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Mind the gap (part 3) – Grasp the nettle

Mind the gap (part 3) – Grasp the nettle


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This peculiar phrase, which recommends tackling problems decisively, arises from the belief that nettles will not sting if they are seized firmly and swiftly. This presses their stinging hairs flat, it is true, but you still have to let go at some point and the chance of wrestling a load of leaves into a plastic bag without brushing some part of your hand against them is very slim. I really would wear gloves.

There is a point to this seemingly masochistic exercise: nettles are very good to eat and also easy to identify, which can be an issue with some foraged foods. It’s probably the first plant most of us are taught to recognise as children and even if we aren’t we soon work it out for ourselves, as we limp home covered with the hot bumps of nettle-rash.

The plant is quick to appear in spring and is ubiquitous, appearing wherever people live (or have lived – patches of nettles still thrive on the sites of long-abandoned settlements). They appreciate the nitrogen-enriched soil that we, and our animals, provide. It’s always been a welcome hedgerow green and in former times was also a source of both dye and fibre for making cloth. You get a sense of this fibrousness whenever you try to snap a mature plant: the stems tend to split lengthways and twist rather than break cleanly. As an added bonus, nettles can be used like comfrey to make a liquid fertilizer for garden plants.

Nettles are very nutritious, containing good amounts of vitamins A and C, as well as iron and an impressive amount of protein for a green vegetable. They have their own distinctive flavour but it’s roughly like spinach, for which they can be substituted in the kitchen. When they are served as a standalone vegetable I actually find their powerfully green healthiness a little too full-on but I love using them as an ingredient. I add them to frittatas and make nettle soup, using good stock and cream. Whatever the dish, I wilt the nettles first; this needs barely more water than is left on them after rinsing. The act of cooking disarms the sting but wear gloves up to this point.

The tender tops of young springtime nettles are the best. They get coarser and less palatable as the year goes on, though strimming or mowing in summer will result in more tender, usable regrowth. Avoid picking near busy roads or from places where you suspect dogs may have passed … and paused. Wherever you get them from, give them a thorough wash anyway, to make sure they are free from invertebrates. Steamed caterpillars are always off-putting.

In other news, the soil has warmed up sufficiently for direct sowing to start in earnest. Over the past week I have sown parsnips, carrots, beetroot and salsify. All the Jerusalem artichokes have been planted and most of the potatoes and I have a bag of onion sets to put in tomorrow. There’s suddenly an awful lot to do.


Mind the Gap: Harvard Students Pursue New Adventures Away from Campus

Ever since she received her acceptance letter, Samantha G. Marks ’25 dreamed of her time on campus. As senior year of high school waned, she motivated herself by imagining the intellectual wonderland she would soon access: top-tier research labs, extraordinary peers, and tight-knit communities around her favorite activities.

Her initial stance on taking a gap year? “Absolutely no way,” Marks said.

During the following months, however, COVID-19 surged across the United States and the world. On March 10, 2020, Harvard ordered all residential students to vacate campus and continue the semester virtually.

Still, Marks held out hope that Harvard would be able to provide the traditional campus experience in the fall. She waited to make her decision until the “heartbreaking” announcement on July 6 that all courses would be taught remotely. Marks would be unable to conduct lab research as she had hoped, or participate in clubs as she had imagined.

“I knew it wouldn’t be the same,” Marks said.

Like 340 first-year students — representing over 20 percent of those admitted — Marks ultimately deferred enrollment until fall 2021. Over a thousand other students also elected to take leaves of absence.

The Crimson spoke to nine students who chose not to enroll for the fall semester, representing members of each of Harvard’s four classes. Challenged to create a meaningful gap year experience despite the pandemic, they pursued professional opportunities, explored the world around them, and focused on personal growth.


If you don’t think you are “spiritual” yet have chronic health issues, please don’t be put off by the title but bear with me and try applying a little curiosity around this approach to healing, trusting that I’m not trying to convert you to my views but to help open up your own. We can be put off from the idea of having a “spiritual perspective” because we think it has something to do with being religious (I’m not!) or a little too “woo-woo” (OK, maybe a bit…) and, I admit, I used to be too. Yet, really, we all have one which is demonstrated just as soon as we consider “is this all there is to life?” and a part of us, no matter how tiny, asserts “no, it can’t be” in fact the very will to heal comes from this place. This is you, getting in touch with your spiritual self which started to happen to me about three years into what felt like a devastating health crisis.

Where do we go when we die, why did we come here, is there any overriding sense to it all?

These are all questions that have vexed mankind forever and we may think we are shunning them successfully, with our fingers held firmly in our ears…but we’re not, how can we ever, especially as we inevitably get closer to our physical demise? If we don’t address these questions with our conscious minds, our subconscious minds will continue playing with them…and chronic illness can be a sure sign that this happening not so-very deep under the surface. It’s a vast topic, one I have been considering for most of the 12 years that I have had chronic health issues but I will try to give you some clear pointers towards themes I have recently become especially aware of in the context of healing these troublesome, persistent kinds of illness that just go on and on over years and decades “for no apparent reason” in my own case, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, neuralgia, electromagnetic hypersensitivity and a host of other autoimmunities. What if there is a whole other way of looking at such challenges and they will only be “done with” once we have got out of them what we came here to experience in order to get to know ourselves better, presumably because we weren’t satisfied to have a mundane experience this time around the block (I’m going to ask you to suspend any preconceptions you may have about reincarnation)?

As soon as you become even minutely aware of a sense that there is a “perfect” you, like a blueprint version of you that exists at some other level beyond the physical, you cannot fail to become aware that there is a gap…between that pristine ideal and the “you” that you are having the experience of, every day, as a human being. I think that applies pretty much universally we all consider we are having a “less than” experience of something…whether it’s our living or working circumstances, our financial situation, the heinous mess that the whole world seems to be in…or our health. That’s the gap that I allude to in the title above and, though we may step around it, its like an elephant in the room and never goes away while we consider there to be a gap at any level of our being since our attention upon it makes it so (that’s just basic quantum physics at work). But where do we get our ideas of perfect health (or ideal anything else) from how do we think we know what that feels like, as a direct experience for point of comparison…unless we have experienced that ideal and, thus, yearn for it like something we “lost”? In fact, the whole of humanity seems to be wandering around acting as though it has lost something terribly precious! In my long experience (though I won’t labour the point), everything has always pointed at the possibility of simultaneous experiences of many different versions of myself, both in other lifetimes and as an “absolute” version of myself beyond the physical verson, with which I am (at some level) constantly comparing and cross-referencing myself.

Sometimes, my most pristine version feels like she comes up into my awareness so tangibly that I can almost touch her but she is frustratingly elusive when it comes to manifesting the feeling as my current state of physical health.

