Author Archives: A night in with Nelly

About A night in with Nelly

I have recently retired. I am mother to Jesse, who currently lives in Vienna and Rebecca who lives here. I have five grandchildren. I am an avid writer and have had a number of journalistic articles and three book-ettes published. I believe in breathing, smiling and swimming in the ocean. 2019 will see me finish the novel!

I can`t smile without you.

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An old friend of my family passed away just over two years ago. Ours was not a close relationship however, I was very sorry to witness her demise as she became terribly frail with dementia.

It had been problematic for her family to organise the scattering of her ashes since her grandchildren wanted to be there as did her great grandchildren and all of them are scattered to the four winds, pardon the pun. As a result, the ashes were safely kept, until everyone could attend. Actually, I`m not sure where they were kept, I just Googled it and Google says at the Cricket Museum at Lords so that wasn`t terribly helpful. Anyway, with the patient and thoughtful arrangements of a member of her family, a date was finally arranged. I kept out of the proceedings.

There was some discord around the final date of the scattering as it fell on a school day meaning great grandchildren could not come along to say goodbye. No matter, the morning arrived and as it happened owing to unexpected circumstances, it had to be cancelled.

Another week went by and finally with everyone in agreement, a new date was arranged. The difficulties around school days remained the same, so a separate, small urn of ashes had been prepared for them so that the great grandchildren could celebrate their great grandma`s life and say their goodbyes in their own time.

I only came to understand these proceedings as I am friends with the deceased person`s son. I asked him one day recently if he would kindly take me to our local tip with some garden rubbish which was duly bagged and good to go in the back of his van. As I got ready to get into the vehicle he said, “Oh, don`t sit on that Sainsburys shopping bag,” (which was on the passenger seat,) “my mother`s inside it, can`t have you sitting on mother,” and that is how the story has unfolded to me.

Now I am a rather irreverent person and I found this quite an amusing tale but not as amusing as when he went on further to say, “yes, I have her false teeth somewhere in the back of this van, I really must clear it out.”  (I knew his van had become a holding place for all manner of items as he was somewhat of a hoarder but this revelation surprised even me.)

I said, “You have your mother`s false teeth in the back of the van. Why? Why do you have your mother`s false teeth in the back of your van?”

He replied, “Oh, I suppose it`s from when we cleared out her house and they were just in a pot amongst all her possessions.”

I said, “Most people would have thrown them away,” and off we drove to the tip.

He`s had his mum`s false teeth in the back of his van, for two years. You couldn`t really make it up could you……………

 

Today I woke up and felt like a table. (And other tales of transition…..)

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A close friend tells me I am obsessed with transgender issues and that I must “stop” and find another interest.   I think they are concerned that I will drive myself potty and lose my sense of humour.

When they said this to me, all my defences immediately shot up, their comment reminded me of a cartoon I once spotted on Facebook which read something like,  “Oh – so my political posts on Facebook annoy you do they? Well why don`t you hurry away and post another photograph of your dinner,”  and then I had a good think about what my friend had said.

It is true, I post and re-post a lot of comments relating to transgender issues and opinions on social media. But it isn`t transgender issues per se that I take to task. I am fortunate to know a number of transgender people who enrich my life and who I respect and admire.  Way back in the nineteen nineties I ran workshops for transgender people when I was employed by Body Positive in Birmingham and during that time I helped a transgender woman find a place of refuge so that she was able to leave a horrifically violent relationship.  So – I have had a lot of time to consider all of everything relating to transgender and consider myself to be informed, supportive and empathetic to transgender people. What I take issue with are other matters. Matters for example, that face children who are currently being offered invasive and highly damaging treatments having been “diagnosed” as transgender. Sometimes children as young as four or five. If you want to know more then begin by reading this article published in January in The Sunday Times…..

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/schools-rushing-on-whisper-to-label-pupils-as-transgender-0d8zm53qs

I also take issue with the practice of stone walling or refusing to take part in debate and far more insidious than even that, the practice of no platforming.    No platforming is a policy or stance whereby individuals holding views regarded as unacceptable or offensive are prevented from speaking out and contributing to public debates or meetings. If you keep up with the press then you will know that many eminent speakers have been no platformed by universities in the UK and across the globe, like Julie Bindel`s case highlighted below.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/09/no-platform-universities-julie-bindel-exclusion-anti-feminist-crusade

Germaine Greer who, amongst other things is the acclaimed author of The Female Eunuch, has also experienced being `no platformed` and while for many reasons I am no longer a huge fan of hers, we all have the right to free speech in a democratic society. So it is the abhorrent nature, the turn of events relating to transgender issues that I find deeply worrying.  Not for me, I`m heading towards seventy so I can take a bit of a back seat, God knows I have earned it!  No, it is the young people I worry about; male, female, he she or they, it is their uncertain future that is so troubling to me. When I read The Handmaid`s Tale I thought, “Well we are on our way to Gilead already!” What an astute writer Margaret Attwood is.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38447.The_Handmaid_s_Tale

While we have people in politics who support transgender people without proper understanding, knowledge or education around the underlying issues, the attitudes and venom spat out on these matters, is becoming so threatening, it is serving to silence concerned women and men.   I imagine the women haters rubbing their hands in glee and muttering,  “Job done.”

It is this hateful and intolerant approach towards people and especially women who want to debate and wish to speak out, that is so very unacceptable. Women who have their own, lived herstory, views and opinions are labelled as TERFs. TERF is an acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Sometimes, exclusionary is expanded as eliminationist instead and a small section of the transgender community suggest that TERFs advocate for harm towards trans people, specifically trans people who were born male.  But in my view, the objectors are projecting and transferring their hatred to detract from their own misogynistic views!

Meanwhile, some of those very protestors spew out vile messages on social media, suggesting that TERFS should be “punched in the throat, raped, tortured or stabbed to death,” simply because of their experience of being born a woman and objecting to for example, shared gender changing rooms in shops and swimming pools and male sex offenders identifying as female, being transferred to women`s prisons where they can more easily reoffend.   It has already happened.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5964539/Transgender-prisoner-female-jail-sexually-assaulted-four-women.html

Some people working in politics or education have been forced to resign or have been sacked because they have spoken out about their concerns and have been judged transphobic.   So – what with that and bloody, BLOODY Brexit, perhaps my friend is right. Perhaps I should give it a rest and focus on animals and children for a while and lighten up a bit. Yet I would hate to lose my passion, I think if I lose my passion then I may as well go home.

If my old mum were still with us she would say, “It`s just a silly phrase they`re going through Hel. And then she`d laugh and lifting a cold G & T to her old lady lips she would say,   “and anyway, they`ll still be arguing the toss long after I have gone!  Cheers my darling!”

Cheers ma! I think you had a nice balanced view.        🙂

The disconcerting person.

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Two weeks` ago I spent some days away by the seaside at Minehead, accompanied by my lovely son who was visiting us from Vienna. We stopped at a smashing (and cheap) traditional pub called The Britannia Inn which I can highly recommend if you are ever passing through. Lovely place, lovely staff, anyway….. while we were there, we tripped to Porlock Weir and on the way back, stopped for lunch in Porlock itself. We enjoyed a tasty meal and then decided to mooch about the few shops that were open at this winter time of the year, one of them was a gift shop.

I browsed the items on sale and found a lovely pair of earrings. They were in the shape of a carp and inlaid with abalone shell which you may know is a very pretty, iridescent bluey, green colour. I decide to buy them for a friend of mine who has painted some very stunning pictures including a wonderful fish painting. Her name is Anne Nicholls and she is on Facebook or here:

http://www.annenichollsart.co.uk/home-page

I went to make my purchase, I had noticed a person busying themselves behind the counter, they had their back to me. Hearing my approach, they turned around to face me. “Can I help you?” they enquired in a dark brown voice. I was so startled by their appearance, I honestly had to stop myself from issuing a sharp intake of breath for I figured it would most likely have offended them. I shall refer to this person as her for she was indeed dressed as a woman.

She was statuesque in build, at least six foot five with broad shoulders. She wore what had once been a white cardigan and which now displayed stains of various descriptions all over her front. Her hair was long and unwashed, it was pulled back into a pony tail, I think she would be in her fifties. A few inches of greying hair at the roots, led down to a sort of brassy ginger. Around her chin she sprouted a beard of curly, ginger hairs. She wore pebble lens glasses. I tried not to stare.

