|Last Friday I managed to amaze someone simply by doing what seemed completely obvious to me - they told me that I am one of the few people they know who actually does what I did.|
What was so spectacular about what I did??? I took the most direct route from my house to the location of a meeting I wanted to attend - by bus. As in - I used the buses as a network instead of taking the most "obvious" - to most people - route (or what I call the "Hokey Cokey" route) - into Leicester and back out in a different direction.
For readers who do not know what I mean by the "Hokey Cokey" - it is a kind of comedy song with actions "You put your left arm in - your left arm out - in - out - in - out - shake it all about - you do the Hokey Cokey and you turn about - and that's what its all about. Whoah - Hokey Cokey - Whoah Hokey Cokey. Knees bend - arms stretch - Rah Rah Rah".
Anyway - back to the point.
The public transport in Leicester and Leicestershire is disjointed enough without people making longer journeys than they need to because they are fixated on the idea that all buses go from Leicester City Centre.
I know I have said this before but I am amazed that you have to be a native (or at least someone who has lived in Leicestershire for quite a while) to realise that there is a stop almost opposite Leicester Railway Station where you can get buses into the City Centre (and the bus stations). There are no signposts to tell you this but - if you leave the main ticket area and walk down the wheelchair ramp that goes straight down towards the exit directly in front of you, and go over two pedestrian crossings (still aiming straight ahead) you will come to a bus stop.
More could be made of the connections between buses that do not involve going into Leicester and back out again.
|This is one of those "Slow cook" blog posts - as in - I had to wait for the smoke to stop exiting my ears and my temper to get near its usual friendly levels before typing. I make no apologies if you think I am being oversensitive about the subject. I just feel we need to stop trying to divide "Equality" into sections and subsections. As someone tweeted this week "Positive Discrimination is still Discrimination".|
I knew I was not really in a fit state to write about this subject when I had the chorus to "Wouldn't It Be Good", by Nik Kershaw, playing in my head over and over on reading an article written by a woman on the subject of "why we should attempt to delete men from the world as we know it" (or at least that is what the article announced itself as to me).
Apparently there is such a thing as "passive sexism". This is where someone's choice of reading material, people they follow on Twitter, etc, is biased towards the male gender.
The female who wrote the article was upset because she noticed that the man sitting next to her followed almost all the same people as her but minus the female contingent. Now, all I can say to that is - why was she snooping on his Twitter Account to start with???
I admit she does have a serious point - just not the point she thought she had.
In some countries of the world and cultures women are most definitely still seen as second class citizens and completely worthless when compared to men. They have to fight for everything they get.
I am puzzled as to how come the writer of the article seems to equate herself with those women when I get the idea she lives in the Western World.
I don't remember Margaret Thatcher complaining about sexism (passive or aggressive) when she was Prime Minister. Marie Curie seemed to be able to make her scientific discoveries without screaming about sexism too. Oh, and the women who took the men's roles during the Second World War just got on with it. As for the Suffragettes??? I think we all know what they did in order to give women the vote!!!
I have an awful confession to make - I am a female who has absolutely no sympathy with women who complain about sexism (passive or aggressive). Don't get me wrong - I am all for equal rights for women. I would just prefer if the women in question weren't so two-faced in their approach to getting the equality they want so much.
Allow me to explain;
A 21st century woman living in England is more in charge of her own destiny than she ever has been before. She can dress as she pleases (even though I find some of the outfits women choose to wear in public absolutely horrific - low cut tops teamed with skirts that are too short to accurately be described as such - as well as enough makeup to decorate a small room - oh, and don't get me started on the Plastic Surgery). She has as much choice as men when it comes to her career options. There are very few public groups or venues which do not let women be an equal participant in what goes on.
But still we have some women who are not happy. They say we need more women on TV, women need to be taken more seriously by the very men they spend most of their lives worshipping and trying to attract into a relationship by every method at their disposal. I fear these women have yet to emerge from the "Laddette" culture from a few years ago (where girls tried to be just like men, with Binge drinking, etc).
Why have I not got any sympathy for them???
As Nik Kershaw sings "I got it bad. You don't know how bad I got it. You got it easy. You don't know when you got it good". Click here for the full lyrics to the song www.youtube.com/watch.
The women who have decided to complain about being discriminated against just because they are women should put themselves in the shoes of someone with a disability or a Mental Health issue. They may learn something about fighting for equality then.