Once you start to explore this a little deeper, perhaps over many years, many meditations, many direct experiences of what feel like remembrance of “who you really are” and “what you have experienced” at the broadest level (in other words, not limited to physical experiences you have had in this body) that gap can start to feel like the Grand Canyon. What we have manifested here as our familiar, collective state of human existence doesn’t look a lot like what anyone imagines to be heaven most of the time or, at least, not in a consistent way. You might not be consciously thinking about this gap or, even if you are, might not think you are able to do anything about it but it’s probably in there, niggling away at the subconscious level. This in itself can start to rock the boat of your health but once you allow your awareness of “gap” up to the surface of the conscious mind, things start to get interesting. Having allowed even the merest shaft of light to hit the spot, your every effort as a human being from now on is, at some level, designed to help close that gap up, integrating all you know and remember you are capable of experiencing, beyond the physical dimensions, into your physical life to try and make these two things more similar. You could say, you have become more mindful of the gap and you are now working on the discrepancy. While the gap still persists, this can feel like work that never ends it can lead into chronic fatigue (the tiredness that so many people think has no logical cause…) and feelings of bearing the brunt of some rock-heavy burden that nobody else can see. You can feel tired, bruised and battered before you have even started your day, weary to your boot-straps, bedraggled with the effort…and on and on it goes, as long as you perceive a gap inside of yourself and suspect you must serve as the bridge to make yourselves whole again. For many of us, this becomes the catalyst for our most accelerated phase of evolution so far as we make peace with what we can, learn to love ourselves and all others and as we do all that nitty-gritty inner work that nobody else can do for us…and so we make headway, slowly or even, sometimes, in significant leaps.

However, the body has memory the body, in fact, is a giant storage bank of emotion going back over the whole of your lifetime and it holds onto these memories even longer than we do at the mental level. That initial reaction to suddenly realising there is a gap, between the ideal we somehow remember so well and the experienced reality of our physical life, can become a learned experience of horror, even terror, of negation or rejection, even of momentary hesitation about how to be human or whether we even want to be. All of these emotions get stored up in the body and similar triggers in the environment start to set them off on a regular basis. Now, we are no longer comfortably numb and it’s a case of waking up to a broader reality at the very densest level of ourselves, since we are dealing with slow-vibrating cellular matter here rather than our thoughts, which can be changed far more quickly. This cathartic wake-up stumble often occurs as a result of a sudden yet evolutionarily crucial, if momentary, lapse in knowing how to put that next human step forward, often brought about by intense stress or trauma. Sometimes, that hesitation can occur for just long enough (many times over, like an echo in the body) for the physical body to get out of step with itself long-term. One missed footing is like a dancer in a beautifully choreographed piece stepping into the movement a moment too late and the whole dance going to pieces and this is what chronic health issues are born out of. Or its like the tightrope walker who looks down at their feet, the climber who questions how they are still hanging on the precipice…you get the idea. Let’s go back to that gap: like a person seeing a gap beneath their raised foot just as they are about to get onto the exact same commuter train that they always catch having never paid it any attention to it before, they momentarily panic, they hesitate, they put their foot all wrong and suddenly they are trapped in the door or their leg gets caught in the gap. Oh no, diasaster…how will they ever get out…and so more panic ensues. Again, sound familiar?

Chronic illness is the snowballing panic scenario of some sort of missed footing event that could have taken place months, even years ago, possibly as a result of a momentary lapse in being so blissfully unaware…but now it continues under its own momentum, remembered by the body.

Suddenly, everything is out of sync, like the very cogs that keep life turning don’t quite engage with one another, and we find ourselves struggling to find our way back to where it all ran smoothly. Or (this is important) maybe we don’t even want to go back to that state since it ran most smoothly when we were unconscious…back when we didn’t even see the gaps between one version of reality and another, nor did we care since we somehow seemed far more limited in our awareness, almost asleep in those days. Back then, life itself seemed less vivid, less vital than it does now, like we weren’t fully taking part in it, and we really don’t want that again. Now we have expanded our view, even if we haven’t made it fully conscious yet, we are perceiving gaps all over the place so we feel unsure-footed wherever we go and this continues…until we can only take it one way and that is consciously “forwards”, such as there is direction in a “place” of such abstraction. In other words, we realise at some point that the only way to break out of the physical/circumstantial stalemate is to take it further ourselves, as an active participant in our experiences, by becoming the most conscious creator we have ever been in human form, meaning we not only see that the gap is there, but we welcome the opportunity of working with it.

This is to take our awareness of the gap from subconscious into conscious and then to the superconscious level as we elect to work with it as the active creator-being that we now realise we are.

In other words, we are now an active (rather than unconscious) participant in this reality and we get to play with the gap. We realise that the gap is the very reason we came here what we wanted to “take on” as our speciality and so we use what chronic health issues have taught us about the apparent discrepancies between spiritual and physical perspectives of experience to help create the talking point between them, to seek what is in common instead of what is most different. We do this so powerfully because we are acting as us, within our very own body, making the conundrum manifest as our ever-improving (or at least always evolving) state of health and overall wellbeing. You could say, the meeting is now open, the round-table discussion underway, between aspects of ourselves that have been closed off from one another (…if only due to certain limiting belief filters that our human aspect used to have in place…) for the longest time. These “talks” hold our very future in the their hands and it feels like so much more than a matter of our personal physical health in fact, we perceive its thematic relevance to everything going on all around us in the world right now and take comfort from the fact we are far from the only person going through this evolutionary process we are part of a combined effort to heal on a very grand scale.

From now on, every small triumph in how positively we experience ourselves (not necessarily “a healing” by conventional terms but a state of calm acceptance, compassion, understanding, reconciliation and even joy from within the current circumstance) is a triumph for all since there is a collective-evolutionary trajectory that everyone dealing with bewildering health challenges are contributing to which we now see clearly, since an inevitable part of gaining the “spiritual perspective” is coming to recognise how we are all connected, thus one healing contributes to the healing of all.

We can’t fail to know when we are getting somewhere since these positive interactions between our physical and nonphysical aspects show up as our vastly improved wellbeing, our inexplicable radiance or a certain sparkle in the eyes, sudden surges of energy (even though we are often majorly fatigued), a propensity to connect with likeminded people from all walks of life in quite unexpected ways, as new bursts of creativity and moments of insight or synchronicity that lead to unexpected information or opportunities to heal what was previously stuck in the mud, using solutions we would never have been able to imagine beforehand. We may come across as a little crazy in our buoyancy and optimism, or people assume we must be making up all of our physical symptoms since we seem to alternate periods of profound disability with being some of the most cheerful, energised and inspiring people around plus we seem oddly driven and tenacious for all we “should” be feeling defeated or worn out by circumstance.

These intermittent peaks of experience are all the more astonishing for their context within a life that is otherwise often desperately challenging and which some people, watching from the outside (if they only knew the half of the pain and physical limitation that goes on), would assume to be incredibly compromised yet we start to feel strangely unlimited within ourselves, in spite of our state of health. These moments when we know we have got it all together feel like we are doing big-big work, and not just for ourselves, and we wouldn’t swop that feeling for all the numbness we used to call having “OK health” in the time before we got ill. We even allow ourselves to consider that maybe, at the higher level, we chose for this chronic thing to hang around for so long (and that it may do so for even longer…), so that we could have the deepest experience of it. That very realisation starts to suggest itself as the ultimate breakthrough point that is ours just as soon as we decide to take it to the next level….yet none of our optimism is conditional upon this ever happening since we are peculiarly, inexplicably, fine with where we are, rigth here and now (which is the whole point). It’s also, resoundingly, about learning to live without fear and conditionality constantly calling the tune.

These heightened moments often show up as plateaus of spontaneous remission or at least times of dramatic improvement “for no obvious reason”.

