Friday, September 30, 2005

work life balance on way to being restored....

I am feeling the benefit of -
a) being off work again for a week
b) going to T'ai Chi once a week (been twice so far)
c) doing some Molly dancing (a style of Morris dancing) and accordion playing once a week (been three times now) with Black Dog Molly
d) eating dark chocolate covered ricecakes (what I am addicted to and had run out of and now have 2 wholesale boxes of )
e) having some long lie-ins
f) knowing that we are off to Cornwall soon...
g) knowing that my manager is ok about me putting in an application to go down to 4 days a week - she thinks we can make it happen and is willing to discuss how....

I think my ideal would be working a 3 day week with time to do more unpaid work getting froom up and running and helping support the development of Write-on. I could also use the time to perhaps do some sessional University teaching on regeneration/ community development/ social studies/ advice work/ counselling eventually, if I could get some hours.

I am a late bird, not an early one - and as a result am seen as lazy and a misfit. Why is the standard working day 9-5? Most people seem to prefer either 8-4 or maybe even 7-3, or a minority of us who prefer 10-6, 11-7 or even 12-8. I really need a job that is based around a working day that runs from 11am to 7pm - those are my natural peak hours.

But going down to 4 days will be a good start and should help me build up my energy levels and resilience.

My doctor told me that the dizziness I've been getting is probably not a balance/ inner ear problem. It could have been a virus thingy. It also could be a side effect of the St John's Wort. So, as I am no longer depressed I have stopped taking it and will wait and see how I feel.
I am not going to know if the dizziness was related to it if I am not dizzy again. But if I am dizzy again I will know it was not due to the medication. A bit of detective work will be needed to see what the cause is. I will probably assume it's fatigue/ stress.

The 4 day a week thing is an interesting one......
it feels like such a luxury. I am so lucky that I can afford it.

I also have struggled to get my head sorted about being a part-time worker - I had always imagined myself working full-time and climbing up the career ladder. I have now realised that I have a choice and life isn't all about career. I need to feel like I am influencing decisions that affect the bigger picture - the way services are delivered, the priorities that are set in public service, the tackling of the causes of inequalities and prevention/ reduction of them. I assumed this meant I had to be managing big budgets or lots of people or writing high level strategies.
I actually don't like do those things and have started to feel like my contribution to those things will not effect the sort of changes I want to see. I have come full circle back to the belief that is it grassroots social action that can make the biggest impact.

T and I were talking about this yesterday (again - it's a common topic in our home) and we are of the view that due to the lack of clear political principles all that government departments can do is "manage" - and that means create change to structures and systems and move people around a bit. The work that gets done is always the same. The effect on the people who are served by the services (local govt and nhs) is at best no change, at worst severe disruption to services during the upheaval and changes in personnel with reduction in trust.

For example - the cycle that the library service has gone through in the last 10 years is 5 changes of deparment each costing thousands in public money to re-brand, re-structure re-organise internally, with less to spend on changing the outfacing service.

The nhs has gone from a Family Health Service Authority monitoring the work of independent GPs, to a Health Authority, then with fund holding powers passed to GPs as individuals and groups. After that GPs formed Primary Care Groups, and then became Trusts if they were big enough. Those Trusts were told they were too small and some had to merge and the Health Authorities role shrank and so they also merged to cover larger regions. Now there is a another round of mergers and GPs will have to engage in practice based commissioning of care and services from next September. What goes around comes around.

The amount of time and money that is spent on this could be spent on managing stasis instead of managing change - and that would allow organisations to put efforts into building long-term meaningful relationships with their communities and "customers". But then the election campaigns would have nothing to put in their manifestos about changes to public services..... or is that just too cynical????

Also - back to the part-time working thing...... I have doubts about justifying it when again I am lucky enough to have a job that is not putting life and limb at risk every day. Nor is it illegal - unlike the work that some people are forced to do - having read this Guardian article about women trafficked into the sex trade, I almost cannot imagine a worse way to be made to earn money. Women and girls as young as 10 are encouraged to come to Western Europe to make money and once here are raped until they become submissive and then forced to work as prostitutes and pay their "debt" - the "cost" of bringing them to the country - back to their "owner".

As Bianca Jagger writes -
"On one level, the UK government recognises the problem. A few years ago, Home Office research estimated that 1,420 women were trafficked into the UK in 1998 in order to be forcibly prostituted. The expert consensus is that the scale has significantly increased since then. There are now certainly thousands of women and girls trapped in a horror-filled existence. Desperately poor women and girls are typically stripped of their passports and other documents by their new "employers", and taken to secure flats and beaten and raped by their "owners" to "break them in". After that, it's a soul-destroying treadmill of dehumanising servitude, providing sex for 20 to 30 men a day, according to the Metropolitan police.

