Saturday 25 August 2007

Child abuse

In the 1970s I was a social worker in Cambridgeshire. I sent quite a few children to Midfield Observation Centre, which was run by one Keith Laverack. Listening to the radio in 1997 or thereabouts I heard that he had been suspended from his job because of allegations of child abuse. I got the impression from the item that prosecution was unlikely, and, being a novice then in the ways of the internet, didn't follow it up, despite feeling uneasy about having sent him a regular supply of deliciously nubile young women.

His name came to my mind this week, so I googled him, and rapidly discovered via the BBC that he had in fact been jailed for 18 years for his crimes. Judging from other stuff I've come across he was one of a number of people who began their abusive careers together. He is known to be responsible for at least 22 victims, and the abusers between them, apparently, for a number that I can't believe.

I still don't know what I feel about this. Most of his victims were young boys, so I feel relieved at one level that at least it wasn't me sending him the meat. But I am having a hard time reconciling myself to the scale of the abuse.

Thursday 23 August 2007

Another thing Opera can't do

I mean the web browser not the art form. Opera has been my favourite for several years, despite having a few little quirks. There are some sites it just doesn't like, and for those I use Firefox. (There are some sites that won't work in Firefox either, notably the Bank of Scotland's commercial account page which makes me spit every time I have to open Internet Explorer to use it. I have complained vociferously and have been told that their security is really, really, really good. And I tell them that I don't care about their security; they're making me keep open and active on my computer the least secure browser available. Why should I compromise my network's security just so that they can boast about theirs. But it falls on deaf ears. Rant over.)

Anyway Opera does strange things with the formatting of blog posts. When I'm writing them I find it sometimes forgets to wrap text, and the result remains unwrapped when published. I just found it doing it again when I was writing about habitus, so I switched to Firefox to see if it ironed out the problem, and it did, even though i cut and pasted the text.

I'll stick with Opera for my regular browsing though; there's something about it that just fits.


I've just started reading Hillier, J and Rooksby, E (eds) Habitus: A Sense of Place. Bourdieu's idea of "habitus" has always been problematic for me. I've seen it in various texts, not well explained, and I've tended to consign him to a small but distinguished pile of French social scientists who I have to refer to but can't understand. I think a lot of other people are like that too because I see it referred to in ways that don't make a great deal of sense. I started reading this book because I'm doing a fair bit of work on space and place at the moment and it looked interesting.

And it makes sense. I can see what it's about now and I can also see that it will be a very useful concept for both lines of research that I'm following up at the moment.

I have to say however that my first thought on realising this was a mild expletive. That's another whole swathe of books I'm going to have to read and get familiar with. Ho hum.

Sunday 19 August 2007

The church and legs

Just a follow on from my last post. I think one of the unattractive things about church is that you have to sit and be still. I equally dislike going to the theatre,  concerts (classical - rock is fine), and lectures. I discovered restless leg syndrome  a few years ago. I have an attenuated form of the condition, so attenuated that I never realised there was a condition or a name for it until I heard about it on a radio programme. Now most children (most? many at least) squirm through the functions their parents take them  to, but I don't know if other children experienced the physical torture I got in my knees when trapped in a concert seat or a pew. Although that as such rarely happens to me nowadays, I think the memory is hard wired in. Cinema's fine - I can sprawl. Rock concerts, football matches, obviously, fine. But places where I sit. still. aaargh.

Which brought me when I was thinking about it on to another historical thing to look up. When did the tradition come in that we have to sit still and silent in order to listen to music?I'm aware that in courts of roughly renaissance times they used to walk about and talk all through the performance, at least the king did. What is it about being modern and civilised which means that we have to be still when the body's natural instinct is to move to the rhythm? I heard from someone that most languages don't have separate words for "sing" and "dance" because they're the same thing. I have no idea whether it's actually true, but it does seem to me maybe another facet of the Enlightenment separation of body and mind that we had to start "appreciating" music without responding to it physically. Maybe it's a way of separating the upper classes who have the discipline to do it, from the rude mechanical lower classes, who still have to jig around when they feel a rhythm. I'm obviously lower class then. And proud of it :-)

Blogging on a Sunday morning

I've just been reading some stuff about sacred and secular, which I won't go into now because it was dead complicated, but I was sitting in bed in the morning as I do with two cups of tea, a very civilised way to start the day - two cups of tea and a good book. I don't really start to function till about 10 in the morning. The book in question is Jane Jacobs Edge of Empire, about the geography of postcolonialism and the city, told you it was complicated.

