Friday, 14 December 2012

Friday 14 December 2012

I am appalled to be 60, but have to get on with it now. In many ways I still feel that I am 16 and can't have learnt much in between. Two benefits are a senior railcard and the prospect of about £200 per month local government pension. Disadvantages are many and horrific and to do with sliding faster and faster away from the young people whose lives light up the world. But then it's up to me to stop sliding.

Rik sent a beautiful bunch of roses and lilies in an enormous box. Catherine gave me a lovely long M&S jumper and scarf, and took me Christmas shopping in Buxton. She steered me through several purchases and supplied other ideas, but soon I found I just couldn't cope with all the choices and people and prices and shops; I screwed up with panting breath and hammering heart and had to leave off shopping, and then the train was cancelled... Being screwed up over shopping was just stupid. Later this evening it was her turn to get upset with much better reason over feeling so ill for so long: nothing seems to control the stomach discomfort and the acid reflux that spoils every meal. Five days in, the gluten-free diet hasn't had any result yet, but she has unexpectedly got an appointment for endoscopy on 22 January - a lot earlier than we expected, but it means she must go back to eating gluten until she is tested, which may mean increasing the damage.

One positive development is her application to spend a few weeks at Corrymeela, a place I found inspirational back in 1977. They replied to her enquiry with only 3 - 4 days' delay, and sounded both nice and interested in her; at least, they encouraged her to complete her application, which she has done with care and thoughtfulness as usual.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Saturday 8 December 2012

Catherine has been waiting nearly four weeks for attention since the doctor told her the latest blood test showed positive for coeliac disease and she'd need an endoscopy to confirm it. Meanwhile she is meant to continue eating gluten-containing food so that the reactions they provoke will show up on the tests. But these foods produce the nausea, tummy pains, fatigue, bloating, etc that have been plaguing her for months. And she has just learnt - probably because I spent a good deal of Tuesday going in and out of the surgery and ringing them - that the waiting list is 14 weeks. So we have decided to go gluten free for a while and see if it makes a difference. Reading about it has confused me as to the difference between wheat intolerance and coeliac - some see them as a continuum as the symptoms are very similar, but apparently the causes and mechanisms are quite different. She seems to cope really well with work, considering how poorly she feels, though it's getting insanely busy, and from behind the till it seems that Christmas shopping aggravates everyone's worries and irritations, which get taken out on the sales assistants.But what gets Catherine down, besides feeling unwell, is the lack of definite plans for the months after the M&S job ends. So worries trundle on.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sunday 19 November 2012

Catherine is well into her job at M&S, learning to work patiently and methodically under pressure from growing Christmas queues, and to withstand the fussy or supercilious shoppers and the one who regularly turns up at 5 to 6 for a full trolley shop and ends up at her till at 6pm while the other staff wait to lock up in a semicircle behind her... But I wish as much as she does that she didn't feel so ill for so much of the time. The M&S job will last till 5 January, but CSV haven't come up with a placement for after that, and though she does have several good ideas there is still the uncertainty, which has been nagging away for six months now and is bound to exacerbate the IBS symptoms. I think I perpetuate it too by joining in with the worrying.

Dave ruined a ramble today by losing his temper at Di when her dog tripped him up in a bog. He swore and refused to walk with her; I rounded on him ; he totally failed to understand that whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, shouting at people ruins everything and toleration holds us together. Though if it had been a child knocked over in the bog, I'd have been angry too. When I told Catherine later, she just laughed and said he probably deserved to fall in the bog.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Tuesday 23 October 2012 M&S

Catherine has been at M&S two days now, on induction, and loves it. Everything is planned and orderly; you have defined responsibilities and work within the limits; there are procedures for handling everything from frozen foods to complaints; there are policies on bag re-use, recycling and avoidance of waste; even the black stock-issue trousers are designed with loops for clipping your name-tag to and a pen-sized pocket for carrying your pen. What Dave would see as over-regulation and the death of initiative, Catherine welcomes for its sense of security. The training is full and systematic; everything has been thought of. There is always someone to ask when you  need advice, and they're happy to be asked. They welcomed her as part of the team right from the start; everyone is friendly, whether aged 17 or 70; she likes everything from the security checks to the eco-friendly waste disposal system to being able to get a cup of tea from the breakfast bar on arrival; in other words, she fits in well and gains poise and confidence all the time.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Saturday 20 October 2012 Shapira

The film maker Yoram Sabo, Andrea his agent/facilitator, and his cameraman, another Yoram, arrived from London about 10.30am. I'd been prowling for an hour and a half, straightening pictures, wiping table, sweeping leaves, not to speak of the spring cleaning Catherine and I inflicted on the whole of downstairs yesterday (about time too; the worst was realising that if I were a proper housewife I'd be doing it every week). I tried very hard to pretend the camera wasn't there and concentrate on the conversation, but in many places self-consciousness won, leaving me as incoherent as I feared I would be. I wasn't prepared for the questions to turn to my book and my relationship with my father, nor to The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, and I didn't defend him nearly as well or clearly as I might.

But on the Shapira issue, it soon became clear that there is lots I - and JMA - didn't know about the man and his story, whereas Yoram is completely hooked on following up the leads, step by tiny step. Trouble is, they lead to more questions, not answers; eg where is he buried, and why don't we know - are his grandson Francois Perrault Harry, or his daughter Myriam Harry, hiding something?

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Thursday 11 October 2012 CSV progress

Catherine's been to Birmingham for her CSV interview - at last, after applying in June and spending weeks fretting because she hadn't heard from them, except to be told each time she enquired that they would contact her in due course, ie fobbed off.

And now they say she's unlikely to get a placement until January. Despite this, she came back feeling a lot more positive, because now she can plan what else to do instead. The best idea seems to be to stop fretting over CSV until after Christmas and apply for a full-time short-term paid job, particularly with M&S, who are actually advertising for Christmas staff, and probably Debenham's, WHS or similar as well. Also, for the first time in 3 or 4 weeks she got through most of the day without feeling ill (we have now hit on food intolerance, as a possible cause of her chronic digestive problems, and need to check the idea out with a GP).

To update - she was offered the M&S job on the spot after a demanding interview - 29+ hours a week up to 5 January, which makes everything seem more positive.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Monday 10 September 2012 - a weekend of big walks

Two big walks have kept me outdoors during all daylight hours this weekend - a 26-mile challenge walk on Saturday across the Staffordshire Moorlands, followed by the Edale Skyline with Roy, Jill and Janet on Sunday. This is a classic 18-mile route from Hope, with stupendous views all around of green sweeping valleys and the distant march of hills. Drunk on the sunshiny breeze that moulds the skin; feeling long and lithe after so many hours' walking; feeling at one with the countryside and, for a change, with one's body...

Catherine spent Saturday evening serving 190 fish-and-chip meals at a wedding somewhere glamorous near Ludlow; then all Sunday doing burgers, hot dogs and mountains of chips at a family fun event + dog show in St Helens. "People kept buying sausages just to give their dogs. £2 a sausage - OK by us. One man, who was drunk, insisted he was 6' 5" tall and wanted to buy his height in hot dogs. He kept coming back trying to give us money but we wouldn't or couldn't serve him."

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Thursday 30 August - an offer from Dublin

Catherine had an email from the CAO this morning saying they could offer her a place on French/Russian at Trinity College after all in the second round of selection.
For 12 hours she didn't know what to do. With my head in a tizz over things like CSV, Sheffield, deferment, etc., I had to go a walk before realising that yes of course she should go to Dublin either this year or next - it was the one place she really liked and to pass up the opportunity might be something she'd always regret. Dave felt the same.
But Catherine remained inexplicably, or stubbornly, non-communicative. She wouldn't phone TCD, wouldn't let me phone, wouldn't discuss, repeated only 'I haven't decided anything yet.' Only when we were driving to Rangers did it come out: 'I'm thinking to decline their offer.'
'I don't know that I want to do that course any more. French and Russian - it doesn't lead anywhere, does it?'
I said it most definitely did - excellent preparation for teaching/speech therapy/anything communicative, etc; whereas a vocational degree such as Speech Pathology would have narrowed her choices too much too early. 'Oh. You've confused me again. Thanks a lot.'
I went back for her at 9pm prepared for more battles. But fortunately Sue, the leader, had delivered a good dose of common sense, and said exactly what Dave and I had said with the big advantage of not being her parent. C had let herself be sorted out after all and has now written to request a deferment, but is prepared to go this year if they don't grant it.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Sunday 19 August 2012 Mudburgers

After three days of silence from Skipton, where KK Catering are doing the Beacons Festival, there was an anguished text message at 3pm: 'I'm alive  but I want to come home so badly, likely to be late on Monday, as will be working until 2 or 3am again and hopefully leave cleaning till tomorrow.'

