Friday, 29 November 2013

I love a bit of tomfoolery

Just one of many bits of tomfoolery I sent off into a festival. However, I did not ask this man to take his clothes off. He did that by his own initiative. Outrageous! What are people doing taking initiative?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Visit Norwich - the alternative guide for wanderers

I have lived in the same city all my adult life and that city is Norwich, Norfolk, UK. I came here originally to study at the University of East Anglia and stayed. I know several people that did the same as me and a few more that left and then came back. Those of us that love it, really do love it. 'Not too big, not too small and enough to keep you entertained,' is a common mantra. It's also beautiful to look at.

Something I always do when I see someone in Norwich holding a map, is to stop and ask them if they need any help. Usually I find myself in a conversation that results in me listing many of Norwich's 'worth seeings'. I know there are websites that list attractions, but they are often the things you have to pay to go and see. Some of these attractions are great but Norwich is also a wonderful city to just wander around too. So here is my alternative list of 'experiences' for visitors to Norwich.

Riverside Walk A stroll along the river takes you to some great historic sights. We usually walk from Fye Bridge (the ducking stool bridge) to Pulls Ferry (the point from which Caen stone left the river and was transported up to build the cathedral) but you can go further both ways. Between Duke Street and Oak Street there is a wall covered in white writing - I believe it's an art installation! This is a picture of Cow Tower - one of the medieval city's defences found on a 'corner' of the river.
The Plantation Gardens. This really is like a secret garden. It costs next to nothing to get into. You leave a non-distinct part of the Earlham Road and the track opens up into a network of paths in a garden cut into a large hollow just next to the Roman Catholic Cathedral. It's striking - although this photo - taken mid-winter does not do it justice.
The shop 'Head in the Clouds' has existed in Pottergate for decades. It's a shop full of hippie stuff. It's quite an experience. I fell in love with it when I first came to Norwich. But I am a hippie.
The Waffle House is pretty unique. Those with huge appetites tend not to like it but the waffles and all their savoury and sweet toppings, delicious salads (with a choice of dressings) and thick shakes have kept me happy for many years. It's reasonably priced too and family friendly.

Elm Hill A beautifully preserved Tudor street. If you stand at the top and look down it - it's adorable. I also like the view of the back of the Elm Hill houses from the riverside walk: a higgledy piggledy array of add-ons to some houses.
The Cathedral Close It's beautiful! Don't just visit the cathedral!

The Cathedral I was recently given an alternative tour of the cathedral that included a musket ball lodged in a grave that dates back to the civil war, a statue of a nun with a slightly 'pregnant' bulge (scandalous), very old graffiti including a picture of a ship and Elizabethan gentleman and many dates carved into the walls, a grave showing a baby died before he was born - due to the Gregorian calendar shift, the grave of the man that paid to be buried upright in the wall so he would have an advantage come judgement day, the green men in the cloisters, the damaged tomb of an unpopular man...etc
Jurnett's Bar If you're in Norwich on a Friday evening and you like live music, go to Jurnett's bar, Wensum Lodge on King's Street (King's Street is an interesting wander in itself). Every Friday (excluding the main school holidays), several local musicians perform a 4 or 5 song or tune set. Jurnett's bar is in one of the oldest and grandest Jewish Houses in Norwich.

The Forum A huge modern thing! It invariably has an exhibition or craft fair in its atrium. There's a library at the back too. There's usually a pleasant buzz here.
Tombland Alley (and Tombland) Worth looking at for the wonkiest house ever!
The Market Open every day except Sunday, the market has some fantastic stalls and contains some pretty funny Norwich characters. Try the spice stall to be served by Gareth: whose humour many find insulting(!), the cheeseman stall for a huge range of cheeses, Follands Organics for very reasonably priced organic fruit and veg, a leather stall (many hand-crafted leather goods that make great gifts), bag stalls, underwear stalls, haberdasheries, second-hand goods, and much, much more. The food stalls at the back of the market are great for a quick, cheap, stodgy, filling and scrummy snack or lunch!

The 'Lanes' Head in the Clouds is found in the lanes. It's definitely where most of my favourite shops are found. 'The Lanes' includes Pottergate, Lower Goat Lane, Bedford Street, Bridewell Alley, Dove Street and St Benedict's Street etc and is full of one-off independent shops.

Anglia Square The budget shop centre of the Universe! Not particularly pleasant to look at but great for numerous bargains.

The Aviva Building on Surrey Street. It's used as an office building but the occupants don't mind if you pop in to look at their somewhat grand marble hall. If you're lucky the security guard will take you upstairs to see the ornate clock and the unused historic boardroom.

The Arts' Centre on St Benedict's Street, set in an old church. It's a venue for lesser known national bands. The bar also hosts lots of gigs for local musicians. Check out the programme if you're visiting - you might catch something great.

UEA The strange ziggurats and the Sainsbury's Centre are worth a look from the campus lake ('the Broad'). The concrete architecture isn't to everyone's taste but there's a great atmosphere during term time. It's also near Earlham Park (and Earlham Park Cafe).

The Adam and Eve I used to work in this pub when I was a student. You have to be small to work there! Founded in 1249 a.d., it claims to be Norwich's oldest pub.

Mousehold Heath, near the prison on Britannia Road, is worth a climb for the views of the city.

The pedestrian streets Central Norwich is pleasant to wander around because of the number of streets that are closed to traffic and as the streets pretty much follow the original medieval road plan, it makes quite a labyrinth.Bridewell AlleyLondon StreetDavey Place

The Nectar - found just off the Unthank Road(which is found in the liberal, lefty, studenty, muesli eating segment of Norwich known as the Golden Triangle) on Onley Street is a quirky raw food cafe that serves delicious food that could persuade even the most carnivorous person that vegan raw food is delicious.

Rosary Cemetery. Rather beautiful and atmospheric. The entrance is close to where Rosary Road meets Thorpe Road.

Foodcycle Friday Meals I was one of the original project leaders that launched this project that take surplus food from food retail businesses that would otherwise have been thrown away and uses it to cook a free meal for all that attend on Friday nights at 7 p.m. in the Friends' Meeting House on Upper Goat Lane. My experience is that people seem to think FoodCycle should only give meals to those really in need but we always believed it was more about preventing food waste and demonstrating what people could do when they came together - with a little effort and time. We saw it more as a community builder. It currently attracts a diverse mix and often serves great food.

The Brain I don't know who put it there, but it has always tickled me that there's a brain outside Next.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Gratitude and parking tickets

I have been thinking a lot about gratitude recently. I think it is a key and effective tool in helping us to be happy. It is so easy to get sucked into the negatives: the grass being greener, the disappointments and moan about the mundane. It is also very easy to take things for granted. However, it doesn't take long to shift your perspective and suddenly be filled with gratitude. For example, there are parents in the world that have to watch more than one of their children die of starvation and/or disease. That surely gives enough instant perspective to shift most people's thinking into that of gratitude. I think most people in the 'western world' should be able to find something to be grateful for.

I am reading a book at the moment called 'Capital' by John Lanchester. It's a brilliant book and I recommend it highly. It's social comment, attack on inequality, satire of modern living, gives a view of different lifestyles from different and 'outsider' perspectives and more... Anyway, there was a part in the book that made me gush gratitude. And this is how it goes....

Quentina is a traffic warden who originally came from Zimbabwe and she has just been really horribly insulted by a woman that witnessed her not put a ticket on a car because the woman perceived she was being favourable towards a 'posh' car.

