Thursday, 24 December 2009

Louder than Words

As I'm visiting the library on a regular basis I decided to read some inspiring biographies. I've just read 'Louder than Words. A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism.' by Jenny McCarthy.
She writes; this is not really a book on autism but a book about faith.

The person that Jenny reveals in the book is very different from the person she portrays in her picture on the cover and the person that she portrays as a 'minor celeb' as she calls herself.
She has long blond hair and bright makeup, but her writing reveals her to be someone who is in touch with her inner guidance, who talks to God often, asking what she needs to be learning from the situation she finds herself in. She didn't notice that her two year old son didn't hug her and give physical affection because she always felt the love his soul was sending her. She physically felt the seizure her child had on the two occasions he seized when she was hundreds of miles away. She shows amazing tenacity in finding answers to her child's health problems, not giving up even when she was breaking apart. Her determination to do whatever it took to heal her child even though she was the bread winner in her family. Her husband was less than supportive (in common with most men statistically in times of crisis with their children) but she stuck to the facts and her feelings of needing support and didn't overstate the problem. She was very restrained in her account of that side of her life. She also had an unwavering vision of her child Evan as a healthy teenager.

I would recommend this book but warn that she uses some profanity, especially when recounting her most stressful period when her child was regularly seizing and the medics wear clueless.

For those people who are interested in autism then this is an excellent book to learn about this journey to enlightenment about the treatment, which in Evan's case was successful. She also creates a pamphlet that she wished she had been given when she was first given the diagnosis.

Friday, 18 December 2009

America's Health Care?

America has a drug problem. I'm not thinking about the crack, cocaine stuff young people get and use on the streets, or the marijuana, the older generation smoke in their homes, but the drugs that are advertised all day and night at frequent intervals on the TV and in all publications.

When I was in North Carolina 7 years ago, a work colleague gave me an old TV and the girls watched a few programs regularly - The Gilmore Girls and the series about the pastor's large family. But it wasn't on much.

I'm now living in a home that has the TV on all day and night in one room and a good few hours in the lounge and sometimes in the bathroom too. I switch the set off when the person who switched it on has left the room. (Otherwise I stand there gawping at it mesmerized.)

Something I noticed about the advertisements is that they are very frequent - about every 10 minutes or so, and go on for a long time. And during most commercial breaks you will see adverts for prescription drugs.

These are very good ads. They usually run along these lines. A person (an actor who just looks like an everyday person between 40-55) will be doing some everyday task such as polishing his pickup. He or she will be talking to you as if you were a friend of theirs. They will say how they can do such and such now because they take XYZ medication. They say that "XYZ may not be right for you if you have liver disease", or some other ailment, or your asthma medication already works for you. And then they go on to list, in a conversational way, all the side effects - dry mouth, constipation etc etc, - a whole long list of things, and then end up with saying "Ask your doctor if XYZ is right for you. XYZ is right for me and now I can live my life again." A voice-over will say that the first prescription for XYZ is free, ask you doctor for details.

There are also similar adverts for medical plans where a person can review their prescription plan etc.

My point is that these adverts give the impression that needing prescription drugs is a normal way of life and you're not normal if you don't pop pills to releive you of your little aches and pains etc.

I think that a very large proportion of the population actually do take prescription drugs regularly and call themselves healthy.

When I was here before I had an occasion to get a prescription filled for one of my daughters and was really amazed that so many prescriptions were waiting to be filled at the pharmacy. There is a pharmacy in every supermarket and shops like Walmart, and there are drug stores in every shopping area. This particular prescription took at least 4 hours to get filled and there was loads of staff working very hard. I was flabbergasted.

In Britain, supermarkets have only very recently started to include pharmacies, but there is a chemist (drug store) in every shopping area. However, they have seats where you can sit and wait for your prescription to be filled if you don't have any shopping to do.

The difference is that prescription drugs are not allowed to be advertised at all in Britain. Not on the TV or in printed publications. Prescriptions used to be free to all in the early days of the NHS, but now only those on welfare get them free. Everyone else has to pay a standard fee for each drug collected.

I read that if sugar was eliminated from the diet of Americans then diseases would be reduced by 50%!

Americans think they have the best health care in the world but I beg to differ. Do these people get cured? No, even the doctors don't suggest the drugs will cure them. Their symptoms are 'managed'. A more accurate statement would be they have the most lucrative disease care.

Monday, 14 December 2009

A New Role

So now I'm a Grandma! My eldest daughter had her baby girl, Cara Isabella, in the early evening of 10th December 2009.

Cara was born at home attended by her father, and a very experienced midwife, a midwife who is not so experienced and, having moved states, is not yet registered in Montana, and an assistant who is in training to become a midwife. Helen says they were all busy and doing a fine job and I look forward to reading her birth story.

I asked Helen to tell me when she was in labour so I could pray for the event. Fortunately, she remembered I was praying and phoned me soon after the birth. I asked to speak to my new Grandbaby and she squeaked and squealed while she was being measured. She sounded delightful and happy to be here.

Two days later I spoke to her again on the phone and she stopped and listened to me! Helen said she became still and looked away from the phone with a look of concentration. How precious.

I'll be visiting them in mid January when the cost of travel goes down.

I'm looking forward to this new role. I do hope, though that we won't be living so far away from each other the whole of her life.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

WWII Veteran

Monday 7th November was the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and George put 'Old Glory", the flag of the USA outside his house.

He took me to the WholeFoods store, and at my suggestion, sat in the cafe with a coffee and snack whilst I filled the cart.

He told me later that he had sat by the door and as people passed him, several of them stopped to tell him "I sure do appreciate what you did for us," and other words to that effect. I wondered what they were referring to until I noticed he had a baseball cap with "WWII VETERAN" on the front. He also has a 'US NAVY RETIRED' cap and gets a similar response when he wears that.

This would not happen in Britain, because it's not common to own and wear baseball caps that have messages like the above. People are more reserved and don't wish to draw attention to themselves in such a manner.

I like the fact that Americans are proud to have served their country and others are grateful that they did.

I'm an unusual Brit in that I do interact with strangers quite happily and feel comfortable asking people I pass on the street how they're doing, whilst looking them in the eye.

This is probably what the personality report meant by me being an unpredictable introvert.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Introversion is Due to Biology!

Yesterday I was reading a personality test report (from that I had downloaded onto my computer and I came across this passage that explains the difference between how an introvert and an extrovert reacts to situations.

"From the instant an introvert enters the door of any party, his or her brain instinctually becomes highly active. He or she notices who is standing where, who is talking to whom, and the small changes in the expression of the person to whom he or she is talking. When many people are around, there is a lot to pay attention to. The introvert's brain becomes over- stimulated. After several hours, this becomes exhausting, and the introvert's brain feels a slight aversion to attending such activities in the near future. Introverts need a break and some time alone in order to recover energy. This aversion, dislike, or slight fear of social situations is then what people label as a personality trait called 'shyness'. The basis, however, is largely biological - a brain and nervous system that is more sensitive than average.

Extroverts, on the other hand, have a brain system that is naturally less sensitive or stimulated than average. To stimulate their brains, extroverts need to surround themselves with people, activities, and movement. They gather their energy from 'external' rather than 'internal' or self- generated sources. In this sense, too, being outgoing comes from one's biology."

This explains why, when my host talks to me whilst her television is on, I cannot concentrate on what she's saying. Even if she mutes the sound, the stimulus from the TV is still in the room and my attention is drawn to it.

Whew! It's good to have a label for it. I just thought I was odd!

Oh, I've just thought..... Isn't this part of the autistic spectrum? I wonder if people who are autistic have a score of 0 out of 100 on the extrovert scale?

For those readers who are interested, here is a small part of the report talking about how extrovert I am.

Where is your energy naturally directed? Extroverts' energy is directed primarily outward, towards people and things outside of themselves. Introverts' energy is directed primarily inward, towards thoughts, perceptions, and reactions.

Your Result
• Your score of 30 out of 100 classifies you as 'moderate with tendency towards low' in extroversion.

Your Feedback
• Your mix between the traits of introversion and extroversion creates an interesting situation: extroverts tend to be more naturally active, expressive, social, and interested in many things, whereas introverts tend to be more reserved, reflective, private, and interested in fewer interactions, but with greater depth and focus. You manifest both tendencies and often waiver between the two, often for weeks at a time. This makes you interesting and unpredictable to many people.
• While you do have a social side, being around large groups of people tends to reduce your energy reserves over time. You recover energy best by spending some time alone, by having space either physically or mentally. Many people are afraid of silence and of self-reflection. You are not.
• You are observant and perceptive, viewing the world with a quiet understanding. Being so intensively observant of one's self and of others is often an automatic response - you do it without effort or intention. Your sensitivity to many stimuli, then, makes it that you need / prefer to limit your interactions, especially social. You are likely to have a select, small number of friends that you know well, rather than a large amount of acquaintances that you know only superficially.

The Moravian Candle Tea

The first Saturday in December is always the Raleigh Moravian Church Candle Tea.

