Carrying other people’s stuff

So, today’s blog is a lot about me.  Maybe I am sharing a bit too much but it’s a blog and I am ok about you knowing a bit more about me.  Probably as most of  you already know me this will come as no surprise.

I have a big notice on my fridge which says, “IT’S NOT MINE”.  It is there to remind me not to take on other people’s stuff. No mean feat. Well not for me anyway. I am a past master on taking on emotions that are not mine.   When the children were little, they would come home crying about a fight they had with so and so and fret at night about not wanting to go back to school.  I would have a sleepless night. In the morning I would wave them off with trepidation in my heart worrying what so and so would say or do to them in the playground. I am embarrassed to admit that one time I went to the school at playtime and hid behind a tree just to make sure that one of my boys was ok. I know- really OTT.

So, as I awaited his return from school on tender hooks about what might have happened, he breezed in smiling with a “Hi Mum.”

“How was it” I asked nervously.

“All good mummy.”

“What about…  ”

” Oh, that’s all forgotten we are best friends now,” he said switching on the tv.

So, while he moved on, I was left carrying all his stuff.  Despite understanding this ‘carrying stuff’ thing I still find it very hard to leave the lady at the river.

For those new to my blog who don’t know the Buddhist parable ‘Lady’ and ‘River’ see below:

monks

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.

The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.

Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey.

The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After re-joining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.

Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?” 

In my head I say to myself ‘put the lady down’ but it doesn’t always work.

Highly sensitive people – of which I am one – have an immense capacity for empathy. We are often the caregivers for our friends and family. Our empathy often surpasses that of the regular definition of the word. Rather than simply noticing what someone else is feeling, many of us actually feel it ourselves, in our own bodies.

I have come to realise that I am prone to feeling depleted and drained by the emotional pain of others and this can often manifest itself physically. It was a trait that I shared with Tod. We were both highly sensitive people. I cared and nursed Tod for 9 months when he was so sick and while I outwardly I remained calm and in control inwardly it was clearly having a devastating  effect on my body  from which I am still recovering. I couldn’t understand why I  kept getting sick with ailment after ailment when normally I don’t get ill.  It was a wakeup call to  the effects of emotional stress on the body.  Obviously, this was an extreme situation but as an Empath – which is the term used to describe describe people who absorb the world’s joys and stresses like emotional sponges  – I know I have work to do.

So,  for anybody who  might  recognise  these emotions in themselves or in friends  below are some of the symptoms to look out for.

  •  Natural giving, spiritually open, and a good listener.
  • Absorbing other people’s emotions
  • Overwhelmed in crowds
  • Highly intuitive
  • Need alone time
  • Overwhelmed in intimate relationships and afraid of losing my identity.
  • I need the natural world to nourish and restore me
  • I have highly tuned senses and can get frayed by noise smells or excessive talking.

 

Right now  I am walking around the garden repeating “IT’S NOT MINE” as a situation evolves in our house. I am on my 5th lap hopefully by lap 10 I will be on top of it.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Drugs

Yesterday I was in la la land – and very nice it was too. Thanks to a concoction of codeine/paracetamol/ibuprofen and diazepam. Prescribed by my doctor for an acute attack of sciatica. I  now understand why there is such an epidemic of people hooked on pain killers. Because anything and I really mean anything  that stops pain is what you want.

Pain is all consuming. You can think of nothing else but how to get it to stop. And Sciatica and tooth ache  are the two worst ones that I have experienced. Luckily, I still had Tod’s morphine hidden away for emergencies. At 3 am on Friday morning I wondered was this one of those emergencies?

And of course labour pains.  I still remember the euphoria when an epidural stopped the pain. Made me wonder why on earth anybody would want to go through labour without one. So much so that when attending ante natal for my third child I had stamped all over my notes EPIDURAL. Toby however had other plans. He arrived after one humongous contraction which broke my waters and he shot out, caught by my girlfriend just  20 minutes after arriving in the hospital. I felt cheated. “I want my epidural,” I demanded to my nurse. “But you have had the baby,” she replied. “I don’t care where is my epidural.” Never was one to to listen to reason.

 
So, Leicester is in Lockdown. Probably the safest place to be today once the rest of the country opens up.  Yesterday was my wedding anniversary and Leicester is my  hometown  and where I got married. Like the Queen with her two birthdays one official and one private we too had 2 weddings. One, the Jewish wedding that my parents had long dreamt about, but thought would never happen — I was 34 when I got married — and the second a rather debauched affair in the garden of my girlfriend in Cambridge.

