When Black And White Aren’t As Simple As They Seem

You know how people tell you that first impressions count for a lot??? And those same people tell you that you should be immaculately presented when attending job interviews, etc???

I have a question about that.

What does it mean to be dressed appropriately for the occasion? Obviously, if the invitation states that black tie is required you are going to stand out if you turn up in ripped jeans and an Iron Maiden t-shirt.

What I mean is – should you stick to the unspoken accepted rules regarding the appropriate colour of shirt, etc, no matter what? Or, can the rules be bent a little to suit the environment???

You see – I agree that first impressions count. However, my first impressions might not be what you are expecting. I have taken an immediate dislike to people based on – not what they were wearing – the colour of their clothing and it’s affect on my eyes. This was to the point of me coming very close to walking out of a few job interviews.

Of course, people are free to dress as they choose, in whatever colour combination they like. With one proviso. They should make sure they can alter their colour scheme to match the surrounding world.

It is difficult to describe the effect that looking at a bright white shirt in brightly lit surroundings (a room with fluorescent lights or with bright sunshine streaming through the window) has on me. I have been known to get a severe headache and eye-ache within 10 seconds of being forced to look at it. It never ceases to amaze me that people don’t realise a white shirt reflects light. Unless you are in a situation where wearing a white shirt is unavoidable (black tie dinner, white shirt as part of your work uniform, etc) please wear a tinted shirt. Or have a jacket or jumper handy to put on.

On the flip side to that we have the all-purpose shapeless colour called “black”. Black has a reputation of being a “slimming” colour??? Let’s just say that, if your number one desire is to appear to have the dimensions of a small car (and I am unable to miss you in most lighting conditions but you are rendered completely invisible in some lighting conditions) please feel free to dress head to toe in black. The chances are I will be too busy trying to work out whether or not you are human to actually speak to you. (It can also make it difficult to work out where you are when you speak to me.)

This causes me to have a rather interesting problem regarding the uniform of our “frontline” police. It has now got to the stage where – unless they are wearing their luminous yellow jackets with “Police” emblazoned on the back and/or their Custodian helmets – I cannot identify them as Police from a distance. Whilst I would prefer to go back to the days of the Police being dressed in tunics (I realise this is not practical in most situations) – I feel that making one minor alteration to the uniform might help me identify them more easily. Borrow the green and blue “Battenburg” livery from Police vehicles and put a band of it around the chest of the officers. The Dutch police now have a navy blue/black “working” uniform with a luminous green band around the chest and the Police logo on the front in the same colour. It looks very smart.

Colours can have different effects on different people. I realise that my problems with black and white are a little unusual – however, to me it is not unlike people who have different sorts of colourblindness having difficulty with different colours. (I must admit to being amazed by the fact that people with red/green colourblindness can legally drive.)

We need to be aware of how different people are affected by different colours.

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Inspirational Qualities

Here is a question for you – what makes someone an “Inspirational Person”?

The reason I ask is because this week I had the great privilege to be able to spend time in the company of not one but three people who I consider to be inspirational. You may or may not have heard of them (they have been mentioned at various times on my personal blog and – depending on your interests – you might have heard of two of them) – in this instance, their names are not important. What is important is why I consider them to be inspirational. The fact that all three are personal friends of mine is an added bonus for me.

So, what qualities do I look for in an “Inspirational Person”???

The ability to work towards achieving your goals combined with the humanity not to play the “Big I AM” when you have achieved them.

The willingness to “walk your own road” even when sensible people would follow the crowd. (My use of the word “sensible” stems from those people who – on hearing about someone else’s experience of a situation – immediately decide that they know how they would handle it – even when they have zero experience of the situation or anything like it. I am not even talking about facing “life-altering” challenges – just achieving your dreams is enough.)

The ability to laugh at yourself and the situation you find yourself in. Trust me – a sense of humour (preferably on the quirky side) is very useful if you end up spending time with me. It is also one of the first things I look for in a friend – after kindness and loyalty.

The willingness to be educated as well as educating others – and put what you learn into practice to help others. Please note – I am not talking about turning yourself into the most highly-qualified “Brainiac” ever to walk the planet. Instead, I am talking about learning from both your own experiences and those of other people.

