Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The kind of puzzles I used to love as a child....

When I was a kid I used to love these kind of puzzles. I know some of them have been around for ages but I still enjoy them.......

1) A large ship is moored to a pier has a rope ladder hanging over its side. Each rung of the ladder is 2 cm in diameter and the rungs are 50cm apart, centre to centre. The ladder hangs down to the water, the water just covering the fifth rung from the bottom. If the tide rises at a uniform rate of 10cm an hour, how many rungs will be underwater after two hours? A drawing might help you find the answer.

2) What are the tree mistake in this sentence?

3) Why do white sheep in Wales eat more than black sheep?

4) Why are 2007 pennies worth more than 2006 pennies?

5) How much soil can be removed from a hole 2 metres wide by 2 meters long and 2 metres wide.

6) A scientist made an amazing discovery. He invented a liquid so powerful it would dissolve any substance known on Earth He made millions of pounds selling it for £15 a bottle. What is the flaw in this story?

7) What month has 28 days?

8) A crafty coin dealer tried to sell some coins to a keen coin collector. All the coins were dates 57 BC. Do you think the coin collector could be getting a bargain?

9) Alan decided to paint his new bicycle red and to give it three coats of paint. Which coat will be put on the first?

10) What happened in 1961 and will not happen again until 6009?

11) When is 5 half of 4?

12) What is light as a feather, but even the strongest man cannot hold it more than a few minutes?

13) On my way to the fair, I met 7 jugglers and a bear, every juggler had 6 cats, every cat had 5 rats, every rat had 4 houses, every house had 3 mice, every mouse had 2 louses, every louse had a spouse. How many in all are going to the fair?

14) Johnny's mother had four children. The first was April, the second was May, and the third was June. What was the name of her fourth child?

15) You are driving a bus. Four people get on, three people get off, then eight people get on and ten people get off, then 6 people get on and 2 more people get off. What colour were the bus driver's eyes?

Answers on a wheelbarrow please.

I find that once your head is tunes into this kind of puzzle, the answers come thick and fast.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The meaning of life - a very personal viewpoint

Most people say 42 and that's probably right. I think they'd also be just as right if they said, cherry tomatoes.

From my personal perspective -

There is no real meaning to life. This is in no way a negative thing to say. In fact, the quest for a deep meaning to life appears to throw some people into an unnecessary panic - especially around mid life.

I mean this statement in a 'huge picture' way. In a way of asking, 'what does a life amount to.'

When you unpick the legacy of most people's lives, it usually amounts to very little with the exception of what might live on in those people they 'touched' in their life time - and this can be both positive and negative. (This might predominantly be their offspring but will to a lesser extent include others.) There are those that leave a huge legacy - the Einsteins, the Curies, the social reformists - but they are a tiny minority. Few of us will achieve such a legacy. Even our minor positive impacts on the world will in the most part become irrelevant in this ever-changing world after we have gone. For example, the work I and others do now, although a necessary step on the way, will seem like an old viewpoint in no time I am sure - but it kept us occupied while we were around (and meant I wasn't free to mug people).

So if, in my opinion, there is no deep meaning to life, then I see a need to look a bit 'smaller.' And to me that is the key. I guess it's like saying, 'stop taking yourself quite so seriously!'

To those around you, you are what you give. I see what a person 'gives' as some point to their life. People give in so many different ways, making their part of the world that bit more pleasant. Some are nurturing, some create things for other to enjoy, some entertain..... I see positive 'giving' as a significant point to life.

Then there is the carpe diem train of thought - hand in hand with the phrase, 'live every day as if it was your last.' Well I might struggle with that. I think an uncomfortable restlessness comes from trying to pack a life with as many 'experiences' as you can muster. Quiet, simple and small pleasures are enough for me most days and, should I be lucky enough to die suddenly in my sleep, will probably fill my last day. It is great to create unusual memories and have striking experiences too, of course, but I also really believe it's even more fantastic to find contentment in everyday things. Our experiences will die with us after all. So seeing the pleasure very readily under our noses might be another point to life.

