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|Saturday, July 22nd, 2017|
|Making Work Fun (Week 1)
I've been getting a lot of compliments at work over the past couple of weeks because of the activities we arrange and support for our guys. Several of the compliments have come from new staff who have no idea that it is me behind the plans and the change in culture which has brought them about and that has been even more satisfying.
When I joined this new team about 18 months ago there was a bunch of college/day services type activities arranged, the service users went to the cinema on a Saturday and when the need arose we had a birthday party - and that was about it. Last year I started by doing something a bit special around St Patrick's day and from that success we moved on to various themed days and planed activities during the major holidays. Last Summer I scheduled four weeks worth of day-to-day activities and trips, now that this has been established as the norm I planned seven full weeks for this Summer.
The service users love the activities and very much like the way the plans are presented visually so they can see what is coming up that they want to do. The staff have come to like the plans too, many of whom do so little of these kind of tripsthat they get almost as much out of it as the service users do.
The pland have to be fairly well balanced between small forays into the community and larger (more expensive) trips that reflect the various interests of the service users and are accessible from where we are - as much as possible.
This week we started quietly with a trip to the local library. Three of our guys registered with the local library and they all borrowed either books, music or dvds. Maybe not a wild start but some good inclusion in the community and more entertainment resources for our guys to access. This was followed by a trip to Covent Garden for coffee and to watch the street entertainers, a trip to the V&A museum. I actually went on this trip and for many of our staff this was their first trip to any kind of museum. We all had a good time with this - especially the staff who did not even know what V&A stood for! Yesterday was a trip out for some posh ice cream, today was bowling & burgers, tomorrow will be a trip to the cinema and Sunday will be a quieter day with many tenants attending church in the morning with board games, music and a Sunday roast later at home. We will be venturing further afield over the coming weeks but that doesn't sound like a bad life to me. Current Mood: awake
|Thursday, July 20th, 2017|
|Caribbean Day At Work 2.0
The Caribbean staff at work who missed our original day through illness wanted to have another crack at it so on Saturday we did. One guy cooked up a storm (genuinely amazing) and we again had the music and flags etc. This time I even concocted a game of 'Caribbean Bingo' with picture cards of Caribbean themed items. Everyone had a good time (and especially a good feed) but the weird thing is I think I actually preferred the first time we tried it. The Caribbean staff we had didnt make it so we had to largely improvise the food - so it was nowhere near as authentic but the mood of everybody pulling together gave the first one a special energy that the second one somehow lacked. (Even the missus agrees) Nobody is complaining though - this one was a proper FEAST!
This week I have been mostly re-reading: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air - The Experience Of Modernity by Marshall Berman Current Mood: hot
|Wednesday, July 19th, 2017|
Also from last week, I went on Monday for my now monthly trip to Kew with the missus. This time we took a picnic (the first time I have boozed it up at Kew!). As our trips here are currently monthly I make an extra effort to see the parts of the grounds that I have previously visited less often and am pleased to still be finding things that I haven't seen before on any of my previous visits which is a huge credit to Kew seen as how many times I have previously been. Current Mood: hot
|Monday, July 17th, 2017|
|Last Sunday In Northampton
Its amazing how quickly a week can slip past you if you aren't paying careful attention. One week ago tonight I had just returned from visiting my friends in Northampton. We had also been to see a concert of Northamptonshire youth orchestras which not only featured my 18 year old god-daughter but was one in which she was singled out for special praise by the master of ceremonies for her contribution this year and her growing promise as a composer! The concert was very impressive, she was suitably embarrassed and we were all suitably proud. She is off to Uni in September so that about does it for youth concerts in Northampton - now onto the bigger stage of Birmingham and beyond!
This week I have been mostly re-reading We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Collected Stories vol.5 by Phillip K. Dick Current Mood: hopeful
|Friday, July 7th, 2017|
|Essay Essay Essay,
I had a bit of a blast from the past this week as I set about writing an essay for the first time in about 20 years. From before my GCSE's to University the process seemed normal and was a regular part of my life, then 20 years of nothing and then it all comes flooding back. That blew some cobwebs out of my brain!
