An Adventure.

So, here are my thoughts on Scottish Independence.
Long time no post; I'll get into that later. In the meantime, here's a little rant that I've been saving up.

I started off being a No vote. I don't want to break up the Union. I don't want History to be reversed; history shows that small city states didn't always do so well as a conglomerate of city states. (So says the Ancient Civilisations archaeologist,) But, I slowly swung to Yes. I've been Yes for a while actually - round about the time they screwed about with benefits. All that bluster about fraud? Well, there's more tax fraud than benefit fraud. Yes, there will always be some people who game the system. (Not looking at you, MPs who over claim expenses or flip their houses. Or course not.) The important thing is, you cannot and should not penalise all the people for the sake of a few. Applying their logic, some men are rapists; therefore, all men should be locked up. Or, some women are rapists (it does happen); all women should be locked up. Some humans are murderers; we should all be locked up or put to death (in states with the death sentence). Do we do this?  No. Because it's not acceptable to penalise the masses for the transgressions of a few.
Yet that's what's happened with benefits. And the majority claiming benefits - particularly disability ones - are disabled and/or elderly. You're going to get old one day: do you want to live under a regime where the old are left to die? Do you want to be left to die? And as for disability; we're not all born disabled, but some of us will have terrible accidents, be maimed. Our children may develop a rare condition. You might develop alzheimers, or cancer, or any number of awful conditions. Every time you get in your car or cross the road, you trust the people around you not to be fools, not to cause an accident.

At that point, I realised, I did not want to live with a government who cared so little about the people - our parents - without whom we and they would not be there. You can tell a lot about a society based on how they look after their vulnerable. More civilised and developed societies support and care for their vulnerable; less advanced, more primitive ones remove them, as they take up precious resources.

That's when I decided that I was voting Yes. Remember the Fees for university fiasco? We now live in a society that penalises our ancestors AND our future. The ultimate selfish society. That is not a government I want. They do not stand for me, they do not represent me, or my morals or values.

I'm voting Yes.

It's not that the government we'll end up with up here will necessarily fix all wrongs: they are but human, of course they won't. But it's a chance for change, a chance to make something better. There's so much hope there, so much opportunity. What happens next we can't know, but we can at least harness this desire to make a better future for everyone, not just the rich. We're not looking starry-eyed at some utopia, but if we seize the day with both hands, maybe we can be more than we have been. We should take that chance.

I have two analogies for you.*

Imagine a scenario where two people have been taken hostage. No-one knows where they are; they're being looked for, but it could be a long time before they're found. Their guards keep them under lock and key; but one day, one of them breaks their shackles. As they're working on the shackles of their fellow hostage, steps  trying to free them, steps are heard in the corridor outside.
Do they stay, and keep trying to free their companion, risking almost certain capture, or do they take the chance to flee through the window, to go and bring reinforcements to rescue their companion? Freedom through the window is not certain, but what is certain is that if they stay, neither will have a chance of rescue. It would be better to go, to run, to take the chance to rescue them both.
In this scenario, we - the citizens of England and Scotland - are held hostage to the government, and by voting for independence, Scotland has the chance to run to ultimately free us both.

Or another:
An acquaintance of mine had been swept off her feet by a very Manly Man. He was wealthy, and plied her with gifts, dresses for the social functions to which he took her, where she met his work compatriots, mingled with the great (not the good; it was financial services). He was proud that he had such a beauty on his arm; she improved his status in the company.
There was one drawback; this man was Always Right. He knew what was best for her, he knew what she should or should not be doing, or saying, or thinking. He didn't need to listen to her thoughts or feelings, because he knew what was best, and that is what (if she knew her place) she ought to want.
She stuck it out for a while, but soon, the knowing what was best for her began to grate.  He  didn't listen to her, ever, and that too began to grate. She had a chance for a promotion at work, but it would involve travel, away from him. She told him about it, and he informed her that he would write her rejection letter for her. Of course she didn't want the job, he said; she didn't need it, wouldn't need it when they were married, and of course she wouldn't want to be away from him. Her place was to be there for him.
She tried to explain how excited she was at her talent being recognised, how she loved travel and exploring, how this promotion could lead to her dream job. He looked at her while she spoke, and then said, "Yes dear, but of course I know you don't want the job. It's not the best thing for you, and I'm proud of you that you see your place is here with me."
She looked at him for a while, and then left. At home, ranting to herself, she realised; he had not been listening to her for a very long time, She had given up many opportunities while she had been with him, but this was the last straw. Her live was hers to live, to make the most of; she was not an accessory to be taken out of a cupboard and showed off any time he wanted.
She met with him the next day, and broke it off. Again he looked at her, that patient but patronising smile, and then told her that she was hysterical and should lie down; she'd be over this little foible in the morning.
She was livid, but she said nothing. She wrote him a letter, stating her position, and then refused to take his calls. Friends reported that he told them she was ill, overtired with work, of course she didn't mean it but these little hysterical turns should be left to run their course. Though naturally, when they were married, he would ensure she was treated for them; he couldn't have this sort of thing going on.
Several months later, she and her new man were walking to dinner, laughing and joking, when who should they run into, but her ex. He wanted to know who was this that she was with. Had she got over her little hysterical turn yet? He wouldn't be waiting around all day for her. That encounter led to the memorable outburst, "John, we have not been a couple for Five MONTHS. I broke up with you five months ago because you never listened to me. Ever. Always you knew what was best for me, what I wanted, without once ever listening to me. Well, grasp this: We. Are. Over. Okay?".
Part of their argument also involved him pointing out he earned more money than her current beau, and that clearly she could have no future with him, to which she responded that she would rather take her chance and live poorly but happily.
I'm  sure you can work out who we all are in that one.

