December 2006 Archives

MondayWomen{small].jpgMonday Women is a no-cost group, open to all, which meets and has an e-group. With affliliation of hundreds, it welcomes discussion and activities around topics of interest to women from all walks of life. After four years, the meetings are re-locating.

Please see also the Monday Women section of this website for up-to-date inormation on meetings etc.

Monday Women meetings for early 2007 are moving to the Heart and Soul Cafe-Restaurant in Liverpool.

Monday Women (Liverpool) is an open-access social and e-group for women to share views and news. 'Members' keep in touch in two ways: via open meetings-cum-social-events on the first Monday of the month (except Bank Holidays) and through the e-group. Women attending face-to-face events do not need to 'belong' to the e-group, nor do e-group members necessarily attend Monday Women events. (N.B. Children are welcome at the social events where this allows their mother / carer to attend the group.)

The Monday Women e-group has just one aim: to facilitate contact and networking between women from all walks of life, some of whom will be able to attend our events and others of whom may not be able to. The intention is quite simply to encourage the sharing of news, views and companionship.

A no-cost, informal and open-minded network
There is no formal membership for the Group and no Officers, or agenda. There are no costs, fees or admission charges for meetings or for 'joining' the e-group, which are both open to all on a no-obligation basis. This is simply a relaxed and informal meeting arrangement for women in Liverpool and Merseyside.

Monday Women see Hope Street plans [1.8.05).jpgTopics for discussion and exchange of information between individuals attending / joining in the e-group might be anything from the possible need for a playgroup, traffic crossing or bank in a particular area, to considering plans for regeneration and renewal of the city, to informing people about a special event, or enquiring who else might be interested in setting up a business or community group!

The group also occasionally shares 'outside events' such as the recent highly successful visit to the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth and two other adjacent sites of great civic and historical interest. There is in addition an annual Christmas celebratory event on the first Monday in December, organised, like every other occasion, by volunteer members of the group.

Relocating for 2007
The group was inaugurated on Monday 3 March 2003 in the Liverpool Everyman Bistro, where it has met every month since until the end of 2006. We are much indebted to Paddy Byrne, Geoff Hale and colleagues, the Bistro owners and staff, for their generous support over the past almost four years, as we now move on to new premises for early 2007 - the upstairs room of Chumki Banerjee's Heart and Soul Cafe-Restaurant , and then from 2 April to Dragon in Berry Street. 'Meetings' will be from 5.45 pm until about 7.30 pm (some people stay later), although people come and go within this time span, arriving and attending for as long as they wish.

Each person joining a Monday Women event at our 2007 venues will (as before) select and buy her own refreshments - if required - in the actual cafe and then take them into the 'meeting' with her. This enables everyone to choose items of food and / or drink which suit individual tastes and budgets.

PS Monday 5 February 2007:
Our meeting at Heart & Soul was a big success (thanks, Chumki!!), as the photo below shows....
Monday Women Heart & Soul 1st Mtg 07.2.5 130x339.jpg

Becoming a 'member' of Monday Women
All women are welcome to 'join' Monday Women (Liverpool). To become a 'member' all that is required is that women turn up for a meeting - a warm welcome is assured! - or that they join the e-group. To join the e-group women are invited to email Monday Women, or to contact Hilary Burrage direct via this website.

Or perhaps, if you're a woman reading this away from Liverpool, you'd like to set up a Monday Women group too? If so, do let us know about your plans. There's room for Monday Women everywhere....

Holly berries (small).jpgToday is the Winter Solistice - the shortest day of the year, if by 'day' we mean daylight hours. Yet, in this so-far extraordinarily warm Winter, even at this point in the annual cycle of birth and rebirth there is much to see when we venture out into the great urban spaces such as Liverpool's Sefton Park.

Sefton Park Winter squirrel with conker.jpgSefton Park Winter rat.jpgThis is the Winter Solstice, a time when little is expected of an urban park, a time of anticipated bleakness and dank dark days. Yet in this month of nothingness Liverpool's Sefton Park, just a mile or two from the city centre, has life in abundance. The small creatures of the secret places continue to roam their tracks, there are birds both of the water and of the air, and humans too, of every sort, take their ease with their companions, their children, their partners and their four legged friends.