As she picked up my purchase to wrap, I could not help but gaze at her enormous hands. Each fingernail painted in what was once glittery, silver nail polish it had been resident on her nails for so long it was a sort of translucent grey colour, chipped and had lost all of its glitter. Her nails were long and pointy and several of her digits were embellished with a massive coating of nicotine. I didn`t know whether to be horrified or fascinated.

My son had also noticed her and rather worryingly, was now outside waiting for me.
In any event I made my purchase, they are beautiful earrings and I couldn`t help but wonder how a person can allow their appearance to become so startling. She reminded me of the sort of character you might find in a Roald Dahl book, the sort of character that gives small children nightmares. My son and I exchanged telepathic glances before scurrying away to the car park.

I am not writing this to be cruel or poke fun at somebody, I just find people endlessly interesting and I wondered how many customers she may have scared away, or indeed attracted!

English eccentricity is one of the things that makes the world keep turning, I guess.

I should know!

Medication time.

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As many of you know by now, it`s not a secret, the young chap I wrote about in a previous blog is my grandson.

https://anightinwithnelly.wordpress.com/2018/09/02/mental-health-services-in-birmingham-are-woefully-lacking/

Since that time, he has returned to live at home.

From when he was first sectioned nearly four months ago, he has had a whole conglomerate of anti-psychotic drugs and mood enhancers, none of which have really improved his mood very much at all although he does have some better days from time to time. Drugs he has been prescribed and occasionally made to take without his consent include Risperidone, Depakote, Haloperidol which incidentally, he was given too high a dose of and this resulted in him being “wired” and unable to properly relax or sleep for about five days, Procyclidine, Lorazepam, Olanzapine, Propranolol, the list goes on. In spite of his family suggesting he is lucid and wishes to engage in talking therapies, so far our suggestions have not been accepted as a good way to go by the team “supporting” his recovery. They say that he is unable to attend talking therapies while he is being medicated.

Catch 22.

Our dear boy struggles a great deal with his condition. The anti-pyschotic medication sedates him to the point where he feels immobilised and despairing of ever getting better. He is fortunate though and tells us that some of the young people he met in hospital have no-one, no family loving them and helping them as they try to get through it. I can only imagine how lonely and isolating an experience this must be.

Last Wednesday, he was taken off the current anti-psychotic and also Lorazepam, which is a strong sedative, for a period of five days to “see how he would cope.” He has suffered withdrawal from Lorazepam, which is a highly addictive drug as well as whatever his brain is experiencing as it wakes up from the last round of anti-psychotics. He is managing with PRN medication (as and when needed) mostly Depakote which stops him from sleeping and Propranolol which is an anti-anxiety drug. He takes them in a fairly haphazard fashion and his greatest desire is not to take them at all. Unfortunately, he is still ill and becomes very anxious and `pacey` without them.

I fail to see how this treatment resembles anything like a recovery or as one of the women I supported some years ago recently said to me, “I got better IN SPITE OF mental health services, not because of.”  She is in her mid-sixties and has spent several years of her life in hospitals under a Section 3. It doesn’t bode well does it.  I hope one day we will be able to look back as a family on this time and laugh and say, “fuck me that was shit wasn`t it!”

The problem with mental health issues is that they don`t show and people can mask their symptoms sometimes for years living in a kind of hell and with no support or anyone to talk to. The effects and impact that mental health breakdown has on individuals and families is major and the episode my grandson experienced and is trying very hard to recover from, has fractured us as a family. We`ve cried, we`ve sometimes laughed at his idiosyncratic behaviours, we`ve disagreed with one another and argued, we have gradually concluded that heavy drugs do not really help, certainly not in his case. They contain the issue, they do not heal. We are hopeful that natural therapies, diet in particular; talking therapies, patience, innovative distraction ideas and plain old love, will get him through this.

If anyone reading my blog can make any suggestions as to a way forward, then do please feel free to comment. I`ll warmly respond to all comments.

Mental Health services in Birmingham are woefully lacking.

