Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dr. Contemplative Activist PhD.

Well, despite laryngitis and a tickling cough from hell, resulting in having to leave the room during my viva voce...I passed, with just minor amendments to be made to my thesis before I can deposit it, at last, in the British library never to be seen again. Hurrah!

The bad news is...I have to wear this very fetching outfit in the summer....

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Well that's one way...

Monday, November 20, 2006

How to survive your PhD Viva

I have my viva (thesis defence for those in the States) coming up far sooner than I would like. (Then again, wasn't it me who begged and pleaded with the examiners to squeeze in a pre-Xmas viva so it wasn't looming over the holidays...)

Anyway, so I have been hunting down advice on the internet for how to manage the damn thing...

This is the best I have come across

Things to Say and Do Guaranteed to
Spice up Your Thesis and Dissertation Defenses

Begin the defense by charging a cover and checking for ID.

Charge a two-drink minimum.

Begin with "Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise for the singing of our National Anthem."

Follow that with a joke that starts with "Which reminds me of a story - A Black guy, a Chinese guy, and a Jew walked into a bar..."

Bring coffee and charge 25 cents a cup.

"Charge the mound" when a professor beans you with a high fast question.

Describe parts of your dissertation using interpretive dance.

Lead your committee members in a Wave.

Break the tension at appropriate moments with a sing-a-long.

Answer tough queries with "You call THAT a question? How'd you ever get to be a professor?"

Have bodyguards outside the room to discourage attendance of certain professors.

Present your defense using puppets.

Before you begin your presentation, sell T-shirts to recoup the cost of copying, binding, etc.

In addition, pass a collection basket.

Answer complex issues in mime.

Use the ocassion to hold a Tupperware party.

Have bikini-clad models in charge of changing your overheads.

At approximately the mid-point of your defense bring out maracas and shout "Everybody rumba!!"

Explain nonsignificant findings with "It would have worked if it weren't for those f*%ing kids."

Refuse to answer tough questions "in protest of our government's systematic and brutal opression of minorities."

Offer door prizes and conduct a raffle.

Ask professors to "Please phrase your question in the form of an answer."

Interrupt every 15 minutes with the announcement "And now, a word from our sponsor."

Present critical parts of your defense in iambic pentameter.

In your announcement, inform your committee that it will be a black tie affair.

Hire the Goodyear Blimp to circle the building.

Announce to your committee that "There will be a short quiz after my presentation."

Bring your pet boa.

Bring snacks and start a food fight.

Slap your committee chair with a glove and challenge him to a duel.

Arrange for a halftime show.

Bring a big foam hand that says "I'm #1."

Pass out souvenier matchbooks.

Hang a pinata over the table and hire a strolling mariachi band.

Make each professor remove an item of clothing for each question asked.

Use a Greek Chorus to highlight important points.

When necessary, say "I'm sorry Professor Smith, I didn't say 'SIMON SAYS any questions?'. You're out."

Dress in top hat and tails.

Hold a pre-defense pep rally, complete with cheerleaders, pep band, and a bonfire.

If you sense that things are not going well, threaten to detonate a small nuclear device in the room.

Show slides of your last vacation.

Put your overheads on a film strip. Designate a professor to be in charge of turning the strip when the tape recording beeps.

If members of the committee begin to argue among themselves announce: "OK, everybody - heads down on the desk until you show me you can behave."

When in trouble, begin speaking in tongues.

Answer every question with a question.

Hand out 3-D glasses.

Announce credits at the end. Include a "key grip" and a "best boy."

Make a practice of replying, "Sure, I could answer that, but then I'd have to kill you."

Ask a friend and conspirator to attend and ask the first question. Draw a blank-loaded gun and "shoot" him. Have him make a great scene of dying. Be sure to include fake blood. Turn to your committee and ask "Other questions?"

Wear clown makeup, a clown wig, clown shoes, a clown nose, and nothing else.

Install "APPLAUSE" and "LAUGHTER" signs.

Use a TelePromTer

Alter the clocks in the room and begin your defense 15 minutes before anyone arrives.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


I was pleased to read this report. I'm working with kids with developmental disabilities atm (autism, aspergers, learning disabilities, physical disabilities etc.) Some kids have great experiences at school, and find their school friends supportive and protective. Others find themselves victims of the most shocking bullying. In such situations, we hope that parents and teachers are able to step in quickly and effectively to put a stop to it, but that doesn't always happen.

Not that long ago I had a conversation with a teacher in charge of supporting children with special educational needs which more or less went along with, "Well, kids get bullied, they've just got to learn to deal with it."

IMHO - the teacher was talking rubbish and doing an incredible disservice to her students, both those who are victims of bullying & to those who are doing the bullying. What kind of message does it send to our kids when we overlook bullying? It's ok to beat up on kids who are smaller, not as smart, not as socially-able than you? It's ok for people to make fun of you?

I was bullied at school (not for very long and not very seriously). My dad actually called my headmaster as I once came home extremely upset. The head handled it extremely well, took it seriously, and it stopped immediately. I can't imagine what I would have done if the head had said, "Well, teenage girls fall out and say horrible things about each other, she's just going to have to deal with it."

Bullying might be normal, but its not acceptable. None of us should under-estimate its impact or fail to take it seriously.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

If I were a client what would they say...

A few months ago, I tried to identify with the clients I was working with in a learning disabilities service by writing a day in my life as I think staff in an LD unit might record it...

So, for your amusement....

CA was very slow to get out of bed this morning. Groaned for several minutes and then begged PD to iron shirt for her. Asked CA why she didn't go to bed earlier, she complained that she didn't have time to go to bed earlier as "I still have to make changes to my thesis, they're still asking me for more f***ing changes." However, CA was heard joking around with PD in her bedroom late at night. Staff should check she is using contraception.

CA went to work, was a little late, but nothing unusual for her. When CA returned from work, she had two medium bowel movements in the space of one hour (ASIDE: yes, they really do include notes on everyone's bowel movements, whether relevant or not, perhaps Peterson would like to take a job there...)

CA complained that she didn't fancy noodles (as planned) for tea and demanded mushrooms and garlic bread instead. This necessitated a trip to the supermarket. CA was about to be taken to the supermarket when her dad called, further delaying the process by some 30 minutes. When staff told CA to come, she made "get away" gestures to them and looked cross. CA seemed unaware that other people have better things to do than to take her to the supermarket. Staff should be less accomodating to CA's demands in future.

PD was writing a congratulations card to his brother who recently got engaged. CA became very giggly and tried to convince PD to include innuendo type comments in the card. PD seemed amused by her suggestions. Staff are worried CA may be a bad influence on PD.

CA seemed to enjoy watching Woody Allen film before going to bed. Woody Allen films may be a good way to distract her when she is being excessively demanding.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rediscovering Life

Time for an update, methinks.

Since finishing my thesis, I've been rediscovering lots of things I had to give up while I was doing it. Amongst them - clothes shopping and make up. I have somehow gone from owning zero dresses to owning two, including the most incredibly sexy black dress I managed to convince my mum would be great for her wedding ;)! (I'm not playing the resentful step-daughter, dressed all in funeral style black for a wedding, honest!)