A park for all
Sefton Park Winter boys, ducks, golden lake.jpgHere are young and older couples, parents and children, kids looking for a bit of fun by the lake, people exercising seriously and people intent on doing nothing. The short day offers no excuse for staying indoors, whether there be sunshine or showers. The opportunity to take the air remains, for so far this Winter there have not been many really wild or soakingly wet days when the only place to be is home. Even in this, the solstice week, walking in the park is what the people of Liverpool have been doing.

Mists and mellowness, not biting winds
Sefton park Winter couple reflected in waterfall pool.jpgSefton Park Winter young couple.jpgSefton Park Winter mother & small cyclist, sitting.jpgThis is still, in Winter 2006, the season of mists and shadowy silhouettes against the sky. It is not as yet the season of ice and snow, though doubtless this will prevail as the year turns on the coming Spring equinox, for a short while covering everything in a shining blanket of white.Sefton Park Winter man in mist by lake & trees.jpg

But for now the mildness of Autumn stays with us whilst the temperament of Winter fails to claim the expectations of the park. The days are short but the fierceness of wind and sleet which usually accompanies this brevity of light has not on the whole been forthcoming. We continue, urban ramblers at our leisure, unchallenged by the elements in the brief hours of light and even sunshine which this strange solstice is affording.

The sun, golden
Yes, we have seen rain - and on a few days much rain, though not bitingly cold and cutting - but we see also setting suns against the faded former glories of the bandstand, we watch that same sunset against the snowy-looking clouds behind the trees, and we gaze until it disappears at the liquid gold of the lake, reflecting the sky which illuminates all below it.

Sefton Park Winter father & son golden lake.jpgSefton Park Winter bandstand sunset.jpgSefton Park Winter trees against golden cloud.jpg

Waiting for Winter
This is a time of waiting. The solstice will very soon be forgotten as Christmas takes a hold on the park, the city and, it seems to us from where we stand, the entire world. Perhaps this year the many strollers who occupy Sefton Park on Christmas Day and Boxing Day will be sporting not their usual new, thick Winter Sefton Park 06.3.4 (snow) 046.jpgscarves and woolly hats, but the lighter attire of Autumn and Spring. This year we may, it seems, be spared the cruel inclemencies of deep Winter, thereby

Rainbow 5 (small) 85x89.jpg At 26,27, 28 perhaps you’re still single, but the chances of coupledom increase quite considerably by 29 or 30. Whatever, the years seem to slip by more quickly as people reach their late twenties, but opportunities are still there to explore the world and take control of the direction of your life.

People in their later twenties have usually developed several networks of colleagues and workmates, friends and family members, perhaps including those of a partner or spouse. Building these connections helps us see who we are and where we’re going. We all need a mixture of experiences, whilst hopefully we remember about the Be Happy Rules. So the ideas which follow are a selection of serious and more light-hearted approaches to life. Choose or change them as you will.

Why don’t you....

Feel a million dollars
What’s your idea of feeling really great, right on top of things and raring to go? Whatever it is, don’t lose sight of it. Make time, regularly, to think about how you’d best like to feel and then ensure you act to achieve this. Your later twenties are real prime time, so please do make sure you benefit from and enjoy them!

Do an eco check
You will already have thought about green issues, and very probably you’ve already also done things to help ‘save’ the planet. But things are moving fast in this field, so maybe this is a good point at which to check you’re up-to-date with ways you can contribute to environmental sustainability.
Have you energy-checked your home? Is your mode of transport optimal? Are you recycling everything you can? And are you collaborating with others at home and work to do this even better?

Book tea at The Ritz
... or whatever else constitutes a real treat for your Mum or other established close family member/s. It’s easy in the hustle and bustle of developing our independence to forget (or seem to forget) that those who cared for us for many years still appreciate the odd occasion to chat and laugh together.
An hour or two just talking and relaxing with those we sometimes seem to take for granted is always time put to good use.

Learn a new mind game
If you play Sudoku, try the crossword for a bit instead. If you do the crossword, try a card game..... It doesn’t matter what, as long just every so often it’s something different. Now is a certainly not the time in your life to get stuck in a mental rut, not even a little one!

