Mr Farage – There but for the grace of God go you.

“A shocking invasion on the Kent coast,” is how Nigel Farage describes a small group of migrants on a Kent beach. This was accompanied by an unverified video of six people including children getting out of a dingy on a beach.

 
Does he think that these people wanted to leave their homeland? That they willingly risked their lives and the lives of their children because everything was hunky dory at home? We cannot imagine what life must have been like for many of these migrants. I have an inkling because for the past 5 years I have volunteered at an asylum drop-in centre. Yes, there maybe a few that are  not desperate and are economic migrants,  but the majority have fled from unbelievably difficult circumstances. And what right has that smug Farage to judge these people. Let him come and listen to their stories. I have sat with them, held them and cried with them. Their stories are heart rendering. They would dearly have loved to have stayed in their homeland with their families, safe and secure had circumstances been different but they were fleeing from conflict or escaping political, religious or sexually based persecution. Many people were so desperate to leave their country and get to safety  that they were prepared to risk their lives and the lives of their children.  Because risking their life seemed better than what they were escaping from.

 

migrants

Imagine getting into one of those overcrowded dinghies, crossing one of the busiest stretches of sea and knowing that you can’t swim. How terrifying must that be. And if they do arrive safely, they are greeted by “a shocking invasion on the Kent coast”. Refugees and asylum seekers are ordinary people like you and me but have had to face extraordinary struggles and continue to do so once in the UK. So, Mr Farage – There but for the Grace of God go you.

 
My family arrived as migrants escaping persecution at the turn of the century. My maternal and paternal grandfathers came as children with their parents from Poland. Arriving in Bristol with small children and elderly parents, carrying their belongings, they were blessed with hospitality. Thankfully Britain was a safe haven. Actually, I think their final destination was America but the captain wanting to make a quick buck — nothing changes — told them that Bristol was America and how would they know any different. When I look at our American family who came later and got off in the right place, I wonder what our lives would have been like. Our American cousins did very well and prospered better than the British Felsteins. But I am thankful that my ancestors managed to escape and know that one can never take safety for granted – as we all  know right now.
I know this is a bit of a preachy blog but reading those comments with the experience I have of refugees and asylum seekers made me really angry.

 
Have a good weekend

 

“Let’s be careful out there”

 

 

It’s the little things

This morning I woke up at 6 am with a heavy feeling but nothing to compare with how the people of Beirut must have woken up feeling. When all around is doom and gloom it is hard to lift oneself up, but I do this by looking at just how fortunate I am. So, I ignore the rantings of the lunatic Trump, the pandemic threatening an Armageddon and the rise of the R1 numbers and instead walk around my garden, take some deep breaths and listen to the cacophony of the morning chorus. It’s the little things that make life work at the moment. Those things that I might have dismissed before but am now much more appreciative of. I know it is a bit corny but COVID has made me realise that what makes life great are the little things that  we often take for granted.

So, my little things this week are:
We came top in Bridge – yay. Finally, after 3 months at the bottom of the league.

Made 12 jars of blackberry jam from the blackberries growing in my lovely woods. And despite an aching back from too much bending and stretching and hands torn to shreds by protective thorns,  I am enjoying jam making. Today it is the turn of the elderberries.

jam
Re-groomed the dog   so I no longer have clumps of white hair strewn all over the carpets. There are however clumps of white hair  on our street and in the park much to the dismay of my neighbours and fellow park comrades.

I won £25 on the premium bonds. I wasn’t one of the two jackpot prizes from Surrey and Tyne and Wear, and the seven other winners who received £100,000. But hey £25 pays for my newspaper bill. I could complain that I have invested in premium bonds since I was born and never won more than £25 but I am grateful for the little things. That said I am considering stopping my £8 lottery ticket as it has been there since the beginning and I have NEVER won anything.

The boys and partners came for a social distance garden dinner last night and there were no arguments. A rarity when the three boys get together. My chicken was delicious.

Mo deposited  just 1 mouse last night which was better than the previous day when we had 2 birds and two mice. The scratches on her nose is evidence that at least they put up a bit of a fight.

Sat on Tod’s bench in the park which  has become the local art centre for kids.  The path surrounding the bench is adorned with chalk drawings of rainbows.  Reminds me of Brian and one of his many campaigns  –  Chalk for Peace

 

John Lewis sent me £30 gift voucher which I earned from Mastercard spending. I am considering ditching my British Airways card because although I have about 35,000 points and a voucher for £850 from my cancelled Costa Rica  March flight, I am not sure if I will ever get the opportunity to use them.

Anyway, you get my gist – not always easy to focus on the little things but after 5 months of lock down and probably another 5 months ahead,  I am trying.  Of course, probably in a few days this brief respite of positivity will have left me. My mother always used to say, “In the long run, the pessimist may be proved right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip.”  Well mum  this is  certainly some trip.

