Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The past and the present as the past's future

The way I always remember the past is to clump periods of time together and attach an overriding feeling or gist. Consequently my personal history is chunked and categorised with the feeling each chunk evokes. Is that what everyone does?

The chunks' labels can be arbitrary and chunks can overlap. For example I can have a feeling for the time I lived in a particular house but also a feeling for a friendship that also spanned two different homes etc. I suspect this isn't unique to me but feel I might need to look for a little reassurance so I can deny anti-mainstreaming....again.

Other chunks can be decades. I suspect I am not alone here. What does the seventies evoke for you (feelings or thoughts?) or the eighties? Those two were so distinct. (The nineties and the noughties don't feel quite so discrete for me but can muster up a few 'gists').

A book I am reading at the moment also pointed out something else about the past to me: I(/we?) tend to arrogantly have a patronising attitude towards decades gone by - even those we were part of. My assumption is that while individuals from the past could be extremely bright the overall understanding of the world was relatively backward. The technology was so much more simple and people could not possibly have known what they were doing as well as they do now. We have progressed so much - surely the brightest of our time must have a better foundation of knowledge to draw on that the brightest of decades ago.

However, this paragraph in Engleby by Sebastian Faulks put me right. The most basic and impactful problems of humankind appear immune from our 'progress'.

It's written by 'Engleby' in 1973....

Don't patronise me if you read this thirty years on, will you? Don't think of me as old-fashioned, wearing silly clothes or some nonsense like that. Don't talk crap about 'the seventies', will you, as we do now about 'the forties'? I breathe air like you. I feel food in my bowel and the lingering taste of tea in my mouth. I'm alive as you are. I'm as modern as you are, in my way - I couldn't be more modern. My reality is as complex as yours; the atoms making me and this world in their random movements are as terrible and strange and beautiful as those that make your world. Yours are in fact my atoms, reused. And you too, on your front edge of breaking time, Mr 2003, will be the object of condescending curiosity to the future - to Ms 2033. So don't patronise me. (Unless of course you have completely overturned and improved my world, bringing peace and plenty and a cure for cancer and schizophrenia, and a unified scientific explanation of the universe comprehensible to all and a satisfactory answer to the philosophical and religious questions of our time. In which case you would be permitted to patronise primitive little 1973. Well have you done those things? Got a cure for the common cold yet? Have you? Thought not. How's your 2003 world then? A few wars? Some genocide? Some terrorism? Drugs? Abuse of children? High crime rate? Materialistic obsession? More cars? Blah-blah pop music? Vulgar newspapers? Porn? Still wearing jeans? Thought so. Yes you've had an extra thirty years to sort it out).

Well that told us! And told us in an unquestionable and therefore powerful way!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Fustyweed Reposted!

There is a place in Norfolk called Fustyweed
Officially, it's just a hamlet........but I have insider information.

A terrace of five small houses sit some distance back from the only road. Smoke from the five little chimneys zigz zags into the sky. The doors and window frames are haphazardly painted orange, purple, red and green. The front gardens are brimming with stunningly beautiful flowers: mostly noddydil, fraf and craggleweed. Silver and gold fluttifol buzz around them collecting gliff to make their glittery crunnyplop (which is sold in jars from a table at the roadside).

All of the houses are kept perfectly maintained with the exception of number four. Minky Flupp who lives there says she spends far too much time granting wishes to bother with keeping her house shipshape. Her neighbours don't mind, as long as she grants them a wish now and then.

Jiggy Paloozeville at number three keeps yickins. The yickins lay the most delicious eggs with a yoke so deeply purple few can resist. He willingly shares the produce with his neighbours and most mornings the fruity aroma of freshly poached yickin eggs wafts around the terrace.

People tend not to call round to number five because its resident: Professor Batty Baffookink conducts science experiments there. The one time Minky knocked on the door, it was answered by a squealing green and brown slimey mass. It took Minky some time to recover even after she had learned that the sight was just Batty covered in Harpypoo Sulphate after a tuttyfragwill experiment had blown up. Even so, these days everyone prefers to wait for Batty to come to them.

The eldest Fustyweed occupant lives at number one. At four-hundred and forty two, Neg Keg is filled with memories. So many, in fact, that he has to have them regularly removed by Chiffle Lacey-Trickle-Doot who conveniently lives next door. The removal process uses a bespoke machine that Chiffle invented. The machine has many cogs, several springs, a few sparking wires, two glass tubes and a large wooden memory vat. A wriggling hose-like attachment (tailored to Neg's spikey head) sucks out twenty year's worth of memories at a time. With the relief this provides, Neg can go back to filling his head up with new memories. These memories mostly come from his time on the wirrity field playing tuffball.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Change is on the wind

Interesting times, interesting times.

It is already feeling quite different from a year ago.
My wonderings are:

1) With so many socially-minded, middle income people being made redundant, what will fill that work void? By their nature, public sector workers tend to be idealists and not overly 'business minded'. A sweeping generalisation, but I don't think these 'types' are overly suited to business in boom time...let alone a time when people are being financially cautious. We are in the early days of this change. The first wave of redundancies are about to kick in. There are many more to come. So we haven't seen their full impact yet.

2) Recession can mean less consumption. This is good for the planet! We nearly all consume much more than we need. I wonder if a fundamental shift in values might occur or is this just my wish list? I guess difficult times can make people go both ways: snatchy, selfish and dark (1930s Germany) or connecting and mutually supportive in the face of adversity (London WWII or Christmas shopping!!!!)

3) With a Labour government trying to address social ills and appearing to tackle inequality for so long (albeit not overly effectively), we haven't seen substantial demonstrations for some time. Well there were war demonstrations but I didn't feel their presence as much as recent rumblings. Social networking is making organised protests far more accessible! People seem to be articulating their points far more effectively and abundantly.

