Tag Archives: news

Holocaust Memorial

Tuesday the 27th January will once again mark the Holocaust Memorial day here in Guernsey. The 27th of January was chosen as the day to mark the Holocaust internationally as this is the date the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, being the largest death camp in the Nazi holocaust machinery, was liberated by the soviet forces.

Here in Guernsey the Holocaust is remembered every year in a small service held at the white rock, but it is also commemorated in a larger service on the 10th anniversaries of the liberation of Auschwitz. Ten years ago the then Dean of Guernsey, the Very Reverend Cannon Paul Mellor, led an interfaith service held at St James. This year, the service will be held at the Town Church and will include the testimonies of those local people detained in various Nazi concentration camps throughout Europe. These narratives of the resistance fighters in Guernsey, deported to the Nazi camps, form part of the holocaust, as any person being deported from Guernsey, for whatever reason and to whichever destination, who died in this time can only be seen as victims of the Nazi regime.

A recent article in the Guernsey Evening Press that I contributed towards brought this event to the attention of many people, but had a mixed reception. Whilst I’ve been approached by many who were very pleased that I’ve raised the issue and that the event is happening, there is a minority who feel that I’ve unduly accused the Guernsey people who lived here through the occupation. I talked of how we in Guernsey deported the three jewish women, Therese Steiner, Auguste Spitz and Marianne Grunfeld, who were eventually murdered in Auschwitz. I also spoke of how we actively participated in the Holocaust.

Some have sought to portray these words as a condemnation of all Guernsey people, but of course that simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. We frequently refer to Guernsey as a wealthy island, but that doesn’t mean that every Tom, Len and Enid are rich. The holocaust encompasses both the acts of terror and the facilitating of them and by any measure, the actions of the authorities in passing the antisemitic orders and those of the police in handing over people for deportation can only, in my opinion, be viewed as complicit. This does not mean, as some have portrayed, that I claim the authorities here knew what fate awaited those being deported, I sincerely doubt that anyone on the island would have known of the death camps.

Others have questioned my motive in raising these painful memories. I honestly believe that the public narrative has become too narrow, that the story of the resistance fighters is little represented and that the black and white view of the occupation, which I hear on an increasingly frequent basis, is detrimental and betrays these variance narratives.

Having said all of the above, when I first saw the offence taken by some on social media, I responded to try and deal with the complaints. Having responded repeatedly over the past few days and today stood back, it is evident that twitter isn’t an appropriate space to be discussing these matters. Whilst I believe that I’ve responded with restraint, the response has given oxygen to views that wouldn’t have persisted had I remained silent. I’m committed to furthering the dialogue, study and discussion of the holocaust narrative and how it played out here, but I will no longer discuss the matter on twitter.

Things to do before you die

Dying Matters

This week is Dying Matters Awareness Week, starting on the 12th May until the 18th, it aims to get people talking about death and encourages us to make provision for one of the certainties in life, its end.

As with many of these campaign weeks, the national media have been running stories to coincide with the events and I was personally surprised to read the following story on the bbc website showing that so few of us have made arrangements concerning our end of life. The details are there for anyone to read, but if I simply restate here that only 21% of respondents to a survey state that they’ve discussed their end of life arrangements, I think the problem becomes clear given that 100% will die.

Here in Guernsey there’s a wonderful campaign underway this week with the pop up shop in Smith Street taken over for the campaign and the arts commission have installed a Before I Die…. wall in the market. All geared to get people talking about, and making, end of life arrangements.

I’ve never quite felt comfortable about the term “end of life” as I always thought it was a nice way of saying “death”, but I’ve now come to realise that it’s about a lot more than the final act of death. Dying, for many people, is a process that takes time and what the campaign is asking of us is not simply to arrange our funeral and write a will, important though they might be, but to also discuss our long term care should we become incapable of making those decisions ourselves.

In the UK people may choose to write what is colloquially known as a living will, or if you’ve been watching a little too much American drama, an advance directive. This is particularly timely, as the States will be discussing a requête by Deputy Perrot (turn to page 193) when we’re finished debating the transport strategy. The requête seeks the introduction of an Enduring Power of Attorney, the ability to decide in advance of losing capacity what arrangements you’d like to put in place for that day, should it happen. This is only a small part of what is required in terms of capacity legislation, but will assist many people in determining their health care requirements in advance of losing the capacity to do so. The obvious beneficiaries will be those who go on to develop dementia, or those that suffer enduring mental health conditions that cause them to lose capacity for short periods of time.

