Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

When I met Henry VIII

I don’t often blog about things I have been up to. Even when I used to blog lots, I tended to tell you all about things I thought, or that other people said.

However this weekend The Boy and I went to Hampton Court Palace and had a fabulous time, so I thought I would mention it. We did all the audio tours all over the palace, and learnt that pies were originally invented as an oven dish, so you are supposed to tear the top off, eat the middle and chuck the pastry away. We saw the Henry VIII stuff (throughout which I insisted on boring The Boy with my deep Tudor knowledge (gained half from BBC History Magazine and half from excessive reading of Philippa Gregory books). We saw William and Anne, we saw the Georgian bits. We played in the maze (Luke lost me and left me wandering for 10 mins alone between box hedges trying to find the centre, which made me giggle a lot). We wandered in the gardens and saw the world’s oldest and biggest vine...

AND I SAW HENRY VIII! No I really did! He was all dressed up and wandering through his palace on his way to his wedding to Kateryn Parr. I curtseyed (I really did!) while Luke loitered in a corner, scared because the guide book said he has a tendency to shout at rude courtiers. We saw him again coming out of the Royal Chapel with his new queen on his arm and looking very cheerful. Was bloomin’ good fun.

And the best bit? Well not only is Hampden Court our ‘local’ palace (just 15 mins drive down the road), and not only have they nearly finished constructing the pictureskew ice skating rink out the front, but the gardens are entirely free all winter! That’s 1st October till the 31st March ... totally free (except the maze, but we have done that now...)

So we can wander back for more fun (pretending to be Tudors, or Georgians or whoever else we fancy) any time we like J.

Friday, November 20, 2009

(In?)-Equalities Bill

In the Queen’s speech this week we found out some details about Harriet Harman’s Equalities Bill. And I don’t like it. The bill proposes that firms will have to prove their commitment to the equal rights agenda to win tax-payer funded work worth a total of more than £200bn.

The bill has immediately proven to be unpopular with small businesses, who claim it will make it even harder for them to win public sector contracts, as they will be lost in bureaucracy and disadvantaged by the numbers game.

But I object on a more fundamental level.

I am a feminist and I find this to be an incredibly patronising and misplaced ‘positive’ discrimination. Tweeting my dislike for the bill I was pointed, by a fellow twitterer, to the Norweigan example of female quotas for boards as an successful outcome from such legislation. The idea, I suppose, is that the end justifies the means. Equality, this all suggests, is a numbers game and we can all declare victory and go home once women and men occupy all the positions we value in society in equal numbers.

But hang on a minute, surely that misses the point? If you believe (as I do) that equality is not about outcomes but opportunities, then the numbers of women on the board can only ever be an indicator, not a conclusion. Personally, I don’t give a monkey’s bottom how many women occupy board positions – as long as every woman who wanted one of those seats was given the opportunity to compete and was judged fairly and regardless of sex.

What woman would want to occupy a board position knowing she was there to make up her company’s numbers? Her colleagues would know likewise and her opinions and ability to do her job would be severely undermined. Through actions like this we drive sexism underground into a deep seated resentment.

An article in last weekend’s Sunday Times Magazine gave great detail about the successes that women are seeing in our society. School grades outstrip those of the boys, female university graduates outnumber male, the predominance of male doctors is being balanced, ‘female’ (urgh) skills are central to the UK’s services economy and this (combined with increasingly flexible employment conditions) have meant that the recession has affected men in the workplace more than women. We are also members of a society where increasing single parent families (read; single mum-headed families) are producing boys lacking in male role models, unable to cope with their own biology and massively underperforming.

I am not suggesting for a moment that the battle is won. Nor can we stop in our efforts for equality because female successes inevitably cause a rebalance in male successes. There are multiple forces at work here, all of which need addressing.

However I fundamentally cannot believe, with so many examples of women successfully breaking through the glass ceiling and simple economics and market dynamics driving companies to recognise the benefits of female input, that the focus of legislation should be at such an elite level.

Girls need to be given fair access to education, exposed to powerful role models and allowed to achieve their own ambitions. If women cannot compete for board seats on their own merits then there is a problem further down the chain. I fear for a society where we develop resentful male / female professional relationships and promote individuals on the basis of quotas rather than ability.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Tube

So here I am. On the tube. At Turnham Green actually - my first
station in London. I am en route to Richmond from Paddington and boy
has my mental state changed since I last commuted on the tube.

I need to work harder on my seat-securing strategy, my balance and my
vacuous stare (at the moment I am aware of looking far too interested
in the goings on of everyone else). I have even forgotten how to keep
track of stations out of the corner of my eye, so as to give the
impression of a psychic link with the route.

But frankly it makes it all exciting again. And this carriage is nice
and new and clean. Just wish the man next to me was as clean...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's all gone quiet... Ah, that's coz she can't talk

Wow getting your brain to think in blog frames is hard after so long
off.

This week I have mostly been moping in bed and on the sofa with what I
first thought was flu but turned out to be a nasty bout of tonsilitus.
Who'd have thunk something so teenage sounding could wipe you out so
thoroughly!

So I managed 7 days in the new job before having to phone in sick.
Very not ideal as I was due to meet two clients on the day in question
- and one of them in Finland! Running a temperature of 39 degrees I
was rather emotionally unstable and had quite a 'poor me' weep after
making the call to the new boss. The weeping continued that night
while at an NHS walk in centre (I of course have no doctor, having had
to start work on the first working day of living in twickenham. Not
sure how to resolve that) because by then I was such a sub-human I
couldn't hold my head up straight.

3 days of enforced silence (a delight for the boy and no hardship for
me, feeling as I was) and dehydrating sweats and I am beginning to
feel better. Thank the lord for penicillin. I just wish the tablets
didn't taste so rank because I have to take them for another 8 days...

Monday, November 09, 2009

Business as usual

I am not going to dwell on the long period of silence here at TOE. Least said soonest mended and all that. I shan't even recommence my regular web diatribe with excuses because, frankly, I have too many and haven't yet worked out bullet points on the iPhone.

Instead I shall begin service as usual and hopefully posts over the coming weeks will fill you in on fundamental facts such as: I now live in the uk. I have a new and great job. Er, and such.

So without further ado.

This morning when the boy stumbled downstairs to dutifully help me wash my hair (well, he chose the house with no shower) he asked; Did I ignore you while you were talking to me this morning? No, I replied, he hadn't. It transpired that he had had a dream where I was talking at him and he could only hear white noise and so decided to pretend I wasn't talking at all.

And his closing remark? I wonder if it's indicative of our relationship? Cheek.

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