blood Test nurse replied “Hello Victim – sorry – I mean patient”.  Put it this way – when my sense of humour comes back like that I definitely need to be at home (so I don't have to worry about offending anybody),

"Invisible Me" (Or - The Best Book On Experience Of Mental Health Issues I Have Ever Read)
4/27/2017 5:58:52 PM
It was the quotes which caught my attention and got me intrigued.  After all, there are only so many sweets, pens, keyrings, stress=-balls, bags, leaflets, cards with tiny writing on them, etc, that one person can usefully collect and use in one lifetime – never mind the amount of branded junk you can pick up at events where companies attempt to grab your attention and stick in your mind – ready for when you find yourself in dire need of the service which is provided by the Company whose pen has somehow managed to roll behind your radiator, rendering their contact details useless forever more.

However, it wasn't just the fact that there was a display which was actually easy for me to read (the quotes were at the front of the table in a clear font) which caught my attention.  What really grabbed me about them was that – under slightly different circumstances – they could all have been about me.  As in - Every Single One Of Them.

The table I was standing in front of also had copies of a book on it.  The book (“The Invisible Child – A Secret Life”, by Samantha Houghton) was being launched at the Choice UnLimited Roadshow yesterday.  I had intended to go to Samantha's talk where she launched the book, but I didn't make it in the end.  Instead – it turned out that I had the pleasure of meeting both Samantha and her Mum (Maureen) at their stall and getting a bit of the background to the book itself from the two delightful ladies themselves.  I decided to give Maureen a namecheck in this review because – as she herself said – she lived through the situation with Samantha as she went through it (with all the self-blame, etc, that would entail).  I am not exaggerating when I say that both ladies are extremely inspirational people – they are also very gentle even though they have both had to become very tough.

The book is about Samantha's battle with Mental Health issues from childhood through adolescence, into adulthood, and how she sought help (not to mention how she felt ignored and judged by many of the Professional Carers who were supposed to be the ones trying to help her).

Her style of writing reminds me of both Cathy Glass and Tory Hayden – yet more relaxed and less likely to blind you with science when she gets to the “Scientific” bits.

In fact, I read the book from cover to cover when I was on the bus from Leicester to my Dad's house.  I ended up feeling as though I had gone through every experience with Samantha just through reading the book.  That – to me at least – is the sign of a brilliant author or blogger.  Take your readers on your journey with you – keeping it simple and jargon-free.

I must admit to being pleasantly surprised about something else regarding the book.  I did my usual trick of reading a snippet of it before I bought it.  This wasn't to make sure I would find it interesting (Samantha and Maureen had both “sold” the book to me before I bought it) – instead it was to check the font size.  After all, there is no point buying a book (no matter how interesting the subject is) if the font is so small you need a microscope to read it, or you need to chain-eat paracetamol or aspirin, to counter the ensuing headache from trying to read it.

Apart from the “Acknowledgements” page (who reads that anyway?) the main bit of the book was not only large enough for me to read comfortably - I even think it would be easy for people who read what are officially deemed “Large Print” books to read without any difficulties.

I would seriously love it if Samantha went to “Mainstream” Publishers and showed them her book as an example of how to publish a book in such a way that everybody can enjoy the pleasure of reading without having to select books based not only on topic but on font-size too.

In case you missed it – my recommendation is that you buy this book.  It doesn't matter if you have experience of Mental Health issues or any other Disability or impairment – I can guarantee you will find something useful in it.  Even if it is just about how to really listen to people and pay attention to them (as well as the potential consequences if you don't).


Shout - Let It All Out (Or - Blessed Are The Change-Makers)
4/20/2017 1:10:34 AM

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.


Why The Most Dangerous Tool We Have Can Be The Alphabet (Or - Words Can Be Open To Misinterpretation In Both Good And Bad Ways)
4/6/2017 4:29:13 PM

Here is a question for you – What have “What If” (by Randall Munroe), “Spellbinder” (by Stephen Bowkett), a book on flags, any of a list of books on words and grammar, the song “Another Brick In The Wall” (by Pink Floyd), any Religious text you care to mention, a YouTube video of clips of “Still Game”, blogs by (among others) Dr Derek Lee, Nathan Constable, John Sutherland, Michael Brown (aka “Mental Health Cop”), James Patrick, all got in common? Apart from the fact that they all contain words, that is.

The answer is they have all – in one way or another – inspired this blog post.

To be completely honest it was “What If”, and “Spellbinder” that initially got the spark flickering to life. The first one because it is a book I find fascinating – and somewhat scary. (Put it this way – if you have ever wondered what would happen if you tried to build a wall using all the Chemical Elements from that table you see in Science textbooks as building blocks – that is the book you really want to read. A clue – you and your surroundings would not last very long at all.) The second book ignited the spark because I always wonder what would happen if we allowed ourselves to believe that Fiction can be made real. (One of my biggest fantasies is to be able to walk around inside other people's minds at will. That idea has become more and more relevant as I get older and I have found myself having to work out other people's motives for things they said or did.)

OK – so now you are probably wondering whether or not you should carry on reading this blog post??? After all, I may suddenly start writing something which you may find offensive, may give you ideas on how to launch any kind of attack on someone, or may cause you to break any number of Laws in the territory you happen to find yourself in as you read this!

Or – I could just be sitting here innocently typing this blog post only to turn on the news in a few days time to find that you have somehow taken my words as some kind of codeword which triggers you to wreak havoc on the entire universe as we know it.

What I am trying to say is that words are open to misinterpretation which can lead to serious consequences. I have stated elsewhere in another blog post that I do not like the phrase “Religious Extremist” when applied to Terrorists – mainly because I know quite a few people who I would classify as “Religious Extremists” who (to my knowledge at least) haven't used their Religious beliefs as an excuse for killing anyone. In fact, the opposite is the case.

Everything we say or write has an equal and an opposite definition. When speaking we can use our tone of voice to indicate what we mean (in fact, before I could understand a word of Dutch I could tell you exactly what mood a Dutch speaker is in just through listening to how they spoke). However, things can become a little harder to work out when we are writing (or – more to the point – reading).

