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We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off To Prove We Have Got Talent (Or Why We Shouldn't Be Surprised That Children Are Getting Mixed Messages)
10/23/2014 7:02:04 PM
The first part of the title to this blog post is a play on the title of "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off (To Have A Good Time)" by Jermaine Stewart.  The second part of the title to this blog post will become obvious as we go on.

Last night I did something I have never done before - and I never plan to do it again unless under extreme pressure to.

I sat down to watch the "MOBO Awards" which started at 8.00pm.  Now, according to me, 8.00pm is more or less prime time television - it is definitely before the 9.00pm "watershed" for programming unsuitable for children.

In my defence I will say that I only even considered watching it as I thought there might be a chance that Kristyna Myles might win an award (she didn't - and I found out that the award she was nominated for wasn't even televised).

The opening singer was Jessie J.  I admit that she is not exactly on my list of music to listen to at the best of times.  However, last night's performance sent her plummeting in my estimation.

She started off wearing some sort of black dress which was quickly removed to reveal what appeared to be a sequined bra and pants.  Jessie the proceeded to pornographically gyrate (I believe the modern day term is "Twerk") on stage for the duration of the song.

I was relieved when I found out that I didn't have to sit through any more graphically sexual performances (or raps about guns and killing) and I switched the TV off.

Radio 1 had had their wrist slapped for broadcasting swearing in a live performance at the "Big Weekend" in Glasgow.  I am wondering if a sanction cannot be applied to pornographic dance routines and suggestive (be they sexual or violence oriented) lyrics in performances.

We have so many debates going on about things like the objectification of women via Page 3 of the Sun and how many definitions there should be of rape, etc.

Not forgetting the old argument about whether or not what a woman wears is any indication of how "sexually available" she is (ie, someone dressed in a low cut top and a miniskirt, etc).  However, I feel we are missing the point.

I may or may not have written on this blog about the scars from the operations to mend the hole in my heart I was born with (I know I wrote about them on the original Inkyworld blog).  Let's just say that they left me feeling very uncomfortable wearing any tight tops or any cropped tops.

I suppose you could say I was lucky when I was growing up as there was nowhere near the pressure on me to look perfect which there is on children and teenagers today.

(My favourite pop singer when I started watching "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop" was Adam Ant.  I think I liked the white stripe across his nose.  Then I had a brief liking of Boy George, followed some years later by Aha and Bros. Finally Bon Jovi and Clouseau.)

The female singers and groups were innocent compared to nowadays.  Yes, you had strange fashions like bra top and cropped tops - and you could count on some borderline controversial lyrics from a certain Ms Madonna Ciccione - but nothing as suggestive as the Pussycat Dolls.  (I am trying not to remember Madonna's "Erotica" book which got several column inches in the music magazines when it came out.)

If we are going to insist on allowing Jessie J, and the rest of them, to perform sexually suggestive routines on primetime TV we need to have a total rethink on how we educate our children to live with themselves.

We are bombarded by images of so-called "perfect" people every day and young people copy their role models (with sometimes disasterous consequences).  I dread to think how many young girls watched Jessie J last night and wanted to copy her.

Allow me to take this scenario to ridiculous extremes for a minute.

Imagine for a minute that you went to your GP, or a Solicitor, or any other company and you found them walking around in their underwear whilst encouraging you to dispense with all formality and touch them whereever you liked.  Or worse, touching themselves in a sexually suggestive manner whilst dealing with your requirements.

What would you do?  Run a mile and report them to the nearest Police Officer?  Ask them to cover up and attempt to behave normally?  Carry on regardless, after all, you are in their premises therefore you have to obey their rules?  Immediately remove all your clothes and join in?

Of course, we adults have a choice as to whether or not we watch sexually suggestive performances or listen to lyrics glorifying sex and/or violence (sometimes both at the same time).  We also have a choice as to whether or not we bow to pressure to have all our imperfections removed, get laser eye sugery, and jump on every diet bandwagon which rolls past us.  Children don't - at least not unless we teach them to be proud of who and what they are.

We also need to teach them to listen to themselves when bullies are making their lives a daytime nightmare.  I eventually escaped into daydreaming and writing.

Someone once told me that swearing indicated a lack of expression through language (they hated it).  Just out of interest I can turn the air blue (why do we say that when we talk about swearing) in two languages.  My Dad never swore when I was growing up but if I heard my Mum say "Godverdomme" ("God Damn It" - usually shortened to "Verdomme") or "Verdikeme" (unsure as to the spelling or translation of the last one) I knew something was seriously wrong.  "Wel allemachtig" (something like "Well Almighty") was another one.

Maybe we should have a rule where performers who disrobe and/or perform sexually suggestive dance routines (unless they are in a lapdancing club or other building where only adults are allowed to be present) are seen as lazy - going for the quick payoff.

I have seen some really talented singers who have managed to dazzle me with their voice and stage-presence without performing a striptease or dancing in a manner better suited to a bedroom between two consenting adults.

Instead of teaching children that sex sells more than talent we should be teaching them that sex belongs between two consenting adults and talent will get you a lot further than sleeping your way to the top (or making it obvious that you would be willing to sleep your way to the top).

However, talent is not valued anywhere near enough these days.  Schools seem to be busily trying to delete all trace of an imagination from the brains of students in the race for exam results.  As for any kind of differences (sight problems, hearing problems, etc) - they seem to be ignored or brushed away as though they don't matter.