Every single time I want to do something or go somewhere I have a choice to make - do I want to succeed in my endeavour because of my disability or despite it???
If I wanted to succeed because I am Registered Partially Sighted all I would have to do is play the "Poor Me" role and act like I need help at all times. This would give me no satisfaction because I would be shortchanging both myself and those around me.
Because I was brought up to attempt to succeed despite my sight problem I am more comfortable fighting for every small victory I get. Most of the time I will not let you see my difficulties unless one of the following scenarios could occur if I don't;
1) I risk causing injury to myself and/or another person as a result of what I am trying to do.
2) I have tried everything I can think of and my goal has been declared impossible.
3) I am tired and you want me to see something or do something which I would not otherwise have any problems with.
When women start complaining about having to fight for the same recognition and respect as men I feel like shaking them warmly by the throat. Their "fight" seems almost synthetic to me. After all, they seem to spend most of their time shouting to demand respect and equality but very little time truly working for it.
Fighting for equality means just that. Fighting yourself, fighting society, fighting the fact you have to work at least 10 times harder than everybody else just to do the same thing that everybody else can do easily, fighting the mental fatigue which hits you when you are busy pretending to be like everyone else for just that fraction of a second too long but you don't want to give in, fighting the will to crawl into a corner and just give up when someone unwittingly makes you feel like you are a waste of space and oxygen just by something they say about you.
The hardest thing I have ever fought for was to be treated like everybody else by one single person (who shall remain nameless). I don't think that the person in question knows how much they have helped me as a result of my battle or how big a debt of thanks I owe them - even if they were the one who stated the obvious when they said I wasn't like any of their other friends.
So - maybe the next time any woman decides to complain about the inequality she faces when compared to men she should consider herself lucky, count her Blessings, and think about those of us who fight every day to be like everybody else even when we spend most of our lives being the exact opposite.
|I had a rather interesting (and unpleasant) experience last Thursday afternoon. I had needed to go to St Georges Retail Park, in Leicester, to buy some items from Wyckes. When I left the shop it was raining quite heavily and I didn't want to get drowned on my walk back to Leicester City Centre. So I decided to visit Currys/PCWorld (next door to Wyckes) whilst I waited for the rain to ease a bit.|
As I was walking around Currys/PCWorld I found some microwaves (my old one was almost a museum peice) and I asked a Sales Assistant about them. When I had made my decision as to which one I wanted to buy it turned out that I was in the worst place to actually buy it.
All I asked was "Can you deliver it?". The answer came back "Do you have a car?" - when I said "No" things got really surreal - "You will have to go online for that." - the next suggestion was worse "you could get a taxi." (no offer to pay for it).
Now - I am pretty sure that I have read about stores and shopkeepers who have complained about people using their shops to research products before buying them more cheaply online???
I was, therefore, surprised when I was practically forced to go online to buy something which was facing me in the shop due to lack of transport (I had not gone shopping with the intention of buying a microwave - otherwise I would have taken my trolley with me so I could trundle it home myself).
The excuse I was given both by the store I was in and later by their Customer Services Dept via Twitter was "we are not equipped to deliver from stores - only online".
I know I am odd in that I have to walk into shops and try things before I buy them - or at least make sure I can see the part I am supposed to read, press, twiddle, etc, to get them to work.
However, there are not that many people who own their own van or HGV so they can get things like washing machines or fridgefreezers home on their own.
Given the option of buying online or getting a taxi - I chose the third (unspoken) option and took my business elsewhere.
This resulted in me going home, researching microwaves online, getting my trolley out, and going to Argos - where, though I couldn't touch the microwave I desired to buy (a slightly different one than in the previous store), the assistant helped me put it on the trolley and secure it without complaining.
Currys/PCWorld have lost my business permanently.
Someone I told about it the next day told me I should have played the "Disabled" card. This managed to upset me more than the original incident. Why should I play the "Disabled" card every time I want to do something the rest of the world can without complaint or difficulty - especially when it was not actually my sight problem causing the difficulty (OK so I cannot drive as a result of it but that is beside the point)???
I always try to support shops and companies by visiting them in person if I intend to buy their products - it is usually easier to ask humans about what they sell than to interrogate a computer. After all, a computer will not tell you that the microwave I ended up buying was slightly heavier than I thought it would be.
