Wednesday, 10 August 2016

August Break Photo 10: Yellow

Lovely Yellow. Some busy bees spotted on the rooftop garden boxes at London School of Economics in central London....

Saturday, 6 August 2016

August Break Photo 6: What I'm Reading

So in the first instance I'm reading up on oral history so I can learn more about the subject and become a better oral historian. In the second instance I am reading the ingredients of Beetroot Hummus on a tub offered to me by my friend Anna while picnicking in the park.

Friday, 5 August 2016

August Break Photo 5: Midday

My photo for today is two terrapins sunning themselves on a log in the pond in Tooting Common (I spotted them during a lunch break around 'midday'). These are not a native species to the UK (at least I don't think they are!), so I suspect they may be escaped pets. 

Thursday, 4 August 2016

August Break Photo 4: Sweetness

My sweet colleague Charlie at her desk, sampling some sweet mango. And I think you'll agree she has a pretty sweet hairstyle too!

It is a YAY Day!

Had an oral history epiphany today! And it was all down to a banjo-playing busker in Balham! More to follow soon.....

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

August Break Photo 3: Handwriting

Day 3: Handwriting (a letter from my mother showing her curly scrawl!). This time I experimented with my fishbowl lens for my iPhone. I rather like the result!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

August Break Photo 2: Leaf

Today's prompt was 'Leaf' and I got very excited at the chance to use my tiny micro lens for my iPhone camera. I chose two plants that live on my window shelf of my kitchen and I love the different textures of these two leaves.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Summer Fun

August Break Photo 1: Morning Light

The first photo of the August Break challenge is 'Morning Light.' This morning's morning light was grey and cloudy. That is London (or even England!) for you! I groggily snapped this black and white photo of the morning light on my sheets.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

The August Break Returns!

So it has been a while since I have written in this blog, partly because life has been so busy and the Summer of 2016 has been a pretty difficult one, but I'm back! And I am starting off the posts again with The August Break! My favourite photo challenge on the Internet created and curated by the lovely Susannah Conway ( Below are the daily prompts for the August Break 2016:

I can't wait to get started! :)

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Weird Interview Questions

This was something I found from reading over decades old blog posts that I had written and saved on my computer (which is both an amusing and melancholy experience - 'the past is a different land' and all that...). I was sent some weird interview questions by a friend and asked to answer them. And so for a little bit of surreal fun this Thursday away.... (this is how wacky I was at 23. My how serious I have become in my old age)..

20 Weird Interview Questions
By Edsters & Aureala

Work Attitude

1. Would you be happy working in an office where the sanity of your colleagues cannot be guaranteed?

Answer: only if knives were not involved..or explosives…or…spicy food.

2. If it takes five people to write five reports in five days, how many hours of overtime are you willing to work in order to do all five reports in one day?

Answer: I would be willing to sacrifice a little of my salary to buy an android to do it all.

3. When dealing with difficult situations at work, would you say that you take on a role more akin to that of a duck-billed platypus or a ring-tailed lemur? Why?

Answer: Ring-tailed lemur. I tend to swing from one crisis to another and I never waddle around the office like a platypus would. I strut.

4. We're concerned that you only want this job to earn money, gain valuable work experience, and offer us the benefit of your skills and expertise. What can you say to prove us wrong?

Answer: This job is just the first step in my master plan to conquer one industry at a time and then eventually rule the world like the crazy megalomaniac I really am.

5. What do you consider to be your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and what benefits do you think our company will gain from owning you?

Answer: Owning me will seriously raise your street cred. I am one funky lemur.

6. Do you consider that you usually take a proactive approach to your work? So why are you sitting here waiting for us to offer you a job?

Answer: I suppose I could rip the job from your hands like a Spartan warrior. I was just trying to be nice.

7. What is it about working that appeals to you, rather than, say, running away to sea, or starting your own island nation in the South Pacific?

