Positive Discrimination Is Still Discrimination (Or – Why Quotas Should Be Reserved For Inanimate Objects)

A couple of nights ago I took part in a fascinating discussion regarding women in Policing. The discussion got me thinking about the best way to ensure a representative mix of society in any organisation.

When it comes to attempting to combat inequality the usual instrument of choice is positive discrimination – and it can be in the form of quotas (a certain number of women, disabled, etc, to be employed).

As someone who prefers to be seen to have achieved something on merit – positive discrimination has very negative connotations. Getting a job because I am the best person for it feels a lot better than getting it because I tick one or more of the boxes du jour.

Since the BBC have decided to ensure all gameshows have at least one woman in the panel of Gameshows I found myself being put off some of my favourite TV programmes by using females – “Mock The Week” is a case in point. I just didn’t think the women in the panels were remotely funny.

I understand that we need ways of ensuring that everyone gets a chance of getting a job, etc. However, this requires people to be properly educated regarding the (sometimes) very serious challenges faced by different groups of people. These challenges could concern the job itself but they are more likely to be regarding people’s attitudes towards them (and that is the thing which should be the easiest to resolve through education in schools).

There is one minor problem with the idea of quotas when it comes to employing people – if you are not careful you might end up filling your vacancies with people who don’t have the ability to do the the job. This kind of happened to me when I applied for a job as a School Crossing as a School Crossing Patrol human. I only failed to get the job because I failed the Medical Assessment due to my sight.

There are different sides to every story, of course. But I was reminded of the media storm which ensued after Cressida Dick was promoted to Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. A minority of the media were focusing in the fact that Ms Dick is female (and the first female Met Commissioner) whilst the majority were saying she shouldn’t have got the job because she was the officer who gave the order which ended up with Jean-Charles de Menezes shot dead. Neither set of facts are relevant to the appointment.

The minute we stop highlighting the differences between people – as well as using those differences to cast negative lights on appointments – we might actually see an end to the idea of celebrating each and every time someone from an unexpected section of society (female, BAME, Disabled, etc) gets a job for which they are correctly qualified.

Now – to me – that would be “positive Discrimination” because there would be no discrimination in the first place.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Humans Versus Walls (Or – Corporate Versus Individual Social Media Accounts)

One of my favourite songs has got a lyric in it which I was reminded of as a result of reading a discussion on Twitter regarding “Corporate” Police Twitter accounts versus “Individual” Police Twitter accounts (held by individual Officers).

The lyric is in Dutch – but it translates into English as “how should I talk to walls?”.

Don’t get me wrong – there are some brilliant “Corporate” Twitter accounts, not just in the Police either (and some truly terrible ones held by individuals). However, my heart sinks every time I read about an individual being asked to close their account and merge with the “Corporate” account. If only because I am more comfortable when I can build a relationship with a human who will take the time to get to know me and (if necessary) look after me.

To me there is a similarity between the different Twitter accounts and the levels of formality when we speak to people in person.

You don’t believe me???

When was the last time you felt you had a deep, meaningful, and intimate relationship with someone who either only introduced themselves by their title (Mr, Mrs, Dr, etc) and their surname??? Or – worse – someone who insisted on you only addressing them as either “Sir” or “Madam”???

Both the above forms of address are only useful if you require to put a barrier up between you and the other person in the conversation and/or you want to emphasise any perceived “advantage” or authority you may have over them (Qualifications, experience, age, etc).

I have got a couple of friends who are a perfect example of the above. One of them I first met on a “professional” level (they were one of my teachers) – the other one I have had no “professional” dealings with but I ended up having to split them into two separate people in my brain (for reasons which are not relevant to this blog post) just to be able to cope with them.

Addressing both of my friends by their title and surname forces me to treat them with “formal” respect. It also (particularly in the case of the non-teacher) puts me on guard and makes me feel threatened – even if I do it in a jokey way. I automatically expect them to judge me and/or patronise when I do that.

(When it comes to strangers I prefer being able to choose what I call you when I first meet you. I was brought up to address strangers by their title and surname until they tell me otherwise. I still do that – particularly if they are older than me. Being forced to address an older person by their first name on meeting them just makes me feel as though I am being disrespectful to them.)

When I was in a position to address my ex-teacher by their first name (with their permission) I must admit it felt weird. There is still that barrier in my head sometimes which tells me I am being disrespectful to them by doing so.

Addressing both of my friends by their first names squashes the barriers caused by the more formal forms of address. I actually feel like I can be myself around them. They no longer pose any threat to me as far as patronisation, etc, goes. I can argue with them if I so choose.

If you think of a “Corporate” Social Media account the chances are you may think of it in the same way as a visit to a hospital, your Solicitor, etc. The people in charge of the account might be the friendliest humans to walk the planet but – due to the constraints placed on them by the rules and regulations devised by the people in charge of the “Communications Department” – they can give the world’s best impressions of an anonymous Android.

