I’m 72 with COPD – so self-isolating & socially distancing – and started doing this blog – along with morning exercises & flat cleaning, afternoon Tai Chi, and intermittent TV, reading & puzzle books, and social media promoting Mutual Aid etc and castigating the Tories – as a way of staying sane!
I really hate it when Twitter, Facebook, Hotmail change their format “because of customer demand” – when I for one am a customer who’s NEVER demanded the change. They do sometimes, but not always, have the option of sticking with the old format – but before too long there’s a notification that the old fashioned ways will no longer be supported, with no updates, opening it up to hackers and trolls.
It usually takes me weeks to adjust, and I often never find out how to do things which used to be easy. Occasionally there is an on-line tutorial, but invariably this is written by a computer geek whose mastery of language is limited to obscure terminology, and who obviously has nothing but scorn for lesser non-technical mortals. When I was selling computers back in the 1980s, I’d sit with the customer’s decision-makers explaining our systems multiple benefits in simple but flowery English, while our and their tech whizz-kids settled somewhere in the depths of our premises muttering about megabytes and RAMs to their heart’s content – the language barrier even bigger than our physical separation.
And while I’m at it, another bugbear is the way computer tools are supposedly designed to help, but do the opposite. For instance, the last few days on Twitter, I’ve been refusing to “Move On” – and sharing articles about Dominic Cummings many and varied past misdemeanours, usually with the hashtag #DominicCummings. But when I start to type that in, the supposedly helpful window gives me various options – which always start with #dominiccummingsisalegend, together with various mis-spellings, such as #DominicCumnings or #DominicCummmings. Now if I was a conspiracy theorist, I might conclude that someone was paying Twitter to avoid #DominicCummings ever trending. Surely not!?!?!
I’ve just read about an appalling experience a Facebook friend had in her local hospital – and yes, NHS staff are doing a fantastic job in incredibly difficult circumstances, but let’s not pretend they are all saints!
As a mental health survivor, I’m used to encountering stigma, and getting a lesser service. But a few years back when I encountered rudeness on the ward at the RVI, left sitting for hours with staff standing around chatting but no-one taking any notice of me, or telling me what was happening – I plucked up the courage and asked to speak to the person’s manager as I wanted to make a complaint, and then asked for the PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) leaflet.
This caused a ripple around the ward, whispering and sly looks, a couple of nurses scurrying about (they later admitted they didn’t have any leaflets and needed to search a couple of other wards), until before too long a hospital manager and fairly senior doctor came and sat with me, full of apology and concern for my condition, taking great pains to explain why there’d been a hold-up, and what I could expect.
But I didn’t leave it there. When I got home, still angry but much calmer, I wrote a draft complaint in my word processor, made a lot of alterations making it more factual, politer and more conciliatory – and sent it as an email to my local PALS detailing my complaint. They promised to investigate, and pass on my concerns to the relevant bigwigs of relevant departments, and asked whether I wanted it to be a formal complaint – which in this case I did. As a result, I not only got an apology, but also thanks for pointing out procedures which weren’t working and helping cause changes in the way things would be done in future.
Some months later I had a slightly less concerning experience at the Freeman, but went through the same procedure.
The net result is that on my hospital record is the fact that I’m a bit of a trouble-maker, I won’t put up with being treated like dirt and – what they are really scared of – they know if a repeat happens, I might well go public or even sue. And – I can’t prove it – but ever since I’ve had staff treat me with kid gloves, doctors and consultants go out of their way to explain my treatments, and make sure I’m happy with it.
There’s a national characteristic which used to cause self-deprecating titters, of the British as a nation of grumblers who never complained. Don’t put up with it, complain as loudly as necessary and buck the trend – and so hopefully improve things for people who come after.
It’s not much good if someone you care about asks “Do I look fat in this?” and being too honest for your or their own good you reply “Yes you do” – which results in them getting depressed, and their usual response to depression is reaching for comfort food.
Nor does it really help if someone you care about asks “Do I look fat in this?” and being overly concerned about hurting their feelings you reply “Of course not, you look great” if that confirmation means they continue a diet of fatty foods, exacerbating a heart condition.
Some people have the knack of reaching a happy medium, somehow managing to give the bad news in a way that no-one could either avoid it, or take offence. Personally, as one of the “too honest” brigade, I can only listen to their disarming charm in envy and awe.
Such a pity would-be dictators like Boris Johnson and Donald Trump always surround themselves with boot-licking, sycophantic, fawning, kow-towing, toadying (you get the picture!) yes-men feeding their already bloated egos, protecting their ears from the least whiff of criticism.
We could do with some middle-course charming truth-to-power merchants at the moment, or I fear thousands upon thousands more people will die.
My daily exercise videos is led be an Australian (or possibly New Zealander, I’m not very good at accents) who every now and again says something like “You’re doing a great job guys” – which of course is nonsense, because he can’t see us, so for all he knows we could be using it as light entertainment while lounging around stuffing our faces with cream cakes.
In many of my past jobs – after the first few months of enthusiastically learning the ropes – I could often be seen pouring over a computer screen, but others in the office could never be sure whether I was writing letters to clients and toting up the departmental statistics – or writing an article for a mental health campaign and preparing that evening’s astrology course hand-outs, in other words, avoiding work, shirking, skiving off. And because I was almost always reasonably up to date with what my bosses required, and made some efforts to not be caught out, I must confess I had little or no guilt.
At primary school, I genuinely wanted to be there (much preferring it to being at home, where I was always on tenterhooks trying to dodge being bullied), and was quite ready – in a class of my peers and a teacher I’d learned to trust – to volunteer as a guinea pig for any new task, and laugh along with everyone if I made a hash of it. But secondary school was a different matter – my main interest in life was girls, and they were single-sex schools, so naturally I bunked off whenever I could.
And my work experience – in teenage cleaning, washing-up, shop and photograph assistant, painting and factory labourer jobs – primed me for the ideas of alienation and wage slavery I later met reading Marxist tomes.
Much later in my yuppie years, I was a salesman – but of a niche type. I sold computers for a small company which I knew wouldn’t try to fleece customers, and products I used every day – but I knew my limitations: I had to trust the company, believe in the product, and have only potential customers in government, health & local authority who somehow found my laid back approach reassuring – and I was prepared to work hard for a decent basic plus commission which help feed my family, and pay the cult guru his exorbitant fees – but I’d still be doing esoteric work whenever I could in office time.
Since I’ve retired, it’s been a very different story. Despite the fact that no-one is watching me, and my absence might go completely unnoticed, I regularly spend 6 or 7 hours on my desktop, assisting in making a number of video, writing left & green songs, sharing and concocting posts which expose the corruption & hypocrisy of the powers-that-be on Facebook & Twitter, hoping that my small efforts help towards some fairer and more just socialist society, which may possibly happen despite global warming long after I’m gone! I don’t need to be told, it’s what I want to do, it’s what I love doing – and if and when it isn’t, I’ll stop.
Meanwhile, I keep moving along with my exercise video, consciously adopting the mindset of my primary school years, doing my very best, as if trying to earn the personal praise of the video man who recorded it 6 months back, but actually content with self-satisfaction at my efforts.
What struck me most about Dominic Cummings defence of the indefensible was his smug sense of entitlement, a rule maker forced into a PR exercise, but totally convinced rules didn’t apply to him. Having been brought up in a mixed-class family, it’s something I can smell a mile off.
My mother was a Geordie born into the slums of Shieldfield, and never lost her lack of self-worth, vainly trying to compensate by name-dropping and boasting of her children’s achievements however petty. My father was educated in prep and public school, his ancestors (and mine!) including a factory owner who undoubtedly exploited child labour, and a Colonel in the Indian Army at the heart of the rape and pillage enacted throughout the British Empire. And although my father’s voting record as a left-wing MP – before he was sucked into government – was exemplary, he had no trouble fitting into the parliamentary world of being above the law.
The Hampstead home I was brought up in was paid for by inherited wealth, including shares in South America railways – which were built using slave labour. And there’s no better example of entitlement than the ending of slavery – an act univerally praised by establishment historians, who rarely mention that it was the slavers who received huge sums in compensation for being deprived of their “property”, while the slaves and their ancestors who’d suffered the deadly Atlantic crossing, and years of degradation, inhuman punishment and forced labour didn’t get a penny for their decades of suffering. But then is it surprising – since Parliament at that time was packed with slave owning MPs and Lords whose self-interest overrode all finer feelings – with as far as I know not a single slave or ex-slave entitled to speak in the debate or vote.
I remember when well below legal pub drinking age, I was treated to trips to parliament and gleefully supped pints in House of Commons bars where UK laws didn’t apply, bought for me by the likes of Robert Maxwell and other MPs my father publicly shunned, but happily rubbed shoulders with between debates. And the atmosphere of racism and sexism in those bars and throughout the Westminster palace was overwhelming.
In my late teens I came to the conclusion that while Parliament was in charge, there would be little change in the class system. With the extraordinary exception of 1945, governments have done little more than tinker to satisfy manufactured media outrage, no laws have ever affected by one iota the balance of wealth and power – a few crumbles thrown to workers, women, ethnic minorities, the poor, homeless, disabled & mentally ill, the disenfranchised. But always with care that the best sounding laws are little enforced, the inspectors shackled by small print, huge sums thrown at catching benefit cheats, while the very few cases brought against £million tax avoiding fraudsters are so often dropped because they are “too complex”.
And although I’ve flirted with membership of parties like Labour & Greens which focus on Parliamentary democracy to right the wrongs, I’ve never been entirely convinced. I still believe that real change will only come from the likes of workers and Shop Stewards (helped by Trade Unions whose leaders haven’t been corrupted by the promise of honours), from organisations like People’s Assembly Against Poverty & Stop the War, WASPi & Stand Up to Racism, Disabled People Against Cuts & Extinction Rebellion building mass movements of pressure from the bottom up.
