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'!