Behold Victor Meldrew!

Those who know me say I’m always moaning. It may be true. Maybe I have good reason to moan. Below I give some examples of why, to some people, I appear to be a Victor Meldrew. The examples all happened within a few weeks (May 2017).

  • Moving date came and went. I was initially supposed to move on the Friday, but it was delayed until the Monday because of the credit reports. Fortunately I had pre-empted this happening and had already booked the Monday off from work. I’m used to this now!
  • Moved all my things in. Many journeys. Installed the washing machine. This was the same one we had been using at the old house. It was used just two days beofre we moved it. Upon installation, it decided not to work. ERR02 came up on the display. Pump fault. I read on the internet what could cause this. Followed what it said. I couldn’t find anything wrong. Handwashed for two weeks. Did my final checks before buying another one, when I discovered the waste pipe had a bung in it, presumably from the new property that wasn’t discovered on installation or my first check.
  • I hung my fleece on my spare bicycle. I had a need to go in the pockets. I tried to remove it but it was caught on the pedal. I tried a couple of times but could not move it. It was dull in the living room and I couldn’t see properly. This annoyed me, so I went to the light switch and punched it on. Except the light switch shattered into pieces. I then went back to my fleece and saw that the zip had miraculously hooked itself onto a small part of the pedal, a task that took me some fiddling to undo. I noticed my hand was bleeding from the light switch. Which in turn, because it was just a graze type injury, means that every time I wash my hands it stings like a biatch!
  • So, it’s a nice day out today. Windows open to help cool the house. Except there is one neighbour that decides they want to let their children to play in the back garden (not a problem), but one of the children continues to screech a high pitched scream like they are being murdered. This continues for over an hour on and off, before I finally concede and close my rear bedroom window. I’m not against people enjoying themselves or children being children, but when it affects others, and the screaming is really unneccesary, then it’s too much.
  • The same day, the very same neighbours decide they want a barbecue. The smoke signals could be seen in the US of A. I’m just waiting for the smoke alarm to activate right now. I could close all my windows at the rear, but why the hell should I? I have as much right to enjoy the weather peacefully as anyone else. FFS! Not happening.

I mean, to be clear good stuff did happen. For example figuring out what was wrong with the washing machine before I had paid for another. That was a most joyous moment. Saved myself a small fortune! A new light switch bought and installed less than 48 hours later. Given a door mat by a work colleague. It all adds up. Good things do happen to me.

But the chances of some of these things happening must be, oh I don’t know, like millions to one. The children one was probably predictable given the weather. Unbeknown to me, the light switch was a strange brittle bakelite type material. I have punched light switches before and never smashed them. The zip thing, that really was a million-to-one. There are little L-shaped metal prongs on pedals, no more than 5mm in size. My fleece was the right length at the time for the zip to hook this (a slightly larger than 5mm hole in the zip pull part) and become lodged.

Have a nice holiday weekend and enjoy the weather. I’ll try to, if that’s okay with the neighbours.

 

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To rent or to buy?

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Over the last week or so, I’ve moved again. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve moved. Something was slightly different this time. It was much easier than all the other times. I don’t know why, but it was. I didn’t move far from where I was. Maybe that was why. Perhaps because it was the umpteenth time I’ve moved, that made it easier. I even found an old checklist for the things I need to get sorted in my new house like registering for utilities, council tax, cable tv, phone etc.

So here’s a thought for those of you who cannot afford a mortgage, either because you don’t have a deposit or because you just don’t earn enough, or both.

I’m renting. I’m paying someones mortgage. This you already know. You’ve heard this a thousand times before, right?
So explain this. I deposit a months rent. I get a guarantor. The agent knows where I work and has a reference from them. They credit check me. They are happy to rent me a property on an ongoing basis, intially for 12 months. I could potentially be in this property for the rest of my life. And paying someone elses mortage. Yet I can’t get a mortgage myself!
I am living a life and proving that a mortgage of a simlar amount I pay in rent is affordable to me, yet no bank will give me a mortgage. Why?