Answer: I suppose working gives me the chance to use my brain on dry land where there are no savage tribes roaming the jungles.

8. Do you pick out mistakes on restaurant menus? If so, how might your pedantry affect your future performance at our company? If not, to what cause do you attribute your deplorable deficiency in your powers of observation, and what are you going to do about it?

Answer: I may not pick out mistakes on a menu, but I will still be useful to a company because this means I eat anything put in front of me, including company secrets and sensitive data documents that need to be shredded.

Personality Questions

9. If you were a biscuit, what kind of biscuit would you be?

Answer: A hobnob. Crumbly and delicious.

10. Are you now, or have you ever been, the kind of person to move someone else's cheese? How do you justify your behaviour?

Answer: If I move someone else’s cheese it is because they have not kept it away from the mice.

11. What's the one thing about you that you really wouldn't want us to know?

Answer: I have x-ray vision and can see through your underwear.

12. If your house were on fire, what's the first thing you'd take out, and why? How can you prove that your answer is your true one and not, say, something carefully thought up so that we would think you had a nice, well-balanced personality?

Answer: My Star Trek fridge magnets and that fact right there should tell you I’m not lying.

Thinking Outside the Box

13. What did the ugly duckling say to the rubber duck?

Answer: My god! Have you had a facelift?

14. Please describe your employment history in a witty allegorical tale involving characters drawn from Aesop's fables.

Answer: I was a camel working in an urban jungle with only a bored turtle and overactive hare for company. They decided to have a race. I sat back, put my feet up and pelted them with pistachio shells.

15. Please give three examples of times when you've used your interpersonal skills to settle a major international conflict.

Answer: I was there with the 300 at the battle of Thermopylae, and with the Russians in Stalingrad and in Baghdad with the American army when Sadam was arrested. Unfortunately nobody listened to me at any of the occasions and so international conflict continued. It is hard to be taken seriously when you look like a mix between a camel and a lemur.

16. We like employees who are prepared for any eventuality. What would your plan of action be if a massive comet - similar to the putative comet that wiped out the dinosaurs - slammed into the Earth one Tuesday afternoon, two days before a major deadline?

Answer: I suppose I might be tempted to die, charred and molded to the computer keyboard. But on second thoughts I would probably make the deadline in my emergency underground bunker.

17. It is a strange, but true, fact that 'Elvis' is an anagram of 'lives'. Describe your closest encounter with the King of Rock and Roll, and state your theory as to his current whereabouts. Please be warned that the management is firm in the belief that Elvis lives, and that any mention of the words 'death', 'died', 'deceased' or 'graveyard' in concurrence with the King will result in your immediately being shot. Sorry, did I say shot? I meant fired. Only I haven't hired you yet. OK, shot it is.

Answer: Elvis lives in my wardrobe. I’m sorry but in the interests of National Security that is as much as I can say.

18. Can you recite the whole of 'Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers' backwards, and repeat it three times?

Answer: Only if you buy me a drink first.

Metaphysical Conundrums

19. What did you do with the peanut?

Answer: I chewed it up and now its gone.

20. Do you think these questions are leading anywhere?

Answer: I don't know about you, but these questions are leading me to greatness.

And finally, because any list of 20 questions always comes with a bonus question:

Are You Paying Attention?

21. I have in my lunchbox the following: an ostrich egg and watercress sandwich made with pumperhumperdumpernickel bread; a cup of Nearly Instant Tomato Potato Soup; a multigrain, multiberry muffin; a packet of Oreos from the Dawn of Time; a banana with 'a.m.' written on it (for my Mid-Morning Banana Break); another banana with 'p.m.' written on it (for my Late Luncheon Banana Break); three cream crackers escorted by a scantily decorated tub of cream cheese; and a Warbly Marbly Black 'n' White ChocoBar. Please estimate the precise calorific value of my lunchbox (excluding its contents), to the nearest 0.001 of a kilocalorie.