I’m very supportive of the requête and will vote accordingly, my hope being that people will complete an Enduring Power of Attorney at the same time that they write a will, or to have the opportunity of writing one when they’ve first been diagnosed with some form of dementia. It’s important that we afford people the choice of deciding their future care needs.

An Enduring Power of Attorney would also assist HSSD in their care of people. I’m sure it will come as no surprise, now you know there’s no advanced directive available in law here, that certain care decisions become difficult for the professional carers. Doctors, nurses and social workers can find themselves in the eye of a family feud with no basis in law to fulfil what is the patient’s wishes. This is a situation we surely can’t allow to continue.
I sincerely hope the requête will be successful  and the law introduced swiftly.

On a personal note, I’m surprised people don’t talk about dying. It may be me or it may be a Welsh thing, but death is not a difficult discussion around the dinner table with the family. Well maybe not the dinner table, but I was back in Wales a couple of weeks ago and I had an evening meal with my sister and her family. After dinner the discussion moved at one point to our choices of hymns for our funerals and where we’d like to be buried. It wasn’t a depressing conversation, it was rather affirming to have such a discussion and understand why we’d both chosen our respective burial plots. It was interesting how we’d both moved from being in favour of cremation to burial. We had a good laugh about our choice of hymn and her incredulity as to how catholic I was compared to her protestant position. It was a fun evening with plenty of laughter and shows that difficult conversations can be had whilst enjoying yourself.

Having written all the above, I suppose I should also confess to being someone who hasn’t yet written a will, something that’s particularly important given that I’m in a long term relationship and haven’t married. I haven’t made proper arrangements to be an organ donor. I therefore pledge to deal with these issues this week. Hopefully a number of people will do the same, after all, if not this week, when?

The one thing we can all be sure of is dying. All of us probably know of a family that have torn themselves apart over a lack of a will. All of us probably know someone who’s had, or is currently suffering dementia, do we know if they’re receiving the care they would have wished? If you’ve attended as many funerals as I have you’ll also have seen exactly what you don’t want for your funeral and maybe some things that you do want.

Can I suggest that you give yourself a gift of ensuring you have a voice in your long term care and funeral arrangements. I’m arranging mine this week.

Seasonal Affective Dissorder

SAD

Yesterday I read a tweet from @itvchanneltv highlighting the issue of seasonal affective dissorder (SAD). It was concerning what Guernsey Mind were doing to highlight this problem. The story is available here should you wish to read it.

Last year the States of Deliberation discussed the Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy that we would implement and it was during that debate I revealed my own mental health issue of having SAD. The speech I gave is available on my website should anyone be interested, but what I wanted to talk about in this post was my experience of SAD and how it hampered my life, career and relationships until I was diagnosed and treated.

The Mind UK Website describes SAD as follows:

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that people experience at a particular time of year or during a particular season. Most of us are affected by the change in seasons – it is normal to feel more cheerful and energetic when the sun is shining and the days are longer, or to find that you eat more or sleep longer in winter. However, if you experience SAD, the change in seasons will have a much greater effect on your mood and energy levels, and lead to symptoms of depression that have a significant impact on your day-to-day life.
Most people experience SAD during the winter. Less commonly, some people find that they experience SAD in reverse – with depressive symptoms occurring in summer.

and I would recommend anyone concerned to have a look at the rest of the website to understand what the signs of SAD are and what options are available for its treatment.

The first thing I’d like to say in relation to my own experience is that I simply didn’t think I had a problem. I displayed very erratic behaviour, frequently confrontational and in hindsight I can confirm that I was irrational. But at the time I simply thought that I was right and that the other person was wrong. I would even go so far as to justify my behaviour and refuse to listen when someone criticised.

There’s one occasion that I’d like to recount here. I was working on the IT service desk in a finance company, answering the phone and trying to resolve the problems of the company’s users. It became evident that the number of people phoning the service desk had reduced considerably, but when we did receive a call the person was either exceptionally irate or very timid. It was only when my managers discussed this with various people in the company that it became evident I was being rude and difficult when people phoned, to the point where they wouldn’t even risk phoning for assistance (for anyone working in IT, this doesn’t make for a good IT strategy).

