Friday, 26 February 2016

Skepticab musings 26 Feb 2016

Things that popped into my head this week:



Blossom started coming out a couple of weeks ago, first the white stuff then the pink.  I don't know what trees these are- perhaps someone can tell me.  It may not all be from the same type of tree.  It's a bit strange this year though, given that he white and pink blossom first appeared in December when it was about 16 degrees on some days, before it actually got cold, then went back in again.

The blossom that has come through so far seems a bit weak- I'm sure the trees are usually fuller than this.  Is this to do with the early blossom in December?  I imagine this is a well-discussed phenomenon.

How to deal with criticisms

A customer today, after the usual greetings, opened her conversation with 'Harlow is shit and full of shit people'.  How to respond when someone criticises something that you feel a part of?  Especially as I can only assume that I am one of her shit people.  I just said that I quite like Harlow.  Sometimes you have to let people rant and just let them know that you have a different point of view.

As it happens the customer was in a lot of pain and found it difficult to rationalise as she would normally.  I think it's important not to criticise people without bearing in mind that there might be extenuating circumstances.  I'm glad I didn't.

How Posh am I?

I am 'very posh' apparently.  It's not unusual for customers to tell me that I speak very posh and should be a teacher (or something).  A customer today put extra stress on it and told that I am VERY posh, the poshest driver she has ever had.  I know I have what has been described as an 'educated' accent with only minor hints of northern words/pronunciation.  It does make me unusual amongst Harlow cabbies though.  In the first year at secondary school (Year 7) I remember someone telling me that I (no doubt) listened to Beethoven at home, because of my accent.  I didn't then, but occasionally have Beethoven's 9th on in the car when driving through dramatic scenery.


PG tip

A very nice woman gave me a tip and then bought me a cup of tea from Costa in return for charging what seemed to me to be a fair price.  It really touched me- a tip is nice but a cup of PG Tips is more personal.

Death Rabbit

I took a customer who was taking her beloved pet rabbit to the vets, probably to be put down.  Very sad, what can you say in those circumstances, apart from wishing her and the rabbit the right outcome?  I held back any thoughts of rabbit pie.

Forthcoming Assault?

A regular customer was told me about how he saw a man knock over a woman and her baby in a shop in Harlow recently.  He had a go at him at the time, but plans to get drunk and turn up at the house he is told where the man lives with a bat.  What do I do?  I don't know the house he was referring to.  Do I just look out for reports of an assault and report it to the Police when it happens?  Suggestions welcomed.


Today I took a teacher from a school for excluded pupils to pick up a pupil and take him somewhere.  It transpired that he had recently been arrested for carrying a potentially deadly knife and so had to go somewhere else.


What Future?

I sometimes take a schoolboy in Year 6 from a muslim family.  He told me recently that he is looking forward to being 18 so he can decide whether to be a Muslim, Christian or whatever.  Very encouraging.

But today he was telling me today that his uncle wants him to go to secondary school in Pakistan.  He has only been there once and didn't like it.  A family member wants him to attend school in Pakistan, where discipline involves sticks.  This is very worrying.

Car Fish

I noticed this fish sign on a car today.
Until now I had only seen the original Jesus fish
or the Darwin/walking fish version.
It has struck me that it might be fun to have a Darwin/walking fish on my cab but I don't for two reasons:
1) I am not allowed anything offensive on it.  Whether this could be construed as offensive, should anyone notice it, is debatable.  More importantly...
2) The fish implies to me that either a) you are a Christian or b) you believe in evolution.  In the UK I understand that most Christians believe in evolution, which makes the Jesus-Darwin proposition somewhat irrelevant.  To me the Darwin/walking fish should really mean that the owner is a Christian who believes in evolution.  It tries to impose a false dichotomy between being a Christian and believing in evolution.  That's why I don't have it on my car.

It's nice to see other variations on it though, such as the pagan one.

Vulnerable Women

I took a woman today who was moving from her temporary shelter to a new place.  She was telling me that her daughter was raped a few years ago when in her early teens.  Her partner was not supportive and blamed the daughter so they parted company.  Obviously I only hear half the story but it is harrowing to hear some of the things people have to put up with.  At the temporary shelter they had to put up with, amongst other things, the sounds of a young child being beaten at night and a woman performing oral acts on men in the hallway to fund her drug habit.  It doesn't sound to me like a very protective environment.  At least she is out of there now.


Is this sign, which I photographed in Harlow today, sexist in any way?
Er, yes.

Atheist etiquette in church

It was brought to my attention by a family member this week that during my uncle's relatively recent (very Christian) funeral service, which I attended, it was noticed that my decision not to stand or kneel when instructed could be construed as me making a statement, and if I was to do that in future then I should sit at the back where it wouldn't be noticed.  I don't want to upset people, so maybe on the rare occasions I attend a church service I should hide at the back, rather than being part of the family.  Alternatively I could stand and not sing.. Either way I won't be kneeling.  I'm not sure what the best thing to do is, given that I want to fit in but be true to my beliefs (or lack thereof).  This is relevant for my brother's forthcoming ordination.

I want to discuss this on episode 112 of the Skepticule podcast (, which I am one of the presenters of.