Wednesday, 24 December 2008

It's Christmas

I am not sure how this will come across to people. Probably with mixed reactions.
It's often difficult to portray what we really intend on a blog - especially when one's blog has gone from being an upbeat, regular "topical" piece to an almost non-entity !
However, as I am having a problem writing much at the moment, I wanted to acknowledge that and to also acknowledge that I am sure there are many others feeling the same, but perhaps not wanting to voice their thoughts.

It's Christmas, and usually at this time of year I am well into the festive spirit with shopping like crazy, making sure I have all the foodstuffs that I know won't even be eaten, but have to have because its Christmas, playing carols and singing with the kids etc. I have to admit that I can hardly believe that it is Christmas Eve and I have only just put up the tree this year (and a very small one at that) I have presents not wrapped and every advert on the TV for the "magical" day leaves me feeling more useless and unworthy of my family and friends. "Do what YOU want to do- not what you think you should do" they keep telling me.
What do I want to do ?
I do not wish to be patronising and I am not looking for sympathy. I am also intent on making sure that I am not spoiling others preparations and excitement. Just expressing what I am feeling at the moment in the hope that it may help someone else who possibly feels the same. I will be at the carol service tonight at church, I will be giving and receiving presents tomorrow and no doubt I will be playing charades. But it will be an "unreal" experience.
Why? I don't know.
Am I just a miserable old grouch who needs to "pull herself together" ? I am trying to, though not very successfully. There are many, many people with many, many more problems than me. Am I just selfish and self centred ? Probably.
(5 years ago I went and volunteered at "Crisis" in the shelter in London, and realised that a lot of other volunteers, though doing a vital job for the people using the services, were also doing a bit of self therapy . I couldn't do that over the last few years for numerous reasons.)

As someone said to me yesterday, somehow this year has been deflating for so many, so I know that I am not alone in this feeling. It is the general mood of the country, my friend feels, and it has affected us all with stores closing, people losing and fearing for their jobs, and the general atmosphere of needing to "cut back". When we do, we feel even more Scrooge-like. She is a wise friend, and I believe it is true what she says.

Despite this doom and gloom I am writing, I do wish everyone an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas. The children's pleasure and excitement will rub off on me and give me the sense of purpose that perhaps I am lacking and erase a little of the cynicism that comes with commercialism...and age !

I hope that the real message of the season shines through for whatever reason you celebrate. Perhaps, next year will be better - at least it is likely to be different - and that what I and some others are feeling is a learning experience. That is, "they" say, is what life is all about !

With love and best wishes, to all ..... Happy Christmas.

Thursday, 11 December 2008


Things are not good when I don't post blogs for days on end , then post a poem !! Well at least am in "thinking a bit" mode .


I watched them rub the twigs until a spark flicked into flame
And then they took the rock and carved the spear to hunt the game
A stone was fashioned in a round to move the carcass of the beast
While the fire burned on and all prepared to engage in the feast.
And the sun shone down.

I saw them take the branches from the trees and make them bend
to blast the sharpened sticks to wherever they could send
a message to another, that told them – “ keep away from here;
this territory’s ours and your presence is too near “
And the rain fell softly.

Still as I looked they turned their thoughts towards machines.
Their works became more powerful in their minds and in their dreams.
And the world was changing faster than each man would dare to think,
As they searched for more yet somehow moved away from a joining link.
And the wind blew cool.

For one observing from afar their achievements were astounding
It seemed that all was possible in this world that they were founding.
But in the midst of all this moving on the children still were crying
for a parent or a sibling who they could not keep from dying.
And the snow began to fall.

Then someone made a potion for use by those who became ill
And men were healing others with a needle or a pill.
Now it looked like immortality was something that was near,
as the people in authority could take away all fear.
And the darkness turned lighter.

But as I continued watching what seemed removal of all pain,
The miracle of this phenomena was turned on itself again.
And the chemistry that had been expert in the curing of the sick
was used to take away mans life like a cunning conjuring trick.
And the wind blew colder.

In horror now I looked upon the dead and on the maimed.
while man’s wars raged on inscrutably, and no one seemed ashamed
that what could have been a paradise, was turning into hell.
That man’s body, which once held a heart, had now become a shell.
And the ice chilled me.

I tried to turn away from this black nightmare that I saw
And I prayed that they’d go back to what they almost were before.
In the beginning, at the start, when all was possible and clean.
But the end was now much nearer than the start of where they’d been.
And my eyes overflowed.

Friday, 5 December 2008

The next Wentworth Valley Area Assembly (Rotherham, South Yorkshire) will be held on 8th January 2009, at 4pm at Wickersley School and Sports College, Wickersley, Rotherham.

The theme of the meeting will be "DEMOCRACY".

This should be a very interesting meeting with the "new chairman" Cllr C McMahon chairing the meeting after the completely UN - democratic way that the current Chair, Cllr Peter Thirlwall has been ousted from his post. Cllr Peter Thirlwall had the full support of the members of the assembly (public and cllrs) and yet has been thrown out of his post by the "democratic" labour members of RMBC.
When a motion is carried despite the support of the opposing party for the support of a member, and the complete LACK of support by the electorate ...something has surely gone desperately wrong with our system.

Wake up Rotherham to what is really happening with the governing of our town !

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

I think, therefore I am stressed ?

Someone posed the question on a writer’s forum today about whether they have got a few too many unfinished projects on the go. She has about eight different things that she is working on at the moment. She likes “ diversity” she says – I am not sure if this is a deadly serious comment or not - but finishing things can soon become a problem, if we let it.
Some people only do one thing at a time (men, I usually find – but that’s a sexist remark which has no place on a blog such as this !)
It’s got to be good to have a variety of things to be thinking about, lots of ideas to work on, lots of things on the go. You can then take a break from one and return to it refreshed and ready to move on with it, That’s the theory anyway, I suppose.

Some people write lists - on a short, medium & long-term basis. Prioritising things. Some may not happen, depending on circumstances; some may get completed before their allocated time. I think the idea is to stop your mind from jumping from one thing to another and to be able to focus more. When I attempt this I find that I spend most of the time thinking that instead of writing this list I could have been doing something more useful – like one of the tasks I have ON the list !

Perhaps the simple answer to the question is that most people have too many tasks to do. But then what is too many for one person is too few for another etc etc.
I am being told that I am doing too much - "thinking" too much. I can't get my head round this one. Sometimes I think it would be nice to not think about anything at all and just "chill" as they say. I have even tried it on many occasions. But what do you do while you are not thinking? Seems a physical (and mental) impossibility to me. Descartes said it about four hundred years ago , and for me his philosophy still stands.

Anyone got a 2008 version which involves less multi-tasking ?

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Newspapers or comics?

What a joke some newspapers have now become - now the Daily Mail online is even more pathetic than it's hard copy version. Following the report and pics of the "contrite" and "slimline" Ross after his supposedly feeling the "pressure" of his latest ridiculous and overly paid antics...Daily Mail online then posts immediately "Ads By Google...Prank Call to your friend, Prank Calls"and best of all "Want a job in journalism" ! The Editor needs a job in reality, I think.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Identity, labels and food

Yesterday I went on the first of an 8 week "Condition Management Programme".
I knew how the day was going to be - been there done it loads of times over the years on various study courses, training things etc, but sometimes you just have to "play the game".
The first "activity" was "breaking the ice". I immediately said - oh, are we going to ask each other what animal we would choose to be ? To which I was, no ! Its not that sort of thing !
Well it was that sort of thing, only we told our partners our fave food, film, who we would like to meet, where we would choose to be and then reported back our partners info. I know I am cynical about most things (and I really have done this stuff TOO many times) but still can't get over how others define us, or why we feel the need to define people.
By just chatting naturally, we could easily have broken the ice, I am sure, but now I am "Brenda who likes salad, would like to be in her back garden and would choose to meet Jesus if she could...." and my partner is (name) who likes the film "Sex in the City" and eats chilli and cheese.

Is this really what we want or need to know about people to appreciate them more as a person, or what ? Am I alone in feeling patronised with this kind of "getting to know each other" activity that is so prevalent these days in "team building" ? Perhaps this is my superior attitude coming out, and I should be known as "the know it all". (Apologies for the amount of inverted commas in this but I am using others labels!)

