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Your Loads Are My Loads Too! (Or Why Being Next To Someone And Behind Them Is Sometimes The Best Thing You Can Do!)
2/27/2015 12:27:16 AM
Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you had helped someone the least - only for them to tell you that you had helped them the most???

The identity of the person concerned is irrelevant to this blogpost but - as always - I did get their permission to share my side of a very interesting sequence of events which led them to make the above comment.

I kept hearing about "Emotional Intelligence" but I honestly didn't think I had it - whatever it was supposed to be.  I think the sequence of events which led up to tonight's "bombshell" (as Jeremy Clarkson might put it) has actually taught me a big lesson.

There are times when I feel very comfortable just being people's friend and supporting them through whatever difficulties they may face - other times I feel like I am on very thin ice.  This is usually when I start to think I need at least one PhD in a subject I had previously known nothing about.  Of course, my past experience is not like most people's - and I know how much I hate it when people decide to try to advise me based on their experience.

I will admit that there were times when I was seriously worried about the individual concerned at various points.  Not only because of their secret but because they had felt unable to tell the most important people - and I could see it was making the situation worse.

I knew that they obviously trusted me enough to tell me how they felt (as well as the background to the situation) but I honestly wondered if they would trust me enough to let me be there for them at those times when the going got really tough.

If you know me you will know that I will do anything in my power to help my friends - the flip side to that is that I can sometimes say exactly what I think when I think it.  This has been something of a lesson in restraint for me.

I am not any kind of "Professional Carer" but I ended up feeling rather concerned about some of the suggestions which were being made to the individual.

As someone who is a great believer in using writing to empty my head I felt most comfortable suggesting this to the individual.  And not just because it happens to be suggested (in various forms) in self-help books and problem pages - it actually works for me.

It honestly felt like the individual was in the middle, with me on one side and (almost) everybody else who was trying to help on the other.  The solutions the rest of them kept suggesting started to sound more and more dangerous - also sounding like they were trying to cure the symptoms rather than the cause.

All I could do was support the individual, offer Sounding Board services, and hope that would be enough.  I certainly couldn't do or say half of the things I wanted to say to various people due to the distance involved - and some people can be very thankful indeed that was the case.

The only thing I could do which I knew would put my mind at rest (even though it could have driven the other person up the wall) was send "Good morning" texts.  This was my way of letting them know someone was thinking of them.  After all, what is a few seconds spent typing a text message and sending it???  This also progressed to me asking them if they were OK if I hadn't heard from them for some time.  (Along with sending virtual hugs.)  They really appreciated this.

However, it was only tonight when I found out what a difference my seemingly insignificant actions had made.  They told me that I had really helped them.  Two thing stunned me the most about that information.  The first being the fact that I was convinced that they had done the hard work (by taking up my suggestion - as well as coping with everything which was going on) - and the second being that I thought there was one other person who deserved more thanks than I did because they did a lot more to help.

It just goes to show that sometimes all you need to do is be there for someone - ask them how they are - be a Sounding Board if they want to mouth off at the world - and, most of all, do not judge them.

You may think that they are going about trying to solve their problems in the exact opposite way to the one you would choose but - unless you know everything they are going through at that moment - you are not in a position to make alternative suggestions.

Oh - and saying "I told you so", when things go wrong isn't helpful to anyone - least of all you.  The other person may decide you are going to sit in judgement on them forever and be less willing to ask your advice in future.

The sign of a true and lasting friendship is the ability to share the other person's burden but admit you don't know every single answer to their problems.  Also to receive friendship (be it hugs - both virtual and real - or just support in whatever form it takes) as well as give it.

I will close with something which really sums up what I am trying to say;

My least favourite question in a job interview is "how would your friends describe you?" - it just makes me want to hand the interviewer my mobile and tell them to ring a couple to find out.  A bit like the "Phone A Friend" option from 'Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire'.

The question I wish interviewers would ask me is "how do you treat your friends?" - my answer would be as follows;

I try to treat my friends with respect and kindness.  I think I am loyal to them.  I will go out of my way to help them if they are also prepared to help themselves.  I provide Sounding Board Services.  Most of all, I will never say anything about them behind their back which I wouldn't say to their face.  Basically, I try to treat my friends as I would wish them to treat me.  You will have to ask my friends how successful I am with that - but I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

We just need to remember that we are all in this together.

Amusing Sign And Zip-up Earphones (Or I Knew This Shop Would Be Fun Before I Got Near It)
2/25/2015 3:46:13 PM
How would you react to the following sign;



I admit the "We are just around the bend" line is what got me intrigued enough to follow the sign's advice and find the shop.

Owned by Laurence Sharma and his wife Madeleine, "nyo" is a treasure trove of unusual products.  I even bought myself a pair of headphones that you can zip up from there.