I think at this point, I should also just make recognition of the Better Together contingent - specifically, the politician contingent. As a voter in favour of independence, I'm glad that their campaign is so dire; so full of empty rhetoric, so full of patronising sentiment, so overwhelmingly negative. I think that it can only help the Scottish Indy movement by being so. But I remain disappointed that all they can come up with to persuade us that we could be the United Kingdom is negative: bullying, childishness, spreading of fear and intimidation, ganging up (why hello Russia, Barrosso!), empty promises, filled threats, rhetoric which means squat - based on their current record - not to mention the condescending and patronising tone almost exclusively used when they're not wibbling ridiculousness. I mean really - We'll be barred from using the pound? No can do! We can peg our currency to the pound (whether it would be a good idea or whether we'd want to is another matter). Passports at the border? Well, you don't need a passport to travel within Europe as a European. You do need an identity card (Eeeek!), but not a passport.
Hello baby, hello pram, hello toys on the ground.
So often on reading the latest snippet I want to grab them, shake them, and ask them what the hell they think they're doing behaving like spoilt brats.
Couldn't they come up with something positive?
We won the damn war by pulling together, for goodness sake! Doesn't that count for something, more so than, "You don't know how to manage your money on your own"?
Or "I'm not gonna stick my oar in, but...." That's like saying, "I'm not a racist, but..." or  "I'm not homophobic, but...." or, "I don't mean to be offensive, but...." If you have to precede your comment by a denial then you know damn well you're doing what you're pretending you're not!
And that leads me to my other complaint. I swear, so many of the the comments they've pulled out read like things a manipulative parent or significant other might say. Don't you think so? Here's what some of their campaign gems have reminded me of so far:

Verbally Abusive Partner (VAP) and Downtrodden partner (DP).
DP shoulders bag. "I'm leaving. I'm worth more than this, more than being your skivvy, your punching bag, the thing that makes you feel important."
VAP: "You can't leave! You're nothing without me. Do you hear? Nothing!"
DP: "Oh but I am. I have my personality, my skills, my sense of humour. I have my empathy, my moral value, my integrity."
VAP: "You mean you think you do! For god's sake, you couldn't even manage your money on your own if I didn't take your wages and hand you out housekeeping."
DP: "How would you know? You've always taken my wages and given me housekeeping. You've never let me manage on my own. But I managed just fine before you came on the scene, buddy."
VAP: "Honey, look, calm down. I'll give you more money. I'll let you manage your own wages. We've come so far, baby, don't go now. We can make it through this. I love you."
DP: "It's a little late to be saying you love me after taking everything and returning nothing, like a giant leech. Goodbye."
VAP: "Yeah, whatever bitch! Don't come crying to me when you can't make it alone! When you come snivelling at that door, I might take you in, but you can be sure you won't even get a snifter of your wages then!"

I wish that it wasn't necessary to have independence. I wish the Westminster government were more trustworthy, more middle-ground, more reflecting of the views of us all as a whole. I wish they could see the importance of investing in both our past and our future, of not going all out for all they can get. I wish that our voting system represented us better. I wish that the government had a better plan to look after our economy - after all, the current one isn't exactly growing industry and jobs. At least the post-war plan had merit - it worked.
But in light of the fact that none of these things are currently true, I think that voting for independence allows us to demonstrate that there may be a better way than the way things are being done at the moment. It may be that regional government is the way to go - after all, just as Westminster isn't representing Scottish interests, they're not representing Yorkshire and the North of England either. I'm sure the same is probably true of Wales, too. Maybe we should follow the American regional model, and become the United Counties of Great Britain and Ireland. That way we can all have governments which broadly reflect us, while also having a shared cultural identity.