My reaction: (1) Oh no! When can I go and get her? To Skipton if necessary...
(2) Wash, food and drink to make you feel better, though sleep is what you mainly want...
(3) Surviving this means you can survive anything life throws at you.

Dave's reaction: 'Stop worrying. It won't do her any harm.' And a text to CA: 'Chin up. Mud doesn't harm you; it strengthens you.' She replied: 'Lol. Too true.'

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Saturday 4 August - trying to wind up the PNFS business

D did write offering his services in any work that needed doing around Taylor House but forbore to point out that the computer system was unsecured, the ink and stationery supplies depleted, the membership list incomplete, the newsletter irregular, the Volunteers Handbook not yet updated... He was not surprised when Rogerson replied sweetly that, as they were in the fortunate position of having appointed two new Vice Chairmen, all the jobs at Taylor House were being well taken care of and, in view of past difficulties, it would be better not to take Dave up on his offer. Dave said 'There! That proves that all he has done to obstruct me was personal. They have broken the agreement made at the AGM that as I am a fit and proper person to be an officer I can continue being one.'
I said 'Then walk away. PNFS does not deserve you. Find something else to worry about.'
He said 'But I want to be membership secretary when Bill resigns next year. I'd be good at that.'
'No! Nobody will want you stirring things up again. You only want to get back at Rogerson.'
If only we could think of one stinging retort, he might leave it at that. Short of telling all the officers 'That's what comes of calling the chairman a liar,' which might cause a lawsuit, I haven't thought of anything suitable yet.
D spent all of next day as well chewing it over, with suggestions ranging from applying anonymously to be a volunteer at Taylor House, to slipping in there one evening and leaving a virus on the computer. I tell him that by letting Rogerson's wiliness get under his skin he is letting him win. Why can't he just write and tell him 'I have no wish to be associated with an organisation run on lines of deceit, vindictiveness and mismanagement. The key is available for collection by arrangement' and leave it at that?
Pride, that's why.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Saturday 28 July 2012 - PNFS again

We're off again. A letter from the trustees this morning informed Dave that as the LPC and officers meetings were to be combined, there was no longer a role for him on the LPC, therefore please return the keys. This peremptory demand was dressed up with compliments about the amount of work he had done for them, patronising till it dripped. The anger this engendered in Dave powered him for 12 miles non-stop over Bleaklow at a pace I could hardly keep up with. But now, turning to poison by feeding on itself, and by half a bottle of wine, the fury is turning against me for what he perceives as negativity. 'So you want me to hand back the keys, say nothing, roll over and let them kick me in the stomach?' I point out that walking away might be the most fitting and dignified way to treat an organisation he says he holds in such contempt. Whereas answering back would be likely to give Rogerson further reasons to present him as a troublemaker; none of the officers would support Dave as they would not want a return to the disputes of the winter; and he would end up doubly humiliated. D wants to provoke Rogerson into admitting he wants rid of him for purely personal reasons. I say that is obvious and he would gain nothing. On the other hand, D isn't the sort to walk away, and may not have much to lose by writing to the trustees offering his services in other capacities. Or, as I suggested, enquiring coldly and curtly whether they would have the courtesy to explain to him the reasons for the changes.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Monday 23 July 2012

Catherine has heard at last from Sheffield University, with an email saying they would be offering her a place after all. Family and friends all reacted wuth relief and congratulations, but Catherine seems underwhelmed. She absolutely does not want to go straight on to more studying and the prospect of more screwed-up social life, with its fevered campus expectations, in September, and is determined to spend 8 months with CSV, hopefully as teaching assistant or similar, where she is more likely to make a positive practical contribution to real people's lives. She is also talking of a year as au pair in America as well, but i think (and hope) that she will want to get on with something a bit more directional, ie degree/professional training, by next summer. Once the formal offer comes via UCAS, she will need to write to Sheffield about deferment. I haven't lost hope of TCD, though she seems to, and everything may yet change again.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Wednesday 11 July 2012

C has had to contend with blow after blow. First she was unexpectedly called in for her hernia operation on
Thursday 5 July, due to a cancellation. The op[ was quick and she was sent home at 2pm, feeling rather peculiar but with very little nausea. When the anaesthetic wore off the pains returned, in different parts of her belly and also down her leg, but so did her colour, appetite and argumentative attitude.

Then on Friday the IB results came out. She was nervy, but expectant. What nobody expected was that although she got 36 overall, an excellent mark, she only got 5 in each of her Highers. Disappointment floored her - that after two years' consistent hard work and high grades, and after beating her brains out since April to learn everything and after lasering all her learning and intellect into the exams themselves; not to speak of needing 6 in French for Sheffield and lord knows what else for Dublin, none of this effort or ability was reflected in the results. At least, that's how it felt - compared to most people's marks her 36 was a great result and it seemed peevish to be dismayed by it. She did feel better after talking to Geoff and Gillian on Monday - Gillian showed her the breakdown of marks, which showed she had only missed a 6 in both French and English by 3 or 4 marks; and Geoff said Sheffield were very likely to offer a place anyway, especially with the help of a letter from him pointing out her other achievements, and the standard of the IB compared to A-levels (36 would be translated as A* A* A A according to KWC). Whether they do or not, we are thinking about whether to apply for re-marks, in the hope of pushing up to a 6. It would be good to have her ability and hard work recognised, and maybe increase the chances of TCD after all, but sometimes C thinks it would be better to try and accept she got what she got and isn't as clever as she hoped she was; and I want to be sure I'm not pushing for a re-mark  out of vanity or wounded pride.

This body-blow came on top of the tiredness and aches and pains and general unwellness that have dogged her for weeks and the effect was to completely knock her out - a wall of fatigue falling on her each day. I didn't think this very surprising, but C just felt rotten and being told her blood count was clear and everything was down to stress only made things worse.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Saturday 30 June 2012

Catherine's on her second weekend away with KK Catering and blitzed by travelling, chips and chapattis - constantly in demand, fetching, carrying, serving, cleaning; new people, new customers, new places, cash, hot oil, hot water, salt'n'vinegar. Today they've been serving crepes and chapattis at Aston University, tomorrow it's fish and chips at Brighton; goodness knows when they'll get back or if she'll last the pace. I'd be less worried if she hadn't been feeling so ill this morning when I took her to Hazel Grove for a 6.30am start. But she likes the money and it isn't IB brainwork.

Our ladies choir concert at WB Uniting Church went really well for a change - helped along by a good turnout of friendly faces, and some compliments from Macclesfield MVC, and also because for all but one piece we felt confident enough to manage without copies. For me, I discovered that the top As and A flats were no trouble at all once I'd left off worrying about them. Also, when Dorian said at the interval, 'Judy, can I have a word?' I thought he was going to ask me not to attempt top soprano any more, but he said he was planning to compose a choral piece to celebrate the choir's 40th anniversary, and would I write the words?

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Saturday 16 June 2012 - back from Ireland

C and I loved Ireland, but the weather made our 4-day trip hard work. She's been sleeping it off most of today. 

Tuesday we spent in Dublin mostly, looking round Trinity College and the city. The College looks very solid and eminent; maybe less desperately elitist than Oxbridge colleges though very hard to get into. Or maybe the postgraduate students showing us round were so friendly and down to earth that they made the whole place seem more welcoming. I can see why C dreams of going there, but she's not at all sure what to expect of last month's exams and knows Trinity may well remain a dream. As cities go, we liked Dublin too - there were crowds of other tourists of course, like us - or rather, not like us: mostly American - but it still seemed more spacious, less hurried and of a more manageable size than places like London or Manchester. We walked on the waterside paths, didn't do the Guinness tour, and took the bus to Wicklow.

Wicklow suited us just fine. It's a little town with a working harbour, a pebble beach, a golf course and some industry; unpretentious and not touristy; rather like Peel without the kippers and trippers. The main street is lined with small shops, making you think small-scale enterprise is coming back after all, back to the 1960s. But we were told it's a facade - the shopkeepers had agreed to keep their window displays going, rather than boarding them up, even though the doors were locked and the shelves empty, so as not to deter people from coming to the place altogether; the Irish economy is as dire as the media says it is. No wonder it felt so quiet and the people had plenty of time for us clumsy English visitors - the qualities we so liked about the place weren't altogether a blessing for it. 

We did some walking in the hills and by the sea, and would have liked to do a lot more, but we weren't equipped for the weather, got soaked to the skin both days, and never really dried out properly, as the hostel we were staying in was warm and cosy but didn't have enough space or radiators to cope - that's what made the trip rather hard work.

