It’s getting a bit crazy out there

Did you ever play that game “if I was rich I would…..”? Sure, you did unless of course you are already rich.  Well I have just added  dream interpreter to my list of housekeeper and  cook. I would like   a dream interpreter sitting by my bed every morning and explaining my extremely lucid dreams. Last night’s, or probably early this morning as apparently we remember most dreams just before we wake, was truly bizarre.

I was on Oxford Street in London’s West End, in morning rush house in my blue striped cotton pyjamas with a bagel running across the street looking for somewhere to toast it for breakfast.   When I realised where I was  –  horrified I ducked into a grocery shop –  of course there are none on Oxford Street, asked to borrow the phone to call my son to fetch me but didn’t know his mobile number – there’s a lesson learn your children’s mobile numbers –  obviously nobody picks up the house phone anymore.  Back outside my location changed to  the local shops behind my  family home in Leicester and I  thought – great I can just walk home now! So what  was that about.  Home, pyjamas  bagel – maybe it is do with comfort and security. Something we all need right now.

Methods of Dream Interpretation: What Do Dreams Mean?

We are truly living in some very strange times. I mean really a 16-year-old from Connecticut has become the first person to have 100 million followers on Tik Tok.  Why? Because she has invented a scientific phenomena, made a huge impact on the world, found the secret to happiness, has raised substantial funds to help the poor and needy, has triumphed over adversity, written a master piece –  no none of these   Charli D’Amelio  has made her name posting videos of herself dancing in her room.  And because of this notoriety she has now moved with her family to LA, acquired an agent, appeared in a Super Bowl half time advert and has a drink named after her at Dunkin’ Donuts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NIU-eSuiy8

 We are living in a world where children believe they are stars and post endless videos of themselves doing mundane things like putting on makeup and picking out clothes to wear. Adults think that pictures of their food are interesting and important, and people die taking moronic selfies in dangerous situations.

And on the other end of the spectrum  you have a government asking the elderly to sign “do not resuscitate” orders.  I was horrified to read that in Switzerland, where the daily death toll from Covid is around twice the spring peak, doctors called for those who are vulnerable, including the over 60’s  (that’s me) and those with heart disease or diabetes to sign end-of-life forms  to ease intense pressure on the hospitals.  Shades of the  1973 movie with Edward G Robinson and Charlton Heston Soylent Green. Don’t want to ruin it for those who might not have watched – but it tells the story of New York in the year 2022, when the population has swollen to an unbelievable 80 million, and people live in the streets and line up for their rations of water and Soylent Green. That’s a high-protein foodstuff allegedly made from plankton cultivated in the seas. But  all is not what it seems!!

I think I just might have digressed somewhat  but  when an Ocado delivery driver  includes  three carrier bags of urine with a customer’s grocery order methinks maybe it’s all getting a bit crazy.

“Let’s be careful out there.”

Deserts Island Discs – a veritable feast of interviews

I know it’s pretty chaotic at the moment  but walking in the woods today I felt a sense of calm  a feeling of gratitude and I found myself saying thank you to the trees. Yes again – I hear you say but there  wasn’t anybody else around to thank and anyway Tod is in some of these trees

I  remember not so long ago trying to fit in a walk in between a somewhat frantic schedule and  reciting  that iconic poem “What is this life if full of care…. ” etc etc and  uttering those magic words “if only”.  Well ‘if only’ is here and I do feel fortunate.  I can if I chose ‘stand and stare – as long as sheep or cows’ and I can most definitely see ‘where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.’

And while I know I have complained about being on my own and having too much time and so on today is a good day and I  appreciate  being able to do exactly what I want with my time within of course the constraints of lock down restrictions.  So much so that this morning in the middle of my yoga I stopped, switched off the zoom, because I just wasn’t  feeling it.  And what’s more I didn’t feel guilty. There’s a first.  My life has been so governed by ‘shoulds’ and ‘ought to’s’ deadlines and guilt  that  I am feeling quite pleased with myself right now.

Instead I went for a long walk, sat on Tod’s bench, had a conversation with him albeit a bit one-sided, ignored passer-by’s who thought I was probably just a mad old lady, and  enjoyed my glorious woods. So, William Henry Davies I am today ‘full of care’ and have as much time as I want ‘ to stand and stare.’

