Thursday, April 30, 2009

Baby #2 (!!)

My son is nine (NINE!) today.

I also took another plunge and started another 'shop' on Etsy where I hope to interest a non-UK market in my embroidered stuff.

I am really getting excited about this crafty/creative business. As I noted in my Etsy page, most of the fun is in the digitizing process.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This swine fever business

It's a bit like the British troops in Singapore pointing their guns in a southerly direction and the Japanese troops attacked from their north, via Johore, on their push-bikes.

I was talking about the bird flu a lot and now we hear the pandemic is of swine flu.

My husband is permanently on immuno-suppressant and you can understand some of the anxiety in our household. He also goes to work on the Tube every day. He is very vulnerable.

The authorities have been promoting the use of tissue paper, something about binning it after we've blown our nose. My instinctive feel (rightly or wrongly) is used tissue paper left in open bins are just as great a health risk.

Of course I have vested interests. I want people to buy my lovely organic cotton hankies (now with embroidery!!). The thing is if one is not mindful of one's hygiene, paper tissues and hankies are equally bad.

At least, one's cloth hankies are usually isolated in one's pockets.

I remember my first impression of walking into hospitals was the smell.

The smell of disinfectant every where. Where they used to take me to the dental clinic (because I had such bad teeth), there was the smell of disinfectant every where, too.

My aunt, who was a matron at the maternity hospital, she knew about cleanliness. She was the kind of person who would run fingers under beds and ledges on doors, etc, to check for dust. Hospitals were safe and clean with people like her about.

When I had my baby at the local hospital (incidentally 'baby' will be nine tomorrow), I was shocked and depressed to find dusty corners every where. I remember going to the shower room once. I left something there and I did not wish to return there to retrieve it.

I remember, too, my dad in hospital, dying from lung cancer (he was a chain smoker). If he needed to spit, he had to spit into a covered receptable half-filled with disinfectant. None of this tissue paper business.

When I was setting up my hankie business I read of the case of a woman who was visiting at hospital, dropped her hankie on the hospital floor, and who continued to use the hankie. She died or got very ill from an infection picked up by her hankie.

No, I wouldn't use a hankie I've dropped on the floor any where, much less one on a hospital floor.

Just heard on the radio some advice on masks. We used to make face masks with our hankies, or blindfolds, etc. If hankies were too small we tied rubber bands to them and hooked them round our ears, yes.

Swine flu is bad business for every one, but I cannot say that either paper tissue or cloth hankie is better. We do need to be sensible and take precaution where possible.

Meanwhile after my son declared that he did not wish to have a dead father, we decided that it's divine protection we need.

PS: Much has been said elsewhere about large-scale bird-farming and the flu. Here's a story about a pig farm (?).

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Table for one?

In a few minutes I take my son back to school -- at last, yay!

On Tuesday we went to his favourite little cafe as a treat. This is a department store cafe.

We arrived just after 11am and we could not find a seat. At last an older lady vacated her table. I took her tray back to the used trays trolley and we sat down to have our early lunch.

I looked around and was surprised to find so many people eating on their own, at tables intended for parties of four.

Were they being selfish by taking up so much room? Why not opt for a table for two?

We were resigned to having to share a table had our lady not get up just at that point.

Then it dawned on me that perhaps these people sitting on their own were hoping that others might join them at their tables.

Maybe yes, maybe no, as my son would say.

But when you are old and live on your own, a bit of conversation with a stranger in a 'safe' neutral place like the department store cafe is not a bad idea.

I remember from when I used to volunteer at an Age Concern shop, some older people would come in just for a chat. And we always chatted with them.

Meanwhile son had wolfed down his ham and cheese toastie.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Here comes the Potters

We have not changed our family name, but 'potter' is a good alternative.

We spent the Easter Term break doing what potters do, pottering, or should that be what potterers do, in which case the headline should read "Here comes the Potterers".