We are all labelled, to a certain extent as something or other in the minds of people we meet,on first contact. Labels certainly do "stick" (except those post it notes you get from The Pound Shop) but most of us do this in our heads and then change opinion or not as the case may be as we get to know each other more. Questioning each other on favourite foods is a little shallow .... and today I just don't feel like eating salad at all, I feel more liking having a vindaloo.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Elephants and A Boeing 747

In a recent pub quiz (in which I had the dubious role of being question master) one of the trivia type questions was this –

A Boeing 747 weighs approximately the same as how many African
elephants ?
25, 55, 125, or 225 ?

Yes, I know – a rather silly question that not many people need to know the answer to, except perhaps someone who has the task of transporting a couple of African Elephants on a Boeing 747 – but this was a pub quiz remember.
Anyway, great consternation went around the room together with a discussion on what one elephant might possibly weigh (Ok, there was also discussion on whether the question master had gone totally doollally, but that’s a different blog topic)

Some people said they had no idea and couldn’t even give a wild guess. Others started talking about what could they relate the weight to - how many “average” men/women would be the same weight as one average elephant? Could we translate this into how many people would be the same weight as a plane and work it out that way? There was much debate (not to mention a little light hearted abuse aimed at the questioner)

It was easy for me – I had the answer in front of me, but what interested me was the fact that the majority of people were discussing weight in ounces, pounds and stones and that not every one was over the age of comprehension of the metric system. Even my own children who were taught metric maths at school, were attempting to remember the tables of 16 ounces = 1 pound, 14 pounds = 1 stone etc. My helpful input, for what it was worth, was that coal used to be delivered in hundred weight (cwt) sacks (112 pounds) and that there are 20 cwt in one ton – which used to be a “load”. This was actually useful as it turned out.

So, what’s my point here, apart from that I can remember some of my “tables”?

Well, at last the government is going to act to end the prosecution of traders who continue to sell goods using only imperial measures – traders who were labelled as “metric martyrs” (they say this, anyway) New guidelines are going to be issued to local authorities to encourage "proportionate" action. This means that the councils who are continuing to take action against people using imperial measures – as ruled legal by the EU last September – will need to use some common sense for once in their dealings in this matter. Even after this ruling from the EU some councils continued to prosecute traders who used only imperial measures and did not display the equivalent in metric.
Whilst most of us know that the words “council, local authorities and common sense” do not often bear well within the same sentence, at least this seems as though we are stepping in the right direction , that is, BACK to what we knew was common sense in the first place. If we want to talk in kgs, metres and litres, why not wait till we visit countries that have always done so ?

So now I am off to the shop, about 2 miles away to buy a pint of milk, 5 lbs of potatoes and a quarter of chopped pork. On the way back I may get a few gallons of petrol and when I return home I may paint the living room which measures 5 yards x 4 yards. I might even have to ask my son to clear some rubbish into the bin for me, which is “a ton weight” - though whether it weighs 20cwt or 1016.05 kgs, I do not really care.

(for anyone really interested – the answer to the elephant question is 55, and I am sure if you Google “weight of a Boeing 747, you will be able to check if this is correct. I reserve the right to be incorrect on this answer as I got the question for the quiz off the internet !)

Monday, 13 October 2008

"a" or "an" and Common Sense

Think of the word house. Should the indefinite article before it be “a” or “an”?
And what about “a historic event”, or should that be “an historic “ ?

Discussing this issue (recently on Writer’s News Talkback) it seems that general opinion is that “an house” sounds quite wrong, and that we use 'an' before words that begin with a vowel - apple, egg, icicle, umbrella … know what the vowels are ….but also before words that sound as if they begin with a vowel eg. hour, heir, honest and others that begin with a silent “h”. Then there’s words such as uniform and unit, that clearly begin with a vowel but are not pronounced as such , so “a” is used before them.
"An hotel" is still used on some occasions. Which to me always was and still is ridiculous. By trying to say "an hotel" we end up dropping the aitch, and it comes out as "an 'otel" which can't be right - unless you are acting in "allo, allo".
I used to have lengthy discussion with small children when reciting the alphabet. I insist (rightly or wrongly) that "H" is pronounced "aitch" and not "haitch" , which sort of confuses people about the dropped H thing even more. Saying "haitch" to me sounds like attempting to put on a Queen's English voice and ending up sounding like less than "posh".

All in all then it must be a matter of taste and personal choice of what we write or say. How this can fit in with an education system and curriculum that relies on right or wrong answers mixed with markers/examiners “common sense” is for another discussion. Common sense is a phrase that is used regularly in the media and in ordinary people’s conversation – I have even heard David Cameron use it recently when referring to his intentions if or when he becomes Prime Minister.
Yet there is not, and can not be, a definitive stance on what is common sense. It has to be a personal choice combined with a con-census of general opinion – usually known as democracy.

Strange place, this United Kingdom, hisn't it ?

Sunday, 5 October 2008

A Foul Smell in the Air

What do you do with a group of people who continually rebel against you for putting up a twenty feet high concrete wall just feet away from their home, preventing them from getting to their land, their work, their family ?
Well you could cut off their water and their electricity when ever you felt like it, without their knowledge. Or you could burst into people’s homes and arrest them for some alleged crime such as throwing rocks at your soldiers. If they try to intervene you could shoot them at close range with rubber- coated steel bullets. This might smash their jaw, fracture their skull or blind them if you get them right in the eye.

This is what Israeli soldiers did to a man in the Palestinian West Bank town of Nilin, 3 weeks ago. It is a miracle that the man is alive – losing his sight in only one eye is little consolation, I think. After an “investigation” Israel has decided that the soldier acted properly in firing the shots, when the man tried to prevent his brother from being taken away.

There are regular, often violent protests in this area where the West Bank barrier divides the Jewish settlements from the Palestinian. But the force that has been used is clearly disproportionate and this is now being recognised by the authorities.
So Israel has now started to use a new, non-lethal offensive weapon – a foul smelling substance called Skunk, which is sprayed extensively from a water cannon machine.
As the name suggests, the substance smells revolting and no matter how much scrubbing and cleaning, it takes at least three days to remove it from your body. It is apparently organic with no “ illegal chemicals” in it – just yeast and baking powder and some secret ingredients.
The Israeli police say that it is very effective and totally harmless – you can even drink it, though why you would want to is not clear. They intend marketing Skunk, selling it to law-enforcement agencies around the world.

To stink to high heaven for a few days for an alleged disorder offence or to be caught as an innocent bystander with this putrid substance is clearly preferable to losing an eye, or your life with a rubber or real bullet.
But there still remains hundreds being killed or seriously injured on a regular basis within the West Bank and surely spending time and money on a peaceful solution to the critical situation there would be a more beneficial option.

We can but hope and pray that this may one day happen.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Blatant Advertising and Promotion

Today my website has had 991 hits to date !

Now I am not saying this is an incredible achievement, or even any achievement at all on my part. But it is sort of exciting. Hits does not exactly mean visits, and visits also does not mean that those visitors even got past clicking on the browser bar, let alone reading or digesting anything on the site or blog

But I know some have and I can go as far as to say that I know many have read bits or all of the site and certainly have had thoughts about my thoughts - and commented on them. So this I feel, entitles me to feel more than a little pleased and gives me a sense of purpose to my ramblings - which on a bad day feel (and maybe are, on a bad day!) no different/better/worse/worthy of putting down , than any one else's.But my whole idea of having a website and blog was/is for communication. It is my big "thing" in life - that we communicate, however poorly or unecessarily this may seem to some people, sometimes. (Communication between me, myself and I , is also quite rewarding)

To everyone who has "hit" , thanks. To everyone who reads the blog (and I know there are lots of you out there who do but don't comment on the blog but elsewhere) thanks for taking the time. I do appreciate the feedback , even -or especially (?) when it's a view that is not the same as mine.

So go on, aim to be the 1000th visitor - you never know where it might lead you !

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

More wedding choices - but choice of what ?

