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People Are Just People (Or - Why I Am Getting Sick To Death Of Awards Being Given For Being Famous)
9/7/2016 12:34:24 AM
So we have again reached the stage where the general population (egged on by the Mainstream Media) appear to have decided that the Great Britain Olympic Team should all be knighted or turned into Dames merely for doing what is effectively their day job.

I am beginning to wonder what has happened to the idea of being rewarded for actually giving something back to society.

I have blogged before about how I feel that the last Sports Personality who deserved any kind of Honour was Sir Jackie Stewart.  After all, he actually did something to improve the safety in not only F1 but also in road cars.

There are very few people who have the ability to turn me into a gibbering wreck when I see them.  I happen to know five of them personally (one I have known for almost my entire life).  I suppose if you were to stand me in front of someone like Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Bill Bryson, Billy Connolly, or Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill (the writers of my favourite comedy programme "Still Game"), things might be different.  However, I can behave reasonably normally around most humans I meet.

There are lots of sayings which tell us how alike everybody really is.  There is a saying "No Man Is An Island" - on the flip side to that there is also one which says "Hell Is Other People".

There are videos on Facebook which show how easily racism can be put back in its box - merely by showing that everybody is related to everybody else in some way.  (You could say I am a good case in point - My family has got links with England, Holland, Scotland, Germany, France, and possibly both Canada and New Zealand.  My friends are from England, Holland, Scotland, South Africa, the Czech Republic.)

Of course - there is a hidden danger in the adulation or idolisation of famous people.  We start to compare ourselves to them - even when we don't have a chance of being like them.  Some people take this to extremes - plastic surgery to make them look more "socially acceptable", extreme dieting (to the point of anorexia and other eating disorders), entering "Reality" TV shows or even programmes like "X Factor".

Even organisations like the UK Government and the Mainstream Media are getting in on the act.  The UK Government have decided they want us all to be physically healthier and the BBC have decided that every single sporting event they feature (even though there are not that many unless the Olympics are on) should inspire people to take up sport and get fit.

I have to say that I can see a couple of problems with this approach.  The main one being the way the athletes are presented in the media.  They (particularly the females) are presented in such a way that their physical bodies are more important than how they achieve their goals in their particular sports.  Apparently you cannot even start to take up exercise unless you already have a toned abdomen and muscles all over your body.

The other problem is that there is very little focus on Mental Health - either in the portrayal of the athletes's stories or in the wider world.

Yes - I understand that exercise releases endorphins and improves Mental Health to a certain extent.  However, what about those people who take it to extremes.  Or even those who do it for the wrong reasons.

There is too much pressure on everybody to have the perfect life and to dress, behave, think, and look, a certain way as it is.

We need to teach people to accept everybody as we find them.  This means more realistic portrayals of a wider range of people on TV.  We need to be exposed to a wider range of views - however distasteful we may find them.

I have been pretty open about my views on things like Plastic Surgery, Disability, Mental Health, Inequality, Bullying, even (to some extent) religion, on here. And - before you say it - I don't just hide behind a keyboard and computer screen.  I am prepared to get on my soapbox in person as well.

I believe we have all got a duty to speak out against intolerance, racism, Hate speech, etc.

However, I also believe the Government and the Mainstream Media could do a lot more to put out a positive image of the most despised in society - as well as tackling things like the way rape is still usually seen as a "women's problem" instead of being the fault of the rapists themselves.

Another issue which could do with more work is the decline in respect in this country.  As in respect for the people who put their lives on the line very time they go to work in order to keep us safe.  This is not just from society at large- it stems from the ideas of successive Governments, as well as other organisations and bodies who should really have their best interests at heart.

Until we get back to something approaching a society where everybody is respected and valued for themselves - as well as being given proper opportunities to help themselves and others - we will keep seeing the divide between different sections of society getting wider and wider.  The rich will become richer at the expense of the poor - the able-bodied will feel even more superior than the Disabled.  As for the divides between the employed and the unemployed, and the different religious and cultural minorities - just don't get me started.

We need a total rethink about how to get people to feel comfortable with themselves before we even begin to sort out the differences between all the various factions in Society.

I could end with a variety of quotes from Facebook on the subject of how similar we actually are - however, I have decided to give you an Inky-style quote;

Even the best looking person on the planet is reduced to a mass of blurs when I take my glasses off.

Good Times, Bad Times (Or - How Alarmingly Easy It Is To Slip From One To The Other Without Anybody Noticing Or Caring)
9/6/2016 11:30:38 PM
As I was thinking about typng this blog post I had three songs playing in my brain.  They were all by Richie Sambora and they covered roughly the same theme in varying ways.  I will insert them at different points in this blog post.

However, then one of my friends from Facebook reminded me of the song which is actually the most appropriate for this blog post.  (I honestly never thought I would type any lyrics to the theme song of a soap in my blog posts - oh well - there is a first time for everything I suppose!)

www.youtube.com/watch The first song on the playlist for this blog post is not actually the first song which came into my head as I was thinking of typing this blog post.  "Fallen From Graceland" was actually the second song which came into my head.  The first lyrics of "There's a line that you cross when you find out that you've lost. When your world is closing in and it crawls under your skin" are almost exactly what came into my brain when I read the heartbreaking account of what has been happening to James Patrick recently.

You may remember James as being the whistleblower about the Police's manipulation of Crime figures in the UK.  He lost his job as a result (I think he resigned before they got the chance to sack him for Gross Misconduct).

Now he is in an awful situation where he is literally destitute.

James is an "Inspirational Person" to me because he has always stood up for what he believes in, he won't take "No" for an answer, and he is a stubborn fighter.  He is also using his Twitter account to educate people about the circumstances he finds himself in - as well as  - more importantly - how people can help others in a similar situation.

I told James that I was not going to nick his blog post - but I was honestly so impressed by his dignity and courage in speaking out that I wanted to do something to help him in my own way.

If you have read Inkyworld you will know that I am passionate about vulnerable and Disabled people - as well as fighting the injustices we face.

The problem seems to be that too many people are too willing to either look the other way or throw out uncalled for abuse at the victims without bothering to learn the full story first.

This can be applied to Poverty, Unemployment, Disability, Homelessness, etc.

Have we really become a world where there are two answers to every problem society faces - either signing an online petition (which takes you approximately 6 seconds to do and 1 second to forget about it) or the adverts where you are informed that "£5 a month will irradicate the current crisis in a part of the globe you had never heard of before it made the news???

Of course - the other option is to ignore the situation completely and continue with your life.

www.youtube.com/watch This song is "Harlem Rain" by Richie Sambora.  This comes into my mind every time I hear or read about people who have fallen on hard times for whatever reason.  "Another shattered soul in the Lost and Found.  One more night on the streets of pain - getting washed away by the Harlem Rain".

There is another way to make the situation easier for those of us who find ourselves as "Outcasts in Society".  Obviously - the best way to make the situation easier for us is to create a society which doesn't actually have "Outcasts" in it.

The best way to help us is to educate yourself about our own situations.  We all have a different story - mine is very different from James' - but our stories all have the same theme running through them.  The theme being "if you don't fit in you will be ignored".

The scond best thing is to actually go out of your way to help people who are on the outskirts of society.  I don't just mean by signing a flipping petition, or putting money in a charity tin (or even giving you bank details to some chugger) - I mean by doing something practical and using your talents and time.  Throwing a tin in a box marked "Food for the Poor" is something you can do if you want to remain at arms length from the situation and walk around in a state of emotional blindness.  Actually giving your time to helping at a place where the vulnerable are found - and spending time talking to them and learning about their lives - is a lot more useful both for you and for them.

As a Society we seem to have become more self-serving as the years have progressed.  I very much doubt you would get an event like "Live Aid" with as big an attendance as there was in 1986.  Charity singles these days have to either be almost vomit-inducing in their saccharine-sweetness or by a very famous group or artist in order to get anywhere.  (The best charity single I have ever come across was neither vomit-inducing nor by a very famous artist - however, the lyrics were the most heartfelt I have ever heard.  The song was the "If" song by Kristyna Myles in support of a Christian charity called "Tearfund".  www.youtube.com/watch.)

The final song of the trio by Richie Sambora actually was the first song which came into my mind as I was thinking about this blog post.  "Hard Times Come Easy" is actually one of my favourite songs by him (in fact I think it has made an appearance in a previous blog post).  To save me quoting the entire song at you just watch the video www.youtube.com/watch.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record - it takes all of us to make a difference in our world.  As in - it takes our time and our resources, as well as our reserves of patience and strength (both mental and physical).

You know the charities I am proud to support - you also know some of the challenges I face on a daily basis.

This may sound crazy but this blog appears to have turned into my way of using my talents to educate people about the issues I care about - as well as telling you a bit about the work I and other people do to help in other ways.

