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The Biometric Passports Strike Again (Or - Why Do I Have To Type Another Blog Post About Those Stupid Things???)
5/8/2016 10:18:47 PM
If you want to travel to the US you apparently need one of my least favourite Travel Documents now.  Yes - the US have decided they would like visitors to have Biometric Passports.

Luckily I have absolutely zero intention of ever visiting the US.  However, the idea of Biometric Passports still leaves me feeling upset and angry.

On the one hand I can understand why Security Services and Border Agencies would like to have all your personal details contained in one easy microchipped document.  On the other hand I find Biometric Passports to be extremely frustrating and time-consuming - both to acquire and use.

Yes - I know I have blogged about Biometric Passports and my problems with them before but I am getting more and more worried about the widespread use of them.  This is particularly true when it comes to using them to identify people like me.  I have been told I look totally different depending on whether or not I have got my glasses on.  Apart from which - there is the obvious fact that I am never seen walking around in public without my glasses on (unless I am cleaning them) for obvious reasons.

Surely it is not beyond the wit of man (especially those who decided it would be a good idea to force all dog owners to get their canines microchipped in case the canines were lost) to come up with an alternative way of collecting and storing data which did not necessitate people like me actually feeling like a fraud when I appear at a Passport Desk due to me having my glasses on my nose in "real life" and not having them on in my Passport photo.

Even better - I wish we could just go back to the old Passports and have another card (or a flash stick) which could hold all the data on us if people really decide it is necessary for them to know everything about us.  Personally - I think people should only be told on a strict "need to know" basis.  My personal information should be kept private until I choose to share it.

The really scary thing is that I know of companies who insist on knowing your Passport Nr and National Insurance Nr when you apply for a job.  Yes - you read that correctly - when you apply for a job.  As in before they even decide if they wish to interview you - let alone offer you the job.  I know this because it happened to me.  When I questioned this with the company in question they told me it would save time later.  It may save time later but I just felt scared in case they used my data for any purpose other than the one they claimed to need it for.  Put it this way - it was a Civilian company (ie, not Police or Government).

I realise this country has something of a minor problem with people working here illegally but - the rate we are going - we are likely to have a much bigger problem with people fraudulently using data accessed as part of the Job Application process.  After all - I don't trust Companies to obey the Data Protection Act and destroy my data when they no longer need it.  Some of them just sell it on to other companies who will send spam - either through my email accounts, through my letterbox, or by means of unsolicited phone calls from companies I have never previously heard of - never mind dealt with.

It has got to the stage where I feel I am not a human - I am a commodity which is most useful when mined for Data - and I hate it.
New And Old Don't Mix (Or - Maybe It Is Time To Bring Back The Trams???)
5/8/2016 9:39:46 PM
Well - they finally let the public into the redeveloped Haymarket Bus Station in Leicester this weekend.  The Open Day they had yesterday was fascinating - they even had a mix of new buses and Heritage buses on the stands.

I must admit there was an added intrigue to the Open Day for me (as well as my escapade at St Margaret's Bus Station today).

If I see anything about Heritage Public Transport in connection with Leicester I immediately think of someone who would definitely not recognise Leicester City Centre as it is now - and who would probably hate the way the Public Transport has become so disjointed.

I was educated about that self-same person yesterday at the "Heritage Bus" stand.  To be perfectly honest - I am not sure if I have ever met him but I heard a lot about Lancelot Frank Watkinson from my Grandma.  In fact - she was the one who originally told me he had worked for the Transport Department of Leicester Corporation (as it was then).  She would have known that - being his niece.

I am not sure if I mentioned this elsewhere on my blog but Lance Watkinson was pictured at the decommissioning of the last tram in Leicester.  (After the past couple of days I really think we need to either bring back the trams or create some sort of Underground system.).

The redeveloped Haymarket Bus Station is one of the best bus stations I have ever visited.  I must admit that I was worried about the amount of glass in the place but the sun didn't appear to be as much of a problem as I thought it would be.

I will start with the good points about the bus station.

It is definitely more spacious than it looks on the outside although it is nowhere near as big as St Margaret's Bus Station (even though I think it actually has more stands).  It is well lit - apart from the toilets.

Most of the signs and electronic displays were easy to read.  I wonder if St Margaret's Bus Station could swap their confusing board (theoretically) showing when all the buses are due at which stand for one like the Haymarket Bus Station has now got.  The Haymarket one is just one long screen with an unbroken list of buses - whereas the one at St Margaret's Bus Station has got two lists side by side with what appears to be smaller font.