Quentina felt that she had some experience of the world, and of the people other than at their best, but she had never known a subject on which people became irrational as quickly and completely as that of parking in this absurdly rich, absurdly comfortable country. When you gave people a ticket they were angry, always and inevitably. And the anger could spread and become catching, as it had with this plainly mad woman, crazed with resentments. There were times when she wanted to say: Get down on your knees! Be grateful! A billion people living on a dollar a day, as many who can't find clean water, you live in a country where there is a promise to feed, clothe, shelter and doctor you, from the moment of your birth to the moment of your death, for free, where the state won't come and beat or imprison you or conscript you, where life expectancy is one of the longest in the world, where the government does not lie to you about AIDS, where music is not bad and the only bad thing is the climate, and you find it in yourself to complain about parking? Praise God for the fact that you resent getting this ticket, instead of rending your clothes with grief because you lost another child to dysentery or malaria! Sing hosannas when you fill out the little green form in the envelope stuck to your windshield! For you, you of the deservedly punished five minute overstay, you of the misinterpreted residents' bay area, you of the Loading Only sign, are of all people who have lived the most fortunate!

Instead Quentina said,
'Loading is taking place.'

That gives me some perspective on little life irritations like parking tickets!

And here are some quotations I found about gratitude that speak loudly.

Happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.
Denis Waitley

When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.
Gilbert K. Chesterton

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

We learned about gratitude and humility - that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean... and we were taught to value everyone's contribution and treat everyone with respect.
Michelle Obama

Boredom is a luxury; be grateful that you can be bored.
Susan Sita Van Aken

Friday, 24 May 2013

Behaviour Management Technique

For the last two years I have worked in a school for primary-aged children that have been kicked out of mainstream education (known as a PRU or short-stay school). Upon hearing this, most people say 'that must be a really tough job,' and it undoubtedly is - in some ways. For example, when I am with these children, I can't display any personal 'touchy' or sensitive areas or I would fail miserably as these children invariably attempt to find any weak spots and goad every adult into behaving like the other adults in their lives. When they do this, I always remain calm and carry on delivering unconditional positive regard for the child - which might - I suspect - be beyond some people. The job requires me and those I work with to be very self aware and therefore this job has taught me lots! Aside from this dollop of self-awareness, I have learnt the better ways to manage extremely damaged children's behaviour. Recently I went to a training day that consolidated what I had intuitively concluded about behaviour management but consolidation with some extra tips is always beneficial. This is the journey the trainer took everyone present on...

1) In any situation where there are children and an adult, the adult is the most interesting 'toy' available because any adult is far more interactive than even the most complicated or advanced of children's toys. Therefore, children want to engage with us more than anything else in the room.

2) What a child wants in any situation therefore is our 'energy' - whether it is positive or negative.
This video illustrates this in a really entertaining way.
Toddler tantrum needing attention
3) What some adults get locked into and therefore repeat again and again, is putting all their energy into the unwanted behaviours. When an adult becomes agitated by a child's behaviour, they become far more engaged with the child - even though it is in a negative way. When a child is doing what we want them to do, they tend to get little of our energy. Therefore children learn that bad behaviour gets our energy.

4) Children actually love rules - which seems counter intuitive. Rules outline expectations and make things fair. Rules do not mean children will always follow them, but it clarifies what is desirable.

5) So a really effective behaviour management technique involves:

*setting clear rules like 'no swearing' (nothing vague like 'be respectful' as there is some ambiguity over what this actually means and it can mean quite different things to different people),
* 'giving' lots of energy to those getting it right
* being specific with praise to clarify the desired behaviour - not 'well done' but 'I love how you remained calm when...'
* withdrawing energy from those getting it wrong.
* The trainer also made it clear that you should give the child an indication of the fact they are not getting it right and that you are about to withdraw your energy. He suggested the term 'reset'.

6) Once the child is back on track, acknowledge this and re-give your energy.

Many teachers and parents are so used to locking horns with the bad behaviours, it take some time to re-adjust habits. It actually feels risky to start addressing all bad behaviours simply with the word 'reset' but it does work. I have extensive experience of it!

It always feels healthy to me when antiquated/mainstream views about something are challenged. When we are immersed or surrounded by something and it is all we have ever experienced, it takes a big step away from the idea to question it effectively and see a better alternative. This is one such example.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Community break-down!

Apologies for sounding like a headline from the Sun! Not my intention.....

When I was a kid I lived in a street of about 50 houses. That street was full of non-related 'aunts and uncles' whose children we played with regularly - indoors and out. There was never a shortage of kids to hang out with or people that could be called upon to help with any situation - major or minor. For my mother, this prevented her from parenting her three children in isolation while my father was at work, she was never short of adult company and I am sure this made parenthood easier for her.

A few decades ago however, this changed and the idea of a community based on locality alone no longer seems so prevalent. I don't think this is doing us any favours.

The reality is that feeling part of a community - especially in your locality - is good for you. Feeling connected with those around you enables you to trust them. Feeling affiliated to your neighbours makes you feel safer, more supported and less isolated. Better relationships make people happier. And if we feel part of something, we are more likely to look after it.

So why has this happened? I do think politics has played its part. In recent decades, both left and right wing politics has moved very much in favour of individual choices and freedom - the left for social issues (individual freedom to choose how to live - which of course I do approve of when it comes to matters of discrimination etc) and the right for the market (economic freedom). This focus on individualism has moved us all away from focusing on societal obligations and community bonds and made us somewhat 'all out for ourselves'. Our lives have become materially better and we have greater individual choice but at the expense of affiliation to others. We now tend to play a game of one-up-man-ship to demonstrate our success with this individual freedom rather than connecting to others and contributing to the greater good for the masses.

It seems like its another one of those situations where we know that something is not particularly good for us in the long-run (like watching too much TV, retail therapy, refined sugars etc) but that we just cannot help ourselves. I wonder if people have actually forgotten how to be part of a community or what they might want or gain from it.

As with many things, I think localisation is part of the answer. Handing organisational responsibility down to localities must surely be better than central government making all the decisions and telling us how to live (and us becoming angry and ignoring/hating their decisions). If people are involved in key decisions they are more likely to care about their locality, they will surely come together more and community bonds will be strengthened. However, I do think we have become so used 'the rights of the individual' we might need to re-learn a degree of selflessness before we can collaborate properly! Poor us hey!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Over- rationalisation

I am reading The social animal by David Brooks at the moment. It is full of so many interesting snippets but this morning's reading set me cogs off! Particularly this bit......

It all started with Plato. He said that the higher, more rational functions that the human brain were capable of, were the best bits and the 'underlying,' more basic passions and sentiments were brutish and unruly. He said, the conscious part that could reason and apply logic was the part that should be nurtured. Then the dark ages came along and that section of the brain took a back seat and more irrational superstition and folklore were in charge again. Then along can the renaissance and the higher thinking returned and pretty much stayed. Logic, science and theories of prediction prevailed. Of course there is nothing wrong with this kind of thinking. It has brought about huge health and technological benefits for example. But then we might have become a little over-zealous with our scientific principles and in our quest for certainty, applied it to too many things - even things that are fundamentally about (and as unpredictable as) human nature (including values, passions, motivations) - like economics. The science of economics, for examples assumed that human reason is nearly all consciously controlled. We do currently live in a society that is comfortable with things that can be logically proven and yet so many things can't -especially human behaviour which has so much impact on our day to day existence. Anyway.....