There are some good things too about being an insomniac – as well as the quiet  it also allows me  to catch up on the Radio programmes I have missed. Last night I delved into the archives of Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 and listened to a recent one with Sir Keir Starmer –  hopefully our next Prime minister.  The verdict is out on Lauren Laverne she doesn’t quite have the laid-back quality of Kirsty Young or Sue Lawley.

I then moved on to the Late Chief Rabbi Johnathan  Sacks interviewed by Lawley just before he was inaugurated.   Interesting both he and Starmer  chose Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony. And while  Keir (like me he also hated his name during schooldays and wished he could have been called something more ordinary like John or Michael or Peter – I  wanted to be a Susan or Jane )  ended with Artists for Grenfell, Bridge over Troubled Water which sent me into floods of  tears- not just for Grenfell but because it was Tod’s favourite song. It sometimes shocks me just  how deep is one’s grief which most of the time can be held at bay  but when it comes out – it is like an eruption. Thankfully no-one was around.  Sacks ended  his discs with Sholom Katz – Lest We Forget which also left me in tears remembering all those that perished in World War 2.  Not sure this is exactly the best way to lure one into a peaceful sleep. 

TRA: Desert Island Discs - Trebuchet

I had met Rabbi Sacks on several occasions when I interviewed him for the BBC.    He was an impressive spiritual man of great intellect and a brilliant orator, but I think that  he was conflicted  by the pressures of a diverse Jewish community and he walked a  fine line between the views of the ultra-Orthodox  and those on the progressive wing.

I am excited to have discovered a whole host of other incredibly interesting people on Desert Island Discs which was first broadcast with Roy Plomley in 1942 and since then over 3000 programmes have been aired.   So for starters I will be listening to:  

Bruce Springsteen, (so sexy don’t care that he is getting on a bit)  Tracey Emin (I think I finally understand her bed!) Hugh Masekela ( one of the first guests on my embarrassingly failed C4 chat show) Maya Angelou (“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ) Princess Grace of Monaco (always been a bit intrigued by her it’s the fairy tale princess fantasy) Bill Bryson (read all his books) Malcom Gladwell ( nearly read all of his) Nicole Farhi ( love love her clothes if only I could afford them) Shirley MacLaine ( because she was my mum’s favourite actor) and Steven McQueen (  12 Years a Slave director whose anthology of films is currently on the BBC. So far Small Axe – brilliant and Mangrove have been aired. Each of the five films tell different stories of Caribbean people living in London from the 1960s to the 1980s. Growing up in Leicester and sneaking out to what was ostensibly and very exciting black blues parties was a highlight of my early teenage days.)

With all this on offer – who needs sleep. A veritable feast awaits me.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Talking to oneself

Since my incarceration began back in March I have noticed   I am losing the art of conversation.  And not only am I losing the ability to converse but also the interest to converse. I have become quite content with my own company and methinks this is probably  not  that healthy. I can easily fill my day with dog walks, yoga, reading, housework, baking and Netflix.  In fact, some days there isn’t even enough time to call a friend.

Take today it is already  Friday afternoon and it was only yesterday that it was last Friday, and I have only succeeded in getting dressed and walking the dog. Really quite baffling the speed in which the days are passing.    The only positive is that hopefully it won’t seem that long then before we get a vaccine. And I shall be fighting to get to the front of the line.  I have absolutely no qualms about taking it. Despite the  claims that the coronavirus pandemic is a cover for a plan to implant trackable microchips and that the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is behind it. Quite frankly  Gates is very welcome to my brain!

Woman Talking To Herself Stock Illustrations – 6 Woman Talking To Herself  Stock Illustrations, Vectors & Clipart - Dreamstime

I think getting out into the real world again is paramount for my sanity. I became particularly worried the other night when in bed I found myself saying “good night Roma, sleep well.” And even more alarming  when I heard myself answering, “thank you, you too.”