*Note: In all the little scenes here, I've tried to keep gender out of it. I'm not wanting to get into a debate about gender issues or stereotypes, so if these scenes read a little clunky for want of specific gender, it's because I've tried to write it so you can identify with them regardless of whatever description of gender that you choose to be.

New camera app.
I recently downloaded a new camera app which can automatically edit your photos, applying an HDR or black and white style to them. While I was in the Library at a favourite town house of mine, I played around taking photos of one of the ornate door handles and the fireplace as reflected in a particularly reflective table top.

Fireplace; I was aiming for one of those slightly unsettling pictures where it takes you a moment to realise that you're not looking at an upside down photo, you're actually looking at a reflection. I think it didn't quite work, partly because of the exposure and partly because the tabletop was black, which means the reflection is very dark.

More under here.Collapse )

This is an HDR version; I'm pleased with the automatic filter on this one, it's really sharpened the image up.

This is the Anselm style filter again. I'm really pleased with how this one turned out.

In retrospect, what would you do differently?
If you could go back and give advice to your parents, what would you advise them to do differently as you were growing up?

I was a "good girl" for most of my youth, described as erudite, engaging, polite, and very clever by the adults I met, I was adept at charming those I met. This stood me in good stead, both for those opportunities when I did get up to something naughty (I was never considered to be a culprit) or when I wanted to do something that was generally off-limits. For instance: we weren't allowed to stay in school during our breaktimes, being turfed out to roam the grounds and construct complex games involving tree climbing and bowes and arrows (or talk about boys, depending on which faction you belonged to). When I was around 15 or 16, about the time we were doing our standard grades and GCSEs, the school acquired a number of Acorn computers, turning an unused room opposite my form room into our computer room, and hiring a couple of nice IT guys. I swiftly discovered the enjoyment of lurking about on the internet (Yahoo and Geocities were beginning to be popular then) and playing games or drawing with the (really fairly advanced in retrospect) drawing programme. The hour of lunchbreak and half hour of morning breaktime seemed to me wasted time that could be better spent in the computer room, so I came up with the idea that the school needed an IT prefect; the Powers that Be thought it was a wonderful idea, and forthwith I became IT prefect. Immediately, I was no longer the geeky, somewhat naive and annoying classmate. The way my my peers perceived me was so different from the adults; having spent much of my socialising time in early childhood with adults, I preferred their company and had trouble relating to my peergroup, at least, that's what my mother suggested. I think it was partly that, and partly that I really was pretty naive in many ways.
Anyway, overnight, I didn't become popular, but I did gain some form of respect, and the low-level exclusion to which I had until then been subjected to was no more. I was not the only one to recognise the power and lure of the computers; there was enough competition for computers that we had many schemes for getting to lunch first in order to bolt our food and get down to the lab to nab the computers. Eventually, a booking system was introduced for fairness. Of course, as prefect, I was always guaranteed a computer; moreso, I had the power to remove misbehaving peers from the lab (miraculously, they always left!). It was this power which eventually ensured a sort of grudging camaraderie.
I should note at this point, to my everlasting shame, I did actually write my own website (well, I designed the page and wrote the content, but never wrote the code - we had a sort of site generator). Why shameful? I was at that point somewhat enamoured of the Anne Rice series of novels. Need I say more? In my defense, my site was not a fan-girl page, per se; instead, it dealt with the history of vampires (and werewolves) through the ages, from pre-Roman times onwards. It also had an essay of which I was rather proud, in which I discussed the emotional and intellectual appeal of the legend. So at least I would argue that there were some redeeming intellectual features to it.

Anyway, how does this relate to my original question? Well, it gives you a snippet into the sort of child I was. The year before I left school, I met a young man; the "wrong sort" of young man. I need not discuss the tears and arguments and recriminations - we all know what's involved with a rebellious teenager. My parents made (what with hindsight I consider to be) some very bad choices in how to deal with me, which really things worse. I made some dreadfully thoughtless decisions, which it pains me to think of to this day. I did eventually come to my senses, and I worked very hard to repair the damage done to my relationship with my parents. These days, we are very close, though that episode is never, and will never be, spoken of.