I decided that my present to my parents would be our wedding. “Whatever you would like mum” I said. “Just let us know what time you would like us to be there.” Rabbi Sunshine at the Beth Din – which is a Jewish rabbinical court had other ideas. Rabbi Thunder,  would have been a more suitable name., He needed convincing that Tod was Jewish. Taking his trousers down was not sufficient evidence.  Nor where his parents’ marriage certificate and birth certificates. Or  the fact that Tod’s great grandfather was a New York Rabbi.   They needed the physical evidence. They wanted grandparents birth certificates which we couldn’t locate.

Only when I stormed out of his office proclaiming that we would have a Reform Wedding  — an anathema to orthodox Jews —  that Sunshine relented and gave his permission to marry.

wedding

Amidst bright sunshine in Leicester we stood under a Chuppah and did the deed. So, it is not surprising that I keep abreast of what is happening in the town that I spent 15 years living in. And I am shocked by the reports of slave labour, COVID and criminal negligence in garment factories there.  Rumours of these activities have abounded for quite a while but not investigated. So Alok Sharma why have you not acted earlier? Just another convenient political fuck up.

Too little too late again! Factories are finally under investigation for both furlough fraud and using what can only be termed as slave labour. Some of these factories operated at 100% capacity while on furlough, with poorly ventilated cramped buildings, paying migrant workers very low wages. When one worker applied for statutory sick pay, his boss told him that he would not receive it and ordered him to keep working through the illness. Some workers said they were told to continue working despite testing positive for coronavirus and were warned not to tell anyone. And these migrant  workers  mainly aged 20 – 40 (hence the rise in younger COVID infections in Leicester) are living in cramped housing – some times  40 men in one terraced house.

 
So, it is no wonder that Leicester has a coronavirus spike. But it is not just the bosses that we should blame. So too are those outlets that are aware of the conditions yet continue to buy their clothes from these factories. Why? Because they are cheap.

 

factories 1

And what do we consumers do about this. Well it is like the mask controversy. Supermarkets leave it up to individual choice to decide on whether both staff and shoppers want to wear masks. Consumers are told that our power lies in our personal choices about where we spend our money and we can boycott those clothes chains that use low paid migrant workers. It’s a cop out.  Government should mandate and ensure  that all factories treat their employees fairly and that  masks must be worn at all times when indoors in public places. Why is it so difficult to act responsibly?

“Let’s be careful out there”

 

 

Happy to share the housework

Delighted to see that an unexpectant upside to COVID19 is that men are now taking on more of the housework.   So, pleased for those women  who have always shouldered more of the childcare and household work.

This came out of an American study by Dan Carlson,  a sociologist at the University of Utah. Other  studies  in Canada, Germany, Turkey and the Netherlands  found that while women  are still the major housekeepers, men are doing more domestic work during the pandemic than they did before it.

“Across the board, whether it’s dishwashing, laundry, childcare, reading to kids, physical care, we’re seeing a universal movement toward more egalitarian sharing,” said Dan Carlson.

men

Apparently  there is an upside to male domesticity as men who help out in the home apparently  have more and better sex.  Well that makes sense.  If you are not  exhausted from cleaning and child care then you have more  energy and inclination  to indulge in other things!!!

So guys you know what you’ve got to do to keep your sex life thriving.

Anyway it got me to thinking as women have historically been the home makers does it come more naturally to some women. And am I not one of these women. Over the past 4 months I have come to realise just how sole destroying housework can be. You finish cleaning one room when another needs attention and another and another and then you have to start all over again.  The kitchen alone is a full-time job; breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, because lockdown is so boring one needs to amuse oneself with food. And then there are the animals. I could just spend my day cleaning the kitchen. It is like the weeds which seem to grow several feet after a rainfall – never ending.  You might as well let it all get dirty and just clean up once a week. Except of course you have to live with the chaos for 7 days. I fluctuate between obsessing about trying to keep everything clean and tidy to wtf.

