Saturday, 24 January 2015

Message From A Serf

I made space for catching up  with some telly this week. Perhaps I should really stick to  Miranda in future because  rather than having a relaxing night of goggle box watching I got  angry...really angry. So what it that got my goat so much?  It was both episodes 'The Super Rich and Us' that's still available to watch on the BBC i-player.  By the way today's arty offering is 'The Worship of Mammon' by Evelyn de Morgan.

These are words from Lady Bathurst who was interviewed in the programme that I wrote down.  She was asked what she thought about the increasing polarisation of wealth.  This is what she said.

I think that human nature by human nature will always be a little envious of those who have more they do. And I think that there is an element of envy and I think that there is also an element, of shall we say, not realising what it means to be somebody like us.  You know, we do work incredibly hard.  I think that people don't realise what responsibility it is.  They don't realise sometimes what a worry it can be.

Now I've since done some reading about Lady Bathurst and it seems that she's not a bad egg.  Like many of the wealthy people I've met she's one of those who takes the responsibility that goes with having a historic estate to maintain and her fortune seriously.  She also understands the significance of charity at a personal and organisational level.  Yet she got it so seriously wrong here. Most of us are not envious of excessive riches.   We are incensed by the injustice that is brought about when a few line their very deep pockets really thickly.  Just when was it that greed became so perfectly acceptable?   It wasn't  the way that I was brought up. And what makes the rich think that we are all so bloody jealous. Many, like me, count their blessings daily and feel entirely happy with our lot.  Materially I have enough and my greatest riches are the interactions with the good people that count as my friends and family.  Give me a pint in a pub with my mates rather than hob nobbing with 'important people' at a cocktail party at a select venue anyday.  I've done that and didn't find it fun at all.

And guess what!  Lots of us who are not in the super rich class work incredibly hard too.  We are not slacking here.  In order to maintain high levels of service to the people I see in my job in the NHS, I take regularly work home, study for a master's degree in my own time and rarely have a lunch break anymore.  I work harder than ever before.  Yet my pay has not risen with inflation for years, my pension and expenses have been cut and there is no current prospect of promotion for clinical staff.  And I'm one of the lucky ones.  I earn a reasonable wage and have a secure contract.   I also get way more satisfaction out of what I do than when I worked as a tax consultant for the super rich in one of the big accountancy firms.    There's many on the minimum wage that work their socks off in employment that they find meaningless who have way less security than we've ever got and who still struggle to feed themselves and their families.  I'm not sure that she meant it intentionally but what Lady Bathurst said seems to undermine our efforts.  Don't even get me going on that comment about what a worry huge wealth brings!

The programme made me realise is that we need to be much more informed about how inequality is being bolstered by domestic and international policy.  And speak out.  Really I don't give a toss that some people want to adorn themselves in really vulgar two million pound glitzy watches just to show how successful they are.  That's their bag. What really bothers me is that such extremes of wealth present a really severe threat of civil unrest that puts the lives of all of us at risk.  As Nick Hanauer, a stonkingly wealthy entrepreneur said on the programme.

'You show me a highly unequal society, I'll show you either a revolution or a police state'.

Now that, Lady Bathurst, is what bothers me about the polarisation of wealth.  It has the propensity to affect us all.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Final Frontier

I've been thinking about space recently.  No, not celestial bodies and the vast gaps between them that today's rather pretty picture might suggest. Content in my compact, cosy little home, I've been mulling over why most people, me included when I'm living a conventional life, think that they need vast expanses of living accommodation through which to roam like a furless wildebeest.

I asked around yesterday and two themes emerged.  People say that they need space to put their stuff. Admittedly I miss my paintings and other bits of treasured artiness but that's about all.  There's also something about having somewhere to wander around that's entirely their own.  However I'm no longer worried about the exclusivity of the space that I inhabit. I'm perfectly happy to populate shared places like the moor, a beach a library or sacred building if I need to stretch out beyond the van.