I also believe that life is about personal growth. I hate the idea of stagnating. Personal growth will, of course be different for everyone. There's always more to learn - skills, knowledge etc. But for me, increasing self awareness helps a person live a life more and more free from patterns and buttons. Free from the patterns and buttons that mean we continue to react to life situations in a way we have been programmed to in the past - that can in many cases mean a repetition of disastrous relationships, destructive behaviour, irrational reactions, poor interpersonal skills, wariness of others, etc. Self awareness sets you free to confidently explore a greater amount of life - more and more free from all those conditioned responses. This can also result in a greater amount of contentment. I'm in agreement with Jung on this. Good company to be in. It also gives you a lifetime's worth of work and therefore keeps you occupied because there is always more to know.

Another significant idea might be that of perspective. I feel that it is a very human condition to make ourselves unnecessarily distressed over things that really do not matter. This notion is a little out of place here but I think of it as an anti-point - what should life not be about. If you were on your death-bed, how much of what might have pre-occupied you in your time in a bad way would you conclude would have been better to have not bothered with. The ability to transcend pettiness is a pretty beneficial and healthy thing to be able to do. Many things would pale into the realms of pettiness on our death-bed - I'm sure!

I feel we are all floundering around - hopefully, often, just pleasantly. Nice innit!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Strangers Hall Museum

We went to a museum today. One that's been in Norwich all this time but that we have never made it to. Generally I am not really a museum person - not unless it's really something special. I hate to say it but unless I find quirky things, or things are explained to grab my 'social history' imagination, I get really bored.

The hall was a merchant's house started in 1320 and added to in the following centuries. The name 'Strangers' refers to those skilled weavers that came over to Norfolk from the Netherlands and north Belgium to teach their methods to the locals. The different rooms are furnished as they would be in the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries - with things rescued from different residences in Norwich. I do love social history and there were several things that grabbed my attention enough to keep me entertained. Including the following.....

A picture portraying different ages of people - that apparently were linked to different animals....and of course there's a skeleton with that morbid death fascination they had.

A stuffed bird display in the Victorian room. Just shows how fashions change. I can't imagine too many people wanting this in their dining room. I thought it was fascinating.

A beer warmer. You shove the protruding bit into the fire.

Lots of shop signs (of which these are just a small selection) that were saved from a variety of Norwich shops, from the days of prevalent illiteracy.

Butterfly = taxidermist
Sheep = all things wool
Glove = tailor etc
Eagle = silversmith

And a lovely big garden surrounded by higgledy, piggledy walls - including the end of one of Norwich's 52 or so medieval churches, right in the centre of the city.

Friday, 26 March 2010

The dynamism of language

When I deliver diversity training, I always arrive at the minefield part that is about language.

As an activity, I ask people to speculate why some people (in some minorities) might prefer the second term:

Immigrants > migrant workers
Homosexual > gay
Victims of bullying > targets of bullying
Teenage parent > teenage mother and father
traveller > Traveller

This is not an overly easy task and I stress that not every individual in these groups would have issue with the first term being used - far from it. But I use it to illustrate how complex the issue of language can be.

One of the main reasons for the difficulty in language is that it is dynamic. Some words develop negative connotations - often because of the media - and therefore these words are replaced or tuned more finely. No single person could be expected to know the up-to-date term for everything. In fact, to expect that causes people to become defensive. i.e. if you make them feel 'caught out' they will almost always say something like, 'that's political correctness gone crazy.'

The term 'political correctness' for this reason has negative connotations and therefore 'courtesy and respect,' are the terms that are better used to describe using appropriate language. Hopefully these terms will stay 'safe'!

The advice I give is:
1) Once you learn that a term might cause offence to a ‘group’ or some individuals within a ‘group’ – stop using it – even if you hear others using it.
2) Try not to be defensive if you are ‘caught out’ – we all are at some point! (And like-wise, if you inform someone of the up-to-date language that has been adopted, be gentle!)
3) Be aware that language does change – terms need to be changed if they start to have negative connotations
4) In most situations a ‘label’ is not necessary.
5) Ask – if you don’t know.