The shop passed my "entry" test - it was bright and well spaced out. I also felt able to browse at my leisure (I hate shops where merely pointing at something brings an assistant running as if you are intending to steal items).

Although, I have to admit something.

Laurence Sharma was nearly as fascinating as his shop.  He was friendly and approachable.  He even told me the shop was named after his Burmese Mum (his Dad was from India and he was born in England).

If you are ever in Lutterworth and you want some fun - visit "nyo".  You will come out smiling.

Individual Tshirts In Individual Sizes? That's Cool! (Or Why Being "Off The Peg" Need Not Be A Barrier!)
2/25/2015 3:07:59 PM
Regular readers of my ramblings will know that I occassionally attempt to showcase my talented friends by giving them a bit of publicity on here.  Today's talented friend is a woman after my own heart.  I have known Claire Hennessey since school.  She has found a niche in a market and is filling it in her own unique way.

I suppose you could say that the lady behind "That's Cool" and I have both got a similar problem - we are both out of the usual range for things we might like.  Even though I have no interest in producing lenses and frames to fit my glasses prescription - Claire Hennessey has decided to print tshirts in sizes which go upto 7XL.

As Claire said to me yesterday - why should larger ladies and gentlemen have to pay a premium in order to get fashionable clothes in their size???

(By the way - her company "That's Cool" also print mugs, etc.)

Claire had told me about her company a few months ago.  However, it was thanks to two other friends of mine that I decided to ask her if she could print some tshirts for me.  One of them was a very unique tshirt with a logo on which I actually doubted she would be able to do.

I was pleasantly surprised when Claire told me her prices.  She charged me £8 for a single side print on a tshirt and £10 for a double sided print (writing on both front and back).  For further information please email her at thatscool@sky.com.

The selection of colours and styles of tshirt she offered was good.  The selection of vinyls she showed me is impressive too.  Oh and she can print real dimantes on tshirts if that is what you are after.  Or on hoodies or tracksuits.

The best thing though was how she talked me through my ideas for one tshirt - pointing out what would and wouldn't work with what.  There was no "You cannot do that because it is not in my range".  Instead she came up with alternatives - particularly when one tshirt I had wanted turned out to be copywrited.

If you are looking for unique printing with a friendly service and which doesn't break the bank I would suggest getting in touch with Claire and see what she can come up with.

Same Chemical Substance - Different Ways Of Surviving Around It (Or Why Can H20 Also Be H2 Oh No???)
2/22/2015 6:03:40 PM
I think I am going to get a ringside seat for a spectacular show in a couple of hours (and I won't even need to leave my house - I will only have to look out of my front room window or my office window.  Office window has a better view).  The name of the show???  "Strictly Come Driving"!!!

This is a bit like "Strictly Come Dancing" but with cars.  Actually - there are times when it can ressemble "Synchronised Swimming" with cars.  However, those occassions are a lot rarer than they were when I was at school.  (That is one of the great things about now living in a house you have known all your life - you remember the good old days with a smile and a grin.  Even when the grown ups were probably wondering how to get themselves - and their cars - out of a jam so they could take you home.)

There are two rivers and a canal not very far from my house.  When I was at school (and I used to visit my Grandparents in this house) the road I live on used to get flooded frequently.  I am not exaggerating too much when I say that I used to think that a sharp shower was all it took to close the road.  Then two things happened.  Firstly, the bridges over the water were altered to stop the road flooding so often.   Secondly, the local councils decided to build another bridge between two main roads further along the river out of the city.

It is almost a pity they didn't also train some idiotic drivers to read roadsigns.  Particularly ones saying things like "Road Closed" and "Flood".  (It amazes me that some extremely idiotic drivers don't even take any notice of the electronic roadsigns which warn them before they ever get anywhere near the flood site.)

Anyway - I suppose I have an amusing few hours to look forward to as I watch the idiotic drivers decided to perform a three point turn in the middle of the road when they realise their mistake.  That is - if they don't try to borrow one of the driveways to reverse into so they can turn around when they realise their car isn't quite as submersible as they think (or should that read "amphibious"???).

Maybe I should send them to one part of Rotterdam - and tell them that they can give their cars a proper "water-induced" workout???  I know just the place as well!

The scariest place I have ever been to in a car (apart from an icy road bridge in the southern Netherlands where you could see nothing but water around you - and no barrier between you and the water) was a river bank in Rotterdam.  I am not exactly sure whether my mind was put at rest by the fact the river was frozen solid at that point - or it scared me further when the car I was in was parked right on the edge of it.  (At least the river didn't thaw for the duration of my stay.  Also, the car was lefthand drive - leaving me to get out on tarmac.)

The reason for me being anywhere near that particular riverbank in a car???  One of my Mum's cousins lived on the river bank.  Well, technically they live under the river bank (they still live in the same house) and their house doesn't get flooded.  At least not to my knowledge.

