Friday, August 09, 2013

Show me the way to go home....

We're selling the house... hopefully have sold the house, as we are waiting for our solicitor and their solicitor to arrange the exchange of contracts.  I'm just packing up boxes and trying to work out what possessions are worth storing and which should be donated to the charity shop - and which I can't do without even in the interim.

I am blessed and feel very lucky that I will have the money to buy a house, just not where I have lived for the past forty years.  Having ties to places I can't afford to live, I have no ties to the places I can potentially live, which makes quite a wide area based on Zoopla's property heat map.

I'm looking at Clacton-on-sea and Walton on the Naze, at Lowestoft and King's Lynn.  I'm not going to be in a position to make any offers until we have exchanged contracts and know the completion date on the sale, so I am a bit nervous about going on a trip next week to see what these places are like.

Not knowing where home will be, not knowing how long we will be in transit, or how long my possessions will be in storage, is tricky. I'm working on a list for the removal men, so that they can make an estimate of the cost.

I'd love to live by the sea.  I've always yearned for the sound of waves and the ability to walk along the beach at sunrise or sunset.  For this reason I am more inclined toward Lowestoft, Clacton and Walton.  But then the transport links are pretty bad for my son who hs a girlfriend in Sheffield of all places. 

I'm having to suspend knowing where home will be, and try to feel excited about the changes and how my life will be different. It's quite an odd feeling, not knowing where I will spend Christmas.

Don't call us...

Fantastic retro phone icon by RitchieBrett (CC attribution 3.0)
My mother changed her name relatively recently.  After decades of using her ex-husband's name for everything she decided to revert to her maiden name.  She changed it on everything except on annoying catalogue company (don't ask me why she singled them out for special attention).

Consequently, we know more or less instantly when we receive scam phone calls from people claiming that her credit cards have been used, her computer is sending out emergency signals and her pension bonus is still to be paid.  They use her old name and not her new one.

She seems to have got onto some scammers mailing list of vulnerable people who might make good targets.  Not that she IS vulnerable, or a good target.  As ladies in the autumn of their years go, she's actually pretty up-to-date and aware.  She uses a computer, understands how to email and search, knows when someone is angling for her details.

I've been living with her for almost three years, and it's made me quite angry that charities in particular seem to harass her with calls.  They phone her to say they're running a raffle and can they send her some tickets?  Then they phone up every other day to find out if she's sold them and sent them the money.  On numerous occasions she has sent them money having sold no tickets at all, just to get the calls to stop.  RNIB are particularly bad in this respect, and I have given several callers a flea in their ear about the exploitative nature of the repeated calls to elderly people who are guilted into making payments they can't afford.  I fear that's a rant for another day.

We get a lot of automated calls giving information about PPI, pensions, loft insulation etc.  There's no way to tell off an automated call, although I do get annoyed enough to contact the Information Commissioner's Office to report them from time to time.  As they seem to come from a different number every time, I can see it is tricksy for the authorities to keep track.

Despite being registered with the Telephone Preference service, we still get a large number of marketing calls.  It becomes quite easy to sort the scammers from the reputable companies; once you say you are registered, reputable companies apologize and ring off.

The ones which really have my blood boiling are the criminal sort I have received half a dozen times on my mother's behalf.  One has someone apparently reporting that her cards have been stolen and are being used in a shop in London.  As they give the wrong surname, I know this cannot be the case.  It's a clever con, that I have read about, where the person reporting it to you doesn't attempt to take your details but offers a crime number.  They tell you to phone another number, or tell you they'll transfer you to a police station, or any number of alternatives which lead to them eventually trying to get personal details.

I strung one of these along for a considerable time, extracting name, place etc from him, but  he cut me off rather than give me a telephone number.  And of course, he phoned from a network where it isn't possible to retrieve numbers.

This morning we had one from someone who represented a company called Evantechs, apparently in Hanover Street, London.  They were calling to alert me to the fact that my mother's computer was sending out emergency messages.  They also rang off when asked for a phone number... it's an infallible test, they are never alert enough to spoof a phone number at short notice.

Thing is, I would have expected the powers-that-be to have got a handle on these companies by now.  Surely it can't be beyond the wit of man to ensure that any company or organization which makes hundreds of phone calls to consumers, should have an identifiable number, or not be allowed to use the networks?