As from today anyone wishing to be married has a greater choice of the venue following new rules from the Anglican Church
Where previously couples could get married in a church only if they attended regularly or lived in the parish, it will now be easier to have their wedding service in a church where they have a family or special connection – anywhere they have lived for six months or where their parents or grandparents were married.
The Bishop of Reading says “ People who are serious about getting married naturally want a marriage ceremony and a setting which is equally serious - only the Church provides this”.
Perhaps, but if you are that serious about getting married, does it really matter where this happens, or rather in which church it happens?

A church is a church. Granted, many are more beautifully situated, historically connected or architecturally significant. But isn’t the idea that the marriage is taking place in the presence of God ? And surely, God is all around and everywhere (if you believe in a god, that is) The Bishop again, believes people want something only the Church can offer: God's blessing on their marriage and that now it will be easier to provide it. I can’t get my head around why the actual church building makes it easier to provide this service.

The Church of England also says that the changes are in response to the increasing mobility of society - many people move away from where they grew up – and there was a need for change from the restrictions stopping some people from marrying in a church.
Are some who are intent on marrying in church, for whatever reason, so averse to the church in their own parish ? If so, is this because the surroundings are not pretty enough for the photographs and dvd ?
Cynicism setting in? Maybe.
In the town where I live we are “lucky” for want of a better word. An ancient parish church in a beautiful, peaceful setting. St Bartholomew’s just happens to be the Anglican Church here. But if I truly believed in God and wanted my marriage blessed in this way in a church, I wouldn’t care if the building was a concrete box.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008


A number of people have said this poem of mine is am posting it here :

There’s a very fine line between pleasure and pain.
There’s a point where you can’t tell the mad from the sane.
And the sun keeps on shining in spite of the rain.
You’re a fighter.

The door that says entrance is exit as well.
An end is a start even though you can’t tell.
And her idea of heaven is maybe your hell.
But don’t doubt her.

I can see in her face that she senses your fears.
She is opening her heart up and fighting the tears.
All the feelings you hoped would last so many years
are about her.

If the outlook seems bleak and you’re turning away
for there doesn’t seem any good reason to stay,
Just take a look back to that very first day –
Your encounter.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

The rest of your life...

Ok - I said yesterday on this blog that that was the last bit of angst - well it was, for now anyway.
Today is another day - the sun is shining, the sky is blue, there's not a cloud to spoil the view...oops, there I go again with song lyrics, and cliches!

So, just a few thoughts that someone gave me yesterday, until I am back into writing my own...

Count your numbers but do not count on them.
Value your friends but do not rely on them.
Disgrace can only be brought on a person by that person themself.

And one from Ursula Leguin - "It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters, in the end"

Enjoy your day.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The story of my life

The story of my life,
Begins and ends with you
That day I started living
That start of something new.

Didn't think you'd end this feeling
Didn't think you'd set me free
In the power of all I'm feeling
I’m not wanting to be me.

So when your life is over
Even when it’s not too clear
to think I made some difference to you-
remember I was here.
You are
the story of my life.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

How do you know when it's the giving up point?

Yeah - another depressing title for a discussion, sorry, but how DO you know?

I have never been one for giving up on anything - but seems like I have to this time. I am not talking about writing here, in the big scheme of things, writing is just writing - if it gets read it gets read, if it doesn't then it doesn't. Am talking about people, and life stuff ...and yes I have a new grandson 2 weeks old today...and 3 other beautiful grandchildren and a wonderful family, so I am lucky.
But is this world a place to bring them into? Are there really any genuinely honest people - seems its difficult to find them. Lies destroy the soul of the liar and the dig deep into the mind of the listener.
How far do you go on fighting for a cause that you believe in - till your death ? Regardless of your health and regardless what your family say ?Are we responsible enough for the well being of the next generation - or should we just push a button now and have done with it.

Too many questions and not enough time to answer. At the moment, whatever I say is either preaching or being hypocritical it seems to some people.
So today I pose the questions.
Has anyone any answers?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

For those feeling let down, low - or just plain crazy

Life sometimes seems more of a struggle than we can be bothered with or we can bear.
To realise that what you held dear and believed in, was either never there or changed suddenly is hard to come to terms with. The worst thing ever for me, is dishonesty or appearing to be someone you are not.
Khalil Gibran speaks for me today in these words, and possibly for others too.

"You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen - the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives - I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, "Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves." Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me. And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, "He is a madman." I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, "Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks." Thus I became a madman. And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us." ( Khalil Gibran)

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Acceptable Mistakes

Admit it! It did cross your mind when Gordon Brown made his announcement on Thursday, about the energy saving plan agreed with the big power companies, that it was too good to be true. Well, you know what they say about things appearing too good to be true – they mostly are and so was this one.

Mr Brown had said that all lower income and all pensioner households would be eligible for free loft and cavity wall insulation and other energy saving measures that could save them up to £300 a year in their bills. A lot of people aged 60 and over were very interested in this plan, but unfortunately were told by the government's helpline that Mr Brown had “made a mistake”.

In fact, only pensioners over 70 and some pensioners on benefits will be eligible for free cavity wall or loft insulation and there will be discounts for others. A lot of people aged 60 and over were then, understandably, very disappointed.

A Conservative spokesman has said that this is yet more evidence that the government has put out a rushed package that is not clear on even the most basic points, despite having months in which to prepare it.
He wonders if people might believe and accept that the Prime Minister made a mistake or whether he was deliberately trying to mislead people.
Either way, this cannot be acceptable for anyone in authority and certainly not by a prime minister. Facts need to be stated clearly and precisely and recorded as said at the time. Of course mistakes are made and prime minister or not, Gordon Brown is surely allowed to make a mistake now and then – and his mistakes could be accepted if they were more on a personal basis (perhaps he forgot to refill the petrol in his wife’s car when he knew she had to be out early the next day, or he sent a birthday card to someone on the wrong date).
“Mistakes” such as these incorrect announcements to the public are not acceptable. It’s definitely time for a change in leadership, as seems to be planned this morning. A whole change of cabinet might also be a good plan. Whether this will solve the problems with this government or not, remains to be seen.

Friday, 12 September 2008

No Expectations

I have just received an email from someone (who is clearly in very “deep thinking mode”) asking my views on heaven. He questions the scenario of him being married in this life to a number of different women who all die before him and then when he himself dies, he meets them all at the entrance to the after life. Would chaos ensue, he wonders, or would it just be a very difficult situation where he would have to introduce everyone to everyone else ? Perhaps it would not be difficult at all and they all could “live” happily ever after, together. Would this be heaven ? After all – he loved each one of them at the time he was married to them, so to be with them all must surely be paradise. Or not.
It’s not an easy question. In fact, as it’s the classic basic question humans would like answering, that is – what happens when we die ? – it seems that it is an impossible question. But maybe it is our own interpretation of what we expect to happen that defines our heaven or otherwise.
Some people believe that the best phase happens only after they die and the time that is spent here is in preparation for the future “life”. Others think that they are here now and when this body stops operating, then that’s it – they cease to be, full stop. And there’s people who have a view that is somewhere in between these and a whole combination of other ideas.
I am still out on this one to be honest. My views seem to depend on the day, the weather, whether I missed breakfast or not and who I last spoke to. “My heaven maybe your hell” is my usual response, though I do not claim that this is either an original thought or a very profound one.
But I did reply to the email and I do feel it is an important stance to take, for me anyway.

Does it really matter right now whether I will be going to heaven, hell or nowhere at all? If and when the situation arises, then I will have to deal with it, without preparation, as I am sure is intended. In the meantime I need to concentrate on what I am doing with the present time I have and to expect nothing at all.
If I manage this I think I will have done all that anyone could expect of me.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Birth Day

It may be stating the obvious, but there’s nothing more natural than giving birth. The process of reproduction in living things has gone on for a very long time – whether we believe in evolution or creation theory, it’s still many years. The act of giving birth is as much a part of life as the need for air, food or water, yet it remains one of the most fascinating and marvellous happenings imaginable. It is also one of the most physically painful yet emotionally fulfilling experiences that we, as humans have (I cannot comment on the emotional aspects of animals, having never been one)

I have still not quite worked out, even after half a century, why it is so physically painful (perhaps someone could enlighten me) and have had various theories of my own as to possible answers. Maybe it is so that we appreciate life itself more, knowing that it is a struggle for mother and child to come into the world or maybe it’s natures way of limiting the population….
Anyway, it hurts ! And it does not become easier after the first time, as many things do, we just have to take pot luck it seems with how much pain our “about to be born” is going to give us. As a mother, it does not become easier either, when it is not you yourself giving birth anymore, but your children. In fact, in a way, it becomes harder. We don’t feel the same that our daughter is feeling, of course, but we do feel a helplessness that translates into pain at the knowledge of hers.
And when the child is born, the indescribable love that is felt by the parent is also felt by the grandparent, in double proportions as it seems to me. The children of my children are as precious to me as they are to their parents and I am proud and awed twice over at the marvel of life. I am sure that I am not alone in these emotions.