This makes no sense to me whatsoever. I mean, I understand the landlord/agent has a potential loss of one months rent but a bank could lose a few thousand pounds. But, both STILL have the house, unless I do something really stupid.

Whomever I pay, I still need a place to live in. Surely it would make sense for banks to use evidence of paying rent on a regular basis as a means to offer a mortgage for someone to get on the property ladder. They’ll have/own the property as surety and I would make payments in the same manner as I pay rent now. Win, win!

Maybe I see things in a far simpler light than others.

Have a great weekend!

Did I offend you?

If a black comedian tells jokes about black people is it okay? If a disabled comedian tells jokes about disabled people is it okay? If a white able-bodied comedian tells a joke about a black disabled person, is it racist? If a gay comedian tells jokes about gays does that make them a homophobe? Why is this socially acceptable? Does their colour, disability or sexual orientation allow them to joke or make fun of the same people, whilst being wrong if they are not one of those things? Where is the line drawn?

Years ago I used to work with an African guy. He used the n-word a lot. Not in the way you may think. He rapped. He was quite good. He used the n-word whilst rapping. One day me and him got chatting and he seemed to think that because he was black, he was entitled to use the word. I explained that his parents and their parents maybe had that right, but not him. They fought for their entitlement. He did not. He was part of what came after. If I used the word I would be prosecuted. Therefore if I could not and should not, neither should he. And that, I tried to explain, is part of the problem with the n-word. Some people, much younger than me, think they have some sort of entitlement to use the word. If they continue to use the word when talking about each other, how can they expect others to not use it when referring to them?

Just because you ‘wear a badge’ does not give you a right to speak on behalf those that also wear that badge. (I use the ‘wear a badge’ phrase in a figurative manner to mean you are one of those people affected or being spoken about).

I recall an incident in the UK some time ago when a famous comedian made a joke about ex-servicemen who had lost limbs during war-time service in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some ex-servicemen were present when the joke was told. They laughed, they shared in the joke. They saw the comedic value in the joke and did not take offence. However, others in the room thought the joke was offensive to those ex-servicemen and much media coverage ensued. People became offended on behalf of other people. The ex-servicemen present said it was no big deal. But still people who were unaffected were offended by the joke.

Where do we draw the line? Do we have to be offended by everything that we don’t agree with? Anything that doesn’t affect us personally? If I ‘wear the badge’ am I more entitled to be offended?

For example, if a comedian told a joke about cancer sufferers and you happened to have a relative affected by this, would you be offended? Or would you see the comedy for what it is? Would you be more or less offended if your relative had died recently? Although you may find the immediacy of the joke hurtful, it wasn’t a poke at you personally. I’ve known cancer sufferers, as have many of us. They also see comedy in their illness too!
I’m undecided on the matter, but I do not care for people who get offended by every little thing. It’s their right I know.

 

It’s like that one individual that reports an advert because they found something offensive. One advert that springs to mind is the Paddy Power advert where blind people where kicking a football with a bell in it when a cat, with a bell on its collar, crossed their paths. It was comedic, pure and simple. But some people sought to complain about animal cruelty.

The Advertising Standards Authority said that the most complained about advert during 2010 was one broadcast by Paddy Power, the betting company, which showed a cat being kicked across a pitch by a blind football player. Consumers complained that it was offensive to blind people and could encourage animal cruelty. It received 1,313 complaints.

The ASA said it was clearly a surreal advert and unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. But it was one of many advents featuring alleged animal cruelty, which appeared to be – along with overtly sexual imagery – the topic that most upset British consumers.

John Lewis’ Christmas advert, which briefly showed a dog in a snow-covered kennel attracted 316 complaints from viewers worried about the animal suffering in the cold, while an advert by the drinks company AG Barr, which showed cartoon animals being led to a butcher’s shop, prompted 204 complaints.