On Friday it was still raining, so we decided to go back to Dublin to find indoor things to do before catching our plane back to Manchester that evening. This amounted mainly to McDonald's, the Natural History Museum (old-fashioned; full of fossils and endearing but moth-eaten stuffed animals, and the information texts hadn't changed much since the 1950s either) and window shopping. Fortunately the rain eased off. 

We got back to find a hole in the lounge ceiling. A leak from the shower or bath had worked its way through the plaster board to stain the ceiling. Dave had prodded it with a screwdriver, and down it came. Again. 

And it's still raining. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Monday 4 June 2012: Jubilee concert

Chapel-en-le-Frith Town Band, Male Voice Choir and Ladies Choir staged a concert in Chapel Memorial Park for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Cold, windy and nearly 3 hours long. We sang like mad, but people could only hear snatches, depending on the wind and where the (single) mike was pointing. The band improved over the course of the afternoon. At least they were audible, and looked the part. A surprising number of people stayed to listen, in their overcoats with thermos flasks and union jack flags - being stalwart and stoic and not letting the side down after seeing the thousands who lined the banks of the Thames yesterday in driving rain to watch the Royal Pageant. Catherine stayed all afternoon too, reading the Kindle and waiting for it to be over.  She said it would have been better to skip each choir's own inaudible items and stick to the joint items with the band, such as Rule Britannia and Jerusalem, which were really all the audience wanted to hear and wave their flags to. We liked the hot tea and Victoria sponge in the interval and tried hard to feel British but were just too cold - or perhaps that was part of it.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Friday 1 June 2012

The week in Majorca turned out to be a wonderful holiday and just what they needed after exams. It was sunny and hot but not too hot; busy enough to be cheerful but not too brash; cheap but not trashy; plenty to do but nothing they felt coerced into doing. The apartment was clean and simple; the transport arrangements worked without a hitch. The four stayed friends throughout, sometimes going round in twos, mostly going round together. They had a couple of beach days, hired a pedalo and swam in clear calm water; a boat trip to an island of lizards; a day at a water park and half a day in Palma. A revelation for Catherine: they went to a club for a foam party, made friends with "some really nice people who were Irish and students but not even drunk", and she surprised herself by enjoying it. It's a treat to see photos of the four girls, even Erika and Catherine, looking happy and relaxed. A week was just enough: less wouldn't have done the trick, but they were ready for home and tired by the travelling.
With unfortunate timing, the washing machine broke down and one of the guinea pigs keeled over dead this morning, but C intends to sleep rather than let either of those things worry her.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sunday 27 May 2012

On Friday CA reported that the Majorcan apartment was lovely, and in a relatively quiet family-geared area, and they'd been to the supermarket, and Erika had survived the flight relatively calmly, and the only thing sh had forgotten was the PIN for her new travel money card. Today she said they were all going on a 5-hour boat trip to a nature reserve island with the chance to try snorkelling for 22 euro. I still can't get over the fact that this whole holiday was chosen, booked, organised and managed by someone who spent most of the last seven years trying to hide.

I've had a wonderful but anxious day of sun and wind on Kinder - the amazing hot dry wind and stupendous views of blue and green and hazy moorland didn't entirely quell my worries about my knee and about trying to keep up with the leader Andrew, who kept up a relentless pace just a shade too fast for me. In the end he was far worse affected by the steep descent to Dalehead than I was, as he slipped and wrenched his left knee at the top, and pain and nausea brought him to a stop. Once he got down to Dalehead, Yvette bullied him into sitting down while I fetched my car to take him to his own, John bullied him into swallowing ibuprofen, and the others commiserated briskly over the random slip that had felled the leader at the end of a bold and brilliant walk. He had even arranged a touch of luxury for us at the hottest, most wearisome stage in the 20 miles - a box of ice and chilled drinks hidden behind a wall in Edale.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Thursday 17 May 2012

Poor Catherine. This was the biggest and heaviest day of exams, 3 hours of Spanish followed by three and a quarter hours of biology. She has been battling for literally months with the barrage of biology facts and figures, going through all the previous exam papers, learning DNA, respiration, photosynthesis, endocrinology etc inside out - all the big topics. But they were hardly mentioned; instead were lots of part-questions about topics she'd thought of fleeting significance, so she came out totally frustrated, crushed with disappointment, sickeningly afraid of not getting a grade 5 or 6 (which she thinks she will need for Trinity), as well as totally bl;itzed by 6+ hours sat in a hot stuffy room beating her brains out. Also she had spent so long studying biology that Spanish revision had got crowded out so she felt she hadn't got enough grammar and vocabulary to do well in what should have been an easy grade 6/7. And she is so tired.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

A good and busy day in London - although one of the reasons I was there was to attend Stephan's funeral, so I walked in the crematorium full of dead people and tears, and greeted Ros, whom I was there to show support for, and told Veronica she'd been tremendous in writing the eulogy  for her Dad and reading it out while wanting to cry. But the rest of the day Dave and I were exploring Greenwich and the Cutty Sark, and the best of it (and my main reason for coming) was that we met Rik at Canary Wharf, the first time I'd seen him since late January. And he's fine; and doing well at work; and they're fairly hopeful Nicole will be accepted on the MA course she wants at Kingston or Reading; and he's enjoying his flat and loving East London for being young and modern and vibrant; and Nicole likes it too.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Thursday 10 May 2012

Catherine is almost half way through her final IB exams and is working like a turbo-charged knowledge machine. There are sheets of biology notes stuck around the shower, lists of French verbs pinned to the curtains, and she reads ESS case studies in bed. She is determined to give herself the best chance of getting the grades she deserves, and if persistence and labour counted for anything she should get top marks. So far she has been non-committal about the papers - 'not too bad' - which probably means quite good, but you often can't be sure what the questions are getting at, and there are some big ones to come, including a horrendous day next Thursday with 3 hours of Spanish followed by 3 hours 15 minutes of biology.

Feeling ill hasn't helped - pains in back and belly, some headaches and nausea - but I think they are all stress related and try not to worry too hard as the symptoms seem fairly non-specific and don't stop her eating and sleeping reasonably well. As well as the monumental effort to study, she is managing an equally demanding effort to look up and out from time to time at the world outside, her forthcoming holiday, and the prospect of a job in a catering company for the summer (though this scares her).

The house seems unwontedly calm, as Dave is at Buttermere with the lads. He took the car, so we have rented one to help with getting to and from exams. It's a Toyota Aygo, small, cheerful and very blue, and suits us very well. We went for a spin up the bypass, but after topping 58mph on the downhill bit decided that was enough excitement and came home.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Saturday 28 April 2012

I had prepared various pleas/retorts in case of provocation, but they were superseded by what happened. David Bratt started his report by stating the outcome of the dispute with Dave: that they had reached an accord under which DCB would agree not stand for re-election provided certain conditions were met: chiefly, that the trustees withdrew their accusation that he was not a fit and proper person; and that they admitted he was completely exonerated by the independent inquiry. In return Dave had apologised for upsetting them. It was hoped that a 'line could be drawn' and everyone could now 'move on'.

'Just say thank you', I hissed at Dave. Dave got up, and said thank you for that, and also thank you for the hard work you have done over the years as President. 'But', he added, 'there is one aspect of your statement that I cannot agree to. I cannot accept the matter is closed until the trustees have been held accountable for the waste of charitable money they have spent in pursuing this campaign of personal vindictiveness against me.'

Rogerson opened his mouth - but closed it again and moved on. When they got to the Treasurer's Report, Dave said 'You've got to challenge them on the cost of the inquiry. You do it.' So I did, because after all I won't be remaining a member after today. I asked the treasurer to clarify how much of the 'legal and professional expenses' had been thrown away on pursuing the criminal allegations against the secretary. It came to just under £1,000 and Rogerson maintained it was worth every penny to get the society's procedures in order. 'That's as maybe, but it wasn't why you initiated the allegations in your personal vendetta against Dave, was it?' He sidestepped, insisting the 'allegations' were no such thing and refusing to go back yet again to defend what they had done. Everybody wanted to move on; I bowed out of the exchange and Rogerson was left feeling in control, as ever. When it came to voting him back into office, we were the only two dissenters. All that was inevitable, and in truth I do want Dave to move on and sever links as he only makes himself appear peevish and bad-tempered (as I told him later). But to satisfy his honour we could have done no less, and we had made the (unanswered) point that the trustees' behaviour in pursuing Dave had been disgraceful. Yet Rogerson always comes out on top - whatever the morality of the situation he twists or overpowers or somehow asserts his power. Dave was still muttering tonight about 'I should never have agreed to resign', etc, and had to be told quite forcibly that he had made his point but would have got nowhere by fighting, that nobody wanted to know and nobody would have supported him, and that there was no option but to let it go for now, leave Rogerson to swagger, and wait for him to hand over to someone else. He is still threatening to bring about a computer failure at Taylor House that will lead to Rogerson's discomfiture. I tell him it won't; that Rogerson will bring in outside experts at whatever cost, and take the credit for putting things right again.