Its a process I actually kind of enjoy - as long as I find the subject interesting. Unfortunately this is a work related qualification (formerly NVQ, now QCF). I cant say the essay itself was that much fun though the first draft (hopefully only draft) weighs in at just over 2,500 words. The subject of 'Leadership Theories in social care' is never going to set my world on fire. I will admit that I liked exercising such long dormant parts of my brain and I felt very pleased with myself when I finally finished. (about 8 hours work total I think with some additional time for reading and a couple of months when I should have been working on it but mostly didn't have time and couldn't be arsed when I did.
I was due to have a crack at it last month but a combination of man-flu and ridiculous heat wave laid me pretty low for a bit. No man-flu this month but the heatwave struck again just as I was about to start writing - so I really am quite proud of myself for cracking on and getting it finished. That is unusually disciplined of me!
This week I have been mostly reading: Leadership In Health & |Social Care by Louise Jones & Clare L. Bennett Current Mood: hot
|People Power @ IWM
After work yesterday I popped to the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth (my first visit, I think, since Ian visited last year). The main attraction was an exhibition called 'People Power' which is basically a look at anti-war protesting over the last century.
The exhibition covered a period from the first world war to current and it was interesting to see anti-war politics move from minority interests groups right through to mass movements & mainstream politics. There was also a slightle weird edge for me personally as posters/leaflests/materials from the Stop The War Coalition were also on display - objects that I have handled and distributed in the thousands back in the day. That and recorded interviews with people that I actually know - seeing all that in an actual museum in a little unnerving. Its a good exhibition though... Current Mood: hot
|Thursday, July 6th, 2017|
|Two exhibitions and a birthday girl.
So I finally got to spend some time with my god-daughter, now a newly minted 18 year old. She made the trip to see me solo as the rest of her family were tied up with other things. I havent been able to spend significant time on a one to one basis for a long time so that was good for me. As it was just the two of us she wasn't able to spend as much time glues to her mobile phone as she has for most of the past few years, so that was good too - for me at least!
We spent part of the day in Camden shopping for Doc Martin's (her birthday present from me) and generally browsing the market. We took in an exhibition at the Proud Gallery (photographs by Terence Spencer - nice) then another at the National Portrait Gallery (Portrait Prize Collection 2017- very nice) followed by Chinese Food in Chinatown (where we also met the missus) then back to mine for a wind down with cake & ice cream (birthday girl's choice).
I had a good time and I hope she did too. I know it's not exactly life in the fast lane but she has friends of her own age for that! I'm just glad I got to see her at last. After her final county youth orchestra performance this weekend its off to uni for her next (in September) so exciting times ahead for her. Current Mood: hot
|Monday, June 26th, 2017|
|Queen Anne Rose Garden (again)
A much quieter week this week (thankfully) with the high light being a trip to the Queen Anne Rose Garden in Regents park. For the missus its one of her favourite parts of London. Once again I have only been here once before, during my 365 London project a few years ago. Being a rose garden it's main attraction is purely seasonal but catch it at the right time (which we did) and it is stunning. We were lucky with the weather too now that the temperature has dropped. Just a day or too earlier in the peak of the heatwave and I would not have enjoyed this trip at all and may even have suggested an alternative activity, preferably one that involves spending large amounts of time in an air conditioned building consuming vast amounts of icy drinks. We got away with this one though.
This week I hae been mostly re-reading: The Clask Of Fundamentalisms by Tariq Ali Current Mood: awake
|Monday, June 19th, 2017|
|Mayfield Lavender (Again)
I went out with the missus today on a trip to Mayhill Lavender farm in Surrey. I had been there once before on my 365 London project a few years ago and the place made a big impression on me - so it was nice to be able to share it at last. On a boiling hot, sunny day like today it loked and felt more like a trip to the South Of France than to South of London. Mission accomplished in that regard. Current Mood: hot
|Saturday, June 17th, 2017|
|Swiss Army Man & I, Zombie (tv sries)
I'm still doing that zombie thing, whenever I can:SWISS ARMY MAN:
By strict definition Swiss Army Man
is not a zombie film. One of the two central characters is however a (possibly) animated, talking, farting corpse - so I'm going to run with it for now. I wanted to see this when it was on cinema release but it disappeared before I could catch it. I will say from the start that this is one of the best new films I have seen in a while. Lots of my friends will be getting this for birthday's and Christmas this year whether they want it or not - its that kind of film!
