No man is above the law and no man is below it: nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it. – Theodore Roosevelt

The past year/18 months have been filled with an odd nostalgia for my home country. First, there was the moving abroad and feeling like an outsider during the settling in period, and then you had the Queen’s diamond jubilee followed by the Olympics to raise the nation’s sense of pride in itself.

After today, however, I could not feel more apathy or disgust for my country and its forces of law and order.

We’ve all heard horror stories about the Police – Ian Tomlinson being one of the more recent bone-chillers and what I’m about to say leaves me questioning more than ever why I pay my taxes to pay people who are really nothing more than bullies in uniform and who provide a questionable service at the best of times. It also makes me question why on earth I would want to stay in this miserable hell hole.

In April, I had a car accident on the B1004 coming from Much Hadham on my way back to my parents’ in Bishop’s Stortford on a bit known locally as Winding Hill. It had been raining, and as I drove round a blind bend on the 1 in 8 incline, there was a car coming towards me on my side of the road. I instinctively steered to avoid the oncoming car, and unfortunately into the detritus of wet mushy leaves at the side of the road. As a result of this, I then lost control of the car. It span and hit the other car, causing enough damage to write the car I was driving off.

When the Hyundai I had been driving came to a stop, I recovered enough from the shock to realise that I was left diagonally across both lanes, unable to move. I climbed out and onto one of the 6′ high banks of trees lining the road.

The other car, in the meantime, had continued to drive around the corner and I later found out that they had stopped a bit further down.

A passer-by stopped and kindly let me sit in her car whilst I waited for my mother and Plod to show up. Whilst waiting, two other passers-by decided to clear the road and moved the Hyundai across to the other side.

As the accident occurred on the public highway, Plod informed us that they were the ones to recover the car to one of their yards.

The driver of the other car was complaining of neck pain, and so an ambulance was called for her and she was boarded and braced and taken to the local hospital.

I then gave my statement and the policeman I was speaking to remarked that I would probably receive a letter to confirm what had happened and they had been called and nothing more, as it all seemed like “just one of those freak accidents”.

The paramedics came over to check me out and it was agreed that should I have any problems, to go straight to A&E.

3 hours or so later, and that’s exactly where I found myself. Unbeknownst to me, my knees had taken quite the knock and the dark patches on my jeans were not from the car, rather the abrasions on my knees bleeding through. My knees swelled up later and as I sat in A&E waiting to be seen as I could no longer walk properly, I saw the driver of the other car walk out of the hospital as if nothing were amiss.

I was told to avoid walking for 2-3 days and to try and keep the joint elevated. I still have a bruise there now.

2-3 months later I received the promised letter from Hertfordshire Constabulary confirmed what had happened and that they had been called.

The insurance said that as there were no witnesses to the accident, it was my word against hers and that as she was the more experienced driver, her version of events were being taken over mine. She also made a personal injury claim.

I didn’t drive again until roughly 2 months later. It took me until August (4 months later) to be able to drive that same road again. I have since been driving more, and where possible, with a passenger who holds a full UK license who has at least 20 years driving experience. Every one of them has remarked that I am an acceptable and safe driver.

You can therefore imagine my shock and disgust when I received a letter from Hertfordshire Constabulary today threatening me with the following:

“On the evidence available to me, I believe that you may have committed an offence contrary to Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 by:

Driving without due care and attention
OR
Without reasonable consideration for other road users.

If proceedings were to be brought, it would be a matter for the Magistrate’s Court to decide whether or not you have broken the law.

I consider it appropriate to offer you an opportunity to attend a Driver Alertness Course. I am certain you will benefit considerably from your attendance on this course and ultimately be a safer driver. This is an alternative to proceedings against you in the Magistrate’s Court for driving without due care and attention or reasonable consideration for other road users. Court proceedings can result in fines, penalty points and possible disqualification from driving, A [sic] Magistrate’s Court cannot offer this opportunity without an order from them to disqualify a driver until he/she has successfully passed a learner-driving test.”

The leaflet included informs you that the course costs £135 (VAT exempt) and that it must be completed within 5 months of the incident. I also have 14 days within the date on the letter to complete the course, which lasts a day and consists of a 2.5 hour classroom session followed by me being assessed on my driving by a qualified instructor.

I would like to point out that the letter received has “Date as post mark” printed in the date field, and that the post mark itself has no date. I shall therefore assume that the date is as of today, Saturday 18th August 2012. I would also like to bring it to your attention that it has taken them 4 out of those 5 months to actually send this letter out.