Well I for one will not be going to another PNFS meeting. If only we could find a scheme or job that would give Dave a purpose in life again, then he might be more willing to relinquish the battle with Rogerson, which is really not worthy of so much distress.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Saturday 14 April 2012 - school reunion

Full of trepidation - people you think of as forever 14 turn out to be 60; like a stage make-up demo only with no make-up. Thirty-odd women, each with a life story come and gone, so will the old antagonisms, the classroom rivalries and shared teenage passions, count for anything or even be remembered?

The first thing I realised was that everyone else felt nervous too. For one afternoon we were on stage in a different school play, wearing wrinkles and grey hair. But then the talking took over and we became a group of wise, interesting and interested women, each riding on the family and career she had built but turning briefly aside to rekindle other friendships. Faces and in some respects personalities were the same-but-different: kind capable Marjorie and sensible Marilyn, who had organised the event; dreamy artistic Hilary with the flair for cake decoration, who wafted back as a fashion designer under the same cloud of fair curls; short forthright Mary, who had spent the last 40+ years having five children and raising poultry and sheep on a farm near Flagg. Little Jane Gregory and tall Jane Clemson had quietly gone on being best friends at whatever distance, and worked their way through teaching careers with steady success.
Sylvia had never seemed particularly happy at school and tended to resent the accident of money that gave our family more advantages than hers, until she discovered the violin at 15, fixed on a future in music and became a professional cellist and strings teacher. I couldn't work out whether the challenge in her gaze was reflecting that resentment or my concern over it.
Georgina I have seen and corresponded with on various occasions and we could take up where the last emails left off, on our children and her 102-year-old mother of course.
Susan Morley had defied the teachers by training as a nursery nurse instead of aiming for university, and reported with satisfaction that she was now outranked them as an early-years Ofsted inspector.
Helen, who always seemed big and determined and made me feel small, had married a farmer and spent 35 years on the dairy at Chelmorton.
Susan Evans had worked steadily and sensibly through secretarial and administrative positions since leaving school at 18, and had been school bursar at St Anne's since her children started there 30 years ago.
Several had become teachers, with great success; some were civil servants, one a librarian, few if any were scientists, apart from Georgina - less surprising given the atrocious science teaching at the school (except for Mr Richardson in Biology, whom everyone liked).
The person who had done most and travelled farthest was Linda Phillips, now a charity organiser in South Africa running orphanages and AIDS clinics in a life so vivid with colour, warmth, needs, demands, rewards and frustrations that coming back to Buxton must have been like re-entering a frigid cage. But her best friend Belinda, along with five others from our class, had died years ago - a thought that cast a chill, as the rest of us neither looked nor felt our age.

Georgina and I had left after O-levels and to some extent missed out on the special bonds that linked survivors of Cavendish sixth form. It was disconcerting to find that people remembered me first for being a year younger than most of them - as if that should make a difference at 59/60 - and less surprising that they remembered my father's name. Maybe I came over as the shy anxious second-former I always felt I was, a late-comer and late developer - but I hope not, as for me it was a day of realising the warmth and supportiveness of women and the value of keeping up friendships over the years and miles.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

10 April 2012

Catherine passed her driving test! Waking at 5.30am to a clutch of fear, clawed by dread throughout the next four hours - and that was how I felt, let alone how Catherine felt. Hovering over the phone, by 9.15 I was sure it was to be like last time - she must have failed again and couldn't bear to tell me. So when she walked in and announced with a big beam 'I passed!' a great sob of relief burst out of me. In fact the sense of relief in this house today has been like the sun coming out.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Saturday 7 April 2012

Rik is 24 today - unbelievably grown up, but his birthday is still my excuse to moon fondly over memories of the tiny red baby and serious wondering little boy who changed my life.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Last night's snowstorm blocked lanes, buried sheep and brought down power lines, causing a 36-hour power cut along our road. For a couple of hours, the lack of buzzing heating and communication systems, the silent radio and the blank computer screens felt refreshingly peaceful. The novelty soon wore off. Catherine said she missed being able to flick between news and Facebook pages on her computer in between bouts of revising, which she says is the way people do things these days. I missed the everyday things like washing machine, radio, kettle, not to mention the computer that has become a lifeline to work, family, etc. Though we shouldn't be so dependent; we don't expect these things on holiday. Dave, however, rose to the occasion with great spirit, rigging up batteries and torches and full of admiration for the team of Irish engineers who turned up next day, swarmed up poles, ladders and trees and reconnected us briskly and cheerfully by 3.30pm.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Sunday 1 April 2012

The next test is due on 10 April, so the screwing-up-to-it process is underway, and between that and the IB exams it's not surprising that she is often racked by stomach pain, which seems more like acid burn than anything else in the book. However, she is still managing to walk Baxter, look after other people's cats, go to 18th birthday parties and go driving with Dave in between feeling ill and revising, which I suppose represents some sort of work-life balance.

Something remarkable: CA, who spent the last 6 years trying to be invisible, has finally booked a holiday in Majorca for four girls (Rozzy, C, Natasha and Erika) and appears to be organising them as well as it with extreme efficiency and decisiveness.

Also remarkable: C went to Marjorie's party on 24 March, had fun, posted photos of herself and the girls having fun onto Facebook, got home on the last bus at 12.02 am without being intimidated by the drunks, wasn't pleased to be picked up by me in car, and was up again by 7am to walk the dog despite BST losing her an hour's sleep. Tonight she's at Erika's party, having made her a beautiful cake iced with a picture of a sailing boat - though she has requested a lift home at midnight.

Rik is in line for promotion already. He has been asked to help with interviewing job applicants, and is to become a team leader i/c security operations, with a view to further advancement to a senior post by next year. I said 'Talk about meteoric. If it weren't you, it would be unbelievable.'

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Friday 16 March 2012

Catherine had been screwing herself up for weeks to face today's driving test. 55% fail first time, and however objective the marking system looks on paper, it seems heavily dependent on a subjective interpretation of conditions; eg how to judge whether pausing at roundabouts is cautious, over-cautious, sensible, obstructive, decisive or indecisive. By last night, "There are man-eating butterflies devouring me from the inside out." Today she couldn't eat, couldn't sit still, but went off to college wearing her 'Keep calm and carry on' hoodie and holding to a resolution "not to be one of those people who break down through nerves".

The test was at 12.58pm. From 1.40 I was rigid in the kitchen, ready to pounce on either phone. Nothing happened; certainty of bad news trickled into my gut. At 1.55 I heard her come in. One look.
"Oh, darling, what went wrong?"
In the last minute of the test, coming up to the last roundabout, she had seen a car approach from a junction on the right, but because a van blocked its access to the roundabout Catherine judged it was safe to go on. She has been criticized so often for hanging back, 'dithering', in such situations. The examiner disagreed and slammed on the brakes - automatic failure.
It did seem bad luck, as she had done what any experienced driver would have done in that situation "in real life" as Rik put it - taken advantage of the gap. The blow seemed worse because she had driven an excellent test up till that point, earning only 3 minors and unwonted praise from the examiner, who said she'd been the best of the day's candidates up till then. She was of course upset and angry with herself, and it seems the more frustrating because several friends have passed first time and the college seems full of lads roaring around in uninsured old bangers while high on drugs and testosterone, who must also have somehow passed their test first go. Now we will have to go through the whole nerve-screwing process again, sickened by worse dread of another failure, not to mention the burden of looming IB exams.

It could be that in the long run one gains strength from such setbacks. She went straight upstairs to book a second test. She says herself, "I hate to fail at anything.  I want Dave to give me lots of lessons in our car. I don't know what I will do if I fail again. But I am not going to let it make me fall to pieces."