About 20 years ago when I felt in dire need of some counselling, I came across a new scheme – I think NHS run which would pay for “talking therapies”. I applied, and as a long-standing mental health survivor and locally well-known activist, I was quickly accepted, and sent a list of “approved” counsellors, all of them boasting of various professional qualifications. So I emailed 2 or 3 initially, giving a brief synopsis of my three main areas – dysfunctional family background, ECT & psychiatric abuse, and cult membership. Which was probably a mistake, as I then got a series of refusals, each time emailing a new prospective counsellor – until turned down for the 8th time, the general view being my problems were too complicated – and I gave up with the scheme in disgust.
Instead, I tried other avenues – and at one time was seeing 3 counsellors simultaneously – a trainee (who was hopeless, having forgotten everything I’d told him, including my name, at the 2nd & 3rd sessions) via my doctor, a NECA counsellor (having somewhat exaggerated my addiction to alcohol, I was so desperate to talk & talk), and a lovely woman from Someone Cares who’d experienced childhood abuse and knew exactly what I was talking about.
Also around the same period I was a guinea pig for two separate students doing counselling courses at Northumbria University (or was it Newcastle College?) and who needed to notch up the practice hours – and their warmth and empathy was worth ten times the forensic analysis of some cold professional with umpteen letters after their name
And for a year, I approached practitioners of at least twenty sorts of alternative therapies – including acupuncture, herbalism, shiatsu, aromatherapy, voice-movement therapy, yoga, kinesiology, massage, flower remedies – and, because I was unemployed and broke, supported the barter economy by exchanging sessions with my birth chart readings – meeting lots of lovely people, before settling on the 3 which seemed to do me most good.
I remembered this when someone recently remarked that I seemed much more outward going (in spirit if not in isolated person!) than when she first met me ten-ish years ago. And it’s true that I seem to have regained some of the enthusiasm and humour of my teens and 20s – but it’s also true, as everyone who’s experienced abuse, PTSD, grief knows, that the struggle to continue, to come to terms with, to rise above and learn from, is never-ending – and hopefully the realisation that you are very likely a much better person not despite but because of it all.
I’ve just joined the EXTINCTION REBELLION POETRY GROUP, shared my “Bees are buzzing” & “We can do a lot about global warming” lyrics & links to YouTube – and saw a challenge, to write a poem about locusts. So here’s my attempt:
The locusts consumed every plant in their path,
Leaving the land, soil, rainforest bare,
An insatiable greed for economic growth and profiteering
Leaving behind poverty, disease, starvation.
When capitalist governments decided to emulate nature
Did they have to choose such a destructive role model?
How I learnt that challenging authority pays
During my final primary school year, a special event that afternoon was announced by our lovely form teacher Mrs Gbedimar (I’m sure not the correct spelling – she was Miss Harvey before marrying an Indian man, which my parents assured me was a Good Thing, in contradiction to the current of disapproval which swept the school) – we were going to be honoured by a cricket lesson overseen by our illustrious headteacher.
For some unknown reason Mr Bradford, a man held in much awe & fear, chose me to be one of the umpires – but although my older brother had dragged me along to Lords on a couple of occasions to keep him company, the rule keepers had not been my main focus. After I’d survived the 1st over without mishap, and was feeling confident, I was told to go to square leg, and wandered off to where I thought someone with square legs might stand – only to receive a tirade of scornful derision for having committed the cardinal sin of confusing square with off, the headteacher’s feigned ire provoking the predictable titters among my fellow classmates, with me stuttering an apology while a vivid hot, red blush filling my downcast face.
A couple of weeks later, we had another “treat”, Mr Bradford teaching us paragraphs – and overcoming my trepidation, I did quite well, and had lost my fear when approaching the homework that evening of a self-chosen paragraph. Overcome it to the extent of being brave – or some might think foolhardy – enough to write a paragraph about “My Headteacher” in which I implied he was not a very nice man and a bit of a bully.
The next morning before we handed our paragraphs in, I showed my effort to a couple of friends, and instead of praise for my cheekiness, got the feedback of horror – I went into a cold sweat, and instead of sensibly giving an excuse of “the cat ate it”, scratched a few ink lines over the worst insults, which emphasised rather than hid them, and handed it over.
The next day, after roll-call, the headteacher marched in, called me to the front of the class, and waving my exercise book in front of my face, demanded angrily “What is this!?” And instead of giving the defence of “Well it’s true isn’t it – you are a bully!” – I muttered something about having spilt my ink bottle over the essay – so obviously a lie, it just compounded my sin – and I was sent to spend the rest of the day in utter shame in the year below.
Having kept my head down all morning, and begun to enjoy sitting at the back of a class of boys and girls who all seemed to regard me with awe, I was quite relaxed approaching the afternoon sessions of art – and daubed the paper with browns and greens in much more free a style than I’ve managed since, with a large tree taking shape. Towards the end of the school day, the teacher looked through our work and – obviously not having got the message that my disgrace was supposed to be hammered home all day – held my painting up saying that was exactly how a tree should be painted, raising my kudos even more!
So – I had been supposed to get the message that being cheeky and defiant towards my elders and betters brings the most shaming and dire consequences, but instead I’d learnt that it gave me one of my most enjoyable ever school days – which may explain why I’ve been getting into trouble with figures of authority ever since!
I think I first seriously considered the saying “Expect nothing, anticipate everything” while a member of the Emin cult. The guru was an Encyclopaedia Britannica salesman and prolific plagiarist, so it’s probably much more ancient, and although I spent years shedding most of the cult gobbledigook, it’s one of the few concepts I still find useful.
Given my age & health, I had few expectation of what I’d be doing in 2020 – how much worse for someone who’d been accepted for a job, only for the company to be now laying off staff or going bankrupt; or for people who’d arranged their marriage or civil partnership ceremony which had to be cancelled; key workers whose jobs were only made bearable by an annual spring vacation; or thousands of bereaved people around the world who’d never contemplated their loved ones not living forever.
I’m not naturally pessimistic, and so much affected by the shock which have peppered my life and completely thrown me – my father dying, learning my mother had been raped as a child and its massive implications for my family’s psychology, the revelations about ECT after-effects I’d suffered for decades, and recognising the Emin (which I’d committed 19 years of my life to) was a cult with the prime object of enriching its guru, being just a few!
Some years ago I did an exercise – which *TRIGGER WARNING* I absolutely do NOT recommend to anyone who is feeling at all depressed!!! It is to imagine all the worst possible things which could go wrong – you’re diagnosed with an incurable disease, involved in an accident and lose your sight, hearing, 3 limbs, all the people you care about decide they hate you, an asteroid hits the planet – the idea is to give your imagination free rein, and list pages of these dire but highly unlikely possibles – and then settle with the fact that they are possible, and there is a huge part of our lives over which we have absolutely no control. And then after doing the exercise have pre-planned doing something you really, really enjoy!!
Then comes the point of the exercise – whatever then does happen, however bad it seems, is just a pinprick compared to what you’ve already imagined – and hopefully you’ve consciously built some coping mechanisms for shock, and will be able to handle the griefs that come, without being completely incapacitated.
(Note for astrologer: For the past and next few days Venus has been hovering around 20 degrees Gemini, now joined by Mercury, both square Neptune in Pisces, which always tends to bring false expectations and disappointment)
At the start of self-isolation, I realised I needed to do some regular exercise to compensate for much missed open air walks – and after a lot of searching, found a 15 minute Completely Seated Workout For Seniors which suits my level of health and fitness, and 9 weeks later I’m still managing to do it every morning, much helped by an encouraging video. And every afternoon I do 10 minutes of Tai Chi, my own compilation of moves to a CD given by my teacher, which has the added advantage of requiring focus out of my 7th floor window on the sky or distant objects, in contrast to far too much computer screen & TV viewing.
I don’t have a huge amount of trouble with adopting new habits, which crucially I’ve persuaded myself are sensible – but whether that is just age, strength of character, or as astrologers might have worked out, helped by having a strong Saturn in my chart (which I have) is debatable.
And that might surprise those who knew me when I was younger, when as far as I can remember, my habits were either very addictive – such as compulsive smoking – or involved a rush of pleasure chemicals, such as food, sex, alcohol, cannabis (although not necessarily in that order). For instance, I had little problem living in a tip, whereas now, although my desk and table might be a little cluttered for some people’s liking – everything present is there for a reason, and dust is rarely allowed to settle.
I do think it is important for older people to remember their adolescents every now and again, in the hope that it generates some generational tolerance. Personally, I find it difficult to blame any teenager for almost any sort of anti-social behaviour (although drawing the line at murder, rape, and other forms of violence and sexual abuse), when I know they are subject to utterly confusing and overpowering hormonal peaks and troughs, and as far as I know there isn’t yet a single education system around the world which provides at primary school level an adequate pre-warning and preparation for completely unavoidable changes in their lives in the near future. But if you do know one, please correct me.
One problem of living alone is too large portion sizes – ie for anyone not part of a 2.37 humans + .5dogs & .3cats or whatever is the average nowadays – which was bad enough when I was living in London, but far worse in Newcastle. I remember when buying my first fish & chips being astonished at being given what I was used to, times three (with the assumption I’d just love mushy peas!).
I was born in 1948 when there was still rationing, and my brain is hard-wired with the idea of not wasting a morsel. And at primary school I endured the shame of the lunchtime slow eaters table – not being allowed to go out to play until I’d finished every scrap of food on my plate, which I regarded as an extreme form of torture!
More recently – as a not-quite-fully-paid-up member of the green community, I’ve been very conscious of waste, the criminal uncaringness of consumer capitalism wiping out species with its dumping of plastic pollution, and rotting leftovers which could have been composted instead forming land-fill mountains so agricultural chemical companies can continue their profiteering.
On Mondays, our childhood dinner would always be cold cuts of the Sunday roast with bubble-and-squeak, and with my comparatively small appetite, I do try to save what I couldn’t eat for heating up in my copper frying-pan which doesn’t need oil (halo sparkling!”). And I must admit the choice of single person meals from supermarkets is much better than it was.
But occasionally I’m flummoxed. Some times ago, a friend mentioned bean sprouts as being particularly good for vegetarians – what I rather disparagingly call a super-duper food – and I bought a jar on-line. It’s quite a big jar, and I read the instructions “Once opened store refrigerated and consume within one day”.