I found a lovely man at the make up counter (who inspired me by not having powerful and sickly wafts of heavy perfume floating around him, like the women almost invariably do...) to show me how to wear eye make-up...which, if you know me, is such an achievement. Eye make-up has always been a huge problem for me. I have terrible eyesight, even with glasses on - so putting on eye makeup with no glasses when I can barely see a thing out of one of my eyes often yields hilarious results. Just to make matters more fun, I have a slight tremor so often look like I'm going for a bit of a halloween look (which I'm really not...). Anyway, thanks to the nice make-up man, I think I've cracked it. I even got him to show partner-dude how to do it, so he can do my makeup for special occasions. Ha ha ha - what a man (partner dude that is)!

We've made it to the cinema twice - don't bother going to see 'The Queen' (if I'd known what it was about before I went, I wouldn't have bothered, but I was bored, it was on...). However, DO DO DO try to catch 'Little Miss Sunshine' - it is pure hilarity, and equally touching. I loved it - perfect!

We've moved to Suffolk - such an incredibly different part of the country than where we were. Traffic jams are what happens when there are tractors and/or animals in the middle of the road (makes a change, to the constant sitting in traffic we were used to)! What's with that?! I spent a month on a teaching block, missed partner dude horribly and came home a week ago to start my placement working with kids with developmental difficulties & their families.

We've found a lovely Quaker meeting, where we find ourselves feeling very at home and looking forward to getting to know people.

Anyway, better go - I've decided to get more out of my underused gym membership & embark on a new fitness regime, involving pilates and twice weekly spinning classes. I should have a bum of steel by Christmas. I have a pilates class this evening. (Wonder how long this will last for...)

Hope alls well with everyone else in the blogosphere :)

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I just sent my thesis to the bindery - almost four years to the day I started working on it.

Now, my next challenge - building flatpack furniture...right now, I think I'd rather go back to my thesis :S

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Whose backyard is is anyway?

Recently, I've been hearing an absolute plethora of sweeping statements about Muslims - mostly from middle of the road moderate Christians. I'm as cynical as they come these days, but even I've been surprised by the level of ignorance and hatred that's coming out of the mouths of normally gentle and calm people.

My favourites include, "Our religion is one of love, their's is one of hate." "Our God is forgiving, their God is full of vengeance." Hello - have you read the Old Testament? Why exactly did God need innocent blood to placate his wrath? What was that I heard about unbelievers burning in hell for all eternity, that's ok is it?

People keep saying the Muslim community should do more to prevent terrorism in their communities. Well - why is that? Is it Muslims' fault that young Muslims are becoming increasingly frustrated? And whose backyard is terrorism springing up in anyway? Do terrorists belong to the Muslim community? Or do they belong to our communities?

There's barely a person around High Wycombe (where I've been living and working for 8 months) that doesn't have some personal contact with the people who were recently arrested on suspicion of terrorism. I have met their neighbours, their friends and their former school teachers. One of the London bombers came from just up the road in Aylesbury. Terrorists come from our communities and its all of our responsibilities to work towards preventing terrorism.

The Muslim community here has taken action, but they cannot control loose canons. Leafleting is banned around mosques as people were handing out highly charged leaflets outside one of the mosques. The imams around here preach peace and tolerance. In fact, my experience of the Muslim community here (we live right in the middle of a predominantly Muslim area, and many of my clients at work were from the Muslim community) has been very positive - they are peaceful, welcoming and hospitable people. But, just like we can control loose canons in the Christian community, the Muslim community cannot prevent all extremism. I grew up in Belfast - there were certainly dodgy people in my church and a friend of mine from church wound up in prison for attempted murder which had something to do with paramilitary involvement - no-one ever preached a message of hatred or violence in the church I went to - yet, people still got involved with the paramilitaries and said they did it "for God and Ulster." (Interesting, that in the past when people talked about religion and violence, Christians in Northern Ireland were the top example, now its the Muslims.)

Its not enough to point our fingers at the Muslim community, and thereby increase the sense of suspicion and distrust they are very likely to experience in the current climate. Frankly, it does not help to make sweeping statements about Muslims. Perhaps we ought to ask ourselves whether we are doing all we can to work for justice for the Islamic people - what are we doing for the Palestinians or regarding the Kashmir conflict? What are we doing while our government liberally blows Islamic nations to shreds in Afghanistan and Iraq? What are we doing to support isolated and frustrated young Muslims, who care deeply about the situations their brothers & sisters find themselves in across the world, to get involved in the political process and ensure that out government takes positive action?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I need a haircut...

I need a haircut, but I have been putting it off after my last experience at the hairdressers. Don't get me wrong, I came out with a very nice haircut, and I'm pretty accustomed to putting my foot down to the sales pitch, "No, really I do not want a bottle of shampoo that costs £50, I'm happy with the one I get in tesco."

My problem is the small talk, the terrible, irritating, chirpey small talk interrupting my precious quiet. But, surely I've put up with that every haircut I've had since I was old enough to have haircuts. And yes, I have and I can handle talking about holidays, the weather, what I'm doing for Christmas/easter/the summer. I can cope with that, its when they ask *that* question that my heart starts pounding...

HAIRDRESSER: So, what do you work at then?

ME: I work for the NHS (vain attempt to dodge the issue)

HAIRDRESSER: Really, what do you do?

ME: I work with people who have mental health problems/children with behavioural problems (here it comes)

HAIRDRESSER: Oooh, what as?

ME: An assistant/trainee psychologist (Sh*t, I've said it, better brace myself)


Whereupon the hairdresser almost invariably launches into something along the lines of...

-->"Can you read my mind?" (Ha ha ha, I've never heard that one before...but its an easy one to handle, "Sure, but it'll cost you £50.")

-->"I had depression and my GP prescribed me antidepressants, what do you think about antidepressants, should I take them? I thought I should have therapy, you know, I could talk about my terrible childhood/dodgy ex-boyfriend/..."

-->"Oh, my sister's kid is really badly behaved. I thought he might be autistic, what do you think? Oh, and I read something about ADHD the other day, and now they're talking about ritalin and, well I think its all an excuse for bad parenting really. What do you think I should tell my sister to do?"

The last hairdresser was the worst of all - I had to listen to a very sorry tale about a horrible childhood involving a very dodgy psychoanalyst.

Don't get me wrong, I like helping people - I love my job. If any of those hairdressers were at the other side of the consulting room at work, I'd know what to do and I'd be completely sympathetic. Indeed, if they were friends, I could handle it. But really, when I'm having a haircut, its the last thing I want to think about. Not to mention the sheer awkwardness of saying to a total stranger with a pair of very sharp scissors in her hand, "How terrible for you but its not professional for me to comment, now just get on with cutting my hair please."

At least doctors only have to put up with people showing them bunions and rashes and such like. So I am trying to come up with a ploy to dodge the question or ensure that the hairdresser doesn't wish to continue the conversation. Partner dude (a mathematician) never has these problems...perhaps I'll start fibbing. Can anyone think of any unbearably dull professions that are sure to turn a hairdresser off continuing the conversation (but are not so complicated just in case the hairdresser has sufficient knowledge of it, that I couldn't bluff my way).