Talking of trips I wonder what this man was on back in 1959.  George King claimed he communicated with other beings in Venus  and he had an important message for  us earthlings

https://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/man-communicates-live-on-air-with-extra-terrestrial-life/z4x792p

 

“Let’s be careful out there”

 

 

Office Politics in the 60’s

So, I am really feeling it for the young people at the moment. It is tough out there and it is getting tougher. I have no idea how they are going to find work. Linda has been applying for hundreds of jobs and finally got an interview in a local beauty clinic as a receptionist. The boss who interviewed her said they had 3000 applicants and they are interviewing 200 people! Competition is fierce. Evelina our ex lodger told me that she had applied for around 100 jobs and no interviews or even  acknowledgements. And a friend’s son who is one of the Class of 2020 800,000 18 – 24-year olds who have just graduated has applied for around 80 jobs and also has received no acknowledgements or interviews. Surely there could be a better system to give these young people some feedback which at least might help them on their way. They are going to need all the help they can get. Boy did we have it easy when we started work.

 

On my mother’s insistence and my reluctance aged 16 I took a Pitman’s shorthand and typing course at a further education college. Absolutely one of the best things I have done, and mum was so right. “It will come in handy,” she said. “Oh yeah” I thought but with nothing better on the horizon I enrolled. And it did come in handy and continues to do so. Not only could I always fall back on temp work but as a journalist both these skills were invaluable.

Armed with my 70 wpm shorthand certificate and 40 wpm typing I signed on with Brook Street Bureau to work as a temp shorthand typist. I started off in a typing pool with around 40 other women all typing away producing letters and documents for faceless individuals and ruled over by what was usually a dragon of a woman, who herself had graduated from the pool and  was determined never again to be back there. I was not the best. Actually, truth to tell I was probably just about the worst.

typing 2
Which  many of my unsuspecting bosses found out.  I could get the letters down in shorthand with no problem  but reading them back …well that was something else.  Some of the squibbles were just that – squibbles – and I usually had to guess the gist of it and then make  up the rest  hoping my boss would not remember what he dictated. It was the days when one put carbon paper in between the pages in the typewriter to make copies. Erasing mistakes was hell. And I made lots of mistakes. Despite trying my hardest, the letters would emerge with smudges and sometimes holes where I had used the rubber a bit too frequently.

Then there was the audio letters.  Sometimes one or maybe it was just me – had to listen to a sentence multiply times to decipher what was being said.  I remember once after an hour of  intense listening and near to tears  I couldn’t decipher what sounded like frsh-pish  so  I gave up and asked my boss what he was saying.  It was ‘fresh paragraph’.! Even worse  —  and remember photo copy machines had not been invented  — you would just get to the end of a 4 page document and your boss would say, “please do me an extra copy of this document!!!!!! ” Aggghhh.

If you were on duplication duty it was the horrors of the Gestetner machine. For those too young remember the process was messy,  loud and cumbersome and usually ended with ink stained hands and in my case clothes as well. It didn’t help that I would approach the machine with a defeatist attitude and like horses, they smell your fear and take advantage of it. 30 minutes on this machine and I would be reduced to a quivering jelly.

gestetner 1

It was also an era when bottom pinching, wandering hands, innuendos and proposals were very much a hazard that we had to put up with. We learnt how to dodge the groping hands, cope with constant ogling, laugh convincingly at our boss’s terrible jokes and ignore inappropriate comments. We didn’t complain because it would have got us nowhere. It was how it was and continued to be – so thank you Me Too.

 

secretary-2

 

I guess somehow, we didn’t have the confidence to speak out and we accepted a lot more than we would do nowadays. Take the local flasher. Every area had one. Today it would be gross indecency but in the 50’s we just glossed over the antics. I remember — we called him old Jim — he would wait for us after school and then show us his ‘bits’ we would just laugh and run off – unscathed – and move on. If that happened now, I think it would be very different. Is it because we are more sexually aware and thus mindful of the dangers – I don’t know?

 
Apropos of absolutely nothing I watched a wonderful though provoking Netflix documentary series on autism Love on the Spectrum. It is not one of those  stupid inane dating looking- for- a- mate- kind- of- programmes. This series examines what dating is like for people on the autism spectrum. They talk honestly about their feelings and why they want a partner.  They have no grey areas it is black or white. And the interviewer mirrors this wonderfully – there is no ambiguity,  he is sensitive and empathetic. I found myself smiling, laughing, and crying throughout the series. Their honesty was refreshing and made me realise that we spend so much time playing games, skirting around the issues and guessing what people think, we could learn a lot from them.

love on spectrum

https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81265493

 

“Let’s be careful out there” 

Tod and Lebanon 1982

I was saddened to see that Tony Elliott one of the founders of Time Out Magazine had died.   Back in the day Time Out was our bible we never went out without first consulting it.   Tony started  it when his Aunt gave him £75 (around £1000 nowadays) as a 21st birthday present.  It began as a fold out pamphlet put together on his mum’s kitchen table.