But what started me thinking, or daydreaming if you prefer, was the fact that it was Sunday morning. I am a Christian, but I don't go to church. At least I only go to preach. It's a very contradictory place to be, I know, but it's where I've arrived. I just don't find God in church. Many other places, but not church. I don't know why, partly personal history, the experience of an undying kind of hypocrisy in the churches I went to perforce as a child. Or maybe it's something God has done. A monk once said to me "God has chosen a dark path for you", which is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me, although when I have told this to people in the past, most of them have said, "How horrible".

The bit about preaching is that I do go to churches in order to speak for Christian Aid. I do once a year at Ringmer in an annual effort to drum up more collectors, and, because the local office know I have the gift of the gab, they sometimes ask me to go to other places. It's good fun.

So Sunday morning tends to be a time  of rest, but not in church. The only churchy thing that intrudes is the noise pollution from Ringmer's church bells chaotically and atonally summoning the faithful to service.

We spent a few days on holiday at Whitchurch Canonicorum this year where the church bells ring on the hour every hour day and night. We were in "Church Cottage" so you get the picture. I'm sure that the locals would have defended their church clock to the death (I would happily have accommodated them...) on the grounds that it was traditional. 
They probably have a happy picture of a monk in 500 AD tolling Vespers on a bit of rope. But it occurred to me that chiming on the hour must be 
an industrial invention. They didn't need it for medieval workers. 
They needed to know when church was on, and maybe when mealtimes were, 
but they had no use for the hour. So it can't be *that* traditional. I wonder when it actually came  in. Must look it up somewhere.

Thursday 9 August 2007

Aha, found it

At last, tucked away on what might be the obvious page if you looked at it that way - high rate is if you need it both day and night, low rate is if you need it either day or night but not both. Just like it was 20 years ago when I was an expert on welfare benefits.

Attendance allowance

I'm checking up on attendance allowance as various relatives get more doddery, and I came across this little gem in additional information:

"If you receive Attendance Allowance, you can get a grant from the Warm Front scheme to help you with the costs of home insulation and other heating improvements.
More about the Warm Front Scheme (opens new window)"

Not quite what they meant....

Having said that, I'm at a stage where I've been before with Disability Living Allowance.

It gets paid at two rates, lower and higher, according to certain criteria. But, wherever I go, I cannot find out what those criteria are. I've visited a dozen different Directgov pages, but they all say there are two rates, without describing the criteria. It's probably because they don't want to confuse people with too much information, but it's very annoying.

Wednesday 8 August 2007

What people buy in Lewes

Heard in a health food shop in Lewes today:

Customer: "Do you stock krill oil?"

Assistant: "No, we don't."


Assistant: "I've got no idea what it is but I know we don't stock it."

Customer: "It's like omega-3 oil, but more upmarket."


Our first...

First of all, fix today's date in your mind. August 8th. That's August. Middle of summer. Not that that means a great deal after the summer we've been having.

August, September, October, November, December....

Long time to the end of the year....

You can tell what's coming next, can't you.









Today we got our first Christmas card catalogue of the year.

Monday 6 August 2007

Films to see before you die

I discovered a little while ago the Guardian's list of 1000 films to see before you die. Its such an idiosyncratic list that I determined to see it all together - difficult to do on the Grauniad's site as it's spread over about thirty pages, so I downloaded them all and put them in a spreadsheet. Then of course I had to add my own comments and some of my own contenders for ten best and hundred best.

The result is at It's 567kb. I made it in OpenOffice, my software of choice these days, then saved it as an Excel file. I assume it will work, but if it doesn't, let me know.

I dare say it will change as I keep thinking of more films to add.

The original is at:,,2108487,00.html

Friday 3 August 2007

Ruffles and Rob

Ruffles thought geography was a really interesting subject. Once he'd started reading, he couldn't tear himself away...