Partner dude reckons I should tell them if they wish to continue talking about their personal problems/horrific childhood/dodgy sister that I should tell them they're welcome to continue but I'll charge them at private rate and deduct the cost of my haircut (I do think that's a bit mean. Although a friend of mine is employing it very effectively with unwanted telesales calls...)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The terrorists!

The terrorists
The terrorists
The terrorists are coming!

They think their book is the direct word of God
Its violent
Its bloodthirsty
Its full of blood and gore.

The terrorists
The terrorists
The terrorists are coming!

Their book is not like ours
Ours' is just infallible
And not really quite so violent.
Besides, our God is love.

The terrorists
The terrorists
The terrorists are coming!

They're brainwashed
Their religion
Tells them what to think.

Its dangerous

My friend, it is indeed.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

What's the difference?

What's the difference between God and a psychiatrist?


God doesn't think he's a psychiatrist.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Gmail ads

I'm not quite sure what to make of this - I have a gmail account and it gives me little advertisements. I've never actually clicked on one before, but it seems to have picked up that I've been emailling people about furniture recently.

So I clicked on a website called "Zen furniture" and look what I found - how totally random! Not sure what it here but please, only if you're over 18. Sadly, it doesn't quite fit within our current furnishing budget...maybe later...what with buying all this furniture now, we'll need something for the wedding list later... ;)

If I do buy one, I'll be sure not to tell you. But if you ever see one in someone's house, you can give them a knowing smile or naively ask, "What an interesting piece, in what position do you sit on it?". Ho hum.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fill the legs of our dinky table...


Well, partner dude and I are moving in one month. We thought we'd try to rent a furnished flat as our current list of furniture includes two desks, one desk chair, a bookshelf, a CD rack and a crap plastic stool that cost less than a fiver.

But, no such luck. We found one furnished flat, and my God, was it a hovel - a disgusting, musty smelling place on the top of a block of flats - unfit for animal, never mind human habitation imho. Frankly, I don't think we could even manage to lug our meagre furniture up the steps, much less fit it in the tiny little flat at the top!

So, sod that we thought, and went and signed ourselves up for an unfurnished flat. So now we have to cobble together enough furniture to sleep in, sit in and eat off in our new, rather nice apartment. (Its dead posh!)

On our furniture shopping expeditions we came across this little table and are thinking of buying one for fun. The legs are hollow and you can fill them. So, any novel ideas of what to put in them?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Get paid for your opinion...

If you sign up to yougov here, they'll pay you for giving your opinion. You just get short surveys every now and then, for which they pay you about 50p - £1. Once you clock up £50, which takes a while, they put it in your bank account. Nice :)

Best of all, if you sign up using this link, they'll give me some points too :)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Look what I done :)

P'raps my gran will stick it on her fridge

In our sleepy little town???

It was a bit of a surprise, to say the least, that five of the suspected terrorists were arrested in High Wycombe - a rather unremarkable little town, where we live.

As always, when these things happen, my thoughts turn to my Muslim neighbours who suffered so much in the aftermath of the attacks in London last summer and following the attacks in NY and Washington in 2001.

Sometimes, when I go to a Quaker meeting, I try to remember what a close friend of mine told me once about going to the mosque, surrounded by teenagers shouting abuse. When I tell people I consider myself to have Quaker leanings, I do not have to worry about their reactions - no-one's scared of the Quakers. I spoke with a Muslim psychiatrist a while back who said he is weary of people asking him questions about terrorism, as though there was nothing else interesting or relevant about Islam than its response to terrorism.

I will try to remember these things as the Muslim community around me fall under suspicion at this time, and ask myself, what can I do in solidarity with the thousands of British Muslims, and the hundreds of Muslims in our immediate community who want to live peacefully just as much as I do.

I appreciated Jonathan Cook's (originally from High Wycombe) reflections on the recent arrests.

Friday, August 11, 2006

How to be an ally...

I answered the door to someone at work this morning. An older lady, who had just arrived for a meeting. She wasn't sure where it was so I said, "Ah, no problem, take a seat and I'll call the secretaries' office" (conveniently located, might I add, at the back of the building & upstairs so no-one can find them). "Seminar room" says the secretary. "Oh...ah, um," says I. "That a problem?" asks the secretary. "Er yes, this lady has a walking frame, I am not sure if she will be able to manage the steep flight of stairs up to the seminar room." "Oh," says the secretary, "well that's where the meeting is, tell her not to worry, we'll get someone can carry her up the stairs."

I mean, how humiliating to have to be carried up a steep flight of stairs, doubtless by two strangers. I was so embarrassed and it was nothing to do with me! We have downstairs meeting rooms, they could have (and should have) moved the meeting. I know for a fact there were other rooms free. More to the point, they shouldn't have booked the upstairs seminar room in the first place, its not like the lady was unknown to them, she'd had meetings before.


When an organisation with equal rights policies coming out of its ass & elbows, and a particular focus on people with disabilities, manages such a monumental cock up, you have to ask just how progressive we actually are.

Anyway, it made Peterson's latest blog post seem all the more relevant.

Listen. Then Listen. Then Listen some more. The work of being an ally requires deep listening and understanding. I explained that as a white man I often get it wrong. Being an ally requires a graceful resilience. Because of the society where I was raised and the many messages I received, I am racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and insensitive to the needs of people with disabilities. I have to unlearn much of what has been engrafted into my mind.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Regina Spektor

Thanks to Brandice, I've discovered Regina Spektor. Its wonderful music, I love her voice. Have a listen to some of her songs:

Ode to Divorce
Promo stuff (a bit wibbly on the old camera there)

Monday, August 07, 2006

The BIGGEST onion bhaji ever seen...and see partner dude's hand!

We had friends come down for the weekend a couple of weekend's ago - quite special for us as we know hardly anyone (let me rephrase, we know nobody) in our local area.

So, we all went out for a fantastic Indian meal at a local Indian restaurant. We ordered an onion bhaji, and no kidding, it was the size of a baby's head! We shared it between the four of us.

It was just so enormous I thought I'd share a photo. And, you get to see partner dude's hand, helpfully holding a 20p piece to help you fathom the size of this monstrosity.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Calling all ladies - do your bit for science

Can any women reading this blog complete this survey about HPV and cervical cancer. I know the student running the survey will really appreciate your taking part.

Come on, do it for the greater good :)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Classic Kids TV

Rainbow was my favourite program when I was a kid, but somehow I see it in a whole new light now...

***Warning - lots of sexual innuendo, so pls don't play if you're easily offended***

View other funny videos at Very Funny Downloads

Monday, July 24, 2006

Well would you believe that...

My PhD supervisor has just put his stamp of approval on my final chapter.

All that is left is proof-reading. I say all, but it is extremely labourious and time-consuming. Still, it looks like I'm nearly there.

If anyone is willing to take a chapter and give it a second proof-read after I have done so, I will mention your name in the acknowledgements and if I pass, your name will be in print in the British library ;).

Saturday, July 15, 2006

AUTISM - getting the truth out!

Thanks to Alice, I've discovered a fantastic website about autism called Getting the Truth Out.

Its a wonderful reflection on power, rights, choice & disability.

