Thursday, November 29, 2012

Exactly WHY is everything a battle?

 Today I feel as if I have been through the wringer. I am still suffering the remnants of my cold (the ‘common’ cold – worthy of a blog post all of its own) and am now in possession of antibiotics and an inhaler to deal with a chest infection. Evidently, two bottles of Benylyn are insufficient for some coughs.

One of the things that happens when I am ill is that I tend to suffer from narcolepsy - and very disconcerting it is too! Sometimes it’s the first symptom that appears!

Anyway, in between bouts of heavy sleeping I have been checking out my Open University Web Page to see if there is anything I can do to be ready for the first module in February – so I have listened to the Dr Faustus radio play, for example. This morning, as I staggered into the living room in search of hot Ribena and a quiet corner to cough my heart out I noticed that the broadband light was orange when it is supposed to be blue. Quelle horreur! What kind of mischief and mayhem was going on?

It is not my first time with faulty broadband so I carried out all the standard checks – turned it all off, turned it all on, checked all the cables etc. No joy. So, I rang BT – it was just after 7 a.m. but, in this day and age, I expected them to answer, or at least to say ‘We’re closed ring back later’ – after all, even my GP surgery can manage that. But no, no answer.

So, sometime after 9 a.m., when I had enjoyed a short, cough free ‘nanny nap’, I rang BT. Again. The Voice told me to check all the cables etc and to restart the computer, so, even though she is electronic I did all that. Again. No joy. So, I ended up talking to what I assume was an extremely nice young man from the Indian sub continent. 

I have several objections to call centres that are based in India – for one thing what’s wrong with giving jobs to people here in the UK – I need a job, I bet I even I could work in a call centre. Secondly, as a result of being married to a foreigner for over twenty-six years I can tell you that, more often than not, they are rubbish on the phone. I think research shows that spoken information is interpreted visually as well as orally – certainly, this is something I notice with my Lovely Husband. On the phone, he doesn’t pick up the visual clues that help him when he talks face to face and even after all of these years of being married to a slightly loopy lass from Yorkshire who talks a mile a minute he doesn’t always understand what is being said. He doesn’t get some of the colloquialisms or we talk too fast – and he hates talking on the phone because he struggles to make himself understood and to understand, and believe me his English is pretty good. My experience of the call centres is that I say something, the person on the other end ignores what I have said and gives me a reply that, basically, makes no sense.

So, I really don’t like talking to call centres on the Indian Sub continent. I suppose because I am still feeling pretty grotty the whole thing seems a lot worse than it probably is. Anyway, back in April we signed up for BT Infinity – after being, quite happily with Sky – the BT Vision didn’t work properly – well, it worked on teacakes, stopping at every currant. And the internet kept dropping. I kept telling them. Two engineers that came out to the Vision box noted that internet service was intermittent. Eventually the Vision issue was resolved when I lost my incredible cool and told BT I was leaving them and going back to Sky and had no intention of paying any penalty as they had broken their contract with me. The upshot of that little escapade is that we got one of the new YouView boxes and a slight reduction in the monthly payment for BT Vision – I was happy with that.

Despite the issues with Vision being resolved the internet has kept dropping – they said it’s because the infinity cables are new and need time to settle; infinity is very sensitive and needs time to adjust and if anything knocks it then that may well cause it to drop etc etc. But, still my internet kept dropping. So today, no internet. At all. I have my OU and Farmville to sort out; The Ginger One needs to check his UCAS page and laugh incessantly at stuff that isn’t even funny;

The guys in India tried to get me to do all the turning on and off again as well as re-setting Infinity modem and then just kept saying stuff like

 ‘Give me one minute Ma’am and I will surely fix this problem for you’

‘Just give me three minutes Ma’am and I will call you right back’

‘Just give me fifteen minutes Ma’am and someone from the next level will call you right back’
I have spent all day on the phone getting nowhere and ended up with a promise that an engineer will come on Monday and can’t get here any quicker because of the floods that are all over the UK.