I was 'caught out' a while ago because I referred to someone as a 'person with disabilities' as opposed to 'disabled person'. The Disabled Society has had huge debates over language (like many organisations) and have gone with 'disabled person' and their reasoning was explained to me third hand. It was something like: the disabled person owns their disability and it is in the eyes of those exercising prejudice towards disabled people that make that a problem. I think I get it. But for now, I am glad I have been 'taught' the term that will hopefully cause the least offence! Some people put a lot of thought (on our behalf) into the best term to use to describe a group - so I am happy to go with their result -once I have learnt it.

Freedom of Speech

This week during training we had a debate that often pops up. The balance between 'freedom of speech' and the right people have not to be harassed and offended or anything that implies some people are worthy of less rights than others.

There is that famous metaphorical illustration that speaks about a cinema and how you could, if you wanted, shout 'fire' and everyone would rush out of the auditorium in response to your call. But in the absence of an actual fire - you would be held responsible for any harm, accidents and/or annoyance you had caused. This illustrates that - yes - you can say something but not without responsibility.

Theorectically, it's simple. We live in a society that generally values the rights of an individual to be free from abuse over the right for others to say absolutely anything they like (e.g. racist comments).

I guess the complications arise in individual circumstances e.g. a piece of art that someone interprets as offensive or a provocative comment about any group of people. Then I guess it is important to interpret between intention and interpretation, facts and opinions.

All isms are just misguided opinions that view others with less rights after all aren't they? Now that's another thought. Typical. I'll have to do more thinking. And on Friday too.

Thursday, 25 March 2010


When I deliver day-long training such as today, I like to break the day up with what we call, 'energisers.' They are brief activities I facilitate with the sole purpose of waking everyone up a bit - which is especially important in the after lunch 'graveyard slot' when you have a group of zombies filled up with more food than they are used to at lunchtime. The energisers often have the bonus of making people laugh.

I always have a few energisers up my sleeve - some are based on brain gym. For example:
You ask pairs of people to stand facing each other and:
* take it in turns to count to three alternately, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3....etc
* alternate counting to three but clap on '1'
* alternate counting to three but clap on '1', and stamp in '2'
* alternate counting to three but clap on '1', and stamp in '2' and raise the arm (opposite the foot your stamped) on three.

Others involve a little concentration - like the 'Pencil Olympics'. (You have to ensure clarity about what you have to do on this one before anyone embarks upon it or fights break out!) This was an idea I just woke up with in my head - a clue to what my subconscious gets up to.

Or the 'equidistant' energiser where you ask people to 'clock' two random people in the room without telling them who they are. Then you all stand up and try to position yourself so that you are equidistant from both the people you arbitrarily earmarked. Eventually everyone stands still. It always works - even with large numbers of people (e.g. 60).

And some are out and out silly like the one I just woke up with in my head last Tuesday - that I carried out today:
I placed two chairs at the front of the room several feet apart. One chair represented 5 a.m., the other 8 a.m.. I asked participants to have in their head the time they usually got up on a work day. I then walked between the 5 a.m. chair towards the 8 a.m. chair and said that when I arrived at the point you estimated represented the time you get up, you were to stand up and make a noise. The noise you make could be a 'yeah', a squeak, an alarm clock, and animal noise, anything - but once you have made it you keep that noise. So I walked the time line. Then I walked backwards up the time line, then I walked quickly and then we did it all in slow motion. And yes, we did laugh. I tend to find most adults do not need much silliness and abandonment from the ordinary to get them giggling.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Norfolk's secret beaches

You don't have to look hard to find a beach for yourself in Norfolk. We went to one such beach last weekend. It's called Trimmingham and it's just east of Cromer.

First you have to walk across a field and then through a little bit of wood.

Then you have to scramble down a slightly steep slope that I suspect would be somewhat treacherous after heavy rain.

And then you arrive at a beach that you have pretty much to yourself:

I actually witnessed a big clump of the cliff fall away in the distance so I would guess coastal erosion is alive and well here.

Then you collect pebbles and play with them until they inspire you to do something with them.....

Monday, 22 March 2010

Closet Pyromaniac

With two and a half house fires and a forest fire under my belt (and a few other close shaves besides) my brother (pictured left) had a theory that my subconscious lit a fire when I needed to have a change in direction in my life. Back in 1996, inspired by my most recent room combustion, he wrote this song about me.