It was only several years after leaving Education that I realised my sight was actually an advantage instead of a disadvantage - and I have to thank you lot for that revelation.

Through typing this blog I have come to learn that my "sideways view of life" (which came as a result of my sight and how I was forced to work around it when I was at school) can actually be a good thing and help other people.

For example, I don't blog about people in a negative way without finding some positive point to make as a result.  Nor do I sit in judgement on people if I can avoid it (there is a saying about walking in someone's shoes before you judge them).

In case you are wondering - that is how I treat my friends too.  I am honest, loyal, non-judgemental, and I will help them if they are prepared to help themselves.

Talent should come before beauty or sex.  Then we will get a world without objectification of men and women.  Men are objectified by Page 3 even more than women - women have a choice whether or not they pose for it but it conditions boys (who grow up into men) into thinking all women are fair game for sex and makes men run on their baser instincts.  That is before you come to things like The Chippendales, and that advert for a soft drink (the name of which escapes me at the minute) where all the women in an office stopped to watch the window cleaner have a drink from a can.  As for the Levi's ad with Nick Kamen and the washing machine???

If children were taught to value their brains as well as their bodies the world would be a better place.

Two Halves Of The Same Conversation (Or - How Seemingly Unconnected People Can Combine To Make A Big Difference)
10/19/2014 6:57:58 PM
Have you ever had almost the same conversation (on almost the same subject) with two completely unrelated people within 24 hours of each other and felt like it was a continuous conversation?

(I could take that question one stage further but you may end up thinking I should be locked up if I did.)

Both of the people I was talking to are in my handful of "Trusted Advisors" when it comes to my website.  "Trusted Advisors" are people who I trust (and listen to) when it comes to my website and blogging activities.  This little eclectic group of people include 7 (or 8 - but more about my maths in a bit) full time people, one honourary member (as in I would ask them if I could pin them down for long enough to have a conversation with - apart from that they were one of the first to recognise my talent for writing), and one person I wish I could put on the list but unfortunately it is impossible to talk to them without the help of a Medium (if I could put this person on the list I would put them at the very top).

I will give you a full rollcall of my "Trusted Advisors" in a while.  First I think I should explain the connection between the two conversations and how they led to this blogpost being a "Head-Straightening" one (I haven't intentionally done one of those for absolutely ages).

Yesterday I was talking to one of my "Trusted Advisors" (who, if I am completely honest, comes at the top of my list of living ones).  This one gave me some advice about my website as well as giving me food for thought regarding something I want to do on my Blog.  (You will find out what that is in due course.)  As part of his food for thought he said something which got me thinking.

Little did I know that I would have his words proved right by the second "Trusted Advisor" when I spoke to them today.  It wasn't what the second one said exactly which got me thinking - more the connection between them.  (Along with how the first one could have said exactly the same as the second one in the same tone of voice and it would have probably led to the row to end all rows - when the second one said it I actually agreed with his explanation.)

Some of the "Trusted Advisors" know they are in the group.  Some of them know I consider them to be "Inspirational People" but I have never told them they are on my group of "Trusted Advisors".  For some of them this will be the first they have heard of belonging in either group at all.

Remember I said that there were 7 (or 8) full time members in my handful of "Trusted Advisors" and that I would explain my maths???  Here goes with the rollcall - and accompanying explanation;

I might as well start with the "Trusted Advisor" who sparked off the chain reaction resulting in this blog post - Derek Lee.  I could say that without him the whole "Inkyworld" idea wouldn't have started off in the first place - however, that is not completely true.  The original "Inkyworld" blog started off without him - at the same time as starting off because of him.  In fact, it is thanks to me not being on speaking terms with him when I was made redundant that you lot have been subjected to "Inkyworld" ever since.  (If we had been on speaking tems I would probably have used him as a verbal punchbag instead - thereby depriving you of my ramblings ever since.)

He also has the dubious honour of being the only victim (so far) of my Mental Chainsaw - used to separate my friend Derek from his "professional" alter-ego Dr Lee (who has also been useful at times when it comes to this website).  Dr Lee is a Clinical Psychologist (any job title with the word "Clinical" in it just makes me think of hospitals, sharp instruments, scars, and death).

The "Trusted Advisor" I was speaking to today is Tim Slapak who is a straight-talking, caring, Czech man.  His words of wisdom are more connected to his profession of Sales and attracting people.  Tim and Dr Lee both train people in their respective fields.

Another "Trusted Advisor" - Deb Maher has actually helped me with one of the "Big Issues" on this website (basically by lending me her nephew).  She also happens to be one of the kindest people I know.

Helen Purplebat (I am sure that is not her real surname) reached the level of "Trusted Advisor" mainly through being one of my two biggest supporters on Twitter.  Every time I tweet that I have put something new on my website she is one of the first to thank me - she has also inspired a recent blogpost.

These next two appear in my head like "Tom and Jerry" (I cannot think of one without the other now even though I have only met one of them) - Kristyna Myles is a very good friend of mine as well as being my favourite female singer (and one of the first people other than a relative or a teacher to tell me that I am good at writing).  I kind of feel I nicked Julie Kirkpatrick from Kristyna (I have never met or been in contact with such a big fan of Kristyna).  Julie has morphed into one of my friends (we can chat about Kristyna for hours on end) as well as not only being a fan of this blog but also getting a mention on it.

Last - but not least - we have the person who I consider to be my second Mum.  I don't think you could argue with anybody who has that status being considered as a "Trusted Advisor".  Mila Slapak has probably done more than most to help with this blog.  Not only does she provide the transport so I can review Kristyna's gigs (seeing as I cannot drive), she also happens to be Kristyna's Mum, and Tim's wife. 

