Bletchley

They seemed like a group of WI or some nursing home had a day out … but it was very different. 

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These men and women were gathered to remember the outbreak of war in 1939. They all worked at Bletchley Park during the second world war and were part of a highly secretive group who were there to intercept the German communications and break codes that the enemy was using to keep their movements and plans secret.

To others they are heroes, a term quickly dismissed by some of the group who were in this reunion, which, to me, strengthens my belief that these people are unique and should be celebrated. They didn’t see that their work was in part bringing an end to the mass killing of millions of people. They didn’t need medals or adulation, they were simply doing their job.

The UK and the world would be a very different place had Hitler and the Nazi’s succeeded in their quest for dominance. I have the utmost respect and honour for these people and proud of the work that they did in breaking Germany’s secrets. In a time of uncertainty and ‘rumours of war’ I feel we can declare these people ‘heroes’.

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Freedom of speech

Have we lost the ability to speak freely and have the right to say how we feel without offending?

As a committed ‘lefty loony’ and part of the ‘liberal establishment elite’ I’m aware that I am committed to equality for everyone and that hate speech has no place in a normal civilised world. But have we gone too far? Are we actually able to say what we feel?

In the 80s I used to watch a programme called ‘Allo ‘Allo. It was a comedy programme set during the Second World War and was extremely funny. I mentioned it to a friend who said that she didn’t watch it as it perpetrated stereotypes of people from other countries. I thought it was a little harsh and over the years I realised I just couldn’t agree with her.

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If you look at comedies and other forms of humour a lot of characterisations are based on stereotypes. The slightly racist (Basil Fawlty – Germans) the homophobic (Jack – Will and Grace – Girl Trouble) where Jack makes derogatory remarks about a lesbian couple. We delight in characters that can make us laugh about our lives and try not to take things too seriously.

In the UK hate speech is defined if someone “Using threatening abusive, insult words or behaviour …” whether its spoken or written and likely to stir up racial hatred. So parody of someone with the intent of humour is certainly different from someone who intends to cause a reaction whereas it will inflame hatred amongst certain groups.

Free-Speech

I don’t like Milo Yiannopoulos. I think he is an appalling person with abhorrent views. But his right to free speech turns problematic when he like others of the ‘alt-right’ make gross generalisations of certain groups. It becomes more problematic as social media and similar platforms have allowed everyone to have their say and at the moment it’s a deafening cacophony of noise. Where no one hears anything or understands it.

In watching some reaction to protests in the USA it’s interesting to see that people seem to be ‘triggered’. That the minute that someone opens their mouths to speak it seems to offend.

A lot seem to be protesting that we cannot say anything without being censored. Although the above cartoon is a parody of this, there are numerous incidents when genuine free speech has been censored. This worries me greatly and I think this, like other trends that have come from the USA, will soon arrive in the UK and increase over next few years.

I know that a lot people don’t like gay people and marriage equality. I will defend the right of people to say that they don’t agree with it. But when you try and stop someone marrying or even having a relationship with someone of the same sex then it becomes a problem.

*Gay people shouldn’t be able to marry – no problem

*Gay people should be killed for who they are – Hate speech

*White, black, interracial, old, young.

 

I despise myself

I hate it’s the run up to Christmas. It always reminds me of what I don’t have.

I mention the word Christmas in September on social media and I know it usually gets a collective ‘pffft’ of contempt. But there is a reason for mentioning it and I hate myself for doing it. But I am hurting.

Usually it was a time for planning the run up to the season for mum and me. I would buy discounted Christmas cards and each month think about what presents to buy to spread out the costs. In the last few years of mums life this became more of a role I would fulfil entirely as she had lost the ability to write.

I miss my mother terribly. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. When you spent a good proportion of your life looking after someone there death leaves a gap that you try to fill. It will never work, as the only thing that mends it is having the person back with you.

So if I mention Christmas don’t get too angry with me it’s my nervousness and loss coming through. It get’s worse as Christmas draw near.

I deliberately made the title of this blog post a click-bate one. I wanted to see if this actually improves the amount of people reading my blog. Just for another few posts I will be writing titles that encourages people to be readers.

Forward to the past

Despite being stored in a shed for fifteen years they are in surprisingly good condition.

I thought it was right time (along with the other 200 million people) to bring my vinyl collection back to life. At the moment I am listening to a vinyl LP from 1982. I am lucky enough to be old enough to say I lived through the eighties and enjoyed every moment of it. I have love music ever since I can remember and vinyl was the way.