The Morvian Church has it's roots in Moravia which is now part of the Czech Republic. Their beliefs and practices are similar to the Methodists. In fact when they first went to America they shared a ship with the Methodists. They went because they were concerned about the American Indians in 1735.

During the Candle Tea the church celebrates it's history of crafts and baking, by holding demonstrations of both. The hostesses for the tea are dressed in costumes patterned on a style followed by Moravian women of the mid-1700's.
They serve sugar cake and coffee (no tea in site) and demonstrate the making of beeswax candles and the trimming of them in with a red paper ruffle.

There is also a Putz which is an elaborate nativity scene. If you've ever seen model train settings run by enthusiasts and translate the detail of the modeling into the nativity scene then you will be some way to understanding what a Putz is. the one they have at this church was really lovely. The lady explaining it said that in her home theirs is extended to the different scenes of before and after the birth of Jesus, and takes up much space in several rooms. Sounds really fun for the children and the child in all adults.

The youth were demonstrating intricate paper folded 3-D stars for the tree and another lady demonstrated intricately cut out shapes for the tree too. There were other crafts of photography, knitting, sewing, baking on display, with much being sold.

However the highlight for me was the musical event going on in the sanctuary the whole afternoon. Choirs from different high schools each had 30 minute programs of Christmas music. It was wonderful. They were all of a very high standard. At the end of Cary High School's set they invited the following school, Jesse O, Sanderson High School onto the stage and they both performed the Hallelujah Chorus. It was marvelous. One choir sang most of their songs a cappella and I didn't detect a flat or sharp note at all.

Unfortunately I didn't get to see Garner or Enloe High Schools sing. This was a shame because my daughters went to those schools when we lived here before.

George, my host who drove, cannot drive at night so we had to get back home before dark.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

A Good Turn Each Day

The room I'm staying is is filled with stuff accumulated over the years by the family I'm living with. I'm slowly clearing out the things and today I came across a box of small items. Most of it is junk - old keys, hotel soaps, a box of paper clips, markers, a tub of small change and some bag ties.

I found one item, though, of great value. It's probably only worth only a few cents if that, but I wanted to pass on the value of it to you.

It's a large 'coin' with the boy scout emblem and the` words "On my honor I will do my best" on one side, and on the other is written "Secretly transfer me to your right pocket each day after your good turn has been done."

Of course this is for children, but don't we all want to do our best and don't we all feel great when we've done something for someone else? And don't we all forget when we're busy living our daily lives? This is a wonderful way to help us remember to do that good deed, however small every day. We don't need to have the coin, any object would do. A smooth amethyst or pink quartz would do and of course it helps to have pockets. But I'm sure we can find a way to remind ourselves that we still haven't done that good deed yet and need to do it before the end of the day.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Raking the leaves

(A note for those reading this as a Facebook note; if you click on the View Original Post link you'll get the pictures that go with this post. Actually my blog posts are usually way longer than what Facebook shows on the note so if you don't click the lick you'll be missing most of it anyway). So, with that out of the way......

Thanksgiving day in Garner North Carolina didn't start out beautiful but the sun came out just before midday and stayed that way the rest of the day. It was also lovely and warm in the sun.
The house is normally dull and dark even when i open all the curtains and blinds and doors. I just didn't want to stay in a dark house when it was so lovely outside. My hosts were dozing in a darkened room in front of the Telly so I went out for a walk.
I enjoyed walking down their quiet street looking at all the houses and gardens (sorry, 'front yard's as they call them here).

When I got back I decided to do something useful that enabled me to spend the afternoon outside. I decided to rake the leaves.

As you see there are loads of them. Two weeks ago George hired a guy with a strong blower who cleared the front yard of leaves but there were still loads on the trees and so they came down and covered the place again.

The trees are mainly American oak trees in this yard. The leaves are a little larger than the British oak and some (as you see here) are enormous. But these are the exception.

So here I am with my rake ready to start work. Their neighbour, Pat, came round to give some cranberry bread that she'd made and offered her electric leaf blower. I accepted and she took the picture on my phone (can't use it to phone here but it makes a good camera).

I couldn't get the hang of the blower and came to the conclusion it was best for a fine sprinkling of leaves and not for a the many layers we have in this yard. So back to the rake and cart. (pic of pile and cart)

A few hours later I'd raked half the yard and driveway and decided to stop.

The leaves are piled at the road ready for the municipal vacuum to suck them up. I hope it comes before the wind does.

If it's a nice day tomorrow I might do the rest of the yard. I'm a fare weather gardener and only really enjoy 'yard work' as they call it here, on lovely days.

My hosts had bought ready prepared items for the Thanksgiving dinner form the local store. Each item had a massive list of ingredients - something I'm careful to avoid, so I'll just have a little bit.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Reflections on a Summer Morn

One morning in August I had an experience that I wanted to blog, but as I was very busy that day and had no time to get on the internet I jotted it down on a piece of paper to post later.

Now is the 'later'. I've just come across the paper:

At 7:15 this morning I saw an amazing sight.
The sun shone through the leaves of a tree and projected a moving picture onto the wall through the open window.

There was no wind. The leaves were the shadow and the sun was the light but there was movement showing within the light. Something was emanating from the leaves. It went in all directions; up down and swirling around.

It took me a while to work out what it was until I came to the conclusion that I was witnessing the evaporating vapour of the dew on the leaves as the sun warmed each drop.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Jeff's Room/My Room

The room I'm staying in is less like a cave now that I've managed to get to the windows and opened the curtains.
I've also sorted all the towels, and face cloths, putting most of them in black bags in the basement so I have room to store other stuff, like my clothes.
This household has about 150 facecloths, 100 small towels and more than 50 large towels.

My hosts had a visit from their son's family this weekend. I asked him to open the windows as I couldn't budge them and like to have fresh air. His children, now young adults, spent many a summer at their Grandmom and Granddaddy's house. They joked, when they saw the room I'm in, that they didn't know it had a carpet, (or the table in the dining room was made of wood).

The son told me that I could throw out of give away anything in th room that belonged to him apart from his yearbook, which he's not been able to find for years. Shame he couldn't have done all that chucking out years ago, then he probably would have found his book. - and his grandchildren would have had a more comfortable stay each summer.

It's lovely to see such a loving and close family. They drove 5 hours each way to visit for a short weekend, and cleaned the leaves off the roof while they were there too.

Martha Beck

I downloaded a happiness lesson from Martha Beck's site. I was shocked to hear her children are grown now! Why is it that when I read a book I expect time to stand still for those written about? Adam, her son with Down's Syndrome, doesn't talk but communicates to her, she says, via dreams.

She is a little off the wall. She said that a few years ago she had accomplished all her dreams and so she thought it was probably time for her to leave this life. She thought that the reason she couldn't see what she should do in the future is because she would be dead. So she doubled her health insurance and got her affairs in order. Then she went out to Africa. And found another dream to work on.

She said "I'm too old to keep pretending I'm not crazy". When Adam was small he kept showing her dreams of Africa. She painted a picture featuring the dreams she had with a portrait of Adam in it. She said to him. "Do you remember sending me these dreams?" and he blushed to the roots of his hair, he had a big smile and he said "yeah".

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Joy Diet

I picked up a book at the library that I thought might help me write my website. It's called "The Joy Diet" by Martha Beck.

The author's name seemed a little familiar and then I realised she wrote a wonderful book called "Expecting Adam" about her pregnancy of her 2nd child who had Downs Syndrome.

She is now a life coach, so having a feeling of already knowing her I decided to read the book.

She has a chatty style and gives a 10 step program to becoming more joyful.

I haven't read the whole book yet, but have bobbed around the chapters and note that creating connections with people demand a willingness to risk being hurt, and willingness to be truthful with yourself. I'm wondering about my not being a 'people person' and thinking that I need to do her 10 steps.

The first step she recommends is to do nothing. For at least 15 minutes each day. For only then, can we hear that still small voice within.

Sounds like good advice to me so I'm off to do nothing.

Being Interested in Others

I read 3 chapters of Mansfield Park, but Marjorie said she had difficulty understanding who was who. I can identify with that. If I hadn't seen the film I would also have trouble. So I went to buy a DVD of it for her.

The store Best Buy had none in stock but very cleverly encouraged me to order it online at the store from them to be sent to me by post. This way they don't mss out on a sale.

After I had read the 3 chapters Marjorie expressed a wish for me to tell her about myself. She said she didn't really know me.

This got me thinking. Why hadn't I told her much about my life? I've heard myself tell people my life story more than once, yet I don't talk about myself when I'm with her.

The answer could be that she has not asked me questions about myself, has not seemed particularly interested in me. She has asked a few times how the girls are, but has not asked anything specific about them.

I have a friend, Maggie who I used to visit maybe once a year and each time we met I was always amazed that she remembered the details about my family and asked pertinent questions about them. She was genuinely interested and this made me realise that I was not so generous in spirit.

I will talk away about my favourite subject (myself) to anyone who is interested, but not if the recipient isn't.