We need to learn how to separate fact from fiction as we watch the news or read the Mainstream Media's output.

Most of all, we need to learn to be a little bit slower to start blaming other people when we misread or mishear something and act on our interpretation of it.

Two things come to mind as I am typing this (these might go some way to explain what I am trying to say).

The first is my second favourite scene from “Still Game”;

Jack and Victor are sitting at the bar in The Clansman when Boaby (the barman) asks them what they want. They order two beers and two pies. Jack turns to Victor and says, “Can you pay for these? As I am saving my change to tip the Concierge in the lavatory when he offers me a range of expensive colognes from around the world.” The look on Boaby's face is priceless.

The second thing which comes to mind is something which just tickles my sense of humour every time I hear the announcement for it in the Church I attend – so much so that I have a very difficult job trying to stop myself from singing the lyrics immediately before the chorus. To cut a long story short we have a part of the service where part of “Another Brick In The Wall” is played as small change is put into a container and used to raise a brick on the other end of a seesaw type contraption (this is an attempt to raise money for the redevelopment of our Church buildings). I am so tempted to sing (and slightly misquote) the lyrics “We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control. Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone”.

My vivid imagination – combined with my weird - and sometimes literal – sense of humour can be both a blessing and a curse at times.

It Isn't The Self-Employed Who Don't Pay Their Fair Share (Or - The Wealthiest Are The Problem)
3/9/2017 3:43:44 PM

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.

 

Ben Williams Heats Up With "Put It On Ice"
3/4/2017 3:19:38 PM

The Guitar Maestro commonly known as Ben Williams has released his second album. He had put some videos of some of the songs on his YouTube Channel as a bit of a taster – they just made me want to hear the whole thing. Here now follows my review of “Put It On Ice”.

The first track is “Deadline”. It has got a catchy melody. I am trying to figure out what genre to say it comes into – Some parts of it remind me of different songs I heard back in the 1980's.

The next track is “Foolish”. This song just made me want to give Ben a hug when I heard it live – the feeling wasn't diminished by the album version. The lyrics are powerful without repeatedly bashing you over the head. This is one of the slower ones.

The third track is “Bob Dylan”. The title also perfectly describes the music. I could almost imagine Mr Dylan singing it himself. (Have a look at the video to this one on YouTube – you will love it – especially if you are a Bob Dylan fan.) Note to Ben – Even if you “didn't pass the exam” you came extremely close to an A* Grade.

The forth track is “Taking It Easy”. Ben goes 1960's with this one. This has a bit of a Hippy vibe – in a good way. If you want to relax after a hard day just listen to this song.

The fifth track is “Serious”. In a funny way this one kind of reminds me of “Let's Dance” by David Bowie laid over one of the tracks from “Dirty Dancing” (the name “escapes me at the minute but it is one which you can ballroom dance to).

Next up we have the one track you should see performed live. “Bodybuilding” is in the same vein as “The Fallout” from his first album – as in I cannot listen to it with at straight face. The chorus goes “I'm going keep on bodybuilding – building my body up. I'm such a skinny boy – everybody wish me luck”. The reason I suggest you go and see this performed live is connected with the Double Bass player lifted his Double Bass over his head at the end of the song when I saw Ben perform this live.

Now we come to a true tearjerker of a ballad. “Another Minute” strongly reminds me of “Stay” by East 17 – the lyrics are totally different but the atmosphere of the song song is the same. Ben really sounds like he is missing someone as he sings this.

The next track is the title track “Put It On Ice”. The intro to this one is a departure from all the other songs I have ever heard from Ben – I didn't know he could sing so low. The combination of the rocky-style (to the point of Heavy Metal in parts) music and Ben's mostly higher pitch singing should grate on the ears but it actually blends very well.

“You Got Me” is next up. Welcome back Jazzy Ben. Another song to relax to – preferably on a beach somewhere.

Want to know Ben's “Number One Rule”? Give this track a listen and find out. It kind of reminds me of “Not In Love” by 10CC – in how the song sounds like it could be a love song but in reality it is the complete opposite.

Next up is another example of Ben's sense of humour. “Bins” is exactly what it is about. You really have to listen to it in order to understand it. I could almost imagine one of the Great Jazz Singers singing this.

“The Mist On Morecambe Bay” is another slower track. This one includes a rather clever reference to a very famous painting “You're moaning like the Mona Lisa”.

“What Are You Going To Do Now” is the nearest thing you are going to get to a Country song.

The last track is “February Fools”. This track reminds me of “Autumn” by Kristyna Myles. A nice slow track to finish the album off with.

Why Being A Highlighter Is Better Than Being Called An "Activist" (Or - The "Talking Blog" Guide To Educating People)
2/11/2017 6:05:56 PM
You could say I don't like the term "Activist" very much.  (Of course, if you wanted to be more honest about it you could say I have the term "Activist" with a passion you can only dream of.)  To me the term "Activist" has a threat of violence attached to it.

I much prefer the term "Highlighter".  Yes - as in the pen.  Highlighters have numerous uses (some of which aren't actually recognised as standard uses - nail varnish and hairdye to name but two).  They are mosty used to illuminate passages for easy reading - as well as useful when it comes to revision.

If you are wondering what colour ink this "Highlighter" contains - it is luminous orange.

Yesterday I had the strange experience of being allowed to be on a panel where my "Highlighter" streak really came in useful.

The discussion was on the subject of the "Purple Pound", as part of the "Beyond A Joke" strand of the Leicester Comedy Festival.  (If you don't know what the "Purple Pound" is - it is the disposable income spent by the Disabled members of the population.)

I must admit to feeling uneasy when I found out that two of the other panelists were from the "Professional" sphere.  One was involved with Access issues at Leicester City Council, and the other one was a Designer with their own Company.  (The final panelist was a lady who works at the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester.)