If I could pin Steve Bowkett down long enough to talk to him he would change from the Honourary "Trusted Advisor" to a full-time one.  He really deserves second place in my rollcall between my original "Trusted Advisor" (more about them in a bit) and Derek - and Dr Lee.

I have said this before but without Steve's input there would be no Ink to type the Inkyworld stuff.  In fact, I doubt I would have made it much past my 12th birthday without him (I am deadly serious - pun intended) let alone approaching my 41st birthday in just under two weeks from typing this.

I will tell you three ways in which he made this blog possible.  The most important way was always believing in me even when the other teachers didn't know what to do with me (I still have the Commendation certificate he gave me for English at my Dad's house).  Through getting a book published the year I started at the school he taught at he taught me that daydreaming was not the bad thing the rest of the world made it out to be.  (In fact, you could say that I daydreamed my way to surviving secondary school - as well as the events after it.)  The third thing he did was invite me to join the "Scribbles" gang (sorry - group) where I met Derek.

Unfortunately the person I would put at the top of my list of "Trusted Advisors" died just over two years before the event which started the whole Inkyworld blog off - me being made redundant from my last job.  Coby Poultney or - as I knew her - my Mum was my biggest supporter as far as my writing is concerned.  She kept my early attempts at writing.  In fact, she went one step further than that.  Around the time I started Primary School - before I could write she used to transcribe stories I made up by writing them down as I told them to her.  There was something which she told me happened when I was a very little girl.  We were on a train, going to I don't know where, and apparently when the train pulled into a station I climbed over her to get to the window and said, "Look Mummy - LETTERS!"

So you could say she was responsible for my addiction to reading, writing, and language.  What I am trying to say is - if you want to thank anyone for my ramblings - don't thank me - thank my Mum instead for instilling in me a love of "LETTERS!".

A Change Is DEFINITELY Gonna Come (Or The Myles Magic Strikes Again - And Introduces Me To Another Great Band Or 600)
10/14/2014 1:20:17 AM
You could say that Leicestershire is lucky to have a vibrant "Creative Arts" scene.  After all, the rollcall of people who are recognised as being in the Creative Arts are as varied as Sue Townsend, Kasabian, Showaddywaddy, one member of Queen, and the winners of "The X-Factor" and "Great British Bakeoff".  Leicestershire also has a few companies which produce Creative Artwork which you might not expect.

Leicestershire also has quite a few venues dotted around the city and county.  Unfortunately not all of them are "Disabled-Friendly".  One which fits under the heading of "Disabled-Friendly" - if not easily accessible on foot in the dark - is The Musician.  This is a music venue/bar/pub which is squirrelled away down one end of Clyde Street, near Leicester City Centre.  It also happens to be an intimate venue which encourages lots of interaction with audiences.

The gig I went to was billed as a "Double-header" between one singer with one guitarist, and one band.  What we actually got (as will become apparent) seemed more like one singer, one guitarist, and several bands all at once.

Kristyna Myles opened the evening - ably assisted as usual by her guitarist, Ben Williams.

The set included a couple of tracks from her debut album "Pinch Me Quick", along with "Fooling" from her EP "Wanna Wear Black".  However, most of her set was made up of tracks from her forthcoming album "Paint A Brighter Day" (yes - I have mentioned a Pledge Music Campaign elsewhere on this blog to raise funds for the recording of the album).

I am not going to name all the songs she sang - I am just going to tell you about the ones which stood out to me for one reason or another.

The one which stuck in my mind long after the last chord and the last word faded into silence was "Garment of Shame" - this was pure emotion and pure, unadulterated, Kristyna at her best.

You know when you are just sitting quietly, listening to music, and an idea comes into your head, dragged in kicking and screaming by the memories the music provokes???  That is exactly what happened when I heard "Halfway".  I had been tring to find a way of writing something based on my side of an argument.  "Halfway" not only brought the memories flooding back but I think they may have unlocked the way to start the writing.

On the subject of writing - "Drop Me A Line" is a song with a pretty good twist in its tail.  It starts of sounding like someone wants you to write them a letter telling them about your problems (and that person tells you they know what you are going through).  However, it is only right at the end of the song when you find out who wants you to tell them your problems (the major clue is the word "Prayer" right near the end of the song).

On the subject of "Heavenly Beings" - the next song is one "Heaven Knows" I am still not sure about.  It is the only one of Kristyna's songs which I actually had to see performed in a certain setting for it to make total sense to me.  Before I saw it on "Songs of Praise" my brain was still stuck on the usual throwaway kind of line "Heaven knows why she did that" with accompanying sarcastic tone of voice.

In the middle of Kristyna's set she let her guitarist - Ben Williams - play a couple of his songs.

One of these "Hold Your Fire" was slightly more laid back than the title may suggest.  The whole mood of the song is best summed up by Ben singing "come back when you've calmed down" in a way that suggests he has got a headache, is fed up, and just wants some peace and quiet.

The second track is slightly more frenetic sounding - "Balloon String" is the only song I have ever come across which talks about someone "selling my body parts on Ebay".  This is closely followed by the lyric "She is a dangerous woman.  She's made grown men cry".  (To be quite honest I am not surprised she makes them cry.)  This sounds like a random collection of overheard bits of conversation set to music but it is brilliant because of it.

The second set was played by a group called Miss 600.


Kristyna had introduced them by saying their music was a mix of Jazz and Soul.  By the time they had finished I had mentally added Ska (Reggae) and a rocky sort of Blues to the list.

I have to be honest and admit that I had my doubts when I say the Trumpet player walk onto the stage.  His jacket and tie just suggested "Madness" to me.  No - I am not being rude about someone I have never spoken to before - I mean "Madness" as in the band from the 1970's/1980's who had a lead singer who answered to "Suggs".  (I was quite surprised when the Trumpet player stayed standing next to the Saxophonist instead of running into the middle of the stage.)

When the female lead singers came on stage I was hooked.  I say "female lead singers" plural for one very good reason.  Although there was only one female lead singer and one female backing singer - the lead singer started off sounding like Judy Garland, then sounded like Lisa Stansfield, then sounded like Marilyn Monroe, and she kept switching between them.

There is one easy way for me to tell you how good I thought Miss 600 were - I bought their second album based on hearing the song "Ladies Do (What Ladies Do)".  Usually I have to hear at least two tracks I like before I buy a CD by a band I have never heard of before.

For their finale Miss 600 gave me a treat (I don't know whether the rest of the audience felt the same way as I did about what the band did but I loved it) - they let every instrument player play an extended solo in their last but one song (they also did an encore).  How to convince an audience that the people in the band can play their instruments in one easy move (the bass guitar solo had to b heard to be believed).

There was only one thing which I was slightly disappointed about.  I would have loved to have heard Kristyna singing with the ladies of Miss 600.  (Now I am going to add that to my personal wishlist just behind Kristyna duetting with Richie Sambora on a cover of "Undiscovered Soul".)

I know I can sound like a broken record at this point in a review of a gig by Kristyna Myles but please go and see her sing live for an out of this world experience.  Please also go and see Miss 600 live.  Even better would be to see Kristyna Myles and Miss 600 on the same bill.  It would be worth it.


The Unexpected Link (Or How Intersts Can Mix To Make Something New)
10/12/2014 12:06:29 AM
You could say I have three addictions which could be combined to connect with the fourth one.

In no particular order the three are;

Reading
Writing
Chocolate (Good job that the "Verkade" name in my family tree isn't the same branch as the Dutch chocolate company).

If you want to keep me occupied for a few hours (and not talk to anyone) just hand me a book to read - better still - take me to a bookshop and leave me there.  I will be quite happy until you return (I may, however, become grumpy if you interrupt me in the middle of a good book).

The other thing you can do is supply me with pen and paper.  This is especially useful if you want to find out how I am really feeling at any given moment.  I prefer texting to talking as well.  There is something rather hypnotic about the appearance of letters from a pen or on a screen as they arrange themselves into groups.

Chocolate???  Need I say more???  This can be a luxurious delicacy (liqueur chocolates) or a run of the mill slab of the stuff.  Not forgetting the drinks you can make (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) or the flavour combinations you can get (just don't try the 100% cocoa content chocolate on a whim - that stuff is lethal).

Chocolate comes in "bars", you make "notes" sometimes when writing, and you can "read" lyrics.  Put those together and my fourth addiction is Music.

(My fifth addiction is "Only Connect" but that is beside the point!)

History Remade By The Breakers (Or Why Plaques And Signs Won't Help)
10/11/2014 11:45:24 PM
I went on a few trips down Memory Lane this week.  However, they were not all my memories.

Leicester City Council has decided to randomly sprinkle the City with signs and Plaques commemorating historic buildings, achievements and people.  (There is also a sign in South Wigston commemorating the Railways - the trouble with that one is the sign is nowhere near the existing railway.)

A couple of times this week I was on a bus which went past the former site of "Premier Screw & Repetition" on Woodgate in Leicester.  That name (along with Gents, Bentley Engineering, and a few other names which have escaped me at the moment) may not mean a lot to you but it worked wonders for my handwriting.

Yes - you did read that correctly - I did say my handwriting.  This was down to the owner of a small Engineering Workshop which was based in South Wigston when I was a little girl.  The workshop was called "Poultney Engineering".  Before you ask - there was a connection between me and it which was slightly more human than just the name.

My Granddad (the owner of the Workshop) had the brilliant idea of getting me to write the names of the companies and the totals of the invoices in one of his ledgers - so I could get handwriting practice.  This also had the effect of burning the company names into my brain.

After a job interview in South Wigston I found myself walking past the former site of another company with "Premier" in the title.  "Premier Drum" was famous the world over for its drums.  Examples of Drumkits could be seen in a viewing platform at the front of the building.  However, the only time when I saw a Premier Drum in living life was when I went on a day trip to Glasgow (don't ask - it was supposed to have been a week but someone put me off the idea).  I am not quite certain whether the poor Glaswegian who had been playing the aforementioned drum understood my excitement at seeing a drum which had been manufactured approximately 6 miles away from my home being played in Glasgow - although he did tell me that his was one of only a handful of English drums being played in Scotland.

However, I am convinced that the UK or Britain currently appears to be stuck looking in the rearview mirror instead of looking forward to the future.

I am not talking about the rise of UKIP and their apparent desire to go back to some mythical time (as portrayed by the media) when Britain ruled the world and the world thanked us for it.

I am talking about those people who seem to want to indiscriminately bomb the Middle East to get rid of "Un"Islamic State, Al Quaeida, etc.  As in those exact groups who appear to have sprung up as a result of the West's indiscriminate bombing of the Middle East and the West's habit of imposing their ideas of democracy and Law and Order on the resulting rubble and remaining displaced people.