I am going to let you into a secret. Much as I think that Nelson Mandela achieved great things in his lifetime I don’t find him as inspirational as another famous South African. The reason I actually find the South African comedian Trevor Noah more inspirational than Mr Mandela is found in the title of his autobiography – “Born A Crime”. Mr Mandela actively sought to bring down Apartheid and ended up in prison for it. Mr Noah is a living embodiment of how wrong those laws were (he is mixed Xhosa/white Swiss-German) – not only that but he has the linguistic skills to teach people using both his experiences and humour. (I suggest you read “Born A Crime” to find out what I mean.)

I suppose what I am trying to say is – the best way to get on my list of “Inspirational People” is just be yourself. Go about your business without fuss, face the hard times with dignity and courage, and allow others to celebrate your achievements with you whilst not rubbing their noses in it.

If you had asked my Mum if she thought she was capable of inspiring anybody she would probably have politely told you not to be silly. Anyone who heard her story (or – even better – had the privilege of playing even a small part in her life) would tell you that she was indeed capable of inspiring others. I am surprised she didn’t give up and go back to Holland when both my Dad and myself were seriously ill in hospital at the same time (in different hospitals several miles apart), and she was stuck in the back of beyond without a driving licence, or a proper grasp of Medical English. Oh – and her (useful) relatives were over 100 miles away in any given direction.

I wonder what qualities you look for in an Inspirational Person? We are all different so I doubt our lists would be the same.

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Change of Location for SAFDI this week.

We have changed the location of the Surrey Armed Forces Drop In (SAFDI) this week due to a clash of events.

On Thursday 22nd February 2018 we will be meeting Veterans at the

Woking Railway Athletic Club

(also known as Railway Club) from 1000 -1300.

Goldsworth Road

Woking

GU21 6JT

(01483) 598499

SAFDI

Its fun, free and everyone is welcome. Meet up with SSAFA, Vulnerable Veterans and more.

Please share this invitation with all the veterans you know.

Thank you for your continuing support and we look forward to seeing you on Thursday.

Woking Railway Club.jpg

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The Ever-Changing Opinions And How To Speak About Them Properly

I was reading a book called “All Out War”, by Tim Shipman, and it got me thinking about the dangers of using people’s opinions to inform our perception of the world around us.

For those of you who have never read the book – it is the “behind the scenes” look at the Brexit Referendum.

Surely it should be obvious that people’s opinions are going to change depending on their circumstances and experience??? Whilst we are thinking about that we might be able to realise that not everyone is going to have the same opinion on the same topic. And that is before you look at how what question was asked in order to access the opinion. (That is a whole different blog post which I don’t feel qualified to write.)

For example, if you were to ask me about my current opinion of – say – the ease with which I can get my prescriptions from my local Chemist’s – you would get a very different answer to someone who has had no problems whatsoever getting their prescriptions. Only working from my opinion might result in the Chemist’s being shut down – unless you find out exactly what has been going on further down the food chain (and work on those issues).

Society is sometimes too quick to act on certain opinions as well as being too quick to ignore others.

For example – last night I was watching “Outside Source” on the BBC News Channel when I heard a very scary opinion about school shootings in the US. One American person who was interviewed actually said that schools would be safer if teachers were allowed to carry guns in school. I couldn’t believe my ears. But the human of the male species who said it obviously believed it with his whole heart.

Yes, we should be allowed to challenge opinion which we don’t share – but we ought to be required to back up those challenges with facts and proof. Otherwise we might find ourselves in a situation where the reply to “You can’t say that!!!” would be “I think you’ll find I just did!” And it would be viewed as a valid defence.

Years ago a rock band (the name of which currently escapes me) released an album called “This is my story – now tell me yours”. That sounds to me like the best way to learn about people’s opinions.

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Why Presentation Is The Difference Between Winning And Losing (Or – How You Communicate Without Even Trying)

Here is a question for you to think about – what is the quickest way to lose your audience???

I suppose you will have a lot of different answers to that question depending on what you are trying to achieve and your personal experiences of different scenarios.