What I had actually been dreading was the idea of sitting with a bunch of "Charity Professionals" who would tell me I was totally wrong about everything according to their textbooks.

The two professionals surprised me by saying something I have been trying to get people to agree with for what seems like forever - in order to have an "All-inclusive" building you really need to have a "Bassett's Licorice" approach to the people you involve at the initial design stage (as in get "Allsorts" of people - Disabled and able-bodied - involved).

The thing I found the most interesting about the discussion was when the audience were allowed to participate in the discussion.  There were two points where I said a silent comment to what the audience members had said.

Before I tell you what the comments were which I agreed with I am going to try to explain two things to you which able-bodied people always seem to find difficult to understand.

The first is - not all disabilities are the same.  I am not even talking about differences like using a White Stick, using BSL, or using a Wheelchair.  I am talking about the spectrum of differences within each category of disability.  For example, I know wheelchair users who use that as their only mode of transport as well as wheelchair users who can actually walk short distances or stand up for a short period when - for example - out shopping and needing to get something off a high shelf.  I wouldn't dare to differentiate the ones who can stand up for short periods as "fakers" whilst saying the ones who have the wheelchair as their only mode of transport are "proper disabled".

The other thing the "able-bodied" population don't seem to realise is that there can be aspects of different disabilities which are similar (or may appear to be completely different but will result in the same outcome as far as people's actions is concerned).

Now I have got that as clear as I can - I will tell you what the comments were that I agreed with.

The first comment was by an audience member in a wheelchair.  This person talked about the lack of space sometimes provided to get a wheelchair into a venue.  Even though I can walk I actually need the same amount of space as a wheelchair does if I am ever likely to be able to judge the gaps between racks of clothing, etc, which shops appear to like to use as a kind of "Berlin Wall" to block out both people with sight problems and wheelchair users alike.

The second comment was one which I had heard once or twice before - but not from someone who actually has Epilepsy.  They were complaining about strobe lighting, and other problems they have with some contrasts when walking around (light on metal rods between black carpet apparently is not a good idea if you are Epileptic).  Now - I do not have Epilepsy (I do know people who do).  However, I do suffer from two things which can have almost the same effect.  Photophobia and seriously lousy "nightvision" (to the point of not being any remote use in the dark) is not a very good combination when faced with certain sorts of lights at certain speeds - and I mean "speeds" literally.  I can get seriously blinded and disoriented (particularly at night) when faced with bright lights.  The quickest way to make me feel very ill indeed is to stand me at a bus stop on a badly lit street as cars fly past me.  If the gap between the traffic is at a certain speed my eyes have a difficult time trying to adjust between bright lights and pitch black.

The most interesting answer to a question put to the audience was one I wish more "able-bodied" people would take note of.  The question was "Have you ever left a venue because you were made to feel uncomfortable?"

Not only was the answer a resounding "yes" - but by making the Disabled person feel excluded you are actually endangering your profit margin more than you might think.  You may find this difficult to believe but - us Disabled people do not live in a vacuum.  We actually have able-bodied "normal-sighted" friends and family, etc, who we can tell about our experiences in your premises (be they good or bad).  So if - for example - I walk out of a branch Costa Coffee because I didn't like the attitude of the person who I asked to read the menu/pricelist out to me - I may tell my abled-bodied, "normal-sighted" friends about my experiences.  My friends may never have set foot in that particular branch before but - the chances are - after me telling them about my lousy experience - they may not actually bother turning up to find out if I am correct.

The Chair made a comment which I found interesting yet - to me - only tells half of the story.  The comment was that there is a difference between "Raising Awareness" of something and "Educating" people about it.  I can raise awareness of the fact that I have friends who are lefthanded merely by pointing at them and commenting loudly that they are using the wrong hand when they write.  This will only serve to make you aware that they are lefthanded, as well as annoying them (or worse - making them feel like  specimen under a microscope).

If I were to introduce you to one of my lefthanded friends - and they told you about the challenges they face in a world designed for those of us who are righthanded - I would be playing a part in educating you about being lefthanded.  However, what you did with the information my friend and I had given you when you left our presence would be entirely up to you.  You could choose to ignore it or you could choose to put it into practice the next time you saw someone who was lefthanded struggling to do something.

One of my friends gave me a live, up close and personal example of this a couple of weeks ago.  We had decided to walk from Leicester City Centre to a venue where there was an event we both wanted to attend.

Our route took us through the "Castle Gardens" area of Leicester.  When my friend mentioned the word "steps" I was fully prepared to break my neck (and other assorted vital bones in my body) trying to go down them as my friend raced off into the distance.

As I started to gingerly make my way down the steps - using my feet to feel for the edges of the - flat, shallow - steps, I became aware of a white trainer marking the edge of the next step.  The trainer was on a foot, which was attached (obviously) to a leg, which was attached to a body, which was attached to a head.  There were two surprising things about the head that white trainer was indirectly attached to.  The first was that it belonged to my friend.  The second surprising thing was that the head was facing me to make sure I was OK.  I hate following my able-bodied "normal-vision" friends in the dark - even on a flat surface - because I am so used to them racing off in the direction they are going without so much as a backward glance to see if I am actually behind them.

When we finally got back onto a flat surface I thanked my friend - and told them how surprised I had been that they had waited and made sure I was OK.

A further shock was to come when they told me why they had done what they did.

Some time ago they were worried that they might lose their sight (due to diabetes) - so they sent themself on a "Disability Awareness" Course.  This course gave my friend a taster of what it is like to experience a variety of disabilities - including poor vision.

My friend had simply used what they had learned on the course to help make sure I was safe.  I had not asked for their assistance - nor had I suggested we find an alternative route - but they had been kind enough to help me anyway.

The only time when I had to smile was when my friend commented that, "people don't think about the difficulties people with bad vision face".  My reply was, "You mean most people don't think about the difficulties that people with poor vision face.  I think about them all the time."

It is all very well educating yourself and others about the challenges faced by people with disabilities - but the next question is - how are you going to ensure you use your new-found knowledge to actually help people like me?

