Veterans Holiday in the Loire Valley

Do you know an Armed Forces Veteran who would benefit from a holiday in France?

If so check out check out where Chris, the owner, is offering a free break for veterans if their partner or supporter pays for themselves. A sort of BOGOF arrangement!

The trips are 4 days and Chris cooks for you, he picks up at the airport fully catered, breakfast, light lunch and dinner- with wine.

The companion pays £60 per night.

Available dates

July 9th -12th, 14-17th August, 19th -22nd August and 1-4th September.

You will need – air fares (Ryanair to Tours or Poitiers) insurance so if you are interested contact

I’d get in there – fast. And please feedback how the trip went.

grapes vineyard vine purple grapes

Photo by Pixabay on


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Veterans Support Association

The SMPL team are woking on the Veterans Hubs project trying to bring together


John Joyce VSA

Veterans needs and services supporting them across Kent, E Sussex, W Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey. And we get to visit some interesting and unusual events…..

Just a reminder of our visit to @vsa1115 John’s veterans  support association archery competition in Walton that was also visited by the #ForcesConnectSouthEast Chair Peter Martin – perhaps next year all the #veteransHubs should put in a team @VulnerableVete1 please note 😉




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Why Accessibility Can Be A State Of Mind

If there is one thing which I try to avoid as much as possible it is going down public staircases. (I am not too keen on going up very steep ones either but that is a different story.)

As you know I have a problem with angles – and this can turn some staircases into life-threatening deathtraps.

This means you are more likely to see me heading for the nearest ramp, lift, or escalator (unless I cannot avoid the stairs).

I am starting to realise this is becoming something of an accessibility issue (and not just for those of us with physical disabilities – lugging heavy suitcases, pushchairs, etc, up and down stairs can be very dangerous).

Leicester Railway Station has got lifts which are visible on the platforms but you have to go down an unmarked corridor and through a ticket barrier from the main station concourse.

However, I found out last night that the lifts and escalators which would get you to the walkway between Peterborough Bus Station and Peterborough Railway Station are switched off after approximately 7.30pm (as well as the entrance to the walkway being shut). This wouldn’t be so bad if the ground level route between the two buildings didn’t involve crossing roads and carpark entrances (not something I would feel happy doing in the dark). There was no sign of any signposts between the two either (I only found the Railway Station because I knew it was near a large Waitrose).

I get the general idea that some people and organisations appear to think that disabled people are not (or rather – should not be) allowed out at night – certainly not on their own. I have news for them – I will go out whenever I want and I do not like the idea of being forced to take someone with me just so I can safely navigate myself around. (Admittedly, I have to really psyche myself up for travelling on my own at night but I will do it if there is an event I really want to attend.)

All it takes is a bit of thought – if you want to do something please explain to me why I shouldn’t want to do the same thing as you??? I know there are some things which, with the best will in the world, are a total physical impossibility for me. However, in most cases, I can usually find a way of working around my difficulties with a little help.

The Equalities Act should ensure that disabled people are not discriminated against. However, you cannot legislate against how someone thinks about other people.

What people like myself and some of my friends can do is show you that disabled people have the same wants, needs, desires, as the rest of the population – and try to educate you about how we cope with life.

You may be surprised.

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Why A Gallery Sometimes Isn’t The Best Place To See Works Of Art (Or – How Perceptions Can Harm People)

I want to start this blog post off a little bit differently to normal. I am going to show you my favourite sculpture and tell you a bit about what it represents to me.

This sculpture (lamp post not included) serves a few functions for me. It is a metaphor for breaking down barriers and taking chances. It is also a hidden surprise because not many people who go past it would take any notice of it. It is also a kind of signpost because it tells me I am heading in the right direction if I want to visit the area where my Dutch Grandma (or “Oma”) lived until I was approximately 11 years old.

If you are interested in seeing it in real life get on tram 25 to Schiebroek (or any tram which is heading north out of the city centre) from Rotterdam Central Station. It is on your left between the Central Station and Weena.

The quickest way to bore me is to take me to an Art Gallery. I don’t like being told what I am supposed to classify as good artwork. My tastes in “artwork” run more towards the kind of thing which most people would take one look at and say “you what??? How can you call that art???”. Of course, that is when people would actually consider hanging some of the stuff I would consider to be good art in a Gallery to be legal. (Let’s just say that – last time I looked – hanging people up was classed as both capital punishment and illegal in this country and quite a few other countries I can name.)

This sculpture is in Delft.