Now, there’s absolutely no way I’m going to eat all of it in two days. Which means either I ignore the label and chance it, which with my health problems including a hiatus hernia is not a good idea – or much of it ends up in the bin. Luckily the use by date is 31-12-2023 by which time who knows what will have happened. Maybe post coronavirus I’ll even be advised by experts not on the Tory government payroll that it’s safe for me to invite a friend in, to share a nourishing stir-fry.
My ex-wife used to collect sayings from a variety of cultures, and I’m sure had quite a collection about boredom and idleness, mostly along the lines of “the devil makes work for idle hands”.
In my teenage years I was often bored, especially by school, and progressed from being a sometimes cheeky child, to a mischief-making adolescent – one teacher’s nightmare, sitting at the back of his class whispering just below his ear range a series of jokes and disparaging remarks which had fellow pupils in fits (it’s not, by the way, something I’m advocating – he left a term or so later, and I’ll never know if I was part of his loss of teaching inspiration, and it was a contributory factor in me being expelled about the same time!).
And I don’t seem to have lost that trait – which can make people like me ticking time-bombs in these times of forced idleness.
I do try to inject some humour every now and again to lift myself and others, which is great when with a group of people – but can be really dodgy in a Facebook group, especially if like me your humour ranges from the slapstick and absurd, through heavy sarcasm and irony to very dark indeed. It’s almost impossible to judge the audience, and the potential for upsetting people already having a hard time is huge. But I think the alternative of complete censorship of every joke for fear of offence is worse – so what I try to do is have some sensitivity, perhaps with my phrasing, try to take away some of the sting – and be very ready to say sorry, profusely, if (or rather when!) I’ve overstepped the mark.
And every so often I tend to propose some ridiculous theory, playing devil’s advocate, or allow my passion for politics free rein and come on far too strong presenting an outlandish concept as gospel. I’m not as bad as I used to be, much more in control – but as the weeks of isolation progress, I fear my boredom may get under my guard – if so, please take this as an apology in advance!
Earlier this morning, I posted in the Facebook group of ex-Liverpool University students who’d been part of the occupation of the Senate House in 1970, which was a big thing for me – and I’ve already had some nice comments in response. I’d been very active in the run-up to the sit-in (co-opted that year to be Chair of the Socialist Society, and leaflet writer), not so much during, but again afterwards (eg. prosecutor of the University authorities in a mock trial which made the local newspaper, and twisted a naive quote from me!).
10 years ago there was a reunion in Liverpool, focusing around campaigning for the one student who was expelled (another 9 suspended, including Jon Snow) to get an honorary degree, a campaign which succeeded a few years later. But I didn’t go. At the time, I was still having counselling over my dysfunctional family background, ECT and cult membership, and still pretty raw, and I had a falling out over an email group which I suspect was me looking for excuses not to attend.
I simply couldn’t cope with the idea of meeting so many people I’d not only not recognise – which probably most people my age experience to some extent – but quite possibly even when reminded of names and times we’d spent together, still have no recollection whatsoever – all because of the ECT I had in 1971, making the previous few years the most forgotten. And while I can handle the chagrin with one or two people, large gatherings are just too much (at my 40th birthday late on I sat and wept, exhausted by the strain of bluffing & putting on a brave face).
And then a really nice woman who was also a member of the group messaged me, and I had to admit to her that I hadn’t the faintest idea who she was, only to be told we’d had a relationship while students lasting some weeks! I was incredibly embarrassed, tried to explain about ECT, but wasn’t sure how much she believed me. Anyway, that decided me, and I’m not even sure if I made my apologies, but I stayed at home.
Not long after that a series of photos of the event was posted – and I came across one which had 5 or 6 (I can’t find it now) lovely women chatting, helpfully listing their names, and I realised I’d had a relationship with every one of them! (That, by the way, is not a boast – one of my greatest youthful fears was that I was psychologically incapable of sustaining any sort of male-female partnership, about 2 months being my absolute limit – until my marriage of 8 years from 1976 eased my troubled mind).
So I’m so glad I didn’t go – I would have loved to have sat down for a few hours with any of the people there and chewed the fat, especially women I’d got close to – but I know I simply couldn’t have handled the emotional and mental turmoil of meeting them all at once.
Why am I writing this – I guess for anyone who is offered ECT for whatever mental health issues psychiatrists this week have decided it magically cures – please be aware of what they are not telling you – 50 years later you could still be learning to cope with a series of chronic after-effects that drastically changed your memory, powers of concentration and personality for the worse.
Although perfectly entitled by the dictionary definition to call myself a feminist, I respect those women who think the term should be reserved for their gender, for fear it be taken over by those with less fervour and personal commitment – and am usually content to call myself a supporter of feminism.
I can remember conversations with my mother, who was thinking of returning to work, trying to persuade her to aim higher, giving credit to her experience managing a household of six (while also politically active) being transferable to the job market. And I was undoubtedly more feminist than almost all my youthful girlfriends, perhaps because my temperament really disliked telling anyone what to do – being happier told by prospective dates I’m “not macho enough”, than accused of dominance or any male chauvinist piggery!
Almost all – with one notable exception, a fervent member of Women’s Liberation who during our fairly brief relationship made me question everything I did and thought in relation to women – including all aspects of chivalry such as opening doors, standing up on a bus, which my upbringing had made subconscious. It was tough – not least when she dumped me for a more macho man, before telling us both she was coming out as a lesbian – but I’m glad of the experience!
I’ve been fortunate in being able to support a number of women’s aid groups in the North East from my mother’s legacy, but I can’t pretend to have shed all aspects of male superiority propaganda. Spending seven formative years in an all boy’s secondary school was not without its affects – my pleadings to go to the local mixed school falling on deaf ears of parents who thought potential academic achievement was more important than gender propaganda. And I have to keep a constant watch on it continuing to pollute my mind.
The current cabinet has a large majority who went to all boy schools. And judging by their behaviour, a majority of those are convinced a higher status by class and gender is their birthright. A few may pay lip-service to equality, before following their public school cronies through the lobby. Don’t expect any party without a majority of women from top to bottom, assisted by proudly feminist supporting men, to make any fundamental changes to umpteen laws which still discriminate against women.
When I’m feeling particularly lock-down adventurous, I make a foray to a BBC or right-wing commentator Twitter page, and leave a few comments and links, before retreating to await the explosions. And besides some agreements, antagonistic comments aren’t slow in coming, but invariably disappointing – almost never reasoned disagreement worth debating, just a variety of insults ripe for blocking, ranging from the ever-so-clever ‘have you taken your meds yet?” to the blunt “Your f*^*ing stupid”, with no clue as to why they might think that.
Being called stupoid is water off a duck’s back, as I’m fortunate in rarely doubted my intellectual ability, exams I could be bothered to pass came easy, and 3 or 4 times older adults after some brief conversation at interview or social occasion have said to me “You’re obviously very intelligent.” Which after I’ve got over the inevitable preening and smug desire to boast, often left me with the question – if I’m so intelligent, how come I so often do totally idiotic things, pretty much every week? Such as tripping over my feet because my head’s in the clouds, yet again ordering a flat-pack having refused to learn that I’ll have to swallow my my pride and ring my practical friend for help (something I sorely miss in isolation), hide letters I can’t deal with in the bottom of my in-trays in the hope they’ll miraculously resolve & disappear!
What I eventually worked out was there are different types of intelligence, and the grid I like best is the four – inspirational, practical, intellectual, feeling – linking to the classification fire, earth, air, water which scientists so love to hate.
Putting it loosely, inspirational would be very much in the here and now, in touch with the zeitgeist, and with a spiritual awareness
Practical is obviously down to earth, good at DIY and budgeting, lives in the real world of the possible
Intellectual likes its mind to roam freely, and has an ease with logic and philosophical discussion
Feeling is blessed with empathy for all living things, knowing well the cycles of joy and pain.
I’ve met scores of people over the years who’ve been repeatedly told by a parent or teacher “You’re stupid” until they believed it completely. And I’ve done my best, not always with success, to convince them they simply have a different form of intelligence – which is less valued in the UK, where intellectual snobbery is rife, evidence such a paltry sum compared to say Germany paid for apprenticeship courses as against classics.
In 1972/3 I worked in a hospital for people with learning disabilities (they were stigmatised with far worse names then), whose self-esteem had been trampled on. Yet this was not long after I’d had ECT and an absolute mess – and what amazed me was, so many of the patients I was supposed to help look after, had an incredibly acute feeling intelligence, and the experience for me of being with them was a daily healing and confirmation from them of the best of myself.
Similarly, so many people who’ve suffered trauma have their lives devalued, attempts to open up on social media bringing judgement and scorn. Such a pity that so much intelligence of value has been lost over the centuries. A society which refuses to learn from the formative experiences of its citizens surely stands in contradiction to the idea of humans being the most
My heart goes out to people who suffer the slightest symptoms of obsessive- compulsive disorder (OCD) in these difficult times. Their hands are likely to be incredibly raw from incessant washing, and bills for gloves and other protective equipment soaring. Although conversely they might be the people who are most safe.
As someone who’s classified at severe risk, I’ve tried to keep abreast of COVID-19 advice, for instance reading a number of article on how long the virus can survive of different surfaces like paper & plastic – but unfortunately they didn’t agree, so I’ve made up my own procedures, to a large extent based on unscientific hope.
So, when the mail arrives, I take it to the surface next to my kitchen sink, open everything and separate what I want from rubbish & recycling, the latter dumped in a corner for processing in 2 or 3 days, any urgent letters read and filed in my bottom in-tray. Then I wash my hands & the kitchen surface.
On Wednesdays when my carer does my washing in the launderette at the top of the flats, I leave all the clothes and bedding, nice and clean and dry, in their bags until Saturday morning for sorting.
Similarly, deliveries of food get unpacked and mostly put at the back of the fridge, freezer or cupboards – although often milk I’ll need that day and try to remember to only handle with a tissue which is then discarded.
Unfortunately “try to remember” is a key phrase – as I’m not only 72 but also had ECT many years back, my short-term memory is not particularly reliable, and although, because of knowing that, I have had days when I’ve washed my hands after touching pretty well anything, I’ve also had days when I’ve realised far too late that I could have spread the virus all over my flat!