I am told it is healthy to talk to yourself but there is probably a happy medium and I might just be overstepping this mark. Before even emerging from bed I was conversing with my clothes about which jumper would be the cosiest for this cold morning.  Luckily the jumper didn’t respond.   I could  say it is because Tod isn’t here anymore  but who am I kidding I have been talking to myself since around the age of 5 when I would invent a whole host of imaginary friends. My dolls took  on human qualities and  would take up so much room in my bed that I would end up sleeping  on the floor so as not to crowd  them.

I vaguely remember a doctor’s appointment when my mother, worried about my incessant chatter with these imaginary friends, asked  whether it was normal. I can’t remember what he said  although Dr Rodker the family GP always had the same answer to everything ‘probably a bit of infection there’.

So now, alone for most of the day, especially as Toby and Linda have moved downstairs  and created a mini flat so they can redeem semi normal life without worrying about infecting me, I have even more time to discuss the intricacies of life with Roma.  And I have to say Roma can be brutally honest about my  short comings. Afterall she knows me better than anybody else. No cover ups there. But  I am trying though to be a bit kinder and more empathetic to myself.

I too have now  become an armchair Goggle Box  critic except unlike  Anne and Ken or  Giles and Mary or Jenny and Lee it is just Roma and Roma. So, it’s not quite as much fun. Take watching I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here  – there is no one to tell me when the gory bits are over.  So, I have to hide behind my hands  and just  peek through my fingers  hoping  I don’t catch anything too gross.

This week  however we took a few risks  so we could continue the shared Bake Off experience. It was a bit surreal Toby and Linda  at opposite ends of the lounge masked , with the French windows open.  It was Laura versus Herminie  whose showstopper was a bit of a shocker.  Such a shame  for the patisseries queen – everything was wrong, the look, the taste, the texture. But good news for Laura the messiest baker on the show. 

So, what’s on my weekend agenda. Interestingly  the two-day weekend  is a relatively new phenomena apparently it  was in part born from another economic crisis.  During the  1930’s  Depression  many industries  hadn’t adopted the 40-hour workweek  and they cut employees back to five days a week, so that fewer working hours could be distributed among more people. By 1938, the 40-hour workweek was enshrined into law with the Fair Labour Standards Act. I suppose it remains to be seen if  things will change post COVID.  

Anyway, on my weekend there is still Netflix The Crown to be watched, leaves strewn across my garden to be cleared,  Bamboo and plants to be replanted, the new gardener will not be asked back! A  Polenta cake to be baked and  of course the daily dog walks. Now you can understand  why I haven’t been blogging.

ELet’s be careful out there”

Auspicious Times

Yesterday was an auspicious day – yes we have finally got rid of the orange idiot – but it was also Tod’s birthday and what better present for him than Biden. Not the ideal candidate but at least it is not Trump. And I think Tod would have approved of this mild mannered sensitive and empathetic man. And if he pops his clogs, well he isn’t exactly a spring chicken — then we will have the first black female president.   It’s an odd expression ‘pop  your clogs’ – I think it comes from  the idea of ‘popping’ meaning pawning – a person’s clogs after they have died because of course they no longer have any use for them.

Anyway, we can all breathe a sigh of relief and  the knots in my stomach are slowly unwinding.  I can start sleeping again – well at least try and best of all soon there will be no more Trump. A result.

It was also auspicious because finally my roof is fixed although I still have to get someone to take down the useless expensive scaffold   – but I am not going there again!

My brother-in-law said Tod would be smiling on his birthday to see Trump defeated.  I wish I knew that was true. How wonderful would it be to know that someone you are close to is still around somewhere in the ether? I have been thinking for some time of going to a spiritualist or clairvoyant just to check out if he is still hanging around. I doubt it as I am sure I would have felt his presence.  He wasn’t exactly a shrinking violet.  One definitely knew when Tod was around.  Spiritualists will say that one sign that someone is hanging around is ‘visitation dreams’  well I have had those.  Quite a few of them.  Another is  electrical phenomena – yes have had that too. Lights flickering and then black outs.  It   is  probably all a loads of cobs wobble  and I know that Tod didn’t believe in any of this, but I am still curious. After all my grandmother was a palmist and phrenologist and grandfather was a magician. 

I remember  waiting at Heathrow arrivals watching people embracing and crying with joy at seeing loved ones and thinking wouldn’t it be great if there was another special arrival space  for people who had died, and they were allowed to come back for a visit.

