Category Archives: Uncategorized

On home, change and anger…


Assuming all goes to plan, come this time tomorrow, we will no longer have a home in the UK.  The sale of our house in Old Windsor will complete, and for the time at least, thus will end a chapter in our story.

I have mixed feelings at this.  There’s an element of euphoria at being mortgage free.  Being free to make choices about how we live, with less regard for the ££ is something I’ve long beavered away at making happen.  I’m also conscious though, not for the first time in our lives, that *home* is pretty binary. It’s here; not here, there & everywhere.  Anyone who’s lived with international relationships I’m sure will recognise that.  I’m not convinced it’s possible to be emotionally rooted to more than one place.  Not convinced, rather than certain. I’ll find out in the fullness of time.

The plan, is to buy a small flat, somewhere  within spitting distance at least, of London.  It’s largely for my benefit, as till now, I’ve thought of London as home.  I was born & raised in Hampshire, but London is where I experienced a wider spectrum of life & truly grew up (if I have, actually, grown up yet).  Professional life has been London life.  I will come back to it when I’m ready, but right now I need to live differently.  I need to not spend my daily life being angry about poverty & inequality, at just how borked public service delivery is, and just how fucked up the Daily Mail’s Britain can be.  I found I couldn’t work in public service delivery, in “the poverty industry”, and not be angry.  And it tipped over, so I wasn’t using that anger in a constructive, force for change way.  The Britain of 2015 made it easier to leave.  I’ve decided simply to not be angry, and to live differently.  Maybe here I’ll work out how  best to use my skills to effect the change I think we need & keep the angry vibes at bay.  I can’t come back till I do, I know that much for sure.

The mountains in France are home for now.  I love being here.  I love throwing open the shutters in the morning and breathing in clean fresh air.  I love walking the dog down the snow covered lanes in the village, past the chickens roaming around free, and getting a fresh baguette.  And I love leaning out of the window in the evening to pull the shutters closed, smelling the woodsmoke as I do it.  We’re investing emotionally in being here, meeting new folks, making new friends, spending more relaxed time with old ones.  It’s good.

I’m learning how to navigate a foreign language and a foreign culture.  That’s not just “French” but mountain, countryside, village life.  It’s challenging, but good.  It calls on a resilience honed of not-quite-fitting-in in corporate life, and decent sized dollop of good humour, which I’m blessed to have inherited from my mother, who is an inherently sunny soul.

For Sid, it’s second time around. He’s done this ‘big move’ once before.  He reflected on the differences earlier this evening. Moving from Turkey to the UK as a single young man, with a single bag and £100, but reasonably good English was a different kettle of fish.  The language is harder this time round, but the financial situation is better, and there’s three of us (the dog, obv).

So here’s to big adventures, and the gut conviction that when you’re 90 you regret what you didn’t do, rather than what you did.  And to London property prices tanking, so that we have the option of coming back!

Immigrants? Refugees? Human beings.

I’ve thought more about immigration in 2015 than I have in the last 20 years put together. And that’s despite having lived with a non-Brit for all of those 20 years. In the first half of 2015, it was UKIP that raised my blood pressure. And now the refugee crisis that reduces me to tears.

My day job in social housing has caused me to think and talk a lot about race, faith and valuing difference.   In my life outside work, there somehow wasn’t so much “thinking” there was simply “living”.  This corporate-speak of ‘valuing difference’ was simply normal life for me and thousands of other people who like me live in a big metropolitan city like London.   By and large, happy days.

My husband, known affectionately on twitter as The Sidster, is Turkish.  He gained a degree in this country, and has worked as a radiographer for the last 20 odd years. He’s paid his taxes, repaid his student loan, never claimed any benefits, and aside from one speeding fine, qualifies as a fine upstanding citizen.  In fact, let’s face it, he deserves a bloody medal for having lived with me all these years. But dear UKIPers, he wouldn’t have made it through your “Australian style points system”.  And it would have been the UK’s loss.

It strikes me that Germany remembers its history, and plans well for its future. Germany looks to welcome 800,000 refugees. It recognises that refugees can be a long term asset to a nation. Contrast this with the short term view of refugees as a financial burden from the UKIPers. Sure there’s an initial cost, and it’s too great to be born solely by those countries on Europe’s borders. But long term, people are an asset to a nation. And the young people in particular – they create the future wealth of our nation.

