Today in a Haiku

(image, bizarrely from California State University Long Beach!)

While English haiku tend to be 10-14 syllables, the classic Japanese haiku is 17 syllables.
On Twitter earlier, I took up @MyWordWizard‘s haiku challenge:
“Got haiku? We’d love to read it. Submit @MyWordWizard at http://tinyurl.com/SubmitPoem #poettalk #poems #poetry #poet #writer #haiku”

I may submit it to their site, but then it occured to me – can you better this?  Can you sum up your day today in a haiku?

Here’s mine:
“Sitting at home with toddler, /toys on floor, food in hair,/
what bliss./And mess”…

Eurobleugh

image from www.nicetomeeteu.com


What’s wrong with you, you may well ask?

I’ve had a summer broadly off Euroblogging, in the main part because so little happens in Brussels in August.
I’ve also for work purposes avoided blogging on a number of EU-related issues which interest me.  A necessary sacrifice.
So EU-wise my blog’s been a bit quiet recently.

The thing is, I’ve also used the time to work out a bit what I care about, what motivates me to blog.   Yep, it’s my navel gazing post only a month after the majority of EU blogs went through this …

Over the last couple of years, my euroblogging has evolved to be focused on the UK’s relationship with the EU, and looking at the EU through a gender focus and faith focus.  I blog irregularly as I’ve other commitments, but I hope my slightly different take is interesting for my readers.  And I think overall I’m pretty happy with these things as my euroblogging USP.

I mean, I could critique the current common transport policy, the Tax Payers’ Alliance’s problems with the Trans European Networks Executive Agency, or seafarers and the ILO, but I’m not sure that would be very interesting.  I’ve tried to cover my interest in transport via practical posts on HS1 instead…
I’ve never cared a lot about agriculture beyond what I can see in the fields or arrives on my plate, and much as I care about climate change I’m just not sure enough on my numbers to do in-depth critiques of these sort of things.  So when I do do something in-depth, I probably do care about it, and I do know what I’m talking about.  I hope.
And have put off playing with my toddler to write it.

At the moment, with the “new school term” coming, I’m getting a bit of  a sinking back to school feeling.
I’m not quite sure why, but I suspect there’s an element of  not feeling very inspired by politics overall at the moment.

In the UK there’s a big and actually quite exciting political experiment going on – the first coalition government in a very long time and a referendum coming on a change to a voting system that none of the political parties specifically wants.
But while the big picture is exciting, day to day life is currently a question of which public service is going to change next and what does that mean for daily life for my friends and family.  And the attitude to the EU is – complicated.

And in the EU, there’s a weird sort of situation.
While the Lisbon Treaty is implemented (but hardly to public acclaim), and European External Action Service is established (and as male-dominated as we feared and expected), and the Council President is up and running (with an eye on consolidating a more wide ranging role during the Belgian Presidency of the EU), and all the little changes are put in place, I just don’t feel that there’s anything in particular to be enthusiastic about.
The euro is hanging in there, but I’m not finding discussions about greater economic governance inspiring – may be I would if the UK had been part of it and my daily life were being affected, but we’re not in “prepare and decide” mode any more, nor even “wait and see”.
And how long did it take the EU to get its act together for the people in Pakistan?

On top of that, I’m slowly realising that there’s no easy way back to Brussels in the near future.  To work there again any time soon, I’d need to make some pretty serious life changes.  I may not even work on EU issues soon.  But that gives me more scope to blog 🙂

I’m never going to be a daily blogger, or a several-times-a-day one.
I’m fed up with feeling that unless you can give all hours of the day to something, you are ancillary to it.  How on earth can any parent give 100% to anything, including their kids, and still make a difference in their other spheres of interest?  Why can’t the quality of contribution count as well as quantity?
And when it’s something I do for the fun of it, to test ideas and provoke conversations, I’m certainly not buying into a set of rules of the how and when.  I’m definitely a cat to herd rather than a sheep and so I guess I know I’m in good company in the euroblogging world 🙂

So I’m feeling a bit Eurobleugh.
I’m not in the mood for flannel, or theory over experience and applied example.
I want to know that it’s all worthwhile, that there really is an added value to me as a citizen in what’s going on – at all levels of decision-making.
I guess it’d be lovely to be seeing something happening that actually makes a difference for the good, rather than being the least worst option available.

