Why Sometimes You Can Be Your Own Inspiration (Or – The Day I Felt Included In A Project I Had Never Seen Before)

Sometimes people really amaze me with their ideas on how to make changes to things which seem like a “niche” activity that I usually have zero interest in so that someone like me can actually feel they are allowed to take part in it.

Until this morning I was under the impression that playing golf was not unlike going to the opera (or any other kind of classical music event). OK – so I have never seen a televised golf match where the players played in “black tie” (or what I think of as “penguin suits” for the men and ball-gowns or evening dresses for the ladies) but even I know there are dress codes and rules of etiquette connected with golf.

I have a friend who has decided to turn all that on its head. Second thoughts – Anders Mankert appears to have decided to rip up the rule book and start completely from scratch. This will result in a golf course that even I might be persuaded to have an attempt at learning how to play at.

Not only has his enthusiasm rubbed off on me but his golf course includes something which really made me feel welcome (no – not the cafe – even though that will definitely get sampled when the course opens in a few weeks). The Driving Range (I think that is what Anders called it) has got computer screens so you can do all kinds of things – up to and including playing with people from other places. The screens also help people with visual impairment access golf in the same way as everyone else. Basically due to the fact that the poor visually impaired player will not have to strain their eyes trying to see (never mind focus on) a miniscule white spherical object in the sky and work out where it is going to land. (Which happens to be the main reason I hate watching golf on TV – all I can see is clouds and sky, followed by grass, bunkers, water, and crowds of humans.)

You have no idea how happy I was to learn that the golf course is intended to be a place where everyone is welcomed – whether or not they fulfil the requirements of a golf course with a dress code, or they just want to meet up for a drink and a chance to socialise without having to set foot on the course itself. It won’t even trap you with Membership fees.

I know, I know – I am going to put my soapbox away now – but the fact that I am so excited about this project should tell you that I think Anders has hit the jackpot as far as creating something for everyone to enjoy is concerned. That came from him deciding how he would run his ideal golf course if he ever got the chance. (The fact that people with visual impairment are also going to be able to access it is an added bonus as far as I am concerned.) Yes – he is a school friend of mine – but – no – I did not have any input in the project whatsoever. In fact, I only found out about it a few weeks ago via Facebook.

It just goes to show what you can achieve when you decide to rip up the rulebook of something you are passionate about and start trying to create something you would be happy to invite others to take part in.

If you are interested in finding out about the golf course in question it will be called “The Gallops” – due to its extremely close proximity to Leicester Racecourse. (If it was any closer to the racecourse it would be on it!!!)

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Why Reading People Is A Very Useful Skill (Or – The Day I Actually Spoke To A Dr Who Could Break Bad News Properly And Sympathetically)

There are so many people in Customer/Public facing roles who really need training on how to communicate with Earthlings (aka Humans).

I am not just talking about greeting people with a smile and a friendly word – I am talking about preventing them from leaving your presence thinking they are totally unimportant to you (and wishing that the time they have just wasted in your presence could be recycled). This can stretch through all jobs, etc. I have had this experience with Doctors, Teachers, Sales Assistants, etc.

There are some pretty easy to spot clues to help you find out how someone is feeling when they find themselves in your presence.

What I want to deal with are the not so easy to spot clues. The following uses me as an example.

If I am interacting with the scenery around me, asking questions, and engaging my “Humour App” with you (this is particularly relevant in a hospital setting) – you can assume that I am curious and happy to interact with Lifeforms. In this instance, the quieter I go (unless I am obviously reading or listening to music/watching content on my mobile phone) the more worried you should get because I am feeling poorly.

In most other situations me going quiet is another type of warning!!! This usually means that you have pushed me over the limits of what I can reasonably be expected to tolerate and Hurricane Ineke is about to be unleashed on you. (A clue – have you managed to extract a response from me without the use of a tinopener??? If yes, you might be able to rescue the situation.)

The other instances of me going quiet on you (as in totally silent) either mean I am nervous in my surroundings or you have said or done something which has triggered the imminent operation of my “Auto-speak” software. “Auto-speak” is when it is impossible to shut me up. This usually happens when you have given me bad news in what I consider to be a totally inappropriate way. Or you have scared me in some way.