My personal bugbear is being made to think. This may sound strange when I tell you that I love thinking about all kinds of subjects. The trouble starts when I am forced to think about how I am supposed to access what you are trying to talk to me about instead of focusing on what you are actually saying.

Take this afternoon, for example. I was sitting at a table when I noticed a sheet of information. One of my “tasks” was to read the sheet so I had some idea of what someone else was going to talk to me about.

So far so good, right??? Information was on sheet of paper so it couldn’t be that difficult for me to find out what was going to be a topic of conversation. Or could it???

Let’s just say that someone found themselves being given food for thought regarding the presentation of the information. This was due to the fact that I ended up having to work out how to read it instead of actually reading it. (There was way too much information on the sheet in a font which was too small for me to read.)

In answer to the question of “what do you mean ‘work out how to read it’?” I can only explain as follows.

The information turned out to be written in the English language (this was useful). However, the layout meant that it might as well have been written in Morse Code for all the sense I could immediately make of it.

My brain was left with a puzzle. What should I do??? Should I attempt to struggle to read it in whatever way I could??? Should I ask someone else to read it and tell me the brief points contained in it??? Should I ignore it completely (after all – the little information I had been given on the topic of the sheet indicated that ignoring it would not be deleterious to my continued existence in the gene pool)??? Or should I wait for the relevant human responsible for the sheet to appear and attempt to educate them as to my difficulty in accessing the information???

I ended up doing everything on that list apart from the second option.

That second option would have been the worst thing for me to have to do. Asking for help with reading something makes me feel useless – especially because I can read reasonably well in at least two languages.

Please ensure any information you decide to present in a written format is as easy as possible for everyone to access it – even if you don’t expect someone like me to end up trying to read it. A little care with presentation goes a long way to make me feel included.

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Name And Photo ID Please

I have been thinking about identity papers which organisations might be tempted to think might be useful when it comes to – well – proving your identity.

When we are born we start appearing on paperwork. If we are born in a hospital we get our first identifying number thanks (usually) to the NHS.

Then we get the first “official” identity paper – our Birth certificate.

As we get older we end up with various documents which identify us – school records, bills, passports, driving licences, etc.

There are a couple of questions I have though.

What happens if you announce yourself as being called by one name but your papers announce you under another name???

A perfect example of this was my Mum. If she introduced herself to you she would give her name as “Coby Poultney”. If you asked to see her passport the surname “Poultney” did appear – but as “echtgenote van” (or “spouse of). Her passport was in the name of “Jacoba Hoogendoorn”. To complicate things further – if she really wanted to confuse everyone she could use her ‘full’ married name of Jacoba Poultney-Hoogendoorn. Before you ask – all three surnames are legally recognised in either the UK or The Netherlands.

(The funny thing was that I noticed a slight error she made on her last passport – she accidentally signed it as “J Poultney” instead of “J Hoogendoorn”. I am surprised the Dutch Government let her get away with that.)

The other question I have also applies to my bus pass. It is regarding the photograph.

Allow me to explain.

When I get my passport renewed I will be able to use it as an official identity document. However, even though my bus pass has been issued by Leicester City Council, I cannot use it as an official identity document. Even though the latter actually meets the “This photograph is a true and accurate representation of Ineke Caroline Poultney” criteria, which used to be one of the strictest things about passports, and I can guarantee that my passport photo will bear absolutely no resemblance to how I appear during the majority of the time when I am awake and vertical. I happen to be one of those people who look completely different without my glasses on.

I have heard reports that there are plans afoot to make voters prove their identities before they are allowed to vote in elections. Seeing as Councils are Local Government representatives – why should I have to show a passport when I have got a perfectly useful bus pass which I carry around at all times???

If I had my way the passport and the bus pass would either have equal status (as in – both would allow me to leave the country as well as travelling on Public Transport in England) or they would become the same document.

There is another slight issue which intrigued me – what happens with identical twins??? How can people be sure they have got the right photograph on the right passport form???

I have blogged before about the difficulty I have with the “remove glasses before taking passport photo” concept. (How to remove my independence very easily.)

Before we decide to force everybody to show their passport before they vote I think we should see if there is an easier and cheaper way.