Rotterdam has two main rivers running through it.  The Maas and De Rotte (or The Rotter) which handily gives the city its name.

Now, if you go for a walk along the Rotter (as well as other Dutch rivers) you will notice something rather strange.  Especially if you are British.

The Dutch do not appear to have heard of floodplains.  Instead they have a system of dykes, dams, and water gates, to control the water.  The water gates near Europoort and Hoek van Holland look quite impressive close up.  They are literally large gates to keep the water out in case of high tides and storm surges.

Oh, and the Dutch have apparently built large underground storage containers to hold the excess rainfall in cities.

This means that the Dutch feel extremely comfortable building houses in plces where the rest of the world would not even bother consider dreaming about building them.  For example, on a river bank.  Not only that - but build it so that the first floor of the house is only just higher than the level of the water itself.  This means the ground floor of the house is below the level of the water.  Admittedly, the slope of the driveway means that the house isn't directly underneath the bank of the river but it is still a bit too close for my liking.

I am sorry but my English side always wonders why I am never issued with a lifejacket when I visit my relatives.

Walking along the river bank on a nice sunny day and seeing the sun reflecting off the water on my way to visit them reminds me that thr river can be a calming, tranquil place - even when it scares me.

Maybe Britain will just have to go Dutch at some point and learn to live with the power and danger of water in order to make peace with our future!





Mirages And Smokescreens (Or Maybe The Picture We See Is Not The Whole Story)
2/22/2015 4:59:35 PM
It is not very often when I am inspired by a newspaper article and a photo in slightly differing ways which end up dragging me to my computer to type up a blogpost on an important (to me anyway) subject which I don't feel is discussed anywhere near often enough by the correct people.

This blogpost may start by totally confusing you but I hope that by the end of it you will have experienced the point I am trying to make instead of just reading about it and forgetting it immediately.

Yesterday morning I found myself looking at what has to be my favourite photo by my favourite amateur photographer which I wanted to use for a blogpost.  After I had got permission to use it - I went through my Databank (brain) to think of a reason for using it and drew a blank.  I put it in my mental folder marked "Interesting possibilites" and got on with my day.

Fast forward a few hours and I had found a possible use for it which - to be honest - I was wary of exploring for several reasons.  The biggest reason being the use I had found for it.

Allow me to explain.

I found myself reading an article on the Guardian website by Ruby Wax (www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/20/queen-for-day-ruby-wax-children-sanity-exams-emotions) about how she would teach children that qualifications are not the "be all and end all" of school life - Mental Health is important too.

The reason I was wary of typing a blogpost connecting the two will probably become clear as you read this.  I slept on my decision and felt I had no way out of typing this.

Here goes;

Have a look at the photo below and see if you can see what I can see in it.  (My thanks to Derek Lee for allowing me to use it on here.)



I know you are probably going to tell me it has got water, narrowboats, and a building in it, as well as other visible things - and I am not going to argue with you because you are obviously correct (I know my sight is bad but I can still see the blazingly obvious).  If you know me you will know I love boats and water.

However, there is something else in the photo which is the reason I used it for this blogpost.  In order to find it you will have to stop looking at the photo with your eyes and start seeing it with your mind.

I could go all "Art Historian" on you and ask you why the photographer chose that particular scene as well as why he decided to make the water such an unusual shade of blue.  (However, I hate those kind of "Art Historians" who impose their way of looking at paintings on you - almost as much as I hate those wine tasters who are absolutely convinced that they can taste things like boot polish, or chocolate, in a glass of what is technically fermented grape juice,  I am sorry but their levels of pretentiousness just make me wish to seriously injure them.)

I hope Derek doesn't mind but I am going to try a bit of "Ink-style" psychology to help you.  There is a question in that photo which I find people don't ask nearly enough.  Or rather - they sometimes ask the correct question but use the wrong translation of it.

Use your eyes to look at the narrowboats and the water.  Now use your mind to see the narrowboats and the water - savour the connection between them.

Your eyes could make you wonder why the narrowboats are moored in that particular place.  However, my mind asked the question of "How?" - as in "How did the narrowboats get there in the first place?" along with "How are the narrowboats managing not to sink to the bottom of the river or canal???"

Maybe if we stopped asking each other "why" something is happening - and started asking "how" people are going to be given the skills to cope with whatever is happening to them in a way they find suitable for them - we could start building a society where we understand each other and accept the differences between us???

A funny thing happened in this morning's service at my church.  We had a preacher from a charity called "Torch Trust" which helps blind, Partially Sighted, and people who are losing their sight.  As part of the children's talk he produced a white stick and asked the children what it might be used for and who might use it.  One child (who has never seen me with a white stick) piped up "Old people would use it". (My thought on that idea??? Thanks a lot - 41 may be old to you but I am not ready for my pension yet")

So - whilst I agree with what Ms Wax said about teaching children to look after their mental health and not just focus on grades all the time - I would go one step further and teach them to ask "how" we can help people as well as "why" we should do it.