A few examples were when people had forgotten their password, I’d ask them if they’d manage to forget their credit card pin number. When someone told me that they’d done something and it no longer works I told them that it was their fault and that they’d get lower priority because of stupidity. One person asked for different access rights to their computer, I promptly told them that it simply wasn’t possible, even if they were the MD (and it was).
I’d like to highlight these as the worst examples. I was capable of excellent work as well, taking on the most difficult members of staff and their issues and resolving them to everyone’s satisfaction. Undertaking fairly large projects successfully with good user engagement and buy in. It was this bizarre dichotomy that led to my managers failing to understand why I would be so difficult one day and so calm the next.

Without me even noticing, the problem of my attitude was affecting the IT department’s engagement with the company. There was even one occasion when I remember shouting at a member of staff in the middle of the floor, something I still cringe at when I think about it now, but at the time, as I said previously, considered this behaviour to be acceptable and rational.

This wasn’t the first time that I’d had such problems at work, but the difference on this occasion was my manager’s engagement with me about the problem. Rather than call me into an office and give me a dressing down, I was advised that they’d like me to see the Learning & Development officer. I undertook a test to assess my behaviour and then had a discussion. It was through discussing matters with him I slowly came to realise that this was irrational and destructive behaviour. I learned about Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and realised that I needed to take ownership, not only for my actions, but also for the way other people perceive my actions (still working on this by the way).

It was as a result of this approach and further discussions I came to realise I had depression, but that it wasn’t constant. I saw my GP who offered anti depressants, but I thought it was worth making some lifestyle changes and exploring alternatives before starting on a course of Seroxat.

The behaviour that I displayed at this work place was no different to the behaviour I’d displayed in previous workplaces. I am known for having gone from one job to another over a period of around 13 years, some jobs lasting a year or less, with me always leaving because of annoyance. I’d wager that each and every one of my former colleagues, from a number of employers, would be able to recount a string of occasions when I was difficult, argumentative and even down right rude. The difference on this occasion was the approach of the management, they wanted to engage with me to resolve the issues rather than confront me about my issues.

I started making changes to my life, eating a more healthy diet, exercising more frequently and lowering the alcoholic intake, but that in and of itself wasn’t sufficient to deal with my health issue. I now take St John’s Wort every winter and I manage my symptoms well, I can honestly say that I don’t recognise the person I was. I’ve also learnt to recognise when I start to behave in the old way and take remedial action before things go too far. This usually starts anytime from September through to November depending on how good the summer was.

Now, when I look back, I notice that the workplace wasn’t the only place I had a problem. There were occasions at home when I would become argumentative to the point of insufferable. Getting out of bed was simply an exhausting task that I can’t really describe how awful it was. I would eat large quantities of bread and cereal craving carbohydrates and neglecting all other food groups. I would resort to alcohol on frequent occasions, feeling that having a drink somehow made me feel better about the awful day and allowing me to relax from the anxiety I felt (only to feel worse the next day). There were days when I would be racked with guilt and anxiety about something I’d said or done in the past, from the previous day spanning back to my childhood. There were occasions when I’d simply cry uncontrollably and try to lock myself away. There were the days off work with illness, both physical and sheer mental exhaustion or anguish. Finally there were the odd occasions where I simply wish I wasn’t here, had never been, those were the darkest days of all.

As I’m sure you can imagine, a lot of these behaviours made the situation worse. If you do eat badly, drink lots of alcohol and refuse to leave the house you’re likely to get worse. They allowed me to enter into a personal vicious cycle of self destruction. It also wasn’t advisable for anyone close to confront the problem since I would lash out at them as much as anyone else.

I look back and I can’t believe how bad things were. But now that I have set myself a set of rules for diet, drink, exercise and the daily dose of St John’s Wort it’s all manageable. There are the odd occasions when I notice I’ve stayed in bed too long, drank too much, eaten nothing green for a few days, have been a little argumentative or felt a welling up of emotions that result in my crying, but I recognise the problem and correct the situation. Instead of months of destructive behaviour I now have a couple of weeks a year when I don’t feel too well, but know that I’ll be fine in a few days.

In relation to my work, I know that I had a poor sickness record and that my productivity in winter was bad (to say the least). Once I started treating the issue, my sick days became virtually non existent, my productivity soared and I enjoyed the prospect of going to work again.

Given all of the above, I suppose I’m sharing this for a number of reasons.