So what do I do? She wants me to talk about myself she says. Today during our conversations I injected some anecdotes about my own life that were relevant to the conversation but she didn't seem to be interested in what I said.

I know that we are surrounded by people who mirror us and I've seen in myself a self centredness that I'm not proud of. I think it's time I changed.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Interpreting What People Mean

G&M have been telling me I'm doing too much and I've eventually realised what they mean by this.

They mean "Your doing too much other stuff and need to spend more time with Marjorie". Ah, but I prefer cleaning. Hm, I guess this is what I need to learn in this situation. Marjorie is a lovely lady but I'm not particularly a people person when it comes to interaction.

I watched the film Nanny McPhee on TV with her. I'd not seen it before and enjoyed it. Well, I enjoyed the parts that were the actual film. About a third of the time was taken up with adverts. (I'm not a fan of British TV but I think I prefer it to the US version.) It seems that British TV has twice as long gaps between adverts and half the time devoted to them within each slot. It's not easy to follow the plot with so many and such long interruptions. Fortunately Marjorie muted the set during each break so we could converse.

I'm going to read her Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I think we will both enjoy that.


Entering many British libraries, the visitor is confronted by the following notices;
"No Smoking"
"No dogs"
"No phones"
"Turn off phone"
"Please do not eat or drink in the library"
".............. libraries (or council) accept no responsibility for loss or damage of personal property"
"No public toilets"

This does not seem very welcoming in my opinion. However lovely the people who work there are, I still don't feel welcome in a British library.
If you want to use the computers, you have to sign a long list of don'ts also.

Down the road at Asda supermarket car park I notice a refreshing change of attitude;
"Although we take every care to protect your car and belongings we regret that we cannot take responsibility for them."

Although, when distilled, both disclaimer notices give the same information they give two different messages.

Asda is part of the Walmart group of America. I don't particularly like shopping at Asda partly because of the music they play but I've been impressed with their customer service.

The libraries that I've visited in the USA (3 of them regularly) have a very different atmosphere than the British libraries I've been to (too many to count).
Two of the libraries on the USA, and several in the UK, have been new buildings.

I'm sure you can guess that I prefer the US ones.

I was very surprised, though that the well endowed library in Garner NC, doesn't have the book "What Katy Did" by Susan Coolidge on it's catalogue. Funny that England has this American classic children's book readily available in libraries and book shops. Yes, it is old fashioned but it has a wonderful message that (seemingly justified) self absorbment and self pity leads to unhappiness whereas selflessness leads to happiness.

I haven't noticed that British libraries offer the facility of WiFi with plugs to power laptops. The 3 US libraries I've visited have this very useful facility.

It is also normal for children to be tutored in the US libraries, within the children's section. This offers a neutral and safe place for both parties, with the advantage of resources to hand.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Crochet Time

I started crocheting a blanket about 3 or 4 years ago when. Helen had a particularly cold bedroom and she spent time in it whilst studying. I was staying with her and Claire for Christmas, on a visit from Kuwait. I then took it with me to my my mother's so I could feel productive whilst we chatted.

Helen never got it because it's still not finished. It seems I don't do enough chatting. I knew i'd be wanting to do something whilst I chatted with Marjorie so I brought it with me. I also brought two other projects along because Marjorie is housebound - mostly bed bound, and I knew she would enjoy chatting with me.

Crochet is something that requires very little attention and thought, so it's a perfect activity to chat by. I know that extroverted people would feel a long chat was time well spent. But as an introverted person I feel I've wasted time if I've spent time only chatting. I know that chatting can be a useful activity and so as a compromise, I like to do some sort of fabric craft at the same time.

Interestingly, the converse is also true. I rarely crochet as an isolated activity. I feel the need to also have some input using my hearing, and maybe sight, and will listen to a lecture, (or dictation) or even tutor a child who just needs some prompting whilst doing their homework set by their school.

I must say I rarely follow a complicated pattern because then I would have to concentrate solely on the piece of craft.

Being Offline

Being offline at home has it's advantages. I don't get distracted from stuff I need to do by Facebook or an email newsletter etc.

To save time at the library when I go, I'm writing several emails offline onto a notepad on my MacBook, keeping them in a file of my desktop, and will paste them into emails.

I'm also writing these blog posts as I go along.

The plan is also to write some web pages but I haven't done that yet.

G&M, being retired, don't stick to a timetable and get up late and M keeps telling me to have a rest. But actually I don't think I'm doing much for them.

G was amazed at the grocery bill yesterday, but they're enjoying the meals I'm cooking.
So far they've enjoyed real beef burgers, chicken pesto casserole and chicken korma. They've not had organic meat before and G was amazed at my asking about the origin of the meat I'm buying and reading the labels of everything I buy. He's enjoying learning about the difference between 'natural' and 'organic' produce. Natural produce doesn't guarantee the absence of GM (genetically modified) foods.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Back in North Carolina

Monday 9th November 2009

Arrived at George and Marjorie’s house in North Carolina USA, 19 hours after leaving Liz’s house in Reading, England. The plane was delayed taking off from Heathrow and there was a little boy on board who was ill with a high temperature the whole journey. This meant, of course that we were delayed in disembarking at Toronto due to him having to be checked for swine flu. Fortunately his test was negative. However it did mean I missed my connecting flight and had to wait 4 hours for the next one.

It was very fortunate that there was another one that day, and the people at Toronto airport were such lovely and helpful people.

I knew the bedroom I would be sleeping in would be crowded with things, but it was actually much more so than it was 7 years ago. The only access to the bed was one corner at the end of the bed (and I mean just the corner – none of the side or end was free). I cleared the bed of clothes and bedding and pillows and lay the bedding I was using on top of a bedspread. There was no way I could tuck anything and I had to stand on top of the bed to sort it out.

It was fortunate that I had a comfortable bed in a warm house owned by friendly people.

I went to sleep at about 1:00 a.m. NC time and woke up at 4:30 a.m. needing the loo. Couldn’t get back to sleep so got up at 6 a.m. and did my devotions and preparations for writing paid lesson plans for a teacher.

Tuesday 10th November

George took me to the Whole Food Market in the morning to buy me some food. The diet they have is typically American and processed, so there was no food in the house that I could eat because I eat organic low carb vegetables with organic meat and a fat source such as nut butter or nuts.

The enormous American Refrigerator was jam packed with not one inch available for my purchases. However, when I cleared it out there was plenty of room, because much of the contents were out of date.

It's fortunate the bins are emptied soon and i enjoy cleaning.

Wednesday 11th November

I thought English people were obsessed by the weather as it creeps into most conversations we have. But I don’t think we have a whole television channel dedicated to the subject! It’s been raining all day today and it seems to be such a big deal. It seems normal to me. It often rains all day in England. The word ‘storm’ doesn’t feature much in English weather. When it rains it’s just rain but it’s a storm here. In England a storm has to have high winds with precipitation for it to be called such. It does seem, though, that we’re getting some high winds tomorrow being on the edge of s hurricane.

So today I created a little space in the room I’m sleeping in and cleared and cleaned a bit more of the kitchen. I’ll be glad when I can get to the windows in my room and able to open the curtains. It is very likely they’ll need cleaning also.

There is no Internet access in this house so I’m writing this offline and hope to get to the library soon.

It's fortunate I have a laptop to work offline.

Thursday 12th November

There's so much fuss here about the weather. Rain and high winds. Just like a normal British day! A bit of flooding, but Britain gets that a lot too. I walked to the library and it was no big deal.

It's fortunate it's not as cold as Britain, but nearly so. It will, however be a warm weekend - early 70's F! Yay! Like a British summer.

I'm so glad to be back in Garner library. It's such a lovely large, purpose built building with a toilet. (That's unheard of in England, even the newly built ones.) And there's WiFi, oh, and loads of books too.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

What Am I Doing Now?

Well, here I am at my mother's, having given away my cat and sold or given away the vast majority of my possessions. Again.

What's the title of this blog? The Wandering Teacher - the story of a woman who rarely stays in one place long enough to grow her hair!

So here I am, on the move again. Yes, I really did (do) like White Gables, the biggest house I've ever lived in. It's also the most expensive and even with a house full of lovely lodgers I couldn't pay all the bills because I had no other income.

So, what happened to the teaching?
Hmm. I've been avoiding writing a blog post, first because I didn't have the courage and didn't know how to write it all, and then it became a long and complicated story and of course the story got longer and more complicated as time went on.

My friends over at Facebook are wondering what exactly is happening, so here I am biting the bullet. It can wait no longer. It must be told. And interestingly I also now have the time to write. I'm sorry it's a little long so I suggest you get a cup of your favourite beverage and maybe a snack and make sure you go to the loo before you start.

School - my vision
You could say it started at Easter, but it really started before then. In fact readers of this blog will know that I've been disillusioned about teaching for a while now. Especially the school system in England. The government decrees what children should be taught and when they should be taught it. This does not fit well with me because they don't know the children being taught.