If everyone who reads my blog saw something in my blog posts which they have never noticed before and either - complained about it or - made a suggestion of a way to change it so I would benefit from it they would be doing themselves a major favour in the longterm.

Hold on a minute - I hear you mutter - why on Earth is changing something to help you (as in me) out going to help me (as in you)?

If me, my friends, family, etc, and our spending power are withdrawn from a shop or venue you like to frequent or visit - the shop or venue may find itself being closed down rather sooner than you might wish (due to a cashflow problem).  Similarly, if I have a problem with the outside environment - lack of barriers around sheer drops, etc, I am not likely to revisit that area in a hurry.  Any broken limbs I may suffer as a result of my visit could be put down to "not looking where you are going" - but if an able-bodied "normal-sighted" person finds themself in the same situation and complains about it something will get done so the situation is resolved so we are both kept safer in future.

I have lost patience with the idea that I have to include the caveat "I know my sight is worse than most people" every time I make a complaint - either on here or when I am complaining in person to my friends or anybody else.  My sight shouldn't play such a big part in whether or not my safety is compromised.

As I said yesterday "I am not the Disabled one.  I have 43 years experience of bad vision.  It is those who enter my presence for the first time who are the Disabled ones."

My sight is not actually my problem (the same can be said of anybody's disability of whatever kind they have) - it is our problem.  Together we can find ways of accommodating it - if you are as willing as I am to create a world where we can all have the same chance at getting the same prize - independence for all.

If you are still wondering about the "Talking Blog"  reference in the second part of the title of this blog post - blame John Coster (the Chair of yesterday's panel).  At one point he said, "you can tell Ineke is a Blogger - she talks like a blog post".  Luckily he later reminded me that he finds my blog posts interesting.

Why We Should Value Life Experience As Much As Qualifications (Or - How To Go Into Battle With A PhD)
1/16/2017 6:25:15 PM
One day last week I shocked myself when I realised that I have five people (OK - let's face it - men) with PhD's in my list of friends and acquaintences.  The list could be longer but those are the ones who immediately sprang to mind.  If you are interested the subjects - in order of how long I have known the people - are as follow;  Advanced Maths (I have always hated Maths so - to me anything above a GCSE is "Advanced" but I think this person specialised in Velocity), Psychology, Quantum Computing, some strange branch of Science, and Photography.

Me???  Four GCSEs - C Grade and above - and one NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) Level 1 in Business Administration, and various other Certificates in random subjects.  Not forgetting the sheer hatred of the idea of going anywhere near a classroom ever again.

The funny thing is that - according to nearly every single school report I have dug up and read so far - I should not be writing this blog.  Apparently I was useless at writing at Secondary School (the disorganisation still applies though in some instances).

I wonder what my school reports would have said if all my achievements were taken into consideration though???

There were days when - honestly - turning up to school was almost more than I could manage to do.  What felt like 24/7/365 bullying from the other students wasn't exactly conducive to me being "ready to learn" anything except that I should crawl into a corner and kill myself quietly.

Oh - and I have a message for those teachers who thought I worked too slowly for their liking.  Trust me - I was working as fast as I possibly could given my circumstances.  Nearly all of you made it obvious - by your attitude towards me and how you dealt with me - that any attempt at asking you to alter your lessons, classrooms, etc, to suit my needs would just lead to arguments and further difficulties.  As it was I was just seen as a lazy nuisance when I actually ended up having to teach myself how to cope with your lessons (and in some cases both the equipment you used and your method of teaching) - on top of navigating myself around your school grounds.

(Let's just say that one teacher informing me - years after I had escaped the Education System - that the staff at one school kept having meetings on what to do about me - without inviting the one person who could have helped them - was not exactly conducive to me feeling any less angry about my school days.)

I could bore you to sleep with the list of things that I ended up teaching myself just to get through the Education System.  Some of the things are no longer useful but other things are what help me to hide the exact extent of my difficulties in most instances nowadays.

As you might have guessed by now - I work best on a "Trail and Error" basis.  I also prefer to be able to ask seemingly stupid questions in order to help myself learn.  To put it bluntly - I hate being told to do something in a certain way because "that is how it has always been done" or because "everybody else does it like that".  Tough - I am not everybody else and I have a way of working which suits me better than yours.

I remember when I was about to sit my RE (Religious Education - sometimes called Religious Studies) exam.  Due to the school's belated realisation that I may have had some minor difficulties coping at school - I was allowed special priviledges during the exam.  Unfortunately, these apparently did not include my RE teacher deciding that he knew my sight better than I did.

The hall where we did the exam was lit by what appeared to me to be spotlights in the ceiling.  These were spaced out in such a way as to give me problems with the contrast between light and dark (as well as potential difficulties seeing what I was doing if I had not sat under a light).

The RE teacher saw that I had parked myself under one of these lights and immediately attempted to get me to move away from it.  Their exact words were "why are you sitting under a light?  Wouldn't you be better off somewhere else?"

Luckily the imminent start of the exam prevented me from telling the aforementioned teacher why I had decided to sit where I did - otherwise I would probably have been ejected from the exam.

It has taken me a very long time to feel comfortable enough in my own skin (and life) enough to be able to stand up for myself and argue with people who I was led to believe were better than me just as a result of their paper qualifications - without going into Defensive Mode.

In fact - my two biggest highlights so far have both involved members of my personal "Mastermind Brainiac Club" (as in two of the five humans mentioned at the start of this blog post).

There is something bittersweet about using the skills your teachers unwittingly taught you (and which appear on no version of the school curriculum I have ever seen) to make something you want to happen actually happen.  Unfortunately - the fact that it was someone who is now a good friend of mine who got caught in the crossfire between the "me" of my schooldays and the "me" of when I met them - is something I will regret for as long as I live.  I am not going to divulge the specifics on here (they are not relevant) but what I will say is that it has never been a good idea to make me feel like I am a Lab Rat who just exists to be experimented on for your pleasure.  That is the best way for me not only to get very angry but to want to get something out of the situation too - by any means necessary.  (You could say that the non-appearance of the one piece of equipment-  which I was promised by a certain teacher at school which would have greatly helped me with my work was the start of that downward spiral.)