Yesterday, I accidentally subjected a poor Registrar at Leicester Royal Infirmary to “Auto-Speak”. He had broken two pieces of very bad news to me in such a way that indicated he actually remembered being the recipient of bad news himself. The trigger for the accidental “Auto-Speak” was the fact that we were in a hospital, he was a Doctor, and I was still fuming from what happened a few weeks ago. (Me and Medical Doctors do not exactly mix well together.)

He even gave me a choice in what will happen next in my treatment (virtually unheard of for me) and gave me the impression that he would respect my decision (as in – he didn’t immediately try to talk me out of it).

He read me very well and I ended up feeling as though he had my best interests at heart – not the interests of his boss who I find way too trigger happy for my liking. The poor guy only met me for the first time yesterday.

People usually react well to being made to feel as though they matter for the amount of time they are in your presence. Treat them very nicely and – you never know – they may come back and bring people they know.

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The Value Of Connections (Or – How To Look On The Bright Side When Things Are Not Going So Well)

I hope you will excuse this departure from my usual attempts to stick to the “Business” aspect of this blog and make it a lot more personal than my usual posts. This blog post has been bubbling away in the back of my mind for quite some time but – to be honest – I was too scared to write it until I had a couple of very interesting conversations both last night and this afternoon.

As some of you might already have gathered I am on what you might classify as a “Time-limited Existence” pathway. This is due to at least one pesky diagnosis I received last year. (Trust me – it could have been a lot worse. When I received the major diagnosis I honestly thought I would be dead within a month because that was what happened with my Mum when she also received a not exactly life-extending diagnosis of cancer.)

You have just had a very mild dose of one of the things which has kept me going – a dark and slightly twisted sense of humour. Let’s just say that when you hit the stage of thinking of Blood Test nurses as “Vampires”, CT Scanners as “Meat Slicing Machines”, and MRI Scanners as “Musical Microwave Ovens” – you might just have been in the NHS system that bit too long for anybody’s liking.

The other thing which has kept me going is a variation of what I have been blogging about these past few weeks – connections with people.

Some of you will know what I mean when I talk about “Ineke’s Army”. For those of you who have read that last sentence and either thought I have totally lost the plot or are now thinking that I must be some kind of millionaire in order to have my own personal Military unit (or I must be some kind of budding terrorist – if that is the case I think there is an “R” missing in the abbreviation) – please allow me to attempt to explain what I mean.

“Ineke’s Army” is my name for the ragtag bunch of family and friends (both in real life and the ones I have collected on Social Media) who are helping me by standing next to me – both in person and in spirit – as I continue on my current escapade.

I honestly hope you never learn how lonely you can feel when you are faced with Medical appointments, treatments which scare you, feeling like a go-between when dealing with different people who are dealing with different bits of you but never actually appear to communicate with each other, etc. Believe me – it can get EXTREMELY lonely indeed.

Luckily, I have a kind of pressure relief valve – called “writing”. This has also been known to summon help in slightly unusual ways. Prayers and good thoughts (for the non-religious) are requested on occasion and gratefully received. Don’t worry – it is not all one-sided. In return my “Army” are supplied with “cures for insomnia” (if they attend the same church as me), puzzles, giggles, ramblings on various subjects, and my own personal brand of humour. I have also been known to dispense virtual “BIG HUGS” if people have seemed down.

Connections with people are valuable – some of us never have the necessity to learn exactly how valuable they can be to us.

I have seen a lot of things on Social Media about not saving a visit or a phone call until tomorrow because it might be too late. You may be surprised when I tell you that I am not going to jump on that particular bandwagon.

Instead – I am going to ask you to do yourself a favour.

Value the connections you have with your friends. Don’t be scared to ask for help when you need it. But – on the flip side of that – don’t make it all about you and what you need. Even when I am feeling totally wiped out from the Chemo or I am just not functioning at optimum performance levels for whatever reason – I always try to be there for my friends if they need a Sounding Board, or any other help I can reasonably attempt to provide them with. They have to put up with me complaining sometimes so it is only fair that I return the favour.

At the risk of sounding like Crabtree from “Allo Allo” – I shall say this only once – If I can put a positive spin on even the worst of situations, as well as trying to be there for my friends even when the only thing I honestly want to do is crawl into a corner and wait for the inevitable end, there is nothing stopping perfectly healthy people from doing the same.

There is too much selfishness in today’s world. We need to make society more selfless and more caring about those around us who might be in unseen need.