Actually I go further than this sentiment. School, full stop does not fit well with me. Compulsory education does not fit well either. My vision for education includes school buildings being turned into resource centres of learning and teachers being facilitators of learning for anyone who wants to partake in education. Children are naturally curious. If given the oportunity they soak up knowledge and learn skills of their own bat. School and compulsory education, in fact, turns children off learning and exploring their mind and the world around them.

Each child is different and so while one child may be fascinated by numbers and maths at an early age, another may not be bothered with it at all until maybe aged ten or so. Some may just wish to learn the basics enough to get by in life and others may want to go on to obtain a PhD.

Anyway back to my story. I was teaching 2 days a week at different schools wherever the agency wanted me, but for 3 days each week in a lovely small Catholic school. I got on very well with the children. I taught each class whilst their teachers took time to prepare lessons etc. It worked out that I wasn't on a contract for this school but was paid through the agency.

A Home Educator Role at Last
The mother of a child I tutored, told me she had recommended me to a friend of hers who's daughter wasn't in school and needed teaching. 'Hey', I thought, 'wonderful, a chance to do some home education.' When the mother phoned me to make an appointment to discuss her child, it was the last weekend before the Easter holidays. We couldn't actually meet until the following week, so I had a decision to make. I didn't want to leave the school in the lurch with no warning and I wanted to say goodbye to each class during the week so I decided to hand in my resignation on the Monday before the holiday.

The Last Week
So that week, as I taught the various classes, I told them it would be my last lesson with them. I gave the older children my email address because I thought it would be a great opportunity for them to write for a 'real' purpose to tell me how they were doing. (Ever the educator.) I told them to get permission from their parents before they wrote, and if anyone did actually write I was going to ask them to get their parents to email me their permission before I entered into correspondence with the child. Throughout my teaching career I have had several correspondences with former pupils, but those have been using envelopes and stamps. I'm still in occasional touch with one pupil I taught 25 years ago.

The Last Day
On my last day, I was called into the headteacher's office at the start of the lunch break. There was another lady in their too, the new head of the agency i worked for. They were very concerned that I'd given out my email address to the children. They told me it was a very serious matter and that I should have known this because it was in the contract (which, remember, I hadn't seen). I should also know this because reports of child abuse is in the paper every week. (I wonder what paper she reads?)

Anyway I was escorted from the building there and then as if I was a danger to the children. Apparently I had crossed a line. I was supposed to keep a distance from the children. I knew I was different from other teachers. Each group of children I teach is different and if the children in the class responded, then we had a wonderful informal relationship. I preferred to treat children as individuals as far as possible in a situation like school. If someone wants a drink or go to the toilet, why not? Yes, they might be just wanting to take a little walk, but then, isn't that natural behaviour when what is happening in the classroom isn't what really interests them? The year 6 children (10 - 11 year olds) in this school was such a class. I taught them for one day each week. I was honest with them. I told them, for instance that I was sorry that I had to teach them Spanish because I didn't know the language at all. Most of the class liked Wednesdays best because of the relaxed and informal attitude in the classroom that day, even though I had to stick with the timetable.

So I was not allowed to teach my year 4 science class that afternoon, or even say goodbye to them, the children were all told not to email me, and a letter was sent to all the parents. I was sacked from the school and sacked from the agency.

As an aside, I know someone in a different school, a teacher's assistant, who was encouraged by the teacher (a member of the senior management team) to post her email on the door when she left to go to the USA, so the children could keep in touch if they so wished.

The Accusation
A week or so later I got a letter from the official place where complaints are sent to regarding children. The head of the agency had accused me of massaging children! What!? How did she come to that conclusion? She came to that conclusion through overhearing a comment I made to the headteacher, and put her own interpretation on it. Well, of course the allegation was found to be unfounded after investigation, but it is being kept on file at this complaints place in case someone else decides to complain about me.

Home Education - the Reality
Anyway, back at the ranch, sorry, White Gables. The meeting with the parents of this 13 year old girl who wasn't going to school, took place and it turned out they only wanted me to teach her for one day a week! I was to set her work so she could do it at home on her own the rest of the week.

Well, that wasn't going to pay the bills and I couldn't go back to teaching. I thought it was amazing how God works. If I hadn't been sacked I probably would still be teaching and feeling bad about being part of a system that I believe is detrimental to the children.

Amazingly before Easter I had been trying unsuccessfully to fill the rooms with paying tenants, but as soon as I quit the job the rooms got filled.

Being at Home
I must say I really enjoyed my days not having to go out to work. Being able to put the washing on the line and being there to bring it in, should a rain shower come by. Being able to spend as much time as I wanted on my devotions in the mornings without having to rush to work. Being able to sit outside in the garden to eat lunch in the warm sunshine. I even started a new fabric picture.

The First Big Project
I went on a course on how to create an EFT business and spent the time researching how to create abundance and creating a day long workshop on the subject - Attracting Abundance. It was very interesting and informative, and I booked a venue, created a web page and paying facility, made a power point and advertised it well on the web, local paper, posters around town and in workplaces and .... no-one came. Not one person booked! I kept thinking someone would and left it too late to cancel the room and refreshments. So I ended up with a massive bill and nothing to pay for it, and still no income. So I rethought, made changes, scheduled another event, advertised again, this time much more cheaply, plastered the town with more posters and leaflets and ... no-one came again. And I was still left with a big bill because I was sure I had made the necessary changes. And still no income. I obviously wasn't attracting much abundance so I needed to change the subject.

So I downgraded venue, changed subject to overcoming stress - Becoming Peaceful. Created another power point then changed the web page, plastered the town with leaflets and posters again, got free advertising in the paper and .... one person booked the day before the venue, but this time I managed to cancel in time to not create any more debt. But still no income.

Giving Up
I must say I was doing a bit of tutoring but it was not enough to pay the bills. Being a tenacious optimist doesn't pay the bills either and there came a time when there was just not enough money to pay the rent. The girl I tutored one day a week went to India in July and then my other pupils went on their holidays so even that income dried up for the summer. So I decided that being self employed wasn't paying so I decided to look for a job and applied for social security, whilst I was looking, and I applied for it to be backdated. I didn't want to 'go on the social' because I'm not a socialist but I was convicted that as I live in a socialist country and have paid into the system all these years, I was just asking for some of it back.

Well, apparently I wasn't eligible for two reasons. 1) the tenants, 2) I had not paid enough national insurance contributions during the period I was living in Kuwait and, when I came back and worked as a nanny - housekeeper it seems my employer didn't may any for me either.

So, as I couldn't pay the rent my landlord wisely decided to evict me. I gave the tenants notice and started selling the furniture and other possessions using the Gumtree site (we don't have a Craigslist in my town).

North Carolina Again
I decided that the best thing to do would be to find employment that included a roof over my head. I enjoyed being a nanny-housekeeper before, and I've also looked after a lovely lady with Alzheimer's for one or two nights a week when I was living in Bozeman, USA. (I know that some readers will know the lady, who has recently passed on.) I also looked after an old couple, George and Marjorie in North Carolina, when I lived there. I cleaned their house some weekends and popped in once or twice a week to do their laundry after school. I phoned them to ask for a reference.

They said they needed looking after and would I go there to look after them? Marjorie said she had saved money for her birthday party but didn't use it all so could she send me the airfare? I told them I would only be able to stay for 3 months on a visitor's visa, but they consider me like a daughter and talk about me frequently to their offspring still. So I have the ticket and am flying on the 9th November and returning (with a good reference hopefully) at the beginning of February.

Two friends in Reading, where White Gables is, are storing a few boxes of books, a few kitchen things, sewing machine, material, yarn, iron, ironing board, a chair that's just right for my little legs and my bike.

Friday, 16 October 2009


Our cat Sebastian is feeling unsettled.
His favourite resting places keep on disappearing.
In one day we sold two sofas and we had already sold the comfy chair.
Now he doesn't know where to rest. Poor thing.
I rigged up the box because he didn't like the holes under the arms of the garden chair.
We're waiting for a nice lady to arrange transport to take him to her home.

Monday, 14 September 2009

coming soon...

After quite a gap, I feel a blog post coming on so when I have a minute or two, it will be here.

Actually, there's two in my head - Sorry to shock you with all this activity.
I'm also thinking of starting another blog, 'cos I don't teach much these days.

Have a great day!

Monday, 30 March 2009

The Story of "That Something"

Volume XXII : The Bigness of the Fellow Within
Such an incredible story on finding the fire within!!!

THEN RANDOLPH turned to me. “Man, write that story you’ve told us. Write it so that every man may read. Send that message out into the world. If men will read that story, read and re-read, until it is written on their memories, if men will believe the message you bring, and then if they will but awaken that something within their souls that now lies asleep—I say if you can make men do this, you will have done more for mankind than any man or any thousand men have done in many, many years. Write it, man, write it word for word as you have told it here, so every man may read. Write it, man, write it.” And so it has been written.