Scientific thought's domain is the conscious mind (level 2 thinking). However, this completely overlooks the huge part that makes up a human: the unconscious mind (which does level 1 thinking). In some ways our unconscious mind is a bit simple. It harbours stereotypes, makes us have reactions that are simply based on prior experiences, looks after simple bodily functions etc. But in other ways, our over-looking of it does us absolutely no favours. The unconscious mind has a hundred thousand times more processing capacity than the conscious mind. There is lots of scientific evidence showing how the subconscious can process much more information to arrive at a decision (for example). When we make a decision using our subconscious, it is more likely to feel like a gut reaction than a logical process. But when we have let our unconscious work on a decision, we will have unknowingly considered far more information to arrive at our conclusion. And that is what science (level 2) thinking is missing. It looks for patterns and predictions found in components of the whole, as the whole usually includes too many parts to create neat and predictable patterns. Level 1 thinking, however, can process the whole but because it's not conscious, it's hard for our 'needs hard evidence' minds to appreciate.

A good example of level 1 and 2 thinking is given in the book. Suppose a farmer wants to know when to plant his corn. Well he could consult with scientists to look at the weather patterns and predictions, the types of corn etc. This will give him worthwhile information and he can make a logical decision. However, farmers in the States have always successfully planted their corn 'when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrel's ear'. I see the first type of thinking as level 2 thinking - based on conscious reasoning and the folklore as result of centuries of observation and processed intuition - or the result of allowing level 1 thinking to make your judgement.

Throughout history societies have moved from being predominantly rationalist (described as simple-minded by Alfred North Whitehead) as we are now in the western world and predominantly romantic (described as muddle-minded). During simple-minded times, it was attempted to interpret people as simple mathematical models and during muddle-minded times intuition and imagination guided the way. As the book says 'sometimes imagination grows too luxuriant and sometimes reason grows too austere'.

The trick therefore is to know when and how to marry the level 1 and level 2 thinking. Lots of things boil down to balance. If we have too much trust in rational thinking then we overlook a more intuitive process - a less tangible process but a process that has been busy taking in far more data than we ever knew we could. We never fully know ourselves any more than we can others so when it comes to wise decisions - sleep on it or take some time - and let your subconscious do the work for you!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

World Salvation

OK so I went for a cycle ride and a pub lunch with a friend and we had an agenda. The agenda was a tongue-in-cheek attempt to bring some structure to our rambling conversations. One item on the agenda was 'world salvation' (others included 'optimising chocolate experiences' and 'spring' for example). With world salvation, we started with a little altercation over whose responsibility it was but we ultimately agreed that my friend would do it but that I would help. The previous item on the agenda had been 'attachment' (see last post) but because of our tendency towards wandering open-ended thoughts we linked attachment to the current item. It was quite easy actually. Our thinking went like this:

Attachment theory is currently establishing the idea that while nature provides some basic building blocks, humans are born with a lot of hard-wiring yet to be put in place (usually pre-one year of age). The survival reason for this is that our eventual hard-wiring needs to depend upon the world we are born into and the social interactions we have once we have arrived will be representative of this 'world'. Sometimes we need to be wired ready for a dog-eat-dog world, other times the opposite. (I wrote a previous post about how the shift from hunter-gatherer to agriculture made it possible for societies to be less egalitarian.) Therefore our personality hinges so much on how well we attach to the key adult/s in our lives (most commonly our mothers). The two main aspects that secure or insecure attachment impacts on are 1) our stress responses and 2) our ability to empathise and want to connect with others. Both could be clumped together as 'our ability to regulate our own emotions'. And then I drew a picture like this to show how the different attachment disorders manifest (and yes they are spectra - I perceive myself to be a bit along the ambivalent spectra!!!):
A child that had secure attachment will have had a responsive mother who 'read' her baby's emotions and worked out if the baby needed food, a drink, warmth, distraction from boredom etc. This therefore would have secured in the baby the ability to 'reach out' to his mother and expect to get his needs met. This baby grows up into an adult that wants to affiliate to others and sees other people as able to provide help and support. This baby also develops the ability to self-regulate emotions as the mother helped the uncomfortable feelings disappear. Healthy emotions 'flow' - they come and they go. Emotions only become a problem when they become blocked and fester because then they make a person defensive (this adult is not usually conscious of the source of these 'triggers and reactions').

So to world salvation. Many of the world's problems come from lack of empathy which enables people to dominate others and gain and abuse power. There are so many situations when people are treated in appalling ways that demonstrate an absolute lack of empathy and happiness to dominate and keep things unfair and unequal. I know that 'breaking the cycle' of ineffective parents creating children who become ineffective parents is often mentioned but that there is little real drive to do this. This might be because those in power (avoidant attachment disorders spectrum) are not able to truly empathise with the plight of those less fortunate than themselves. However, I propose that the cycle be broken by investing in parenting - supporting parents of babies not just by showing them how to be responsive, but also by re-creating supportive community networks so that mothers feel less isolated. Sue Gerhardt (who write 'Why love matters' - a great book about attachment and brain development for anyone that wants hard scientific evidence) pretty much concluded the same and she has attempted to create such support through her clinics. And this is not a class issue. Attachment disorders are found in people from all social backgrounds.

For a world where people genuinely care about each other, support others because they can empathise and have healthy relationships because of their free flowing emotions, we need to shift this spectrum..... to the left!

but while those in power remain emotionally impaired, focusing on anything other than economics, laws, taking away people's employment rights in the name of supporting a free market, and punitive measures etc this seem very unlikely. In fact the absolute absence of promoting the nation's wellbeing in any government initiatives says it all! One big hippie signing out.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Attachment - relationships

I was lucky enough this week to have some training delivered by a psychologist (run more like a group therapy session!) on attachment this week. I have had previous training sessions on attachment but they were either overly detailed, too much about research and/or delivered knowledge that could not really be practically applied to the children I work with.

In a nutshell - (like I like it!)

The trainer started with the premise that every child is born with hard-wiring for survival. Obviously this makes a lot of sense in evolutionary terms. Therefore, whatever circumstance, family set-up, family behaviours etc a child is born into, they will adapt (and subsequently develop the hard-wiring) that will optimise their chances of survival. Getting a parent's attention is a crucial part of this survival so disorders to do with poor attachment are due to a child receiving, little, inconsistent and/or frightening attention from their parent/s. Strategies for getting these parents' attention will therefore be 'warped' and will result in extreme, unusual and difficult behaviours. For these children, their patterns often mean they get negative attention - but this is still better for them, of course, than no attention at all.

The psychologist then went on to list the four ways different attachments manifest in behaviour.

Secure (the 'healthy one'). When the parent of a young child with secure attachment leaves the room, the child exhibits some concern and then is pleased when the parent returns. I don't teach securely attached children!
Avoidant - this happens when parents have not responded to their child when s/he is distressed and in need of attention. This child will not notice when the parent leaves the room, would give any stranger in the room the same attention as his or her parent and not really respond significantly when the parent returned. The way a child like this would behave in my classroom is to mostly appear not to care above anything and then, suddenly explode. I get a lot of these!
Ambivalent - caused by a parent mostly not responding - but occasionally responding appropriately - to the child's distress. This child will be stressed when the parent leaves the room but also give the parent a hard time when he or she returns - 'how could you leave me?' A child like this tries numerous strategies to get attention (to try and hit on the one that gets the right response) and therefore this child's behaviour is all over the place - s/he might try banging the table for attention, might rip up work, might try verbal abuse etc
Disorganised - caused by abuse/bullying/fear/emotional chaos from parent, and therefore the behaviour of the child is really inconsistent, confused and all over the place). The behaviour from these children I would describe as full of fear and 'easily spooked!'

