Public accountability.

In the early 90s I was a senior manager in local government in England.

We had a reputation for innovation in trying to respond to community needs. I sometimes sailed ‘close to the wind and on one of these occasions I was disciplined for breaking the rules.

Towards the end of the financial year I realised there was money underspent in one of our budgets that would be lost.

Rather than lose the money as it couldn’t be carried over the year end, I identified computer equipment we could buy for a new project we were setting up to promote access to computers and training for disabled people.

I quickly contacted three companies that could supply the equipment to get verbal quotes . Chose the best price and company got a formal written quote and agreed, we could go ahead.

In my rush, the mistake I made was not to get formal written quotes from all the companies.

I was investigated and at ‘the hearing’ I was put on ‘final warning.’I completely accepted I’d broken the rules and should have been punished. As public servants, responsible for significant budgets, providing quality services and the health and safety of our service users and teams we are and should be fully accountable.

Why do I share this with you now?

I can see political personal and institutional corruption at the highest level in the U.K. and I wonder how the guilty will be held accountable.

Just look at this.

Kindergarten Korner

weeeeeeee, screeeeee, grrrrrrrrrr, waaaaaaaa….

This is the grinding, cutting screeching of the little mesters, the small independent traditional workshops making knives in my home city of Sheffield the cutlery capital of England. 

Except it isn’t.

It feels like they’ve followed me all the way to where I live now in the genteel middle-class Siddarthanagar in Mysore.

It’s the third night of this infernal racket going on past 9 in the evening and comes from the construction site behind — making it almost impossible to have evening (international time difference) important zoom calls — so,  I complain to the workers. They are cutting and grinding marble, tiles, steel and concrete. The noise should stop at the very latest at 7.00, (the actual rule is they should stop earlier) one of the workers seems to understand. That’s good, message received and understood.

But it’s not so straightforward. Is anything in India?

The construction site belongs to the next door downstairs neighbour (Jain), and he discussed this with his upstairs neighbour (who’s Brahmin) who raises it with his neighbour (Lingayat), who I cycle with most mornings, who talks to me (the Firangi aka foreigner). I might be joking but these labels of religion and community are very significant. So a simple matter of neighbourliness, and sound sensitivity becomes a big issue at the corner. They, that’s the Jain with the support of the Brahmin decide to allow the workers to continue making the noise into the evening and ignore me. The Lingayat is just the messenger 🙂

Once I realise the molehill is becoming a foot hill, I go to speak directly to the site owner, my neighbour of some years. He refuses to speak, looks down, can’t catch me in the eye and does some rude brushing away movement with his hands. Blimey.

There’s more to being kind than feeding the cows

Frankly, in my view, it should be obvious that such noise in the evening isn’t on, regardless that it’s against the regulations. Rules, what are they? Various friends agree. But lack of awareness, indifference, who knows what has stopped the bleeding obvious being well, obvious. Now they know but don’t care, they stick the proverbial finger up.

To make sure I understand, I’m cold-shouldered by the Jains and the Brahmins. 

The foothill becomes a mountain. This is quite unbelievable.

The fool of the father (Jain) even instructs his young daughters to have nothing to do with the foreigner. 

On a normal day and time, Lucie and I are constantly greeted, by the local children, as we walk down the street with smiles, hellos and waves but not by his two, not anymore. Hence  I refer to the infantile behaviour of the kindergarten. The poor girls stick out like a sore thumb not greeting the foreigner, because of the childishness of their father.

I now realise its a common unsophisticated way of communication. For example: there’s three parts of a family live a few hundred yards away from each other who have not communicated for decades. I hear of families not talking because of perceived snubs at a wedding and how the invites had been issued. 

I’ve discussed with people that I know from the Jain community who are embarrassed and apologetic and Brahmin friends, who are politically liberal anti-elitist, just shrug their shoulders and ask why I’m surprised. People talk about bad karma for the house and how they shouldn’t treat ‘guests’ like this. Me, I’ve given up.

Jain friends in England point out, that there’s more to being kind than feeding cows by the roadside.

Come on guys, get a grip. Life is too short. So I have to take the high road and provide a different example.

So Let’s be positive.

following the path of Manjula the muse, the moose, my guru

being kind 

I therefore haven’t pursued this, previously I might have, mercilessly. Now I’ve adjusted, live and let live. 

I don’t want the poor innocent girls affected anymore, or their new house to have a bad vibe, our respective rewards will arrive.

I hope Manjula will be contentedly happy with my approach.    

Farrell Factoid 

Here’s more information about the little mesters. 