A film that features a farting corpse might not be an easy sell as anything other than a really gross comedy but this is so much better than that - even when the farting corpse is being ridden like a jet ski. Paul Dano plays a man who has been trapped, isolated on an island (ironically after running away because he felt so isolated and lonely within his own life). We see him on the brink of taking his own life as the film opens - and then we meet Daniel Radcliffe's character - who is already dead. Dano discovers that the corpse has certain 'powers' (like being a fart powered jet ski) but is also conscious to a large degree. The film then follows the pair as they set about finding civilisation/rescue. On the journey Dano tries to teach Radcliffe about the really good things that life can offer (meanwhile also convincing himself) and as they progress they learn more of the corpse's wonderful 'powers'.
The film is shot in such a way that you can believe that the man has found an animated talking super powered corpse or alternatively that the man has pretty much lost his mind and is carrying a found corpse with him as he journey's towards rescue. A good portion of the film is played for quite broad, silly comedy (and it does well with this) and part is character led drama (and it does well with this too). Most of all though it is unashamedly heart warming and amazingly hits that target successfully despite containing fart and erection jokes.
I have thought quite hard about this: if I was going to show this film as part of a double bill, what would I show it with? The answers I generated surprised me and hopefully reflect well on the film. First and most obviously would be 'Horns
' to make a fairly outlandish Daniel Radcliffe double. Alternatively I would try either 'Shaun Of The Dead'
to play out the zom-com elements. More surprising perhaps would be a pairing with either 'Harvey'
(to play out the possible invisible friend/mental health angle) or 'Little Miss Sunshin'e
(to emphasize the overall feel good factor).
As far as I am concerned that's some pretty illustrious company to be keeping and a pretty good isea of where this film is coming from. I. ZOMBIE:
There is a very good British zombie film by this name but this is an American TV series and a very different beast. The titular zombie has taken a job in a morgue to get access to brains without having to kill victims. Any brain she eats though gives her flashes of memory from that persons life (as well as temporarily hiving her certain abilities and character traits). This enables her in the case of murders etc. to help solve the case and bring the murderers to justice. Each week there is a different case, a different brain and a different set of character traits and abilities for the hero to absorb. Think 'Buffy
' but with zombies and you wont be far wrong. Given the tone and the subject matter as well as the perky female lead I think that might be pretty much what they were aiming for. I have only just caught the first series (I assume there are more coming) and it's not bad. It has none of the grit of say 'The Walking Dead
' as all of this takes place in a world which is barely aware of zombies much less fallen into apocalypse - but remains quite good fun throughout. Current Mood: awake
|Friday, June 16th, 2017|
A major disaster has dominated the British news this week as a tower block went up in flames. We still don't know how many people have lost their lives. The last official police estimate I saw claimed at least 30 dead but this is still certain to rise and one figure I read claimed it could rise to 150. Anyway, it has been awful. Dozens of people died on the terrible night including children, families and the old and frail. I work a stones throw from where the fire happened but have been home on sick-leave this week so have had to watch the events from a helpless distance.
What has been clear from the outset is that this should not have happened. The fire spread so quickly (too quickly, more quickly than should have been possible) and with limited fire escapes and controls many were doomed from the moment the fire started. The immediate human response to support the survivors, the grieving, the homeless and those who were supporting them has been beautiful to see - but there is also a deepening anger.