Particularly poignant for me as Tony gave me my first commission in journalism – it was a baptism by fire.  I think he was testing me to see if I had what it takes to be a journalist.  I was sent to cover one of Dr.  Tuppy Owen’s sex parties for the disabled.  Tuppy was a sex therapist  was the first person to publish a visual aid for putting on a condom in her bestselling annual The Sex Maniac’s Diary.   She   was the founder of Outsiders, which supports disabled people to find partners. And I was off to one of their parties. 

Talk about rookie I had no idea about what I was to enter. I was young and naive.   This was a party where sex workers gave disabled people the opportunity to experience  sex –  perhaps for the first time in their lives.  I won’t go into detail but just to say everything was very explicit, there were wheelchairs, there was sex, there was hoists. I was completely unprepared, and I think somewhat naive.  Tuppy is a force to be reckoned with. I interviewed her a decade later for another publication and she remained equally impressive.    I imagine that Tony and fellow journalist Duncan Campbell were amused at the thought of me covering this story.

Looking back, I can’t fathom out how or why I went into journalism. I am a bit dyslexic, a diabolical speller as you have probably discovered, a  great malapropist (if that is a word!!) and not a particularly good writer.   For me it was the chase, the challenge of finding a good story, investigating and meeting the people that I found most exciting.I loved deadlines. It got my adrenalin pumping.   It is how I met Tod too.  I was in Israel writing a story about the psychological impact of the Lebanese war on diaspora soldiers and Tod was one of these soldiers.

tod

The impact of this war on both Israeli and diaspora soldiers was huge.  The soldiers had been trained to defend their country but Lebanon was more that just defence. Many soldiers told me that once they were there on the front, gun cocked, they began to wonder what on earth they were doing. This was no longer about defence they felt that they  were  now the aggressors.  This war left its mark on thousands of soldiers, most of them in combat troops and even those who weren’t wounded were left with psychological scars still to this day  unhealed.  Certainly Tod  who was a paratrooper suffered from   PTSS. He had nightmares and would wake up screaming.   It never left him right up to his death. For many reasons I think it was one of the best stories I have written.  Maybe because we became romantically involved  and I got the inside story.  Not that I am advocating that one sleeps with one’s interviewees, but I did go on to marry him.

And last night when  I had dinner in the garden with two very close friends – couples – he was missed.   It was a lovely evening and a welcome escape from my house bound existence. But turning the key in the lock at 1 am I was acutely aware that I was coming home alone.   No one to chit chat about the evening over a cuppa which is one of the joys  of going out together.  Discussing the funny bits, the bits that annoyed you, the food, the gossip.  So, I made myself a night cap and shared my thoughts with the dog and cat. Ever faithful Izzi tried to look interested. She cocked her head as if she really did understand and then nuzzled up close. Mo gave me one of her ‘really Roma get a grip’ looks  and  curled up on my chair and went to sleep. So I  sipped my tea, and told Tod all about the evening. 

“Let’s be careful out there”

 

 

 

An Opportunity For Change

I have always been a fan of the  Chilean author Isabel Allende. Intelligent, beautiful writer, profound and compassionate. Recently she was asked about her fear re the virus.  Her remarks echo my thoughts in my last blog on friendship. She said she realised who are her true friends and the people that she wanted to spend time with. She went on to say that the current epidemic had put life into context and hopefully it will teach us – (globally) to sort out our priorities.

1822_IsabelAllende_MalalaSansurALTA

Me Too – maybe we could extend the Me too to take this on and learn from this experience and come out with a new mindset and not just go back to the old normality.

To quote Allende and I think she is definitely worth space on this blog.

“The virus invited us to design a new future. What do we dream for ourselves as global humanity? I realized we came into the world to lose everything. The more you live, the more you lose. First you lose your parents or very sweet people, your pets, some places and then slowly your own mental and physical faculties. We can’t live in fear. Fear stimulates a future that makes living in the present a dark experience. We need to relax and appreciate what we have and live in the present.”

I needed to read this and put my life into context.  I had allowed myself to become a little too self-indulgent and the old adage ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ is a good description of how I have been feeling over the last week.  So, thank you Allende.

I wish too that I could share her take on death. She said that after the tragic death of her daughter Paula who died 27 years ago, she had lost her fear of death.