There is a saying about not believing your eyes - after all, your eyes can trick you into seeing things which aren't really there (and maybe problems or solutions which dont really exist.

However, seeing with your mind and being willing to ask the right questions will help you see the world more clearly - even when your eyesight is as bad as mine!!!

Sometimes The Truth Behind The Joke Is The Hardest Part (Or - Ask Yourself Why You Are Laughing)
2/18/2015 9:54:10 PM
If you have ever seen me in real life you will probably know I love wearing humourous tshirts.  "Please wait...Sarcastic Comment Loading", "Your Head Looks Funny Turned That Way", and "Dazed And Confused" - are all tshirts I own.

On Monday I found a tshirt which on first sight will either make you laugh or make you think I should immediately make an appointment with a Mental Health Professional.

Something tells me you may decide I have completely lost the plot when I tell you that the four word sentence on the front is actually the truest statement I have ever seen on a tshirt.

The four words???

Normal People Scare Me

Yes - you read that correctly.  You have my permission to laugh - or run screaming in the opposite direction.

There is a serious reason for me buying that tshirt.  I actually find some normal people have a bad habit of being hazardous to my health.  Usually when they are going about their normal business - which invariably involves thinking everybody else is like them.

We could have a debate lasting years on the subject of what a normal person is - and whether or not there is any such thing as a normal person to start with.

The next subject we could have a similar debate on might be why I may or may not be normal and what exactly I consider to be normal.

Back to the point though.

For the purposes of this post I am going to state that the definition of the term "Normal" which I am referring to is as follows;

Normal = accepted by Society as being able-bodied, fully-functioning, literate, reasonable IQ, mentally stable, has capacity to make decisions affecting themselves and others, and understands the consequences of those decisions.

(Or - my definition - Walks around thinking everybody is like them and acts accordingly.  Has great difficulty with the concept of some people being "defective" and treats any such people with contempt as these people are whingers, scroungers, liars, and cheats.  Is particularly dangerous on his or her own "turf" - and most certainly should not be allowed anywhere near the steering wheel of a car when the engine is running and the handbrake is off.)

Yes - I realise that my definition is a massive generalisation.  I have met some very nice examples of "normal" people who have made me feel very comfortable in their presence.  However, I have also met some "normal" people who have honestly left me wishing I was dead after a mere five minutes in their company.  (Unfortunately, the latter category is more memorable than the former.  This might have something to do with the fact I end up feeling stressed out and having to glue myself back together again.)

This may seem a little unfair of me but the situations which leave me feeling the most upset are the ones where the "normal" person doesn't take disability into account even when they know they exist.  Or - worse - when they have taken one disability into account but left anybody who happens to have a slightly different disability struggling.

I said "slightly different disability" with a kind of ironic twist.  You may think there is a world of difference between being a wheelchair user and being partially sighted.  After all, one cannot walk very well and the other cannot see very well - they involve different parts of the body.  What would you say if I told you that there are certain scenarios where the differences between me and a wheelchair user are not that great???  (And I am not just talking about both of us using lifts to go downstairs.)

Take shops for example.

A wheelchair needs a reasonably large space to maneouvre in - compared to an able-bodied human who can walk, that is.  This means that narrow aisles are not exactly useful to wheelchair users.

The flip side to that is that I find it difficult to navigate my way around certain clothes shops - because some kind human has decided that the best way to entice me into their shop is to present me with a "Berlin Wall" of racks and rails of clothes to barge my way through.  How wrong can they be???  Personal experience has taught me that the "Berlin Wall" serves as a great warning as to the fact I either need a torch or strong black paint daubed over the lenses of my glasses so I can see where I am going once I have got into the place.  (They are either almost pitch black - to me at least - or blindingly bright.)

Nicely spaced racks and rails with a visible gap between them actually encourages me to enter your premises.  Not needing a microscope to see the prices actually encourages me to consider spending money in your shop.

Another group of people who can be considered a danger to me are car drivers.  When they are not leaving/dumping/parking their cars in places which make me wish I could lend them my eyeballs (so they can see the error of their ways from my perspective), they subject me to their choice in music - even when all their doors and windows are shut - making it impossible for me to judge the speed their personal motorised baked bean can is travelling at (and causing me to wonder if I am going to get run over if I cross the road).  And - please - don't get me started on those orange lights at each corner of a car.  I wish someone would find a way of connecting the indicators to the steering wheel in such a way that they would come on if the steering wheel was turned even slightly from "straight ahead".  I did hear a rumour on "Top Gear" that one car manufacturer had done exactly that but I have never actually seen it in real life.