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When Customers And Awards Panels Collide (Or – Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls At The Expense Of Your Everyday Customers)

This blog post was inspired by a few friends of mine who have all been nominated for (and – in some cases – won) various Awards during the course of their working life.

Here is a question for you – you have a choice of two cafes. One of them has won so many Awards for the authenticity of its food (and has the certificates hanging on the walls to prove it) and comes with a personal recommendation from me – just because I love the place. The other one has the same amount of Awards for the authenticity of its food and certificates on the walls but I personally would advise you to avoid it like a particularly virulent form of the plague.

Which one would you choose??? After all, the only initial difference between them is my opinion – which you are free to ignore.

The difference between my opinion and the Awards panels is probably going to be the criteria we are using to decide whether we would recommend the place to our peers.

An Awards panel who is judging on the authenticity of food will (I hope) have at least some experience of the cuisine of the country in question. (In fact, I would hope that the panel included at least one native of the country in question.). However, I very much doubt that they would also be judging on whether or not the staff treat their customers in the same way as they would be treated in a similar establishment in the country the cuisine comes from – or whether or not the establishment is fully accessible for a person with, for example, mobility problems.

The same goes for Music Industry Awards (those which are voted for by the public are a different story) and Business Awards for things like “Best Innovator”, etc.

One of my school friends has been nominated for what sounds like a very prestigious Award in his field. I haven’t seen him in person for over 30 years but – from what I have seen of him on different clips on Social Media – he hasn’t changed much as far as his personality is concerned. He actually won the same Award last year.

Even though I have zero interest in his field of expertise (in fact, it is one of the few “sports” which makes me actually switch my TV off when it is on) – I actually find the man himself engaging with a brilliant sense of humour (as well as the ability to explain things in a way that someone like me finds interesting). So much so that I would have no hesitation in recommending him to anybody in need of his expertise.

There seems to be too much focus on winning Awards – sometimes even at the cost of the most important thing as far as a business is concerned (ie, customers). I used to work for someone who could say all the right things to anybody who even remotely appeared to be connected with an Awards judging panel but treated the rest of humanity who had the misfortune of coming into contact with him as worse than rubbish.

Going back to the question I started this blog post with – the first “cafe” in my hypothetical situation managed to surprise me earlier this week (and made me feel very happy as a result). They have reached the finals in the “Italian Food Awards” (hence the bit in my question about winning awards for the authenticity of their food). I love the place to bits (as you will know if you have read another blog post on here where they get a mention – the only reason they haven’t got a namecheck on this blog post is because I haven’t asked my school friend if I could give him a namecheck on here and I refuse to name, or quote, anyone without their prior permission). So I put a comment on their Facebook post which announced the news about them getting into the finals listing all the reasons why I love them.

Their reply honestly amazed me. I thought they were going to tell me how important the “Italian Food Awards” were to them. After all, the founders are Italian, they serve Italian food and drink, so winning the Award would be a way of proving to their peers that they are the best at what they do. It would also prove to anyone who walked in that they were about to be served with authentic products.

Instead, the reply I got was to the effect that my comment meant a lot more than the Award would. They put a lot of effort into making their day to day customers (like me) feel extremely welcome. It is no exaggeration to say that walking into their establishment feels like you are walking into their home. You might have to pay for what you consume but you cannot put a price on being treated as though you are a personal friend of the staff and owners.

So – next time you decide to go in for a “Prestigious” Award in your company’s field of expertise – please try to remember that winning that award is not the be all and end all of your company’s future existence. Paying customers are. And keeping your customers happy is a much quicker way of building your business (especially if they not only recommend your company to people they speak to but are able to recommend you to people further afield by means of a positive review on their blog or in another publication).

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When Language Splits (Or – Why The Easy Option Is Not Always The Simplest)

You could quite easily say that yesterday was spent communicating with people in at least four different languages. The more honest description is I actually communicated with people in two languages and attempted to read things in two different versions of one of them.

It all started when I put something on Facebook about a song by a pop group which was pretty famous in the 1980s. I wrote it in English – naturally enough seeing as English is technically my first language. Then I saw a comment from one of my Dutch relatives which warned me that I might be in for a bit of a headache. The comment included the Dutch translation of “my English is not so good”. Hmm – my Dutch isn’t exactly up to translating English sarcasm either. However, I gave it my best shot and eventually managed to make myself understood (all the time wishing I had actually had formal Dutch lessons at school).

