Category Archives: social

Unique codifier

I’m not really a fan of hugely unique names for children. I think naming your child ‘Apple’ or ‘Lourdes’, even if you are a celebrity, something akin to child abuse. I’m never too sure some of the old names that went quaintly and quietly out of fashion bouncing back was a good idea either, even if I like a sense of history. (See the host of Rosies and Emelias and Gerties and Noahs that popped up for awhile)

I am starting to see the merit in giving children not too common names, even if not too unusual, as my parents somehow succeeded in doing. I also really like my surname more than Plus One’s. I tried to explain to him this is because it is far more unique in the world than his.

Lately I’m really valuing the merits of this. I am finding the projects I’m working a through pain in the backside because so many of the names on the projects are repeated. It’s inconceivable how many times a Dave and a Mark and Smit and an Addams or whatever has been repeated. Sometimes the first names. Sometimes almost surprisingly the surnames too, or variations thereof. So Smit and Smith and Smuts. Not really the same but similar enough for someone like me with an auto fill function to my email to hit the wrong person. Likewise for the first names.

Sometimes I get lucky and the wrong first name still has some relevance to the email. Sometimes the person is so out of context in terms of project and job function this results in quizzical emails back with the person on the other end clearly questioning my competence.

I exaggerate slightly quite how often this has gone wrong but if you ask me, once is one time too many.

I fully understand now why my old boss said, after we hired someone with the same first name as him, after three months of misdirected calls and a really delusional misdirection aimed at a twentysomething just starting out life with an active social life instead of a staid director in the prime of managerial hell, ‘We are NEVER employing someone with the same name as me ever again. No,’ (to the other director trying to placate him) ‘If that person really appears to be so AMAZING you want to hire him, he can bloody well change his first name if he wants to work here.’

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The things we surf

Was just debating the stuff I have looked up on the internet over the past year. And what these idiotic search engines that stalk and memorise the sites I go to must profile me out as.

My searches have included:

  • Video footage of a guinea fowl running (they cheer me up no end without fail)
  • Where is Dawid Malan the English cricketer from because with a name like that can he really be English?
  • World War 1 flying aces
  • Properties near my house
  • Places – tourist traps, hotels, transport – where I might one day go holiday if I had a sackload of money
  • Furniture
  • The option of getting an owl as a pet – specifically a burrowing owl
  • Body fat muscle ratios of women
  • How to make a yorkshire pudding
  • Restaurant menus in places I will never go eat at due to location/price/menu choices
  • How to grow various vegetables (which I have promptly never bothered to grow)
  • Random items on Amazon – rarely books – that I might one day want to own from jewellery to toasters
  • The fourth state of matter – I thought there was only gas/water/solid but the Science Museum said plasma counted (I think it was plasma)
  • Currency exchange rates
  • What time the shops open
  • Where is the bank
  • News24
  • Which universities were top in the world
  • Cellphones that could explode on planes
  • When a Brazilean musician is touring again internationally

The thing that I really resent is that these searches ARE being tracked as I’ve been getting adverts appropriate to these random searches.

Just a pity that if these people had any sense, they would realise there is no correlation between what I read on the internet and my own personal reality half the time.

 

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Human/Animal Rights

So I had a call today about an industrial unit which has basically been repossessed. We’ve always had a suspicion the rodent problem in the area may be due in part to this unit which was a ‘flour factory/bakery’ . I’ve seen reports of health and safety issues centred around cleanliness in the days when it was open.

Anyways. It’s been locked up for a few months now and at last inspection I was told there was a cat inside that had refused to leave. Although somewhat concerned about it, they were unable to chase it out and eventually decided it might be getting in and out via some other means although the unit looked sealed up. (Same as the rats)

It emerged today skinny but alive and very keen on rubbing its flea ridden self up against the guys taking stock of the situation. They called the RSPCA who, I believe, referred the case to a cat charity who said they would come past to pick up the animal. Who had clearly somehow survived on drinking water from a tap and rats/birdseed/coffee/flour/kidney beans or who knows what that the place is still fully stocked with. I assumed it was feral but the guys were informed by the neighbour this WAS actually it’s home – unlike the definitely feral furries who roam a few units down and who’ve I’ve seen lolling in the sun and doing unspeakable things in public. It had been brought in as a pest control measure by the owner who had left behind not just a fully stocked unit but his ‘rat trap’.

A few hours later I had a call back. The charity had now back tracked on coming to pick up the cat and were now claiming it had ‘roaming rights’ and should not be interfered with. We suspect the shelter might be full.