My biggest bugbear, however, concerns those towel dispensers you get in some public buildings.  They are brilliant when I have got my glasses on - not so useful when I wish to dry my glasses after cleaning them.  (I have a roll of kitchen towel on a working surface in my kitchen for exactly that purpose - at least I know where it is.)  As you can probably guess - without my glasses I switch to either memory or touch to get around and find things - which renders towel dispensers extremely annoying.  Mainly because I cannot see the towel in the first place.

There are, of course, other annoyances which I have covered in previous blogposts.

As someone who hates having to ask for help with things which everybody else can do - and sometimes makes compromises as a result - I am left wondering why some "normal" people cannot do the same thing for me instead of leaving me feeling like some kind of Second or Third Class being who is nothing but trouble???

Being in a world which was not designed for me is sometimes bad enough.  Being made to feel inferior because of a genetic defect is the reason why "Normal People (Sometimes) Scare Me".

Not so funny now - is it???

Guitar Solos And Earworms (Or Can Someone Please Explain Why My Favourite Guitar Solo Is On The Only Song I CANNOT STAND???)
2/12/2015 9:17:58 PM
Don't ask me how this happened but last week I suddenly had the introduction to "Sweet Child Of Mine" by Guns & Roses playing in my head.  I have not heard that song for years.  I don't even like Guns & Roses.  Although - even I will admit that the introduction to that song is amazing.

This drove me to find a video on YouTube which taught guitarists how to play it.  Now - I am not, and never have been, a guitarist.  If I could learn any instrument I would probably try the drums and/or the bagpipes.  A solo bagpiper playing is guaranteed to get a one human audience if I am around.

However, I do like the way that different pieces of music can be adapted to different instruments (I would love to hear the intro to "Sweet Child Of Mine" played on a piano) if you know the chords and you can read music.

My Grandad's brothers could play a piano.

My Great Uncle Harry (who I only have a vague memory of - funnily enough involving me and him sitting at a piano) played the piano at Leicester Forest East Services when it opened.  (I cannot imagine just going for a drive to a Motorway Service Station - just shows how much times have changed.)

If there was anything my Great Uncle Roy couldn't do with a piano it wasn't worth bothering with (short of taking it apart and puting it back together).  I have been in his presence when he made an organ sing.  That was a memorable experience for me.

To me music is just another language.  The only difference is that music uses notes where voices use words to tell stories.

There are some languages which are like music when spoken by a native.

Before I could fully understand what my parents and Dutch relatives were talking about when they spoke in Dutch I could definitely tell you if someone was angry about something.  The Dutch language when spoken by a group of people can sound like your own personal opera (just without the soprano shrieking usually) and the "music" of the speech can tell you a lot about the mood.  I can listen to Dutch people talking for hours - if they let me - and not get bored.

I had better get back to the point, hadn't I?

Music is a precious gift and - even if you only like parts of a song or a tune - you should take time to explore different variations of music until you find one which is personal to you.
When Is A Bus Stop Not A Bus Stop? (Or How Many Officials Do You Have To Report An Accident To???)
2/12/2015 8:45:51 PM
After a conversation last night on Twitter with a Police Officer who tweets under the pseudonym of "Constable Chaos" I am seriously confused.

(If you read the original "Inkyworld" blog you may remember he narrowly avoided sparking off a diplomatic incident with one of his blog posts during the London Olympics - he accused a Dutch Judoka of admitting to beating someone up when what she had  actually said in a Dutch tweet was she had hit them.  He was ready to arrest her until I pointed out what she had actually said in a correct translation.)

Please see below for the latest confusion.

Last week I was witness to an accident which could have had disasterous consequences for the people involved.  That is what I am absolutely certain about.  (Put it this way - attempting a u turn on Charles Street in Leicester without using your indicators - is a disaster waiting to happen.)

Luckily for the driver of the car which was hit, the vehicle which hit it was a car instead of a bus, and a slow moving car as well.

I had been under the impression that parking in a bus stop was illegal (as well as downright dangerous).  Chaos informed me that the only thing which could be 100% proven about that statement was the fact about parking in a bus stop being downright dangerous.  According to him bus stops themselves can be illegal.  He muttered something about a "Traffic Revision Order" being needed to make a bus stop legal.

This "Traffic Revision Order" is a piece of paper which Councils need to get before they can say a bus stop is a legal no parking zone (let alone a legal bus stop).

Ah - yes - the Council.  You mean the outfit I was told by the Chief Constable of my local Constabulary was responsible for dealing with parking in bus stops???  Apparently my local Constabulary are very interested in driving offences but not so much in parking offences.  I find this very odd.