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Rogerson asked Dave to write a valedictory piece for the PNFS annual report. It was hard to think of anything to say that didn't sound bitter. Dave replied that he could not in all honesty produce the usual sycophantic slime about having enjoyed his time as secretary and valuing his colleagues' support, so he felt it prudent to follow his grandmother's advice: 'If you can't say owt good, say nowt at all.' He added, however, that if the trustees were going to print anything vindictive or condemnatory about him, he would feel bound to respond in kind.
Rogerson replied that he wasn't a vindictive person.
We didn't think that worth responding to, either.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Friday 9 March 2012

Dave has been fuming and growling all week about today's PNFS officers meeting. He wanted to demand all sorts of things - that the trustees keep to the accord of 10 February and let him resume work in the office and on the computer; that the trustees confine themselves to trusteeship and let the officers get on with running the Society; that Rogerson should face a challenge for chairmanship, etc. I told him to keep cool; to respond to but not initiate argument; and not to push himself forward for election or re-election (ie breaking his side of the pact) just or mainly as a way of getting back at Rogerson. He didn't promise.

He was home by 1.30pm.
'So what happened?'
'Nothing much.' Rogerson, smooth, suave and Teflon-coated, explained that as Dave would be leaving soon, there was no point in his resuming secretarial duties. Realising that arguing would get him nowhere, Dave did not persist. Rogerson and the chairmanship, ditto. It turned out that the officers had no appetite for running the Society and no wish for more frequent meetings. And absolutely no interest in seeing the dispute between DCB and CR resume.
'I told them that in my opinion the trustees had broken the terms of the accord, therefore I felt in no way bound by them, but for the sake of the Society I was resigning office anyway.' At which point David Bratt came and shook his hand.
'But it leaves me still annoyed. Because after all the effort Rik and I put into making their computer system work, they're letting it go to ruin. Rogerson has told people they don't need a complicated back-up system as long as they put their work on memory sticks. He told me he'd got a friend who was a computer engineer to look at it for free. I missed the chance to say "you get the advice you pay for." They simply don't realise that if the hard drive breaks down, they lose everything. Do I cause a fault and see what they do about it, or do I walk away and let them destroy my system?'
I said you walk away and let them stew. I also reminded him that having had to perform a massive climbdown over exonerating you, CR was likely to cling to whatever status he thought he had and to yield nothing more.
'Then he's won - he's succeeded in booting me out.'
'He hasn't won - he had to admit you were innocent and a fit and proper person after all. The officers know that, and next you can tell the members who come to the AGM.'
'They won't be interested.'
'The ones who matter will be. And the ones who came to the EGM and are aware of the dispute - they need to know the outcome. You can tell them you were completely exonerated but that you are resigning because the chairman has made it impossible for you to work with him.'
Dave grunted, but a bit less despondently this time.

Friday, 2 March 2012

1 March 2012

From trustees 1 March 2012

“We shall all miss the applications of your talents…etc.
So, despite reservations and reluctance, we have concluded that we should switch the emphasis of the Society’s style to that typical of (but, we hope, more relaxed than) a scheme of delegation system in a business. There, the individual is free (and expected) to act proactively in accordance with the scheme of delegation and his role description, but not to step outside their limits, except to make sure, in close cooperation with his colleagues, that role descriptions and actions bridge gaps and do not create them. Otherwise, the individual must look upwards for authority rather than assume it. As luck would have it, your role up to the AGM is the first to which we have to apply this change of emphasis.

…Before you cease to be an officer, we think it wise to do everything we can to complete the process of learning to do without you in your pivotal role as secretary. Accordingly, it is our collective wish and decision that your duties henceforth shall be confined to those set out in the job description for LPC coordinator as already agreed with you. In so far as not already done, other arrangements will be made in respect of the work you wanted to finish off.

This means that, with the exception of LPC data, you shall not have access to the Society’s computer systems, data or documents, except as expressly agreed with any two of the five trustees, in respect of the specifics of occasion, purpose or duration, other than as an ordinary user of one of the networked PCs at Taylor House. As such a user, you will not have the rights of an administrator, it being the trustees’ security requirement that, among other things, there shall be no access from locations remote from Taylor House.

Whilst detailed, these requirements imply nothing in respect of you personally: they are merely the manifestation of our change of emphasis and of basic security procedures, the fundamentals of which are clarity of responsibility and capability. They will enable us to hold properly accountable the successor to your role as IT guru.”

Initial reaction – discarded as just sounding peevish
Thank you for explaining your thinking on the roles of secretary and computer consultant at Taylor House.

You have made it clear that the role of secretary will be limited to doing exactly what the trustees say, and there will be no place for applying initiative, developing ideas or acting on the sense of personal responsibility that used to be inherent in the work I did.

Regarding the computer system, you have decided you want an IT manager, not someone able to develop and implement systems, write programs, choose equipment, anticipate and rectify problems, and do all this in consideration of the long-term and financial interests of the Society.

On deliberation:

Tone – both patronising and domineering, with hard decrees ineffectively garbed in circumlocution and sweet pacificatory nothings. Also downright rude, considering they are addressing a senior officer and the Vice Chairman of the Society.

Substance – the decisions outlined here breach the agreement issued to Dave on 10 February 2012 with regard to computer access.

Meaning – Rogerson wants rid of DCB. He also intends to establish iron control over all Society business [back to the power theme]. Under this regime there will be no room for ideas, initiative and sense of personal responsibility.
The last paragraph is a lie: it is all about getting rid of Dave.

What to do – possibly consider writing back in term such as: ‘Thank you for your letter. Discounting its verbosity and disingenuous patter, I gather clearly enough that you wish me to keep away from Taylor House. However, your “requirements” are in blatant breach of the statement you issued to me on 10 February 2012, in which you assured me of full access to the PNFS computers.’
I’m not sure about adding ‘As you have broken the agreement between us in this respect, I may seek advice on whether its other conditions remain valid.’

I was tempted to add ‘I also wish to put on record that I find the tone of your edict downright discourteous to myself as a senior officer and the Vice Chairman of the Society’ – until it occurred to me that they would say Dave was in no position to complain about rudeness.

As to the implications for any other officers with ideas, initiative and a sense of personal responsibility, these may be best raised at the officers meeting on 9 March.  

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sunday 26 February 2012

I'd been worrying about my Buxton Rambling Club walk for weeks, for no good reason. In the end there were 12 of us chattering non-stop for about 15 miles, all fairly happy as far as I could tell, even the 'new girl' Julie, who was very determined, very cheerful but found the steep bits very hard work. She admitted cheerfully 'I'm just too fat!'
There were a few unplanned stretches, such as bounding over bogs and tussocks where I mistook a sheep-track for the footpath and, memorably, happening upon Red Brook and scrambling up it instead of keeping to the path. The river with its boulders and deep orangey-brown pools was more fun.

Di Denvers said Sheffield had been wonderful for her daughters, both of whom went there and loved it - friendly, go-ahead, excellent teaching, excellent employment prospects. Andy said the same, as he'd studied electronics there himself. I passed this on to Catherine, but she was feeling and looking blitzed after a day of maths and English. She said 'I just don't get some of the maths questions. I spent hours working out what I should be doing.' 'Do you need to ask the teacher then?' 'Oh no, I worked it out for myself, but it took so long, and now I have English to do as well.' Poor girl; she has another three months of this constant mental battering. There seems no way out but through, and the best to hope for seems occasional days or half days off for the sake of sanity. As she says, it's the same for everybody, but with Mocks next month and coursework piling on as well as revision, it must feel like facing the Berlin Wall.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Friday 24 February 2012

Some woman at college - who is unfortunately also a ToK examiner - tore Catherine's ToK essay to shreds on grounds that included poor presentation, inadequate citation, undeveloped ideas... She covered it in red marks and sarcastic comments, including rings round all the contractions (can't, wouldn't etc) that help it 'flow' and are actually encouraged in customer communications and the like these days. I would like to ask her why she is so set against bringing writing into the 21st century. More importantly, what part of her brief is to reduce the ablest, most conscientious and most hardworking students in the college to tears and demand more rewrites, further total revisions, on an essay that will count for one mark maximum, when they already face a barrage of coursework and revision on their main six subjects? What part does sarcasm - destructive instead of constructive criticism - play in any serious teaching? As a ToK examiner, she must know what she's looking for, but the way to achieve it should be to build on the students' understanding, not destroy its foundations. If they've sat through 18 months of ToK without discovering what it is or how to write about it, doesn't that indict the ToK teacher rather than the students? Does it not occur to her how easily her condemnatory attitude could wreck the little confidence and fragile hopes that they rely on to get them through the final 3 months of schooling?

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Wednesday 22 February 2012

PNFS has lapsed into silence, though whether it is ominous, deathly or just apathetic I'm not sure.