However, what is really quite shocking, is that it is in response to this to website, run by the Autism Society of America. How much we need to be careful about ever presuming to speak on behalf of another person. How much we, especially people like me who work with people with autism, need to learn how to listen.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Little Friend

Little Friend

Mentally Ill

It took a long time
Little friend
For you to say a word

It took a long time
Little friend
For you to smile

It took a long time
Little friend
For you to laugh

It took a long time
Little friend
For you to say

You fear the people
Who send you letters
To say its time for you to go

To another facility.
One better equipped to meet your complex needs.

I wish that the people who send your letters
Who make plans
The great "them" who sit in offices
And discuss finances

Could hear you singing in the bath.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

We - Arundhati Roy

This is a free documentary based on the words of Arundhati Roy.

Find out more or download a better copy at

If you don't know who Arundhati Roy is, find out more on wikipedia

And if you've not read The God of Small Things - get a copy, it is a wonderful novel!

Monday, July 03, 2006

A story

Daiju visited the master Baso in China. Baso asked: "What do you seek?"

"Enlightenment," replied Daiju.

"You have your own treasure house. Why do you search outside?" Baso asked.

Daiju inquired: "Where is my treasure house?"

Baso answered: "What you are asking is your treasure house."

Daiju was enlightened!

Ever after he urged his friends: "Open your own treasure house and use those treasures."

(Two blog entries in two days - can you tell I'm trying to write the final chapter of my thesis and failing miserably?)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The beautiful heresy

I have discovered a new blog

Brian asked why people hope for, but don't cross over to believe in universalism. I thought about my own journey and my first time at an interfaith meeting.

I had either just left, or was in my final days at evangelical church and I plucked up the courage to attend an inter-faith group I had seen advertised. I remember tentatively walking up the steps into the church building where it was held, with a certain degree of nervous anxiety. I felt naughty - looking over my shoulder almost in case someone who knew me from church might be passing by. I might as well have been walking into a seedy sex shop as into a church building. That same sense of doing something forbidden and dangerous was there.

A terrorist attack had just happened in Istanbul and there was a massive furore about Islamophobia and Islamic fundamentalism. People felt threatened and under attack, fearful of their neighbours. And there I was, standing side by side with Jewish people, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddists to remember what had happened and to witness our togetherness and our commitment to one another as people of faith in seeking peace in our world.

It was exhilariating, liberating - I could be truly and wonderfully open to those around me. Not just in the interfaith group - but with everyone. I didn't have to worry about the eternal destination of those around me anymore. It was like I was coming home to what I always recognised but never dared to believe that whatever "God" was, it/he/she/they were present everywhere - in all cultures and in all faiths.

I didn't tell my Christian housemates for quite some time - I slipped out and in quietly, like a naughty school girl with a secret romance. And, I admit it, I really enjoyed the secrecy and the tremendous sense of doing something really naughty.

I flitted between feeling free and feeling scared. Perhaps, I was going too far. Perhaps I might find myself stepping outside the circle of salvation. What if God was not as generous as I hoped? If hell does exist and believing in it is a pre-requisite to avoiding it, maybe most people will take the safer option. Afterall, if universalism is true, no-one has anything to loose (in the sense of their eternal destiny).

I'm pleased to say, I'm not so worried anymore! I have taken my place in public acts of witness with the interfaith group, feasted with people of other faiths and I am not afraid anymore. This same group, by happy coincidence also introduced me to the Quakers.

Maybe it is a bit dangerous to dare to believe that the light, truth and love that we find ourselves longing for might be lurking deep within us and within our neighbours. But if we cling to beliefs we don't really believe in or we hope aren't true out of fear of offending some diety, how much we and our communities stand to loose?

To recognise that of God in all people (or at least attempt to) is a tremendously liberating way to live. It allows us to approach our neighbours, no matter how different they may be from us, with a sense of deepest respect and sincerity, with no agenda, simply to recognise and treasure that which is good, true and loving within them and to invite them to treat us in the same way. It allows us to love without fear that our neighbours may one day find themselves destined to eternal torment. It allows us to surrender pride and fear and live in friendship and seek peace with our neigbours.

There is always something that seems to hold some people back from realising the universality of love. Perhaps universal love is almost too good to be true. But it is the universality of love, which recognises, values and includes all people(s), that we will heal the fractions within our society and create peace within and between communities.

"There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages has different names; it is, however, pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion nor excluded from any, where the heart stands in perfect sincerity. In whomsoever this takes root and grows of what nation soever, they become brethren." ~John Woolman 1762

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes...

This news story struck me this week

I know many people who use the word "gay" as an insult - many of whom aren't opposed to homosexuality per se. Our use of language betrays us as a society. Where its acceptable to use the word "gay" as an insult, whatever tidy niceness we say on the outside about being open minded and not having a "problem with it" rings shallow.

Its not acceptable to call something "black" as an insult or "Muslim" or "Asian" - and quite rightly so.

Change language, change attitudes.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Wedding guitars and nightmares

I had a nightmare....

I dreamt I was getting married to partner dude - not that, that is nightmare.

Naturally, we had planned a wonderfully simple, elegant Quaker affair with lots of quiet (yes, quiet).

I dreamt, heaven help us, that my family, unable to fathom the idea of a silent wedding had taken it upon themselves to surprise me with, brace yourself, a WORSHIP BAND.

So it was tweedle-de, tweedle dum, pluck guitar, strike the drum, praise the Lawd etc. etc. etc.

And, of course, I was furious and asked them to stop. But I was told by the matriarchs that this is what happens at weddings and I should put up with it because what did it matter. I was so livid I grabbed my partner dude and left my wedding in a huff.

Analyse that :S

Saturday, April 29, 2006

PhD Blues

I have written 61464 words on 202 pages, not including 47 pages of references (thats 524 references and another 15872 words). That doesn't include my very volumous appendices.


I'm still not finished.


I'm told people are wondering where I've been lately - sorry if I've not been sharpish with posts, comments and emails - this is why.


PS. Anyone enjoy proof reading? ;)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Pandora's music box

What an internet wonder!!!

Its a music genome. It tries to discover music you will like. You put in one of your favourite artists or songs and it generates music that it thinks you will like - and thus far, its been very accurate for me.

I love it!

Extend your music collection or just listen to some new stuff online.


Friday, April 07, 2006

How to find yourself...

Peterson inspired me to look up some of my old journals from when I was a church goer.

It was so strange looking back over the journal I wrote in the year coming up to the time when I actually left church. Some of them were so sad. Others were hilarious - my my, I do have an acerbic wit about me sometimes! There's a wonderful Saturday night entry were I pray, with sincere earnestness to be delivered from cynicism. However, Sunday's entry shows the Lord did not hear my cry!

"My distain for church grows every time I go...Today's sermon was particularly nauseating."

I loved this entry - it kind of sums up where I was at a few years ago:

"I wish I was nice, tidy, pretty and submissive. I wish I was a good Christian and knew how to say the right things and be the right way. But I don't...I feel guilty because I don't know how. I should try to make more of an effort, but I'm not sure there's anything left in me to even attempt it."