“I saw her die in my arms, and I realized that death is like birth, it’s a transition, a threshold, and I lost my personal fear. At this moment if I catch the virus, I belong to the group of the most vulnerable, I’m 77 years old and I know that if I catch the virus I can die, and this possibility at this point in my life is very clear, but I look at it with curiosity and without fear. What this pandemic has taught me is to free myself from things. It has never been so clear to me that I need very little to live. I don’t need to buy, I don’t need more clothes, I don’t need to go anywhere, or travel, now I see I have too much. I don’t need more than two dishes! ”

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/author-isabel-allende-interview-were-77-but-we-refuse-to-live-in-fear-we-try-to-make-the-best-of-the-situation-6drmd8bb2

Tod also died in my arms, but I still fear death.

I do though share her  feelings about not needing  stuff. I have everything I need and more and apart from a new roof and central heating.  And maybe a light weight vacuum cleaner.  Its moulting season and our house is covered in white dog hair.  Yesterday I took her to the park to do some grooming and am feeling a little guilty and embarrassed as sections of the park are covered in Izzy’s hair. “Oh said,” one woman, “it’s your dog. I thought that some poor animal had been savaged by a fox.”

So, NASA’s newest Mars rover has begun its journey to hunt for alien life. Not enough that we have messed up our own planet we need to go and mess up another one.  A 2012 World Wildlife Fund report apparently estimated that by 2030 we would need the equivalent of two planets in order to sustain our current lifestyle.  But maybe the answer has come in the guise of COVID 19. I am not talking about a post-pandemic utopia, but it is giving us a real opportunity   to shift our culture in a way that will benefit both climate change and nature. Sadly, though with our current world leaders I am not that optimistic.

 

MARS

“Let’s be careful out there”

Friendships

Yesterday on a social distance walk with my close girlfriend she mentioned that she had been asked to contribute to a  BBC Radio 4 programme this week on Friendships and it got me thinking about my own friendships. This particular friend has a wide circle of eclectic friends. Unlike me she is very sociable both in her personal life and professionally. We talked about the nature of friendship and about how many friends we could both put into our  inner circle, those friends that you are really close to, you see often and who you know will always have your back.

So, at 3 am when it was clear that sleep was not coming any time soon, I looked at my friendships and I made circle diagrams of who fitted in where. Friendships have always played a major part in my emotional well being.  It goes back a long way and forgive me if I am repeating myself but this is —  blog 90!!! —  and I just might have forgotten previous anecdotes.  I didn’t have a lot of friends when I was young.  Being Jewish and bullying played a big part.  When it is was my birthday  mum would insist on throwing me a party  and I was  always full of trepidation wondering whether anyone would turn up?  Printed in indelible ink in my brain was the Charlie Chaplin silent movie film about his birthday party.  The table was laid, balloons, party hats cakes etc and as time went on he realised that no one  was going to come. That wonderfully  expressive face went from excited, to anxious to demoralised to very upset. And interestingly that has stayed with me  to date. Tod used to say when we  were giving a party “Don’t start your Charlie Chaplin Roma.”

Oxford Professor Robin Dunbar says that our social networks have a very distinctive structure based on multiples of three.  My screen saver is a pic of Tod and I would say that we were very good friends. We both had each other’s backs at all times and when the chips were down, we knew we could rely on each other completely. In my  inner inner circle my UK friends probably number  3 or 4. In the inner circle there are 5 in the UK and 5 overseas. Then I got stuck between friends that I like and see sometimes – when it isn’t a pandemic and acquaintances. So, the next bubble is around 15 – people that I would consider friends, but they don’t make it to the inner inner  or inner circle. And then there are acquaintances probably around 30.

Friendships+Those+paid+to+help+Casual+friends+Close+friends+ME+Family

It made me feel better .  I seem to fit right into Professor Dunbar’s friendship structure; innermost group 3 – 5 next a slightly larger group of around 10 (ok so I have a few more) and then he has another group of around 150.   I guess over the past 68 years I probably do have many more people that I have known and spent time with but their names at this moment elude me. That said oddly throughout the day names have kept coming to me with “I wonder what he or she is doing now.” It would be good to be a voyeur on their lives, first  look in on them and be able to make a decision about whether I wanted to take it further.

But what about those close friends who are no longer alive.  I had 3 very close girlfriends all from my early twenties. We lived, played and spent a lot of time together and they are all dead.  And I know it is depressing but I guess going forward this will become more common place.  My Aunt in New York who is in her eighties often laments about losing nearly all her very good friends.

What I realised  at 4 this morning is the importance of good friends. I could not exist without my friends which are primarily female. Maybe this is because women talk, share, have a higher expectation of friends than men do and place a greater emphasis on intimacy.  From my limited experience men can go on extended periods of time months or even years without seeing a friend and yet still consider them to be a close friend.  We however need regular contact with a close friend.