Immigration has touched so many of our lives, and I wonder if we’ve somehow forgotten this.  My mother has a german friend who fled the nazis during WW2.  I have two friends with German mothers who came to the UK in the aftermath of WW2.  Another with a mother who arrived from Hungary.  Two friends are descended from Hugenots. Another with parents affected by partition in India.  Another two who settled themselves direct from Zimbabwe, three from South Africa, two from Ghana, one from the Congo, two from China, one from Singapore… I run out of fingers trying to work it out. Our lives are infinitely enriched by these connections. This is what makes Britain Great.  Some are refugees, some are economic migrants.  All are human beings. All bring hope for a better life, and the potential for creating it.

And so to the images of a small drowned boy from Kobane, washed up on beach in Bodrum. A little boy whose mother carried him for nine months. Whose father will have held him for the first time with all the hopes and dreams of any ethnic Brit father. And those parents would only have taken that small boy and his brother on such a treacherous journey if they believed the alternatives were worse. Who cannot fail to be moved by such images.

Before they’re immigrants, refugees or migrants, they’re human beings. They’re parents, sons and daughters, siblings, families. They’re friends we’ve not yet met. And they need our help right now.  

The nations that extend them a helping hand are not only compassionate, they’re investing in their future.

I hope the UK Government does the right thing. History will judge us on what we do now.

Contrasting migrations…

Last night I watched Kevin McCloud on TV, filming a British family who’ve chosen to sell up in London and live on the side of a volcano in Chile.  I loved their adventurous spirit, their ‘just do it’ attitude.  This morning I listen to the news on the radio about more migrants drowning in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe. How does it come to this?

The relative wealth of Europe is in stark contrast to the countries that the migrants come from. Listening to the interview this morning, I’m struck though, that it’s not only material wealth – it’s the wealth of freedom and hope. One young man said “you can do anything in Europe – I want to study”.

In contrast, the family now living in Chile, spoke of being trapped by the rat race in London, doing jobs they didn’t particularly love, living a life they didn’t love, and only seeing more of the same for their kids. They wanted adventure for sure, but they also wanted to live more lightly, valuing natural beauty and time with each other while their kids were young. I couldn’t help but identify with their desire to live differently (though I’m not sure I could be as hard core as them and live on the side of a volcano). They get to choose to live differently, because they sold their London house, because they had studied, because they had the wealth to trade in. The young migrant who nearly drowned in the Med had none of those on his journey.

I hope the young migrant gets to study, to work, to build a life he loves. Europe needs young talent to grow and prosper – and anyone who’s had the commitment to get here surely has something to offer.

But his home country needs it more. Building the freedoms, creating the businesses, generating the wealth – closing the wealth & inequality gap between Europe and its neighbours is the only long term way to stop this human tragedy playing out in the Med.

The Battle of Orgreave…

  

( Picture courtesy of the telegraph  : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/uknews/10607957/In-pictures-A-look-back-at-the-Battle-of-Orgreave-in-1984.html?frame=2807590 )

I surprise myself at how deeply moved I am watching this evening’s Channel 4 news. The IPCC are not going to hold a public enquiry into what happened at Orgreave. There’s an middle-aged former miner who can’t speak at his press conference, because he is in tears. And I’m just moments behind him.

I was an odd kid as a Hampshire teenager – I avidly watched the news of the miners strike in the 80s. Much to the astonishment of my southern, staunch Tory parents. They must have wondered what on earth had happened to me.

So I remember the horrific, almost biblical, pugilistic images of the Battle of Orgreave on the 6 o’clock news. But now I see it with adult eyes. And I’m reminded and saddened how Thatcher’s Britain turned working man against working man. Miners and Policemen, both public sector workers, both doing hard & sometimes dangerous jobs, and both traditionally unionised. How did they end up pitted against each other?

I look to the political and civic leadership of the time, and can only conclude that the politicians sought to use the police force as part of their political war on the working class. And the police leadership failed their rank and file officers by taking them into it.

There’s every chance I’m wrong about that. An IPCC enquiry might have had me better informed.