The most worrying thing is the apparent connection between those who think the Middle East should be indiscriminately bombed and those who think there are too many immigrants already in the UK.  I am beginning to think they are exactly the same people.

We need to start thinking about a positive future.  After all, the future will be without us but the future cannot be without us.

Shot Through The Heart (Or Why Using Audiences For Target Practice Might Not Be Such A Good Idea)
10/11/2014 10:21:14 PM
Yesterday I was told that this website should not be in existence.  Well, that is not quite the whole story.  The more honest version is a bit more complicated than that.  I was told that I was not the "Target Audience" for the website which actually made me realise that I needed to turn the original "Inkyworld" Blog into a website - by the Brainiac behind it.  The website was (and still is) my favourite when it comes to the layout of the pages and the ease with which I can get around it.

Not only that but the aforementioned Brainiac was actually the biggest inspiration behind the whole "Inkyworld" idea in the first place (for several reasons).

I have a big problem with the whole concept of "Target Audiences" for websites.  When you start focussing on "Target Audiences" you are in danger of mistaking your website for your own private physical domain (your home, your place of work, your hobby group, etc) - as in somewhere you can physically bar people from.

One very good example of this is from when I went for a job interview some months ago and was left feeling angry and frustrated all because of interviewer's attitude to me and their website.  (I blogged about it on the original "Inkyworld" blog but I will give you a summary of what happened below.)

When you go for job interviews you are supposed to research the company.  One of the ways to do this involves going onto their website and reading it.  That is if you can navigate your way around it easily.

This particular company (whose name I have managed to erase from my brain) had what I would consider to be the worst website I have ever come across bar none.

Forget the weird setup with the pages themselves (no menu at the top of the webpage - and no clue as to where on the website you were at any given moment - so you had to go through their website whether you wanted to or not in order to find the information you wanted) - I seem to remember the font was microscopically small and in a faint blue-grey type of colour - in other words almost impossible for me to read.

I attempted to point out the problems I had had with the website and their attitude astonished me.  Apparently it was an award-winning website (something tells me that the RNIB were not part of the judging panel for this award) so they were not prepared to change it.  Their next statement made me thankful that it was the end of the interview (physical violence would have occurred if I had been forced to stay in their presence after that point) - "You are not our Target Audience".

Whilst I will admit that I was not likely to ever be in the market for their products or services (I think they were a firm of Accountants) their "Target Audience" at that moment in time did in fact include me for one very simple reason.  I had applied for a job with them and needed to find out about their company because they had offered me an interview for said job.

If you think of a website as an extention of a company's "shop window" and doorway you should realise that the website needs to draw people in - whether  they deliberately went to your website thinking you had the answer to their question or they were looking on Google (other Search Engines are available) and your website was suggested as a likely source of the information they required.

Instead of thinking that your website should only cater for people who want to find out how to translate Ancient Egyptian writings, for example, and concentrating all your efforts on communicating with that group of people to the exclusion of everyone else, it would be a very good idea to have a hook to grab the rest of us in.  Even if we aren't interested in Ancient Egypt we might know someone who is.  If us mere mortals who are not interested in Ancient Egypt find your website interesting and/or easy to use we are more likely to recommend it to people we know who are.

Let's just say that it is as counter-productive to bar people from your website just because they do not fit the profile of your (self-appointed) "Target Audience" as it is to advertise the Sale of the Century in a physical shop whilst locking all the doors and putting steel blinds in all the windows.

However, the observant among you will have realised something else about why I have a problem with the concept of "Target Audiences".  I have found that those companies who have made a decision on what their "Target Audience" is are the ones who are most likely to lock me out of their websites whether or not I fit into that category at any given moment.

How?

Quite easily as it happens.

If you want to lock me out of your website there is one very easy way to achieve this objective - make it impossible for me to read and/or navigate around.  If you have information you wish to impart to me complete with drawings or photos feel free to make the drawings or photos at least twice as large as the accompanying text.

In fact, why stop there???  Anything which makes me feel like I need to tweak your website using any method not embedded in your website (ie, magnifiers, etc) is not going to encourage me to come back to it in a hurry.

The strange thing is that I find the websites which should be actively encouraging me to use them (ie, employment agencies, companies who are advertising for staff, etc) are the worst offenders when it comes to locking me out of them.

You can make the content of your website as interest specific as you want to but please, please, PLEASE, at least treat the homepage in the same way as you would treat your physical shop window or doorway.

I have a habit of judging companies who invite me for interview by their websites.  I find that in most cases there is a direct connection between how the company treats visitors to their website and how they treat interview candidates, customers, etc, when they arrive at their physical premises.  Complicated website usually equals company who is only interested in a certain sort of visitor to their physical premises.

I know the Brainiac behind the website which I alluded to in the first part of this blog post personally - in fact, they are a friend of mine (at time of typing this blog post at least).  This is the reason for me not naming either the human or the website - apart from the fact they have made one major alteration to it which would have made all the difference if they had done it when they created it.

When Equal Opportunities Are Not Equally Legal (Or How My Right To Live As I Please May Not Be Equal To Yours)
10/5/2014 10:37:38 PM
Have you ever had an idea which you really wanted to get out but you somehow couldn't find the correct start to it until someone else started talking to you about something completely different???  Well, that happened with the following piece of writing.  I knew what I wanted to write about (the idea came to me whilst I was doing some gardening) but I didn't know where to begin.  Then I got into conversation with Helen (one of my friends from Twitter), who told me she really liked my blog post about the "Street Drinking" Law,  She started off by agreeing with what I had said about the possibililty of Laws being misinterpreted.  This provided me with the start of the piece of string which now follows.