Not only that, I’ve read that droplets of COVID-19 can stay in the air far longer than first thought – so potentially a delivery person or carer could have coughed or sneezed in the corridor outside my flat, and whenever I’ve opened the door, the dreaded lurgy wafted in …
So I’ve basically decided that unless I consciously tried to develop OCD – which is just not me – I’ll just settle with doing my best, knowing it’s not 100% safe, which might be why I have (or have not?!) already had coronavirus, or may get it. And trust to fate, karma, or the gods – none of which, despite being an astrologer, I particularly believe in, more likely to use such trite or philosophical concepts as “life is full of contradictions” and the song “what’s the use of worrying” to laugh at myself and ease my troubled mind!
In my 72 years, I’ve known many lovely people who’ve killed themselves – and always the self-searching questions, did I do something wrong, could I have done more, was it partly my fault? And probably many family friends of people who’ve died of coronavirus will be beset by doubts of, was I careful enough, did I infect them, was it partly my fault?
In both cases they are impossible questions, there will never be any proof, no-one can ever know – so beating oneself up becomes a useless exercise for all but consenting masochists. But the danger is that the anger and depression stages of grief merge, the anger turns inwards compounding the depression, and a grieving person becomes inconsolably wracked by guilt.
What I found helped when grieving for my suicide friends, was having a target to blame – and for those I knew best it wasn’t hard to find fault and blame:
– The family member or partner, priest or psychiatrist who abused them
– The education system which allowed unchecked bullying to erode their self-worth
– The government which used divide and rule to stigmatise and alienate them
And with coronavirus, I would plead with the bereaved, for your own health and mental well-being, aim your anger outwards to where the blame belongs:
– It was the Tory government which spent 10 years under-funding, dismantling, privatising the NHs so that it could hardly cope with usual levels of ill health let alone a pandemic
– It was the Tory government which ignored and suppressed warnings from the Cygnus Exercise, that there was not enough PPE, that the NHS could not cope with a pandemic
– It was the Tory government which issued advice leading to untested people being moved to care homes which became death traps, in order to avoid too many newspaper headlines of “Hospital Overwhelmed”
– It was the Tory government which chose to advocate a herd immunity policy justifying lack of action (a policy many think still holds today)
– It was the Tory government which chose to follow its own hand-picked political appointees on the SAGE committee, rather than WHO guidance of world leading experts
– It was the Tory government which chose to ignore the example of countries around the world which adopted policies seen to be working in taking control of virus spread
– It was the Tory government which chose to stop testing and tracing, just as the WHO was advising “Test, Test, Test” and “Test, trace, isolate”
– It was the Tory government which always did too little too late, such as allow large gatherings in Liverpool & Cheltenham, until the virus spread was out of control
– It was the Tory government which chose to allow people from coronavirus hotspots all over the world to fly into the UK with no attempt at testing them, let alone quarantine
– It was the Tory government which chose not to give testing and other health contracts to the NHS or small businesses with expertise, but to Tory-donating companies which had been convicted of corruption, incompetence and fraud multiple times, ensuring that there was the vast sums of money were wasted on the wrong equipment, and very little worked
– It was the Tory government which chose to relax restrictions in chaotic fashion, forcing desperately indebted & hungry people to risk infection on crowded public transport, in order to be able to use those transgressors as a scapegoat
– It was the Tory government which kept massaging the statistics, ensuring that all subsequent policy decisions were made on a wish and a prayer rather than hard evidence
Don’t blame yourself, the spread of coronavirus in the UK is not your fault – look at Germany, Korea, and especially New Zealand for what could have been done – blame our greedy, hypocritical, callous, government, and never vote Tory again
Donald Trump gets more support for re-election bid!
Tory COVID-19 strategy (and then get their media chums to blame the Public, NHS, Immigrants, Gypsies …)
Right-wing commentators are all over social media plugging the lie that there is absolutely no evidence that children can spread coronavirus – despite massive evidence that there are human beings (which the last time I checked children are also) can carry the virus but display no symptoms, and a whole lot of articles like this:
New Studies Add to Evidence that Children May Transmit the Coronavirus https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/05/health/coronavirus-children-transmission-school.html?smid=tw-share
I’m not a fan of any US president, but this did make me chuckle!
When I saw the film Pollyanna about 25 years ago, I must admit I wept copiously, but my mind dismissed it as superficial and trite, with cloying religious sentimentality. At that time I was going through a rough patch, of trying to come to terms with three aspects of my past which a number of counsellors said were altogether too complex for them to contemplate taking me on! And while struggling for understanding, I did have a tendency to self-pity, and enjoyed wallowing in my woe.
But since then, I’ve occasionally been reminded of the film, and even found myself using its main premise – that however dire a situation, there is always something about it to be glad of. And after a number of false starts and giving up, managed to put together examples from those three traumatic and formative experiences …
I’m glad I was born into a family affected by sexual abuse and bullied throughout my early childhood, because having experienced such childhood trauma has given me a store of empathy and understanding for people who have or are suffering, often enabling me to be with, and sometimes find words to help.
I’m glad I was given ECT making my short-term memory totally unreliable, because it allows me to approach each situation afresh, with childlike wonder, often able to see solutions to problems I’d never otherwise have thought of.
I’m glad I was a member of a cult for 19 years, because it allows me to spot cultish behaviour a mile off, such as currently the band of Boris Johnson trolls, to write with authority about their mindless servility, and not waste too much time trying to convince totally closed minds.
Well, anyone who knows me well will have guessed what comes next!
I challenge you to share at least one real, credible, even inspiring statement about the current situation, with a beginning such as
“I’m glad I’ve spent weeks in lockdown/isolation because …”
Ps. Please don’t beat yourself up if you’re totally stumped – just leave it, let your subconscious contemplate, and maybe something will come – and if it doesn’t, the timing’s not right, do something else which makes you feel good!
15th March I started self-isolating
8th April I got my NHS letter saying I was extremely vulnerable and should self-isolate
8th May I got my first text saying I should self-isolate, giving a whole list of rules if I live with someone else, and now get automated texts every day, none of which add anything to what I already know and just create anxiety, but I’m even more anxious to send STOP in case the next one has crucial information (perhaps even doing the impossible and clarifying Boris Johnson’s auto-cued, Hollywood style, Dominic Cumming’s written speech which after 3 days of coaching by experts and umpteen mirror practises oozed Churchillian sincerity, with fine rhetorical words as clear as mud)
I posted on a disability site my experience of isolation, shielding, test confusion, and got a selection of comments, including these four:
“I got a letter telling me I’m not in shielding list even though I’ve got COPD asthma and a diabetic on steroids and fostair 200/6 inhaler and salbutamol – confusing”
“I had a letter from my consultant at the beginning of April telling me I was vulnerable to covid and to isolate for 12 weeks. I then had a letter on Monday from my GP telling me I wasn’t severely vulnerable and I could go outside for my daily exercise etc. I spoke to my GP who basically said the letter he’s sent was an admin error and I was vulnerable. Good job I checked”.
“My perfectly healthy wife got a call from the shielding helpline saying she had been added to the list. Neither of us have had a letter or text. I called our GPs and they said it didn’t come from them, so we have no idea why she was on the list.”
“I had a letter from my GP a few weeks ago but got the government text only yesterday.” (just like my own experience – it was only after I’d been told by NHS111 I might have coronavirus, I started getting official texts to shield because I’m vulnerable!)
If these are at all typical (and they are very like scores of accounts I’ve seen over the last few weeks), the Government has still not got a grip. I write “Government”, because if anyone feels inclined to blame doctors, hospitals, the NHS instead – may I remind you that the Tories have spent the last 10 years chronically underfunding, dismantling and privatising our National Health service, ensuring it could not possibly cope with a pandemic, and instead of giving a massive funding boost for the NHS to take control, choosing to outsource a whole lot of anti-pandemic measures to Tory Party donating companies which have been convicted of umpteen failures and frauds.
Over the last couple of days, No 10 leaked to the media that Boris Johnson would ease lockdown measures on Monday (which newspapers splashed, causing lots of people to jump the gun over the bank holiday), then briefing that the lockdown would continue at least until the end of May.
If they were trying to create maximum confusion, they could hardly do a better job. And because of that yet more people will die, and the Tory Government will have yet more blood on their hands.
So here’s some good news …
The Sun is shining
Tories finally forced to make airline arrivals self-isolate for 2 weeks
Major city mayors worldwide are planning for a green recovery
My son got accepted as a civil servant near the beginning of lockdown, now doing online induction at home on full pay (lucky sod!)
All over the UK, thousands of volunteers are helping the NHS, Mutual Aid groups, foodbanks every day
Many city dwellers are becoming aware of birdsong for the first time ever
A big boom in cycling is forecast post-lockdown
Yesterday New Zealand had only 1 new confirmed care of COVID-19 and no deaths
I’ve got a yummy veggie sausage and stir fry rice & veg lined up for lunch
First brown bear in 150 years seen in National Park in Spain
After months ignoring them Tories finally ask Public Health Directors to take charge of care home COVID-19 testing
Almost two thirds of people think looking after and improving local parks and green space should be more of a priority after lockdown
Air pollution has fallen by unprecedented levels saving thousands of lives
With meat processing facilities shut down in the USA, there’s been a boom in vegetarian food
In lockdown spring is unfolding before our eyes
Just watered my 11 house plants which have been supplying me with oxygen at minimal cost for up to 30 years
Ps. After the big VE day splurge, and newspapers acting incredibly irresponsibly raising false hopes of an early lockdown end, beware of a feeling reaction, of an all pervading disappointment. Astrologically, Venus in Gemini is almost static, square Neptune in Pisces, and this afternoon and evening both make a T-square with the Moon in Sagittarius – which all speaks of feeling all over the place, can’t cope & depressed (especially women!). So get on the phone/Skype with friends and have a good moan, try spending time with your favourites and whatever makes you feel good.