At this point, I did think my head might just explode.

Now, here’s an interesting thing. There is no cross over between engineers and customer service. If you talk to tech and ask for a manager, you can’t get one. The only way I have found to get someone who will actually listen to what I say and then act on it is to ring up and say I want to cancel my whole account and that I will not, under any circumstances, pay any penalty. If you say this, you end up with a lovely person in Newcastle!

The engineer still isn’t coming until Monday but Barbara, for it was she, listened to what I said, made notes, talked to her manager and is making a Level Two Complaint on my behalf. I have no idea what a Level Two Complaint entails but I really hope I get a refund or something.

So, my whole point is, why do we only get the service we should already be getting when we reach the point of losing our temper? If you see what I mean. We pay for the top BT package – The Ginger One likes to game, we watch T.V and films online etc. If I am not getting the service I am paying for surely the company should be making every effort to rectify that and to accommodate my needs; rather than trying to fob me off with call centre operatives who are clearly reading from a script and have no clue how to deal with a deranged, germ infested Yorkshire woman, who is being deprived of Farmville and Dailymail Online

If you are wondering I wrote this in Word and will cut and paste it into my blog, should I ever be back in cyberspace – I do wonder what will happen to the font and the formatting.

*waves wearily goodbye*

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why Does my Ethnicity matter?

So, I have a nasty cold that is making me feel, as we say in Yorkshire, 'proper poorly'

Actually, this is a pretty good representation of how I am feeling - add to it a persistent cough and no sleep and you can guess that I really can't be bothered with very much of anything.


The burglar alarm has been going off next door for over an hour

Now, clearly this isn't me, indeed I am a lady, but, you get the gist. Add the two pics together and come to your own conclusion about the kind of Sunday I am having. Anyway, I assumed it was a car alarm (they go off regularly in the salubrious area in which we live), until my other half delivered my shopping and said it was actually next door's alarm. What to do? Go round there? Too dangerous - even on a quiet Sunday afternoon Nottingham appears to be a hotbed of violent crime. So, I rang the non-emergency police number (101 if you were wondering). I explained to the switchboard dude what was happening, at the end of the conversation he said -

'I call myself White British. What about you?'

Seriously? My neighbour could be getting burgled, murdered or who knows what and you want to know my ethnicity? Maybe this is because I dialed the non-emergency number, but, even so I don't see the relevance.  

If you are wondering I told him I am white English and that my neighbour is Black English - but why does it matter? My neighbour is a lovely lady and, obviously, I am aware that she is Black, just as she is aware that I am White - but what does it have to do with ANYTHING?

I am beginning to think that I am, indeed, a Bear of Very Little Brain and that I just don't 'get' the world we live in.

*waves pathetically goodbye and goes back to hot Ribena and trash TV*

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why do we pray?

This is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. Why do we pray? I don't just mean *why* - I suppose I really mean why do we BOTHER? Which is a different thing and also something I feel guilty about just thinking!!

As a Christian I believe that the Bible is the one and only Truth, God's Word, given to us as our rule for faith and life. the Bible says men should always pray and not faint.

Luke 18:1 and 21:36
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;.....Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

Elsewhere I have read that prayer is the lifeblood or the oxygen for the Christian. In my own life it seems to me that I feel much better when I have a regular and consistent prayer life - at least that is my recollection since sadly it is some time since I had such a thing. Which is, perhaps, why I am thinking about it so much lately. We have probably all seen those signs outside churches:-

And I do think it's true. I do feel weak, and feeble. And certainly I am not walking the walk I used to walk. 

Which causes me much anguish. 

There is one text which really amazes me, well, actually the whole Bible amazes me, every time I read it. But that's another post.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Do you see that? *MY* people, *THEMSELVES* *THEIR wicked ways*

Followed by - THEN.

Huh. Just one word. 'THEN' but what a difference it makes.

