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Back Down In London Town

 

 

I’ve been a little quiet with the posts this month as April has been quite a busy month for me. As everyone knows Mr. D. and I left England to go and live in Massachusetts after Mr. D. had been offered a job there. However  because we had left quicker than we would have liked, it was always known that I’d be returning after a few months in order to tie up loose ends – so here I am!

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It’s great being back in my city though I wish Mr. D was here because I do miss him terribly but hopefully I shouldn’t be staying for too long and I will be back with Mr. D. before I know it. In the meantime, I just want to enjoy all the fab things London has to offer; see all those I never got a chance to say goodbye to back in January, and spend time with those who matter because it might be a very long time before I see them again.

 

I’m actually enjoying using my Oyster Card and hopping on and off public transport because not being much of a driver – despite having passed my test yonks ago – I’ve never really been much of a driver, so depended on Mr. D. to ferry me around which I know will have to change once I move back to the States. You can complain all you want about public transport in London – and we do – but it’s not brilliant in Massachusetts at all, so when we first moved out there and had to wait to get a car, we really struggled. I’m so thankful that we have a fairly decent bus and tube system here in London.

I know a few people are confused that I have found myself a job in a school but it’s only for the duration of my stay. The truth is I really miss being in a classroom; being an English teacher is a big part of who I am. So when the opportunity arose, I grabbed it and I have to say its a lot of fun. It’s great getting to know my new students and colleagues, and one of my former colleagues is also working there, so it’s great to see a familiar face.

I’m so glad I’m having this time in my hometown because who knows when I’ll be back. But funnily enough, it’s also made me feel more optimistic about living in America and I really want to give it a go. Not everyone has the opportunity to experience life in another country so I’m determined to make the most of every second which isn’t easy when homesickness rears its ugly head… But I’ll try!

And Mr.D. and I have some rather exciting news which I’ll be sharing with you at some point but I don’t want to give too much away now. I will however make it clear that for those who are expecting to hear an announcement about the pitter-patter of tiny feet, well it’s not as exciting as that – but it’s pretty close!

Watch this space…

 

 

 

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Bully On The Bus Simone Joseph Walks Free

Ranting and raving

Appalled and disgusted.

These are just two of the adjectives that can be used to sum up how I feel about Simone Joseph being allowed to walk free and avoid prison after her vile verbal assault on Muslim passengers – one of whom was a pregnant lady – on a bus back in October. Joseph’s lengthy, hate-filled rant – which took place in front of her own child – in which she threatened to physically attack not one but two passengers was filmed and posted online which then went viral. So now the whole world knows what a despicable low-life Joseph is.

I was not on that bus; I did not witness this attack; it was not aimed at me, and I am not a Muslim. So I shouldn’t care, right? Wrong! This whole episode has left me fuming to the point where I can’t even speak – much less type!

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Star of the show, Miss Joseph

First of all, racism; religious intolerance; bigotry; prejudice – call it what you like, I cannot stand any of it. As one half of a mixed-race couple; a product of a culturally diverse family, and someone who is proud to have friends from every corner of globe (well, near enough!) and taught students from all over the world, this kind of behaviour does not sit well with me – and that’s putting it mildly. I just cannot believe that in the year 2015, people can still be so ridiculously stupid.

But what really irks me is the fact that Joseph is a Willesden Green girl – a place that’s walking distance to where I grew up. In fact our neighbourhoods are so near each other, the area is often considered one and the same. It is an area where even though there are plenty of good people and a sense of community, it has a reputation for crime, violence and aggression. People I knew from other areas often refused to set foot there due to the fact that they’d heard “it’s quite dangerous.” Back in the early 2000s, the BBC even made a documentary series based on the high crime rate that was ever-increasing in the neighbourhood.

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Well almost fifteen years later, Joseph has just proved that not much has changed. She’s just illustrated that our little piece of north-west London is an area that should still be avoided if you have any sense.

