Thursday, December 22, 2005

Au Revoir

...for the holidays!

We're off to Dublin in the wee hours of the morning, then to Belfast in the evening :).

So, wishing everyone a happy holidays and a peaceful new year as we won't have internet access back in the sticks :).


Monday, December 19, 2005

In Belfast?!?!?!

My congratulations to Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close and to Henry Kane and Christopher Flanagan!

They became the first gay couples in the UK to have civil partnership ceremonies in Belfast of all places!!! I'm quite chuffed that my home town was the first. Its not often Northern Ireland manages to be on the forefront of implementing gay rights (or any other civil rights for that matter)! Naturally, the Free Ps couldn't let it go without a protest - but they protest events organised by other churches so where would we be without them, eh?! I'm quite impressed that the protest was so small and only Free P. As I said, they seem to enjoy protesting and will protest just about anything so I doubt very many will take much heed.

As it is, civil partnerships are "marriages in all but name". Personally, I'm hoping for the day when they're truly recognised as being emotionally and spiritually equal to marriage and they can be called marriage should the couple want that.

Still today is one step along the path and one piece of news to be happy about. So I toast to their happiness! I'm loving the big grins on Henry and Christophers' faces :)

Friday, December 16, 2005

I start my new job, first Monday in February. I could have started the first Monday in January, but I don't think its realistic for us to find a flat by then. That gives me one extra and very needed month to finish my PhD, delve into the very depths of my overdraft, find a new place to live and move there.

It all feels rather unreal at the moment. The lady on the phone said, 'Great, I'll make sure the consultant psychologist clears their schedule for that morning so they can show you around and introduce you to everyone.' Finally - clinical work! Woo woo!

Apparently they have taken on another new assistant and we'll be sharing an office. I've seen the office, its really nice and bright. Great working space, and hopefully, a new friend :)

I'm also looking forward to working with people with learning disabilities again. Having spent over 3 years working in an academic ivory tower, where everyone is judged by their intellectual weightiness, it will be nice to come back down to earth. What little experience I have had working alongside people with learning disabilities before has always reminded me of my own humanity and to value people for people's sake.

PS. For American readers - learning disabilities is called mental retardation in your land. It's considered appalling to call it that in the UK!

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Please continue to keep Tom Fox, Norman Kemble & the two Canadian hostages in your prayers/in the light/in your thoughts...

I cannot help but be humbled by the grace and peace that comes across in their messages home and in Tom Fox's blog, Waiting in the Light.

"I have been opposed to this war, Mr Blair's war, since the very beginning but I ask him now... to work for my release and the release of the Iraqi people from oppression."
Norman Kember

One thing that has made a strong impression on me is militants who have opposed Western involvement in Iraq speaking out on behalf of these men. More info here. Abu Qatada, described by a Spanish judge as al-Qaeda's ambassador in Europe made this plea from prison in the UK:

"I am your brother Abu Qatada, Omar bin Mahmud...I urge my brothers in the Brigades of Swords of Truth in Iraq to release them in line with the principle of mercy of our religion, if there was no compelling religious duty against it."

How much we need men of peace like these men. Who else could bend the ear and earn the respect of both Western governments and Al Quaeda? The way they have followed may well be the way forward for all of us.

I hope for their release and that they will be able to continue to wage peace in Iraq.

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God." ~ Jesus


I found the Queen of England lurking in my old files...

Remember this?

Well, Elton's back :)!!!

I will survive my thesis write up...

Chapter 1 done
Chapter 2 done

The worst is over - 300 references (count them) and 62 pages main lit review is finished, accompanied by Elton at his most camp!

Now to write my empirical chapters...*yawn*...


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Peacemakers kidnapped in Iraq

This letter is doing the rounds at the moment - I thought I would put it here to raise awareness.

I hope that everyone who reads this blog, Christian, Quaker, Muslim, Atheist or something else entirely will be inspired by Tom Fox's example and consider how we can all join together not only in support of Tom Fox and those who have been kidnapped, but with the Iraqi people in their quest for peace and justice in the face of Saddaam's regime, the recent invasion by the US and the UK and terrorism.

Tom Fox was writing a blog when he was in Iraq which you can find here. He has written some very challenging and moving accounts of his experiences in Iraq which make for very uncomfortable but very necessary reading.

There are three parts to this blog post:

1. A letter from Friends (Quakers) concerning Tom Fox
2. A open letter from Lorcan Otway
3. A message from Premier Christian radio (whoever would have thought the day would come when Premier Christian radio would get a mention on my blog) concerning Norman Kember who was also taken.

Peace to all,

1. Quaker Letter

Dear Friend--

We are Quakers and admirers of Tom Fox, kidnapped in Iraq with three other peaceworkers on Nov. 26. Please join us in taking action aimed at helping free them, safely and soon. Joining together through the web, we can keep their plight and innocence before the world, and their captors.

To this end, we have put up a new website,:

We believe that the most help those outside Iraq can be to these prisoners is to make clear to the world, and especially their captors, that they were in Iraq NOT as spies, military contractors, or even missionaries, but as unarmed advocates of peace, justice, and reconciliation.

They have done no wrong, and deserve to be free and safe. We call on their captors to let them go, now.

If you agree, here are the specific steps we advocate. Time is of the essence:

1. Visit the website: There you can sign a special petition page, aimed at the captors.

You can also link there to Tom Fox's Iraq blog.

2. Hold a public vigil or prayer service focused on the call, expressed in your own words, to release the captives, end the occupation and stop torture. Join with like-minded groups, and invite the media to attend and report on your action.

3. Write to newspapers, call in to radio shows, and tell them of the innocence of these peaceworkers and your support for their immediate release. Mention the website!

4. Send emails to the feedback pages of media such as Al-Jazeera, Al Arabiya and other major national and international media, especially in the Gulf region (any other links??), repeating the call to free the captives.

5. If you are part of a group or church with a peace and justice emphasis, ask them to join this effort in whatever public way is appropriate to their polity.

6. Let us know what you are doing.

7. VERY IMPORTANT - Pass this message on! Tell your friends about the website, petition, and action suggestions..

With your email help, we can quickly reach supporters of peace and justice throughout the world. Together our voices can make a powerful chorus for freeing the captives and ending the war.

As this urgent effort continues, we'll be updating the site. They have done no wrong, and deserve to be free and safe. We call on their captors to let them go, now.

Thank you and Peace,

Chuck Fager & John Stephens


2. Letter from Lorcan Otway

Please pass this along, if any can translate the following into Arabic, please do me the honor of so doing. I am placing this letter into many hands, in hope it will reach those for whom it is intended.

An Open Letter to our Brothers holding Tom Fox and other CPT members in Iraq:

Dear Brothers in the one God:

It is early morning in America. I am a Quaker and I am trying to find words to stay your hand. I can only say that hatred is blind and love is unconditional.

Many people from our nation have come to your nation in blind hatred and killed innocent people. Tom Fox is not one of these people. He came to your nation with all his human fears, because his love was unconditional. He came to ask his own people not to kill you. He came not to judge you, innocent or guilty, but to say live together in peace and find a better way. He did not come to change your government, but to change our own people's hearts towards you.

He came to your country in the same light that Rachel Corrie went to Palestine to stand in the way of Israeli tractors destroying Palestinian homes. To spare Tom Fox and his companions is to show the Israeli people that it was wrong take the young life of Rachael Corrie.

