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Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Cenotaph under snow

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A better shot of this at night, and the lights on the tree on the edge of Master Park, Oxted.  And here’s the reverse view from the Park.

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And here’s a picture of what the spot looked like before the tree was planted and grew (taken from a local postcard):

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Posted by bigblue on 21/12/2010 at 08:12 AM
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Monday, 20 December 2010
Empathy

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And so snow strikes chaos in the UK, in a way that a terrorist attack could never.  I was reading some accounts of passengers experiences and a few things struck me. A common refrain seems to be:

It’s not the weather that’s the problem, it’s the way they’ve handled the people…..
and
We’ve been left to fend for ourselves.

I too have had similar experiences at UK airports. The ones that stick in my mind are the storm in 2000 when my flight was delayed 24 hours and I was stranded at Gatwick airport, and the time when my late-night flight into the UK was delayed en route for 2 hours and by the time we disembarked the baggage handlers’ shift had finished and they had gone home.  (Our baggage was delivered the following day). A common thread in my experiences has been airline and airport staff who don’t know how to handle emergencies and unhappy customers. They appeared reluctant to give us full information about the nature of the problem, they did not want to discuss the situation, they did not want to hear customer complaints, and they were generally unhelpful.

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A year ago today (almost) I was stuck at railway stations and airports in the Netherlands due to a severe snowstorm. I spent two days trekking across the (little) country and although I was inconvenienced my way was always smoothed by the staff who knew how to deal with complaints and angry passengers. I was frustrated and (am sorry to say now) that I took out my frustrations at the people who were trying to make the passengers’ lives less miserable.  I also noticed other people “ranting” at the airport/railway staff but the staff handled us at all times with aplomb. They showed empathy for their customers. Various people have put forward definitions for empathy, such as:

The capacity to know emotionally what another is experiencing from within the frame of reference of that other person, the capacity to sample the feelings of another or to put one’s self in another’s shoes.
[D. M. Berger]

A sense of similarity in feelings experienced by the self and the other, without confusion between the two individuals.
[Jean Decety]

An affective response that stems from the apprehension or comprehension of another’s emotional state or condition, and that is similar to what the other person is feeling or would be expected to feel.
[Nancy Eisenberg]

To empathize means to share, to experience the feelings of another person.
[R. R. Greenson]

The ability to put oneself into the mental shoes of another person to understand her emotions and feelings. 
[Alvin Goldman]

An affective response more appropriate to another’s situation than one’s own. 
[Martin Hoffman]

These definitions also make me think of Emotional Inteligence.  Is it not time that businesses in the UK started to teach their employees to empathise with their customers?  Apparently this should start with the managers learning to empathise with their staff.

Posted by bigblue on 20/12/2010 at 07:42 AM
Filed under: EuropeNetherlands • (1) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share
Sunday, 19 December 2010
Snowy sunset on the North Downs

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I took this photo somewhere on the A25 between Oxted and Tandridge, on Friday evening.

Posted by bigblue on 19/12/2010 at 08:56 AM
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Saturday, 18 December 2010
The elusive Surrey Gritter

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Passing the Royal British Legion, Oxted, at 19:50 this evening.  Strangely there was little (if any) grit being spewed from it. And here’s one I took earlier, of Station Road West:

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News and advice about our most recent cold snap, here.

Posted by bigblue on 18/12/2010 at 10:48 PM
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Wednesday, 08 December 2010
Oxted yesterday

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Give credit where it’s due: some council workers were out collecting refuse from public bins (even if they failed to collect my own refuse and recycling yesterday).

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As it was also one of the first “clear days” after the snow there were a number of delivery trucks in the centre. Most of them were parked/stopped illegally and were blocking traffic. This one was blocking a full lane of traffic, as a couple of metres of ice separated it from the pavement.

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Some roads on the outskirts of Oxted are closed. This one, Chalkpit Lane, was closed by police due to an accident.

Posted by bigblue on 08/12/2010 at 07:56 AM
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Tuesday, 07 December 2010
Oxted at night

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I was somewhat astounded tonight to see that someone has decorated one of the trees on the edge of Master Park.

Posted by bigblue on 07/12/2010 at 09:46 PM
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Sunday, 05 December 2010
Hannibal

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While in Tunisia recently I (re)discovered the historical figure: Hannibal of Carthage:

One of his most famous achievements was at the outbreak of the Second Punic War, when he marched an army, which included war elephants, from Iberia over the Pyrenees and the Alps into northern Italy.

The word Punic is a form of the word “Phoenician”, which was a land in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean, covering the modern territory of Syria, Lebanon and Northern Israel.

In his first few years in Italy, he won three dramatic victories, Trebia, Trasimene, and Cannae, and won over several Roman allies. Hannibal occupied much of Italy for 15 years, but a Roman counter-invasion of North Africa forced Hannibal to return to Carthage, where he was decisively defeated by Scipio Africanus at the Battle of Zama. Scipio studied Hannibal’s tactics and brilliantly devised some of his own, and finally defeated Rome’s nemesis at Zama having previously driven Hasdrubal, Hannibal’s brother, out of Spain.

Wikipedia also informs us that Hannibal’s military exploits continue to be studied in military academies all over the world. Someone at a tourist office in Tunisia told me that Hannibal is the historical figure of whom Tunisians are most proud.

The photo above of ruins in Carthage, Tunisia, is by johnmuk, and I have reproduced it here under a creative commons licence.

Posted by bigblue on 05/12/2010 at 08:57 AM
Filed under: AfricaTunisia • (2) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share
Saturday, 04 December 2010
African beach

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As the snow melts outside I am reminded of those work meetings on the beach in Tunisia, last week.

Posted by bigblue on 04/12/2010 at 06:02 PM
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