4) Can an economy be based on a model other than increased production and growth (with bankers creaming off the top and making greater production neceesary)? It feels like that puzzle might need solving before all the world's resources are used up. The assumptions seems to be that we need to 'boom' again. Cannot we manage something different, something better for people and the planet?

Economics by a simpleton

They are just rambling thoughts. I have been avoiding the news as much as I can as it always leaves me depressed and with an exaggerated view of just how dark the world is! I need to believe the world can do well!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Eastern Daily Press turned me Norfolk.

A few years ago I was asked to give some answers to some standard questions the local newspaper issues to various Norfolk people each week. Recently I was cleaning out my 'pooter files and found them. These are they! They make me laugh because they are so 'twee' and I don't think I am. I could be deluded...again.

What is your idea of perfect happiness in Norfolk? Is that not a strange question? Wouldn't it be better to ask - what do you love about Norfolk or in which Norfolk places do you find happiness?
I’m a small pleasures person – so it doesn’t take very much to make me happy – or even over-excited! However I do love Norfolk and Norwich’s many outdoor festivals or street events, wandering around and lapping up the atmosphere.

How do you relax in the County? Again - slightly odd question. Probably relax in Norfolk in a similar way as I would in Crewe, Inverness or Tunbridge Wells
Leaving the hustle and bustle of Norwich behind and getting into the countryside on my bike - which takes minutes. I particularly like the Norfolk roads that have grass growing in the middle of them. I don’t think I had ever seen that before I came to Norfolk. I probably felt I needed to add the bit about grass to quirk the answer up a bit.

With which Norfolk character do you most identify? I remember thinking - I can only think of Elizabeth Fry and as prison reform hasn't really been my thing, I am a bit stuck here. Actually it might be Alan Partridge.Well Stephen Fry has been my imaginary friend for many years now but I suspect that I don’t identify with him exactly – just admire him. I love that Norwich and parts of Norfolk have their fair share of ‘alternative’ people, artists and people with attitudes that aren’t mainstream! I guess I identify with them.

If you weren’t talking to us now, what would you be doing? By now I had figured my answers needed to be laced with Norfolk.
My job means that I spend a lot of time driving around this huge county visiting the county’s 400 or so primary schools. So had you not caught me on an office day – I would probably be driving in ‘the 60 mile cul de sac!’ They took that bit out. I guess it is a bit insulting.

What do you miss most when you leave Norfolk?
When I travel anywhere south or west of Norfolk (dry land is good!), I always feel I have to step up a few gears. I miss the tranquillity and ‘fluffiness’ of Norfolk. Oh and the hills can sometimes make me feel a little claustrophobic; I once asked what people did 'in case of fire' when I visited Edale.

How would you spend your ideal day in Norfolk?
A lunch in a country pub with my young family followed by exploring a new pocket of Norfolk – often instigated by looking for a public footpaths on an ordnance survey map. I love that there is simply so much countryside to explore. My favourites are walks at Holkham Beach, Foxley Wood, Wolterton Hall, Surlingham Broad, Castle Acre, Trimingham Beach, Burham Ovary, Saxlingham Nethergate, Warham, North Elmham, Filby….actually too many to mention…. I really was getting the Norfolk theme by now.

What’s your earliest Norfolk memory?
Arriving at St Stephen’s bus station in Norwich and walking along Earlham Road to attend my interview at UEA. As I had travelled so far, I stayed overnight (in those famous ziggurats) and all the interviewees were taken on a coach and walking tour of the sights. This included Elm Hill, the cathedral and the night view of the city from Mousehold Heath. That sold it to me – regardless of the quality of academia on offer!

In moments of weakness…..
Do you mean moments of indulgence? One beer too may in one of Norwich’s friendly pubs and it usually takes more than moments! Theme show offing by now.

What would your motto be?
Live, eat, breathe Norfolk. No that wasn't my answer.
Find your passions and drive with them!

And here's Norwich how Molly Potter sees it anyway.

The Teenage Pregnancy Fete

You don't have to look far to see there's a lot of cut, cut cutting going on in the public sector. My team was part of the first wave of cuts. We are the county's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy Unit. We have known we were to be axed since July. July! That's a long time to know that you are going to be made redundant and an awful lot of sympathetic 'well what are you going to do?' conversations to endure! The team is well past needing sympathy and a little bored by those conversations - although we do acknowledge they come from kind intentions.

We have worked with lots of different agencies across the county and I have worked with many schools in particular. I have supported schools with their sex and relationships education, personal, social and health education and many things linked to well being. It has been a fantastic and fascinating job.
We were told a couple of weeks ago that we couldn't just say goodbye to everyone on the phone and that we needed to have some kind of official goodbye for our stakeholders. So we met and discussed this 'goodbye.' There was consensus that we didn't want a formal and miserable opportunity for more condolences so we decided it had to be upbeat. The result: The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy Fete.

Stalls included:

Splat the sperm

Office Junk Tombola (I mean we are clearing out our office!)

Pin the pregnant teenager into the educational establishment

Guess the number of conceptions in the jar (jelly babies of course)

The nearly new contraception stall

We issued a warning just in case.

And there were cakes to eat to attain 'closure'!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Through the arch....

We have been reading children's books aloud for the last ten years. It's part and parcel of being a parent I guess. We've been through all the Rainbow Fairies, all the Harry Potter Books, much Doctor Who written merchandise and much more besides. Some I have managed to be mildly entertained by but none so much as the Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton (read to our seven year old son - although he doesn't always really listen) and they regularly make me laugh out loud. There are few books that do that.