So how come some women seem to do this effortlessly and their homes always look spotless? I know they exist because I have been in their homes. I have friends with tidy homes.  Clear surfaces, kitchen tables not full of rubble, spotless hobs, floors shining, and no piles of things that don’t seem to belong anywhere.  Everywhere I look there is stuff. Just for openers this is my printer in my office. Why is there a tape measure, a 1916 army water bottle and  an unopened  plastic bag of support stockings that were issued for my late husband who died 2 years ago? They must have homes so why aren’t they neatly tucked away in a sewing box or a  box for “what on earth shall I do with this – and why have I got it in the first place.”

 

printer

See what I mean – is there no hope for me

The corner of our kitchen is full of stuff that is on its way to the basement – it has been on its way to the basement for months! I have this terrific urge to sweep everything into the bin, but I know in a few weeks there will be a  “has anybody seen…?” I blame my mother – eat off her floors but the house was complete chaos. She was one of those forever “have you seen” kind of people. Bless her she really tried but like me it was not in her nature. Luckily Dad who we called Hoover Harry  was a dab hand with the  vacuum  –  it was the one thing he did with relish. That and mowing the lawn. Must be a 50’s-man thing.

Should  I just accept my domestic inadequacies and focus on my other qualities. Except that yesterday I  also realised  that my brain was not  wired  for economics. And as I continue to have a surplus of time on my hands  I am finding there is a heap of other things that I am not wired for. Bit worrying.

This week I spoke to a friend whose mother had died alone in a care home.  She hadn’t seen her  since March and felt distraught that she couldn’t even give her mum one last hug. “So much I would have wanted to say,” she said.  I also have other friends whose relatives are in Care Homes  and they are desperate for some contact. I will refrain from going into a rant of the diabolical treatment of the elderly in this pandemic and how one  thinks that just maybe it is a convenient way of  population  control and the  pension deficit.  Maybe they can redeems themselves a bit  — only a very little bit — and fund the care homes so they can introduce  hug tunnels like the one that has been installed at a care home in Brazil. It allows elderly relatives  the opportunity to cuddle their loved ones safely. It’s the simple things that can make all the difference.

 

hug tunnels

 

 

And talking of the elderly I have finally signed my Will although it hasn’t yet been witnessed. Clearly there is a reluctance here as it has been sitting on my desk for 2 weeks. I suppose it is accepting that I am going to die – at some point.  The inevitability of it is daunting.  I have also still to sign the Power of Attorney document. Which is even more daunting.  Methinks  I will put in a codicil saying on no account do I want to go in a home  – even one with a hug tunnel – and if my children who will have Power of Attorney  put me in one  then I am leaving   my entire estate  to a cat and dogs home.

 

Let’s be careful out there”

 

 

Fiscal juggling

I failed. Once a news junkie always a news junkie. It’s a drug and I am an addict. My favourite job when I was a journalist was cutting the papers. This was a time when Fleet Street was booming. When the Amstrad had not yet hit our desks. A time when we smoked and drank without health and safety warnings. We stayed out late without concerns about the morning and before the accountants told the owners it was time to move. It was a time before it all became sanitised. My day would begin with a cup of coffee, a cigarette, a pair of scissors and all the daily papers. Pure joy. Great way to start the day. Doing it online doesn’t give you the same buzz. It is the physical activity of something tangible like newspaper and a pair of scissors. Ok so  I am just an old fogey.


I have also failed to understand why we suddenly have so much money for Boris to promise billions to invest. One minute we are in austerity and then suddenly we have all this dosh. Has it been hiding under a bed at Number 10? I admit that I am fiscally challenged but anyone else share my confusion? In a bid to become a bit more competent  I  enrolled in an economics masterclass. Five minutes in and I needed a dictionary. Some people’s  brains are just wired differently.  I have  finished the first section and quite honestly, I am now even more confused. None of it seems real. It all relies on so many intangibles. It’s a bit like juggling and trying to keep all the balls in the air at the same time. And at this moment the balls are not looking very steady. The economist talks about Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Remember the Road Runner cartoon when Wile E. Coyote was tricked for the umpteenth time into running off the edge of a tall cliff, when he appeared to be momentarily suspended in mid-air before plummeting towards the ground. It was only when he looked down that he fell. Well it seems that is what it is all about. I know a very simplistic explanation from a complete economic ignoramus.