Quoted from The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/8507143/Paddy-Power-cat-kicking-advert-most-complained-about.html)

 

The worrying thing about this quote is that people complained about the John Lewis advert worried that the dog was suffering in the cold. Do they not know it’s an advert? It’s not real life. Get a grip people! Cartoon animals going to a butcher’s shop, 204 complaints? What the actual fuck! I wonder if these same people are as forthcoming if someone is doing something untoward or illegal near them? Just saying.

Highway to…in front of you!

Recognise your driving in the above video? WARNING: Coarse language used.

Drivers, although constantly told not to use their phones whilst driving, do. In some countries it’s illegal to drive whilst using your phone. It doesn’t stop them though. Because, according to them, what does the law know? Traffic lights turn red, drivers go through like they are immortal and have a wish to try and kill themselves. Car drivers wishing to turn. I mean it will save them at least two minutes of their journey right? It could kill them, but you know. Traffic light Russian roulette. They think it is okay to overtake then dive across three lanes of traffic, because they must be in front of you. Their need to get where they are going is greater than your need. Of course in most countries it is illegal to drink (alcohol) and drive. But there are those people who think it’s okay. Until they kill someone, or themselves. Even though they are constantly told NOT to drink and drive they think that they are above the law.

There are times when I sincerely believe I am not human. When I see the kind of things I mention above I really do question humankind and it’s incessant need to destroy itself and the planet it lives on.

If your greater need whilst driving your car means that you have to put your life, those in your car and others in danger before anything else, you should either be on a train or a plane. Not driving like an idiot on the public roads. If you really must get ONE place in front, you need to learn patience. If you really can’t wait at a red light for two minutes then why are you driving?

If you recognise the style of driving above and you drive like this, then perhaps you should take a good hard long look at what you can do to improve your driving and do everyone else a favour and take yourself off the road for now. Or use public transport.

So my short but sweet proposal is this. An island somewhere. Anywhere. Uninhabited. Perhaps an old militray installation. Put all these people there and let them get on with it. sort out their driving skills, thinking skills. If they make it they’ll live. If they don’t…well, theres plenty more people to replace them.

NHS: A health service for the future?

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Those of you who have had the misfortune to be in need of hospital treatment in the UK would be pleased that the service we get, although not always what it could be, is free in so far as we don’t pay extra other than taxes and National Insurance to fund it. People in other countries are not so fortunate. So is the National Health Service (NHS) the way forward for the future healthcare in the UK?
(The figures quoted below can be found on the TheKingsFund website)

Our NHS service, whilst not the best or worst healthcare service in the world, is free for anyone from any walk of life to use. Because of the resources needed to run this behemoth, it is fair to say that it takes it toll on the buildings, staff and patients. Staff availability isn’t what it could be. In fact a lot of staff in our hospitals in the UK tend to come from other countries. This is because the wages they can earn here are attractive compared to their home countries. Even with that, our hospitals are severely understaffed. There are 1.2 million FTE (full time equavalent) NHS staff. Of that, about 325,000 are nursing staff.

They are also severely under-funded. Money to fund the NHS comes from the government coffers. It is estimated that it will cost £120 billion to fund the NHS in 2017. By 2021 this is forecast to be £133 billion. 98.8% of this is paid for by taxes and National Insurance contributions.The other 1.2% is from patient charges.

There there is the bed space.There are around 125,000 hospital beds available in the NHS. The beds roughly have someone in them 90% of the time. Almost at breaking point.

So, although not ideal and almost at breaking point, it works. You get ill, you wait, you get repaired. The quality of care in most cases is excellent, but there are some exceptions. Personally, I’m very grateful for our NHS service. Yes it has it’s problems, but it is free at the point of need. Is it the way forward for the future? No. I don’t think so.

The NHS has a Five Year Forward View (pdf) that was published in October 2014 and sets out a new shared vision for the future of the NHS. Patient groups, clinicians and independent experts have also provided their advice to create a collective view of how the health service needs to change over the next five years if it is to close the widening gaps in the health of the population, quality of care and the funding of services.