I started this blog post by telling you I had three songs by Richie Sambora in my mind as I was thinking about this blog post - as well as the theme song to a soap.  What I didn't say was the soap is not "Neighbours" or "Home and Away" (the only English-speaking soaps to have lyrics to their theme tunes).  The soap is one I have very rarely seen snippets of when I was flicking through the TV channels in Holland.  "Goede Tijden Slechte Tijden" (Or "Good Times Bad Times" in English) could be considered to be the Dutch version of "EastEnders" or "Neighbours".

The theme song is the most uplifting song I have heard as a theme tune.

Unfortunately I cannot translate all the lyrics properly.  However, I can give you the gist of them.

The time for uncaredforness has passed.
The long road to tomorrow starts today.
Dreams come free like a butterfly.
No longer hidden in security.


Good Times Bad Times
A day that appears as night.
Good Times Bad Times.
Love leads you to the end.
Good Times Bad Times.
No - it doesn't save your life.
Good Times Bad Times.
Sometimes happiness and sometimes disappointment.

The ideal is gradually approaching.
But it explodes when you want to catch it.
Create new opportunities to make you happy again.
Never will there ever be an end to that desire.

Repeat Chorus

Adversity brings shade to happiness.
But you know the best is still to come.
Your courage and your confidence will not fail.
Life can really ressemble your dreams.

Repeat Chorus.

(If you really want to hear the original theme song sung in Dutch try this www.youtube.com/watch.)

Cats And Bags, Monkeys And Sleeves, Frogs And Feathers, And Blood From Stones (Or Just Your Average Trip Into My Brain During A "Scribbles" Meeting)
9/6/2016 9:29:47 PM
First of all I would like to apologise for not posting anything on here for the last couple of weeks.  It was a mix of not really knowing what to write about without depressing myself more than usual, my right shoulder and arm causing me too much pain for me to be able to type very much, and a medical issue from over 10 years ago which has decided to make itself known again in a very disconcerting way.  I have decided to ignore the last one because the last time I got it looked into the hospital made me feel like I was wasting their time - if it is what I think it is I don't really want to know anyway.

I realised I haven't posted any of the work I do at my Creative Writing Group for a long time - so I have decided to give you a dose of it now.

A word of explanation;

The exercise below was a bit of a twist on my favourite exercise (the "write about a word for 5 minutes" one).  This time we (or rather I) chose a proverb for us to write about.

You will probably realise that there are a few proverbs which I can more easily remember in Dutch than in English (probably something to do with the fact that I heard the Dutch versions more often than I heard the English versions).

Read on to learn about two of my favourite proverbs (as well as my favourite versions of them);

The English phrase "to let the cat out of the bag" is one of the most difficult for me to remember.  This might have something to do with the fact that the version I have heard the most is almost physically impossible when you literally translate it - although the alternative translation replaces the "Ape" or "Monkey" with a playing card - namely the "Ace".

You may agree that getting an Ace out of a sleeve is a lot easier than getting a primate either into or out of one.

(Just thought - why do we call the Archbishop of Canterbury the "Primate of All England"???  I am pretty positive that the Archbishops are all human???)

Back to the point - I kno of one cat who likes going into plastie bags but - isn't it cruel to deliberately put a cat in a bag and close the top?

Now I have "let the cat out of the bag" about my favourite version of the saying I honestly hop you will not derrange yourself enough to attempt to "pluck feathers from a frog" - even though I think it might be slightly easier than getting blood out of a stone.

If you are interested in the original translations of the one about the sleeve and the one about the frog I will write them below;

Daar komt de aap uit de mouw - is the Dutch version of the one about letting the cat out of the bag.

Je kan geen veren van een kikker plukken - is the Dutch version of the one about getting blood out of a stone.

When The Obvious Is Not The True Answer (Or - Why Life Can Sometimes Seem Like One Large Game of "Only Connnect")
8/19/2016 12:03:46 PM

There are times when you need to look under the surface before you can get to the facts.  There are also times when you need to abandon all your previous ideas and just take a totally radical approach.

A case in point is the mirror in the above photo.  It has been around for as long as I can remember.  However, the story behind it was a little stunning when I heard it.  In fact, that mirror has been mentioned in a blog post before - for that very reason.

I remember standing in what is now my back room with my Granddad when he asked me if I could tell him the object he had got for his 21st birthday.  I had a couple of guesses before I gave up.  Let's just say that a mirror which has always reminded me of a ship's portal was one of the last objects in the entire house which I would have associated with him.  He was happiest on dry land - in fact, to my knowledge, I have never seen him anywhere near a seagoing vessel of any kind.

However, you would really need to know me to know the connection between that photo and this one below.

You could say that there is a kind of watery connection between them.  You could also say that there is a kind of family connection.  You would be correct on both counts.

The watery connection being the North Sea.  The closest family connection actually being my Dad.  Well, he did marry the daughter of the person who made it.  (Yes - I had to get my Oma into my house in some way.)

However, the kinds of connections I am really interested in reading, learning, and writing about are the ones which seem to escape all known logic.

Here is a question for you - what connects the following;

Lemon juice


194 years


Royal Navy

British Board of Trade

(I got this little fact from "Black Box Thinking" by Matthew Syed).

Would you believe that three teaspoons of Lemon juice per day were prescribed to sailors on one particular ship sailing to India in 1601 - and were found to prevent scurvy on that ship (one of four sailing to India at that point)?

That isn't the worst part though.  It took 194 years for the Royal Navy to get round to ensuring that all sailors on their boats were given the anti-scurvy treatment.

If those two weren't bad enough - the next fact will probably horrify you.

It was only in 1865 that the British Board of Trade got round to ensuring all Merchant ships used the anti-scurvy treatment on their sailors.

(Just imagine the uproar if modern "cures" for things like cancer took that long to come into the Healthcare system nowadays.  There would be petitions and questions in both Parliament and the Mainstream Media.)

We can be thankful that there are people who "solve" as yet unknown problems with a mixture of "sideways thinking", frustration, and perseverance.  Take - James Dyson and his bagless vacuum cleaner for example.  We can also be very thankful that inventions and discoveries of new ideas don't take 264 years to come to our notice these days.

When I was little I used to love those "Join the Dots" puzzles - I still love things like wordsearches and arrowword puzzles (as well as those frustrating puzzles where you get a list of words and a grid to fit them into).

If you have spent any extended amount of time in my company you will probably have found that I can confuse people very easily at times.

The worst thing - though - is when people just think they know what they are looking at when they see me - only to be totally flummoxed when I either say or do something which they do not expect.

The worst example of that was when I attended a job interview.  I was asked a question which I answered very honestly.  The question was regarding the last film I had seen - I told the interviewer that I had problems with going to the cinema due to the fact I am Registered Partially Sighted.  I could have said or done something rather drastic when the interviewer said "you don't look Partially Sighted".

Please accept my humble apologies for attempting to live in the same way as everybody else and not wandering around with a White Stick.  I know people who use a White Stick - I also know there are people who do not dare to use White Sticks in certain areas because they know that doing so raises their risks of being attacked.

Look beyond the surface to find the real facts - and do not be afraid to ask if you do not understand.

Things I Wish I Had Learned At School (Or - The Really Important Life Lessons Nobody Dares To Teach You)
8/19/2016 11:03:03 AM

I don't usually like mixing my blogs but I thought I would make an exception this time because I got such a good reception for this post when I put it on the simplesolutionsconsultancy.wordpress.com/ website.

I suppose this is going to be a "Back To School" blog post with a twist.  (The inspiration for this blog post came from a book I really recommend reading called "Black Box Thinking" by Matthew Syed.  The book explores different ways of thinking about things - and it uses interesting, and sometimes horrifying, real life stories as a starting point.)

The first thing I wish I had been taught at school was - it is OK to be yourself.  You don't have to compete with everyone else.  We all have different talents.

The second thing is - before you can expect others to accept you you have to learn to be comfortable spending time with the one person who can turn into your best friend for life - yourself.  School forces us to interact with people who may decide to make life extremely difficult for us.  If you can actually spend time with your own thoughts in silence you will learn to become comfortable in your own skin.  This will end up being more useful than you think.

The third thing is - failure is a learning opportunity.  I couldn't care less about the difference between "fixed mindset" and "growth mindset".  There is always an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.  Not only that but things you find difficult at first may just have a special key that - when you find it - will make it simple for you and only you.

The fourth thing is - Don't be so busy trying to achieve the impossible that you don't take time to see your previous achievements.  This may sound crazy but I only realised exactly how good I am at acting almost exactly like a "normal sighted" person when I was in earshot of a Consultant who turned round to my Mum (after testing my sight to see if I was actually eligible for extra help at Secondary school) and said "Get her out of here - she is wasting my time".  Until that point I had been convinced I would never be like my friends.

The final thing is - qualifications are not as important as everyone wants us to believe.  It is the personal experiences as well as the things like empathy, being non-judgemental, caring, honest, reliable, etc, which will be the most useful to you.