The LORD expects us to confess our wickedness, to be humble and to seek Him out. And THEN He will change things - because, apparently -

Then of course we have the word MY - MY people - I think it is safe to assume that this means those people who believe in the God of the bible - Christians in fact. So, it seems to me that the state of the nation is something that should weigh heavily on those of us who profess Christ - because, I think, it is we who are called to confess our sins, to humble ourselves and to cry out to the Lord Himself.

I have been reading a book lately called Just Do Something - the blurb says 

'Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers. Writing in the Sky etc'

The book talks about how much time Christians waste whilst trying to ascertain God's Will For Their Lives - tinkering with relationships, churches, jobs etc. waiting for that all important clear indication of the Lord for His Perfect Will For Their Lives. But, actually, the author suggests that, in fact, God doesn't need to tell us what to do every step of the way - His Plan for us is already revealed in His Word -

Matthew 6:33
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness - so, I think, that means loving God first, putting Christ first in all that I do, obeying His word - and then doing what I think is best for my life. The bible teaches the responsibility of man - unlike the Qu'ran for example, which teaches only the fickle whims of Allah and that, no matter what, our destiny is already laid out for us - leading to the fatalistic attitudes so prevalent amongst Muslims. Now, don't get me wrong, I believe in the Sovereignty of God - certainly He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, but this Sovereignty of God does not mean that man has no need of personal responsibility in life. Thus the Muslim may well choose not to wear a seat belt when driving because whatever happens is the will of Allah, a Christian will wear the seat belt because it is the responsible, sensible, safe and legal thing to do, knowing that if something were to happen it is still within the perfect will of our Heavenly Father.

Oswald Chambers said that we should 'Trust God and do the next thing' - that was over one hundred years ago. My experience is vastly different to this - my experience has resulted in a crippling fear of being out of God's perfect will for my life, a crippling fear of prayer - how do I know if what I am praying is God's will? And an almost superstitious reliance on finding so-called 'proof texts' in order to justify my plans. I don't think God wants me to live in fear - in fact the bible says -

1 John 4:8 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Now, I am no expert theologian, far from it, I am, in fact, an old bird of very little brain, but, it seems to me that this verse is saying that because fear causes torment, and perfect love (as we get from our Heavenly Father because of what Christ has done for us on the Cross) casts out that fear, then if we still experience fear then we have not given ourselves wholly to Him. I may be wrong - probably am in fact. But, the conclusion I have come to is this. God doesn't want, or expect, His people to spend hours and hours trying to discern His will - His will, for all of us, is already clearly outlined in His Word. No. What God wants is for us to trust Him, to seek Him with all our hearts, minds and souls and to get on with being salt and light in the place we are, and, I think, that if we don't like it there then it is O.K to want to change things without worrying if change is what God wants - I don't think that old time Christians spent hours trying to second guess God - I think they just got on with living their lives in obedience to His word and becoming more Christlike in the process. Because the text in Matthew says that if we look for the kingdom of God and His righteousness FIRST then everything else will be given to us - and of course I don't believe that is meant in material way but rather that we will become the spiritually mature active Christians able to be used by God in our little corner of the vineyard that we all want to be. Praying and reading the bible should be the priorities in our lives - because then we are prepared to face whatever comes our way, whether that is an unbeliever to talk to, a fellow believer who is struggling or just some kind of hiccup at work - I think I agree with the author of this little book, and with Oswald Chambers, stop wittering and Just Do Something.

By the by, I am aware that in some of my posts, usually the ones I have had in the drafts folder, the font colour and size tends to vary - I have no idea why this is nor how to correct it. Consider it a foible.

*waves goodbye*

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The role of women.....

Is a sticky subject. It’s all too easy to offend. If we praise and enthuse about stay at home mums then those that work get prickly. If we praise and enthuse about those who go out to work and, seemingly, 'have it all' then those who stay at home feel undervalued. As a Christian, I believe the Bible is my rule for faith and life. What does the bible say about the role of women? Proverbs 31 is one of my favourite passages; this is what it says - 

"Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates."