Andy has hosted it on his MySpace - it should say by 'Mikey Potter'

www.myspace.com/andykirkham scroll down to:

'Closet Pyromaniac' (the last tune) (It starts quietly)

It give me a warm glow to know I have a song written about me, even if that song suggests a slightly destructive craziness - as portrayed well in the song.

P.S.I love my little brother. He's pretty amazing. Are sister's allowed to say that about brothers or is that counter-culture and akin to boasting? He's gone on to play and sing swing/jazz with many other musicians since.....one such (slightly old now) example is this recording from a live performance in the Chat Noir Club in Brighton.


P.P.S. Sorry that none of the links are live. My link inserter does not appear to work any more - even though it did once.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Go on ...make the effort

I hate plans. I am so far down the hate end of the hate planning/love planning spectra that it's yet another section in my freakdom dossier. So when I say 'yes' to an invite, I am happiest if there is wriggle-out space. There's always that with certain friends and certain events but I am aware there isn't with others. (Life's a teacher.)

So we were home after a day wandering round town, a meal in a restaurant and far too long in a bookshop and, quite frankly, a bit tired. What's more it was raining.

We were invited out to Henry's do. Henry used to be the drummer in our band (Klunk) and he's a quirky soul and very likeable. But we were tired and the rain looked annoying and it's not really summer yet - with it's brightness urging us to the outdoors - is it? And Henry's a wriggler himself - so he'd have understood.

So we dithered and teetered on the decision's edge. But then the whole spontaneity thing kicked in - as it usually does - and twenty minutes later we found ourselves driving up a country road with tired kids in the car looking for a place with vague directions - on the part of both issuing and receiving! Eventually, after drawing a few unnecessary patterns on country roads with a little exhaust pollution - we arrived.

And bam. One of those occasions that you were glad you made the effort for.

Wonderful Rachel Long - metal manipulator extraordinaire's barn at the end of a track in the middle of nowhere. Wonderful people to be enjoyed.

It's always good to push for adventure and novelty isn't it.

Apparently Bernard M said this was a bit too 'modern' to grab his interest. Glad he's such a discerning turkey snatcher. ha ha.

P.S. Today is officially 'Brother's Day' as declared by my six year old son.

Saturday, 20 March 2010


What is it with nostalgia?

A little glimpse of times past via a song, smell, brand of sweet, food, TV programme, advert and you get this little gooey rush. All you need is a name - especially one that you have forgotten and are being reminded of - to spark off this process.

I have been reading 'One Day' by David Nicholls. It's a really light-hearted and quite touching read about a couple over twenty years - after their first proper encounter the day they graduate. You get a snapshot of their lives on 15th July from 1988 to...well I haven't got there yet. The way they change with age - from hot-headed, slightly naive, 'it's all about 'cool' and 'passion' and grabbing at life to becoming more mature and reflective - is brilliantly done. Thing is too - they're my era - just a little older than me - so the book causes nostalgic twinges throughout.

Anyway, it was just one word that found me squashed at the end of the sofa with a warm feeling inside and a wistful smirk and that was:


Oh and half pences!
What sets you off?

Friday, 19 March 2010

Auction - bid for a friend

It's been a training-heavy week which is always interesting. I always learn something when I deliver training. I am still processing my learning in fact. Highly reflective - as ever.

In today's post, I am just going to tell you about an activity that has always gone down well - one that I did last Tuesday with a group of teachers as part of training in 'spicing up (PSHE) lessons'.

Here it is:

I start by asking people to start with a blank canvas friend. In other words, a friend that has no qualities - as yet. I then give everyone 100 Grifs, Doobles, Blibs, Knigols...whatever the currency is that day and ask them to keep a tally of how much money they have. This activity relies on a degree of honesty (and sound maths) but I actually nearly always admire the cheek of a cheat!

I then declare a quality (one at a time) and people bid for their blank canvas friend to have that quality. It is surprising how well it works. People that have been taking a back seat will suddenly start bidding frantically if the quality 'hits the right spot'. And, as people are bidding, it's actually a bit exciting!