The fascist in No. 10 who probably celebrated VE day
So, I got my text at 5.38.23 this morning which began:
“Your COVID-19 test has come back NEGATIVE. You don’t have the virus at this time…”
But before anyone starts congratulating me for having dodged the dreaded lurgy, may I pose a few alternatives …
1 I imagined the whole thing, or made it up seeking attention – after all, I’ve been a mental health survivor for 59 years, and once met a doctor who told me he’s been specifically told on courses to totally ignore symptoms reported by “mad” people like me because we’re prone to making them up
2 I had hayfever – despite having been taking antihistamine for weeks, and not sneezing any more than usual, or had watery eyes (my usual symptoms)
3 I had flu – despite having this season’s flu vaccine the first day it was available, not having had flu since I started getting them (except the year they got the wrong strain), and not having read anything about this year’s jab being particularly ineffective (If you have read anything, please let me know)
4 I’ve had COVID-19, but my sample for testing arrived too late – because when trying to order a home testing kit from the Government website I got so many responses of “Not Available”, I couldn’t take the test until it was at least 12 hours beyond when they say it needed to be done, i.e. within 5 days of first getting symptoms
5 I’ve had COVID-19, but botched the swab test – which I’ve read up to 50% of people without medical training do, and believe me it ain’t easy, especially trying to see your tonsils in the mirror, having just dropped your mobile phone which has my only torch, and fumbling about between 9pm and 7am when it has to be done and I’m not at my best even when not feeling ill!
6 I’ve had COVID-19, but the testing procedure of my sample was run by Sodexo, G4S or Serco who couldn’t organise the proverbial piss-up, and they botched it.
7 I didn’t have COVID-19, did the test OK, being late didn’t matter, the testing procedure was correct, didn’t have 2 or 3 above but something else entirely different as yet unknown
8 I’ve had COVID-19, but by the time I did the test it had mutated (being a smart virus!) to something which no longer shows up in tests
… and I’d better stop there before my imagination goes into overdrive!!!
Personally I prefer 4 or 5 above – that I’ve had it, only a mild version, but my bloodstream is now brimming with anti-coronavirus antibodies, and have got a false negative test result – either way, I’m going to have to assume a true negative, and carry on shielding until at least 30th June, but more likely for safety until either there’s an antibody test or vaccine widely available, perhaps a year or 18 months …
Meanwhile my two possible May elective and June necessary operations are coming closer – but I’m still able to have a good belly laugh, particularly at my own foibles!
Here’s another way of whiling away some lockdown time – are there any celebrities born within a week of you? (My apologies to younger Friends who may have a lesser choice).
Here are some of mine:
Elaine Page 5th March 1948 Excellent singer, actress
Eddy Grant 5th March 1948 Singer, songwriter including Baby Come Back & Walking On Sunshine (or so Wikipaedia informs me)
Giles Brandeth 8th March 1948 I do like his humour, not his politics!
Emma Bonino 9th March 1948 Italian politician – great on human rights, but economic liberal (or so it says)
Me 10th March 1948
James Taylor 12th March 1948 Another fine singer, songwriter
You can hopefully find examples by putting into your search engine something like “Celebrities born in 1975” or “April 1983” and scrolling through – although unfortunately most of the sites seem to be American, with lots of film stars, but not many scientists, ecologists, left wing politicians!
I once met a woman who was born on the same day as me – although very different times, and we had no trouble finding a host of characteristics in common. Which would not come as a surprise to anyone interested in astrology.
But please, a word of warning. I’ve always really disliked the fatalistic view of astrology – and if you come across any unsavoury characters, and are inclined to think “Oh my God, I’m doomed” – may I suggest a refresher course in the whole nature .v. nurture debate!?! For instance, someone born on the same day, but different year, as me was Osama Bin Laden born 10th March 1957 – and although I am like him in having pretty strong beliefs, I’ve never felt inclined to go around killing everyone who happens to disagree with me – on the contrary, I dearly love reasoned discussion and debate!!
Yesterday Natalie Windsor suggested some breathing exercises and singing might help me – so for today’s update I wrote a little ditty, to the tune of that 1964 classic
“You’ve lost that loving feeling”
(my sincere apologies to the Righteous Brothers!)
I thought I’d been so careful for sure when isolating,
But I may have just let the virus start incubating,
And I’m trying so hard not to show it,
But I’m really not yet through it,
I’ve got that screwy feeling,
I’ve got that bluey feeling,
I’ve got that fluey feeling,
And it’s still going strong, woe, woe woe!
It was either post this – or the saga of registering the home test and taking the swab, which is boxed up awaiting collection (but the memory of that catalogue of errors is still too raw!) – or a diatribe against the purchase of Newcastle United by the Saudi regime (which I’m going to write today, but not post in my over-sensitive state, not yet well enough to counter with detachment or humour any trolls attacks).
Anyway, it seems whatever virus I’ve got hasn’t yet affected my ability to rant, write doggerel or laugh at my own silly jokes!!
Well – I’ve finally managed to book a home testing coronavirus kit – but what a kerfuffle! It was my 9th try before the Government website said Home Testing kits were available, and I definitely fitted second criteria of over 65 and with coronavirus symptoms. But when I started answering the form’s questions, they were all about Key Workers, including needing my National Insurance number – but I persevered, got an email to verify that I am me – only to be told they could not verify my identity and I needed to go through a private company called something like Trans Union – but all their questions were for Key Workers – so I was then told if I had problems (they were probably hoping by now that most ill over-65s would have given up in disgust or despair!) – ring an 0300 number, which I did and then had to answer a series of questions and again give the code sent to me – and was promised a kit would be sent to me “hopefully within 24 or 48 hours” – which since their website said I needed to have the test within 5 days of first getting symptoms may well be too late!!! But I didn’t say that – and so may get a false negative, but have to assume it is a negative and keep isolating and shielding until there’s an antibody test or vaccine readily available …. If that all makes any sense!?!?
Posted on Facebook:
Many, many thanks for all the lovely, kind messages which are very much appreciated. Not much change overnight, except I sweated a lot, which may or may not be a good sign.
But I realised that yesterday I forgot to ask the doctor about testing, and he didn’t mention it – so I’ve posted to nhs.uk on Twitter, and a slightly longer message on Facebook:
“I filled out the NHS111 form yesterday, doctor rang back in record time – perhaps as I’m in severe risk group – and I may well have coronavirus – but no mention was made of testing & I forgot to ask. Is home testing kit sent automatically, or should I contact NHS111 again?”
Trouble is on Twitter they monitor the site on weekdays 9am – 5:30pm, and the Facebook page hopes to respond “within 7 days” – so I may contact NHS111 again (if I can muster the will and energy).
If someone like me has been told by a doctor on NHS111 that they may well have coronavirus, but is still not being automatically tested, then this lying and criminally negligent – if not “herd immunity” genocidal – Tory government has no chance of getting any control over the spread of the pandemic for weeks to come.
I didn’t feel so good Thursday, Friday was better, but today – achy, hot chest, sore throat – so I filled out the NHS111 form, doctor called in 5 mins (I guess as I’m in the severe risk group) – the upshot is I may well have coronavirus, he said I’m already doing all the right things, to double my steroid dosage, and sit it out hoping that in the next 7 or so days there’s no shortness of breath or lack of oxygen drowsy confusion, in which case get back to them ASAP and I’ll be hospital bound.
Anyway, I’m at the low end of 70s, gave up smoking many years ago, hardly drink, I’m a vegetarian with a good diet, and do regular exercise – so who knows what’ll happen, but I think my chances are pretty good. And I’ve our Housing Officer who calls each weekday, and a cord to pull in case of emergency, a couple of friends who live fairly close, plus I’m a member of the Mutual Aid group – so no lack of help available.
Here’s one explanation I’ve seen on Twitter from AnitaRose
@a_nitak – which makes particular sense to me as I used to be a member of a cult – that they are members of the Boris Johnson cult, and if you come across them, do not expect any reasoning to work, they are beyond it – all one can do is hope that life experience eventually helps them shed the pernicious nonsense!
I don’t feel much like blogging – so instead here’s a compilation of some of my recent tweets:
“When will the media, businesses, voters realise that because of Tory incompetence stopping testing, tracing & isolating in mid-March, the UK Government hasn’t the faintest idea of the extent of COVID-19 – so we’ll be one of the last countries able to lift lock-down restrictions safely?”
“BBC & newspaper guidelines:
When there’s bad news of health workers dying, lack of care home PPE – “the government were following scientific advice”
When despite government policy & incompetence there’s good news of … eh … (make it up. Ed)
“It was Boris Johnson what did it”!”
“If you’ve compared the coronavirus-related death rate of the UK with Germany, Korea, New Zealand, and aren’t utterly outraged and determined to never stop asking why, you’re either a Tory, a BBC reporter, psychopathic, or possibly all three.”
“If Boris Johnson – after saying the government will be making decisions with “maximum transparency” – won’t tell us who the members of SAGE are, it’s another bare-faced lie – just waiting to be challenged by a TV or newspaper reporter (who isn’t a spineless invertebrate)”
“Oh please, stop playing the divide-and-rule generation game, so loved by the Tories – who hope their subliminal message of “who cares if a few thousand old people die – it’ll save £millions in pensions & social care” to justify the gross neglect of their herd immunity policy”
“Just heard @bbclaurak on @BBCNews suggesting the Tory government can’t make clear policy decisions since they don’t know what’s going on, because it’s all new, blah di blah.
But, they don’t know what’s going on because of a CONSCIOUS DECISION to ignore WHO advice & stop testing!”
“I hope @FT who seem to have best idea of coronavirus death rate will add victims of domestic violence murder, as initial figures show they’re at double usual rate since lock-down – with the measly Tory’s £16.5m+2m hardly covering funding shortfall let alone vital refuge expansion
“Dear health & care worker,
We’re not going to give you a pay rise,
or enough PPE
but if you die,
we’ll give your family 60 thousand quid
(funeral costs not included)
Ps. If your lack of PPE means someone in your family dies instead, you won’t get a penny”
And I’m usually such a mild-mannered person!
Now back to watching favourite episodes of Mrs Marples or Brokenwood Mysteries to calm me down!!!