Little mesters and their

Resurgence

Publish and be damned – a plan is forming.

Five things lead to a plan

First, a cow peed on the Rangoli.

Missing Manjula. Second Christmas and birthday without her

Next, a dragonfly flew into the hall, circled me and landed on Manjula’s penant that we bought on holiday in the U.K.
Immediately afterwards, a sepia coloured butterfly as a few days earlier also kept circling me.
Some believe that Dragonflies and Butterflies are messengers of love from your dearly departed.

At today’s writers group a presentation from editor Karthika helped clarify what is possible.

I’ve committed to Manjula to write our story with a working title of Full Full. I’ve completed the first draft of many and feels like I’m building the Taj Mahal out of matchsticks. This will take sometime.

Target date March 2022 to complete story

Launch book by August 2022 on what would have been Manjula’s 49th Birthday

Identify Editor, First Readers, Community Publisher advisor,

Create 2000 person mailing list and feature blog posts to help create interest.

Self publish POD and E book with 1000 sale target

Available in Hebden Bridge U.K. and silverfish (mysore) local bookshops.

Next: consider… additional chapters, Children’s book, Online interactive version

Non work station notebooks and printed draft. I have a fountain pen and blank paper. I must be a writer.

Missing my love.

the grief gravy group

I have been part of an online therapeutic group with two young women and a therapist, for the past few weekends.

At our final session we were asked to creatively reflect on our journey and how the group has helped. Here’s my feeble effort.

The detail in this rich picture will be shared by the end of our story. Yes, I’m writing and it’s far from complete but it is progressing: at the pace of a snail slithering along on the shell of a tortoise that’s travelling backwards.

Please do feel free to guess what the different images represent. There maybe a prize.

The group been an incredible support and very productive to help me swim along the grief gravy river and keep my head above liquid.

I know you’ve seen it before but I had to post the drawing of Manjula again as today’s attempt is so baaaaad.

Monisha Srichand, the group therapist is a skilled facilitator. She got the balance just right, providing enough structure, guidance and professional input so everyone felt comfortable and confident to share their own challenges whilst enabling us to provide insightful support to other members of the group. Highly recommended.

I’ve also posted details of the empty chair technique used in one of the sessions where you will also find contact details for Monashi and a network of therapists.

A great representation of the group by one of its members. Spot the dog!

If you or anyone you know is dealing with grief and need help. I can recommend books, have a chat or recommend the therapist who facilitated our group.


“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
― Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Serendipity?

What do you think of this?

What does it make you think of? Where might it be from? Made of what?

My very good friend Jill, from England, emailed me today.

“I have been decluttering my ‘office’ now a junk room and found this among my treasures. It was in a box with my mother’s velvet evening bag”

“But what was even more surprising was what I saw when I turned it over and read what was underneath. How extraordinary! Who would have thought all that time ago – a link to somewhere that was to become so significant in your life.”

Jill and I used to work for a local council, in England, jointly managing part of social services. It was a great time in my life. There’s more info here

This was in the early 1990’s and we used all sorts of different techniques to help us innovate and develop a responsive service. I think this elephant was one of the awards we gave to thank our staff for their tremendous work. Jill and I had dressed up as a ringmaster and clown to give out the awards. No prizes for guessing who was who….

The significance of the elephant is the analogy we used and delivered in a workshop to all our staff. ‘Teaching the Elephant to Dance’ was about change and being sensitive to the individual needs of those who used our services.

There wasn’t any connection with India and it would be another fifteen years before I first visited the country and twenty before I moved here to live in Mysore.

Here’s what was underneath.

It’s history, not

In the late 80’s and early 90’s

I was proud to be part of a bold experiment.

The Level Best campaign invited disabled people, carers, professionals to get involved. To explain what they wanted to see from council services in Kirklees in West Yorkshire, taking in the conurbations of Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley and the surrounding rural areas.

It was small scale, focused on a specific community of interest and primarily about local welfare services.

It involved a reference group, not unlike an assembly, public meetings, focus groups, research questionnaires a range of techniques drawn from different professional and community approaches.

It resulted in significant local changes and showed how engaging people effectively brings real and lasting results.

There are many examples of how measures to promote people’s active participation can make a real difference in governance and the quality of our lives. We need to take these lessons to change the way our societies and their institutions work.

One such idea is presented here.

The constructive pressure from Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the opportunities afforded by adopting ideas such as citizens’ assembly and localised practical responses to our challenges will help us develop a more sustainable approach to life that can arise from the people themselves and provide opportunities that are different from traditional work models.

