Saturday, 21 March 2009


Whatever next? How can the control of sandwich content and their sales affect someone's overall diet? Uh? Story here There is more to what anyone eats in their daily life than a sad-looking sandwich bought out of desperation from a hospital vending machine. FWIW I do not buy sandwiches that are made in advance from sliced bread (of any colour) and encased in plastic for hours. I am lucky enough to live in a part of the world where fresh sandwiches are made on request with whatever filling is required - when available obviously. And if there isn't anything I like, I don't buy one. Saying what sandwiches can be provided is dictatorial and paternalistic in the extreme. I do hope, that while considering nutritional standards, meeting people's individual dietary choice is also taken into account. (*Wonders to self if people can still choose their own diet in the UK?*). I mean, that by banning the cheese and tomato sandwich, no doubt there are other vegetarian sandwiches to choose from. Yes? That's always assuming the cheese was vegetarian in the first place. And as for vegan sandwiches? Oh, and what is 'reformed' ham? Has it been naughty but suddenly started to behave itself????

Why get married?

I have written enough about names - it's time to write about getting married. And the truth is I have no idea why I got married. So that's easy isn't it?

I was having a casual chat in a pub with someone I had met two or three months before and we were now living together.

He said, lightheartedly, 'How about we stay together for 20 years and then I get the right to trade you in for a newer model?' I replied in the same vein. And then added hastily, 'You aren't asking me to marry you are you?' Good grief, no of course he wasn't.

An hour later we asked the bartender for a copy of the Sydney telephone directory to look up the Register Office address. I went the next day for the forms. I gave myself the luxury of a cooling-off period.

I went to New Zealand for a couple of weeks (ended up being three) to consider my future. Who gets married on the other side of the world to a guy they met a few months ago? I made my list of pros and cons. There were more cons than pros.

Before I had left for NZ I said he needed to find us a decent flat. When I came back, he had done just that. We got married the next month.

When we returned to the UK, my mother asked why we had got married - especially as I refused to be Mrs Husband's Last Name, and neither of us wanted children. We looked at each other blankly and both said, we didn't know. Fifteen years later she was still asking the same question. We both said we didn't know. A few years before she died, she had stopped asking that unanswerable question. For whatever reason.

I never wanted to get married. I never intended to get married. My mother's life of so-called domestic bliss - cleaning the house, looking after A Man, and bringing up a child - did not strike me as being the height of ambition. Or an appropriate personal goal in life for an intelligent person. I guess - being brought up in a patriarchal society - I didn't want to be rejected either. To end up on that infamous shelf of unwanted goods. So, by saying I didn't want to get married, I wasn't available to buy.

I don't know. Both rationales probably applied. I carefully avoided any relationships that involved 'commitment', got my degree, my professional qualification as a journalist, and then gaily set out on my independent world trip. And met someone nice. I still don't think it matters that we are married or not. It is of no importance to me.

But sadly it is of importance to the society that we live in. I gain respect by being a married woman - well, when people finally discover that we are married - rather than as a person in my own right. Hey! I am valued by a man, so I can't be totally worthless.

And, it opens doors. My partner - as my husband - was able to do things for my mother simply by saying 'I am family, I am her son-in-law.' There were nice tax breaks in the UK for married persons. There still are in Gibraltar. I can also get my health card courtesy of my husband, and my residence card too. Interestingly for the first time in our lives, we have had to produce the marriage certificate to prove that we are married. I don't know if we would have had to do that if we had the same names.

So why did we get married? No idea, as I said to start with. But the sad truth is, that it has made life easier for us. And that is discriminatory against people who choose not to do so, or are unable to do so. Would I do it again if I had to go back 20+ years? With the benefit of hindsight, yes. Just because it makes life easier. There is only such much fighting that we can all do against the system. Sometimes it is easier to fight from within.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Mrs? or Ms, Miss? - yet again......

Oh dear. There is a long way to go.

I read a rather better article elsewhere that of course I didn't save, than this elsewhere. This is so depressing. The caption is so depressing. 'Getting married? What do you call yourself now?'