We do notice ourselves having these incredible breakthroughs that come and go, though they may seem as nothing to those who measure success using comparisons, targets, material gains, guarantees and permanence (concepts we have put aside in favour of being fully here now, not living in the past or the future). Very often, a plausible “reason” for improved health will come along in perfect time so that we can explain away this sudden breakthrough to those who like to have a reason…though the real work has been done where the gap resides, in places unseen to the naked eye.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself here what does it take to achieve this state of grace consistently in the way that we think of as “fully healed”, and am I even equipped to write about it since I’m not even there yet? Well, yes, I think I am since I have experienced it many many times over, just not at every level of me all at once (when I do, I will certainly know about it). It takes doing this gap-bridging work fairly consistently…or, I believe, to a crucial tipping point (or an alchemical melting point…) of the physical and non-physical aspects of experience, across all the layers of human consciousness, and for a sustained-enough duration of time for the body to completely rewrite its “old” memory. I suspect this is the key to healing the body’s chronically ingrained trait of “thinking” there is an unhealable breach between its human reality and some sort of original blueprint that it compares with (an idea of separation that has been the scourge of mankind since our very first thoughts of being chucked out of the garden of Eden). A lot can be done with the conscious mind, choosing where to place your focus, what kinds of thoughts to see through and which to let go of the moment they start to occur. The biggest trip factor is becoming unconscious again, even for a short time which I don’t often do when I am awake, in control of my thoughts and well-versed in how to relax the body if contraction starts to occur. I choose not to hang out with negative people, or drink, watch TV or read newspapers…you get the idea…and I manage to stay mindful, most of the time (or recognise the signs when its slipping).

The trickiest time, I have found, is immediately after waking up since consciousness can be a little vulnerable to lower vibrations at those times (and you can take that to refer to waking up “in the morning”…or waking up “in life”).

Now, bear with me again if you have any cynicism around this topic but, when I sleep I believe I go deeply into the essence of myself beyond the physical where, yes, everything seems more pristine than it is here (that’s not to say it isn’t perfect here…but we all know it doesn’t always appear that way and we are conditioned, to varying extents, to believe what we see through our filters). We all do this in sleep its where reconciling things beyond what “appears” to be happening in our fragmented-seeming lives, takes place. I often wake aware that I have been in that other “place”, experiencing a level of bliss and expansive oversight “there” that is much harder to identify within the maelstrom of everyday three-dimensional human experience. If I can keep that expansive feeling going, it can feed into my daytime experiences but it is all too easy to allow an automatic contraction, like a shrinking back into the seeming “smallness” and “helplessness” of the human condition, to occur at the first sound of an alarm or anything that brings me crashing back into my ordinary daily experience. However mindful you have become, when the body is locked into some sort of chronic health pattern, this kind of contraction is very easily fallen into on waking because of those first automatic reactions, hard-wired deep inside the nervous system and misfiring cells, which trigger off pain and other symptoms before you are even fully awake. For instance, I often used to wake with terrible irritable bowel and adrenalin charging through me, like a panic attack these days, I’m more likely to wake with intense neuralgia, a migraine or muscle pain, which can still be a sharp contrast with how relaxed and physically unlimited I have been feeling in my sleep. This can easily trigger an emotional contraction that is like a bucket of cold water on any expansive feelings left over from the night before. Therefore, those first moments after waking can be crucial to the kind of day I have, symptom-wise, since any abruptness to how quickly I land back into the body or get dragged back into “human” thoughts or conversation can make re-entry a very bumpy ride and I may have lost the feeling of expansion by the time I have consciously settled back into the driver’s seat of myself. Days like these are a big part of what perpetuates chronic illness when, really, we should be in a position to start over each day with a pretty-much blank slate of health.

Over the years, I’ve used many techniques to ensure this “re-entry” process is as smooth and free of predispositions as possible, including conscious relaxation of all the limbs and slowing of the breathing, playing visual mind-games, dropping into an impromptu mediation or using a guided audio, never rushing myself awake and, of course, never waking to jarring alarms as well as asking people around me to be respectful of how they engage with me until I am fully back in the body. A tool I am using right now is CBD oil, which I drop under the tongue if I sense nerve pains or any other symptoms of physical contraction switching on as I surface. This enables the central nervous system to relax and wind down to its pre-waking state keeping stress hormones at bay and buying me those extra few minutes in which to smoothly re-enter my physical form whilst remaining fully conscious. Not only is this making a lot of difference to my mornings, thus my whole day, but it is retraining my body to a whole new “regular” experience of what it feels like to blink open my eyes and realise “I’m here” all over again, which is the daily rebirth scenario we all go through yet, largely, take for granted unless we have a pain condition. It allows me to pick up where I left off with all the deep-integration and healing work I had done up until the day before, rather than starting from scratch with the groundhog experience of being “newly in pain” every morning which then builds momentum into the long-term healing process as the body entrains to another way of being.

As this gentler waking-up experience becomes my new normal, I am managing to spin that other-worldly feeling out so that it becomes part of my waking hours instead of an alternate experience that is quite separate from it allowing the insights of my dreaming hours to continue to feed into my innate knowing beyond the limited reality represented by my physical senses. As a result of using this same method in the daytime, whenever I feel contraction occurring or as an impromptu meditation whenever I feel like it, these two worlds are starting to merge and collaborate like never before and my health is stabilising in ways that are starting to become more noticeable.

Whatis this stuff that I am talking about integrating from one version of reality where I am already my unlimited “best-self”, to the other where I am here as a physical human being experiencing pain and limitation?

Well, for me it’s the realisation that has dawned on me, over the last decade that, though my life may seem imperfect in so many ways, it is actually perfect down to the minutest detail, as are all lives. This declaration, though probably horrifying to some of you with chronic health issues, is something I truly believe to the depths of my soul since it is my understanding that I chose to be here at this time, in this body, having these experiences, for a reason most particular to me and my soul growth. If the experience feels mindlessly repetitious and pointless at times, I believe it is simply because I have (as yet) failed to grasp some of the shortcuts to accepting all that I am and that I experience…largely because I sometimes slip into these old, ingrained mindsets of fear and victimhood (typically at times when I fall into unconscious thoughts or receive some sort of shock, which is when the gap seems to be at its broadest and most daunting).

It includes receiving inspiration from my non-physical self an aspect of me that not only helps me see the bigger picture of “what is going on” so that I can keep some perspective and make better-informed, higher-vibrational decisions, but which brings me the kind of creative inspiration that brings enjoyment, wisdom and deepest satisfaction into my everyday experience of life. It’s a process of coming to understand that what we think matters literally becomes “matter”…and sticks around, often for far longer than we want it to so in order to create what I desire, I need to focus on what truly matters to me, not what I dread or wish wasn’t already happening. Its about realising that my body is not who I am rather, that my body is something that I have and that I can affect the way it manifests when I step into my confident creator shoes. So, it’s a burgeoning realisation (and acceptance) that I am the creator of my own circumstances yes, all of them….and then a case of approaching them with curiosity instead of a victimhood mentality. Its also about allowing feelings to occur freely yet remain soft…not always rushing to grab onto them, make sense of them, interpret, label, write about or diagnose them, which is a skill set that can be practiced, with massively positive outcomes when it comes to creative healing.