Blessed Are The Creatives For They Can Tell Us What's Going On! (Or - Why Words And Pictures Are Sometimes Better Than Numbers And Scientific Theories)
8/12/2016 1:16:14 PM
I could have given this a subtitle nicked from my favourite Bee Gees song - "It's Only Words And Words Are All I Have".

There are times when I wonder exactly what the "Powers That Be" are thinking of when it comes to this idea of "Social Mobility" and how we as a society are supposed to (a) achieve it, or (b) enable more people to make full use of it.

There is another strand to the debate about "Social Mobility" which everybody appears to have completely forgotten about.  Not everybody can become the world's greatest Scientists or Academics and - if you ask me - we have got too many people who are over-qualified for most jobs (PhD in Plumbing anyone???) and nowhere near enough people who have been streamed into the "Vocational" careers ( I don't mean becoming Nuns or Priests either).

As someone who has never been what you might call academically inclined I prefer my knowledge (in whatever format you choose to present it to me) to be as easily accessible as possible.

This is where the Creative Arts come in very useful.  Yes - those subjects which (apart from English) seem to be in danger of being squeezed out of the curriculum because they are not seen as being remotely useful.  Or rather - they are not seen as being anywhere near as useful as subjects like the Sciences, IT, Maths, etc.

I wish we could all just take a step back and see exactly how the "Creative Arts" actually inform every other subject known to Humankind.  Maybe then we would be able to elevate them to the correct level (which - to me - is at least the same level as the "Academic Subjects").

I remember watching a TV programme about John Craven when "Newsround" was mentioned.  For those of you who may not know what "Newsround" is (or was) - it is a TV news programme for children which was started off (and originally presented) by John Craven.

What I hadn't realised prior to watching that programme was that the style of presenting the news and reporting on it is different depending on whether your viewers are adults or children.

The quote which sticks in my mind from the programme about John Craven was from Martin Bell.  During the Falklands War the BBC reporters were shared between the "adult" news programmes and "Newsround".  Mr Bell said that he ended up being thankful that he reported for both "Newsround" and the "Adult" news programmes.  This was because when he reported for "Newsround" he had to make his reports as easy for children to understand as possible.  This helped him to make the reports he did for the "Adult" news programmes easy to understand as well.

What a pity we are usually served up important news items in one of two ways.  Either they are simplified almost beyond the point of useful comprehension or - they are made to seem so complicated that the particular reporter charged with enabling us to understand might as well interpret the facts using the medium of expressive dance (the chances are we would still be none the wiser but at least we would be marginally more entertained instead of having to sit through reports which are extremely boring).

However, I digress slightly.

As you will probably know by now - I love language.  Not just the English language either.  It doesn't matter whether or not I can actually understand or speak the language I am hearing or reading - I just find the patterns of letters and sounds fascinating.

There are other forms of language as well.  As I am typing this blog post there is a man sitting in the next chair but one to me who can "speak" photography.  As in - he can take photographs which tell their own stories without using a single word.  (According to me - if you need to have text with a photograph which tells you what you are supposed to see in it the photographer should be shot.)  Even photographs which are out of focus (and make you really need to think about what you are looking at) are a lesson in seeing things from a different perspective or viewpoint.  Or they could just be a lesson in what I can see without my glasses on - especially if they are blurred beyond recognition.

My second favourite medium of aural communication can seem extremely complicated to the uninitiated.  A good piece of music can transport you to a different place, mood, or time, as you listen to it.  The best music doesn't even need lyrics except as an additional "garnish" to complete it.

As I said near the beginning of this post - we need to be very careful otherwise we will end up sidelining a large group of people who will never amount to much academically but who still have a very big role to play in helping us to understand the world around us.

I may not have had a very good result in maths - mainly because the most dangerous instrument to put in my hands is a protractor (I cannot compute angles for love nor money even with one of those flipping things).

However, I do have one question which I have never found a satisfactory answer to.

Who decided that one plus one is two yet one and one is eleven???

Yes - I am proud to classify myself as a "sideways thinker".

I am just fatigued and nauseated by the idea that society appears to consider me to be less "effective" because I am not "out of the box" when it comes to my way of interpreting the world.

Education Versus Brainwashing (Or - Be Very Careful Who You Believe)
8/5/2016 8:39:36 AM
Earlier this week I had a rather interesting conversation with someone.  One of the topics was how the other person switched between their day job and the reason for us sharing airspace at that moment.  The fact that the two things - as far as I could see - were not all that different was apparently beside the point.

You see - they both involved a mix of theoretical knowledge and two kinds of practical experience.

Allow me to attempt to explain what I mean by that.

The theoretical knowledge part is easy to explain.  It is what we learn every time we attempt to do something new.  This can either be the stuff you learned in an official "Educational Establishment" or from reading the manual on your latest and newest gadget.

The two different sorts of Practical Experience are a bit more complicated.

The first sort is where you begin to put into practice what you have learned in your "theoretical knowledge" sessions.  It could be a case of finding a native speaker of Chinese and attempting to speak to them in their own language when you have just done a GCSE course in it).  Or driving on a motorway.  Or using your new gadget for the first time.

The other sort of Practical Experience is the one I am most interested in.

This is the one where you either don't have the theoretical knowledge to start with - or you find yourself having to bend the theory to the conditions and circumstances you currently find yourself in.  Then finding out that the theory and your current circumstances do not match - and probably never will.

A good example of this would be when my Dad drives in The Netherlands.  He passed his driving test in England - his automatic reactions tell him to drive on the left, oh and his brain is hardwired for English road rules.

My Dad has considerable experience of driving in The Netherlands.  However, it still takes him some time to adjust and "flick the switch" as it were when he puts his front wheels on Dutch tarmac.  Let's just say that driving on the left in The Netherlands is not exactly the smartest idea in the world.  Although - one of my favourite memories of him driving in The Netherlands was when one Dutch driver had taken one look at the English numberplate of our car at one point and decided that Dad would be the typical English courteous driver (and let the Dutch car off the small ferry we were on first).  I can still picture the look on the Dutch driver's face as we zoomed past them.

What happens when you find yourself in a situation where you do not have the benefit of theoretical knowledge before you gain practical experience???

This can be the most dangerous situation of all.  The gap where the theory should be is either a total vacuum waiting to be filled with inaccurate "knowledge" or it becomes filled with what you find yourself having to learn through practical experience alone.  This means that the "recieved wisdom" theory doesn't get any room.

This also means that it can become extremely difficult to translate your practical experience into theoretical knowledge that other people would be able to understand.

For example - hand me a camera, hand an amateur photographer a camera, and hand a qualified professional photographer a camera.  Then stand all three of us in the same place at the same time and tell us to photograph the same view.  The chances are you will not only get three different photographs but you will also get three different explanations of how and why we took them.

The two photographers who have some theoretical knowledge will probably be able to bore you about the composition they used, the lighting, the choice of film or digital, the shutter speed they used, etc.

Me???  Well - my monologue on the photograph I took will not include any of the above.  My monologue will probably include why I took it in the first place.  I have three main reasons - I liked the view I saw with my own eyes and I wanted to capture it and show other humans, I had a problem with seeing the view with my own eyes and I wished to make it easier to see, or I saw something the other two wouldn't understand and I wished to show them.

In plain English - I sometimes use my camera as an extention of my eyeballs.  If I have difficulty reading things (and I am in a place where I am allowed to operate a camera) the zoom function suddenly has a very practical function indeed.  (The other two photographers would probably tell you that the zoom function on a camera is the spawn of Satan.)

There is also another danger concerning the battle between practical and theoretical.  It is called the Mainstream Media.

These beings all have some kind of agenda to push regarding life and how we should all live it.

We have all read and seen reports about such things as Disability equalling "Benefit Scrounging", Immigration equalling "stealing jobs from the native unemployed" (or even Immigration equalling "Everybody who comes into our country is a Terrorist", or worse "Everybody who comes into our country wants to live by their own rules and not mix"), and an Armed Police Officer going into a supermarket to buy their lunch equalling "Imminent Armageddon via indiscriminate firing leading to genocidal-scale mass murder".

Those of us with practical experience which proves how wrong all three of the above statements are find ourselves being drowned out.  For example, I have only claimed what I was entitled to (and I did that reluctantly), if you have ever had the pleasure of meeting my Mum you will know she fully submersed herself in English life and played by the same rules as everybody else, oh and I have been up close and personal with an Armed Police Officer on my own and survived the experience without injury.  I also follow a few Armed Police Officers on Twitter.  They are almost friendlier than the non-armed Officers in some cases.

I could ramble on about how my practical experiences of the world around me do not match up to the theoretical knowledge presented by the "Mainstream Media" until I am blue in the face.  I could also round up a few of my friendly "Human Library Books" and get them to tell you their side of the story.  However, until there is a major culture shift - resulting in a Society where everybody's practical experiences of the world as we know it are treated as being equally valid to the received wisdom theory of how the world works - I honestly cannot see a way forward to a more just society.