Take the Advanced Drivers’ Course
Nor is this a time to neglect more practical skills. You’ve probably been a driver for some years now. Is this a good point at which to sharpen up on your road skills? Taking the Advanced Drivers’ Test might be a way of getting the very best from your motoring – not to mention a better deal from your car insurer.

Join the debate
Is there a pressing local problem which interests you? Or, come to that, a work, political or personal crusade you’d like to pursue? Whatever it is, join in the debate. Along the way you may learn more about the issue; and, in any case, if you join in you won’t feel later on that you should have ‘said something’ at the time.
Don’t hide your light under a bushel; you have every right to a considered view, so think through what you need to do, to get in there and share your ideas.

Get a makeover
It’s actually quite hard to ‘see ourselves as others see us’, even if it’s only in terms of physical appearance. Have you stopped to think if you might assign some of your usual garb to the Oxfam shop? Would it be doing you a good turn as much as them if you did?
Some of us feel more comfortable then others with changes in style and how we look, as our circumstances inevitably change. Why not make a date to consider this, whether it be with a trusted friend or through a more formal and business-like makeover arrangement? Regard it as an investment in your future self.

Read a novel
Or a travelogue or an historical account or a book of poetry (why not?) or a biography. But make the effort, if you haven’t for a while, to read a whole book - or, come to that, to write one.
It’s good to do something sometimes which takes us right out of ourselves; exactly how much effort and time you put into this is up to you.

Do a quarter century check
You’ve reached your later twenties; now you can look back over a quarter century. Do you see patterns emerging in what you do? Are you pleased with your progress in life so far? Are there things you like and want to build on? And perhaps things you’d prefer to change a little for the future?
Be gentle with yourself; life’s often more difficult in practice than in theory. But also decide how to get support for anything you’d like to change, and encouragement for the parts which are going well. To repeat that well-known mantra, Life is not a Rehearsal.

Have a vacation adventure
Plan your next holiday to be different. If you normally do beaches, try a city. If you’re keen on festivals, try walking. Or join a group activity; or don’t.
Maybe you’re already adapting your leisure time to accommodate a partner or a family, but try every so often to make holidays interesting and just a little different as well. However you define your world, be sure also to make it your oyster as you plan your occasional vacation adventure.

Have you read....?
Things To Do When You're 21-25
Things To Do When You're 31 - 40

What To Do At Any Age - Be Happy

* Life is not a rehearsal
* Smile when you can
* Do acts of random kindness
* Try no-TV days
* Be cautious sometimes, cynical never
* Use your pedometer
* Treat yourself daily to a 'Went Right' list

And why not share your alternative ideas here, too? You can add your own take on Things To Do When You're 26-30 via the Comments box below...

Science And Regeneration

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Double helix (small).jpgScience may sometimes be difficult for people in regeneration to understand; and perhaps this doesn’t always matter. But we do all need to see what science in its operation and applications has to offer. For optimal outcomes at every level dialogue between scientists and regeneration practitioners is critical.

Why is science important in regeneration? And why, if so, is it invisible?

There are many answers both these questions, but three of the most straightforward are:

* Science is a huge part of the knowledge economy, which in turn is a critical part modern western life; we have moved on from standard production to an ideas based economy.

* Science in its applications is both a ‘cause’ of and a ‘cure’ for the environmental issues which are by the day becoming more pressing.

* Science is often invisible because many of us find it incomprehensible and, in any case, it tends to be tucked away in universities, industrial laboratories, business parks and at the more daunting end of the quality media. (We won’t even think here about science and the popular press…)

Plus of course science is as incomprehensible to significant numbers of journalists and politicians as it is to many members of the general public.

Science policy
But science is not the same as science policy. The former tends (though probably less so than in the past) towards more theoretical research, even if often externally funded; the latter is about the intentional influence and impact of scientific (and technological) knowledge on our lives.

The incomprehension of many about science is unsurprising. But impressive scientific knowledge in itself is less important for regeneration strategies than is an understanding of where the application of science can take us, and how to get there. I can drive a car, and I know where I would like it to take me, but I would be hard pressed to construct one.