Maybe we need to wean ourselves off the idea that the internet is the cure for all our purchasing problems and go and annoy shops instead!!!
|The first song there has been evidence of me singing with my Mum was the Feyernoord football chant. Please don't ask me how or why this happened - I don't know.|
Why did I tell you this???
Well, Apparently the Rotterdam Police have decided to hold a strike tomorrow - and the Feyernoord supporters are not happy.
Instead of the supporters being able to sing (and I am giving the literal English translation here) - "Hand in hand Comrades. Hand in hand for Feyernoord. Not words but deeds give Feyernoord" - at the Kuip tomorrow afternoon, they will have to sing it in the same venue on Monday evening. They are not very happy about this.
I will get to why the Police are striking in a minute - however, because they are on strike tomorrow the Mayor of Rotterdam has been forced to postpone the match. Apparently a distinct lack of Police in and around the stadium is not conducive to playing a football match safely. (I think the match could be shifted to the Coolsingel near the Town Hall as there is a rumour that quite a few Police Officers are going to be in that area tomorrow afternoon.)
As to why the Rotterdam (and other Police Forces in Holland) have decided to take strike action and other forms of industrial action???
Well, they are protesting about changes in terms and conditions regarding Pay, length of service, etc.
The wife of a serving Rotterdam Police Officer tweeted an article which was written by an ex-professional footballer who now works for a Dutch police force. This article made it clear that without the Police there can never be another football match.
I wonder what would happen if the UK Police were allowed to try the same thing???
|Have you noticed how the first things to lose money are the things which actually keep Britain alive (and I don't mean the NHS or the Emergency Services either)???|
I read that the BBC have decided to close a fund for aspiring Artists due to lack of money (apparently the money raised from phone votes for programmes like "Strictly Come Dancing" and "The Voice" were put into that fund.
However, it is not just the BBC who are busy closing funds and also closing their doors to aspiring artists.
Every time the Government cuts funding for Councils the Councils seem to go for the easiest option when it comes to saving money. The Arts and Culture budget always seems to take the first hit - shortly followed by vulnerable people. Actually, I would say that the vulnerable people are included in the Arts and Culture budget.
If you think about it logically (and I am not usually on very good terms with Logic) - by cutting the Arts and Culture budgets you are also cutting things like Art Therapy for those people with Disabilities and Mental Health issues, support for Jobseekers and people who need to use other online services (not everybody has access to a computer at home, nor can they afford the cost of internet access), hopes and dreams for potential writers (close libraries and where do you expect people who cannot really afford the luxury of books to find inspiration for their next bestseller - or even learn about different styles of writing???), local history and cultural identity (Museums and Art Galleries, etc, are brilliant custodians of our past, present, and future), etc.
We need to preserve our heritage - not just for future generations but also for ourselves. Without heritage we are unable to function as we should.
As a result of cutting funding for our Arts and Culture, I feel we are making a grave mistake. I also feel that any attempt to cut the Budget Deficit by causing an Arts and Culture deficit in our country is the biggest mistake anyone could make. I have tried to show how interlinked with the NHS and the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) Arts and Culture really are. There are other sections of society who suffer as a result of cuts to Arts and Culture, of course, but they are the main two.
A proper, balanced Budget Deficit reduction plan would actually increase spending in these important things.
|There are times when you have to back out of a situation - especially when it is starting to have the potential to negatively affect your health (as well as the health of the other people involved as a result of what you might say or do).|
I am no longer involved with DNO and - to be quite honest - it is a relief to be able to say that.
What started out for me as a bit of a learning experience and an adventure turned into a waiting game which left a bitter taste in my mouth due to the actions of certain individuals who I had supported.
I am not going to go into the exact details of my reasons for leaving on such a public forum (after all, it was only a voluntary position - even though I was hoping it would turn into a job before now).
However, my decision frees me up to write about the issues which interest me the most - which I felt unable to write about before now because they could have conflicted with the stated aims of DNO.
It also leaves me with something of a challenge. I am determined to start earning money from doing the one thing I love more than anything - raising awareness of issues which you might not have heard about, or putting my spin on things which may make you think differently. Basically, speaking out for those who have no voices, wherever they might be.
Of course there are issues I am familiar with due to personal experience. There are other issues I have no personal experience of but I may know a human "library book" who does (and my human "library" covers a wide range of subjects).
Don't worry - I intend to keep rambling on here as well. I need a Safety Valve after all.
