Monthly Archives: October 2013

Don’t just stand there, do something!

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This afternoon I went swimming with a friend. I hadn’t seen her for ages and was really looking forward to it. We had a good gossip and remarked at how busy the pool was that session. There were people selfishly ploughing up and down and almost into us.

I left the pool to get my goggles from my locker. When I got back I saw to my horror that my friend was struggling to keep afloat in the deep end.

The key rule being "kindly refrain from lane rage". We saw a lot of that today!

The key rule being “kindly refrain from lane rage”. We saw a lot of that today!

There were about 15 people in the pool and they were all at the sides just gawping at her. It was awful. I was about to leap in myself, what were the lifeguards doing? I looked to my left and they were also standing there staring. It was like someone had paused a film. I announced “my friend needs help” and suddenly the play button was pressed again and the lifeguards leapt into action. I jumped into the pool too and hugged my friend.

She was really embarrassed and said she “felt stupid” for “making a scene”. But I said the onlookers should be the ones feeling embarrassed for just looking on instead of doing something. I hugged her, she was clearly shaken at the ordeal. She had been struggling for several minutes crying for help and no one did anything.

This seems to happen often now. No one comes to the rescue in an emergency for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they don’t want to get involved or they think someone else will. But sadly, it’s nothing new.

According to psychologists, the phenomenon is known as “bystander effect”, when the presence of others hinders an individual from intervening in an emergency situation.images (4)

It first came to public attention in 1964, when Kitty Genovese was stabbed and raped in the streets of Queens, New York. Reports at the time claimed that there were 38 neighbours who heard her screams and that none of them did anything, even when the killer returned to finish the job. A more recent investigation suggests that there were perhaps only “6 or 7 witnesses”. One of them “did not want to be involved” as he was drunk, and so telephoned a neighbour asking them to contact the police.

rotorua-attack-pregnant-123Another more recent example is an assault that happened in New Zealand, where a pregnant lady was kicked and stamped on in front of 20 people. Only two witnesses called police and no one physically helped. But according to the psychologist quoted in that news report, once someone steps in, others tend to follow.

“It just needs someone to take the lead,” he said.

“Someone needs to break free of that social phenomena of the bystander apathy and stick out, be courageous.” Which  I suppose is what happened when I broke the stunned silence of onlookers today.images (5)

I had reacted a bit slowly as I expected lifeguards to do their job, but once I realised what was happening I am glad I did  something.

The reason that witnesses don’t respond is because of confusion, fear and uncertainty. Perhaps they are not sure if it is their responsibility. It’s easier not to act. If it’s safer not to that is understandable. But out of 20 witnesses of the serious assault in New Zealand, just 10% reacted and called police.

Alzheimers-WomanSomeone I was at school with, Hassan, was walking along the street when he saw an elderly lady wandering about, clearly lost and confused. Everyone else just walked past her, but Hassan, a doctor, couldn’t ignore her. He discovered that the lady had wandered out of her nursing home. He took her to hospital, as the nursing home insisted the lady was still in bed. He was hailed as a hero and he was. But this is something that we all should do. He may have saved her life.

There was the shocking neglect at Stafford Hospital, which included patients being so desperate for water that they were drinking from vases. Everyone thought it was someone else’s duty to ensure basic needs were met.

What today taught me is that I am a lady of reaction rather than inaction. In an emergency the difference between these two responses can mean life and death, if not for you then for someone else.

People have died when they could have been saved.  If we don’t act we all have blood on our hands. So don’t just look the other way and don’t just stand there. Be the person to make a difference.

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The Beginning (Our First Date)

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I think it’s time to tell you about my first date. Now seems a good time as recently we celebrated the anniversary of it. I want to make a patchwork quilt of experiences that I can look back on when times aren’t as rose-tinted and to keep them fresh. You never know, I could by some freak chance (and I seem to have rather too many of them), end up like the girl in the film “50 first dates” and need reminding.

So, let me tell you about that night…

We had been messaging each other for two weeks and had found out the basics. He had two sisters, he was the oldest,  he was a Scout leader, he was an engineer. I’d seen his photographs and his description: “tall, dark and handsome, well tall and dark, you can make your mind up about the rest” and I’d told him he was tall and handsome, but not particularly dark-haired. We’d worked out that we shared some friends, having gone to neighbouring schools, that we lived in the same area and even went to the same weekend running event.

I carefully selected a knee-length light blue sleeved thin wool dress which brought out my eyes, and wore it with tights.  I straightened my hair and applied subtle make-up. I cinched in my waist with a thin leather belt. I decided on flats – I can feel self-conscious in heels and I wanted to feel comfortable. I wore my small purple leather bag. I felt classy and I liked that.

