23 March, 2016

Lovely Tesco delivery drivers

Tesco delivers our shopping once a week and the thing we like about this -- apart from the convenience, of course -- is the drivers.

On the whole, they are a lovely, friendly bunch. And there are one or two who we have got to know really quite well. We spend a while chatting to them on the doorstep and have learnt about what's going on it their lives -- their kids, their spouses, their plans to buy a new car, etc., etc. It's a pleasure when they deliver.

Last week, the driver who delivered to us was quite a surprise -- we hadn't seen him for several months. It transpired that his partner had been ill and so he had transferred to work for a Tesco branch in Wales for a few months so that she could recuperate. He told us all about the beautiful scenery and the relaxed pace of life in Wales. It sounded as if he'd like to go back!

We just enjoy chatting to these friendly Tesco delivery drivers, but I imagine that they provide a real service to the elderly and the lonely. Who would have thought that Tesco could be credited with that?

06 March, 2016

Gender inequalities and success

I attended an interesting talk recently by academic Kate Hoskins.

It was all about successful women in academia -- specifically, what makes them successful and what are the barriers to success experienced by women. Hoskins interviewed a cohort of female UK professors in her quest to find answers to these questions. She also had a particular interest (due to her own non-traditional route into academia) in successful women who come from working class backgrounds.

Amongst the women who Hoskins interviewed, almost all became successful, not alone, but with the help of either a sponsor (someone influential in the field who had recognised their potential, picked them up and actively made opportunities for them) or a mentor (someone who had been assigned as a mentor to that person and thereby supported them, gave them advice, etc.). Several of the women also attributed their success simply to being in the right place at the right time.

The talk was thought provoking and got me musing quite a bit around the subject. What about people who succeed in the absence of a mentor or sponsor? Do men also become successful through the support of sponsors and mentors? What effect does part-time working have on success?

Other things that Hoskins touched on were:

  • The effect that one's schooling can have on success. Those who are educated privately have a far higher chance of becoming successful. Did grammar schools give opportunities (or a leg up) to those who showed promise in a way that today's comprehensive system does not?
  • How should we deal with the fact that women feel less confident about seeking out promotion than men? 
  • Being middle class gives you privilege and opportunities, which, on the face of it, is a good thing. But there is a flip side. A child who comes from a middle class background will very much feel the weight of expectation to do well and to succeed. But what if their aspirations are different from those of their parents? Or what if they have no desire to become successful?  In that case, this weight of expectation may become disabling rather than enabling.

All big, important questions, which, I'm sure you will agree, are very interesting to consider...

04 March, 2016

Birthday celebration

I had a lovely birthday weekend a couple of weeks ago, and felt very spoilt as the celebration extended over two days!

On the Saturday, we visited Lacock Abbey, a National Trust property in Wiltshire. Some of you may know that some scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed in parts of the old abbey. The cloisters were used, and one of the abbey rooms served as the potions classroom in the early films. At the time of filming, one of our friends was the house steward for Lacock and had to admonish Alan Rickman for repeatedly bursting through the ‘potions room’ door! (The repeated impact was causing damage to the ancient wood.) All of this was highly entertaining fare for our kids, of course.

Despite the fact that the weather was wet and miserable, we had a great time at Lacock. The house itself is beautiful and exemplifies several different periods of architecture. The abbey was also home to pioneer photographer William Henry Fox Talbot in the 1800s, and so there is an interesting photography exhibition on site. The National Trust owns not only the abbey, but also Lacock village, which we thoroughly enjoyed wandering round. We especially enjoyed the opportunity to explore inside one of the ancient houses in the village (currently a gift shop) and to visit the old tithe-barn, which is particularly impressive. We also enjoyed lunch (and tea) in the NT cafĂ© – the food comes highly recommended.

On the Sunday, we ate out at a local Thai restaurant – the Zabb Thai in Abingdon. The food was delicious, the venue small and intimate, and the owner very pleasant and friendly. I would definitely recommend the Zabb Thai for all lovers of Thai food out there. And the kids loved it too!