Saturday, June 25, 2016

EU Referendum - The Aftermath And Why The 52% Might Not Be So Stupid After All

Totally unrelated  photo from an Around The World event at DD's school
Whilst, as an expat, I felt that didn't have any right to persuade people (if I even have that talent) living in Britain how to vote in the EU referendum, I feel very strongly about how the results are being swallowed by those who lost.

I admit that most of my facebook friends (and my real friends, and indeed myself) are educated, elitist, snobs. We make enormous efforts not to be racist, sexist, ageist or discriminate against the disabled but when it comes to the ordinary working class citizen we are, apparently, not shy to call them ignorant (stupid even) and not deserving of a vote on important matters such as this that they can't possible have understood.

Never mind that we need people to do all the manual work that we hope our children won't be doing to earn a living. Never mind that the 52% are still people and still British citizens. Never mind that maybe, just maybe, you didn't bother to campaign in a way that relates to them at all (whereas Brexit did)?

Living in Israel I saw first hand how different sectors of the population can be voting in the same election on entirely different issues. And here the scathing aftermath and howls of depression were similar. We had the security-hardliner Netanyahu running against the social-justice reformer Herzog. Those in the centre of the country were caught up in the enormous social injustice issues that we desperately need to reform. Those in Jerusalem and near the borders (not everyone obviously) are not oblivious to social injustice or against social reform nor are they uncaring about the poor and the enormous income gaps, minimum wage, the ridiculous property prices, supermarket monopolies and other mafioso controlled industries that push prices here through the roof. But they felt they had to vote for security. You can't fight for social justice if you're dead. Same election, different concerns.

In the EU referendum the broadsheet newspapers published in-depth economic and political arguments for Remain. However more than half the country don't read those papers. Instead they were listening to the PM saying "relevant" things that they could understand like students will find it harder to go Euro-railing and property values will fall. Seriously? If I were someone working my guts off with no hope of ever buying property in this market and still holidaying in a caravan in Wales because that's all I could afford, that would speak to me. But not in the way the PM intended.

Where were the adverts on television explaining to those without university degrees why they and their children will be better off staying in Europe? I saw adverts like this for the Scottish referendum. One particularly aimed at housewives just went to cast doubt and catch the undecided, with no real reasons to stay. But at least it spoke to the housewives and mothers rather than just ignoring them. In this referendum they didn't even speak to the ordinary person in the street, let alone explain anything relevant to them.

Papers like the Daily Mail, on the other hand, were actively campaigning for Brexit. Amongst all the hysteria about the millions of immigrants marching across Europe intent on reaching Britain where we have to provide all of them them with instant financial help, housing and health care, there was not one article addressing these fears in DM language and without just dismissing people's real fears (albeit fears encouraged by the media and the DM in particular) as ignorant and racist.

With all the publicity media available today, I did not see one infomercial, one advert, one open letter to the workers of Britian. Not one You Tube video that those who know how to do these things could have made viral, not one good reason to remain if you are a lorry driver or a school secretary in Carlisle.

Some of my fb friends (all with university degrees and mostly professionals living in London) exclaimed: Who are these people who voted Out? I don't know any of them! Well precisely. We all assume that the 52% were all voting against immigration and for a fascist state. Because they couldn't possible have any other concerns. Except for those over 70 of course, who are obviously expecting us to go back to the late 1950s when we never had it so good. They're stupid too. Or maybe not - who knows?

Has anyone even considered other reasons for leaving? An academic posted on fb that she looked deeply in to the workings of the EU and found them to be corrupt and self-serving, which made her very reluctantly not put her x in the remain box. Farmers and business owners caught up in EU bureaucracy and red tape might have had their own motives too.

But let's not ignore the elephant in the room. I agree that most Brexit voters are those worried about the immigration situation. Parents who have no school place guaranteed for their 5yo at a local school, schools where the level of education is tempered by language issues, families waiting for council assisted housing who see recent immigrants jump the queue. It is a racist issue but it is an issue and you can't blame people for putting their own family first.