I can look back on it now and laugh - of course I don't want to be nice, tidy or submissive. God forbid I ever be submmissive!!! BLEURGH! I think stories of people becoming themselves resonate so strongly with all of us, because whether obvious or not, most of us struggle to simply be and simply accept ourselves.

However, I did stumble across a wonderful gem of wisdom in my old journal that I thought I would share...

"Do not run, but be quiet and silent. Listen attentively to your own struggle. The answer to your question is hidden in your own heart."
(Henri Nouwen)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


We got round to joining a gym - haven't been since we moved nearly 2 months ago. Very expensive - but I have been getting wibbly.

I like the gym but I have left it in an absolutely foul mood.

I resent being bombarded of images of fakely tanned, photoshopped women who clearly haven't eaten in a year. Did you know women have a temporary lowering of mood & body image after looking at such photos? And that is linked to the development of eating disorders. Maybe I'm just cross because I know people with anorexia who use exactly those kind of pictures as triggers and I think its totally inappropriate/grossly irresponsible for them to be in a place where people with eating disorders congregate (gyms!)

I also resent being told that "tanning is good for you, it gives you vitamin D and helps prevent osteoporosis", when tanning has been consistently linked with the development of skin cancer. You need 20 minutes in sunlight (not direct sunlight - walking outside will do) to get all the vitamin D you need. And its not exactly scarce in food either. And how many people with vitamin D deficiency do you know anyway?

So I am cross. The health and fitness industry is just not healthy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

From James Loney

Thanks to Peterson for directing me to this link of James Loney speaking to the press having been freed in Iraq

What a reminder that we must not forget those who do not have freedom as we do.

A link to Amnesty's website's campaign against torture in the war on terror seems shallow in comparison to what James Loney, Norman Kember and Harmeet Sooden have been through in the last few months. Not to mention the tragedy of Tom Fox's death.

Out done

I thought I had big news this weekend - but no, my own mother completely and utterly outdid me by getting engaged :O! I'm very happy for her actually - although very surprised. She's not been seeing the lucky man for very long (only a few months) so this is all very quick. I've not even met him yet (should be fixing that in May).

Does anyone know what normal etiquette is for informing the ex-husband (i.e. my dad)? I'm trying to decide if I should tell him or wait for the extended family grapevine to do its work?

I think I'll tell him. No idea how he'll react (he is married tho - has been for nearly 10 years).

Oh my....

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Another doctorate degree...

I have yet to finish the first. But no matter. I've been offered a place on a clinical psychology training course (fully funded) to start in September :)

Thanks to everyone who wished me luck!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sad sad news

From Peterson's site - Tom Fox, one of the hostages from Christian Peacemaker teams, was found dead in Iraq on Friday

Repel evil with what is best. Then the one between whom and you there was hatred will become as it were your friend and intimate! (Qu'ran)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Facing the Truth - Desmond Tutu goes to Norn Iron

Desmond Tutu has been bringing together victims and perpetrators of Northern Ireland's conflict.

I managed to catch the program tonight on BBC2 - it was incredibly touching and challenging to see people, on both sides of the table, display such honesty and courage. It wasn't twee, it wasn't sensationalised. It was very calm, very dignified and very real. It wasn't comfortable viewing, not to hear someone say they had no remorse for their involvement in terrorism, not to hear a young man in his early teens whose brother had been shot dead by the UDA to ask a former UDA member why he had chosen that path - no it wasn't comfortable at all. But it was necessary to witness. Maybe it can help us all a little further down the road to understanding.

The last of the three part series is on BBC2 at 8pm tomorrow (Monday). I hope they are repeated. They should be compulsory viewing for anyone with any contact with Northern Ireland whatsoever. More info about the series & an interview with Desmond Tutu here.

Oh heck....

Yesterday morning at the God-forsaken hour at 8.30am the postman rang the doorbell really loudly! It was a rather large letter from my first choice university offering me an interview for their clinical training course - giving me all of 2 weeks notice. I'm meant to give them a five minute (what's with that - can't I have 20, how do you say anything in 5 minutes....huh?) presentation on research I'd like to carry out as a clinical trainee.

I am knackered now - I missed my Saturday morning lie in reading the letter and having kittens about my presentation. I also spent Friday night on the phone to my mum til the small hours - she just introduced a man she has been seeing a lot of recently to my grandparents and wanted to tell me how it went. (It went very well it seems, apparently. My grandad wants to show him his keyboard - this is a mark of great honour in my grandad's scheme of things. He has a room for his keyboards where they live underneath very neat dust protectors, amongst countless discs and manuals, all neatly kept, untouched by anyone other than the man himself!) Then my gran called me on Sunday morning to say, at last my mum has found someone who seems normal. This is high praise from my grandmother!

Wish me luck - and my mum too, I guess!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Spring is here...or not

I have managed to link my ipod to the stereo system in my car - which is muchly appreciated when I spend about 1-2 hours a day driving.

I was listening to Norah Jones' "Feels like home" which always reminds me of a couple of summers ago when it was really hot and me and my office mates would skive off work to go to Bournemouth beach a lot.

So today I was driving along, singing to myself in the sunshine thinking, 'Ah, spring is here, its getting warmer' I even had the car window open.

Then, two hours later, I'm sitting in my office pretending to write up some notes and there's a snow storm outside.


Monday, February 27, 2006

My first ever IQ test...

I administered my first ever IQ test to a client today - which might not sound all that impressive, but administering the damn thing is harder than doing it! :S

I've been practicing on partner dude, who, it turns out has the extortionately high IQ of...155 :O! It was really something to watch, I've never seen anyone do it so fast - especially the maths ones - he had the answer out before I'd even hit the timer button - what a clever clogs.

To celebrate, and on account of my client being late and my finishing work late and being both hungry and lazy in equally large measures, we decided to get take-away for dinner. I spotted a tiny Indian takeaway in the middle of an Asian area last week so we went there, in the hope that we would get an authentic curry (greasy slop British curry houses don't cut it for me). Anyway, authentic it was - the staff behind the counter didn't speak English - one of the other customers had to interpret for us!

However, we did get a really yummy and very spicy curry, and a peshwari naan with citrus fruit stuff in the middle....Mmmmmmmmmmmmm Definately going back there.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

PEP to be more available on the NHS

I awoke this morning to a rather terrifying sound. A doctor saying that someone who exposed themself to HIV through sexual contact was not deserving of PEP (post exposure prophylaxis) because, well, basically, its their own fault.

Anyway - the good news is that his views were only sought because of the increased availability of PEP to all on the NHS . The drug has been available to healthcare workers for years. If I ever have a needlestick injury at work (distinctly unlikely as I don't deal with that sort of thing) and the client is at risk of or has HIV, then I just have to nip over to occupational health and I can be given the drug. It costs about £600 - £1000 (i.e. not much in the scheme of things, particularly in comparison to treating someone with HIV). Apparently its a bit of a nasty concoction and makes you pretty sick for about a month so I don't think anyone is going to rely on it for protection. Bleurgh! I am glad. I don't think there's any evidence that increased availability of PEP will lead to an increase in risky sexual activity (just like the availability of the morning afterpill & abortion availability doesn't increase risky behaviours either).