Scared and abused... many lacking a good command of the language, and told by their traffickers that what they are doing is illegal and could lead to imprisonment, they are truly caught in a web. Even if they escape the imprisonment of their owners, the route home is often barred anyway, as traffickers will threaten to expose them to shame there or even threaten their lives or the lives of their families. Britain needs to stop treating women forced into prostitution as criminals. They are automatically criminalised.
In May, a new European treaty established fresh guidelines for this. The European Convention Against Trafficking, the world's first international law specifically for protecting trafficked people's rights, puts victims first. Organisations such as Amnesty International are backing the convention and calling on the UK to sign up to it, but the government is stalling. Why, when Home Office minister Paul Goggins has said that the government "fully supports" the aims of the convention? Could it be that the government is afraid of criticism from anti-immigration lobbyists that the convention extends rights to women and girls who could fabricate a story of sexual slavery to gain access to the country? You could be forgiven for thinking that protecting some of the world's most terrorised and vulnerable people ought to cancel out these peripheral concerns."

Thursday, September 29, 2005

suits you sir!

but it doesn't though - does it?

I went on a shopping outing with T the other day, T fancied getting a suit (which would be his second one). He looks quite good in the one he's got, which he wears about one day a month on average. He only ever wears collarless shirts - which are very hard to find - and it's a fairly casual style.

We went to M&S and the choice (and this is totally serious) was grey, dark grey, dark blue and grey, dark blue, black, grey and black. There was nothing brown, green or light coloured. And the one he tried on made him look like an unhappy accountant/ wedding photographer. The patent leather pointy shoes that the man at the changing room gave him to wear to test the length of the trousers did not help.

It well and truly put him off the idea. Me too.

I had a little internet search after and found that Next do linen and gaberdine suits and Boden to "moleskin" (which sounds cruel to me!). They are a bit more casual.

Anyway - the point is - why wear one at all - it's so macho. He feels like it is essential on the odd occasion. One thing that is clear is it is a uniform. It is notable that women do not have the same restrictions in most workplaces. Some women wear I work wear a suit (usually bright colours or at least with a bright blouse). Others wear all sorts of tops and they have a choice of skirts and trousers. There obviously are subtleties that men can "read" from the suit-wearing, but it's so limited.

I wondered if this is because men are not meant to be attractive at work, but women are. That is Naomi Klein's view - see the Beauty Myth post. It also seems to be that men are not taken seriously unless they conform utterly. (Women are never taken seriously no matter what we wear).

We talked about how some men wear suits to go out at night - T used to have a suit as a youngster that he bought so he could get into nightclubs. Again the same issue arises - men are the ones who have to follow the "shirt and tie, no trainers, no jeans" rules - for women it's literally anything goes! We think that is because women are on display and the more women nightclubs attract in, the more men will also pay to go in.

All this reminded me of what I thought when I saw the press call on the first day of the UN general assembly when all 60 members were photographed together. Obviously there were very few women, but noticeably there was a lot less "traditional/ ethnic/ national" dress than there used to be - almost all the people were wearing western tailored suits in dark greys.

President of the Phillipines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's red suit is noted on the Phillipines government website. She is the first President of the Phillipines, the first Asian head of state, and the first woman leader to preside over the UN Security Council Summit - the webpage says this about 10 ten times. I guess it's good. Shame about the suit though even if it is red. I'm not sure what I think about women getting into positions of power - it means we are taking part - but it does not change the fact that what we are taking part in is the patriarchy....

Anyway - back to the suits. The suits we know and love are culturally specific and seem much more dowdy than the formal wear of other countries - although I don't know enough about it to know whether for example an Ghanian lawyer or an Bangladeshi hyper-capitalist company director would be expected to wear grey rather than, say red....

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

exciting plans

The wonderful Travelling Punk is starting a new women's magazine as an alternative to all the mass media pulp glossy's out there....

I am going to see what I can do to help.... it's too good to miss. Anything has got to be better than the oppressive trash that's currently peddled! But I hope this will be more than just better.... it has the potential to be essential reading for any feminist in the UK.

Does anyone remember "Everywoman"? I used to read it and it was so refreshing. It stopped in the early/ mid 90's I think.