These people just want a job, a place to live, a decent wage, and an education for their children. They're not interested in trade treaties or the international exchange rate because they don't have stocks, shares, or investments. They don't have international business contracts and they don't travel abroad that much. What they do have is the skill and will to mend your burst pipes, drive articulated lorries to deliver your commodities, look after your children and the elderly while you're at work, keep your schools and hospitals clean, mend your roads, schlep your furniture when you want to move house, make your garden grow and build your extension.

So while you all wail about how your children will not be able to work abroad easily. How we have lost our advantage as the English speaking gateway to Europe. How your property and investment values will fall. How immigration is a positive thing, as long as they are not sending their children to your schools for the first generation at least. How England is heading towards extreme right wing fascism and dangerous isolation. Remember that you will still need plumbers, lorry drivers, cleaners, nurses, carers, movers, builders and gardeners. And that's why the 52% aren't as stupid as you think. Same referendum different issues.

Note to selves: Next time you need to speak to the people, include all the people.

And now, pick yourselves up, heads down, stiff upper lip, best foot forward, pull together, keep calm and carry on. Business as usual on Monday and for the next two years at least. All those who shouted about not being quitters - now is the time to not be a quitter.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - Midsummer Madness

1
IKEA is coming to Jerusalem. The Jerusalem branch will be open within two years according to the news report. Apparently they already have a site but they're not saying where it is because people like me might start queuing now to be the first one in.

This takes a whole lot of pressure off me. All my old sheets and towels, my mattress, other items big and small that I want to buy or replace, can definitely wait two more years.


And here are two stories I heard today which put everything in perspective....

2
A friend recently returned to live in America after 15 years in the Middle East. Her children are aged 7 to 14. One day whilst driving though lush and verdant countryside on the north-east coast, the kids started complaining. "I'm so fed up with all this green!" "Yeah, its all just green and more green!" etc...

I spend my life yearning for green but good to know that it's only a cultural thing and not an absolute.

3
Another American friend lives in Chicago. Someone asked her if her family are all in Chicago. "No," she replied. "but they're all close, only about 6 hours away."

LOL, my family are also 6 hours away from me in Jerusalem. I never realized London was so close. It sure feels good to be living so close to my folks again after all these years. :~)

Linking up with my friend and neighbour, Becky in the Lake District.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

But Is It Chutzpah?

One loose screw and you begin to doubt everything you believed in. 
Google the word 'chutzpah' and it tells you it means, 'shameless audacity'. Yup, that just about sums it up.

A recent example in my life was when a student asked to start the online summer course early because she has three weeks off in June but will be working through July. As the course is not available yet online, I have to send her batches of assignments and instructions by email - a task I agreed to out of the goodness of my heart (and because the Head of Dept. asked me to). She sent me her latest submissions the day before a four-day national holiday and four days later, before I'd even got back to the office, she emailed the Head of Dept. that I wasn't answering her emails. That is chutzpah.

A more well known and used example is the person convicted of murdering his parents who asks the judge for leniency on account of being an orphan.

So now we're on the same page, I have a question. I wrote yesterday about how long it took me to screw 20 screws into my new IKEA table with nothing but my trusty old screwdriver. I wrote how it took me all day to do it in increments as it was tough going and I was getting blisters on my hands. An electric drill/screwdriver would have done the job in about two minutes.

I happen to know that my upstairs neighbour has an electric drill/screwdriver and normally I'd have no problem asking a neighbour for a small favour like this. However, my upstairs neighbour is a handyman by profession. And therein lies the problem.

He charges a reasonable amount of money for an hour's work and then slightly less for subsequent hours when needed, plus the cost of materials used. Last month I asked him to come and help me shift big furniture - beds that had to be dismantled to be moved into different rooms and a large bulky and heavy piece of furniture to be taken down three flights of stairs to the rubbish. It all took about an hour, I paid the money, everyone was happy.