If I could go back and give my parents some advice, it would not be to do with my rebellious period, however. No, I would go back several years earlier, to when I was about 13 or 14. I was at this period friends with a girl whose parents moved in a number of Edinburgh Social Circles, the sort of circle which holds a Christmas Ball every year for the young ladies and gentlemen. I was very excited to receive an invitation to my very first ball. A dress was chosen; it was stunning. A fitted black velvet bodice with sweetheart neckline, and a skirt of shot silk which changed in the light; it was greeny-blue, and reminded me of the sea. There was piping of the same silk around the bodice, and wide straps of the same material. I felt like a princess. For the first time, I wore makeup; my mother used some of her own makeup, doing it for me. I had a wonderful evening, lots of fun, and I felt so grown up.

Unfortunately, I was also physically grown up. I have naturally dark hair. Can you see where this is going? Had I been blond, the whole issue would never have been raised, because no-one would have noticed. Society dictates that women are not beautiful if they do not shave their armpits. Armpit hair is considered unpleasant, at best, and is generally not socially acceptable on women. Leg hair, many women can get away with, but armpit hair is a whole different ballgame. It had never crossed my parents' minds to encourage me to shave - after all, I was still a child. At that age, one cannot even buy a razor, I suspect, so that it's not something I could have known to do or been able to do myself.

But should a child of 13 or 14 be subject to the same social mores that adult women are subject to? The arm hair thing is very clearly to do with the physical (sexual) attractiveness or appeal of the female's body; she is not as physically attractive if she has armpit hair. While one may talk of a child being beautiful, that refers to aesthetic beauty, generally of the face. It is absolutely taboo to consider the physical attractiveness or appeal of a 13 or 14 year old's body; so why is it so unacceptable for girl that age to have armpit hair? Of course, to adults, it's not, but children are very accurate reflections of such attitudes and customs. It does not even have to come from their parents; children are like sponges in that regard, they absorb a frightening amount from society. And society dictates (on the whole) that women should not have armpit hair.

The epithet "hairy pits" followed me for longer than I care to remember.

But would I go back and tell my mother to help me shave? Well... No, actually. It caused me far too much discomfort among my peergroup, endless bullying (it was definitely not teasing, it was worse than that). Interestingly, while the girls tagged along, particularly with the name-calling, the main instigators were generally male. I was not considered (prior to this) to be among the stunning beauties, but I was generally considered to be pretty; I had not previously encountered any teasing or bullying about my appearance. If I could ensure that such an episode had never happened, I would - but I can think of no way that I could be comfortable doing so. I think it is wrong to tell a child that age to shave because society dictates that women are not physically attractive otherwise. It would still be wrong even if I was to ensure the whole issue was avoided by telling my parents to get a dress with sleeves and even if my younger self was kept completely unaware that society prefers women with bald armpits.
But, while I now do remove my armpit hair (I know only a handful of women who don't), I would like to think I do it less because society tells me to, and more for hygiene reasons. Interestingly, I do now think that armpit hair looks really weird, regardess of gender. I am very definitely not alone in thinking this; I have both female and male friends who are of the same opinion. It's worth nothing that the latter don't indulge in any form of hair removal other than on their faces. Is it related to the whole bare-armpit thing, or is it simply that generally one does not see such bodily crevices (we do, after all, live in Scotland)? Personally I think if you focus on any part of the human anatomy, however natural or perfect, you will start to find that it looks peculiar or unusual - in the same way that if you take a perfectly regular word and say it over and over and over, you'll suddenly realise that you can't spell it or that it sounds wrong, when there's nothing the matter with it whatsoever. I think it's because most of the time we don't give anything our full and undivided attention.

But to return to my main point; what would you do in the same situation? Would you go back and warn my parents, or do you have the same reaction I do? If you could go back and give advice to your parents, what would it be, and why?

Tall Ships Festival: Dunoon, day 2
I talked about Day One in Dunoon in my last entry, leaving off just as we boarded the ferry to Gourock, on our way to see Royalist and the other tall ships at last.

It was a beautiful clear sunny day, with a wind just cool enough to keep it from being unpleasantly hot. On the top deck of the ferry, we discovered that the walkway went right round the bows under the bridge. Going forward, we saw this cruising along the far bank:

I thought she looked rather odd with her straight bow and curving stern. I wouldn't go as far as to say she is ugly - I don't believe any vessel with sails is ever really ugly - but she certainly looked business like. I thought from here that she was actually very modern, but that's just an illusion because of her new masts and spars; she's actually from around the late 1800s or early 1900s, and her design was actually pioneered in Aberdeen. This sort of vessel was used for fishing. Although, I didn't learn that until two or three weeks later, when we stopped in Aberdeen on the way home from Shetland, having visited Lerwick as the next port of call on the Tall Ships race.