LEONE Designers Celebrate Leicester In Style
7/22/2016 12:29:45 AM

If you have read my blog before you will kmow that I love unusual things.  You may also know I love doing my bit to help promote people who want to showcase their talents in the Creative Arts.

LEONE Designers definitely fit into the second category.  Ryte and Zoya are two ladies who have decided to promote the talents of Designers from Leicester.  In fact the name LEONE Designers is actually a tribute to the LE1 Postcode - where their pop-up shop is based until August 2016 (the shop is close to the Costa Coffee and the Showcase Cinema behind the Highcross Shopping Centre).

I must admit I wasn't prepared to write about it when I first walked into the shop (the battery on my mobile had run out so I couldn't take photos).

When I went back the next day I was in for a real treat.  I witnessed a true artist at work - making a leather wallet from scratch by hand using silk with a pattern he had designed himself for the inside pockets.

The start of the wallet-making process - unfortunately I didn't get to see the finished article

The shop is almost set out like an Art Gallery with an eclectic range of products.

The following photos show just a small selection of the items on sale.

The pair of jeans in the next two photos were actually made by Ryte (one of the partners in the business) - the lady modelling them bought them.

The shop is well worth a visit.  The staff are friendly and encourage you to have a look around.  (To be honest I can find shops which almost double up as Art Galleries more than a bit intimidating - I don't usually feel comfortable touching the items in that kind of shop.)

If you are in Leicester City Centre and you want to escape into s world of msrvellous Art and Design give LEONE Designers a visit.  You will be in for a treat.

Mix And Match (Or - Why Appearances Can Be Very Deceptive)
7/20/2016 12:34:56 AM
If you are one of my Facebook friends you will have seen a status updated I posted on Saturday asking why strangers seem to take one look at me and spill their guts to me (and tell me their life story).

I had had the most surreal conversation with a total stranger.  I am not going to tell you what was discussed.  However, I will tell you two things about it.

The first one being - I get the general idea that if the other person had been in slightly different circumstances they would probably not have told me half of what they did.  (The half which I doubt they would have told me under different circumstances included the parts which actually scared the living daylights out of me.)  They also paid me a slightly backhanded compliment by saying "I have told you more than I told my Psychologist".

Those of you who know me will know that I do not judge until I know the full story.  I will give my opinion if I am asked for it.  However, if you talk to me expecting to get unsolicited advice, go and find someone else to talk to.

A friend of mine knows me well enough to realise that if I say "Hmm" it means that I am thinking and they will possibly receive an update to my thoughts in the very near future (they will usually have to ask for it first though).

There are times when the best way to help people is just be a "Sounding Board" for them.  Do not judge them or tell tehm how you would do things if you were them - just let them talk it out and let them know you are there for them.

I was talking to another friend of mine who I managed to totally either shock or confuse when I said that they were correct about something but they were wrong about my reasons for it.

Put it this way - if I decide to initiate a conversation with you without us never having met before (unless I know there is a very high chance of you having some information I need - or you have an unusual accent) - the chances are you do not exactly look like the friendliest person on the planet (and that is usually something of an understatement).  Experience tells me that the friendly looking humans are the most dangerous humans to approach.  The apparent friendliness can hide a very nasty sting in the tail.

You can learn a lot just by sitting quietly whilst someone talks to you.  Subjects I have found myself being educated about just by following that advice include Mental Health and Drug Addiction (subsection "Heroin").

There is something which I have learned - if you do not judge people on first appearances they are less likely to judge you on the same criteria.

A very dear friend of mine found out that we have got more in common with each other than I have with most of my other friends.  They are a big supporter of this blog so I am not going to break their confidence - but we now have a bit of a mutual Appreciation Society going on.  I am so proud of them and they know why.

The way they learned so much about me was by me not trying the "Been There, Done That, Got The Tshirt" approach when they opened up to me.  Instead - I listened to them and occassionally told them a little of my story to show I understood more than they realised.

I may either come across as a total loudmouth or someone who is cold, defensive, and difficult to reach, when you first meet me.  However, if you persevere long enough to get to know me, I have been told I am one of the nicest friends you can have.

There is one question which comes up in job interviews which I really hate.  It is the one where the interviewer asks "If I asked your friends to describe you - what do you think they would say?".

(If there wasn't the small matter of something called the "Data Protection Act" - and if I was the kind of person to give out the personal details of my friends - I would be very tempted to hand the interviewer my mobile phone and tell them to pick a friend and ask them themself.)

I can only tell you how I treat my friends.

I am loyal, I will go out of my way to help a friend who is in need if I can (and if they are prepared to help themself as well), I am respectful of their privacy, I am caring (put it this way - I get upset when my friends are upset), I will defend them until they prove me wrong (in which case - I suggest they are very careful indeed).  I also love doing things to surprise my closest friends - it might be sending a card with a personal message when they are feeling down.  There is one way of finding out how close a friend I consider you to be - if I am totally (bluntly - to the point of saying exactly what I am thinking when I think it) honest without feeling like I have to ask your permission first - your next stage would be to actually attempt to get yourself adopted as a member of my family (either that or adopt me yourself).

Remember - never judge people unless you know the whole story.  Your judgements could get you into a world of trouble.

Why The "Disability Discrimination Act" Is Not Worth The Paper It Is Written On (Or - You Cannot Legislate Against Laziness)
7/19/2016 11:37:47 PM

Yes - that is the internationally recognised "No Entry" Sign

The "Disability Discrimination Act" should be a wonderful piece of legislation which enables those of us who either classify ourselves or are classified by others as being "Disabled" to have exactly the same opportunities as the "Able-bodied" members of society.

However, it doesn't quite work like that in my experience (or the experience of other people with various disabilities).

In fact - you could say that in some cases the "Disability Discrimination Act" shares more characteristics with the "No Entry Sign" in the picture at the start of this blog post.

I have blogged before about the fact that the purchase of glasses (as in "spectacles") is not covered by the "Disability Discrimination Act".

However, there are a few other things which I wish were also covered by the Act.  Apparently I am covered by the Act when it comes to getting into a shop, cafe, or other building.  (Handrails, ramps, etc, should be provided to enable me to get into the building.)  The actual layout, lighting, etc, inside the building doesn't seem to be covered though.  I have lost count of the amount of times I have walked into a building of any description and found myself unable to access the reason I entered the establishment.

You may call me slightly crazy if you want to (to be honest I am past caring) but - if I manage to enter an establishment on my own - I do not expect to have to leave and return with other people in order to achieve the objective of my visit.  It is all very well training your staff in helping people to access your goods and services - but if I find myself needing to ask your staff for help in reading a menu, etc, your system has failed before our intended transaction has even begun.

Put simply - the only time when I will happily ask for help is if I find myself in a situation where I am faced with reading a language I cannot speak or understand a word of.  For the rest I would prefer to be given exactly the same chance as everybody else.

Of course - the way I access the goods and services provided by your establishment may not be the same as everybody else.  For example - I much prefer being able to hold things like menus, notices, etc, in my hand - instead of either having to locate a stepladder and a microscope or having to stand nose to wall with a notice which has been "helpfully" attached to a wall - because the idiot who designed the aforementioned notice appears to have forgotten that there are humans who cannot actually see extremely small print.

Another object which frustrates me no end is your friendly local ATM (or cash mashine) - and the associated "Chip and Pin" machines.

I will start with the ATM.  Leaving aside the fact that the ones outside buildings are usually not shaded from the sun (in fact most of them appear to be in direct sunlight most of the time) for a minute.  The major problem I have got with most of them is the size of the flipping contraption - more precisely - the size of the screen and the font.  If the screen was bigger you could have spaces between the buttons around the sides of the screens.  As for the font-size - I usually end up wanting to laugh whenever I use the "Fasttrack Banking" (or whatever those machines are called where you can get printed statements, etc) at HSBC banks.  They let you have a choice of font-size for the screen.  You can either have "Small" (for my eyes please read "Microscopic") or "Normal" (for my eyes read "Small").  I heard a rumour that they were considering having a "Large" font-size as well (for my eyes read "Normal") but I have yet to see it.

The "Chip and Pin" devices are the worst offenders though.  I never know what sort I am going to be faced with when I want to pay by Debit Card - will I need to squint at the screen because the font is very small on a dark green background? Or will I need to find a welding visor to protect my eyes from the brightly backlit screen (even though the font is actually a readable size for once)???

My biggest bugbear which isn't covered by the "Disability Discrimination Act" is one which I have been known to face alost before I leave my home.  In fact- they are two bugbears of mine.