The difference between this session and others I have had is that this chap related attachment to everyone in the room. He asked us all to think about what we do to draw people in and form relationships and what we do to push people away. Just that simple question provoked a lot of discussion! The general consensus for pushing away was that we ignored the person. How British! But the ways people drew people in were quite varied including
- humour
- intense interest in the other
- show off (cleverness, capabilities etc)I think this might be counter-productive!)
- be nurturing and compliant
- be humble and compliant
- and some people clearly struggled with how they drew people in.

These lists highlighted our own hard-wiring from our own early childhood - as our attachment history effects how we behave in all relationships. It also highlighted that extremes in behaviour can cause some people to react badly (marmite people), whereas mediocrity makes a person more palatable to everyone.

Another part of the training seemed to be about highlighting the fact that what seemed completely normal to us (because it was embedded in our childhood) might seem extreme to another. I guess this was the therapeutic element - as it started to de-construct what you had held on to, maintained and even guarded as 'normal' so you might become more self aware and understand your own perspective might have been a tad warped and demonstrated how the resultant behaviours have affected your relationships.

Just more fodder for the dossier 'we are all, buttons and patterns!'

Friday, 6 January 2012


Last night I stumbled across one of those 'debates' that erupt on Facebook every now and then. You know the ones - where one person posts their view and before you know it there are seventy or so post on the thread. You get the:

•the rationalist
•the idealist
•the militant conspiracy theorist
•the aggressor
•the misses-the-point-the-other-person-made-er
•the flippant
•the questioner
•the jump to someone's defence-er
•the academic with evidence

all putting their throbbing pennyworth in the pot. What fascinates me is how those 'debates' go. This particular one I would surmise had little impact in terms of idea development or opening up others' mind to accepting another viewpoints. In fact, because there was some aggression and personal comments I would go so far as to say it probably shut down a few minds.

This debate in part reflected the way we tend to approach conflict of ideas generally - in law, in education and in meetings: we are adversarial/oppositional. This links to my friend's Philosophy MA thesis - where she explored different ways of communicating to enhance idea development. She wrote her thesis on the back of feeling unable to contribute effectively to academic discussions (despite being extremely intelligent) because they were based on a person putting an idea forward and then everyone ripping it to pieces. (Thinkers - who receive the logic of a debate loudest can cope with this - feelers like my friend - cannot). This also links of course to Edwards De Bono's six thinking hats. Bono observed that in a meeting of egos people compete by shooting down other people's contributions to feel superior. So he suggested you align egos and make them compete not against each other; that you make the competition a race in the same direction so outdoing another builds upon ideas rather than knocking them down.

I guess there are rarely debates that actually ask, 'well what is it we are trying to achieve here?' because what is a debate ever trying to achieve?
•Consensus? No that cannot be right - we will always have different viewpoints.
•An agreed way forward? Yes that sounds better.
•Deepening individuals' understanding of the topic in hand. Yes - I'll go with that.
•develop ideas - yes!

I think effective debating might need an overhaul.

So after pondering all this, I finally went to bed and gave my chap a synopsis of what I had found and thought and he said, 'perhaps that will be the one thing Facebook teaches us!' An optimistic piss-take. He's funny!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Crippled by Choice

A very brief experience yesterday reminded me of a concept I read ages ago. The experience went like this:

I was in a cafe looking at a new product (new to me anyway). It was unusual 'Hedgerow' cordials offered in about eight different flavours. I was tempted to buy a bottle but my indecision over which flavour would give me the most enjoyment meant I didn't buy anything. I was literally crippled into doing nothing by choice. Now that is ridiculous! However, there is researched theory that shows this is quite typical behaviour and retailers 'in the know' play this to their advantage.

O.K. If you went into a restaurant and had to decide which of the following flavoured ice cream you were going to choose - which would you choose?

Now imagine the same restaurant offered you this choice, which would you choose?Was choosing from eighteen or three different flavours easier?

We tend to live under the impression that the more choice we have the happier we will be. There is no denying that absolutely no choice creates a miserable existence and we do need to have some control over our lives and be able to manoeuvre in it to feel happy but too much choice can overload us - especially if we are a maximiser.

The reality is, the more choice we are given, the more effort we have to invest in making a decision and the more chance we have of making a perceived 'mistake'. Greater choice, raises our expectations of the outcome and makes us more prone to disappointment and it makes us more likely to 'kick' ourselves' for not making a better choice. And strangely, how we feel about the decision seems to overshadow the actual experience the choice gave us! In other words, we can be more upset about what we missed out on than what we actually got.

So greater choice means we have more potential experiences to let go of and get over having turned down!

I think I will just go back to that cafe and grab the first bottle I look at. It's sure to create enough of a pleasant experience and it is just cordial after all!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Five Food Qs

Ok here are some questions about food. I'd love to hear any passer-bys' answers.....

1) Would you rather go 24 hours without food or sleep?

2) If you had to choose three of the following foods as weapons in a food fight, which would you choose:

•A jug of gravy
•A can of squirting cream
•10 cheese squares
•A bottle of cola
•Twenty soggy tea bags
•A giant sausage
•A bottle of ketchup
•A bucket of grapes
•A bunch of bananas
•A box of eggs
•A bag of brussel sprouts
•A packet of crackers
•A bag of flour
•Some stinky blue cheese
•Some bacon
•Tomato soup
•Six Yorkshire puddings
•A bag of frozen peas
•Chocolate sauce
•Pickled onions
•A large pumpkin
•A bag of jam doughnuts
•A packet of butter
•A pot of cottage cheese

3) If you had to eat one of the following foods all day (and it was the only food you were allowed) which would you choose?

•mashed potato
•cottage cheese
•buttered toast
•white fish

4) If you could design a your perfect food,

a) what would it have the texture of?
b) what would it have the taste of?
c) what would it have the smell of?
d) what temperature would it be served at?
e) how would it be eaten (spoon, fork, cut by a knife, served as finger food, eaten from your hand, drunk through a straw, pulled through your teeth, squirted into your mouth etc)
f) What colour would it be?

5) List as many foods that you do not like that come to mind easily.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Sinking medieval churches

I am reading Bill Brysons's book about the history of everyday living. It's packed with interesting snippets. He's basically done lots of research and pulled out all the interesting bits for the reader. My kind of book. It's turned me into a walking verbal fact box much to the delight of chap. I pop up regularly with an urgent need to tell him something new I have learned. Of course I'll expect him to read the book afterwards too.

The part I have enjoyed most so far, however, I found on the first few pages. Bill B lives down the road from here in a Victorian rectory. One of our many 'where shall we go for a walk - let's look on the ordnance survey' walks in the Norfolk countryside runs between his house and the church he mentions in the book. And here is what he records from a conversation with a historian while wandering around that church (paraphrased):

Have you ever wondered why Norfolk's medieval churches (all ten million of them) always look like they are sinking into the ground? Careful: it is a trick question. Of course I have always just thought, 'well a stone church is quite heavy, medieval foundations were probably not overly sound and they've had centuries for gravity to shift them about a bit'. But no, the revelation is that it's not the church sinking, it's that the graveyard has risen. The hundred or so gravestones that are typically found in such a graveyard belie the volume of dead matter buried there. The book goes on to explain that with a parish of around 250 people (4 generations per century plus numerous baby/childhood deaths) you would be looking at around 20 000 burials. I could raise a two foot platform the area of a graveyard with that many skeletons. I wouldn't want to of course.