Answer: I'm sorry. What's a calorie?

To be honest these aren't that far off some of the strangest questions I have actually been asked in a job interview. After a short discussion, Mr C and I compiled a list of some of the questions we have been asked during interviews over the last few years that we did not expect to hear:

'What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?' (how is this the business of an interviewer?!!)
'What defines you?' (how are you supposed to answer this question? 'Well, I'm a human. I'm female. I'm a mammal.')
'Have you ever done anything illegal?'
'Why were you paid so much in your last job?'
'Why were you paid so little in your last job?'
'Have you ever lied to your employer?'
'Where do you see yourself in a year? Would you want my job?'
'How would you feel about feeding my cat when I am on holiday?'
'Do you always wear your hair that long?'
'Why would someone like you, want a job like this?'
'Are you thinking about having children?' (are you f**king kidding me?! Are you actually going to ask me this question? You know it is technically illegal to ask me this kind of question in an interview, right?)
'Are you married?'
'Do you ever cycle?'
'Is there anything you have spectacularly failed at?'

Interviews are strange and the questions you get asked often don't actually reveal much about yourself to the prospective employer. Basically it comes down to whether the interviewer likes you and thinks he/she can work with you. So it is all based on subjective opinion, impression and assumption, rather than experience, qualifications, expertise or credentials. As my wise and beloved grandfather used to say: 'If you walk into the room for a job interview and you have brown eyes and the interviewer has blue, you're not going to get the job.'

This does not seem to apply to marriage luckily as my brown eyes are firmly partnered with Mr C's baby blues in a bond of holy matrimony for the foreseeable future. :)

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Happy International Women's Day!

So it is that time of year again! That one day, where everyone pays attention (including main stream news media) to the issues, concerns and welfare of women worldwide. I urge everyone to take the time today to read something written by a woman, to listen to a woman speak, to show a woman respect and to encourage and support the women around them. Stand up for the rights of women, treat them as equal and then remember that if we did this every day all over the world, we would not need a day devoted to one half of the human race.

'As a woman I have no country,
As a woman my country is the whole world'

Virginia Woolf

Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Inexperience of Attending Funerals.

It has been a long time since I have written. Several months in fact. Why? Well 'Life' has a way of becoming busy and intruding on any possible writing time. I have, however, come to the conclusion that I am happier when I write, even if it is only 5 or 6 lines a day. So here I am, back at the whole blogging thing, sending my words out into the cyber stratosphere. It is a chilly Sunday morning in London, the sun is shining through the big glass windows in my living room, I have a cup of rooibus tea and a toasted hot-cross-bun and I am playing some folk music on Spotify. My neighbor has just got up (late, as is his usual habit) and is banging about in the flat downstairs.The sky outside is blue, but large pale grey clouds are threatening to move in off the horizon and I suspect that we will have some rain before the day is finished. My husband is off elsewhere visiting his father and I have, unusually, the whole flat to myself. Peace and quiet with my own thoughts. There are a million and one things I could do, should do. But if I never make time for writing. If I never prioritise it, then it will never happen.

The last week has been a bit tumultuous. I am in a rather uncertain position at work. I may be promoted, but it is all still up in the air and I must wait a little while to see where I stand and what will become of my role. As with most things: 'good things come to those who wait.' I think I used to be a patient person, but over the last few years, my ability to wait for things to happen seems to have been eroded. I like to 'make' things happen now. So when I can do nothing to further the course of a particular path, I often feel frustrated. However, I have decided to be patient with my job and to wait it out, live with uncertainty for a while and see what happens.Once you decide to accept that some things may always remain uncertain in life, you actually feel a lot freer.