Here's a great snippet to give you a flavour if you have not read these books (you have to read it out loud):

Chapter 3
Here's who went through the arch that morning:
First was Old Granny, then Martin Launderette, then the little girl called Peter, a little boy called Rita and a baby called Elsie Wa-Wa. Then a really, really tall bloke called Harry Extreemoleg, then Thora Gruntwinkle with Greasy Ian and their pet monkey Philip the Horror, and then Jonathan Ripple, who got stuck in the archway and had to go on a diet for ten minutes until he'd lost enough weight to squeeze through. Then came David Casserole (the Town Mayor), followed by Charlotte Casserole (his beautiful wife) and Frank Casserole (his beautiful husband). Next was Beany McLeany, wearing a bikini and reading a magaziney. After him came Pamela, Pamela, Pamela, Pamela, Pamela, Pamela, Pamela, Pamela, Pamela and Pamela - or 'the Pamelas' as they were known for short. Then came another Pamela who didn't count with the other Pamelas because none of them liked her. Then came a superhero called the Yellow Wriggler, who caught criminals by crawling along the ground dressed as a banana and shouting at them. After him came an illusionist called the Prince of Illusions. And after him came the Prince of Illusions again. 'Ha ha,' said the Prince of Illusions, 'The first time I went through the arch it was just an illusion!' Then came a few other people I can't be bothered to tell you about, then a couple more and then a couple more. And after them came the heroes - Polly, Friday and Alan Taylor, along with his class of giggling school children. And finally came Crazy Barry Fungus hopping along in his silver birdcage and tweeting like a chaffinch. 'Tweet. tweet!' said Barry Fungus. 'Tweet Tweet,' Wait for me!

Chapter 4

So then I thought. I'll have some go through an Arch. A different arch of course...

First there was Aunt Mo, then huge but quiet Geoffrey Taxidermy and tiny but loud Peanut Smith followed by Harry Flarry who likes to carry loaded up with his wife's annual baked bean shop. Next was Ted McFitwhistle, Jed McFitwhistle, Aled McFitwhistle, and Ned McFitwhistle who everyone thinks are related because they look alike but they're not, followed by Len and Fanny Lazy-Buzzbottom and their boss Graham. Next through was Measuring Matt Metremann with his yard stick who quickly constructed a minimum width warning sign for Frank the hippopotamus with the itchy bottom who turned out to be too wide and so went off looking for another arch. Next through was Dave looking for the Pennine Way, Jane looking for her lost tea cosy, then Humphrey Githead and his leaping giraffe that he had trained to jump over arches but he had a poorly toe and so just walked through. Then came Green Gina, Amber Amber and Red Riding Boot who played traffic lights for a bit causing a momentary queue with Viv Dim and Tom Dum at the front and Jim the decorator looking for work behind them. Once the queue cleared there was Dora Rigworm who got a little of her enormous frizzy hair stuck on the arch hinge and had to be set free by Henry the Chimpanzee who happened to have some scissor in his leopardskin handbag. Then came Ex, Why and Zed the spies who felt sure there was no funny business at the arch and therefore had no need to report to HQ, then Backtofront Brian who walked through backwards followed by Fronttoback Fiona who left before she arrived. Next was Archie Archway who has a PhD in arches who blocked the arch for a while as he took notes, causing Rampant Ruby who was in a rush to get extremely angry because she was late for her ballet lesson. Finally through was Clear-up Kelvin and his multi-purpose cleaning cloth and Claire Clipboard with regulations to shut the arch down because of trading laws.

Did I miss anyone?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Myer Briggs Illustrated

I added these illustations to a post wrote last winter: Myers Briggs and Communication but I like them enough to just brazenly post them, on their own, without any explanation. Perhaps I will get a reputation for being reckless!

There might be a nutter out there somewhere that these might mean something to.

Here goes.....

For those pictures don't work for.....

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Two new books

I have two new books out this month. They are quite different from others I have written but I enjoyed the process of researching and writing about such serious issues. Of course I had to go and flick peas, wriggle like a worm and bounce on spacehoppers as an antidote after each writing session.

It's shameful to admit you google your own name but look what I found on the urban dictionary!!!!

Molly Potter
buy molly potter mugs, tshirts and magnets

A term used by Harry Potter fans to describe someone who has the qualities of both Molly Weasley and Harry Potter, particularly Harry's brains and Molly's loving bubbliness.

In other words, Molly Potter = sheer greatness.

Some also refer to it as the name Ginny and Harry SHOULD have named their child.
"Woah, that girl is such a Molly Potter. She aced the test AND told me my hair looked good today"
perfect smart intelligent molly weasly harry potter loving
by picklejarr Dec 8, 2009 share this

Yes I'll go with that! In line with my self-googling narcissism! I might suggest this as a possible illustration....


I have been having rambling thoughts recently about sympathy and my difficulties with it!

I'll start by saying that I do know it is usually a well intentioned thing. (I have never seen ‘too sympathetic’ listed as a vice.) For me however sympathy usually causes a lot of discomfort and a little repulsion - especially and ironically at times when it is probably most warranted.

If I stub my toe and someone is sympathetic - that's fine. I can cope with that. I probably wouldn't call that sympathy. I'd call that an empathic reaction.

It's all the other kinds of sympathy I struggle with. I'll illustrate and explain.....

When my father died, at first people could be as sympathetic as they liked because I was in shock and unable to properly receive whatever people were aiming my way. But I remember there did come a point where I had to brace myself to receive inevitable sympathy (that would happen for example when I saw a friend for the first time since my father had died) as it was like enacting a whole mini emotional replay in a few minutes. I was made to revisit the whole thing through the other person's sympathy - whether I wanted to at that point in time or not.

And then there is sympathy for less tragic life occurrences - like not getting or achieving something you had hoped for or a forced change in life. I can't do sympathy there either. I prefer the person that tells me I, of all people, will be able to cope with whatever the knock back was to the person whose forehead screws up with sympathy. There's an assumption with sympathy that I don't like. The assumption being that you are feeling awful. You could well not be at that point in time - that needs to be respected.