What a high standard! And one about much is written, I don't intend to add to what is already available. Well, not much anyway!! In Titus 2 it says -

"The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."

Many people are of the opinion that these verses, together with Genesis 2:18 which says - 

"And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." 

actually demean women. I would venture to say that those people haven't read the verses properly or in context, or even that they don't really understand what they have read.
The word 'help meet' for example, this means someone suitable to keep Adam company, a perfect fit - and of course, Eve was perfect since she was provided for Adam by the LORD Himself. How important it must be then for us to seek the LORD's will when we are waiting for our future spouse.

In light of these verses you can imagine my irritation when, this morning,  I heard a woman vicar on the BBC News promoting the need for women bishop’s within the Church of England (I am not clear whether this means within the world wide Anglican church and what the brethren on the African continent think to this). As part of this woman’s argument in favour of women bishops she stated that men think that women in the church are fit only for cleaning and flower arranging. It seems to me that if this what the men in this Woman Vicar’s church believe then the fault lies with her – she should be teaching what the bible says about the role of men and women – of course if she did that then she would soon discover that her role as a vicar goes against the Word of God. Hmm. Catch 22. 

Many people don’t realise that actually a truly godly man is instructed to love his wife as Christ loved the church – since Christ laid down His life for us, that is, in my opinion, a tall order. Actually, one of the many things I love about the bible – and why I believe it to be the Word of God – is how it addresses husbands and wives. Husbands are instructed to love their wives sacrificially and romantically, whilst women are instructed to love, respect and honour their husbands – and in my limited experience, this is exactly what both men and women want from their partner.

It seems to me that if the church – by which I mean the Church of England, I know that many non-conformist churches already do this – were teaching their parishioners the truths of the bible they would soon see that there is no need for ‘new things’ – the bible talks much about ‘old ways/paths’ – because actually the bible is sufficient for all of us and for all of our needs. It is interesting to me that the roles of men and women have become so blurred that it is now having a negative effect on society as a whole. Read almost any research which shows, time and again, that women are happier at home, that children thrive better where mums are at home, many girls express the wish that they could aspire to be a wife and mother rather than have the big career that is generally expected of them. Men need to be men – they need the responsibility that comes of providing for a wife and children, nowadays many men are not ready to provide for a family until their late twenties – but in fact they should be ready to face that responsibility much earlier. Is it right to encourage young people to take gap years and then mire themselves in thousands of pounds of debt so that even when they want to marry they are simply not mature enough either financially, spiritually or in their character. It seems to me that our society is becoming so materialistic that it is assumed that both parents must work in order to provide their children with ‘everything’ – but, again, the research shows that children are happiest when their parents give of themselves. If we stopped focusing on what we imagine we need to have rather than on what is best for our family then we will find that it isn’t necessary for women to work long hours away from the home – this would also mean that there are more jobs for men. 

Read the passage from Proverbs 31 (above) – this is a highly talented, highly successful, highly respected woman who brings honour to her husband as well as to herself. Which woman wouldn’t want that? The woman in Proverbs 31 makes a great role model for our daughters – what a pity that those women who think they are called to teach in the church don’t make it their focus – and complement that teaching with what it means to be a truly godly man who takes responsibility for his family and who understands the value of hard work and sacrifice (the bible teaches that if we don’t work then we don’t eat – an old fashioned adage that flies in the face of our ‘I want it all and I want it now society.

Those who feel that being a housewife should be preceded by the word ‘only’ should consider what a keeper at home actually does – yes, it may well be repetitive and even boring at times, but, isn’t every job? Creating a home takes time, love and skill, add to that the responsibility of raising children and I think it is safe to say that being ‘only a housewife’ is one of the most demanding, and necessary, jobs available.

Women bishops? Pah.

*waves goodby*

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Racial Divide?

So, I have been hearing, and seeing, a lot about the racial divide so prevalent in today's USA. Apparently. The election coverage, even here in the UK, has focused on how 'The Whites' voted for Romney whilst 'The African Americans' and 'The Hispanics' voted for Obama.