I have blogged before about those things I classify as "Mobile Discos" (cars with music blaring from windows which are apparently sealed shut - and I can hear the music before I can see the car approaching).  According to me - the only vehicles which should drive around making that level of noise so loud it drowns out the noise of the engine are as follows - Police, Ambulance, Fire Engines, and that is only when they are on "Emergency" calls.  There is something about hearing a siren combined with seeing blue flashing lights which gives the general impression the driver is in something of a hurry.  This ensures I keep my distance.  On the other hand - hearing the latest chart-topping "tunes" - or even a halfway decent song by a group like Bon Jovi or Queen (if I am lucky) at top volume just makes me want to submit the driver of the vehicle to an urgent hearing test.  The funny thing is that the drivers of the "Mobile Discos" usually manage to drive like one of Meat Loaf's songs - "Bat Out Of Hell"!!!

My biggest bugbear is one which I really think should be covered by the "Disability Discrimination Act".  Mainly because it discriminates against the highest proportion of people (whether or not they are actually "disabled" themselves - they could actually be pushing a pram or a pushchair).

I know I have blogged about this several times before - but parking your car with most of it draped over the pavement is actually extremely dangerous.  You parking your car like that may not pose any danger for you - but for those of us who cannot judge gaps (in particular), or who are in a wheelchair, or pushing a pram, and end up having to enter the traffic on the road (where you are actually supposed to find cars) this has been known to turn into a case of "Take Your Life Into Your Own Hands".

If you are too lazy to actually find a carpark (I believe these are actually designed for the purpose of parking your car safely) I have a favour to ask you.  After you have finished draping your car over the pavement - please open the door on the side of the pavement to its widest extent.  If you cannot open the door so it is at rightangles to the car - find somewhere else to park.  This is especially true on sunny days (at least for me because my limited ability to judge small gaps becomes non-existent in bright sunshine).

We have all heard about reports of Disabled people being discriminated against - for example - Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs not being allowed in Taxis, buildings not having adequate ramps and things to help people access them, etc.  These are covered by the "Disability Discriminination Act".  However, as you have seen - in my opinion - it doesn't go nearly far enough to actually prevent discrimination of disabled people.

There again - I wonder how many disabled people were consulted before the Act was written and passed into Law???

We need to be able to have confidence in things like the "Disability Discrimination Act" covering all scenarios which disabled people may face - without having to consult other laws (or even the HIghway Code) and without having to work out which law contradicts the Act itself.  Or even - having to know that I cannot use the "Disability Discrimination Act" to cover me when I want to buy a pair of glasses - but I can use it because I am Registered Partially Sighted (which - correct me if I am wrong - would suggest I need glasses more than most people???).

I live in hope of the Act being re-written to cover all scenarios - but I am nt holding my breath.
When Practical Experience Beats "Received Wisdom" (Or - Why Some "Human Library Books" Could Bite Back)
7/15/2016 11:01:07 PM

f you are a long time reader of my blog you may have come across the term "Human Library Books" before.

I use this phrase to describe people (usually friends of mine) who have interesting experiences which I love learning about.  The obvious difference between a "Human Library Book" and a more traditional one is that I can ask the Human version questions in order to help me understand what they are teaching me.

I was speaking to four "Human Library Books" today at the Social Media Cafe (I spoke to the fifth one after the event).  Some of the "Books" had similar experiences whilst others were totally different.

An example (which has proven extremely educational for me) is that two of the "Books" have Epilepsy.  However, one "Book" has "Normal" (as in triggered by flashing lights) Epilepsy - whilst the other "Book" has Stress-triggered Epilepsy (which I had never heard of before they told me about it).

The strange thing is that "Human Library Books" come in all sorts of disguises.  This is because everybody has their own unique set of experiences.

For example - if I want to find out about Policing (for example) I can consult several "Books" whom I am in contact with, depending on what aspect of Policing I wish to learn about (and in which country), if I want to learn about life in a different country all I have to do is pick a country and speak to a "Book" who has got experience of living in that country - the same with a different religion, etc.  I even know "Books" like the two I mentioned earlier with different health issues.

I am the sort of person who prefers consulting my "Human Library" if I have a question about something - because I know I am going to get an answer based on that particular "Book" and their experience.

For some strange reason - Corporate bodies are not exactly like that.  They usually end up either consulting charities or proper paper-based Textbooks.  Especially when it comes to things like physical disabilities and Mental Health issues.  There is only one minor problem with that - the advice is either "one size fits all" or totally wrong to start with.

Take the "Book" who is typing this blog post.  If you and I were in a group of people doing one of those "Team Building" exercises where you have to "file" people in order of different things - and the criteria we had to file ourselves on was the subject of who has got the worst sight - you and I may decide to file me in different places based on our experiences of my sight.  Unless the specific criteria was "file in order of the strength of prescription of glasses or contact lenses" - in which case we would both have no choice but to put me at or near the end with the strongest prescription.

The paper-based textbooks only deal with general theories about different disabilities and Mental Health issues and their effects on the people who have them.  This is especially true if they are written by academics.  (These are the ones which I can prove wrong in a matter of minutes when it comes to visual problems - subsection Myopia.)

Some of the charities - who supposedly exist to either help or speak up for Disabled people or those who have Mental Health issues - do not actually have any member of staff with the issues which are being talked about by the charity.  How are they supposed to provide help and support if they have no personal practical experience to use???

It is all very well corporate organisations such as Councils, Construction companies, Organisations who run Festivals, etc, consulting the Charities, etc, for advice about how to make their building accessible for different disabilities.  What they fail to realise is that every single disabilitiy or Mental Health issue has its own scale of severity.  For example - all seven of the "Books" (including myself) in our little discussions wear glasses at least part of the time.  This would indicate that all of us have got some kind of sight problem.  However, it would not (at least in my case) indicate the exact severity of the problem - or all the factors which combine to make it that severe.  You need to consult each separate "Book" to find out the exact severeity of the sight problem and what the "Book" you are consulting would wish you to do to make their life easier for them.

This may sound totally daft but - surely - instead of asking people who have no practical experience of dealing with the issues you have come up against - it might be a good idea to ask someone who has got that particular issue???

Before you try to tell me that there are people who are qualified to discuss things like Disability and Mental Health - due to the fact that they have got paper qualifications coming out of their ears - I would answer that by saying "by all means feel free to ask any Brainiac you want to - just don't be surprised when you come across someone like me who seems to live for proving the "Experts" wrong".

I know I have said this elsewhere on my blog but - and the two "Books" I was discussing this subject with agreed with me - we need to value practical experience more than paper qualifications.  Especially when it comes to subjects you cannot get paper qualifications in the Practical side of - ie, a PhD in Psychology and having practical experience of a Mental Health issue are two very different concepts.  The same with a degree in Optometry and having practical experience of severe myopia, photophobia, lack of night vision, a total inability to judge speed to distance ratios, problems with angles and depth of field, etc.  (That little list actually describes my sight problems in a nutshell.)

I was informed that I am "Pro-active" today.  My answer to that is - if I don't make a fuss about the challenges I face due to my sight nobody else will.  Apart from that - if the Disabled "Community" (and I really hate using the word "Community" in that context), including both the physically disabled and those with Mental Health issues, don't stand up for ourselves and start shouting about the problems we face on a daily basis - whether or not it is connected with the issue itself or the stigma which is attached to some issues by Society - nobody is going to start shouting for us.

My blog contains posts on the challenges I face due to my sight in an attempt to educate people about them.  This is my way of doing my bit when it comes to being part of a large section of "Human Library Books" on the subject of "Disability".  However, my blog also contains posts on other aspects of my life which this "Book" is also happy to discuss with you - all you have to do is ask me.

I am going to leave you with a song by Richie Sambora which I always think of whenever I blog about my sight.  The song is called "Undiscovered Soul" - the relevant lyrics are "When you walk that road - you walk alone.  Just an undiscovered soul in the great unknown.  When your only hope is to find a home.  Just an undiscovered soul in the great unknown".

Maybe The Best People To Choose Might Not Be The Ones With A Vested Interest In The Outcome (Or - Give The Outsiders A Chance!)
7/11/2016 1:11:50 PM

Call me crazy if you want to but I am beginning to think that there might be a connection emerging between this sculpture I photographed in Delft and our current Political landscape.  They both apparently serve no purpose whatsoever and nobody knows what the point of either of them is.

We have just had two major Political events - the EU Referendum and the publishing of the Chilcot Report into the Iraq war.

Both of these have completely destroyed my connection with British Politics - but for very different reasons.

The Chilcot Report seems to be the subject of several Post-mortems (it has got to the stage where I am awaiting the announcement of an Enquiry into the Report).  Not only that but certain Media Outlets appear to have lined up Medical Professionals to cast doubts on Tony Blair's sanity (or at least his personality) without the benefit of a "Professional" appointment with him.  I am not sure but I think this may be ever so slightly against the Professional Codes of Conduct of the British Psychological Society as well as the Royal College of Psychiatrists???

Then we have the British Referendum on the EU - which appears to have finally hit the "Destruct" button on both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.