It's Catherine's turn to come under the spotlight, and for a change she is coping well with the attention. Her progress report and parents evening reports all praised her to the skies for her intelligence, diligence, contribution to class,  "the ideal IB student", "a pleasure to teach", etc, and instead of squirming and hotly denying the compliments she accepted them with quiet satisfaction and asked if I was proud of her. Not that she needed to ask. So far she is coping sensibly with the pressure of impending exams too, working steadily and knowing she'll do her best and can't do more.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Sunday 12 February 2012

They cracked. It went to the brink: the trustees were lined up to insist Dave 'was not a fit and proper person'; Dave had his statement ready to show that all he had done was to the benefit of the Society and that the poison set in when he accused Rogerson of lying to him over the minutes secretary business - because he had.

On Tuesday evening David Bratt telephoned. This was the first time he had spoken to Dave since October. He told him that the dispute was tearing the Society apart, and for the sake of the Society he wanted to avert the 'brutal' and bloody' showdown on Friday. He proffered a solution: that he would resign as trustee and president if Dave would also resign as officer.

Dave replied that he didn't want to see the Society torn to pieces either, but his first concern was to repair his honour and reputation; he was prepared to resign but first he wanted a public apology, exoneration from all charges and all suspicion, and his legal fees refunded. And David Bratt agreed. Dave also apologised in full for being rude to Bratt. He said that if he got those concessions, he saw no reason why Bratt should resign either post; in his opinion the wrong trustee was resigning.

Bratt, however, insists he is determined to go. We think the rift with Rogerson may run deeper than we know; he certainly hinted at that. Or maybe the letters from at least two other officers, saying they wanted no part in such a blatantly unfair 'trial' that would only bring shame on the Society, made the trustees realise their madness. All sides are bruised by the affair. But Dave now has a statement from the trustees, as follows:

On behalf of the PNFS Trustees following a meeting on Friday 10th Feb 2012 I can inform you that the following has been agreed:
1. The assertion that you are not a fit and proper person to be an Officer of the Society has been withdrawn.
2. The independent financial review undertaken by Liz Hudson completely exonerates you of any suspicion of misappropriating the charity funds, of misusing the charity, or of procedural non-compliance.
3. Your suspension has been lifted and you are allowed access to Taylor House and the computers.
4. The Society will pay the legal fees that you have incurred (approx  £204). 

Rhoda Barnett has asked him to go back to helping with her legal committee. Rogerson looks likely to stand for Chairman again, but I would like to think he might be less ready to bully the next person to disagree with him, or that he might not be allowed such a grip on power in future. I tell Dave to avoid shaking his hand, or perhaps to offer him a mince pie instead. 

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Saturday 4 February 2012

Preparations for Friday's kangaroo court proceed - from bad to worse. We now learn that not only will the trustees be judge and jury, but if the officers don't do as they want, ie vote to expel Dave, 'that will not be the end of the matter'.
The trustees can do just as they want, since they have all the power. Dave alternates between bombast and despair. But the time for roars of righteous rhetoric are past. There is no doubting what the outcome will be. But he has this one chance to make it clear how irrationally and vindictively they have acted, and how expensive, destructive and unnecessary this whole episode has been.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Wednesday 1 February 2012

For all the hopes and careful exhortations that went into the build-up to Rhoda Barnett's visit, it went absolutely nowhere. "She was adamant that because they had 'a suspicion', that was enough to set off the suspension and inquiry. She refused to go beyond that into the reasons for the suspicion. They did see the email in which I offered to pay the £25 myself but evidently chose to ignore or disbelieve it. Now they have accepted the report - that I am innocent of financial irregularity - but still seem to think I should have known about the non-existent procedure on paying family. All the good work, cost savings, benefits for the Society counts for nothing. Having spent all that money on the inquiry, they are now determined to force me out on the grounds that I am an unfit person to be an officer of the Society. I am to be tried at the officers meeting on 10th February. Bratt and Rogerson will put their case, I will put mine, the other three trustees will decide who is right, and the officers will decide if I stay or go. They will be told that if the vote goes against Bratt and Rogerson, all the trustees will resign. They need 8 votes, The trustees are also officers, so there they have 5. Shall I take a toy kangaroo to sit beside me in the trial?"
Dave tells me not to get so bothered; he's beyond caring and they aren't worth it. He knows he can't win - only one and possibly two other officers will stand up for him if they are told the alternative is to lose all the trustees. But the blatant unfairness, the ruthless bullying, stupefies me.
He wonders whether to bother attending, or just to resign now. Catherine says he should walk away; the sooner he goes, the sooner we'll all get over it. For now, he thinks he may as well attend; he has nothing to lose and it will be one last chance to confront Rogerson with some home truths.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Tuesday 31 January 2012

Rhoda comes tomorrow, and I am trying to train Dave to behave himself with her. He must not start firing off accusations, justifications or the sort of home truths they deserve, otherwise he will entrench their conviction that he is a lout, and he will never get the revenge he wants because Rogerson will always twist the truth to blunt whatever weapons Dave throws at him.
Instead I think he must keep asking the questions - insist it is impossible to move on until all sides understand the real reasons behind the suspension and inquiry; insist to Rhoda that CR's explanations are less than half the answer; insist she explains what really made all five of them abandon common sense, decency and rationality. Otherwise the whole debacle could happen again.
The central questions are:

  • Why did they have those suspicions?
  • Why didn’t they try to discuss them with you?
None of the explanations so far advanced adds up. The financial misappropriation one doesn't, because Dave wasn't misappropriating anything. The procedural irregularities one doesn't, because there were no procedures and the trustees had refused to discuss the ones Dave proposed. That leaves personal antagonism, basically, but he has to get her to realise and admit that for herself, and to suggest without telling her that they over-reacted disastrously to a disagreement. 
I tell him:
"If she admits that personal antagonism infected Bratt’s and Rogerson’s judgement, try and get her to identify when it started. Prompt her if necessary (eg ‘Do you think it was over the matter of the extra minutes secretary?’) but try not to put words into her mouth.
If she does say ‘Clarke objected to your allegations of dishonesty’, DON’T say ‘Yes, because he lied to me.’
DO counter it with ‘So you think he was answering them by making worse allegations, in public, even though these were about to wreck the running of the Society for the next 3 months?’

If she brings up the £25 issue, ask her if she had seen that email you sent Bratt, in which you explained why you needed it and offered to pay it yourself. Ask how anyone could have believed that came from someone intent on defrauding the Society. If she hadn’t seen it, you can stare [in disbelief] and ask ‘You mean he didn’t show you?’ but leave it at that. DON’T say ‘The bugger’ or pass any other judgement – let her draw the inference."

I don't know about discussing the future. I don't think Dave should let them assume he will resign as they want him to. They've got a whole lot of humble pie to eat first.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Friday 27 January 2012

Progress in the PNFS saga, I hope: trustee Rhoda Barnett has offered to come and talk to Dave in person about what happens next, as a sort of preliminary mediation. Dave had to be restrained from retorting that as a signatory to the original letter (suspending him and accusing him of possible criminal malfeasance) she could not be impartial or a mediator. However, eventually and grudgingly he accepted that she was holding out an olive branch, and trying to be tactful, and that the least he could do was to accept her offer, because anything else would brand his behaviour as even more impossible than they think it already.

At 12.15pm I was waiting for Catherine at college when a blitz of hail and snow struck. We waited a few minutes for the worst to pass before she drove off. But the worst hadn't passed, and the road quickly became slushy and slippery. She kept driving, and managed very well, and snow had eased to rain before we got to the long long traffic jam caused by interminable resurfacing works with interminable temporary traffic lights at Bridgemont.
However, another snowstorm struck later, and the casualty was Mrs Harling. Dave rang while I was out walking to say she'd had a car accident and was unhurt but in a tizz. She had skidded on Silk Hill and embedded her car in brambles. I got to her house before 5pm to find her trying to cope with pupils but confused and shaken. Over the next two hours she gradually calmed down, phoned her insurers and daughter, and let the insurers arrange for the AA to collect her car and take it to the repairers at Dove Holes. She got scared and shaky again trying not to think of how she'd manage if it was written off, and, worse, what would have happened if she hadn't steered it onto the bank. She kept saying bravely, 'I'm perfectly all right, I'm really very lucky'. I said drink you rtea, make some toast and keep warm, but it wasn't much to offer after such a shake-up.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Thursday 26 January 2012

David Morton enquired of Rogerson what authority he had to suspend DCB. The reply:

"Dear all

I, as Chairman of the Society, will try to answer the central question, raised in Dave Morton's email of 25 January, which is - what authority do the trustees have?

The Trustees (as a body i.e. all five acting collectively in the case of PNFS) have an overriding duty to pursue the best interests of the charity. 

