Sunday, October 29, 2006

A second car? You must be joking!

Everything in the house belongs to 'Mum and Dad'. But the car is 'Daddy's car'.

Somehow I can never think of the car as 'our car'. It's long, it's wide, it's a gas guzzler.

It also sits on our front drive for most of the week doing precious little. There's the weekly shop and the airport run for our hordes of visiting relatives ... well they do seem to visit all at the same time.

When son was in a push-chair, I pushed him everywhere. Then he started school and I found myself driving everywhere, and putting on weight, and feeling a lot less fit.

So I've started walking every where again. I feel much fitter and I get to meet more people, talking and chatting with my neighbours, etc.

I hate 'Daddy's car' and avoid driving it as much as possible. I have not driven it through a width restriction as I am almost certain that I would bash the mirror in. Being rather short, I have the seat pushed up right to the front to reach the pedals, but then I can't get the shade down when the sun shines into my eyes.

Also, I can't see where the car ends. It's true! I can't see where the bonnet ends. Reversing is a 'I hope I don't bump into anything too solid' job.

That, I think, is why you see so many small women drive those big four-wheel drives. They are able to see better, but few drive any better as a result of this. They just hope that other drivers would avoid them because they are so huge and intimidating.

Husband suggested that we bought a second, smaller car.

'Whatever for?' I've been saying.

It would just be a second car sitting on the drive as I still do not need a car except for the occasional journey I need to make when it is too far or too dark for my son to walk.

The only people who would benefit would be Mr Brown and the insurers.

Two things have persuaded me to re-consider a second-car option. The first is that my business is outgrowing our house. I will soon need to move to proper premises, or at least put some of the stock in storage somewhere else.

At the moment my 'school run' consists of a two-minute walk round the corner. Come next September, however, son will be required to do Games two afternoons a week at a location which will be too much for him to cover on foot at the end of a long school day. (He would still only be seven.)

There is a very good chance that I might be getting business premises across from these playing fields next year. A car will then become necessary to shift goods, equipment, etc between home, office, post office, etc, apart from picking up son (and possibly a mate).

So the hunt for a second, smaller, narrower, more eco-friendly car with enough room for goods and boys (even if not together) began.

I went to test-drive an electric car last Friday. It will be exempt from road tax, although it would still require insurance. It appears that I would also get free parking in 'controlled parking zones' (still checking on this one). The news from the business tax angle also sounds good.

Because the driver's seat is over the battery I actually appear to see much further from this driver's seat compared to 'Daddy's car'!

So, we're look set to get this little runaround -- glorified golf cart to some extent -- with ZERO carbon emission and I am getting rather excited. A green car for a green business. (Except that it would probably be silver, with advertising plastered all over it!!!!)


(And then to persuade husband to give up his car.)

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rant about Mobile Phones

Husband and I went to see our accountant last week to sort out our tax.

I'm a bit of what Singaporeans would call 'sua-ku', meaning 'mountain tortoise' with a very limited view of what life is all about. I don't often travel on the Tube now. (I used to have to Tube and bus to and from work. Tedium.)

The thing that struck me was the sheer number of people, especially young people, walking about with their ears glued to a mobile phone. OK, a mobile phone glued to their ears, maybe.

'How soon,' I asked,'would we have babies born with mobile phones stuck to their ears?'

'Don't be silly,' said husband. 'You know that is never going to happen. What might happen is that they would be born with ears modified to fit with the shape of the phone.'

'Ha-ha,' and a few minutes later, 'What about babies born with elbows crooked to keep their phones in place?'

People do not sit and wait any more. As soon as they sit down, out comes the phone either to ring or text: WHERE ARE YOU?

Whilst we used to make provision to be punctual at appointments, many now think that they could just phone to say, 'Sorry, stuck in a jam.'

Many do not realize that time is still being wasted, whether or not one knows the person he or she is meeting is going to be late.

I must confess to being a people-watcher. I love watching people watching people. That's my 'job', to a certain extent, as a social scientist (when I am not being 'Hankie-Lady').

Now people feel ill-at-ease if they have to sit for a moment without doing anything. The phone comes out, even if just to play games. Why waste time by doing nothing when you can do something?

Just because I APPEAR to be watching the world go by, it does not mean that I am REALLY doing nothing. I think, I explore ideas, I explore a connection of ideas, I multi-task (thinking about what to cook for dinner, eg), and so forth.

Is it necessary to be 'connected' all the time? I quite like to switch off from work when I need to. Sure, I have a mobile, but it is only a means of communication between family members in times of emergencies.

The mobile phone is something that has ostensibly freed us to do some things when in reality they have chained us to our work. It has made it more difficult for us to compartmentalize our lives.

Which is better? There was an occasion when a colleague went on holiday. He refused even to disclose where he was going. When 'his' work needed urgent review, action and decision (by a printer, in this case) we were at a total loss.

It meant that those of us not on holiday had to put all our own work on hold to sort out the mess he left us in. I felt that was very unfair to us.

At another place of work, before the advent of the mobile phone, we often made exhaustive lists of where we could be located in times of emergencies while on holiday. Colleagues were briefed on matters which might crop up in our absence.

This was critical when we worked for corporate clients. Sometimes only we have the information required by a client to make some crucial time-sensitive decisions. But colleagues and clients respected our time off and did not phone if things could wait till after the holiday.