One day I hope to meet someone.  He will be kind, funny, smart,  principled and, no doubt  a tad kooky.   I'll not settle for less.   If it works out we might even have to share a normal home that doesn't have wheels.  A little extra floor area might be needed as I'm a stickler for that personal space stuff.  I'll admit to needing time alone behind a closed door in a little nook or cranny that's my very own.  But for the moment, that  area of around 24 cubic metres that  I share with an eleven year old half the time, now seems perfectly adequate.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Bunnikins at Bedtime

A couple of recent articles in the Guardian caused that part of the brain that's responsible for preserving fond memories to tick over in a rather pleasing fashion.  My mind has been cast back to think about the Ladybird books that were a feature of the childhoods of many Brits of a certain age. Their beautiful illustrations evoke a different era when elves aside, men were more butch, and bunnies covered their modesty with cutesy dresses that would have made Laura Ashley proud.

Here's an illustration from one of my favourite bedtime reads during childhood, Bunnikin's Picnic Party, a story in rhyme that you can readily pick up from pennies on secondhand book sites.  Even though I was mesmerised by the story,   I seem to remember being decidedly disappointed with the picnic fare. If I recall correctly it consisted of bottles of cold tea and hard boiled eggs.  I had been mightily peed off with that al fresco offering at any stage during my childhood or adult life. Where's the pork pies, perfect eggy mayo sarnies or the crisps or chocolate for goodness sake?

Photo: The Guardian

Now you may be wondering what the seemingly random reference to elves above was all about.  Well now you know. Some modern day wit has taken a satirical look at those retro illustrations and added naughty captions.  They made me laugh and have given me an idea for costumes  when two of my dearest men in the world attend their next fancy dress party.    Darlings, you know who you are!

Photo: The Guardian

A more serious minded article showcased illustrations from the wide range of books that Ladybird produced in this era.  The titles included something to whet the literary appetite of all but the most lethargic kids even the crafty ones.  What do you know!  I actually made this spinner. I didn't look quite so neat, tidy and demure though.  Mama Lovelygrey if you ever wondered why your envelopes kept disappearing.........!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

BOGOF - No Way!

It was Greek night in the van on Monday.  We popped to the supermarket and bought calamari, halloumi, olives, flatbread and dips.  Supplemented with some cherry tomatoes and dried French sausage that I already had in the motorhome it made a very easily prepared feast. To create the right atmosphere I popped the music from Zorba the Greek onto Spotify.  Its a tune so reminiscent of past holidays sitting in tavernas by the Mediterranean sea.  Lou wasn't keen at all and accused me of being uncool.  Maybe  I am but am getting to an age where I am past caring!

Yesterday evening I made a fish pie in the halogen cooker  for the first time with one of those supermarket mixes of cod, smoked haddock and salmon.  It was tarted up with a few prawns and topped with a very cheesy mash.  It turned out very okay indeed.

And now aside from a few leftovers that will do for the next couple of lunches and that block of everlasting parmesan, the fridge is darned near bare.  The store cupboards are looking pretty desolate too.  Good!  I like it that way.

For when storage  is limited, shopping habits  just have to change.  I don't do a weekly shop or buy in bulk as I haven't got the physical space to do so. Nor do I have every dried herb and spice known to man lurking in cupboards.  When there's not much on board it also means that I'm far more aware of what food that I already have and can meal plan around using that up more easily.   I shop little and often, buying to supplement what I've already got.   It means that I am much more spontaneous and creative about what  I cook and eat.  No I can't batch cook, take advantage of multibuys or freeze bargains from the chill compartment ahead of when I need them.  But I've got into a routine where I can knock up a delicious meal in minutes.  This new way of operating has taught me lessons that will serve me well when I move back into a conventional home!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Why Do Care Homes Smell of Wee?

Nigel Slater got me thinking the other day.  I was listening to the Radio 4 dramatisation of his book, Eating for England.  He chose a home for his much loved Aunt Elvie based on the fact that it didn't smell of wee.  If ever I have the horrible task of doing this for my mum or dad, that would be high on my checklist too.