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All That Scares You (Or – When You Feel Trapped In A Nightmare)

I have read two books which were very interesting in a way I wouldn’t have imagined.

One book was about a version of something I have already been through (open heart surgery) and the other book was about sleep.

I might not be the world’s biggest fan of Medical Professionals themselves but I am fascinated by the workings of the human mind and body. This means that anybody who can explain them in language I can understand finds themselves with a captivated audience of one (me).

The book on open heart surgery was gruesome in places but it did give me some ideas for future reference.

However, the book on sleep might have been a factual book but it could very well have been published in the “Horror” genre of fiction.

Sleep is the best (and cheapest) medicine available. Not only does it help our recovery but – getting enough sleep prevents all kinds of illnesses and accidents.

Which might explain why I am currently not feeling in tiptop condition. Stress is a big killer of sleep. The biggest cause of stress I have got is chasing different medications.

I know the NHS is underfunded and under pressure but I am starting to find that some links seem to be broken. (And that is before you start on the subject of patients, ambulances, hospitals, and Social Care.)

Letters between hospitals and GPs might not seem important in the scheme of things but – it really concentrates your mind when the lack of a letter from a hospital means you cannot get your medication (because your surgery refused to release the prescription without it). Luckily, in this case it wasn’t “life-critical” medication in this case.

I could go on about how my last job involved working on some very large contracts for international companies – with time-sensitive documents (and machinery) involved. If I didn’t manage to get the packing list typed up and forwarded to the correct person, for example, the company wouldn’t be paid for that stage of the contract – which sometimes meant I didn’t get paid (seriously).

Now – call me crazy if you want but – surely a human life is worth a lot more than a multi-million pound contract for a “Dockside Mobile Loader” (DML), for example??? I admit that the DML helps preserve human life by ensuring the surrounding area doesn’t get covered in dust from potentially poisonous cargo when it is transferred from a ship into a lorry. However, ports existed long before the DML was invented.

Sometimes technology can help us in ways we have never dreamt of – pulseless pumps for cases of heart failure which mean you don’t need a heart transplant, for example. However, technology can have severe adverse effects if we rely on it too much – and the results could be terminal (put it this way – would you feel very happy knowing the pilot of the aircraft you are flying in typed the wrong coordinates into the autopilot and didn’t bother to check it until it was too late???). I have never been too keen on flying but after reading the book on sleep you will have extreme difficulty getting me on a plane.

From where I am sitting we seem to be on the verge of forgetting about the very important part that personal contact (face to face or by telephone) can be in certain situations. Telephone calls between hospitals and GPs, for example, would be quicker than having to wait two months for a letter (which may only have half the information on it anyway).

People matter.

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When A Job Is Not A Job

Here is a question for you – why do you do what you do (whether or not it is a job or something else)?

I suppose a better way of asking the question might be – what motivates you?

The reason I asked that question is a combination of a book I am reading and a very unexpected compliment I received from a friend of mine yesterday.

The book is called “The Undoing Project” by Michael Lewis – it is about two Israeli researchers who came up with some very interesting theories about why we do things.

The compliment was “Ineke is the best Blogger I know”.

You could tell me I am employed as a Blogger for Simple Solutions and I would have to disagree with you. I do get paid for it but I don’t consider it to be employment (even though I have an employment contract).

If you don’t think that makes any sense whatsoever I will attempt to explain.

To me being employed by someone to do a job involves working even if you cannot stand the job you are paid to do (and/or your employer or colleagues) and are possibly feeling unable to escape.

Been there – done that! For the best part of 15 years to be exact.

I am having way too much fun to consider this to be a job. Anybody who knows me will tell you I love writing – I do it whether or not I am being paid to. In fact – I would go so far as to say I exist to write. If I am neither reading nor writing the chances are I feel seriously poorly (or I am asleep).

I can still remember going for a job interview as an administrator/secretary of some kind (the kind of job I was doing before I started blogging) and being asked what on Earth I was doing applying for the job because I was completely wrong for it. Now – before you think the interviewer was being rude about my CV – I should explain that part of the application process involved a kind of “personality questionnaire”. The results of this showed that the last thing I should choose as a career is office work. (It is a pity the Special Needs Coordinator at my last Secondary school didn’t put me through the same questionnaire – my life would have turned out a lot different if she had.) Instead I should have been employed in some kind of career involving creativity. (Basically what I had been trying to tell people myself.)