Anyway, why don't you take a read of what TP has to say and if you are interested - join us!

free association 4

  1. Crave:: dark choc rice cakes
  2. Whole package:: dark choc rice cakes
  3. Roommates:: smell
  4. 5:30:: Newsround
  5. Lesbian:: love
  6. Poignant:: robin song
  7. Hurtful:: words
  8. You and I:: together
  9. Grateful:: hug
  10. Giggle:: friends

    Monday, September 26, 2005

    a hairshirt

    It's a bit worrying.... perhaps I should take note..... even though it's meant to be lighthearted.....and it's exaggerated......

    apparently I am a -


    Excuse us, could you just put down that hammer for a minute and listen. You’re so busy getting things done you rarely take any time out just to relax. In fact, you’ve probably forgotten how to relax. That’s because you’re so anxious to prove that it’s possible to lead a good and moral life without religion that you have built a strict and forbidding creed all of your own.

    You keep a compost heap, cycle to the bottle bank, invest in ethical schemes only and the list of countries you won’t buy from is longer than the washing line for your baby’s towelling nappies. You admire uncompromising self–sacrificers like Aung San Suu Kyi and Che Guevara, and would have liked the chance to be incarcerated for your principles like Diderot or Nelson Mandela.

    You would never cheat on your partner, drink and drive, accept bribes or touch drugs. You never waste money though you give lots to charity. Living a good life? You’re a model to us all. But it wouldn’t hurt you to try a little happiness once in a while. Loosen up.

    What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.

    Thursday, September 22, 2005


    I like memes

    free association seems pointless

    and so does this one - Oneword

    but I like them both....

    ...find more memes here

    free association 3

    1. Less filling:: pie
    2. Glue:: sticky
    3. Surprise me:: flowers
    4. Model:: anorexia
    5. Fee:: waive
    6. Microphone:: testing
    7. Choices:: voices
    8. To the bone:: cut
    9. Run!:: home
    10. Appeal:: TV

    cultural creative

    is apparently what I am - according to the quiz asking "What is your world view?"
    I actually did not understand some of the statements I had to respond to... but here is my score anyway.

    You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

    Cultural Creative
















    What is Your World View? (updated)
    created with

    I answered yes too all the questions on the US website Cultural Creatives questionnaire.

    That worried me as I don't like to think I completely conform to something I've never heard of before! I serached for a UK link and found Ethical Matters description......and when I found it - I read this -

    "right now you are quite likely sighing 'oh, no not another bloody stereotype' this may be because cultural creatives hate to be put in to boxes. While wanting to refrain from doing this there are some fascinating facts that we feel duty bound to tell you about."

    We disagree with some of what Mr. Ray is saying as we find people with the interests proported to be of cultural creatives are often politically active - this political with the small p - concerned with their community, with environmental destruction, with globalisation - what cultural creatives are not are new age hippies. Although they cannot be discerned from any particular demographic group - Cultural Creatives come from all walks of life from accountants to acupuncturists, supermarket buyers to computer consultants and lawyers and doctors to midwives and gardeners - the overriding factor is that they tend to be involved in, or care intensely, about environmentalism, globalisation, peace, social justice, holistic health, civil rights and new spirituality. Many cultural creatives have dabbled in or are committed to self-development and growth; many would like nothing else but to leave the rat race to lead a more sustainable life. While they may not be lucky enough to do this they want to make difference in what they do right now.

    Cultural Creatives are:
    Interested in Ecological Sustainability Concerned with global ecology
    Concerned with Women's Issues
    Interested in or use alternative health care
    Have a social conscience Are interested in a spiritual dimension
    Are often information junkies - prefer print and radio to television
    Ethical and careful consumers making value based purchases.

    Obviously these are sweeping generalisations, however what distinguishes us nice Cultural Creative types are the following values and tendencies. Cultural Creatives want to invest ethically, they work hard to make their lives less dependent on unsustainable and unethical systems - to simplify their lives. They are often unhappy with the party political systems seeing flaws in both the left and the right while being politically active. Surprisingly, given their informed worldview they are often optimistic about the future while distrustful of the media. They often have finances and spending under control and are not concerned about overspending, disdaining advertising and can be fanatical recyclers. They tend to eat organic foods and use alternative medicine. Ultimately Cultural Creatives want to be involved in creating a new and better way of life for themselves, their dear ones and the world and at the same time work on self knowledge and increasing wisdom. "

    So that's me labelled well and truly.....

    I like the sound of it anyway so that's a good start!

    I wonder how I got the 25% fundamentalist score - scary!!