The office I have to call is closed on weekends and Bank Holidays, so that means that in reality, I only have 12 days to book the course. Of course, as there is no date on the letter or the envelope, the timeframe could be a lot shorter.

What has me so incensed, I suppose the word is, is that I have not been told what evidence there is to prove beyond reasonable doubt that I am responsible for the accident. There were no skid marks on the road; there were no witnesses and as this road is rural, and surrounded by high banks with trees, there were no cameras around to film the accident. In addition to that, it is assumed that 1) I have a car to get to Hatfield to take the course, and 2) that either I or my parents have said £135 to pay the course fee, let alone be able to pay the expenses required to go to court, were it to come to that.

It also says a lot about our justice system if they can summons – or threaten to summons – a young driver to court, with little or no evidence which basically amounts to my word versus theirs, and pass a judgement on that basis.

So on Monday, I will phone up and try to book a place for the course. (I will be distinctly unimpressed if there are not enough places on the course for the allotted timeframe.) I will be polite and mild-mannered for the duration of the course, and I will sit through the expected patronising drivel that they will dish out with relish.

But on the bright side, I now know exactly where my taxes are going, and I have certainly had my eyes opened as to the kind of corrupt, hypocritical, lying, bullying state that I have the severe misfortune to live in. I pay my taxes like a good citizen. I have never broken the law, and yet here I am, threatened with being summonsed to court accused of something I did not do. The really sad thing in all of this, is that this appears to be common practice.

Justice system? What justice system?

Europe, I’m yours.

Inane Whittering #17: An Ode to Fridge Magnet Poetry

Today I suddenly found myself looking at our fridge magnet poetry. I’ve been back at my parents since the end of March, and I’m surprised that this is the first time since then that I’ve actually taken the time to read it all.

Poetry can be incredibly diverse: one the one hand you have sonnets, there are ancient sagas, the slightly off-the-wall classics such as Blake, and then you get the Byrons, the Sassoons and the angsty teenage “You’re the love of my life” stuff written by wannabe drama queens of today that you see on various sharing websites. One thing’s for certain: I remember doing poetry at school and it was hideously boring.

They tried to do a multi-cultural poem that most of the class didn’t really understand and neither were they interested in it. They were more interested in painting nails and other girly stuff that I thought was as equally boring. Sad, but true.

Well, I say hideously boring, but the only poetry I ever took an interest in is nonsense poetry, as those of you who have read my previous post on The Jabberwocky and its translations will know.

If only there had been a form of poetry more engaging and interesting to the teenage version of myself, then I probably would have started with my wordplay and manipulation of imagery a lot earlier.

On second thoughts, maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t.

One of the main reasons I find nonsense poetry so interesting is because it makes me think. At least, it makes me think in a far more abstract manner than “normal” poetry, for want of a better word, does. It certainly encourages me to play with imagery and produce things such as describing something as “bright black”.

My solution to the whole poetry problem in schools? Fridge magnet poetry. Wanting to get a bit of Shakespeare into the curriculum? Never fear, there’s a Shakespeare kit (which features on our fridge at home and further on here). Foreign language exam coming up? No worries, we have a German kit, too.

As the German kit in our house has not quite yet developed to the same level as the Shakespeare, I shall leave that for another time.

In any case, I think that fridge magnet poetry is seriously undervalued. The number of evenings spent gathered, sniggering around the fridge like school children has certainly provided more entertainment that most board games that you end up being forced to play at family gatherings.

Cluedo? Oh no. We don’t play SquabbleScrabble any more, either. (And anyway, I received the equivalent to a lifetime ban as apparently you have to stick to the one language when playing? Spoilsports. They claimed it was unfair if you start speaking gibberish and called it Roospeak.)

In any case, I think I can safely say that my family are downright weird.

The one thing that is very apparent is that there are varying types of fridge magnet poetry. Some have the tone of a biblical commandment:

Thou will let him be vile at sea

Whilst some are a tad risqué:

We would be on earth, but alas circumstance has slain our passion king

I sleep with my tempting romeo as I love to rub his frothy wagtail

Prince sword fickle in o nunnery

Need an excuse for no homework? No problem:

Trouble is, I hast wilteth

Other phrases have a distinct style and the author is nearly always obvious:

The queen doth bestow dire wind on me then treachery doth soon bolt out

which is followed by:

Brest canst only quicken arrow spot of discontent as I bid thee war and say swod oft

These, however, are by no means a match for the classic:

slain by far toil

Say it out loud and think school boy humour. I can say that this was without the influence of alcohol. Anybody familiar with the phenomenon that is “Dad humour”?

Yeah. All I can say is apple. Fall. Tree.

