2-4-6-8 Motorway

My perfect road

My perfect road

As a member of the Automobile Association (AA), I regularly fill in questionnaires asking for my opinion about my driving experience.  I fill them in because a) one is entered into a £500 draw every time you complete one and b) I cannot resist giving my opinion in great detail if I’m asked for it.

There were lots of questions about speed and cameras, allowing drivers to use the hard shoulder at peak times and whether certain driving conditions were ‘safer’ than they were five years ago.  However, I really felt that the questions about motorway behaviour were loaded and I found myself wondering who had commissioned them.

I don’t think driver speed or congestion is ‘safer’ than it was five years ago and I’m not convinced that driving fast is necessarily a dangerous thing.  Driving like a total arse is dangerous, as is being hesitant, not indicating, driving erratically and tailgating.  Tiredness causes accidents and sitting in traffic jams causes loss of concentration, which causes accidents.  If drivers are keeping their speed down it’s because they’re shit scared of speed cameras which, incidentally, would be better located outside schools, shopping areas and residential streets.  But they wouldn’t generate enough revenue there, would they…  The National Speed Limit was set in the sixties and has never been revised, despite the dramatic change in road use and car design. This needs to be objectively assessed.

As a frequent user of the motorways, I have noticed all sorts of sticking plaster solutions for dealing with congestion, one of which is allowing drivers to use the hard shoulder at busy times.  Hard shoulders should be kept clear for emergency vehicle access at all times and not used to relieve congestion, end of story.  It’s all very well saying that electronic signing can open and close lanes as necessary, but what if the electronics fail? What if there’s been a disaster which has taken out communications?  The more we rely on computerised controls, the more infantilised drivers become and the more unlikely to respond appropriately to changing situations.

Variable speed limits on trunk roads have proved extremely effective at dealing with congestion, as have the information signs which give warnings about road conditions and future difficulties.  But this should never be a substitute for common sense and there have been reports of drivers having accidents in fog because there was no sign telling them to slow down because of fog.

I will rant on about common sense and personal responsibility until the End of Days and this doesn’t mean that I am opposed to safety measures and technology as a tool to facilitate safety, but it mustn’t ever be used as a substitute.

My first suggestion would be to insist that all new drivers take a few hours of instruction on a motorway before they are allowed on the road.  This could be conducted AFTER they have passed their general road test, but BEFORE they are actually granted their licence.  There should also be a module on dealing with emergencies and RTA’s and the opportunity to view the videos and have the talks from the police BEFORE they have been hauled up for speeding or committing any motoring misdemeanour.

Secondly, road haulage is causing significant problems in terms of drivers unfamiliar with UK roads, as well as the sheer volume of vehicles.  What about providing an extra lane specifically for lorries when roads are being widened?  On numerous occasions I have missed signs or exits because I have been boxed in by lorries who simply can’t see me and despite being a ‘dynamic’ driver, it’s terribly intimidating.

If the motorways are indeed safer, I suspect that this has more to do with the reliability of vehicles, the efficiency of braking systems and advances in car design.  If only we could redesign some of the drivers.

Comments { 2 }

Ancestors and Ten Top Tips on how to find them

This summer I have had an rather unexpected and delightful infestation of Colonial Cousins.  Firstly Ms Moneypenny came over from Canada and then Crocodile, Saphie and Sumo Dundee from Tasmania. Because of the distance, we only get to see them ever few years, consequently time together is very precious indeed.

I am fortunate to have a large extended family –  second/third marriages, associated children and unofficially adopted people, all of whom miraculously get on.  One of my greatest joys, however, has been the discovery of relatives on my mother’s side, of whose existence I knew nothing until relatively recently.  For various reasons, we became separated from them and, when my parents split up, we didn’t have much to do with my father’s side either, which was a great sadness.  My new cousins (and Long Lost ones) are a great joy to me and I never want to lose touch again.