So now I’ve got all that off my chest, let’s start September euroblogging with a positive attitude and see if there’s some good, persuasive arguments for what’s going on out there…

Basil’s grown up cooking for kids

(image from Omnivorous bear who read the same Observer article)

Another installment in my efforts to teach my toddler to cook.  We do this when it is raining. Today, we made packet Postman Pat cakes.  No information needed.

But we also made basil biscuits.

This is amazingly easy.

50g butter
50g sugar
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 handfuls chopped basil leaves
(I used thai basil as it happened to be at hand, but greek or standard is perfectly good too).

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Toddler can do this, slowly.
Blend in the flour and baking powder.
Knead in the bowl, or on a board, roll into a sausage.  Put back in bowl, roll in the chopped basil leaves, keep rolling around to mix the basil leaves in evenly.
Make the dough into a 2cm wide sausage. Cut into 1cm slices.
Put on a greased baking tray, and bake in the oven at 180c for 12 minutes.

Now, these could happily be changed around – parmesan in place of the sugar, lemon juice and peel in the sweet biscuit mix,or tomato puree or sundried tomatoes in place of the sugar.
Toddler’s not completely sure about them, but has said he’ll try again after his nap…

Justice? No, it’s criminal lack of foresight

image from www.yourkenttv.co.uk

I know this is an age of austerity but it’s amazing what these cutback look like on the ground.  It’s also worrying the lack of joined up thinking amongst those with the power to make the cuts.

Don’t worry, I’m not naive.  I know there’s no masterplan, no overview of how and on what cuts are made.  That’s the problem in believing in local decision-making though, is that you do kind of expct some sort of consistency in the local area.  I’ll show you what I mean.  As you may have noticed because I’ve blogged about it a bit, Ashford in Kent is one of the growth towns in the UK.  Here’s what Ashford’s regeneration agency “Ashford’s Future” has to say about it:

Key facts about Ashford:
The fastest growing town between London and the Continent
Plans to create 31,000 homes and 28,000 jobs by 2031
Around £2.5 billion planned investment
37 minutes to London via the high speed rail link
Paris in 2 hours and Lille in under 1 hour from Ashford International
Exciting shopping opportunities in the extended County Square shopping centre and the Designer Outlet
Some of the best leisure facilities in the South East including a multi-million redeveloped leisure centre and international standard athletics stadium
Excellent and expanding education facilities including a multi-million Ashford Learning Campus for further education
2 million sq ft of commercial office development
Office rents 68% lower than in London and 40% lower than in the South East
House prices 28% cheaper than in London and 14% cheaper than the South East average
Fantastic countryside, including part of the Kent Downs area of outstanding natural beauty and extensive areas of woodland
Easy access to beautiful countryside, charming villages and the south coast
And – 85% of Ashford residents value the quality of life in Ashford

So what’s the problem?  Out on Saturday, I heard the story of a 15 year old, wrongly arrested for shoplifting in Ashford Town Centre. As ths is town gossip, I’d be delighted to have facts corrected, of course.

The police cells at Ashford police station have been closed.  This means that said 15 year old was apparently taken all the way to Folkestone for questioning. The way the story was told to me, once it had been acknowledged that it was a case of mistaken identity the 15 year old was released.  But he’s in Folkestone, 20km (12 miles) from where he was taken.  Fortunately he was sensible enough to point out that he was under 16 and get the police to get his parents to come and collect him.  But carting a 15 year old 12 miles from home on a mistaken basis, with no obligation to return him to his original location?  That doesn’t seem like an intended consequence, nor in line with the standards of child protection we’d expect from public authorities.