I admit it has been a very long time since I read the "Highway Code" but I seem to remember that there was a section for Pedestrians, a section for Cyclists, a section for Horses, and a section for Motorised Vehicles???  I have been trying to dig deep into my memory banks but I have failed to remember a section on "Driving" and a section on "Parking".  Mainly due to the fact that - I could be wrong about this - I thought "Driving" and "Parking" were two sides of the same coin???  As in - if a car is not being driven (and it has its handbrake on and it is out of gear with or without the ignition off) it is parked???  Obviously if the brakes have failed and the car empty and it is rolling downhill it is not technically being driven nor is it technically parked.

Apparently - if I am run over as a result of having to walk in the road due to some idiot deciding to park with over three quarters of the underside of their vehicle covering the pavement - any witnesses should ring the following groups of people (if they are in Leicester anyway) - the ambulance, the Police, and the local council.  The ambulance to convey me to hospital, the Police to report the accident to them as I ended up laying on the road, and the council to apprehend the idiot who caused me to be in the road in the first place.

I nearly had personal experience of exactly that happening to me on my way home this afternoon.  Luckily the car was parked next to a very low wall so I could just about squeeze between them.

I do have a serious question though.

If I folded the wing mirrors of a car inwards so I could get past it which group of officers would prosecute me when the car alarm went off???  Police or Council???

Craziness With A Pen (Or It Must Be Time For Some "Scribbles"- Inspired Ramblings)
2/12/2015 7:51:44 PM
We haven't had any Scribbles-related ramblings for quite some time (mainly because I didn't think my efforts at the last few meetings were fit for public consumption).  Have a read of the two pieces of writing below and see what you think;

(The first peice was inspired by a photo I chose from a selection.  It was of a human in foggy conditions)
Fog

My friend, Kristyna Myles, is recording an album.  On this album is a song called "Autumn" where she sings about the colours it brings and how much she likes them.

I like Autumn as well - but for a slightly different reason.  It is one of only two seasons which have been known to bring serious doses of what I would call "Equal Opportunities Weather".  The other being Winter with its snow and ice.

Fog has to be my all time favourite weather event.  Not only because the rest of the world starts to see what I can see without my glasses - mostly blurs and gloom - but also because I narrowly missed getting a detention for starting a running joke during French lessons at Lutterworth Grammar School (the joke lasted the whole two years of my French GCSE class) - involving the word "foggy" as well as my skill at impersonating accents (which had, until this point, been restricted to the Dutch accent).

What happened was Mr Chadwick (the French teacher) decided to ask us a question - "What is 'Il y a de broulliard' in English?"

I wouldn't even have attempted to do an impression of his perfect French accent if he hadn't previously managed to make the simple sentence "it is foggy" sound like it had been delivered by a foghorn or ship's whistle with a French accent (a low drone).  This, unfortunately, stuck in my head.  It was also what came out of my mouth.

Fog does have its drawbacks though.  I can still remember turning on the Dutch news on one New Year's Day in Holland and seeing a report where quite a few drivers had been involved in - what I thought was - a rather amusing accident.  The lack of wind the previous night had left the smoke from the fireworks hanging around.  One driver complained that it was like "driving into a white wall" - served him right for being in too much of a rush to let the smoke clear before he left home.


The second piece of writing was actually a result of what is fast becoming my favourite exercise or game at Scribbles (and we have only done this exercise twice).  We were each given a card with three words on it and were told to hide one or more words in our writing so the others could guess what they were.  (I think I hide mine just a little too well - see if you can spot them.  I will put the answers at the bottom.)

We are now in the run up to the event I like the least - mainly because I am forced (through my conscience) to partake in it but I cannot do anything to trigger it.  Apparently only two people in the entire country can trigger one.  I am well aware that I am supposed to treat the beings/creatures/aliens (delete as applicable) who chose to be the "contestants" with respect but - as they all give the impression of being those Oompa Loompas you read about in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" - I cannot be bothered to.

(We really need to bring back "Spitting Image"!)

Apparently I am represented by Johnathan Ashworth.  However, as I have never knowingly met him, he is stuck in my brain as an Avatar on Twitter.

I will be glad on May the 8th - or will I?  I suspect 2015 will be like 1974 with a double General Election - especially if David Cameron thinks he will be forced into another "Coalition".

If you ask me we should scrap Elections and enact Democracy "Swiss style" amd let everyone decide.


(The hidden words were "General Election", "Oompa Loompas", and "Avatar".)

 

You Know You Have Found True Inspiration When Every Word From Someone Feels Like A BIG HUG!!!
2/12/2015 6:37:52 PM
I have to admit that it is not that easy to stun me into near speechlessness merely through saying really nice things about me which I honestly feel I don't deserve.  Today's "Inspirational Person" has managed to do that twice in reasonably quick succession.

Although I have never actually met Demetra Olliver (better known to me as @DemeMummy from Twitter) she has inspired me with her kindness, her generousity with her comments and compliments, and her friendship.  Oh - and the fact she seems to know what I am rambling on about even if I haven't got a clue when I start typing.