No-one really asked much about family and we didn’t know how interesting my grandmother was until it was too late. We also had the added complication that we were obliged, like so many families, to call our elders ‘Aunty’ and Uncle’ because it was out of the question to call them by their first name, but too formal to use ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs’.  I genuinely thought I was related to Aunty Doris who lived two doors down, but I just couldn’t work out how, as Nana had said she was a bit common…  oh dear.

The Aged Parent was born in the Isle of Man, to parents from Lancashire.  Her mother was one of ten, only six of whom survived to adulthood and about fifteen years ago I decided to find out who they were and from which genetic pool I had emerged.  I did remember my grandmother (Nana) saying that there had been ten or twelve of them originally and I determined that I would seek them out.  I made things difficult by deciding to trace through the female line, whereas most people go through the male line because of the continuity of surnames.

I won’t bore you a long and detailed account of how I did it, but I will list the various avenues of exploration that will help you to get the ball rolling.

  1. Talk to the oldest members of the family first. Once they’ve gone, they’ve gone and no-one else will have their knowledge or unique perspective.  If you’ve not seen them for a while, give them a call or write a letter reminding them who you are and ask to go and see them.  Then talk to the rest.
  1. Recording your findings. You’ll be amazed what you miss when you’re taking in a lot of information.  Use a recorder and transcribe it as this will help you to remember stuff.  Make a data sheet on each family member with notes of birth, marriage, death, place of birth, children, siblings, parents, addresses, occupations and a space for personal notes and details of things you want to find out. Photocopy all certificates and put them in a folder with each sheet
  1. Be prepared for some people not to want to talk to you, especially people with whom you have had no contact before.  It is their right not to talk and you mustn’t pressure them.  If they are reluctant, write down a list of questions with your contact details on and let them know you would be delighted to hear from them if they change their mind.
  1. Electoral Register. Once you have some names, go online and look at the electoral register.  Even though we move about more nowadays, it’s amazing how often the apples fall close to the tree.  I found my second cousin because he only lived two streets away from where he was born.  I wrote and it was him.
  1. Join a genealogy organisation such as Ancestry. You can pay for membership for as long as you want it and it really will give you a massive head start. You can also download family trees that you can fill in and they can point you in the direction of other sites of interest.
  1. Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths. These are being uploaded online all the time and, if you can get copies of any certificates that your family will let you, you can get parent’s names, occupations and addresses from the certificates. You can also visit the National Archive at Kew in London. Large libraries will also have this data (sometimes on microfiche) if you don’t have a computer.
  1. Parish Registers.  If family members are buried in a church near you, go and find the parish registers and photograph their gravestones.  Again you can get names of parents, spouses and dates from these.  Inscriptions on gravestones can often give additional insight into how the person was viewed as well as finding other family members from stones in close proximity.
  1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. If your family has served in the last two wars you can find out where they were buried or commemorated and in which regiment they served.  You can then trace their service records through the regiment.
  1. UK Census Records. The first census was conducted in 1841 and the latest one available (due to 100 years privacy) is 1911.  These are fascinating as they tell you everyone who was present on the day of the census, their relationship to the householder, age, gender, occupation.  You can often identify other family members who lived close by. Just be aware that some people lie about their ages and glamorise their jobs. Mistakes are also made as the census takers were not always as literate as one might hope and the transcribers were sometimes sloppy.
  1. Kelly’s Directories. This was a directory of trades and businesses in a particular city or town, as well as details and addresses of local gentry, landowners, charities and facilities.  These are available online, on disc and many libraries still keep their own copies.