In my opinion – the best way to find the ideal career for yourself is to do something because you love doing it. Then you will view any rewards (payment or praise) you get for it as a bonus.

Contrary to what some of my friends think – I am not the best writer I know (and not just because my friends include a few published authors). I would park myself near the bottom of a very long list of good writers.

Yes – I have got a way with words but that is because I love language and how it goes together. The same applies to a virtuoso pianist who can get the most marvellous sounds from a grand piano, or one of the “Old Master” painters who painted wonderful pictures – they have a feel for their craft which I couldn’t replicate even if I tried.

Not all of us are lucky enough to be able to be paid for having fun under the banner of “working” (as in enjoying the job so much it feels like they are playing).

The trick is to find one aspect of your job which you enjoy doing – in my last job it was anything where I could use my creativity or my memory (yes – I could remember names and other details from years ago which other people had totally forgotten), along with the occasional opportunity to speak in my favourite language – Dutch.

We all need to find some enjoyment in life and – if you are going to spend most of it working – life is a lot easier if you enjoy your job (or at least part of it).

I would like to finish this blog post by telling you a bit of a secret about how I got this job. (If only because it might help you with your next career move.)

You could say I went on a bit of a “fishing trip”. I liked the sound of what Roger wanted to do and I originally wanted to see if I could use my experience of sight problems to help him. So I emailed him what turned out to be the very first blog post on here with my name on it (this was before I officially started blogging on here). What I am trying to say is – if you think there is a “you-shaped” hole in a company and you have got ideas and experience which you think is missing you have got nothing to lose by writing to them and telling them. It would certainly beat all the other prospective applications they will receive. It also appears to have worked for me. Give it a go and see what happens.

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Why We Need To Learn Each Other’s Language If We Are Going To Change Anything

I was watching a YouTube video where Trevor Noah was being interviewed and he made a very serious point (even though he dressed it up as a joke). What he said was really simple yet apparently difficult for people to get their heads around.

The point he was making was that our perception of the world depends on our experience of it. So far so obvious – right??? (At least that is the point I think most people in the audience would have thought he was making.)

Maybe it is just me being me but I found a deeper point in what he was saying.

The deeper point I found is as follows – our perception of the world also affects how we talk about it. Apart from that – it can appear as though we are speaking in two totally separate languages (even though both people in the conversation might be speaking English for example).

Allow me to give an example which I personally find extremely annoying.

Imagine you and I meet each other and you reach for your glasses saying “I am blind without my glasses”. (When we met your glasses were not on your nose – they might have been in your pocket, etc.)

What you mean is “I can actually see without my glasses but – on this occasion – my eyes need a little extra help in order for me to achieve my objective”.

Depending on my mood at the time my next question will probably be something along the lines of “what’s your prescription?” (Or – if you weren’t doing anything “dangerous” like walking when we met – I might ask how far you can see without them.)

Be very careful how you answer either of the above questions.

Your definition of being “unable to see without my glasses on” and my definition of the same phrase are probably worlds apart. Put it this way – my definition means that without my glasses on my nose I am either a danger to myself and others or I am rendered completely immobile. The furthest I can see clearly without my glasses is approximately 3 centimetres from the end of my nose – any further than that and life is literally a blur.

Why am I telling you this?

I am amused by the recent discussions about how different groups of people are treated by other different groups of people. Racism, sexism, discrimination against (and abuse of) different minority groups, etc, are things which we are all affected by – either as perpetrators or victims (sometimes even both at the same time).

However, there is something which (to my knowledge) none of the various sides in the various debates has admitted yet. Nobody has said “I know you will never be able to share my exact experience of this situation – so we need to find a way of me enabling you to understand in a way that is accessible to you not me”.

I could bore you to sleep about my sight and the challenges I face as a result of it. Until you get to experience life in my shoes you will only have “textbook” knowledge of them. (If you look at A Taster Walk you will get more of a “practical” feel of what it is like for me walking around in “wall-to-wall” sunshine.)