I ask you to stay your hand, because we will still love you, no less or no more, if you break our hearts by taking the life of these good people who love you.

I ask you to stay your hand because you can. When you stand before your God, next to the American who wore an army uniform, next to the one who drove the tractor that killed Rachael Corrie, and our God asks each of you, why have you taken the lives of innocents, what difference will there be in your answer? When, some day, and I pray after a long life of loving works, Tom stands before our God and is asked why he placed his life in your hands, I think you know his answer. Because hatred is blind and love is unconditional.

"Whoever has saved a life, it will be as if he has saved the life of all mankind" (Quran 5:32)

Gods love and mercy to thee

In unmovable Friendship

Lorcan Otway

A member of the committee of Ministry and Counsel for the New York Quarterly Meeting
of the Religious Society of Friends
also known as Quakers.
3. Message from Premier Christian Radio, courtesy of Kate K from talkback

It is likely you have seen or read reports on the capture of the Christian aid worker Professor Norman Kember in Iraq. As a conscientious objector to war, Norman Kember was visiting the Middle East as a gesture of support for other Christian aid workers in the field.

A devout Christian, Professor Kember spoke to Premier Christian Radio weeks before his trip as part of Remembrance Sunday. He told Dr Rob Frost his visit to Iraq was 'a gesture of solidarity with the Christian peacemaker teams in Iraq.' He hoped to 'meet ordinary Iraqis of various backgrounds, Shiats, Suni, Christians and hear their stories, then come back and talk about it.'

We are all praying for the safe release of Norman Kember and his fellow hostages, for his wife Pat and the families and friends of all the hostages involved in this terrible event. I urgently request you do the same.

Church Leaders please contact everyone within your congregation and network urgently and ask them to pray for the release of Professor Norman Kember and his fellow hostages. Fellow Christians please log on to the premier website to listen to the full interview with Professor Kember to find prayer points and an area to leave your own prayers.

Prayers for Professor Kember and his family members are needed as a matter of urgency, please persist in your prayers and in encouraging other Christians around you to pray.

Yours in Christ
Peter Kerridge
for Premier Radio

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Last month as a postgrad...

Or at least, the last month I'm paid to be one.

My supervisor told me he had just written a reference for my new job and that he'd told them he was very confident I would be written up by January. I'm glad he's confident. I'm still writing chapter 1. Er....

Anyway, this cartoon made me giggle....

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Oh my....

I called my grandparents this afternoon and got into a conversation with my gran about the X-factor and made a shocking discovery.

My granny, a woman in her 70s with a very dodgy hip is a serious Chico fan.

I just don't know what to say...but hee hee.

For the Americans and people from other countries on my blog (or those who consider themselves too cultured to watch the X-factor)...the X factor is the UK equivalent of American Idol. You know the set up, two judges gush and coo over the participants, Simon Cowell sneers mockingly, 'Really, it was like a very bad karaoke performance. I don't know why you are in this competition, ' and the audience boo.

Chico used to be a stripper, in the run up to the show he performed in Ozzy Osbourne's house and ran into the pool with a microphone. Even the prince of darkness himself said he was mad. He has a certain cheesey charm about him. Simon described last week's performance as, 'Horrifically brilliant.'

He is fun and I enjoy him being on the show - but my gran, a fan?!?!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Instructions for life

Instructions for Life From the Dalai Lama, on the Millenium

1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

2. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

3. Follow the three Rs:
-Respect for self
-Respect for others and
-Responsibility for all your actions.

4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

6. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship. 7. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

8. Spend some time alone every day.

9. Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.

10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time.

12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life. 13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.

14. Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.

15. Be gentle with the earth.

16. Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.

17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I feel sick...

I am about to take my clinical psychology training application to the post office.

I feel sick as a parrot, want to vomit and I am shaking like a leaf.

I managed to find a glaring typo this morning after I had printed the darn thing 5 times. Amazing, having read it some thousand times myself, had my spelling & grammar guru of a dad, my partner, a professional proof reader and God knows how many 'I'll read your's if you'll read mine' deals with other applicants.


I am told this is normal. Another applicant I know off queued at the postoffice, only to get to the desk and decide she had to proof read it just one more time. So, she grabbed it back again, apologised profusely, amidst many stares, glares and giggles from the rest of the staff and queue. She read it, joined the queue again and there was much raucous from the post office staff...I will not do this. I promise myself, I will not do this.

But I can't have it sitting on my desk for a minute longer - so I am off to the post office. Wish me luck! Now to look forward to the dread of interviews or the dreadful melancholy of rejection. As you can see, its happy happy joy joy all the way with me today.

PS. Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends for this weekend.

PPS. I have a new guestmap, please stick your pin in it :)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Do something good today...

My good mate, Paul Turner's girlfriend, a qualified teacher from England, is in Malawi, teaching and caring for orphan kids and families that are victims of aids and famine.

She's blogging about her experiences here

This is her with a very very cute kid. There are lots of very cute kids she's working with who lack even the very basics - clothes, writing materials, food, shelter, a family. Even a small gift means so much to these kids. So if you can spare a few pounds or dollars...then consider dropping a gift directly to Caroline. T-shirts, pens, pencils, little notebooks, silly toys for kids who will be going to their first ever party...Send it to her at
Caroline Tredrea
CCAP Likhubula House,
PO Box 111,

If you want to help, send things to her directly, or contact me. Paul's going out to Milawe in January and can take stuff to her directly. Otherwise, feel free to post things to Caroline. A little gift can make such a huge difference to these kids. Caroline will personally distribute anything you send.

She writes as follows....

Well, I have received a number of lovely lovely emails from people lately in support of what I'm doing but a common thread that seems to be appearing in many of them is that people still want to help. First off, this amazes me since I am still overwhelmed by the donations and support I received when preparing to leave and now the ongoing generosity is genuinely moving.

Anyway, if you did feel that you wanted to send out anything for the children here to help with school or just generally, I thought I'd write a little list of things that I know they would all appreciate so much.


First off, any packages that you want to send out, can be sent directly to me at the following address and I will distribute where the need is greatest.

Caroline Tredrea
CCAP Likhubula House,
PO Box 111,

Please note that the postage costs soar with parcels over 2kg, so if want to send out more than 2kg, it pays to sent two parcels! Also although packages have generally arrived within 2 weeks so far, the postal service (as with all the other services here!) can be hit and miss!

And so to things that would go down well here...

* Children are often without pencils or pens so any type of writing materials will be appreciated.
* There are NO reading or story books at the school. Children are taught from STD1 in English so any kids' English comics or light reading books would be greatly treasured by the recipient.
* Tiny toys such as the plastic ones you might put in children's party bags in the UK. I remember seeing bags of about 10 in ASDA for a pound or so. Oh, and playing cards or travel games that I can play on street corners with kids rather than trying to make conversation in basic English and it drying up within 30 seconds would be handy for me!
* (girls are not allowed long hair so hair accessories and the like would not really be used)
* T-shirts and things are tricky because once word gets around, 1000 children appear at the door wanting one. However, some of the children's clothes are in a terrible state - more holes than t-shirt, especially the little ones, so t-shirts for ages about 4-10 would find good and appreciative homes.
* Little non-perishable treats such as Haribo are like gold dust!