The other highlight is much more pleasant and uplifting (for me anyway).  As you may already know I am involved in a Photography project with someone - based on the challenges I face as a result of my sight.  Somehow - through this project - I appear to be educating someone with a PhD in Photography about sight.  Now - if you had told me three years ago that I would be able to do that you would have been politely requested to make an appointment to get your Mental Health assessed.  My discussions with the photographer I am working with suggest that they are indeed looking at the world in a different way as a result of our project.

If I were in charge of the Education System I would scrap it and start again from scratch.  No targets as far as Exam results and paper qualifications go for a start.  I would also design the lessons to meet the needs of all the students individually.  (For example - if the lesson involved working out the volume of a cube - I would find a way of making the cubes accessible for every student to use.  Even if it came to painting lines in the grooves to separate the squares.  And - yes - that does come from personal experience of one particular Maths lesson.)

I would also ensure that every school conformed to a "Sight-friendly" layout - including stairs and lighting.  I would even subject the teachers to a school uniform of sorts.  My favourite teacher had one item of clothing which I absolutely loved because it was literally easy on my eyes.  This teacher could wear a crisp, bright white shirt if they wanted to as long as they wore their navy blue tank-top over the top of it.  Trust me - it made a change from being blinded by non-stop oceans of white shirts (especially in bright sunshine).

I would not make it obligatory for the students to all work in the same place or at the same speed, or even in the same way.  We all have different ways of learning - I prefer reading, writing, and interrogating the nearest "Human Library Book" I can find on the subject.  I also prefer working away from other people (unless it is something like Creative Writing) so I can concentrate and take breaks when I need to.  (Let's just say that - far from being a punishment - the amount of time I spent in Solitary on my own in the my first year of Secondary School was my idea of Heaven.)

To finish this off (yes - I am aware that it is more of a ramble than usual) I just want to say two things.

On paper I may not be the most highly qualified human you have ever met (or read the ramblings of) but I would say that I am reasonably intelligent.  My life experience could probably get me at least one PhD (if they gave out paper qualifications for coping with a Sight Problem and Sideways thinking that is).  This blog is proof that I must be reasonably on the ball as far as "living in the world" is concerned - otherwise I wouldn't be able to write about most of the subjects this blog has covered.  I may not have experienced some of the subjects I have written about directly but the people who have shared their thoughts with me must think I have enough of a way with words to be able to tell you about them (when they allowed me to share them with you of course).

The final thing I want to say on this subject is this - I found something intriguing on a Psychology website recently which made me think.  It said something along the lines of "instead of engaging with Therapy in order to cope with life engage with life itself".  Maybe that is what is currently being lost in the continuous upheavals of the Education System - instead of being taught subjects that people in power think we need to know in order to cope with life - we should be using the experiences we have in life to teach us about education.

All That Scares You (Or - Try Something Different This Year)
1/4/2017 5:07:56 PM
I know - you are probably thinking "What the Bleep is this blog post going to be about?  Why has Inky chosen such a strange title?"

Allow me to explain.  I have various reasons for choosing the title - but I will share the two which I find easiest to explain in plain English.

The first one is that - to be totally honest I was actually dreading Christmas and New Year's Eve last year.  It was the 10 year anniversary of me realising my Mum was going to die (and not being able to tell either her or my Dad - they found out a few weeks before she actually died).

I had two dreams over the period between Christmas 2006 and New Year's Eve 2006 - one of which turned out to be a premonition and the other of which I still cannot exactly connect with the outcome.

The first one I didn't think anything of - it was of two cartoon baby rabbits.  One of the rabbits was crying for its Mum and the other one was telling it that she was no longer alive.

The second one was the one which woke me up completely to what was about to happen.

I had already had a feeling at teatime on Christmas Day that we would no longer be with the four of us (my Grandma, my parents, and me) at Christmas.  The feeling of shivering when I was in a boiling hot room was something I will never forget.

The second (premonition) dream was extremely strange.  I dreamt that I was in a car driving past Welford Road Prison in Leicester when I asked whoever was driving about registering a death.  Very weird.

Even weirder - fast forward to 10 February 2007 and - yes - you guessed it - I was in the exact same place when I asked my Dad that exact question (my Mum having died the previous Friday).

The second reason for the title is a report I had seen (or read) about an experiment which was carried out with a group of people.  They were individually taken into a room with nothing but a table and a chair.  On the table was a button which - if they pressed it - gave them an electric shock.  The experiment was to see how long people could stand being alone with their own thoughts.  Put it this way - the answer turned out to be "not very long at all".

As someone who is more comfortable on their own than with other people I think I would have blown the testers' minds.  I really feel sorry for people who are scared by the idea of being on their own with their own thoughts without distraction.

I think I have stated before that I have a very vivid imagination - and some of the thoughts my brain comes up with might very well scare the living daylights out of people if I chose to broadcast them.  Let's just say that there are certain words and phrases that it is not exactly advisable to say in my earshot - for example - someone announcing that they are "separated" (as in living separately from their husband, wife, or partner) may be stunned if they realised that I am amazed that they are still standing in one peice.  My brain suggests that the word "separated" - when applied to an individual - can be applied to an egg, a model of a steam train, a jigsaw, a multi-sectioned newspaper, etc.  It does not apply to a human who is standing in front of me with all limbs, etc, apparently intact.  Applying this word to individual humans just makes me think of either the film "The Chainsaw Massacre" (which I have never seen) or the aftermath of terrorist atrocities and accidents, etc.

Another thing you will know about me is that I love languages.  I spent the afternoon on Christmas Day reading a book about Rotterdam (published 25 years after the end of the Second World War).  Yes - it was in Dutch.  New Year's Eve found me reading more books written in Dutch - Three of them were a course on the German language and one of them was a course on the English language  (Boy - were English people a lot more polite when that book was written!!!)