Looking downriver, we could see right out to see, past both Arran and Cumbrae (Arran's the lumpy one on the right):
Out to sea

On the other side, we could see up Loch Long:
Loch Long

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Tall Ships Festival: Dunoon, day 1
I hate fibromyalgia. But instead of moaning about feeling bad, I am going to tell you about what I did on my holidays. I had two holidays, this year, both of which were full of lots of fun, excitement, amazing experiences, and they were both very ship-oriented. Since I was old enough to read about tall ships, I've always wanted to go to sea. I learned to sail dinghies when I was about 9, and I've sailed yachts - I've even participated in accidentally pirating a yacht! But despite dreaming about going to sea on a tall ship, and reading everything about them that I could get my hands on, I never had the opportunity. When I was 16, the Tall Ships Race left from Leith, and I went to see the ships with my family. The point of the Race is that a certain proportion of the crews are between the ages of 15 and 25. They have to have a certain number of teenagers on board. I was old enough to go, and many of the ships were wanting crew - but my parents felt that though I was old enough, I was still a bit too young to go. I swore to myself I'd do it before I reached 21, but money was the issue, and there was a boy - a very, very bad influence - and then I went to university, and before I knew it, I was 21. I've sworn now that I'm going before I'm 35 - and with more intent to actually do something about it.

Anyway, we'd planned a week's holiday in Shetland - where my family is from - as the Tall Ships race was leaving from Lerwick on the last leg of the race to Norway. Shortly after this was arranged, we discovered that Royalist, the sea cadet training vessel, was also participating in the race, but only as far as Greenock. P sailed on Royalist several times when he was young, while I'd only seen photos of her, and once - from afar - her masts, when she was in Gosport for fitting out and we were in Portsmouth. It wasn't hard to decide to go through to Greenock to visit the Tall Ships there, as he was keen to see her again, and I was keen to see her properly for the first time. We decided to stay in Dunoon, because it was more scenic, cheaper, and allowed us to explore the area.

On the ferry across to Dunoon, we spotted several tall ships motoring up the Clyde. One of them looked suspiciously familiar. As she came closer, it seemed as though she had gunports, for cannon. Royalist has gunports; we were suspicious. As we watched, we became almost convinced that it was Royalist. Closer still, and there was no doubt about it. We grinned at each other in glee. What perfect timing, and a brilliant start to the holiday! That was just the first of several incidents of perfect timing over the course of the weekend.
Once off the ferry, we headed along the promenade to our B&B, which was right on the shore. Our room was really big, and looked out across the bay; we were up in the attic, with a dormer window giving a view both up and down the Clyde. Anyway, after dropping our bags, we headed back out to explore the town. Behind the hills on the other side of the river, the clouds were turning a menacing blue-grey. As we turned into the Tourist Office, a jagged fork of purple lightning made me jump (and yell with glee; I like thunderstorms). Once again, excellent timing. We wandered along the high street looking at the shops, while the clouds drifted in our direction (while I secretly hoped for more thunder).

Castle House Museum
We headed back towards the Castle House museum, which was actually built as a family home originally, and had a spectacular view over both beaches and across the Clyde. We were climbing the hill just as the rain began, though sadly, there was no thunder. We investigated the museum, which had information about Iron Age roundhouses found in the area, as well as examples of the way the house would have looked in the Victorian period when it was lived in. Once the rain was over, we headed out to take photographs from the top of the hill.

Looking west
This was taken next to the flagpole. You can see the shower of rain which passed us by, heading down the Clyde.

Down the Clyde
I liked the yacht moored below us, and watched a man pottering about on deck for a while. We saw the yacht again later in the week further up the river. That chimney in the distance is the powerstation. Read more...Collapse )

This, that and the next.
I started my new job on Monday this week. I'd already been in to visit them twice, which I think worked really well; I came in knowing where essentials like the cafe and the toilets are, so negating the sense of new-ness. I knew where my office was, how to get to it, and I was even organised enough to leave myself some chocolate in my desk drawer. (The Chocolate Tree peppermint flavour - it is what After Eights dream of being. Delicious.)

Anyway. My last job was in Social Sciences, and my new job is in Proper Science (Biological variety). It's common knowledge that core-sciences have way more money to bandy about than, for instance, your average History department. I'm really noticing it; it's the little things. My computer is brand-new and very speedy. I have a lovely 19" widescreen monitor. As an admin, there are a whole host of ginormous advantages in working in a science dept:
  • We have our own mini finance department. Instead of having to jump through eighteen hoops to send off an invoice for payment, I just pop it in an envelope and our mini-financiers take care of it for me. 
  • Taxi fares: I'm used to having to pay these out of pocket, and then having to claim expenses. Here, they have a contract. The only paper to change hands is a receipt.
  • Accommodation: they're already set up with credit at pretty much anywhere we might want to put people. No hasty negotiations, no worry about getting the payment through before the guest arrives, and no worrying about how on earth to do late bookings.
  • Websites etc: These are all well-built with excellent interfaces - updating is a dream. As opposed to having a website that has incestuous nesting tables, and no CSS - so that if you change a menu item, you have to change it on every single page on the site.
  • Anything which might speed things up and make one's life easier.
Okay, maybe these things seem rather trivial, but when you're dealing with these every day, the amount of time saved is huge. Everything just runs smoothly, it's delightful. My new manager laughed at me when I did a happy dance about the finance stuff.