I'm organising a party for my class on 12th November, for most of them it's their first party, and although post wouldn't reach me before then, I am just appealing for any games ideas that would work during my party. I have had a good think but I get stumped by the following restrictions;

* There are 120 of them and if we wait for them to have a go each, we'd be there till November 13th.
* There is no electricity
* I am still not yet fluent in Chichewa so games should keep language to a minimum
* There are no chairs or tables so musical chairs etc are out the window.

Any ideas, please let me know!

I think that's about it. I hope you find these ideas useful. As I said before, please don't feel obliged to send anything, these are just ideas and I appreciate so much the generosity of people in the past.

Reality bites...

I'm staring blankly at my application for clinical psychology training. Thus far, the one thing that has kept me going through my PhD - the possibility of getting to work with people at the end of it and suddenly I'm shitting myself.

I mean. Firstly, I am applying to courses in places I have never been before because they look kind of interesting. I'm not even sure I could place Norwich accurately on a map. I have a vague idea of it being on the right hand side, around the middle-ish.

Not only that, but I am opening myself to the possibility of moving anywhere with about a 50 mile radius from any of these courses (with the intention of buying a house), and thinking, 'OMG, I have no idea how to buy a house.' My 'rents will be getting many many phone calls.

I keep swapping and changing my mind about which courses I want to do. I cannot get my form to look 'just so' - perfectionism is paralysing sometimes!

Then the self doubt comes in. Am I really cut out to work with people? I get pretty narked off with people sometimes. Do I have the stamina to go through another doctoral level degree? My current one regularly has me loosing sleep, crying and swearing at the computer.

Will I dig commuting long distances to placements? Will I cope with the driving? And what if I'm no good at "therapy"? I could be crap...the first time I did a research interview I was shaking. The interviewee had to make me a cup of tea! Even now, when my participants cry, I feel really awkward. Don't do tears I'm afraid. That's pretty poor show for a psychologist.

And if I don't get on a course, what do I do?!?! There's nothing else - and I can't do research! Social work - God save me!


O n e t h i n g a t a t i m e . . . . . .

Thursday, November 03, 2005

ADHD - the big debate

I've spent the past 3 years of my life studying ADHD - more specifically, I study how family factors impact on children and parents' attitudes to medication - particularly around issues of stigma associated with taking medication. ADHD is a real hot potato at the moment. Some don't believe in it, some are adamant that it is a neurochemical disorder and therefore can only be treated by neurochemical means. Others say it is a social construction, designed to oppress masculinity.

Recently I have been feeling frustrated...Let me re-phrase, at times I have been feeling downright angry at my own situation as a psychologist in an increasingly medical-model dominated (did I say dominated, I mean monopolised) research group. My skepticism has been growing at an exponential rate. So I thought I would record my random thoughts on my blog and invite my blog readers - informed or not, to comment. I know there are some people with ADHD who read my blog, at least one other psychologist and goodness knows who else. So please...Feel free to contribute.

I will talk about genetic and neurochemical approaches to ADHD and their limitations. I will talk about the implications of research funding for the kind of research we do and how we interpret it. I will take about the critical voices and how perhaps they aren't quite so critical afterall. I will talk about a need for genuine reflection on the social and cultural aspects of ADHD and ask if there are other ways of responding outside the medical model. And as this is my blog, not an academic paper, I will intersperse it with little cartoons for amusement value...enjoy!

Ok, so. Firstly there is some evidence for a genetic basis but equal evidence that genetics are far from being the whole story. Whatever the genetic component of ADHD, it is entangled with other environmental and social factors and this should never be forgotten in genetic research.

Secondly there is evidence of neurobiological correlates to ADHD symptoms. These shouldn't be ignored, but in themselves I don't think they legitimise drug therapy.

Thirdly, medication (e.g. ritalin) does have a beneficial impact on children who have been diagnosed with ADHD. We know this both from clinical trials and from the experience of countless parents and children. HOWEVER, the is a real issue of publishing bias. Almost every researcher in this field (myself included) is funded, at least in part, by pharmaceutical companies. Basically no drug company money, no jobs.

Whether we are aware of it or not, the fact that most research and most researchers are dependent on financial contributions from the pharmaceutical industry effects what we publish, what we research, how we research it and how we interpret it. I've yet to hear a drug-company funded researcher really give an open and critical reflection on these issues. More to the point, I do not feel comfortable bringing up these ideas within my research group as I know they would not be welcome. They would be deemed wacko and far too political. I think, that says it all really. My PhD research has not encouraged me to think critically around these so vital issues.

There are people who write very critically about ADHD and drug treatment. However, most papers in this field are highly emotive and fail to seriously engage with issues of genetics, neurochemistry and research highlighting the potential benefits of medication. I suspect the motivation behind most of the opposition is a philosophical objection to psychtrophic medication rather than a pure concern for child welfare. Let me be frank, the critical psychologists aren't helping themselves be heard, and IMHO, their over-emotive and scientifically inaccurate ranting represent a serious barrier to intelligent dialogue and discussion.

Nevertheless, I think many of them have points that are worth listening to. As a disorder, ADHD is shockingly ill-defined and it is really more of an umbrella term for a set of behaviours and cognitive symptoms that are currently socially devalued. ADHD is culturally defined and constructed - lets never forget this. ADHD symptoms are problematic in a social context. The history of psychiatry should humble (or maybe even humiliate) us into a bit self-critical reflection every now and again! It wasn't that long ago we thought gayness was a psychiatric disease and transsexuality is still in the diagnositic handbook! (That's a whole other discussion - but I think it ought to be removed - sharpish!)

It is possible that the social disapproval and resulting stigma and systematic exclusion of children who have ADHD symptoms may cause more distress than the ADHD symptoms themselves per se. Therefore the social-constructionists amongst us really do have an important contribution to make, and I think we do need to think on a systemic and community level regarding ADHD. Are the demands we put on our children reasonable? Do we allow our children space to be themselves (whatever that means)?
Do we utilise our children's natural abilities and aptitudes in order to maximise their enjoyment and development? Personally, I'm very interested in interactive and kinetic teaching methods and how these might help a lot of children learn in a more dynamic way that suits their temperament and fosters their unique talents.

In discussions with psychologists, social workers and teachers, I have often encountered an incredibly negative reaction to medication for ADHD. Again, I suspect this is an emotional, philosophical reaction. Parents are often blamed and medication is seen as an easy option. However, I think parent-blaming is unacceptable and the vast majority of parents I know, think long and hard and really battle with themselves before accepting medication for themselves. Often it is used as a last resort (which may not be particularly helpful or wise.)

At the moment, there was very little evidence as to the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions for ADHD. BUT, success in psychosocial intervention trials is often measured in medical model terms, focusing on symptom reduction. Psychosocial intervention needs to be tailed to the individual, familial, social and cultural situations of each child & family (and school for that matter). Therefore, randomised controlled trials may not be the ideal methodology for research in psychosocial intervention, and measuring success in medical model terms is outright ridiculous as our aim is often to reduce the distress associated with ADHD symptoms rather than "curing" the symptoms themselves.

With regard to medication, I do think there is a need for serious reflection and discussion on the social and psychological impact of taking psychotrophic medication in childhood (and in adulthood - and for any kind of mental disorder). Personally, I am convinced that taking medication has psychological and social repercussions for the individual and for society quite separate from the pharmacological effect of the medication itself. (Is this hard to explain, because I once attempted to have this conversation with my supervisor and he acted like I was suggesting leprechauns were real?). What does taking medication for behaviour mean to a child? To a parent? To a teacher? To a peer group? How does it impact on a child's sense of self? Does is lead to stigma? These are very real issues not only for people who take medication or whose children take medication - these are issues for all of us and how we all think about our own behaviours and our own interaction within society and response to those individuals who find themselves diagnosed with a mental illness or taking psychotropic drugs.