Now that is interesting and it has definitely changed the way I look at all those sinking churches. But I also would like to learn about grave diggers. How did they go about their business with all those bones everywhere? Making a 'new' grave must have been an exercise in clearing out lots of old bones. If so where did they put them? I'm sure the bereaved were not subjected to a little pile of bones at the graveside to be replaced once their loved one had been tucked away? And, presumably some graves were more shallow than others or is all this dead matter always more than six feet down? As ever, more questions than answers. Another book please Bill.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The British Riots by Carl Jung - I think.

I find myself still reading about the varied responses to the riots. There certainly appears to be considerable polarisation. There are still those holding firm to the idea that anyone that took part in the riots has lost his or her right to be considered fully human and be treated fairly and punishments are the only answer Some of the comments are astounding and you really would think you were listening to Nazis talk about the Jews). And there are the others of us looking a bit deeper for answers. The best article I have read on the issue of harsh sentencing is this one:

Are the harsh sentences justified?

We were never all going to agree on this emotive issue (or any other come to that) were we? Consensus is a very slow thing and usually shown in subtle shifts in attitudes and ways of doing things - unless we are under a dictator of course!

I am now going to steal a bit of Carl Jung just to reiterate how the angle we approach things from affects our ultimate view.

We all have a dominant function - one of the following four:

Sensors see what is in front of them, they live in the now, they like to keep things real and practical and down-to-earth. They tend to like traditions.
Feelers make evaluative judgements and tune into the people element of a situation.
Thinkers interpret events and apply logic so it makes sense to them and
Intuitives extrapolate from the immediate, look to the future, see patterns and links and put everything into a big picture context.

OK so how did people with different dominant functions see the riots?
The Sensors will be able to give a very clear account of what actually happened. They will have observed all the details and will be quite pedantic if you were to suggest the riots started in the wrong place, for example. Sensors are reactionary. They don't like new or abstract ideas. They will be most likely to say, 'there was a crime, we always punish people that commit crimes'. Job done.

The feelers will have been appalled by the impact of these riots on individuals and be very angry at how some individuals behaved towards others. That will be their main focus. They won't have a definite idea about what is the right way to deal with what happened (they could be persuaded by anyone making a loud point) but they will want harmony restored and people protected.

The thinkers will read the logic of the situation and might fall on the side of 'punish them all', or might look for a little deeper logic. Whatever they do do they are likely to be firm about their beliefs. They are definitely right of course.

The intuitives cannot see the situation just as a string of events that just happened. They need to find reasons for the riots. They need to put what happened into big picture context and see so much more than just individuals committing a crime. They easily see reasons that might be too complex and seem too tenuous to others.

Of course this is a very simplified idea - other things do impact on how we see things (including our secondary, tertiary functions etc). Nobody likes to be predictable of course but these four responses describe what I have seen in a variety of places!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

My ramblings on the riots

There have been so many brilliant articles, blog posts and clever comments about the riots last week that humble little I could barely muster up anything astoundingly different. So, I will keep it as 'just what I feel the need to say'.

My first observation was the predictability of the approach a certain mass of people disappointingly took - including, sadly, the UK's prime minister. Something along the lines of -

'These people need punishment, lots of it and the more vindictive, the better. If they starve because we have taken away their benefits, then they only have themselves to blame. Let's feed our own dark sides heartily on these people. Let's take the phony oh-so-much-higher moral high ground so the lash of our whip falls that bit harder and revel in our justified (by the tabloid media mostly) cruelty - legitimised non-empathic nastiness aimed at the poor people that have metaphorically very quiet voices. Let's ignore any possible underlying cause and keep it simple.'

It was bound to happen. I do wish people would keep ugly subconsciousness to themselves - especially influential powerful people. I feel they have an especial duty to keep it inside.

Another observation was the provision of a perfect example of politicians keeping the mass media sweet. David Cameron appeared to have made his public speech about the riots by putting Daily Mail headlines together. Keep 'middle England' happy and we will be voted in again. Blech!

My third observation was the impact of the riots upon me personally. Not direct impact of course. I haven't so much as thrown a dustbin lid (although I once suggested it on Facebook - that might eventually get me five years inside). No, I was surprised how much strong emotion these riots have whipped up. Looking for the more complex underlying reasons for such social disharmony and reacting to the way this situation was dealt with, brought out my strongest values in full force: those of a need for greater equality and fairness in society and the prevention of abuse of power, compassion for fellow humankind - even if - no especially if - they have lost their way (David Cameron aside), the fact people with lots of power so readily and powerfully make stupid knee-jerk decisions that impact forcefully on individuals' lives and how this is simply wrong, how so many prejudiced assumptions were made and should not have been made and that things become so punitive and when they should attempt to be restorative.

And what would be restorative? I can only guess as I do appreciate this is hugely complex. How about exploring what might truly make a society cohesive:
* equality and fairness,
* a voice when it comes to issues that impact directly on you,
* shared goals and visions at a local level,
* feeling affiliated to those around you - connection not prejudice and fear
* having a clear role and opportunities that mean you can contribute and your contribution is valued
* reciprocation - give and take - mutual dependence
* the absence of such a strong materialistic hierarchy ('LOOK they have much more than us')
* the ability to meet all your basic needs and have what is considered the 'norm' for the society you live in so you do not feel socially excluded.
* and referring to my last posts - early intervention - children brought up in a stress free and supportive environment.

I can't see someone being locked up for four years for making a Facebook event as solving anything in the slightest. What a weird world we live in.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Two basic societal set ups.

OK I'm still on about:

'The Spirit Level - why equality is better for everyone' by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

I do love a bit of evolutionary psychology.

Off I go....
So there are egalitarian societies and those full of inequality. The book gives endless reasons for why the former is preferable (by demonstrating correlations between inequality and overall higher rates of: poor physical and mental health, mistrust in society, teenage pregnancy, violence etc etc) and giving reasons for why this might be so.

Then as the book gets really juicy (in my books that means more theoretical) towards the end it delivers this....

We have the strategies to deal with very different kinds of social organisation. At one extreme, dominance hierarchies are about self-advancement, status competition and 'kicking' people lower down in the pecking order to maintain this status. In this society, individuals have to be self-reliant and other people are encountered mainly as rivals for food and mates. (This was in evolutionary terms the pre-human state of play - survival of the fittest etc.)

At the other extreme is mutual interdependence and cooperation in which each person's security depends on the quality of their relationships with others and a sense of self worth comes less from status than from contribution made to the wellbeing of others. Rather than the overt pursuit of material self-interest, affiliative strategies depend on mutuality, reciprocity, fairness and the capacity for empathy and emotional bonding. (It is suggested this was an evolution that happened later and was demonstrated well by the very egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies that existed for thousands of years where fairness was paramount and social structures ensured it was perpetuated. It was farming that brought the opportunities for some to gather more wealth than others.)

The book goes on to state that as both of these strategies are part of our evolution as individuals we can 'access' both. It also provides biological evidence that shows stressful pregnancies and early childhood wire a child (via hormones and genetic adjustment) to be geared up for a self interested society (this type of child has less ability to empathise and is more prone to being violent etc). Consequently in a very unequal society (where low social status and/or exclusion causes great stress because of humans' fundamental need to connect with others) children are far more likely to be born ready for the unequal society - therefore perpetuating many social ills we experience today. For me it links to the idea that when we are stressed our higher thinking brain functions are disabled and we revert to very basic instincts.

So equality is better for all - for those at the top and those at the bottom - if a harmonious society is what we are aiming for.