The kind of qualities I include are:
•Good sense of humour
•A good listener

I never give the bidders a complete list of qualities so they never know what's coming up next. The reason for this is, if you bid, you know it's something you really value in a friendship. As the auctioneer, it's surprising how quickly you come to anticipate correctly who, in the room, will bid for the different qualities, as people often have quite a narrow idea of what is essential in their particular friendships. Some bid for the reliable, honest, sensible type qualities, others go for things like fun, good sense of humour, entertaining etc.

I also ask bidders to make a note of the things they bid for. It soon clarifies what they do and don't value in a friendship.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Social misfit - Part 1

I’ve always been a bit of a social misfit in one way or another but certainly when it comes to appearance. I think this particular misfit calling started with the pink National Health Specs given to me at age four in an attempt to sort out my astigmatism and lazy eye. Oh and the eye patches. They made me stand out a bit. Not the pizazz type standing out. I would also regularly break my glasses (probably passive aggressive ‘accidents’) and often they were held together by a plaster. It wasn't a look that overly helped me to fit in.

Then there was my mother’s insistence on cutting my fringe a) wonky and b) half way up my (alien bone down the middle) forehead. I know everyone has those tatty old photos with examples of mother’s coiffure love but my barely-a-fringe came with me into adolescence – which also added some greasy lankness which tended to stick it down flat. Not a great foundation to launch a lifetime's relationship with hair styling.

I also suffered from tooth overcrowding in the mouth. Until some teeth were removed and braces realigned those that remained, my face was a bit mouth heavy.

It was a good that I had personality.

But even after the face was 'remedied', I never managed to be a proper girl. Several, at various points in my life, attempted to entice me into the ‘making the best of yourself club’ by showing me how much better I looked if I had my hair cut, flicked my fringe, recognised that what I was wearing was a decade out of date and wiped the mud off my face – for example. But it never stayed with me. I really, really was never interested.

I was truly more into climbing trees, making mischief and building dens and ‘nice’ clothing, makeup and styled hair would always be wasted on me. Still would be – it’s different mischief now but dressing well would certainly inhibit it.

The point in my life when I probably took most care over my appearance was a ‘gothic’ phase in early adulthood. I had purple hair for a while but the main rule to abide by was that clothing had to be black. I guess that made things quite easy for me. A self-imposed uniform with no colour coordination concerns. I had nearly got wind of the whole colour coordination (and you don’t wear three patterns together) thing by this stage. This phase did pass though.

Then, years of, frankly, wearing other people’s hand-me-downs (often with holes) later, there was that programme: ‘What not to wear.’ I am not sure how many times I had to suffer the teaching assistants’ excitement at the idea of sending me on it to save me from myself.
‘Surely I was sad that I never dressed well? Surely I really wanted to look good but just did not know how to?’ they’d bleat again and again to me. But I would insist,
‘no I really don’t care.’ And I’d continued wearing my tracky bottoms. (One time I dressed up to show them I could – and it shut them up for a whole week.)

Now don’t get me wrong. This does not mean I don’t have preferences. If you showed me two outfits and asked me which I would prefer to wear – I’d give you an answer. And I can do a reasonable job, now, of looking smart for work although taming my hair and face and trying to leave the house crease, grease and smudge free is not my favourite bit of the day. And I can really admire someone who dresses well. I love looking at those women (and sometimes men) with their colour co-ordinated jewellery, smart clothes and shoes and stuff. It’s an art form.

Point is though - it might be selfish - but I don’t have to look at me do I?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

More bloody pondering...you should try being me..it ain't easy.

I have always thought it a funny but true concept that as people, we don't know what we don't know. In fact there's bound to be much more we don't know than we do. A humble and open mind can go much further than a closed one. Anyway - that was just a not-entirely-relevant preamble.


When people are set up as experts, sometimes if they are asked a question they don't know the answer to, you see them making something up - because they feel they ought to know the answer, rather than admitting they don't know and offering to go and find out. I suspect this is similar to a need to be right and a fear of appearing not to have absolute authority over their area. I hope I am not projecting too much!