Finally - where is the ADHD advocacy movement? In autism there is a growing movement seeking to value neurodiversity. I recently read an article written by an autistic man who insisted he wasn't a man with autism (the current language in vogue amongst the politically correct) but an autistic man. His autism was a part of his identity and he was proud of it. That's challenging to me as a psychologist about to take a job where some of my clients will have autism.

But what are the unique skills and attributes of children and adults who could be diagnosed with ADHD. How can these be valued and encouraged within our society? Many adults and older teenagers I have met with ADHD say they would never want to be "cured" - but where are their voices, and will researchers, psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers and parents be brave enough to listen?

Monday, October 31, 2005

An ode to beetroot...and Jamie Oliver

I am addicted now. Ever since the market at uni started selling bags of fresh beetroot, I've been eating tons of the stuff.

We had a couple of beets left over from my latest batch of borscht and I went off on a great web-search for interesting recipes, whereupon I discovered Jamie Oliver's website and this recipe for baked beetroot with garlic & balsamic vinegar. YUM! It was the best Sunday evening supper ever.


I'm so disappointed that despite eating all this beetroot my wee has yet to turn pink.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

We're moving....

To High Wycombe.

I got an NHS Assistant Psychologist post in a Learning Disabilities Team.

Woooo...kind off. We've got to leave our wee flat...*sniff*...and our friends *wails*.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

This job...that job...the other job

I've just been offered that elusive thing I've been searching Assistant Psychologist (AP) job!

Its in a charity working with people with learning disabilities. I was impressed by the set-up - its working partly in a residential facility and partly in the community. All of the staff (I've met the manager, some of the care staff and the current APs) seemed geninely nice, friendly people and the whole place does seem to be a really friendly, people-centred place to work. The psychologist was absolutely lovely and in the interview, we did actually have a long discussion about the pros and cons of working for the charity versus the NHS and the potential for getting on to a training course from the position. I am stunned that after such a frank discussion and my own admission that I might be put off the job by the fact it wasn't NHS that they offered me the job!

The job is very heavily clinical - most of the work is direct client contact with relatively little audit/administrative work. The supervisor was fantastic - I really felt I clicked with her. She likes to work systemically (which is something I'm seriously interested in) and says she will insist on a minimum of one hour formal supervision a week and to expect much more in informal supervision as there is a lot of clinical responsibility in the job. There's also lots of working within a mul-disciplinary team, training care staff etc. Its the kind of post I think I need as I have oodles of research experience and a lot of child psych experience so this would be an entirely new area for me.

My only dilemma is that it isn't an NHS post and the pay is peanuts (less than the NHS - shocking isn't it!). I've been applying for some of the senior AP positions in the NHS and I'm still waiting to hear back from several of them. Its very competitive and I don't want to shoot myself in the foot by holding out for another job offer and then not getting one! On the otherhand, if I were to be offered another post, was impressed by the psychologist in the interview, it was NHS and the pay was substantially higher...I can't say I wouldn't be sorely tempted! I don't like messing people around, so I want to give them a straight yes or no answer. I just wish I could wait to hear back from other places first.

I have one week to decide...answers on a postcard please...

But on a more positive note. Look what partner dude surprised me with this morning :D. Thank you darling!

Friday, October 21, 2005

All our senses

All our senses are given to us to enjoy,
And to praise God.
The smell of the sea,
The blossom borne on the wind,

of the soft flesh of a little baby;

the taste of a ripe plum

or bread fresh from the oven,

the feel of a warm cat's fur,

or the body of a lover -
these are all forms of thanksgiving prayer.

-Bella Brown (in 'Plain Living - A Quaker Path to Simplicity' by Cathering Whitmire)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

5 things

Courtesy of Amanda...

What I was doing 10 years ago:
I was 15, right this moment, I was probably waiting for the bus to take me home from school. I was far to studious.

5 years ago:
I was on placement in a child mental health clinic and really enjoying it. I was running a telephone helpline and raising riot in studentland. Ah, those were the days. *sigh* (and omg, was it really 5 years ago...)

1 year ago:
I was just starting the third year of my PhD. Again, being far to studious. Getting fed up with it and preparing myself to move to NYC for 4 months. Actually, maybe I was also preparing to go to Oslo. That was fun :) Actually, it wasn't that fun because it was work related and I had to be at booorrrriiiinnnggg talks from 8am til 10pm most days. But the day I had off was fun. I discovered that handles on coffee cups are not the norm in Norway. :D

I worked from 9am til midnight. Yawn. But I did get to re-acquaint myself with a fantastic album from my youth, so all is not lost!

5 snacks I enjoy:
clementines (I love them!)
dairy milk (Americans, you don't know what you are missing)
maya gold (mmmmm & guilt free - organic fair trade yummyness)
blueberry muffins
green tea (not really a snack, but I like the stuff a lot)

5 songs I know all the words to:
Imagine (John Lennon)
Closest Thing to Crazy (Katie Melua)
These are the Days (Jamie Callum)
Eye to the Telescope (KT Tunstall)
Fields of Gold (Sting...was it him originally tho?!)
& far too many embarrassing happy clappy crappy Jesus songs :S

5 Things I would do with $100 million:
Pay off my student loan
Give a lot of it away to some worthy charity
Fund a few students who wouldn't otherwise be able to go to uni
Buy a house & pay off my mum's mortgage
Go on a world tour with partner dude

5 locations I would like to run away to:
Scottish Highlands
West Coast of Ireland (ok, the first two aren't very imaginative, but they're the most quiet, peaceful places on earth...well, in the UK anyway)
India (although I doubt I could cope with the heat)
New Zealand

5 bad habits I have:
I chew my nails
I procrastinate
I stay up too late
...and get up too late as a consequence :S
I am messy sometimes

5 things I like doing:
Going to quiet, remote places where I cannot be contacted
Web geekery related activities
Volunteer work
Watching arty farty films & documentaries
Spending time with partner dude & friends

5 things I would never wear: (We need visuals!)
hot pants (it wouldn't be pretty, ok!)
a cat suit
um, um, um, um
I'm not sure if I can think of anything else!

5 TV shows I like:
Jamie Oliver stuff
The Apprentice
The X-factor
How Clean is your House (I know, terrible choices...sorry!)

5 biggest joys of the moment:
The prospect of a job change!
Spending time with partner dude
Spending time with friends
Seeing my PhD looming towards an end (on occasion I get a glimpse of it - about 1 second a week, but still, that's 1 second a week when I see an ending)
Entering data...a lot of it :)

5 Favorite toys:
Partner dude's computer
I'm, um, I'm, er, out of pathetic is that?! Ok, I need new toys! :(
I want an ipod!

5 Next victims:
Well, whoever does it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

All I really want... a life.

Its 8pm, I've just spent a day at work teaching...

-one way anova
-how to enter more complex data sets
-repeated measures anova
-mixed design anova
-main effects & interactions
-post-hoc comparisons
-controlling for multiple comparisons using simple effects analysis second year students who are still struggling with very basic statistic concepts. Oh and, btw, they have a test on this next week that counts to their final my inbox swell...