This week I was reminded of the idea that troubles come threes, when firstly
- Facebook said they were blocking me for 30 days for something I posted in 2018, but when I appealed, didn’t
- My carer didn’t turn up on her usual Wednesday, and when I phoned, the woman doing admin said someone had forgotten to book her, so she came on Thursday instead
- Medicine one of my doctors said she’d ordered to be delivered on Tuesday hadn’t arrived, and I phoned the chemist and surgery, to discover the order was sent to a different chemist which doesn’t know all my prescriptions are delivered!
Of course, something else may go wrong which I’ll conveniently forget or assign to the next 3 – but I have logged these 3s a number of times. Which, although the scientific/mathematical part of my brain finds the idea completely ridiculous, I don’t have a problem with.
In my youth I was proud of being a sceptic, scathing about myths & religious mumbo-jumbo, but a series of traumatic experiences allowed the other side of my brain to have predominance – so spending 19 years in an esoteric organisation I subconsciously knew was a cult, but needed to shelter from a world I couldn’t otherwise cope in.
I then shed much of my mysticism, and returned to my left-wing roots – but to the astonishment of political & more scientific friends, kept up with astrology (as I have for 45 years, teaching it for more than 15). And I’m not an astrologer who tries to prove it’s a science – quite content with it being unprovable, my use of natural analogy in interpretations designed to appeal to both sides of the brain.
It used to worry me that the Mind, Body, Spirit exhibitions I used to frequent, and even help with stalls at, left out Feelings – putting that down to the esoteric world suffering from male domination as much as any other. And I’m not sure I’d want to live in a world where concepts like Love and Kindness were wholly interpreted as being the result of laws of physics and chemistry.
Where did you learn your love of nature?
I was born next door to a farm, but we moved when I was 2 so don’t remember that, and we moved to a fourth storey flat in London, with no pets or house plants. However, on Sundays we traipsed across a large park – part manicured, mostly heathland, to a pub at the top of the hill. And there were outings of Socialist Sunday School, and two summer weeks at Forest School Camps – which, after surviving the initial year of rain and a tent full of creepy-crawlies, I really enjoyed – learning basic survival skills, and just loving being in the open air, appreciating the plants and trees, and being woken by the dawn chorus.
The left has blamed older people for losing the referendum and two elections, at its most extreme deifying the youth vote, and looking forward to a time when the death of all my generation inevitably heralded the socialist nirvana.
More recently the Tory government – with full awareness that coronavirus brings more fatalities among old people – showed its callous disregard for the very voters who kept it in power, by ignoring care homes in even cursory PPE planning or statistical analysis, no doubt assessing that being no longer productive units nor great consumers, we have little value to a capitalist economy.
And while moguls of cosmetic, fashion, plastic surgery industries fuel the media obsession with looking younger, there have been a constant stream of articles, detailing the lack of importance given to grandparents in child care and development, about the invisibility of older people, and most recently pressure on patients beyond a certain age to not expect full treatment, or sign Do Not Resuscitate forms.
So I thought I’d share an article I wrote back in 2000, an attempt to give more respect to both the process of ageing, and being old..
The Older The Better
Ok I might have lost some vigour, the joy of running as fast as I can, the urge to seek new challenges, to test my strength; but also gone is the driving need to prove myself, the anger and frustration of pitting myself against impossible odds, the people unnecessarily upset, the impulsive acts which cost me months of work to put right – I know myself better.
I may not be as flexible as before, less able to bounce back after a fall, taking longer physically to heal; but my patience has grown, and I’m more able to make a stand against surface solutions, my decided ‘no’ carries weight, and I’m much more appreciative of thoroughness and lasting quality not least in the world of nature – I’m more real.
My tongue has perhaps lost a certain speed and ready wit in response, lacking clever knowledge of the current famous and modern technology; but it’s also less likely to talk total nonsense, I’m more accurate in my assessments of people, I can communicate deeply with whoever wants to, and have discovered enough interests so I never need to be bored.
Maybe I can’t so often remember where I’ve put certain things or his name or whether I’ve told her that story before; but I’ve learned to live with my moods. I’m less brittle with unfortunate remarks, I’ve found out who my real friends are, and I’ve built up a stock of favourites – books & films, tunes & reminiscences – sure to light the deepest depression.
It’s possible I’m less able to command attention with my vibrant presence or draw admiring glances; but also I don’t need it so much. I’ve made a fool of myself in public so many times not to mind, my confidence is no longer an act, it’s tested by experience. And I can guarantee a level of conduct within sure limits, my own standards which others can rely on.
Certainly I’ve lost the purity of my innocence and the goal of superlative virtue; but I’m kinder with myself, with less expectation of being impossibly perfect. I’m less self-punishing when intentions don’t happen, and my criticisms of other’s behaviour is tempered by understanding. I’m more able to value special moments within the general, and take things day by day.
Perhaps my body and face are even less like the current ideal of physical beauty, and it takes me just a bit longer to make myself presentable; but then I’ve learned to like the lines on my and other faces, that speak of character, of inner quality earned and also my charm is now a natural expression of me. I live a better balance between objective truth and my subjective needs.
Undeniably my power has diminished, to reach the heights of ecstasy, to reproduce; but so also has my striving to manipulate. I’m less likely to go to pieces in yet another crisis, and more in touch with what is important. I’ve greater knowledge of and control over my worst aspects, and can better manage my ability to influence with foresight of its wider repercussions.
My aims might not be quite so high, to see the world, know everything, write the best-seller, be a billionaire; but neither do I waste time chasing stupid dreams. My success rate with obtainable targets is higher, my range of knowledge is broader, my theories have more substance. And I’m rarely lost for words when meeting an expert in any subject.
I like being older – I’ve a better settled understanding of my family, my life, myself, and I get great satisfaction from reaping the harvest of long-term plans and efforts. I’ve regained a child-like ability to listen with total absorption and every so often I hear what I’m saying and realise that my main objective of being a wise human might just be beginning to happen despite little me.
I’m content with my age, the consciousness it’s brought, and I now have little problem resisting pressures to conform, to be what others want. I’m settled with my uniqueness and eccentricities. I’m much less subject to emotionally disabling shock, grief is a well-known phenomenon and I now know that those worst experiences of my life held for me the greatest learning potential.
My life has been so rich with insight and understanding, not least that sometimes things improve because I’m not there. I don’t think any religion has got it quite right, and I’m neither sure nor anguished whether death is an ending or continuum. I’m doing what I can to resolve unfinished business, so that as my physical body decays, I can weigh up my past and leave life settled with my minute part in the evolution of this wondrous planet.
More ideas for staying sane and positive as lockdown continues
Young people will be desperate for love when the coronavirus restrictions relax, which brings its dangers – so here’s a great poster (which I think originates in the Freedom Programme?) – an excellent starting point for discussions about loving and abusive relationships
During the hacking scandal and for months after, I shared many a posting sniping at Piers Morgan, who somehow managed to escape prosecution for ordering his Daily Mirror reporters to illegally access as many celebrity email accounts as they could – and since then I’ve not been at all surprised at his hobnobbing with some of the most right-wing leaders, delighting in being photographed with his best mate, racist sex abuser Donald Trump.
But this last couple of weeks, I’ve been retweeting interview after interview, as Piers Morgan lays into Ministers, exposing their pathetic lies, asking all the questions the New Labour non-opposition won’t, because of some ridiculous policy decision to chase after Daily Mail readers with its don’t rock the boat myth of ‘national unity’
There’s an ancient saying “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. Some people run and hide in a crisis, and others rise to the surface – such as the vital job of holding those in authority to account. Piers Morgan is still an arrogant *!<&@*+*, and no doubt after this is all over, will revert to his celebrity toadying – but in the meantime, credit where credit is due.
Modern science tends to deride its forebears, dismissing them as alchemists, and ridiculing such concepts as the four elements. But for years I’ve found Fire, Earth, Air and Water – corresponding to the human spirit, body, mind & feelings – to be a useful grid for both study, and guidance on maintaining balance in difficult times. So here are some examples:
Fire – each day look for inspiration – the biography of a life you think extra special, a piece of music which lights you up, an animal which survives against all the odds – or conversely, it could be reading of Tory government incompetence or billionaire’s profiteering from this crisis, and using the friction as a spur to action – to write, campaign, donate (only do remember, too much fire burning out of control inevitably leads to burn out, avoid whatever makes you depressed!)
Earth – do something practical – I’ve a list of household tasks, and morning exercise plus my afternoon Tai Chi routine – but I’ve also used this time alone to do a couple of extra spring cleaning jobs, get out my sewing kit and stitched on an elbow pad, and I’ve a container for collecting plastic cut up for donation to a local school.
Air – keep your mind ticking over – years ago I read that daily puzzle games like hanjie & sudoku, and crosswords, are a great way of postponing dementia – and there are umpteen opportunities for playing scrabble & chess via the internet, learning something new via the Open University or cheaper options – or perhaps the discipline of an (almost!) daily blog, the challenge of finding words to communicate …
Water – what makes you feel good – a favourite book or film, a meal or just some chocolate (!) – or a search for “coronavirus humour/jokes’ – joining the Thursday clap for the NHS & carers, and expressing thanks for the friend or neighbour, postie or delivery driver helping keep you going. But above all, be kind to yourself – even if you’re having a particularly bad time and can’t manage any of the above, give yourself credit for every achievement, like: Got up, tick; had a shower, tick; got dressed, tick; had breakfast, tick – and with four ticks, you’ve already had a successful day!
Today I’ve been stressed out – rang the doctor after an ache in my kidney area developed (which I thought at first might be my cracked rib) – the fourth doctor at the practice (100% women!), which I don’t mind as they’ve all been very helpful – and she decided to ring the hospital urology department where I go for my now 7 monthly ops – and they said as I’ve had a previous infection, some bacteria might be left over – so to try one final antibiotic to try to clear them all out – and she then went away to find a chemist which would deliver, I’m hoping this evening but maybe tomorrow – there’s a risk of diarrhoea side-effect, so I’m just hoping my usual constipation cancels it out! My apologies to anyone reading this – if they think that’s too much information!
