Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Anarchy in the UK. :(

I have been saddened by the rioting in the last week, which started in London and has spread throughout the UK. Have been thinking a lot about causes, possible solutions and what leads some people to break the law while there are others who may be in similar circumstances but would never consider it.

What do we know about criminal behaviour??? We know what a lot of the risk factors are. Poverty and inequality, surely. Perceived lack of opportunities. Real lack of opportunities due to low literacy and/or numeracy. Lack of role models.

But we've known about the risk factors for years. Why aren't we doing anything about them??? And what was different this time???

The coalition government recently cut EMA (Educational Maintenance Allowance), which had allowed 15 GBP weekly for transportation costs for young people in education. There is no doubt this did create significant hardship for some. Was this a major factor in looting??? I doubt it.

Most of the young people I work with are struggling to survive economically, and most come from families that can't provide much if any financial support. As in the US, people rely on a combination of benefits, off the books work, support from friends and relatives (i.e. child support - - not so much formalised as much as buying a box of nappies here and there - - shared housing, sharing of other costs), and, sometimes, the underground economy of selling drugs, the black market, etc.

Why do people cross the line from "I would never steal" to "Stealing is OK?"

For a 16YO looter interviewed by the BBC, it was about getting items that he could resell for up to 2K. This would help him support his child. Why did he have a child at 16??? Many young people believe that if they have a baby, they can get council housing. This is not as true as it used to be, but it does still happen for some. Birth control is more available to teens than it is in the US, but the perception of housing available for young families is a powerful disincentive.

Why do people feel so disenfranchised in the first place???

Many people seem to believe that it doesn't matter what they do, that the cards are stacked against them, things will never get better. There is resentment of the Indian family who own the corner store, without understanding that this family works very long hours, and of how long they had to wait and save to even be able to own a store. And maybe some jealousy of the prosocial qualities of immigrant families, which their own families may lack.

Life is getting harder in the developed world for everybody. Well, almost everybody. Those at the very top do very well, but the rest of us are coping with diminished expectations to one degree or another. As it becomes harder for the middle classes, the poorer classes have even fewer resources.

As a proud progressive, I have long believed that more government spending will do the most good to correct social injustice. The more time I spend on the ground, though, the more I see there is no answer on the right or the left that is complete. Would more social programs help??? Yes, but so would better parenting. Do we need more workplace opportunities??? Yes, but we also need more personal responsibility.

We can continue to build more prisons, but it's more effective (and less expensive) to intervene earlier. The US and UK both have lacked political will.

Prior to the French Revolution, there was widespread looting and chaos. Could there be a similar uprising today???

With Facebook and Twitter leading the way, maybe.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last train to London . . .

Actually, not the first or the last, but the first time for work.

Destination: Kings Hill Hospital in Denmark Hill, an area and Tube station in the London borough of Southwark. Southwark is known for the eponymous judgment which states that councils have a duty to assess young persons ages 16-21 who present with housing needs. I tend to do 2-3 of these housing assessments a week. Do we have a duty to offer accommodation??? Who is "we"??? To Be Determined.

So, to get from AFK (Ashford International) to DMK (Denmark Hill), one can of course drive but parking is at a premium and expensive, and driving can be stressful. It might be cheaper than the train, and it might be faster. It is not as environmentally sound.

The night before, I went online to look up schedules and fares. Here's where it gets tricky. I have a Network Railcard, which offers discounts (but only at certain times of day - - it's intended for leisure trips more than business. Today's trip, according to the ticket clerk, would only offer discounts if I left later than 10 a.m.)

What route should I take??? Well, it depends. I'm used to taking the High Speed One train to St Pancras International in Central London. It's the station from which the Eurostar leaves London and it's twinned with Kings Cross rail and tube station, which offers connections to London and the rest of the UK. That costs 19.95 with a railcard on weekends. Or, I could take the slower train to Victoria station and then the tube from there.

The trouble is that neither of these are the most direct route, and a search on the Southeastern trains web site does not make clear what the most direct route is.

My cold has recently added sniffles to a cough, so I'm not at my most clearheaded in the morning. I'm trying to get to the station for the 8:43 train, but only manage to be at the ticket counter at 8:43. After showing my EverNote to the ticket agent, I leave with a ticket to Denmark Hill with a train change in London Bridge, railcard not applicable, for 22.40.