Hmmm. I taught this course last year and I'm sure we taught all that over the course of a term - not in one 2 hour tutorial?! (I don't design the course, in case you're wondering why I would do such a thing!)

Now I am entering data (I am grateful to have data, no really I am) at 8pm at night, having been at work til 7pm. Thankfully partner dude has escaped to the pub for the evening, leaving me at home to crank up good old Alanna at her angiest.

How appropriate.

Tips on stress management welcome.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I can relate...

Friday, October 14, 2005

39% evil, 61% good

I'm disappointed - I wanted to be more evil..

This site is certified 39% EVIL by the Gematriculator
This site is certified 61% GOOD by the Gematriculator

How does your blog fare? Find out here

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


When I was in New York I volunteered at a homeless shelter for a while. Some of the young people who I met when I was there are featured here.

Seeing their photos brought back to me some of the harsh realities I discovered in New York. I've been writing another job application today, and on it I mention my experiences with these young people as giving me a greater awareness of diversity issues and the specific needs of minority communities. Is that really all it is to me? Something to add to my CV. God, I hope not.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Borscht cravings

I spent the first 3 and a half months of 2005 in New York. While I was there I spent a lot of time with Friends from Fifteeth Street Meeting.

Fifteenth street is very close to an area of New York with a lot of eastern european people and more importantly a restaurant called Little Poland, which is very popular with members and attenders of 15th St.

Anyways, to cut a long story short, I spent a lot of time in Little Poland slurping borscht and munching peroggi - and that's to say nothing of the outrageously yummy apple cake.

Ever since I have had cravings for borscht, which I put to an end to day when I went to the market and found a lot of beetroot. I stocked up and tonight I made my very own borscht.


My cravings are satisfied (I'm not pregnant, honest).

Anyway, in the style of Paul Turner, and especially for Lorcan, Ryan and Amanda (who I ate just far tooo much borscht with), I thought I'd post the photos :)

Borscht for two

Life - a gift?

I am in the last 3 months of my PhD funding. Ideally I want to finish by Christmas, but this doesn't look all that promising right now. I'm bored and frustrated, job hunting and hoping beyond hope that somehow I'll find the energy and motivation to finish this thing.

I try to see life as a gift. It is an immense joy to experience life - to live, to breathe, to love, to simply be alive. I try to appreciate it and milk it for all its worth. But, my attitude for the last few weeks, maybe even months hasn't been to accept this stage of my PhD as a gift, but rather as a curse, to be got over as quickly as possible so that I can collapse at the end of it, have my viva, make my amendments (if they tell me to re-submit or do more studies, the answer will be no way on this sweet earth), get the binded copies into the library, give one to my dad and get on with life and put this whole damned charade behind me.

But this is not a way to live. This quotation from John Woolman spoke to me.

"Open your eyes to the flaming vision
of the wonder of such a life.
Begin where you are. Now.
If you slip and stumble
don't spend too much time in anguished regrets
and self-accustions but begin again
Don't grit your teeth and clench your fists and say,
"I will! I will!" Relax.
Take hands off. Submit yourself to God...
Let life be willed through you.'

So can these next few months be accepted as a gift to unwrap and celebrate? They will be tough, I have no doubt about it. But can I accept them with joy? I'll try, I will try to stop and remember what a wonder it is simply to be. Maybe its ironic that after reading some Woolman, by thoughts turn to a quotation I read in Dawkin's 'Unweaving the rainbow' which said, 'To live at all is miracle enough.' Indeed it is - even if it means the inevitable frustration and turmoil that come with finishing a PhD.

Although damn it, I still just want a holiday free of PhD worries...)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Truth is my authority

I stumbled across a quotation the other day that brought back memories of leaving evangelicalism behind.

"Truth is my authority, not some authority my truth.'
~Mary Dyer

I remember reading it in a book and saying to myself, 'Yes, that's how I want to live my life,' kissing away the authority of preachers, churches and ancient books and opening myself up to follow my own heart and wherever honesty and integrity would lead me.

Its been one year since partner dude and I started attending Quaker meetings. One aspect of Quakerism that I find rings consistently true and perpetually challenging is the honesty testimony. Being honest 100% of the time is tough.

To be consistently honest in my work, not taking shortcuts (hey, I'm a research student - we like shortcuts). Now, as I apply for various jobs and have to present myself honesty, not fluffing up my application forms and trying to find a way to put my true self across in interviews (not just what I think they want to hear) - that's not easy.

But also in my own personal journey of discovery and exploration. Finding a way to be true to my experience and to follow the inner voice, questionning, reflecting, being totally honest. That's tiring. Sometimes it would be nice to have a book to turn to for absolute guidance (but Quaker texts are full of soul searching questions, and even the Bible itself is more of a blinding light than a guiding one!)

But this is where honesty, integrity and truth will lead, and that's where I want to go. True to myself, true to the world and true to others.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Too English to be ex-gay?

It has been really interesting to spend time with Peterson and hear what some of we good English folk have to say about the ex-gay movement. Here's the question - is it relevant here? Ok, so we don't have our very own homonomo half-way house, we don't have an ex-gay media presence - indeed, surely we quite Brits are too busy slurping tea over cucumber sandwiches (no crusts) and munching digestive biscuits to be bothered about converting homosexuals?

Not so, I promise.

I grew up in an evangelical church and in my late teens and very early 20s I was very involved in the charismatic movement - and trust me, misguided ideas about homosexuality are as prominent here as they are on the other side of the Atlantic.

The church I went to was affiliated with Ichthus and I once went on a whole week long Ichthus camping experience (yes, it was as hellish as it sounds...don't ask me about the "prophetic music making" sessions...*shudders*). At that conference, books by people such as Leanne Payne and Mario Bergner came highly recommended at the bookstall. That's where Ichthus leaders get their information about sexuality.

People in my church gave me said Leanne Payne book early on in my psychology degree. It was disturbing - anyone with half an inkling about psychological theory would know instantly how utterly crack-potted it is. But, I fear most church leaders don't have even a basic grounding in psychology or even decent counselling theories that would enable them to critically evaluate such books in the light of what modern science and psychology can tell us about same-sex attraction.

Another recent phenonemon in the evangelical movement in this part of the world is the growth of Christian Counselling. It was once recommended to me, in one of the largest charismatic churches in the UK, certainly the largest in the city where I live, that I should go on such a course so as to ensure that I had a solid Christian grounding in my work. I declined the offer in favour of attending training accredited by mainstream counselling regulatory bodies and the British Psychological Society (our equivalent of the American Psychological Association.) Some Christian leaders weren't impressed by my choice, but even as a committed charismatic Christian, I recognised the pitfalls of a counselling service operating within local churches and overseen by people with a specific religious agenda. I so regret resisting the temptation to say, 'I hear what you're saying about having a solid Christian foundation, but I'd rather have an evidence base.' Me-ow. ;)

Out of curiosity, I searched for 'homosexuality' on the Association of Christian Counsellors and found an advertisement for an Exodus conference.

My lovely and very kind house group leaders were convinced that gay people, if offered support could be celibate and have a very special relationship with the Holy Spirit. My pastor when I attended an AOG/Ichthus affiliated church and who is one of the most personable and compassionate people, publically preached that we knew homosexuality to be unnatural because we know penises don't belong up anuses. In another Ichthus church I went to, a senior leader denounced the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading as a sign of the terrible unrighteousness in the church and my youth leader in a Northern Irish lifelink church used to call things 'gay' when he didn't like them. 'Oh, what a gay piece of music,' and that sort of thing.