And science can offer not one destination but several if it is ‘driven’ well…. How about large-scale construction and investment opportunities, enhancement of the skills base, graduate retention and synergy with existing enterprise, plus the kudos of internationally significant research, for a start?

Is there a downside?
It would be foolish to suggest that all science is ‘good’. Publicly contentious work is another reason why understanding what science can do is important – the GM food and MMR vaccination debates, however well-informed or not, come to mind and are frequently confused issues for the non-specialist. But even disallowing for these sort of concerns there are still costs to the advancement of science and technology, not least environmental.

What science and technology ‘cause’ they can also however often mitigate. If we know, say, how ‘expensive’ in carbon terms a particular innovation or development is, we also usually know what to do to mitigate or turn around that cost. Planning and design, for instance, are frequently critical. to best practice.

In a regeneration proposal, has economy of energy been a major consideration? Is the infrastructure connected in ways which reduce negative environmental impact? Are the plans sustainable in all the ways, environmental, economic and at the human level, that they should be? Science of many sorts can help us towards the answers.

Moving away from traditional perspectives
Science and technology are not respectful of the public-private boundaries which have traditionally shaped regeneration. Knowledge, once that genie has emerged, cannot be put back in the bottle. Like water, it will flow wherever it meets least resistance or most encouragement.

Given the gargantuan sums of money which some science and technology require in their developmental phases and application, it is surprising that so little public attention is generally given to where Big Science facilities are located. (The Daresbury Laboratory in the North West of England is a good example of enhanced regeneration when world-class science is secured by active regional lobbying.)

It’s time to move away from the idea that all regeneration requires is a science park tucked away in a corner of our strategic plan, and we need also to think big about what it all means. For the best regeneration outcomes scientists and regeneration policy makers must to be in communication with each other all the time – even if they need an active ‘translator’ to achieve this. Neither is likely to procure the very best opportunities from the other, if no-one is talking.

A version of this article was published, as 'The appliance of science affects us all', in New Start magazine on 24 November 2006.

Two chicks (small).jpgTruth in Science is the latest version of the so-called Intelligent Design 'theory' of Creationism. It now reaches into U.K. schools where one expects more measured understanding of the differences between Science and Comparative Religious Studies. What other equally unlikely notions could we, on the same 'logic', incorporate into the curriculum, and where? Your comments and ideas are welcome.

A year or so ago a senior and very well respected politician assured me that Intelligent Design would 'never catch on' in the U.K. because people here are 'too sensible'.

Unfortunately he obviously hasn't spoken to enough people in Liverpool. Following the news that the Bluecoat School in this city is offering the Truth in Science view to Science students, this morning's Daily Post carries a two-page spread asking Should religion be part of science teaching? All but one or two of those questioned said Yes, they thought it would enhance students' understandings to be exposed to 'alternative ideas' such as Intelligent Design ... in science lessons... Apparently all 'theories' are of equal value, or so it is said by some.

I can only think these people are playing devil's advocate. They must be.

Balance or baloney?
It's one thing to suggest pupils learn about myths and stories in Religious Studies, There, they could perhaps, responsibly presented, ignite young imaginations in many ways - but it's another entirely to deny the consensus of the very large majority of serious scientists and give these ideas status alongside the multitude of strands of evidence which support Darwinian theory and evolution.

If any children of mine attended a school where a version of Intelligent Design was introduced into the Science curriculum I would have to transfer them to somewhere which I judged a more responsible place of learning. I hope the governors of any schools where Truth in Science is 'taught' will ask some really searching questions.

The evidence
I have written before about Intelligent Design and its even more extraordinary cousin, Creationism. The links are:

Creationism Is An Attack On Rationality: The Scientists Rally At Last

Survival Of The Fittest In The Marketplace, But Not For Life On Earth?

Evolutionary Theory In The Lime Light

US Universities, Privatisation And 'Intelligent Design'

To be quite clear: Children are entitled to learn about things which equip them for modern life. Notions like Intelligent Design and its Truth in Science corollary are unforgivable, as serious science, at a time when it has never been more important to understand how our planet 'works' and what we need to do to protect it (and all the living things which inhabit it) for the future. The rising generation deserves far better than this.