That was cool until I got to London Bridge and realised I had no idea what train to take to Denmark Hill. There are timetable boards at the station, but I didn't have a clue what line I was taking that included Denmark Hill.

Fortunately, a nice staff person told me what platform to go to. It turned out the train I needed wasn't for about half an hour, so that is probably why I couldn't figure it out from the boards. If it had been sooner the boards would have shown a train calling at that station, but they only showed trains leaving in the next 20 minutes, not 30.

When I got home I looked up the journey again as if I were leaving tomorrow and found a route going through Bromley South. I think if I would have taken that train I could have saved time on the journey b/c I wouldn't have been sitting at London Bridge for those 30 minutes. It would have been less than 10 minutes between connections but 27 minutes from Bromley South to Denmark Hill as opposed to 18 minutes from London Bridge to Denmark Hill.

Maybe it depends on what time you actually get to the station, and how much money you want to save. I could have left sooner than 9:03 from Ashford, but I would have ended up routing through St Pancras, taking the High Speed One and spending more money. I think.

Anyway, it was an education and an experience. I have more meetings coming up in London in the New Year, so the fun will continue.

And now to all a Happy Christmas!!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Filming Follies

After my last post my camera started malfunctioning and I just didn't wanna post without pix. The camera store told me they "didn't do Kodak" so I couldn't get a camera battery there, which was the first problem, and ended up taking 3 weeks to get one ordered off eBay and received. Then it was outta juice the next time I tried to use it. Ordered another battery, same thing happened and now I'm getting a message that the memory card needs to be reformatted. So, even the pictures I managed to get but not download are gonna be gone.

Here's what's coming up the next few weeks:

- Saturday going to pick up a package at the depot in a village near Maidstone, then meeting up with my friend Evelyn for shopping and eating in Chatham
- Getting my desktop computer set up
- Finalizing my digital piano rental order (I put the deposit but the paperwork is lagging behind)
- October 8 Dr. Who Live at Wembley Stadium
- October 9 haircut in the afternoon and friend's concert in the evening
- Taking my driving theory test October 21
- If I pass, time to start scheduling driving lessons so I can pass the practical and have my UK licence by February 1, a year after arriving!

Plus the usual shopping, cooking, laundry, kitty bonding time, 50+ hour weeks, etc.

It's all good though!!! I've had loads of fun trips since my last post and will be having loads more. Hopefully I'll get the camera situation resolved one way or another soon. I wasn't happy with some of the last shots I took anyway. Had what I thought would be great pix of St. Paul's Cathedral from the Thames and they didn't look at all like I'd hoped they would. Plus the screen on the Kodak, you can't see it in the daylight. I mean, I'm bummed that a $110 camera didn't even last a year, but I think it's time to accept it and move on.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Duty Week, Couch Surfing and Me

Work continues to be busy and interesting. Another duty week last week . . . no, wait . . . it was week before last but the late nights bled into this week . . . which is why I haven't posted for a while. I don't have my diary at home b/c I've been trying to get my work computer going; tech support is only open 8:30 to 5:30 so I left the office about 3:30 yesterday so I could be at home when tech support was available. Didn't get it going yesterday but did today, so I COULD have entered some mileage that I am trying to get submitted but without the diary I don't know what I did in May. Will hafta finish it next week.

I do recall having late nights a week ago Thursday, Friday, Tuesday and again Thursday. Training on Wednesday and that's when I took an hour to take my computer in as their office is in Maidstone, which is where the training was. So I spent an hour doing that and then couldn't get the computer going the next day . . . ugh. Anyway, it's working at the mo. It runs much slower than in the office but it does run. *knock wood*

I have couch surfers coming in tonight, C from Germany and her boyfriend M. (Not sure of the etiquette/confidentiality of naming people in a blog.) I signed up to a few weeks back so I could get a place to stay when I go to Paris as beds are so expensive there. Meanwhile C contacted me last . . . musta been during duty week. She is a social worker from Germany and is interviewing in Ashford on Monday. I don't know who her interview is with but she told me it's with a children and families team. I don't think it's the team I'm on for various reasons but we shall see.