OK so who do I write the letter to?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Self esteem clarified for me!

I am reading this book.
I am only on page 40 something but it appears to be a consolidation (backed up by extensive research) of all hippie lefty values and social ideals. Cool - some welly to wiffly waffly gut feeling about what is right!

Anyway, as I said, it's early days for me and this book but it has already clarified something for me: self esteem is still a good thing. I was a teacher when the first wave of the self esteem movement was underway. Then, the definition of self esteem seemed pretty straightforward: it was your genuine self worth, your resilience in the face of life's difficulties and criticisms. And for a long time people thought this was developed just by praising children. The understanding developed and it was realised that it was more about actually finding opportunities for children to achieve and feel an internal sense of pride etc. This definition was in no way linked to being egotistical as it went hand in hand with a genuine understanding of ones own strengths and weaknesses. It meant your self identity was comfortably accepted by yourself and it was based on good and realistic self-knowledge.

Then I remember reading the first wave of anti-self esteem articles. These cited that you could have too much self esteem because it made you arrogant and feel superior to your fellow human beings. This kind of self esteem could be linked to racism, homophobia and anything the Daily Mail endorsed really. I knew this was talking about something different and I held firm to the original idea that healthy self-worth is still a good thing.

And this book has elucidated this issue for me by defining two types of self esteem. The first is much like my original understanding. The second is demarcated from the first and described as 'insecure-self worth' (or even narcissism). Research has shown that this second type has increased in the last few decades. It is simply about needing to present a fantastic image of yourself to others because your self-image is so completely dependent upon how others see you. This self esteem is fragile and needs to be perpetually fed to be maintained. This kind of self esteem IS about feeling you are better than others and can consequently damage relationships (and ultimately disband communities - with individuals all vying for top dog status).

The book goes on to describe how this fragile self esteem is linked to people's need to improve their social standing and make constant comparisons with others. It also states that this 'narcissism' has probably increased because we no longer tend to be in a solid and settled community where our self-definition is stable and fully understood by those around us.

I just know which of the following two encounters I prefer:

1) A person that name drops, tells you all about their achievements and appears to have no ability to show an interest in you (fragile self esteem) AN UNCOMFORTABLE UNEQUAL CONNECTION


2) A person that gives you the opportunity to ask them questions. They turn out to be very interesting and have achieved lots but modestly only share the bits you have shown an interest in. They also ask you questions and shown genuine interest in you. (genuine self esteem) A PLEASANT AND EQUAL CONNECTION

There are cultural differences of course but in more equal societies like Japan, modesty rules whereas in more unequal societies (UK and USA) declaring your own brilliance in an attempt to make others feel inferior is on the increase!

Bish Bash Bosh. Now to read more......

Saturday, 23 April 2011

It's always nice to know someone is checking on you

I did a watercolour doodle in the back garden yesterday. I was lost in flow in the sunlight and it was bliss. My husband took a look at it declaring, 'I like to keep an eye on windows showing your state of mind now and then.' His verdict. No change. Phew - I'm stable.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

FoodCycle Norwich Launch

Last night the charity I am one of the project leaders for: FoodCycle

had it's official launch. We had TV cameras and newspaper reports covering us and overall it really was a great success.

However, one thing is niggling me. And here I express it....

Everyone assumes that because something is free, it must be aimed solely at those in need. The media assumed this and most people I talk to assume this. (The reality is that we only ever get a handful of 'those really in need' attend each meal. They are very welcome and it's great that they attend.) However, I have a suspicion that because getting things for free is so against our social conditioning and expectations - it is so unusual - that many people feel there should be an excuse for receiving - such as disadvantage.

It was a bit like when I tried to give away twelve pound coins to strangers. I didn't get on very well there because what I was doing was so counter culture:
You can't give it away...

When we hold our meals each Friday night, the buzz in the venue is always fantastic. Everyone appears to be genuinely touched and appreciative of the giving that is happening. And the people that receive do so in the way it is intended - with warmth. (Quite often people have a flicker of guilt for 'taking' that fortunately usually manifests in a need to offer themselves as volunteers for subsequent meals!) And for me, personally, this is a huge part of what FoodCycle is about: a blatant demonstration of 'giving' and if we can infect enough people with this bug - the world will certainly be an even better place!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Hard wiring

I remember thinking about the nature/nurture argument as a young teenager and concluding everything was nurture. I suspect this was because my inexperienced mind did not fully comprehend that other people were or could be different from me. I thought we all started with the same blank canvas and life painted its stuff all over it.

Then as I grew up with a natural fascination in people, my view became slightly more sophisticated. The blank canvas does not exist of course (der)! A person pops into this life with their own unique blueprint that life fiddles a little with. I think different blueprints would cope with the same life completely differently but different lives fiddle with the same blueprint less significantly.

So I'm very much a believer in 'nature' these days! Why?

1) I had kids and their blueprints were apparent long before they could talk.
2) I remember someone who had worked in mental health for years telling me how studies of severely abused children always demonstrated that about a third of these children grew up with no apparent impact of their terrible experiences. This was because this third had a blueprint that meant they could cope with all the horrible stuff people had thrown at them.
3) It's just obvious isn't it!

So now I look at evidence of people's hard wiring and I'm really jealous of some people - particular two types of hard wiring:

High agreeableness
(as in The Big 5)

People with high levels of agreeableness can seem to those with much lower levels as all-giving, selfless, mugs! But research has shown that those with high levels of agreeableness are generally much happier people. They are those people that never have a bad word to say about ANYONE and always assume the best of everyone. They simply don't see other people's darknesses or shortfalls. Or if they do, it's not a big focus or concern. 'They're a git, let's move on'. These people are wonderful in my opinion. I might be biased because I married one. I probably needed to!!!!

Low neuroticism
(also as in The Big 5)

These people are just not wired up to worry or experience as many negative feelings as those with higher levels. O.K. it can mean that they are completely blasé about taking risks but they are emotionally stable and naturally resilient. That must make life very easy!

And when psychologists talk about these two traits and try to suggest that both high and low levels bring strengths (i.e. we're all great), their arguments for the pluses of high neuroticism and low agreeableness never quite cut it for me! (Especially as extremely high neuroticism is linked to poor mental health and extremely low agreeableness linked to an increased chance of being a psychopath!)

I am not suggesting I am really low on agreeableness or high in neuroticism, but if I come here again, I am queueing up for my blueprint to be tweaked a bit!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

I sent a box in place of me

This Friday chap was playing in Jurnets Bar

in Norwich. It's a great venue (in a cosy crypt) where every Friday night a handful of different bands and musicians play a few numbers each. I have had some amazing nights there over the years - sometimes because of the quality of the music and sometimes because of the wonderful crowd it attracts.

Unfortunately though, this week I wasn't able to go but because I knew a particular friend of mine was going who I was sad to miss, I sent her a box in place of me.

The box was a yogi tea bag box painted purple and labelled:

Sadly I cannot make it tonight so I have sent:
1) a better version of me and
2) some things that will be more fun than me

The 'me' she got was:

And inside the box for her to play with was....

• Some play dough to make a new nose for me
• A yoga position to try
• A post-it to stick on her husband's back (It sad 'don't kick me')
• Poo Poem
• A bouncy ball to bounce at your leisure
• A photo scavenger hunt – I want the photos on FB tomorrow morning (yet to get the results. Suspect I might not get them)
• Some food (Folded up paper plate with sausages, egg and chips drawn on it)
• A fruiteller
• A glow in the dark sperm key ring that doesn’t glow – everyone should have one. (From my days of working in sexual health)
• A Zebedee fancy dress outfit (a spring)
• This home-made top trump card to give away > > > > >

I'd rather get all that than me - much more fun - although not entirely unlike a night with me actually there. What would need to be sent in your box to replace you?