There are certainly tools that can be used to enable this integration or gap-bridging to take place more easily and these include staying present in the moment, being fully aware, noticing things in and all around you (without having to make them into a mental concept…), and then allowing appreciation to occur, even in the most unexpected places, without preconceptions about pain, risk, unpleasantness and so on taking over what we think is “happening”. This is more challenging than it sounds yet worth it, since it is like a golden key to unlocking an entirely different experience of life even in the hardest of circumstances.

I won’t understate it yes it is hard doing all of this, all of the time without fail and I wouldn’t be human if this wasn’t so. I have seen the power of these approaches demonstrated countless times when I have applied, say, an attitude of open-curiosity or even gratitude to whatever “the present moment” happens to bring to me, then watched my experience of that thing transform from awfulness into something tremendous before my very eyes. Yet I have proved far less adept at applying these approaches consistently to every experience of wierd and alarming new symptoms or intense discomfort that presents to me. Don’t get me wrong I’m getting pretty good at it, but my task here is to make it as consistent and reliable as the old-fear reactions and negative mindsets used to be…and its work in progress. The more you do it, the more you continue to do it…but it can feel like keeping several plates spinning at once to start with, which can lead to a lot of broken crockery…which is fine, as long as you don’t get tripped into more negative thinking about those broken plates on the floor. Which is why I am still having the experience of it (illness, that is…) I believe I chose to work on this version of “gap” as a specialism in this lifetime, perhaps with a view to helping or encouraging others to cross the gap by keeping in this positive, expansive, creator-space… and that, overall, I’m doing a pretty good job.

This also means I don’t seek to have the experience of physical pain taken away from me “at any cost” or “just to get through it quickly”, without wanting to understand why I have been having it or how it has all been to my grandest design that would be pointless and would, I believe, set me up to go through the same experiences all over again next lifetime around (yes, I do believe that). I clearly wanted to have this experience in order to work with it so a shortcut, quick-fix, cheaty ending doesn’t feel like what this is all about! So, I don’t take pharmaceutical drugs since that would just muddle up the symptoms with equally confusing side-effects (and negates the amount of respect I have for my body), and I don’t drink, eat, shop, deny or blame myself into oblivion. Rather, I use natural supplements and diet, positive forms of movement such as walking in nature, yoga, learning an instrument, doing art and photography, writing copiously plus following a healthy set of lifestyle choices to heal myself to the best of my ability…and then I face up to pain, I work with it, I hear it out and I appreciate it for what it tells me about myself, and about the gap.

I allow all those moments of recognising that heaven not only exists here on earth but that it is a far more potent experience for the contrast and that my life is littered with such moments when I remain attentive and open to them.

This point is crucial and has been the longest-running thread of my recovery journey so far. Not only have I allowed fragments of heaven to appear to me daily in a way that is truly magical but I have focussed on them constantly, which is how I came to be a photographer and then a professional artist and designer over the course of the last decade’s illness, though I was doing nothing like that before. By focusing on these things, my world has literally transformed and no longer looks anything like the physical reality that I used to reside in there is literally no comparison. It was the countless hours I spent painting, which became like a form of meditation long before I practiced such a thing, that first put me in touch with my non-physical self and opened the door to my spiritual awareness, though I was a cynic beforehand.

I also recognise how this health-conundrum is just my version (we all have one…) of how humanity as a whole is playing out a story of out-of-syncness between the physical and spiritual aspects and that, at every scale, these situations are simply crying out for a bridge of communication, appreciation, recognition and acceptance between them (you could equally say “love”), to bring their edges closer together. The gift is that I have borne witness to the growth of my own consciousness at a super-rapid rate since my illness began, compared to the three and a half decades of virtually sleep-walking through life that went on beforehand. Back then, I barely paid attention to anything that wasn’t right beneath my nose or to do with matters of personal “fight-or-flight” survival (dressed up as many different things). Now, I consider the broadest imaginable picture of everything and how it all interconnects in ways that are as astonishing as they are beautiful, spinning out vastly from the pinprick of embodied consciousness that is my human self. This in itself has been a healing mechanism, although it was never premeditated to be that way…it just was, and still is.

If you are struggling to get a handle on anything that I am saying here then there’s a book I’m going to recommend, partly because I happen to be reading it right now and it has synced with so many of the new layers of deeper understanding I have been having. In fact, I recommend all of Neale Donald Walsh’s books but the one I refer to is called “Home With God: In A Life That Never Ends” (God in the sense that you are an aspect of God…and stepping across the gap I talk about reunites you with that aspect). It explores what life is, and what death is, in a way that may help you to remember what you already know about these things, which is what all of his books are so very good at doing and they are life-changers since they can quickly dissolve away whole layers of selective amnesia, if you let them. What I have shared above will make so much more sense since read in parallel with his book since I write from the same premise that what we tend to think of as human life is most certainly not all there is, even though the profoundly intense physical experience of it can, sometimes, seem to demand all our attention.

What about the collective aspect of those times when somebody falls into the gap how do we behave and why is this important?

I really thought about this when, with perfect synchronicity, I happened upon a video on Facebook (one I alluded to above) since it was all about someone, quite literally, falling into such a gap. It was a piece of CCTV footage showing a guy getting onto a train, only his leg gets caught in the gap between the train and the platform, exactly as I described in the analogy above. Thankfully, the quick-witted actions of the station guard resulted in the train being kept stationary while he coordinated all the passengers to get off and push the train sideways to release the man an incredible demonstration of the power of positive collective effort …and it worked. In a nutshell, this is why it feels timely to share opinions such as these with anyone who will listen and why, in my view, this more abstract kind of “healing remedy” is as important, or even more so, than recommending supplements, diet plans or treatments. “The gap”, as made manifest in an illness context, can mean that a person feels they are all alone or beyond help which they never are and it is so important to create that sense of others being around from whom they can gain inspiration and support. It can even manifest as a very-typical mindset that involves thinking that they are “fighting” or “at war” with illness, that they are its victim and must struggle or valiantly push and shove their courageous way to some sort of recovery position (you see this mentality brandished as the brand name of so many blogs and in article titles). This serves to entrench that person in their own belief system about their circumstances and causes them to identify “who they are” and any successes they happen to have, even at a professional level, with their illness, thus pretty-much ensuring their vested-interest in the continuance of the very issues they want to be rid of. Yes, you can make a whole lifetime out of choosing to live in the gap, making it quite a homely or communal place to be, even defending your position there, but the view is always going to be pretty limited and you can expect that it won’t change very much either due to the limit of your focus. The gap can be the most creative place to be if you keep it soft and playful, full of unlimited potential…but I recommend staying well away from labels that turn illness (or anything else you don’t wish to perpetuate) into “who you think you are”.

We each have a choice when it comes to how we deal with the gap, but it helps everyone if there are more diverse options on the table than just the mainstream approaches, which is what my blog serves to offer an alternate point of view. Recognising when others are falling into “the gap” and then doing all we can to help each other out is what it’s all about at this time of our collective history even if we simply offer what we have and let them decide if it’s a fit. Ultimately, we are contributing to the collective experience just by doing the deep personal work something we come to understand more as we take the spiritual viewpoint, which reminds us we are all aspects of the same thing. This makes every contribution valid and important, whether we shout about it in spaces like this or do it within the privacy of our own lives (with the intention of what we achieve for ourselves becoming immediately available to others).