To all new borns, welcome to this world. To their parents, congratulations - and best wishes for the future with your little miracle.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Appropriate attitudes ?

Following my blog the other day about how to address people, I have recieved many people's thoughts on this subject and am grateful for their responses. Thanks everyone - it shows that it is NOT "just me" !

Many people have talked of the condescending attitude of those in authority and it seems as though these attitudes are most prevalent in the health services - a department where one would think that it is extremely important to be aware and sympathetic of "customers" feelings and responses, after all we are dealing with sick people and their relatives and friends here.

My two daughters feel the same and their concern is often with the attitude of the doctors too .A couple of months ago, one of my daughters was diagnosed with some pre- cancerous cells (I forget the medical term) Anyway, at the second visit to the hospital they said that the cells were verging on the cancerous and need removing immediately - which they did. Now, her sisters son was diagnosed with T Cell Lymphoma at age 3, so obviously we are all a little nervy at anything of anything of this nature, especially where the children are concerned. Anyway , the offending cells were removed and we hope that is sorted.

A few weeks following this, same daughter began getting a stange rash type thing across her chest - we couldn't find out from the net what it might be so she went to consult the doctor. We didn't think for one minute that it was anything to do with the earlier condition, but she was worried and wanted to know what it was (isn't this what doctors are for?) The doctor read through her notes, looked at the rash, and said " It's nothing to be worried about, possibly a virus or maybe insect bites. Would you like me to book you into The Rotherham Hospice ? " She was shocked and offended. I was shocked and disgusted at the response (presumably an attempt at a joke) and felt that the hospice and it's patients were also being denegrated. I was going to write to complain to the doctor - but didn't as yet.
Are we being too sensitive? I think not.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Addressing a letter - or a person, or automated machine

I have just been writing a letter to an old friend of my mother's. Well, this lady is the mother of a girl I went to school with (and haven't seen for about 30 years) but the lady goes to my mother's church and betwen them they share family stories and pass them on.
My mother came to visit me last week and brought with her a letter to me from this lady and a selection of old journals and magazines from a writing group she attends.So my letter is a one of thanks to her.
But how do I address her? My mother calls her by her first name (of course) but to me she always has been "Mrs... " "or Hazel's mam," or even at one stage in our lives, "Guider" when she was leader of the Girl Guide Group I was a member of. Of course, I have addresed her as "Mrs..." and then went on to explain this to her. Should I need to explain to her why I have not called her by her first name ? Maybe not, and maybe when she receives the letter she will find it strange that I have tried to explain.

We seem to be addressed these days, by our first names, by a range of people that often I find quite inappropriate - or is this just me being an old gimmer.....?
(Gimmer def: similar to "git" which I don't like the sound of - a person who is stupid or unpleasant)
Hardly a day goes by when I am do not speak to someone on the telephone who introduces themselves by the forename and asks if they may call me by mine. Sometimes this seems ok - if I am speaking to someone who I am likely to be speaking to again in the near future or on a regular basis, then yes, call me Brenda. But when I have inadvertently got myself into a conversation with someone attempting to sell me a mobile phone package, I don't particularly need to know, or care, what name their parents chose to give them at birth.
When I am telephoning the gas or electric company to give them my meter reading or discuss a direct debit payment, I don't really need to have them ask if they may call me by my first name - especially when we have just spent five minutes confirming who I am by my full name, address, phone number, bank details, password, husband's name, mother's maiden name and what I intend to have for dinner. (ok , I made the last one up) Don't call me anything at all - just get on with the reason for our conversation !
At the doctor's reception desk I am greeted loudly by my first name as though we are long lost friends. The whole of the waiting room can now wait in anticipation of Mrs and my surname being rolled across the overhead screen in bright red letters when I
am called to the doctor and can now add a forename to the initial. If you are looking for promotion of yourself for whatever the reason, this is the place to be. I have to say that my doctor himself does not feel the need to address me so personally, though he has seen more parts of my anatomy and perhaps has more reason to,than many.

Well, I know it's all part of customer service and customer satisfaction to make the "customer" (and yes, even at the doctors we are customers really) feel wanted and secure. It's also a very good sales tactic, that many of us are taken in by. I n actual fact, this addressing issue is all a matter of respect.

But I think I will continue to expect to be addressed in what I feel is an appropriate manner. If I ask to speak to "Mr so and so" I expect that he wil refer to me as "Mrs..."
If I introduce myself with my forename, then no doubt that person will introduce themselves back with theirs. On some occasions no names are needed at all.
This old gimmer will continue to try to keep her standards, even if they seem to go against the norm or the majority.

Embracing a philosophy of goodness

How do those of us who are trying to embrace a philosophy of doing what we believe to be good/right deal with the anger and despair that we feel over the injustices all around us?
Would you rather give the world a hug, or a slap in the face?
Would you rather get up there and battle, or leave it alone for the sake of a peaceful life?
I am sure that many of us can relate to this. It isn’t just my worry, it’s a human question.
We all fight with our anger over issues in our own lives as well as in the wider world. Often, it leads us to the depths of despair and we feel any effort on our part is futile. So we give up.
But anger is a powerful emotion, and when it is channeled properly, it can be a force used to positive affect. Rather than ranting at the world – or worse, allowing the anger to destroy you inside by keeping it hidden, we need to find a way to use it and work for change.

"The reasonable man attempts to adapt himself to the world and the unreasonable man attempts to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all change is created by the unreasonable man" . George Bernard Shaw

The comment is clearly a viable one - but does this persuade anyone to NOT try to change things? Conversely, does it make us want to change even more, just for the hell of it? Maybe some of us don't want anything at all to change, so do not need to consider. "The terror of change has been exceeded by the terror of remaining the same " said someone at a conference on teamwork, that I was at once.
Perhaps it's unreasonable to want to change things for the betterment of society. And selfish to want to leave things as they are, because it's 'comfortable' to do so. And who is to say what the betterment of society is? It's a bit of a subjective subject ! I wonder if "doing good" is also a selfish notion, as it makes us feel better ? I have always struggled with this, and the response from my staunch Methodist father was that "God knows who is acting for themselves and who is loving their neighbour". Sound advice to a believer, but not so easily taken in by someone with no religious faith.

So, I have to conclude that it's a personal thing, which no one can advise on or give suggestions on, but ourselves. In other words it's about conscience. What our conscience makes us do or not do might bring harsh words from others with differing views. I have just yesterday had someone say that I was being hypocritical, in my views-the one thing I strive against constantly. But only I know the truth about my thinking and actions.
And only you know yours.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Still Proud

I had a feeling that as soon as I wrote the phrase “…I was incredibly proud
to be British” on this blog , the other day, that within a short space of time I would have reason to question my views. And yes, I already have these reasons.