All well and good, but how is this going to be funded you may ask. There are many ideas about how it will be funded, but most agree it will not be entirely by the taxpayer as it is now. Funding through insurances which we all pay is a possibility. Private healthcare is another option. Some people are already fortunate enough to have this. Things like BUPA, AXA PPP, Aviva and PruHealth are the big four companies involved in this accounting for almost 90% of the market. This would of course rule out those less well off. There would need to be some thought into how those people access healthcare without insurance provision. For the less well off, emergency care would be free, as it would for anyone. Anything beyond emergency care would need assessment and then could be funded if needed based on assessed medical need and impact on life to the patient, not unlike today.

future-hospital

Healthcare itself may also change substantially. Going to the supermarket for a checkup may not be an uncommon thing in the future. Doctors, or machines could do this. As technology improves there may be less need to have staff. Things like blood pressures and weight checks can already be done without the need for staff intervention.

What does all this mean? Well, the NHS as we know it and the way it is funded may change dramatically. This could help to improve an ailing system that is over 50 years old. Healthcare of the future may require less staff, but as the population ages, healthcare needs change. We are a long way off robots being able to support or care for the elderly. This will still require staff and these must be paid for somehow.

 

Are we all racists?

Alf GarnettCOMEDY-TRAILS-TELEVISION PROGRAMME..

Racism. A strong word indeed. These days, an often misused word I feel.
Now before I start this article, I want to make it quite clear and simple. I do not condone racism of any kind in any form. Racism.

At work we were discussing comedy TV of old. Some of you will be familiar with Goodness Gracious Me (Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Nina Wadia, pictured on the right above) and Till Death Us Do Part (TDUDP) featuring a character played by Warren Mitchell, Alf Garnett pictured above on the left)
The description of the program Goodness Gracious Me as given on IMDB is “A British sketch comedy that explores the integration of Indian and British cultures through a series of satires,musicals and skits.” Bear in mind, this is acted out by British Indians.
For Till Death Us Do Part the description is given on IMDB as “A working-class Cockney bigot with a biased and experienced opinion of everything shares them bluntly and almost carelessly.

Are these programs racist? Well, we (An English man, a Ugandan/Scots man and an Irish man) didn’t think so. What we agreed upon was that they looked at their own cultures and those of their opposites (characters) and laughed and joked about them together.

Till Death Us Do Part probably courts the most controversy because of the language used by the main character. The language used by Alf Garnet could be (and most likely is) interpreted as racism, but no more than some comedians today who use similar language. Yes, it was borderline or cutting edge as they used to call it. But, it was comedy. It’s sole purpose was comedy. Nothing malicious. No racist intent. Again, yes Alf Garnett used coarse language when referring to people of other nationalities and those words would not be tolerated today, nor should they be. They where words of the time. I sound like I’m making excuses for racism and that’s really not how I want to come across. Incidentally, this series had eight seasons and was very popular. This series was last shown in 1975.

Goodness Gracious Me had no swearing in it and takes a look at life from a different perspective. It was an easy-going program that just made you laugh. This series was most recently shown in 2015.

If you think that either of the programs mentioned above are racist, then just bear with me a moment. Do you think Fawlty Towers is racist? Fawlty Towers (John Cleese, Andrew Sachs, Prunella Scales) ran for two seasons. Andrew Sachs played the part of a waiter who happened to come from Spain and was called Manuel whose grasp of the English language was not great and he was ridiculed for it. See anything that may be considered slightly racist yet? There was also an infamous episode called The Germans which would also be considered risqué – and extremely racist in parts. Yet most consider Fawlty Towers to be a great classic comedy. I certainly do. I have all the episodes. And mostly it was great comedy. However, if you watch this episode you may change your mind.