I realise there can be potential pitfalls and minefields connected with “Individual” Social Media accounts held by people working for a corporate organisation like the Police, Virgin Trains, KLM, etc. However, nearly all the Twitter accounts I follow which are held by individuals who are employed by the organisations in question have been a credit to themselves and their employers (there have – of course – been some who got a bit trigger-happy).

In fact, it is thanks to an “individual” Twitter account that you are reading this blog post. I found Roger on Twitter when he was still in the Police – I enjoyed reading his tweets so much and found him so friendly that I decided I wouldn’t mind working with him when he had retired.

Other “individual” Twitter accounts have been used to give “behind the scenes” glimpses of what the Police – and other organisations – do. This is as well as providing proof that the employees of organisations are in fact – shock horror – human and capable of human emotions. (One Twitter account teaches me about flying 747’s as well as Policing – the individual does both.)

There is a place for “Corporate” Social Media accounts but they have to be run by humans who are allowed to show their human and humane side without fear of discipline or sanctions.

Otherwise – we might as well address everyone we meet with the utmost formality every single time we speak to them. That to me just seems the best way to erect barriers, divide society even more, and get nowhere at the speed of sound as far as community cohesion and connectivity are concerned.

I want to leave you with a thought if I may.

When you are speaking to me you have a choice of three forms of address – you can address me as “Miss Poultney” (that is the one I hate the most – especially when you introduce yourself by your title and surname. Doing that increases the likelihood of me feeling at a distinct disadvantage and thinking I have to fight you to get what I want). You can call me “Ineke” (careful how you pronounce it after the first few times – continued repeated manglings of it can also put our relationship in the vicinity of the Arctic Circle – apart from that I happily answer to it in a friendly manner). Or, you can call me “Ink” or “Inky” (“Inky” is the name I advise people who I am likely to have long-term contact with – who have problems with “Ineke” to call me. “Ink” is usually reserved for people who know me very well).

If we must have “Corporate” social media accounts we also need to ensure there are individual social media accounts which are held by people with the correct training to blend their individuality with the “Corporate” message of the organisation concerned – otherwise – feel free to think of me as “Miss Poultney” for the foreseeable future.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why We All Need Space To Connect With Ourselves

Before you decide that a mere mortal like me should leave highbrow discussions on subjects like Psychology and Philosophy to qualified Brainiacs who have experience in such matters I would like to point out that I am speaking from my own personal experience. You are free to ignore every single word of what follows if you don’t agree with it.

I have never been very happy in large groups. I prefer dealing with people in small clumps of maybe two or three. The perfect scenario for me is just having a drink and a chat with one other person.

OK – I am going to be totally honest with you – solitude is my idea of heaven. People never seem to understand people like me who can be alone and hardly ever feel lonely as a result (I am more likely to feel loneliest in a crowd).

There are differences between someone being alone and someone being lonely. Unfortunately, the fact that one can lead to the other is the main story when the subject of “loneliness” hits the Mainstream Media.

We seem to have lost the ability to spend time with ourselves. We fill our lives with other people, hobbies, distractions, religion (when people talk about “having quiet time with God” they usually mean they are praying, reading the Bible, or meditating on what they have read and not just sitting, staring into space, reflecting on their own thoughts).

Both of my main hobbies can be done on my own or in a group (and a group is the main beneficiary of one of them) – reading and writing don’t need to be done in the company of others but writing can be read by more than one person at a time.

When was the last time you took yourself off on your own and really spent time with yourself??? For more than five minutes that is???

If we are not comfortable with ourselves how can we start to become truly comfortable with others?

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to turn yourself into someone who shares their every vulnerability with the world. Just feeling at peace in your own skin is enough.

My favourite thing to do is to sit in my reclining chair at home, take my glasses off (so I cannot be distracted) and have a good old think. Sometimes I think of a story which will relax me so much I can fall asleep. Sometimes I find myself accidentally setting myself a puzzle with an alarming level of complexity. Sometimes I remember things I have done in the past and savour some of those memories anew. Sometimes I just let my mind wander – occasionally lingering on people who mean a lot to me (for whatever reason) and being thankful for the chance to occupy the same orbit as them.

As someone who honestly doesn’t understand how anybody could feel truly happy only when they are in a large group of people – I have always been fascinated by people like that, whilst never actually wanting to be like them. How do they manage to exist in an “always on” state??? I hate it when I end up feeling like I have to “perform to the gallery” and draw attention to myself (usually because there is something which I find challenging that other people can do without a second thought).

Our time is precious, so are our lives. If you are truly uncomfortable without anyone or anything to distract you you are in danger of losing contact with the most important person in your life – you.