Have you ever played that dinner time game – If you could bring one person back from the dead, who would it be?  Sadly, the rules preclude it being  a member of your family.

It’s the regrets that sometimes hound one – the ‘if only’ s’ and ‘why didn’t we’s’. Bloody useless this hindsight – what good is that. Where was it when I needed it most.  But I am learning to let it go –  it is just taking a while

But I can also smile now when I think about Tod. I am smiling just remembering   the stack of birthday presents that I bought him that I know he didn’t like. I used to dread present buying time. It  was hugely important to Tod probably  because his mother never really  did the birthday thing.   I loved a celebration and any excuse to get us all together worked for me.  We had Jewish New Year and 31 December, we had Hanukkah and Christmas. We had Thanksgiving, Halloween, Bonfire Night and Fourth of July and anything else that was up for grabs.

 I fear there is not a lot to celebrate right now except, of course  the mere fact that we’ve made it to this point in life. We are still here despite all the challenges we are facing.  So maybe we just need to celebrate getting through another day. And I should celebrate just managing to write another blog.

“Let’s be careful out there”

5th November and Doggie Reggae

Right now I have a very scared dog squashed in between my knees trembling and desperately trying to hide away from the incessant banging of fireworks. Never really understood why people want to watch their hard earned cash disappear in minutes but then I guess I am probably a bit of a party pooper or just too tight which comes from growing up quite poor. We never had fireworks in our family. What’s more why spend my money when I can stand on my balcony and enjoy my neighbours displays.

Anyway this large German Shepherd that has a bark that frightens postmen, Amazon delivery drivers and in fact anybody who dares to step over our driveway, is currently a nervous wreck.

Thankfully I just remembered a friend’s advice about Bob Marley. No I am not giving my dog marijuana but I do have his reggae music now blaring very loud out of my speakers. She said it helps to calm nervous dogs. Of course I was skeptical but what did I have to lose and I am a big Marley fan. It’s remarkable it works, it really does.

Izzi is now sleeping contently at my feet and I am swaying happily to Marley music. There is even a You Tube channel devoted to doggie reggae music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_gt9Cm4Iew

Apparently it is a well known phenomena so not just a bit of advice from a mate. A 2017 study conducted by the Scottish SPCA and University of Glasgow found that while classical music had an initial calming effect on the dogs, after a while they get bored and that reggae and soft rock came out as the best genres for reducing stress, barking and heart rates. SPCA’s head of research, Gilly Mendes Ferreira, thinks maybe it is because “those genres have a rhythm that is similar to the dogs’ own heart rate. When a puppy is feeling stressed it will snuggle into its mother and use her heartbeat as relaxation, so this music mimics that.”

I am impressed. So I looked into this a bit more and I came across Relax My Dog.com. Started in 2011 by Amman Ahmed and Ricardo Henriquez . Ricardo is based in El Salvador and owned a dog called Rocky. Because of the political unrest and violence in his community there was a lot of noise and Rocky became very anxious. So, Ricardo and Amman who had been working on musical projects together created a project – music for dogs. They found a formula that calmed Rocky. And so Relax My Dog was born.

I have to say Marley is having a positive calming effect on me too. The last few days have been very stressful. I have become increasingly anxious over the US elections. The thought that we may well have that obnoxious messianic moron for another 4 years is actually making me physically ill.

“Stop it Mum,” said my son. “You don’t live there you have get some perspective on this.”

But how does one do that when he is such a catastrophy for America, for world peace and for my personal sanity. And who are these people who think ‘he is the greatest President America has ever had’. What planet are they on? I am having very violent impulses right now which I am loathed to share with you. I fear the worst.

I am not a religious person but I am asking the universe to please step in here.

Meanwhile the dog is snoring loudly and I am now on my 4th Marley album and remembering a wonderful 1977 Marley Concert at the Rainbow venue in North London. Good times.

I was there

“Let’s be careful out there”

A bit of Gloom

I had a bit of a blip last week – not surprising as I have been semi isolating since March — and this was before Boris’s weekend lockdown announcement. My IPAD and I became best best friends as oppose to just best friends.  I sat on my rocking chair watching hours of Netflix,  BBC dramas and listening to Radio 4 plays.   Mind numbing but it was just about all I could muster up any enthusiasm for. It didn’t  help that my oven packed up, my Kindle broke and I had a row with my unreliable  roofers who having let me down four times  refused to do the job  because apparently I had been rude to them! Leaving  me with scaffold costing over £500. So,  guess going into a bit of fug  under the circumstances can be excused.

 But I realise just how dangerous it can be if we allow ourselves to get sucked into a gloomy place.   I had  to go to the  —   how-lucky-am-I place  —  and I am, and I know it.  I just needed to remind myself. And it came in the  guise of a  children’s book that  was recommended.   When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson is a  graphic children’s book  which tells the story of 11-year-old Omar who aged four fled worn torn Somalia with his little brother to a refugee camp in Dadaab in Kenya. Separated from their mother, they were looked after by a friendly stranger.  As I know only too well from my work with refugees and asylum seekers no one chooses to be a refugee. And with  so many mixed stories circulating about refugees and asylum seekers children can become confused and in some cases frightened by newspaper headlines. So, I was delighted to be able to find something to purchase for my god children. I know not a very exciting Christmas pressi, but they will get something else as well. Isn’t that the role of a godmother. I might not be very   godly, but I do have a social conscience and thus can hopefully steer them in the right direction.

 Omar and Hassan  spent 15 years at the camp before being resettled by the U.N. to Arizona. Omar graduated from university in 2014 and now works as a resettlement case manager in Pennsylvania, working with refugees to help them reach self-sufficiency in the US. So, although a sad story there is a happy ending of sorts.


Helping children to understand some of the complexities of life is important. I remember sharing the graphic novel The Black Dog with my children to help them understand their father’s depression. It is an excellent book and really helped them. Definitely recommend it and its sequel Living with the Black Dog to parents and indeed to partners of those who suffer from depression.  Hopefully When Stars are Scattered will also help children to gain an understanding of how no one would ever want to leave their country unless circumstances forced them to. It should be required reading in all schools.

I realised also last week the importance of structure on one’s mental health during this COVID time. Reading some of my early blogs it became apparent that my structure had slipped and last week it had become almost non-existent. Just getting out of bed was an effort. Luckily I saw the warning signs and I am happy to report that I am back. 

Psychologists agree that structure is increasingly important when we are stuck  in a lockdown and that the reasons why  so many of us are feeling lost at the moment is that humans tend to thrive off structure and routine.

 “A daily routine helps us put healthy habits in place, so we get the most out of our day. And when we feel like we’ve achieved something – no matter how small – we’re going to generally feel much happier in ourselves,” explains psychologist Dr Elena Touroni. Of course, I knew this I had just allowed myself to become lazy and a bit too self  indulgent.

And remembering Joan Bakewell’s comments about scheduling reading time in one’s daily plan I ordered Isabel Allende’s book A Long Petal of the Sea.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Who’s in charge here?

I have decided that because this year has been so shitty, I am not going to count my next birthday.  What does it matter anyway how old I am.  Not that everybody agrees. Apparently it matters  quite a lot  –  we  over 60’s are  stuck in COVID world and  are continually referred to as the ‘elderly’ and the ‘vulnerable’.   Bloody cheek. This labeling isn’t helping my mental health.

Interesting it was only last year that The  Office for National Statistics said although 65 has traditionally been seen as the start of old age, 70 could be seen as the “new 65”. And that’s they said  is because  many people who reach this milestone birthday can still expect to live another 15 years. If that’s the case then 60 is just middle age.  

Anyway, come December I am going to be 60 again. I didn’t have a 60th birthday as I was stuck in a  Berlin ICU hospital  watching over  one of my children who had fallen off a balcony on his head and trying to get  nurses to understand my broken German. Really what kind of language puts adjective verbs and almost everything else at the end of a sentence. The hospitals and doctors were brilliant  which is more than I can say for the bedside manner of some of the nurses. I was told by my German girlfriend not to take it personally it is a cultural thing.

I didn’t particularly mind missing my 60th as I have never been one for big parties.  It did however take me a while to accept 60   as I have been lying about my age since I turned 40 much to the annoyance of my younger cousins  who complain  that they have now overtaken me.

Of course, I wouldn’t have  lied if we didn’t live in such an ageist society.  When I left the BBC at the age of 50 I was the oldest by at least 15 years of my team. For me not being entirely truthful was about avoiding being judged –  and yes that does happen.  Fortunately, I look good and I know I could easily pass for someone in their mid-fifties. So why wouldn’t  I?

At the weekend the clocks went back  – so  if they – whoever they are can fiddle with the time  then so can I. “When you don’t take charge of time you become father time’s bitch,” not sure who said that and its a bit sexist but well, I ain’t  nobody’s bitch. 

Taking Charge High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - Alamy

Einstein determined that time is relative –in other words, the rate at which time passes depends on your frame of reference. Admittedly right now  COVID  is skew-whiffing  (maybe I have just made this word up I am well known for my malapropisms) time because  despite doing very little time seems to have sped up considerably.  

I still remember as a child waiting impatiently for the birthdays, holidays or  Wishing Day to come round. Yes Wishing Day – you mean you didn’t have a Wishing Day?  Ours was the middle of September.  We would sit on the rocking chair in the lounge and make a wish which would then magically turn up in the oven. Obviously not on.  And it really did feel like magic. My mother would have spent weeks  trying to find out what our wish would be.  One-year Brian and I  suspected that maybe there weren’t any magic fairies, so I decided to test the magic. I wished for a dollies cradle which I was sure my mother would never have guessed.   And when  I ran to the oven – there it was a beautiful little lace trimmed dollies cradle.  Well my maternal  grandpa was a magician!

So,  I am not working, I have no ties, I have nobody telling me what to do, and if  my time is relative to my life then I am going to be the boss.  I guess it’s about a mindset. I  know because I can  waste entire afternoons.  

Now I just need to walk the walk rather than talk the talk.

Walk the talk – Karolinska Institutet Career Blog

“Let’s be careful out there”

City of Joy – a story of rape and recovery

Last night I cried. I cried  from deep inside of me.  It hurt in places that I had forgotten hurt  but not as much as the women that I was watching hurt. I lay in bed and hugged my pillow. I wanted to hug all these women that were hurting.  Instead I cried myself to sleep.

I was watching City of Joy a documentary on Netflix about  Rape in the Congo. Madeleine Gavin’s documentary  tells the story of Dr Dennis Mukwege a gynaecologist who for many years has been operating on women who have been raped and sexually tortured in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  He works in the City of Joy, a place where survivors go to heal both physically and spiritually.  He and his family have been threatened, an attempt made on his life and still, he has worked tirelessly to repair, stitch together and heal women.

Origins of the City of Joy - City of Joy

Dr Mukwege  set up the City of Joy with women’s rights activist Christine Schuler Deschryver and Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues and founder of V-Day. Schuler Deschryver is the director and works with staff to oversee day-to-day operations, while Mukwege serves as an adviser and Ensler helps to raise funds and awareness.

Dr Mukwege says:

 “I identify every woman raped with my wife, every mother, with my own mother and every child with my own children.”  He was recently awarded the Nobel peace prize for his work.

The story is not new as many of you reading this know only too well.  I have listened and held the hands of many women while they recounted their accounts of rape and violence  when I worked in a   drop in Asylum Centre in London.  So many of the women came from the Congo  – they were the lucky ones.  They had escaped. But they were horrifically  scarred and had to endure this pain alone, fearful of being deported back to a country where they witnessed and experienced unimaginable violence.

It is uncomfortable watching, but also a story of triumph over adversity. It is necessary viewing and I ask anyone who  believes that asylum seekers in the UK  should be returned to their country of origin, to watch this documentary.  I challenge them not to be moved not to feel remorse not to change their attitudes towards any women who might find themselves hoping to find a safe haven here in the UK.  

https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80203094

A  poignant reminder in the film of the children who have also suffered is when a child looks at Christine Deschryver  feet and says:

 “I wish I had long feet  like you  because you can run fast and run away from the bad men, they will not catch you because you have long feet  to escape.”  

I  know that I am preaching to the converted and  that most of you reading this already know about the  abominable atrocities that have occurred in the Congo and the  rest of the world’s complicity in this war because of their own self-interest.  The Congo is rich  in the four most commonly mined  minerals: coltan, tin, tungsten and gold and it is these valuable minerals  that companies around the world need for computers phones and other electronics  and  what has led to militia groups  fighting to control the mines. Many of the victims of  these militia groups are women and children.  

So, I am sharing this in the hope that one person, one of the unconverted, will be sufficiently moved to change their attitude.   My brother who was a political activist always said we are all just a  blade of grass in a field. And it is up to each blade to start  the  conversation.  So let’s keep talking

“Let’s be careful out there”

Inherited Trauma

I wonder when we embark on starting a family whether we have any idea what is in store for us. Probably not. I certainly didn’t. I have always had  this rose-coloured  John boy-little -house-on-the-Praise outlook on life and when stuff doesn’t turn out quite that rosy, I am continually upset.  Don’t get me wrong I love all my children to bits but even as adults the anxiety and constant worrying does not cease. In fact, I think when they were little it was a lot easier. You knew where they were, you could give them what they needed, and you were in control.

Jewish Mother Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from CartoonStock

I remember driving up the MI to see my mother and when I arrived, she would be standing at the door, furrowed brow and full of anxiety.

“Thank goodness you have arrived safely I was so worried about you driving on that busy motorway.”

“Mum,” I would say, ” I am 52, I have been driving for 33 years, I have hitch hiked round a good chunk of the world and I have three children.”

“Yes,” she would answer, “but I am always your mum and I will always worry.”

Jewish Mothers Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from CartoonStock

I now understand. You never ever do stop worrying about your children. Of course, one needs to get it into perspective and maybe if I was feeling a little more secure it would be easier. But right now, with no partner and COVID getting stuff into perspective is proving a little difficult.

Last Sunday, driving up to Melton Mowbray to visit my girlfriend I listened to Floella Benjamin’s desert island discs on the BBC. It was wonderful. Her choice of music was superb, and her interview  uplifting. I have worked with Floella in the past when she made a children’s series of tv programmes. She is a lovely lady.  By the time I reached Leicester I had vowed to change my internal dialogue to one of positivity. It didn’t last. I think I need Floella sitting on my shoulder reminding me of this pledge.

“Education Is Your Passport To Life” – An Interview With Floella Benjamin

Floella Benjamin

I imagine that all parents want their children to be secure healthy and happy and if or when this happens, then one can relax somewhat – until they aren’t. It is a continual journey. And of course as we get older it works the other way and our children begin the ‘parenting your parent journey.’

I realise I am oversensitive and there are parents out there who can merrily get on with their lives healthily separated from their children. They are probably not Jewish. I blame all my emotional turmoil on Judaism. “Of course, you’re anxious,” said one of many therapists, “you are Jewish.” If that was supposed to make me feel better – it didn’t. I found her response deeply unsatisfying.

I do know about inter-generational trauma and I think I have spoken about it before on one of my posts. Forgive me for repeating but short-term memory seems to be deteriorating  I blame COVID — again. It has become my go to scape goat. Apparently lack of socialisation can speed up dementia. And if lock-down continues, I might not remember my name by next year.

Studies in America  have shown that the sons of army soldiers who endured grueling conditions as prisoners of war were more likely to die young than the sons of soldiers who were not prisoners. This is despite the fact that the sons were born after the war, so they couldn’t have experienced its horrors personally. In other words, it seemed like the stresses of war were getting passed down between generations.

So, I now have a new worry. Will my sons have inherited Tod’s post-traumatic stress that he lived with from the Lebanese War?

Apparently epigenetic links have also established inter-generational experiences in animals. For example, mice that have been taught to fear  the smell of cherries when it was paired with an electric shock had children and grandchildren that also showed signs of anxiety when exposed to the odour, even though they had never “learned” the painful association.

Perhaps  reading  Rachel Yehuda’s article on epigenetics was not a good idea. The idea that permanent changes are encoded in us in a way that can be passed on to our children and affects their physiology is not something that I am comfortable with.