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I`​d like to tell you about a young​ adult of 23. who I know.  Recently, he has been significantly troubled by a lack of clarity, balance and joy in his life. Over time he has become seriously off kilter, depressed and like many young people, disillusioned with life, the universe and everything. He tried to purge himself of his morose thoughts by commencing various diets such as gluten free, low carb`, low protein etc. or by not eating at all. He sometimes binged and then vomited. Over time he lost quite a lot weight and became very pale and withdrawn and further down the line, he was clearly very unwell.  Eventually he became delusional and paranoid, he started to hear voices, he believed he was being pursued by people who wanted to harm him, he thought everyone was talking about him.

A recent global study evidenced that 72% of people who experience psychotic episodes have a single experience. https://www.nationalelfservice.net/mental-health/psychosis/psychotic-experiences-how-common-are-they-and-how-can-we-predict-their-onset-course-and-consequences/

In the UK, it is generally recognised that about 50 percent of young people who have a psychotic episode will not have a further episode throughout the remainder of their lives. We do not understand why, or what triggers these events and there are many schools of thought as to why they happen relating to hormones, inherited likelihood, diet, stress, street drugs, head injury as a child and imbalances of chemicals which affect the way the brain behaves, amongst other factors.

One night this young person finally hit his crisis point and had to be taken to A and E. The event was inevitable really since he had managed to hide or “mask” his symptoms and cope alone possibly for several years. After much persuasion at A and E, his parents finally got agreement for their son to have a psychiatric assessment. By now he was utterly exhausted by the thoughts that constantly harangued him and even he had some insight that he was unwell. He was kept waiting 18 hours to be assessed by which time he had become so agitated that in the early hours of the morning he ran away from the hospital. The police became involved. He was found in the city centre by his father and the police helped him to a nearby secure unit where he would be properly assessed. He was placed under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act which meant he could be detained for up to 28 days for a full assessment. His parents were relieved to know that their son would be safe and that they would be able to get their first decent night`s sleep for some days. After just five days the section was lifted and the family received an excited call from their son saying that he was coming home.

The family went into shock. They could not see how an authentic assessment could possibly have taken place in such a short period of time. During visits, their child still seemed rambling and delusional, they were terribly worried. After much to-ing and fro-ing, they finally spoke to a consultant. He said, “I spent an hour with your son today, he was rational, articulate, he made plenty of eye contact, he was not agitated, I cannot in all conscience keep him sectioned.”

The family were concerned that returning home would be a further “trigger”. They spent two days in negotiation with mental health services while their son remained on the ward and finally it was agreed that he would go to a half-way house for a period of respite. Here he would allegedly be supported by a psychiatric team, keeping an eye on his med`s and his moods until he was able to leave and live independently.

The half way house was pleasant enough but not in a great part of the city. His father negotiated with a mental health housing charity to move him to a shared house nearer to various relatives and in a much nicer area that he was familiar with. For a few days the arrangement went well however, the young man was not always compliant with his medication and the view of the house manager was that his mood was becoming flat and deflated. He had become quite rude which is unlike him and so it was decided that he would have an assessment by the Community Psychiatric Team. He waited all day for the assessment team to arrive and no-one turned up.

At 10.30pm the following night, he was woken up and taken from his bed to be sectioned again on a Section 2. His family could not see how on earth a social worker and two doctors can possibly have made an accurate assessment of him in, it appears, no time at all. He was driven to a unit in another county and arrived after 11pm where it was noted that he was “extremely angry.” This is hardly surprising; we would expect any person to be angry if treated in this way. It is shocking and disgraceful.

The following morning he was still angry, thumping walls and slamming doors. The response to this was to restrain him, in other words, pin him down while Lorazapam was administered via an injection, against his will. This is an unacceptable and archaic way to treat someone. It is 2018 and we would hope that in these more enlightened times, staff would be trained in creative ways of assisting people who are upset but apparently not. The ward manager told his family that staff “could not handle” his anger and so it was recommended he be moved yet again to a high security ward about thirty miles away.

