World Toilet Day! and other shite...

World Toilet Day | WaterAid

Did you know?

  • 2.5 billion people do not have somewhere safe, private or hygienic to go to the toilet.
  • One gram of faeces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs.
  • The simple act of washing hands with soap and water after going to the toilet can reduce diarrhoeal diseases by over 40%.
  • Safe disposal of children's faeces leads to a reduction of nearly 40% in childhood diarrhoea.
So support World Toilet Day - and be grateful for your fully functioning flush!

And while on the subject of human waste...

The publication of the membership list of the British National Party would seem to have caused quite an outrage. Although part of me recognises that, yes, individual members rights to privacy have been in some way infringed, the far larger part of me is entirely unconcerned that the personal details of a bunch of fascists has been transmitted across the internet. I'm particularly unbothered by the idea that they might now be put at some sort of risk. Indeed I'm totally apathetic towards the notion that they are "innocent" victims who are members of a legitimate political party who might now be put at risk for their views. (Far-right followers have for years been publishing names, photos and contact details for people they disagree with on their "redwatch" site... I think I'm on it somewhere...Well, I'm a lesbian union activist who has been on demos -I think I'm almost guaranteed to be on their "shoot on site" list...)

However Nick Griffin dresses it up, the BNP is a racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic party, built on fascist principles with fascist roots. BNP policies are divisive, exploitative and target people in areas that are often impoverished and that have seen dramatic changes due to the decline of traditional working class industries, using a mixture of sensationalism, sentiment, scare-mongering and scapegoating to appeal to a broad mass of people who feel disenfranchised and alienated from the society they live in and let down by parties that historically have supported them.

I don't imagine too many people will be that bothered by the publication of a list of names, addresses and occupations of members of the BNP. It disappeared from the internet fairly quickly (although I believe it can be found on wikileaks...) and not that many folks will give it a second thought. Even the BNP can't capitalise on any sympathies it might have garnered if it had been leaked by some "terrorist" - it is acknowledged that it originated from one of their own former sympathisers... who is bothered by the party's new more "tolerant" image...

(-Curiously enough, my boss has just handed me a copy of a BNP report about racism - and having read it, I feel insulted and enraged -and slightly grubby... But what a strange coincidence: the publication of a new BNP report and a major story in the press... Hmmm...)

Why I really should start watching Songs of Praise...

Lots going on at work/in head/at home (New sofas! Woo!) but not bad at all, so no worries.
- Here's a placeholding YouTube favourite until I've got sensible time to write.( If you know of any more interestingly subtitled hymns, do let me know... I can always do with a chuckle at lunchtime...)

A pause for thought

Congratulations, Barack Obama. Congratulations USA. A Democrat in the White House can only be a good thing after 8 years of Republican chicanery!

By choosing an African-American man as president, America has taken a huge step forward in overcoming its past - something many civil rights campaigners never believed would happen in their lifetime- and shows it really cares about its future. But - and it's a big but - there is still injustice, inequality, institutional racism and appalling poverty in the US. Even the most progressive Democrat - and Obama is no radical - would be hard pressed to address all this in one term of office. Barack Obama has a huge weight of expectation upon him based not simply on the content of his character, but also the colour of his skin.

So yes, a huge flag-waving, party-in the streets, groundbreaking, historic victory for an African-American man - and I truly am pleased for America and the world - and yet...

And yet. Looking back on Martin Luther King's vision of 45 years ago - reading the full text of what he said, not just the easily quoted soundbites, how far has America really come? How far is there still left to go? Good luck, President Elect Obama. The world will be watching you.

(Full text of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech")

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering his 'I Have a Dream' speech from the steps of Lincoln Memorial. (photo: National Park Service)

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

"We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in..

There's probably no god bus pic
"...Some of us just go one god further." (Prof Richard Dawkins)

I was reading the BBC News website while munching my sandwich (mmm, ham with tomato & chilli chutney and not even a suggestion of slimy salad...) when this story about the British Humanist Association's planned advertising campaign made me chuckle/choke on a crust.

In particular,

"...Stephen Green of pressure group Christian Voice said: "Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large. I should be surprised if a quasi-religious advertising campaign like this did not attract graffiti. People don't like being preached at. Sometimes it does them good, but they still don't like it." (my italics.)