The 206 bus where the rant took place is a bus route I’ve used many times over the years. It’s a route that’s still used by many of my friends. It horrifies me to think that Joseph could have hurled abuse at any one of my family or friends. And as soon as I discovered that Joseph was an inhabitant of my former neighbourhood, I knew that it was very, very likely that we had people in common, as very few of the inhabitants are total strangers to each other. That six degrees of separation theory is more than just a theory for us – it’s pretty much a reality! And as everyone I associate with – both past and present – are decent, hard-working, law-abiding, honest people, it makes me wonder how we came to have such a low-life in our midst. I genuinely feel sorry for anyone who has the misfortune to be related to that.

What hit me hard was Hanane Yakoubi, one of Joseph’s victims, describing the distress she felt and still feels after the incident, and explained that she doesn’t know how to ask for help because she doesn’t speak English. I know there is a lack of sympathy towards anyone who goes to a country without knowing a word of the native language. But as it’s my job to teach English, I see the struggles my students face and the efforts they make to try to improve. They often make good progress but then they encounter a situation where they do not possess enough language skills to help them communicate effectively which upsets them deeply and knocks their confidence. What people like Hanane Yakoubi need is patience, understanding and tolerance not abuse and aggression.

The defence for Joseph – who gave herself up to the police after the video went viral – claimed that she was ‘ashamed’ and wished ‘to apologise to the complainant and the other people on the bus’ while the magistrate accepted that Joseph was ‘remorseful and of previous good character.’ What’s even more shocking is when the defence revealed that Joseph herself had Muslim relatives. This seriously smacks of ‘I’m-not-racist-I-have-Chinese friends-and-love-Mexican-food’. Yeah, whatever – tell it to the judge! Oh of course – that’s what she was doing.

I’m often told I’m too understanding and forgiving but this time I’m just not buying any of it. Would Joseph have been so ready to hand herself in if she had not been so clearly identifiable in the video? Would she have felt any shame and remorse had she not been in the dock? Has she any idea of the anxiety she’s caused a heavily pregnant woman? Do people of ‘previous good character’ behave in this manner? Do people with Muslim relatives viciously attack (albeit verbally) other Muslim people? Do mothers carry on like this in front of their children?

The answer to all the above is a big fat NO!

I’ve come across the Simone Josephs of this world. So have my family and many of my friends. I know first hand how distressing such an encounter can be. People like her start off as the stroppy kid at nursery who snatches toys out of other children’s hands, to the playground bully at secondary school to a thoroughly nasty and unpleasant adult who believes it’s their right to stomp all over whoever they wish – and most of the time the whoever they wish is someone who they believe they can pick on which shows how cowardly they are. Joseph was spoiling for a fight that day and she picked people who she knew were easy targets. You’ll notice she was in no hurry to take on the bus driver who tried to get her to shut it!

So Joseph left  court with a suspended sentence and a slapped wrist. Am I surprised? Of course not. This is exactly the brand of justice we can rely on in this country and will hardly act as a deterrent for the next bully on the bus. If there’s anything good to come from this whole episode, it’s that Joseph will think twice before she starts a fight with anyone again. Not because of her good character but because she is now more aware that there are cameras everywhere and once you get caught, there’s really nowhere to hide. But I do hope that in time she will see just how wrong her actions were and make a real effort to turn over a new leaf, and more importantly teach her child that this is not the way to behave or treat others. I really do hope she can do this because it’s a small step towards making this world a more peaceful place.

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Put The Public Back Into Public Transport

 

You’d think by now I’d be used to people’s shenanigans when they step on board a bus or train. You think I’d be used to people’s selfish, inconsiderate, me-me-me behaviour. But every day, I see yet another display of absolutely appalling behaviour which sadly is now considered the norm. I very rarely hear people complaining so I believe that either I’m the only one who’s noticed or I’m the only one who’s seriously annoyed by this.

I think the problem is that people are intent on making themselves more comfy than they need to be at the expense of other commuters. It’s almost a case of ‘Goodness! Am I sharing this vehicle with other people? I thought it was just for me!” They seem totally oblivious to the fact that it’s called public transport for a reason. Yes, having to use public transport can be a bit of  a nightmare at the best of times and naturally every one wants to get comfortable especially if they have a long commute but some people are making things worse than it needs to be with their bad behaviour. They feel that because they’ve paid the grand sum of £2.40 that that gives them the right to make themselves at home. Er, it doesn’t.