So then we learn that the closure of the custody suite is to be used as a justification for closing Ashford’s magistrates court.  Describing the court as “underused“, the money saved by not doing maintenance recently is also given as a reason for transferring magistrate court functions from Ashford to Folkestone and Dover.

But a letter in this week’s Kentish Express (not online, will see if it is still available) from a former Magistrate sets out the cost errors in the assumptions that this would save money, including the extra fuel and travel time of all the Ashford-based solicitors alone (NB there are only a couple of solicitors firms handling court work in Folkestone, and none in Dover).

One local solicitor pointed out the propensity of magistrates to grant bail to those kept waiting long in the day.  Another firm, Griffin Law, which is involved in the campaign to save the courts says:

The closure of a […] Magistrates Court in Ashford is particularly ill thought through, given the government’s intention to grow the population of Ashford and surrounding villages.

And that’s exactly the point.  While it might be a short term saving to close the older magistrates court based in Ashford, it is Ashford, not Folkestone, which is well placed in terms of transport links (road and rail), Ashford that is designated the growth town, Ashford that is to expand so substantially.
It is therefore not the case that the population of the south east kent area is best served by moving the justice functions to Folkestone. Even now, Ashford is bigger than Folkestone.

This is a short-sighted decision, exactly the sort of thing that the level of cuts needed in public spending are likely to bring about, but without the careful holistic thinking that we might have hoped would be in place given the amount of time and warning the various different public bodies involved have had to think about it all.

It would also be great to see Ashford’s MP taking a leading role in fighting this sort of nonsensical decision that could potentially affect quality of life in Ashford.

Oh, and the international standard althetics complex Ashford’s Future mentioned?  That’s not being used properly – no compatitions etc. being attracted to the area – so that’s in line for closure too.  What a waste.  The Facebook campaign on this one is here.

The classic British holiday…

… or 5 really good things I did on my holidays and 5 potential deal-breakers…

1) The English country wedding
What could be more perfect than starting a holiday with a wedding? 
My cousin got married in a little stone church where everyone knew her, and had a hog roast reception at a specially converted wedding barn in the middle of nowhere (the fantastically named village of Throcking).  My son was a page boy and insisted on carrying a “Just Married” balloon down the aisle behind her, and stripped all his outfit off during the ceremony because he was too hot.  Don’t you just love toddlers? 😉
Fantastic day, lovely to see my family, great to see my cousin (who has always been the closest thing I have to a sister) so happy.
Of course, the location of the wedding limited our options for making use of our week off, so we headed east, to Suffolk…

2) Visiting Castles
Having recently joined English Heritage, my husband is determined to get his money’s worth.  We’ve visited three castles and a ruined abbey within a week.  Fortunately, my son is obsessed with castles at the moment.  At Framlingham (where Mary Tudor was declared queen), we joined the EH Time Travellers.  While a toddler is too little to take part in the mock battles and wild bear hunt,  my son was plenty big enough to paint a shield and was thrilled to get the design he asked for (“a big lion with a tail on!”)  He also ran the ramparts, thrilling for him, a little nerve fraying for me although it is all in good repair.
At Orford castle (pictured) he fell asleep in the car and spent a good 40 minutes asleep on my lap in the main hall.  Waking up there was the Best. Thing. Ever!  He then climbed to the top of the castle, and back down again, on his own little legs.  and slept soundly that night.

3) Southwold
We’ve wanted to visit Southwold for ages, but when we holidayed in Norfolk, it was just a little too much in the wrong direction.  It was worth the wait.  We stayed at the hotel Gordon Brown used on his holiday there (no, we didn’t book for that reason, we didn’t know that until we were leaving!)  My favourite moment was my toddler walking into our room and saying “Ooh! This is lubly!
It is famous for its rows of brightly painted beach huts, its white lighthouse, the Adnams brewery and its pier, which was only recently completed and is in fact the UK’s only 21st century pier.  Southwold is truly lovely, and although it has the usual middle class beach uniform shops (Fat Face, Joules and a mini-department store stocking Crew and White Stuff) there are also an impressive number of independent stores.  There’s a tiny amber museum and a few more museums that we didn’t go to (no time!) and many happy hours can be spent mucking about on the beach (sandy) and on the pier (the modern ironic amusement arcade is fantastic although too scary for a toddler). 