Hold on a minute - can't I already understand both English and German???  Yes - I have got GCSEs in English, French, Dutch, and German (my French is very rusty indeed and my German is better but only because of the fact it has some similarities with Dutch - and my Dad still uses the occassional German word when he is speaking in Dutch).

We all need to do something which scares us occassionally.  It might be (as in my case) travelling to a strange place in the dark, or it might be skydiving.  It might even be driving on an icy road which has water on both sides of it but no barrier to prevent the car falling in if it starts to skid towards the side of the road (I was actually in the backseat of my Dad's car travelling between Holland and Belgium coming back to England after one New Year's Eve trip several years ago when we did exactly that.  Not an experience I wish to repeat.)

Just being alone with your thoughts might well be your worst nightmare.  We seem to be getting towards the point where society encourages us to fill our lives with distractions like Social Media, our friends, TV, etc, so we don't really have to deal with what goes on in our minds before it is too late.

(I think I can name one person who will be shaking their head at that last paragraph and wishing I would leave their job to the professionals.  Seriously though - I think we are in danger of having to employ lots more of this person's profession if we don't get back to being more comfortable being in our own skin, space, and minds on our own).

My favourite Motto happens to be the Motto of my beloved Rotterdam - "Sterker Door Strijd" which literally translates as "Stronger through Adversity".  However, the word "Strijd" can also be translated as "Striving" - as in striving to do something you thought was impossible.

I have several friends who have done things which seemed to be impossible - some were minor events like running a half marathon (this person is hoping to run a full marathon this year), some were major personal achievements like surviving Domestic Abuse, or seeking help for a Mental Health problem, or just struggling on with life in the face of severe permanent pain.  One of my friends took extreme steps to highlight the issue of Homelessness in Leicester - by camping out on Jubilee Square over Christmas and New Year.  Another one started their own Publishing Company.

I want to finish this with a thought.  At my Dad's house (at least I think it is still in my bedroom there) I have got a t-shirt which says something along the lines of "It is not about achieving your goals - it is about going above them".

You may not feel brave enough to run a marathon - or do any of the other things I have talked about.  Getting on with your life might seem like the most difficult thing you can cope with at times (I know that feeling all too well).  Just find something the idea of which seems impossible now and work towards achieving it.  You will be amazed at the confidence you will get at the end of it.

Just out of interest - there is a kind of sweet irony in the fact that I have put a blog post titled "All That Scares You" in the category "Being Me".  "Being Me" was originally a song on an album called "All That Scares You" by a Dutch Rock Group called Plaeto (wasn't the original Plato a Philosopher of some sort???).

Philosophical Friday (Or - When I Felt Like I Had Gatecrashed Someone Else's Blog In Real Life)
12/16/2016 4:51:01 PM
Maybe I should start this blog post by explaining how I arrived at the title.  The trouble is - I am not exactly sure about that.

Have you ever had a conversation with three people (in a group) which you thought would make a perfect blog post for someone else to write - and you know the exact person who could write it???

The Social Media Cafe had wound down to the point where the four of us were almost the only ones in the building.  I am not going to name the other three humans (they will know who they are) but the subject started at one of the other three talking about the possiblity of doing an article on another one - then it quickly (in a roundabout way) got to the subject of "how to keep yourself going so you can face your challenges".

Part of me wished that one of my favourite "Human Library Books" was present so he could do his Brainiac bit - and break it down for me to translate properly for myself.

Then my brain switched itself to "Inky-mode".  Warning - if it does that anything - and I do mean anything - can happen.

In this instance - my brain whirred and started strange calculations.  Then it decided to give me a private summary of its conclusions.  Namely - "Do you realise you have just taken part in as near as possible to a real life 'Filosfy on Friday' blog post - and you haven't immediately started to run for the hills???"  (To find out about this phemomenon please click here frothyfilosofy.wordpress.com/ and scroll down to a Friday blog post.)

I would like to finish this by wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  However - I would also like to extend one further wish in your direction.  My wish is that you find some way to take some time out to reconnect with yourself - it can be by blogging, writing, exercising, singing, etc - but we all need to take a break from this crazy world we live in every so often and recharge our batteries.

LEONE And LUVINBLING Design A Treat (Or - A "Grand Opening" Of A Shop Of Treats)
12/12/2016 5:31:22 PM
There are times when a Facebook status intrigues me so much I just have to investigate further - saying something about "Live Mannequins" and "Grand Opening" definitely does that.

On Saturday afternoon I was trying to decide between going over to my Dad's village to see the switch on of the Christmas lights and going home for a quiet night in - when I saw a Facebook Status with those exact words.  Further investigation was definitely required.

I ended up spending a rather enjoyable time seeing some stunning designs, as well as being able to talk to some of my favourite Creatives (and adding a new one to that list).

Although I didn't have my camera with me (I ended up being glad that I could just sit back and watch the show unfold) I could still enjoy myself whilst the trainee and professional photographers took their pictures.

The Facebook status was posted by someone who I call my favourite "Womble".  If you have read this blog before you will realise that title goes to a friend of mine who is the brains behind LUVINBLING (who creates upcycled jewellery).

The reason for the "Grand Opening" was that LEONE Designers now have a permanent shop in the Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester.  (Those of you who are thinking - "I know that name from somewhere" - are correct.  I blogged about them when they had a "Pop-up shop" a few months ago.)

The fashion show all the Designers put on was first class.  Making use of two large windows (one on each side of the doorway) for the "Live Mannequins" - aka Models - to be shown in was ingenious.

The clothes, hats, and jewellery showcased by the LEONE Designer ladies and LUVINBLING were very imaginative but were also the kind of clothes I could also imagine myself and some of my friends wearing.  (Usually whenever someone utters the words "Models", "Fashion Show", or "Designer Collection" I immediately think of sizes which only a garden rake could wear, and designs which are obviously not to be worn in the real world.)