Now some of the homes that I visit wouldn't meet my own or Nigel's criteria.  Even some where you'd think that all that should be making your eyes water is the price of staying there.  But is this somewhat inevitable? One of my colleagues thought that it might intermittently be the case in places where often residents with challenging behaviour are doubly incontinent . Certainly lots of carers on the Internet think that it is too. My favourite Viz-like top tip was to shove a load of Vicks up the nose before going to work so as not to notice the smell.  But is this really the answer?  Even though I thought I knew what the solution might be  I decided to investigate by quizzing a residential home manager.  I've got to know her well over the years.  She has an almost pathological obsession with searching out and eliminating  nasty niffs and her work place which, in spite of being carpeted and soft upholstery, smells as fresh as a daisy.

Surprise, surprise she told me that it's down to good cleaning.   When someone, for instance, has wee-ed on a cushion it isn't just turned over in the chair!  Accidents are dealt with immediately using neutraliser and good cleaning products.   The company that she buys from have trained her staff in their proper use.  What's more, the  residents have regular toileting regimes which means that they're not so likely to have accidents and they're changed quickly when they do by kind, sensitive staff who know the people that they are looking after.  Just one poor lady there is so seriously incontinent that it was difficult to keep up with cleaning the carpet in her bedroom and a decision was made to replace it with lino.

And that's it.  No rocket science or strict residency criteria based on super hot bladder and bowel control needed!   Then again I didn't expect anything different.  I'll be spreading the message far and wide now. And perhaps by writing this it will help others to get the word out there too.  Your relatives don't need to live in stinky care homes.  If you're told otherwise there's likely to be some very poor excuses involved!

Monday, 19 January 2015

A Bloody Great Metaphorical Pea!

Do you know what my worst motorhome chore is?  It's not the overstated horror of emptying the Porta Potti or going to fetch water. I quite like that one unless it's really cold when my fingers are prone to freezing. No, the job I dislike the most is changing my above cab bed.  Fighting a duvet in a conventional home wasn't my idea of bliss but in limited space it's no fun at all.  'Do it outside' I hear the sensible among you cry. Yes, I had thought of that but I always seem to pick a time to do the job when the rain is beating down outside.  I don't fancy soggy bedding.  Putting the sheet on a mattress that's high in the sky adds another dimension of trickiness too.

Once it's all finally done and dusted there's the reward of clean, crisp sheets in the cosy  skybound nook where I read, meditate and  give myself  what seem to be increasingly effective sessions of reiki self healing.  I'm also supposed to sleep like a log up there. Except again it's not happening.  I'm waking at three in the morning.  It would be okay if I was worrying my little head off.  Then I'd have a reason for this nonsense.  But there's nothing major that I'm aware of going on in my normally chilled little mind.

In desperation I turned to a very famous herbal  remedy to try to establish my preferred pattern of sleeping through for six and a half or seven hours.  And what do you know?  It actually worsened the problem.  I lay awake trying to get to sleep at normal bedtime for about two whole hours feeling decidedly edgy.  None of that will be passing my lips ever again.

YouTube has been my friend in regard to steering me back to the land of Nod during those  early morning hours.  Ever the experimenter I've been trying out some lucid dreaming audio sessions. No one of these has emerged as a favourite at the moment but your own Google search will reveal loads if you're interested.  With practice, so I'm told, I will be able to steer my own course through my dreams.    It's certainly increased the night-time cinematic experiences and I'm remembering what I've viewed on that screen behind my eyes though I don't choose the movie as yet.  What I'm seeing is outside my control and whilst not outwardly scary it's mostly weird nonsense.  Does that reflect a deeply disturbed inner psyche?   How the hell am I suppose to know!  I'm only a mere mental health practitioner.   A friend the other day described me as a free spirited essential rather than truly unhinged and my brother told me that I was not flaky in any shape or form.  I liked their kind words which I'll count as evidence in support of my sanity. However if my nocturnal life suggests something else it's probably better out than in!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Lovers not Users

I won't say much  today because I'm going to share some words that are so stunningly wise they stopped me in their tracks when I came across them the other day.  They stand alone reminding us all of how to live right.

'Love people, use things.  The opposite never works'.   The Minimalists

Now for those of you who haven't heard of the Minimalists, though many might have, I've added this TED talk by them.  They are men after my own heart - especially the buff one with the beard!