Since David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister we have been "treated to" the unedifying sight of Politicians attempting to line themselves up to take over (as I type this the final Candidate to stand against Theresa May has stood down).

On the Labour side we have a party who is on the verge of Civil War with itself.  I am too confused by the inner workings of the Labour Party to even begin to explain the process to elect a Leader.

What I do find ironic is that the Labour Party are attempting to get rid of a Leader because he stood up for his principles.  I don't really like how Jeremy Corbin comes across on TV but at least he stands up for what he believes in (even to the point of not wanting anything to do with the Toxic Tony Blair - whether or not this would be detrimental to the "Remain" campaign in the EU Referendum).

The one thing I have got a major problem with in all the Leadership Contests is that they would seem to be using the MP's and the members of each party to attempt to decide how the rest of us would vote.

This sounds to me a bit like asking a Construction worker in Glasgow whether a Journalist in London would like a cup of tea!!!  Without the Construction Worker having met the Journalist prior to being asked the question.

The Political parties only seem to be interested in their own little worlds.  We have been threatened with not having a General Election before 2020 (something to do with the "5 year Parliament Act") even though David Cameron is no longer Prime Minister.

If I had my way the Leadership contests for both Labour and the Conservatives would both bypass the MPs - as well as the membership - of both parties and be put to a national vote.

My reason???  Well, the Political parties all want to choose someone who they think would make a good Prime Minister, don't they???  Someone who will lead the country and have the support of the majority of the population when it comes to General Elections???

So why don't we have a law where we (the public) automatically get a vote in Leadership Elections???  I am only saying this because of the controversy surrounding the spike in Labour Party Members who (allegedly) don't have the best interests of the Labour Party at heart.

As well as the above - I would scrap the "First Past The Post" Electoral system.  I would like to see more Coalition Governments in future (without that stupid Law I referred to earlier in place).

I would make one final change to our Electoral System (if I could not abolish it completely).

I am sick to death of seeing MPs on my TV whom I have absolutely nothing in common with.  Whether or not they are from the upper eschelons of Society, Millionnaires in their own right (self-made or through inheritence), Career Politicians - or even whether or not they have actually had a job I can actually relate to - I would love to see Politicians who I feel I can trust to understand me if I go to them with a problem.

If we had a Parliament which truly reflected the makeup of our Society we would see a lot less white faces (we might even see more people like Nick Clegg - white but with parents from other countries), We would see a lot less men.  We would see more people who have had "lower status" jobs (instead of Doctors, Lawyers, Directors of Oil Companies, etc).  We would also see a lot more people with all kinds of Disabilities.  I am shocked when I consider that I can count on one hand the amount of MPs I have seen on TV with an obvious disability (and I cannot even name most of them).  David Blunkett was blind and became a Minister in one of Tony Blair's governments (that was the only good thing Tony Blair did as far as I am concerned).

I seem to remember typing a blog post complaining about the stock phrase that Politicians always seem to use whenever they are faced with any kind of election - "We need a new kind of Politics".

Yes - we do need a new kind of Politics.  One where the views of the entire population are taken into account, where the politicians are not allowed to say things when they are in Parliament which would get you or I arrested (or sued) if we said them in the street, where "Prime Minister's Questions" is actually seen as a civilised debate (instead of a kindergarten full of overgrown toddlers all grumpy because they can't get their own way).  Most of all - we need a kind of Politics which I would be pleased to get involved in instead of shouting about it through this blog.  This would mean that the Politicians we elected would display compassion for their fellow man and go out of their way (if necessary) to force the Government to change Laws which either intentionally or unintentionally discriminate against the most vulnerable people in Society.

The final thing the new kind of Politics would allow to happen is for everybody to speak out for those of us who do not have a voice.

Fundraising Take Two
7/7/2016 1:55:43 PM
Well - the Crowdfunding campaign didn't quite work out as well as I had hoped.

So I decided to try something else (and I have some more news which I will tell you about in a bit).

I have set up a Justgiving page at https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/inkyworld in another attempt to fund the blog.

There is a bit of an added incentive for you.

Part of the money will be used to keep this blog going and the other half will (hopefully) be used to publicise a project which I am rather excited about.

Some of the more long-standing readers will know I am involved in a photography project.  Until now I have kept some of the details a mystery.

As you know - I have been trying to give you tasters of some of the barriers and challenges which I face due to my sight.  This is very difficult through the medium of the written word.  That is apart from telling you about my problems with bright light, darkness, and angles (particularly staircases).  Attempting to tell you exactly how much I can see without my glasses on - for example - really needs photographic evidence.  Never mind the fact that my eyes can play the weirdest tricks on me even when I have got my glasses on.

I can waffle on and on about how I have difficulties with things which you may be able to do automatically without thinking - however, all that will happen is I will bore you to sleep.

If the project comes off as I hope - it will give you a first hand taster of things which you may never have to think about.  It will be the next best thing to actually borrowing my eyeballs themselves.

I have seen some photos already and they look pretty impressive.  They have captured things almost exactly as I see them.

However, without your funding I cannot carry out my plans for the project - or keep inkyworld going.

Truth, Lies, And Everything In Between (Or - The Dangers Of Beliefs)
7/7/2016 1:22:22 PM

Steps from the Grand Union Canal To The Great Central Way (Formerly The Great Central Railway)

I was going to type this blog post last night - however, I was not in the mood to type anything after witnessing yet another example of the subject of it.

There are times when I honestly wonder what we as a Society are trying to achieve.

Never mind the Mainstream Media - with their ideas about going for the lowest common denominators when it comes to "Front Page News".  Or the Government (what little of it actually still exists in a form sufficient to govern) and their ideas about condemning the most vulnerable in society to their own fate - instead of adequately providing help and assistance in order for them to reach their goals.

Even certain words have either been twisted so they have a different meaning - some of them have been twisted so much that everybody understands them to have the exact opposite meaning to that found in any Dictionary I have ever read.

The above photo can be seen as a metaphor for the barriers we all (yes - I admit I do this sometimes as well) put in the path of others who are trying to achieve their goals.  The barriers can be obvious and physical - or they can be small and not so obvious.  They don't even have to be intentionally put between people and their goals.

There is another point about barriers - they can change shape and size depending on your perception of them.

For example - I will see the fact that you have "helpfully" parked your car with three quarters of it obscuring the pavement where I intend to walk (and only left a small gap between the side of your car and the wall, etc, on the other side of the pavement) as a major barrier (like the big fence in the photo above) due to my sight.  A bit like the big - physical - fence in the photo.

However, you may see where you have parked your car a bit like the reflection of the barrier in the puddle in the photo.  You will think that you have left enough space for me (or anybody else) to navigate their way around your car.  Reflections are only temporary and they can be moved at will - more to the point - you can walk through a reflection in a puddle without damaging yourself.  Put it this way - if you tried to walk through the big barrier in the photo I really hope you have a lifejacket on as it is a big drop until you hit the water in the canal.

Sometimes our choices just reflect ourselves back at us (like the reflection of the swan in the photo) if we choose to look at them.

I have heard a lot about the whys and wherefores connected with the results of the EU Referendum.  Some people seem determined to paint everybody who voted for "Brexit" as a racist - without bothering to ask them about their true motives and ideas.

There are lots of times when I have seriously disagreed with a decision - but I have never condemned anybody for it.

The way I see it is - people's beliefs are their private business until it comes to a point where they directly affect me and my life.

You and I may strongly disagree about things but I hope I will always treat you with courtesy and respect even if we do.

I want to finish this blog post by quoting my all-time favourite lyrics.  These have been going around in my head for the last couple of weeks - and the reason may become obvious.

I've been walking in the footsteps of Society's lies.
I don't like what I see no more.
Sometimes I wish I was blind.
Sometimes I wait for ever - just to stand out in the rain.
So noone sees me crying - trying to wash away these pains.

("Keep The Faith" by Bon Jovi)

Referendums Highlight Divisions In Society (Or - There Are No More Fairytales Or Bedtime Stories To Tell)
6/28/2016 12:19:39 PM

Paalwoningen (or "Cube Flats") near Rotterdam Blaak Station

I think I can guess what you are thinking - Why am I looking at a photo of weird flats when you have told me this blog post is about the divisions in society which have been highlighted by the Brexit Referendum???

Allow me to explain (or attempt to explain).

This year I managed to psych myself up enough to actually set foot in the "Kijk Kubus" (or the show flat.  Although I am glad I did it I don't particularly wish to repeat the experience because of the steepness and narrowness of the staircases I had to go up and down in order to experience the flat for myself.

What I am trying to say is - they are still my favourite building in Rotterdam to look at but you could say I have been there, done that.  I would thoroughly recommend a walk around the "Kijk Kubus" if you can manage narrow and/or steep staircases.

Getting out of the flat and back down to ground level was the only time when I have felt discriminated against due to my sight in Rotterdam.