I read that a 16 year old student from Qatar is beaten and left for dead by a drunken mob, which police have confirmed was a racist attack. Mohammed Al-Majed, died from his injuries two days later. He was on a visit to Britain to learn about it’s culture and traditions. There’s little that can be said about this appalling tragedy which wouldn’t sound patronising to the family.
An 18 month old baby boy is critically ill in hospital after his five year old sister accidentally shot him in the head with their father’s air rifle. Do we need to discuss why the air rifle was even in the home?
A schizophrenic who was locked up indefinitely 10 years ago, for killing Police Constable Nina Mackay, is back on the streets in preparation for his permanent release. Elgizouli , who has a “deluded hatred of police” had stabbed his daughter and PC Mackay went to arrest him. But mental health officials believe that his psychiatric condition has “improved significantly”. Not very consoling for PC Mackay’s family I am sure.
A computer sold on eBay has personal details of more than a million bank customers on it. The massive data loss is one of the worst ever in Britain Coming just days after the Home Office admitted losing the details of 127,000 criminals. Makes the Data Protection Act seem rather useless.
British prisons are so full that a scheme was brought in a couple of months ago to allow prisoners to be freed 18 days early. Since then, around 35,000 criminals, including 6,000 violent offenders, have benefited. Criminals freed 18 days early have gone on to commit hundreds more crimes, including a murder and a rape. Now, plans are being made to increase the 18 days to 20 or more, freeing a few hundred more cell places.
Lost for words yet ? Wondering if my “proud to be British” still stands?

Well it does.
I am disgusted and very angry about the violence that continues to occur under the ridiculous title of “anti-social” behaviour. I am shocked at the stupidity and irresponsibility of some adults in potentially dangerous situations. I am disillusioned at many “officials” attitudes to issues that they appear to understand in theory but do not realise that they do not work in practice. I am deeply concerned at many government policies that the majority of ordinary people can see will not work or are not right.
But this is how my pride in being British can continue to grow. The belief that the majority of people in Britain are good, kind and moral and want the best for the country and mankind, is the reason for this. I am sure that it is a minority that wish otherwise, though sometimes it is difficult to keep with that view – especially for those who are affected personally by awful happenings.
I do not wish to moralise, or appear saintly – these are only my personal views. But I am still proud of being British and of the notion of the importance of nationality.
“I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe the laws faithfully and fulfill my duties and obligations as a British citizen.” (British Citizenship Affirmation of Allegiance)

This does not mean that I will agree with every law that is passed or every policy that is implemented. I will continue to voice my opinion on what I believe to be wrong – and also on what I believe to be right! And I will look for opportunities to celebrate British culture – however diverse that may be.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Being British

I must admit, I have been rather cynical recently, of the government’s rules and regulations on immigration and gaining British Citizenship. (What you - cynical? I hear you say with more than a little irony)
The“British Citizenship Test” which began in 2005 – the year my husband and step family came to Britain to live – didn’t inspire me with much confidence of what the government thinks constitutes “being British”. But if you want the passport, then you have to read the “Life in the UK” book then take the test on society, history and culture. A 45 minute test, which costs you £34, of questions that many people born and educated in Britain struggle to answer, doesn’t seem to be the best way to integrate people from different cultures into a culture that is difficult to define – but there you go, that’s what you have to do.

Almost 60m people live in the UK. By what factor do the native-born English outnumber their Scots or Welsh neighbours? A) 9 to 1? B)7 to 1? C) 6 to 1?
Blowed if I know - and does it really matter that I don’t know ?

When did all 18 yr olds get the vote? A)1918? B)1928 ? C) 1969 ?
Erm…well I am almost sure it’s not 1918, as the first votes were for 21 year olds. And I am almost sure it’s not 1928 – but I am only guessing.

What's the minimum time you must have been married before you can divorce? A) 6 months? B) 1 year? C) 2 years ? I had absolutely no idea there was a minimum time – but at least I have surpassed all of them now and may divorce if I wish !

Anyway, my husband learned the facts, and passed the test with flying colours – though the colours were still not red, white and blue.

To celebrate becoming a British citizen, the government also introduced new citizenship ceremonies where prospective citizens make an oath/affirmation to Her Majesty the Queen and a pledge of loyalty to the United Kingdom. My husband and stepsons received their letter of invitation to the ceremony, sent off some more money and arranged a date at the Registrars Office, where the ceremony would be held.
And here is where my cynicism left me, for the time being at least.

A speech of welcome was made by the Superintendent Registration Officer and a speech by the local Mayor explained what it means, legally, to become a British citizen – to follow the laws, rules and regulations made by HM Government and to strive to be an honest and caring person, within the community.
Each person then took the oath and pledge and was presented with their certificate of nationality and a commemorative gift of a British passport cover.
At the playing of the national anthem. I actually got a lump in my throat and was incredibly proud, for the first time in my life, of being British. And not just for the passport.

Now, most of us get emotional at such occasions, whether it be a wedding, baptism or presentation for an achievement. We also feel proud of the people involved, often even when they are not family or close friends.
But this was the first time that I truly felt that a nationality was of importance and a British one, for me and my family, the most important one. I wish there were more opportunities for us to celebrate Britain. I hope that other people have the chance to have this feeling. I hope this feeling stays with me.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Letter To Cllr A Rushforth

To : Cllr A Rushforth , Maltby Town Council, Rotherham

I am writing to take issue with you over the comments that you have made and are quoted in The Star, Tuesday August 19th 2008

I quote “Town Councillor Amy Rushforth ….who was not at the meeting when Mr Morton was suspended said “This confirms what I said at the start of this episode that the suspension of the clerk had not been done correctly and there would be repercussions about what they had done” What THEY had done? Who are THEY Cllr Rushforth? Are you not one of THEM yourself?

Firstly, I am concerned that you feel able to comment on events at a meeting that you did not attend. Everyone appreciates your unfortunate personal circumstances of late, but you have not attended any Maltby Town Council meeting now since April and four months is an extremely long time to keep track of the happenings within the council, even when attending and minuting meetings, which many residents are doing recently due to disputes concerning records.

You do not appear to be aware, Cllr Rushforth, of the extreme conflict and disarray that is MTC currently. Minutes have been resolved to be amended and not been, extraordinary meetings have been called, with some councillors not being formally advised (if at all) and members of the public have been seemingly kept in the dark by meetings not advertised widely enough for them to be notified. An Extra-ordinary meeting called for Wednesday August 13th, for example, had one notice posted inside the Edward Dunn building – this for an electorate of around 17,000 to presumably view. The Chair of MTC did not receive a formal notice; one councillor had her invitation thrown onto the driveway of her home, another received hers through the post with less than the required 3 days notice. (at many meetings certain councillors have been abusive to the Chair and other councillors when the 3 days notice issue has been raised !)
I, as a member of the public, was interrogated and verbally harassed by the assistant to the Town Clerk - of which we do not have one formally appointed at the moment but rely on the “volunteered support” of Cllr C McMahon and Cllr J Kirk – about why I was asking for a copy of the notice. There have been a number of occasions when I have been treated in this way by this assistant.

At the risk of repeating myself to those who know of and understand the real situation within MTC, I am informing you that at council meetings The Chair, some Independent Cllrs and the public have been constantly verbally abused by other, supposedly, Independent Cllrs. It is well known who these councillors are (I will certainly name them if you require this) and it is clear to anyone with an ounce of sense (or perhaps that should be a gram for legal purposes) that their intention is to have the names of the “real” Independent councillors dragged through the dirt and ultimately have them either ejected from the council or for them to resign. The whole scenario is totally unacceptable and unfortunately, it now seems that the Legal Department at RMBC are claiming they have no powers to support MTC – they suggest the Standards Board, which as you are well aware has been approached and appears to be either unable to do anything or does not care to do anything.

Concerning the suspension of David Morton, of which you commented. Mr Morton was suspended at a meeting on 18th June. Cllr Ben Slade, taking it as his perogative as Chair to insert an item onto the Agenda. This was explained fully to all present (amidst the now usual appalling behaviour and language from 4 Cllrs in particular) The Town Clerk was well aware of the dissent within the council , he had in fact caused the majority of it. If Mr Morton was so sure that his suspension was “illegal” then why did he wait 2 days and then resign ? Why is he going to a tribunal for constructive dismissal when he himself resigned? Why did he not pursue the “illegal” suspension case first ?
As far as I am aware, it is highly unusual (in fact not good practice) for an auditor to give advice on legal matters such as this or to make suggestions as to a councils actions in these situations. I am awaiting a response from MTC’s auditor on this issue.

Finally, as per The Star report, the public did NOT attend this meeting expecting to debate on the removal of public pay phones (this was on a later Agenda) and they certainly did not expect to talk about buying a new cross for a local church ! Not on the Agenda and not even correct information – the only discussion about a Church Cross currently, is Cllr K Stringers notion that the cross at the former Bede Church be acquired by the MTC – presumably to add to it’s store of other church items “stored” by them.