What happened to funny Roma one of my friends asked. She complained that my blogs were getting a bit heavy. That I am no longer ‘fun Bobby’. Fans of Friends will get this. She might be right. I blame the news. But before I change track, I have to share the video below with you. It seems that some Americans have a direct line with God when it comes to the topic of masks. It could be a comedy but sadly it  isn’t. I watched in horror as Florida residents have their say on wearing masks in public places. I will leave you to experience the full extent of the moronic comments. (Moron has become my go to word during this pandemic) but as a taster one woman said that she doesn’t wear underwear for the same reason that she won’t wear a mask – “stuff has to breath” and another said that God has given us the miracle of breath and now the state wants to take it away. This is why Trump just might get re-elected if he doesn’t pull out of the race. Please watch it so you understand what is happening in America right now. 

On my dog walk today I watched a bunch of children jumping off the edge of the bank and swinging across the river. There were squeals of delights and laughter as they showed their prowess in managing this difficult manoeuvre. Took me back to my local gang days. In order to join the gang, you had to perform certain tasks. One was jumping off the bank and swinging across the river at the bottom of our garden. The leader – a boy called Oliver, who I could quite imagine that nowadays  would have been in a far more questionable gang than  was ours  — said I had to do it with my eyes closed. I was 9. Needless to say, he lied, and I fell flat on my face. He also said that I had to take my knickers down to join the gang. It was just me and one other girl in the gang – a girl called Angela who would have happily taken her knickers down for anybody. When I refused (my mother had instilled into me the importance of keeping my knickers on at all times) my brother stepped in and said it was ok because he had already ‘seen it.’ 

I leave you today with new research from the University of Nottingham into the likelihood of alien civilisations in our galaxy. Apparently, there are just over 30 each with intelligence and technology to contact other planets.   However, the chances of contacting any of them are very slim because the closest one is likely to be 17,000 light years away which means that communication would take 6,120 years.

See being a news junkie has its positives. 

 

“Let’s be careful out there” 

 

 

 

A Sense of Purpose

Feeling nostalgic. Grey outside – what day is it? Sunday? Monday? Takes a minute or two to work out if it is still the weekend or the start of the working week – for some. For others it is just another day in lockdown. So, it’s important that I get up, get dressed and take the dog out. In the park I see a mum with her two toddlers, and not only can I remember this time clearly, I can actually feel it. It’s a good feeling – warm and fuzzy and makes me smile.  And it got me thinking about those days which in a way were easier because I knew what were my roles. I was the mother of 3 boys, I was a daughter, I was a sister, I was a wife and I was a journalist. I am still a mother but a different kind of mother. My parents, my brother and my husband are all dead. So now I have to find a new role, a new purpose. A recent survey of almost 7000 adults between the ages of 51 and 61 showed that having a purpose decreases your chance of premature death. And those without a sense of purpose were almost twice as likely to die in the four years of the study. If COVID doesn’t get me than I would hate it to be my lack of purpose that does the deed. graph sense of purpose Izzy was bored with my musing and sat patiently with the ball in her mouth waiting to play.  She looked very grey round the mouth, her jowls drooped,  she was panting and she looked old. Actually, we have a lot in common! “How would you like a little puppy to play with,” I asked. She cocked her head to one side, and I am sure I heard her say, “Really another small thing in the house, a cat is not enough. Stop prevaricating find your purpose?” Izzi is a very intelligent dog  –  a cross between a Belgium Shepherd  and a Collie. Actually she would hate another interloper – it was bad enough when the kitten arrived. Before lockdown I was busy.  I was arranging a wedding which of course didn’t happen. I was already starting to organise the annual Stand Up for London’s Air Ambulance Comedy Night and the second Tod Talk charity event.  I was working with  companies to organise regular donations for the Asylum Drop In that I volunteered with,  did my training with The Felix  Food Bank Project and I had a number of exciting travel trips arranged. Plus, I had my Gym and Bridge.  Now I need to find a purpose that works with my current lockdown status until they find a vaccine which will allow me to get back into the world. I know I am exceedingly fortunate, and I am mindful of those who have to cope with very difficult circumstances. And I am remembering a book a friend gave me a few years ago –  Viktor Frankl’s  Man’s Search for Meaning.  Not an easy read. But an important book. Frankl describes his daily experiences and observations of his life inside the concentration camp in Nazi Germany. It is where he developed his beliefs about how one can sustain a desire to live even under the most inhumane and desperate circumstances.   The inmates who had a sense of purpose were more likely to survive the degrading conditions of the camp. Obviously, my search for a sense of purpose in no way compares with the life these people had in Frankl’s concentration camp, but it does show the importance of finding meaningful goals when life get rough. victor Frankly So, people I am up for suggestions.  Open to all ideas. Message me.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Let’s put women in charge

As The Week dropped through my letterbox this morning, I was agog. It can’t be 7 days already. There must be some mistake. I have only just finished reading last week’s issue. What can I say I am a slow reader and The Week is my toilet companion. Sorry too much information. But honestly guys it is uncanny how the weeks are flying by and a bit scary especially as what the years behind me are now so much longer than those infront of me!

When you have bags of time to enjoy life this little hiatus doesn’t seem so bad but when time becomes finite one wants to cherish every moment. And cherish is not a word that would describe my current situation. It is not horrible in fact I could probably meander along quite happily like this if it wasn’t for the fact that I feel I am wasting precious time.

I am in limbo – albeit a comfortable limbo — but still a limbo. And when I see the morons crowding onto Bournemouth Beach on the hottest day on record in the middle of a pandemic, I see my days in limbo getting longer.

What is in the minds of these ‘I’m alright Jacks’ that propels them to drive hundreds of miles – and in some cases sit in long traffic jams – to sit on a crowded beach. Something which I would find abhorrent even in non-pandemic times. What part of the ‘stay safe’ message do these tens of thousands of people not get?

Clearly British Airways too has no intention of changing its planes to adhere to safety regulations. I just read a letter from a passenger who said he flew in seat 29F to Portugal and could see the entire plane crammed with people. It had 100% occupancy.

It just compounds my belief that the ‘I’m alright Jack’s’ out number the responsible ones. Unlike the citizens in some of the Nordic countries where a cohesive safety-first culture and a high level of mutual trust between citizens and authorities seems to have worked much better with changing behaviour. Maybe if we had a government that had behaved responsibly, that had not been two steps behind the virus at every point, ignored advice and the examples of its European neighbours, citizens just might have had more trust in them and behaved responsibly too. The government has been reckless and many of its citizens are now following suit.

I feel envious of those living in New Zealand with Jacinda Arlern, in Norway with Erna Solberg and Iceland with Katrin Jakobsdottir. They are not alone of the top 10 best-performing countries (in terms of testing and mortality), the leaders are women. In a crisis good leadership is vital and these women have proved that they make good leaders. Perhaps it has something to do with the hurdles they had to overcome to get where they are. Whatever, they are doing a damned good job.

 

So as you can see at the moment I feel a mixture of embarrassment disbelief and fury when I look at the numbers of deaths from COVID19 in our country. And because I have little faith in our government doing the right thing even now I have just been on line to order a supply of wipes, masks and sanitizers in readiness for the second wave.

I was amused though to read in The Times Tom Stoppard’s view on living with COVID19.

“It is a life I have always wanted social distancing without social disapproval. All those events you’d no longer had to dress up for, prepare for, all those encounters you no longer have to anticipate. Many of us are far more ambivalent about resuming ‘normal’ life than we like to acknowledge. We are capable of celebrating just a little when the dinner party host rings to disappoint at short notice.”

My late husband would have agreed with Stoppard and would have relished the peace and lack of social pressures. And there is a small part of me despite my misgivings about wasting my days – that when this is over which hopefully it will be – I will also pine for the days of silent streets and cancelled commitments.

“Let’s be careful out there”

 

 

Moonies and WOKE

I have come late to the party. Only just discovered WOKE.  My children and friends say I have been away with the  fairies since Tod died – maybe they are right. Maybe it is time to start connecting again.

Just done a quick poll with friends and kids – yes they all knew WOKE  I am embarrassed. Apparently WOKE   has been around for a long while – first came into circulation in the 1800s when it simply meant the state of not being asleep.  In the 1960’s it was used in the context of the Civil rights Movement. In 2017 the OED added the definition of woke to its dictionary but statistics from Google shows that searches for “woke meaning” have been increasing since January this year. OK so I am not that much behind then – just 6 months.

I like this word.  It means what it says, ‘being awake’. Awake to what is happening around us. The dictionary definition is ‘aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).’    But like everything it is open to abuse and has become a generic insult commonly used by the right to attack the left.