I told you that I added another Designer to my list of "Favourite Creatives", didn't I???  Well, that is not entirely true - Sam West (of Samuel West Fashions) managed to add himself to the list by doing something I had previously thought was impossible.  All he did was show a collection which included one of my favourite designs in wearable fabric form.

To say I love holographic patterns is something of an understatement.  Holographic patterns to me are like catnip to felines.  By creating and making his own holographic fabric himself he has won me over to his Fan Club without even trying.

Not only are the Designers who have items for sale in LEONE Designers's shop all based in Leicester - every single item is a unique, one of a kind, product.

Of course - there is another reason to visit LEONE Designers.  Ryte and Zoya are both very friendly ladies who will make you feel extremely welcome in their shop.

By the way - the next event that LEONE Designers are going to have in their shop is the official launch of LUVINBLING's products in their collections.  This will be on Saturday 17 December 2016 between 1.00pm and 4pm - including a live demonstration.


Why I Feel Every Organisation Needs A John Coster (Or - When A "Social Media Cafe" Can Change The World)
12/3/2016 11:23:29 AM
I have to admit that my favourite type of people are the ones who walk into any space like they own it - and leave you wondering exactly what will happen next.  You know the sort?  They appear to have the ability to make life seem "fun" in both senses of the word - depending on what mood they are in.

Most of the friends who I have met in real life have been on the "spicier" side of the spectrum (the ones who almost seem to dare me to stay around and find out what life in their orbit is like).

I suppose it might be because I wish I could be as confident as they appear to be on first meeting them.

Someone who I would now consider to be a good friend of mine is one such character - I just love waiting to learn about his latest ideas on how to change the world (including people's perceptions of it as well as some of the humans who live in it).  Trust me - he has managed to make me think differently about myself and my abilities - both as a Blogger and as someone with the ability to educate others.

I first met John Coster as a kind of roundabout result of attempting to get involved in the "Everybody's Reading" Festival in Leicester a few years ago.  His name had been given to me by one of the people who ran that as someone who could possibly help my with publicising this blog.

I don't mind admitting that - the first few times I met him at some of the "Citizen's Eye" gatherings he ran - I was absolutely petrified of him.  Here was a man who was most definitely on a Mission to help the "unseen" Journalists (call them "Citizen Journalists") get a voice.

When he decided to stop with "Citizen's Eye" he started something called a "Social Media Cafe" at LCiL (Leicester Centre for Independent Living") in the West End of Leicester.

I have blogged about both LCiL and the "Social Media Cafe" before now.  However, I wanted to go a bit deeper into the effect it (and John) has had on me.

In fact, if I start with the most recent "compliment" someone paid me (yesterday evening) you might get a taste of it.

I had been interviewed as part of the LCiL 24 hour Newsroom (celebrating the "United Nations International Day of Persons With Disabilites") when I got talking to a student who is studying "Creative Media".  I decided to share with the poor student about some of the challenges I face as a result of my sight (well, he had sat in on the interview).  I was very surprised to learn near the end of our conversation that he thought I must be a teacher.  All I am thankful for is the fact he was willing to listen and learn.

If you want to see the video of me being interviewed please go to the #lcil24 newsroom website by clicking here - lcil24.wordpress.com/ and following the links.

The Social Media Cafe was an eyeopener for me.  Let's face it - I am so used to having to fight my own battles and be very careful what I say about the challenges I face (as well as when I try to educate myself about the challenges faced by people with other disabilities) that - the idea of having a space where I could share my thoughts - without being judged as a result was a scary alien concept for me.

Eventually I decided to give this thing a go - I could always go back to being on my own if I felt judged.

The "Social Media Cafe" turned out to be a safe space where I can moan about the challenges I face as well as learning about challenges faced by people with other disabilities.  The best bit is that I can ask the questions I want to in my own way without fear of being attacked or offending the other person.  We might well all have different experiences of being what Society classed as "Disabled" but I can use my experiences with my sight to learn about (for example) Mental Health issues, Deafness, being a Wheelchair User, etc, in a way that I wouldn't dare to outside the "Cafe".

As well as setting up the "Social Media Cafe" - and letting me write some articles for "Voice" magazine - John Coster has actually given me something which I have been very short of in the past - Confidence in being able to feel I know what I am talking about.

On meeting me you may think I am the biggest Loudmouth you have ever had the misfortune to meet.  The exact opposite is nearer the truth.  I am happiest on the edges of gatherings unless I know the people involved.  I think I have mentioned in a previous blog post that - to get to know the real me - you are better off reading this blog than talking to me in person (at least until I trust you with my life).

This is going to sound completely crazy I know - but had I not met John I very much doubt I would have had the energy or confidence to start my photographic project or even dream of sharing my ideas for the "Human Library Zone" project with anyone.

Being told you are good at something you love doing is one thing.  Being told that you are good at doing things which frighten the life out of you is another thing entirely.  Speaking to a range of humans from different levels about things which interest or affect me in some way is most definitely not something I am comfortable doing.  I am not joking when I tell you that the best way to scare me is sit or stand me in front of a "Brainiac" (preferably someone with a PhD) and ask me to either educate them about my sight or make a suggestion about something which will make my life easier.

I did, however, have some success when I didn't realise the lady I asked about the chances of having a talk at next year's "Literary Leiccester" Festival about 'Disability and Writing' (on the back of a talk I had attended about 'Racism and Writing') was not only someone with a PhD but was also in charge of the event.  I get the iea that we will have one such talk next year.

I have heard John Coster tell other humans that I am good at blogging and writing.  He has told me often enough as well.  I really appreciate his friendship and support - as well as looking forward to whatever idea he has got cooking in his brain to give different sections of Society the ability to mix without fear of stigma.

Pantomime Meets "OutNumbered" (Or - The Day My Faith In Democracy Truly Left The Building)
11/28/2016 4:51:56 PM
Last Thursday evening I went to what must be the most surreal event I have ever attended.