Here is a list of some of the worst offenders:

1. Everyone on the top deck must hear my phone conversation.

 

“So I said to her, yeah, ‘You been messing about with my man?’ and she said, yeah, ‘he ain’t your f***ing man, he’s mine.’ So I went yeah, ‘Come say that to my face, you b***h, I’ll f*** you up big time. And she goes…

Almost simultaneously you can hear: “Listen, you’re not getting another penny out of me, you evil cow. I’ve paid for Jonny’s trainers plus for his school trip to the farm. You could have at least forked out a tenner. You’re determined to ruin me…”

The only thing being ruined are my poor, assaulted eardrums. I realise that there will always be a few nosey parkers who feel that knowing the real-life ins and outs of other people’s affairs is more entertaining than an episode of Eastenders but quite frankly most of us could do without the in-flight entertainment, especially after a long day. Either these loudmouths love the attention or they seem to forget that they are not in the privacy of their own home.

2. You just have to know what kind of music I’m into.

 

Thanks to the invention of mobile phones, iPods and MP3 players, we can now have music wherever and whenever we want. But  the reason why people use earphones is so that they – and they alone- will know what it is they’re listening too. But some people have to have their music on so loud, I really don’t know why they bother with earphones. And then of course there are the ones who don’t even bother with earphones and are very kindly willing to ‘share’ their  music with passenger on both upper and lower decks. And don’t get me started on those who think that Simon Cowell may actually be on the same vehicle as them and start ‘auditioning’. Lord help us all…

3. Enjoy the aroma of my not- so- sweetly- scented food.

 

I totally understand that sometimes people have to eat while they’re on the go. But is it really necessary to chomp on food that’s just a little bit, shall we say, over pungent to the point where it makes the rest of us want to gag? A friend of mine was actually very direct with someone who was eating a kebab on a packed bus:

“Admittedly I was a bit drunk,” confessed Friend, “but I couldn’t stand the smell any more, so I was like, ‘Mate that stinks. Do you think you could put that away?’

Yep, it was put away. Well done Friend! If only we were all brave enough.

4. I’m looking for free childcare.

 

I love kids as much as the next person. But just as I’ve hauled myself onto public transport first thing in the morning before I’ve had a coffee or after a long hard day before I’ve had a Malibu and pineapple, I really don’t want to be drawn into games of peek-a-boo or pick-up-my-shoe-as-I-throw-it-over-to-you. Neither do I want a stranger’s child clambering all over me, trying to knock the book I’m trying to read out of my hand, or playing with my bag. While Mum (or Dad) is totally oblivious to the situation either gazing out of the window, yapping to whoever they’re with or on the phone… or reading a book of their own.

And we’re all well aware that kids run around and individually make more noise than a crowd at a football match but it really wouldn’t hurt parents to tell them to settle down and not to create obstructions on the stairs or in the aisles and certainly not to kick the seat of the person sitting in front of them. After all this isn’t their home!

5. I have to have a minimum of two seats for myself.

 

I cannot begin to tell you how much this makes me want to punch somebody (of course I never would!) It is the biggest display of selfishness, arrogance and how people never think about anyone other than themselves. By now you’ll all know how much it bugs me to see passengers who think it’s necessary for their bag to have a seat all to themselves – as though their bag has paid for the privilege while other passengers have to stand. I’ve even seen passengers come looking for a seat and Mr. or Mrs. Bag-Owner ensures that their beloved bag stays put. Although now it’s not just bags – I have seen passengers sit between two seats so that they have two all to themselves. It’s like “Hello! Can you not see where the seat begins and ends. Do you seriously think the line is there for you to rest your crack on?”

But I have to officially congratulate the passenger who reached new heights. Last week a man hogged a record-breaking three, that’s right, three seats to himself: one for his bum, another for his bag and a third for his feet. Then he fell asleep and couldn’t hear the passenger who ever-so politely tried to ask him to remove his bag. If only I could make myself as cosy and comfy!