But best of all, you get the epic Shakespearian sagas which are clearly dramatic works that have taken several alcohol influenced hours of sniggering, gesticulating and musing on the complexities and the finer points of life and human existance:

Well farewell noble trifle,
What straw seizeth golden fortune o’er ere?
Alas, after much woe and thought
From said,” o scorn melodious humility
& break every damn goblet!
How can one wage above?”

Overcome ladys, yield paid your arm,
Beware no jest;
Thus horse is up your breach but no mercy,
So thence there’s sorrow morrow.

Speak! You vile precedent!
We vow at all twire wherefore get loath by sullen vow,
Nay more love this direction.

Ambition dost strive when perchance ado,
Mind your wit to use about ghost hunting,
For impatience was madness and dire kingdom lose a drunk.

Record full wonder of mercy who say they suffer defunctive window blinds,
Could a midsommer beseech thy enemies to kiss despair and die?
Galeth doth speak of stanly; curse tongue of death day,
Our poor wench not eaten, like, if art a bloody tempest die like thine dair will.

Nor toil here, o chronicle lord, shall winter plead or weep?
‘tis frailty hadst haste’d,
Were oak to see well – thou damdt myself.

Foul reason I am sweating,
Is unfold her villain, where the wicked laughing which goes nay mouth.
How art my convent; methinks, tale hast pluck, Denmark.

Do dream she know well, vaunt & slinging you oftly vow, herein est un idle borrower on my thandess, toil by far questioning goblet
Woe, ‘doris.
Why chance almost found sun!

Fool! Marry cold steel maiden:
God hither.

And remember, when in doubt:

Always ask for the night witch.

Chrono-syntacic Infandibulum Link #10

This link here expresses quite nicely the sheer and utter panic that’s been dominating any kind of thoughts about what to do once I graduate in 2013.

I know I still have this year to finish and then another year (now worth a wonderful 50% of my entire degree /grumble) to pass, but it still creeps in.

I’d also like to point out that languages and linguistics don’t actually appear on this; it’s mostly dealing with the Sciences and Pseudo-Sciences.

So, ner.

Here, have a possum.

Harro

Inane Whittering #16: Cosmic Spaghetti

I think my wordpress ought to prefix an apology for lack of signs of life onto each of my entries on here.

Since returning to the land of tea and crumpets, I have found myself in an office doing paid work whilst simultaneously attempting to research and write my final assignment for my year abroad.

Yesterday, I went back to my university for the first time in 5 months and for the first time in my life, actually spend 6 or so hours in the library; that mythical place of work.

Fortunately, I was chaperoned by the long-suffering Mr. Hunter. This meant that I was unable to get myself lost anywhere or end up getting myself arrested for disrupting the peace.

I might have made the odd foray into the rather imposing world of shelves, books and deadly silence (by deadly silence, I’m talking the “in the library, no-one hears you scream” style silence) a couple of times in first year, but I have to confess that I got complacent in my second, and my love affair with the library had ended when I was wined, dined and seduced by Amazon and its Kindle.

In any case, as it turns out, when there are exams coming up, the library is rather busy. Funny, that. So we ended up in the area near the café. (I tried later to explain that this was a tactically-made decision as it meant that I was close to a source of tea.) This meant that we could actually talk to each other.

Interspersed with the hours of me whinging about the fact that I was intellectually chasing my tail and getting nowhere, Matt decided to join in and complain about Ibn Taymiyya’s theological writings and the idea of pre-eternity.

The problem seemed to be understanding what exactly pre-eternity is. I don’t know about you, but my immediate reaction was to take my understanding of the word “eternity” and then ask myself how the heck you begin to think that there was a point in time before forever.

2 minutes of googling and His Noodliness decided to clear matters up for me through the medium of Cosmic Spaghetti.

Draw a line. In the middle, you have the present. The leftmost point is the past; the rightmost the future. This, argues Ibn, is how all creatures (including humans) view and experience time.

God His Noodliness, however, does not. He is omniescent and omnipotent and sees all of those points on the line simunltaneously.

So imagine that line is now a single strand of dried spaghetti. Rotate it so that you see a single point, as if you are looking down a tube. That is pre-eternity.

And that, dear reader, is what you call a Cosmic Spaghetti moment.

Shame it took me about 5 hours to have a similar moment with the structure of my current assignment.

Travellings: Deutschland #23

I’m currently sitting in the airport lounge at Munich airport as I write this. You will be reading this long after I have touched back down in the Land of Tea and Crumpets.

Today, I had my last day in the Bavarian Beer Monster – last day of work, last day living in my lovely nest of a flat with the most wonderful flatmate I could possibly have wished for, the last day for a while with a few important individuals.