I arrived at the city bar with my heart in my mouth. We had arranged to meet at 8.15 on a Friday night. I scanned the room for him. I felt dazzled by the lights and couldn’t see him. I went straight to the bar. There was a bit of a wait, so I checked my phone. He had text to say he would be about 15 minutes late – he had been visiting a friend. So I asked what drink he would like, keen to reverse the stereotype that the man buys the woman a drink on the first date. He said “bottle of beer? surprise me”. What a wide choice, I had been hoping for something more specific, more foolproof for a girl whose only dabbling with alcohol involved Malibu and the occasional cocktail.

“Excuse-me”, I asked the bartender, “what’s your finest ale”? I’d heard ale was classier than beer and if I got the right one I thought I would definitely be a hit.

He looked at me sideways, frowning slightly. “Sorry?” he replied. I raised my voice a little and stood on my tip-toes so he could hear me better, “what is your finest ale??”.

He still looked a bit puzzled so I explained in more hushed tones, “I’m on a first date you see and I asked him if he wanted a drink, and he said he wanted beer or something”. He finally understood and saved me the embarrassment of repeating myself.

“Ohh” he said, brightening up. Well…I wouldn’t recommend ale to be honest because there’s too much choice, you could quite easily pick the wrong one.” “Oh.” I replied. “But in terms of beer…Peroni’s probably the best one we sell here.”

“Ok, I smiled, “I’ll have that please”.

I found half of a table in the corner that was free. There was a happy couple on the other side and they didn’t have a problem with me sitting there. I was still feeling rather anxious, and struggled to steady my breathing. So I looked around to distract myself. Damn. I’d chosen the wrong place. This was a middle-aged wine bar. Would he judge me on my choice?

It took me a while to get comfortable. Should I sit cross-legged? No, not good for the circulation and would make me look too unavailable. Or was that a good thing? Should I sit with my back to the room to look more mysterious? No that was a silly idea. I shifted about a bit, fiddling with my silver bead necklace or checking my hair was still ok. By the time he arrived some 20 minutes after we had arranged to meet, I was feeling completely relaxed. I had drunk about half of my Malibu and coke, and had decided to sit facing the room with one arm on the table, laid back but not slouchy and hopefully with an air of sophistication.

Suddenly I saw him. Time seemed to stand still as I zoomed in. All sound seemed muffled. In the room of those approaching pension-age he stood out like a sore thumb. I decided to observe him and let him notice me. Then I’d have a little more time to check him out, seeing as this was the first time we had met in person. The first thing I noticed, rather oddly perhaps, was that he had lovely skin. He looked healthy and as if he looked after himself, with a forehead that looked moisturised. Perhaps it was just that he’d been rushing and was therefore slightly sweaty. He had a nice neat haircut (he later admitted he’d had it cut that day). He had a good figure. Then I noticed his eyes – bright, intelligent eyes darting about looking for me. But what a pity about his attire – he’d opted for a hoodie and jeans. So he hadn’t put much thought into that then. Not as much as me, but then that would have been difficult.  He looked just like he had in the photographs.

He walked right past me and was about to look outside,  so I announced my presence. He visibly relaxed a little, gave me a dazzling smile and settled down next to me, gratefully accepting the Peroni. We were both a little nervous, so we got a bit more background on each other. I asked him about his work and he clearly enjoyed what he did and talking about it and I was intrigued. We talked…and talked. From there we went over the road into a square with more up-market bars and into one with a French name, with red, dimmed lighting. He bought himself a Peroni. I felt secretly thrilled, the choice was a good one then. We chatted about running and he showed me the impressive jogs he’d done on his phone.

Finally we went to a Cuban-themed bar, with salsa music and lovely cocktails. 

All too soon the night had come to an end. Neither of us wanted to stay out late and I didn’t want to miss the last bus home, so we took that together, seeing as he lived nearby. As he left, he bent down and we nearly bumped heads as he clumsily kissed me on the cheek.

I was in a good place with single life and so I thought “if I don’t see him again I’ve had a great night and I’m pleased we met.” But a bigger part of me  was drunk with excitement (the only drunk you should get on a date) and couldn’t wait to see when and where date two would be. Hopefully soon. But did he like me? Did I score enough points to make it through the first hurdle?

He answered this with a text at midnight saying he’d had a good night and throwing kisses in. Two. Things looked promising…

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A Derbyshire Gondola – Speedwell Cavern

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Yesterday was the anniversary of our first date. We both had the day off and wanted to do something special. We still had a ticket for an underground boat journey into Speedwell Cavern, above the village of Castleton in Derbyshire.

I enjoyed the novelty of putting on a hard hat and then we descended several hundred metres down stone steps clinging on to the railing for dear life. One stumble and there would be quite a fall.

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We finally got to the bottom where our guide was waiting. There was just an elderly couple and us so it was a nice private tour. We were given a safety briefing by the energetic spritely man before we set off, lying 005 back to avoid hitting our heads as the miner’s tunnel closed in around us. People had first blasted the cave in the 1700s, hacking into seams of lead and hiding in hollowed-out side spaces as the dynamite spewed dust into the air, which was only made breathable by a young boy operating bellows.