Yes – some of my favourite “Artwork” can be seen wandering around – either being worn by people or the people themselves (I am especially jealous of those ladies who can create elaborate pictures on themselves using makeup – me and makeup don’t mix unless I want to look like a multicoloured panda).

There is a point to me telling you all the above.

Sometimes we allow our ideas of perfection or ability to colour the way we look at our surroundings (including our dealings with other people). We might be so focused on the obvious that we miss out on unexpected treats and highlights.

For example – I know many people who I classify as good-looking who the rest of the world may take one look at and think they are either defective (due to being in a wheelchair, etc,) or not exactly the best looking human they have ever met. (I also happen to know some people who are extremely good-looking by “society’s” standards.) But I judge people on how they treat me and my friends.

Some people are like the sculpture in the first photo – you can walk past them without noticing, or reject their job application, but someone else might find them fascinating for apparently no reason you can think of.

Other people are like the sculpture in the second photo – they stand out for being physically attractive but there is no other apparent point to their existence apart from making the place look nice.

However, my favourite people are like the flats in the photo above. They look might look odd but (usually after a bit of effort on your part) you discover an intriguing side to them that you can fall in love with. This is hidden away either by past experiences or just by their initial shyness.

The flats (“Kuubwoningen”) in the photo are near Rotterdam Blaak station. I have been inside one which is open to the public and it is an interesting experience (I wouldn’t advise it if you have problems with steep staircases though).

The people who are like the flats in the third photo have talents which are sometimes overlooked by people who have strict ideas as to the “perfect” candidate for their vacancy for example. This is why I hate the normal job application and interview process with a passion you can only dream of. You can ask me stupid questions about “what sort of biscuit would you be?” (genuine question I was asked at a job interview – my answer would be one of those “Lotus” biscuits), or “what is your favourite film?” (The chances of me going to a cinema unaccompanied are virtually zero – unless it is a film I really want to see and can’t wait for it to come out on DVD – the energy I have to spend psyching myself up for it is just not worth it. I also have to totally trust anyone I go with.) if you really want to – I just wouldn’t advise it. I prefer to show you whether or not I can cope with the job.

As for asking me if I am adaptable or whether or not I have experience of the Equalities Act??? This is only to be done by a Trained Professional. My reaction will probably not be what you expect (unless you count an expression of sheer disbelief as an appropriate answer???).

Recognise and appreciate the unexpected artwork you see as you go about your daily life – as well as being open to other people’s experiences.

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“Legitimatie!!!” (Or – How Do You Identify Yourself?)

No – the title to this blog post isn’t a spelling mistake. Nor is it a demand to see your Birth Certificate to prove your parentage. When you hear this in The Netherlands they are asking to see your identification papers (passport or driving licence). The chances are you are either in a bank or talking to a Police Officer.

There has been a lot of discussion about “identity” in the Mainstream Media recently. However, there is a side to it which people haven’t really understood yet. At least – my experience tells me they haven’t understood it yet. And I wanted to tell you my view of it.

I was born, raised, and educated in England. In fact, the only times I have spent any time on Dutch turf have either been visiting relatives or on holiday.

I also have a British passport.

So surely this means I am English??? The fact that my Mum came from Rotterdam in The Netherlands is beside the point??? (I should point out that – until I was 18 I had dual Dutch/British nationality through my Mum.)

Well – you could technically say that I suppose. Just please do yourself a favour and do not say it in my earshot. I tend to get more than a little grumpy as a result of hearing it.

Forget the fact that I was brought up in a home where both English and Dutch were spoken (sometimes even in the same sentence) and the fact that I was immersed in Dutch culture as much as possible even without leaving England. There are some pretty obvious clues as to why I always identify myself as at least 50% Dutch. One of which could be obvious the minute I enter your presence, one of which is obvious when I introduce myself, and the last one is more obvious to people who know what to look for (I was stunned when someone correctly guessed I had Dutch links in my family as a result of seeing it).

The most obvious thing about me is my height. At 5ft 10 (or 1,79m) I am taller than average for an English female. I am, however, approximately average height for a Dutch female. (One of the reasons I love being in The Netherlands is being able to feel short. Trust me – there is nothing more irritating than hearing variations of the theme “Aren’t you tall?” seemingly on a loop. I end up feeling like I should live in the Giraffe enclosure at Twycross Zoo or Blijdorp Zoo whenever I hear that.)

When I introduce myself my first name isn’t English (very few people guess first time that it is Dutch).