A country's empathy quotient?!

Yesterday I was reading a version of Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth

written for young people. (I like books for young people - especially when they have lots of pictures) This book is clear, cuts-to-the-chase and spells out what needs to happen. I have always thought the title was spot on for this work!

Anyway it got me thinking - linked to my post Sustainability

about different countries' readiness to embrace these issues. For example, a country that is in a state of civil unrest, that has starving people in abundance and heaps of corruption is unlikely to have the green agenda high up on its list of priorities. It takes a certain level of some kind of development for this readiness that I was pondering.

I know there is a Corruption Perception Index

for countries but I was wondering if there could be a more complex index for showing a country's readiness to embrace the sustainability agenda. It would need to take an awful lot into account as an awful lot can inhibit this progress.

So then I got to thinking what would be needed for a country to be poised for meaningfully addressing sustainability. For a starting place, you would need to care about future generations. That ultimately takes more empathy than many can muster. So I have decided to name this arbitrary, playing with ideas, slightly silly concept a an 'Empathy Quotient.'

It's also hard to judge countries on their attitudes (although some countries are undoubtedly more liberal than others) so maybe this quotient would be calculated on what a country actually does and has rather than what it says it does or what treaties it has signed - to get a real flavour of the country's concern for others. So I guess you would look at things like:

• level of corruption
• range of inequality within country
• justifications for participating in wars
• weapon manufacture
• treatment of criminals
• how much education is prioritised
• health care provision
• influence of the media on the masses
• levels of democracy and power wielded and by whom!
• etc -

Anyway, I suspect an academic somewhere has done this!

Saturday, 12 February 2011


About 5 or 6 years ago the Klezmer band chap and I were in (Klunk) played at the wedding of Helen Ivory and Martin Figura - both poets. I did wonder at the time what the home-life of a pair of poets would be like. Metaphors, wit and concepts over the washing up? The odd ode or stanza dedicated to daily functions? I reckon it'd be rather lovely.

Anyway. I have never been into poetry. It's not that I do not enjoy how it plays - I do - no it's because I can't read very well and my auditory function is disabled. My barrier to poetry means the stuff I do encounter tends to be read aloud and I can never get past the first two lines before I'm extrapolating and have stopped receiving.

However, recently chap encountered Martin somewhere (chap described this somewhere as a stop everything bad and promote everything good 'thing' - he's not a poet) and chap returned with a little book of poems by Martin called, 'Boring the arse off young people'. And chap read it and chap clearly enjoyed it. I know when chap is enjoying things because he shares them. So, this was recited to me first thing this morning.

Talking (by Martin Figura)

I just talk too much I talk too much
never shut up if you cut me in half
with a spade I'd continue to talk
for up to nearly an hour from both ends
I'm more send than receive have never
had an unexpressed thought in my life
the path behind me is littered
with the hind legs of donkeys
those times when you should just shut up
that's when I talk even more let it tumble out
no matter how incriminating
there would be no need to tie me to a chair
and slap a rubber hose into the palm of your hand
for I will sing like a canary at the politest enquiry
tell you more about myself than you ever wanted to know
give up my own children just for a chat
in fact I can guarantee that the most hardened torturer
will soon be sewing up my mouth
to stop me telling him what I know
but I shall only rip my mouth open
spit out my tattered bleeding lips
and what I don't know I don't let worry me
for I never let lack of knowledge get in the way
of giving an opinion why should I
I've a habit of repeating myself
I've a habit of repeating myself
that was pretty obvious right,
but you try talking non-stop
and not saying something pretty obvious along the way
and if you're one of those quiet people that just looks
then you're just asking for it without actually asking
if you see what I mean but you can't just stand
and look at each other right
and if you're not going to say something then I have to
simple as that simple as that so it's your own fault
don't glaze over when I'm talking to you
if you want this poem to stop sometime
in the next hour then for God's sake
do something useful
go fetch a spade

Bloody brilliant. So now my introverted chap is using somebody else's well crafted and witty poetry to tell his extraverted wife to shut up. And first thing in the morning before I have even warmed up to full force.

So, at this point I have decided I like poetry - certainly the funny stuff. (Am I coming across as a little flighty?) So I pick the little book up and enjoy this.....

Acrostic (by Martin Figura)

Now the birds sing
I am gifted each
Clear note

The start of each day
Is your song, your scent
This heaven
Sweet and sure

....all on my own and with an 'out loud' giggle.

Friday, 11 February 2011

FoodCycle Norwich

Since last September I been one of the project leaders for the Norwich branch of a charity called FoodCycle. Here's the national website - FoodCycle

It is a charity with a simple concept that was once an impossibility because of the fear of litigation.

FoodCycle simply organises volunteers to:
1) take fruit, veg, bread and dried foods a supermarket, cafe or shop would otherwise have discarded (because it's slightly past its best),
2) transport it to a community venue via a bicycle with a trailer and
3) cook a meal for anyone to eat. (targeting those in need but not excluding others)

It does this to:

tackle food waste and more importantly (and effectively) highlight the issue of food waste and what fussy consumers come of us have become.
• tackle food poverty (we only scratch the surface of this currently). I am not sure what we create will ever be really easy for some disadvantaged to access as it's a large hall full of people.
• provide CV fodder for young people
•create a community space each week that everyone and anyone is invited to (that's special!)
• attempt to tackle prejudice towards homeless people (an aim the Norwich branch has added)

Its a simple idea that has instant appeal to most people and that's reflected in the 200 or so in our bank of volunteers and the successful bid for some funding.

It is an absolutely fantastic project to be involved in and today we will be cooking our fifth meal. We usually feed between 70 and 100 people and there's always a wonderful buzz in the place. I am personally surprised by how well it always seems to come together!

Donations of food were slow to come initially. The first contributor was a small food store on St Benedict's street. Then we hit lucky with Brandbank - a company that photographs food for online shopping. They have been wonderful but of course their supply is somewhat erratic and unpredictable. There were also small independent shops bringing food to the venue: namely 'Wholesome' on Swann Lane, Rainbow Wholefoods and 'The Metfield Bakery'. A veg stall (Holland Organics) on Norwich Market also donates a few bits and pieces and the spice stall gives us price reductions. But now we have hit really lucky. This week a fruit and veg wholesaler: McCarthy's will be donating food along with the Budgens store on Prince of Wales Road. We could not be more chuffed! That's a lot of food travelling round Norwich by bike power.

We will eventually have a 'launch.' We have had a lot of media interest and local celebrity chef (not Delia!): Galton Blakiston has offered to attend. I don't suppose Galton wants to be known as 'not Delia' actually!

We also have ambition. We currently only do one meal a week. With careful volunteer management this could increase. Also, the possibility of a community cafe might one day be viable. Watch this space.

FoodCycle Norwich

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Sustainability ...oh I don't know

Back in 1980 I wrote to Margaret Thatcher expressing my outrage about the destruction of the ozone layer by CFCs. The Department for the Environment wrote back and reassured me that they were doing their best to see that the UK was not contributing to the destruction of the ozone layer. Ahem. I was just a kid and I wasn't convinced. I was also annoyed that Margaret had not personally dealt with my concern - she was the one in charge.