As we do this for others as well as ourselves, we become the living bridge from one reality to the other, softening the edges (you could say, manifesting heaven on earth).

More and more of us are waking up to a broader sense of reality, in other words, a multidimensional perspective and this can feel so out of step with the version of reality that we are faced with in our every day lives. In fact, that 3D reality has never felt more abrasive or abhorrent, so people are finding themselves overwhelmed and unsure-footed all around us and it can feel like a version of mass hysteria, even though they mostly work hard to continue their everyday lives as if nothing particular is happening. Those that fall into the gap in such a way that it presents as health symptoms are often forced to stop have no choice but to take time out, pull back, look at the bigger picture, think too much and notice things that used to go on “unconsciously” in the background… and it can either be a white-knuckle experience that never seems to relent, or it can be transformational like a drill that eventually breaks through into a whole other layer of experience (which was there all along, we just never really noticed it before). In the midst of our breakdown can be the very answer, the relief, we didn’t know we were searching for.

When we look at problems….and their solutions….through the same three dimensional filter that created the problem, we often see only more conundrums and problems to take on which is what makes healing a “mystery” chronic health condition feel so wearying and demoralising, becoming the task that never ends. When we pull back to take in the vastly bigger picture, not only do we start to see ways out of the problem that we might have otherwise missed (as happened to me when I had my biggest wake-up call in 2011…which is when my recovery process started in earnest) but we also start to make sense, and thus peace, with ourselves and our very reason for being here having these particular experiences. When we stop fighting “what is” and seeing the purpose and even the desire to be having them (even if that desire is to be having them temporarily…in order to approach them in a new and innovatively creative way that serves an evolutionary purpose) then we also start to move faster and more creatively through what felt like a dense, leaden and quite intractable set of circumstances just a short time before.

Maybe it’s just time to listen to ourselves really attentively, at the very broadest level and that’s all our convoluted health issues were ever about a means of communicating something so important that we really wanted to hear at this point in our lives…and (importantly) us reciprocating by paying attention, rather than medicating it all away. Taking this broader approach is like tuning into that version of yourself that resides beyond all the physical limitations you are dealing with, gaining their insight and doing so from within your waking-life rather than in a dream state or through death, which is all rather too abstract or late to be of much practical use in this lifetime. That’s why these times are so powerful and why this epidemic of chronic illnesses can be so powerfully transformative since they take people through the kind of life review that they would otherwise do at the very end of their physical lifespan, allowing them to learn their conscious-creator ropes while there is still the oportunity to play with the very frontier between matter and non-matter, made manifest as the physical vehicle of themselves.

Literally anything can happen once this collaboration gets started, and you feel that potential like an fizzing current of energy running through your life as every new circumstance seems to offer-up creative potential instead of just a brick wall of insurmountable challenge. This is what minding the gap feels like…and I don’t mean “minding” as in worrying about it but “minding” as in being aware of it and working mind-fully with it which is a whole other level in the game of healing!


Accent Discrimination

Ey up ducks. Thought I’d write abaat summat close to mi ‘art today. I sometimes have’ta watch mi’sen when am blabberin, cos me accent’s dead common, like. Whether it’s yorn or theirn or me’own, we all av one. But does it mek a difference, or amma just bein a mardy arse? Alrate?

I’ve always done well academically. I was the first person in my family to go to university, and I graduated with flying colours. I have always done what was asked of me in the education system, and I was always told, “If you do well in this test and that test, and keep working hard, you’ll end up with a good job.” It was a constant promise.

My qualifications are just pieces of paper to me now, and all the thugs I went to school with, who didn’t work hard, are in a better position than me because they started work sooner, dropping out of school at 16.

But since leaving university, I’ve had opportunities to get high-powered, well-paid jobs. For example, I was shortlisted to work as an Intelligence Officer for MI5 (ssshhhhhh, don’t tell anyone!). There are a few other interviews I’ve been invited to down south, based on my written application forms and online examinations. However, when I get there I’m usually surrounded by people speaking the Queen’s English, the same as the interviewer, and I feel out of place.

Maybe that’s my problem (although I didn’t get any of those good jobs, and I’m still stuck doing boring, repetitive work for the minimum wage, despite have more about me than 99% of rich bankers).

ITV did a programme about accent discrimination. Here is a quote from the reporter on that programme, from the ITV website:

“The most upsetting moment for me making this film was when some Middlesbrough children confessed to me that they were ashamed of their accents.

Shockingly, they told me they believed their accents would affect their life chances – for the worse.

“We sound right scruffy like,” said young one boy in his football kit. “Not like you: posh. We won’t be able to get proper jobs,” he told me.

Unfortunately – as our Tonight programme shows – he may be right.”

Maybe accent discrimination is just a small part of the bigger “Class Discrimination” issue this country has. After all, you can’t tell what class someone is through visuals. A black man could be from an upper class background (not statistically likely, but possible), as could a woman who gets a job interview. Denying the black man a job based on this alone would be racist. Denying the woman, sexist. But it wouldn’t be discriminatory based on class. When a person’s mouth opens, that’s the big giveaway. No one would mistake me for being upper-class.

The upper class hold all the positions of real power in the country, and they have been brought up amongst other upper class people, and their minds have been conditioned to believe that only the upper class can handle roles of importance. If it is acknowledged that there is a wealth of skill and knowledge in the lower classes, their livelihoods could be threatened.

Another quote from the above source:

“Our research not only shows that more than a quarter of Britons (28%) feel they have been discriminated against because of their regional accent but also, according to another batch of research by the law firm Peninsular, that 80% of employers admit to making discriminating decisions based on regional accents.”

Unfortunately there is no law against accent discrimination, and even if there was, it would be difficult to enforce. I just see this accent issue as part of a much bigger class gap issue, which is a mammoth obstacle to overcome in our society. The fact remains, for the majority of people, who you are and where you come from condemns you.


BBC Television on 26/07/15 – Oxbridge Domination

Welcome to a day in the life BBC Television on Sunday the 26 th July 2015 (tomorrow’s schedule).

We will start the day off with BBC Breakfast from 6am in the morning. The most senior presenter of this show is Bill Turnbull, educated at Eton College. Following this show, we have more current affairs from the Andrew Marr Show, hosted by Andrew Marr (educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge), who will be discussing the latest policies from our government, which is run by David Cameron (Brasenose College, Oxford) and George Osborne (Magdalen College, Oxford). At 10am we have more political discussion on Sunday Morning Live, compered by Sian Williams (Oxford Brooks University).

After this we have some light entertainment in the form of Bargain Hunt, where antiques experts such as Kate Bliss (Brasenose College, Oxford), look for antiques at jumble sales.

12:15 – Formula 1 racing. We get to watch the current champion Lewis Hamilton (graduate of Cambridge Arts and Sciences) drive around in a shiny car. He is currently strong favourite to retain his title. But if you’re not a sports fan, you can watch Chefs on Trial instead, hosted by Alex Polizzi (St Catherine’s College, Oxford). Following the F1 we have a sports-based gameshow ‘A Question of Sport’ with rugby star Matt Dawson (Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe)

At 15:45 we have property show, Escape to the Country, with Alistair Appleton (Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge), followed by the Two Tribes gameshow hosted by Richard Osman (Trinity College, Cambridge).