The rise of automated phone calls, scamming phone calls and marketing phone calls is one of the problems of our time, and we need to get it under control, somehow.  I have come across several elderly people who have been taken in by bona fide companies or charities and committed to things they would really rather not have committed to.  Many others have fallen for the clever telephone scams which lead you to a premium rate phone number.  That's without dealing with the criminal gangs who use telephone scams to extract people's numbers and accounts from them.  Something needs to be done.

If you can't obtain a number, it can't be reported.  That's why I think *anyone* making a large volume of calls should be required to register a proper number somewhere that can be tied to their activity. Charging down the stairs to answer the phone for an urgent message for my mother is one thing.  Nearly breaking my neck in order to find an automated call on the line, or someone trying to get me to give them remote access to the computer is quite another.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Schooling vs Unschooling

There's a lot of negative coverage of Facebook and Twitter at the moment, but I must say that I have found the support groups on Facebook to be amongst the liveliest and most supportive on the web.  I am a member of the alternate day fasting group which supports people using intermittent fasting, the 5:2 diet and fast-5 as well as ADF.  They aren't judgemental or picky about who is allowed to join.  It's a great group.

The unschooling group is a bit less supportive and a bit more judgemental.  I think the major problem with that group is that it includes a lot of schooling home educators who mistakenly think that home education is equivalent to unschooling.  It isn't. That leads to some pretty heated debates in the group.

Home educators may be unschoolers, but I know quite a lot who teach their children to a curriculum who could not be described as unschoolers.  If you try to teach your children then you are probably not an unschooler.  The difficulty for parents who try to teach is that you are necessarily limited by your knowledge and facility with the subject, and you may be sure that any gaps in your knowledge or lack of confidence will transmit to the child.

The whole point of unschooling is that once
you put the child's curiosity and interest at the heart of the enterprise you are no longer limited by your ability to teach them, but by their ability to ask questions and understand the answers. When you make their interest the driving factor instead of your own knowledge then you put them in charge of the journey - then your job is to facilitate the search for answers, NOT to have all the answers.

If this seems like the same thing to you, you haven't understood the difference.  There is an extreme difference in the dynamics of the relationship, which means that your child's interests are pulling them in the direction they need to go, instead of the parent pushing them there.

The best way I have ever heard it described, is that schooling is the filling of a bucket, while unschooling is the lighting of a fire.

A way with words

I’ve been thinking about my writing history over the past few days, in connection with a job application, and concluded that my mother can be credited with my vocabulary and some of my facility with words – but not for the usual reasons. It isn’t that I have inherited verbal dexterity or was taught a good vocabulary, but rather that a dictionary and good reference work were essential tools in my childhood and teenage years.

She is a Mrs Malaprop, always handy with the wrong word in the wrong place, or often a word that sounds similar but has an entirely different meaning from the one intended. It isn’t something that crept up on her with age either – in her teens she memorably asked for a John Thomas when entertained to dinner, instead of the Jack Daniels she’d meant to request.

Only this morning she told me to “mea culpa” when what she’d intended was carpe diem. It’s that sort of thing which made me very keen to consult a dictionary more or less whenever she said anything unfamiliar, to double check that any phrase she referred to meant what she thought it did. Thus she recently asked my nephews if they had been fraggled (fraped). I do wish I’d had the foresight to record the many examples of this over the past decades.

This facility for getting things a little wrong doesn’t just encompass words but also gestures. One day, driving to work she was cut up by someone who clearly didn’t know where they were going. She intended to make the US sign for “up yours” which involves poking up the middle finger, but instead used her index finger – I’m not sure what the recipient will have thought she was trying to say.

To her horror, the man she had gesticulated to, followed her into the office car park. She quickly scuttled into the office and was concerned when she realised he was following her in. She had a sudden realization that the man she had just encountered might be a visitor to one of the senior managers she worked for and discovered, just in time to dive under her desk, that he was indeed the VIP from head office who was arriving to see her boss. Stuff like that happens to her all the time. The people in the office passed her a paper bag with eye holes cut out. Only my mother would have seriously considered wearing it….

My friends envy my relationship with my mother, and she is indeed a loving and selfless mother who has helped me enormously in so many ways. But should you ever have cause to rely on her for an arrangement, do bear in mind that she will generally get names, places, dates and times wrapped around her neck, and do not take at face value anything she says. This is a woman who suffered from asthma most of her life and was still spelling it athsma at 65. Not because of typos. Deliberately.