Have you ever stopped to consider how crazy the overlap between different Laws, Acts of Parliament, etc, really is?

I must admit it is not something which crosses even my mind very often.  However, there is one area where the sometimes downright contradictions between laws is too crazy to even be a sick joke.

Whenever someone mentions "Equal Opportunities" in my presence a chill goes up and down my spine and I want to start singing "One" by U2 - with particular attention to the lyric "We are one but we are not the same.  We've got to carry each other".

If you read the original "Inkyworld" blog you will know exactly how much I hate "Equal Opportunity" Questionnaires.  For those of you lucky enough to never have come across these useless articles they are a way of Statutory Organisations (ie, Councils, Government Departments, Emergency Services, etc) and, usually large, companies to sift out the undesirables from the application process.  This is in case they actually passed all the criteria mentioned in the Job Description and the Person Specification whilst committing that great corporate sin of being Disabled.

Don't be fooled by the Disclaimer that says that everybody who meets the criteria stated in the Job Description and Person Specification will get an interview regardless of Disability - they won't.  (Well, that is not strictly true - I did actually end up getting an interview for a job as a School Crossing Patrol which kind of shocked me.  I am not entirely convinced that I wasn't interviewed to fulfil a quota.  However, nine times out of ten the "Equal Opportunities Questionnaire" lives up more to my - slightly more accurate - description of "UnEqual Opportunities Questionnaire").

Back to the point.

As a Disabled Person I am theoretically covered by the "Equalities Act" and the "Disability Discrimination Act".  If you take both of these Laws literally I should be able to do exactly the same as everybody else if I choose to do so.  After all, according to both of those Laws I am legally supposed to be treated the same as the able-bodied, normal-sighted, population.

Bearing that in mind I will now give you an example which - whilst it may sound like an exaggerated scenario - I think may accurately demonstrate my point;

My Dad owns a car.  He has a Driving Licence to go with it which legally entitles him to sit behind the steering wheel and operate the pedals - whilst the wheels near each corner of the car are turning at speed - propelling said vehicle along tarmac and concreted surfaces commonly known as roads.

If he hands me the keys to his car there is nothing legally stopping me from sitting behind the steering wheel whilst the car is stationary whether or not the ignition is on.

The Equalities Act - if applied literally - would legally allow me to actually drive the car (with his permission).  More to the point the Equalities Act - if applied literally - would allow me to take and pass a Driving Test even though my sight would make it dangerous for me to be behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.  This is because the above Act states that I cannot be discriminated against due to my disability.  (The fact that the "Disability Discrimination Act" doesn't recognise wearing glasses as a disability until you get to "Registered Partially Sighted" status is beside the point.)

This is all well and good until you realise that two more sets of Rules (or Laws) actually prevent me from legally driving a car.  The "Highway Code" being one of them and the other one being the Driving Test itself.

In order to stand a chance of passing the Practical part of the UK Driving Test you need to see a small yellow rectangle with letters and numbers on it from approximately 20.5 metres in good daylight.  (I say "yellow rectangle" because I think it is the rear number plate of the car in front which car drivers spend most of their lives being able to see as they follow it.  I could be wrong but I am pretty sure that reversing from Leicester to Market Harborough on any road (but particularly the M1) is illegal.  The only reason why you would be following a white number plate on a UK registered car would be if the car was going backwards.  (Yes - I do realise that differest countries have different coloured number plates - the Dutch have yellow front and back, Germany has white front and back.  I think France still has black front and back.  Australia seems to be the UK in reverse but I am not exactly sure.)

I am curious as to why you need to be able to read the number plate in the first place.  Surely it would be enough to see the vehicle itself???  Wouldn't the driver become distracted by the Number Plate and ignore things like cats, children, trees, etc???

In the miraculous event of someone finding me a Four Wheel Drive vehicle (like a Landrover Discovery) with a nice large rear number plate that I could read from 20.5 metres - Yes, those Chelsea Tractors all seem to have bigger than average Number Plate.  Two of my bosses in my last job had Landrover Discoverys at one point and those Number Plates were easy to read.  The number plates for those were easy to remember too - they always made me feel hungry (SLA not only being the last three letters on both Number Plates but also being the Dutch word for "Salad" or "Lettuce") - I would fail on the Speed to Distance part of the test.

Not only would my sight break over 75 percent of the rules in the Highway Code but the DVLA would have a collective heart attack if I even bothered to dream about considering going in for my Driving Test.

Here now follows a list of reasons why the DVLA would prefer it if my vision was limited to propelling me along a pavement on foot;

1)  Cannot read a Number Plate smaller than those found on a Chelsea Tractor at the required distance.

2)  Cannot judge Speed to Distance ratio even if I am standing on a pavement facing a car head on.  The addition of any form of mechanised propulsion - ie, moving wheeled vehicle (including me sitting on a bicycle) - just makes it even more impossible.

3)  Night vision with glasses??? What is night vision with glasses??? I have never experienced this strange concept.  Switch lights off and I get my own private silent disco (just add music) because of the multi-coloured spots in front of my eyes.

But the biggest problem as far as driving would be concerned is;

4)  Photophobia.