We can then chillax and sing along to Songs of Praise, hosted by the likes of Bill Turnbull (Eton College), and Sally Magnusson (University of Edinburgh). At 17:45 Richard Osman (Trinity College, Cambridge) returns for Pointless, a gameshow which he hosts with Alexander Armstrong (also of Trinity College, Cambridge). Then it’s a news update from Reeta Chakrabarti (Exeter College, Oxford).

At 19:00 it’s time for one of the BBC’s flagship shows, Countryfile, with Ellie Harrison (King’s College, London), and Joe Crowley (Magdalene College, Cambridge). If you’re not into this you can watch Locomation: Dan Snow’s History of Railways instead (Dan Snow is a graduate of Balliol College, Oxford, if you were wondering). At 20:00 we have Fake or Fortune? with Fiona Bruce (Hertford College, Oxford) and Bendor Grosvenor (Harrow School, Pembroke College, Cambridge). Alternatively you can watch Dragon’s Den, where the entrepreneurs are joined by new girl Sarah Willingham (Cranfield University, Oxford).

We end the day at 21:00 with crime mystery entertainment, Partners in Crime, starring David Walliams (Collingwood Boys’ School in Wallington, and the independent Reeigate Grammar School).

This day of entertainment will be brought to you by Director of BBC Television, Danny Cohen (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford), Director of News & Current Affairs, James Harding (Trinity College, Cambridge), and Director of Strategy & Digital, James Purnell (Balliol College, Oxford).

  • We respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give their best
  • Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest
  • Audiences are at the heart of everything we do.

Judging by the disproportionate number of people from privileged backgrounds on the BBC, I don’t feel that socio-economic diversity is being sufficiently celebrated. I also don’t think the BBC’s employment track record is very “impartial”. And if audiences are at the heart of everything the BBC do, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have a proportional representation of the average UK citizen on our screens instead of people who won the postcode lottery?


How Modernising Manufacturers Can Help to Mind the Gap

Andrew Walker is Director of Business Engagement at the MADE Project – a suite of European funded projects, delivered by University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) through its research Centre for Advanced Batch Manufacture (CBM). He shares his insights with Business News Wales into how the adoption of new methods and technologies within manufacturing can help us close the skills gap.

The much talked-about skills gap has long been the Achilles Heel of manufacturing, and, here in Wales, it is felt particularly acutely in rural areas, away from the major cities.

But manufacturing accounts for around 15 percent of total employment in Wales and, if we are to thrive economically, it is vital that we grasp the nettle. Any sustained lack of pipeline of talent will, of course, undermine the competitiveness of Welsh manufacturers and hinder their ability to innovate and modernise – and to remain competitive. So, all efforts must be focused on closing this gap.

Thanks to a number of prevailing factors, industry shifts, and technological advances, we may be better placed than ever to solve this issue. The reasons for the skills gap are well known. People still labour under the misconception that:

  • Manufacturing is low-skilled, dirty and repetitive
  • Manufacturers are not ‘making a difference’
  • Manufacturing is a male-only environment
  • It offers only low paid work

We all need to work harder to bust these myths. Manufacturing is, in fact, a high skilled, high-tech environment with a constant emphasis on quality, efficiency and innovation. Far from being an unsatisfying career, manufacturers and engineers are making the very stuff of our modern world – the life-changing medical equipment, the next generation transport, the technology that is supporting those advances in renewables that are heralding a new modern era. If any sector is changing lives and the world around us, it is manufacturing.

Manufacturing has always been a broad church, with many kinds of roles on offer for the workforce. But these are particularly exciting times for new, tech-savvy job-seekers with an affinity for new and emerging technology. This is particularly the case since the spread of digital and manufacturing technologies is blurring the traditional lines between manufacturing and service businesses in the digital sector.

Traditional makers and manufacturers in automotive, for example, are investing heavily in new, connected car technologies. Big data is wedding manufacturing to services, and workforces need to be agile, adaptable and tech savvy to take part in this creeping change.

Disruptive technologies are bringing about evolutionary changes that young people are ideally placed to help deliver, for the good of our economy here in Wales. Across Europe we are seeing any number of firms with roots in traditional manufacturing and hardware reshaping their business, so it is founded upon software and data. This change might see, for example, a manufacturer use data to help customers manage their production, order supplies, schedule workloads, or to predict when machines will need replacement parts.

For our part, here at the MADE project, we are supporting eligible manufacturers in Wales to recognise and embrace the advantages offered by disruptive technologies, and to upskill their workforces in using them for the good of their organisations. The key to unlocking a successful future is more of this kind of partnership working – a combined effort by companies across Wales’ supply chains, schools, further and higher education institutions and government to make education and training relevant.

Radical changes are afoot within manufacturing, enabling an influx of new talent into industry, attracted by careers that are challenging, cutting edge, lucrative and satisfying.


Archive of Our Own beta

In-between detective work and working for the Agency, Luca Stein loves to bake. Adam finds him in the Warehouse baking one day and it becomes a thing they do together, whilst adamantly ignoring the growing affection between them.

Chapter 1: Part one

Summary:

Adam finds Luca in the kitchen and learns some basic baking

Notes:

I saw something on tumblr about the ROs baking, and here we are.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“Sugar, butter, flour.” Detective Luca Stein hums under his breath as he collects ingredients from the Warehouse kitchen. He opens the cupboard and stretches up on his tiptoes to reach the bag of sugar on the top shelf. His fingers graze the bag, but he can’t grasp it. He jumps, but to no avail.

Landing back on his feet, he scowls at the shelf. He runs a hand through his short, dark waves and sighs. He rests his palms on the counter and hoists himself up and kneels on the counter. He smiles to himself, thinking ‘ha! Who needs to be tall?’ and reaches up to grab the sugar, which has disappeared.

Luca blinks a couple of times, sure that’s where the sugar was, before looking around and almost jumping out of his skin to see the pale, blond vampire behind him.

He has his eyebrows raised and is holding the bag of sugar in one hand. There’s a small quirk of a smile pulling at his lips.

“Looking for this?” Adam holds out the sugar. Without breaking eye contact, Luca takes it and almost cradles it to his chest.

Adam offers his hand to Luca and gestures for him to get down from the counter. He stares at the hand for a second, before placing his own on it. Warmth rushes through his body at the touch, and he wants to lean into it, feel the rest of Adam against him. Heat rushes up to his cheeks and Luca looks away from their hands, his brown one in the larger, pale hand, a small ache as he feels it slip away. The touch is gone far too soon.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Adam clench his hand by his side.

There’s a moment before Adam breaks the silence. “I didn’t think you took sugar in your tea.”

Luca looks up into the pale green eyes, confused by the statement. “I don’t.” Adam waits for him to continue. “I’m baking.”

“Well now you do.” He smiles and returns to the cupboards, pulling out a bowl and measuring jugs. “The kitchen here is so nice, and there’s so much space. I’m not sure what four vampires need with kitchen appliances as professional as these, but how could I resist?”

When there’s no response, Luca expects Adam to leave, but then, he can’t ever predict what the vampire will choose to do.

The words “Tu omnia” had run through his head on a constant repeat like a song you never tire of, but it’s just two words that fill his entire being with light and warmth. He’d had to look up the meaning, unfamiliar with Latin based languages, and could barely contain the smile from Nate as he’d tried to cover his face with a book.