Since being at the unit and in fact since the original section took place five weeks ago, at no time has he received any treatment other than being drugged with Olanzapine and other medications that have a tranquilising effect. He is not being treated he is being contained and his family are deeply concerned about this and very unhappy. It was their hope when he was clearly unwell, that he would receive proactive help and support. He hasn`t. Every-one has simply been reacting around him. Their increasing concern is that he will develop an addiction to the current medication and will then have to endure withdrawal symptoms when he is deemed well enough to reduce or cease the dosage.

In spite of this, he is now making small progress towards recovery and feeling better. He has had some anger issues on the secure unit and again we would suggest that this is entirely to be expected.

His family would like to understand if there is a medical reason why talking therapies and psychological support has not yet commenced? Does he meet the criteria to be kept on a section? He does not pose a threat of injury to himself and in twenty- three years he has never hit another person. He may well have made threats on the ward, but they are empty threats born of frustration at being constantly drugged and although I do not condone his bad behaviour, I can understand it. Does he have a mental health disorder? As far as I am aware, he has not yet been diagnosed.

The family is aware that their involvement is crucial to their son`s recovery. They would like him to be released so that he is free to come and go and spend quality time with them.

The family believes that many of the recommendations in the Mental Health Code of Practice have already been contravened. Four overarching principles are:

  1. Least restrictive option and maximising independence Where it is possible to treat a patient safely and lawfully without detaining them under the Act, the patient should not be detained. Wherever possible a patient’s independence should be encouraged and supported with a focus on promoting recovery wherever possible.
  2. Empowerment and involvement Patients should be fully involved in decisions about care, support and treatment. The views of families, carers and others, if appropriate, should be fully considered when taking decisions. Where decisions are taken which are contradictory to views expressed, professionals should explain the reasons for this.
  3. Respect and dignity Patients, their families and carers should be treated with respect and dignity and listened to by professionals.
  4. Purpose and effectiveness Decisions about care and treatment should be appropriate to the patient, with clear therapeutic aims, promote recovery and should be performed to current national guidelines and/or current, available best practice guidelines.

It is their intention as a family to put forward their complaints and concerns to the appropriate authority in the strongest way available to them.

Their son will attend his tribunal this week to appeal to have the section lifted. Should the panel make the decision that his section cannot be lifted at this time, then they will appeal again. They would like to ask how are our mental health services intending to help their son recover because after this experience, they are naturally finding it difficult to believe that they will.

One final point, I hate to sound ageist but I question how appropriate is it to appoint nurses who are barely out of school, to comment to tribunal panel and make life changing recommendations on such complex matters?

The old girls` reunion.

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When I was a girl, I attended King Edwards V1 Camp Hill School for girls. The school was once situated just a few minutes from Birmingham city centre but in 1958, it was relocated to a new build in Vicarage Road in Kings Heath. Yesterday the girls` school celebrated its 60th anniversary and I decided to go for old time`s sake. I wasn`t quite sure what to expect but when I arrived the place was already buzzing with about 200 old gals turning up to see what changes had taken place over the decades, many of them using zimmer frames, walking sticks and wheelchairs as their mode of transport.

In the assembly hall, the impressive sliding doors that used to open up every morning while we took our seats, had gone and been replaced by solid walls. Echoes of `Friday Songs` rang in my head and memories of the sixth form girls up on the balcony singing `Ring Out Ye Crystal Spheres` and all of us assembled singing `The Night Song` as a round from The Little Sweep, came flooding in to my mind. Our music teacher Miss Flowers would be on the stage in one of her enormous variety of home-made dresses, every one created from an identical pattern to show off her rather curvaceous figure, swinging her baton and stamping her kitten heeled foot on the parquet flooring.

We eventually sat down for a dinner which was served to us in the old dining hall by ladies who looked like Mrs. Overall, after which  I had a good old explore. The gym and changing rooms area hadn`t altered much. I recalled the gym teacher Miss Howard who some girls loved but I loathed, reading a letter I had written excusing me from hockey because of period pains.  I would tell any lie to get out of hockey.  She examined it and said,  “Are you sure your mother wrote this Helen?”  and I responded with all the haughtiness that I could muster, “Are you insinuating that my mother is a liar Miss Howard?”  Oh the cheek of me!