These days, some working parents are on-call 24/7 even while on holiday. That is what I would call a paradigm shift.

No wonder their children feel that they too must have a phone plastered to their ears.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Raising Boys ... and Girls

After my last post I realized that some readers might think that I am really old-fashioned. What do you expect but for 13-year-old girls to be rowdy?

I don't know about that. I wrote this next section in my son's school newsletter recently:

As I mentioned books for mothers last week, I should also mention a very good book for both mothers and fathers: Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph.

Biddulph divides boyhood into three parts. Age zero to six: the boy ‘belongs’ to the mother; age six to thirteen: their father becomes the ‘hero’; from thirteen onwards, with the second surge in testosterone, boys wish to ‘declare their independence’ and look for influences outside the home.

This division makes a lot of sense to me as a social anthropologist. We know in many ‘pre-modern’ societies, boys reaching puberty are taken away to undergo special tutelage by their fathers (and often mothers’ brothers). They go through a stage of ‘liminality’, of feeling ‘between and betwixt’. Then, when their training for manhood is complete, they undergo an ‘initiation’ to complete this ‘rite of passage’, after which they are treated and respected as men.

My earliest research was on adolescent girls. I concluded that these girls found it hard to be ‘adolescent’ because they are sometimes deemed adults (‘you are responsible for this’) and sometimes considered children (‘… because I’m your parent!’). This emotional turmoil has given rise to much literature about the ‘sturm und drang’ (translated loosely as ‘storm and stress’, for alliterative effect, I understand) in adolescence. There is no equivalent to the ‘rite of passage’ in most modern/western societies. Biddulph suggests an interesting modern version.

From age six to thirteen, the father (I hasten to add, in many matrilocal societies, the mother’s brother plays this role) is the hero. A chapter is devoted to what fathers can do with their sons. As for mothers … it appears that we must learn to withdraw … which is the perfect excuse for me to put my feet up with a nice cup of tea as I send my husband and son out for some ‘bonding’!

So in my mind, my son's 13th birthday celebration will also be a rite of passage. We will take him to a nice restaurant. He would dress up smartly with shiny shoes and all that.

We will go to a fine restaurant offering proper food, not just the 'kids' menu', but 'grown-up food'. He would choose from the elaborate menu with names of dishes probably in French or Italian, but his Latin would help him understand most of what is printed. No problem.

Then Husband and I would congratulate him for reaching young adulthood and talk about his dreams and visions and what he would like to achieve for himself. What contingency plans would he have if his first options do not work out?

And don't forget that Mum and Dad will always be there. We will be his friends, forever.

Importantly, by this time he would have had frank and open discussions with Mum and Dad, either alone or together, concerning the morality surrounding sex, marriage and accompanying matters.

If son chooses to have a noisy party where they eat finger foods, he would have to pay for it himself.

Likewise I think it is completely wrong that 13-year-old girls are allowed to party like they are merely more physically mature versions of themselves from five years before. With age comes responsibility, and responsibility also means being mindful of other people in their presence.

Back to Organic-Ally.

'Rite of passage' thinking must be catching. According to the Times Cameron proposes a 'rite of passage' to adulthood at 18. But I think 18 is too late.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Girls Aloud -- very loud

Been feeling a bit down with the cold. Husband has been working the weekends. Son has got a golf lesson to attend. So we decided to eat at the restaurant where the golf lesson was taking place.

For the first half hour we could not hear ourselves think, let alone talk.

A few metres from us were a group of 14 to 16 young girls at a birthday celebration. They were talking so loudly -- you would think it was a hen night party -- with the birthday girl's brother and parents looking on.

Shrieks, screams, loud raucous laughter. Noise.

The parents looked on and even joined in conversation, sometimes shouting across the table. I stared and caught the attention of one young girl, but she pretended that she didn't see me.

Then I caught the eye of another diner and he shook his head in disgust. Our meal at this otherwise good restaurant was ruined.

Girl's father came back with a bin liner of birthday presents. Girl opened the presents in turn. I saw a card which declared that it was her 13th birthday.

Thirteen? And they are already behaving like that? Goodness! What would they be like at 18 and 21, I dread to think.

'If I had a daughter, she would be in serious trouble if she behaved like that,' I said to my husband.

'Pardon?' He couldn't hear me.

'Plebs,' he muttered at some other point.

When finally the girls went (and I felt like applauding), I noticed the father driving off with the son in a sporty looking car. Then the mother and daughter drove off in the green Jaguar we had noticed earlier was parked over two parking spaces.

'That says it all,' husband philosophized.

Welcome to the "don't-care-about-other-people" generation. Mark II.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

P&P ... again

Finally, the new structure is 'sorted' and put in place. I hope customers are happy with this.

I have 'agonized' over this for some time as you can see here.

Occasionally I still get the odd combination of purchases that make the postage unfair to either the customer or myself. Thankfully, these are few and far between.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Busy Bee-zy

The past few weeks went by in a bit of a whirl.

I spent a lot of time looking through someone's doctoral thesis. His PhD and career depended on my input, so I felt I needed to give it some attention.

Which meant a lot of other work could not be done. Including setting up the new P&P system for the Organic-Ally website.

Never mind, things are 'slowing down' a little. It is less of a 'blur' now.

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