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    identity and conformism

    I have read in the grauniad that a government advisor thinks that mental distress is more of a social problem than poverty or unemployment - seems odd he doesn't link them together! And of course it's a problem when the inequalities are so great. And when the prejudice against mental illness is so dramatic. We are taught to fear it and that means we behave in ways that inhibit our self-expression. We conform. And that makes us ill. We are all mad, it's when we keep our personality constrained and our distress withheld that we get ill. Seems so obvious to me.

    My identity is something I have been thinking about a lot in recent days - especially since seeing Frida Kahlo's work and the sculpture of Alison Lapper. It seems necessary to keep myself safe, that I have at least 2 main identities. One at work and one at home/ with friends. There are many things I would like to say and do at work that I believe would alienate me from the organisation and most (not all) of my colleagues. Not least I feel compelled to pretend I am well when I am not.

    I realised yesterday that I need to find a job that matches my values more closely. I feel very constrained in the workplace currently. Mostly that is due to organisational culture. So - I'm looking for work in the voluntary sector again I think - to do with rights, inclusion, anti-poverty, anti-discrimination....... let me know if you see anything......

    little compulsions

    Following on from the wonderful telling us all about her cute weird behaviour and worrying about people thinking she is scary - here are my little compulsions....

    toilet rolls must be hung so the loose end is at the front - I sometimes change other people's round...

    MUGS - interested that so many other people worry about mugs and glasses and plates and bowls and cutlery too - as soon as I open the cupboard door and discover someone else has put the clean crocks away WRONG I have to sort them out so they are RIGHT (i.e. put away my way).

    Dishwasher or sink - wherever the dirty things are they have to be stacked properly - in the dishwasher this is about fitting the maximum number of items in. And yes they have to be washed in the right order if washed by hand - cleanest things (i.e. glasses) first, dirtiest things (i.e. pans) last.

    I always leave my desk at work very neat and tidy at the end of the day/ if I go out. This means things in neat piles according to what day is needs to be done on - filed in trays, nothing on the main desk apart from PC, keyboard, mouse mat, drinks mat, phone message book, phone, pen tidy, notepaper and stapler.

    I had my own room at home - a condition of moving in together - but it is now a shared room - but still when I go in there things have to be just so.....

    CDs/DVDs must be in the case they came with!!! Preferably in genre order all those by the same artist together. CDs were filed in genre and then alpabetically within genre but most are now just A-Z as the genres are blurry. Folk is still all in it's own little corner - British A-Z and US A-Z.

    Books - A-Z of course if fiction. Or by genre....

    Chairs must be tucked under the dining table when not in use.

    Table mats must be stacked - in the right order - when not in use.

    Coathangers must all face the same way when the clothes are hung up. Spare coathangers should sorted into separate bags according to category (and metal hangers- the horrible bendy wiry smelly ones should be in hell where they belong!).

    Window key has to be in the front right hand corner of the windowsill so I know where it is when I want it.

    I have to have a dessert spoon to eat my yoghurt/ pudding with. T has to have a teaspoon...weird.

    Keys are kept in the drawer not on the side - how many times do I have to tell you!

    and finally for now - I am always very disturbed by having unpaired socks - I have been known to search the house over and over to find the missing sock and some socks are still missing and I miss them a lot and will celebrate should they ever return........

    Just to note - as a child my mother used to say I had St Vita's dance as I used to have to take an even number of steps if I walked anywhere which led to me doing a little extra step on the spot a lot. Don't do that anymore.

    I am certain that we all have things we do. We just pretend we don't.

    Sunday, September 18, 2005

    stunning art

    Frida Kahlo was mind-boggling - there were so many pictures and so much information about them - almost too much to take in and I am knackered. I had no trouble relating to the pictures - they were so vibrant. Some were very small and it was very busy so getting close enough was difficult sometimes.

    She painted a lot of still lives and portraits of other people - one in particular that interested me was of a horticulturalist like a tree growing out of a decaying corpse. The many themes expressing duality were expressed in most of her paintings - life and death, dark and light, sun and moon. Fertility was significant for her too and paintings explicity depicting her miscarriage are moving in their honesty.

    There were many books and postcards on offer in the Tate Modern shop - some were of incredibly beautiful photographic portraits of Frida brilliantly executed. Self-portraits in paint and photos by others were very important to Frida. I talked a lot with the friend I went with about identity and how we present ourselves to the world compared to how we wish to be seen and how others see us.
    After visting the Kahlo exhibition we went to see the wonderful sculpture of Alison Lapper pregnant, on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. It was stunning and contrasted wonderfully well with the phallic Nelson's Column. The three "great men" would be nothing without their mothers after all.