King Edwards was and remains, a terribly privileged place to be. In those days we had to sit the Eleven Plus exam and if your marks were high enough it secured your scholarship which is what happened in my case. My father who was a socialist was horrified, my mother, always a true blue, was over the moon. I think she was proud because King Edwards boasted at the time that their pupils represented the top two percent of the country`s intellects, the crème de la creme. However I struggled there for all kinds of reasons and at dinner I sat opposite a woman who had also struggled. Our parents had never been wealthy, the majority of King Edwards` pupils that I went to school with came from wealthy to extremely wealthy backgrounds. We shared how we had never really fitted in and how the uniform cost our parents an arm and a leg. I never went on school trips abroad, it would have been impossible for my mother and father to find the money.  I always felt on the outside and I could not wait to leave.

I was thought of as a bit of a rebel and I think this was because I often questioned the teachers and challenged their views, something that was not encouraged at King Edwards in those days of pupil subservience.  In spite of this, I made some good friends there, two of whom have been my lifelong friends so if I can take anything from school, that would be the most valuable thing for me. Many of the teachers did not like me, I still don`t really understand why. Perhaps some of them were jealous, I was pretty and popular with the boys who were schooled next door, I was vocal and I liked to entertain my schoolfriends by being amusing (no change there then.)  Perhaps I made them feel ancient.  I especially loathed Miss crump the art teacher who was a midget with cropped ginger hair. It was a mutual loathing.  She wore tweed jackets and skirts with woollen ankle socks and brogues and always smelt of old fags. She wrote notes on packets of Park Drive, she was vile and she always marked me down in art, even though I was very good at pencil sketching particularly. She described me as lazy which I am not and she said so frequently to the art class. I was so happy when I finally got a new and handsome art teacher, what was his name?  He had a beard and he was lovely and in my fourth year my Crump days were finally over!

For any of my old pals reading this, you may recall Miss Lacy (geography) who had an enormous tumour in her stomach, she looked permanently nine months pregnant and initially would not have it removed as she was a Christian Scientist.  I am reliably informed in the end, Miss Lacy underwent the knife so that must have been quite an operation.

Miss Howard (sports) developed bone cancer and lost her battle for life. When I found out in my adulthood I regretted how horrible I had been to her as a kid. Especially at shower time after sports when I always refused to take my kit off in front of her and only ever washed my feet as Miss Howard was reputed to be a lesbian and as a result, many of us judgmental and extremely naïve young girls, kept a wide berth. Poor Miss Howard!  I would probably like her now.

Mr. Letch who used to sit on the desk and write on the board with his feet because he had no hands, moved to become Lord Mayor down on the south coast somewhere.

Miss Miller, the terribly upper class and scarily intimidating head mistress who spoke with a plum in her mouth, retired and was replaced by Miss Manderville who was the exact opposite apparently and was incredibly loved from all the accounts I heard yesterday. There were also many tales of raising money for the swimming pool. The penny races up the school drive and other fund-raising activities went on for years. I left the year it was being built and went there to swim a few times after I had left school, but it was a disappointing pool, very small after all that effort.

I left the reunion during the after-dinner speeches. I was getting to the point where I remembered all the reasons why I was so unhappy at grammar school and why I left the moment I was legally allowed to. I looked around the assembly hall at the audience gathered there yesterday. The entire audience was white and I would hazard most of the women there were quite well off judging from the designer dresses and handbags evident all over the shop.  I am happy to report that from walking around the corridors it is also very evident from photographs everywhere that the school now reflects the diversity of Birmingham`s BAME communities but I wonder how it supports those pupils who do not come from wealthy backgrounds and how it makes them feel included and valued.

Oh! The old stagnant pond is still there at the front of the school. As I drove away I recalled us being instructed to get a water snail for a biology lesson and I brought mine in and placed it in clean tap water where, during the course of the lesson the poor thing died. The teacher spoke to me as though I were the most imbecilic person she had ever met because I had not understood that this major change to the snail`s environment would finish it off.

So! Cheers King Edwards. My time there taught me to broaden my view of the world and eventually took my politics to the left. It made me realise that you can be as intelligent as Pythagoras however, this does not necessarily mean you have emotional intelligence. Most of all it has taught me how important inclusion is, it would be a sad, dull and deprived world without it.