We've never had the guts to get away at Easter. Husband had been a regular at A&E for three or four Easter weekends in a row. Last year we managed to stay away. This year we kept clear. Thank God!

But husband did manage to get away for two whole weeks from work (yay!) and we pottered.

Caught up with son's godmother. Pottered.

Had son's mate over for a sleepover. Pottered.

Took them to the Imperial War Museum. Pottered.

Went to Kew Gardens. Pottered.

Went to Stratford on Avon. Pottered.

Now we're back! But life won't return to 'normal' till Thursday when son returns to school.

Point is: there is so much to do in this great big country. So sometimes a bit miffed by the working parents at school who complain about not getting childcare on one hand and then spend all the school holidays in some exotic place or other requiring flying for several hours.

Having said that, we are probably one of the families in school who chalk up the most miles when we do go to Singapore. But that if for "visiting relations", not to go get some sun.

The only problem with pottering is: while son and husband are on holiday, I still have endless loads of laundry to do. Load after load after load.

So glad that when we do get to Singapore once in two years, husband insists that we get the laundry done at the place we stay in. And he always insists that we clear as much washing as possible before we fly back.

No washing, cooking, etc for two weeks. What more can I ask for?

Except that we might not be doing this for some time!!! (not checked for spelling, etc because I must now get to the cooking!)

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

PC N not PCN

A few weeks ago I was served with a PCN (Penalty Charge Notice) for allegedly making a Right Turn into a section of the High Street where there was a No Right Turn.

My husband was driving and he promptly paid off the fine of £60 (reduced from £120 if paid withing 14 days or something like that) to avoid having to pay a higher penalty of £180.

We were furious but did not have the time to appeal this charge. Until we learned that another family at church made the same mistake and was fined £50 (reduced from £100).

I searched online for all kinds of related information and finally sent a letter, recorded delivery, to protest the following:

  1. That 46 days had elapsed since the alleged offence. According to my research these notices ought to be sent within a 28-day period, after which it is unenforceable.
  2. Returning to the scene of the alleged contravention, I saw that there are large arrows indicating traffic to go straight on in the left lane and a right turning arrow for a right turn into the High Street. Only when you are well into this lane would a driver be able to see the tiny signpost below the traffic light itself that indicates a ‘No Right Turn’. According to my research, “signs indicating prohibited signs at traffic lights should be next to the green light at the traffic lights and on both sides of the road”.
  3. I also checked out the scene on foot and found that there was a sign prohibiting a right turn, BUT this was placed on the kerb right in the middle of, not one but, TWO loading bays. When trying to circumnavigate parked high-sided vehicles it is easy to miss this sign.
  4. There is no signage, as far as I could see, that traffic enforcement cameras were being used in this area, which I understand is a statutory requirement.
  5. If my friend had to pay a penalty charge of £100.00, reduced to £50.00 if paid within 14 days, then my charge of £120 would have “exceeded the amount applicable in the circumstances of the case”, and a legitimate ground for appeal.
  6. My Penalty Charge Notice does not provide me with a contravention code, which invalidates it.
  7. My Penalty Charge Notice states that it is for “failing to comply with a sign indicating a prohibited turn – no right turn” but this is also confused with a sign that prohibits certain types of vehicle. It should be one or the other.
  8. My Penalty Charge Notice does not indicate the make of my car.
  9. My Penalty Charge Notice does not inform me at all of my right to view CCTV footage, and/or how to go about doing this.
  10. My Penalty Charge Notice does not indicate that I could present “compelling reasons” (but only mentioned “mitigating circumstances”) as to why the charge could be challenged.

So I was ready to do battle with the Council.

Late last week I received a letter from the Council stating that because the PCN was sent more than 28 days after the alleged infringement it should be cancelled.

Happy? Moi?

Yes, because I can now give the £60 to a more worthy cause. But not happy because it has not answered my other questions, not least of all, how could they announce in the media that the High Street is now open to car traffic in both directions when in fact it is not possible to drive into the High Street legally from one direction?