Apart from the uncertainty surrounding my career, there was also the uncomfortable and sad occasion of a funeral. An old work colleague and friend of my husband died suddenly two weeks ago and we attended his funeral on Friday.  I have been very fortunate not to lose too many people in my life so far and so I have not attended many funerals. My mother assures me that when I reach her stage of life, I will be attending one every month. Any funerals I have attended have almost always been in the UK. Except of course for my grandfather's memorial service which took place in America and was very small and only attended by my family. Funerals are odd events, especially in the UK. People often seem very stoical and reserved. They may show emotion, but they seem to keep a lid on any outpouring of grief. I suppose it must differ depending on the bereaved family and on the cultural background of the community, but I have never yet seen such outward displays of grief in England as I have seen in other countries, such as funerals on the news or in documentaries. This intrigues me, as I wonder if people grieve more in private after or before a funeral and then put on a brave face of others. I wonder, if when the occasion arises, it would be healthier for myself to just simply bawl my eyes out, even if I am doing so, very publicly. Perhaps the wailing and crying done in other parts of the world is actually cathartic. I suspect I am too English now, after growing up in the UK, as the idea of big public displays of emotion (especially crying) fills me with embarrassment.

I am often unsure how to feel, how to act and what to say at a funeral. I did not know my husband's friend at all, I went to the service to support my husband, but I could see how the deceased was much loved and how many people turned up. As usual, my husband and I got lost in the car on the way to the crematorium, ended up at the wrong end of the cemetery and we had to run to the service like two characters from Four Weddings and a Funeral. We almost always get lost on the way to a big occasion: weddings, funerals, birthdays, Christmas gatherings etc. We only just made it into a pew seconds before the casket was brought in and carried down the aisle. A rather unprepared priest said some prayers and random things that I thought were a little strange and inappropriate (including commenting on the choice of casket, which was a wicker basket and referencing Fifty Shades of Grey). My husband assured me that his friend would have probably thought the whole scene was hilarious. We sang a few hymns, a poem was read and two wonderful speeches were given by the brother of the deceased and his boss. The deceased was partially-sighted so his guide dog was brought to the ceremony too and everyone attended a wake in the local pub afterwards. People wept quietly, talked about their absent friend and work colleague, exchanged pleasantries and offered each other cups of tea and mini sandwiches from a nearby buffet. It was very civilised.

My husband later remarked that it did not feel real. That he could not believe his friend was truly gone. I wondered if this is how we process death now. Clinical, private, quiet and removed. As if the person you knew just walked away one day and disappeared. My husband described it as feeling like the deceased could just pop into the pub unexpectedly and have a drink with you. I don't think the average person in the UK experiences death regularly. Unless of course your job is somehow related to death and the dying, you are very removed from what people must have had experienced knowledge of in the past, when death was more regular and seeing dead bodies was more common. I've never seen a dead person. My husband saw is grandparents' bodies after they died and he describes it as a very disconcerting experience but that it was also helpful in saying goodbye to them. He felt that they had truly gone and not in some sort of theoretical sense, but in a very real and organic way. They had physically died and although it was very upsetting, it allowed him to grieve and to understand that this was a natural cycle and nothing to be frightened of. It gave him closure. In a way, it helped him to move beyond the event of their deaths and to remember their lives as well. When I think of my grandfathers, I cannot remember even the last time I saw them alive. I can't remember what my last words to them were. They simply existed and then they didn't. It is like they floated away off into some other reality. There was no finality in their passing. I heard of it like I heard the news on TV of some famous person dying, albeit more upsetting of course. I was across an expansive ocean in a different country when both my grandfathers died and somehow that makes me sadder than the idea of witnessing either of their deaths.

Everyone is different and what feels right to one person or one culture, will feel wrong to another, But personally for me, hiding away death, makes it more frightening and mythical. I don't want to be frightened or embarrassed or even reserved. If an idea is difficult or disturbing I want to look it in the face and confront it directly. I may be young and in good health and lucky because those around me are alive and prospering, but someday I will have to face the prospect of the death of someone close to me. I just hope that I can meet such an occasion with less awkwardness and allow myself to grieve any way that I feel is natural.