If given the choice between a fabricated answer posed as the correct one and someone who says they are not sure but will go and find out, I know which I would prefer.

Here's an example:

Recently a teacher expressed her concern for a young child that was physically born a boy who is upset if he is treated as a boy and wants to be completely treated as a girl. In fact this child insists that s/he is a girl. Now I have come across this once before - with a child that was a bit older. The teacher asked me for some advice. I said I wasn't by any means an expert in this but that I would do my best to dig out some information for her. I could only give generic advice from what I had read so far and offered to dig out some more information for her (which I did. I also used it as an opportunity to educated myself further on the matter.)

When we discussed future actions she could take, she said that the child had already been taken to the local GP but that he had said, 'don't let him dress up in female clothing for two weeks.' The school enforced this and the child was really miserable. I winced.

And there's my example.

I have no idea what the GP thought he was doing but he clearly had not read anything about this issue. But because he was a GP (and had 'authority'), the school adhered to his advice. A GP cannot be expected to know everything, but perhaps in an example such as this, some humbleness and acknowledgement that he didn't actually know what to do - would have shown more wisdom. I also suspect the GP's prejudice played a part and he assumed the aim would be simply, 'prevention.'

Next, the teacher mentioned getting an educational psychologist in. And here was where I could advise. I said that the ed psych is unlikely to have extensive experience in gender dysphoria. You, as the teacher, will need to be monitor the keeping of this child's best interest as central to any dealings.' E.g. If the ed psych makes a similar suggestion to that the GP made, you can explain that has already been tried and did nothing but make the child unhappy. Better still, you can read information about this topic and if you feel the ed psych is floundering, suggest s/he goes and investigates rather than making suggestions on the spot. This is an example of having a little background knowledge being very beneficial.

I also spoke to the teacher about helping the other children to accept this child as s/he is.

P.S. In my reading round the topic I found a great website: http://www.mermaidsuk.org.uk (which set me off on more ponderings about how the web is fantastic for information and how it must de-isolate minorities).

P.P.S. I could write more on the topic of transgenderism, but that was not really what my post is about. I'd say understanding of transgenderism is ten years behind attitudes towards gay, lesbian and bisexual people - but it's all moving in the right direction.

P.P.P.S. If you feel prejudice towards transsexuals, or if you feel you'd like greater understanding...this letter might help evoke a little empathy.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Corners I like to look at....

My six year old son is often walking round our house with a camera filling it up with shots along the lines of a computer screen, his knee, a close up of his mother's ear, a guines pig's bottom, the remote control etc.

This inspired me to do the same. I wandered round my house taking photos of corners and things I like to look at. And this was some of the result....

Bathroom spirals and stars that are all over the walls and ceiling...

The clock centre. A shop bought one and one our daughter made from an old record, a cereal packet, a CD and milk bottle tops as part of an art project at school. I love how the numbers are wonky. Chap says one shows the time in Norwich and the other shows the time in the twenty second dimension - because they are always a little out of sync. Time runs a bit more randomly in the 22nd dimension because of the irregular spacing of the numbers.

A thirtieth birthday card my lovely friend Dayna made for me. It's made out of tissue paper, watercolour and cloth and it illustrates me sucking my thumb - which I have mostly given up - now I am a bit more grown up. Actually the same friend cut my hair short which made hair twiddling - and therefore thumb sucking - pointless.

Earring storage. I always think it's decorative.

The dragon that flies in our front room.

An experiment inspired by something I caught on TV

Daffodills from lovely Emily at work frame a photo of the family and our old band...ahh.

Chap's crazy tiling...

How a stairwell should be decorated

The two Ronnie's changing shelf

My favourtie of all the papier mache flowers....

Another joint craft project. Andy did the cork base and I did the batik shade. One of our pottier collaborations!

The Molly Potter section of the library. It makes me proud (if I am allowed to be). Not bad for a dyslexic. I notice my books are in the fairy tale section.

I just like that bit of the wall....

An example of one of our 'systems'

One of Chap's art projects...kids' shoes in a frame? Nutter.

That concludes the tour of slightly potty corners in my house. Thank you and goodnight.