I had met up with someone about my "Human Library Zone" project and they invited me to attend a protest and a Council meeting (they were linked - the former was due to be discussed at the latter).

After we had trudged up three flights of stairs we found ourselves in a small "Public Gallery".  When I say "small" I mean there was hardly any room in it.

I suppose I had been a bit naive because I expected the meeting to be run like most other meetings I have ever attended.  How wrong could I have been???

Almost as I had sat down on the bench in the "Public Gallery" we were threatened with the Council having it cleared due to some other Members of the Public shouting (what I thought were) reasonable comments.  That was were the "Pantomime" bit of the title to this blogpost comes in.

I spotted what I thought was a piece of paper next to me on the bench.  When I picked it up I read it and was horrified to find myself reading what looked for all the world like a script for the meeting.  Including how the petitions were to be presented by various people.  With blanks for comments by assorted Council Members. 
I must admit the "script" was really enlightening.  Although what transpired during the "debates" was far from entertaining.

If you have never seen the British TV series "OutNumbered" - here now follows a brief summary of how it worked.

The main characters were played by two adults (who had scripted lines) and three children (who could make it up as they went along - leaving the adults frantically trying to connect what the children said and did to the script in front of them so the programme made sense to the audience).

That - Ladies and Gentlemen - was what passed as the "Democratically Representative" Council Meeting I attended.  Actually - it was more like "Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics".

What made it worse was the fake "debates" the Councillors had on the very important topics under discussion.  It was obvious that the answers had been decided behind closed doors prior to the meeting.

Let's just say that I was very glad that the children who had been brought in to plead the case for one of the petitions (linked to the protest held before the meeting) had left the building before the debate on that particular subject had started - otherwise they would have been really disappointed with the way it was discussed.

I had been under the impression that I was "Democratically Represented" by my local Councillors - that idea has been totally destroyed.

If we cannot rely on even our local Councillors to represent us - instead of looking after their own vested interests (as well as their "jobs" in the Council) - how can we be expected to rely on our national Politicians???

There are three lines from a Pantomime which I wish all Politicians would remember (usually more connected with the Baddie in Pantomimes but also applicable to the people who vote for them).

"He's behind you".

"Oh no he isn't"

"Oh yes he is" (to be paraphrased into "Oh yes - the Electorate are").

I just wish I could be sure that there was a way of restoring my faith in "Democratically Elected" government at all levels - without being so brutal as to break the system completely and start again from scratch.

The Real Question Nobody Dares To Ask About World Politics (Or - Why Polls Tell Us Nothing)
11/14/2016 3:12:48 PM
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.

Ports And Corners (Or - Why You Could Say I Am A Geographic Link Between My Parents)
11/3/2016 6:31:34 PM
I suppose you could call me a "hybrid" (don't worry - my Mum beat you to it).

I think I told you before that my Mum and I both have her native city on our Birth Certificates and in our Passports - she has the word "Rotterdam" and I have the international Dialing Code for the same city as my Birthday (31 October - or 31 10).

However, there is another thing we have in common - we were both born in Port towns.  Well - OK - Rotterdam is more of a Port City but at least Kings Lynn is still a Port.  Not only that but Kings Lynn is a rather special Port.  It is the only current Hanseatic Port in the UK.

Kings Lynn also forms a nice little link with Leicester (where my Dad was born) - just drive west on the A47 and you will eventually end up there.

However, there is another slightly odd kind of link between Leicester and Rotterdam.  Or - should I say between England and The Netherlands???

Allow me to attempt to explain.

I realise my French is very rusty but I seem to remember that the word "Port" is door in French.  I also know that "Hoek" is corner in Dutch.  (If you want to ask a Dutch person where to find the nearest Port - your best idea would be to ask for directions to the nearest "Haven" which literally translates as Harbour.)

No - this is not going to be a sermon on the subject of the pesky Brexit negotiations.

Nor is it going to be a comment about the Immigration debate.

Forget the idea of the world being full of different countries and far away places.  At one time the world was nearly all joined up by land which was in places where there is no land today.  (It wasn't until I saw "QI" last week that I learned Doggers Bank was actually a peice of land which linked the UK with The Netherlands a long time ago.)

If the world keeps changing shape we might find ourselves slightly closer to places like Russia than we might normally expect.  You cannot really have a "Cold War" between Russia and the US if Alaska has moved so far that the only way the Russians are going to be able to keep the US out is if they borrow an idea from Donald Trump and build a wall to keep them out.  (Apparently that idea isn't as farfetched as you might think - Alaska is moving towards Russia at a rate of 25 miles per year.)

In a funny way I miss the idea that The Netherlands and the UK are two parts of the same country - just with one lot having a dialect which is about as comprehensible as Glaswegian to most English-speakers.

I know it is a long drive from Leicester to Kings Lynn - and an even longer one to Harwich (the journey by train isn't exactly quick either) - but I love the idea of being able to look out of a window and being able to have an undisturbed view of boats and sea.

Yes - I am the daughter of what you might call an "Immigrant".  In fact - depending on which country I am standing in out of England and The Netherlands - I am the daughter of two Immigrants (Dad lived in The Netherlands when he met and married my Mum).

I might have been born in England but I have always felt more at home in and around Rotterdam.

We cannot choose where we are born or where we grow up.  However, I am thankful that my parents brought me up with a knowledge of both England and The Netherlands (as well as teaching me the language which I think is the most expressive when I hear it spoken).

The only way we are ever going to get proper peace in the world is if we mix with people from other countries and learn about different cultures.

You cannot get more of an opportunity to mix with people from other countries if your parents come from different countries themselves.

Speak And Say Nothing Anyway (Or - What Is The True Point Of The Mainstream Media And Politicians???)
10/18/2016 3:45:12 PM
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.

Why Postponing The Inevitable Is A Price Not Worth Paying Any More (Or - The Reason The NHS Is In So Much Trouble)
9/24/2016 8:31:38 PM
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.

www.youtube.com/watch

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

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