RMT? Are you mad?!

I must be the most unlikely candidate to be a union representative, and yet here I am, nine months on… Yesterday I gave a presentation to 38 new members of staff in their corporate induction urging them to join a union. Any union. It was actually pretty exciting. I threw in a negotiation exercise for the first time to give people a taster of the difficult but rewarding work unions do, and they were engaged(!) Today, I gave advice to an individual who has been treated unfavourably in a sickness absence issue.

And yet I’m the same person who abhors the term ‘activist’. I tried a stint as an armchair activist once. This barely took off the ground as I quickly found a sense of loathing for my fellow activists. These were people who seemed to prefer wasting their energies on shouting very loudly rather than actually trying to make a dent.

For this same reason, I do not get on with feminists or vegetarians.

I joined a feminist group once and ended up arguing vehemently with the group leader that, surely, human rights were of higher importance than the rights of any one gender. This ended in her taking jibes at me whilst her groupies added in the occasional, ‘yeah, you tell her’. Needless to say, I have not been back, nor am I a particularly welcome member. I think they would have just preferred me had I said from the get-go, ‘man bad, woman good’…

Of vegetarianism, I once attended a vegetarian and vegan conference, which had stands, non-meat goodies, shampoos, conditioners and clothes without the added ham. I like my conditioner without ham, so this event excited me. However, it also attracted the types of vegetarians and vegans who are against immunisation and again, like to yell about stuff and things. Rather than leaving, as I had hoped, with a feeling of wellbeing and camaraderie, I left thinking ‘I don’t relate to ANY of you’. I also left full of the vegan cheese and jam treats my boyfriend and I had hovered over for the last half an hour.

I’m also the same girl who voted Conservative in the last elections which, as far as being a union rep goes, is a serious faux pas punishable by death and a removal of your union badge. This came up last week when I was helping out with a recruitment event to join new members. A full time officer who had joined us for the lunchtime mentioned her disgust for people who had voted them in. I had to stay quiet at this point though anyone who really knew me would have surely seen the absolute terror in my eyes at this point.

Bearing the above in mind then, I imagine it would hardly surprise you that I am about to say the following: Bob Crow? Don’t expect me to get behind this. We’re all feeling the burn; even the Queen. Get over it. Or better yet, why not split the six-figure sum you make from your members and spread the love.


On ‘Self belief’

I went to the gig of my dear friend, Andrew Vernon, and his band Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster last night.

Not for the first time, the subject came up of what I was doing musically of late. I don’t remember ever being a prolific musician but now I’ve stopped, the cajoling comes bi-weekly: ‘Why don’t you play anymore? What are you, scared?’ said my Aunt last week, when I flat out refused to have anything to do with the ensuing musical entertainment. ‘No, of course not’, I said and tried my best to turn away. This is hard when you’re on a blacony, I have found.

Tonight, a friend we all refer to as ‘Little Andy’ – everyone has these prefixes for friends with common names – who I haven’t seen in over a year now, asked me the same. Perhaps there was a little bit of ‘The Prodigal Son’ going on there but probably for the first time, I was honest about it: ‘I lost my self belief at one point and had to stop’. That concept of self belief is such a money maker. It’s almost as if people think that it comes in a bottle, or that there is some special formula. That if they say some words in a group like ‘Yes, I can’ and walk across some hot coals that it will solve all those perpetual problems they’ve experienced for years. Or that, much like in games like Half Life where you go to a service station and get an armour top up that self belief, too, can be topped up, when really lack of self belief comes from years of not feeling good about oneself or ones abilities. I am scared. I’m scared of what I could possibly write that would have any worth.  Writing about facts and news is easy and rarely requires the author to look within.

Anyway, last night, Little Andy told me he believed in me, and far from the usual sense of fortune cookie cutter sentiment cynicism I usually feel when people tell me this, and the ease with which I play off such encouragement and quickly forget them, I listened. And I felt touched.

It’s nice to feel believed in, even if you’re not really sure yourself what ‘you’ really is.

Categories: On Something Tags: ,

‘Down with foxes… Down with foxes…’

Ordinarily, I would wait until the end of the week to respond to the week’s news, but this one couldn’t wait…

On Saturday 5th June, an ‘urban’ fox was able to get into the window of a residential building in Hackney, East London. As result, two baby twins, Isabella and Lola Koupparis, were attacked by an unknown number of foxes, have been admitted into Royal London and are said to be in a “serious but stable” condition. Now, this is a real shame. I don’t doubt that. What I question is the unnecessary fear that has been whipped up for any mother with a child since the incident, as if foxes everywhere are plotting against children. That they have decided children are their dish of choice and that they ‘want a piece o’ that’. Obviously, this is ridiculous. Most likely, the fox managed to find its way in – either through an open door or an open window – probably trying to find food and found itself in the scenario where it felt its safety was jeopardised or that the children were food. If you were an animal and your sole functions in life were to eat, sleep and to survive by any means necessary, wouldn’t you? Not that I’m condoning the attack, but it’s an animal. I mean, how often do fox attacks happen? I can bet the statistics show the attacks to be significantly lower than a lot of household-related incidences of A&E admissions.

Anyway, the thing that irked me from this particular story was that in a follow-up, it was revealed that as result of the incident, a fox close to the scene of the attack was captured and killed… A fox… Who knows if that was the ‘right’ fox?! It could’ve been an innocent by-stander, caught up in the furor.This is typical of people, to want some kind of scapegoat for what should be the parents responsibility. You wouldn’t leave the window open of your car and leave a baby inside, would you?

