bluefluff's blue fluff

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More on Joan Ross

I hear the launch went very well, with contributions from many people who'd touched Joan's life & those whose lives she'd touched in turn. Almost a "This is your Life" show!
Here's another review:

Description:`As well as being of interest to educators, Joan Ross's autobiography would be would be worth including as a text for pupils following citizenship curriculum in secondary schools' - SENCO Update
Joan is an adult with cerebral palsy who grew up when compulsory education was not in place for all children. Her memories of her childhood before inclusion, her development as a teenager and her adult life are chronicled without sentiment and this book offers the reader an autobiography of someone who lives with a significant disability.
The book is supported by SCOPE who have provided an introduction and informative commentary about cerebral palsy.
The book is of general interest and offers information and inspiration to Scope members and those whose lives are touched by CP.

Pension update

So Alan got impatient at not hearing about his pension....
Phoned the pensions people - 'Oh, we don't have any paperwork for you from your LEA. Try your LEA'. This is North-East Lincs, recently slagged off in the national press as England's least efficient authority.
Phoned NEL - 'Oh, we thought you were retiring at Easter. No we've not lost your form' [rustle rustle] 'I have it right here. Would you like me to send it off?'
This from the people who told him not to fill in a date, because the pensions office would put that on, when they received the form - aarrgghh!!
Good job he's been marking exams, & I've been doing 18-hour days for the OU, otherwise we could have been out on the street starving, for all they cared.
It makes me very angry.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I Can't Walk but I Can Crawl

That's the title of an autobiographical book by Joan Ross, who has cerebral palsy.
The book has its official launch on Monday, supported by the actress Linda Bellingham (the Oxo Mum) & our very own Having My Say.

HMS pays this tribute:

Joan is an amazing woman who has written about her life and how she has got to where she is today. I met her in 1986 and she has always been an inspiration to me.

Read more about the book & the launch.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Quiz for the rich & powerful (maybe)

See if you have "the real-world skills necessary for business" - like buying & selling £225,000 yachts & haggling with the Lebanese government (yeah, right - whose real life was that again?) Are you a sheep or a donkey or an owl? Or a fox like me?

Negotiation quiz

Monday, January 16, 2006

Four Things

Yes, this is different from "43 Things"! I've been if not tagged, as near as dammit, by Nogbad, while my back was turned, so here's tonight's assignment :-)

Four jobs you've had in your life:
Checkout operator at Preston's first supermarket; telephone receptionist at the DHSS as it was then; car park attendant (in a silly uniform, for Preston Guild 1972); OU tutor. Guess which one I like best?

Four movies you could watch over and over:
Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid; Star Wars (the original); Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl; Ed Wood (only seen that once, yet, but immediately wanted to watch it again)

Four places you've lived:
Preston, Hull, Bordeaux, Grimsby. Hmm, spot the odd one out!

Four places you've been on holiday:
Machynlleth, Brittany, Scotland, Denmark

Four websites you visit daily:
BBC News Online, Fund Free Mammograms, Google, multi-way tie for the 4th place between several bookmarked blogs!

Four TV shows you love to watch:
F1 Grand Prix in season is about the only one I make an effort for - I'm not a great TV viewer. I've had to give up Eastenders (far too addictive) & nearly got hooked on Charmed when it coincided with Saturday night pizzas. Footy, but only when it's Euro or World Cup.

Four of your favourite foods:
hot-smoked salmon, croque-monsieur, black pudding (proper Bury links, not that plastic supermarket muck), kedgeree. All good artery-blocking stuff :-)

Four places you'd rather be:
Vigsø Bugt, Oban, a tidier version of where I am now, um that's about it, really.

Four albums you can't live without: (this week!)
The Wildhearts must be destroyed (Wildhearts), Death of a Ladies Man (Leonard Cohen), Valor del Corazon (Ginger), Duluth Does Dylan (various)

That took a long time!!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

My Trip

So the OU wanted me to help run a briefing for new online tutors, which I could only attend if I stayed overnight. The briefing didn't bother me at all (such is progress!) but the prospect of travelling alone to a hotel turned me into a gibbering wreck. (I'm not exaggerating - Alan had to make the booking because I couldn't pick up the phone.) In mitigation, the last time I went to a hotel on my own was in 1973, & I've hardly ever been with other people, either.