I honestly feel she deserves the compliment she paid me in her first answer to be reflected back to her with the biggest mirror I can find!

Anyway - enough of my waffling - I will let her speak;

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

I met the lovely Inky via twitter. I was immediately drawn to her because she spoke words of truth in plain, simplistic, straight-forward terms.  And she sent me lots of hugs. I feel the energy from virtual hugs in the way that I feel physical hugs. They make me feel protected, loved and cherished and most of all accepted. They are the best form of defence against the cruelties of this world and enable me to face each day with a smile and positive thoughts. I’m also learning more about Ineke through her blogs and they are a revelation! To know that she has faced so many difficulties and yet come through them with her sense of humour intact. I find her articulate and honest. Funny how she’s writing about inspirational people when she herself is one of the inspirational people in my own life.

 

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)?

 My three sisters inspire me, for many reasons. They were brought up differently to me, much more sheltered and protected (my sisters would change those words to “given no freedom whatsoever”). When we came to England, I was only 6 years old and picked up the language really easily (I had a lot of things really easy in general compared to them) but they were teenagers. In spite of that, they worked really hard, not only picking up the language but doing incredibly well in school and all three of them went to excellent universities, including Warwick and Oxford. They have been brave and travelled. (I have to gear myself up to use the tube!) One lived in Spain for many years and then Gibraltar. The other studied in Madrid and Moscow, worked in Greece and now lives in Cyprus. Despite many hardships that they have endured throughout their lives (one of them is disabled and the other two have health issues) they always have time to support others. All three qualified as teachers and one is also a holistic practitioner. Whether they heal with their hands or their words, what you feel from all three of them most strongly is their love. It emanates from them and gently wraps round them and the person they are talking to, feeding and healing the person’s heart. They are gentle, caring, supportive and loving. It feels like such an incredible privilege to be their little sister.


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

I look for gentleness and fun. Someone with whom I could speak and listen to for hours and never get bored in their company. Someone who accepts me the way I am and doesn’t criticize me but encourages me to spread my wings and helps me to question how I view the world. Someone who educates me by sharing their life experiences and teaches me how to deal with life. I view it as a true privilege when someone opens up to me about their experiences and their feelings and also encourages me to speak about mine.

 

4)        How would your other friends describe you?

 My friends would describe me as “Mummy”. They know I’m always there for them if they need me. My family would describe me as a “feeder”. I love to take care of people and to me, sharing food is a way of sharing love. I suspect they would also describe me as a bit of a fruit-loop. My son affectionately calls me a “special child” and if truth be known, I love that.

 

5)        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)?

It’s taken me 49 years of my life to finally accept and like myself the way I am. I still have moments of doubt but the amazing people that I have come into contact with, whether that be physical contact or virtual contact via twitter, have helped me overcome so many personal demons. I’m still in the process of discovering who I am and learning my place in this world but it’s a journey I am finally enjoying.

 



The Flat Of My Dreams Is Probably No More (Or - How Memories Can Both Be A Blessing And A Curse)
2/4/2015 10:56:05 PM
Have you ever seen a news report which only names an area and only shows a photo of a building but you know exactly where it is - to the point of being able to name the exact street - even though you have not been in the exact place the photo was taken from for over 30 years???  Or am I finally going completely mad???

On Sunday afternoon I was looking at the website for NOS (Dutch State News Broadcaster) when I saw a headline about some flats in Rotterdam being involved in a gas explosion.  Now, anything which mentions Rotterdam gets my interest going.  So I clicked on the headline and started to read the article.  I thought the block of flats in the photo looked familiar.  Then the place name "Schiebroek" passed my eyes.  I was absolutely positive I could name the street those flats were on but I was scared of being proved correct.  Unfortunately, later reports confirmed my worst fears (as did one of my Mum's cousins who had seen a status I had put on Facebook about it).

Schiebroek is a suburb of Rotterdam which you could say I have had a very strong connection with in the past (and I still have very fond memories of the place).  In fact, up until I was around 10 years old, it had quite a lot in common with where I am living now - its inhabitants included one of my grandparents.  I can actually be more specific than that.  The street which had the flats affected by the gas explosion (Moddermanstraat) was the exact street where Oma lived.

I have written bits and peices about the first flat I remember Oma living in (mostly in the original Inkyworld blog) but I hope you will forgive my trip down Memory Lane this once?