Then I went out for a meal with some friends – where one of them paid me the most amazing compliment regarding my style of writing. (You might not have heard me speaking in real life so you don’t know what kind of accent I may have but you do kind of know what I sound like through reading my writing. I always try to write my blog posts as though we are having a conversation in person. I try to write as I speak.)

Then came the intriguing part of the day. Compared to most of my friends I feel totally uneducated. Some of them have got PhDs in obscure subjects, most of them have got degrees of some kind or another – and the highest paper qualification I have got is either GCSEs or an NVQ Level 1. I am in no way shape or form academic.

Two of my friends (who are married to each other) are Medical Professionals. However, they are my favourite kind of Medical Professionals for a couple of very simple reasons (1) because neither of them have approached me with tablets, needles, or other things which might find themselves inserted into me in one way or another, and (2) they can actually discuss their different specialisms in the English language using words which I can easily understand. Trust me – both of their specialisms each come with their own code for the uninitiated to attempt to crack.

The wife of the couple works in a part of the Medical Profession which you could say I have a lifelong interest in (and rather more personal experience of than I would like). She is an Optometrist (works with eyes). The husband of the couple works in a part of the Medical Profession which I would actually prefer to avoid as much as possible in other circumstances because every time I come into contact with this part of it I usually end up with more stuff to suck/puff, swallow, or have pumped into me via an Intravenous Drip (funny how I rarely end up having to take less medication). He is a Pharmacist.

I started to read what originally appeared to be an interesting book connected with Low Vision (belonging to the wife of the couple). I ended up getting more and more confused by it. Of course, the book was actually aimed at Brainiacs who had experience of dealing with people’s eyes. The funny thing was – apart from the bit about how to speak to the patients themselves and ascertain what their expectations were (and how to manage them) – the bits of the book which I did understand didn’t match up with my experiences at all.

When the husband of the couple saw me reading the book on low vision he decided I needed further data – this time on his specialism. The magazine he handed me might as well have been written in Egyptian hieroglyphics for all I understood of it. However, when we spoke about a problem I had regarding getting some medication recently he actually explained the reasons in plain English. He also explained something else which had been worrying me about some other medication.

It was quite ironic considering how Doctors are now being advised to write to their patients using words which are recognisable in the English language. (Personally, I think they should force the Doctors to speak to their patients using words which are recognisable in the English language as well – especially when they are asking the aforementioned patient to confirm information regarding their medical history. This patient has a tendency to get worried when she hears an acronym which she vaguely remembers but isn’t sure which part of her treatment – past or present – it refers to. Especially when she realises the acronym may result in her being operated on. In this instance – the acronym did relate to an operation I had had when I was a baby.)

There is not much difference between Dutch and “Medical English” if you ask me. They both require effort (and a bit of previous experience) to translate so that mere mortals who can only speak plain English can understand them. Oh, and you only usually hear – or read – them in certain situations.

Different “versions” of English are very useful when people who use those versions (Medical, Engineering, Legal, etc) all know what is being discussed and understand all the terminology used but – if mere mortals like me are supposed to be involved in the conversation and need information in order to make plans – plain English should be the default language. Anders kan ik dit helemaal in het Nederlands schrijven – dan zou je het niet kunnen verstaan (or – in English “Otherwise I can write this all in Dutch then you won’t be able to understand it”)!

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Why Emotions Can Be Useful In Helping People (Or – How Certain Songs Can Teach Us Something When Performed Differently)

I have been watching clips of “The Voice Of Holland – Seniors” on YouTube and it inspired this blog post. Mostly because of a couple of singers who somehow managed to (in one case) improve on the original version of “Nutbush City Limits” by Tina Turner, and (in the other case) make the Tom Jones version of “Green Green Grass Of Home” more real.

I was very impressed with the Pensioners who took part. (Well, I would be – seeing as I know that Dutch pensioners aren’t too keen on speaking English unless they absolutely *have* to. Or maybe that is just my Dutch relations???)

Don’t worry – there is a point to this which connects it with the “Business world”.