Put it this way - when I say my eyes do not like bright lights this includes fluorescent lights, car headlights (both when I am facing the car and when the headlights are reflected back at me from something like a visor or those things you pull down in a car to stop the sunshine getting in your eyes), and sunshine.

Photophobia is when your eyes are sensitive to bright lights.  Mine is so bad that entire buildings and buses have been known to disappear in bright sunshine.  To say I get easily disoriented in bright sunshine is an understatement.

Of course - there are other Laws which also contradict the Equalities Act and the Disability Discrimination Act.  The main one being the one regarding "Racial and Religious Prejudice".

If you have read this blog before you will know that there are two colours I have difficulty distinguishing shapes of - Black and White.  You will also know I live in Leicester - which has a high proportion of Muslims.  Don't get me wrong - I respect their right to practice their beliefs and dress in accordance with their faith.  I just feel extremely nervous around Muslim ladies who are dressed head to foot in black complete with a black niqab.  This is because I cannot tell if they are human until I am nearly treading on their feet.

Try explaining that to a Muslim lady and you had better hope they have got Photophobia as well (or very bad sight) otherwise they may decide that you are an Islamophobe or a racist.  I can still remember the time when I thanked a niqab-wearing lady for wearing a beige coloured cardigan - I don't think she quite understood the difference the cardigan made to how safe I felt.

So - this fuss about "Equal Opportunities" and equal rights for all is never going to result in us actually getting equal rights or opportunities for all.  The conflicts between the rights of, say, the Disabled and the barriers imposed by either our surroundings or other people's attitudes towards us are sometimes too great for people to truly understand enough to be able to help us.  Sometimes even the different sets of Laws regarding how we are treated and what we can legally do are more like a game of "Top Trumps" than any coherent strategy to help us live in harmony with the able-bodied people.

I am a lone voice in the wilderness - just doing what I can to raise awareness and trying to make you think in a different way from how you are used to.

What we really need is Politicians and Law Makers and/or Enforcers who have practical experience of what it is like to be different from the rest of the population - and who are willing to stand up for those of us who are being marginalised through no fault of our own.

Only practical interventions by people who have real personal experience of the legal conflicts will be able to go some way to getting proper equality for all.


And With A Rebel Pen...(Or Protesting Via The Medium Of Poetry)
10/3/2014 6:31:08 PM
This afternoon I went to an event which had been advertised as a "Rebellious Writing Workshop".  It ended up as a session of Protest Poetry writing.

If you want to read the two poems I wrote at the group I will write them below (with an attempt at explaining why I wrote them - even though the first one practically wrote itself with very lttle input from me apart from holding the pen to paper).


The first one had been bubbling inside me for what feels like forever.  All it really needed was me to get permission to write exactly what I wanted to write in exactly the way I wanted.  I read this one out at the group.

 

 

Sight Versus Vision

Look at that lady,

Look at that man.

What gives them the right

To tell me who or what I am?

 

My sight may be nearly non-existent.

Do not try to mistake it for my consent

To come up with my own Master Plan.

 

People seem to confuse sight with vision.

They are really two separate issues

Which cause too much division

Leaving people open to abuse.

Don’t concentrate on what I cannot do

Instead please celebrate what I can.

 

Can we please stop applying labels

To Society’s less than able?

Pieces of paper either glued on

Or tied to a piece of string.

Can we stop thinking

Half the population are trying to construct the world’s biggest con?

 

If more normal sighted people

Had the vision to see what I see

Maybe they could, maybe they would

Alter the way they treat someone like me.

 

Signs would be bigger.

Something would happen to the lights.

Did you realise handrails

Are very useful

To those of us without much sight?

 

It’s not that I don’t want to do

What you ask of me.

Just maybe that I can’t.

Maybe you have to make some alterations?

A little patience would be a good start.

 

I know this may sound like a lecture.

I don’t mean to go on

But we need to be a little better.

Maybe we need to sing a different song?

 

Forget about the differences and learn how to get along.

 

The second one was a bit more difficult to write as I had attempted to write a song with almost the same chorus over 15 years ago.  All that had remained in my head from that attempt was the chorus and the tune for the chorus,  So I needed some verses to go with it.  The person in charge of the group suggested we write in a different style to the one we usually write in - I am not entirely sure he meant in a style which we cannot stand to listen to either but there we go.  That's how I ended up with a cross between a smooth song and (what reads to me like) the ear-bleeding rap from Hell but without swearwords.

Have a read and see what you think.  (I didn't think this one was really suitable to be read out to the group for reasons which might become obvious as you read it.)

Frustration

 
Chorus

Just because I'm different
Doesn't mean I don't feel the same.
This is frustration.
Can't you feel my pain?

First Verse


Ears, eyes, heads, feet.
If you want to join us
Please come in and
Hurry to take a seat.

Repeat Chorus

Second Verse


The worst thing about the current reality
Is everybody promotes disharmony.
Fun stuff comes from unity.
So everybody sing along with me.

Repeat Chorus

Third Verse


Benefits, Welfare,
Got no money?
We don't care.
Our major link to each other?
We are all being slowly driven to despair.

Repeat Chorus

Fourth Verse

Frustration.
Trying to split the nation
Without worrying about our creation
of a separated two nation State.
Now the Government
Seems intent
On abandoning the vulnerable to our fate.

Repeat Chorus to fade.


Please feel free to tell me what you think of the above two pieces of writing.