I’m interested in people power.  If the IPCC won’t investigate, can the people do it for themselves? What would a crowd-sourced testimony look like? Surely the simple act of honesty, of telling the stories of what really happened, could be a key part of healing the hurt that still exists.  

The girls, language, and self-limiting beliefs

It started with my tweet:

“Today’s interesting moment. Me & @Geeta_nanda being asked “ooh what do you two girls do in the organisation”? Sort of funny, sort of sad”

And there’s been quite a bit of twitter, DM, Facebook, PM Etc convos this evening. So I figured it was worthy of a more nuanced explanation.

It was innocuous enough, but really made me think. It was a bright young woman who’s a doing a temp sales job in an outpost from the main office. So no reason why she *should* have known us. But actually rather hilarious, and I felt bad for her, when we explained we were a CEO and an Exec Director. But that’s not really the interesting thing.

It was the “girls” thing that really struck me. Use of the diminutive form for women in the workplace is part of the language of power. Or more pertinently the language of disempowerment of women. When it’s so commonplace that even the bright young women who are our future use it, it relights my feminist fire. The job is not yet done.

Language belies much. If we believe that folks of either gender can do a great leadership job, we need a language that gives our daughters the sense that they can achieve greatness. Not the self-limiting belief that “the girls” giggle a lot, and only carry out supportive functions.

There are many roles infrequently filled by women. In my worlds, that’s property development and web tech. So much of the language slips lazily into the masculine form. And the gendered-diminutive for the female form. Language reveals the assumption that the next team member will be male.

There’s so much more than one late night blog post (tapped out on an iPhone), I could write on the subject of gender inequality in the workplace. But for now, I’ll stick to the detail on language.

This is a gender issue for all of us, not just the flag-waving feminists. [edit: I should add here, that I count myself as one of the flag-waving feminists]

Fathers, how do you want your daughters to feel about themselves as they grow up and join the workplace? If you want them to have the same sense of ambition as your sons, you have to start creating a workplace culture where that can happen. And it starts with small things like not perpetuating the “the girls” stuff. So either stop it yourselves, or call it out when you hear it.

And women. We need to be grown up about our ambition, and crack on with doing a good job. And not perpetuate the bollocks. Call it out, and move on.

Silence means you’re part of the problem. And I’ve been too quiet for too long (me, silent… Unlikely I know).

A spot of customer feedback for BT.

Oh god. I’ve become one of those people that writes rant-o-grams. But really BT, I’ve been driven to distraction, whilst trying to give you my custom….

They offered Sainsbury’s vouchers if you ordered online. Of course I ordered online. I’m a digital-type of person. My order didn’t make it into their fulfilment system. I had to ring up, over and over again. Eventually I got the broadband, but not the vouchers.

Bizarrely I don’t really care about the vouchers. But I do care about my wasted time and negative energy thing. And I’d quite like for BT to be a good company, delivering good service, so I followed up.

Well, to be honest I ranted. But man I hate those bloody IVR call routers. Theirs took me 3mins 22 seconds each time to speak to a person. Yep, I’m now that persons that times those interactions.

Please can you review the case file.

I originally ordered online, with installation booked for 6th June. Something went wrong with your back office systems and my order got lost in “no mans land” and I received daily SMS alerts “just to let you know, your installation has been delayed”. No helpful information about when it was delayed too. After various phone calls, promises of call backs that didn’t arrive, and eventually a marathon call of nearly an hour, with most of it listening to your “on hold music”, the order was finally resurrected.

However your call-handler advised the best way he could resurrect it was to do it over the phone. So I went through the entire ordering process that I did online, again with him over the phone. I specifically raised the issue of the Sainsbury’s Vouchers. He put me on hold “for just a moment” – which turned out to be 20 minutes of you on hold music. He eventually returned, and advised that his supervisor had said it was OK, he would have to log it as that I’d tried to book online, but the website was down, and the vouchers would be sent.

I did indeed order online. It was a far more delightful experience than being stuck in your call routing IVR experience, but you lost my order. I then lost a few hours of my life chasing you up, in order to give you MY custom.

And now you want to quibble over the vouchers. Nice. Please either send me the Sainbury’s vouchers or details about how to raise a formal complaint. Your call.

Regards
Jayne

My broadband was installed last week. It’s great, it’s fast. I can’t get iplayer to work yet, but hey, I’ll save that problem for another day.