Anyway, when I got back home, I exorcised the experience by typing madly ( a therapy I developed a few years ago!) & thought I'd copy it here by way of further getting it out of my system. Only the names have been changed, to protect the innocent :-)

As [she] says, if you get stuck it's possible to ask someone, with the possible exception of finding yourself hopelessly lost in some out of the way corner of the OU campus that doesn't appear on the map you've been given, it's drizzling, you're lugging your overnight bag round with you & there is absolutely nobody around to ask! I toyed with walking back to the hotel & ordering a taxi, because I know my way from where the taxis set down! Eventually I managed to attract the attention of a security guard by banging on a window LOL Apparently I was supposed to be round the corner, over the roundabout & up the road, or some such, so I trudged off in the direction of his waving arms & got there over half an hour after I'd said I would be there (but not late for the meeting). This nice young lass sat me down & brought me a cup of coffee - she turned out (when I'd calmed down enough to get her name badge in focus) to be the new Course Chair!!!

Survived the rest of it, including not knowing how to get out of MK station (never having encountered a railway ticket barrier before) so I went & asked a policeman, who promptly drew my attention to the prominent No Smoking notices I'd not even seen after I lit up having seen several fellow-travellers do the same... I now know you can smoke on the platforms, but not on the stairs or concourse (whereas at Birmingham you can't smoke on either & in all the other railway stations I know, you can smoke on both).

Then got into a scared flap about getting into a taxi in the dark & had to walk up & down for a while psyching myself up (there is actually a reason for that, unlike most of my silly phobic bits & bobs). Then paying the fare was a horrible fumbling business (some of you have seen my lack of public purse manipulation skills!) followed by the deep breath required to actually walk into the hotel & up to the reception desk... every little thing was a swirl of mental torment!! Do I want a wake up call? 'yes i do but what time do i want it omigod i've got to do sums here & work backwards from 9.45 to omigod how long do i need to eat breakfast & what if there's a queue & I'll need to allow for checking out time as well & do i want the call before or after my own alarm goes off & what time will that be anyway & how long will it take me to walk from here to the OU & omigod i've got to say something soon or she'll think i'm deaf & what was the number i first thought of?' (etc.). When they asked if I wanted a newspaper I cut the process short by saying no thanks LOL

Collapsed exhausted in my room (once I'd worked out that you have to stick your door key into a socket on the wall to make the power come on, otherwise the light switches don't work, & of course you can't see what you're supposed to do because the door has slammed shut behind you & there are, by definition, no lights....). Seriously considered ordering food in my room, but was buggered if I was going to pay an extra £3.50 "tray charge" just because I was too much of a wimp to go back downstairs & walk into a bar on my own & go up & order food. Cheated by downing a quick brandy (brought a little bottle with me in case I needed to hide away & drink myself to sleep) & very very slowly approached the bar & ordered a beer because I couldn't see any sign of the promised 24 hour bar snacks... wandered up & down & around self-consciously sipping my beer until I found a very small menu card, hidden behind a wine list... then realised I couldn't read it without my specs & went into fumble mode again. ordered it & did inscrutable things with my "key card" ( a folded up bit of paper with my signature on & the room number, which is supposed to act as currency, except that sometimes I only had to flash it & other times I had to sign something else as well). Hung around the bar waiting for my beef & chutney wrap to appear, but was told it would be brought to my table, so I went & found a table for one - I did carefully scrutinise the people at other tables in case they looked likely to be OU people, then I might (just might) summon up the courage to go & introduce myself, but they were all either family groups with grandma & the kids (the sort of impeccably-behaved designer-clad kids you don't see in the real world, well, not in Grimsby!) or else couples attached to each other by the eyes & speaking body language across the tables.