4) Sutton Hoo
When we told people that we were going to Ipswich over night, most went “why???”  Some people know about the regeneration of the docks area which is really very stylish indeed, but most know it as a bit of a chav town, not really living up to its claim (with Chelmsford) of being the first Anglo-Saxon towns in Britain.
And the proximity to Sutton Hoo, the site of the most important Anglo-Saxon archaeological site in Britain, shows that this last point was an important one.  Sutton Hoo in the rain is basically a big mound of grassy earth at the end of a wheelchair-friendly but muddy path. However it has an excellent visitor centre.  We were a bit disappointed to find it was National Trust rather than English Heritage (by contrast Stonehenge is EH… go figure) so we had to pay the entrance fee but it was worth it.  There’s an excellent film, a really interesting exhibition, drawing tables for kids, a rather alarming “open grave” in the floor with a sandcast of a murdered body within in, and a replica of the longboat in which the Anglo-Saxon hoard and the helmet (here a plastic version is modelled by my husband, the original is in the British Museum in London) was found.
For anyone interested in the dark ages, or in the history of Britain – political or religious because this site is pagan burials with early Christian influences- Sutton Hoo is a must.
The best thing for me was my son’s artwork going up on the wall in the visitor’s centre.  And a slight moment of embarrassment when he told the nice curator that his name is “Baby Bear”…
     

#

5) TV tie-in
And finally… for anyone without a child under 7, this picture will mean little. 
But for Cbeebies fans everywhere, this is a really famous building.  This is Jason Mason’s house in Sunny Sands from “Grandpa in my Pocket”!!!  My son knew it immediately and was thrilled.
If you want to find it, it is in Aldburgh, near the seafront. 

However, as always there are things that disappoint you.
Here’s 5…
1) customer service at reception in the Salthouse Hotel, Ipswich
An error meant that two rooms had been reserved for us.  Rather than check us in, give us the key to one and sorting out the backroom issues later, we were kept waiting a good 15 minutes with our toddler (and the after effects of my food poisoning) in the admittedly stylish reception and almost accused of having reserved two ourselves!  Given this hotel is Alastair Sawday Special Places to Stay-listed,  a sign of quality we’ve never been disappointed by, we were appalled.
Breakfast food and service, the room itself and the extremely helpful porter were excellent.  But the reception experienced tainted it.  

2) customer service at the Crown hotel’s restaurant, Southwold
We had dinner at the Crown Southwold on the first night we were there, and were impressed with the food and service.  We decided to return for our special dinner.  We couldn’t reserve, but thought arriving before 7pm would be fine.  
We got a table without difficulty, but after ordering we waited an hour for our starters (crab on toast with gazpacho, and mushroom and tarragon soup).  Neither dish takes an hour to prepare, there was no explanation, no offer of bread.  We were only grateful that our toddler had eaten beforehand and sat happily in his chair colouring Peppa Pig pictures.  When it finally did arrive, and we were asked if we were enjoying our meal we said well the food is fine but how did two bowls of soup take an hour?
The maitre d’ arrived, all explanation that the restaurant was busy, but no real apology, and certainly no offer to waive e.g. the cost of the starters. The mains arrived very speedily and he personally delivered our desserts (the strawberry pannacotta, strawberries with basil syrup, strawberry and basil sorbet and red basil was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten!), but it shouldn’t be that you have to complain to get reasonable service.  Frustrating, given the excellent service only a few days earlier.  

3) food poisoning from my only non-fish meal in days!
Chicken, perfectly roasted, must’ve had been exposed to bacteria after cooking.  Haven’t been that ill in ages. Not the Crown, in case you were wondering.