How could a street be both 'open' and effectively closed at the same time?

We keep seeing motorists trying to get into the High Street, as several of our friends in church have, simply because of all the publicity that the High Street is OPEN.

But it's not!

How much money has the Council made through these PCNs? I think it is entrapment, myself.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Women, contraception, adultery

In today's news, Pakistani Taliban flog girl accused of affair.

I learned from a friend's blog that new British citizens have a choice of not shaking hands when receiving their new citizenship certificates in Sexism, sanctioned without a handshake :

"It seems that certain people object, for religious or cultural reasons, to touching someone of the opposite sex who isn't related to them, and the citizenship ceremony has been designed to accommodate them."

But as the writer pointed out, "The British government has recently been making a lot of noise about ensuring that immigrants embrace 'British values'." In their 'test on British values' specific instructions on the status of women in Britain highlight that they are not "merely considered as sexual objects; that they are not the property of their husbands or fathers; and that men and women can interact in everyday life without its being a clandestine sexual transaction, and without calling the woman's reputation into question.

"But it seems that once prospective citizens have regurgitated all this on a test, they are free to continue behaving in ways that fly in the face of these values -- and the British government not only tolerates this, but even alters its official ceremonies to accommodate it."

A few days ago I met with a woman I used to run into at the ante-natal clinic week after week some years ago. She started coming to the toddler group I help to run with her son who is almost exactly my son's age. Then she had a daughter.

This time she was looking worried. She is pregnant again. She is worried because she has had two Caesarean sections. Then she went on to recount all the problems she's had with the contraceptive methods she was using.

Correction: make that "recount how she suffered from all the problems she's had with the ....". She suffered pain, cramps, excessive bleeding, etc.

She blames herself for this 'accident' and she's dreading the gestation and birth of this baby.

Why, I wonder, did her husband not take any responsibility with contraception?

Why should contraception be her responsibility and hers alone?

In the Gospel account we read of the Pharisees testing Jesus with "the woman caught in adultery". Where was the man if she was "caught" in adultery?

It amazes me, no it saddens me, that in this part of the world we still hear of cases of 'honour killings' and 'honour suicides' (in Turkey). Why is 'honour' vested solely on the (mis)behaviour of women?

How can it be justified that women alone should bear the brunt of punishment when there is an 'affair' or 'adultery'? Why are fathers and brothers so keen -- paranoid -- to maintain the virtue of their unmarried daughters and sisters?

My guess? Because they know full well that as men in that culture they could do whatever they wish to their women and get away with it? To reduce honour killings, these fathers and brothers must first check their own behaviour. Indeed, let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

They must first stop coveting the sexual favours of other people's wives and daughters, then they will stop feeling the constant, constant need to protect the 'honour' of their own womenfolk.

They should not fear their womenfolk shaking hands with strangers. They need not fear their wives sleeping with another man.

They should also do the honourable thing and not leave contraception to their wives, especially when there are severe physiological effects from the chosen method/s.

As far as I am concerned, 'honour' is not the strict responsibility of the women.

An afterthought: Perhaps I have said this before somewhere else on the blog. I remember well the time I was at a post-natal group. Us new mothers chat and feed our babies as the health visitor checks them one by one and weighed them, giving advice, etc.

One woman came in, covered from head to toe, with her husband.

Clearly she was not allowed to venture out of her home without her husband. What did the husband do when he was there and their baby was being checked. He stared at the mothers breast-feeding. There was no attempt to avert his eyes. He just stared in a very rude way at the women's breasts, some more exposed than others.

Maybe he was thinking why are these women breast-feeding when there is a strange man in their midst? Should they not be all gone into hiding? Well, this is a women's group, of largely breast-feeding women. We let him stay only because we were extending the courtey to his wife. He should have been courteous enough not to stare, or simply step out of the room. I found his behaviour totally unacceptable. Does he represent the type of men who expect 'honour' from their wives and daughters at all times?

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