There are a bunch of other interesting things about the new place though:
  • Bathrooms. These are on alternate floors; even numbers for the women, odd for the guys. I work on an odd floor, so have to trot up or down to go to the bathroom. Seemingly everyone developes excellent bladder control, since it's quite a hike to get to the bathrooms.
  • My building is an old one with a new one wrapped round it. I enter through a lovely airy modern atrium, go through a door, and find myself in something straight out of the 60s. More accurately, something straight out of the 60s that's never been renovated. The stairwell is like something from Fallout 3/any post-apocalyptic scenario you wish to mention. Except with peppy "If you climb to this floor every day in a year you'll have climbed three Munros" notices. The first time I came here (two years ago for an interview) the servitor took me up in the lift, "because they break down all the time and you don't want to get stuck in there without a radio...there's no mobile reception." Needless to say, I've only used the stairs since I started, although apparently the lifts don't break down - with anyone in them - any more.
  • Because I work in a building inside a building, it takes me about 4 minutes to get from the front door to my office. Literally - I timed myself leaving the building the other day.
  • I work in an actual lab with actual experiments going on. We have "Containment Level 1" and "Biohazard" stickers all over the doors. The offices are round the outside, with big picture windows and gorgeous views. The inner walls and doors are all glass, so the lab tables in the centre are brightly lit.
  • They test the fire alarm every week. For two and a half minutes each time. At first I thought it was annoying, but now I'm thinking that if the fire alarm goes off we're all going to wait 2 and a half minutes before doing anything, and if it takes us 4 minutes to exit the building, it's going to be 6 minutes of a blaze in a multistory building before anyone actually gets outside.
  • I have to tweet. As part of my job. This is awesome.
  • I also have to blog. As part of my job. This is also awesome.
  • I am going to be part of the team arranging a crazy high-profile event with the BBC at this year's Festival. Eeeeeek. But also awesome. But eeeeeeek!
This is the last moan I'll have about the old job. On my last day, my old manager asked if I was going to be doing condensed hours at my new job, because if I was, I could work for them on my extra day off. Um, no. If I'm doing condensed hours, that means I'm still doing a 40 hour week, just over 4 days not 5. That means I don't want to do a 48 hour week instead of having a day off in the middle of the week (which is really for health reasons - invaluable for when I'm having a bad week). Then I was quizzed on where and whom I was going to work for. Previously I'd been told to approach New Job and ask to work for them part time so I could work for Old Job part time. I'd said this was not a good idea in a manner which should have made it obvious that I personally did not want to. I was then told that she would approach New Boss for me. (This against a background of refusing to let someone work part time for their old job - so okay to do to someone else, not okay to have done to you. Riiight.) Anyway, I refused to tell anyone where I was working after that. It's morally and ethically wrong for Old Boss to approach my new job (against my wishes) and tell them I'd work for them part time - not to mention illegal - but this seemed not to be a problem. I attribute this madness to massive mindbending quantities of stress, since it's not usual behaviour. So when I was given the old once-over about where I was going to work, I was naturally rather suspicious, and therefore reticent.
Anyway, it's all over with now - although I do think about my old colleagues often. It's a horrible stressful situation to be in regardless of  whether you're the one being offered vast quantities of money to work 50 miles away (and therefore the one having to manage the whole thing), or whether you're the one having to work there until you find another job.

Oh yes, one last thing. I recently upgraded to the HTC Wildfire. I'm incredibly pleased with it; the battery life is two and a half to three days (when I'm playing with it non-stop), the touch-screen is sensitive enough but not too sensitive, and it's an Android phone (my first) as opposed to  a Nokia, so I'm having fun getting lots of free and useful apps. If anyone has any to recommend (free or otherwise), please do so!

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Edinburgh's Wild West.
Today it is a Bank Holiday in Scotland, and the sun is shining (except for a brief and frenzied hail storm this morning). I don't get bank holidays where I work (we get them added onto our holidays so we can take them when we want), but I'm off work today because of Fibro plus stress plus totally insane dreams which I can remember perfectly (and which I acted out, as indicated by the bruises on my arm). This morning, moving, having limbs, and braining was something which happened to other people (seriously, I couldn't even figure out how to work gmail! And it wasn't until 7 new tabs later that I realised the plus button is not the same as the tab scroll button on Firefox).