In fact - as far as the electronic signage goes - I only have one complaint.  There are three screens at the Haymarket Bus Station (as well as one in the waiting room at St Margaret's Bus Station) which are completely hopeless as far as I am concerned.  They have too much information on in a font that I need a magnifying glass to read - even when they are at eye level to me - with unnecessary logos for the different bus companies which serve both Bus Stations.

Ah - yes - both bus stations.  Put it this way - we now have one train station and two "proper" bus stations which apparently have nothing to visibly connect them to each other.

What is worse is - the Railway Station is on one side of the City Centre and all the the major "Collection Points" for the buses are on the other side of the City Centre (Humberstone Gate, Belgrave Gate, Haymarket Bus Station, and St Margaret's Bus Station).  If you are not a native of Leicester you will not realise there is a bus layby outside the Railway Station for buses heading towards the Bus Stations.

The thing with made me think that Mr Watkinson would hate the disjointedness of the Public Transport system in Leicester was my trip to St Margaret's Bus Station today.  More to the point - my trip home from there.

I admit it is only a short walk between the Haymarket Bus Station and St Margaret's Bus Station.  However, I think they have missed a trick by not having a dedicated bus directly linking both Bus Stations with the Railway Station.  Especially seeing as they moved the outbound bus stops on Charles Street away from the entrance to the Haymarket Bus Station (there is no longer a bus stop outside Wilko's on Charles St for example).  I heard a rumour that there should be some way of getting off an inbound 84 (for example) very close to the Haymarket Bus Station to link up with the buses which serve that Bus Station.  The buses which call at Haymarket Bus Station terminate there - and the buses which call at St Margaret's Bus Station terminate there (and never the twin shall meet).

However, I have to admit to being shocked at the state of St Margaret's Bus Station.  The stands cannot decide if they are supposed to be numbered or lettered.  The bus I arrived at St Margaret's Bus Station dropped the passengers off outside the side of the Bus Station - due to the driver apparently being told to do that - whereas other buses were letting passengers off in the bays.  If the driver whose bus I travelled to St Margaret's Bus Station was actually correct I predict either a major bus jam - as the buses all try to drop their passengers off at the same stop at the same time - or someone getting seriously injured or killed by a bus.

What is - in a way - worse is that the old layout of Charles Street near Haymarket Bus Station appears to suit that bus station more than the new "accident waiting to happen" layout - especially when you think the buses pulling out of the Haymarket Bus Station will merge with the traffic heading for St Margaret's Bus Station - and some buses may have to cross the traffic.  Yes - I know that the Haymarket Bus Station almost empties directly onto a roundabout but - still - I am half-expecting a crash between buses coming out of the Haymarket Bus Station and the ones going past it on their way to either St Margaret's Bus Station or Belgrave Gate.

All in all - the design of the Haymarket Bus Station is very good but the new layout of the road is rather worrying.  The lack of any clear connection between the Haymarket Bus Station and St Margaret's Bus Station does not suggest to me that the needs of passengers have really been thought through.

We need a proper - cohesive - public transport strategy for Leicester putting into place which connects all the major hubs where the Public are likely to visit.

We also need some way of arranging the Public Transport so that the public do not have to rely on their cars (for example - a Sunday evening Home Match at the King Power Stadium will finish after the last bus has travelled either into or out of Leicester on the Aylestone Road).

The really annoying thing is knowing there are posters in the Leicester Royal Infirmary encouraging visitors to use Pubic Transport to get there - but no Bus Service to get to or from the Hospital either on a Sunday evening or late at night.  As for buses going past the Main Entrance of a hospital - Leicester General and Glenfield Hospital both have bus stops virtually outside the Main Entrance.  The Leicester Royal Infirmary doesn't.  Not only that but the bus stops heading into the City Centre are the easiest ones to find.  If you want a bus stop heading for the Southern side of the county you have to cross over two roads (head for Leicester Prison) to find it.

I am hoping for the Royal Infirmary to have bus stops where the Accident and Emergency entrance is now (when the new Accident and Emergency is open).  I very much doubt that will happen somehow.

We Need To Be Tough On Alcohol And Tough On THe Consequences Of Alcohol! (Or - I Thought It Was Illega???)l To Serve The Obviously Drunk
5/6/2016 7:29:39 AM
I feel I need to apologise to you.  I was planning on blogging last night but - to be totally honest - I was in no fit state to blog.  No - this wasn't because I was "under the influence of alcohol" myself.  Instead it was because I had had a very close encounter with someone who was.  Luckily this character was non-violent but the last encounter I had with someone who was either drunk or high on drugs turned extremely violent (not towards me) and left me scared stiff.