Perhaps I simply have a strong dislike of being 'a victim', perhaps 'suffering' is a very private thing for me or perhaps it is simply that receiving sympathy is rarely what I am in the frame of mind to do - because of its negative connotations. Or perhaps I have an innate stiff upper lip passed down to me through generations of stoical Brits! Unlikely!

I also think there is a big difference between someone being truly empathic and being sympathetic. I prefer the former; it feels more genuine and ‘with’ me rather than ‘at’ me. I can cope with ‘I can imagine how you feel’ better than ‘you poor thing.’

Perhaps I am concluding that people could sometimes be a bit more careful with their sympathy! Or is that just my need? I guess I would like to know if my response to sympathy is personal to me (and others like me) or commonly felt by many. So over to you...what do you do with sympathy?

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The wisdom of Carl Jung

I might have mentioned - once or twice - my interest (obsession) with the teachings of Carl Jung - both his conscious and sub-conscious psychology. I have some of his quotes on the wall in the upstairs bathroom. (Einstein is downstairs giving a speech about humankind - it's good to toilet with great minds).

Anyway - here are some of my favourite snippets of Carl Jung.......

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves A very wise woman called Nuala Ronayne taught me this when I was about twenty six. I have grown to understand and explore its meaning more and more with age. Of course it's all about the sub-conscious rumbling and giving us clues to its existence. The same action can irritate one person and not another. That's a clue to our individuality. The irritated person therefore has an opportunity to learn something - if they choose the take it. It's also about knowing to own your own irritations rather than just blaming the person that irritated you. That could stop wars!
N.B. I have heard the subconscious described in many ways but the most accessible description I paraphrased in a post on: The subconscious

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed A good one to remember! There's learning everywhere if we are inclined to look for it.

The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases. Idealism sometimes searches for the single solution. The one glove that fits all is different for everyone!

We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. This is one of my favourites and something I have grown to appreciate after years of training people from a variety of viewpoints. e.g. rather than condemn the prejudice, accept it and then coax it along to a better place, otherwise it becomes hidden and then unable to address. There are many examples this quote can evoke...

Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other. or power corrupts! Those that hanker after power and attain it are often the worst people to be making decisions on behalf of others! Einstein says (in the downstairs toilet) "My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. I am quite aware that for any organization to reach its goals, one man must do the thinking and directing and generally bear the responsibility. But the led must not be coerced, they must be able to choose their leader. In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates; force attracts men of low morality...

Observance of customs and laws can very easily be a cloak for a lie so subtle that our fellow human beings are unable to detect it. It may help us to escape all criticism, we may even be able to deceive ourselves in the belief of our obvious righteousness. But deep down, below the surface of the average man's conscience, he hears a voice whispering, "There is something not right," no matter how much his rightness is supported by public opinion or by the moral code. Which is similar to 'just because everybody is doing something doesn't mean it's automatically right.'

It all depends on how we look at things, and not on how they are themselves. I know this is obvious but I think it is regularly forgotten. We can never assume others have received what we have -even when we are looking at the same thing. I have just paraphrased!

If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool. Evidence of this aplenty. We are not generally very good at appreciating differences in others. Our ego can hold onto our viewpoint and convince us that it's the correct and only one.

In studying the history of the human mind one is impressed again and again by the fact that the growth of the mind is the widening of the range of consciousness, and that each step forward has been a most painful and laborious achievement. One could almost say that nothing is more hateful to man than to give up even a particle of his unconsciousness. Ask those who have tried to introduce a new idea! The massive wheel of human consciousness moves under the power of the few cycling crazily at its edges - is my response to the last sentence of that quote. Our subconscious does appear to have an automated response of resistance and we go to great lengths to deny its contents.

It is a fact that cannot be denied: the wickedness of others becomes our own wickedness because it kindles something evil in our own hearts That's how Hitler could do what he did: mass sub-conscious projection!

Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. Bring the subconscious to the conscious and you become a more complete person. It's the task of the latter half of our lives according to Jung. Nice to have a task. Which brings us to....

Shrinking away from death is something unhealthy and abnormal which robs the second half of life of its purpose.

All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination. When my playfulness, fun, imagination, silliness, excited and enthusiastic slightly 'out there' explorations are's usually other people's fear (and safety through convention and what they already know) I'm coming up against. Creative, excited, silly and unusual 'play' appears to unsettle some! I think creative playfulness is therapeutic and about freeing up something deep inside! I play best with my 'deepest' and most 'open' friends and family members.

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves. Ha! I embrace my inner necessity. Do you?

Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent. Jung is referring to his mother. This provides me with an excuse to explore my passions and not feel guilty about not spending all my free time with my children!

Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine or idealism. I am addicted to idealism - I know that!

Happy Saturday!

Friday, 29 October 2010

More Evidence

It is a bit like I am addicted to making these silly characters for my home made top trump cards which now number well over 300. Perhaps I should just start wearing an anorak and playing dungeons and dragons.

Daosy was a magician’s assistant until the ‘cutting her in two’ act went terribly wrong. Daosy used to have a lower half and a jet engine.

Villomax has been claiming jobseekers’ allowance for some time as nobody appears to want to employ a nuclear-powered triple-way nipper.


Jianne fell in love with a carboretta called Candy Rose. They have had three offspring: a cork screw, and spanner and a fork lift truck.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Story Poem

When my lovely, talented, musical friend Ruth Gordan sent me a poem with the middle missing....this is the filling I provided.....