“Our DNA becomes different and is read differently. But the question is whether this is transmitted through meiosis or through, I guess, sex cells, or whether it is acquired based on a parental response to their environment. And there are epigenetic mechanisms that can be linked to both of those things.” explains Yehuda.

https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/trauma-genes-q-a-rachel-yehuda

I am not sure what to do with all this. I wonder if anyone has considered if ECT Treatment can obliterate unconscious traumas?

Oh well it’s the weekend – I might just stay in bed all day tomorrow and watch box sets on my IPAD.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Animal Magic

 The Wellington Hospital in North London is the most expensive hospital in Europe.  It’s very pish posh and the food is the best. In comparison Mo my cat spent the night in the emergency vets on Saturday night  and it cost almost the same price

I guess vets have a captive audience – they know that when it comes to a beloved pet, we  owners will pay whatever it takes to make them well again.   Anything to stop them going to kitty heaven

There are around 13 million pet owners in the UK who spend approximately £7.16billion on their furry friends – with a trip to the vet being the biggest single expense

Mo was spared kitty heaven but that is no thanks to her  absent-minded owner – that’s me! who wrongly administered dog worm treatment instead of cat worm treatment. The dog stuff is 10 times more potent and can be lethal to cats.

 The author John Berger once wrote that animals promise “a companionship offered to the loneliness of man as a species.”  And I get that. Since Tod died my animals  have been wonderful companions.

My compassion for animals started young. When I was 10 years old, I visited a family on my own in Cork in southern Ireland. While there I rescued a very young kitten who was about to be drowned. Hiding it in the sleeve of my coat I smuggled it  back on the airplane to the UK.  My mother was appalled and not impressed with my heroics

 “As soon as the kitten learns to lap  it is going,” she barked. But the kitten, that needed to be fed with a doll’s bottle was wise – she never learnt to lap.

 I can sort of understand now my mother’s reluctance as we already had a menagerie of animals. A tortoise who kept wandering off, so we called him wanderer.  Sometimes we would have up to 4 of them at one time as whenever a neighbour found a tortoise it was presumed it belonged to us.  Two rabbits that also kept escaping, mice,  two budgies, one that got eaten by the cat and a couple of hamsters.   

Unconventional Tale of Rabbit vs Tortoise - Light Asset

I could not imagine now living without animals. Admittedly Mo does not give me the same attention as does Izzie.  We don’t bond over our daily walks and right now  if truth be told my  relationship with Mo is more one of tolerance. And while she tolerates Izzie is all consuming.   Her  attachment to me  is fundamental to her  well-being. As long as Mo is fed, she is content,  but Izzie  feels our relationship with such an intensity that she can only be content if I am in a near proximity. 

It’s definitely  the unconditional love that does it for me.  When Izzie looks at me with that adoring face,  I know I am loved.  I remember that same expression when the children were babies.  And that lovely nudge I get just at the right moment when I am feeling a bit down.  Or the bounding dash to the  front door when I  come home. Makes me  feel special.  Dogs  definitely pick up on our moods. When my father died,   and mum  came to stay with us our dog just slept outside her room.  He could sense her sadness and wanted to keep her company. Izzie did the same when Mo returned home from the vets. She kept a watchful eye over her.

Studies have shown that looking a dog in the eyes can boost levels of oxytocin  in both the person and the dog.  Apparently, dogs  are the only species that, like a human child, runs to its human when it is frightened, anxious or just pleased to see us

How traumatic then must it have been for pet owners at the start of World War 2   when over 750,000 pets were slaughtered in  London alone – that’s  around one in four of the pet population. This was in  response to a hysteria created in anticipation of air raids and resource shortages which it appears was more hysteria than necessity.

Not surprisingly then that after the war  there was an increase in pet ownership and indeed  in the way we related to our pets.

“We started to have them inside the house rather than, say, outside in the kennel. We started to see them as quasi-human and form strong emotional bonds to them,” explains Abigail Woods, professor of the history of human and animal health at Kings College London and a qualified vet

Quasi-human hmm sometimes I think my animals would prefer that I treated them a bit more as animals – they are getting awfully bored with my monologues. I can almost hear them saying “She’s off again, let’s just feign sleep and we might get away with it. “

Meanwhile they both have no qualms in sharing my bedroom.

“Let’s be careful out there”