This happened a long, long time ago. I never see a man limp without thinking of that day. The sky wept. No rift of brighter color broke the drabness of it. I thought the universe wept. That was my outlook. The very times were in misery. Men were out of work. I was one of them. I had slept the night before on the cold, cement floor of the city’s jail. I slept as a tired dog sleeps, a dog worn out with a fruitless chase. All of the night before, I had walked, walked, walked—my pride keeping me from this place. And so the day had found me walking, aimlessly, looking only for food, shelter and work. This could not last forever, so that night I had stumbled down the low, narrow hallway of the jail, and been let into a barred cell with a hundred others. And there I had lain as one dead, on the cold, hard floor. But it is of the day that followed that night in jail that you shall hear. For that was the day of my life. It was then I found “That Something.”

My feet were very tired. My soul wept with the sky. I stood, as in a wilderness alone, on the corner of a great thoroughfare in a great city. And then a man stopped by my side. He was of my height and build. I caught a glimpse of his face. I thought that this man might have been myself, if . . .But my present need drove out reflections. I laid my hand on his arm. “I am hungry,” I said simply. He turned slowly and looked at me. First his gaze took in every detail of the outer man, from my water-soaked cap to my poor, cracked shoes. And then, through my eyes, he seemed to search my soul. I stood there ashamed. I laugh when I think of that now, but it was different then. “Well,” he said presently, “suppose you were fed. What then?” I shifted my weight from one tired foot to the other. “I’d try to get a job somewhere,” I muttered after a moment. “You’d try?” he asked. “Yes, try,” I answered, “although there is little chance. Nobody wants men now. I’ll try, sir. But I don’t care for that now—it’s food I want. I’m hungry, Can you help me?” “No,” he answered, a note of pity in his voice. “I cannot help you. No man can.” “But you could feed me,” I said, with some petulance in my voice. “It is not food you need!” “What then?” I asked. “That Something,” was his reply. A man joined him. They began talking of matters of mutual interest. I was shuffling away through the drizzling, miserable rain, when he called me back and handed me his card. “Man, go find ‘That Something’,” he said, “and when you’ve found it, come to me.” Come to you for what?” I asked. “To thank me,” was his answer, and he and his friend passed on.

There were two words that stuck in my memory. “That Something!” I fell to wondering. I turned into a pool room, and found a seat. I sat there thinking. The balls on the tables before me clicked nickels away from men who could ill afford the pleasures of the place. I sat there a long, long time. There was nowhere else to go. Ahead of me I saw another night in jail. Yet the day seemed longer than the night. It was warm in there. The hum of voices, the regular click, click, click of ivory, the occasional thumping of cue on marble floor—all this in time developed into a dull chorus of monotony. And then I fell asleep. I believe in God. I believe in miracles. I believe in visions as well. But it is only natural that I should have dreamed of “That Something”—so perhaps it was neither miracle nor vision. You will think it a foolish dream; yet it changed my life. That’s reason enough for the telling. You may laugh at it scornfully; then my dream will do you no good. You may see in it what I saw; then you will take your place with the masters of men. This was my dream: I dreamed that I awoke! That is the most wonderful part of the dream; for in my dream I realized that I had been asleep—a long, long sleep from the very beginning of things—and I saw myself, there in the pool room, asleep. Then I saw myself start, my eyes opened, and I dreamed that I saw. “What awakened me?” I asked in my dream. “You awakened yourself,” answered a voice nearby. I turned about, but no one was near. “Who are you?” I asked. “I am ‘That Something’,” came the reply. “But where are you?” “I am hidden in your soul.”

For some moments I thought over what was said. Then I stammered, “How—how did you get there?” “I was born there.” “Why have I not known you were there before?” “No man knows it,” answered the voice, “until he awakes.” “Are you in other men’s souls, as well?” “There is ‘That Something’in every man’s soul, which can move the mountains or dry the seas.” “Then you must be Faith!” “Yes,” came the answer, “I am Faith, but I am more—I am that which makes men face the fires of hell, and win.” “Then you must be Confidence, as well.” “Yes, I am more than Confidence—I am that which makes the babbling brooks lift worlds upon their wavelets.” “You are Power,” I cried. “Yes, I am more than Power,” answered the voice. “I am that which makes the wretched failure lift up himself and rule the world.” “You are Ambition—I know you now.” “Yes, I am all you say—Faith, Confidence, Power, Ambition, and more. For greater than all is ‘That Something.’ I am that which every man must find in his soul or else he will be but a clutterer of the earth on which he lives.” “But how can man find you?” “Even as you are finding me now. First you must awaken, then seek, and when you have found you must learn to control . . .” “Control what?” I asked, confused. “‘That Something’ . . . borrow it from your soul and baptize your life with it. Anoint your eyes, that you may see; anoint your ears, that you may hear; anoint your heart, that you may be!” “But tell me,” I cried frantically, for the voice was trailing off to almost nothing, “how can I do this? How? How?”

“This is the secret,” came the voice to me as the whisper of a gentle breeze, “these words—‘I will’.” And then I awoke with a start. A man was shaking me roughly. “Clear out of here! We ain’t running no free rooming house for bums. If you want to sleep, take a sleeper, but get out of here.” “I will,” I answered unthinkingly, as I turned towards the door. “I will.” My words brought back the dream vividly. I stood in the doorway, peering out into the rain. A boy with a dozen bundles stopped near me to shift his load. “I’ll help you, son,” I said, and laughed gladly as I took half his load and started with him down the street. “Gee, mister, cat’s pretty square of you, all right. How far are you going this way?” “Where are you taking these things?” I asked. He told me. “Why, that’s right where I’m going” I answered in mock surprise. And so we hurried on our way. It was then the clouds overhead began to break. Before we had gone half way, the sun peeped out and the boy laughed with the pure delight of it. “By
golly, mister, she’s going to be some handsome day tomorrow, ain’t it?” “I will,” I answered absently. He looked up at me, startled by my answer, started to ask a question, thought better of it, and, giving me another queer look, trudged on in silence. When he had delivered his packages, he turned back towards the thoroughfare; and he asked me, with the innocent impertinence of boyhood: Say, mister, where do you work?” “Why, I’m working for you right now. It’s good to work, don’t you think?” “But ain’t you got no steady job?” “Yes,” I answered firmly, “I will.” Again he cast a queer look and quickened his pace. We went together to the store at which he worked, It was the largest in the city. We hurried through a doorway at the rear, and I found myself in a large room.

A man stepped up to me and asked what I wanted. “I have come here to work.” “What department? Who sent you?” There were many men in there, packing boxes. Before I could answer his question, someone called him and he hurried away. I took off my coat, hung it on a nail, and started to work, following the example of those near me. A half hour later, the man who first accosted me passed. “Oh,” he said, “so they put you at it while I was gone, did they?” “I’m doing my best, sir,” I answered as I drove a nail with a bang.And so I worked until six o’clock. The sun was very bright outside. When the six o’clock bell rang, the men began filing by the clock. “What about the clock?” I asked the man in charge. “Didn’t they give you a number?” “No.” Then I told him my name, he gave me a number, and I punched out, The boy was waiting for me at the door. “How’d you get the job?” he asked curiously. “That was secured for me before I showed up there.” “Who got it for you?” “‘That Something’,” was my answer. “Aw, quit stringing me.

How’d you get on? I seen a dozen men trying to get in on that work this morning and they was all turned down.” “But,” I explained with a smile, “they had never found ‘That Something’.” He again favored me with a queer look. “Where do you live?” he asked finally. “I am going to find a place now.” “Well, my maw keeps a boarding house—why don’t you come up to my place?” There was but one other boarder. He was a professor of a number of ology branches at a nearby denominational college. He was a little man, with unreasonable hair on his face and very little on his head. He wore thick glasses perched on a beaked nose. His eyes were small and black like shoe buttons. He watched me as I ate. When the meal was finished, he invited me to sit with him in his room.

“I hope you don’t mind my prying,” said he, “but I have been trying to figure you out.” “Yes?” “I have come to the conclusion that you are a student of sociology.” I laughed. “Bobby tells us you are packing boxes down at his store.” I nodded assent. “Then of course it is for the study of the conditions of the working masses that you are down there.” “Yes,” I admitted, “I am very much interested in conditions of the masses right now.” “Then you can help me; I am writing a series of papers on that very subject. Will you answer me this, please. What is it that keeps the underdog down? What is it that the upper ten possess that the under ten thousand do not have?” “Why, it’s ‘That Something’,” I answered. “What do you mean? Education? Environment?” Before my mind was flashed the picture of my boyhood. I saw my room on the top floor of a city block building. I saw myself sleeping in dry-goods boxes in alleys, and by the boilers in boats on the river. Yes, I was an alley-cat and a wharf-rat. I saw myself placed at the mercy of five stepmothers and afather engrossed in his science. I saw myself working, gaining little or no schooling. And then, in the twinkling of an eye, the scene changed and I saw that awful room, with a hundred men lying around me on the cold, hard floor.