The other clue is on my face. I have only seen variations of my nose on my Dutch family. (My Dad’s family have got “English” noses.)

However, the main reason I identify as at least 50% Dutch is I feel safe and at home around large amounts of Dutch people (in most cases being surrounded by large amounts of English people can make me feel not unlike a very scared performing seal and also make me want to leave the area by the nearest available exit – especially if I don’t know anyone in the group). Listening to a Dutch person speak in either English or Dutch relaxes me. The Dutch “rules” of society guide me even when I am in England (I love the split between the “formal” and the “informal” you in Dutch).

It is funny how I will quite happily walk around on my own in areas of Rotterdam which I have never previously visited but am petrified at the thought of visiting some areas of Leicester which I have been to before.

When I started Secondary school I had serious trouble with bullying and Rotterdam kind of turned into a “safe space” for me. (Well, my Mum did have a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins dotted all round Rotterdam.)

What I am trying to say is – your “ethnicity” isn’t down to the colour of your skin (I am white) or down to where you were born or grew up.

If my Mum hadn’t been so proud of being Dutch (her mantra – whenever I or someone else asked her if she would get a British passport – was “I was born Dutch, I am Dutch, and I will die Dutch”. The fact that – by the time she died – she had lived in England a lot longer than she had lived in The Netherlands was apparently beside the point. She told me that shortly after moving to England she made enquiries about getting a British passport. She strangely stopped pursuing the idea when she found out that she would have to give up her Dutch nationality if she got one – I haven’t got the foggiest why that might be???) I might have felt more English than I do now.

Being steeped in the language and culture of another country as you are growing up in your own country can be very confusing at times. Especially when there are customs in one which are either unheard of in the other or the exact opposite of what should happen in polite society in the other.

There are three examples which come immediately to mind.

The first one will hit you the minute you read your first Dutch notice (or hear a Dutch shop assistant). There is nothing wrong with the word “u” – This is the formal version of “you”. However, do not be alarmed if you read “u kunt…” – you are not being sworn at or called an unrepeatable name – it is, in fact, a Dutch person being as polite as humanly possible whilst informing you that “you can…”.

The second one is important to remember when you enter and leave a Dutch home. You will shake hands with every human in the room. You will also shake hands with everyone when you leave.

The third one confused the life out of me when I was growing up because it is the exact opposite of social etiquette in England. English people are brought up to understand that – when one is in a large group (say seated at a dinner) – one should talk to the humans on their immediate left and right. Under no circumstances should they bellow at the people sitting diagonally opposite them or even at the end of the table. This is one of the first rules to go out of the window in a large group of Dutch people!!! (I would seriously consider taking earplugs if you don’t like loudness.)

However, the other reason why I don’t identify myself as fully English is I share the Dutch traits for stubbornness and bluntness (a tip – if I ever ask if you really want to know how I am or what I am thinking make sure you know what you are in for. If you say “yes” to that question you will find out in the most direct terms possible – and the chances are you won’t like what I say either).

How we identify ourselves is personal to us. Sometimes the order we identify ourselves in might not be to everyone’s taste. The fact that I would identify myself as a half-Dutch person with a sight problem may not be to everyone’s taste but it is me.

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The “Gender Shopping Gap” Meets The “Sight Shopping Gap”

I am going to start this blog post with what may sound like a strange question – How much are you prepared to pay for an analogue watch?

Before you think I am being nosy for the sake of it – there is a very serious point to the above question. (Apart from the next question which comes into my head – why is it a hundred times easier for me to find and buy an analogue watch than a digital watch?)

In my case the price of an analogue watch usually comes in three parts –

1) the financial cost of the watch itself.

2) the energy spent attempting to find one I can actually read the face of (even though I am female the watches sold as “Ladies’ watches” might as well be on the same display as bracelets for all the use they are to me).

3) the shame and annoyance I feel as a result of having to look at Men’s watches which never come with nice straps. I know I am not the most feminine female on the planet but even I like wearing nice jewellery sometimes. I have seen some gorgeous watches for ladies with straps which make the watches look like bracelets.

Yesterday I walked into a shop (which I had never seen before) which actually sold me a watch without me having to worry about any of the parts of the price stated above. Nor did I feel as though I had to take out a small mortgage to pay for it as it was only £15 for a watch face and two straps. For someone who is used to looking at at least £70 for a “smart” looking analogue watch that I actually use for the function it was designed for – that came as something of a shock to the system.