There is anger because this could not only have been predicted - it was predicted! The flats were refurbished and cladded just a few years ago and when residents raised their concerns with the council they were totally ignored. It is emerging quite clearly that for the sake of a small amount of money lives were put at risk and have been lost in a terrible fashion. There is anger because a government report into a similar fire in 2009 recommended that sprinkler systems should be fitted into all such buildings. The government has done nothing as this would cost money. There is anger because nobody from either the local council or the government are admitting responsibility or offering any real solutions. There is anger because so many people are still officially 'missing' and information is almost impossible for loved ones to come by. There is anger because the prime minister visited the site and the emergency services but would not meet the survivors and concerned relatives because of 'security fears'. There is anger because despite the brilliant voluntary aid that began flowing with immediate effect very little has been done through official channels to co-ordinate this or take responsibility. There is anger because so many people need to be rehoused and many of these will be forced to move quite far away from the support networks of loved ones despite the fact that there are officially 1,400 vacant properties in the borough. The government could requisition these as they dis during the second world war, if it had the will to do so but again they are more interested in money than people.
There is so much anger.
I do not think it is improper to claim that the Grenfell disaster - aside from providing plenty of reasons in itself to provoke anger - is becoming a focus point for all the anger that people are feeling towards the government. We have suffered a decade of austerity, cuts to all our services and our wages while the rich have just got richer and those smug Tory faces have overseen it all. There were fierce protests in London today and there are likely to be more as this rolls on. The last time London felt like this we had riots. Can they be far away? Given that the May government has just shot itself in the balls with the recent general election results and that the Prime Minister herself has lost so much of her support - and has been shown on all sides to lack both humanity and humility, is this a major nail in the coffin for this administration? We can only hope.
I saw Teresa May being interviewed on Newsnight on TV tonight and she made me so angry with her pathetic evasions that I actually wanted to vomit. She avoided most of the direct questions that were put to her (as usual for a politician) but there were two very obvious questions that were put to her several times and I believe that a normal human being would have answered them. A leader of any description should have answered them:
She was asked about the recommendations from the 2009 report that said sprinkler systems should be fitted in these buildings and that more fire proof materials could have been used for a minor increase in cost, had the government failed to implement these? She avoided the question whenever is was asked.
More basically she was asked if she had misjudged the public mood when she avoided meeting the locals, a simple enough admission judging by what had happened and something that would have been easy enough to apologise for - but again she avoided the question whenever it was put.
She looked lost, pathetic, weak and more concerned with her own position than with the real human suffering that is right before her eyes.
This is the clip. If you can stand to watch it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftY1NlPk5YY
Her grasp on her position seems incredibly shaky to me. I hope that this breaks her, that will be some small justice for the Grenfell victims and for us all.
This week I have been mostly reading: Nuclear Impact - Broken Atoms In Our Hands, An AnthologyOf Poetry Edited By Teresa Mei Chuc Current Mood: angry
|Thursday, June 15th, 2017|
|Summer Show & Friends
I seem to have happily but accidentally stumbled across a period of catching up with seldom sen friends. Just in the past couple of weeks I have mat with Tina on Dave on their first visit since they moved to Portugal (plus Tina's son Martin fresh from university), Des while he crashed at mine while visiting a literary festival in East London, Richard at his barbeque and within the next 7 days I have plans to meet with Viv & Rita (to belatedly celebrate Rita's birthday) and Michelle (to celebrate hers.