I probably have not been a great friend over the past 2 years. I have been needy, moody and somewhat self-obsessed but there have been circumstances and I have allowed myself to wallow.  My good friends are patient understanding empathetic and loyal. They know that when I am not all these things then I am a very good friend because I too am patient, understanding empathetic and loyal.

“Let’s be careful out there” 

Sugar and brain function

When I was 2 my father fell down the stairs carrying me. While I don’t recall the actual event there is something in the back of mind – a feeling that remembers. Later on, I wondered if perhaps this accident dislodged something in my brain – the bit that retains information as this has always been an issue for me. I did once go for tests and spent 24 hours with wires attached to my head so they could analyse my brain. The outcome was unclear. This weekend however I read a report about the effects of a high sugar diet on brain function. So maybe it was my mother and her sugar sandwiches rather than my father dropping me.

sugar
Apparently eating a sugar-rich diet in infancy may affect brain development. Scientists at the University of California fed one group of rats a high sugar diet and the other regular food. A few weeks later, the animals were set tasks to gauge their ability to recognise items – sort of memory recall associated with the hippocampus part of the brain. The ones on high sugar performed much worse than the other group. On analysing the faeces of the high sugar fed rats they found that their guts contained higher levels of Parabacteroides. When these microbes were added to the diet of the other rats, they too performed poorly in memory tests. So, I am wondering if one can reverse this? If so, should I eliminate sugar from my diet now and will I then be able to remember what I had for breakfast.
Seriously there is no doubt that despite this recent survey we all know that sugar is bad for us. And I did once manage 6 months without sugar including pasta and other sugar related items. The first 6 weeks is the hardest to stop the cravings but then once you start to feel the full effects it  does become easier.  Sugar is incredibly addictive more addictive apparently than opioid drugs such as cocaine and of course more prevalent, available, and socially acceptable than amphetamines or alcohol, and so harder to avoid.
So, some 8 years ago I decided to go on a detox, and I chose a retreat in southern Goa. I had already been in India for a few weeks and found a place with good reviews in the southern tip of Goa. I arrived on one of the hottest days in Goa and was greeted with what looked like a delicious  cold smoothie which I promptly downed only to throw up once I was in the privacy of my room. It was disgusting. And every day I had to down three of these each fouler than the last one. And no food. Only on the 5th day could we eat what resembled food. My fellow guests were also having twice daily enemas which I declined as I had spent the previous week in a hotel  clutching the  white porcelain of the toilet bowl violently ill with dysentery.  I felt there was nothing left to be evacuated and quite frankly I had no intention of going anywhere near the rear end of my body.

goa
But it worked and I rid my body of sugar  and kept it up for around 6 months. In this last 5 months since lock down my sugar intake has increased fourfold. Cakes, biscuits, chocolate, ice cream and even boiled sweets. I needed to give myself treats, to lift my spirits even if only momentarily. I, of course, blame my mother for starting me off in life with white sugar sandwiches on white bread.

And in line with the governments new obesity strategy and banning two for one adverts of junk food I have decided to try to renew a sugar free diet. I have just waved cheerio to Toby and Linda who in the midst of a summer storm — I know what summer — have left for a week of wild camping. So, it is just me and I have no excuse not to carry this out. It might mean, of course that I have to don mask and gloves and buy some healthy food. I rather relish getting out it will be a welcome distraction as this past weekend has been tough – five months has finally got to me. Rain, grey skies and a bleak future sent me under my duvet and not even my trusted friend Netflix could lift me out of my gloom. I was thoroughly miserable and piss poor company. But today I dragged myself from under the duvet, dusted myself down and started afresh – with hopefully no sugar.

“Let’s be careful out there”

 

 

 

What day is it? Groundhog Day

Oh, dear I am a whole day older today and have done bugger all. But its Friday – or at least I think it is because I have just done my Friday Pilates but then it could have been my Monday or Wednesday Pilates. Everything seems to be interchangeable. The days are punctuated by Pilates, Yoga and Bridge. Without them – well it would be just one long duvet day.

Remember Bill Murray in Groundhog Day  “I wake up every day, right here, right in Punxsutawney, and it’s always February 2nd, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

I know what he means. I wake up every morning when everything stays the same. COVID statistics, Mask wearing or not? ridiculous claims by our leaders, fears of a second wave.

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” asks TV weatherman Connors in Groundhog Day.

For those of you who don’t remember the iconic 1993 film Groundhog Day or didn’t see it; Murray portrays Phil Connors, a cynical TV weatherman covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who becomes trapped in a time loop forcing him to relive February 2 repeatedly until he gets it right. He awakens every morning at the Cherry Tree Inn to Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You, Babe,” playing on the clock radio.