 USEFUL WEBSITES

Assoc of Genealogists & Researchers in Archives   www.agra.org.uk

Ancestry                      www.ancestry.co.uk

British War Graves     www.britishwargraves.co.uk

Commonwealth War Graves Commission   www.cwgc.org.uk

Find My Past              www.findmypast.co.uk

Military Records         www.forces-war-records.co.uk

Genes Reunited          www.genesreunited.co.uk

Kelly’s Directory        www.kellysdirectories.com

My Heritage                www.myheritage.com

The National Archive  www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Births Marriages & Deaths  www.ukbmd.org.uk

UK Census                  www.ukcensusonline.com

Comments { 4 }

My first post in absolutely bloody ages

Well blimey.  If any of you out there can remember who I am, and don’t feel utterly spurned and neglected beyond all reasonable tolerance, I am here, I am astonishingly in my right mind and I am writing again.

Pimp My Trolley

Pimp My Trolley

I won’t bore you with the details of what’s been going on for me since last summer, suffice it to say that it was enough to make me think very hard about where my life was going and what the future held for me.  I felt a great need to sort out some personal difficulties before I could tackle anything else and for my brain to be sufficiently clear to have any creative thoughts beyond darning my socks and sorting my house out.

A shining light in a world of darkness, however, has been the arrival of a certain Sir Garrold Mellors (formerly of Seasnale Parva in Suffolk) who, because of one random comment, has changed my life, but more of that anon.

I have been writing and performing short stories, mainly nasty horror stories involving cotton mills in Lancashire (available for purchase very soon) and, any time now, I shall be returning to my novel which will inevitably become a best-seller and a mini-series on BBC2. Oh yes, it will be so…

I have also been giving lots of talks to delightful Women’s Institutes around the country, mainly about The Wartime Housewife, but also about the History of Ladybird Books, Up-cycling in a Groovy Way, and Creative Writing.  I love the WI.  They are an incredible bunch of women who represent an absolute powerhouse of skill, knowledge and self-reliance and, as I constantly remind them, when the Zombie Apocalypse is upon us, we will be Queens among the Useless and the Useless will be glad of us.

Unfortunately, I have been banned from driving until 25th August (NOT for drunk driving as a ‘friend’ assumed this morning but for an inadvertent IN10) which has somewhat confined me to barracks other than for local events.  The upside of this is that I have learned how to use buses and walk to the shops.  I am keeping all my bus tickets from now until the ban is lifted and I shall make them into an artwork called ‘My Driving Ban Hell’ or something similarly melodramatic.  I have bought an old lady shopping trolley and ‘pimped’ it to be beautiful and exotic and I am getting to grips with the microcosm of small market town life.  I’m sure it will do me good.  Won’t it?

 

Comments { 19 }

Menstrual Agility or 21st century Lack of Dignity?

Woman Runs London Marathon Without a Tampon, Bleeds Freely to Raise Awareness

08/07/2015 AT 03:15 PM EDT

kiran-ghandi-1-435Kiran Gandhi, who has played drums for singer MIA and Thievery Corporation, decided to run the London Marathon without a tampon. Gandhi let her blood flow freely to raise awareness about women who have no access to feminine products and to encourage women to not be embarrassed about their periods. 

“I ran the whole marathon with my period blood running down my legs,” the 26-year-old wrote of the April race on her website. 

Gandhi, a Harvard Business School graduate, wrote that she got her period the night before the big race and thought that a tampon would be uncomfortable while she ran. But that isn’t the only reason she decided to let it flow. 

“I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist.”  She added: “I ran to say, it does exist, and we overcome it every day.” 

Clad in all pink for breast cancer awareness the 26-year-old finished the race in four hours, 49 minutes and 11 seconds. She told Cosmopolitan that she ran through the pain of cramps and the anxiety of the race (which she had spent a year preparing for) and felt empowered as she did so. 

“I felt kind of like, Yeah! F— you!,” she said. “I felt very empowered by that. I did.” 