Let the debate begin
If you think Intelligent Design has a rightful place in the mainstream Science curriculum, here's your chance to show why literally thousands upon thousands of highly trained scientists (not to mention a goodly number of senior clerics) have got it wrong.

There again, you more probably think my senior politician contact is reasonable to expect an educationally sensible debate.

But sometimes we have to lighten up a bit. So here, tongue in cheek, is your opportunity to suggest other mysterious or untestable 'ideas' which a few folk might like to introduce into the (already over-crowded) mainstream curriculum - the sort of ideas which most of us recognise as simply stories, maybe fine for a tale to tell, but absolutely not fine in any modern educational provision intended to equip young people for the complex futures they must face.

I give you a starter for ten: try flat earth notions and ancient myths in mainstream Geography and History respectively. Or fairies at the bottom of the garden in Environmental Science... What else can you come up with?

Xmas presents (small).jpgChristmas is a time for giving. But what, and to whom? Many would like Christmas to be less commercial, whilst helping those not as fortunate as themselves. Doing this in a way which shows fondness for family, friends and colleagues but also benefits others can sometimes be a difficult balance to achieve.

The Christmas charity gift brochures these days often start to arrive with the August Bank Holiday. We therefore have plenty of time to ponder the dilemmas which then arise:

(a) Do I buy gifts from these brochures, actual items, to give directly to friends and family? or
(b) Do I buy 'gifts' which are actually donations towards items required by needy people elsewhere, often in the developing world - and give my own folk tokens which say that's what I've done, of my own volition, on their behalf? or
(c) Do I give gifts which I have chosen elsewhere and then think about the charitable giving at some other point?

Not comfortable options
Most of these options leave me, at least, feeling rather uncomfortable. Buying charity Christmas cards (or some direct gifts, if genuinely appropriate) is one thing; the recipents still receive the original item. Buying charitable items which are not intended for the 'recipient', but for someone who for us is without a name, living elsewhere, is another thing altogether. The big question is, is it alright to give to charity on another's behalf, without seeing if that's what they wanted?

And, indeed, is it even OK to ask them if it is actually what they'd like to do? Perhaps, they're doing it already? Or even, uneasy thought, perhaps they wouldn't choose to give to the charity we've chosen on their unwitting behalf?

Of course, the precise intention of the charities who mail us is to encourage 'giving' - and few would deny that such giving is needed.

I do not subscribe to the idea that there is no point; I'm quite sure much of the money raised does indeed go to very good causes.

Nonetheless, is it OK to 'give' in the name of someone else? Should we give only what we own ourselves? Is it right to divert gifts from people one knows personally, to people one does not know, whilst also proclaiming a good deed on their behalf?

Another way?
Many would agree that there is a real sense in which charitable giving does reflect the 'meaning' of Christmas. The question then is, how can we do it without seeming to give what is not exactly ours - in other words the gift we would 'give' to our nearest and dearest?

I'm beginning to think there may be a way. This 'solution' depends on the amount of cash available and the sort of personal contacts one has; it's not really appropriate, say, for hard-pressed families with children where money is scarce. But for the rest of us it might work.

Christmas consortia
How about an agreement that, special exceptions apart, we all give direct personal gifts costing no more than an agreed sum - but at the same time we get together to 'buy' that much-needed donkey, tree, kids' trip, hoe, emergency kit or whatever?

It would take someone to make the initial arrangements and act as 'treasurer', and maybe each year a different member of the group might undertake that task. But it's a project which would enable us all to choose something personal for those we know and love, whilst also sharing a goal in a positive group activity, be it as colleagues, family or friends. How much each person can give would be confidential between themselves and the 'treasurer' only, but all would have contributed.

Maybe 2006 is the year to set up the rota, even if there's no time now to try the idea out fully before the festivities begin? And here are some of the many links which will take you to see what's on offer:
Charity Christmas Gift brochures.jpg
Concern Worldwide
Oxfam Unwrapped
Wish List (Save the Children)

Has anyone tried this way? Does it work? Maybe you could let us know in the Comments box below?