GROUND HOG DAY

My morning wake up is BBC News – I check just to see if by any chance it is  all a dream and there is  no COVID19. Fat chance.

So today I was examining one of my most unattractive traits Envy. It hit me during my Pilates class when the teacher who is the mum of my son’s wife and who used to be a ballet dancer – did a particular exercise.

pilates

Not only could I not open my legs wide, but I could just about move a few centimetres towards the floor. I have been doing Pilates for 5 years and before that yoga for 5 years how can it be possible that my body is still so stiff that it refuses to accept these positions. While the rest of the class can flow effortless and gracefully from floor to standing, I hobble on to my knees then very gently so as not to alert my sciatica,  heave myself up to the standing position by which time the rest of the class has moved on 2 exercises.  You know when you start with a new teacher and they ask “Has anybody got any injuries” I am torn between reeling my catalogue of injuries, back, knees, ankles, hips, neck or just keeping shtum.

Envy didn’t end with the Pilates halfway through the Zoom class her other daughter arrived with her new baby granddaughter – yes, I have no grandchildren, 3 sons but no grandchildren and to top it all – she has a husband!

It is unwarranted envy. And I know she would feel bad if she knew that I was having these thoughts as she is a lovely lady.  Just have to get to grips with Envy and realise while I might be getting a bit decrepit, and have no husband, and I can’t get out and ‘about, I am still  extremely fortunate in so many other ways.

Note to self: Get your priorities in order Felstein.

Talking of partners, I have been watching  the Indian Matchmaking series on Netflix. Matchmaker Sima Taparia helps clients in the U.S. and India to find suitable partners. I am loving it and it offers an inside look at the custom in a modern era. It’s fascinating.  It’s like a Tinder Premium.  Having listened to  stories from my 3 beautiful and intelligent girlfriends one in her 40’s one in her 50’s and one in her 60’s who have kissed their fair share of frogs but not found a prince I am thinking maybe a matchmaker is the answer.

indian matchmaking

My mother once broached the idea when aged 30 I was still single and she was concerned that I might marry outside of the Jewish faith. Needless to say I ignored her.  But as in India, matchmakers have been part of the Jewish custom for centuries. A shadchan, a traditional Jewish matchmaker is common for ultra-orthodox Jews. The shadchan performs a pivotal role in ultra-orthodox Jewish circles where young men and women rarely mix, but marriage at an early age – 17 or 18 – followed by a large brood of children is considered highly desirable.

In a way I am a kind of matchmaker as I am always on the look out for suitable men for my girlfriends and I have arranged a couple of dates for them which unfortunately didn’t work out. I am wondering why it is so difficult.  Maybe because it takes a very confident man not to be intimidated by very capable women who  they maybe find a bit scary and threatening. Or because my girlfriends have been on their own for a while and are not willing to accept second best. And why should they?

So, after watching the Netflix series I am suggesting they try a matchmaker. Would be safer, less arduous and hit and miss with a lot more miss than hit. What have they to lose?Anywhere from £6,000 to £30,000 and with no guarantee.  If this was a journalist article, I would research it more for you but as it is my blog if you are interested in knowing more you are going to have to do the hard work.

I will keep you posted.

Have a good weekend – if it is the weekend…

“Let’s be careful out there”

 

Adult Social Care for 21st Century

Argentine sailor Juan Manuel Ballestero appeared in a recent Serendipity blog. Why?  Because he had sailed halfway round the world from Argentina to the UK to visit his elderly father. He is not alone others have gone to extreme levels in order to be reunited with families during this epidemic.  When flights were cancelled to Greece student Kleon Papadimitriou rode his bicycle  on a 48-day trip to Athens to get home. Garry Crothers was determined not to miss his youngest daughter’s wedding, so when flights were grounded, he decided to make the 6,500km journey home by sailing solo across the Atlantic. I get this.  When crisis hits one wants to be with one’s loved ones.

While I never thought I would hear myself say this in some ways I am pleased that my parents are no longer alive. It takes some of the concern from my life. Right now, it is just me I have to keep safe.  And sadly, it is my age which apparently puts me at the highest risk.  I am now considered elderly.  I have never ever thought of myself as elderly and it’s not a nice feeling.  I remember sitting in the doctor’s surgery when I was just 50 and the doctor telephoned another consultant to make an appointment for me. She said, “I have this fifty-year-old lady with me….” and I looked around – where was she?  Who is she talking about?  Before realising that it was me!

In the UK there are around 15.5 million people aged 60 or over, making up 23% of the UK population. The number of “older” old people is also rising – there are now 3.2 million people aged 80 or over, and almost 600,000 of these are aged 90 or over.