And yes, I even know people who have attempted to cast out those evil and depraved demons of homosexuality. How nice.

Was I involved in unusual crack-pot churches? No, I was not. I was just aware of what was going on because some of my closest friends were gay Christians - some of them still are, but many have left churches and are pursing their own spirituality, some still hurt from the rejection caused by well-meaning but very very misguided Christians.

I'm telling you now - all this is going on behind the scenes in a church near you - yes, even the ones with cucumber sandwiches, and most likely in the ones with a lively and active group of young people.

I'd be really interested to know if anyone else has had similar (or different) experiences. There are, obviously, some gay affirming churches in the UK and many of the more traditional Anglican and Methodist churches are very open. Indeed, I know a URC trained lay-reacher who says she thinks its a crying shame that Rowan Williams has let himself be influenced by those terrible evangelicals. And although, I appreciate that the situation may be more complex than that - I also sympathise with the sentiment.

But hey, next time I get asked why I have an interest in the ex-gay movement and if its really only a crazy American thing...I'll just refer them to this blog post.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Lets be sexy

"There is no such creation as a "gay" or "homosexual" person." So say Love in Action, the increasingly infamous treatment program for homosexuals.

You know I almost agree with them.

I've had a social constructivist bent ever since I studied at a centre for research into intellectual disabilities and did my undergraduate project in cultural representations of childhood in the language used during Parent-Child-Interaction-Therapy. I must admit, it is probably to the chagrin of my current die-hard positivist PhD supervisors that after 3 years of squeezing myself into a rather medicalised research group, I am more convinced than ever of the need to consider the implications of social constructivist philosophy for mental health.

But I digress, and I'm sure my intellectualised rants about the philosophy of science and the manner in which the underlying beliefs behind psychological theories and priniciples may be oppressive to people with mental illness are probably not of much interest. But brushing up on social constructionism has reminded me how much our experience of the world is associated with the language we use.

Partner-dude and I have been priveleged to have Peterson staying with us this weekend - so naturally we've spent a lot of time discussing queer issues.

I wonder why do we categorise people's sexuality by the gender of who they fancy.

Am I, someone who has always been attracted to males really so simple as to be 'heterosexual'. Am I incidentally homosexual because I posed for a camera, kissing a female friend once (the joys of photo pub crawls...and the ensuing embarrassment when a photograph of said incident made it into the hands of some of my conservative Christian friends!)

I suspect that our language constrains us to think about sexuality along the dimensions of heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. And, I'm not denying that this has any relation to reality - some are attracted to people of the opposite sex, and some people are attracted to people of the same sex and some people are attracted to both.

But I don't think these dimensions really do justice to the diversity of human sexual desire and expression and our society's obsession with these dimensions may limit our discussions on issues around sexual ethics.

So is my sexuality heterosexual - yes if you want to define it as such, but that's certainly not the whole story. My sexuality is about myself as a sexual being and part of that means taking care of myself, eating well, exercising, breathing in the fresh air and escaping the office once in a while. I express it with my partner curled up under fluffy blankets watching arty films, discussing good books, shouting at political commentators on the news, ranting about the boredom of doing a PhD, sharing Haagen-Daz under the duvet and much much much shared laughter. Its everything from subtle looks, cheeky games of footsie, deep friendship, gentle kisses and passionate snogs to overwhelming urges to rip off all my partner's clothes, blindfold him and tie him to the bedposts...ok, maybe that was too much information ;)

But these things are all part of my sexuality, all things I want to share with my partner, and in so doing I find a wealth of sexual expression that is far broader, far more wonderful and far more fun that saying "I am heterosexual, I desire vaginal intercourse with men." I wonder if we could change the ways in which we think about our sexualities would it help us better engage in discussion about what our sexuality means for us and how it can be lived well. The importance of whether you do men or women seems to pale in comparison to the tremendous diversity of what turns us on and the ways in which we human beings express ourselves sexually.

In discussions of sexual ethics, particularly in religious contexts, we so desperately need to move beyond the 'gay debate' into a whole new realm of discussion as to how to live our sexualities in ways that express love for ourselves, for one another and in the spirit/light/God/Christ (whatever that means - I'm afraid I don't like to be watched, not even by Jesus).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Is there a full moon or something?

There are some people, the kind that answer telephone, that are just plain wierd!

Today I have been ringing around potential employers.

Employer #1's secretary answered the phone. 'Hello I said, I'd like to speak to Mrs. Bla de Bla', 'She's away on holiday' (no can I take a message, no she'll be back tomorrow/next week/next month).

'Ok, I'm calling about the position you are currently advertising.'

'WHAT? YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO CALL HERE!! YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO CALL HR AND ASK FOR AN APPLICATION PACK. YOU'RE NOT TO CALL HERE!!!' she wailed. The poor woman seemed so distressed that I had somehow transgressed the laws of job applications, I didn't even bother to point out, well this is the number on the ad and Mrs Bla de Bla is the person it says to speak to for informal enquiries. I gave up and rang the HR answer phone service. Apparently they put something in the post.

Anyway, Employer #2 was able to put me through to Mr. Bla de Bla. And I said, 'Yes, I'm really interested, tell me some more.' So he waffles for a bit and then says, 'What are your experiences?' So I say, 'Well my experience is mainly in child and adolescent mental health' to which he interrupts with a more patronising tone than a children's TV presenter, 'Are you aware that this is an ADULT service'

'Er yes,' I say, 'that's why i'm interested. I'd like to get experience with a different client group to strengthen my clinical psychology training application. I'm sure that many of the skills I've gained in child are very much transferable.'

Yeah right!

There are some strange people at the end of telephones.

If you pick up a phone today - BEWARE - you might have to talk to one of them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I heart blogthings

I am bored at work...and look, results (wonder what my supervisor will make of them if I give him these instead of the statistical analysis I should be doing ;P):

You Are Likely a First Born

At your darkest moments, you feel guilty.
At work and school, you do best when you're researching.
When you love someone, you tend to agree with them often.

In friendship, you are considerate and compromising.
Your ideal careers are: business, research, counseling, promotion, and speaking.
You will leave your mark on the world with discoveries, new information, and teaching people to dream.

Your Inner Child Is Naughty

Like a child, you tend to discount social rules.
It's just too much fun to break the rules!
You love trouble - and it seems that trouble loves you.
And no matter what, you refuse to grow up!

You Are a Mai Tai

You aren't a big drinker, but you'll drink if the atmosphere is festive.
And when you're drunk, watch out! You're easily carried away.

What Your Underwear Says About You

When you're bad, you're very bad. And when you're good, you're still trouble!

You're comfortable in your own skin - and don't care to impress anyone.

How You Life Your Life

You are honest and direct. You tell it like it is.
You tend to avoid confrontation and stay away from sticky situations.
You prefer a variety of friends and tend to change friends quickly.
You tend to dream big, but you worry that your dreams aren't attainable.

Cheese Pizza

Traditional and comforting.
You focus on living a quality life.
You're not easily impressed with novelty.
Yet, you easily impress others.

You Are 34 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Your Kissing Purity Score: 26% Pure

You're not one to kiss and tell...

But word is, you kiss pretty well.