The English have got what I consider to be a very strange attitude to alcohol.  Not only do they use it to celebrate and commiserate, some of them just seem not to be able to have "fun" without first consuming at least a gallon of the stuff.  Then they appear to blame alcohol when things go wrong and start getting out of hand.

Leaving aside the "psychology" behind the excessive consumption of alcohol (after all - there are Brainiacs who are more qualified than me to discuss that subject) for a minute - I want to talk about what I think should be done to protect the innocent people from the after-effects of alcohol.  As in the violence and feeling intimidated in the presence of a drunk person.

Some of you will know that I live next door to a Pub.  What you won't know is that there are some occassions when I try not to leave the house as a result of this.

I could have sworn there was a law which made it illegal to serve alcohol to someone who is already obviously drunk???  I know there are laws against being "Drunk and Disorderly" in public.

Let's face it - you can get as drunk as you like within the confines of your own home and there is nothing anybody can do about it.  However, getting drunk in a public place is a completely different story.

In an ideal world there would be a much larger Police Service with Officers to spare for things like travelling on late night buses (or even travelling on buses and other Public Transport full stop - day and night).  It has got past the stage where Conductors would have been able to throw drunk people off buses and trains.

Why am I writing about this???

Because it has now got to the stage where I am almost scared to get on a bus at night - due to some moronic idiots who don't know when they have had enough drink or drugs.

Seeing people "kick off" (for whatever reason) on a bus is not at all pleasant even if you are "fully fit and able" (as in "able to escape easily").  Trust me - it is worse if you are like me.

Of course there are other cases where humans who are under the influence of alcohol can cause serious damage to people and property.  (I am still wondering why Pubs have car parks - that is an invitation to "Drink and Drive" surely???)

Don't get me wrong - I am not in favour of banning alcohol (not unless I have been scared stiff by a drunk human, that is) - although we need to dosomething to curb the epidemic of excessive alcohol consumption.

We could start with Landlords and other people who sell alcohol being made aware of their legal responsibilities.  The ironic thing is I have seen shop staff behind the tills wearing badges (as well as seeing posters) informing me that "if you look under 25 we will ask you for proof of age".  Why not check the soberness of someone - or even question them when they wheel a trolley to the tills which has got more than one of those 18 can boxes of lager or beer in it???

There is something which has yet to be tried over here - at least as far as alcohol is concerned.  If you walk into any shop selling paracetamol or aspirin you are only allowed to purchase a small amount in case you decide to overdose on them.  Maybe the same rule should be applied to alcohol??? (We could start by using the old "Duty Free" limits which I remember from my trips to Holland in the past - and slowly reduce them.)

We could also (and I really wish this was allowed) ban people who are obviously intoxicated or high on drugs from Public Transport - force them to get a taxi home.

All this might seem a bit over the top to you.  However, I am sick and tired of being made to feel uncomfortable (to the point of being scared stiff and wondering if I will get home in one piece) by idiots who don't know when they have had too much alcohol.

(I have just had a thought - Remember the Government tried to ban all sorts of "mind-altering" substances like "poppers", etc???  Well, if alcohol doesn't alter the mind I don't know what does!!!)

The funny thing is - I don't want to go back to having set opening and closing times for Pubs.  I think this will just make the problem worse again for those of us who live next door to them.  (I remember when I used to come and stay in this house with my Grandparents when I was younger - I used to be petrified if I woke up around closing time at night.  I used to sleep in what is now my office.)

Children should be taught about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption (both to themselves and others) whilst they are at school.  If we educate the young - hopefully they will grow up to be responsible adults.

Getting Rid of Antisemitism Might Be More Difficult Than People Think! (Or - Are We Going To Outlaw Christianity???)
5/3/2016 10:37:42 PM
I have been reading the news with interest when it comes to the debate about Antisemitism in politics and Public Life.  There is a side to that particular debate which the Media Commentators seem to want to sweep under the carpet.

I attend a place of worship (and belong to a religion) where I can guarantee there is one symbol which a Jew will consider Antisemitic.  This is because I read an article written by a Jew where they discussed the fact the Cross (or Crucifix) was used as a form of persecution against them by the Romans at the time when Jesus lived.  In fact, the sign above Jesus' head when He was crucified read "King of the Jews".

There are very few Christian churches where there is not at least one Cross on display.

So - if people really want to wipe out Antisemitism in all its forms may I suggest they start with not only severing the link between the State and the Church of England but by banning Christianity all together???

I respect everybody's right to whichever religion they choose to believe in - I also respect everybody's right not to believe in any religion at all.