Not only did Schiebroek contain Oma's flat.  It also had a couple of other things in common with the suburb of Leicester my English Grandparents lived in.  Both halves of my Grandparents (English and Dutch) lived around the corner from a row of shops.  Both places also either contained or had contained a tram terminus (Leicester's trams had disappeared a long time before I was born but you can still get on a Lijn 25 - used to be a Lijn 5 - tram outside Rotterdam Central Station to take you to Schiebroek).  That was how I knew I was going "home" when I was a little girl - stand me facing the Central Station at a stop for the Lijn 5 tram and I was happy.  (My love of "oneandahalf buses" - what English people, for some strange reason, insist on calling "Bendy Buses" even though it is the rubber bit that bends and not the bus itself - came later.)

Although if the same thing happened in the house my English Grandparents lived in at that time as has apparently happened to Oma's flat in Schiebroek I would be very worried indeed.  Second thoughts - I would have to move back in with my Dad as I am currently living in that house.  In fact, as I was thinking about typing this blogpost I suddenly realised that out of my parents, Grandparents, and me, my English Grandad is the only one who never lived outside the city limits of his hometown.)

The first thing to strike me about the flats was the hospital type doors you had to go through to get to the stairs.  Thick wooden doors in dark brown with a small window in each and diagonal metal handles which met in the middle.

Once you had got through those you had the letterboxes on your right, the stairs on your left, and the entrance to the cellars in front of you.  Go up one flight of stairs - put suitcase down, turn self round 90 degrees to your right, pick suitcase up, walk forwards five paces, and repeat first two steps - proceed up second flight of stairs and exit doors in front of you.  Please note - the only illumination you get will be from the handily positioned light in front of the doorway on the walkway.  (Luckily for me it was my Dad who had to carry the big brown suitcase which necessitated the maneouvers to get from the main entrance to the first floor walkway.)  Turn left and - in my case - start running or walk quickly towards the lady standing outside one of the flats.  You have now reached Number 47 - otherwise known as your destination.

Moddermanstraat 47 was a "House of Surprises" as far as I was concerned.  Surprises ranging from homenade dresses and other clothes (I remember two dresses with patterns which reminded me of Licorice All-Sorts), as well as rollerskating down the hallway, and running a toy car down the same hallway (that car was a realistic model of a sportscar - although, I did get a shock when my Grandad ended up buying a car which looked almost identical a few years later).

I can still remember the layout of the flat even now.  The first door on your right as you entered the flat was the kitchen with its net in the window of the door (red, yellow, and blue polka dots) - not forgetting the scary water heater from Hell with its open flame over the hot water tap.  Next door you had the toilet.  Then you had the bathroom/  Straight in front of the front door you had the living room.  On the right of the front door you had the dining room (where Oma and I slept when my parents and I visited her).  Next door to that you had Oma's bedroom (which my parents slept in when we visited) which opened onto a balcony.

Funnily enough the only thing I actually miss about that flat is one of the few items which didn't manage to make it to my Dad's house after Oma died but did make it to Oma's last flat (or - to be totally honest - one of them did) .  It also happens to be the one thing I found seriously painful in warm weather.

Oma had a set of dining room chairs which resembled four-legged versions of typists chairs - with faux leather (probably vinyl) coverings on the seat and back.  Peeling your thighs off them in hot weather was painful in the extreme if you were wearing shorts.  I was glad when they were upgraded to upholstered chairs when she moved - although she did keep one in her last flat.

I was really sad when she moved away from Schiebroek (not only because the English translation sounds as crazy as the original.  "Schie" - pronounced "Ski" is a river and "broek" - pronounced "brook" - are trousers).  She moved to sheltered accommodation in a place which was nowhere near as fun to get to by public transport.  Put it this way - if a car or a bus starts driving along railway tracks there is something wrong somewhere - if a car or bus starts driving along tramlines it is normal (just make sure a tram isn't heading straight for you).  Getting there by car wasn't that much more interesting - well, the only landmark there was was a sign for a "Colourroll" superstore or some kind of carpet warehouse shop.  Her new flat was outside Rotterdam.

I almost forgot.  The Sheltered Accommodation Oma moved to was called "Bermensteyn".  However, that name never made it onto the address portion of any mail she recieved - it was always "Bazuin" (or bassoon) - which was the name of the street.

The only memorable thing about "Bermensteyn" as far as I am concerned was actually a matter of some dispute (as in my parents and Oma didn't believe it happened but I know it did and it has put me off multiple door entry intercom systems for life).

In order to get into "Bermensteyn" you had to press a button on an enormous intercom panel - there were well over 100 flats with well over 100 corresponding buttons on this panel - and wait for the resident of the flat to let you in (or whoever was in the flat).  One day I was returning from somewhere and I pressed the button for someone to let me into the building.  Whilst I was waiting for an answer the panel seemed to come to life with a man and a woman talking away to each other in Dutch.  I have been wary of those things ever since!!!

I may never be able to buy Moddermanstraat 47, Schiebroek, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, as I don't know if it is now going to be demolished - but I can be happy with the thought that I have at least been able to stay in the flat of my dreams!!!

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