Er... Is it just me or is there something a little incongruous about a Christian organization admitting that people don't like being preached at - particularly when it is very much one of the favourite communication practices of most churches? I'm confused...

And isn't demonising the bendy bus a bit harsh? It isn't its fault that people place adverts on them: the buses have no say in what message they have plastered upon them - and they're no more dangerous tranport-wise than, well, trams for example... and far less dangerous than Christianity, historically speaking (no wars have been fought over a belief in bendy buses as far as I'm aware...). Poor bendy bus.

Either way, I reckon it will prove to be a very successful advertising campaign: the buses aren't even postered up and it's already making the news after all...

Go Tufty!

I love red squirrels, they taste so nutty they are so iconic and full of russet-whiskery cuteness, so I was much heartened to hear that they would appear to be developing an immunity to the deadly squirrel pox, carried by the grey squirrels.

Worst piece of unintentional journalese I've heard related to this story?

Newsreader: So does this mean we will see an increase in numbers of red squirrels across the UK?
Location Hack: Well, they're not out of the woods yet...

No, they aren't.
They are squirrels.
They live in the bloody woods.
Give me strength...

Stanford Prison Experiment - Gripes Style

I have Theo locked in the bedroom Stanford Prison Experiment styleToday, I am enjoying my own Stanford Prison Experiment: I have Theo locked in a room and she's not coming out until I say so. (Bwah ha ha...).

Well, when I say locked in a room, I suppose I more accurately mean sequestered with a pile of study books, a radio, access to essential plumbing and with me bringing hot beverages and meals at regular intervals... (Theo has an exam tomorrow and is cramming like a bastard. She's not hopeful, but then again how many people are hopeful when faced with exams?)

In some respects, it is probably a blessing I am off sick (I know, I know - start of a new job and being off sick isn't great - but it's the fault of the deputy CEO! He brought the bloody 'lurgy in and the CEO sent me home so nyah! And I'll be back in the office coughing all over my spacious desk tomorrow come hell or high water...) in that it means I can stand guard over the TV and look witheringly at Theo should she dare to escape from her "study" (and offer sympathy in many forms should her resolve to study falter...), keep her away from the distractions of biscuits/cake/chocolate and idle chatter, feed her nutritious food at regular intervals, keep the attention seeking cats at bay so that they don't scratch and yowl at the door - and engage in any and all manner of other supportive actions that enhance Theo's reluctant study activity. I am the living embodiment of the iron fist within a velvet glove (or something). On reflection, I'm more a walnut whip - soft inside and melts easily with a bizarre arrangement of nuttiness on top, nowhere near as good as they used to be and not as popular as other confections... but I digress.

I am very proud of Theo for even sitting this bloody exam. She hates exams with a passion and has been getting stressed out by it for months already. So, regardless of outcome as far as I'm concerned just sitting the thing is a success. (Can you tell why my career as a teacher was shortlived? Hmm? Hmm?)

Anyhow... the new job. It's... Er... Still new. Still not entirely sure what I'm doing and wondering when things will start falling into place. I'll be recruiting for a new post in the near future and I'm trying to figure out what sort of skills a person will need to do the job... I'm still trying to figure out what skills I need to do the job, so it's tricky! I'll probably write more about it as I figure things out. One thing I can say is that although there have been huge changes in the staffing since I was there last there is a strange comfort in going back and not finding everything to be unfamiliar: there are still tempting biscuits by the printer, there are still untouchable tea-towels in the staff mini-kitchen and there is still a sense that it is possibly the gayest office outside of an LGBT centre...

In other news, I almost managed to convince Theo and one of her friends that I am a psychic while they were chatting on the phone (-actually, I'm just really good at linking together scraps of information from diverse sources -or gossiping in other words- and am also wondering if I am perhaps some sort of attractor of strange coincidences, because it certainly is a very random connection that I made and one that received a faintly hysterical/incredulous response...) but that is entirely another story. Needless to say I am considering buying a turban, crystal ball and setting up a stand on The Mound during the Edinburgh Winter Wonderland offering my services as "Gypsy Rose Gripes - seer, visionary and wearer of mystical hats." although I would need an internet connection and some serious cold and flu medication in order to recreate the circumstances... but it's a thought.

And so, as a post script, I've attached two top Chumba videos to this post (both from their latest CD The Boy Bands Have Won ). The first one, "Add Me" is Chumba's brief comment on the weirdness of the internet (social networking in particular and the perils thereof) and the other is "Charlie" - one of very few songs about Charles Darwin...which I dedicate to Theo and hope it does some good in her exam!