And yet, the past couple of months had been just evidence that, whatever his heart may be saying, Adam was under no circumstance ready to pursue those feelings. Luca had been content to throw himself into work, joke around with Farah and continue his supernatural research with Nate. But Adam consumed his thoughts. Any moment he wasn’t busy, or doing something, he spent thinking of those pale green eyes.

Realising he had been standing, lost in his thoughts for a few minutes, Luca shakes his head and begins unpacking the shopping bag he had brought with him. To his surprise, Adam is still there.

Luca looks over to where Adam is standing, pointing at the poster taped onto the open kitchen door and smiles. “I thought the big letters at the top gave it away. It’s my banned list.”

“Your banned list?” He continues to look at Luca, eyebrows furrowed.

“They broke my rules, they got banned from the kitchen when I’m baking.”

“I see.” Luca busies himself, collecting measuring bowls from the cupboard.

“Why is this picture of Morgan’s backside?”

He doesn’t turn around, trying to hide the amused smile threatening his lips. “She’s wearing jeans!”

“That… doesn’t answer the question.”

A laugh escapes Luca’s lips. “She told me I could only take a picture if it was of her best asset. Who am I to argue?”

Luca thinks he hears Adam grunt in response. It’s another moment before he speaks again, still gesturing at the poster. “And this picture of Nate?”

He walks over to the poster now, to look at the picture with Adam. He stands close, not quite touching, but he can feel the warmth emanating from him.

He grins as he takes in his handiwork. No one has ever called him an artist, but he’s a little proud of the poster. It’s in the format of an old “WANTED” poster with the word “BANNED” splashed across the top. There are four squares, 3 of them filled with photos and their names printed underneath: “Agent Farah Hauville”, she is grinning widely at the camera, eyes sparkling, face too close to get all her hair in. “Agent Morgan”, the side profile of her butt (“its most recognisable angle!” according to Farah). “Agent Nathaniel Sewell” eyebrows furrowed and mouth open as if speaking, looking right into the camera. The last square is empty.

“I told Nate why I was taking the picture and he tried to argue.”

Adam looks down at him, a brow raised. “What did they do?”

Luca’s smile grows, “I told you - they didn’t follow the rules.” He turns away, rolling up his sleeves and turning on the tap. “Although, to be fair to Nate, it was a group banning and he got caught up in the antics. But it’s one strike and you’re out in my kitchen, so here we are.”

He looks back to Adam and it’s as if his heart skips a beat when he sees the rare small smile on his face.

“The last space on the poster, is that for me?”

“Well that depends, are you going to break any rules?”

He scoffs slightly. “I think I would say I’m an adept rule follower.”

“Even if the rules include not breaking my possessions?” Luca glances sideways as Adam’s mouth drops open slightly and smirks as his pale skin gains a pink tinge on his cheeks. Before he can say anything, Luca waves him away. “You’ve got a clean slate in here. That is, if you want to stay? I could use the help.”

He feels Adam tense beside him and forces himself to not look at him. He’s sure that if he tries to convince him to stay, he’ll convince himself to leave. It’s as if he can hear the thoughts whirring through the vampire’s mind, the ongoing internal argument loud in the air between them. Luca chews at his lip, wondering if he should say something, until finally -

“I’ve never baked before.” He looks up at Adam, slightly shocked to see him looking back down at him, his eyes wide. Luca forgets to breathe for a moment when he looks into those eyes.

“I think you’ll like it. It’s methodical, peaceful even.” He tears his gaze away, heads over to the counter and pulls out the recipe book from his bag, flipping it open to the page titled, ‘Pie crust’. “There are clear rules to baking, recipes and instructions to follow. Here.” He gestures for Adam to come closer and he looks on at the book over his shoulder. “Can you weigh these ingredients out for me?”

Adam nods and Luca smiles encouragingly, moving away to finish unpacking his bag. He takes out the apples and blackberries, then a teapot. He fills the kettle, turns it on and looks back to Adam.

He can’t help but smile looking at the image before him, the blond man’s head bent forwards over the counter, eyebrows furrowed as he watches the scales intently. He watches the slow, measured movements of those strong arms pouring the flour ever so slowly.

The kettle clicks behind him and Luca is pulled out of his trance - the veins on Adam’s arms had been all too captivating - and he pours the water into the teapot.

The pair work in relative silence, only speaking when they need to move around one another to get something from a cupboard. Luca gives a wide berth, not wanting to scare the other away, trying to resist the magnetic pull between them. Despite that, it’s comfortable. It feels as though this is how it should be: the two of them, there together. He almost lets himself pretend, just for a few minutes, that they are. That this is them, their lives, domestic and not a supernatural or human threat in sight. He sneaks looks at Adam every once in a while, sometimes catching him already looking his way, just to quickly turn back to the task at hand.

Luca takes over the dough to show Adam how to mix the ingredients together. “You want it to be this consistency, see how it holds together when you pinch it together?” Adam nods, but he doesn’t seem to be looking at the dough, gaze intent on Luca’s face.

Once the pie is in the oven, they turn to look at each other. The silence seems to fill the gap between them, palatable now there’s nothing to do but wait. Luca bites down on his lip and takes a tentative step forwards, not daring to look away. He watches as Adam does the same.

He’s about to say something, mouth open, words on their way out after formulating in his mind for the last 15 minutes, when a phone rings. He closes his eyes and lets out a sigh, reaching into his pocket and answering without looking who is calling. “Detective Stein.”

Nodding along to Tina’s chatter and grunting small noises when needed, Luca ends the phone call with, “Okay, see you soon,” and puts his phone back in his pocket. He looks up to see Adam further away than he was before, taking up the whole of the doorway.

“You have to go.” It’s not a question. Luca nods.

“Could you get the pie out when it’s done? It should only need another 15 minutes. I'll pick it up tomorrow morning.”

He walks towards Adam who is still standing in the doorway. The taller man moves to the side to let Luca pass, but seems surprised when he stops in front of him. His eyes flicker between Luca’s and it’s as if there’s something stuck in his chest.

After a minute of neither of them speaking, in which Luca is sure the only sound they could both hear was his heart hammering against his chest, Adam says softly, “You should get going.”

He rolls his lips together, not missing the way Adam’s eyes flick down at the action, then leaves through the door. Halfway down the hallway, Luca turns back and sees Adam still watching him from the door. Smiling, he hitches his bag up his shoulder and turns the corner.

Later, when he’s back at his apartment, much later than he had hoped, he finds a box waiting for him. He smiles, surprised - although he realises he probably shouldn’t be - that Adam had brought the pie to his home.

Luca lays the box on the counter and opens it, laughing when he sees there is a quarter missing. A note sits on the leftovers.

Agents who have asked to remain unnamed got to the pie while I waited for it to cool. I am to understand it tastes nice. I rescued the remainder.

- Commanding Agent Adam du Mortain”

He shakes his head at the sign off, smiling fondly and holding the note to his chest.

Notes:

Thank you for reading!!

This is going to be a slowwwww journey for them, I couldn't use all of the baking/in the kitchen tropes in only one scene!

The next chapter is already half written so hope to have that up in the next couple of days :)

The name of this fic and the first 3 words are from the musical "Waitress", which I adore.