It is - presumably - addressed to the woman getting married, and includes a photo of a (to me) somewhat gaudy ring with a red heart. I may be wrong. I doubt it. Having got married more than 20 years ago and retained the title of Miss because I wasn't sufficiently thinking to use Ms, I do find this all terribly old hat.

I am really struggling to believe that people find it controversial that married women do not wish to be called Mrs. It seems women are having even more problems than I did 20+ years ago. Partly because everything is computerised and it seems the programmes will only accept that married women can be called Mrs. What about those who use the title of Dr? Huh?

And as for Ann Widdecombe, MP. What a fucking hypocrite. "I can't see the point of Ms and I don't see it as an issue." Well sweetie, just because you can't see the point, doesn't mean there isn't one. There is a point and it is an issue. So stop being so disrespectful to other people's points of view.

She will actually call women Ms if she doesn't know their marital status. How contradictory. If she was being that pernickety perhaps she should use Miss/Mrs. But if she knows they are married she will automatically assume, with her glorious righteousness, that they should be called Mrs.

The point is, Ann, that marital status should not be the way that women are judged, addressed, titled etc etc. Still don't get it? If I say, on very rare occasions, that I am married, and you choose to call me Mrs - you will be totally and utterly wrong. See, I have kept my birth name. So to call me, Mrs MyName is just plain incorrect. As the story in the BBC news example goes - you are referring to my mother. I have not taken my husband's name. Get it yet? So therefore, I can't be Mrs AnyName.

We don't all share your values (such as they are). While you may disrespect the right of a woman to choose her name and her title - surely you don't want to make such an arse of yourself by just getting it wrong all the time. Or maybe you do? Stop trying to impose your views and beliefs on women who choose to fight for their independence.

As for Charles Kidd of Debrett's. "I was brought up to address a married woman as Mrs John Smith, for example." So was I. I've changed my point of view. Shame you haven't.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Condoms? Work of the devil.....

Words fail me. They really do. Well, almost. While travelling around Africa, it seems the epitomy of white, male, monied, powerful, European, misogynistic, conservative, academic, religious privilege has loftily reminded his flock that they should not be using condoms. Pope Benedict does not think that the way ahead against AIDS in Africa (or anywhere else) is to use condoms. What is needed is marital fidelity and sexual abstinence. What world does this man live in? Oh, yes, the one I mentioned above in my second paragraph. One where poverty, disease, survival, and living from day to day, has no place. One in which, he has a grand piano in his papal quarters as apparently (according to Wiki), he is an accomplished pianist, and his favourite composer is Mozart. There is something about this surreal comparison that I find deeply offensive. Pope Ben sits at home, relaxing, playing Mozart on his piano. Twenty two million people in Africa have HIV/AIDS. We all have ideals to aim for. But to expect people to always have sex without contraception, not have sex before or outside marriage, and not use something as fundamental as a condom to protect their health is quite simply crass and unrealistic. Worse. It suggests it is better to contract HIV/AIDS than to use one of those devilish devices - a condom. People have the right to make their own decisions, and not be treated as though they are idiots, by some autocratic head of a patriarchal religion. Education and a sense of self-worth are far more valuable than some antiquated ramblings from on high. It is a shame that the only education the Catholic Church seems to be interested in is that of spreading Catholicism. I don't think I will start on the Pope's views about homosexuality, abortion, and the essential differences between men and women. The Pope may well have done/said some good things. But the bad ones far outweigh the good. And if there is a heaven, he doesn't deserve to be there. In my view. BBC link here

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Getting married - changing your name? Why?

The short blog post would read - there is no need to (change names). But, as this is often one of the continual hot debates in feminist circles - along with 'why get married anyway?' and 'why wear a wedding ring?' - I guess I should write a bit more.

For the record, I've been married for quite some years to the same person, and I didn't change my name on getting married. I have a wedding ring which has not received good use, although as a piece of plain and simple jewellery it is quite nice.

I don't know why we decided to get married - but that's for another post. This is about why I decided to keep my name. Or, why I decided not to change my name. There is a big difference between the two. One is the default, the other is not.