6. The bus driver is here for us to take out our frustrations on.

 

As someone who has spent years working with the general public, it annoys the hell out of me (and that’s putting it super mildly) when I see passengers be unnecessarily rude to bus drivers. Some of them actually think that the driver is their personal chauffer who will pick them up and drop them off wherever they want. I know travel fare is expensive but believe it or not you still have to pay a little more if you want your own driver. And furthermore, the driver is not responsible for traffic jams, delays or other equally ignorant passengers, so don’t take it out on the driver, who has a hard enough job as it is.

7. Is that a seat in front of me? I thought it was a footrest!

 

In a bid to get even more comfy, passengers are now using available seats in front of them as somewhere to rest their tired and weary feet. It’s now reached the point where drivers are making announcements asking passengers who are putting their feet up on seats to kindly remove them.

Are these people five? Is it really necessary to tell them that seats are to park your bum not your feet?

8. No littering the streets… but it’s OK to make the bus a complete mess.

 

People are beginning to understand that dropping litter on the streets is wrong. But they seem to think it’s fine to litter the bus until it resembles the inside of a dumpster. It used to be crisp packets and coke cans but now litter bugs have upped their game and added half eaten burgers; take away cartons and apple cores to the floors and seats of public transport. It’s such a mess that there are areas where no one will sit. And who do litter louts think will pick up after them? I’m sure ‘free maid’ is not one of the conditions of their travel card purchase.

9. Lean on me. When you’re not strong…

 

I consider myself to be a very mild-mannered person. So mild mannered in fact, that when the passenger beside me sat so close to me that he practically took up half my seat and was leaning against me so much that he had me pressed against the glass, I told myself that he probably didn’t realise. That’s right – he probably didn’t realise that he wasn’t just sitting next to me but he was sitting on me! I mean I’m so small, he probably didn’t even realise I was there. he obviously couldn’t feel that he was in such close contact with me… “EXCUSE ME!” I shrieked as I shoved him really hard and made my way to another seat. I was done making excuses for him. This was a man who clearly didn’t understand the concept of boundaries. And would you believe it, the same episode happened on another occasion – with the same idiot!

In fact just last week, a female passenger excused herself to the person she was speaking to on the phone to yell at the woman sitting beside her who was taking up more than her fair share of the seating area.

“What’s your problem?” snarled angry-lady-who’d-just-got-off-the-phone, “Your seat begins here and ends there. This is where my seat begins…”

I can’t people today are so stupid you have to show them how to sit.

10. The wheelchair access area is for wheelchair users? Really? No one told me that!

 

This one really makes me question people’s intelligence (or lack of) more than I already do. The wheelchair access are on buses is exactly what it says on the tin – an area for wheelchair users. When there are no wheelchairs, it can be used for prams, strollers, trollies, luggage etc. But as soon as a wheelchair user wants to use it, you have to clear the space. Simple, right?

Wrong!

Despite repeated announcements from the driver to clear the wheelchair access area as there is a passenger waiting to use it, the person whose belongings are hogging up the space has suddenly lost their sense of hearing. In fact they seem to have developed amnesia as well because when other passengers tell them to clear the space, they look completely baffled as though they can’t ever remember leaving anything in the wheelchair access area. In the end, the wheelchair user gets so fed up they tell (‘tells’ putting it mildly) just to move on.

Just a few weeks ago, I saw an extremely lazy woman act as though it was such a mission to remove her pram from the area and let a wheelchair user on. So she stayed on the bus despite the bus driver getting a right ear-bashing – only to get off two stops later. selfish and inconsiderate don’t even come close!

But of course, most of the above happen if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, you’d have to witness mindless acts of violence or theft. Who can forget the videos we’ve seen of passengers who think nothing of hurling racist abuse at other people. And today, we ‘ve been confronted with images of a young lady being viciously kicked in the stomach. It’s easy to suggest that people complain but these days you really take your life in your hands if you dare to open your mouth – even if you’re in the right.

All of the above indicates that many ‘people’ (if you can call them that) now see it as their right to behave however they wish, wherever they are. People just don’t realise that if you’re decent, there’s a code of conduct when you’re out and about in public. If you don’t give a damn about other people, maybe you’re better off staying at home – it might be the best place for you.