But now I had a two-minute job that you would ask a neighbour to help you with but you wouldn't ask your handyman to come and do for free. I could probably get away with it once but he'd be thinking, is this going to become a habit? He told me last time that I should wait until I have a list of things to be done so that the first hour's payment is comfortable for both of us.

The trouble is that most people don't need a handyman to screw in a few screws.

I tried to think what would happen if the tables were turned. What if he asked me to teach his daughter. If she wanted a few lessons to bring her up to scratch for an English exam I would expect him to pay for it. But if she knocked on my door one day (she's only 3 btw but for argument's sake) and asked, "please can you help me, I have to do this homework on the 3rd conditional and I don't understand it." There is no doubt that I would tell her to come in and I'd spend the 10 or 20 minutes it would take to explain it to her. No doubt whatsoever. And I'd not for one second think of this as a chutzpah.

Likewise if any of my former students were to call with the same problem and ask if they could pop round for the same explanation. No problem at all. Maybe the difference is whether they pop round to me or if I have to go to them? Who knows? All I know is, one loose screw and everything you believed in about neigbourliness and helping others falls apart.

Am I lacking in confidence or just too nice? I regularly countersign passport photos for friends who are renewing their British passports as I'm a UK qualified teacher. But when I needed my request to have my degrees accredited by the Israel Ministry of Education signed by lawyer, the lawyer's secretary signed on his behalf and used his stamp, and charged me 50 shekels!

Otoh, another lawyer friend wrote a number of letters to another neighbour for me, when there was a problem with a leak that they wouldn't resolve, and she didn't charge me anything.

It's a minefield of professional etiquette versus chutzpah out there. I'm covered for the next IKEA episode as my lovely friend Yael offered to bring her electric drill round next time for the price of a cup of coffee and a chinwag. Meanwhile I'm nursing my blistered hands and wondering what others would have done.

What would you have done?



Monday, June 20, 2016

Reclaiming The Spudy

I wrote a few days ago how the time has come to stop having paying guests in our spare room. We enjoyed it while it lasted but we need our space and our privacy now. We also want the flexibility of friends and family to be able to stay over. And .... I was so fed up of working all over the salon and dining table.

Before. I had a small armchair and side table in the corner for guests. 
Step one was getting a light and white table to use as a desk. The perfect piece was in IKEA all along but when you live in a different town to the nearest branch and don't have a car it's a problem. I researched small tables and desks in local shops but even allowing for a delivery charge, the cheapest tat was double the price.

There's a guy from Jerusalem who goes to IKEA twice a week and takes orders for people with cars, or without the time to go themselves. I emailed him on Wednesday evening and my table was here ob Friday morning.

I could have paid a bit extra for him to bring up his electric drill and have the 20 screws sorted in about two minutes. I didn't because you're supposed to be able to do these things with allen keys aren't you? Big mistake.

Can you spot the screw that refused to be tightened? 
It took me all day to get those screws fully screwed. Luckily I have strong screw driver but it still took a lot of effort. I'd come back and do two or three rotations and then need to rest my aching hand. If you look carefully you'll see that one screw didn't make it all the way home - I really tried but it reached its limit and so did I.

There it is. Naughty.

So here is my reclaimed spudy. I'm loving it and still room for guests.

Probably need a proper desk chair
The bed was DD's and it came with a child's mattress - 5cm of foam and very uncomfortable - and a trundle bed and two drawers underneath. I got rid of the trundle and the drawers as the whole thing looked too heavy and it was a pain to clean underneath. Also the trundle bed mattress was only about 2cm of foam. Even DD's little friend refused to sleep on it.