When I was a not-so-weeny cub reporter on my first newspaper I was rather impressed that the two married women on there had kept their birth names. I think they were originally single when they joined the paper, and their reasoning was they thought it would look rather confusing to readers to change their names. I am not sure that was such a plausible reason, but it suited me. A professional name. Maybe that was what it was about, a slight sense of elite snobbishness coming through.

Because what did they do about their personal life? Yes. They were Mrs Husband's Last Name. They were only Miss Individual Person when a byline was called for. Everywhere else they were a subservient shadow. This struck me as being stupid. Especially when the bank, or whoever, rang the office for Miss Single Person, and was then told by Miss Single Person that they were also Mrs Husband's Last Name. They were the same person. How utterly confusing. Far easier not to change your name at all, I thought, to my naive self.

Moving on a few years....... and I had, for some unknown reason, agreed to get married. One of the immediate stipulations was, of course, that I was not intending to change my name. Being cantankerous and argumentative, I suspect I was subconsciously using this as a testing ground to see if I had agreed to spend my life with an ok-ish man. "I'm a journalist you know. It's important to retain my professional name," I added convincingly. My soon-to-be Nigel had no interest in any of that. He had no interest in whether I changed my name or not. There was no discussion, no argument, nothing really. It was a non-issue to him. More on the lines of 'Well, why would you? Who cares?'

We opened joint bank accounts. We argued with staff both in Australia and the UK that I was entitled to retain my birth name. At one point I was told it was not legal. What a load of garbage. I loftily referred to the likes of Elizabeth Taylor. If she didn't need to change her name, why did I? Not saying that I was the equivalent of a world famous Hollywood actress but the principle still applies. If she could do it, so could I.

We won our battles.  Everything we did was in separate names. Oddly enough, in those days we didn't even need to provide the marriage certificates to prove we were married. As we changed jobs and moved around the country and met new people and made new friends, people stopped asking if we were married. The odd few discovered we were, most thought we weren't. In my last job - when I finally left - a few of my colleagues said "But I never knew you were married."

And that's the whole point. Why should anyone know my marital status? Why should it even be relevant to be judged by my relationship to a man? That I have managed to catch one? Vomit. At this point I have to say that I did take pleasure in explaining to people that yes I was married and no I didn't have the same name as my partner. Wow!! Did this take a long time to compute or not? I'm not even sure it did compute, but I still enjoyed going through the whole routine. And seeing the looks of surprise on people's faces as they wondered what on earth was going on.

I should add very quickly, that the pleasure was not in announcing that I was married, but that I was married and Shock! Horror! did not have the same name as my husband. Thus disproving an incontrovertible fact - that all women lose their identify on gaining a man. And, even if for some unfathomable reason I did get married, why should I change my name? There. Is. No. Need. I am not a possession to be passed from my father to my husband.

Ironically, one of the reasons I wanted to retain my birth name was because my sexist misogynist father imbued in me such a sense of pride in his name. I was of his lineage and I was so lucky. But in doing so, he unwittingly started off the makings of a radical feminist. How ironic. My mother was mortified. She was incapable of writing letters to Her Daughter With Her Own Name and Her Daughter's Husband With A Different Name. She must have thought the whole postal service was looking at the letters and judging her terrible daughter for living in sin. I joke not.

In the nearly 20 years that we were married before my mother died, she never addressed an envelope to Ms Daughter and Mr Son-in-Law. Every envelope said the same thing. My first name and his first name eg Jill and John.&

And now, I have a confession. At one point in my life, I did decide to change my image and become a mature woman, maybe I wanted to get my dad out of my hair. So I tried to change my name on one of my bank accounts to that of my partner. Well I have only one thing to say. It was a huge mistake and don't even think of going there. It caused more problems that trying to set up bank accounts in separate names in the first place.