4) the behaviour of drivers on the motorway (and frankly most other roads)
You lot!  You’re mad!  As I now have access to sat nav, my attention in the passenger seat is back on the road.  When did it become acceptable not to indicate before moving?  When was it made ok not to look to the right when joining a roundabout?  Aren’t white lines in the centre of the road meant to be to the right of the car, not in the centre? Don’t you know/ care about the £80 fine for talking on your mobile when driving – its not about money-making – you’re endangering others!  Speed limits aren’t a goal or a minimum – on country lanes you need to drive appropriately for the speed of the road even if there’s a “national speed limits apply” sign.  What the HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU ALL???!!! 

5) the M25 (and the Dartford crossing)
In Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens” there’s a fantastic sequence where Crowley the demon shapes the M25 into the dark sigil Odegra.  Have you been on the M25 recently?  Journeys that used to take 1.5 hours (like getting to the wedding) now require you to leave up to 3 hours in order to be sure of getting there.  The Dartford tunnel in particular is diabolical at present.  But to add insult to injury, as you crawl across the Dartford bridge, you can see where they are installing speed cameras.  Speed cameras! Our average speed over the bridge was 10 mph!  We didn’t get faster than 20mph!  And this was 3pm, not even rush hour.  Truly dreadful.
Sorting out the mess of the M25 needs to be a national level strategic transport priority.  

But a holiday’s not a holiday if you don’t have something to complain about, after all.  I hope you all enjoy yours as much.

Traintastic ideas for High Speed 1


Eurostar image from Wikipedia
 

As you know, the HS1 high speed route has a lot of importance for me.
Not only is it my route to Brussels – vital for work – but also to London. So with HS1 in the news today, some thoughts…

1) Commuter Routes

HS1 covers both Eurostar services to the continent (not “to Europe” please, rail spokesperson on the radio earlier, the UK is in Europe geographically as well as politically), and  high speed train services to the Kent coast.

At present there is overcapacity on the North Kent route, but by contrast at rush hour standing room only on some Ashford trains.  With the number of Ashford households due to grow by 20,000 in the next 15 years, this is a ridiculous situation.

It is also deeply annoying the frequency with which the trains are late leaving Ashford in the morning due to the coupling up of two train sections coming from two different places – if one half if late, or the coupling technology fails, everyone’s journey is affected.

And it is not obvious why there’s an Ebbsfleet only service running during the rush hour with very few passengers.

Similarly, not all of Kent is served by the high speed service, and the most obvious loser is Maidstone.

So – deep breath – here’s some ideas for solutions to these issues…

Firstly, stop the pretence that the North Kent route is ok – a six-car train would probably suffice at most times of day.
Then, stop pretending that Ebbsfleet needs the level of dedicated service it currently receives.  The “build it and they will come” approach is very noble, and the potential catchment area may be wide, but the demand is just not there at present – was the station really just built to attract more public transport visitors to Bluewater shopping centre?
So that gives us potential carriages free, and a train pathway that is not full.
So let’s address the Ashford problem.

Why not have that random Ebbsfleet train go through to Ashford at rush hour?
If this service were available, it would make the frequency of trains to Ashford comparable to that of Guildford and with a similar journey time – and thus really attractive to commuters, bringing more money into the area.
It would also mean another train starting at Ashford, neatly avoiding the coupling problems experienced at present.
And if the two halves of the current train could run separately, 10 minutes apart, it should be possible to have 6 trains an hour in the rush hour rather that one every half hour.
Now that’s a good commuter service.

And what about Maidstone?
With the regeneration and redevelopment work there, there are more households expected there too – but the commmute is now inferior to Ashford’s current service.  So, build a Maidstone Parkway station on the high speed line.
Yes, I know, recession, no public spending, austerity, hard times, etc. but if we don’t use the public sector money that remains, in partnership with the  private sector, then

2) Ticketing

I pay a vast amount each year for a Gold Card season ticket even though I work part-time.  It only costs a little more to do that than to buy individual tickets each day for the days a week I work and means I can use it on non-working days or at the weekend if I need to.  But this is still a silly situation.
Another silly situation is that this super-fast high speed line issue paper season tickets which fail on a regular basis. Sometimes on the day of issue.  It’s not keeping the tickets with mobile phones or BlackBerries that does it, it’s the ticket gates, at Ashford, St Pancras and mainly on London Underground.  Reissuing costs me time, and staff time.  Letting me through the gates instead takes queuing time and staff time, and if no one’s there I might miss my trains.