Either way. Someone tried to pick it up (fleas and all) and got scratched for his trouble. Probably a lawsuit in that somewhere if the scratches get infected. They then tried to chase it out but it wised up to its possible eviction and scuttled away. They’ve had no choice but to lock it back in for another few days until we work out what to do about all the contents in the unit, which will now include one evasive kitty.

We can only assume if it survived this long it can manage over the weekend. Even if it can’t, we can’t apparently interfere with its ‘roaming rights’ for the time being.

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Diary Reads

I have to admit I’ve often thought if I was to become a bona fide author I’d consider a diary format novel. It has the simplicity of being able to start and stop and rant at random for long or short clips as it suits you. Because that’s what real diaries probably do.

The one possible exception being Anne Frank’s diary. I’ve always found that a tedious and difficult read, not to mention depressing. Almost every entry lasts forever as she had nothing else to do except write. Poignant yes. But I’ve never managed to share the enthusiasm so many others have for the book but saying that out loud is a no-no. Like admitting you are a blatant racist who kicks puppies for a hobby.

I took the latest Bridget Jones’ Diary out the library. I detested the first book and never read the second as consequence. Funny enough, I don’t mind the movies as much. My issue with the books are they really are written like someone who can’t be bothered to put words down for eternity but feels compelled to write something down. In truth, they also read a lot like emails from a certain member of my family who assumes you already know the context of whatever the story is. And who leaves out random words that would help the flow of language because somehow this works out as ‘abbreviation’ and ‘time saving’. Bridget Jones’ Diary is written in exactly the same same style. The style of one who knows better but can’t be asked to spell check or pause long enough between brain and keyboard to ensure that all the words in their heads have actually made it onto the page.

Most of all though I detest how ridiculously sanctimoniously fortunate Bridget is. Oh, yes, of course, especially in the third book she has undergone great personal tragedy. But then many others have too. Most people do not, however, manage to live in the very centre of London (even if it is run down and noisy) by themselves in a one bed flat. They don’t manage to not only stay employed despite blatant incompetence, personal issues and hangovers but get promoted, moving steadily onto a dream job. Despite gross indecision and rash behaviour have the option of landing a few men at the same time and being given enough second and third chances to pick the right one. They don’t naturally land up being able to somehow stay on the borders of Hampstead Heath where property is at a premium playing at being scatty, bohemian and despite everything, ‘lovable’.

I remember rewatching the movie when I was single and convinced I’d be alone forever. I still have those days. The movie was screamingly more funny than I remembered because I WAS now old enough to be that singleton, which hadn’t worried me so much when I first watched it. And tragically more sad when it ended and I realised in frustration Bridge had, despite everything, landed a man, The Man. And I was still, like she was at the start, sitting on my sofa in my PJ’s, in a dead end job, single, with no clear indication how to move on.

 

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Dying Young

Plus one and I were chatting and he mentioned how old he was before he attended a funeral. It was pretty old. Like university or beyond. This seems the English way. Either they don’t know anyone important to them who has died (first world problem, people live forever!) or they aren’t ‘allowed’ to go to the funeral when they are young.

I can’t really relate to this because, culturally, I was taught memorials and funerals were the last chance to say goodbye. (And potentially my parents were just bad at finding babysitters).

One of my cousins died when I was pretty young. He was a good few years older than me but on that side of the family, the closest in age to me. He was, however, eternally adult in my eyes, two heads taller than me. I did not particularly like him. He spent his time either ignoring me or teasing and tormenting me and I remember him throwing my dog into the pool while I cried hysterically in order to prove that ‘all dogs can naturally swim’.

My mother always thought it was quite tough on him, as he was so different looking from the rest of the family, he knew he was adopted. My aunt did dote on him but her brother was always one to rub in that blood is blood and he was clearly not blood so I’m sure my cousin must sometimes have felt the slight of this. That, and growing up in a small town in South Africa in the dregs of the apartheid era where being ‘different’ probably wasn’t the best thing.

His life and his hobbies are captured in his room like something out of ‘Boys Own’ of the 70s. There are vintage cars on the curtains, a crochet blanket on the bed. A weavers nest with pride of place above it. A loud ticking clock and framed butterflies which he used to catch in the veld beyond and then mount, neatly labelled.

That was the innocent side of him. The side that teased me got caught kissing a girl in the house when he thought his parents would be out and perpetrated mischief in the neighbourhood.

Still only 17 he and his friend went driving on his friend’s farm, both underage but not a big deal in farming society. I imagine they were still inexperienced and reckless and wound the windows down and went really fast, yelling and shouting with teenage joy. The car hit some stones, rolled and the friend was killed instantly. The coroner said my cousin lived on for a bit after the crash but it is unlikely he suffered, that he was probably not conscious due to the head trauma. I’m not sure that wasn’t said to make the family feel better. Either way, both died at the scene.