Settled myself in a corner & was promptly engulfed by a "function": blokes in dickie bows, towing women in glittery frocks, all posturing & preening & haw-hawing & there's me in my jeans & cardy with a fag & a beer waiting for a butty... after about half an hour they all trooped off following some guy in a kilt & funny socks, so I ventured up to the bar again, to be told that my food would be ready "soon". Bought another beer & took it to a table much nearer the bar, where I could throw reproachful glances in the direction of the staff every couple of minutes, & my "wrap" suddenly appeared from the opposite direction. Not so much a sandwich as a heap of beef slices skewered together with some kind of soggy carbohydrate product top & bottom, dripping mayo & runny chutney & everything falling out of the sides - are you mean to eat it with a knife & fork or with your fingers? Managed to navigate most of it to my mouth by fair means or foul, losing none onto my lap in the process & only admitting defeat on the plastic gristle (sandwich beef never had plastic gristle in my day). Was very glad the corporate haw-haws were by now lurching in & out to the bar in silly paper hats & the other bar occupants were fully wrapped up in each other, as there was no way I could have managed conversation as well, & escaped back to my room asap. Perversely, I felt faintly cheated that I'd made the effort to go down & then found nobody I could strike up a conversation with!

Exchanged a couple of texts with hazeofpink (thanks h!), rang home to tell daughter #3 I was having an early night, then daydreamer phoned me up!! (thanks d!). Played with the keyboard since it was stamped with "only works with this hotel TV set" so I assumed it was meant to do something & briefly thought it might even give me access to tv internet, but couldn't make it do anything. Read the instructions on the broadband modem & located the cable hanging up in a plastic bag in the wardrobe (?!) but at £15 a night for connection, was glad I'd not borrowed a laptop. Had a brandy, clocking up a grossly inflated £1.65 for a tiny bottle of mineral water from the minibar cunningly concealed in the dressing table - would never have found it if I'd not gone round nosily opening everything to see if they still put Gideons Bibles in hotel rooms LOL (They don't.) Felt disinclined to pay for it, but there was a price list that threatened to subtract unspecified amounts of money from your credit card if you failed to settle up properly on checking out (we have your credit card details! Do not mess with us!!).

Flicked through all the channels on the TV - all five of them plus the option of paying another unspecified amount of money to watch a blockbuster or an "adult movie" - like that's going to make you feel better when you're stuck in a hotel room on your own! Pressed the Teletext button thinking I could at least catch up with the news... "NO TELETEXT" dsplayed in bright blue on all five channels. Had another brandy. Sent Alan a text. Pressed the Radio button & listened to some cheesy dance music from the Ministry of Sound via MK Radio something or other, hoping this wasn't going to be deducted from my credit card, too. Listened several times to their self-referential advert about wanting to employ someone to sell advertising time - since that's all they were advertising, it was obviously badly needed.
Got bored. Went to bed. Got up again & played Goldilocks with the lighting arrangements (This one's too bright. This one's too dark. This one would be perfect but the bulb's gone.)

Fell asleep eventually, after the impeccable kids had fnished their decidedly unimpeccable chasing each other noisily up & down the corridors. Woke once & remembered not to turn on the light on in the loo as it activates an annoyingly whiny extractor fan that carries on for 5 minutes afterwards. At 8.22 my mobile went & I peered blurrily at a picture of "sunrise over Gran Canaria" (thanks h!) once I'd worked out that it wasn't my alarm going off. At 8.25 my alarm did go off, just as I was trying to deactivate it. At 8.30 my wake up call came in. Horrified at how loud the phone was, I crossed the bedroom in one stride, grabbed the receiver & said "Thanks" in what I hoped was a simultaneously bright, cheery & grateful voice. "Good morning. This is an automated message," the phone went. "Press any key if you would like this message repeating in ten minutes time." Well, how was I to know it was a bloody machine?!!

Muddled my way through breakfast & checking out in much the same way as the rest of the stay, then set out in plenty of time for the short stroll to campus...

The meeting was fine! Best bit of the day? Being approached by a course manager who last met me two years ago when I did my first "national event" (though we've been in frequent email contact ever since) & said "I cannot believe this is the same Lynne Dixon! You look different, you sound different, you act different, but I know it's you. What happened?"

You know what? I feel different, too! :-)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Cool connection!

Last month I blogged about Dr David Otway's photos of the Buncefield fire, as an interesting manifestation of User Generated content. Tonight David has posted a comment, explaining how his photo opportunity came about.

He started his own blog - Informatics, Chemistry & Life in General but never went back after that spider photo..... pity!

A bit of history!

No, not the A103 Marwick sort...

I've just missed the anniversary by an hour or so, but on 11th January 1973, the very first OU students graduated. In its first two years, the OU had grown to 40,000 students, & now it has 200,000!