Six years later I started a degree in Environmental Chemistry. Aside from the fact I learned that environmental has 3 'n's in it the day before I graduated, my interest in protecting and preserving the environment stayed with me throughout my degree. I guess the subject was taught appropriately.

Then venturing into the real world I lost faith big time. The gloom and doom merchants got to me. I developed an 'oh fu*k it' mentality. Humans could be bright individually but as a mass they'd never agree and unite in the common goal of sustaining this planet. And I gave up trying.

Several years later, I met my chap. I shared my despair but he persisted in his green ways and imposed them on me. When I challenged him (after the honeymoon) his philosophy was simple: he wanted to spend his time on this planet being personally responsible for the minimal amount of damage to this world that he could manage - regardless of what everyone else was doing. What a lovely bloke.

And now I am making up activities for children for an educational website about sustainability and so I have revisited the details of the topic big time. When you read the facts how can you not get depressed?
• Deforestation on a mass scale
• Pollution - air, water, earth
• Heaps of unnecessary waste
• Brutal consumption of natural materials
• Farming methods that add to greenhouse gases, damage soil etc
• And a fast growing and developing population that will just accelerate the amount of damage we are doing
• etc

......with nowhere near enough regard for future generations

And you can see why these things happen. There's a relatively small handful of people making a fortune out of practices that do not have the planet's best interests at heart in developing countries. And there's a lifestyle and a whole way of living that us westerners would have to seriously overhaul if we were to really, really try our best for the environment.

I read that if everyone in the world lived as the Australian or Americans did (and why shouldn't they - the western world has had its turn at luxury and convenience) we would need at least four planets. If everyone's consumption was the same as those in Bangladesh, we would need a third of the planet to sustain us. Such glaring inequality feels unjust in itself. Greedy, messy westerners!

The elephant in the room is shouting that it is almost definitely beyond us to sort out this mess and it will probably be a major catastrophe that might eventually force us to do the drastic things that would need doing - or that might force these drastic things upon us anyway. That's assuming anything is still salvageable and that any significant population is left! I am pretty sure most people at least suspect this and this suspicion contributes to some people not bothering to even try towards sustainability.

The whole world which is far too big, diverse and in different stages of development and awareness to arrive at any kind of consensus - is just so unlikely to get there without the jolt of a disaster. It would take huge attitudinal and actual changes in the way society, lifestyle, equality, community, the economy etc functions to tackle these issues. Changes that would currently seem like an enormous infringement on our basic comfortable western rights. (Imagine the Daily Mail's response if a huge magnet stole all the cars in the UK and left a great public transport system) Any 'power that be' trying to implement the changes needed would be seen as far too maverick to be actually voted in by a democratic country. And who is in position to deliver the huge world-wide re-education that would be needed to ensure such a vision would be voted in or implemented? No we need a huge-green-inspirational-benign-dictator-god to show the world the way but I haven't met one yet.

Aside: One question is though - how long have we got and what, if any, solutions might science come up with to temper our impact?

However. I will add. All this gloom and doom isn't me. For one, what does it really matter if we destroy ourselves - I mean that more positively than it sounds. What will be will be and I happily accept that. I'm not worried. But the main thing I want to say is this. I know I am not a huge-green-inspirational-benign-dictator-god and that I alone cannot save the world from itself but I can do what I can do. I have adopted my chap's ways. My conscience will be as clear as it can be in the way the world is currently set up. I will do my best to keep the dollop I personally add to this mess as small as I possibly can and perhaps eventually I'll get to hang out with with the huge-green-inspirational-benign-dictator-god in the sky!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Norwich - Narch - Norritch

I have taken to cycling around Norwich taking photos of roof-lines. I have become a bit obsessed. Anyway, this is my version of Norwich. It's not an accurate representation - the real Norwich is far more magical.


Friday, 28 January 2011

Sigh ...bored of myself

OK so I am in the region of the middle of my life assuming I make it to old age. That could be a big assumption the way I carry on but I'll go with it for now.

Carl Jung said that coinciding with mid-life, we are meant to get a bit bored of ourselves. He didn't quite word it like that but it's the gist.

He was right of course. I have become bored with my default position of seeing everything from my dominant perspective: that which Jung describes as 'intuitive'. It means that in any situation I always look for the overriding gist, the 'big picture' or the pattern so I can sum up and then extrapolate sweepingly should I encounter any similar situation again. I am bored with doing this. It uses up life too quickly. I have started saying to myself 'oh here I go again' when I find myself intuiting.

I am also aware that my intuition isn't always well received. It makes huge abstract leaps that in recent years I have grown to understand will leave a sensor (in particular) thinking I am bonkers/away with the fairies/in cloud cuckoo land/out of touch with reality. At least I am aware of this but it doesn't stop me doing it. It just means I expose my thoughts less readily in a room of people I do not know. Naturally we all gravitate towards others with the same dominant function - of course everyone tunes most readily into their own wavelength.

And my weakest function is the one I crave the most: Sensing. I want to notice and want the details and need to actually try things. I want to see, feel, smell, hear and taste harder! I am fed up with being satisfied with understanding the abstract theory and not needing to experience things for myself.

And for those of you that might want to reflect on your own dominant function..... this was the best illustration I have found. An example given by Jung himself. I have posted this before but feel a need to do it again as its relevance is hitting me so hard these days!

We all have either,

• Sensation
• Thinking
• Feeling or
• Intuition

as our dominant function. These correspond to several personality profiles from history and a variety of cultures (although obviously the types have different names and symbols in other cultures).

Imagine one of each type witnessed the following scene:

Two men came staggering out of a bar. They are shouting and swearing at one another. There is a struggle. One of them falls to the ground and bangs his head on the pavement.

Each witness will respond to what is before them in a manner typical of his/her type:

The sensing type will give the clearest account of what happened. S/he will have noted the height, build and general appearance of the two men: one was overweight, middle-aged and bald and had a scar over his left eye; the other younger, fair-haired, more athletic and had a moustache. Both were dressed casually in T-shorts, jeans and trainers. It was the overweight one who fell and it was his right temple that struck the kerb. There was a crack on impact etc

The thinking type interprets the events as they happen, working out what it all means. The two men came staggering out of the bar so evidently they had been drinking. They are shouting and swearing at one another, so they are having a disagreement. A struggle ensues so they must feel strongly enough to become physically violent about it. One falls to the ground, so he must be the weaker (or drunker) of the two. The latter cracks his head so he may be concussed and in need of medical attention etc.

The feeling type responds to each event in the scene with value-judgements: ‘what a sordid episode!’ ‘What thoroughly objectionable people.’ ‘that is clearly a bar frequented by louts and not a place to go to if one wants a quiet chat with a friend.’ ‘The one on the ground may have hurt himself and as a responsible citizen it would fell wrong if I didn’t ring for an ambulance.’

The intuitive type ‘sees’ the whole story: they are football hooligans who support opposing teams. Disgusted by their aggression, the landlord told them to clear off and this inflamed them to violence. the man who cracked his head is accident prone and this is just another incident in a lifetime of misfortune. He has fractured his skull and a clot will form on his brain requiring surgery. He will be off work for weeks and his long-suffering wife will once again have to struggle to make ends meet. This is what happens to people from a disadvantaged background who have nothing else to live for but football and drink. Things like this will go on happening and get much worse because we do nothing to change society or improve the educational system.

1st being your dominant function......4th being your Achilles heal.

Myers Briggs type 1st 2nd 3rd 4th

And more on this if it interests you.....

Myers Briggs Spectra


Myers Briggs and communication