“No,” I answered thoughtfully, “it is neither of those things. ‘That Something’ is entirely different. I don’t know just what it is, but I am going to find it, pin it down, and then I will tell you more of it.”

As I looked into his face, I noticed the same puzzled expression the boy had worn. So, by mutual consent, the subject was changed and we talked of trivial things. For a week or more, I packed boxes and drove nails. I was a good packer. I made ‘That Something’ work with me all the time. One day, I noticed the shipping clerk had more work than he could handle. There were idle men in the department. They could do nothing until he checked up to them. I laid down my hammer, walked over to where he stood, and said, “I am to help you this afternoon.” He looked up with a start. “Oh,” he exclaimed. “Well, that’s good. I’m glad they have sense enough to give me somebody to help out, at last.” He handed me a bunch of papers and made room for me at the desk. The superintendent of the department was out of the room at the time. Presently he returned and glanced at me curiously. “So they’ve got you helping Dickey?” he said. I shrugged my shoulders without looking up, and continued figuring. When I left the room that night, the superintendent of the department joined me. “Say,” he said, “I never did get onto how you were put in there. What’s the idea? Working through to learn the business?” “Yes,” I answered with confidence, “just that, I am to learn every detail of it.” “I thought something of the kind. To which one of ’em are you related?” “I do not think it wise to discuss that at this time,” was my answer. “Oh sure,” he hastened to say, “I don’t mean to be inquisitive. Anything I can do to help you, let me know.” And then he left me.

The shipping clerk was a bright young fellow. I liked him, and he liked me. One day, shortly after I had received my first raise in wages, he came to me with a problem. That night I stayed down with him and we worked it out together. We soon got in the habit of staying down one night each week, working over his systems. He lacked originality. I helped him. He had been doing things just like the fellow before him. The business had been growing rapidly—practically doubled. We worked out an improved system. We drew up forms; planned out every detail. One day he carried our plans to the man in authority. There came up a question which the shipping clerk did not quite understand, so they sent for me. My approach was far different from that of the sniveling beggar who had asked the man on the street corner for food. The man in authority looked at me in surprise. “Who are you?” I handed him my card. “You are packing boxes?” he asked in surprise. “I am in the packing room—temporarily.” Then he went over the shipping clerk’s plans in detail. “I think they’re all right. I’ll have these forms sent to the printer in the morning,” said the man in authority.

As we turned to leave the office, he called me back. “How long have you been in the packing rooms?” “Sixty-three days,” I answered. “You’ve been there long enough. There is nothing more for you to learn there, is there?” “No.” He studied me for a while in silence. “Funny neither of them has said anything about you,” he said at length, speaking half to himself. “I suppose the old man’s idea was for you to work out your own salvation—is that it?” “In a way,” I replied. “What any man accomplishes must eventually come from ‘That Something’ within him.” He pondered this for a moment. Then he scrawled a few words on a piece of paper. “Hand that to Perkins in the Auditing Department tomorrow morning and we’ll see how you show up there.” I thanked him and turned to leave the room. “And say,” calling me back; “better forget about my having said anything about your relations with the old man. After all, you see, it’s none of my business.” “Certainly,” I answered, and left the room. Three months later, I left Bob’s mother’s boarding house. It hurt me to do this. She had been almost a mother to me. There was a home life about the place which I had learned to love. Even the little hairy Ology Professor and his fanciful theories had become dear to me. But ‘That Something’ demanded that I move on. So I moved on up the hill. I arranged for a room at a quiet boarding house. It was at the suggestion of the man in authority that I chose his boarding house. So we became acquaintances, then friends; and never once did the man in authority mention the fact that I was “learning the business.”

And so a year rolled ‘round. It was the time Perkins took his vacation. I was given the place until he returned. One day the old man came into the office. He looked at me keenly. Soon the man in authority came in; the old man called him aside. I overheard a portion of their conversation. “Who’s the man at Perkins’ desk?” the old man asked. The man in authority mentioned my name. “Funny I never heard of him before.” The man in authority gasped. The rest was spoken in guarded tones, and I heard no word further. That night, the man in authority came into my sitting room. “Say,” he began, “you’ve certainly got me locoed or something of the sort. I have been figuring you out all along as a ward or a long lost cousin of the old man. Now, today he comes in and jumps on me about putting you in this place of responsibility without first knowing all about you. Of course, I know you’re all right but, by Jupiter, I’m placed in a deucedly unholy kind of light.” “What’s all the trouble?” I asked. “My work going wrong?” “I should say not; but that’s aside from the question. What’s got me going is how the dickens you did it. How you got to hold down the most responsible job on the works without anybody knowing just what you really are. Tell me about yourself, will you?” “I was born of poor but honest parents in a small coal-mining town of What Cheer, Iowa, in the year 1881. My father peddled fish in a wheelbarrow; my mother died when I was one and one-half years old—”. “Oh, cut that bunk. Tell me to whom you are related, or who is backing you up. It’s pull that counts these days. Who gave you your start with the company?”

I leaned back in my leather Morris chair. Memory brought back the picture of that drab day of just one year before. And that brought to my mind the card that had been given me. I had not thought of it before until that minute. I arose, went to a closet where hung the very suit I had worn on that eventful day. I had kept it as a souvenir of my awakening. As I had hoped, the card was in a pocket of the shabby vest. For the first time. I read the name engraved thereon: MATTHEW MORRISON RANDOLPH BONDS I handed the card to the man in authority. He read it with wandering eyes. Now, Randolph was the silent partner of the business. Impossible coincidence? You may think so. I know men who believe success is impossible.

And to them, success is impossible. And so perhaps you believe this impossible. But I tell you it as it happened. “Funny Randolph never mentioned your name to the old man. Anyway, I wish I’d known this when he was talking about you today.” “I’m glad you didn’t,” I answered with a short laugh. “Why?” he asked, puzzled. “Go there to the phone and call up Randolph. I think he’ll tell you why.” “But—” he began. “Go on and call him up. I want you to,” I insisted. In a moment, Randolph was on the line. “Ask him,” I insisted. The man in authority did so. I watched the changing expressions on his face. “You-say-you-never-heard-of-the-man!” gasped the man in authority. “Why, he’s holding down the most responsible job on the place.” “Better let me talk to Mr. Randolph,” I interrupted. His hand was trembling as he surrendered the phone. “Mr. Randolph,” I said, “I know you do not remember my name, for I am quite sure you have never heard it. You may remember, however, one miserable day a year ago when a beggar asked you for food.” “Well, go on,” came a crisp voice over the phone. “You may also remember telling that beggar that it was not food he needed—it was ‘That Something’, and that alone. Well, Mr. Randolph, I am the beggar to whom you spoke and I have found ‘That Something.’

I have learned to use it, and I want to thank you for having shown me the way. When may I have the opportunity of telling you about it?” An hour later the story you have just heard was told to a strange trio: the man in authority, the professor of ologies, and Matthew Morrison Randolph. From time to time, as I told the tale, Randolph nodded his head in approval and I noticed a strange light begin to glow in the little professor’s eyes. When I had finished, we sat for a long time in silence, broken at last by Randolph, who said: “And now tell me just what you think ‘That Something’ really is?” I shook my head in dismay. “You folks know as much as I do about it,” I answered. “But of this one thing I am convinced, through and through. It is real human power, as truly real as the commercial electrical current. It is the power of the inner man, the fuel of the soul machine.

It is the one thing necessary Until we awaken ‘That Something’ of the soul, we bear on our muscles those who have found ‘That Something.’ And we bear them on up the mountain to take their places among the masters of men. ‘That Something’ lies dormant in every soul until aroused. With many, it sleeps until the last great sleep. Sometimes it does not wake until man stands tottering on the border of the grave. Sometimes it is found by the child playing by its mother’s knee. A man’s success depends alone on ‘That Something.’ ‘That Something’ of his soul. Abraham Lincoln found it when a lad. It warmed the cold floor on which he lay and studied. It added light to the flickering glow of the wood fire, that he might see to read. It spurred him on, and on, and on. ‘That Something’ is an awful force. It made of a puny Corsican the ruler of the world! It made of a thin-cheated bookkeeper the money king of a great country! It made Edison the great man of his age! It made Carnegie! It made Woodrow Wilson! It made Roosevelt! It can make you! It is now in your soul! Awaken it—now! ‘That Something’.”

Again the silence followed. I watched the professor of many ologies. I saw the kindled fires in his eyes gradually die out. He shook his head wearily. “No, it can’t be done; it can’t be done,” he murmured. “I have drunk deeply of the cup of life and I am now drinking the dregs. The cup is filled but once, and when it is gone there’s nothing left but the dregs of old age and poverty.” “You fool,” cried Randolph, leaning forward and shaking the little man roughly. “You almost had ‘That Something’ in your power, and now you sing it back to sleep with your silly song of pessimism. It’s the false philosophy, which such as you sing, which has kept men in the ruts of their own digging for centuries past. Wake, man, wake! Wake ‘That Something’ within your soul!” The two men sat looking deeply into each other’s eyes. It was the little man who broke the silence. “Thank you, Randolph,” he said quietly. “You are right. I will.”Then Randolph turned to me. “Man, write that story you’ve told us. Write it so that every man may read. Send that message out into the world. If men will read that story, read and reread, until it is written on their memories; if men will believe the message you bring, and then if they will but awaken that something within their souls that now lies asleep—I say if you can make men do this, you will have done more for mankind than any man or any thousand men have done in many, many years. Write it, man, write it word for word as you have told it here, so every man may read. Write it, man, write it!” And so it has been written. You who have heard it through, I pray that you may hear it every word again and again until ‘That Something’ of your souls has been aroused, and you have taken your places among the rulers of the world.