And I am one of these.   With care homes much in the news right now I am reminded of just how much I do not want to end up in one. So much so that in the Will which has finally be signed – yes just yesterday — there is a codicil that says that if my children put me in a Home then my entire  estate will go to dog and cats’ homes.  I guess this comes from the experience I had with my mother and my aunt and a few other relatives.

When Mum moved  from Leicester to London because she had early dementia, she was determined she wanted to go into a Home. She lasted 8 days before I yanked her out, found a lovely 2 bedroom flat near me, and installed a Philippian carer.

This is by no means a criticism of carers who are paid badly and do fantastic work. COVID has shown just how amazing are these carers but what it has also shown is what low priority are the care homes in the pecking order.   Current residents have worked all their lives, fought in one and sometimes two world wars, paid their taxes, their national insurance but are then considered not worthy of enough funding to keep them safe and in some cases alive.

old age

We all know that finance is key but along with this is a different way of thinking about adult social care. We need a new model for the 21st century.  Within days of my mother entering the Home she started to become institutionalised.  One minute she was living on her own, making her own food, cleaning her flat, choosing her clothes, bathing etc and the next she apparently needed a helper to guide her to the dining room.

One day 2 when they had finally chucked me out of the Home saying this wasn’t helping my mother having me sleeping on her floor!  I returned next day  to see my mum walking slowly like an old woman with a nurse holding her hand. “Why are you holding my mother’s hand,” I asked.  “Because she might get lost finding the dining room.”  “Well she could ask directions,” I said. “She has a tongue in her head and her speech is working just fine.” Maybe unfair, the carer was most likely just following protocol. And I guess in some ways it is easier to control situations this way.

I was definitely their worst visitor. Actually, I am usually everybody’s worst visitor. When mum was in hospital after a stroke unable to move, the nurses used to hide when I arrived.  Word got round quickly “Mrs Felstein’s daughter is here.” And they would scurry away hoping not to have deal with any of my demands.  Not   unreasonable demands. Just please can my mother be fed her food while it is still hot.  And would be better for my mother’s health if she could get a commode rather than wet herself because it has taken too long for someone to  check her, or yes she is a bit dehydrated because no-one has bothered to  give her any water. Eventually I paid someone to sit by her bed until I could get there after work.  Over protective me? No just a lioness looking after her pride .   My friends say should they get sick they want to be in my family.

So following  mum to the dining room we met a fellow resident.  “So how is it here,” I asked. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” he said  and carried on eating. What did he mean? I soon found out.  Outwardly the home was beautiful with fresh flowers, clean and most important no smell of urine. But inside the book the pages were empty.   One would think that for £1000 a week – which is what it cost back then, one could do a bit better.

Admittedly this was 15 years ago, and I know there have been changes. But we do need to have a radical rethink about caring for the older adults in the 21st century.  We need to look at Denmark, Sweden and Holland for guidance. And some  Care Homes are now trying to model themselves on the Dutch Dementia Village.  Inspirational and apparently no more expensive than a regular Care Home.

dutch dementia

One UK Care Facility is Castle Brook. It runs a similar programme to the Dutch facility.    No plonking residents in front of the incessant drone  of the tv which they can’t understand anyway. Never understood why they did this. Playing music has been proven to have a far more positive effect on dementia.  I suppose it is a bit like putting children in front of the tv to give mums some breathing space.  The Castlebrook  Home  is designed around six households of 14 people. They have their own kitchen and the concept like in Holland is ensure that the Home is really a Home with a semblance of normality offering shopping, cooking, general housework etc all geared to the residents wants, needs and how they feel and where possible leaving them with a feeling of independence. There is a sense of freedom rather incarceration.    And this is key. Bad enough that you are leaving your home but then also losing your independence must be so very demoralising. I know Tod hated it  when he deteriorated and had to rely on me and lost his independence.

I had  no intention when I started today’s blog  to go on this journey into Adult Social Care.  Anyway  I am going to be going out with a bang. Its Jenny Joseph’s Warning – The Lady In Purple  all the way for me.

lady in purple

“Let’s be careful out there”

Adult Social Care for the 21st Century

Argentine sailor Juan Manuel Ballestero appeared in a recent Serendipity blog. Why?  Because he had sailed halfway round the world from Argentina to the UK to visit his elderly father. He is not alone others have gone to extreme levels in order to be reunited with families during this epidemic.  When flights were cancelled to Greece student Kleon Papadimitriou rode his bicycle  on a 48-day trip to Athens to get home. Garry Crothers was determined not to miss his youngest daughter’s wedding, so when flights were grounded, he decided to make the 6,500km journey home by sailing solo across the Atlantic. I get this.  When crisis hits one wants to be with one’s loved ones.