This week though was the turn of Mark, a friend and former colleague from my last job. We met on Tuesday after our shifts finished and took in the annual Summer Show at the Royal Academy. We both enjoy the enormous eclecticism of the Summer show but both left fairly disappointed with this years show which seemed to have less to offer than previous years but remained generally entertaining. Catching up over a coffee afterwards was the more valuable activity of the day. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, June 14th, 2017|
I used my one day off this weekend (I did overtime on Saturday) to visit Kew Gardens with the missus. This kept her on track with her mission to visit the place once per month to watch the seasons change. This is three for three we have managed now (so far so good) but she is going to be travelling in Parts of July and August so squeezing in visits over the next two months is going to be considerably more difficult. We might even have to use the early morning visitor privileges that my membership allows. Thinking about it that might be quite nice. There isn't much of the garden which we haven't explored yet but an early morning visit might add a different perspective. All I have to do now is motivate myself to get my arse out of bed early enough. Tricky. Mornings are not my strong point. Current Mood: awake
|Tuesday, June 13th, 2017|
After work the missus drove us to Horsenden Hill, a local beauty spot for a bit of a breather. I had only been there once before - when I did my 365 London project a few years ago. It turns out that several of the places I visited (especially around Acton and Ealing) have been favourite place of the missus for a long time. (Ruislip Lido being another case in point). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horsenden_Hill
This visit wasn't about the historical interest or even the vuew from the top (which I found to be entirely underwhelming on my first visit). This was about just taking some time to breathe after work in a green space away from traffic noise and all the other drawbacks that go with living/working in a large city. Very nice it was too.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: Soldiers In Revolt - G.I. Resistance During The Vietnam War by David Cortright Current Mood: awake
|Monday, June 12th, 2017|
I have been feeling a strange mixture of nostalgia, sadness and joy throughout last week as the eldest of my god-daughters turned 18. I remember so clearly the first time I met her, about a day after she was born. I let her grip my finger and I held her little hand and whispered promises into her ear for only her to ever hear. She has been a big part of my life ever since and while I have loved every minute I can also feel every day when I haven't been able to see her (and her sister and mother). There have been two many of those days and now she is 18 and off to University in September there will never be a chance to put that right. The little baby that lit up the lives of her parents, her grandparents and me is stepping out into the world as an adult and I am immensely proud and regret only that I cannot turn back the clock and do it all again. Current Mood: nostalgic
|Sunday, June 11th, 2017|
|General Election 2017
(at least, the first one of 2017...)
I cannot remember any previous time where the Tories have one a gerneral election and I have been this happy about it. There has been a massive rise in Labour support under Corbyn and genral political debate has shifted more to the left than it has for a generation. UKIP got wiped out and Teresa May in particular and the tories in general have been given a very public bloody nose. On tom of this micro stories have also provided moments of joy such as former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg lost his seat and the historic Tory seat in Kensington swung to labour (by a majority of just 20!).
All of this is brilliant and very entertaining to watch. The only downside (apart from Michael Gove returning to cabinet) is that the fringe nutters of the DUP are going to be given who-knows-what leverage as the enter into semi-formal coalition with the Tories. I almost dread to think what the fuckers will demand in return Still, it was amusing to see arch-shit bag George Osbourne on TV today. I don't think I have ever knowingly quoted him before but his description of Teresa May as a 'Dead Woman Walking' has certainly got some legs.
As always it is an interesting time in politics and its nice to feel a sense of hope for a change, however short lived or illusory it might prove to be. Current Mood: awake
|Friday, June 9th, 2017|
So another bonkers week then and it starts to seem that this is how it is going to be from now on. Another terrorist attack, this time in London and another unusual week for me of pottering along. This week the pottering takes place not only under the shadow of a major terrorist attack but also a general election which as I write the results of which are not yet known.
There are some things that I want to write about separately when I have time, and some things that I will just touch on here.
Firstly, the atmosphere is distinctly weird and this is affecting the mood and conversations wherever people go. Two serious incidents in the UK in such a short time - it kind of feels like the dark days of the IRA campaign: anything might be a target on any given day and yet everything has to continues normally as possible as there is no real alternative. The London Bridge attacks lacked the deep emotional impact of the Manchester attacks (no children died) but it still featured very ordinary civilians being targeted as they relaxed with loved ones harmlessly and without defence. I know that British and Western powers have perpetrated many massacres around the world in similar or worse conditions but I fail to see how this makes it right to do the same.
I guess that the usual logic doesn't apply here. We are not looking at a group of people who see a difference between civilian and military (or even government) targets. They are not even looking at good people and bad people. We are looking at people who see the righteous people and plenty of others who are expendable as they are not chosen and they are going to hell anyway. The terrorists are not aiming to beat the government (or even the people) they are looking to provoke a fight that will polarize people into a full on holy war with the 'chosen people' lining up on their side and the godless others lining up on the other. With this logic and target is justifiable, however soft.
