Friday, 28 October 2011

Crippled by Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Five Food Qs

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) If you could design a your perfect food,

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

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

Monday, 22 August 2011

Sinking medieval churches

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The British Riots by Carl Jung - I think.

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

Are the harsh sentences justified?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

My ramblings on the riots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Two basic societal set ups.

OK I'm still on about:

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

I do love a bit of evolutionary psychology.

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK so who do I write the letter to?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Self esteem clarified for me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Saturday, 23 April 2011

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

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

Saturday, 16 April 2011

FoodCycle Norwich Launch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Hard wiring

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

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

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

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

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

High agreeableness
(as in The Big 5)

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

Low neuroticism
(also as in The Big 5)

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

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

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

Sunday, 20 March 2011

I sent a box in place of me

This Friday chap was playing in Jurnets Bar

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

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

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

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

The 'me' she got was:

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

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

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

A country's empathy quotient?!

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

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

Anyway it got me thinking - linked to my post Sustainability

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

I know there is a Corruption Perception Index

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

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

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

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

Anyway, I suspect an academic somewhere has done this!

Saturday, 12 February 2011


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

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

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

Talking (by Martin Figura)

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

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

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

Acrostic (by Martin Figura)

Now the birds sing
I am gifted each
Clear note

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

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

Friday, 11 February 2011

FoodCycle Norwich

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

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

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

It does this to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

FoodCycle Norwich

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Sustainability ...oh I don't know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 7 February 2011

Norwich - Narch - Norritch

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


Friday, 28 January 2011

Sigh ...bored of myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

We all have either,

• Sensation
• Thinking
• Feeling or
• Intuition

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

Imagine one of each type witnessed the following scene:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Myers Briggs type 1st 2nd 3rd 4th

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

Myers Briggs Spectra


Myers Briggs and communication

Thursday, 27 January 2011

A tickle from the past

I am aware that my chap is a little odd. I wouldn't have him any other way. However, there is odd I admire (quite extensive and diverse) and there is also odd that is so beyond my comprehension, it drives me to pull faces. That is probably why said fellar strived to keep one of his collections hidden from me for years. It was his considerably voluminous tin can collection.

Started in 1978, he collected every different type of can his young self could lay his hands on. Not composed of just soft drinks, his collection is evidence of considerable alcohol consumption. I can hear him now, 'it's all for my collection...hic.'

Anyway, it wasn't so hidden once we had moved house and it was agreed that the cans were to be sold on ebay - if they could be. These days he rarely leaves the house withour a cylindrical parcel prepared for posting about his person. I didn't bully him into it. Honestly. I think he's just a differnt person now.

However, out of one of his many can boxes one day came something that was to become the provocation of much hilarity, serious discussion and games. On the front they just looked like 70s styled cans of Tennents lager. Like this.

But then on the backs of the can...look at these....are you ready, brace yourself. Scroll down.


Mine is June.