Apologies to Popbitch! Old Jokes Home...

A Freudian, a Jungian, and a Lacanian walk into a bar.
The Freudian orders a cigar. The Jungian orders an
Etruscan mask to conceal his face. "You cretins!"
says the Lacanian. He then orders a beer, which,
however, he does not desire.

(well, it made me laugh...)


Well, hurrah for me.

I've managed to get a new job- as a manager nonetheless - and will be escaping the mayhem at work (for some fresh mayhem elsewhere) in a little less than two weeks time. About time too - if I had to put up with certain elements of my "team" much longer I would probably commit murder with a fibreglass cow (-it makes sense if you actually visit my workplace: there's a remnant from the cow parade lurking in the hall. It occasionally gets used when service users need to dry their sleeping bags. Poor cow.)

So it's perfect timing that I seem too have been hit with a super-effective dose of anxiety/depression: just as things are going well, my brain chemistry shoots me in the foot and goes, "Hah! Thought you could escape me by actually being successful? Never! Never I say- you are doomed to mood swings and self-loathing and all because I, Dodgy Brain Chemistry, say so! Back to your corner, you worthless worm..."

I'm trying to build myself up to go and see a doctor. It does take a great deal of effort to do this: most of the doctors at my local practice are.... are....Well, one of them has five pictures on her wall of Jesus and his Disciples drawn by her son. She speaks to me as though I were an abomination (which, in the eyes of her God, I suppose I am...) and worse: as though I were twelve years old. And not a bright twelve year old, either. Most of the others are similarly enlightened and welcome an obese lesbian as fulsomely as they welcome genital warts.

So, anyhow, I need to gird my loins (or something) and choose my doctor carefully in order to get some help. Oh, lucky me.

(Actually yes, lucky me: I have a new job, a supportive partner- even new sofas coming in November. I just happen to have a propensity toward depression and anxiety- and a terrible sense of timing. Ah well...)

Birthday Blues (part 37)

It's coming up to that time of year again... The anniversary of my birth. A week and a half to go, I can hardly wait.

As per usual, I'm not entirely chuffed about it: another marker down, another point of reference to show how much fuck all I've achieved (and it's quite a bit of fuck all, I can tell you). It's not the age thing, so much as every passing year withers out any and all potential I might once have had. My inclination to actually make something of my life is weighed down by all my past "almosts" and "might have beens". At some point, I'll probably stop trying altogether. I'm not convinced I'll be any happier or more content, but I'll be more resigned to my state of perpetual "meh".

All in all, it is pretty depressing stuff. Every birthday from my 18th (where I didn't even get to go to my own party because the venue had already exceeded its capacity by the time I got there, so I went to a nearby pub instead - and saw someone get glassed in the face. I was home by 9:30...) has been a disappointing event. I'm wondering if maybe I can get a some sort of edict or disclaimer from the courts exempting me from birthdays from now on.

So, happy birthday to me (in a bit). Here's my birthday wishlist, should anyone feel as though they really have to conform to the social con of celebrating birthdays...

1. A Badger
2. Cake (with candles and necessary fire extinguisher...)
3. Life sized picture of Ben Nevis
4. An all-weather hat made of Toblerone
5. A time machine (with full MOT and vaccinations included)
6. Chocolate Jacuzzi and snorkel
7. Full Sized Guinea Pig Suit (with detachable cheek pouches)
8. Monkey Butler
9. Alco-Milk (milk flavour)
10. World Peace

Looks like rain again...

(According to tradition, if it rains upon St Swithin's day, it will rain for the next 40 days*...
According to another tradition, if it rains upon St Swithin's day, it will bring a bumper crop of apples.
Nice to be able to choose traditions, eh?

Apples or washout regardless, here's an oldie from Bill...)

'St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain
Full forty days, it will remain
St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair
For forty days, t'will rain no more.'

* St. Swithin (or more properly, Swithun) was a Saxon Bishop of Winchester and legend says that as he lay on his deathbed, he asked to be buried out of doors, where he would be trodden on and rained on. For nine years, his wishes were followed, but then, the monks of Winchester attempted to remove his remains to a splendid shrine inside the cathedral on 15 July 971. According to legend there was a heavy rain storm either during the ceremony or on its anniversary.