Anyway, I'm feeling a bit more up to braining now, so have an entry with some photos. There's a street (well, more of a very small back alley) in the depths of upper-middle-class residential Morningside which masquerades as a snippet of the lawless American Wild West. Unfortunately, it wasn't dropped into Morningside by some long-lived and magical tornado (a là Wizard of Oz), instead, it was a normal alley of garages and workshops until a furniture maker (who specialised in Spanish-style furnishings) built all the wooden frontages as an advertising gimmick. This was a very long time ago, an some bits have rotted away, although most of it is being kept in decent condition. The decay is also pleasingly photogenic.

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The state of the Jehane
The head of the research unit I work for has just been pinched by a rival university. Amid much drama and politics, she is leaving, and taking the department with her. She wants us to all commute to the new university, which is 50 miles away. It's a 3 hour journey, each way. We were told that travel time would be counted as work time as long as we do work on the train, but there's no way that (in reality) an administrator would be allowed to get on the train at 9am, arrive at 12, then leave again at 2pm to get back home for 5.
Definitely time to look for a new job. Meanwhile, all sorts of politics and shenanigans are going on. As with any major relocation, there are always problems, people are always treated as unimportant cogs in a machine (out of necessity), there's always lots of mis-information going about, and no-one ever feels they are really being treated fairly. As ever, there will be winners and losers. So our unit has really lost its feeling of cameraderie; there's much more negativity floating about. All this on top of my problems with another member of staff who is trying to control everything I do, to the extent of telling me what to name my files, because they believe I'm not capable of doing even that simple task. This person is in no way my line manager, they're just a colleague. I've spoken to the head of department about it several times, but nothing was done - presumably because (although the rest of us didn't know it at the time) the move was going to happen. Against this backdrop, I'm not sorry to go - although I am going to really miss several people who have become more friends than colleagues.

Luckily for me, a perfect job was being advertised within my university. It's doing more communications work (although still from and admin perspective), as well as being the sole admin for a small unit. I have to sit and read twitter and search blogs as part of my job! The interviews took place about a week and a half after I'd applied, and I was offered the job the very next day (I'm such a lucky sod!). I gave my notice at the current place (4 weeks), and I start at the new job in the second week in June.

Today, I had a very unusual and rather thought provoking occurrence at work. Our building is open to the public, and it doesn't have a specific reception, so very often people who are thoroughly lost turn up at our offices looking for directions. Today, an elderly couple in their late 60s, early 70s, turned up. They had travelled for three days - all the way from Australia - to find their daughter. She hadn't been in contact with them for ten years, and they'd managed to trace her to the university. They'd spoken with several members of HR, and had tracked down where she had possibly recently worked, so they were pretty sure she wasn't dead. The couple were exhausted, and very lost. I directed them as best I could. The whole episode made me uncomfortable and a little melancholy; they'd be tracing her from Australia as far as they could, so they'd booked a flight and come over to continue the work. They literally got into Edinburgh last night, had stayed at a nearby hotel, and had come straight to the uni first thing this morning. They seemed very excited at the prospect of finally finding her. And they were so elderly! It was as if they were trying to find her before they died. And the lady had fallen last night, and badly twisted her ankle, so she could barely walk - but they didn't have time to go and get it checked, or let her rest up. Now of course, I don't know the whole story; the daughter may have excellent reasons for not wanting to speak to them. Perhaps they did something terrible, so that she cut them out of her life; I know from experience that parents can do horrible things to their children (not my parents, I hasten to add), things that entirely justify their children never speaking to them again. But even so, it left me with an unsettled feeling for the rest of the day, and the desire to hug three very specific people.

On a lighter note, I also have a bunch of pictures to share. P and I went for a walk round Blackford Pond, where I was able to play with my zoom lens. It was a beautiful sunny spring day, with many baby waterfowl in evidence - and even a bunny - despite the teeming hordes of yelling small children and yummy mummies pushing buggies and conversing about where Jemima will go to school. There was one pair of mothers I did admire though: they'd somehow managed to persuade their three-or-four year olds that pushing buggies is the best thing ever. So the kids were happily pushing their own buggies round the pond (and racing each other) while the mothers sauntered behind, unencumbered by buggy. A very cunning plan, I thought. One of the mothers thought so too; she saw me looking, and shared a conspiratorial grin.