It was a closed casket funeral. The body was not in any state to be viewed. The men of the family who did in order to identify it said it was not a pleasant experience. I know the funeral was not shared with the friend who died. Strangely I have no real memories, which one would expect, of my cousin’s classmates rallying at the funeral or of them standing up and speaking for the dead. I mostly just remember my family taking over the whole day, the little that I do recall.

I remember not feeling particularly sad. If anything, a little bored. And maybe a little thrilled at wearing nice clothing for the day. It’s only when I got older I wondered how it would have been if my cousin had been with us longer, would our relationship have evolved as the age gap ‘narrowed’ in the way it tends to once you reach adulthood. Or would he still have remained the elusive tease I dreaded seeing?

 

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Ageing gracefully

There is a lady who catches the same bus as me most mornings now. It sounds cruel but if one were to describe her, you are likely to use the words ‘drab’ or ‘stodgy’. Her hair is regularly coloured and clipped, but lank and limp. She’s picked up a few kilos over time and tries to hide this with dark coloured shapeless long skirts, blouses and jackets. She walks like someone who struggles a bit with her health.

If she was a bit richer or vainer, she’d probably get hair extensions and blow dries, structured designer clothing and maybe a personal trainer who would shape up her figure and add a bit more vim to her walk. If she had more natural flair (like my beloved blogger friend, Footloose) she’d just exude flair irrespective of what she was wearing. She’d give off a sense of vitality and energy. As it is, everything just seems a little bit run down for her.

My mother used to be very vain. Even when there was very little money while I was growing up she somehow found petty cash to perm and colour her hair. As she got older, she got a bit more indifferent to exactly how good her hair looked. (To be fair, she has pointed out once it thins to a certain point, it’s optimism and nothing else that will allow you to do anything with it). She’s also thrown out dressy in favour of comfy. The woman who would wear skirts so short and tight she couldn’t sit now believes stretchy pants are the way forward.

Some people never seem to cross that line between image and comfort. Some slide oh, so easily over it, even in youth.

I’m wondering which way I’d go?

It’s hard to say when elements like health, wealth and time must obviously feature in a massive way on this, unless your ego is so massive it overwhelms all of these external factors.

 

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Homeless

Homelessness is a growing problem. What with refugees and economic migrants escaping into ‘safe’ countries then falling through cracks, ex-military staff, people escaping abuse, drug addicts, the list goes on and so does the list of homeless.

I once thought if I was ever about to become homeless I would use the last of my savings to buy a ticket to somewhere permanently warm and verdant, like the north of Brazil. Where I would require less clothes to sleep on a beach and be able to poach coconuts from neighbouring trees.

Apparently there is a growing list of people who may hold jobs but still not be legally living in sheltered accommodation and paying rent. Difficult conditions, especially in the northern hemisphere where, this weekend for example, the sun shone gloriously and the frost sparkled underfoot as we ran through the park. But sitting freezing in the park overnight… that may be a different story.

This weekend I got on a train and immediately thought, I need to move seats. But unfortunately, have been in Britain just long enough, my blunt SA self would not kick in to allow me to very obviously get up and move half a carriage down from a man passed out face down across two seats. He smelled vaguely of sick and someone who had not properly been (literally) face to face with hot water and soap for awhile.

What was worse was when he finally got up and started scrabbling around in his bag. We all pretended we couldn’t see him. As much as it is no doubt terrible to be stared at, perhaps it is worse when people act like there is an invisible black hole around you.

He was scrabbling for a cigarette and succeeded in lighting up a stub of very ‘fragrant’ tobacco, causing a bunch of us to choke. Still we said nothing although we all stared at each other shifty eyed. None of us looked at the Problem however. You could see us thinking, ‘Maybe he will go away soon? What if he gets violent if I ask him to stop? Is someone else going to do something?’.

In the end the Problem resolved itself in that the stub only had a few drags in it and Mr Man stumbled off the train shortly after.

But I felt embarrassed how I had handled the Condition of Being Alive. The same way I am slightly embarrassed and irritated that, after texting a man to donate to him quite a good oil heater and having someone meet him to hand it on (it’s very hard to donate electrics in the UK, they need to be safety checked and ‘normal’ people have gas/central heating with no need for oil heaters), he, who is on some dodgy verge of being homeless, although has somewhere to plug this heater in, promptly bombarded me with requests if, please, Sister Juliet (that is NOT me but the person who put me in touch with him), I had blankets and warm clothing to help him out. On top of my work place looking for help for Syria.