So my dears. All I have to say is, I recommend not doing it - even if you are lumped with your father's name. And if you end up thinking about marrying some guy who does want you to take HIS name. DTMF. He'll be an arse ever after. And there ends my post on changing names. Or not, in my case.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Giving to charity

I do not like being TOLD to give money to charity or being manipulated into feeling embarrassed if I choose not to give. Standing at the supermarket check-out I noticed a bucket with not very much change in it. On the outside there was some blurb about raising money for Childline and Help the Aged (I think). When I opened my purse to get some change out to pay, the cashier helpfully pointed out that I could put my unwanted change in the bucket for charity. My change is not unwanted by any stretch of the imagination. I also think it is very intrusive and rude to comment on the fact that I have a lot of change in my purse and I should be putting it in the charity bucket. Nor could anyone fail to miss the large bucket when they are packing their bags. So why point it out unless to try and shame me into giving? All it did of course, was make me even more determined not to give anything. My charities of choice happen to be: 1 Animal related, usually sanctuaries with a no-kill policy. I've paid annual subscriptions to donkey sanctuaries and others in the UK, and given one-off contributions if I've seen a street collection that I want to support. I used to give regularly to Hunt Sabs when they had a weekly stand on Saturdays. My four dogs have all been rescued, three from shelters, and the current one adopted us when he was living on the streets. I cannot abide cruelty and abuse of animals. They are sentient beings, do not wilfully cause anyone any harm and there is no reason to starve, kick, whip, slash, overwork, and/or torture beautiful animals. 2 I also support charities aimed at helping homeless people - and give to (some) people who are living on the streets in Spain. You get to know the ones who are genuinely homeless, rather than the ones who just blow in for the summer holidays. I can't imagine not having the security and privacy of your own space, however small. At the end of the day, you can close the door and leave the world outside. The guy who ended up dead in the rubbish bin died without dignity. (Story here if you haven't read it before.) 3 I have given - sporadically - to charities aimed at helping older people. There is something about the vulnerability of older people, discarded by society as being of no or little use as they age and who become increasingly unattractive and physically/mentally unwell. Older people are not cute like children, they are not glamorous, they are not even interesting with their boring tales of the past and their superior attitude because they have seen more of life than young ones. Many are lonely - their partner has died, any siblings may have died, or live too far away and have their own lives. Children also have lives elsewhere and rarely visit. That's for those who even have/had children or siblings or partners. There are those on their own who have little contact with the world - a trip to the shops, and then back into their own microcosm as they live from day to day. I think older people can have a very raw deal. In the past I have also given to the RNLI, the British Legion (poppy day), and a number of environmental charities, and historic ones too. Despite not being religious I will give to churches for the maintenance of the buildings. For me, life would be less bearable without the art and beauty that we take for granted as part of daily life. On the rare occasions I buy Christmas cards, I will buy charity ones. If I can't find charity ones I won't buy any. In Spain there was little choice, but I managed to find some cards that supported Medicos del Mundo. What do I consciously avoid? Charities for children. Plenty of people give to those and it is just not a priority for me. Medical research charities. The endless search for mythical supercures strikes me as being a poor use of money. I would rather see money spent on improving quality of life for people living in substandard conditions or with chronic medical problems, rather than providing a so-called cure that may add a couple more years of life. Political parties, religious organisations, gypsies and beggars (ie the ones who actively stick their hands in your face demanding money), any grand-scale organised event whether it is Red Nose Day or PopAThon Event for Africa. None of those have ever had a penny/centimo from me. So there we have it. My choice of charities - those I give to, and those I don't. It is still my choice to make though. And not the choice of the cashier in the supermarket.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Oh no!! Not another 'phone post!!

Except, my life seems to be dominated by telephones and telephone service providers at the moment. So after wondering what had happened to my last Nokia request, I suddenly received yet another mail from them. Good day to you. Kindly follow the steps below: Menu > Settings > Date and Time > Auto -update of date and time > Off I hope the above helps. Do let me know the outcome. Please don't hesitate to contact us again if you have any further questions. Yours sincerely, Evelyn Nokia Service Professional UK & Ireland Team Nokia Care This arrived a mere three weeks after I sent my last, slightly acidic reply. I have decided there are no people in the Nokia Service Centre. There is merely a computer that searchs the emails received, somewhat like a search engine, and then generates the (in) appropriate response. How else can such incompetence be explained?? .................... Oh, and on a totally different theme - the playlist is back at the bottom of the page - but you need to click on it if you want to hear it. This is in deference to those who, like me, don't necessarily like someone else's choice of music.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Yet another telephone rant........