I just need to find someone who thinks I am good at writing and who thinks I would be a useful asset to them. Any ideas out there???
|I don't know if you realised this but we recently had a General Election. The preparations for this seem to have started some time during the last Millenium - and I am expecting the postmortem for this one to finish at some point during 3015 at the earliest.|
I could bore you with what I liked and didn't like about preparations as well as the characters involved. However, if I did that we would be arguing about it until the second Doomsday.
So I am going to tell you about three things which occurred to me as I watched the build up, the Election News Broadcasts, and the Postmortems.
The first being I don't think Nicola Sturgeon should have been interviewed on a TV Programme shown in England. Yes, I agree that as leader of a Political Party who sends MPs to Westminster (even though Sinn Fein have the same idea about Northern Ireland - as in they want Independence - and refuse to send any MPs to Westminster due to a minor problem with swearing allegiance to the Queen) she should have been in the Election Debates, but as a sole interviewee on a TV programme being broadcast in England??? Not unless the BBC would like to interview the Leaders of the Political Parties in other countries where I - as a resident of England - am ineligible to take part in their elections and vote for their candidates. (Although I would love to see what the BBC would make of a 30 minute interview with Geert Wilders - at least, to my knowledge, no candidate for UKIP has been subjected to a televised trial in a Court of Law as a result of what they said about certain sections of the population in Parliament.)
The next thing which struck me was the total bias shown by certain sections of the media right through the Election campaign. I am not talking about the Tabloids or the other newspapers either.
The BBC is supposed to be impartial when it comes to Politics. However, the only day when they actually remembered their duty was Election Day itself. I was surprised to see that the "Newspaper Review" section of the BBC website (and BBC News App) on Election Day carried a paragraph stating that they legally could not show Front pages which mentioned the Election. The rest of the time they took great delight in exercising their bias.
As for the Postmortem. I had the misfortune of deciding to watch the "Election Special" edition of "Question Time". That was 60 wasted minutes of my life which I will never get back. I honestly thought they would get the leaders of the Political Parties back and get the audience to fire questions at them. Instead we had no UKIP representative whatsoever, and a panel mostly comprised of men (there was one woman who I had never heard of before - probably to fulfil BBC's self-imposed quota of female representation) who had been largely absent from the Media during the run up to the Election - all shouting and arguing among themselves.
All in all I feel that the General Election went on for way too long - and the postmortems (of which I fear there will be many) will go on for much loner.
|On Thursday I was walking around in the Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester. (Other Shopping Centres are available. My personal favourite one is the Oosterhof - Sorry - Alexandrium - on the outskirts of Rotterdam.)|
As I was walking around an advertisement in the Three Store caught my eye. It was advertising a mobile phone which is exclusive to that network. Now - I am on that network already, so I decided to investigate further.
The mobile in question is an Honor 6 from Huawei (the people behind the HTC brand).
I suppose it would better be described as a "Phablet" (a cross between a mobile phone and a tablet) as it is bigger than a standard mobile phone.
Homescreen set up to my requirements
I have to admit I am slightly more fussy about the capabilities of a mobile phone than other people might be - this is partially due to my sight and partially due to the fact I hate having to delve into the phone to find the apps and features I require.
My previous favourite phone (which I have owned) put in for its P45 a few weeks back. That was an LG G3 - all singing, all dancing (except for two features I discovered on the Honor 6 after I had bought it - more about those as we go on). However - I should have remembered my last experience with an LG mobile phone - I had had an LG Viewty a few years ago and that died quicker than I had been expecting it to as well.
I had read reviews of the Samsung S5 and decided to give that a try. To say that me an it did not get on is an understatement. The three fatal flaws in it (as far as I was concerned anyway) were not being able to put the Apps in groups on the Homescreen, Not being able to set up the email so I could access my emails from my Tiscali email account (Samsung do not do Tiscali), and not being able to access the Wifi in the Phoenix in Leicester (told me the Wifi was unsafe and forced me to go back - when I had previously accessed it on both my Samsung Tablet, and my LG G3 mobile phone).
I admit I haven't tried to access public Wifi on the Honor 6 yet - time will tell about that.
So - what about the Honor 6???
Well, it is on the Android 4.4.2 Operating System - but don't let this put you off. It seems to be better than Android 5.0 (I refuse to call it "Lollipop") although I am expecting it to be upgraded at some point.
There is one major difference between the Honor 6 and every other Android mobile phone I have seen and owned. The Apps are on the Homescreen (as you would see on an iPhone) so no scrabbling around looking for the icon to get you to the Menu screen.