So take that and shove it up your jacksy Donald.

Gardening is GOOD for you!

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When I got home from work on Friday a letter was waiting for me. I could see straight away it was an NHS letter, the blue franking on the front of the envelope, the letter I had been waiting for and dreading, the appointment for my yearly check-up, year two following treatment for breast cancer.

The chances of the return of the kind of cancer that I had are highest in the first three years, and then the risk drops down quite significantly. If I make it to five years then the chances of it returning are lower than that of all the other types of breast cancer.

So on Friday night, fear paid me a visit.

Fear is a horrible thing. In my case I panic and start to think about the ways in which I might become ill and die at any moment soon. Fear makes me feel sick, it makes me tearful, fear makes me angry and it makes me want to drink a lot and blot it all out. So on Friday night that is exactly what I did.

When I woke up on Saturday morning I thought, “This is no good, I can`t be ruled by fear and spend my time worrying about something that might never happen……” so I told fear to fuck off.  I decided to tackle my garden which as some of you know, resembles a miniature jungle at the moment. I worked hard from 1pm and did not stop until tea time.  An entire wheelie bin packed with weeds and brambles later and after a long period of neglect the front garden is once again looking pretty.

Front garden

I can see the individual plants, I am so pleased, they were being choked by brambles, the lawn was two feet high. By the end of the day, I was so stiff I was hobbling around like an old aged pensioner – oh hang on a minute, I am an old aged pensioner hah! But fear had left me, hurrah!

Today I am starting on the back garden, it is a mammoth undertaking as it is about sixty feet long. A few years ago, a well-meaning neighbour had most of it chipped for me. She hoped it would cut down on maintenance but unfortunately the weeds have grown through the poor quality liner and now the grass is about four feet high. Bind weed chokes many of the plants in the border, it is a huge task yet one which I shall embrace with joy and pleasure. I have my gardening mojo back and I have a plan.

As for fear, well when fear buggered off, fear left something behind.  Fear left hope, positivity and delight in the things that matter to me most like nature and nurture and love.

While we are on the subject of love; my friend Carol Hands who lives across the water in America, is ailing at the moment. Carol writes some of the most awe inspiring, intelligent and truly beautiful blogs here that I have ever read.  Her blog page is called “Voices from the margins.” I have shared many of them, Carol is a poet, an academic and a propagator of peace and balance in these difficult times. Carol if you read this, I know you are in pain. My love is bouncing over the ocean to find its way to you, accompanied by hope and positivity.

Happy Sunday.

I need a Pongo-meter!

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I recently attended a dementia café at a venue not far from where I live. My talk was to carers and was about the work of the charity who currently employ me as an advisor to people who have dementia.  My presentation was in full swing and we had been debating all of the different gadgets that can be purchased to make life a little easier for people with dementia such as speaking clocks, front door sensors which will remind you to pick up your keys, mobile phones with GPS trackers, for if you become lost outside and so on.

This particular venue is a lovely old building in a very swanky part of town, so all those attending were extremely well off. Some spoke in clipped accents similar to Hyacinth Bucket or sibilantly, like Joyce Grenfell and were all jolly, jolly nice women.  I mean that, they are really lovely women.

One of the ladies listening asked me (and you have to imagine an upper class English accent)  “Has anyone designed a Pongo-meter yet?”  and I said, “A pongo what?  I`m sorry?”

“A Pongo-meter,” she responded, “I will need one when I am older to measure the levels of ammonia in the air.”  She went on to explain that her greatest fear when she is old is that she will become incontinent and that her home will smell.  She is worried that she will be so immersed in her own pong, she will lose awareness of the fact that she needs to take a shower or change the sheets.  She suggested that when the levels were high enough, the Pongo-meter could be designed to speak and say something like, “ Mrs. So and So, you need to take a shower.”

I responded that I thought her idea an excellent one yet fraught with potential problems…….

For it all depends upon whether or not the individual with the dementia can remember A) what a shower is and B) where the shower is situated………

Back to the drawing board!

Take a look at this. The work of Anne Nicholls.

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My dear friend Annie, has a forthcoming exhibition at the Artrix, here is some information about her work……….