I realise there are difficulties around the language used on the subject of religion.  Take - for example - the term "Religious Extremist".  I know some people who I would consider to come into that category but - to my knowledge - they haven't murdered anyone for not believing the same as them (they attend church twice every Sunday and try to convert people by preaching at them).

We are lucky enough to have "Freedom of Belief" as well as "Freedom of Speech".  However, the trouble starts when people believe that the latter outweighs the former.  When I say "the trouble starts" I mean that wars have erupted through people trying to convert people or deny them their right to practice their religion in peace and safety.

We just need to practice the religion of "respecting each other's beliefs".

Hello - My Name Is Ineke And I Am An Oddball And A Misfit! (Or - Who Decides What Is Normal Anyway???)
5/3/2016 10:09:51 PM
There are times when I just feel like my name should be the "internationally recognised signal" for impending doom.  I can pretty much guarantee that I will do or say something which people will consider to be "odd" or "unusual".  Sometimes my mere presence has been known to cause people's brains to explode.

It is funny how you don't realise you are not like everybody else until you are forced to.  It is even stranger when you realise that it is everybody else who forces you to recognise the fact almost against your will.

Forget the differences between men and women for a minute.  The differences I am talking about have caused me problems with both genders (and - as I will go into a bit later - have made me wish to swap genders at times).

Let's start with the one thing which will mark me out as different to one group of people yet allow me to blend into the background with another group of people - my name.

If you want a solid reason why I feel more Dutch than English (as well as more at home in Rotterdam than Leicester) try the five lettered label I answer to.  To English people "Ineke" is something of an exotic name (to the point where some people cannot decide if it is Japanese, Swedish, or South African).  If I hear my name in Holland I am one of a large group of "Ineke's".

The other most obvious thing is that I wear glasses due to a sight problem.  I actually discovered how bad my sight was compared to everybody else's when I was at Primary School - I was on a climbing frame at the time.  Don't worry - I had my glasses on at the time.  What happened was - I had seen one of the older boys go through the middle of the climbing frame from one side to the other using just their hands.  When I tried it for myself I failed and fell off it (it wouldn't be the last time I fell off it either).

This is probably going to sound crazy but even now I cannot get used to how bad my sight is - especially when it lets me down by preventing me from doing something which (chances are) you would be able to do without thinking about it.  I have had seriously bad vision all my life and I still find new ways for it to put the brakes on my plans if I let it.

The most hurtful difference is the one I keep covered up (literally).  I know I complain about my sight a bit too often for some people's liking but my sight is easy to deal with compared to something which caused someone to point at me and say "Ugh - what's that?".  If only because I later came to realise that it wasn't just one girl of approximately 11 years old who had that opinion - it was actually life in general and particularly "fashion".

For those of you who don't know - I had a hole in my heart when I was born.  To say the operations to repair it left me with a small amount of scarring is an understatement.  If I wear anything remotely "low cut" you can see the top of one scar at the top of my breastbone.  (The surgeon who stitched me back together obviously failed the sewing and embroidery part of their "Home Economics" O Level - even if they did do me the favour of leaving me with a visible "Heart Rate Monitor" at the bottom of the longest scar.  The bit near the bottom moves up and down with my pulse.)  Couple that with my two "Drill Holes" which form a triangle with my tummy button and you may realise why I have never worn cropped tops.  You might imagine that when I was growing up there were times I seriously wished I had been born a boy as a result of that.  You may be surprised that I sometimes feel the same way even now - especially when I see models and good-looking women wearing dresses I haven't got a hope in Hell of wearing (usually because they have got cutouts in places where you could say I have got "cutouts" on my body).

There is too much pressure on people to be the same as everybody else.  There are also too many definitions of "normal" for my liking.  What may be "normal" for you may not be so for me - and that is before we get on to the different version of "Normal" that people have attempted to apply to me over the years.  (I mean the one which is approximately two stages behind everybody else as far as ability and mental capacity are concerned.)

There is no such thing as a "Normal" person.  There is - however - such a thing as a "Socially Acceptable" person.  These people are the ones who have been "trained" and learned all the rules and regulations of acceptable behaviour in "Polite Society", they may even follow the latest trends in their personal habits.

We need to get out of the rut of thinking of certain groups of people as in some way "abnormal" when they cannot obey the "Social ettiquette" - be it through not being able to wear the same clothes, eat the same foods, or even, hide their disabilities to match up with what we find acceptable and palatable.