Quoting from Charity Commission Guidance CC3:

  • Trustees have and must accept ultimate responsibility for directing the affairs of a charity
  • Avoid undertaking activities that might place the charity's endowment, funds, assets or reputation at undue risk.
  • Consider getting external professional advice on all matters where there may be material risk to the charity, or where the trustees may be in breach of their duties.
Our, the trustees, overriding duty means that in extreme circumstances we must act promptly. I believe that I and the other trustees acted promptly in the best interests of the Society. At the Officers Meeting scheduled for the 10th February, the Trustees will have to explain our actions. We will have to do it again at the AGM to the membership at large. 
I am comfortable with the fact that I can fully justify all my actions as a Trustee. " 

So he believes his suspicion (that Dave was 'misappropriating charitable funds') was sufficiently well grounded to justify suspension with independent examiner's inquiry. Yet he did not apparently consider discussing the matter (D's request to spend £25 to expedite the printing and distribution of the newsletter) or even asking why he wanted the money, or even reading the emails that D had already sent explaining why he wanted it.  Nor did he pay any attention to the Charity Commission's additional advice - that trustees should try to sort out problems internally by all appropriate means before resorting to expensive external agencies, and advocating mediation. His action seems totally disproportionate and bereft of common sense, let alone civility or intelligence. As the examiner pointed out, better communication, and willingness to communicate, could have solved much of the problem before it started. Dave tried his best to explain and discuss. The trustees refused. 

So now he is writing to all the recipients of Rogerson's letter to put these facts before them and ask them to consider them fairly, since he hasn't been invited to their meeting on 10 February and is unlikely to get a fair hearing in person. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Dave gets up about 7 but mopes around in his dressing gown till 11. He goes to the internet, frets over PNFS emails, reads his book, waits for the paper, does the sudoku and then the crossword, wants coffee, lets the weather get him down still further... maybe a phone call or GP appointment will make him go and get dressed; it seems a painful effort. With luck, the mood lifts a little with lunch and activity, but he is just as likely to be cast into darker affliction of mind or else to outright anger or impotent protest by something Rogerson says or does. Today he found out from David Morton that he is not to be invited to the officers meeting on 10 February which, we suppose, will discuss his suspension and decide his fate. CR says in the invitation Dave didn't get that the meeting on 10 February will discuss (1) the examiner's report and (2) DCB's behaviour since 19 October. In other words, CR will try to persuade the officers that despite the inquiry findings Dave should be expelled. And so forceful is the ruthlessness of Rogerson and Bratt, and so poisonously slippery their tongues, that their will is likely to prevail. And since fairness has never entered into this dispute from the start, Dave is not going to get a chance to put his side of the argument in person.
So he will have to rely on briefing David Morton, Bill Bailey and anyone else willing to support him. But how willing can we expect them to be, given the dominance of the president and chairman, and the fact that the officers are heartily sick of the whole affair?
Back in November, friends said walk away; they're not worth the bother of fighting; nobody gains. Three months later, Dave is still fighting; he has the moral high ground but the trustees have all the power. Dave says he would willingly resign, but not before publicly clearing his name. I know he is right.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Monday 23 January 2012

11.30pm Sunday night: 'Wake up Judy! You must see this latest email from Clarke Rogerson.'
There was reams of it. Pages of vitriol, spelling out to everyone why he did not consider Dave 'exonerated' at all, how he flouted the Volunteers Handbook and the trustees' authority, how having fallen out with two senior officers of the Society he deserved to be asked to leave, how business had proceeded much more harmoniously at Taylor House without him, etc. Dave spent the next 3 hours refuting each paragraph, pointing out the lies and distortions, and informing CR that he was a bully who could not cope with anyone disagreeing with his point of view, in what was for him remarkably restrained language. By 7.30am there was yet more e-sewage from CR, and Dave decided he had to go to Taylor House and face him in person - CR had after all invited officers to bring him their questions at the office today.

In the end, nothing happened. The trustees took themselves into a locked room and wouldn't come out; the officers and volunteers who wanted answers were frustrated; one of CR's minions asked Dave to leave as he was suspended and was told no, he wouldn't, and he wasn't formally suspended; several officers said they backed Dave but didn't see what they could do about it.

But two of them posted emails that at last shone a beam of common sense onto the issue. Brian Hamilton said that as Dave had been cleared of financial wrongdoing but CR still hadn't apparently exonerated him, nothing added up so there was obviously some other motive behind the suspension; that the officers and volunteers were sick of the matter; that Clarke was deluding himself about the harmony in the office; that the whole matter should have gone to mediation months ago, avoiding all the expense, time-wasting and bitterness; and that neither party was behaving like civilised, adult officers of a charitable society. And Bill Bailey said more succinctly: "Cool it, guys!"

Dave isn't going to get his officers meeting brought forward from 10 February (the date set by CR). I would like to think that this further delay would give CR time to reflect on Brian Hamilton's points, but I think it more likely that it will give him time to bolster his own unwillingness to accept the examiner's conclusions and entrench his animosity towards Dave.

When Jackie asked what was bothering me at choir, I outlined what had happened and she said 'I have heard that so often about people involved in charity work. The dispute is usually financial, involves one or more dominant personalities, and is based on suspicions not facts. It poisons everything for everybody if it gets out of hand.'

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Sunday 22 January 2012

Vociferous support from David Morton, who wants to email all the officers making clear what he thinks of the trustees - in terms such as 'irrational'... 'run by just two forceful men, one of them allegedly seeking an exit, who having worked with you for years, suddenly decides he can no longer do so and that he still has the power, along with his pal the president, to force you out'... 'You were never formally suspended, nor even formally accused of anything. Innuendo, hinting that you had done something unspeakable, was substituted for plain speaking, and common sense went out the window. Not one of the trustees sought our opinions or mentioned mediation, even though it was needed and indeed is recommended by the Charity Commission. When we tried to give our opinions anyway, they were pooh-poohed, patronised and sidestepped.'

Strong stuff. Dave warned him to take care, as he will have burnt his boats with the Society once CR gets to read it. Also, we're not so sure the fuss started with CR - Bratt is equally involved. But as well as provoking anger on Dave's behalf, the affair has galvanised the officers into realising they can't let the trustees bully them any more and must come up with a form of governance that restores rationality and good will among the officers and curbs the power of the trustees. 'The trustees are at best a useful backstop or safeguard, a second chamber.'

DM will sound out the other officers at Taylor House tomorrow, and DCB will try to get a meeting held next Monday, whatever CR's response to the suggestion. However, his resolve sputters and falters: 'I don't know if I do want to go back. I'm tempted to leave them to flounder.' I get cross at him for continuing to moan even when he is getting support. 'I acknowledge it would be hard to work with Bratt or Rogerson again. But just see what comes of the officers meetings. You don't have to decide until the AGM.' As usual he fixes on the worst-case scenario. 'They won't apologise. They'll find some ruse to keep me suspended.'

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Saturday 21 January 2012

Dave's Friday emails have brought forth hearty support from some of the PNFS officers, particularly David Morton ('In my opinion Bratt and Rogerson ought to be suspended for at least as long as you were; they wouldn't be  missed') and Bill Bailey ('Good on yer, mate'). Also a cold note from Clarke Rogerson, demanding compliance with the letter he sent before Christmas about the ICO and use of the mailing list. We told him thanks for the laugh. And added 'Do you really think the Information Commissioner would be worried if an officer of a footpaths society wrote to members of that society inviting them to a Christmas mince pie ramble?' - referring him to the ICO guidance on such trivia and pointing out that he, not the secretary, was the data controller responsible for the security of the system.

More seriously, CR informed Dave that they would be meeting Ms Hudson to consider his request to clarify the report on 1 February, but did not intend to hold an officers meeting until Terry Norris returned from holiday on 10 February. Dave replied that the delay was unacceptable and unnecessary, and proposed an officers meeting for 30 January. He'll go ahead with one anyway, with or without CR and Bratt, as he feels he has them on the back foot now and needs to get the officers talking, both about his position and about the trustees' proposals to re-jig the constitution.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Thursday 19 January 2012

The independent examiner's report arrived on Tuesday. Broadly, it exonerates Dave and identifies the causes of the dispute as lack of communication and lack of formal written rules or procedures. As we knew.
But it seems to have left him more bitter and downcast than ever.

I summarised the 30 pages into 3. This is my summarised summary:

Results of the investigation into Dave Brown’s expenditure while Acting Secretary of PNFS
The investigation by the independent examiner Ms Elizabeth Hudson ACA covered:
  • DCB’s expenses claims from 1 January 2010 to 28 October 2011
  • items of expenditure authorised by DCB from 1 January 2011 to 3 October 2011
  • whether any matters relating to these expenses and items of expenditure should be reported to the Charity Commission or other agency.
·         DCB made and sought no personal gain for himself or his family, so there is no need to report to the Charity Commission or other agency.