It is very easy to put the Apps into groups on the Honor 6.
The memory on the mobile phone I got is 32GB built in (upgradeable by inserting a memory card).
You can either use two SIM cards (from different networks) or one SIM card and one memory card. The slots are on the side of the phone so you don't need to remove the back cover.
The Honor 6 is a sealed unit phone (except for the socket for the earphones and the socket for the power charger - this is the only thing I actually liked about the Samsung S5, having a cover for the charger socket).
The screen is bright with easily readable (and adjustable) font sizes. This is the first thing I look for in a screen which I am expected to access information from.
The Google Keyboard is white on black as default - easier on my eyes.
The Notification panel at the top of the screen is easy to read and the drop down menu (which shows you what the notifications are trying to alert you to) is the clearest I have come across on any mobile phone.
Remember I mentioned there were two extra functions which were not on the LG G3???
These two were a pleasant surprise when I found them hidden away in the menu as they are the two things which someone like me could find most useful on a mobile phone - even more useful than the ability to make phone calls and send tweets and texts (that may be an exaggeration but it is not much of one).
The most useful was the torch - yes, I did say torch. Unfortunately, most mobile phone manufacturers seem to have decided that the last thing anybody needs on a phone is a torch. This means that you need to go to the App store for the Operating System for your mobile and risk getting a virus or phishing malwear downloaded onto your phone when you most need a torch. The Honor 6 has the best torch I have seen on a mobile phone - it is as bright as a car headlight.
The other function I found which I was pleasantly surprised about was the Magnifier. Whilst this is not adjustable for magnification purposes I still think it is a useful tool.
Three cameras finish this brilliant masterpiece off. We have one front facing camera (so you can take selfies with it, use it for video calls, or use the Mirror App) and two cameras at the back. I am still a bit confused by this but apparently one is for "normal" views and the other one is for panoramic shots.
Oh - there is one thing I forgot to mention. The sound quality from the Music App is extremely good (pity the headphones supplied with the phone don't match it). In fact, the sound quality is good full stop, music, digital radio (you have to download the App separately yourself), or phonecalls.
If I had my way this mobile phone would be on all networks. At nearly half the price I paid for the Samsung S5 you get a much better phone.
I cannot compare the Honor 6 to an iPhone merely because the couple of times I was forced to use an iPhone I ended up wishing I could throw it into the nearest river. Unfortunately I was forced, through politeness and respect, to return them to their owners.
(Please note - this review is my genuine opinion and I have not recieved any payment or bribe for it.)
|I had hoped that my favourite Police Blogger (Constable Chaos) would write a blog post on this subject but when I put the idea to him he refused saying it wasn't "Chaotic" enough for his blog. Crazy really as most of his blog posts (when he is not busy narrowly missing causing Diplomatic Chaos with the Olympic Squads of other countries - No, Chaos, I have not forgotten that even if it was 3 years ago) talk about what it is like to be a Police Officer in the UK - as well as showing what I feel a Police Officer should be like.|
So I decided to tell you how to program my ideal Police Officer.
Take one Police Officer fresh off the Production Line. The Officer should have all their knowledge of the Laws of the country they are in already downloaded into their CPU (or brain). Unfortunately, you may now find that some compatability issues have now developed with the original "Human" Operating System. Find (and install) some Security Software and scan the Officer prior to continuing. Do this at regular intervals duing this procedure so you can iron out any problems as they occur. Ensure Partition between "Police Officer" software and "Human" Operating System offers adequate protection to any vulnerable people the Officer may encounter.
First stage of programming is to ensure the Officer has their "Friendliness" App suitably upgraded and in working order. This should be part of their "Human" Operating System but it can get corrupted if not installed correctly. This is the one piece of Programming which can cause the most conflicts between the Software and the Operating System. If this App is functioning correctly the Officer should smile and greet any humans they come into contact with in a friendly manner (unless they have been forced to arrest or detain them for some reason). During normal interactions with law-abiding humans the Officer should display the ability to smile, laugh, and joke with the law-abiding humans. Making the law-abiding humans display signs that they are in any way nervous of - or even scared of - the Officer is an indication that there is a major malfunction in the programming and the Officer should immediately be returned to the factory for repair (untrained personnel should not attempt to repair a malfunctioning Police Officer as it could prove fatal to both the Officer and the personnel).