There are certain songs which I cannot stand the originals of -namely anything by U2 and Paul Weller’s version of “The Paris Match” (I thought it would sound better if it was sung by a female – and I have heard a version by Kristyna Myles which proved me right) – but I did see a clip of someone who I did not realise was the original singer of the song “Handbags And Gladrags” who (in my opinion) sang a much better version of it than Coldplay – stand up and take a bow Sir Rod Stewart (yes – you of the “trying to sing with a very bad cold” voice which I usually hate but actually works on this song).

Now you know a bit about the kind of songs and voices which grab my attention – I will attempt to explain the connection between all the above and the “Business world”.

As you should know by now I love organisations and people who value experience above paper qualifications.

But I also prefer dealing with people who let their experience show through their voice when they are speaking to me.

This has got nothing to do with accents. This is more connected with not hiding who and what you are as a person. How many times have you heard someone who does an excellent impression of an Android repeat “I understand what you are going through” when you try to explain a problem you have got which their organisation caused??? Of course, they can go the other way and fake their emotions – and not only in their voices either (I am honestly having trouble attempting to detect an unmanufactured outrage about the “Serena Williams versus The Umpire” affair – particularly the aftermath of it – in all the column inches I have read about it).

Of course, experience of a situation doesn’t have to be your own personal experience of it in order for you to be able to inject any real emotions into your voice during the conversation with your customer or client. I am going to use my all-time favourite song as an example here (because I have a pretty good idea of the story behind it – even though I haven’t been told outright if I am correct). If you got me and Kristyna Myles to sing “Someone” to you one after the other – you would hear two very similar versions of the same song (especially if my Chemo would very kindly allow me to get the use of my high notes back). The same lyrics and the same music would be heard and almost the same emotions as the song was sung to you. One of us would put a slight twist on the emotional content because we have literally lived through the lyrics personally. It might sound a little more “raw” and “cut up” in parts compared to the original. Don’t get me wrong – the original singer uses her voice in such a way that it sounds like she has lived through the lyrics personally as well. However, the emotion I sing it with comes from the soul. One of these days I might get brave enough to put a clip on YouTube of me singing it and you will find out what I mean.

I am sure there is a Beatles song with the lyrics “send me a postcard, drop me a line, stating point of view”??? Maybe we should be more willing to add our emotions to our conversations. Then we can work out more easily who feels and lives their job and who just does it for the money (and should be helped into a change into a career to which they are much more suited).

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We All Have Reasons For The Choices We Make (Or – Why Respect And Not Covert Condemnation Is Key)

Yesterday I finally decided that I would never visit the Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester on my own again. I have finally accepted that it wasn’t designed for people like me to visit (and the alterations they are making to it will only make the problems worse).

I put my decision on Facebook with a photograph of what had proven to be the final straw regarding my relationship with the aforementioned Shopping Centre.

I was rather shocked to find a comment by a friend of mine who covertly condemned my decision (they suggested I carried a magnifying glass and made use of the “Customer Service” desk instead of following my intended course of action – doing my shopping online in future – and finding other shops which are more accessible for me).

What my friend didn’t realise is the “Customer Service” desk (or rather the location and colour-scheme of it) is actually part of the problem.

In the end I ended up having to tell my friend that I wanted to keep my independence in my own way and that I am sick and tired of having to adapt to shops, etc, when they have the money to make alterations to accommodate me.

I honestly find it both mentally and physically tiring to go shopping sometimes – especially when it involves having to adapt very quickly to different lighting conditions (going between almost exact opposite lighting conditions without a break can actually make me feel poorly as well if I do it too often), and different layouts of shops. That is before you realise there is no standard for things like label sizes or sizes of fonts on price tags, etc.

My solution may sound a little extreme to you. However, I would rather retain what independence I have got for as long as possible. Whilst I am quite happy for my friends to offer to take me into town – or anywhere else they happen to be going to – I draw the line at feeling forced to ask them to help me do something which most people can do independently. I also object to the idea of having to flag up my sight problem (by – for example – using a magnifying glass to read a poster) when all that was required was someone thinking that not everyone can see microscopic print and it might be an idea to make the font bigger on a poster which tells you the location of the shops.

Unfortunately my list of complaints about the Shopping Centre would fill a stack of “Customer Feedback” cards. And I very much doubt I would be listened to anyway.

I am quite happy to discuss my ideas regarding the changes which need to be made in order for places to be truly accessible for Disabled people. All I ask for in return is for my opinions to be treated with respect.