The Story Poem (Stome)

I know a cat,
A black cat,
Playing tunes on the kora
Or facing the crowd,
Double bass in paw,
Wowing them into applause

I know a cat,
A black cat,
Inventor of song
And full moon dance-along
With wet red tongue
World expert on Jung
But he doesn’t like me
Oh no
He doesn’t like me

Slink and stare Santor
Blink and don’t care Santor
Not about me

*********** THE FILLING************************


We interrupt this poem to debate the pros and cons of melodic rhyming.

 There’s not enough rhyming in the land
Typed up or written by hand
 Rhyming makes you look clevererererest
 It would continue the format that prompted all this
 Rhymes can easily be turned into songs
 Rhymes are nice.

 Ugly forced rhymes are bound to happen
 Creative flow might be stifled
 I left my word starts at home
 Rhymes take twice the time(s) of non-rhymes
 Nothing rhymes with orange – Santor’s favourite colour
 Rhymes rarely span the whole page and therefore use more paper than prose and are therefore less planet friendly
 Rhymes are soporific and I would need to have several naps periodically throughout the poetry construction.

CONCLUSION: no rhyming here

Santor was undoubtedly most happy when he was attached to his kora or bass surrounded by a flurry of notes of his making. That’s why Santor did not like me, I was not an instrument and I certainly could not be played.

However, his happiness was relative and Santor knew his deepest needs had not been satiated. His Jungian subconscious was rumbling and stumbling and churning inside and he was certain his musical climax was yet to be reached. He loved his kora and bass and the applause they could elicit made him glow with pride and achievement. But the kora’s randomly un-chromatic scales rattled with his finely tuned western ear and after a bout of playing, his psyche was so flustered he would have to go out ram-raiding. Even the toughest cats in the neighbourhood disapproved of this behaviour. Santor knew this had to stop and the kora had to be sent back to Mali via the Cat Hobby Equipment Catalogue (CHEC Ltd) that he had ordered it from.

And the double bass, huge and booming, made Santor feel quiet, unnoticeable and insignificant. This unsettled him greatly. He aspired to be loud, noticed and very significant. The bass would have to be sent to his giant aunt Maud in Skegness. She would play it like a violin.

And this is where I came in. For though I tried to pretend it did not matter that Santor did not care for me, it actually bothered me more than anything. Santor’s friendship was something I aspired to.


Santor later explained that I had been brought up by a cat called Frank for the first two years of my life. Frank looked remarkably like Santor. I did not know this until Santor’s extensive psycho-analysis explored the contents of my unconscious through regular session on the couch and intense dream analysis. Being abandoned by Frank at two had left me with a huge block: a void that needed filling and my attachment to a need for Santor’s friendship. That's what was going on subconsciously. All - of course - without my conscious understanding.

In sensing Santor’s dissatisfaction with the bass and the kora, I saw an opportunity to please him. This drove me to some slightly peculiar 'pleasing' behaviour over the next few weeks: several times I knocked upon Santor’s door and presented him with a brand new musical instrument in an attempt to help him arrive at the pinnacle of his musical experiences and therefore ultimately (and hopefully) curry his favour and friendship.

The first instrument was a trombone. He looked at me shiftily as I presented it to him across the threshold. I returned a week later, responding to a phone call from Santor in which he stated that such a comedy instrument should never be played. He said his ribs ached from the amount of laughter the sliding action of the trombone and its bizarre notes had caused.

I exchanged the trombone for a pennywhistle. Santor rang the same day saying that he simply could not play something that had money in its name. It would make him seem greedy.

On subsequent visits I tried a variety of instruments but to no avail. The piccolo was too small, the xylophone made him fidget (and made him think of skeletons and that spooked him), the maracas were too simple and insulted his intelligence, the tuba reminded him of elephants and clumsiness, the bass drum made him angry, the guitar needed too many fingers (and hands), the violin was too melancholic and the clarinet too prone to squeaks.

It was at a point - close to giving up - that I presented Santor with a flute. I waited a week, then two, then three. I heard nothing from Santor. Eventually my intrigue got the better of me and I found myself stood in Santor’s porch, about to knock at his door. With my knuckles poised, I heard the sweetest sound: a cascade of notes trickling through the air. It was Santor and his flute. The notes came to me, pouring into my ears, on and on, a continuous flow.

I pushed open the door. There was Santor, looking frail and exhausted with a flute to his mouth. He was clearly mesmerised by his own playing and could not break free. The flute’s music had hypnotised him. I pulled the instrument from his mouth and he fell to the floor.

Santor looked up at me and grinned. He said,
‘I think I have had my fill of music for now. I want to try different things. Cat things.’

‘I want chase mice
And scratch lice

I want to pounce and creep
And lazily sleep

I want to lick my paws
A flash my claws

I want to purr and rub
An gobble my grub

I want to be a cat
It’s as simple as that!’

******************END OF FILLING*************************

I know a cat,
A black cat,

He sat and he gave me his paw
And rolled on his belly
And scratched on the floor.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Mind your Ps and Qs

When I was eleven I went to stay with a family in Paris for two weeks. It was a great holiday and they spoiled me rotten - took me to all the sights - although it might have been a bit wasted on an eleven year old. The father was a friend of my dad's (Gerard) - a fellow air traffic controller - that worked at Orly Airport. I travelled from Gatwick to Charles De Gaul as an unaccompanied child. I think this just meant I got to sit at the front and the staff checked up on me now and then - although I did get to go into the cockpit too - as my dad was 'air traffic contolling' the plane! Very 1980.

Prior to the trip I had been given really, really clear instructions from my parents about behaving well and being really polite and grateful at all times. I was NOT to disgrace myself.

Gerard and his family were waiting at the airport to pick me up when the plane landed and everything looked great. They had two sons (Arno and Antoine) and a daughter Alice. I was excited by the idea of two weeks with this family....... that was until I got into their car. From the moment Gerard turned the ignition key until we arrived at his lovely home in the Parisian suburbs, he was all 'fu*k you', 'wa*ker', and 'cu*t'. As an eleven year old I had never been exposed to quite so much aggressive swearing. My eyes were popping out with shock and I actually remember feeling quite scared, wondering what my parents had sent me to and thinking I wanted to go straight home.