The next stage is to install the Language Translation App. This should ensure the Officer selects the correct language for the situation they find themself in. Usually this App only has to translate between the "Police" Language and the Native Language of the Officer concerned - however, there are Plugins available which will allow the Officer to translate between "Police" and a selection of Languages. (These Plugins are most useful when the Officer is intended to be put to work in areas where more than one language is spoken.)
Next we get to the really interesting stage.
Now we need to install the "Open Source" App. Now - unlike in most cases, the "Open Source" name does not indicate the App has been designed by some Not-for-Profit Organisation to infect Law-Abiding Humans with viruses (such as hatred of the Police). The purpose of this App is to ensure that the Officer has the ability to both recieve information from a variety of sources and to transmit information in such a way that Law-Abiding Humans do not feel threatened or otherwise inconvenienced. This App should ensure that the Officer makes themself visible and available when on duty using whatever means possible (Social Media, Pop Up Police Stations, their own feet instead of cars, etc). This will enable Law-Abiding Humans to trust the Officers.
If all the above programming has been correctly installed your Police Officer should be ready to deal with Humans in a caring and friendly way and those who deal with them will leave feeling happy.
Yes - I know there are several Police Officers on Twitter who already have the programming installed and working. However, with the cuts in the Police Forces (as well as the changes in Pay and Conditions which are being imposed in the UK and Holland) I am worried that the numbers will decrease and the Good Cops will leave the Service - causing more and more stressed, grumpy, over-worked (and possibly corrupted) Officers to patrol our streets whilst, in reality having fewer Officers.
I make no apology for openly supporting our Police Officers whereever in the world they happen to work. Yes - there are some bad apples around and, unfortunately, the bad ones seem to hit the headlines the most whilst the good ones just get on with their jobs mostly without thanks.
So I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all the hardworking Good Police Officers and send you all a virtual BIG HUG.
|Here is a strange question for you - where do you honestly feel most at home??? I suppose if you are very lucky you could be one of those people who feels at home whereever they are at that particular moment.|
Unfortunately, I am not one of those lucky creatures. I can exist almost anywhere - but in order for me to feel even slightly at home I really need to be subjected to water and boats. I love water and I love boats - especially car ferries.
If you really want me to feel completely at home you really need to take me to a city where both my parents have lived and which also has a link with my date of birth. (Even though I was not technically born anywhere near the country in question I can still say I was born on the city in question - my Birthday and the international dialling code for Rotterdam are both 31 10.)
One of my friends wrote a book on the subject of relaxation which included the line "Imagine a Tropical beach with the waves lapping the shore. This is your personal 'Shakra' - visit it often". Well, my personal place of relaxation does kind of include a beach (if you include the beach at Hoek van Holland) - and water - but I wouldn't describe it as tropical (I hate warm climates).
It is funny how things can appear completely different the older you get (or even just depending on the circumstances you are in when you encounter them).
I remember when I was little I honestly didn't realise Holland was another country completely separate from England. I suppose that is what comes of being stuck in the cabin of a ferry for the duration of the sailing between the countries - as well as hearing both Dutch and English spoken at home (sometimes even in the same sentence if my Mum forgot the English word for something).
(I later found out that the nearest equivalent of what I thought Dutch was - which could be recognised by an English person - is Glaswegian. A version of English that makes no sense to me whatsoever when spoken at normal speed but which I love listening to anyway. The rhythms of spoken Dutch and spoken Glaswegian are the same. In fact, if you would like to learn Dutch properly, find a Glaswegian to listen to and try to work out what mood they are in - the Dutch sound exactly the same, only in a different language.)
When I started Secondary School Rotterdam changed into something completely different for me. In fact - it changed into three completely separate things all at the same time.
Ask me where I feel most safe and you will get a one word answer - Rotterdam. It is the one place on Earth where I honestly feel like I can be myself. The only thing which can make me feel like I stand out is the fact that I have a different native language to the inhabitants. My sight doesn't matter - in fact, I would go so far as to say that Holland has always seemed to understand sight problems better than England. I consider Rotterdam to be a truly safe haven in which happens to contain many "havens" (or the Dutch word for "Harbours").
The second thing it turned into is a portable feeling. Allow me to attempt to explain;
Remember the line about the tropical beach at the beginning of this blog post???