The definition of racism is given as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”  or “hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.” The programs above where not made with this intention, rather they were made with comedy in mind and an exploration of differences. Have we become more sensitive to this issue, or are we getting to the point were if we think something isn’t agreeable with us we assume it must be racism or some other -ism? Are you offended because you think it is the politically correct right thing to say or think, or are you offended because you genuinely believe that a wrong has been done and as per the definition above, you believe that prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism has been directed at someone of a different race based on the belief that their race is superior?

Personally, I don’t think the latter is the case. I think there is an over use of the word racism and if we continue in this fashion we shall de-value the word and its correct use. This would be detrimental to all of us because the word then has no value or meaning.

I’m not trying to imply that racism does not take place and is not a thing. It does and it is. There is no place for racism in society today, to be clear. But we must be careful that we understand what exactly racism is before we start using the word because we don’t agree with what someone has said as an individual.
Do we take these views because we think we have a better comprehension of what racism is after the years of passed by? Or do we take these views because we think it makes us look more educated? Do we take these views because we are afraid we will offend someone if we do not?

Lastly I will give an example so you can better understand what I am trying to say not so eloquently!
Imagine an Asian friend goes on holiday and comes back to work. They have a sun tan. You pass comment saying how they have caught the sun. A person nearby overhears what you say, but does not hear the full conversation. They then report this to a manager.
At first impression, to the casual bystander, this may appear to be racism. In actuality, it is a genuine conversation and a genuine misunderstanding. There is no racism and there never was. But had the person who reported the matter stayed and listened this may have become fairly obvious. Thus, we all become fearful of what we may say in case it is misconstrued and we are ridiculed for it.
Had you said the same to someone with fair skin, nobody would have batted an eyelid. No one would care. But because the person on the receiving end is not fair-skinned, everyone within earshot who does not hear or listen to the full conversation assumes it must be racism because we are now overly sensitive and make that assumption based on what we think we know.

Maybe people who think like I do are the problem. I don’t know. I’d like to think that I’m fairly open and broad-minded. I’d certainly not class myself as any -ism. Perhaps I’m wrong. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Depression: My story

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All of us have our ups and downs. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t function normally. Indeed, those that don’t, don’t. This can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the body, but it can be caused by mental factors too. What follows is my personal story of depression and how it affected me.

Some time ago my step-sister passed away. I regarded her as my sister [rather than step-sister] as we had known each other since we were 7 and over the years, more so the later years, had grown quite close. At the time I took her death on the chin. No real mourning, nothing. Perhaps that is the word to describe exactly how I felt at the time. Nothing. I was numb. With pain? Perhaps. Disbelief? Definitely. My sister was only 35 at the time. My parents had to bury their child, which is never nice. Cancer was the cause. (Hence why I get immense job satisfaction doing what I do – see article Pharmaceuticals overpriced? especially the conclusion on that article and the bottom of this article if you want to skip the boring parts).

Time passed, years in fact, and I still hadn’t really mourned the passing of my sister. Then it caught up with me. I didn’t care about life choices any longer. I didn’t care about consequence. I couldn’t see the point of doing anything. I asked my employer if I could take some time off the phones, as I worked in Customer Services at the time. I wasn’t really able to verbalize the reason why. They where unsympathetic at that point and told me I had to be on the phones or go sick. I went on sick that day. That’s when it all started.

I went to my doctor and did my best to explain how I felt, but not the reason why. My doctor was very understanding and prescribed me something for the chemical imbalance. I wasn’t convinced they would help, but tried them anyway.
In the meantime my employer started to take me seriously as my time was mounting up. They organised for me to visit their doctor. I went. Very posh it was too. It was like stepping into someones front room. It was in a more well-to-do area. The doctor was again very nice and asked me lots of questions.