The London attack in itself did not have the same shock value that the Manchester attacks had but the seeming frequency that the attacks now seem to be coming has shifted the mood I think and not in any way in a peaceable direction.
This is the shadow under which the rest of the week has taken shape - that and today's general election. I wont find out the result until tomorrow but despite my reservations I have found Jerery Corbyn to be a breath of fresh air as far as British politics go. Whatever limits the man has and whatever obstacles he would face if elected to high office he has opened up a conversation in British politics which has not been had in mainstream politics for a generation. It's been a while since I last walked into a polling station with a sense of hope but today I did. My expectations of his success are pretty low but to have hope - and a platform to discuss the wider issues with friends and colleagues (and on a national level)- that has been invaluable.
I seem to be having a bit of a phase of meeting up with with old friends too. Last week my friends Tina and Dave visited for the first time since moving to Portugal. Over the weekend my friend Des stayed with me while attending a literary event in London. This weekend another old friend (Richard) is hosting a barbecue which I am actually free to attend. Next week I plan to meet up with friends Viv and Rita to belated celebrate Rita's birthday. My friend Michelle also has a birthday next week. All of that feels pretty good to me.
On the subject of birthdays the eldest of my goddaughters turned 18 yesterday, an event which has left me feeling both old and deeply nostalgic for when she was a cute little baby. I wont get to see her for a few weeks as she lives far away and is currently in the middle of her A-Levels. I'm going to have to be patient for a few weeks yet. As usual there is plenty of the usual stuff on the go too so I will write more on certain subjects as soon as I can.. Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, June 3rd, 2017|
|Caribbean Day At Work
We planned to have a Caribbean day at work today and just as it all looked like it was going to go tits up we managed to salvage enough for the guys to have a good time. We have two staff of Caribbean descent, one has been on sick leave for most of the past month and the other rocked up sick to work today and had to be sent home again. Luckily we had plenty of staff and everyone pitched in. The food was good, the music was good, we decorated the lounge with flags, pictures of Bob Marley etc and the weather was suitably shiny. Despite the rocky start everyone ended up having a good time and that was always the goal. Current Mood: awake
|Summer Of Love (on Harrow Road)
On Thursday after work I took the missus to the opening of a new exhibition at The London Print Studio. The exhibitions at the print studio may vary in quality but are usually pretty good.The drawback of being only a small gallery is that the exhibitions themselves (good or bad) are inherently small.
The new exhibition is 'The Summer Of Love - Images of 1967'. This being the 50th anniversary its kind of topical. I liked what I saw (a mixture of political and pop images) and while once again the exhibition was much smaller than I would have liked this being the launch party there was plenty of free wine on offer. We made sure to have some of that.
Before the exhibition we strolled along through Meanwhile gardens which I have always enjoyed but has improved massively since my last visit. We even stopped in what we thought would be a nice Moroccan restaurant on the canal-side, near the gallery but it turns out that the restaurant is so new (at least under new management) that they have not yet properly bought or cooked food or even had menus printed. These we were assured would be ready soon. We settled for something which can only be described as a 'Moroccan Smoothie' (not a euphemism) served in a a mason jar with a straw through the lid. I'm glad that I am beardless at present as this is all starting to sound a bit too hipster for my liking! I'm too old for that malarkey. Current Mood: awake
|Friday, June 2nd, 2017|
For the sake of a 'road trip' we took a trip to the coast and for no reason other than neither me nor the missus had been there before we settled on Eastbourne. Turns out that our plan was excellent. Eastbourne was very quiet, almost kid free and also free of most of the worst trappings of a run down seaside resort. The pier was good, walking on the pebbled beach good, the food good - and ditto for the ice cream. We took an open top bus tour around the region which included the cliffs at Beachy Head.
Best of all was the weather. It was cloudy all morning but as we arrived just before lunch it all brightened up. Sunny with a really nice breeze so not too hot. Perfect seaside weather for me and it really showed off the best side of Eastbourne - an overcast day would not have been as magical. Just lovely. Current Mood: awake