Many of the public did applaud as Mr Morton left the meeting, followed by his assistant (and certain cllrs of whom I have spoken, abusing the public and the press on their way out of the building.) The applause, however, was for the fact that he was LEAVING and that justice would at last be done. Unfortunately, justice is conspicuous in it’s absence.

MTC’s crucifixion by the media? It appears that this is the aim of some. For those who know the truth and are striving for real openness and honesty, the ex- town clerk is digging a hole deep enough for himself and his followers to fall into and to not reappear, which is possibly the best thing that could happen for Maltby.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Comparisons and Likenesses

I do wish people would stop describing the worst areas of our country and communities as “like Beirut”. Areas which are constantly suffering from anti-social behaviour and criminal activity are often referred to in this way. A newspaper report tells us that residents in the Page Hall area of Sheffield say that they are living in a “hell hole which belongs in downtown Beirut, not 21st century South Yorkshire”. Note - not even just Beirut, but downtown Beirut.

Now I am not for one moment suggesting that Page Hall is not experiencing serious problems (as are many areas, with the numbers of incidents increasing) There are reports of appalling behaviour, with partying till all hours with loud music, people living far too many to one house to be either healthy, safe or legal, car racing, rubbish being thrown on the streets and into others gardens and other totally unacceptable ways of living within a community. They are particularly despondent and despairing that the efforts that were put in last year with Sheffield in Bloom have been wasted, and they feel destroyed mentally and physically. Understandably. I empathise with them and hope that the multi-agencies that need to be involved in these issues, according to police sector commander Andy Barrs, get moving extremely quickly and sort out the situation as soon as possible.

I am concerned, though, at the labelling and comparisons that are made and reported in the paper, which will no doubt already have been passed on, and furthered the impressions and misconceptions of a place that I am sure, none of these people have been to.
The families named as causing the anti-social issue are Slovakian. My geography may not be perfect, but I am sure I am correct in stating that Slovakia is in Central Europe. It borders the Czech Republic and Austria, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary. It’s largest city and capital is Bratislava. Beirut, however, is the capital of Lebanon, a country in the Middle East (sometimes now called Western Asia) and it’s borders are Syria and Israel.
Ok , I can hear you saying, we don’t need a geography lesson, either. But my point is that if you are going to liken something to something else - be it an area, country person or whatever - then at least make the likeness appropriate. Not only do Slovakian people not generally live in Beirut, but “Downtown Beirut” in 2008 is as far removed in similarities to Sheffield’s less fortunate areas than it is in miles. (or kilometres, if we want to be precise on both sides)

In 2004, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire stated that anti-social conduct was making people feel like they lived in Beirut. “If they feel like they live in Beirut, they won’t care one bit that we are stamping out gun-crime” he announced. I went to Lebanon that year. I lived in and experienced the poorer towns south of Beirut – and yes, poor there can be really poor. I returned again the next year and whilst I saw many guns, carried by army personnel and the police, I never once feared that I would be shot, just for the sheer hell of it, by a gang standing on the streets. The terrible wars were over by now and so I had no fear of snipers either. Or of being stabbed as I emerged from a cafĂ© or strolled on the beach. Beirut has it’s less affluent parts and it’s richer parts, as do all cities in the world, and during the war untold damage was done. But it was the same in Sheffield during the war here.
Today “Downtown Beirut” is a major world tourist attraction. It has a multitude of fine buildings, marbled plazas and fountains and as many top class restaurants, cafes, theatres, and entertainment as anyone could wish for. It also has beautiful beaches kept clean and tidy, and no one stays at home after 6pm in case they get abused on the street by a teenager.

The situation in Page Hall and many other areas in this country is deplorable. But don’t liken it to Downtown Beirut as the comparison just does not work. It also perpetuates divisive thinking and community and racial disharmony – which surely is what we are trying to prevent.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Deja vu? No just another council meeting....

It would be good to be able to comment that Maltby Town Council, amidst it’s current situation and disputes, is turning around for the better. However, this does not seem to be the case.

The last full Town Council meeting on 23rd July had, yet again, members of the public and councillors being verbally abused and treated with total disrespect by certain councillors. A meeting of the Environment Committee last night, showed one of these same councillors - in the public gallery for this meeting- and her daughter, treating members of the public with the same appalling attitude and disrespect.
The Chair of this meeting handled this by telling everyone to be quiet so that the meeting could continue. Though this is fair enough comment for the immediate situation at a meeting, it does nothing to resolve the real problems. No matter how much people in Maltby want the council to move forward and be supportive of the town and it’s residents, progress cannot be made until past and present grievances have been brought to light and discussed. Many of these grievances are due to certain councillors attitudes and conduct and no matter how delicate the matter, this must be resolved. (Yes I am repeating myself - because the same scenario is being repeated over and over again !)
A member of the public who attended this meeting, for the first time attending a council meeting for a long time, felt intimidated by the appalling manner of this councillor and I can see her point, though I refuse to be intimidated by this outrageous situation that we have in MTC at the moment.
I have commented in the past that any person attending an MTC meeting recently could be forgiven for thinking that they have entered a pantomime. The Environment meeting was more like The Two Ronnies, with the chair of the committee Cllr J Kirk, and Cllr C McMahon, presumably to (unsuccessfully) defuse an uncomfortable situation, putting on a performance akin to a comedy show.
We now have Kevin Barron (MP), Rother Valley, responding in the local paper about a Maltby resident’s suggestion that the problems at Maltby Town Council have been caused by Labour Councillors. He questions how this can be suggested when there are only three Labour Cllrs out of eighteen. (MaltbyNews, August 2008)
Here you miss the point completely Mr Barron. The suggestion that the resident made was that CERTAIN councillors are causing problems. There may be only 3 Labour councillors on the council but there are others who used to be Labour who did not get re - elected and are now elected as supposedly Independent. Come to MTC meetings, Mr Barron, perhaps your eyes will be opened as to what is really going on in your local council.
Chairman of MTC, Cllr Ben Slade appears to continue to strive against mounting harassment and dissent, to support the council in doing their job openly, honestly and in an appropriate manner. He needs all the support he can get.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Well Done You !

How often do you congratulate yourself ? On anything at all ?
It’s not often I do. In fact, without being pious or sanctimonious, I don’t think I have ever really said “well done me”, even if what I have just done or achieved is something that I would definitely have congratulated someone else on.

We say it to other people all the time, often at times when it’s really unnecessary.
It’s your birthday, congratulations ! Like you did some major thing for the sake of mankind. All you did was just “be”, for another year.
Well done , you just won a tenner on the lottery ! Thankyou, it took such a lot of effort to buy that ticket when I was in the supermarket.
One I saw today – My Blog Is One Year Old ! (and a flurry of well dones, and good for yous followed) Wow – you mean a year ago you started writing down your thoughts hoping others would read them, and you have written 6 pieces since? Such stamina.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t say well done when someone has achieved something or something good has happened. It’s what makes life more pleasant for everyone. And it does also make the praise giver feel good too. But maybe we should leave the real congratulations for more important issues, and maybe also we should congratulate ourselves more. Because when all’s said and done, only you know what a real achievement for yourself is.
I might win a 100 metre race in record time (I did say might) Now that to me would be an achievement. But you may have just had a hip replacement, and you walked slowly 4 steps. That’s an achievement to you. So you need to congratulate yourself, because my 100 metres can’t really compare with your 4 steps. You get my drift….

So where is all this leading? Just that today I AM congratulating myself (and adding to the very many others that I am receiving and am grateful for)
I have completed my book Crossing Borders, it is published and I have already sold some copies with more ordered. It is a dream come true – I am a proper writer. My life has not suddenly become perfect. Far from it. I have more problems this very day than I have had for a long while (not connected to the book!) as do we all.
But tomorrow is another day, and today I am saying “well done me !” and I am basking in my own congratulations.
Give yourself some before the day ends.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Maltby Town Council - Open and transparent yet ?