It recently hit the headlines when the actor Laurence Fox famously said on Question Time that he was no longer dating “woke” women.  His loss. I imagine ‘woke’ women wouldn’t want anything to do with him either.

Woke

I do feel a little ignorant admitting to you all that I must have been asleep to this word.  But at least I now know and can use it with confidence.

I wasn’t always so ill-informed I remember being savvy enough to escape the clutches of the Moonies in San Francisco.

I arrived in the City aged just 21 alone and having driven from the East coast in a Driveway Car.  These are new cars   produced on the east coast that need delivering to clients on the west coast. You had  4 to 5 days delivery time and  $50 dollars petrol money. Petrol was very cheap back then in America.

Standing in the bus station wondering where I could find a room I was approached by a girl, about my age. She offered me a flower saying how pretty I was.  I have always been a sucker for a bit of flattery. We got talking and before long I was sitting in an amazing converted synagogue with a bunch of chilled out people.

I found a letter I had written to my mother

Dear Mum – you will never guess where I am – in a synagogue (mum was religious) with some really lovely people. I feel so happy and comfortable. I have never met such beautiful people. They keep telling me how special I am and how thankful they all are that they have met me.  That it must have been my  God that had sent me to them in the Synagogue. But they said they aren’t into religion. They are just a kind of student group trying to make the world a better place.  The food is delicious. How lucky that I found them as I had nowhere to stay and they have said that I can stay as long as I want. 

But I didn’t stay after a week I suddenly started to feel uncomfortable and realised that all was not as it seemed.  When everyone was asleep, I left in the middle of the night. But I can see just how easy it would be to be lured into this environment.  But they got the wrong girl  I was not susceptible.  Despite my letter to Mum.  Just taken in for a few days. They can spot a vulnerable girl   — and it is  nearly always a girl –  the  ones that are lonely and empty inside even if they look perfect on the outside. They offer them  acceptance love – a ready made family.   But I didn’t need a family – just a bed for a few nights.

Lucky escape. Who knows I could have been married off in one of those mass Moonie Wedding ceremonies?

moonies

What a day for a Rock Festival. 50th Year Glasto anniversary. 

Just imagine if there was no COVID19– it’s easy if you try.  Imagine all the sunshine  without the wellies. Shame.  I am lucky that I do remember it in its early days just a few shoddy tents, load of hippies in flip flops, a pound to get in after you had written  yes really written a letter to Mr Eavis to get a tent spot at  Worthy Farm. 

See I am just an old hippy at heart but one that is now Wokeified.

glastonbury

“Let’s be careful out there”

Building blocks that deliver confidence

Feeling very fortunate.

Laying in the newly erected hammock at the bottom of the garden I was reading some of my mother’s letters to me when I was in Spain in 1970. Beautifully typed – always about 8 pages A4, with accounts of her daily life. Nothing that important but always hilarious except the one where she recounted Brian’s first marriage. Apparently, a neighbour had congratulated her on Brian’s marriage. “What marriage,” she exclaimed in an embarrassed horror. It seems she was the last to hear about this. This was the first of four marriages and where the daughter turned up 2 years after Brian died looking for her father. I didn’t even know he had a child by this marriage.

hammock

But it got me thinking about the importance of family and having a sturdy springboard as a starting block to one’s early life. And how lucky I was to have my parents who always supported me and made me feel secure and safe. Despite the bullying at school, by the time I left home at 16 I had bags of confidence – some might say too much confidence. But it stood me in good stead. With so few qualifications I have managed to achieve quite a lot in my life. My over confidence allowed me to convince others that I was capable – even if I wasn’t.

Take my job as a peripatetic childcare officer for Camden. I was 19 and it was my job to go into problem families to enable the children to stay at home rather than go into care. Ludicrous that they gave me this job. I had a warrant card which allowed me to enter premises, the authority to take children into care if I thought they were in danger, and responsibility for exceedingly messed up parents. I had 3 O levels, certificates in typing and shorthand and had worked as an au pair. And yet at the time I wasn’t daunted. In hindsight I just think wtf! But back then there was no health and safety and my boss was an alcoholic and I just got on with it – learning on my feet.