Anyway, on to the wildlife.
Herein are photos of fuzzyness (ducklings) and fluffyness (cootlets), a bunny, and some rather comical ducks.Collapse )

A story.
The year I turned seven, my parents bought the beach house, and my world changed. Instead of the city centre garden, we had a whole beach! There were islands, and a cave, and the paddling pool. Then, as we got older, there was the swimming pool proper, with slides, and diving boards, and floats; endless games of pirates, capture the float, or diving down to see who could sit on the bottom for longest, watching the legs of tourists above us. They looked like frogs.
Later on, we learned to sail. Havoc took us to explore the islands out in the bay, and beyond. She gave us freedom from the land, and when the wind was strong, and the sails trimmed just right, we felt like we were flying.
At night, once everyone had fallen asleep, I'd creep through to the family room, and watch the moon across the water. In the distance the lighthouse flashed, the yellow beam splashing across rocks and sand and grass, then on, out of sight towards Fife. I'd have conversations with the Older Me, telling myself that no matter what happened, I would always be able to come back here. However bad things were during term time, however bad things were in the future, the beach would always be waiting, silently, the water silvered by the moon as the waves whispered against the sand.
The winters, too, were wonderful, filled with wind and thundering waves, spray flying high over the empty swimming pool, flooding it so that the water spilled over, and we had to jump onto the steps over the rocks, out of the way. Where the tourists' legs had looked like frogs, now seaweed floated serenely. Beyond, the water was churned up, a seething mass of white that would draw back then roar in again, thundering against the wall and sending the spray soaring over our heads so that it would seem as though it was raining. We would laugh into the teeth of the gale, marvelling at the wildness of it all.
Later on, we'd sit by the fire and listen at the wind howling round the house and down the chimney, sending the sparks up in clouds. At night, I'd watch the bay as the lighthouse flashed, the foam on the waves ghostly in the moonlight.

Eventually, we grew up, and the beach house was closed. We moved on, studied, worked, but always in the back of my mind was the image of the beach, first thing in the morning, the sand fresh from the outgoing tide. The air would be cool, but with the promise of heat as soon as the sun was fully up. We would be the only ones out, except for a man walking his dog over on the far side. Plenty of time to build forts and play pirates, imagining the marauders coming into the bay, their sails gleaming in the sun. I always promised myself that I could go back, and one day, it happened; the beach house was opened again, the rooms aired out and painted, the old things restored or replaced. I'd be able to walk on the beach - can adults build forts and play pirates? - or go sailing, or watch the waves.

Then there was the accident, and everything changed. The darkness had arrived, and with it, the sleepless nights, and the pain that dulled everything else. And now, as I lie here sobbing, my legs so full of pain that I can't feel my toes, I imagine that somewhere, somehow, a little girl and her brother run side by side down to the beach. Slipping off their shoes, they wriggle their toes in the warm sand. As I watch, they gather up the flag on the old iron post, and climb up the side of the dune to where the diggings of the previous day show the beginnings of a proper fort. The girl digs a hole and plants the flag securely. As she stands beside it, surveying her domain, her eyes meet mine. For a long moment we look at each other, and then she smiles, and turns to her brother. "Let's finish the fort; the pirates will be coming round into the bay any moment. Then this afternoon, we can go and play in the swimming pool. They might have the blow-up slide ready by then."
As the image fades, my heart feels full, as though it will break. This world may not be what I dreamed, but at least I know that somewhere in a perpetual summer, part of me will always be playing, down on the beach, or in the pool, or on the island. Part of me will always be happy. And maybe, if I close my eyes and concentrate very hard, just maybe I can go back there, and join them, if only for a moment.

Political Debate, Greyfriars (Edin people).
Message I received this morning; Might be of interest to people in Edinburgh.

Also, multiple exclamation marks do not make you cool and hip, BBC people.

-----Original Message-----
From: Storm Huntley []
Sent: 23 March 2011 15:55
Subject: Brian Taylor's Big Debate


My name is Storm Huntley and I'm a researcher on Brian Taylor's Big Debate -
a news and politics radio programme with a panel and audience on BBC Radio
Scotland every Friday lunchtime.
A Scottish General Election is we'll kick off our coverage with a
Campaign Managers Debate in the heart of the Capital.

On Friday 25th March, the radio programme will be returning to Edinburgh and
broadcasting live from Greyfriars Church.
I would like to invite you or anyone from your organisation to come along as
part of the participative audience.

The panel will consist of four people, so far including:
George Lyon - Liberal Democrat MEP for Scotland John Park - Labour Bruce
Crawford - SNP David McLetchie - Conservative

Please see the information in the graphic attachment below. This event is
open to the public.

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