I know there are many price differences between products which are for men and products which are for women (call it the “gender shopping gap” if you want). I also know that some people may class watches as a luxury item. However, there is another gap which people don’t realise until they are (or know) a victim of it. I am going to call it the “sight shopping gap” – and to say I am sick and tired of it is something of an understatement.

The “sight shopping gap” is everywhere – it is definitely not restricted to watches. I only have to enter my local supermarket in order to be a victim of it.

What this means is – you and I can go both go shopping for the same items (biscuits, bread, milk, etc) in the same shop at the same time and I can guarantee that I will pay more than you through no fault of my own. Why??? Because you will be able to see the deals and (in most cases) I won’t. This could be because the price per biscuit is in a size of print I need a microscope to read, or it could be because the contrast between the background of the label or poster advertising the deal and the text on the poster is not clear enough for me to read.

Yes – I know I am probably in the bottom 0.0001% of the population for how bad my sight is. However, I would like to be able to live as much like everyone else as possible. I am aware that I have to make certain adjustments (buying either a digital watch or an analogue watch with a large face). However, I object to having to pay for the “privilege” of having my sight in a world which is designed for those with 20/20 vision (or very close to it).

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When Two (Or More) Heads Are Better Than One

I must admit to feeling pretty pleased with myself (as well as very pleasantly surprised by a couple of unexpected events which have made me feel very fuzzy inside).

Both events have actually helped me more than the other people involved in them (and – no – there were no Medical Professionals involved. At least not as far as I am aware).

I was allowed to write the introduction to the “Ability” edition of the “Audacity” e-zine. Going from putting forward an idea that you are not sure will be taken up without being taken over to being asked to write the introduction for the end result is a big achievement for someone like me. I may come across as a loudmouth who doesn’t know when to shut up sometimes but you can usually tell if something is really important to me because I get very shy about speaking about it except to anyone else involved in it before it actually happens. I suppose it is my way of not getting my hopes up in case it doesn’t happen. And the “Audacity” project has been a dream I have had for a very long time. You could say it was a project looking for a location as well as some like-minded people.

The other surprise I got was as a result of offering to help motivate someone to get their writing going again. There I was – thinking that I was doing a friend of mine a favour by supplying them with a “first line” a day that they can write on for five minutes. We had the idea that my friend had to complete fifty of these exercises so they could put them together in a book so it could be published. I thought my involvement would be merely as the “Ideas Factory”. My friend obviously had other ideas. They have decided that I am going to be named as co-author. (Who??? Me???)

The reason for me telling you all the above is not a “Hallelujah Ineke” exercise where I blow my own trumpet and attempt to convince you that I am the best thing since the invention of WiFi (I am definitely not even the best writer I know – I could give you a very long list of writers who are better than me). Instead – it is to tell you that sometimes the best things happen when you are part of a collaborative effort with people who share your interests. They might be able to tap into your ideas, give them an unexpected twist, and turn them into something absolutely amazing. Or even just treat your off-the-wall ideas with respect and make you feel honoured to be involved in the resulting product.

Here is something which you may not know about me – if you say “Ink” in my earshot the chances are I will answer you (especially if you are a close friend of mine – I actually prefer humans who cannot pronounce “Ineke” correctly after several attempts to call me “Inky”). The irony is sometimes I feel like a 5ft 10″ (or 1 metre 79 cm) tall mobile pen – with words being the ink which flows out of me.

Go and share your ideas with someone. You might be pleasantly surprised by the eventual outcome.

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When “Humanity” Should Be On A Job Description (Or – Why Some People Should Not Do Certain Jobs)

I have had a rather interesting couple of days which inspired this blog post.

On Tuesday afternoon I had an appointment with someone who I really don’t think is suited to the “world-facing” part of their job at all (them almost strangling me as part of one of the checks they had to perform wasn’t exactly conducive to me changing my mind about them).

Yesterday evening I was involved in a Twitter discussion (primarily aimed at the Police) which included a question about what makes a good boss – well, they did say “Inspector” but, seeing as I have never worked in the police, I changed it to “boss”.

I am the kind of person who likes being able to ask my kind of questions (as well as have a bit of a laugh with people). In fact, if I don’t feel able to ask my kind of questions be it regarding my health, a microwave, both of Einstein’s Theories of Relativity (yes – he actually came up with two), or the possibility of unlocking the front door to a house with car keys (even my Dad thought I had lost the plot when I asked him that one in all seriousness), I don’t feel able to trust you. If I don’t feel able to trust you I am rather unlikely to feel comfortable around you. This will ensure that our interactions may not have the outcome you desire.

