Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Homeless in Woking

Calm down, it's not me who's homeless! In an earlier post I promised to find out where a person could get a meal if they needed one. I found there are four shelters in Woking. There's Pound House (01483 720872) which is for young people aged 16-25, Surrey Women's Aid (01483 776822) for women fleeing domestic violence, The Crescent (01483 750616), which provides housing and training for young people aged 18-30 and The York Road Project (01483 728739), which provides accomodation for men and women aged 18 and over.

Putting it in my blog will help me remember, so if I'm asked again I'll know how to help. Why don't you find out what's around in your area to help people who are having a hard time of it?

Saturday, 25 April 2009


I love backgammon. I have a palm pilot I theoretically use as a diary and address book but really I mostly use it to play backgammon. In the four years or so I've had my palm, I've played nearly 14,000 games, which works out to be about 10 games per day. I win three times more games than the computer does, so I think I'm pretty good at it, but playing a computer isn't the same as playing against a person, so I might not be as good as I think!

I love the feel of a decent backgammon set. My dad taught me to play when I was about 10 or so. He had a set about the size of a briefcase, leather with large pieces made of something like toughened glass, heavy in my palm and making a satisfying 'clinck' when they touched. The brown pieces were the colour of chocolate and my sister and I used to pretend they were mint slice biscuits, our favourite! When you opened the set the fragrance of the leather would drift up and I would breathe deeply, delighting in the smell.

When I went to Turkey on holiday a few years ago, I decided to go for a walk, by myself for a change! I wanted to investigate the small bazaar that was near our hotel without having to chase after my daughter. I passed by the numerous carpet shops (having already been sucked into buying something lovely but probably completely overpriced) not stopping because once you stop the shopkeeper will invite you in for tea and you will be there for hours! I admired the lamp shops with their beautiful coloured glass supported by ornate ironwork. There were jewellry shops with gold and silver and I browsed a little. There were shops selling exquisite fabrics with vivid colours and unusal motifs. I passed by a small shop selling all sorts of bits and peices, the kind that might hold some hidden treasure. I admired a glass tea set in the window and decided to have a look inside. More tea sets, small figurines, games... then I noticed a backgammon set. It was made of some heavy wood inlaid with brass. Inside, more brass and timber inlay and I was captivated. The smell of the wood, the workmanship. Just delightful. I commented to the shopkeeper how beautiful the set was, and how much I loved to play backgammon. He was very surprised, because in Turkey women don't usually play backgammon so he invited me to play a game.

He poured me some tea and we sat and played. And played. And played! Initally the games were slow and considered, as we got to know each other's styles. It was the first time in years I'd played against a real person so it was a learning curve for me. Eventually we started playing 'speed' games, where players throw the dice and move within seconds so each game may only last two or three minutes. We had such fun, calling out with excitement at a fortuitous roll or a skillful move, clapping and congratulating one another.

I lost track of the time, until I realised I was starting to feel quite hungry. I mentioned the time and said I should go, but he insisted on making me something to eat. He invited me to the upstairs part of the shop. Little alarms started ringing, but he had been so generous and we had really enjoyed playing together, I found it impossible to refuse without seeming rude so I went upstairs. He made me a modest dinner which we ate together and as I relaxed paradoxically my shoulders started to tense up. He noticed and offered a massage. More alarms, but I couldn't see how to refuse without seeming rude. He really was perfectly mannered and there was no hint of anything untoward.

He asked me to lie facedown on the couch. The alarms were really quite loud now. Then he sat on me and massaged my shoulders. I was practically deafened by the bells in my skull and I had to ask him to stop. I thought "he's a muslim man, I'm a married woman, what sort of woman must he be thinking I am! I have to go, I have to get out of here. I've had fun but this could go somewhere I don't want it to go..." I asked him to stop and he did. He wanted to know what was wrong, and I was straighforward and honest and said I know you don't mean anything by it, but I don't feel comfortable. Please excuse me, I should go. We shook hands and I thanked him for the games and dinner. I went back to the hotel, and my husband was relieved because I'd been gone nearly 4 hours. I was very apologetic and explained I'd been playing backgammon and forgotten the time.

The next day we went back to the shop and I introduced my husband. We ended up buying the backgammon set, and the shopkeeper, Ozcan, offered to have us to dinner at his home. He cooked a lovely meal, then took me to a turkish bath that night (ladies only!) and my husband to a show with belly dancers the next night. I had felt very uncomfortable at first, but soon relaxed as he proved to be a very generous, friendly man. I never told my husband about what had transpired in the shop. I'm not sure why. I think sometimes how differently the situation might have panned out and I am grateful that the afternoon was what it was. A huge amount of fun playing a game I adore.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Trip to the Post Office

I went to the post office the other day. I have to psyche myself up for a visit, because it's such a stress to go with kids. I have to go when Keiran is at preschool and Naomi has just been fed, preferably asleep. I have to be feeling completely well, no headache or pain of any kind and I have to make sure I've no time constraints, because I could be waiting for a while and at the end of the wait I could have to deal with a person who has no idea what to do. I know this because it's happened. So the other day I made sure Naomi was clean and fed, Keiran was off at school, I was fortified with some paracetamol and codeine and off I went. Preparation is the key and the whole thing went off okay. I had to queue twice (once to buy the envelopes and other stationery I needed, once to pay for the postage) and it took me about 45 minutes but at least the person serving me knew pretty much what he was doing.