When I left to go to America, I naively asked my mother if she would take one of the children for a short holiday in Leicester to escape the deprivation. Big mistake – here’s when thinking on my feet wasn’t such a good idea. One day after I left the UK the mother, who had been threatening suicide the entire time I was working with her, did the deed. She would save up her tablets and then on a Friday drink a bottle of wine in the hope she wouldn’t wake up. Well it finally worked, and my mother was left with the 8-year-old girl whose mother had just died. She took it in her stride and no recriminations.

Because I had worked for a year with these families when I arrived in America – still only 20 I applied and got a job at a school for delinquent boys — Mayaro Ranch School – in Northern California. Set in the middle of nowhere the school housed teenage boys from the Bay area which other facilities had refused to take. It was a real baptism by fire.

None of this would happen nowadays but this was the early 70’s. So, could I do these things because of the unconditional love and  support that I received from my parents. I think so. It is interesting what makes us do what we do and why we do it. Why didn’t I follow my peer group in the small Jewish community in Leicester and marry have children and be quite satisfied? Did I take the hard or the easy route or the most adventurous route? Certainly there were many times when I though life would have been easier if I had stayed in Leicester. Leaving home at 16 took a lot of confidence from me and a good deal of trust from my parents. And now I look back, read our letters mine to mum and hers to me, hundreds of them, and think WOW that took some doing. A bit late to say thank you now.

Back to the saga of my killer cat. I just stumbled over a little dead baby bird that I had carefully put in a homemade nest in a tree after Mo had half killed it – I thought we had saved it. Clearly not. A recent figure from the Mammal Society estimates that cats in the UK catch up to 27 million birds each year, and 275 million prey items overall per year. But it seems bells on collars are not that effective. Various suggestions are offered from keeping them indoors – well that’s not going to happen. Having a large cage like aviary built in the garden – really, I don’t think so. Or taking the cat out for walks on a leach. That’s one reluctant cat

catg-on-lead

And while we are on the subject of cats on the same website which proferred this advice there was a section of what to do if charged by a Lion. Well you never know and always good to be prepared. It says:

“Being charged by a lion when you are on foot is extremely frightening.” You don’t say. “It is difficult to stop yourself from bolting, but that is likely to prompt an attack. A lion charge is usually accompanied by a deep growling sound that reverberates through your very core. It is vital to stand your ground, perhaps retreating very slowly, but to continue facing the lion while clapping your hands, shouting and waving your arms around to make yourself look bigger. All very well but somehow I just don’t see me standing still in front of a charging Lion. I know a bit random but then you try writing a blog every day when you are locked in and nothing happens. 

lion 1

“Let’s be careful out there”

Standing ground on social distancing, without upsetting friends

Boredom with COVID19 has set in and the easing of lockdown is a welcome antidote to the fear we have all been living with for the past few months. But  I  worry that we might be bored  but the virus is not bored.

bored graphicAnd rather than seeing the relaxation of some social distancing as  an opportunity to continue being vigilant while enjoying the opening up of our society, many people will just see this as ‘back to normal’. In fact if the parks and shops are anything to go by it looks like we are already back to normal.What I  really cannot comprehend is why wearing face masks is not compulsory for everyone when not outside. It is simple –  wear a mask to protect others. Most European countries are doing this and yet we  and our friends across the Atlantic are not. Mask wearing needs to be mandatory when you are in an indoor public place. It is no good advising and leaving it up to individuals to do the right thing. It doesn’t work. Too many selfish people around. And hey guys there are some really cool masks around at the moment. So, go and bloody well get a mask and wear it.

masks 1A return to some kind of normalcy is important – I get it I really do. We all have our own personal reaction to the virus, and we will be moving at different paces towards deciding the risk factors and how we structure our lives around this.”You don’t structure your life around crossing the road, a plane crash or heart attack,” remarked one friend who is a lot more relaxed about social distancing than I am. And this is one of the things I have been grappling with of late. I need to decide what kind of socializing I am comfortable with. I suppose it’s a bit like doing my own risk assessment. And then set my own level of tolerance for risk.

The difficulty arises when our friends and family start to open up faster than we feel comfortable with. I have to politely maintain my ‘safe’ grounds and the decisions that arise from this. It has not always gone down that well and I feel that some friends have interpreted my more careful approach to social distancing as an attack on their more relaxed approach.

“What are you going to do when the government change the 2-meter distance to 1 meter,” said one friend a little too accusingly.”

I am going to wait and see what happens over the next few weeks,” I replied.