Sunday, 29 March 2009

Free Speech on the Web?

This is a very interesting article about the threat to free speech on the web.
you can find the original

How China's '50 Cent Army' Could Wreck Web 2.0
Mike Elgan

Two years ago, Chinese President Hu Jintao called on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members to “
assert supremacy over online public opinion, raise the level and study the art of online guidance and actively use new technologies to increase the strength of positive propaganda.”

After Hu's speech, Communist Party officials and the State Council issued an official call for “comrades of good ideological and political character, high capability and familiarity with the Internet to form teams of Web commentators ... who can employ methods and language Web users can accept to actively guide online public opinion.”

The CCP has hired thousands of freelance Internet propagandists whose job is to infiltrate chat rooms, message boards and comment areas on the Internet posing as ordinary users to voice support for the agenda and interest of the CCP. They praise China’s one-party system and condemn anyone who criticizes China’s policy on Tibet. They comment aggressively on news reports about China’s food-safety problems, relations with Taiwan, suppression of bird-flu and AIDS information, Internet censorship, jailing of dissidents, support of Sudan’s military in Darfur and other sensitive topics. Comments applaud the Chinese government and slam its critics, all using scripts and lines approved by the party.

The BBC calls these freelance propagandists China's 50 Cent Party. The Guardian newspaper calls it the 50 Cent Army. (50 Cent isn’t a rapper in this case, but a reference to the pay: 50 Chinese "cents" per post, which is equivalent to about 7 US cents). Other names include “red vests” and the “red vanguard.”

Some estimates claim that the 50 Cent Army includes a whopping 300,000 people. If that’s accurate, China's freelance propagandists exceed in number the total populations of 47 countries.

Why This Isn’t “Astroturfing”

Of course, the Chinese didn't invent the idea. In the US, for example, political campaigns, companies and other organizations have been known to use paid staff or volunteers to post messages en masse to create a false impression that the public supports or opposes something. A genuine bubble of opinion is called a "grass roots" movement. So faking that is called "astroturfing."

The difference between China's 50 Cent Army and astroturfing is fourfold. First, is scale. A typical astroturfing campaign might involve a few or maybe a dozen people at most. Or, in the case of a mass mailing, it could involve thousands of people who voice or submit their opinions only once or twice. China's approach involves thousands of times more people.

The second difference is duration. China's 50 Cent Army works every day, all year, year after year. Astroturfing efforts, on the other hand, are one-off projects designed to achieve specific, limited goals. The reason is that a free press and the machinations of multi-party democracy quickly expose astroturfing projects and turn public opinion against their agendas. Because the Chinese government is accountable to neither the public nor the press, it can sustain Internet mass-propaganda efforts indefinitely.

Third, China's 50 Cent Army, when used abroad, hits people who aren't expecting it. When a political group in the US fakes a grass roots movement, it does so in an environment where people are skeptical and have their guards up. But most people in the West have no idea that China is constantly swaying public opinion on the Internet, and tend to accept what they see at face value.

And finally, China's degree of organization far exceeds any known effort elsewhere. The government's Culture Ministry reportedly trains and even certificates Web propagandists. It’s run like a professional organization.

How This Affects You and Me

Criticism of the Chinese government abroad is often countered by the argument that China's political system is an "internal matter" -- something that's none of the business of outsiders. But China’s 50 Cent Army is everybody's business.

With 300,000 people, you can see how the CCP could easily determine what makes it onto the front page of Digg, and what gets shouted down. They could use Wikipedia, YouTube and Slashdot as their most powerful tools of global propaganda. It would be trivial for China to determine Yahoo's "Most Popular" news items ("Most E-Mailed," "Most Viewed" and "Most Recommended").

Over the long term, the existence of China’s 50 Cent Army erodes the value of the Web 2.0, which is based entirely on the actions of users. If half those users are working for the CCP, then the results of user actions are compromised. Nobody can trust it.

It’s also yet another threat to Internet anonymity, which is already under pressure from legislators and some organizations who believe that anonymous posts create opportunities for fraud, deception and the exploitation of children. The more China’s 50 Cent Army succeeds, the more support will fall behind the idea of fixing the problem by illegalizing anonymity.

Ultimately, China’s 50 Cent Army threatens free speech. And although new threats to free speech are constantly being invented – the 50 Cent Army being one of the most recent innovations – the defense of free speech is always the same: More free speech.

So be on the lookout for the CCP’s paid posters, and oppose them at every opportunity.

A Rant about School

I am finding that school isn't much about education these days. Finding what level a child is every few weeks is nothing to do with educating them. It is analogous to keeping digging up a seed to see if it has grown.

Schools seem to be run on fear these days. Fear that some Bogey man of an education expert will come along and find a school lacking, not because the children are happy and eager to learn, but because the teachers don't have statistics to say exactly how much information is supposed to be in their heads.

Teacher have been reduced to machines, spewing out the lessons the government decrees should be taught regardless of the children's needs and interests, and correlating data every few weeks on how each child measures up to a national norm. This reduces the children to machines also. Each child is unique, with different interests and strengths, rates and styles of learning. How many children would come to school if they had a choice? Hardly any. Shouldn't we be concentrating our energies on creating an environment where children actually want to learn, catering for their interests, rather than reducing them and their learning to statistics?

I keep coming across teachers who have left, or are considering leaving the profession because the joy has gone out of the job.

Monday, 23 March 2009

A Wisdom Story

An African king had a close friend who had the habit of remarking "this is good" about every occurrence in life no matter what it was. One day the king and his friend were out hunting. The king's friend loaded a gun and handed it to the king, but alas he loaded it wrong and when the king fired it, his thumb was blown off.
"This is good!" exclaimed his friend.
The horrified and bleeding king was furious. "How can you say this is good? This is obviously horrible!" he shouted.
The king put his friend in jail.

About a year later the king went hunting by himself. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to it. As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone who was less than whole. They untied the king and sent him on his way.

Full of remorse the king rushed to the prison to release his friend.
"You were right, it WAS good" the king said.
The king told his friend how the missing thumb saved his life and added, "I feel so sad that I locked you in jail. That was such a bad thing to do"
"NO! it is good!" responded his delighted friend,"Oh, how could that be good my friend, I did a terrible thing to you while I owe you my life". "It is good" said his friend, "because if I wasn't in jail I would have been hunting with you and they would have killed ME."

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Spring Gardening

Today was such a glorious day! Of course, I mean the weather. (I'm English.)

My inner child loves to sit and eat lunch outside whenever she gets the chance. She didn't want to go in after lunch so I did a spot of gardening.

My garden is large and overgrown and very neglected. The house came available after the old lady, who lived here last, passed away and it was obvious that both inside and out had been neglected for a number of years.

I am a fair weather gardener so I had not tidied the garden in the autumn. The dead flower heads were still on the hydrangea bush and the buddleia branches. In fact there were a few years worth of dead heads on the hydrangea bush. It had also taken over the pathway so now it is a smaller and neater bush and we have a wider path. The pampas grass clumps are also neater with last summers stalks cut away.

Brambles and other prickly plants found their way onto the compost heap covering the rotted windfall apples that I threw there last autumn. I am so thankful for thick gardening gloves!

The grass needed cutting but that is another day's work. The grass has long ago given up the pretense of being a lawn. It is now tussocks of grass growing over a thick layer of moss. Walking on it is an amazing experience. Your feet sink down into the spongy green surface with each step you take. To cut it I have to either lift and hold the mower over grass whilst skimming it along or do the same thing with a strimmer. However both the strimmer and mower came from Freecycle and both need new blades. So I made a note of the blades needed just in case I happen to find myself near a shop that would sell such things. A garden center would have them but they are all out of town and need a car to access them.

In the meantime there are many other jobs that need doing - the leaves are still on the front lawn (which has the same spongy moon walk experience), and the patio needs weeding.

The joy of taking over another garden is the discovering the flowers as they blossom. We have quite a few daffodils which I absolutely love for their cheerful victorious yellow. I came across some lovely poems about spring the other day - a perk of teaching the poetry strand of the National Curriculum.

MARCH ingorders
by Roger McGough

Winter has been sacked
for negligence

It appears he left
the sun on all day

by Hugo Majer

past Winter's iron gate.

Then daffodils'
golden trumpets

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The Humble Loofah (So green!)