I love this poem. I have it on a CD, read by Liam Neeson and its downright spine-tingly. My English lit teacher (Liam Neeson's second cousin no less) would be so proud...


Human beings suffer,
they torture one another,
they get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
can fully right a wrong
inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols
beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker's father
stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
faints at the funeral home

History says, Don't hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.

Call the miracle self-healing:
The utter self-revealing
double-take of feeling.
if there's fire on the mountain
or lightning and storm
and a god speaks from the sky.

That means someone is hearing
the outcry and the birth-cry
of new life at its term.

Seamus Heaney,
The Cure at Troy

Monday, September 12, 2005


It was out of nowhere you came
Quiet glances
Careful smiles
Drinks in the evening
Coffee by day
Long conversations by night.

We knew that underneath
There were differences.

Be careful
She's not like you
They said
Be careful
You know it might make you confused
Something of her might rub off on you.

Yeah right, whatever.
How paranoid.

But they were right, you know.
You touched me
In the deepest places
And suddenly I realised

You have rubbed off on me.
My neat philosophy
And pre-prepared explanations
Meet the force of your
Raised eyebrow
And suddenly
We erupt
Into raucous laughter.

Your friendship reached deep within
Stole my whitewashed theology.
Together, we are healed.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

It has arrived....

I opened our post box yesterday (yeah, we have a little post box rather than a letter box) and out it tumbled. The application pack from the clearing house for clinical psychology courses in the UK.

Ever since I have had my nose in the course guidelines book trying to work out which courses I want to apply for. I think I want to do them all, except the one at the ominously named Institute at Psychiatry (two words - institute, psychiatry - I don't think so.) Unofruntately I can only apply for four.

I have very mixed feelings about it atm. On the one hand it is desperately exciting to finally feel as though I am in a position to take a decent stab at the course I've been wanting to get on for about 7 years. On the other, it is unsettling to be trying to find a course, and really not having any strong feelings about which course I would like to do. Having to balance courses that value research experience (which I've got), courses that take a more pluralistic approach (which is what I'm interested in more than anything else), courses located near city locations where partner dude can find a job and courses located in areas where we could feasibly afford to buy a house (I resent giving all my money to landlords who can't be bothered to fix dripping taps) is going to be difficult. I don't want to take out a mortgage for a chest freezer-size flat in London when for the same money I could have a mansion (ok a 3 bed semi) in another part of the country. And call me crazy, but I'd like to live somewhere pretty, with lots of fresh air and green stuff. It will be good for the old stress levels, as Post Liberal will no doubt confirm ;).

Then here I am, thinking about all this, with the heady dose of realism that only 28% applicants are successful in any given year and it is not unusual for people to make 3 applications. So at the end of the day, I could get rejected and be out looking for low paid assistant psychologist posts where I will doubtless be condemned to doing someones statistics (read percentage equations...yawn yawn yawn) with a doctorate in my pocket. :( I will give it my best shot and see what happens.

I am reminded of Parker Palmer's words in 'Let your Life Speak',

"Running beneath the surface of the experience I call my life, there is a deeper and truer life waiting to be acknowledged."

In a sense the career path aspect of my vocation has not been a difficult one to find. I naturally gravitate towards people in distress, I naturally gravitate towards rigorous academic thought and an intermingling of science and philosophical pondering (sorry, "critical and reflexive thinking"). Clinical psychology combines those in a way that excites me and the whole area feels comfortable and natural to me.

On the other hand, there are many hoops to be jumped through, boxes to be ticked off, application forms to be written, buzz words to mention and a way of putting them across in a way that fits with the course selection criteria. In the muddle, it is easy to forget the 'deeper and truer' life, that is simply who I am.

It is the true me that needs to be trained and begin on the path towards this elusive profession. I am not a list of buzzwords, nor even an impressive showcase of "extensive research experience within a clinical setting" nor I am a"solid understanding of theory-practice links and the challenges of applying this to individual cases" and not even, "a breadth of experience in the NHS which has enabled me to appreciate the value and importance of multi-disciplinary team working and the challenges of providing a high quality clinical service in an overstretched health service." It is me who is going to be working in a team and me who is going to be working with clients and it is the true me that will fulfil my potential to care for others, be they clients or colleagues in this setting.

I will have to spend some time reflecting on how to express and acknowledge the truer and deeper life within steering me towards this career in my application. Because really, this is what motivates and stimulates me and this is who I am.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Plodding along...

I am still recovering from the distress of finding my Elton CDs are missing...*sniff sniff* but life goes on, I guess.

I've not been around much lately. At work, I have been mad busy between panicking about being nowhere near my target N, with only 4 months left of PhD funding and sitting in on clinics with my supervisor.

Sometimes I love sitting in on clinics - it reminds me of why I do what I do and why I want to go into this career. I get to joke around with the kids and see how much they have changed and how they are developing into wonderful, bright, friendly young people. Other times, I sit and feel useless, realising that sometimes there is not a lot you can do for someone, and when that someone is a child, that is a really horrible realisation.

Sometimes hope is hard to come by. I realised today that when I was much more of a believer than I am now, that it was nice to pray for the "hopeless clients", because somehow I could entertain the fantasy that one day, some supernatural power would come and magically bestow happiness, joy and peace upon them.

Now that I don't believe in that sort of thing, I realise that part of what I have to deal with, is the realisation, not only of my own limits, but the limits of my profession and the limits of medicine.

I want to sum up this post with a helpful and inspiring little quotation to round it off and provide some kind of conclusion to my own frustration and sense of human inadquacy to fix the world. But there isn't one.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


I cannot find my Elton John CDs....pray tell, what other cheesesome camped up master of the ballad is going to keep me sane during data entry??

Oh the agony....

Elton, where are you?!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Anyone living in the UK atm will be starkly aware of the growing argument over the government's proposal to deport preachers of hate...

I don't approve of preaching hatred, but I believe in free speech - if people have grievances with our country then we must be prepared to listen - and if those grievances and maybe even their hatred are unreasonable, then we must prove them wrong, not sent them elsewhere with their hatred.

I'm not convinced that deportation works anyway. Surely it only goes to confirm the preacher's suspicion that they are not welcome in our country and surely their followers will rise up to take revenge. But then again, perhaps its easier to get rid of preachers of hate than to prove them wrong by acting with impeccable justice and generosity.

"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them." ~ JESUS (Luke 6: 27-31)

"Make injustice visible". ~Gandhi

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Seeking paradise

I love you without permission
Although the fingers pointed
My choice, your choice
Is to give ourselves freely
Maybe even a little recklessly.

Plunging our teeth into
Forbidden fruit
Sweet juices running down our chins

Human beings
Always did need a little
Forbidden pleasure
To take us out of paradise
And into the world together

But this time
We are not afraid
To fall

Because we are falling together.
Embracing one another
Intertwined together
With love
And forbidden passion.

Will God forsake us
Will be be smitten by his wrath
Like they told us?

I doubt it.

We will find our way back to paradise


Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
They hand in hand, with wand’ring steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

(Milton, Paradise Lost, XII, 645–650)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Oompa Loompas and Quaker Meetings

This Sunday morning I awoke with a sense of great excitement - the long awaited day had come. Partner dude and I had pre-booked afternoon tickets for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I've been singing the oompa-loompa song around our house now with all the joyful inaneness of a six year old.

It was, however, Sunday morning. Time to laze in bed for a few hours. We have both had a busy few weeks with little time for stopping. Unusually, I woke up first, poked partner dude, 'Yo, oompa loompa zippidy dee, will you go to meeting with me?'