Anyway, imho the promotion campaign has been pretty crap - I've not seen so much as a crappy leaflet. The Terrance Higgin's Trust material is excellent so look it up and pass on the information.

So good on the THT and the NHS! Major boo to unsympathetic medical professionals. However, its up to primary care trusts whether they make PEP available - so more work to be done methinks!


Monday, February 13, 2006

Back at the Quakers

We made it to a Quaker meeting on Sunday, the first time since we moved. It was a completely silent meeting in which no-one spoke. It was lovely. Sometimes there are no words to say, and the quietness itself says all we need to hear.

(Although someone fell asleep and snored a bit...hee hee)

Jesus toast

Oh wonder of wonders, the Lord hath appeared to me in the toast.

You too, can have your very own personal Jesus toast.

Or is it just a way to put a scam on ebay? ;)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The cartoons....

I thought I'd like to do a quick blog post about *those* cartoons. What a mess, eh? Anyway, through the wonders of google searching, I managed to find said cartoons, which depicted Muhammad as a suicide bomber. I love satire, especially religious & political satire. I think it can cut to the heart and force us to see things in a different way. The pen of a satirical writer/artist is a powerful and dynamic tool and can be used so positively. These cartoons were not satire, they were just plain old hatred and they say more about Islamophobia in the West that any newspaper would want to publish them than about Islam.

Anyway, I applaud the several thousand Muslims and political leaders who gathered today in London to voice their protest at the cartoons. Such a wonderful and peaceful public expression of Islam does the whole of our society good imho. I've resolved to keep a lookout for future events, as I would like to join and express my own solidarity with them. Christian Peacemaker Teams recently issued a very thoughtful statement...

We, the members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, are disturbed by anti-Muslim cartoons from twelve different artists published in September by Denmark's daily paper the Jyllands-Posten. The publisher claims the freedom of speech to publish the cartoons, but we believe they are only spreading hate and bigotry.

To those who believe and act as if terrorism is an essential part of the Islamic faith, we say No! Stop! We cannot stand by and remain silent when our gracious Muslim brothers and sisters are being defamed.

Some members of all religious and cultural groups have taken up the way of violence, killing innocent civilians for political causes. We as Christians would not want others in the world to see our faith as one which advocates dominating and oppressing the poor and weak of the world. Yet, the Christian leaders of our countries have been carrying out such domination and oppression.

Those of us working in Iraq see the suffering and pain that acts of terror cause. Terrorism is wrong. It is hypocritical to label Muslims as terrorists when our own countries have been the greatest perpetrators of terror and violence around the world.

Instead of spreading prejudice and lies about another faith, we call on artists, publishers, religious leaders, and on all people to put their creative efforts into exposing and seeking to eradicate the deeper injustices that foster the use of terror. We must open our hearts and minds to listen and learn from the riches of each others' cultures and find ways to build bridges in our fractured world."


So where did the last 2 broadband-less weeks go :S. I've started my job, so internet (and thesis-writing) activity have been rather lacking. I'm enjoying it, but its quite slow going to start with. Its a tad disorientating for me to switch from being in a very neuroscience orientated research group to very psychological/social/systemic orientated clinical psychologists. And alas, I find myself arguing in favour of medical models and slipping articles from psychiatry journals about the correlation between challenging behaviour (where I work, typically understood within a systemic framework - i.e. the environment causes the behaviour) and psychaitric diagnoses into the interesting research folder. Seems I am destined to be the voice of dissent :D.

I must write something about the need for co-operation beween psychology and psychiatry sometime. The psychiatrist is off on leave. I'm looking forward to meeting him when he gets back - I'd like to grill him on diagnosis in people with learning disabilities. Anyway, enough of that. I am supposed to be concentrating on clinical activities and not my philosophical/research curiosities, and having treated partner dude to a red wine fuelled lecture on how systemic models can be as oppressive as psychaitry over our first dinner-date in our new surroundings...I think I best climb down from the soap box. is cool. My supervisor is lovely, and I'm getting to shadow lots of people. I'll be spending a day with the physiotherapist at the epilepsy centre soon, going out with the community nurse and arranging to spend time with the hearing therapist (so I look forward to finding out what in the world a hearing therapist actually is.) Ironically, I've not been able to get any of the duty social workers on the phone...hmmmm....aren't they supposed to be available for emergencies?! Ahem!

My supervisor is really keen on "professional development" and has told us to go on as many courses/events/training days as the trust will pay for. So, I'll be going on a person-centred planning day, lectures on seeing patients as experts (something I am really keen on). I saw a course on how to work with interpreters which sounds fab which I will apply to. Where we live has a fairly high Asian population, so language and interpreters are real issues.

Anyway, I had best be off to write my thesis...another exciting Saturday night for me.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The time has come....

The removal van is in the driveway, and its time to pack up our PC.

I'm not sure when we'll have internet at our new house - the previous tenants didn't cancel their phone line so we have to wait for a week before BT can start a new contract. Our internet company take 10 days to transfer, so its going to be quite a while before we have broadband (oh, the agony...)

Anyway, so updates from me for a while.

Play nicely in the blogosphere kids :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I survived....

I survived my final research group presentation yesterday. I'm quite impressed with myself. I was unusually ill-prepared - usually I do everything for presentations at least several days in advance. This allows time to practice in front of the bathroom mirror and to iron everything out so it runs smoothly. However, the curse of writing up my thesis and needed to do some more analyses before I prepared my presentation meant, ended up sitting up to 4am doing my slides (with animated statistical models - oh yeah baby) and working out how to present quite a mess of results and wondering if I was doing it right.

Anyway, we have the vice dean in our research group - one of the most famous researchers in the country, internationally well known. So well so, I'd heard of him long before I started my PhD. Anyway, straight after my presentation he congratulated me on a very "mature" theoretical rationale and approach to my statistical analyses. From Professor Stats himself - this man is a stats genius. I nearly cried - what a relief.

I finally feel like I can pull myself together and start the final lap of my PhD. My thesis will be done within the next couple of months. I'll submit and have my viva.

Wish me luck :)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Go, the British army!

Yeah, I do still attend Quaker meetings ;)

I have heard on the grapevine that the British army hope to recruit clinical psychologists to work with soldiers who have been traumatised in conflict situations.

Whatever, we feel about the current gulf conflict, or war in general, I think we should welcome this move. I hope it goes through.

However, I heard this on the grapevine via someone who knows someone - if anyone knows where I could find out more, please let me know :)! I see a career prospect - wonder if they'll be employing at assistant level....

There's a whale in the Thames


There's a whale swimming in the Thames in central London, apparently it was spotted outside the Houses of Parliament.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dr Martin Luther King Day - the Northern Irish Version

We don't celebrate it in the UK but this Monday was Martin Luther King day in the States. I discovered this last year when I was working in New York and I arrived in work, dutifully at 9am in the morning, to find the doors locked and the lights off :(. I was most disappointed, but did find other ways to amuse myself for the rest of the day. Although I was somewhat peeved peeved that my coworkers hadn't told me it was a public holiday. Maybe its like showing up for work on Christmas day in the UK or something.

Anyway, Peterson's blog is well and truly on form at the moment with this little offering about an African-American lesbian mother and grandmother.