Both of these have an easy solution – use Oyster, or an Oyster-compatible system.  The technology is already in place and in use for much of my journey.  My experience as an Oyster user in London was that failure was rare, replacement speedy and generally a much more pleasant experience than the current one.
And electronic ticketing (with a paper receipt) would surely allow me to by an annual ticket valid on certain days only.

3) Attitude to ticket holders

A month or so ago, I had a week in which on the Wednesday, my train suffered birdstrike.  I was in work about 4 hours late.  That same week, on the Friday, my train suffered electrical failure and eventually, after threats of being shunted etc. we made it at a crawl to Ebbsfleet where we “detrained” (at last, a useful for that station!)
Forms to reclaim the cost of the journey as compensation were pressed upon us.  But when trying to do so, my husband was informed hat as a season ticket holder, no compensation was due.  So for the privilege of spending several thousand pounds a year, they bank your money and assume your goodwill in the case of delays?  That’s not on.
If the majority of commuters have a season ticket, then the financial incentive to run on time is greater if those passengers are also due compensation in case of delay.  That’s basic economics…

4) The Stratford problem

The problem of Stratford has been covered in other blogs.  Merely calling a station Stratford international is not enough to guarantee that international trains will stop there. 
We know that having a private company operating transport links can be problematic for local populations when the commercial interests of the operator and the socially and economically necessary for the area supposedly served do not necessarily directly coincide
But essentially, the problem of Strateford is that it’s not quite enough in Canary Wharf to be convenient for the city gents based there, and again, as with Ebbsfleet it seems to have its success or otherwise linked to a shopping centre wit the suggestion that the shopping centre’s owners might be instrumental in its success or otherwise. 
But there’s the possibility that a rival to Eurostar, say ICE from Germany, might stop trains there and at Ashford rather than St Pancras and Ebbsfleet?

5) High Speed 1’s infrastructure

If it is true that Network Rail is the most expensive track and infrastructure maintainer in the civilised world, and a competitor might be invited in with HS1 as the guinea pig, then it’d be great to know that the contracts for all this were genuinely the best, and not simply to the lowest bidder.  In fact, I’d like to see the Maidstone Parkway idea built in from the beginning…

I cannot pretend that these ideas are mine alone.  But if Ashford’s Future, the borough or county council, or anyone with an influence on these things is looking for a more detailed view on any of this, there’s a contact form on my blog here, please do get in touch…

Aid where it matters

Please donate to the Pakistan flood appeal via DEC

With almost 20 million affected by flooding in Pakistan, and the sad news of the death of medical staff in Afghanistan who have previously been off limits, the issue of international aid is hugely important politically as well as to the individuals whose survival depends on it. Does it matter who delivers the aid?

In the case of the international group of doctors, dentists and others murdered in Afghanistan, the answer should have been no.

According to a beautiful piece on Radio 4 “From our Own Correspondent” this morning, some of the individuals in the group had been in Afghanistan for 20 years, raising their own children there. They were Christian but were motivated to help not by a wish to spread their faith but by a wish to help the poor and most vulnerable people in the world. Their work was, alongside general helathcare,  in dentistry (identified by Terry Pratchett’s denture-wearing barbarian hero Cohen as one of the three greatest things in life along with hot water and soft lavatory paper) and which clearly brings great relief, and with maternity care.

And that’s why it iseems they had been allowed to carry out their work in the past – their contacts and networks meant that they were able to give these vital services to people in desperate circumstances. Women and doctors were previously generally safe. According to the report I heard, this no longer matters and the unwritten rules of the conflict have changed.