On my way to the post office there's a place where you can find out about volunteering in the local community called WAVS and I made a mental note to check it out. I'd been thinking about volunteering to help out elderly folk who might find it difficult to go to the shops or maybe just need someone to chat with every now and then. I had a read of some information in the window then set off back home to think about it. I was ruminating over whether I could commit time to it, would I be able to take Naomi along, it would be a great thing to do...

...when a man came up to me quite abruptly and said "you couldn't spare us something to eat could you, I'm starving."

I stopped and said "pardon?" even though I was pretty sure I'd heard him the first time. In the time it took for him to repeat himself my mind raced. I've got absolulely nothing to give him. He's seen my Waitrose shopping bag, I'm chewing on a sweet, he probably thinks I've been to the supermarket. If I had anything to give him I would have, but I had no money and no food. I thought, oh I could invite him back to the house, make him a meal. No, not sensible, is there anywhere I can suggest for him to get a meal? I've no idea... what actually came out of my mouth was quite different.

"No, sorry." And I didn't even stop walking.

As I walked away I felt like the biggest hypocrite on earth. Here was I congratulating myself on thinking about volunteering in the community yet when someone walked directly to me asking for help I don't even stop. I told myself I had Naomi with me, it wasn't practical for me to do anything, well at least I'd thought about it... but that's little comfort to the man, who walked off probably feeling terrible. He must have been in a pretty bad way to be begging like that and he got no sympathy or help from me at all. I wished I had said something different. I wished I had been to the supermarket, then I could have given him something. I hope he did get something to eat in the end. I hope he met a better person than me. I also wondered whether, with the economic situation being so dire, there would be more people like him in the future. Perhaps I could be more prepared to help someone who asks next time. I'll make sure I have a coin or three, find out where a hungry person can get a meal, be in less of a hurry to get home, less embarrassed by someone asking me for help. Hopefully.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Youth of Today...

Just watched the first episode of Speaker. I despise these sorts of programs usually, and there are plenty of Tweets saying how dull it is bring on the Apprentice. Rubbish, drivel and banality!! I mean, would you rather watch a bunch of so-called grown-ups design a new piece of gym equipment and sit through the assult on the senses of "I'm not havin' it and I'm the project manager!" screamed shrilly at some poor sod, or hear a young person speak in meter about graffiti? Okay, I know the selection of words and structure of the sentence engenders bias, but cutting through the crap I love the show.

It just proves young people are not bored piss-heads living to make trouble or get pregnant. There's no doubt there are some young people like that (hell, I've taught some of the buggers) but they're only like that because they've not been inspired to be something different from their parents, something more than they are. It's safer to stay with what you know than take a risk, step out and make a difference. If there was one thing I would wish for young people it would be a community in which they feel safe and secure to take risks, test boundaries, speak out and make a difference. They've got so much more to offer than the older generations allow them to show.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009


The other day my good and dear friend asked me why I wasn't on Twitter. I dunno, says I, I don't know anyone on it (I think) and I'm not all that interested in following celebrities. I really don't care what they're doing.... I petered out, because at this point my friend is raving about a comedian she follows whose name escapes me right now but I know he's really funny (he is, really!) and Stephen FRY is so GOOD! So tonight I can't sleep (again), I'm excited about finishing my job tomorrow, which makes it sound like it was awful but it wasn't, I'm just looking forward to being with the kiddies full time again and not doing the commute, but that's another post. Anyway, I can't sleep so I've popped on the 'pooter and given in. I've registered for Twitter. I'm now following Barak Obama. I've no idea how I did that. I mean, I'm not a complete neophyte when it comes to using technology but quite how I came to be following the leader of the free world is beyond me. I googled Twitter and it came up with Barak so I clicked on the link, then did the join thing and lo and behold I'm a follower of BH Obama. I then think, okay, would be nice to find other people I know although with anonymous usernames I've no idea how I'm supposed to find them. So I click on the 'Find People' link and it comes up with the following message:

Twitter is stressing out a bit right now, so this feature is temporarily disabled.

Story of my life! For some reason I find this very funny. I'm still not asleep though, so going to have to work on that. I'm more likely to fall asleep with my head on my pillow than doing this blog entry, so fare well and goodnight!