Ready for friends and family
(There is space to open the cupboard doors btw)
I gave DD the small double (W1.5m) in her bigger bedroom so she can still have a friend to stay. I bought a proper mattress for the single bed which fits much better in the spudy. I kept the old mattress (you can see it at the side of the bed) for the odd occasion when we have a full house.

Still struggling with the thought of the money I've given up in order to do this but sometimes it's not about the money. Sometimes you have to put your own comfort and needs first.

P.S. The best thing is that due to the tiled floor and niche position, the office area is basically a concrete and ceramic box. Radio 2 on a Sunday morning, I'm singing along to all the old favourite love songs, and the acoustics are fantastic! I never knew I could sing so well.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Biting The Bullet Journal - Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask

As you know from a previous blog post, I was completely underwhelmed by the choice and design of diaries for the September 2016 - September 2017 year. As our New Year is in September the summer is New Diary Time whether you like it or not. I like it but I'm fussy. So having read blog posts and watched a million videos on You Tube about Bullet Journals, I decided to have a go at making my own.

First to explain what exactly a Bullet Journal is. It's basically an appointment diary plus. The plus bit is spaces for lists, forward planning, intentions, goals, menu plans, shopping lists, birthdays, progress trackers, etc...

It's easy to be intimidated by the Bullet Journals women share (yes it's only women) on You Tube videos. There are two types. There are the artistic types who draw amazing drawings and designs so that every page is a work of art. Some women even water colour the pages as background. I enjoy doing a bit of doodling and colouring but I'm not that good at it and anyway, who has the time?



The other way to go is the sticker route. OMG! Grown women agonizing over whether to use the green washi tape or the blue. (You have to have washi tape.) Dithering over which is cuter, the floral design or the kittens? They don't use words much in their BJs but they have a sticker symbol for everything. I don't judge as it's a business (either You Tubing or Etsy shops for the stationery and stickers) so they have to do the sales pitch.

So the first thing to do is relax and do as much or as little decorating as you like. I've done minimal so far but I could see myself sitting down to do some more instead of raiding the fridge. Whatever it takes. Make sure your book is lined. You may go for squared or dotted but plain paper will drive you nuts when you want to draw grids and boxes.



Then decide what you want to include. I wanted the year at a glance so that I can count weeks and days when, for e.g., I need to know how much time I have to finish a project or how many lessons in the semester.



For each month I have a calendar page and a monthly planner with the days listed.



I started my BJ with two weeks of blitz organizing before the summer holidays begin for DD and while I have already started mine on some days (though still working on others). I can do this because it's my creation so it starts when I'm ready. I then planned out 14 months until September 2017.

After the two month-planner pages there are four or five pages of weekly views for that month. I'd got to the end of 2016 with the weeks looking like this...


...when I realized that it might be better to have them like this...


As the columns are narrower it just means you write smaller and get far more space to write things in everyday. As I said, I'd already drawn and labelled the weeks until the end of December so I'll have to wait until January to try the vertical columns instead of the boxes.

I left an extra page before the January charts, for New Years' resolutions, intentions, thoughts, whatever. As you do. All the drawing is in pencil so it can be changed easily until I'm satisfied to go over it with pen. Or not.



What else? Well, professional BJers have tracking pages and collections.

Tracking pages are where you keep track of your progress or frequency. It can be a graph or boxes to tick off throughout the month. Women use it for all sorts of things - exercise, housework, not eating sugar/dairy/meat/gluten, no spending days, savings plans, getting to bed before 11pm, meditating, blogging/vlogging, drinking 8 glasses of water a day.... It can get out of control. Some women have a list of things they're tracking that would rival business analysts reviewing an international corporation. And as one wise vlogger said, "it's only useful to have all that data if you're going to do something with it." Personally, I think you can end up feeling like science project instead of a human being.