It was only later that evening that it suddenly occurred to Gerard what he had done. He could not apologise enough.
'I always swear in English when my children are around...I am ever, ever so sorry!'

Saturday, 16 October 2010

My papier mache dragon

My husband fell in love with me at the point of me showing him my papier mache dragon's wire innards. What a selection process! I haven't read it in a fairy tale.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Nit comb

I have bought an amazing electronic nit comb. It buzzes until it finds a nit and then the buzz is interrupted until the nit has been zapped and falls out of the hair dead.

Hours of pleasure. I'd recommend one even if nits don't visit your house. You could chase ants with it, for example.

Sorry I needed an antidote after that last post!

After years of battling....this is my definitive answer to the nit problem: for complete nit blasting and prevention:

Hedrin Once to get rid of nits.

Then buy a water spray bottle (Superdrug sell them) and fill it with water plus a few drops of lavender essential oil. Spray your child's hair before they go to school. Nits hate lavender. Alternatively, tea tree oil shampoo also seem to prevent infestations!

My mother

My mother visited last weekend. I do love my mum deep down (!) but on the surface our extreme differences cause us some difficulties. Our conversations can sometimes sound like the Guardian fighting with the Daily Mail. I try to steer her away from social and political comment but she nearly always brings them up - seemingly every time genuinely oblivious to the fact I might have a different viewpoint and then surprised at just how different and then a bit cross about my alternative view (I should agree - yes?). And sometimes it gets a bit heated because I am terrible at letting prejudice and negative evaluative judgements aimed at random minorities - just pass by.

Because the relationship with my mother is tumultuous and I prefer harmony, I am always looking for things that help me be more accommodating of her and her ways (even if she's not trying the same with me).

and then I came across this in the novel I was reading.....

What fabrications they are: mothers. Scarecrows, wax dolls for us to stick pins into, crude diagrams. We deny them an existence of their own, we make them up to suit ourselves - our own hungers, our own wishes, our deficiencies. Now that I've been one myself I know.
from Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

It did make me stop and think. What is it about the parent-child relationship that can sometimes be so strained? Does it boil simply down to some parents never accepting their child can be a free thinking individual that can disagree with them? (Always the young child in their head?) But this quote did make me think about the responsibility I have over any views and patterns of behaviour towards my mother that I have not challenged in myself. Like Margaret says (she's so wise) perhaps the child cannot expand their view of the parent beyond the one they made in their heads in early adulthood or teenagehood - the one that a child can blame for all their shortcomings and dissatisfactions with childhood/life/anything. As the child, it's certainly easy to see a parent first and foremost as just a parent and overly focus on their impact on you in that role - rather than ever affording them any individuality beyond that role.

But how much of what we think about our parents is fabrication? Is it fabrication because it is uniquely just the viewpoint of a child of their parent and so affected by this distinct relationship as to be unrecogniseable if you shared it with a non-family member? Nobody else would probably hold the same view - being a person's child is bound to give a unique viewpoint of that person! However, I think we know our parents more than they ever think we do - as they are so much part of our forming (and therefore 'inside' us). Because of this they do also seem to have the direct line to any hang ups we might have. Is this though because they put that hang up directly there or is it because we shunned their views (and them as a person to some extent) as part of growing up? For example an acquaintance can say exactly the same thing about me as my mother but only my mother will get my heckles up by saying it- is that proof that my difficult relationship with my mother and the reactions I have towards her are based on my part on a stagnant (shunned at teenagehood) view of her, rather than it being about genuine hang ups put there by her? I don't know! Perhaps when it comes to parents our reactions can be too conditioned - as theirs can towards us. How do we move on together and get over that?

As we grow up, most of us need to shun our parents to some extent, to broaden our horizons. This requires us to rebel to some extent - or at least form some independet opinions. Perhaps it is this process that makes the view of our parents stagnate so much (and stagnate at a point of persistent rebellion for some of us!)- as much as their view of us can stagnate! Either way, it's not helpful.

Perhaps the parenting books could focus beyond the toddler stage to help the likes of me form a brand new relationship between adult child and adult parent. Please!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Fruits of blogging

There are many 'fruits' of blogging (nougats of information, foods for thought, feedback etc) but when one arrives in a large envelope and turns out to be a highly personalised housewarming gift that I's really quite something......

(This photo does not do it justice)

Thank you so, so much Carol at:
Not only in Thailand: (my link thing never uploads - any advice?)

It is going into a frame and onto my wall. I am truly touched.

Sunday, 3 October 2010


And as a CD....

I love a good social...

Yesterday was chap's birthday. He's a quiet introverted person so his idea of how to celebrate is different from mine (which I appreciate). Where I fill my house, a pub or a field up with as many people as I know (and then get a little frustrated that I cannot get round them all to give them 'quality' attention - that's my idea of quality - there might not be consensus), Andy prefers a select few for food and drinks and chats. So that's what happened. And we had a sweet time.