Recent turbulent times have seen residents’ attendance at Maltby Town Council meetings increase, but many of the public and councillors themselves are still unhappy at the shortage of answers.
Eight councillors, still legally serving on the council and innocent till proven guilty of what is alleged to have been committed (if the British system still works that way) A Town Clerk, who was suspended then resigned. Continuing unresolved questions about minutes, receipts and the signing of cheques. An unsettling and inappropriate attitude and approach to colleagues and the public by certain councillors.

The question of the signing of the cheque for the Maltby Festival compared to the signing of the cheque for the Bede Playgroup is still being raisedand still no answers are given. The issue of user’s access to the Edward Dunn building is also still being raised - some users are concerned that whilst they have a room booked they are unable to gain access because of the doors being locked. This discussion has prompted Cllr A Laird to say “If they keep complaining, why don’t they go somewhere else” Again, no answers. A member of the public has asked why Cllr Slade did not read out her letter regarding the accessing of minutes from Town Council Meetings as he had promised to do. Minutes of certain meetings she said, appear to be unavailable for lengthy periods of time, and then when asked for , the response from certain councillors and staff is less than appropriate. Again, no answers.
Maltby Online, which the council had set up to provide access to information to everyone, is discussed, yet again. The council seem to want to walk away from this, after a little questionable legal hassle about discussions on the online boards. Understandably, this appears to the public that the easiest way to avoid answering difficult questions is to ignore them. Or use diversionary tactics.

Rotherham Council is looking to train new councillors in Maltby “as soon as possible” so that they are aware of general council procedures. Perhaps if this had been done a long time ago then the council might not be in the situation it is in now.
And now, Cllr Chris McMahon (who volunteered to support the Assistant to the Clerk of the town council ,with the help of Cllr John Kirk until such a time as aTown Clerk is in position) has been selected as a last minute candidate to fight the Wickersley by-election on August 28th. Perhaps he thinks the problems of Maltby Town Council are solved and he should move on.

There are many issues to be resolved within Maltby Town Council – many from months or even years back. Some of these issues are about certain councillors conduct and attitude towards each other and the public, so it is a delicate situation. But delicate or not, the truth must be shown and the honesty and integrity of some people questioned. Anyone who has nothing to hide has no fear of their integrity being questioned, after all, we question our leaders in government constantly, and so we should, because we are the ones who elected them to represent us. People in Maltby want the council to move forward and to be supportive of the town and it’s residents. Moving forward can not be done until past and current grievances have been thoroughly brought to light and discussed.

This must continue to be done, no matter how long it takes, for the sake of all Maltby residents.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Friends in Unlikely Places

There’s something about being in hospital that causes almost instant friendships to happen, often with people that you might not normally give a second glance to.
It’s also quite irrelevant to your state of health (provided you are not completely comatose). As long as you can make a few noises in response, even whilst laid flat on your back with a view of nothing but glaring strip lights on the ceiling, you can make friends. In fact you WILL make friends.

Of course, this must have something to do with personality. It must appear to me that this happens, because I can’t even buy a bottle of milk from the corner shop, without getting involved in a lengthy conversation with at least 2 other people. This usually starts with the state of the weather, trails around a few common family traits, before reverting back to the weather as we take our leave of each other. If I sit on a bench in town for a few minutes, the person next to me finds themselves regaled with a story of why I have sat down and where I am going next – whether they want to know or not. I have to say, though, that whilst many may hurry in the opposite direction as I approach (I haven’t seen anyone do that…) no one has ever ignored me and most people are quite chatty back. In fact, there are some people who prevent me from talking with their chattiness.With this sort of talk, we are “passing the time of day”, commenting on something around us, and that’s about the limit of the conversation.

But in hospital, it’s a different matter altogether – especially if you are admitted. I can guarantee that within minutes of you getting a plastic band with your details fastened around your wrist and before the nurse has collected the equipment needed to stick a needle into your vein, you will already at least know the names of the people in the beds next to you. By the time you have had a blood sample taken and are in your fetching open backed gown, you will know the reasons why your fellow bed mates are there and have had a potted history of their medical conditions to date. While you lie and wait for your “procedure” (we don’t have operations anymore) or lie recovering from it, you will continue to get to know your new friends and will find it difficult to believe that you only came across them a few hours ago. You will know more about these people, and them about you, than your neighbour who you have lived next door to for 30 years. When visiting time comes, the person in the bed with the best view of the corridor will be able to tell the whole ward who is arriving …and name them even though they have never seen them before.
“Oh, here’s your Bill coming now and I think he’s brought your Ethel’s granddaughter with him !” “Doesn’t look as though Dave’s brought the pink nightie…I think he’s brought that blue one you were going to put in the charity bag last week.”
The visitors don’t get a look in at telling you about what they’ve been doing or asking you how you feel – you are too busy telling them about how June in that bed there collapsed on the kitchen floor and Mary in this bed here was supposed to be at the caravan yesterday, and now look what’s happened !

It’s a great phenomenon. It’s a wonderful “human” thing. When vulnerable people are in a similar situation together, they become as close as family and long term friends, in a very short time. They become involved with and support each other automatically. No matter how ill someone feels, they still seem to support someone who is less ill than themselves.
We don’t choose to go into hospital for a pleasurable experience – we go because we are hoping to be made better in some way. Sometimes, I think, we support the work of a hospital by our own instinctive reactions to others. If only we did this all the time in our every day lives.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Role of the police- moralising or enforcement of the law?

“When did the police start thinking it was their job to moralise about the people they arrest? “ Peter Hitchens asks in his column today.
He refers to the case of Anne Darwin and her disappearing and reappearing husband, which whilst fraudulent, clearly, is surely not the most despicable crime ever committed. Yet the Det. Inspector in charge of the case felt the need to damn Mrs Darwin as ‘out and out despicable’ and told us that he ‘didn’t have the time of day for her’. Maybe these are his feelings, but is it his role to voice them to the public in such a way?

As many have noted in the past, the organisation that was once a police "force" is now a "service" and it is little wonder that we have the situation we have, in this country that is so often referred to as "feral". Not only do we now have the police moralising and giving us their views on whether they think the sentence or non-sentence was appropriate but we also have them advetising themselves, as though they need to win favour with the people they are here to "serve".
My local paper has a full page advert for the police and their offshoots -PCSOs, street parking wardens, neighbourhood teams, town centre safety management teams et al - telling me that it is much safer to go into town of an evening this year than it was last year. There are, it seems a number of reasons for this.
Polycarbonate receptacles are used in pubs and clubs for drinking out of so I won't get "glassed" if I look at someone across the bar. An ID scan is in operation to prevent anyone who appears to be under twenty one from entering a night club. The bus station now has 64 cctv cameras (more cameras than buses it appears) for the police to "view". Officers from the "Town Team" will soon be equipped with head cameras to deter anti social behaviour by capturing the culprits on film (do they not know that many anti social behaviour incidents are captured by the culprits themselves on their own mobiles and posted on You Tube? )

There were just 13 robberies in Rotherham town centre last year compared to 21 the previous year - no doubt the other 8 or more were a metre outside the town "zone". I wish I could feel safer and more confident in the police with this advertising of themselves.
Unfortunately, I don't.
I just wish the council would stop spending money on introducing more and more groups and agencies to support the police who should be perfectly capable of doing the role of keeping law and order in control, themselves.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Brown, Blair and Barriers

Following his visit to Iraq, PM Gordon Brown has now had talks in Tel Aviv with President Shimon Peres, and then met the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in Bethlehem.
On his visit to the West Bank Brown promised £30m of extra financial support for the Palestinian Authority, and further support in training the Palestinian police.

The finance is part of the ongoing backing for economic and social development, and Mr Brown believes that with the prospect of economic prosperity, the "great entrepreneurial flair" of the Palestinian people will come alive. He says that the barrier erected by Israel in the West Bank is evidence of the urgent need for justice for the Palestinian people and an end to the occupation of Palestinian land.
I think he is right. But how this is going to be rectified and peace come about when more and more Israeli settlements are being made is not so easy to understand.
Our Middle East peace envoy, Tony Blair, doesn’t seem to be around today with his former chancellor (the threat of a bomb attack the other day soon sent him on his way. Does he realise this is everyday living for people in Gaza, be they Israeli or Palestinian ?)