    Alison has written an autobiography part of which was in the Observer a few weeks ago - it is very disturbing. I also find it distrubing that Alison struggles to sell her own work as an artist - she was interviewed on TV in relation to the fourth plinth statue. Marc Quinn who designed the sculpture is famous and earning large amounts from his art - which includes Alison as one of his subjects. Alison's work was described as disgusting /ugly, as was her sculpture of her by Brian Sewell amongst others.

    Yesterday I read an Independent article by Deborah Orr on the train on my way back from London. She challenges us to celebrate giving birth to children with impairments as we celebrate the sculpture's beauty.

    So how do we judge beauty then? Does it have to be classical (as the statue clearly is - it's like the Venus de Milo)? How do we get ourselves to see difference as beautiful? Self-portraits were used by Frida and are also used by Alison to explore their own ideas of beauty and identity - and these can be shared by us - they certainly made me thing about my own views of myself and how I see others.

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    so many things to post about.....

    and so little time...

    the first thing I will tell you about is a tree.

    I was driving to work and heard a radio interview with a forensic archaeologist. She worked in, amongst other places, Iraq and Rwanda - studying sites of atrocities, mass burials etc.

    In Rwanda, she went into a Church. She was shown a huge long coffin set into the ground.

    She asked why it was so long.

    There was a woman, raped using a tree. The perpetrators forced the tree so far into her, went right through her. She was buried with the tree inside her.

    I could not get the image this telling created from my mind.

    How big was the tree? How long did she live for? How could other human beings do this to her? And why do we not have more information about this horrendous war in the mainstream media?

    I am determined to make time to find out more about the Rwanda genocide and the civil war. If anyone can suggest a good source please advise me..........

    This made me think also about the power of the spoken word over the visual image. I realise I have become somewhat insensitive to colour TV news/ programmes - not entirely - I often get choked up at some of the things I see. But this personal direct telling of this story was much more powerful. Rather than an immediate shock, the image built up slowly and engaged me, before I could avoid it. Talking about this with a good friend, we though maybe this was because as human animals, the human voice is one of the first things we hear/ sense. So perhaps it is a more effective communication tool than 2D moving images.

    I am going to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Tate Modern tomorrow and am very aware of these ideas now. I wonder how it will affect my response to the paintings?

    Friday, September 09, 2005

    unequal pay...

    in a big way...

    if there was only one way to demonstrate that the oppression of women is still alive and well this is it...

    According to the Guardian - thirty years after equal pay legislation was introduced, women still earn almost a fifth (18%) less than their male counterparts. This gap widens to 40% for part-time workers. Even recent women graduates, after five years in employment, earn 15% less than men who have the same qualifications.

    Lady Prosser, the chair of the Work and Women Commission, set up last summer, will outline the progress made to date next week.

    Unions are hoping for a "gender equality duty" imposed on employers, mandatory pay audits to identify disparities and time off for union equality officers in the workplace.

    Prosser blames three factors sustaining the gender pay gap: "part-time working, occupational segregation and women's labour market issues, such as childcare, which act as barriers to women's chances of entering and progressing in the workplace."

    This makes great sense in the wider context of the inequalities (outlined this week's in the government's follow up to the Black Report of 1980). As Alex Scott-Samuel says - "There has been a lot of rhetoric [on health inequalities], especially since Labour first came in, but we now see that these are not working. Material factors still underlie inequality ... income inequalities are still at the same level as in the 1980s."

    Prosser believes "the solutions lay in longer-term changes, such as ending the job segregation that sees women tied to traditionally low paid jobs".

    I agree with Lady Prossers view of the three main causes, and that the solution needs to be wider than legal changes. The social divide is as great as ever. There has to be a total culture shift and that includes our own attitudes as women to our value. Many of us have internalised the oppression so that we believe that men should earn more as the "breadwinners" and we don't speak up enough.

    I know that voluntary agreements to equalise pay don't work. I will be disappointed if none of the unions expectations are met.

    Friday, September 02, 2005

    a day of peace

    The 21st September is United Nations International Day of Peace - a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, now fixed in the calendar as 21 September annually.

    "All sectors of society are being asked to honour and celebrate the Day on the 21 September. The vision of the Day extends far beyond the cessation of violent conflict and represents an opportunity for individuals to join in a moment of global unity."

    There is a huge list of suggestions as to what you can do yourself as action for peace on the day - you can make a badge and wear it, make up with someone you've fallen out with, hold a vigil.........

    seems like a great idea to me - not sure what I'll do, but I'll do something.