However I couldn't leave it alone entirely and we ended up getting out the

box and much interesting, humorous, enlightening, self disclosing conversation was had. Questions vary considerably and include things like:

• What personality trait do you admire most in other people? (quite varied answers - resilience, sense of humour, generosity, honesty (some debate), being true to yourself)
• What would you call your autobiography? (Mine was, 'I meant well')
• Can you list three things you do every day? (people got clever with their answers!)
• How many South American capital cities can you name? (surprisingly few)
• Can you describe something you were told off for doing as a child?
• What is the nicest compliment somebody could pay you?
•If you had to be a fruit, which one would you choose to be? Don't give a reason.
•What is your porn star name (First pet's name followed by name of the first road you lived in)?
•Put the following in order from like the most to like the least: spiders, slugs, flowers, rats, stones.
•If you had to eat only one of the following food for an entire day, which would you choose? mashed potato, banana, pizza, pasta
• What do you think of London?
•What do you think of middle names as a concept? (caused quite a bit of debate that one)
• Do you know Ruby? (It's an illustration of what my friends are like that they all just answered - nobody said 'Who?')
• What would be your ideal view from your bedroom window? (I'm adding ones we did not discuss - just getting carried away)
• Have you ever been to Wales?
•What is the name of one of your school teachers that you remember well and what made you remember them?
•Do you know the meaning of your last name and if so, what does it mean?
•What do hairy monsters eat?
•Do you prefer swimming in the sea or in a swimming pool?
•What is photosynthesis. Answer using as much detail as you can muster.
•How would you describe your hair?
•Do you have any stories about the paranormal?
•Which fairytale character would you most like to be?
•Which insect can you draw best?
•Are you silly?
•Do you have brand loyalty to any particular product?
I think I'll stop listing the questions...if you want the full set - just ask and I'll send them to you!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Conflict again

Mike Fleetham, ex-engineer, ex assistant headteacher, trainer, inspirer and author sends me thought provocations every now and then. I think it's always accidental. Yesterday he sent me this.....

“A court in India has said that a disputed holy site in Ayodhya should be split between Hindus and Muslims, but both sides plan to appeal”

Therein lies humanity's total problems

I blogged ages ago about a story Mike has in one of his books about a frog eating a snake that was eating the same frog (in a loop) as a metaphor for conflict. It reminded me of that. One eating the other eating the other in a futile exercise of destruction, unable to grasp the concept of its futility and so carrying on with dogged determination.

From afar, when you are not embroiled in the intense emotion, this kind of situation can send one into a despondent marvelling at the ridiculousness of conflict. Obviously it’s easy to rise above these things when one is not directly involved and its impacts potentially felt daily - when you are completely impartial. But it did provoke thought – like Mike is in the habit of doing - but it won't necessarily be jump ship now if you like concrete things that make absolute's see....

In my opinion we are, generally, a bit rubbish at truly respectfully agreeing to disagree (a slightly tenuous way of describing the above situation I know - as this disagreement has culminated in a territorial argument - but it originated from difference and disagreement) We are not great at accepting that someone else just thinks differently, holds different values, opinions or beliefs or tunes into situations in a different way. Why is that? What bothers us when someone else does not agree with us - especially if it's someone we respect? (Obviously if they are holding us at gunpoint and demanding that we agree with them - that might bother us.)

We are encouraged to make up our own minds and form our own opinions. I’m all for that. But then you get lots of different opinions and rarely find consensus.

But lots of viewpoints is good isn't it? A big thinking pot mulling ideas about - enjoying ideas, thinking, challenging, tempering extreme views (that might one day not seem extreme) and making ideas more likely to be fully formed and well considered - yes?. (Actually it's a wonder we do ever move in any direction! It's not just scientifically proven facts that we act on to change societal views - is it?)

There was a time in history when religion made lots of people think and believe the same (or similar) thing. Religion did an effective job of making the majority believe the same thing. Within one community, when there is consensus there appears to be harmony - doesn't there? Is that proof that we are just so uneasy with having different views?

So now I ask. Are we aiming for easy harmony through agreement (which might, ironically, be what drives us to strive sometimes aggressively for agreement) or more tolerance with conflict? Surely the latter if we are to accommodate lots of different viewpoints comfortably.

So how do we do that?

Would the Muslims and Hindus be more willing to make the suggested compromise if they had not arrived at a point of hating each other through centuries of refusing to agree to disagree respectfully?

Now I am just annoying myself. I think Mike should wait a while before sending me any more things to think about. Might one of you rescue me from myself?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


I have been reading about the psychology behind restorative practices (see yesterday's post). It's all fascinating stuff but I was particularly intrigued by the work of Donald Nathanson on shame. He states (after extensive research) that unlike many other emotions, e.g. anger, fear, disgust, surprise (described as a wipe-clean of the brain so you just focus on what's there in front of you), interest, enjoyment, etc, shame does not have any chemical or electric biological triggers when it is experienced. Although he admitted it might seem puzzling to some, he described shame, therefore as being simply the reaction to an interruption of a positive feeling or affect.

He saw that shame in his own children usually manifested in their turning their heads downwards and averting their eyes and that they also did this when a pleasurable or interesting experience was interrupted. This demonstrated that shame was not just felt when you did something wrong; it was also felt when a good thing was interrupted. This also explains why victims of wrong doings can also feel shame - as their positive experience has been interrupted. I found this interesting, and like he predicted, it took me a while to 'feel' that this absence of reaction was a possibility.

Then I did think of an example where I felt shame through the absence of positive affect. When I was a student teacher, the primary maths lecturer took us through how best to help children really understand the different numerical processes other than through using routine algorhythms. I actually enjoyed what he was teaching (the nerd in me). It was subtraction one week and we were discussing how you could help children to 'see' that when you subtract a negative number, you in effect add. I suggested that if you take away a negative thing like a hole, you in effect add something. I was enjoying my idea but he told me that answer was 'too contrived' and he carried on. Although I had done nothing wrong, his response stopped me enjoying the debate and all I can describe is that I felt shame! I remember wondering why I had felt that at the time. This chap's description of a break in positive feeling rang true.

Donald Nathanson then went on to describe four different responses to shame.

Attack other - blaming others for what they have done and lashing out at them
• Attack self - where people self reprimandnad blame themselves e.g. "I am so stupid"
• Avoidance- where a person side-steps away from the shame by making jokes or using other distractions. Some of these distractions can be quite damaging such as alcohol abuse.
• Withdrawal - the run and hide response.