It is my choice and I hope my friends will respect this. We all have different personalities, different tolerances for risk and different situations that alter our chances of spreading or contracting the virus and thus  determining how seriously it might affect us. And I respect that my way isn’t the same for everyone.  But undoubtedly as times goes on and Toby and Linda return to work, I will be more relaxed but, in the meantime, I hope it is not going to cause too many rifts.

Moving on –  I am thinking of getting a bell for Mo the cat. We have had just too many dead and half dead birds left as presents on the lounge carpet. On Saturday it was 2 in the morning when she deposited her latest gift. The mice are not quite so bad as they play dead and are quite easy to rescue. But the birds flap around, feathers flying everywhere with  painful squawking sounds. Breaks my heart. When she was just 3 months old, she dragged in through the cat flap a pigeon twice her size. Maybe I should have thought about this when I opted for a Maine Coon cat.

 So, if quarantine and travel bans are not lifted here’s an  idea for those travel starved adventure seekers.  A Taiwanese airport is giving competition winners the chance to relive the foreign travel experience during COVID19. Songshan airport in Taipei will let 90 people remind themselves what travelling is like by passing through immigration and boarding a plane before disembarking and returning home. Not a prize I would want to win.  The very thought of going through the process of  disembarking and dealing with immigration officials having had no holiday  would be  just too sadistic. immigration

“Let’s be careful out there”

Baldness, Coronavirus and Dishy Trudeau


Sorry boys but your inheritance has decreased – again. With the latest downpour came the realisation that we probably need a new roof. All this patching up just isn’t working. My next house is going to be a German flat pack, lots of wood and windows and a lifetime guarantee – well at least till the end of my life. Perhaps a nice piece of land somewhere near the sea inside a small town would be very nice. And the flat packs can be built from start to finish in a few weeks. Turn of the century Edwardian houses might be lovely but they just eat money.

Feeling very pleased with myself – roof aside. As I started the day with Pilates and have already cleaned the house, walked the dog and it is only midday. Clearly an improvement on the past week when getting out of bed before 10 am was an achievement. I mean really you wake up and then remember what is happening and there is just this what the fuck moment and you sink back into bed cause why not.  But in light of my new regime I am going to over come the ‘what the fuck’ and get to it.

 Today I read that Britain’s Coronavirus alert level has reduced from four to three meaning the danger of infections is believed to have lowered. Is it just me or do you think it is a coincidence that they have released this information just when Boris has commissioned a review into the two-metre social distancing rule? The Government is widely expected to relax the rule by July 4, when pubs and restaurants could reopen. Don’t get me wrong I can understand why government is bowing to pressure from business – I have one son who works in live music industry and another one who is a chef – both of these industries have been decimated. But it does get me to wonder just how much we are really being told about the situation. I suspect we will never know the true story about this virus. Just as we will  never know the true story  about anything. I think we are given about as much information as it is thought we can cope with. Quite frankly I don’t think I really want to know the true story about anything – it might just tip me over the top.


And while we are on the subject of COVID –  Groan – I know not that again. No wait!  I have some good news for men who aren’t suffering from baldness. Those that are can skip the next paragraph.


Apparently, it is not only BAME and old people and sick people and perhaps newborn babies, and anybody with an immune deficiency that are most at risk from COVID19 they have now found a new group — bald men. A study involving 122 men hospitalised with the disease in Madrid found that 79% had ‘male pattern baldness” much higher than the expected proportion for their age. Scientists think the link could shed some light on why men are worse affected by COVID19 than women. I wonder what the next thing to emerge will be. My luck it will be women who dye their hair.


It is not something that is likely to affect the dishy Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. Not being able to visit a barber his lush glossy hair has grown into a wonderful mane and apparently viewed by thousands of fawning admirers on twitter. It does help to have a bit of eye candy as a leader in the middle of a pandemic. 

trudeau
And for my North American followers Happy Juneteenth. The day that commemorates June 19 1865 when news of the emancipation reached people in the deepest parts of the former Confederacy in Galveston, Texas. This was two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation in 1863 to abolish slavery which had little impact on Texas as there was no one there to enforce the abolition and Texan’s were certainly not going to do it themselves. How pissed must those slaves have been   —  on top of already being pissed because of their subjugation — when they found out that they had been freed two and half years earlier, but nobody had told them. Humanity has a lot to answer for. 

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people”Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

“Let’s be careful out there”