I remember getting extremely frustrated with someone as a result of them projecting their ideas about how I would react to something on me.  What frustrated me the most about it was the fact that they were unintentionally doing the exact thing they claimed to want to avoid merely by how they were treating me during our discussions.  Let's just say - if you want to hurt or upset me greatly - simply try treating me like an idiot and tell me how you think I am going to feel about something based on your experiences with other people.  (As my Glaswegian friend would say "this is not recommended for medicinal purposes".)

My favourite saying is a Dutch one - "Doe maar gewoon want dan ben je gek genoeg" (or - "Just be yourself because you are crazy enough").

I really hope that some day the population of the planet will allow everybody to be themselves without fear of judgement.  Then we will have a true representation of "Normal" because it will be as you want it to be.
Memories And First Impressions (Or - In The Beginning...)
5/3/2016 8:52:19 PM
This blog post was inspired by a conversation I had today with a group of people who are a lot older than me.  I find this bunch fascinating when they talk about things they remember from before I was born.  (This was actually put to me as an exercise for the group but I decided to share it with you lot instead.

My very first memory is of the tread pattern of a bus tyre.  I cannot remember how I got such an up close and personal view of it.  However, I do remember it was attached to the bus at the time.

The first furniture I can remember.  Now - I have a confession to make here.  This furniture is still in existence - it is in a different country from where I first saw it though.

The first furniture I remember seeing is currently in two different rooms in my Dad's house but it was all in one room in the flat where I originally saw it.  It is also my favourite furniture of all the items in both my house and my Dad's house.

My Oma had a brown leather three piece suite with a settee I can lay flat on and still have room for someone else to sit near my feet.  I get the feeling that suite predates me - if only because I have seen photos of me and my parents all sitting on it when I was very small.

My first memories of going to Holland.  Ooh - this is good.  I have two which do not involve being virtually held hostage in a cabin during the sailing.  The first one being going to collect the keys of one of my Dad's cars from the Purser's office before we left the boat.  (Yes - I predate Roll On Roll Off Ferries - just.)  The other one I have blogged about before with the tram lines outside Rotterdam Central Station and the coloured lights.

The first time I realised that not everybody's parents speak to each other in two different "dialects" at the same time (also the first time I realised my Mum wasn't English).  I have a boy called Graham Foxon to thank for this one.  I was at Primary School when he asked me about "Hollandish".  In order for that to make any kind of sense you have to realise that I was so used to my parents speaking a mix of English and Dutch that - to me at least - Dutch was not unlike broad Glaswegian.  As in a version of English which is not understood by English people (especially when spoken at "Glaswegian speed").  You also have to take into consideration my earlier comment about being "virtually held hostage in a cabin" during my earliest trips to Holland.  I think I got one walk around the boat before we set sail and then I was trapped in the cabin until just before the boat docked.  This meant that (apart from the different colour of number plates to the cars) I didn't really notice much difference between the two countries.  It was only later that I came to realise that the Dutch drive (or should that read "fly"?) on the righthand side of the road.

They are just a few of my "First Memories".
"It's Rude To Stare" (Or -An Exercise From Scribbles)
5/3/2016 8:13:54 PM
We haven't had anything I wrote whilst I was at "Scribbles" (the Creative Writing Group I attend) for quite some time.  So I decided to remedy that today.  I must admit I am pretty pleased with how this turned out from just being given a three word phrase to inspire our writing.

It's rude to stare.  There is something I find slightly ruder though - not offering to help the victim of your stares.  Or even causing them to do the reason you are staring in the first place.  (Obviously, there are certain things which cause people to star which are not the fault of another person.)

Allow me to explain.

There are certain things I do which I know will attract comment and criticism from ignorant members of society - heading for the nearest gently sloping surface if I want to descend a level (in the abscence of lifts or escalators) for example.

But my least favourite game is "Guess the exact reading age of the person who has just asked you to read the sign helpfully parked behind you".  Especially if there is an obstruction between yourslf and the other person (usually this takes the form of a counter or other immovable object).

It has got to the stage where I have got two cafes in Leicester which I visit because I know the staff are kind and helpful.

Me asking a stranger to read something out is not my way of inviting the kind of stare which suggests I must be totally illiterate.  Instead it is my way of advising them that I intend to make some kind of purchase in the establishment I am in.

The fact that this apparently "illiterate" person can advise them to leave my presence (politely) in more than one language may come as a shock to their systems.  I doubt it is as big a shock to their systems as their illegal stares are to mine.

Yes - I did say "illegal" because being stared at is not only rude but it can also make me feel uncomfortable enough to leave their premises - and that is illegal under the "Equalities Act".

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