We need to think and act differently.

The route is clear

Not……

It’s an update.

To reiterate. I’m required to leave India within 180 days of arriving every visit. Due to the virus that has been extended but I’m likely to have to leave in August. I hope they’ll let me back in

There are three obvious options: Sri Lanka, Canada and UK.

I’m openly discussing this with friends and family who might be affected or kind enough to let me stay, so that we’re as informed as we can be. I wouldn’t want to be someone who came to stay at the house or next door and not be open and honest about the risks and consequences. God forbid.

The first challenge (assuming there are flights) is getting health insurance. It’s available but there is the risk that if there are COVID 19 restrictions it might invalidate the insurance. I don’t need it for the U.K.

Sri Lanka might initially seem the best option. Shortest distance, clear polices and systems, no need for quarantine/self-isolation, open to tourists in August. BUT it might mean a domestic flight in India which I’d prefer not to do. I’ll be required to travel with a negative test result taken within 72 hours of the flight, which might not be obtainable. I’d have to stay in a government sanctioned hotel. Yuk?. I could pay any health costs directly but I wouldn’t get to see any family or friends.

Canada is a stronger contender. Means double the distance to travel than the UK, I’d have to remember how to cook, and I wouldn’t want Oll my youngest son to be tried for murder. Insurance maybe a problem and I couldn’t afford to pay health costs directly.

U.K. well clearly….
It’s a well managed place, no problems with the virus, competent leadership, no idiot behaviour and the country isn’t disintegrating. A safe haven.

I jest, of course, it provides the opportunity to catch up and be with friends and family which I feel that I need due to fragility, I would have to be 14 days in isolation so that and the risk puts a lot onto whoever is kind enough to take me in. I don’t need travel insurance and hope the Health service can cope. It does involve risky travel to and within the country.

I think you can see which way I’m leaning.

I’ve had a beard trim but no hair cut for quite a few months

New beginnings are disguised as painful ends

It’s late at night and the page is blank so I turn to Laozi and Pooh bear.

Actually that’s not true. I turn to you…… to help me get the ball rolling, to create and share my and Manjula’s story. It’s the age old writer’s conundrum. As you see I have a pile of full notebooks but how to get the blank page filled to begin to start the actual story. Can you help?

If you know Manjula and I or even if you don’t 🙃 what’s the key ingredients of our story that might interest you or a wider audience. What are the main themes that will interest people?

Finding Meaning

I’m reading the book about finding meaning: the sixth stage of grief. I’m writing notes as Kessler talks about “the secret to remembering with love begins with accepting the pain not trying to deny it or ignore it….. love is on the other side of pain”

I’m reflecting on how I’ve managed this over the last year. As I write this I’m gently crying, sniffling just a little bit. Lucie looks up, stares with her sad brown eyes and squeals as if to draw my attention. I think she knows what’s happening and wants to comfort me. So we have a stroke for support.

At that very moment a black and orange butterfly flies into the balcony with a message: Manjula did feel my love and would have always known it was present.

Virus 4

I’m sitting on the balcony with the early morning sun shining through.

Lucie and I are back from our first walk of the day. We stopped and chatted to one of our neighbours who has husband and son at home. They’re not bored, using the time constructively connecting via the net and playing music.

As with anything else the level of awareness and understanding makes such a big difference. People just don’t understand the situation and what to do. I could fall into an easy trap and say eduction helps people understand and act. But we know it’s only partially true. Manjula was a great example of someone who was incredibly aware, in my terms. …’together’ with little if any education. She couldn’t read or write but was so clever, witty, linguist, who was a great connector, wise and SMART. Am I showing my bias again?

I have my breakfast of fruit, muesli and tea here waiting I’d just nipped out to give a poor older woman walking past a small token. I do sometimes amend my own rules. I notice a group of men having a chat on a street corner having parked their two wheelers. They have absolutely no idea of what it means to maintain distance. One has a mask on so it’s alright then, not much use by the way. Education? Awareness? Haven’t the first idea? How in any situation can we engage people’s hearts and minds? Enable them to make good decisions with their own and everyone’s interests at heart? Tall order

The city corporation have sealed off one of the parks, we have three close by. Here’s the sign notifying people.

The announcement of the lockdown was on the 23rd and came into effect on the 24th (the one day curfew was the 22nd). The sign posted on the 25th closed the park on the 21st….. doh.

Breakfast. I’m desperate Dan…..

Next, maybe managing Lucie’s boredom and my hypochondria