I don’t mean you should start being selfish – quite the opposite in fact. For me – the times when I feel like being selfish are the times when I know I have to reconnect with myself because something is wrong. The times when I am most at peace with the idea of being around other people and helping them are when I know I am able to take a five minute “head break” without having to crawl into a corner and give up on the world. I can just flick my thoughts into my “Diagnostic Mode” and watch the world go by. So, if you see me sitting quietly just watching when there are people all around me – please don’t be alarmed. I am not trying to work out a way of frightening you or committing a crime against you – I am just being with myself for a while. Feel free to approach me and talk to me – if I tell you I am OK on my own please respect that. I am just renewing my friendship with me.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Medical Professionals Are Human As Well

What a week it’s been for me. I didn’t want to say anything at the time but the last two blog posts were posted from a hospital bed (WiFi is a very useful thing). If you want to know why please keep an eye on my personal blog.

The hospital I was in (Glenfield) was one of the ones where the children’s heart department was under threat of closure (most people won’t remember but the adult’s heart department was also under threat of closure at one point).

With all the fuss about parents taking legal action over decisions to end treatment for very poorly babies – it got me thinking. (And not just because I could have been one of them.)

We all know the amount of pressure the NHS is under. However, there seems to be a tendency to forget how hard the Doctors and Nurses work. As well as the fact they have to make potentially dangerous decisions every single day. I am not going to lecture you on the subject of how we should trust them to use their clinical judgement when it comes to dealing with patients. Nor am I going to go on about how they do not deserve abuse or legal action when things go wrong.

What I am going to say is the following.

My stay in hospital was very unexpected – and I turned out to be a bit of a complicated case with a few possible causes. I admit that I wasn’t too happy about having different theories uttered in my direction when they were trying to find the cause but – at least they kept me informed about what various Doctors were thinking. When they finally decided on a course of action – they talked me through it and made sure I understood what was going to happen and the potential risks involved in the procedure.

I think that might be the problem which some people face – either they are scared to ask questions or they don’t fully understand the answers.

We need to remember that even World Famous medical professionals are human just like you and me and they are likely to face the same problems as you or me.

Then we might start trusting their judgement a bit more.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Being Strong When Feeling Weak

Have you ever wondered what you would choose as your personal motto??? You know the sort which you see on old-fashioned family crests, shields, letterheads of certain schools and prestigious companies, etc???

I have found myself contemplating that very subject a lot since Monday (you could say that I have unexpectedly ended up with rather a lot of time on my hands). As a result I have come to the conclusion that I am glad I can’t stand needles – otherwise I would probably end up with my favourite motto tattooed on my person in flowing old-fashioned Dutch script (like my Mum’s handwriting).

My favourite motto is not only apt for my Mum’s native Rotterdam (which was “awarded” it by Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands after the Second World War) but applies to me as well in more ways than you may ever realise.

The English translation of it is “Strength Through Adversity” and – when you realise that the centre of Rotterdam has only got three pre-Second World War buildings left standing after the Bombardment – you might understand how they earned it (if you ever visit Rotterdam I suggest you go onto the roof of the “Groothandelgebouw” near the Central Station and walk around looking at the “Before” and “After” photos – quite sobering).

I suppose different people have different ideas about what constitutes “adversity”. They also have differing ideas of what they are personally prepared to put up with, along with the way they would deal with unpleasant situations.

When you have only got a choice between “give up” and “fight” you would be forgiven for thinking you only have one choice. However, that single choice is something you have to make day after day – even when it is too tough to carry on.

People are too quick to judge others based on what they can see as well as what they think they know.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Explanations – The Key To Understanding And Happiness – If Done Correctly

Last night I read something on Twitter which both alarmed me and cheered me up. The reason it alarmed me was I knew the person who tweeted it had some idea of the subject in question. The reason it cheered me up is because it actually rings true for the situation I am currently in.

The tweet asked for a particular group of people to explain exactly what they do – as opposed to what they are supposed to do. There is a big difference between the two.

I am the kind of person who loves explanations of things – particularly if they are likely to affect me in some way. The best way to do it is usually with a lot of patience. My brain doesn’t necessarily compute things in the same way as most people so you might get seemingly random questions fired at you. At the same time, please give me some time (as in at least five seconds) to process what you tell me before asking if I have any questions – unless, of course, you are interviewing me for a job.

The trouble is – we seem to have lost the art of explanations. I don’t want to use the horrible cliche “dumbing down” but it would appear that in our current “soundbite society” we don’t appear able to read between the lines and argue our case properly without it degenerating into an abusive fight.

I saw something on Facebook some time ago which made me smile – it was a picture with a slogan along the lines of “It is possible to disagree with something and continue with your day”.

If you would like to argue with me in order to try to change my opinion on something you need to be able to back your position up with facts and experience. Otherwise we will just have to agree to disagree.

I wish we could teach arguing and explaining in schools. It would make life a lot easier.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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


GU21 6JT

(01483) 598499


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

Posted in Charities and Causes, Community, Fun, Military, Veterans, Vulnerable Veterans | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment