Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Australia Day

Last night HM1 & 2, and myself went to an Australia Day barbeque. The only thing is: it wasn't Australia Day (that was on the 26th). It wasn't a bbq - more like grilling food in the kitchen. And our hosts had no real connection to Australia.

Brilliant excuse for a party! Hats off to that!

My very social weekend also included sitting outside (!) on Sunday for about three hours. Quite impressive in January even if I say so myself. The sunshine was lovely and the lunch and red wine and company were too. I was frozen by sundown, but it was worth it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A weak vegetarian?

After a morning/afternoon full of meetings I helped staff a trip with a group from a SEN school. We took off to Kingston to see Alvin and the Chipmunks (the music is very irritating!) and a meal in a chicken restaurant. Not so PC after all the ranting Jamie Oliver is doing on TV - and also not particularly vegetarian friendly. Most places manage at least a half-decent veggie option but it was truly awful here: processed junk that leaves a horrible after taste. It's such a shame we took our young people there even if we are constrained by a budget.

Pulling into the bus station near my flat at the end of our trip I was unable to open the mini van door prompting disparaging remarks from colleagues about my choice in diet! Not much to be said in my defence though, as I did feel pretty awful after that meal:)

Hooray for our fully organic veg and fruit box my flat gets every week. What a blessed relief it is to eat real food.

And the walls came tumbling down

The images of the wall between Palestine and Egypt laying down on the ground with people, carts, and animals streaming across are a sight to behold.

And there are so many people crossing the border back and forth that there seems to be very little that could be done either practically or politically. Go people power!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Training, training, training...

I love training courses and I've been lucky enough to go to loads of interesting ones over the past year. I am especially lucky in one of my volunteering placements where I tend to look for an interesting course and then my manager will just stick me on it. It's brilliant! (Currently I'm looking for a course on how to grow vegetables:)

This week has been almost over doing it though as I've spent the past three days in training. One was a child protection course (always heartbreaking) and the past two days have seen me in the first section of a course on sex and sexuality work with people with learning difficulties. It is absolutely fascinating. And very thought provoking. Being new to this area of work there are a lot of things I've never really given much thought to, and this is definately one of them. There can be a very unfortunate tendency to view people in the terms of the disability they have rather than as a human in their own right, a human fully alive. Ignorance can never be good with such a vulnerable group so anything we can do to increase knowledge and empower people we work with can only be a good thing. I guess increasing my knowledge and allowing space to reflect on these issues is very helpful too.

The scariest thing about this particular course is of course the implication that once I've finished it I'll have to deliver it others... At least I've been doing the course with a colleague so we can share this task, but I'm glad the next two days next month will deal with the more practical side of things of how to deliver such work to our clients.

In some way this is very typical of my work where I am, as the American's would say, flying by the seat of my pants. Not exactly blagging, but then again not that far off either. It keeps you on your toes - and is so exhilirating when you pull it off!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ethical Questions Prompted by Free Newspapers

Walking back from the Lyceum Theatre along the Strand our group, along with every other pedestrian, was bombarded by hoards of people thrusting the free newspapers into our hands. A number of the young people were happy to take the newpapers and we ended up at Waterloo clutching newpapers left, right and centre.

As we were standing waiting for the Responsible Person to tell everyone else which platform we were headed for one of the young boys wandered over to a stand selling paper and took one. Fortunately I saw the event and was able to have a discussion and we returned the paper to the lenient paper seller, but it was interesting trying to explain the differences between free papers and one that you have to pay for, and then also the reasons for the difference. "Would you steal anything from a shop?" I got asked, "Would you steal a chocolate bar if you had to?".

My mind conjured up all manner of situation where I might HAVE to steal a chocolate bar while I was busy saying "No, I would not steal a chocolate bar."

When I questioned further for a rational about why I might have to steal chocolate, a revealling: "Because your friends told you to" came out. What an opening for a discussion on ethics and our rules of engagement with each other! That's one thing I love about youth work: the creative opportunities and the thinking on one's feet that any engagement with young people offers.

"What would you do if you saw a fiver on the street? Would that be stealing?" was slightly more tricky. But I turned it round with the get-out-of-jail-free trick of just asking the same question back and carrying on the conversation from there!

The Lion King

Another work trip, another musical. This time round we took 15 young people to a matinee performance of the Lion King. It involved a rather complex set of logistical maneuvering to get everyone to the same place at the same time, but things like this have a tendency to fall into place somehow. I only got to see the second half of the musical due to being paired up with a delightful young girl who was not interested in seeing the Lion King at all. But what I saw I did enjoy! The set design, costumes, and lighting were very clever and I thought the giraffes were particularly brilliant.

However, I cannot wait for our adult social club trip - that has got to be easier I reckon.

On Monday I got given a more definate area of responsibility, volunteers and volunteering, which is helpful. At least I've got something else to say that "I don't really know" when people ask me what I do at work... We also got told that working unauthorised overtime is going to become a disciplinary action which is a novel approach (in my experience) to the pervasive problem in the Third Sector of people working 50-70 hours a week while being paid for 20. Okay, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but probably not by much.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Taking myself out for lunch

I'm celebrating the end of two+ months of unemployment and no benefits and feeling hugely excited about actually receiving a paycheck at the end of December! Because I got perilously close to the red line I feel euphoric to have money in the bank again. So on a whim I popped into a cafe and had a proper sitdown lunch today in between work. It's so nice to not be counting pennies every time I walk out the door. Although given the price of food around here I might be back to square one soon!

A change in language

Britain drops 'War on Terror' label. I didn't see this widely reported, I was alerted to it by another website, but I do think this is really interesting. And not before time either.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Wretched birdfeeders

Having returned safely back from Finland, today has been full of activities around the house before I disappear back into the world of work. Having ascertained which plants had been moved around and where to, I was ready to get to business (HM1 has a habit of periodically moving the plants around the flat). I tend to job share the filling up our two birdfeeders with HM2 but as he works the usual working week and only has time during the weekends it falls on me to fill the feeders during the week.

The feeder that holds the nuts is a personal enemy of mine. It was placed way up in the branches by HM2 (who is significantly taller than me), and while I do need the little stepladder to reach both feeders, the nut one is a particularly precarious endeavour. I balance on the top step and cling to the feeder while trying to undo the bottom to refill it and not let the branch whip back upwards and out of reach... It must be amusing to watch me for any of our neighbours. This morning there was a biting wind which chilled my hands and I had to keep stopping to put my hands in my pockets for them to carry out the task required. At one point the branch did swing upwards and out of reach and I had to resort to tying my housekeys to a bit of string and fling it over the branch and then haul it back down to my height. I'm surprised I got the feeder filled and back on the branch at all! Thankfully the seed feeder was - in comparison - far easier, although there was a moment when I thought I was going to unceremoniously fall off the ladder and onto the whirligig laundry drier.

The birds appreciate the feeders at anyrate. These are not shy country birds that take weeks to adjust to any new feeder, oh no! These are town birds who know exactly what a birdfeeder is and what to do with one. Satisfyingly, there are plenty of birds eating our offerings. Satisfying at least until the feeders are empty again. Fingers crossed that happens on the weekend!