  • Firstly I’d like to assist Guernsey Mind in highlighting this particular issue.
  • Secondly, those who may have SAD should know you can change things and manage the situation so that you enjoy life a lot more, no one should feel it acceptable to write off six months of the year for the rest of their lives, the first step is to recognise the problem.
  • Thirdly, I’d like to advise employers that if someone displays erratic behaviour, work with the person to resolve the issues, nothing could be worse than confronting the person and asking them to explain their behaviour.
    For more on this, Guernsey Mind have a wonderful training course that they offer to managers and employers to assist them in identifying and working with people who have mental health issues. Guernsey Mind are running a workshop on the 17th January next year so please contact them to book your place. When I identified my issue and treated it, my sick days became vanishingly small and my productivity soared, something every employer wishes of their staff.

The last thing that I wanted to say was sorry to all those people I worked with and had to put up with my behaviour; and a very big thank you to those managers and colleagues who helped me identify the problem and deal with it. My life now is almost unrecognisable to those years when I allowed SAD to rule my winter, that happened because of people whom I’m no longer in touch with, but to whom I’ll always be grateful.

THANK YOU

Given my reference to my taking of St John’s Wort I’d like to clarify that this works for me but may not work for everybody. I’d recommend anyone thinking of taking it to discuss it with their GP and do the research, a good place to start is the Mind UK website. I’m more than content to discuss both SAD and St John’s Wort with anyone who’d like to, but I can only offer my personal experience and direct them to the best service and research.

It's not as difficult as you think.

Computers, Clouds, Data Centres, WAN and all that Jazz

Whatever your thoughts on computing and all that goes with it, it’s receiving close attention at this point in time, partly because of the Cadastre and SAP, but mainly because of FTP and the desire for more to be done by computers so that we run a more efficient government. So this is a post about what all these different bits are (Yes I know that some of you will know this already) and why you should be keeping your eyes peeled for all that jazz over the coming months.

By the way, I was asked a question about the cadastre computer failure recently by a reporter from the Guernsey Press and I noticed how difficult it is to explain all of this to non computer geeks, so here we go.

Lets start with the assumption that you know what a computer is (I take it that you’ve either got one or know how to use one if you’re reading this). A computer is fine, but when you have an office environment with lots of sensitive information (that for some reason we refer to as data), there’s two things that you need to do. Connect all the computers so they can talk to each other and store the data safely.

Computers have a nasty habit of dying on you just at the most inconvenient time (as though there were such a thing as a convenient time for this to happen), so we store the data on servers. Servers are basically a super computer designed to hold lots of data.

Given that servers are just computers, albeit super computers, they also have a habit of dying every now and then. This is why we backup our servers. Backup is a fairly simple process where all the data on one server is copied to another server or disk on a regular basis (usually overnight as it tends to slow down the servers).

Now at some point or other, someone thought that if you connected all the servers together life would be better, as the servers would all communicate with each other and we’d hate servers to have a silo mentality. When you have a lot of servers together it’s called a data centre, for what I would hope are rather obvious reasons. Running a data centre is pretty important work; all the servers will want a very stable electricity supply with no spikes or power outages; all the servers tend to produce a lot of heat, which is bad for servers, so the room will need to be kept at a certain cool temperature; as though that wasn’t enough each server needs attention with updates and fixes that are called patches.

At this point I don’t blame you for being tired of the jargon, those who work with IT love their jargon as much as any other trade, it tends to make them feel separate and more knowledgeable than others, but it’s just jargon. Bear with it.

I think that you’re beginning to see the trend here in IT. You start with one computer, then you connect a lot of them together, then you connect them to a server, then you connect a lot of servers together. Yes, the next logical step is to put lots of data centres together in the same room, and that is what happened, but because no one organisation would want to do that on their own, it’s large computer companies that do it and this is what we call the cloud.

What is the cloud and why do people talk about it so much? We’ve all come across cloud technology by now, how many of us use apple iTunes Match, where all of our music is stored in the cloud. Microsoft sky drive is a way of storing our documents in the cloud. it means that we can access our information from any computer as long as there’s an internet connection.

Now imagine that the Cadastre were to store their data in the cloud instead of a data centre in Sir Charles Frossard House, not a lot of difference I hear you say, well no not really, not for the user. But there is a big difference for the IT department.

Servers need all that maintenance, patches, steady electricity, cooling, upgrading; and all of this requires someone to work in the IT department doing it. But it’s not that interesting and maintenance isn’t a high priority when you have exciting new projects, like SAP, that take up a lot of your IT department’s time. And I can’t blame the IT department for focussing on SAP, this is a big project that needs a lot of work and attention and it will also give us large benefits. But then servers aren’t a fine French wine, they don’t improve with age and eventually something breaks.