After the race, she took photos with her family and friends, wearing her period-stained running pants proudly. 
Gandhi tells PEOPLE that she decided to run without a tampon to highlight the sentiment of period-shaming and the language surrounding women’s menstrual cycles. She wrote on her site that “on the marathon course, sexism can be beaten.” 
“If there’s one way to transcend oppression, it’s to run a marathon in whatever way you want,” she wrote. “Where the stigma of a woman’s period is irrelevant, and we can re-write the rules as we choose.”
MY COMMENT

 Apart from being completely wrong-headed, this woman is mistaking lack of awareness for privacy.  Menstruating is not dirty or shameful but it is private and personal.  I would no more display my menstrual blood to the world than I would wear piss-soaked knickers or go out reeking of sweat – out of delicacy and self-respect.

I have no embarrassment around the subject of periods and I have explained to my teenage sons what they entail, physically, psychologically and indeed politically so that they can treat their girl friends with respect and a degree of understanding.

We seem to be losing the capacity to be dignified and private, a sensibility which is being eroded by constant exposure to the media in all its forms and a desperation to be noticed.  I believe this to be born out of a lack of self-esteem which, in turn, is born out of lack of independence and a complete inability to do anything useful.

On a slightly more frivolous note, I will lay bets that this woman shaves off her pubic hair, making her look like a child, whilst rejoicing publically in her womanhood.  Just speculating…

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AT LAST I’M BACK!!

I think this may have been the longest I’ve been away from you all for which I am truly sorry.  Since we last spoke, I have moved house, yet again,  and have been off line for nearly two months.  At one point, I had no internet, no ‘phone and no mobile which, in the twenty-first century, is akin to being dead.  Only worse.

Moving house was the usual nightmare and we are still surrounded by boxes and chaos, which renders normal service practically impossible.

However, I am back online, stories are being written and performed left, right and centre, and I will soon have a book of short stories, ‘Three Warped Tales’ available for purchase which will thrill and horrify you in equal measure.

Good to be with you again.

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Biff 2 – The Return of Biff

Hello all

My internet, telephone etc will be installed as from 13th July and then I will be back amongst you.  My move was exhausting but it is slowly resembling a house, although I can’t find a sodding Phillips screwdriver to save my life and I have mislaid my Filofax which means I’m basically sitting in a darkened room, rocking and sobbing because I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing.

I’ll beee baaack sooooooon!

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Rejected by The Oldie – Article on Satnavs

HOW I TRADED IN MY HUSBAND FOR A SATELLITE AND DISCOVERED ENGLAND

I love driving and I love the access to distant areas of England that are pretty much denied to the slaves of public transport, who are abused and fleeced by the operating companies whose sole mission seems to be to keep the population in the cities.

Unfortunately my enthusiasm is counterbalanced by some serious character flaws.  I have no sense of direction, I cannot read a map and drive at the same time, I can’t remember a route until I have driven it at least twenty times without deviation of any kind and I frequently get lost coming out of my own bathroom.  For years I travelled from Somerset to Northamptonshire via Stoke on Trent because I simply could not remember that the M42 had restricted junctions.

Previously, I had relied on my husband and his encyclopaedic knowledge of England and its roads to take charge of our frequent excursions around the country with the children.  But when we parted company, I was back to square one, loping from county to county with hot tears of bitterness and failure coursing down my flushed little face as I added fifty miles to every journey through cartographic confusion and ineptitude, blood pressure soaring, mildly asthmatic lungs letting the side down from anxiety.

But then, one happy, happy day my step-daughter gave me a birthday present that changed my life.  I tore off the wrapping paper to discover a SatNav device.  A talking map that will not only give me directions but will re-adjust my route should I hit traffic or roadblocks.  A still small voice of calm that can take me on the fastest, or shortest route, can wilfully avoid motorways or toll roads and can be instructed to detour Basildon or Stoke without demur.

I ran through the choice of voices and quickly settled on the southern Irish male labelled, somewhat disappointingly, ‘Sean’, and we have been together ever since.  Not for me the flattened vowels of Tim the Kiwi or the slightly high-pitched RP of Kate from London – no thank you.