Regina D

Her father sexually abused her relentlessly.
He referred to queer people as "those goddamn faggots!"
He cursed her for being lesbian.
He died in bitterness and alcoholism.
Regina never liked him.

But Regina's mother sat her down this past November to set the story straight.

"Regina, when you told me you were a lesbian, you may have wondered how I took it all so well," her mother began then dropped the bomb.
"Your father liked men."
Seems all his homophobia was aimed right at himself as part of his own self-loathing.
He never hated Regina because she was lesbian; he hated himself.

In spite of the mess she was given, Regina speaks of hope and healing and love.

Regina: "If we are not real, it will kill us and we will take other people with us."

Regina: "I want to expand the meaning of the phrase, My People."

Regina wants to include more than just other African-American Lesbian Women in her group. She seeks to embrace among "her people" all queer folks, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Disabled, more and more, a wider coalition of humanity that she calls kin. "Everywhere I look, I need to see my people."

I like this line "Everywhere I look, I need to see my people". Too much damage is done when we don't see people as our own. In Milgrim's infamous study, "teachers" were less likely to give a high shock to someone they identified with. If they were told the person they were shocking was from the same town as them or the same school as them, they were prepared to resist demands to inflict pain on them. In short, they identified with them.

Back home I have heard Protestants say, 'She is one of them' or 'He is not one of us' meaning that said person is Catholic. Catholics say it about Protestants too. My family are Protestant, I remember moving to a mainly Catholic area when I was 9 years old. Even so young, other kids saw me as different. Kids whispered in the street and said, 'That's her, she's the one' and then asked if it was true, 'Are you know, a Protestant?' Then they'd kind of giggle and say, 'Well our mams say we have to be nice to you anyway, but is it true you don't go to mass? And there are no nuns at your school? Do you not believe in the Virgin Mary? And your church services last an hour and a half - do you not get bored?' Actually, on that latter question, maybe they had a point ;)

Of course, having never been exposed to Catholicism I was just as ignorant - I mean I didn't even realise that Catholics were Christians. 'So is it true you dress up and get loads of money for your first communion? And your priests wear big dresses? And they're not married? And you have statues in church? And nuns at your school? I wouldn't know what to say to a nun - what do you say to a nun? Do they all wear them funny outfits and are they really strict? And when you have communion, they put it right in your mouth - ewwwww. Is it true you pray to Mary - we don't, only to God. And really, you believe in Jesus do you? That's interesting, so do we...'

~Come on lads, shake hands - you're both my people even if you do, lets me frank, act the eejit...ahem.

But I wonder, how much conflict could be avoided, how many friendships formed, how much violence and injustice eliminated if we could just see more people as our people.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Contemplating Activism...advice please

Hmmmm, I am in a dilemma and as so many of my lovely blog readers are both more thoughtful and experienced in matters of activism than I am, I wondered if I might pick your brains.

I am on an emailling list for Christian psychologists. Admittedly, I'm more of the latter than the former these days, but no matter. This is a mixed group of qualified psychologists, psychology students, trainees, people who want to be psychologists and people who have some association with psychology in one way or another. Now, someone posted asking for an organisation to whom they could refer a Christian with same-sex feelings. I recommended Courage as a potential avenue to investigate, having recently met Jeremy Marks (albeit very briefly) and knowing their stance that gay relationships are not inherently sinful or dysfunctional. Perhaps I was a bit quick of the mark to make a recommendation.

Since, several other people have posted recommending True Freedom Trust and saying how they are a wonderful organisation. I have to beg to differ. It is my understanding that although TFT don't offer reparative therapy, they do see same sex relationships as inherently dysfunctional, they see homosexuality as a result of problems in early bonding and the formation of a "defensive attachment". This is not the position of any mainstream psychological or medical body - indeed, they (the BPS, the APA, the BMA and the AMA) are all clear that same sex attraction is not a psychological or biological dysfunction.

Now - my question is this. Should I say anything or invite discussion on the issue? And what should I say and how should I say it? It bothers me that people in positions of power may refer someone to an organisation that will tell them that their sexuality is pathological in some way. People are entitled to their opinions and to express them, and adults are entitled to seek help from whatever organisation they wish, but it is my opinion that people should know if the organisation they seek him from is not endorsed by mainstream bodies. It bothers me, but sometimes I am unsure what the best way to invite discussion might be.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I popped my cherry....

Ha - bet that got your attention, didn't it.

Well, it finally happened. I just could not resist any longer. It was a long, slow, dull afternoon and I couldn't help myself.

I... on ebay for the first time ever AND I WON!!! Partner dude's been going on for ages about how much he would love a super nintendo. We both used to play Mario in our early teens and we've been dying to play against each other. So I bid on one - a right bargain. It should come some time in the next week.

How am I ever going to write my thesis with a snes in the house....Doh!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Putting the T in LGB

Over Christmas, I stayed with partner dude's family for a few nights. Someway, somehow conversation turned to transgenderism. His family said they could not understand why "T" was included in LGBT because "Ts just like to dress up." Which isn't really accurate, but anyway, the conversation went along the lines of, 'That's really wierd, that's really freaky' while I squirmed in my seat wondering whether I should say anything.

So I said, 'How many transgendered people to you know?' I wasn't surprised when everyone said none. So I said, 'We have friends who are transsexuals. I think if you met them, you wouldn't think it was so wierd or freaky after all.' Which they did admit, was probably true.

Today on Peterson's blog there is a guest article by Diana who is transsexual. Diana also has her own website, which not only explores trans issues but also contains some beautiful photographs and interesting looking recipes.

One of the things she talks about is the need to put a face on the abstract. I admit that until I actually met people who were transgendered, I didn't understand and thought it was a bit wierd. But when I met people who are transsexual, it didn't seem wierd at all. They were my friends and they had hopes, plans, ambitions, relationships, feelings just like I do. To me, transgendered people were no longer some peculiar, foreign and exotic outside group, they were the people I shared my life with. When one of my friends who is a transvestite invited my help to remove hair from his legs the first time he decided to go out as she, we actually had a lot of fun. What is more, when the process was over my friend had much smoother legs than me - meh. Not fair :(.

I am thankful when people "come out" as gay or trans or something else. I am glad their journey has brought them to a point where they are proud of who they are and willing to share that with others. I am also grateful, because when people stand up and be who they are, especially when they must risk the rejection or scorn of others to do so, I think they start to liberate others also. They broaden our view of the world and of ourselves. It is in friendships with people who are gay that I have learned a lot about my own sexuality. In seeking to understand and value friends who are of a different religion to me, I have come to rethink and discover my own faith. In sharing with friends who are black and asian, I have come to understand a little more what it means to be white.

Anyway, please read Diana's piece on Peterson's blog and her website with an open mind and an open heart. When we live in a society where people are considered "wierd" or "freaky", it does us good to listen to their stories and be reminded of their humanity, and to realise a little bit more of our own.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I really enjoyed this passage from The Buddhist Blog.

I like how it explores the tensions between the need for experience, and how ideas an dphilosophies can act as a vehicle for that experience, or, act as dogmatic barriers and cause unrest between people. I hope James does not mind me borrowing this from his blog. Its definately worth a read if you have a few spare moments and are interested in Buddhist thinking. James has a real knack for putting together teachings from Buddhism and placing them in the context of his own experience which really helps to bring them to life.