Chess board in Rotterdam Library (and - yes - I did see people play it)

If something good has come out of the Brexit Referendum as far as I am concerned - it is the fact we are being forced to look at our society and how divided it has become.

I could attempt to turn into some kind of "pseudo-Brainiac" and tell you that the photo of the chess board was supposed to be a metaphor for people in power playing different sections of society against each other.  However, that would be over-complicating things.

Whichever way you look at me I am an outsider when I am in Britain (I certainly feel like one).  For a start - I have never felt totally English or British even though I was born here and have lived here my entire life.

Compared to The Netherlands - where you cannot help being exposed to newspapers, magazines, and TV Stations from other countries - Britain seems to want to stick with English-centric media as much as possible.

I will give you an example.  I live in Leicester - where you find a high proportion of Asians living in certain areas.  I am used to realising that - if I walk around certain areas I will be in the minority because I am Western and white.  I can expect to hear Asian languages being spoken in the centre.  What I cannot expect to find (even if I was looking for one) is any kind of newspaper in an Asian language.

We have a large amount of Eastern Europeans in Leicester as well.  They have given us Polish shops, etc.  However, if I walk into a Newsagent I will have about as much success in finding a Polish newspaper as I will finding a Dutch one - none whatsoever.

I was split between my head and my heart when it came to voting in the Referendum - Head said "In" and Heart said "Out".  I went with my head.

However, I am just waiting for the EU to collapse.

The racism which has been brought to the surface of British Society as a result of the Referendum also needs to be tackled.  But I feel we need a proper "grown up" debate about it.

I read somewhere that "Political Correctness" enables people to communicate without causing great offence as a result.  In most cases that is true.  However, I am not sure that putting nice "acceptable" labels on the things we cannot say in public is a very good idea.

Personally I find it easier to discuss something when we both feel comfortable with the language used.  Only then can we start to change some of the ideas that people have about other people.

As well as needing a debate on the best way to get a Parliament which truly represents the people it is supposed to serve (I thnk we should have Electoral candidates which not only reflect the Political views of the Electorate - we should have candidates who reflect the human population of the constituencies themselves.  I would love to see more Disabled people in Parliament.) we also need a proper conversation about the benefits or otherwise of Immigration - as well as people's fears regarding Employment, etc.

Yes - you are correct - it does say "Brain Wash" - however - it is not somewhere where you go for Psychiatrict or Psychological evaluation or treatment.  It is the name of a chain of Dutch Hairdressers,

The second part of the title to this blog post is actually some lyrics to a song I have been listening to rather a lot recently.  "No More Fairytales" by City To City.  I am not going to quote the entire song (you can get the "The Road Ahead" album on Amazon - and listen to the song for yourself) but I am starting to realise that it is the most applicable song for these times.

I have heard too many arguments blaming different sections of the Referendum as well as different situations which people have found themselves in (regarding employment opportunities, etc).  I am also alarmed by people calling each other selfish as a result of their votes.

I saw something on Facebook which may put things into perspective.  The general message of it was - people have fought and died in World Wars so you can have the opportunity to vote (and some of them were young people with their futures in front of them).  So if you want to moan about how different people voted just be thankful they (and you) did have an opportunity to vote.

We have already had one person die as a consequence of this Referendum - we do not need any more people to lose their life as a result of it.

From A "Living" Museum To An "Exhibition" Museum (Or - "Military History" Served Two Ways)
6/20/2016 1:02:55 AM
The funny thing was - I wasn't even looking for the church when I found it.  In fact - it was in a totally different part of Rotterdam than where I had expected it to be.  I was actually looking for the Library and the Markt Hal (or "Market Hall").

Laurence Church in Rotterdam

I would have loved to have had a look around inside it but I was put off by the sign which practically ordered me to pay an admission charge.  I realise that such a historic building needs to find a way of raising money to keep it in good condition.  However, I would have felt happier with a sign reading something like "Suggested Donation = 2 Euros".  (Maybe it is because I am not used to having to pay to get into an English Church.)

The Laurence Church might not mean anything to you but it is one of very few original pre-WW2 buildings left standing in Rotterdam city centre.

The doors to the front of the church are a relatively recent edition (1960's) and have "Peace And War" as a theme.

This started me wondering if I would be able to find "Het Witte Huis" (or "The White House") - one of the other original pre-WW2 buildings in Rotterdam City Centre.

I found that a few days later - after consulting both my Dad and Googlemaps.

Tall white building in background is "Het Witte House" - now a hotel or cafe.  In the foreground you can see the site of the original Rotterdam Harbour.

In between those visits to Rotterdam City Centre I went to the beach at Hoek van Holland.  Here I found another interesting WW2 exhibit - the Atlantic Wall Museum.  (Open alternate Saturdays and Sundays.  Still impressive to look at even if you cannot get inside it.)

The day after I got back from Holland I went to a "Military History" exhibition at the Adult Education Centre in Leicester.  They had plenty of exhibits and re-enactors (along with a few serving Military personnel).

Maybe it is thanks to the influence of my Oma but I much prefer history "in-situ" where I can get a proper feel for what happened.

I am going to end this blog post with what I think are three very "talkative" photos I took when I was in Rotterdam.  Two are of information boards which you can see on the roof of the "Groothandel's Gebouw" in Rotterdam - the last one is a mix of old photo and modern scenery (in the same place).

A Trip Back To The Future In More Ways Than One (Or - The Day Someone Cheered Me Up More Than They Realised)
6/20/2016 12:12:51 AM

(View of the stairs to the roof of the "Groothandels Gebouw" in Rotterdam - a temporary "sculpture" to celebrate 75 years of the renewing of Rotterdam)

Have you ever felt like you have known someone from somewhere else - even though you have only just met them???  I am not even talking about thinking you know them because they have told you about themselves in letters, emails, phonecalls, Social Media conversations, etc.  I am talking about getting the feeling you have actually met that person before in real life - even when you know you have never seen them before in your life.

I had exactly that feeling one day last week - which had the rather strange effect of making me feel like I was in the classroom of my favourite teacher.

This was rather strange for two reasons - the first (and most logical) one being I was in totally the wrong country.  The second reason was that I was most definitely not talking to any kind of teacher.

Before I totally confuse you - I think I had better explain a couple of things to you.

You could say that this month is a bit of a strange one for me.  Twenty years ago this month my Oma died.  As you can imagine - this has quite a few emotions connected with it.  These were not exactly helped by me wishing my Mum could have come to Holland with me and my Dad (just so I could talk to her about it).

The funny thing is the staircase in the photo I put at the top of this blog post kind of has a part to play in the story as well.  Actually - it was more a case of the husband of the first couple I recognised who had put a photo of themselves on it (more about the other one a bit later).  Put it this way - my mind immediately rewound to when I went over to Holland for Oma's funeral and I had been absolutely convinced I was going to be escorted out of the country until I heard my Mum's "family name" being used.  (Yes - that incident does appear elsewhere on this blog.  I just don't remember if I had stated when it happened.)

Back to the point.

I had decided to try to cheer myself up a bit by "exploring a new bit of Rotterdam" - or at least that is what I told myself so I didn't scare myself enough to back out of what I actually intended to do (it was also a way of stopping myself from being too disappointed if my actual plan failed).

I had decided to see if I could find one of my favourite Twittercops.  To be honest - I didn't exactly hold out much hope.

I got a very pleasant surprise - as well as the "Deja vu" experience I mentioned earlier.

In fact - that "Deja vu" experience was a little more interesting than me just feeling like I was in the classroom of my favourite teacher.  In a strange way - it went back one stage further to when I was growing up with my Mum.

Being spoken to in a mixture of English and Dutch has to be the best way to de-stress me.  It even works better than handing me a book to read.  (Well, if you are used to hearing that combination of languages as you are growing up I am sure your brain will find it calming as you get older.)

Regular readers of my blog will know about my experiences at school and how Steve Bowkett was the only teacher who appeared to make things easy for me by allowing me to do the things I enjoy the most in his lessons (reading, writing, and daydreaming)

On paper Wilco Berenschot has got very little in common with Steve.  Neither of them are English (Steve is Welsh), they are both humans of the Male species, both got curly hair, oh - and they both love speaking to people as part of their job.

So why on Earth did I end up feeling like I could have been sitting in a classroom in Lutterworth High School in 1985, looking at a teacher in a navy blue tank top, instead of in a "Pop-up Police Station" somewhere in Rotterdam, in 2016, talking to a Police Officer in uniform???

There is one thing Wilco and Steve have got in common - a friendly way of educating people and making them feel safe for as long as they are in their presence.  Oh - and a way of making sure people leave their presence feeling happier than when they arrived.

Funnily enough - that is exactly how my Mum made people feel too.

The Differences Between The Netherlands And The UK For People With A Visual Impairment
6/19/2016 10:15:16 PM

I wrote this article (in English) for a Dutch magazine - who translated it into Dutch for me.