Well, whenever I am stressed to the point where reading and writing don't calm me down (and I get like that more often than you might think) I just go into the space in my mind where I store up all my memories of Rotterdam, and my various adventures there, and think about them. One of my favourite memories of Rotterdam (and Holland) is of a poster I saw which made someone who had just been speaking in English (me) absolutely crack up with laughter. The poster had a picture of a forlorn-looking cat along with the words "Maak geen aziel zoeker van uw kat" (in English - "Don't turn your cat into an Asylum Seeker"). I loved another poster so much that I was really pleased when I saw a t-shirt in England with almost the same slogan - yes, you can blame the Dutch Physiotherapist Brigade for my "Your head looks funny turned that way" t-shirt (the poster read (in Dutch) "Does your neck hurt??? If so, see a physiotherapist" - the question being written so you had to turn your head through 90 degrees to read it.
Last but not least - Rotterdam turned into a place of entertainment. If you are anything like me you will love just sitting (or standing) watching people going about their daily lives - usually whilst comparing them to other people in your mind. I admit that the best place to do this is in a public space - preferably a shop or cafe (although - if you pick the correct sort of Family occassion you can sit quietly watching as something better than any British Soap you care to mention unfolds before your very eyes. Warning - for this to work really well you have to understand more of the language than most of your relatives think you do and keep absolutely silent unless someone accidentally speaks to you in Dutch). Trains are another source of fun - Just wait for the shout of "Goedemorgen/Goedemiddag/Goedenavond" (Good morning/Good afternoon/Good evening) from one end of a train carriage - then observe the natives scramble for their tickets as they realise the Ticket Inspector has joined them.
Yes - I exist in Leicester, I feel happier in my native Kings Lynn, but I am definitely at home in the Port city of Rotterdam.
I am one of those people who loves reading and finding out how other people see life. Sometimes I see things which end up as subjects of my blog post after they have had the "Inkyworld" treatment. Other times I see things which I would love to share with you but I cannot find a suitable way of doing so.
I read the piece of writing I have decided to share with you today in Dutch on www.reflectieinblauw.nl - and I loved it so much that I asked the author - Arthur van der Vlies - if he could translate it into English so I could share it with you.
Today is Herdenkingsdag (or Dutch Remembrance Day). Of course, I could have written something myself but I found this so poignant for being so simple.
4th of May
The other day I was at De Basis for a meeting. I’ve been a regular visitor there for a few years now. Sometimes I’m there for a meeting, other times simply for a cup of coffee. It’s grown into a meeting place for many uniformed professionals.
I was in the recreation room, having a chat with a colleague who was about to be deployed to Afghanistan. Afterwards, I sat down with a cup of coffee and was looking around the room. I spotted a group of elderly men. They were sitting at a table talking, reading the paper, enjoying a coffee.
As I was watching, one of the men stood up. He looked about 80, but I could be out by a year or so. He sat down with me and asked, ‘Why do you want to go to Afghanistan?’ I explained that I wasn’t going to Afghanistan but that I was there to wish my colleague good luck on his mission.
We grabbed another coffee and got to talking. I explained that I no longer work for the police, but that I am still very much involved. The old man was interested and asked if I would mind telling him a bit more about why I’d left the police. I explained that police work and the things I had seen had made me ill. The old man fell silent. After a while he said quietly, ‘Then I understand why you’re not going.’
There was a moment of silence as we looked at each other. He told me he was a war veteran. ‘Sometimes I go sailing with my granddaughter and she’ll ask me questions,’ he said. ‘Questions about the past. Difficult questions. Questions that I can’t always answer. Or don’t want to answer.’
I asked the old man where he had served. (Unfortunately I can’t recall which force.) He mentioned he had been stationed in a number of far flung places and that he had seen things that he would never forget. At one time he and his mate were walking through the jungle. They were chatting but alert. Then he heard a soft hissing noise and couldn’t tell where it was coming from. When he looked besides him he saw his mate lying on the ground; he had been hit and was seriously injured. The veteran’s mate died shortly after. ‘And you know what?’ the veteran said to me. ‘Sometimes I still hear him screaming.’
We looked at each other in silence, tears in our eyes. I felt he veteran touch my arm when he said to me, ‘We don’t need to explain. We understand each other. Me over there and you over here.’ We looked each other in the eye and that was enough.
We sat together a little longer. Then we parted with a handshake. The veteran gave me a firm pat on the back.
Every year on the 4th of May I will remember this veteran. And I will remember with respect his mate and all other Dutch war victims.