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Clarity Can Save Both Energy And Confusion (Or – Make Sure Your Signs Are Easy For Everyone To Understand)

I remember being told two ways of getting to a friend’s house on foot quite a few years ago. One way involved approximately 5 changes of direction and the other just resulted in your friendly blogger getting totally confused because it involved so many changes of direction in a very short space of time. The next time my friend and I went to their house on foot my friend decided to make sure I had remembered the route. They promptly complained at me when we arrived at our destination because – according to them – I had taken them the long way round. My brain prefers to have to remember as few changes of direction as possible. This means that it flagged up the way I took my friend to their house as the quickest route. (The route I took them also had more things I could use as memorable landmarks as well.)

Why did I tell you the above???

Have a look at the photos below;

Both photos could be considered to be ambiguous as far as their messages are concerned (in fact – I actually put a separate status on Facebook regarding each sign to that effect).

Taking the second photo first – the sign appears to expect the person reading it to have enough knowledge of the English language to realise that the word “smoking” refers to smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc. (I remember the trouble I had trying not to laugh when – as part of my last job – I was booking hotel rooms and the person on the other end of the phone asked whether the rooms needed to be smoking or non-smoking. I nearly replied that if the rooms were smoking I would suggest they rang the Fire Brigade immediately.)

The first photo actually only makes sense if you know anything about Leicester Royal Infirmary (where both photos were taken).

Most of the buildings in Leicester Royal Infirmary are named after Royal castles, palaces, or estates (one building is named after Queen Victoria herself). Balmoral and Windsor are both buildings at the Infirmary (incidentally you have to go through one to get to the other).

If you are new to Leicester Royal Infirmary and you read the bottom line of the poster in the photo you may end up wondering whether the journey to get your meal would be worth it. After all, the instructions only tell you that you have to get to “Balmoral via Windsor”. They do not tell you how you are supposed to travel to both of those places. Seeing as one is on the other side of London from Leicester and the other one is somewhere in the wilds of Scotland, you might be forgiven for thinking you are in for a very expensive trip indeed (and you won’t make your appointment if you decide to have something to eat first). The addition of the word “Building” after both “Windsor” and “Balmoral” would make the sign more logical – as well as reducing the travelling distance from nearly 1000 miles to approximately half a mile from the location of the poster (outside Osbourne building).

There are other colloquialisms which are used in our day-to-day conversations which can be confusing to those of us who regularly think in more than one language (never mind those of us who are not familiar with English slang, etc, in the first place). In my last job one of my colleagues was heard telling someone that “we need to run round it with a paintbrush” when what he actually meant was “we need to paint it”. That is before me getting totally confused as a result of having to both type orders for such things as “M6 X 32 Cheesehead”, or, “M8 X 32 Holding Down Bolts”, or even (and this was my favourite), “M10 Washers”, and overhear discussions about whether or not an “M6” would be more appropriate than an “M10”. Those of you who have either an Engineering or a Construction background will know that the “M” in front of the numbers stands for “Metric” and not “Motorway” (if you ask me an “M10 Washer” is either someone who is putting their life at risk by trying to mop the M10 motorway using a mop and bucket, or a sudden rain storm on the M10 Motorway).

Of course, not everyone has been brought up with two dictionaries from totally different languages open in their mind (and – consequently – a bad habit of sometimes taking things a bit too literally at first glance). On the other hand, not everyone has either the time or the knowledge to mentally add words to posters and signs to help them make sense of them.

There is also an added factor which has been known to add more confusion (especially where I am concerned). There are certain words in the English language which (thanks mainly to my Mum never using the English definition of them) are more likely to be connected in my brain with the Dutch definition. This can have some rather alarming and hilarious consequences – especially when you realise that one of them is filed in my brain under the Dutch definition and this can cause a very good example of the English definition (a “Mes” in Dutch is a knife which can be used to cause a “Mess” – as in the English definition) – and the other word supplied me with endless hours of confusion when I was little due to the Dutch “definition” actually being the first name of one of my Mum’s cousins (“Leen” pronounced in exactly the same way as the word coming up next) who could quite happily walk along a “Lane”. (And people thought that walking plants and trees – as in “The Triffids” – was a scary concept??? Imagine being approximately 5 years old and wondering how an entire street was going to fit inside your Dutch Grandma’s flat, never mind trying to work out how it was going to get there in the first place!)