I realise that I maybe appear naive in the extreme - but this idea of voting along racial lines is something new and quite foreign to me. I watched a programme recently on the BBC entitled Family Guys: What Sitcoms Say About America Now (the link is to an article - I don't think the programme is still available even on iPlayer). The programme was actually very interesting - and, for me, more than a little shocking. The reason? I never knew that African Americans have their own shows! Apparently The Cosby Show is the last sitcom that crossed the viewing racial divide - appealing to both whites and African Americans. Friends - one of my own personal favourites - has no black characters, so, apparently, an African American version was created for the black community (I am assuming there are 'Black' TV channels - I may be wrong). The commentator also remarked that inter-racial romances are still 'edgy' - he cited Happy Endings which has a mixed race couple who kiss on screen - this is, evidently, still something to be carefully considered before a programme is aired.

Seriously? It's 2012 people - are there really people out there who do or don't watched TV shows because of their racial dynamic? Are there people out there who object to seeing a mixed race couple kiss on screen? I find it difficult believe that these types of attitudes really exist - surely the programme makers are exaggerating? In a country such as the US which, as I understand it, is a country which can truly be described as racially diverse how can there be such division? And does it extend to every day life?

Another programme on prior to the American election was aired on Channel 4, The American Road Trip: Obama's Story  this programme concentrated on the so-called 'swing states' and featured respected journalist Matt Frei talking to middle America - he commented, at one point, quietly and whilst in his car 'will this election be decided on race' (my paraphrase).

However disturbing I found these two programmes what I found online when I googled 'racial divide in the US' was even more worrying - article after article outlining incidences of disparities apparently based on race. I looked at this one on the Reuters website that deals with education - but this is really the tip of the iceberg.

When telling my mum, who has traveled extensively in the US in her camper van, about the two programmes I had watched my disbelief was compounded further by some of her experiences during those travels -
  • When in the Southern states she noticed that Black Americans frequently failed to make eye contact with her, or smile - even in stores unless she made the first move
  • When she traveled to DC by train and sat with a black lady the white lady at the same table turned her back on the black lady and excluded her from the conversation. On the same trip a white man who had been deep in conversation with my mum walked away mid-sentence when he realised the black lady was sitting with her.
  • When mum visited the Martin Luther King museum she was the only white face there
  • Many Americans had no concept of life without segregation even in their history - in the UK we have never had separate water fountains or public bathrooms for example
I have heard people talk about 'white pubs' and 'black pubs' in Essex - but I assumed these were the result of location, it is well known that many minorities tend to live in clusters, particularly those who have only recently arrived. My own in-laws tend to mix only with other Turkish families - the grandchildren are, no doubt, becoming more integrated. But surely this kind of segregation does not extend into wider society?

Anyway, this is something I have been thinking about for quite a while and I confess I am no nearer understanding it or dealing with it. I can not understand why anyone, black, white or hispanic, would be offended by a mixed race couple on TV, I don't understand why any general programme would be specifically  targeted at a particular racial group, (I know that some programming is culture/religion/or race specific - I suppose I am thinking more about entertainment programmes).

Then I realised something - on my Facebook account, used for playing the games, I have lots of friends from all around the world including the US - I have met them through game forums etc. and guess what? None of them are Black! Some are, I think, Hispanic, but I have no Facebook friends who are black American! I shocked myself! Surely African Americans play Farmville and use the forums? What I don't like is how this new information has changed my worldview - I have started to notice mixed race couples and black characters when watching TV, and I never did this before - to me race is just not an issue, and I don't know why that is? Am I just naive? Or Stupid? I should say that I do have black brits on my FB.

I also like watching programmes about prison - documentaries. The racial divide is clear to see in this kind of programming since there are just so many African Americans in American Prisons - what I never knew is that this divide extended into wider society.

*sadly waves goodbye*