I suspect there are gender biases with some of these but he states that 'attack other' and 'avoidance' are the most common responses in our society. The responses can of course also vary in intensity - from full on to very mild.

I would guess every individual has a default reaction to shame and becoming aware of this can help our behaviour be managed. If shame is simply an interruption of positive experience, we probably all feel it pretty regularly!

N.B. I read far more explanation than I have written but the justification of exploring shame in terms if restorative practice is that RP manages shame and negative feelings and leaves an outcome of positive feelings unlike punishment. The relunctance to destroy the positive feeling created by restorative practices means repeat 'crimes' can become less likely for some individuals.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Restorative Practices

Restorative Practices are a 'touchy feely' thing that is evidenced to work and it's happening effectively already in several organisations in the city of Hull, UK. It took one school from special measures - i.e. failing - to outstanding in two years for example and the police are finding it an effective way of tackling wrongdoings and preventing reoccurence.

I'll explain it my way........

OK - so you have done something wrong and you got caught. The 'powers that be' have issued your punishment. Because of the punishment, you feel like a victim because all you can think about is the punishment you were issued. You do not reflect on the 'crime' you committed or the effect it had on others. Nothing has changed other than you feel resentment towards the authority that issued the punishment and you might try not to do the crime when 'they' are around - so your 'bad' behaviour might be occasionally suppressed by fear of receiving further punishment. You might re-commit the 'crime' and all that happens when you are caught again is that you are punished harder. Break the rules and you will be punished - that's the traditional mindset of many schools, courts, police, parents etc. This traditional way certainly does not take into account the feelings and thoughts of those involved. Punishment is done TO you and you have no say in it.

With restorative practices simple scripts/guidelines can be used during 'conferences' - where everyone involved in the wrongdoing attends - to basically investigate
what happened, ('why' questions are not used because they are actually quite hard to answer)
how the wrongdoing affected everyone involved and
what the wrongdoer could do to make amends. (reparation)

Restorative practice goes on the premise that we cannot assume everyone understands the impact of their actions on others. We don't all readily empathise. It is about making people meaningfully face up to the effects of their actions.

It's called restorative because:

•Sense of wellbeing
•Feeling of community
are restored. When these are restored a repetition of the crime is far less likely.

Restorative practices work because people prefer it when those in authority do things WITH them rather than TO or FOR them.

Restorative practices are not about people in authority losing control - they are still very much in control of deciding what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behaviour - but they are also providing a high level of support to help the individuals involved repair the damage they have done and actually create a want in the wrongdoer to remedy the situation by helping them see the impact their actions had on others.

Restorative practices also separate the person from their behaviour. Instead of labelling people as a 'bad lot', restorative practices sees those that get into difficulties as good people that make bad decisions. It trusts people with opportunities to make positive changes in their behaviour.

It works - but I suspect there are those that would have to see it in action before they believed it. Like I have said before - just because a lot of people are doing something (punishing) doesn't necessarily make it right!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Do they have a plan?

O.K. supposing you were in charge of a country, talking completely idealistically, what would you want for that country?

Just to paraphrase: what would a successful country look like in your opinion?

If you were to really think about it you might create a list of necessaries and desirables for this successful country. You might think generally or you might take it down to what every individual might experience when they exist in that country.

This idealist ponders.....

I want this country to give everyone equal opportunities, treat everyone fairly, encourage everyone to reach their potential and live a fulfilled life. This would mean nobody lived in relative poverty and it would tackle a lot of social ills - like crime for example.

What's the plan Mr Cameron?

I'll wheel out Maslow.....

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Tea Towel

A present I gave to one of my loveliest friends: Caroline when she got married. I basically painted six tea towels with six different artists' impression of Caroline and Joe - had they painted them. I did this one: Klimt and Miro, Munch, Van Gough, Kandinsky and another I cannot remember.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Still at the top trump malarky

I am still making top trump cards and scattering them here and there. I also hand them to people so that they can use them as a form of identifucation (sp). There are now well over three hundred to collect. My sister says it's just attention seeking behaviour. I agree.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

This book does not exist by Gary Hayden

I breezed through a book shop the other day and glanced at a book called, ‘This book does not exist’ which described itself as taking you on adventures in the paradoxical. It entertained my nerdy department briefly and had I had more than a bike pump, a bottle of water and a daft look with me I might have bought it. Anyway the paradoxes I remember enough to regurgitate are as follows.

(Is it really a) Paradox? 1
A hang man says to his ‘client’ I am going to give you a surprise hanging some time during the next working week. I will hang you on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday but I won’t tell you the day because it needs to be a surprise. The hangee replied, 'well if you have not done it by Thursday midnight, I will know it’s going to be on the Friday so that won’t be a surprise. So you can’t do it on Friday. By the same reckoning, if you haven’t done it by Wednesday Midnight then I will know it is going to be on Thursday so that would not be a surprise,' and so on. ‘So', said the chap waiting to be hanged, ‘you cannot hang me.’

I like that!!!

Paradox 2
Three people went into a restaurant to have lunch. At the end the bill amounted to £30. They each paid £10 towards the bill. At this point the manager realised that the restaurant had overcharged them and their bill should have been £25. She gave five £1 coins to the waiter and asked him to return the coins to the customers. The waiter was a little dishonest and chose to return just £1 to each of the customers and pocket the remaining £2. So if each customer has now paid just £9, three lots of £9 makes £27. Adding the two pound in the waiter’s pocket amounts to £29. Where has the missing pound gone.

I had to draw a picture to ‘see’ this one!


OK I am going to brazenly bare my nerdiness for potentially the world to see and add my picture. Please continue to talk to me.

I promise to get out more.