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During my PGCE year I met and ridiculed a lovely friend Jeremy; berating him for having only vinyl in his collection. I was a CD/Cassette man. Technology = good – old vinyl shit = bad. I apologised to him recently and I publicly apologise to him now. I couldn’t be more wrong about something.

I did spend a large amount in the 90s driving long distances. I had to drive all the way from Oxford, if I wanted to visit home. According to google maps (I cannot leave other technology behind) it should take me five hours to drive there. In the 90s it use to take around about six. Music was via cassettes as having a turntable in the car would be a little silly.

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So now I am listening to those vinyl’s from the 80s. I got a Cliff Richard vinyl for my 19th birthday. Hey you can take the piss but I have always be alt-trendy. Goodness knows what my parents must have thought of me. Oooo don’t go there. That’s A WHOLE other story.

 

Going for tests

Being on a bit of high coming back from Prague there was a bit of me that was in denial. I knew I had to mention it to someone it was getting the courage to do so.

A few weeks previous I had noticed on the left side of my chest was a small pea-sized lump. I had previously a biopsy on the right side as I had some soreness in around the centre of the breast. It turned out to be fine and they said it was due to hormonal changes.

This new lump seemed different. It wasn’t sore or giving me any discomfort but what I did find it was a round disc shape, which was nothing like the lipomas I have in the rest of my body. Apparently they are common and most are small lumps of fatty tissue that do nothing.

I tried initially to book an appointment online and it would be another month before I could see anyone. Taking the decision to have a word with the practice sooner, rather than later, turned out to be the sensible thing. They asked me to come to the surgery  the same day and they would see me even if I had wait a while.

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A lovely doctor, who have seen before, examined me and she too found the same lump. She asked questions about family history and explained that she would refer me again to the breast clinic but this time I would only have to wait less than a week to be seen and it would be in a private hospital.

Not being sure if it was a government initiative to cut waiting times or the urgency to see a specialist that made that time quite short.

Then the ‘what ifs’ come. What would I do if it turned out to be cancer?

The mind then races and the worst thing you can do is look on the internet as this has millions of difference stories and accounts of people’s experiences of being told they have a life changing illness.

So Tuesday came and I had a mammogram and ultrasound on the area affected. It was the doctor performing this ultrasound that informed me that it was nothing to worry about another ‘fatty lump’. I had this confirmed when I went into so see the consultant surgeon.

The moral of this story is quite simple. I wasn’t going to leave something like this for another six months and hope it would disappear. That’s not an option. You face it and you move on. They say that most men who contract breast cancer do not survive it as they only seek medical help in the final stages of the disease. Men are stubborn. If you have a lump that you are unsure of get it checked.

 

Day 3 (Prague Pride)

Pain in legs and an excessive amount of flatulence during the night. Who wouldn’t want to live with me?

I work out (according to google maps) that I’m only 2 tram stops away from the park  where people are meeting after the pride parade. People are marching through central Prague and ending up Letna Park, but when I arrive there are people still setting up food and drink stalls. Is there beer? You HAVE TO ask the important questions. I am told in a thick Slovak accent that it will be ready in “10-15 minutes”. Did you do a voice a bit like Dracula in your head?

I am not too sure if I have made the right decision. What happens if no one turns up and I am stuck in a field in the middle of Prague with Janis and Bobvlac and they want to kill me? You’ve seen the film ‘Hostel’ right?

After I while I make the decision to listen to a band on one of the stages. They are okay. The woman playing the guitar hasn’t attached her capo correctly and the strings are making a distorted buzzing sound it’s getting on my nerves. I get up and find a stall selling food. Vegan food. I decide to buy something which looks like sweet and sour chicken and it turns out to be lovely.

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Eventually more people arrive and it keeps going. For at least over an hour more and more people turn up, it’s amazing. From the quiet park that I stood in yesterday to what I estimate to be people in their thousands. They said there was about 40 thousand who attended Prague Pride last year and it easily that number.

I spend the afternoon sitting watching people who are all colours, backgrounds, gender identities and ages. It’s refreshing and comforting to know that people are willing to come and celebrate who they are with others.

Some of the stalls are also places for people to learn about what affects LGBT community.  I am intrigued that there is a Christian church in amongst all this who are there to encourage the spreading of the message of the love of God. I talk briefly with them and share my experience of church life. Like the UK, the Czech Republic, has a staunch Christian wing who oppose everything the LGBT community stand for. It’s interesting to note that all the trundled out arguments, opposing marriage equality, are being used to stop the legalisation of same sex marriage. I give them encouragement and support and sign my name on their petition. Keep going and soon LGBT community will have the same rights as they do here in the UK.

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What a great day it is but I am tired as afternoon turns into evening. The tram and my bed are calling.