I suggest that some of the £30m is used to blow up the wall that prevents ordinary Palestinians from the opportunity to live ordinary lives. By allowing them to do things like have fresh water, electricity and the means to get to the hospital when necessary without a 4 hour wait at an Israeli checkpoint. In some cases to get to their family business, which is now suddenly on the other side of a monstrous barrier. Get rid of the physical barriers and the peace process might become easier.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

A Fair Exchange ?

The bodies of two Israeli soldiers have been handed to the Red Cross by Hezbollah. This is to be in exchange for Lebanese prisoners who have been held by Israel and the “deal” is being seen as a triumph by the Lebanese Shi'ite group.
Before the exchange, it was not clear whether the two soldiers were alive or not but the two plain black coffins delivered to the border told the soldiers' family what they had long feared. Earlier, five Lebanese prisoners were handed over at the Lebanese/Israeli border. These included Samir Qantar a Druze, who has been in prison in Israel for almost thirty years following a guerrilla raid which killed three Israelis, including a child. They are said by Hezbollah to be the last Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails.

Some Israelis see today’s events as an unfortunate but necessary act, others see it as a sorry state of affairs when an “agreement” such as this is made. The Israeli soldiers' capture caused war with Hezbollah, 2 years ago, that lasted for 34 days and killed around 1,200 people in Lebanon and 159 Israelis.
The bodies of nearly 200 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters killed, are also to be transferred to Lebanon as part of the exchange and Hezbollah will return the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in the south of Lebanon.
It has been said that this agreement will put and end to a situation that has motivated many Hezbollah attempts to capture Israelis to use as bargaining tools.
Will this be the case?

With Hezbollah flags flying across south Lebanon and on the road to Beirut, banners stating "Liberation of the captives: a new dawn for Lebanon and Palestine," make for uneasy reading with some Lebanese feeling that the exchange only shows the pointlessness of the conflict which caused so many lives to be lost only two years ago.
With Israelis confused at the declaration of a national holiday in Lebanon to mark the “deal” and the Lebanese claiming justice to be done, the celebrations seem to me to be hollow. Dead bodies swapped for live prisoners. Body parts exchanged for convicted murders. At least two generations fighting a battle that has long ago lost it’s sense of purpose and direction, with thousands of Palestinian refugees, and countless lives destroyed.

It hardly feels like peace has come.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Shock the criminals - improve society ?

The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, (remember, she’s the one who claims that crime is not increasing and who wore the bullet proof vest to take a stroll around the streets – see my blog 3rd July “Walk on By” ) is making some plans again.
She is planning to “shock young people who carry knives into a greater awareness of the impact of stabbing on victims” BBC News today.

These plans include visits to hospitals where people are being treated for knife wounds.
Now, call me too sensitive, but the last person that I would want to see when I am laid in my hospital bed trying to recover physically and mentally from a criminal, violent act committed on an innocent person, is a person who has committed a crime of this nature. I am 100% certain that the only shock factor would be on MY part.

As most people who know me (and many who don't) are aware, I and my family have been victims of knife crime (I was lucky to not have the knife actually used on me, just a fist) I don’t want to dwell on this or keep reverting to it actually – it has a profound effect on my mental state (and that of my husband who still feels responsible, but was not as he was powerless in the eyes of the law) to think or write about this. But to hear of plans by the government such as this, adds insult to injury (which is the most apt phrase ever invented for this!)

I am not sure what the solution to the situation that we have in Britain now is - it is a case of deep seated dissatisfaction with something, and a more deeply rooted change in morals and culture that can not be easily rectified.
Having a curfew on all youths, and taking criminals on a stroll around hospitals and prisons, is surely not the answer.

What do we do? Please comment on this, give your views and your possible ideas for solutions. Something that improves this society has to be done - now.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

A bean's a bean and all that...

Heinz have announced that their baked beans are not going to be called "baked" beans anymore - just beans. (In fact in Heinz case, beanz, as it has been for a while now)

Well, I suppose we can cope with that, those of us who have grown up with using the term "baked beans" and associating tins of Heinz legumes with the baked and in tomato sauce variety. In fact the beans are boiled in the sauce rather than baked anyway.
But what of the next generation? Or newcomers to the country ? How will we then distinguish between the formerly called baked bean (haricot) and the broad bean or green bean, or the fava bean or red kidney bean, not to mention the more exotic berlotti or the plain old butter bean ?Now I don't suppose it would be a major problem in you put runner beans into your stew instead of broad beans - but what of coffee beans and cocoa beans?

Am I worrying unnecessarily ?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Sex and the Seventy Year Olds

There are more couples over 70 years old having sex – and enjoying it – than ever before, says a survey for the British Medical Journal.
1500 people have been asked by Swedish researchers about their sex lives, over a 30 year period (that’s the research that was over a thirty year period, not the questioning of the same people !)

The number of people who said they had sex increased as well as the number of women claiming to be “fulfilled”, shall we say. An “expert” in the UK says older people today grew up in more sexually liberated times and though there are many studies about sexual "problems" to do with the older age groups there is little research about "normal" sexual behaviour later in life.

So the scientists from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden got to work interviewing 70-year olds about periods of their life from the 1970’s onwards.

Their results showed that the number of 70 year olds reporting to have sexual relations had risen quite dramatically, by 52% and whilst the numbers of men reporting “problems” increased, so did the satisfaction factor in women.
"We still have this stereotype of elderly people with their bath chairs and canes, staggering around, who couldn't possibly be having sex - but that isn't the case " says Dr Petra Boynton of University College London. (Not sure where she has been looking, however...)

Now, I am not disputing these statistics or the research at all, but isn’t it a generally accepted fact that when anyone is questioned about their sex life, they tend to bend the truth slightly?

Or perhaps this is not true at all.
I hope that it's not and I hope that people over 70 are enjoying their lives more in whatever way they choose to.
I just wonder how many people really are interested in these statistics, and more to the point , that the survey was not paid for by NHS money !

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Pup In Boots

“You couldn’t make it up”, is a phrase that we can now use on a daily basis it seems. New guidelines by Apco – The Association of Chief Police Officers – would be more aptly put in a joke book, a comedy show or be an item for April Fool’s Day.

The guidelines state that police sniffer dogs will wear boots – yes, you did read that correctly – when searching certain houses for illegal substances or contraband goods. The households for which the new attire for these canines will be worn are not ones with new cream carpets. Nor is it a health and safety aspect (as we know, dogs do have a habit of walking in unmentionable stuff and bringing it inside if we are not careful) It is not even some kind of fashion statement No, the purpose of the boot wearing is to avoid causing offence and hurting the sensibilities of Muslims.
Apparently, boot-wearing dogs have already been designated to search mosques (yes I know, mosque = religious centre, therefore by nature surely not a place of criminal activity, but let’s not go down that route, right now) and now the recommendations have been extended to Muslim homes, too.
The dogs must have their paws covered before they begin their search, but this will only be in exceptional circumstances.
Now, I know from my own Muslim family and from my, granted, limited understanding of some Islamic teaching, that dogs' saliva is thought to be unclean or impure. But correct me if I am missing the point, but I would have thought covering one’s paws is not going to prevent saliva dripping or an occasional lick of a suspicious object.
But more to the point – what on earth are Apco thinking of and for God’s sake (if there is a god) when are these ridiculous actions to supposedly prevent “hurt feelings”, religious or otherwise going to come to an end ?

An Apco spokesperson said, 'We are trying to ensure that police forces are aware of sensitivities that people can have with the dogs to make sure they are not going against any religious or cultural element within people's homes.” Hmm…well if anyone is interested, my sensitivities are affronted when my religious or cultural elements are disturbed due to criminal activity.
A leading imam Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra has said, 'In Islamic law the dog is not regarded as impure, only its saliva is. Most Islamic schools of law agree on that. If security measures require to send a dog into a house, then it has to be done. I think Apco needs to consult better and more widely.We know the British like dogs; we Muslims should do our bit to change our attitudes.'

Well said, Sheikh Mogra !
It’s about time those who make these sort of outrageous guidelines and recommendations, sought out the real feelings and attitudes amongst the real people they are paid to protect, instead of panicking over the word of the moment in the media.