·         DCB broke no formal rules or procedures, because there were none to break.  All his actions were wholly explicable, in their context. However, it would be in the interests of all officers and members if procedures were agreed and formalised to prevent risk to the Society’s funds and standing, and to its members’ reputations, in future. DCB had drafted a spending policy for discussion at the trustees meeting on 7 September 2011 but the trustees had refused to discuss it.

·         The root causes of the dispute were lack of communication between the secretary and the trustees, and the lack of formalised procedures on expenses and expenditure.

In our view (DCB and JAB):
·         This dispute deprived members of a dedicated, efficient and popular secretary, newsletter editor and publisher, IT consultant and short-walks organiser for 4 months. This looks like a grossly inappropriate response to a difference of opinion between officers, which goes against Charity Commission guidelines as well as against common sense.

·         If anything good is to come out of the dispute, it is to alert the Society to the  need to put its business on a more formal, professional footing in line with Charity Commission guidelines, before any other officer can be humiliated, the work of the Society interrupted, and the competence of the trustees further called into question.

 Dave is writing to all the officers initially, and probably to the inspectors and other volunteers, in these terms. He wants to do it asap to forestall any attempt by the trustees to send them a twisted version, but he has also asked Ms Hudson to revise certain parts of her report as it didn't state these points nearly as clearly as it could have done, so he may manage to hold himself back for a day or two. What gripes him at the moment is 'I don't know how to get back at Bratt. I don't know what could hurt him unless members and affiliated bodies resigned from the Society over the money and time he has wasted by attacking and humiliating me. I don't suppose they will.' 
Perhaps we will move on eventually from pure vengeance, but if you call it, instead, the conviction that justice is worth doing, that wrongdoers must be held to account, then Dave's fight is worth fighting. Bratt and Rogerson are, after all, president and chairman, as well as trustees and officers, of a worthy charitable society. 

There must be some motion of censure, at least. They have destroyed the capability and esteem of an experienced, dedicated and efficient officer, and the cost is to the Society as well as to the officer. They will have spent hundreds of pounds of charitable money on an investigation and legal fees which were wholly unnecessary. All the examiner's findings were there to see, if the trustees had thought to look - they keep the accounts, they have worked with Dave for years, they ought to have been aware that there were no formal rules or procedures for anyone to breach. All they had to do was talk to him. They have proved through this episode of maladministration that they are unfit to manage this Society. 

And now these same trustees are proposing to give themselves more not less power to tell the officers what to do. An oligarchy of five, no independent chairman, which in effect becomes a dictatorship of two, since the other three are there for a quiet life. Fewer officers meetings, far less responsibility allowed to the officers. The Society's constitution needs a fundamental overhaul, but in terms of formalising financial procedures and defining roles, rather than re-jigging the trustees' job description.

Can these issues wait until the AGM in May? I think Dave needs to get the other officers in the frame as soon as possible. Today he is now saying 'I want to be reinstated. I don't believe they had the power to suspend me in any case. If I am to resign I want to do it on my terms.' Which is more positive than railing about being powerless to get back at Bratt.

He wants me to go on Bratt's walk with him on Wednesday. I said I wasn't sure he should go himself, as a confrontation with the leader wouldn't do him any good in the eyes of the members. He says he's not going there to pick an argument with Bratt, but I suppose I'd better go to make sure he doesn't. (Or to fight for him if he does.)

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sunday 15 January 2012

The wind turned east, and the world made of mud and rain now glitters under ice. On Kinderlow the moonscape of black peat has turned to stone, at one with the weird lumpen rocks that litter the edge and whet the kniving wind ... or it would be as wild and witchy as this were it not for the dozens of brightly clad figures yomping across it. I was trying a route for my Buxton Ramblers walk next month, but the one I tried involved hopping and scrambling down the very rough path from Cluther Rocks, which has beautiful views but knackers your knees so badly that I decided I'd be better doing the circuit the other way round.

The independent examiner's report on the PNFS fiasco isn't now expected until 25 January. I have been looking out for it it since Christmas and Dave now tells me not to be so impatient and bad-tempered over it; he sighs 'it won't make any difference, whatever it says'. But he is the one who has been seething for weeks, and fretting 'what shall I do if they say this? what shall I do if they say that?' until all I can say is 'I don't know!' and scurry away - so the whole business is making both of us feel frayed and sound ratty.

The hens are foolishly moulting, and consequently cold and grumpy. At night all three cram into the one nesting box, so at least the one on the bottom must be toasty warm. Their water dispenser froze overnight, and they appreciated having it refilled it with hot water this morning - a pot of tea and bowl of porridge would probably have gone down a treat as well.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Friday 13 January 2012

Yesterday evening the internet vanished from our house. This caused me not to waste time surfing it, but also cut off email, msn and BBC weather, so we all felt totally out of touch for 10 hours. When Dave discovered it was still off in the morning, it made him hiss withrage, and when he demanded to go up in the loft over Catherine's bedroom to reset the server, that made her hiss with fury. So the cat and I went up to my room, and when I tried turning my computer off-and-on-again - dutifully, as one does, in case it solved anything - that made a hiss too, which made the cat jump off and hiss because she thought it was the microwave...
Dave rang the ISP about it. He went through about 6 levels of automated response, until he finally got a voice that said, 'All our offices are closed until 9am. However, if your query concerns failure to access the internet, why not try our help section at www. ...' Two minutes later the internet came back on, starting with BBC weather, so everyone cheered up again.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Mrs Harling looked and sounded terrible; about 99 and shrunken inside a big padded gilet, with baggy red eyes, hollow cheeks and cracked voice. She insisted she was much better, having started on antibiotics all of yesterday, and perfectly capable of course to carry on with the lesson. Her friend Annette had carried her off, protesting all the way, to the doctor, after a week of feeling dreadful, 'razor blades in my throat; coughing all night so I couldn't sleep; unable to speak or swallow; streaming eyes and nose; a right pickle.'
The doctor had put her in her place.
GP: I'll just listen to your chest.
SH: There's nothing wrong with my chest.
GP: Do you want a job here?
GP: Have you been watching Downton Abbey?
SH: Yes.
GP: And Tea with Mussolini?
SH: I've seen it.
GP: You're in both of them.
SH: Pardon?
GP: The Maggie Smith character. Dowager Duchess type.
He also informed her she had tracheitis and acute sinusitis, so what she was doing taking hour-long adult lessons next day I don't know, except she adamantly insisted on doing so. Bored with being ill, I suppose.

I'm content again for a day or two, Sarah having sent me another international economics article to edit into more fluent English - except that nothing could turn the mathematical formulae in it into fluent anything. Also Vicky Keen sent back the Review article on Taxal School, saying she liked it but adding some amendments to be worked in. So I swung off down Whaley later, greeting everyone with a big smile or cheerful 'Sorry!', depending if I was in their way or not, and thinking how friendly the place was, instead of grey/mean/hard and noisy as it seems when I'm feeling down.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Monday 9 January 2012

I'm calling this blog Catmint because catmint is one of the few things that have grown successfully at our home. Two of the others are Richard Brown and Catherine Brown. But Rik will be off to London in a couple of weeks to start a new job, and Catherine will most likely be heading off to university in a few short months' time. So even though I know they're fledged and need to fly, maybe this site will be a way to keep in touch.

Even the cat would agree with the first sentence, and she's hard to please.

Meanwhile, today is another waiting day. Dave is waiting for the independent examiner to report on his dispute with Peak and Northern Footpaths Society, as he has been since the row blew up in October - a senseless and totally needless waste of time and charitable resources, which should have been sorted out before it started by four simple words, Talking To Each Other, but which has left him, as the wrongfully accused party, feeling humiliated, angry and underemployed.

I am underemployed too, and waiting/hoping for work. Plain Language Commission work has dwindled as our public-sector customers are suddenly penniless - another collateral of the economic crisis. Academic editing only happens sporadically. Ostensibly there are hundreds of freelance writing jobs on sites like, vWorker or Gumtree, but most of them turn out to be article spinning for internet marketing purposes, which is foreign to me (being middle-aged) in every way. And I am naively surprised at the number of people wanting to buy ready-made theses and dissertations. I do keep applying for anything that looks more interesting/ethical, and I sign up to job-search sites, but I find it difficult as self-marketing doesn't come naturally to me, and nothing has come of it so far. I've had it too easy for too long with Plain Language Commission, as demand had come in steadily over the past 12 years without me having to do anything but deal with it.
However, there are thousands of people in much more critical states of unemployment.