Invisible: A New Look at M.E.

This exhibition of art and poetry by Anne Nicholls runs from 4th April to 20th May at the Artrix, Bromsgrove, Worcs., B60 1GN. It illustrates some aspects of Myalgic Encephalopathy/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as experienced by Anne and many of her fellow sufferers. This frequently misunderstood condition is painful and debilitating. Many sufferers are permanently bedridden and often have to spend their lives in a darkened room. Some can’t even tolerate noise to the point where they can’t take part in conversations. Around a quarter of a million sufferers in the UK have had their lives hijacked by ME. Others, like Anne, are only 40% disabled.

Accessing appropriate medical care is challenging. Luckily last year campaigners managed to persuade parliament to take it seriously. The NHS will hopefully stop telling sufferers it’s all in the mind and if they just got off their arses and bucked their ideas up they’d be fine.

Anne also has the support of the ME Association, The Salus Fatigue Foundation, Professor Paul Moss and Dr Rick Dunn of the University of Birmingham. Dr Sarah Myhill, who wrote the wonderful book “Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myalgic Encephalitis” (2nd Edition) also offers her endorsement. Dr Myhill’s phrase Mitochondria not Hypochondria sums it up. As momentum gathers, the exhibition is receiving increasing encouragement.

For the employers, colleagues, families, friends and carers of those who are sick of scepticism on top of illness this is a great opportunity to understand what it’s like. And for sufferers, it’s a way of explaining how they feel.

Anne 1

After all, a picture paints a thousand words………   below is an example of Anne`s work.

Anne 2

 

Unfair sentencing for sex offences #metoo

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Very recently a young actor called Bruno Langley who is well known in the UK for his role as Todd Grimshaw in Coronation Street, was convicted in court of sexual assault. Bruno did not go to jail for his crimes, instead he received a twelve month Community Service Order, a £250 fine which will be paid to each of the two young women whose breasts and crotch he grabbed while off his face on alcohol, a twelve week “rehabilitation course”, a twelve week police curfew, a twelve week tag and he will be on the sex offenders` register for the next five years. He will almost certainly never work as an actor again; his promising career is ended. I commented at the time that I felt quite sorry for him. Several of my friends agreed with me and some did not, it`s the way of the world but I`d like to clarify, why I made that comment.

None of Bruno Langley`s behaviour is acceptable, he was clearly extremely drunk when these events unfurled and he has since admitted that he has a serious alcohol problem for which he is now receiving treatment. Bruno also explained to the court that he has some mental health issues as a result of unresolved conflict in his earlier life so I imagine he self- medicated with drink. This obviously doesn`t mitigate what he did but it in some way explains what happened and why the lines for him, became blurred.   It isn`t the sentencing per se that makes me feel sorry for him, the unacceptability of his behaviour is not in dispute. It`s the severity of the sentencing he received that troubles me, for an offence that I consider trivial in comparison to many other levels of sexual assault from which the greatest percentage of perpetrators walk away acquitted unless they are black, in which case they are far more likely to be sentenced to a prison term.

It seems to me that in the current climate of #metoo, Bruno Langley has been pilloried for his crimes, while men like Trump, Weinstein, Branston and countless hundreds of others are never going to wind up in court because of what they allegedly did. They are far too wealthy to have to undergo the experience of such humiliation, they can quietly settle the matter out of court should the likelihood ever rear its embarrassing head and from the safety of their palatial homes, they can most likely continue to behave in the way that the press reports they do. It`s all wrong, it`s a disgrace and it`s bloody unfair. So that is why I feel sorry for Bruno Langley.  It seems to me he has been scapegoated and because of the current climate the decision of the judge was a legal expedient.

Perhaps it is Mr.Langley`s​ karma, perhaps he will go on in his life and achieve something magnificent to attain for his crimes, I do hope so and I hope he will be given a second chance. His remorse in court was said by the judge to be absolutely genuine. As for the two young woman who took him all the way to court when in my opinion the issue could have been resolved far more helpfully for all parties out of court, I imagine in hindsight they wish they had never pursued the matter into the public domain and it is my opinion that they haven`t done women any favours. I bet I am right.

#metoo