It was, I must admit, with some reluctance that we pulled ourselves out of bed this week, but we did it, deciding that we are almost always glad when we get up in time for meeting. This week was no exception.

It was a wonderful meeting, mainly of sharing our need to find solutions in our world. One woman spoke poignantly of the racist views her daughter's friends had expressed while staying at their house - saying that all Asians should be rounded up and sent to prisons for the terrorist attacks etc.

Such attitudes, I must admit, are alien to me. It further impressed on me how much we need to foster friendships between racial and religious communities.

On the 7th of July, when I heard the news the first person I thought of was a friend of mine who lives and works in London. I rang her - thankfully she wasn't in London at the time. Only afterwards did I realise the possible significance that the first person I had called was both Asian and Muslim, and how precious our friendship is in these troubled times.

The same friend contacted me again last week to say she was going to visit Mecca and before she went wanted to ask that if I had anything against her for my forgiveness and likewise, whatever I had ever done to offend her was forgiven. I was a tad unnerved, wondering what I'd done - but she quickly explained that before Muslims make pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina they ask for and offer forgiveness because God forgives those who forgive others.

I remarked on how similar this was to my own Christian background - afterall Jesus said that when we forgive men who sin against us, God also forgives us.

Perhaps we are not so very different afterall. How much we need to remember that.

And btw, Charlie and the Chocolate factory was very cool. Go see it.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Amnesics forget...

On Saturday mornings I work in a memory clinic - of course its not unusual for people to forget their appointments - it is to be expected I guess! But once, someone arrived for their appointment so I went to get my supervisor who said, 'WHAT? Ah, working with people with memory problems, if they don't come at all, they come on the wrong day! Ask them to check their appointment letter.' So I went back to the people and asked if they had their appointment letter with them. They did and indeed, they had an appointment. I had to go back to my boss and tell him, 'Guess what, you forgot!' Mw ha ha ha. The things that keep me amused!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Fluffy bunnies and suicide bombers...

"No serious person could ever negotiate on the demands of terrorists who have been using suicide bombers to kill people..."

We are not going to deal with this problem, with the roots as deep as they are, until we confront these people at every single level."

"I don't think the IRA would ever have set about trying to kill 3,000 people,"
-Tony Blair

It would appear that Mr Blair thinks that one of the terrorist groups that bombed the country I grew up in for 36 years were fluffy bunnies in comparison to the suicide bombers representing Al Quaeda.

Tell that to my mum's cousin who lost her husband then. Tell that to the families of the 1800 people they did kill. Tell that to the families whose young people could see no other future than the provos. Tell that to the couples who had to flee to England because of intimidation.

If the IRA were really the gentleman's terorist, you really might have told me so when had to walk home, lost in the pouring rain and accept the kindness of a random girl from the bus who invited me into her family's house for tea n cake while the madness raged outside preventing me from getting home from school. Would have been nice to know that when my primary school had to spend almost an entire morning lying on the floor in the gym because there had been a paramilitary related shooting outside the school gate. (My teacher still made us bring our work books with us tho - hmmph!)

Tell that to my secondary school teachers who had to put up with our ridiculous prankish behaviour - was it just my school where kids stole wires from the technology lab and shoved them into a lunch box in order to create a security scare? Tell that to me and my friends when we had to be evacuated out of our maths exam (well, maybe that was quite kind of them...)

I'm not arguing that Al Quaeda are a different kind of terrorism than the IRA, nor am I arguing that Al Quaeda have operated on a far larger scale and have been far more deadly.

But what I am arguing is this.

No. 1. The IRA murdered around 1800 people - they weren't nice friendly terrorists. Lets not glam them up or romanticise the republican struggle. People can get very romantic these days about Irish terrorism, but I grew up with it and assure you, it is anything but romantic.

No. 2. We negotiated with the IRA. That is how steps towards peace have been made. I suggest we can learn a few lessons from this. We must listen in humility and be willing to change. Our government, our politics, our foreign policies have all played a role in creating people who feel so angry and disenfranchised that they are willing to turn to terrorist violence. We can and we must be willing to sit down and listen. You can't stop a fire by throwing petrol on it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

This night will pass

This night will pass,
Believe it my friends,
Although the darkness thickens,
Although no way opens,
This night will pass.
You and I my friends
Have an appointed mission
To prepare for the dawn,
To live as though
The dark night was daylight,
As though we feared nothing,
Not suspecting one another ,
But loving, giving and caring,
Smiling freely at strangers,
Being the light,
As we wait.
This night will pass.

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall - think of it, always."
- Gandhi

PS. Cheers Lor for your comment on my previous post.

Quakerism and Me

Alice over at Public Quaker has been answering questions about her Quaker experience as preparation for yearly meeting, which I'm not going to.

But, I wonder if answering the questions for myself might help me to reflect on my own experiences as I've adventured into Quakerism.

1. What Quaker testimonies are most important for you?

Which list of testimonies am I supposed to draw from? Ok, probably equality - because all the others stem from that for me. As I seek to live in a way that affirms the humanity and value of each person, it has enabled me to develop a broader more open approach to others - accepting other faiths, embracing those around me whose cultures may be vastly different from my own, learning to value relationships for relationships sake and not because of the genders of the people involved, and probably most prominently in challenging the way I work as a mental health professional (well, soon to be anyway) wanting to affirm the dignity and value of all people's experiences.

I think it is this committment to equality that leads me on to the other testimonies - compassion, green issues (its not my planet to corrupt, it belongs to all so I better look after it for others), peace (if my neighbour is equal, what right do I have to take up arms against him, or her) etc.

2. What difference do they make in the way you live your life?

I think I've probably covered some of this above.

Recently I've been considering how equality should impact on

-the way I work (how do I ensure that I do not exploit my powerful position as a professional when working with people who are vulnerable - how can I work towards equality between staff and service users? How do I practice equality between myself and my research participants.)

-the way I shop (do the goods I buy exploit other human beings?)

-the way I relate to my wider community, building interfaith and cross racial relationships. Back home in NI I was involved in cross community activities that are probably taking on more meaning for me now than they did when I was actually involved.)

3. In what ways is this difficult?

The jump from ideals to practice is a big one is it not?

Trying to put equality into practice where I work can be difficult - I'm often aware that I am in a very powerful position as a researcher and that I work in a system that is driven by the medical and scientific establishments and isn't always very person focussed (whatever the gimmicks on our mission statements might say.) I'm also very much aware that as I progress in my career, it will be a challenge to live the ideals.

Of course, if I believe all are equal, what right do I have to buy goods that are the fruit of child or sweatshop labour - but have you tried fairtrade shopping - if I stuck to it rigidly I'd be quite naked.

Then there are the people who although I believe all are equal, I also find to be most irritating. That of God might be in everyone, but in some he or she is very well hidden!

I also think political involvement and awareness is really important, but its utterly exhausting to keep up to date with the complexities of politics both local and national and trying to think critically about it can sometimes be nigh on impossible to squeeze into my day.

4. How are you helped by being a Quaker, or involved with other Friends?

Kindred spirits are always inspiring. I think in finding Quakers, I've found people who understand my own quirkiness, who give space to discuss matters of importance in an open and supportive context. It is a humbling challenge to me to meet so many people who are deeply committed and actively involved in their communities, making a positive difference in the world.