I have more coats than I really need. And I can say I worked hard to have them, therefore deserve them. I have enough food in my belly. I could drop a few coins a few times into a number of hats that may or may not convert to food or drink. But where does it end?Others would say, there, but for the grace of God, it could be me so should I not be sharing them? As my eyes slide over that space where ‘invisible’ lurks…

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Not Indispensable

Part of being human is the intense desire to prove worth. To be worth something. The ego desires acknowledgement of the impact your life has made on those around you. And hopefully in a positive way, not a mass murder Columbine way, most people want to be remembered when they are gone.

Sounds extreme?

Yes.

But even on a smaller scale than life or death, it’s what we want. We start families believing being a parent creates little dependants who need you for everything. It makes us feel special. We own pets knowing we are the centre of their furry/feathered worlds. (If fish float your  boat, I’m not exactly sure how this works out for you although admittedly your screensaver behind glass is more dynamic than mine.) Sad is the human who did not realise one day their children will grow up and need them less. That pets can turn on you and bite if ill treated.

The thing is, we take this same attitude into work. Into jobs without soul, without fulfilment. With colleagues who annoy us and bosses who don’t understand us. And, for the most part, we persevere. Age, circumstance, experience (or lack thereof) meaning very often we try outlast the job. We tell ourselves it’s about stability, promotion, that we are ‘invaluable’. Sometimes our companies feed us the same lies, ‘we couldn’t do without you’.

The fact is, no one is truly indispensable. Not in a work situation. No matter how important you think you are. Empires may fall and rise as despots and leaders are executed or rise. But when they vanish, humanity does carry on and nature finds the vacuum.

That is not to say you shouldn’t enjoy your work and be important and significant in it. That you won’t change lives and make a difference to many.

You just have to remember it’s still just a job. It’s only a part of who you are as a whole.

And more importantly, if you hate it, yes, perhaps it’s not easy to change your circumstance. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. And the surprisingly thing when you do is how many of those people who told you they couldn’t do without you will understand and let you go with greater ease than you thought.

Sometimes because they didn’t like you and are glad you are gone. But sometimes because they are your friends and glad you are going somewhere better.

 

 

 

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Sterotypes

I had to work late last night and as a rule if you commit past a certain hour the company is obligated to get you food. Issues with the usual delivery company and a credit card followed by a long wait time resulted in a decision to rather do a takeaway from the local Vietnamese restaurant.

One of the guys went off to pay and collect the telephone order – quite a big switch from our usual impersonal internet order with delivery.

Later in the day I made a factitious comment and then apologised that it was bordering on racist assumption.

‘That,’ said my colleague, ‘is nothing. Do not send an oriental guy in a white shirt to pick up an order at a Vietnamese restaurant. I stood for ages at the bar and all the staff just ignored me. But customers kept coming up to me and waving their arms in the air for the bill, like I worked there or something.’

On the upside, the food was good, still warm and the order was correct which is more than I can say for the delivery company.

Oh, and we didn’t have to tip.

 

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Evolution

I never really have time for soap operas. It therefore horrifies me every time I go home, for some mystical reason my mother persists in watching things like The Bold and the Beautiful. What is even more alarming is how many of the characters, literally decades down the line, persist in the programme despite having already had relationships with every possible person in the cast who is not direct bloodline to them.  Talk about a guaranteed job for life.

Besides the fake floral sets and the copious Botox, one of the things that never really makes any sense on soap operas is how, in the twenty first century, noone seems to understand how cellphones work. If people just called each other and communicated a bit more there would, of course, be a lot less intrigue.

It’s things like this that have made shows like the BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ interesting as, being set in contemporary time, a very clever set of rewriting was necessary to allow Sherlock to be a modern man using technology while still holding the intrigue created from the past. Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie both wrote the great whodunnits in times when the telegram was an advanced form of written ’email’. (‘Telegram? What’s that?’ I hear the millenials shout) When telephones were genuinely not the first option for communication. Often the delays caused by the alternative means of conveying information, the reliance on newspapers, the awaiting of the written word in the form of a posted LETTER are what allowed murderers to think they could get away with their crimes.

I don’t actually think the texting children of today would be able to write mommy a letter without their fingers developing some kind of sprain although their thumbs may be overdeveloped from all the texting on the phone.

Of course, one would be excused into thinking if, therefore, we have all these clever means of staying in touch, we should be more connected than ever. Never mind that most people have no idea what their Facebook friend is really feeling beyond an update to 300 other people telling them ‘I just ate a cupcake’. Never mind that divorce rates are higher than in previous centuries as we all believe we have the freedom to leave if it’s too hard to work out. Never mind that people are in therapy and on prescription drugs with greater ease than before.

No, we are in better touch than ever before. I know, because I got a ‘personalised’ email from my online retailer telling me so.

 

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