In England I am what is known as “Registered Partially Sighted” - this entitles me to walk around with a white stick (which I never use).

I was brought up to be independent and not make a big deal about my sight problem (which means I try to act “normal sighted” as much as possible. I am severely myopic (nearsighted) – I also have a condition called “Photophobia” which means my eyes are extremely sensitive to bright lights.

I am half-Dutch (my Mum was born in Rotterdam) and I have visited The Netherlands on several occasions in my lifetime.

This may sound funny but – for me at least – The Netherlands doesn't seem to make as much of a big deal of Visual Impairment as the UK does. Life as we know it doesn't suddenly grind to a halt when the Dutch are faced with someone who cannot see as well as people may expect.

If I am going about my daily life in England I have to put up with signs I cannot see, bad lighting, obstacles in my way (usually racks of clothing standing so close together that I cannot see a way through them from a distance).

The Dutch appear to have seriously considered any difficulty I may have as I wander around The Netherlands (in fact – the only slight problem I have is the steps onto the older trains).

Dutch signs are big and easy for me to read. Even the “Backlit” signs are easy to read. That is before you realise that the Dutch seem to be trained in “helpfulness” when they see someone struggling in their shops, etc.

However, the best thing for me is knowing I can walk into a Dutch shop, cafe, or restaurant, without wondering if I am going to crash into anything on my way around. Dutch shops are nicely spaced out (even when they are very small).

As for the difference between public transport in The Netherlands and the UK. The Dutch buses have nice clear destination boards. I particularly love the screens you find on some Dutch buses, Trams, Metro, and Trains, which show you the stops the vehicle will be calling at before it gets to its destination. (Dutch people don't have to peer out of the window in the dark wondering where they are in relation to their stop.)

I honestly feel the UK can learn a lot from The Netherlands about how to integrate people with sight problems into society without making a big fuss. In The Netherlands I feel “Designed Into” my surroundings – unlike the UK – where I feel designed out of them.

You Find Yourself Wherever You Are! (Or - A Meditation For The Soul)
6/8/2016 9:21:11 PM

I love the wording on Dutch Maps - like the ones you find in Tourist Attractions, large towns, or Shopping Centres - it makes more sense than being told "You Are Here".

"U Bevindt Zich Hier" literally translates into "You Find Yourself Here".

The question is where do I actually find myself???

Yes - I know that the best place to find the true "me" is in Rotterdam - but what if I am stuck in England???

Well, I can usually find myself when I get totally lost in scenery.  The scenery usually has to include water or unusual buildings or sculptures.  Preferably all three.  (A clue - try taking me back to Kings Lynn - that works.)

If I cannot find freedom in my real surroundings the next best thing is to do one of my hobbies - reading or writing.  I love books and blogs which I can get completely lost in as I read them.  It doesn't matter if they are fiction or factual - the test is if I can read them in one sitting and then want to reread them.

My favourite blogs are ones where the authors take me with them as they describe situations to me - or explain even the most complicated theories in extremely idiotproof language.

Writing is something else I can find myself in as I get lost in it.  There is just something calming about seeing letters and words appearing on a page as I either move the pen or hit the keys on the keyboard.

I remember reading a book by Steve Bowkett, called "Meditations For Busy People (How To Stay Calm And Stop Worrying)".  The most memorable line in it was "imagine you are on a tropical deserted beach.  This is your personal shakra - visit it often".

The funny thing about that is - I cannot stand warm places and my favourite beach has got a rather large port very close to it.  Hoek van Holland beach is almost next door to the ferry terminal.  My second favourite beach - in case you were wondering - is the one at Scheveningen, near The Hague (I always want to type "Den Haag"). 

For those of you who are fans of "The Hairy Bikers" - the beach (or rather the promenade) at Scheveningen was featured on one of their "Bake-ation" programmes.

We are all too busy and stressed out - whether it is connected with employment, health, relationships, financial matters, or anything else.

I read in another book (which I cannot remember the title of at this moment in time) that there are times when unresolved stress and mental anguish actually gives unexplained physical symptoms - if not properly dealt with.

I know that there are people who enjoy walking (my Dad is one of them).  However, seeing as it is one of my primary forms of transport, I don't see the point of walking for leisure.  If I want to walk I usually have both a destination and a purpose in mind.

A recent kind of a hobby is being showcased on this blog post.  These photos were taken outside St Martin's House, near Leicester Cathedral, a couple of years ago.

I must admit that my idea of photography will drive most people up the wall.  Not for me the pretty - chocolate box - photos of architecture or scenery.  I like my photos with a twist in them - the kind that makes you wonder "why the Hell did she take that???".  Either that or the sort of photo which can be interpreted in more than one way.

I was talking to someone today who asked me if I would go for Laser Eye Surgery if it could be proven to be 100% successful.  She was surprised when I said "No".  Apart from the reason I gave her (I wouldn't be "Me" if I have it) - I wouldn't have the most useful escape route ever invented any more if I did.

As it is now - I can easily escape into my thoughts whilst in your presence and you wouldn't necessarily notice any difference.  Well - that is not quite true.  You would notice a difference but not the major one.

I think I have written before about how my favourite time of the day is when I wake up - before I put my glasses on.  My world is in its natural (for me) blurred state.  My brain can gently tick over as it warms up ready for the day ahead.  When I reach for my glasses it is a sign that I am going to get up and do something difficult - which means waking my brain up properly.

This means that - as well as giving my eyes a break when I take my glasses off - my brain gets a break as well.  You see - without my glasses on my brain just gets blurred images via my eyeballs.  So it switches off and treats whatever is in front of me as a kind of screensaver.  You will notice that I very rarely walk around without my glasses on (unless they are being cleaned - or "defogged" - as I walk or I am inside my own house and I am staying on one level).

We all need a way of escaping at times - be it daydreaming (something else I am very good at), something creative, physical exercise, or something else of your choice.

Some people are happiest in a crowd of people whilst others - like me - prefer their own company or dealing with people one on one.  (I sometimes have to "psych myself up" before I can even face a small group of friends or relatives.  That depends if I think I am going to have to "perform" or not.  If I feel like I can be myself and merge into the background I am extremely relaxed - if I feel like I have to act "normal sighted" I can get extremely stressed out extremely quickly.

We all have our limits as to what we can and cannot cope with.  The trick is not to cross those limits too often (if at all).

You are special because you are unique.  There is no point in trying to be like everybody else because they cannot be like you.  In fact, if you think about it, the only thing we all have in common is that we are all human with a 100% Mortality rate.  Some of us identify as men and some of us identify as women, some of us are right handed and some of us are left handed, some of us are white and some of us are from "Ethnic Minorities", etc.  The list is endless.

My least favourite rock group (U2) released a single called "One" which has very relevant lyrics;

"We are one but we're not the same.  We've got to carry each other - carry each other".

The Real Junkfood Roadshow (Or - Educating People One Delicious Meal At A Time)
6/6/2016 10:31:03 PM

Poem by Ken Duddle (One of the "The Real Junkfood Project" Volunteers)

OK - so it wasn't technically a "Roadshow" as such.  The "Super Saturday" event which usually happens at the West End Centre, Andrewes Street, Leicester, just moved itself to the Riverside Festival on Saturday.

Before I continue I suppose I had better declare an interest in this great bunch of people.  I am one of the Volunteers.  However, you won't see me serving or cooking at any of their events (even though I helped out on Thursday afternoon).  I am more of the "Behind the scenes" Volunteer - as in - I do the Admin.

The "Pay As You Feel" concept is a very good idea.  You don't even have to pay in money - you can volunteer your services instead.  This has the effect of allowing everybody to be treated as equals (whether or not they can afford to pay with money).

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you will probably recognise the "Menu" board from whenever I am having my Thursday night dinner at the "Pay As You Feel Cafe".

I must admit that Thursday afternoon was an eyeopening experience for me.  Put it this way - I got a big shock when I saw the food which had been collected from various places.  There was lots of it.

At the Leicester "Pay As You Feel" Cafe they also have a "Food Boutique" where you can pick up some perfectly edible food which has been thrown out by supermarkets, etc, that you can use at home.

The motto of The Real Junkfood Project is "Feed Bellies Not Bins" and - if you could see the amount of food which the Leicester gang collect from various places - you may get some idea of the best way to solve the problems with people going hungry unnecessarily.  Use the food which Supermarkets throw away to feed people who honestly cannot afford the crazy prices you have to pay for thngs like fresh fruit and vegetables.

I am really tempted to suggest that the Police sign up to the Junkfood initiative - and either donate their excess food or serve food which has been prepared by their nearest Junkfood Project in their stations.

Is there any way of the Junkfood Project being incorporated into the Criminal Justice System???  Either as a volunteering opportunity or as a place where people can get a healthy meal without being judged???

What I love most about the Junkfood Project is not the food itself - it is the way of bringing the community together - and helping people to learn about each other.

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