Cloud technology allows us to forget about all of that maintenance dullness, it allows departments and companies to concentrate on the things that are important for them. This is where world IT is going now, so why are the States of Guernsey not going there.

Before you think that the States of Guernsey are just luddites in this respect, there are a couple of things to think about. When we have a data centre, we know exactly where it is, but does anyone know where your iTunes match data physically is? Where in the world is the server with your Microsoft Sky Drive? This is an important question because if important government information sits in another country, it’s not the best idea, as well as potentially being illegal. I know that Microsoft’s european data centres are in Dublin and Amsterdam, neither of which I’d like to have my tax information. Apple has it’s european cloud in Luxembourg and as pleasant as Luxembourg is, I’m not sure that I’d want all that information sitting inside the EU (they do have a habit of prying into information that isn’t theirs). EU government’s could also demand, through their courts, for these companies to disclose all the data that they store on their servers and I most certainly don’t want my electronic census data being disclosed in an uncontrolled way to some nosy parker EU government.

But we do have local cloud providers, Calligo, Itex and others (as the BBC would say, other providers are available) who have their cloud computers sitting in Guernsey and Jersey, and as such, are the logical option for us to start thinking about cloud computing.

Computing is getting more and more complicated, and as it does so, the basics still need to be done. Any company that’s still doing the basics really would have to ask themselves, by now, why? It’s time the States of Guernsey did the same.

My first suggestion would be to think about the exact issue that caused the loss of data at the Cadastre. Currently the States of Guernsey are backing up their servers onto tape. To say that this is a little old fashioned is a little like saying that betamax is on its way out. What we should be thinking about is backing up data to the cloud, but that’s not even on the radar yet, only to replace tape back up with more computers. Personally I think that this is a little like moving from betamax to VHS just as the world is moving into digital downloads.

Finally there’s WAN (Wide Area Network). This is easily explained as the electronic pipes that connect all the computers of the States of Guernsey together, from the King Edward Hospital to the Tourist Information Centre on the front. From St Sampson High School to Sir Charles Frossard House. The best way to think of this is that we rent the pipe from a telecom company (currently JT) to use it. But the bigger the pipe, the more you pay for it, therefore the pipe from the PEH to Sir Charles Frossard House (because of the number of people) will be bigger than the pipe from the cadastre office. But if the data sits in the cloud, we don’t need a big fat pipe between the offices, all we need is an internet connection, and we all know that Commerce and Employment are working hard at the moment to bring those costs down. Indeed Commerce and Employment are working hard to facilitate cloud service providers on the island, so why aren’t we, as the States of Guernsey, taking advantage of this work?

Why Blog?

So why Blog? Isn’t it enough that the political world of a small island is sufficiently covered by the excellent coverage of the BBC, Channel News and the omnipresent Guernsey Press? Virtually every day we have another news story concerning deputies that appears in the pages of the Guernsey Press or over the airwaves on BBC Radio Guernsey; add that to the endless rounds of government consultations, presentations, the monthly meeting of the State’s of Deliberation and we have as much political discourse as you’d need on an island of sixty thousand odd inhabitants (I know that the last number will be considered contentious by some of you due to a recent debate) isn’t it?

Well maybe not. I mean no disrespect to anyone when I say that I find the Guernsey Press is most extensive in its coverage but has its own agenda that it pushes; BBC Radio Guernsey are a little on the timid side not wanting to enter into a political discussion, hence the incredibly weak format of the Sunday Phone In where all political questions are passed over to the public; and Channel TV that only have a half hour slot every day to cover events on all of the islands (who cares what’s happening in Jersey?).

Given that I’m not known for being a timid wall flower (well I don’t think so anyway) and given that I get rather frustrated with people’s view of the political discussions I thought it time to start presenting my view in the round rather than the narrow view that’s so frequently presented in the conventional media. I frequently talk to people on Twitter (yes please follow me on @elisbebb) and discover that a subject that has raised passions hasn’t been well explained. We lack the PR machinery that is ever present in other jurisdictions (thank the Lord) that seek to give flesh on the bones of an argument.

There is also, I suppose, a selfish view that if I blog successfully I may not be subject to quite so many questions or (on a less frequent basis) attacks for my position. But then that may be considered altruistic rather than selfish.

Finally, yes I will consider writing a political blog on requests that I receive but no, I don’t guarantee that I will and no, I won’t necessarily agree with everyone.