Our latest mobile phones are Nokia. They are not the latest most fashionable state-of-the-art mobile phones by Nokia. They just happen to be the latest, ie most recent ones we have bought.

Just thought I would clear that up before anyone thought I had spent hundreds on a phone that purports to be a camera, a television, a radio, a computer etc etc. And I chose them because Nokia was the least unethical phone I could find available to us here.

So, there I was faffing around with the controls and decided to go for automatic updating of date and time. But when I'd done it, it turned out to be a couple of minutes behind the automatic time on my computer - which has to be correct of course, because it is my beloved Hal Apple laptop. Then I tried to undo it. No, I couldn't change the date and time because it was now automatic. I went through exactly the same steps, and just got a snotty message on screen telling me to stop interfering.

Looked at the nokie online stuff. Nothing of use there, the manual was the same as the one I have. I sighed for the Good Old Days when manuals truly were manuals and actually had some useful information in them. I emailed Nokia support. Naturally I got an automatically-generated unhelpful acknowledgement.

Then I received this: Thank you for contacting Nokia Care. Greetings to you. I hope all is well with you. In response to your email, kindly refer to the steps given below to deactivate the auto update of your Nokia 2680 Slide date and time: Menu > Settings > Date and time > Date (Deactivate the Auto Update) Menu > Settings > Date and time > Time (Deactivate the Auto update) I hope the above helps....

So I emailed back pointing out that I had already tried to do that, but I had not found any option to disable the auto-update and that it didn't come up like that. Then I received a reply (not from the same person): Thank you for contacting Nokia Care. If are unable to activate the auto update of time and date, please ensure 2 things. Firstly, please check if you have followed the steps below: Select Menu > Settings > Date and time. To set the date and time, select Date and time settings. To set the formats for date and time, select Date and time format settings. To set the phone to update the time and date automatically according to the current time zone, select Auto-update of date & time (network service). Secondly, if you are unable to auto-update the time and date automatically, then this feature is not activated by your network operator. Please contact your operator to activate this feature. Have a pleasant day ahead, .... To ensure proper handling, please continue to use the current subject line. Please don't hesitate to contact us again if you have any further questions.

Naturally I emailed back yet again - as invited: I don't think you have understood the problem. I HAVE selected the auto-update option. I now wish to DISABLE it, and can not find how to do it. I can no longer set it manually. It will not let me disable the autoupdate. I want to know how to do that. Thank you. Still waiting for a reply to that one, which was sent more than two weeks ago.

A few points to make: It is not actually my phone, it is my Partner's. But as I am the techy one in the house, I tend to sort computers, televisions, video recorders (in the old days), mobile phones, any programming for thermostats etc etc etc.

Sadly the world does not believe that women are capable of absorbing this amazingly complicated clever stuff into their fluffy little cotton wool head that passes for a brain. So I wrote to Nokia in Nigel's name. I figured if I wrote in my name I would get something on the following lines: 'Do you have the phone switched on?' 'Do you even know how to switch the phone on?' I found it irritating at the time that I chose to use my partner's name but I knew I would lose it if I got a patronising response and I thought it was based on the fact that I was a woman.

As events turned out, I got two useless responses anyway. Sadly I am suspicious about these responses. The English is not what I would use. It sounds on a par with my mediocre Spanish, in that it is not incorrect but it is not normal usage. It just doesn't sound right. Of course I had gone to the same setting to try and reverse it. Dear me. I had looked through every single option on the menu. And as for the second reply....words fail me. Why tell me how to do something when my question is about how to undo it??? Uh??? Why answer a question I hadn't asked?

It seems James and Daniel are Service Professionals from the UK and Ireland team. That doesn't mean they are based there at all though does it? Despite the apparent 'British' or even 'Celtic' names. I really don't give a toss where the online support team is based or what they are called. It would be helpful if a) they could actually provide a solution to the problem and b) read the question and not send a totally ridiculous answer. Maybe the two authors really are called James and Daniel. Whatever they are called, or wherever they are from, they are clearly the on-line equivalent of a telephone call centre and equally as useless.