Meanwhile doing lots of Facebook & Twitter postings about Tory Matt Hancock incompetence running out of PPE this weekend, and Labour Keir Starmer cover-up, hiding the fact that his main donor is a pro-Israeli Governmemt lobbyist! What a world
A friend in need …
I’ve been having a not-coronavirus-related medical problem causing me constant irritation – not the best state of mind to survive self-isolation! After a telephone consultation 3 weeks ago, one of my doctors prescribed an antibiotic which usually works – but it didn’t, so another doctor prescribed a different one, still no good, nor a third possible remedy – and a fourth finally decided a urine sample was unavoidable, despite the kerfuffle of getting it to the locked surgery (my sincere hope is it shows an infection, or who knows what to do next).
So I phoned my friend Dave – we’ve been going out for a drink (two pints of shandy and a packet of crisps now my limit) together every 5 or 6 weeks for 15 or 20 years, our conversations something I really miss. I told him other friends had also offered and I had a backup plan of my local Mutual Aid group, but he had no hesitation in “accepting the commission” and after a bit of a kerfuffle accessing the stairs (I’d advised wearing a face mask, but still not using the lift – the last thing I’d want is him getting ill while doing me such a service – and I’d cheekily suggested that 14 flights could be his daily exercise!) he’s on his way, and said he’d ring when it’s been delivered. His parting words to me were that he was so happy that I’d rang him, that he could be some help, and not to hesitate if I needed anything else!
There must be millions of acts of kindness, small but vital for people’s survival, going on all over the world, by many a friend indeed.
Although living in a tower block flat doesn’t help keep me grounded, I’m fortunate in overlooking a small park, on the 7th floor just above tree height, with a bird’s eye view of the changing seasons – and I also have 11 houseplants, 5 in my bedroom and 6 in the living room, which magically keep the air fresh. I only know what sort 2 are – an orchid and a coffee plant (which I just liked the look of, though I haven’t drunk coffee for ages) – and they have all had to fit into my regime of Saturday watering filling the trays, and a top-up on Wednesdays (except the orchid which gets a double soaking) – and new ones which don’t like it or can’t fit into remaining spaces of light or shade just have to go. If visitors say plants always die on them – I can honestly reply, that was true for me, but I persevered, experimented with re-arranging, and watering which suited me and them. And some were with me in my last flat and another 10 years here, a couple of real survivors aren’t the prettiest – one very gnarled which almost died a couple of times but somehow got reborn, another tough reeds – but there is no way I’d ever discard them, just the longevity of time together, is something I really value.
This is a Twitter thread which gives the lie to Tory Ministers saying they have been “straining every sinew” to get ventilators
From FlakMagnet @Flakmagnet1 posted on 13th April
1 So I just want to share my CORPORATE experience on Covid19 with the UK Gov. A thread. I work for a successful medium-sized manufacturing company, which makes moderately clever electrical items. When the UK gov asked for makers of ventilators, we responded.
2 We assigned one person to act as point man, who went online to register us, only to find the website the minister mentioned didn’t exist. 24hrs later there was an online form available, which he filled out. After a week of silence we lost patience and started emailing.
3 None were answered. With a bit of fiddlery, we got phone numbers and started calling. We were passed from pillar to post, no-one taking responsibility.
We then contacted the local (Tory) MP, who took 24 hours and an increasingly “we’ll tell the press” tone before answering
4 That MP put us onto her double-barreled assistant, who sounded very conciliatory and took notes, but then;
5 We were then offered *VENTILATORS*- actual, functioning, certified, save-lives, VENTILATORS by a far eastern supplier who KNEW the UK was in deep, deep trouble.
We immediately offered these onto the MP and our govt. Contacts.
6 This was their response.
7 That was about the time the Dyson/ JCB horseshit story about ventilators broke, and I *personally* think that was proof enough, at that time, that Herd Immunity remained the strategy, just with maximal culling. There isn’t a corporate view, AFAIK. We’re a business.
8 We’ve heard NOTHING since. Not a squeak. Not even “no thanks”.
The offer of ventilators has passed, and I guess they are now going to a more enlightened country.
9 Since furloughing, we’re running the 3D printers in the labs flat out making visor parts. I’m doing the same at home.
But a whole factory & supply chain has been ignored.
With the stories of ventilator manufacturers getting contracts cancelled, I am not surprised.
10 So next time you hear “straining every sinew” and “Herculean efforts”, you can take it from me, they’re lying.
I don’t know if they’re incompetent, or murderous, or both, but they’re utterly, utterly dishonest.
Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or scream ..
When the BBC sycophantically shows ministers joining the #ClapForTheNHS and tweeting in praise of doctors & nurses, but “forgets” to mention these same Tory ministers voted umpteen times to chronically underfund the NHS, called for junior doctors to be sacked when they went on strike, dismantled nurses’ bursaries, and actually cheered when a minimal nurses pay rise was voted down
When bosses of a care home (which presumably is supposed to care about people!) sack a care worker who missed an appointment because she was in hospital with COVID-19, and put off the appeal so she’d have no salary for months
When the new Labour leader calls for for loyalty and unity, and then appoints as Shadow Ministers
Jess Phillips – who said she’d stab the previous Labour leader “in the front”
Liz Kendall – who repeatedly told Jeremy Corbyn to “Go now”!
Wes Streeting – who constantly briefed to undermine Jeremy Corbyn
Stephen Kinnock – one of the architects of the 2016 coup
thus rewarding the most disloyal MPs who constantly fostered disunity
When NHS managers who are supposed to be interested in Health threaten to sack nurses and doctors who dare to complain about the lack of PPE, which is putting the lives of themselves and everyone they contact at greater risk, more interested in obeying government orders to look good than the welfare of staff and patents
When reading about Tory ministers urging Windrush & other immigrant health workers to return or come out of retirement, while the Home Office slips out a memo stating that however much they risk their lives to save others during the pandemic will in no way alter their immigration status as non-skilled and not worthy of UK citizenship
Hypocrites the lot of them!
Isolation days so easily run into one another – so here are more ways of making each April day special, perhaps by artistic commemoration or study. It’s by no means of comprehensive – a mish-mash of UN calendar, a couple of left birthdays, some astrology & religion – and my apologies if I’ve left out your favourite!
9 Apr Paul Robeson US black activist & singer born 1898
9 Apr Maundy Thursday – Christian
9 Apr First day of Passover – Jewish
10 Apr 60 years since US Senate passed Civil Rights Bill
10 Apr 172 years since UK Chartists presented petition to Parliament
10 Apr World Homeopathy Awareness week
10 Apr Good Friday – Christian
11 Apr Mercury in Aries
11 Apr Mercury sextile Saturn
11 Apr 101 years since International Labour Organisation founded
11 Apr World Parkinson’s Day
11 Apr Holy Saturday – Christian
12 Apr Easter Sunday – Christian
13 Apr Easter Monday – Christian
14 Apr Sun square Pluto
14 Apr Moon last quarter
14 Apr World Chagas Disease Day [WHO]
15 Apr Sun square Jupiter
16 Apr Last day of Passover – Jewish
17 Apr Bat Appreciation day
17 Apr World Haemophilia Day
17 Apr Orthodox Good Friday
18 Apr Mercury sextile Venus
18 Apr 74 years since International Court of Justice opened in The Hague
18 Apr Orthodox Holy Saturday
19 Apr Mercury sextile Mars
19 Apr Sun in Taurus
19 Apr Orthodox Easter
20 Apr Orthodox Easter Monday
20 Apr Chinese Language Day (Chinese)
21 Apr Sun square Saturn
21 Apr World Fish Migration Day
21 Apr Yom HaShoah – Jewish
22 Apr Stephen Lawrence Day
23 Apr New Moon
23 Apr English Language Day
23 Apr Spanish Language Day (Spanish)
23 Apr International Girls in ICT Day [ITU]
23 Apr St George’s Day
23 Apr Shakespeare Day
24 Apr Ramadan start – Muslim
25 Apr Mercury square Pluto
25 Apr Pluto retrograde
25 Apr International Delegate’s Day
25 Apr World Malaria Day [WHO]
26 Apr Mercury square Jupiter
26 Apr Sun conjunct Uranus
26 Apr World Intellectual Property Day [WIPO]
27 Apr Mercury in Taurus
27 Apr Mary Wollstonecraft “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” born 1794
27 Apr World Tapir Day
27 Apr International Hyena Day
28 Apr Mercury square Saturn
28 Apr Workers Memorial Day
29 Apr Yom HaAtzmaut – Jewish
30 Apr Moon first quarter
One problem of self-isolation and lockdown is inevitable boredom, how one day seems to merge into the much the same next – which at 72 I don’t have a huge problem with – but still remember my teens when my constant cry was “I’m BORED!!!”.
So any way of differentiating days has got to be a good thing, so ..
For instance, in my esoteric cult days, I learnt that each day of the week has a significance, built into their English and/or French names:
Monday or Lundi – Moon day, have a child-like approach, home & mother, and have a good moan!
Tuesday or Mardi – Mars day, energetic exercises, a doing day
Wednesday or Mercredi – Mercury day, a time for communication
Thursday or Jeudi – Jupiter day, expansive, study & higher learning
Friday or Vendredi – Venus day, expression of good feeling, what you like (whether good for you or not!)
Saturday – Saturn day, self-discipline doing what needs doing
Sunday – of course Sun day, just be yourself, share the best of you
Whether this has any real significance you can try to prove or disprove for yourself – unless of course you’ve got a whole lot of better things to do?!?!
Government Health warning – if you value your health, do NOT follow the example of the Health Secretary (or Prime Minister)!
Even though he died long before I was born, I probably inherited the need to justify my daily existence from my Church of England rector grandfather – and although I’m scathing about the hypocrisy of “don’t what I say, do what I do”, I can’t help feeling guilty about my own self-judged ‘laziness’, while recommending other people to be kind to themselves!
Anyway, whether moved by guilt or self-discipline, anxiety or principles – here’s how I’ve been earning my atheist halo today:
Up at 5.30, relaxed with some hanjie before donating to a couple of local women’s charities (having read that calls for help from domestic violence victims – stuck in isolation with their abusers – have already shot up)
Shower, skin emollient & dress, light breakfast (grapes & tomatoes substituting for my usual much missed banana!)