 

 

People, Get Spatially Aware!

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Today, while on a fairly packed bus to get to a busy town centre in order to go to an equally busy supermarket, I was amazed at the number of inconsiderate people who thought they were the only people out on the street – causing me to get more than a little irritated. Crowding doorways; blocking aisles with pushchairs; dawdling too long by the veggies when I’m trying to reach for a packet of baby spinach; trollies heading straight for me and missing me by millimetres without so much as an apology or an ‘excuse me’ from the wreckless trolley-pusher… it seems that people have absolutely no awareness of other people around them. They think nothing of invading your space or getting in your way, causing you to waste time and lose patience. I also almost had an irate man crash into me while I was carrying several bags of groceries because he was too busy arguing with his wife and walking backwards (don’t ask!) without bothering to check if there was anyone else behind him on the very narrow pavement. This kind of behaviour isn’t just inconsiderate, I also find it to be quite arrogant. It’s almost as if other people and their space aren’t important.

 

I work in Central London and often walk to the station after work with a friend from work. It’s only a five minute walk to the station but on the way there, I’ve often lost count of the number of people who have bumped into us; hit us with their over-sized bags; rammed their buggies, strollers and trollies  or just stopped abruptly right in front of us while they answer their phone or rifle through said bag. Now, I know that all of this is just part and parcel of city life, especially when the city is one of the world’s most overpopulated. However, an apology in a situation like this would be much appreciated. My colleague is not a Londoner, but hailing from a major American city, she does  understand that this is what London life entails. However unlike me, she is not prepared to allow someone to get in her way and say nothing about it. She’s got something to say all right!

 

It seems like a sign of the times where it’s almost acceptable to be rude and not say sorry. And of course, no one wants to tackle anyone about their behaviour. It’s different for my American friend  – after all who wants to take on an angry American? – but most of us know that complaining can sometimes be more trouble than it’s worth so we just keep quiet and accept that it’s just the way people are these days even though we are inwardly seething.

On a trip to Brighton earlier this year, a friend of mine later told me how surprised she was when as we were wheeling our stowaway cases along the streets of the seaside town, she noticed that I kept stopping to let people by and was aware of anyone who might be around me. well, of course I was. and it’s what any considerate person would do.

Sadly there don’t seem to be many considerate people around.

 

Would You Mind Asking Your Bag To Stand Please?

Even though I’m known for being quite mild mannered, there are certain things in life that make my blood boil. One of them are the selfish passengers on buses and trains who feel that their bags – and in some cases coats – need a well deserved sit down at the expense of other commuters.

It’s even worse on buses where I find people tend to sit on the outer seats, which already indicates that they do not want anyone sitting beside them. If they have personal belongings, this will then be put on the seat next to the window. I understand that sometimes people prefer to sit on the outer seats because it’s easier to get up and leave when they arrive at their stop. But the fact that they’ve seen all these people standing and are still not indicating that there is a free seat beside them only tells me that they wish to have two seats all to themselves, which is just plain mean and selfish. I’ve even seen elderly people standing while someone with absolutely no manners occupies two seats.

And I’m sorry to say it, being a woman myself, but women are by far the worst culprits. How many times have I seen them place a dinky little handbag or gift bag on a seat as though the bag is so heavy that they cannot possibly sit with it on their lap or that it’s so huge that they cannot rest it on the floor? Worse are the ones with lip gloss for brains who on a packed bus or train will spot an available seat and then put their bag on it while they stand! Don’t they realise they’d be saving a little more space if they just sat down – or allowed someone else to sit down? I sometimes feel like asking if their bag has it’s own Oyster card.

It’s just another indication of just how far society has regressed. We live in what is very much a ‘me, me, me’ society. People only seem to think about themselves and what is convenient or suitable for them. Consideration, courtesy and concern for other people went out of the window a long time ago. It’s sad but true. Confronting such people about their selfish behaviour isn’t an option either as this just leads to a very public and very heated exchange as no one likes to admit that their at fault – even if everyone else can see that they are.

I’ll be getting on the bus today… and no doubt there’ll be at least one person who will make me see red. And I don’t mean the bus!

 

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