Part of my day-job is to collect data published by the Health Protection Agency and analyse it for patterns or unimaginable peaks in numbers. Later in the week, a little after the incident on the 5th, I picked up the week’s data. Since I work in the North East region, and Hackney sits in my region, I noticed “Fox incident”. Now, this is only ridiculous for those who know the usual data that HPA publish – and why would you, unless you work in my field. For those who don’t, HPA particularly specialise in monitoring infectious diseases which threaten national security, so things that could potentially become epidemics like Mumps or Legionella or suchlike. So if I told you that I found “Fox incident” in the context of my weekly round-up, you can probably sense why I was perplexed. Are foxes an issue of national security now? Is David Cameron going to announce a state of ‘War Against Foxes’? In actuality, the comments for the spreadsheet noted that the babies were given rabies shots – not because they were believed to have contracted rabies but rather that it was suspected… but they didn’t say ‘Suspected: Rabies’… The said, ‘Fox Incident’.

And this afternoon, I picked up the freebie paper, as I so oft’ do, and noticed the title, “We’re being held hostage by foxes in our garden”.

These are all symptoms of a much bigger problem: People have been rendered incapable of rational thought by fear, and fear of something that isn’t a problem. Foxes AREN’T our predators. They can be kicked in the face, after all. Plus, we have guns(!) And secondly, WILD foxes aren’t cuddly animals. Why are we surprised? It’s like watching the film, ‘Grizzly Man’ all over again! Of COURSE the fox will try to attack you! Most humans, including our own Prime Minister, want them dead(!) If this becomes ammunition for him to legalise fox hunting, I wouldn’t be surprised, and in this state of rampant stupidity, I can only imagine what the public verdict would be…

Categories: Comment Tags: ,

Update: Once Upon a Beast and other news

The new issue of Once Upon a Beast, an online magazine I contribute to, is up. This issue is themed around age and includes the ‘Age and Ageism’ article I posted on the 14th of March. Go see that and much more here: http://onceuponabeast.emmie-joseph.co.uk/

Categories: Uncategorized

Updates: A side note…

This last month I have written an article for our internal communications newsletter on a move we’ll be doing in the near future as an organisation – which unfortunately, I cannot share with you – as well as acting up in my supplementary role as Communications/ Marketing Officer of my organisation’s branch of Unison. This is currently involving strategy writing and working out how to take business forward. The good thing of an organisation such as mine never having had an officer in post to implement this is that I can mould it any-which-way I want. The bad thing is that this portion of the work will be time consuming until processes are set up, after which, it will simply be a case of implementation. So, that’s what I have been up to since I last spoke.

Categories: Update

Age and Ageing

“I’ve changed my attitudes about what it means to age. Sometimes people decide

it’s their lot in life to be old, but people like Grandma bring colour and excellence to their lives.

That’s what I’ve tried to do too. I’m looking forward to the next stage.”

Cloris Leachman

Read more…

An open letter to Britain and the Netherlands

Inspired by McSweeney’s and an economic situation in world news which has irked me so, I decided to write the following:


Dear Britain and the Netherlands,

On Saturday 6th, I read here that Iceland would be having a referendum vote. The vote would assess public opinion as to whether the Icelandic people should be responsible for paying back 3.8 bn euros (£3.4 bn) following the collapse of the Icesave Online bank. 340,000 British and Dutch clients were compensated, following the collapse, and now their respective countries want their money back; a ‘repayment scheme’ was the outcome of this. The scheme, however, would mean that every Icelandic citizen would need to contribute 99 euros a month for eight years at an interest rate of 5.5% expected to kick in on the eighth year of the scheme.

The reason I am writing is that I wanted to share a recent news story that I encountered on March 3rd. The Daily Express broke the story, ‘Ticket Tyrants even target flooded cars’. The River Ouse in York had broken its banks and overflown into the city centre, causing cars to move from their original parking places. When the flood had subsided, local council parking attendants had ‘awarded’ these sodden cars with tickets. Interviewed about the tickets, a council spokesperson claimed to be unaware of the flood, and suggested that affected drivers would need to give proof that their car had been moved by the river in order for the council to rebuke the fines. The council have been criticised for not having more “compassion”.

Anyone who has had a ticket will know – and I don’t because I cannot drive, but am assured – that appealing ticket fines is often a fruitless endeavour involving far too much effort with no guarantee of appeal. Moreover, if your appeal IS declined – and chances suggest it WOULD be – appealees must then pay the full fine rather than the reduced fee for having paid in a speedy manner. The outcome of this is that often, people end up paying the fee just to make life easier and because they feel that they have no other option.

So, what is the relevance of my mentioning this story?

Whilst I don’t blame the Icelandic government for suggesting such a radical payment scheme to you – I’m sure they considered it the ONLY solution they had to restore their reputation and thus raise their economic status at this time – I don’t agree with the way you have gone about coming to this conclusion, nor indeed the conclusion itself. You have forced the hand of Iceland by blocking their EU application, and worst still, immorally used the anti-terrorism act in order to block Iceland’s bank activity. And thus the relevancy is revealed: Yes. In this instance, you are to Iceland as the ticket attendant is to the owners of those cars, moved out of no fault of their own. The Icelandic people should NOT have to personally foot the bill following the decline of a bank that HAPPENED to be working out of their country. A rise in tax by 99 euros a month is a sharp increase that the people ARE going to miss, particularly with the world in this global economic crisis. You would be asking citizens for money they cannot spare, particularly those made redundant. From a personal point of view, if the foot were on the other shoe and Britain were expected to pay £89.65 (99 euros based on the current euro to pound conversion rate), I wouldn’t be able to afford my study, would go into debt and not be able to live comfortably. Whichever way you look at it, these deductions are unfair.

At this time, I wish to implore you to consider a more compassionate alternative that doesn’t penalise the Icelandic people.

Yours Concernedly,

Sophia Ho Chee