This week I was shopping at my local True Food co-op where I came across a pack of loofahs for washing dishes. This, so the blurb tells me is
"Tough on Washing-Up
Gentle on the
Apparently, in the Philippines, people wash their dishes using a loofah instead of a plastic scourer. They are durable, effective and far better for the environment as they biodegrade when worn out.

Here is something I learned about Loofahs. I thought they were a sea plant, but no. They are grown as a vegetable and used in stir fries and stews.

The farmer allows some loofahs to go to seed for the following season's crop. Once the seeds are removed form the core, the remaining loofah is cut up and used as a scourer.

I've used loofah's before in the shower but never in the kitchen. However, having washed the dishes with it a few times now I'm finding it works very well.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


It is often the case that girls and women have abortions because they don't think there is any alternative. In fact a 2004 study found that 64% of women felt pressured into having an abortion. Their family and the father of the child often counsel having an abortion so that the 'problem' can be dealt with easily. Unfortunately, although the family and friends counseling the pregnant woman/girl, think they are advising what is best for her, they don't realise how detrimental an abortion can be on the emotional and mental health of the woman. 65% of the women studied experienced multiple symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Women who had abortions were more likely to have thoughts of suicide (36%), increased use of drugs or alcohol (27%), sexual problems (24%), relationship problems (27%), guilt (78%), and an inability to forgive themselves (62%).

So I thought I would do something practical because abortion hurts at least two people, the unborn and the mother. I have had free business cards printed with the information below and when I can afford it I will get an ongoing classified advert in the local paper.

I cannot offer money but I can offer a listening ear and I have spare bedrooms if anyone needs a place to stay and I can get second hand baby stuff from Freecycle. I can also teach them EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which will help in overcoming the scariness of the whole journey and also help with pain relief too. And generally be a support in whatever way the woman or girl needs.
Need Help?
call Patricia
0118 959 5675
07942 82 03 46
PregnantNeedHelp (at) gmail (dot) com

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Egg Shampoo

I prefer to use natural products on my body because the skin is the largest organ we have, and it absorbs anything that's put on it.
I'm OK with natural soaps which I can buy locally, but shampoo is a little trickier.

I thought I had found a great one, made from Neways, a company that advertises that they only use safe ingredients. Then they confessed that they use parabens. So when my daughter found the NAKED range of products in the local chemist (drug store for my American readers), I used their shampoo. Unfortunately I realised that it may be an OK shampoo (not wonderful, in my opinion) it still comes in a plastic bottle with no chance of refilling it.

I then came across an article on a blog talking about shampoo bars, but they only seemed to be made in the USA and by very small family businesses who all happened to be out of stock at the time of looking.

I used to wash my hair every day, but then I read an article about never washing hair. Some people have found this to be very successful. Apparently after a few weeks of gross hair, it settles down to be glossy and wonderful. I thought, "Oh, that would be the greenest and cheapest option. Let's do that."

Well I got to the gross, itchy, uncomfortable stage and decided to compromise and wash my hair once a week.

I then came across a lady who says she never buys commercially produced cleaning and beauty products but uses natural products just as nature made them. This included using an egg to wash her hair and body.

So now I keep a little basket of organic free-range eggs in the bathroom. I wash my hair once a week with an egg that I break into a beaker and mix with my fingers. I have found it works best if I use half the egg, work it into my hair and rinse it thoroughly, then use the other half and do it again. I need to rinse it very well or my hair has a horrible feel to it next week. However, if I do it correctly, my hair is beautifully clean, glossy and soft.

I have also used an egg to clean my body and face, and it works very well, but it is cheaper to use the soap.

Friday, 27 February 2009

The Erosion of Freedom

I do not care for the books that Philip Pullman has written but he has written an amazing article on the erosion of the British people's freedom in recent years.
It was first published in the Times and could be found at the Times online. But it was later blocked by them. (You will see why when you read it. The power elite that owns the Times would not like this information to be circulated.)

Fortunately a few people liked it so much they put it on their blogs and sites.
You can find it at present here at the Libertarian Alliance

I have pasted it here, just in case it goes missing again. I think it is important to spread the word and the internet is still mostly uncensored in many countries so the more sites that inform people about this sort of thing the better.

©Philip Pullman 2009

Are such things done on Albion’s shore?

The image of this nation that haunts me most powerfully is that of the sleeping giant Albion in William Blake’s prophetic books. Sleep, profound and inveterate slumber: that is the condition of Britain today.

We do not know what is happening to us. In the world outside, great events take place, great figures move and act, great matters unfold, and this nation of Albion murmurs and stirs while malevolent voices whisper in the darkness - the voices of the new laws that are silently strangling the old freedoms the nation still dreams it enjoys.

We are so fast asleep that we don’t know who we are any more. Are we English? Scottish? Welsh? British? More than one of them? One but not another? Are we a Christian nation - after all we have an Established Church - or are we something post-Christian? Are we a secular state? Are we a multifaith state? Are we anything we can all agree on and feel proud of?

* £34bn cost of state-run surveillance databases

* Former spy chief says UK is now a police state

* First ID cards are to be issued within weeks

* COMMENT: that’s a bit rich, Dame Stella

The new laws whisper:

You don’t know who you are

You’re mistaken about yourself

We know better than you do what you consist of, what labels apply to you, which facts about you are important and which are worthless

We do not believe you can be trusted to know these things, so we shall know them for you

And if we take against you, we shall remove from your possession the only proof we shall allow to be recognised

The sleeping nation dreams it has the freedom to speak its mind. It fantasises about making tyrants cringe with the bluff bold vigour of its ancient right to express its opinions in the street. This is what the new laws say about that:

Expressing an opinion is a dangerous activity

Whatever your opinions are, we don’t want to hear them

So if you threaten us or our friends with your opinions we shall treat you like the rabble you are

And we do not want to hear you arguing about it

So hold your tongue and forget about protesting

What we want from you is acquiescence

The nation dreams it is a democratic state where the laws were made by freely elected representatives who were answerable to the people. It used to be such a nation once, it dreams, so it must be that nation still. It is a sweet dream.

You are not to be trusted with laws

So we shall put ourselves out of your reach

We shall put ourselves beyond your amendment or abolition

You do not need to argue about any changes we make, or to debate them, or to send your representatives to vote against them

You do not need to hold us to account

You think you will get what you want from an inquiry?

Who do you think you are?

What sort of fools do you think we are?

The nation’s dreams are troubled, sometimes; dim rumours reach our sleeping ears, rumours that all is not well in the administration of justice; but an ancient spell murmurs through our somnolence, and we remember that the courts are bound to seek the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and we turn over and sleep soundly again.

And the new laws whisper:

We do not want to hear you talking about truth

Truth is a friend of yours, not a friend of ours

We have a better friend called hearsay, who is a witness we can always rely on

We do not want to hear you talking about innocence

Innocent means guilty of things not yet done

We do not want to hear you talking about the right to silence

You need to be told what silence means: it means guilt

We do not want to hear you talking about justice

Justice is whatever we want to do to you

And nothing else

Are we conscious of being watched, as we sleep? Are we aware of an ever-open eye at the corner of every street, of a watching presence in the very keyboards we type our messages on? The new laws don’t mind if we are. They don’t think we care about it.

We want to watch you day and night

We think you are abject enough to feel safe when we watch you

We can see you have lost all sense of what is proper to a free people

We can see you have abandoned modesty

Some of our friends have seen to that

They have arranged for you to find modesty contemptible

In a thousand ways they have led you to think that whoever does not want to be watched must have something shameful to hide

We want you to feel that solitude is frightening and unnatural

We want you to feel that being watched is the natural state of things

One of the pleasant fantasies that consoles us in our sleep is that we are a sovereign nation, and safe within our borders. This is what the new laws say about that:

We know who our friends are

And when our friends want to have words with one of you

We shall make it easy for them to take you away to a country where you will learn that you have more fingernails than you need

It will be no use bleating that you know of no offence you have committed under British law

It is for us to know what your offence is

Angering our friends is an offence

It is inconceivable to me that a waking nation in the full consciousness of its freedom would have allowed its government to pass such laws as
the Protection from Harassment Act (1997),
the Crime and Disorder Act (1998),
the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000),
the Terrorism Act (2000),
the Criminal Justice and Police Act (2001),
the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (2001),
the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Extension Act (2002),
the Criminal Justice Act (2003),
the Extradition Act (2003),
the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2003),
the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004),
the Civil Contingencies Act (2004),
the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2005),
the Inquiries Act (2005),
the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005),
not to mention a host of pending legislation such as the Identity Cards Bill, the Coroners and Justice Bill, and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.


And those laws say:

Sleep, you stinking cowards

Sweating as you dream of rights and freedoms

Freedom is too hard for you

We shall decide what freedom is

Sleep, you vermin

Sleep, you scum.

I knew that this socialist government was passing laws at a great rate of knots, and turning us into a nanny state but I did not know our freedom was being curtailed to such an alarming amount.

So what can we do?
Firstly, pray and secondly ..... What do you suggest?