I am in love with Sean.  He speaks softly to me in his delicious Irish accent, he rarely lets me down and, in his company, I travel from one end of England to the other with confidence and joy in my heart.  He takes me from the one-way systems of Leeds to the B roads of Somerset with calm and equanimity.  He never shouts, he never swears and not once has he suggested that my ineptitude is bordering on a medical condition.

Thanks to Sean the SatNav,  the world outside Northamptonshire has become my playground and I guffaw at the six-exit roundabout and the confusing contra-flow.  I have seen the wilds of Lancashire, the endless planes of Heathrow and, I have even gone north of the wall to Scotland, without fear or incident.  And I have never, ever ended up in Stoke on Trent.

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Sunday Poem 230

I’ve been thinking a lot about consumption recently, as one does, so thought a bit of Keats might be in order.  And sleeping is one of the things I like most in the world.  But without the laudanum, obviously.

Sonnet:  To Sleep – by John Keats (1795-1821)

O soft embalmer of the still midnight !
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleased eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine :
O soothest Sleep ! if so it please thee, close,
In midst of this thine hymn, my willing eyes,
Or wait the amen, ere the poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities ;
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes ;
Save me from curious conscience, that still lords
Its strength, for darkness burrowing like a mole ;
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And sealed the hushed casket of my soul.

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Deep, deep filled

Today I went to the dentist.Dentist sticker
I was good and brave when he drilled near the nerve
I didn’t cry when he told me off for leaving it three weeks
But I didn’t get a sticker – I would have liked this one.

Comments { 5 }

Sunday Poem 229

I know this is a bit longer than I would normally post but it’s so good I didn’t want to deprive you.  Thanks to Stuart Kendall for alerting me to this one.

Under the Table – by Barnaby Wilde (b. 1947)

There’s a sort of springy wire underneath my dining table,
That’s in a kind of runner down each side.
It should go round a pulley thing in order to enable,
Each of the extending leaves to smoothly slide.
But I think the springy wire must have fallen off the pulley
As the metal slider thingy doesn’t work.
Instead of sliding smoothly it no longer opens fully,
It just judders to a stop in little jerks.

So now I’m lying on my back underneath the dining table,
Trying to work out what’s gone amiss.
But the metal covered runner thing that holds the springy cable,
Is preventing me from seeing what it is.
I prod it with my finger and I pull the springy cable,
But I can’t see far enough along the track.
And the rail that runs from end to end that’s underneath the table,
Is digging rather sharply in my back.

I think that maybe if I took off both the wooden sliding panels,
I could re-attach the wire thing again.
As long as I could poke it back along the metal channel,
I might hook it round the pulley with my pen.
But, is it really worth it? I can feel my will desert me,
When I see it’s held each side by seven screws.
That’s twenty eight in total just to get the beggar free,
And twenty eight to put back in once it’s been loosed.

Thirty minutes later and I’ve unscrewed twenty seven,
But the last one’s gone and got a busted head.
I wish I hadn’t started and I’ve lost the will for living,
But eventually I free the broken thread.
Now I’m studying the cable that’s fallen off the pulley,
And I’m blowed if I can see what holds it on.
But I poke it down the channel and I hook it back on fully,
Can’t help thinking that it won’t stay there for long.

Now if you think it wasn’t easy taking out the bloody screws,
It’s ten times harder getting them to go back in.
Because gravity’s against me and I’m really not amused,
Indeed my patience now is wearing rather thin.
But, finally I’m finished and that springy wire cable,
Is back around the pulley wheel again.
However, when I pull the leaf out to extend the flipping table,
Nothing happens to the one the other end.

So, was it all a waste of time dismantling the slider thing,
Two hours discomfort lying on my back?
Well, there is a tiny benefit from all that disassembling
No wire now hanging down beneath the track.
And the other little consequence of this minute adventure,
Is that I went out and wrote this little song.
So if you’re feeling musical, while I have your attention,
Why don’t you clear your throat and sing along …

…There’s a sort of springy wire underneath my dining table, …

Comments { 3 }