I am not a member of the BAME population, my only personal (practical) experience of “disabilities” is due to my sight. For this reason I wouldn’t dare to tell anyone how they should treat the situation they find themselves in. To me that would be like me speaking to you in Dutch knowing full well that you can only understand English – you wouldn’t have a clue what I was saying and you would think I was being extremely rude.

Don’t misunderstand me – I support people who fight for equality. My problem isn’t the fight itself – my problem is survivors of racism, sexism, etc, telling their own stories in their own words and expecting those of us with no prior experience of the situation to understand their view of it as well as fighting it in the same way as them.

That is also the problem I have with the “privilege” banner which is sometimes hoisted as an answer to legitimate argument. I cannot argue with the fact that I am a white human. Nor can I argue with the fact that me being white can get me certain “privileges” which members of the BAME population cannot get.

What I can argue with is the idea that the best way to get me to join your cause is to use my “privilege” as a weapon against me. In fact, it is the worst way (unless you would like to be accused of subjecting me to the exact reverse of what you are accusing me of – as in discrimination).

If I could have any influence whatsoever on the various debates regarding discrimination – I would love to ensure that we all understand exactly how the different groups are feeling. I would also make sure the language we use is inclusive (as in – we all understand the meaning behind the language as well as the actual words used). Finally I would make it crystal clear that everyone has a different experience of the subject and they are all valid and they can all contribute something to the debate.

I saw a picture on Facebook of a mug with the words “I am Dutch – let’s save time and agree that I am always right”. Unfortunately – the debates we are having in society right now appear to be a case of “just replace Dutch with whatever cause you are arguing for”. (I don’t know if you have ever tried arguing with a Dutch person but – trust me – it is one of the most useless pass-times ever invented unless you come up with a cast iron reason for them to change their mind. Take it from someone with over 30 years experience in this. My Mum taught me very well.)

We need to be very careful otherwise we will just get nowhere fast.

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The Day I Thanked Someone For Challenging Me For Proof (Or – Why Disabled Seats Should Be Saved For Disabled People)

Someone challenged me to prove I was entitled to do something which many people take for granted – and I thanked them for challenging me. In fact – I wish more people (myself included) had the courage to challenge other people who do this.

The fact that my challenger obviously thought I was in the wrong and would rectify the situation was made clear via the means of “Excuse me. Did you notice the sign?” (with the veiled implication of “Hop it” audible behind the words).

The sign in question was “Please save this seat for Disabled and elderly people”. Instead of moving I merely flashed my Disabled Bus Pass at my challenger – who promptly agreed I had as much right as they had to sit in that seat (the challenger was obviously elderly – and polite). They were sitting in the seat behind me.

The reason I thanked them was I know I don’t look like I am Disabled. The fact that I carry two cards around with me which prove I am not only Disabled but also not exactly the healthiest person walking around on the planet (Disabled bus pass and Medical Exemption Certificate – so I don’t have to pay for my prescriptions) doesn’t have the same effect on most people as a white stick or a wheelchair.

I hate walking towards the back of a moving bus in order to find a seat. The closest empty seat I can find to the front of the bus will be the one I choose to sit on.

Other people have complained about the lack of respect and manners in society today – and I agree with them. I would rather take my chances standing up on a moving bus than attempt to ask someone else if I can sit in their seat. (I prefer to end my journey in an uninjured state – and some people can turn downright hostile if you ask them to move.)

In fact, if my back hadn’t started to complain loudly, I would have moved further towards the back of the (at that moment – stationary) bus. Yes, I am the kind of human who will give up my seat if I can see someone who is struggling to move down the bus.

Not everyone “shows” the exact level of their disability – some people are not remotely obviously disabled (Autism, etc) – some people (me included) are more disabled than we appear to be under most circumstances. (Let’s just say my glasses don’t tell the whole story.)

I would love it if bus drivers were to order passengers who sit in the “Disabled and Elderly” seats to either prove they are one and/or the other, or give the seats up to someone like me who can flash proof at them.

I live in hope.

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