They were killed for being foreign, for being Christian and, in the case of the Afghani in the party that was killed, for being the wrong type of muslim.  The report called these killings racist, pure and simple. Only the men with the guns, and those giving the orders, know why this was allowed to happen.  Because it is not just the individuals that were killed, not just their families, friends and the supporters of their charities that are affected.  It’s the individuals that were being helped or would have been helped.  It’s the children and mothers that may now have birth complications.  It’s the village elder with the rotting tooth that forms and absess and dies from blood poisoning.  There was no human kindness in this violent act.  Was it really Allah’s will that this support should not be brought to them?

Switch focus to the enormous humanitarian disaster in Pakistan.  While the rest of the world tries to get its act together and get emergency aid out, there are reports that “hardline groups” are filling the aid vaccuum.

So does this aid delivery matter?
Well, yes.  The shaky political balance in Pakistan may well be affected by the after effects of this natural disaster, and the knock-on consequences will potentially be felt worldwide.This potentially means a swing in public opinion away from the slow and remote-feeling official response to the crisis towards gratitude and support for more extremist groups (such as those favouring close links with the Taliban) who are actually getting the job done on the ground.
I’m not clear whether there are strings attached.  I’m not sure if they’re offering aid only to those of their version of Islam.  I’m not clear what they think about women being made to wear burkas – can only assume they’re pro given the positive towards the Taliban nature of the politics.

But if I was a Pakistani muslim on the ground, and it was my house and animals gone, my child falling ill from dirty water, my parents starving, I’m not sure how much I’d care about those things in the short term.  If they were willing to give the aid to me now, I’d take what they offer gratefully rather than wait for a government-approved response that might come too late.

But ultimately the response to these situations can and should only be humanitarian.
That’s aid with no strings, fast, from those who have something, to those who need it.
Whether you’re Christian, Muslim, of no faith or any faith, as a human being you surely have a social responsibility to give what you can.
You can do so via the link to DEC above.

An unhappy trip

TfL’s image looking down an escalator…

I’m feeling a bit shaky.  My arms and legs ache.   Normally I’d credit that to yesterday’s swimming.  But not today.  Yep, blogging as therapy tonight.

The tube was suspended on my line – something that always makes me feel a bit panicked because I might not make my train and my son will be the last one left at nursery, afraid that no one’s coming to collect him.   But this is not the first time this has happened, so I have an emergency route which, if I take the decision to take it quickly enough, will still get me to my train just in time.

When I got to my station, I got on the escalator behind two Dutch women – tourists with wheelie suitcases.
Suddenly the woman in front of me was falling, falling headfirst towards me and down the escalator.

Instinct made me do two things, cling tightly with one hand to the handrail, and stick out my knee into her path.  So I got her weight on my leg and it knocked me sideways and I was afraid I’d fall too.   But I held on as hard as I could and asked if she was ok, if she could pick herself up.

I wasn’t sure she was, as she was now basically upside down leaning on my knee and her own slipping suitcase. And she wasn’t saying anything – I wondered if she’d had a heart attack or something.

I now had her whole body weight plus her suitcase resting on me.  Her friend hurried down and helped me to get her upright.  No one below me tried to help or support me though.  Maybe they couldn’t see what was happening.

Remarkably, she was just a bit shocked, and was soon standing up again.  She told me that she had leaned against the side of the escalator – which is static and she didn’t expect that – and the motion of it caused her to slip.

She was ok, her friend asked if I was ok, and I immediate said I am, and we went our separate ways. No one said thank you – I guess it’s a shock thing.

And all of this would be so much so much, bar a couple of achy limbs, if I hadn’t seen the bottom of an escalator cordoned off, a few weeks ago.  At the bottom was a crumpled heap, very clearly someone that had slipped and fallen.  Were they ok?  I don’t know.  But I don’t think necks are meant to bend at that angle.

And if I’d been one step lower the lady would’ve hit her head on the step rather than me being able to stop her.  If my tube hadn’t been cancelled, I wouldn’t have been there at all. Just have to hope someone else would have been.

And now I need a stiff drink.

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PS eurobloggers seem to have a habit of thins kind of thing – both Jon Worth and Nosemonkey have saved people from drowning… any others ended up accidentally rescuing people?