Full story here, on the BBC's "On this day" feature. Pity they've disabled the readers' comments.

Just over five years later, I joined the OU & I'm still here :-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


One drawback of getting 99% of your news from the web is that you end up not knowing how things are pronounced. I'd read that Menzies Campbell, the potential new Liberal leader, is known as "Ming", but assumed it to be a nickname based on some perceived resemblance to Flash Gordon's merciless emperor. I really had no idea until a chance conversation yesterday that Menzies Campbell was Mingis Campbell - though at least I knew the last bit is Camble, not Camp-Bell :-)
Anyway, along comes the BBC with one of its helpful pages to explain exactly why Menzies is Mingis. Sometimes.

Why is Menzies pronounced Mingis?

Seems it's down to a yogh (pronounced yog) which bears a remarkable resemblance to one of those curly z things that once caused my daughter to ask why the playschool teacher wrote her name as "Eli-three-abeth".

On being inconsistent

So I don't want to declare any intentions on 43 Things, & reiterate that on the first day of the new year....

What's this in aid of, then, hmm?

Maybe it's the brandy talking? Nah, can't be. I'm drinking up the rum sauce rum tonight.

CD Baby

I don't normally do advertising, but this US company has really impressed me.

Following up my obscure musical tastes, I ordered a CD from them simply because nobody else stocked it, & fell in love with their cool approach to web selling.

An extract from their auto-acknowledgement:
Thanks for your order with CD Baby!

This is just a happy automated email to let you know a real person
will email you as soon as your package is sent, and you will also
receive a paper receipt with your order in the mail.

Here's what the real person says:
Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with
sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure
it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over
the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money
can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party
marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of
Portland waved 'Bon Voyage!' to your package, on its way to you, in
our private CD Baby jet on this day, Wednesday, December 28th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did.
Your picture is on our wall as 'Customer of the Year'. We're all
exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you once again,

Derek Sivers, president, CD Baby

Sure, they say that to all their customers, but how many retailers take the trouble to compose something like that? They call themselves "CD Baby, the cutest little record store on the web" & I'm inclined to agree :-)

What's more, the package came through my door on 3rd January, the first delivery day after the holiday.

Even the followup was sweet:

Lynne -
Did you get your CD OK?
Was everything perfect?

If you liked a CD you bought, please write a little review on the
musician's CD Baby page? Just click the link below, and scroll to
the bottom of the page. You'll see where it says, "WRITE A REVIEW".
It only takes a minute and would mean a lot to the artists.

So I did! :-)

Monday, January 09, 2006

How did they know?

You Are Likely an Only Child

At your darkest moments, you feel frustrated.

At work and school, you do best when you're organizing.

When you love someone, you tend to worry about them.

In friendship, you are emotional and sympathetic.

Your ideal careers are: radio announcer, finance, teaching, ministry, and management.

You will leave your mark on the world with organizational leadership, maybe as the author of self-help books.

West Coaster

Found this blog by an AZX103er the other night. Jolly entertaining it is, too, even if he does have a tendency to slag off his tutor (LOL!).
It's OK, he's not one of mine :-)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Summer holiday booked!

In August, four of us are off to sunny-but-we-hope-not-too-hot Belgium, just for a change. I've booked 11 days at the Molenheide holiday park in east Flanders (Limburg province) so we can also "do" Holland & maybe a bit of Germany.

This is the holiday & this is Molenheide.

It'll be our first time through the Eurotunnel, too :-)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Dept of bleedin obvious switches to overtime

Well, who would have thought it? Another in an occasional series....

In a dramatic revelation from the BBC, we learn that Swedish researchers have discovered that people get more satisfaction from working hard towards a goal than from lazing on the beach.

British experts have announced that they agree. Amongst their more insightful observations:

  • Hard work is satisfying, but only if it suits you.

  • Relationships can also have a significant impact.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Welcome 2006

This is the time of year when most of us indulge in a spot of navel-gazing, if it's only to root out some of the grottier bits of fluff & dead skin that've accumulated there since last time.

Kat is looking for a new handle, & Nog has a spot of bum-biting lined up :-)

I've already declared my distaste for public wishing, so nobody will be expecting me to publish a bulleted list of objectives. But I do have a few ideas up my sleeve....