Any comments and kudos greatly appreciated! x


Bridging the Gap

Important decisions are made by the ruling class. Those decisions tend to affect under-class individuals the most. It’s obvious to see that this is a recipe for injustice and inequality. In order for policy and legislation to be fair for all people, there needs to be a fairer representation of different social classes in positions of power. That’s the only way we can bridge the socio-economic divide in the UK.

Are you comfortable with white male, Oxford educated, born-wealthy careerists making all your decisions for you? Because that’s what’s happening right now. Most people in positions of power fit the description above, yet they make up only a tiny cross-section of the society we live in. Even if they mean well, they haven’t got the same perspective as us, and therefore lack empathy with the problems we face. It’s like an accountant performing surgery on you. They’re great with numbers, but if you’re having a triple bypass you’d much prefer a trained surgeon with the scalpel.

In order to change things, we need the people who are most affected by social/economic issues to be heard. This is easier said than done. There are many barriers preventing these people from occupying positions of power, including:

  • Money issues: people are too busy trying to feed and house themselves to get into positions of power
  • Education: a person may know what they’re talking about, but if they don’t have the right piece of paper saying they know what they’re talking about, their voice can go unheard
  • Current Holders of Power: our current “leaders” have a death grip on their positions of power, and will try to keep everyone else down in order to keep the power for themselves
  • Culture: it is commonly believed that a select group of people are entitled to power and we are not (based what we see day in and day out from birth).
  • Personality Type: people hear the person who speaks the loudest. Good ideas won’t be listened to if they’re not put across in a certain way. Unfortunately, loudness and having good ideas are traits that seem to be mutually exclusive.

…And there are many more obstacles. But that doesn’t make it impossible for lower class people to gain positions of power, it just means we’ve got to work that much harder for it.

For working class people to make changes, we first need to change our own mind-sets and tell ourselves that A) we do know best and B) we are able to make changes if we put our minds to it. I’m not saying everyone should become a politician (although fairer representation in this area is DESPERATELY needed), but there are certainly actions that can be taken at grassroots level that can make real change in local communities, as well as lobbying and pressurising existing councils to make changes.

One advantage we have is strength in numbers. However, that doesn’t mean much if we let the ruling class turn us against each other (which they try to do constantly with regards to religion, race, gender, economic status). They tell us immigrants, or people on the dole are the enemy. That’s BS. The ruling class is the enemy.

With determination and unity we can all become leaders and make a difference.


This past week I had the opportunity to speak to New York City high school principals about writing. And as I did a while ago when I looked at how colleges view close reading, I decided to do a bit of research into what colleges were actually looking for in writing for my presentation. As happened then, when I found a significant difference between what colleges expect students to do as close readers and the often formulaic “three goes” at a text with text-dependent questions approach that I see in many schools, I discovered some significant gaps between how we teach writing—especially argument—and what colleges are looking for. And these gaps have enough implications for lower and middle school, as well as high school, that I thought I’d share what I found.

Here, for instance, are some timely tweets I discovered in a blog post written by a Canadian high school teacher title “Are We Teaching Students to Be Good Writers?” He’d attended a presentation by a college professor on the gaps between high school and college writing, and as part of the presentation, the professor shared a survey he gave to this third year college students, asking them what they wished they’d learned about writing in high school that would have better prepared them for college. And many of his students had this to say:

I wish I could say things were different in the States, but we, too, seem to spend a lot of time teaching students how to organize and structure their writing without spending equal, if not more, time in teaching them how to develop ideas in the first place. And from about third grade right up to twelfth, much of the teaching around organization and structure is focused on the five-paragraph essay, where some students are taught not only how many paragraphs their essays should have but how many sentences each of those paragraphs should contain as well as the content of each.

For the record, you should know that I’ve helped teachers teach the five paragraph essay myself. And while I do see that it can be a useful strategy for some students some of the time, we need to be aware that most college professors hate it—so much so that many explicitly un-teach it in freshman composition classes. According to the authors of Writing Analytically, a book that’s used in many of those college freshman writing classes, the five-paragaph essay commits the following offenses:

“It’s rigid, arbitrary and mechanical scheme values structure over just about everything, especially in-depth thinking . . . [and it’s] form runs counter to virtually all of the values and attitudes that students need to grow as writers and thinkers—such as a respect for complexity, tolerance of uncertainty and the willingness to test and complicate rather than just assert ideas.”

The thesis statement, too, which seems custom-made to assert versus test and complicate, gets a beating by many college professors, too. In his article for The Chronicle of Higher Education “Let’s End Thesis Tyranny,” for instance, Bruce Ballenger writes that “Rather than opening doors to thought, the thesis quickly closes them . . . [because] the habit of rushing to judgment short-circuits genuine academic inquiry.”

This all seems to suggest that even with the Common Core Standards’ focus on college and career readiness, we might not be doing such a great job at preparing students for college writing. To close that gap, though, we need a clearer vision of what colleges do expect, and coincidentally—or serendipitously—enough, Grant Wiggin’s shared one of his college freshman son’s writing assignments in his recent blog post on argument, which does just that.

If you click through here you’ll see that the professor gives a brief summary of the assignment, which he/she calls a “Conversation Essay”. Then he/she provides some tips on college writing that are meant “to dispel some common and often paralyzing misconceptions about the nature of academic debate itself.” In particular, the professor targets what he/she calls an “ineffective” model for college writing: the “combat model.” That model, the professor writes,

“. . . suggests that academic debate consists of experts trying to tear down each other’s theories in the hope of proving that their own theory is actually correct. It suggests an aggressive approach and a battle zone in which people ‘advance’ arguments, ‘attack’ each other’s claim’s, and ‘stake out’ and ‘defend’ their own positions.”

Instead the professor is looking for an essay in which the writer inquires into and explores a problem, a question or one or more texts, with the goal of adding his or her own unique perspective and ideas to the the ongoing conversation about that problem, question or text. I think that means that whatever claims the writer makes need to be an outgrowth of his or her exploration, not what leads and determines the whole focus of the essays. And this vision of an essay seems quite close to what writer Alan Lightman says he was looking for in the essays he read as editor of The Best American Essays of 2000. There in the introduction, he writes:

“For me, the ideal essay is not an assignment, to be dispatched efficiently and intelligently, but an exploration, a questioning, an introspection . . . I want to see a mind at work, imagining, spinning, struggling to understand. If the essayist has all the answers, then he isn’t struggling to grasp, and I won’t either.”

In my next post, I’ll share some of the ideas and practices I explored with the principals last week, including the use of low-risk writing to help students take on that more exploratory stance and of mentor texts to give them both a vision and some choices about how their writing could look like based on what they have to say. But for now I want to offer one more reason why we might want to reconsider giving students a one-size-fits all structure for academic writing. As I wrote about earlier, when we offer students scaffolds, we often inadvertently deprive them of something—in this case, the opportunity to engage and wrestle with one of the big concepts in reading and writing: how form informs content and how content can shape form.

This concept is what lies underneath the Common Core’s Craft and Structure Standards in reading, and by inviting students to think about what form might best suit and convey what they’re trying to say, we’d helped them become more aware of the purposefulness of a writer’s choice of structure. And in that way, too, they’d reap what Bird by Bird author Anne Lamott says is the big reward of writing: “Becoming a better writer is going to help you become a better reader, and that is the real payoff.” It will also ensure that students won’t have to un-learn what we’ve taught them once they get to college.


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