Collections are just lists. Here are some examples: Books I want to read (irrelevant to expats because we read whatever we're given whenever we can get our hands on it, unless you have become gerkindled in which case just keep the list on the kindle). Food log (I'm keeping a rough food log in the actual diary bit). Films I want to see or tv programs to watch (ok if that's your thing. I've never been at a loss to find something when I have the time to watch). Money I spend (I have an old Filofax in which I've been tracking my spending for the last 10 years). Birthdays (I put these on my calendar page). Daily gratitude log (believe me, I'm grateful). Blogs/vlogs I want to create (see below).

I do have some collections I would like to include but having filled in my 14 months (and 2 weeks) I only have 3 pages left. This is fine because I've left space on every page for notes so I'll add blog ideas and other lists in the weeks they occur to me.

My precious 3 pages will be for 1. A wish list - it's always good to define what you really want when you have the money. Every time I've written a wish list I've managed to achieve all of it over the space of a year or so. Obviously I'm not talking about a villa in the South of France, but mid-price items like new shower doors, a new computer, etc...

2. A universal shopping list. When I've figured out what we actually eat and balance that with what I'd like us to actually eat, it would be good to have a basic list of all the food and household items we need on a regular basis. Of course you don't buy the whole list every time you go shopping but at least you know what to consider whilst compiling your weekly list.

3. Simple menu plans of food that DD will eat and that do not involve ice-cream or jelly beans as a main course.

THE BEST THING OF ALL IS THAT YOU CANNOT FAIL. 

Here is where you find out a bit of BJ magic. There are symbols that many BJers use. The key is as follows:
o A circle for an event.
$ Something to buy (I made this one up).
@ Someone to contact (I made this one up too).
. A bullet point for a task to be done.
X You make your bullet into an x when it's completed.
> You make the bullet into an arrowhead when the task is not completed and you want to migrate it to a more convenient time.

See where I'm going with this? Whenever you don't do something you'd planned to do, you just migrate it to the next day or the next week or the next month..... ad infinitum. :~)
 
And finally, I have a secret weapon. When the new academic year starts in September I will most likely get one of these:

It's the teachers' diary from the TU. It comes in a fancy plastic cover with pockets inside. It has all the school holidays included, pages for grades, class lists, and timetables. As it minimizes the weekends there is a wide column for each day in which you can outline your basic lesson plans. I will also have all my work contact information in this book. I hope it's a nice colour next year, although I could always recycle this one (I do like green) as the actual diary slides out. And maybe I could suggest they include some stickers and washi tape. ;~)


  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - Getting Organized

1. I have been teaching in a school two days a week and that contract has come to an end for the summer whereas DD still has school until 4.30 for another two weeks. This is the time for me to get organized, catch up. clean out, re-arrange, etc...

2. I'm reclaiming my spare room as a spudy. Since starting to rent out the spare room to paying guests a couple of years ago, I've not had a proper office space. This is mostly due to the fact that I didn't have a spare desk or table to use for it as I probably could have found some space in the salon or in my bedroom.... had I had a spare desk or table. So my lap top and papers are permanently strewn all over the salon and dining table. It's starting to get out of control and when my space is out of control I cannot function.

Next year one of my nephews will be studying in Jerusalem and I want my spare bedroom to be free so that he can come and stay over whenever he wants. I'm also expecting more family visits from the nephew's parents (i.e. my sister and brother-in-law) and Grandma is coming for Chanuka. Also, it's nice to have my out-of-town friends stay over if they want to. And we need our privacy for a bit. It's fun having guests - they're usually really nice and very interesting but it's also great to have our own space.


3. After a disappointing visit to the stationers where I found some extremely unscrupulous diary goings-on, I've been preparing my Bullet Journal. A friend on facebook commented how her new 18 month diary doesn't start until June 27th (that being the Monday directly before July 1st) and she can hardly wait for it. I suddenly realized that if I'm making it myself, I don't have to wait until the new(ish) year in September or even until July 1st. I can start now! Woohoo! So I did.