And why aren't they called Jemima and Daniela for example? Ah, yes, that's right. No credibility because women aren't regarded as sufficiently techy. Now, I find it very hard to believe that in this on-line support centre, there isn't a single woman Service Professional employed, despite the fact that this sort of work is exactly the low-income slave labour job that is carried out by women. But I bet they aren't allowed to send emails in their own name as a woman, and heaven forbid, if it isn't a nice 'British' name. I find it very hard to believe that your online service centre is truly staffed by Jameses and Daniels and other such trendy names.

I should say that in the end I restored it to factory settings, saving all the personal info, and used the usual tweaks to set it back to how I like it. So it's all hunky dory now. Anyway, Nokia, I think you should give ME a job working from home to answer banal questions from technologically incompetent customers, because quite clearly your staff and the crib sheet they follow are just a waste of time.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Fucking Telefonica

Saga runs as follows.

Go back to Spain and discover router doesn't work. Probably died in one of the storms/heavy rains. Don't see why but anyway it was dead. A few weeks after the warranty ran out but no doubt that is coincidental.

Order new one from Telefonica. It will take a week says unhelpful man. Can they speed it up, I ask? Unhelpful man said he would try but it was unlikely. Despite the fact that when I originally contracted for ADSL the router arrived in three days.

One week later what happens? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No fucking router and no message from the courier company meant to be delivering it. I hoped it might arrive early the next morning when we were due to go back to Gib. No.

I rang Telefonica and asked if they could leave it with the neighbours. Did they have a mobile? No, for fucks sake, they are 80+ years old and actually do not need a mobile - but they are always in. No, that wasn't good enough. So no Telefonica router, I cancelled it.

A few weeks later I took a spare router that I had back to Spain. Connected it up. It worked fine in as much as the ADSL line was functioning and the router and the computer acknowledged each other. But there was a problem with getting onto the internet.

So I rang Telefonica's technical department (Spanish-speaking only) so I could key in the right numbers. Nope. Can't help, there is a problem with your router, you haven't bought it from us. At which point I decided to cancel the ADSL contract.

I rang the English-speaking department ie sales (Telefonica doesn't provide any technical back-up in English, once you have bought a service you need to speak in Spanish if you have any technical problems - but contracts and stuff are dealt with in English).

Apparently I can't cancel because I need to pay the latest bill first. (Bills are sent monthly and around a month in advance).

Fast forward and I pay the bill. I ring up to cancel. I ring up from Gib, so not able to use the freephone service, but paying for an international call. So to cancel I need to provide my passport number. Gets passport and reads off number. No. Not right. Yes, it is. No it isn't.

It seems Telefonica wants the passport number I gave when I originally got the telephone line. Some years ago and since when I have changed passports. How many people carry round an old passport on the off chance they will need it to cancel a service? Well not me for one. 'What if I can't find it?' 'Well that will be very difficult because you need it to cancel this,' she said.

Just why, why, do I have to provide an out-of-date passport number to cancel a service, when I don't have to provide any ID to take it on in the first place? Hauls all paperwork out of cupboard to see if anything had a pre 2005 passport number. Find something.

Ring back. Get helpful Ricardo. He tells me he needs to put a request into the technical department and then I will get a letter asking me to confirm that I want to cancel. That is all I have to do. Really? I thought all I had to do was ring saying I wanted to cancel. I wait patiently for Ricardo to come back to tell me that the request has gone through. I listen to some shit music (note to Telefonica - change that vile music). I swear I will scream if it starts up again. It does. I back out of screaming.

Ricardo doesn't come back. The automated voice message - in Spanish - asks me to rate Telefonica's service following the conclusion of my query (????). So on a scale of 0-9 how satisfied was I? And on a scale of 0-9 would I recommend Telefonica to my friends? No.

ETA This is not a rant about whether Telefonica provides an English-speaking service (which is more than BT would do for Spaniards) it is purely about the difficulty in cancelling a service. I can provide a different rant about their linguistic policy.