The following conversation was between the ascetic Dighanaka and Gautama the Buddha from the book Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Dighanakha asked the Buddha, "Gautama, what is your teaching? What are your doctrines? For my part, I dislike all doctrines and theories. I don't subscribe to any at all."

The Buddha smiled and asked, "Do you subscribe to your doctrine of not following and doctrines? Do you believe in your doctrine of not-believing?"

Somewhat taken aback, Dighanakha replied, "Gautama whether I believe of don't believe is no importance."

The Buddha spoke gently, "Once a person is caught by belief in a doctrine, he loses all his freedom. When on becomes dogmatic, he believes his doctrine is the only truth and that all other doctrines are heresy. Disputes and conflicts all arise from narrow views. They can extend endlessly, wasting precious time and sometimes even leading to war. Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to the spiritual path. Bound to narrow views, one becomes so entangled that it is no longer possible to let the door of truth open."


Dighanakha asked, "But what of your own teaching? If someone follows your teaching will he become caught in narrow views?"

"My teaching is not a doctrine or a philosophy. It is not the result of discursive thought or mental conjecture like various philosophies which contend that the fundamental essence of the universe is fire, water, earth, wind, or spirit, or that the universe is either finite or infinite, temporal, or eternal. Mental conjecture and discursive thought about truth are like ants crawling around the rim of the bowl -- they never get anywhere. The things I say come from my own experience. You can confirm them all by your own experience.


My goal is not to explain the universe, but to help guide others to have a direct experience of reality. Words cannot describe reality. Only direct experience enables us to see the true face of reality."

Dighanakha exclaimed, "Wonderful, wonderful Gautama! But what would happen if a person did perceive your teaching as a dogma?"


I must state clearly that my teaching is method to experience reality and not reality itself, just as a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon itself. An intelligent person makes use of the finger to see the moon."

Monday, January 09, 2006


I hate goodbyes :(. Yesterday we had to say goodbye to the young Friends group we've been attending. We only meet once a month, so yesterday's meeting was the last one we were able to attend. My first foray into Quakerism (16 months ago) was with our current meeting, so leaving seems really sad.

Soon, I will have to say goodbye to my work colleagues. I am not looking forward to that. I met some of them on my first day in Southampton and we've been together through many ups and downs since then.

I can't help but bear in mind that this move is temporary. With any luck it will be until September/October. But, my work contract is only 6 months. If I get on a clinical course to start in September/October, I will stay put and work for a temping agency if they're not able to extend it an extra couple of months. If not, I'll be on the job-seeking treadmill again. Life seems so up in the air.

However, on the bright side. We found a fantastic Thai restaurant that serves papaya salad - something I attempted to make myself a while ago and which was absolutely yummy. However, it looked nothing like the picture in my Thai recipe book so I think I did something wrong. I'm curious to see what the real thing tastes like :). We also intend to attend a new Quaker meeting. The interior of whose meeting house looks like this picture.

I think I will have to try to see this as something of an adventure. I'm grateful to have partner dude moving with me. This would be a tough move to make alone as there is no obvious way to make lots of friends. We need to:

*Find an arts cinema
*Join a gym
*Find some completely random group or activity to join where we can have fun and meet some new people
*Meet an internet friend from a psychology website whose fault it is I have this job. (It was her old job and only advertised locally so she put a tip off on a psychology website - had she not, I wouldn't have seen the ad.)

Any other ideas for moving to a new place and making friends, meeting people?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

We're moving....again....

We found a new flat yesterday :) Its a really nice place - an old house that's been converted into flats so the rooms are really big. The bedroom especially is so airy and sunny, which is fantastic. Our current one is pretty small and pokey which is quite annoying sometimes. We even managed to get a place with a spare room (a miracle that we could afford it so close to London) so we'll have a study/guest room for visitors. So anyone who wants to visit, let me know. We're just half an hour from Marylebone :).

One of the things that irritates me about flat living - actually, living in suburbia in general, is our uncanny ability to not speak to our neighbours. When I was growing up, I knew most of the neighbours in our street, even the one's who didn't have kids. My mum was always sending me next door with a little bowl to ask the neighbour if we could borrow some sugar as we'd run out. At Christmas my gran bakes boiled cakes for most of her neighbours. I remember there was rioting in the streets where my gran lives (I promise Northern Ireland isn't that bad a place to grow up), and my gran would be exhausted from watching it from the window. She watched in case a petrol bomb landed itself in the house of an elderly neighbour, known as wee May (because she was called May and was really tiny) so she would be able to make sure she got out. As a young adult, I see very little of that kind of community any more.

I don't even know what most of our neighbours are called. I hear the people who live in the flat above us often enough - but only because they are so fond of arguing loudly in Chinese when I am writing my thesis. Anyway, perhaps I will have to try to break this silliness and pop next door sometime and invite them in for a cup of tea. Maybe it can be our new flat resolution or something.

Now, to sort out moving...again!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Still waiting...

Let's not forget the hostages, Norman Kember, Tom Fox, James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden still held in Iraq.

My thoughts are with Pat Kember, whose peaceful demeanour and calm dignity in the face of what is for most of us, an unimaginable terror, are humbling.

My thoughts also turn to the people of Iraq. Since the new year began, over 240 people have been killed and 280 wounded. Violence continues to rage in Iraq, but it is much less reported on our televisions. I remember talking to a friend of mine before the Iraq war began. He is in the British navy and was worried that he may not be able to complete his MSc before getting called up. I asked if he was worried, he said, 'No, if we go to Iraq now, we'll nearly all be home in 6 months and it will all be over.' It would appear things have not gone according to plan.

Pat Kember still has hope, but for many Iraqi citizens and many American and British troops, they already know their family and friends aren't coming home again. How much we need more people like these four hostages to work for peace. Let us not let Iraq slip to the back of our minds.

(In case you're wondering, the pictures are from the American Friends Service Committee's 'Eyes Wide Open' exhibition, highlighting the human cost of the Iraq war. Each set of shoes represents a soldier or civilian killed in Iraq.)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Random music buys

I've enjoyed Rufus Wainwright's music ever since partner dude bought me a few of his CDs last year. It seems his younger sister is equally talented.

My thanks to music sales in Virgin :)

Classical sounding music, French lyrics, folksy spunk and a "caution, explicit lyrics" sticker. Amazing, I can feel intellectual, cultured, artsy and naughty all at the same time. :)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy new year!

Happy new year everyone :)! I have no time for much of an update today as we're having a friend round for lunch to celebrate that I got the new Jamie Oliver Italian cook book for Christmas. Woo Wooo! I've just made a giant tiramisu and it looks incredible!

Anyway, before I go off to toast the new year dieters with a generous portion of sherry and coffee laced marscapone and chocolate goodness, I thought I'd start 2006 off with a nice inspiring quotation:

I'm not trying to counsel any of you
to do anything really special
except to dare to think,
and to dare to go with the truth,
and to dare to really love completely.

R. Buckminster Fuller – 1895-­1983