4. After being derailed by the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) I am back to juicing.

Obviously each of these R2BCs are blog posts in themselves and I will deliver over the next week. Meanwhile there are more R2BCs over at Lakes Single Mum.

Wishing you all a cheerful weekend and a cheerful week ahead. xxx


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Beyond Filofax (And A Warning For Israelis)

First some background. Choosing and buying a new diary for the year is a spiritual event for me. Around this time of year I start looking out for the new crop in the shops. The Jewish New Year is in September - not the 1st of September but sometime in that month according to the lunar calendar. So conveniently everything starts after the long summer break. Nice and neat. And my birthday is in September so, as a teacher, it's triple neat for me.

Last year I missed it. I was so busy getting DD ready for school and every time I went shopping she was with me so I couldn't browse in comfort. I ended up going to the mall on September 1st when she was back at school and the remaining selection was pitiful. In desperation I bought a week to a double page pocket diary but I never liked the landscape (sideways) layout. I like a book to read like a book. So a month later I bought another week to a double page pocket diary with portrait (upright) layout and its been ok. I mourned the velvety softback diaries in dusky lilac that I'd missed. A few weeks later this particular shop (Chanan in the Hadar Mall) gathered all the leftover diaries from a number of branches and my dream diary was back. But I couldn't bring myself to buy a third diary.

We went to London in December and I dragged DD round the shops looking at Filofaxes and other diaries for 2016. Luckily I saved myself the up to 80 pounds for the most all encompassing, beautifully finished, practically live-in Filofax when I realized that the weekly spread that I like starts on Monday in the UK whereas our weekends are Friday-Saturday and we go back to work on Sunday. The lack of Jewish holidays and National holidays was a minor irritation that I could have overcome easily but starting the new week at the end of each old week was not on. All that browsing for nothing. And you know how much I loved Filofax.

So with all that disappointment last year, I was so excited to see that the new September 2016 - September 2017 diaries are in the local shops already, and we're only halfway through June! This morning I made my pilgrimage to Chanan and with the full array of new diaries before me - I was disappointed.

Warning to all Israelis: Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) is late this year, falling on October 2nd. So some of the diaries don't start until October 1st. Others start on September 7th or 11th. WTF? How does that help when all the kids go back to school on September 1st and all activities and arrangements have to be made from that date?

There was a page a day diary where you write your own days and dates. The guy in the shop proudly showed me it and explained how it works. I might look stupid but wasn't too stupid to notice that the full year calendar on the front page was 2014 with two half pages for 2015 and 2016. The shop guy didn't think that was important. Idiot.

There are four options for week to a double page spread with upright layout (although not all of them starting on September 1st):
1. With a complete year chart.
2. With a page for each month with the days in a list.
3. With a month chart set out like a desk calendar with a square for each day.
4. With none of the above.
Is it too much to ask to have all of the above in one diary? Don't they know that people don't just have appointments anymore. We have goals and intentions, we have exercise schedules (well I don't) and food diaries, menu plans, scheduled blog posts, random ideas, lists.... They so don't have a clue.

Yes I know there's nothing in it
The only one that had everything was Filofax of course. But I realized that I've gone beyond Filofax. I don't need a zipped pocket, a place for credit cards, an address book, or those bulky ring binder centers. Sorry Filofax, it's not you it's me.

So I bit the bullet as it were. I bought a plain paper book to make my own bullet journal. For the uninitiated, a bullet journal is a personal diary that you create yourself, with space for all your aims, goals, and lists. Yes I know - far more opportunity to fail but that's half the fun in life, isn't it? For me the perfect diary is going to have a full year chart. Each month on one page with the days listed for planning the year. Before each new month there'll be a month chart and an empty page for shopping lists, menu plans, contact numbers, etc...

There was a dusky lilac softback book but it was a bit too big to fit in my bag and it didn't have enough pages. So I went with the turquoise. I can hardly wait to get my felt tip pens, ruler and pencils out and make a start.