If you think about it a Medical appointment can be rather like a job interview. Both sides want the best outcome for themselves but not necessarily for each other. I have recently learned that there are amazing similarities between some of the people who have interviewed me for jobs and some of the Medical Professionals who have dragged me (not literally) into their clinics for appointments.

For those of you who don’t know – a job interview is a synthetic environment where you are supposed to both convince the interviewer to employ you and be yourself. Talk about a contradiction in terms. I hate job interviews with a passion you can only dream of. I would much prefer to have a cup of coffee with an interviewer in reception as we have a normal conversation. (I actually liked my last boss at the interview for my last job but I ended up hating them after my first week at work – they were totally different.)

Here is a crazy idea – instead of having job advertisements which give a list of qualifications and a list of duties (particularly if you are in any kind of office work) – why don’t we start them with a list of desired personality traits???

Think about it – there is a big difference between a job where you are locked in an office looking at a computer screen all day and a job where you have to spend 99% of your time dealing with the public if they are in trouble or unwell. The former doesn’t need “people” skills whilst the latter is definitely not a job for someone who prefers their own company.

You may think that last paragraph is the most obvious thing you have ever read but you would be surprised by the amount of people who I have seen who are in a job which is totally unsuited to their personalities.

I want to finish this by telling you what I think makes a good boss.

They have to be kind, caring, honest, respectful of my abilities. They also have to be able to encourage me to find a suitable role for my skills. Most of all, I have to feel able to be my true self around them and feel like a valued equal. (To be honest – I am now working with someone who is my ideal boss.)

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What is an NHS Health Check?

Woman with files

If you’re aged 40-74 with no pre-existing conditions you can have an NHS Health Check. Think of it as a free midlife MOT to check that your important circulatory and vascular systems are healthy. You’ll be asked some easy questions and have some simple tests done by a health professional. Most people will find that they’re perfectly well but a few people might need to make a few small lifestyle changes to ensure they stay healthy.

Why should I get checked?

As you get older, your risk of having a stroke or developing problems such as kidney disease, type 2 diabetes or heart disease increases. That’s why it’s important you have an NHS Health Check as it can spot early signs of these illnesses. This means you can take action to prevent them and lower your risk so you can enjoy your life for longer. Why don’t you start off by taking the heart age test to see how healthy your heart is?

How do I get an NHS Health Check?

First of all, check that you’re eligible for an NHS Health Check. Then you’ll need to find your nearest local participating venue and contact them to book a check. Don’t forget that even if you’re feeling healthy, it’s still worth having your check so you can reduce your risk of becoming unwell as you get older.

Ask at any of the participating venues or email to find out more about NHS Health Checks.

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The Difference Between Acknowledging Someone’s Existence And Truly Communicating With Them

This blog post was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend of mine. The subject is one I have direct experience of and my friend has indirect experience of it through their son.

Society seems to have a very strange idea on the subject of communicating with people face-to-face. Especially when faced with types of people you don’t usually deal with in your day-to-day life.

If I say “Hi” to you I don’t classify this as communicating with you. What I am doing is acknowledging the fact that your existence has entered my consciousness by virtue of the fact we are sharing oxygen and airspace.

If I then go on to enquire about aspects of your existence (ask about your health, for example) I will be communicating with you because then you will be given a choice as to whether to respond. Hopefully then a conversation may begin.

There are certain groups of people who seem to be more likely to have their existence acknowledged than be communicated with (I distinctly belong in one group, I have found myself in another group at one point in time, and, depending on where I am located, I could quite easily be in a third group) – those with physical disabilities, those with Mental Health issues, and those who the Dutch would classify as “Aliens” (people who are not from the country you are in). That is before you attempt to consider different religions, sexual orientation, ethnic background, etc.

I am a pretty open book when it comes to my life (well, one way or another you appear to get educated on some of the challenges I face just by reading either this blog or my personal blog) – but I can take some effort when it comes to getting me to talk to you when we first meet. I am usually the one who you will find sitting quietly watching what is going on. Saying “Hi” to me will get you a “Hi” back and that is usually all.

We need to relearn how to communicate with people – particularly those who we don’t realise might be able to educate us about important subjects.

So – next time you say “Hi” to someone try not to stop at acknowledging their existence. Instead try to extend the conversation – they might surprise you by saying something unexpectedly profound.

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