Responded with my cheeriest voice to the daily tannoy call from our housing officer, and just managed a shouted “thank you” to the postie before she disappeared into the tower block depths
Ritual of placing parcels next to sink, separating & tearing recyclable cardboard (ready for my carer to take downstairs tomorrow on the way to the shops), putting everything else where I won’t touch it for a couple of days, before scrupulously washing hands
Worked through my emails, replied then consigned to relevant folders, and on to Facebook (my page, Tories Out & environment groups) and Twitter (my page, and groups I’ve collated of Left, Green & Claimants) – especially looking for scathing or uplifting stories (such as video compilations of PM stand-in Dominic Raab who thinks foodbank users have a”cash-flow” problem, or searching under “coronavirus jokes”) worthy of sharing across media – with due acknowledgement
Then my daily “Core Workout” – the gentlest sit-down exercise video I could find, least likely to pull aging muscles or break brittle bones!
And a fairly desultory wipe around my living room with a damp cloth, enough to tick my “house cleaning exercise” box.
So, I think I’ve earned my lunch, a fry-up of yesterday’s rather delicious vegetable stew remains – stock, garlic & herbs, potato, broccholi, carrot, onion, tomato & cauliflower, plus a few crutons, left-over beans and almost my last handful of quorn mince
And I can happily spend the afternoon (punctuated by 5 minutes Tai Chi)) & evening slouched in front of the telly, totally guilt -free!
Until tomorrow …
Tweet from Enzo Rossi @enzoreds
People demanding we “keep politics out of the coronavirus crisis” may not be aware that they’re parroting #DominicCullings aka Cummings, who was forced to sack his eugenics advisor before adopting the herd immunity strategy, putting his politics at the heart of this Tory Government’s COVID-19 chaos
Things I’m missing, balanced (almost!) by some positives …
- Foods like bananas, raisins & quorn really difficult to get hold of
- I wish I could scratch my nose and face (I’ve got psoriasis & eczema) without feeling anxious or guilty!
A. Got more email contact with the few family members I’m not estranged from in one month than a normal year (which is mostly my fault!!)
B. Happy to find there are others of my generation not ashamed to admit that, although we listened to Cream & Jimi Hendrix in our youth, in self isolation much prefer Motown & ABBA!
How about you?
(Ps. If you can’t think of a single positive thing, may I suggest viewing a film like “Pollyanna”!!!)?
I got a sobering letter from my landlord, Your Homes Newcastle this morning, that one of the residents in my tower block was taken to hospital and died of COVID-19 (and they are increasing all cleaning and safety measures here).
Do take this seriously – keep washing your hands, don’t go out unless absolutely necessary and keep 6 feet or more apart.
Posted by a farmer in Ireland
For some of us, adapting to social isolation is reasonably smooth & easy – but for people stuck in or trying to get out of a violent relationship, the abuse, the delays, the lack of support can be absolute hell.
Here is a message from a friend:
“Let’s talk about isolation for those suffering domestic violence.
Priti Patel made an announcement today that those suffering need to get out of that situation.
Reduced funding, lack of refuge beds, societal judgement on everyone needing to stay put, police indifference, the taboo that is domestic violence is so unseen, unheard and unfelt by society in general.
This Tuesday was meant to be my final hearing, which I have waited for and worked towards for 2 whole years. Due to this lockdown I have to wait another 6 months. Whilst we suffer.
We will have an online hearing on Wednesday for 1 hour to confirm that we will wait six months. Great. More money spent, more time to wait, handing over my girls every week because I have no choice even in these times.
I am angry.
Why should judges be safe at home self-isolating when children are still being handed over due to court orders? When families have waited years for truth to be heard? When domestic abuse victims have nowhere to turn?
I usually run when I feel this angry, but I have nowhere to take this today.”
For anyone wanting to get some exercise at home, and perhaps learn a new skill , I’d highly recommend Tai Chi – which is good for mental health, calming the mind, and physical health, your muscles and particularly strengthening lungs – so important to help them combat a respiratory virus. There are many different forms of Tai Chi, and you might need to look around before finding one that suits you (none of them are quite like what the classes I went to!) Anyway, here are 3 I found by searching “Tai Chi for beginners”
8 Tai Chi breathing exercises https://youtu.be/KIMSz8qezkI
10 different Tai Chi moves https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHBR5MZmEs
A more comprehensive introduction and guide to each Tai Chi move https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIOHGrYCEJ4
No symptoms yet – but I spoke to my doctor (and thanked profusely her & the receptionist for continuing their risky life-saving work!) who checked my file to say I should be on the severe risk list, so if I don’t get a Government letter this week, she’ll make sure I’m added to it. And although I’m a lot better off than many, with a wonderful carer coming weekly (so far!), many generous offers of help from friends, and joined my local Mutual Aid group – after 2 weeks total lockdown, just knowing that removes much anxiety about access to food.
If you’re illness or disability is borderline, do check with your doctor …
“I’m seeing 2 hashtags. One says #BooForBoris. And the other one says #ClapForBoris. Apparently they’re both happening at 8pm on Sunday. Boo him if you like, but wishing Gonorrhoea on him – particularly while he’s battling #COVID19 – is a bit harsh” Tweet from Rachael Swindon @Rachael_Swindon
Idea for a mental health check-in
… and now for some good news!! https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/27/coronavirus-uk-lockdown-big-drop-air-pollution?CMP=share_btn_tw
CORONAVIRUS UK LOCKDOWN CAUSES BIG DROP IN AIR POLLUTION
This is a SCAM – do NOT respond!
- front-line medical staff without proper protective equipment
- NHS staff having to travel on packed public transport
- self-employed people forced to go foraging
- homeless people left out in the cold
No 10 denies claim Dominic Cummings argued to ‘let old people die’
Long before my social isolation, 19 years membership of an esoteric cult made me very wary of gurus promoting positive thinking as a universal panacea.
But I also find that sharing yet another story of Tory government failure & corruption can make my outlook too negative, becoming liable to join Boris Johnson in blaming the public (those who actually believed his criminal advice of a few days ago, of shaking every hand etc!) and adopting the mindset that everyone is as greedy, callous and incompetent as those in power.
I do now try to balance my postings, looking out for stories like
– the Cuban doctors flying to Italy putting their lives at extreme risk
– the NHS hospital staff using precious leisure time to raise money for their nearest foodbank
– the Mutual Aid groups of volunteers, ready to do shopping & run errands for elderly & vulnerable people, springing up all over the country
So when I see pictures of crowded trains & empty shelves. I don’t condemn all humanity – knowing from my personal experience in this crisis, that it is bringing out the best in most people, and proving that the socialist mantra of “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need” is not just some pipe dream, but the only sensible way of humans being together.
One thing I’ll miss these next months is my regular visits to the barber for a good trim. I could just let it grow – as I did when 50 or so, an aging hippie phase, with & without pony-tail (before a drastic No. 2 cut reversal!) – but do now prefer it reasonably short.
In my mid teens, when barbers offered little else but “short, back & sides”, I used to do my Saturday morning jobs, then lock myself in the bathroom, spending hours snipping away at my mane of golden hair with a pair of nail scissors, a shampoo and bath, dressing in beatnik mode and strutting my stuff at the local coffee-bar, peacock-like in shy flamboyance, testosterone peaking, hoping some reasonably caring, intelligent young lady would allow me to fall in love with her, and reciprocate, without getting too close (an impossible ask!).
But this time round I’ve bought a hair-cutting device via E-Bay (which, just my luck, will probably turn out to be a fraudulent far eastern sweat-shop copy which explodes when turned on!) – but, this is probably very sexist, like most men I’m not very good at reading instructions, so I’m putting off my first attempt …
Although I’m at the stage in life where feeling good far outweighs looking good, I realised one thing stopping me was the fear of making a compete hash of it and laughed at. Until it dawned on me that no-one is going to know how I look for months and months! Which opens up loads of possibilities, of experimentation.
So next time you look at my profile photo, I can’t guarantee its accuracy – you never know, I might be sporting a quiff, taper fade or even a mohawk – while learning a new skill as a sure way of slowing down the aging process
To all the brilliant volunteers mustering around – please do appreciate that every time you do some shopping or run an errand for an elderly and vulnerable person, we are less likely to have to venture out into the world, we are less likely to catch COVID-19, we are less likely to die.
Some of us will be overwhelmed by anxiety, and we may forget to thank you enough – so please, every time you freely share your time and effort, don’t forget to give yourself lots of pats on the back, and in the days and weeks and months ahead remember, you are our superheroes, you really are saving lives!
If you’re stuck at home self isolating and need help, you could try grassroots volunteer Mutual Aid groups
Like millions of virus vulnerable people around the world – over 70 and with COPD – I’m self isolating and socially excluding, staying in my flat & no-one allowed in – and so even more dependent on my lovely, underpaid carer. Unfortunately the office didn’t pass on my message, so this morning we had a rather surreal conversation at 2 metres, then washing ready to go, and a week’s shopping list in hope that the local Co-op wasn’t completely bare shelved – and luckily she did brilliantly, with very acceptable substitutes, so I’m all set up for another week of nurturing a siege mentality (very luckily because there are no local Sainsbury delivery slots for at least 3 weeks, and when I tried to book the last available one, I got a “Generic Error” refusing my card!).
I’m also very fortunate in my semi-sheltered tower block having a housing officer – who tannoyed everyone today to check we’re OK, and letting me know that if needed some volunteers had already come forward to help with tasks (who I may well need, since my carer said, if schools close, she’ll be forced to stop work and manage somehow – and the care company will undoubtedly be forced to prioritise visits on urgent health grounds).
And I actually realised my brief chat over the tannoy and at either end of my flat entrance were my first conversations for some days – and, I’m not very good over the phone, got quite emotional …
But there must be millions who are feeling incredibly anxious, knowing their vulnerability – but just can’t get help, are running out of food and cash and forced into what could be a fatal decision whether to chance a foray outdoors for vital supplies. So if you are fit and well – I think there are local networks springing up all over – do consider giving a hour or two each week to help a neighbour, and perhaps be a life-saver.