Language can be confusing enough – and that is before you start panicking about the kind of news you might get when you reach your final destination (especially if you are going to an unfamiliar hospital or other establishment where they can potentially give you bad news). So, please attempt to make your signs as clear and unambiguous as possible.

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Why It Can Take Bravery To Employ Someone Like Me (Or – Why I Could Be The Best Investment You Might Miss Out On)

Three things happened this week which have all combined to inspire this blog post. (Don’t worry Roger – you are not getting rid of me yet.)

All three things got me thinking about how people like me can end up losing out when it comes to things like applying for jobs, etc, because of some of the known and unknown rules of applying for jobs, attending job interviews, etc.

I saw an article on one of the Social Media sites which intrigued me. It was about unusual questions which the Chiefs of certain companies would ask candidates in job interviews.

One Chief would ask the following question – “Why wouldn’t I employ you?”.

This question is the one which always comes into my mind every time I am in contact with someone with regards to possible projects, collaborations, etc. And it was always the first one in my brain when I went for job interviews (but actually phrased as “why wouldn’t I want to work here?”).

Before you accuse me of going into situations where I could get work (in whatever form, paid or unpaid) with such a negative attitude that would not get me a job even if I was the last job seeker on Earth – I have to point something out to you. Employment actually involves more costs than just financial. The costs can be to both of your physical health, both of your mental health, both of your emotional health. And that is before you add in the so-called “reasonable adjustments” which may need to be made in order for someone like me to work in your building.

In some cases in previous job interviews my reply to the above question would have been “Because employing me would cost us both more than either of us are honestly prepared to pay – and I don’t mean financially either”.

I am not the sort of person to keep quiet when I don’t like something. I am certainly not going to sit in silence when I see people sitting in judgement over people doing things which the people doing the judging haven’t bothered to understand the reasons behind.

This brings me to the second thing which inspired this blog post. Someone put a tweet on Twitter about overuse of exclamation marks. I saw red when I read that one. In one respect you could say I am one of the most guilty people when it comes to overuse of exclamation marks in writing. This is usually limited to tweets, texts, and WhatsApp messages though. The reason? Because texts, tweets, and WhatsApp messages are usually typed on an app which helpfully (note the sarcasm) reduces the size of the typing area of the screen where the words appear so much that a full stop can be rendered virtually invisible for me. So tweets, text messages, and WhatsApp messages will be sent which contain one exclamation mark to signal the end of a sentence and more than one exclamation mark if I want to emphasise a point. Blame my sight for that if you want to!!!

The third thing which inspired this blog post was me almost collapsing into a heap on Wednesday evening. More to the point – one of the reasons behind why I nearly collapsed into a heap. The cause can most simply be described as low blood pressure due to insufficient consumption of fluids during two hour wait before being called into the Chemo suite as well as insufficient consumption of fluids during Chemo treatment itself.

But Ineke? I thought this was supposed to be about it taking bravery to employ someone like you??? Your employer cannot be held responsible for your insufficient consumption of fluid during your working hours.

Oh yes they can in certain circumstances and Wednesday provides a perfect example. If the layout of the Chemo Suite waiting area and the Chemo Suite itself were what I found in a building where I was supposed to be interviewed for a job I would walk straight back out (even before I got to the reception desk) never to be seen again.

I may never have been a nurse but I have worked in an office where my job included welcoming visitors and making sure they were adequately watered with the drinks of their choice.

As a result I am the kind of person who takes notice of the location of things like reception desks (preferably staffed with humans) and drinks machines (even a sink with a kettle, and the makings of tea and coffee will be a helpful minimum) so I can keep myself watered if need be without having to annoy the receptionist.

All I can say is – at least the waiting area for the Chemo Suite has got chairs in it – and it is in a reasonably busy location (being opposite the lifts). What it has not got is either a Receptionist (they are inside the Chemo suite so you have to go in – hand your chemo diary in – and go back out into the waiting area) or a drinks machine. Which means you either have to take your own drinks or you have to go into the Chemo suite to get a drink and go back into the waiting area. This is all very well until you start to have a dizzy spell and you need a drink ASAP. There is *no way* of alerting anybody in a situation like that – there is no nurse call button anywhere in the waiting area for the Chemo suite. Either you have to annoy a stranger to get you a drink or you have to do what I did and stagger into the Chemo suite, get a drink and stagger out again (hoping you don’t collapse on the way).