So I went to the grocery and bought food for company before I checked to make sure I had the needed pots and pans. I have been aware that I was missing a lot of my kitchen stuff but thought I had enough to get by, and I do except . . . no colander . . . no point making pasta without one of those, is there??? Also it's actually HOT so I am not cooking now, which is what I'd planned to be doing today at this time. I did go to Asda to buy sheets for the Aerobed and a fan. Well, they don't have electric fans, so I had to go to Argos for that. Argos is kinda time-consuming b/c you hafta look at the catalog, write down what you want, go pay for it, and then collect it. I'd been to the one in the town centre before but left without buying anything b/c of the time factor, but now I have a car and there is an Argos Extra in a "retail park" as they're called not far from me.

If we decide we want to cook the pasta, we or I can go to the grocery tomorrow and hope there are colanders there.

Meanwhile I worked on cleaning off the garden furniture. It will need another go but I made a good start. The lawn and garden guys did go into the back garden yesterday as I had said I was having company this weekend and wanted that done, but I guess they just put out weed killer??? I thought the weeds would be gone and they're not. Oh well, we can open the patio doors from the living room and/or sit in the conservatory, which is what I've done with previous visitors.

Signing off now to finish getting ready!!!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

World Cup and Proms

So, the World Cup is inescapable. It amazes me how important it is over here whereas in the US it gets very little notice, or did when I was there. I mean, to the point of one of my colleagues being asked to try to dress in the colors of at least one of the teams playing that day, as she had managed to wear green and red on the day of a match with Mexico??? (Although she wore the green and red for fashion reasons and not because of the football game, and I haven't kept track of her fashion choices since that day, but heigh-ho.)

It's all led me to try to find out more about the music surrounding the game. Which has led me to the Proms, which are classical music concerts put on by the BBC. The last night of the Proms is a big deal and this is where the traditonal "anthems" are sung. I want to learn them and that's what I'm doing. Learning the tunes is easy (for instance, "Pomp and Circumstance" is one of them, but learning tunes is easy for me anyway) but the words are harder for me.

I've learned "Jerusalem," "Rule Britannia," "Land of Hope and Glory" (sung to the Elgar tune aforementioned which Americans know as "Pomp and Circumstance" and am working on "God Save the Queen," which Americans know as "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

Learned "There'll Always Be An England" when I first came over and still like it, but it doesn't seem as popular as the others. There's a football song about the three lions too, but haven't learned that one yet.

So far the concert that looks most interesting to me is on July 24. Two of the pieces featured will be "O Fortuna" from "Carmina Burana" (which I sang with one of the Austin community choirs in 1984 under director Morris Beachy) and "Mars" from Gustav Holst's "The Planets" (which I forced visitors to my home at yuletide 1977 to listen to, an electronic version by Tomita. Ah, the '70s.)

I suppose part of the reason for this preoccupation is to do something completely different from my job. Last week was duty week for me and I was out doing a placement until 10 p.m. Thursday night. Fortunately I had traded my Friday with another worker but that means I'm on duty tomorrow. Duty tends to wipe me out and I'm not fit for human commerce after work, so I turn to music. Which I love anyway and want to remember that I came over here to LIVE and not just to work!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

UK funny (but not suitable for minors)

OK, so I think one of my 14YOs is pregnant. Discussed with managers and one said "Well, let's hope he's a Jaffa."


"You know what a Jaffa cake is, right???"

"Yup, it's a biscuit." (cookie) "With orange filling."

"So, Jaffa oranges???"




Sunday, May 16, 2010

There's a dead bird in my garden.

At least Toby didn't do it. There are a lotta cats in this neighborhood though.

I'm in the midst of putting all the art work that won't look right on my walls in this place into the garage and keep having to step over the bird. I have cleaned up dead birds before but just can't bring myself to deal with this one.

Tomorrow at 1730 some people are coming to give me an estimate on care for the front and back gardens. I knew I was meant to do garden care but the combo of cold weather and work busyness caused me to have it go off my radar. There's a lawnmower in the garage but it belongs to the landlord. I could probably buy a push mower for the front and some weed killer for the back and get by, but I'm going to take advice first.

We had such lovely spring weather for a while but now it's getting all cloudy again and has been showering intermittently the last week or so. At least I haven't had to wear gloves this weekend as I did last weekend.

I hope the dead bird wasn't the parent of birdlets but I'm positive it was. I know there are lots of nests in this neighbourhood because it is a long established one.