The tour went on in this vein as our guide alternately used the boat’s engine, his feet and his hands to steer us through the passageway, with our little vessel bumping into the sides. Halfway along there was a passing point and I made full use of the opportunity to take photos, perhaps a little too much as I quickly became obcessed with getting the perfect shot rather than immersing myself in the experience. Apart from the click of my camera shutter, there was just the sound of water dripping from our shiny Hobbit hole ceiling when our guide paused. The lights rippled in the murky channel.

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We reached the natural cave much further down. When we got off it was pitch black, with just the hollows above us 026illuminated in an ethereal light. Then the main lights were switched on and we marvelled at the sight. It is difficult to describe in words.

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The limestone above us had been hollowed out over thousands of years by water and ice. On the other side of the cavern was a steep drop, with an artificial stream spraying down the side into a pool below, known as the “Bottomless Pit”. High up on the same side were round white stalactites resembling mammoth tusks inching down. On our right a watery tunnel stretched off for another 3 000 metres. The lights were switched off again, plunging us back into pitch black darkness as we returned to the boat.

I had not done any exercise since my city 10k due to illness, so I struggled to climb the hill of stairs on the way out. My legs felt as heavy as the lead the miners had extracted.

I really enjoyed the experience, it had been a lovely way to spend the day whilst celebrating a year since we met.

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Day through to night – skyscapes

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The sun trickles through the clouds like crumpled newspaper catching fire.

Scenes like this in the morning give me that extra motivation to seize the day.

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It’s evening and the heavens are alight.

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The lighthouse beacon of the moon guiding revellers home.

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October 12, 2013 · 11:41 am

Bug Buses

After the 10k on Sunday my legs were achy for the next two days, so I took the bus.

Public transport really bugs me and this week it did quite literally. On Tuesday morning a wasp was diving at the passengers and then angrily hurling itself against the window. It then sought comfort in the blonde’s hair in front of me. The young lady didn’t realise at first and then jerked away instinctively. KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

She hit it with the buttoned sleeve of her jacket. There was silence and it disappeared. She looked around for it for a while and then, satisfied it was out of sight, put it out of mind.

As did I. But then I thought “what if it’s crawled between the seats?”. I patted my wide trouser legs. Since I’d lost weight I’d had to secure them with a belt and they were quite roomy. I felt a sudden sharp pain just below my right knee. Rolling the trouser leg up I realised I’d been attacked and pulled out the sting. Ironically on the bus the day before, I had been reading about a guy who stung himself with various wasps and bees and then rated the pain. This felt like more than a 3/5. I patted my rolled-up trouser leg and couldn’t feel anything. For the next 10 minutes or so I squeezed the spot as fire ran through my blood. Some commuters looked, but no one asked if I was alright. I suddenly realised I may have rolled the damn thing up in my trousers. On unrolling it dropped out, dazed.

Having endured enough for one journey, and not wanting to spend another five minutes in the company of this vicious creature I staggered off and limped to work, unable to bend my leg. When I got there everyone crowded around and marvelled at the red golf-ball sized lump. I took two antihistamines, which luckily I had in my handbag, then soaked a couple of kitchen towels in vinegar and secured them to the area with sellotape. I replaced this throughout the day, ensuring the dressing was always damp. I then took two more antihistamines at lunch time. They don’t suit everyone though – a blogger I follow had a reaction to them, so always read the leaflet first.

People asked after my “wooden leg” and told me to “buzz off”. The next day it was fine, but I still had to take the bus as the weather was horrendous, with rain lashing down and thick fog. 

On Wednesday I felt so tired I felt jet-lagged. My throat was a little tender, so I drank honey and lemon in hot water. It was lovely, really soothing and antibacterial. On Friday I woke up at 5am as I was breathing out of one nostril. The infection had gone into my chest and I sounded like Darth Vader’s wife. My body was fighting for sleep but I had to get through the day.

It has been a long week catching bugs of both varieties. On Friday I had an unidentified insect crawling across my paper and a fly buzzed in my face at work, reminding me it was home time.

I commute on a bus packed with snotty school kids. They are then replaced by sneezing students and parents.

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As I’ve previously noted, public transport is great for strengthening the immune system, although as viruses constantly mutate there’s always something new around.

After doing an Olbas and tea tree oil steam inhalation this morning I feel less congested. I haven’t got a temperature which means it’s nothing to worry about. If I did it would mean my body was still trying to kill infection. I’m just expelling the aftermath of a white blood cell battle. But this weekend I have to clean the house for my parents. It’s going to be a wheeze…

Not only do I sound like Darth Vader, this person shows how you can get the look too. Just use a black towel for optimum results.

Not only do I sound like Darth Vader, this person shows how you can get the look too. Just use a black towel and dim the lights.

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