This led to the old wives' tale (folklore) that if it rains on St Swithin's Day (July 15th), it will rain for the next 40 days in succession, and a fine 15th July will be followed by 40 days of fine weather.

However, according to the Met Office, this old wives' tale is nothing other than a myth. It has been put to the test on 55 occasions, when it has been wet on St Swithin's Day and 40 days of rain did not follow.


I work in an industry that cares. If you work with and for people, it should be a prerequisite (although sometimes it isn't, admittedly...)

It sounds so fluffy, so pleasant, so very, very granola-eating-knit-your-own-knickers-from-yoghurt-sing-whalesong-and-menstruation-as-artform a sort of thing.

Which is, of course, a pile of shit.

This week has proved that. One of my clients lost a baby this week. Not through neglect or abuse, but a very run-of-the-mill small but tragic accident, with devastating impact.

I know my professional boundaries and consistently work within them; I am aware of and adher to policy and procedure; my paperwork and documentation exceeds the standards laid down by The Care Commission; I undergo routine emotional processing as determined in my support and supervision agreement; I fulfil my obligation to participate in scheduled continuing professional development...(-the language of the caring industry is very formal and cold, isn't it?)

Regardless of the language of the sector, the simple fact that the child of someone who I have known for a considerable time has died hurts on the simplest, most basic, most human level. It's part of my job to deal with this, to support the bereaved parents (as far as I can within my remit) and move on.

Sometimes working within an industry that cares, sucks.

A Close Shave

Not one of an intimate nature (oh, you low-minded souls...) but a brush with redundancy. Not quite so fun (or maybe just as much fun, depending on your point of view...)

At the beginning of March I was given 30 days notice of redundancy - all down to a corporate funder not being too forthcoming with the cash for my project. I'd put in a funding bid, been given a sort of verbal agreement but when it came to the cold hard cash, there was a distinct lack of paperwork - particularly of the cheque variety. Strangely enough, the reluctance to come up with the cash coincided with the corporate funder's profit projection for the next financial year looking like it might be a billion or so short... They would still be making billions of course, but everything is relative, I suppose.

To cut an angst-filled story very short, the funding finally came through (£15k short, but I'd managed to fundraise about £7k from increasingly despairing match-funding bids) one day before I was due to leave... Phew. The same problem will rear its ugly head again at Christmas this year, but at least I have some time to plan for it.

I hadn't realised quite how attached I was to my job until I was about to lose it. I moan and complain with the best of them, but I value what I do and who I do it for and I know I affect people's lives for the better: that is no bad thing to be able to say for yourself. Funding for the voluntary sector is precarious and subjective at the best of times: these are not the best of times.

So, with a tip of my hat to the corporate robbers who buy themselves a conscience by (under)funding jobs like mine (having said that, the fund manager is an absolute gem of a bloke, so it isn't personal!) I thought I leave you with a video, of which the song has been gnawing at my head for weeks ... It's the catchy chorus! It'll get ya, honest gov!


It's freezing out there. Frost nips at everything. Riven with ice and all that.

Which is why I did a double-take when I saw a bloke (wearing driving gloves, naturally) driving down frost-filled Newington Road in his oh-so-posery Lotus Elan- WITH THE TOP OF HIS CAR DOWN.

It's Edinburgh. It's Winter.


Happy New Yea... Oh.

Ok, so I've let both Christmas and Hogmanay wash past me, blogwise - but both were pleasant, ta (and thanks to Theo, I really did get the best view of the Edinburgh fireworks, as you can tell by my blurry effort here...)

So, January is already half-arsed through, I'm back at work with a vengeance already and looking hungrily at the holidays to come and, if I'm entirely honest, I can't really be bothered with blogging much. I'm not sure how much I want to write about work - which seems to take up much of my time and effort - let alone home (which is, of course my cosy refuge against the storms of work) and in either case, I'm really pretty damn sure that neither are very interesting to anyone! (Well, anyone except me and my nearest and dearest, of course.)

So, for a wee while anyway, don't be at all surprised if I don't blog for a bit. I'm fine - just busy!* Speaking of which, lunch break over - better get back to work figuring out how to make a toolkit for baseline data collection and how to fight the Child Tax Credits system!

*of course, if you really want to know how I am, how the bunny is doing, how Theo's getting on etc, drop me a line. I'm not entirely incommunicado, you know- just, well, busy...