I’m very much aware that this will sound like an obituary. It’s not. I know it’s not. But it certainly feels that way at the moment.

I don’t like the whole saying goodbye. I’ve said this at the beginning of the year abroad when I moved out, but somehow this is different. I suppose part of me always knew that I would return to my parents and see them again. But non-family members are different. Some people move on, some find it too painful and simply distance themselves, and others you simply drift away from.

Which is sad. Yes, there were times when I seriously asked myself what the hell I was doing. I certainly doubted my sanity at several points throughout the entire year; not just the beginning, and there were times when I had regrets.

But I can also happily count a large number of firsts and amazingly good times, too. First time I was entirely responsible for myself; first time on a massive rollercoaster (thanks, Ben.), and first proper concert, among other things.

Not bad, really.

And now I’m coming back. Sadly my relationship with Munich has been a little rocky, and after several attempts to save it, we’ve decided to separate due to irreconcilable differences.

It’s been a blast, Munich, it really has. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot in a such a short time, and I’m certain that I will look back on my time here as an adventure.

And whilst I may not have allowed the people I left behind see my tears, it was certainly a different story once they’d gone.

On the other hand, there’s always Oktoberfest:

Morning after the night before
You know when you're little and you think your toys do the whole Toy Story thing? Turns out they've been growing up too...

Also, macht’s gut, München, und danke für den Fisch.

Inane Whittering #15

Ooh, look! 2 posts in one day :O

No, hell hasn’t frozen over. I thought I’d post this now before I forget.

Seeing as I was moaning earlier about how cold Munich has gotten over the past few weeks, I decided to have a go at cooking something to warm me up.

I had no idea what I was doing, and had the strangest of ingredients, but I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised with the results. Naturally, I decided that you, dear reader, would want to know about it.

If you don’t, tough. I’m going to tell you anyway.

Aunty Roo’s “Mystery Soup”

Anyone who has ever watched me cook a main meal will tell you that I am perhaps the worst person to ask for the recipe. I can only give you a few exact amounts; everything else I do to taste.

250g mince (here in Munich it’s invariably a mix of beef and pork, but I would generally go for beef out of preference)
3/4 medium sized onions
any veg you have in the fridge
green lentils
2 large cloves of garlic
a beef oxo cube
tomato purée
3 cups of water

To season
Aunty Roo’s secret ingredients
salt
pepper
paprika (the spice, not the capsicum pepper)
curry powder

I told you it would be vague.

First off, wash and rinse the lentils – I didn’t put an amount because I always do these things based on how famished I’m feeling at the time. I generally cook several portions at once, so that I can take something into work with me the next day, so I often use half of a 250g packet.

Once you’ve washed and rinsed them, place them in a pan and add water – as a rule of thumb, whatever the quantity of lentils, I double it for the water. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft.

Whilst the lentils are quietly burbling in the corner, chop the onions and fry them lightly in another pan (this one needs to be deep enough to hold everything) in oil with the crushed oxo cube and a dash of curry powder.

I do this all by eye, so I can’t tell you how much I added. (I also can’t tell you what kind of curry powder – I simply found a mysterious jar of yellow powder with the word “Curry” printed on it and decided to play culinary Russian roulette.)

Once the onions have softened, add the mince and whatever vegetables you’ve decided to use. You can use literally anything. In this version, I used a handful of button mushrooms and a couple of small parsnips.

I told you the ingredients were bizarre.

Once the mince has browned, then add the tomato purée (also to taste – I personally don’t like an overpowering slap in the face of tomato), more seasoning and the water.

Hopefully by this point, the lentils should be ready and you can drain them off and bung them in too.

You then need to play the waiting game and cook it all (either boil if you want to stand over it or simmer if you want to go to sleep/on facebook have other things to do) until it’s the right consistency:

Soup simmering

You then need to taste and season accordingly.

Now, I could pretend to be sophisticated here and sound like I know what I’m talking about. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I got the seasoning horribly wrong and it was awfully bland.

I also repeatedly burnt my tongue and uttered several words rather unbecoming of a young lady.

Once I managed to vaguely sort out the lack of flavour, I realised it still needed that “oomph”. So I then added 2 ingredients of which I’m personally quite proud of having thought. I only ask that you don’t judge me.

The first ingredient is lemon juice.

The second, was 2 heaped teaspoons of Marmite.

The result, was this:

Result
Hmmm, tasty

Yes, I know how appetising it looks.

Not bad for pottering about in the kitchen when it’s cold, I thought.