After my visit, I was referred to a counsellor. I went. We didn’t really speak much. I asked her “Why would I speak to you, a stranger, if I don’t even feel I can talk about it to my own family?”
She had no answer. “I’m just another patient to you. I leave, the next one comes in. You don’t care about me.”
I went several times. It was the same each time. I didn’t feel like I wanted to tell her anything. What was the point? She wouldn’t understand. She might say she does, but she has no clue.

I was referred to an NHS psychiatrist. I went. I told her the same stuff. Her verdict – I’m normal. Yay!! It’s true.

I decided my son and I needed a holiday. Therapy. I think I even mentioned this to my NHS psychiatrist when I went. So I booked a trip to Kuala Lumpur. Two weeks. We saw the MotoGP. It was hot. One of the best holidays ever at that point. Whilst I was there, my mobile rang. It was work. They knew I was abroad by the ringtone. They wanted a meeting. I told them I was abroad and I would happily come in once I returned. A date was arranged.

I got back from my holiday and attended the meeting. They said they were happy for me to come back and do administrative work so I wasn’t on the phones. It took them almost six months to work this out. I was furious. I told them at this point, I no longer required that. I would be returning to my job in full in a few weeks time, once my doctor’s certificate had finished.
Long story short – I returned, had a Return to Work interview and all went well, so I thought. Then a week or so later, they sacked me for the amount of time I’d had off sick. (Sarcasm) A very sympathetic approach to someone who had just been off for depression. I should have taken them to tribunal, but I really couldn’t be bothered. Like most things at that time. So, unemployment. That long surreal cycle home jobless. Feeling relieved that it ended. Feeling free but penniless. A strange feeling indeed.

My brother couldn’t understand why I was like I was. “I couldn’t give a shit!” was my response for most things he asked or said. He was all “I don’t see what your problem is. She was my sister too.” Which whilst correct, they didn’t have the strongest relationship. He no help whatsoever. In fact, he was so unsympathetic it was worse than getting the sack from my job. Me and my brother never really did see eye-to-eye but this really pissed me off at the time. It made it worse because I was struggling financially – just to add to my woes at the time – and found out subsequently that he was in a position to help me out, but chose not too. For his own reasons. And of course, he’s family. If you can’t rely on family, who can you rely on?

Twelve long months or so later and I get a job. I applied for so many, it was almost beginning to get me down again. My depression subsided. I don’t know if the tablets helped or not. I don’t know if it was just a case of mind over matter. Time heals everything? I have no clue. But I felt much better.

My job? Helping to fight cancer. What better therapy than to fight back. This is my motivation for getting up in the morning and being the person I am. What more could I want? I have something that few attain. And for that I feel grateful. And in my mind, even if I do something different in the same company, I’ll still be winning.

Without all these difficult circumstances I would not be in the privileged position I find myself. I have fought back. I am at peace with myself.

That said, there are still some unanswered questions in my mind. Not the usual ones. The death of someone I can accept.
I still don’t understand why she didn’t tell me. She knew months before, but never told me. The first I knew was when I had to go hospital to see her because she was in a bad way.
I don’t understand why my brother took the stance he did with me. I mean, to be fair, he paid for her funeral and wake. He was able to and did. He never once asked anyone else for money. I never offered. I’m not really in a position to be able to.
I really have no clue why my then employer did what they did. They could have handled it so much better.
And still to this day, I have no clue why it took years for me to mourn my sister. It wasn’t denial. It wasn’t the way I imagined it. It just kind of happened that way.
I’m still not 100% fully recovered and I don’t think I ever will be. I don’t think you do recover 100% from things like that. I don’t hold any religious beliefs (Do you need religion?). But I do have hope.

I leave the name of my employer out of this story. Those that I have worked with will know who this is and you will now know the circumstances relating to my absence from work and my sacking. I hope you see that not everything you hear is true, depending on what you heard.


If you are depressed and/or need someone to talk to, call The Samaritans on 116 123 in the UK or visit http://www.samaritans.org/

In the United States of America call the Samaritans USA on 1 (800) 273-TALK or visit http://www.samaritansusa.org/contact.php