I have seen some companies which are set up in an alarmingly similar way. You are either left standing outside speaking into an intercom before you are let in (if you are lucky a human will materialise who can direct you to where you are supposed to be) or you are left in a lobby-type area with a phone and instructions on how to get assistance using said phone in a font I probably need a microscope to read.

Not only do first impressions of people count but first impressions of buildings also count. Especially when it comes to someone like me assessing the likelihood of you making any changes which I may require in order for me to comfortably work in your company. Let’s just say that if I need either a torch or a welder’s visor (to block out the blinding illuminations from your lighting conditions) I will *definitely* consider it to be too expensive for you to employ me.

I want to leave you with one final thought which is indirectly linked to the complaint I found on Twitter.

The way most people would get their first impressions of a company nowadays is by either looking at their Social Media presence or their website. Both of these can make or break a company. Given a choice I would prefer to work for an organisation which allows people to have their own personal Social Media accounts instead of just having a corporate account. Some companies appear to forget they employ individuals who all have their different ways of interacting with people. Personally, I look for “Quirkers” like me to interact with.

The other first impression is via the corporate website. I have seen some amazing ones – easy for someone with my sight problem to read and use – and some truly horrific ones. One was so bad that I actually didn’t care that I lost the job because I complained about it in the job interview. Being informed that it had won awards and therefore the company was not going to change it (by the way I wasn’t the “target audience” for it – even though I attempted to use it to research the company prior to the interview) almost got them reported to the RNIB. The very same RNIB which I doubt was anywhere near the panel who did the judging for the awards.

Be wary of judging people based on what you think you know about them. They may totally surprise you by turning out completely different to how they appear on first sight (either in real life or on Social Media). You may be missing out on a fantastic find if you keep going for the cheapest (as in effort you may need to put in to ensure they can function to their full potential in your company) options all the time.

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A Little Information Can Save A Wasted Journey (Or – The Day I Learned That Two Parts Of The Same Organisation Can Work To Totally Different Schedules)

You could say that – once programmed with days for recurring activities – I am guaranteed to turn up where I am supposed to at the correct time (or – if I haven’t been given a specific time – on the correct day) unless I am unable to attend for some reason (unwell, or in hospital, physical impossibility of being in two places at once, etc). On Monday I came across a new reason for not being able to be in the correct location – a locked door due to a Bank Holiday.

In most instances (and locations) I would have been aware of the fact that I would not be able to make my appointment due to the fact it was a Bank Holiday on Monday. In fact, I cannot think of any other organisation which would make me think I had to attend their premises for any kind of meeting on a Bank Holiday – except maybe the Police.

There was a legitimate reason for my turning up to the correct location on a Bank Holiday. Correction – there were three.

The first one – and the most important one – was the location was in a hospital. (And I had had the same thing done as an inpatient – Bank Holiday or not.)

The second one was – it was for a blood test which I have every Monday before Chemo on Wednesday.

The third one was – when my blood test form was handed to me last Wednesday nobody told me the “Outpatients” section of Osbourne building at Leicester Royal Infirmary would be shut on Monday including both the Chemo Suite and the Blood Test (Haematology) Dept.

Luckily I managed to have the Blood Test done yesterday morning. However, seeing as I don’t like either any type of sharp or bladed instrument being pointed in my direction or Vampires (Blood Test Nurses) in general, psyching myself up to do the same journey twice in one week wasn’t the easiest thing I have ever had to do. (“Sharp scratch??? Yeah right! We both know this is going to hurt!!! The only thing worse than being attacked by a Vampire with a needle and a syringe is a Blood Gas Test – also with a needle and a syringe!”)

The confusing thing for me was knowing that hospitals admit inpatients and visitors over the Bank Holiday. I was even able to walk into the correct building on Monday.

If your organisation is split into two bits – with one bit working on a Bank Holiday but the “Public Facing” bit being closed to the public on that day – please feel free to plaster notices to that effect on every available surface and tell people like me who would expect service to continue as normal (especially if the reason for my appearance at your premises could directly affect something else which should happen to me) because of either the establishment you are in or the fact that I have been programmed to turn up on a specific day for a particular purpose for a set amount of time. (As stated previously – I can have a bad reaction if my plans are unexpectedly changed by someone else without warning.)

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