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.