Let Us Raise A Glass To The Lost Hope Saloon (Or We Should Be Helping Not Just Punishing)
10/2/2014 11:36:22 PM
Usually I type this kind of Blogpost up as soon as possible after I have brought the information home with me.  I have had to leave typing the Blogpost below for quite a few hours in order for my "Sarcasm Gauge" to return to its normal operating parameters - this is because (even though this is a serious topic which really needs to be discussed and raised in the public arena) there are so many reasons for me to treat this topic with the contempt I feel it deserves that it has almost gone beyond the limits of satire.

Apparently Leicester City Council have decided to ban the public from orally rehydrating themselves in the street - and they have Government permission to do this.  This ban is now at the Consultation stage.  I am not entirely sure why they have taken this decision.

Oh - I do apologise - it turns out that Leicester City Council are holding a consultation on banning the consumption of alcoholic liquids in the street not banning consumption of all drinkable liquids in the street (not my fault that I understand the phrase "Street Drinking" to mean all liquids).

If you think about it logically the first option would be a slightly more workable solution that the second one (after all people who decide to consume alcohol in public areas may have decanted their beverage into a container which disguises the contents in order to get around any bans on the consumption of alcohol in public places).

There are two major things I find extremely worrying about the so-called consultation.

Firstly - the wording in the "Public Spaces Protection Order" regarding the consumption of alcohol in the street looks so vague that anybody could be caught up in it.  (There is another slightly more sinister side to it which I will come to in a minute.)

The wording appears to have been changed from virtually needing concrete proof that the Street Drinking is causing a nuisance to only needing to be worried that it is going to cause a nuisance.

The Government have brought out something called "Public Space Protection Orders" (or PSPO's).  On the face of it they seem to be useful documents when applied to the correct activities.   My problem is with the two conditions (these are written in such a way to be as vague as possible);

The first condition is as follows;

(a)  Activities in a public place have a detrimental effect of quality of life of those in the locality (ie, anybody who is present within shouting distance of the activities).

or

(b) it is likely that activities will be carried on in a public place or area that will cause detriment.

Call me strange but I do not find anything alarming about someone who is consuming alcohol in public.  If someone is sitting on a bench in Town Hall Square drinking a can of lager and not disturbing anyone else I would leave them to it.  Same goes for the Bishop of Leicester suddenly deciding to have an open air Communion (Eucharist or Mass) Service on the new Cathedral gardens - after all the Holy Communion involves the consumption of wine (which usually contains alcohol).

The time when I would start to worry is when people start to become aggresive after having consumed large quantities of alcohol.

(In fact, I honestly consider the idiots who fly around Town Hall Square on bikes, skateboards, etc, more likely to cause detriment to my personal health and safety than someone sitting quietly on a bench drinking a can of lager.)

The second condition is so vague it can be applied to just about any activity;

This concerns the effect or likely effect of the activities;

(a) is, or is likely to be, of a persistent or continuing nature

(b) is, or is likely to be, such as to make the activities unreasonable,

and

(c) justifies the restrictions imposed by the notice.

(This could be a spot fine of £100 or up to £1,000 if the case goes to Court - for refusing to stop drinking alcohol, refusing to hand over any alcohol or refusing to dispose of it.)

By the way - this PSPO could be enacted anywhere within the city boundary (I am wondering whether it could be used to shut Pubs and Clubs down).

The strange thing about the legislation is that it fails to recognise a fatal flaw in itself.  Allow me to explain;

If you are seen on Town Hall Square at 7.00am on a weekday morning drinking alcohol the chances are you are probably an alcoholic.  You are possibly also homeless.

Nowhere in the above mentioned legislation does it mention anything about the provision of help or treatment for the unfortunate human with alcohol misuse issues.

In fact, the provision of support for both Alcoholics and Homeless people is being reduced more and more - to the point where they end up in one of three places;

1)  Her Majesty's Police Station,

2) Her Majesty's Prison Service,

or

3) Her Majesty's National Health Hospitals.

none of which actually address the cause of why they became an alcoholic and/or homeless in the first place, and they certainly do not help to prevent reoccurence of excessive consumption of alcohol.

The only places which could have a hand in preventing people falling back into alcohol misuse are places like Alcoholics Anonymous or properly funded and adequately staffed hostels for recovering alcoholics.  Failing that we need a proper, fully functioning, Mental Health service with professionals posted at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester General Hospital, and Glenfield Hospital to screen for and help people who are developing alcohol dependency problems.  Ideally they would be available 24 hours a day.

Remember I said there was a more sinister side to the orders???

The way I read it (and the way I heard it when it was explained to me) sounded like it could be like the "Going Equipped" idea - where the Police can stop you if you are carrying an object which has the potential to be used in some crime or other (even if you are not intending to commit any crime at all).  As in - the burden is on you to prove that the bottle of wine or can of lager you are carrying on your person is not going to be consumed in a place where it could cause panic and distress (ie, in a public space).

What I find the most unnerving about the legislation is its potential elasticity.  Leicester City Council are currently consulting on using it to control the consumption of alcohol in public places.  How long before they decide to stretch it to other aspects of "civilian life" which they find offensive???

Being seen to be writing in public?  Being seen to send electronic communications in public?  Gathering in a public place (without alcohol) to have a meeting without seeking prior permission (in triplicate)?

Why can't we be left in peace to carry out our daily business until we actually do something illegal or "liable to cause offence to the public at large" - instead of being treated like idiots whose first action when in public is guaranteed to be an arrestable offence (even if the case is built on the flimsiest legal grounds ever invented)???

I have heard of the saying "Prevention is better than cure" but surely you need to be sure about what you are trying to prevent???

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