While I never thought I would hear myself say this in some ways I am pleased that my parents are no longer alive. It takes some of the concern from my life. Right now, it is just me I have to keep safe.  And sadly, it is my age which apparently puts me at the highest risk.  I am now considered elderly.  I have never ever thought of myself as elderly and it’s not a nice feeling.  I remember sitting in the doctor’s surgery when I was just 50 and the doctor telephoned another consultant to make an appointment for me. She said, “I have this fifty-year-old lady with me….” and I looked around – where was she?  Who is she talking about?  Before realising that it was me!

In the UK there are around 15.5 million people aged 60 or over, making up 23% of the UK population. The number of “older” old people is also rising – there are now 3.2 million people aged 80 or over, and almost 600,000 of these are aged 90 or over.

And I am one of these.   With care homes much in the news right now I am reminded of just how much I do not want to end up in one. So much so that in the Will which has finally be signed – yes just yesterday — there is a codicil that says that if my children put me in a Home then my entire  estate will go to dog and cats’ homes.  I guess this comes from the experience I had with my mother and my aunt and a few other relatives.

When Mum moved  from Leicester to London because she had early dementia, she was determined she wanted to go into a Home. She lasted 8 days before I yanked her out, found a lovely 2 bedroom flat near me, and installed a Philippian carer.

This is by no means a criticism of carers who are paid badly and do fantastic work. COVID has shown just how amazing are these carers but what it has also shown is what low priority are the care homes in the pecking order.   Current residents have worked all their lives, fought in one and sometimes two world wars, paid their taxes, their national insurance but are then considered not worthy of enough funding to keep them safe and in some cases alive.

old age

We all know that finance is key but along with this is a different way of thinking about adult social care. We need a new model for the 21st century.  Within days of my mother entering the Home she started to become institutionalised.  One minute she was living on her own, making her own food, cleaning her flat, choosing her clothes, bathing etc and the next she apparently needed a helper to guide her to the dining room.

One day 2 when they had finally chucked me out of the Home saying this wasn’t helping my mother having me sleeping on her floor!  I returned next day  to see my mum walking slowly like an old woman with a nurse holding her hand. “Why are you holding my mother’s hand,” I asked.  “Because she might get lost finding the dining room.”  “Well she could ask directions,” I said. “She has a tongue in her head and her speech is working just fine.” Maybe unfair, the carer was most likely just following protocol. And I guess in some ways it is easier to control situations this way.

I was definitely their worst visitor. Actually, I am usually everybody’s worst visitor. When mum was in hospital after a stroke unable to move, the nurses used to hide when I arrived.  Word got round quickly “Mrs Felstein’s daughter is here.” And they would scurry away hoping not to have deal with any of my demands.  Not   unreasonable demands. Just please can my mother be fed her food while it is still hot.  And would be better for my mother’s health if she could get a commode rather than wet herself because it has taken too long for someone to  check her, or yes she is a bit dehydrated because no-one has bothered to  give her any water. Eventually I paid someone to sit by her bed until I could get there after work.  Over protective me? No just a lioness looking after her pride .   My friends say should they get sick they want to be in my family.

So following  mum to the dining room we met a fellow resident.  “So how is it here,” I asked. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” he said  and carried on eating. What did he mean? I soon found out.  Outwardly the home was beautiful with fresh flowers, clean and most important no smell of urine. But inside the book the pages were empty.   One would think that for £1000 a week – which is what it cost back then, one could do a bit better.

Admittedly this was 15 years ago, and I know there have been changes. But we do need to have a radical rethink about caring for the older adults in the 21st century.  We need to look at Denmark, Sweden and Holland for guidance. And some  Care Homes are now trying to model themselves on the Dutch Dementia Village.  Inspirational and apparently no more expensive than a regular Care Home.

dutch dementia

 https://www.dementiavillage.com

One UK Care Facility is Castle Brook. It runs a similar programme to the Dutch facility.    No plonking residents in front of the incessant drone  of the tv which they can’t understand anyway. Never understood why they did this. Playing music has been proven to have a far more positive effect on dementia.  I suppose it is a bit like putting children in front of the tv to give mums some breathing space.  The Castlebrook  Home  is designed around six households of 14 people. They have their own kitchen and the concept like in Holland is ensure that the Home is really a Home with a semblance of normality offering shopping, cooking, general housework etc all geared to the residents wants, needs and how they feel and where possible leaving them with a feeling of independence. There is a sense of freedom rather incarceration.    And this is key. Bad enough that you are leaving your home but then also losing your independence must be so very demoralising. I know Tod hated it  when he deteriorated and had to rely on me and lost his independence.

I had  no intention when I started today’s blog  to go on this journey into Adult Social Care.  Anyway  I am going to be going out with a bang. Its Jenny Joseph’s Warning – The Lady In Purple  all the way for me.

lady in purple

“Let’s be careful out there”