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  • 17th July 2017 | By David Jolley

    Well – that was what we said when we were very small. Later we learned that 3 into 2 could be 2/3 or 0.6667 – a fraction of a whole.

    The hurt of Grenfell is still with us, and the lessons of Aberfan in comparison to the growth and needs of people with dementia hold true.

    July 6th we found the Guardian’s front page shouting: ‘Safety alert on 1,300 ‘failing ‘nursing homes’. The Care Quality Commission has found 32% of nursing homes to be inadequate and 37% must improve safety standards.

    Page 8 reported on research from University College London which was published in the British Medical Journal that week: ‘More than 1.2 million people with dementia by 2040’. These 1.2 million will be in England – there will be many, many more worldwide. This is a prediction but it is a pretty good bet it will prove to be right. It takes into account the good news that incidence of dementia has been falling decade on decade in age-matched cohorts. It assumes that governments will ignore the learning that improved living conditions for the less well-off would reduce the incidence even further.

    So there is good information that the condition which underpins most of the needs and costs which lead very old people to spend their last months in nursing homes will be with us in increasing numbers for the foreseeable future.

    Back to page 1: ‘state spending on social care (has been) cut by a cumulative £6bn since 2010’.

    This is why it hurts. If you know about nettles you prepare yourself with suitable clothing and equipment before tackling them. If you must hold them – hold them very tightly – that way their poison is subdued. 

    This week, for the first time in my memory, we received a newsletter from local labour politicians. Their topics of choice were to contest a rise of parking charges in the town and to object to an initiative which will charge for green bins to deal with garden waste. Not a mention of the government imposed austerity which takes most from the less well-off. Not a mention of the benefits of redistributing wealth so that everyone can live healthier lives. No awareness of the need to protect parks and green spaces.

    Come on, this is simple maths. It is not even algebra.

    Let’s balance the books and do all we can to reduce the likelihood of crises in and out of nursing homes, as well as making buildings safe to live in. Invest to save.

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    500 miles 12 July 2017 | Comments (0)

    12th July 2017 | By David Jolley

    This week we were guests at a second wedding of Sue’s best friend. Sue had been bridesmaid 40 years ago – and here we were again but this a confirmation of a relationship that has already stood the test of 25 years together.

    It was a beautiful occasion, themed in turquoise and carried by music and words.

    The setting was non-religious – at Bramhall Hall which is a Tudor Manor House built around a medieval core www.stockport.gov.uk/about-bramall-hall. The ceremony (rather than service) was conducted in the original ground floor chamber. This is rather dark and spooked with models of badly behaved men of the past who were to be executed on the say-so of the lords of this manor.

    A room above still boasts original medieval wall paintings which include eerie figures of spirits and creatures.

    We were an assembly of couples and families showing our vintage, though dressed in finery for the day. Some wore dangerously high heels. There were only two fabulous hats. Our groom was elegantly resplendent in a shining waistcoat which matches his brides turquoise fantastic dress and blue bouquet.

    We brought along lifetimes of experiences – achievements, frustrations, sadnesses and perseverance. There was warmth of friendships and peace as we stepped aside from the fury and worry of the world beyond, just to attend to this matter of real importance – celebration and confirmation.

    The words of the lady who conducted the ceremony were read with calm and clarity, touched with indications of real pleasure in being part of this marriage – though she must contribute to many every week.

    A short personal poem from the bride said much of her feelings for the man she was marrying after a quarter of a century together. We knew.

    The groom’s poem in response was longer, part borrowed and etched in humour – but the shared respect and confidences were clear.

    No hymns because this would not be their way – but tunes and words to stir all our memories and feelings over the 40 years of our adult lives:

    Wild mountain thyme: ‘And we’ll all pull together’. And we all joined the Corries where we could for this entrance anthem.

    www.metrolyrics.com/the-wild-mountain-thyme-lyrics-the-corries.html

    Songbird by Stevie Nicks

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLRyYETnoIE

    Fever by Peggy Lee 

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5Uw1lJ2C9U

    And then 500 miles from The Proclaimers – for the couple to march triumphantly and the assembly to sing with gaiety and hands together in the rhythm of the song and the rhythm of the march – Been a long way – But more to go.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM0sTNtWDiI

    No hymns. No reference to God. He’ll not mind.

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    We deliver newsletters to 2,000 homes around our park to tell families about what we are doing in the park and what they can look forward to.

    This week I was hurrying round my set of houses ahead of an event for Dogs and Dog owners: Dogs’ Delight. One house carried a notice.

    ‘This house is maintained entirely for the cat who is resident’.

    It seemed unlikely they would be coming to Dogs’ Delight.

    Quite a lot of houses have notices declaring they will not welcome ‘cold callers’, which seems reasonable.

    A few declare ‘No free newspapers or junk mail’. This raises the question whether our carefully prepared and focussed newsletter might be construed as a newspaper or junk. One man, who lives at the top of a steep drive, has made it clear in the past that, though he has not looked at it let alone read it, he does not want it. Discretion leads me not to post a newsletter to any house with such a notice. It is unlikely this will result in complaint. There is also one corner house, which sometimes sports loose Alsatians, where I walk on by.

    Most letter boxes are at a reasonable height. Those set at the bottom of the door put me and the regular postman to the test of stooping but maintaining balance and dignity whilst carrying a bag of good news. Boxes which have a metal flap and a spring which bites your fingers are few, but firm brushes set behind the flap have become de rigueur. They must be good to exclude drafts but surely the idea of a letter box is to let the letters in! Some houses use external metal letter boxes. These are quite welcome on the round as they are easy to access once you have noticed them and save walking up long drives. It must mean that the householder has to go to more trouble to retrieve their post.

    Traditional terraced street houses are sublime territory: delivering a hundred letters takes less than half an hour. Expensive houses with long drives take much longer.

    Most interesting is the delivery to an estate which was built in the second and third decades of the twentieth century. Designed to provide good housing for working people, the houses have worn well and are now a mix of private ownership and council or housing association tenancies. Every house has a front and back garden. Some are situated on the hillside and the trek up and down the ‘drive’ sets almost any exercise a gym might offer in the shade. ‘Drive’ in inverted commas because these houses were not built with an expectation of car ownership, though most households now have one or more vehicles. The layout of each garden is unique and has been modified progressively by residents during the hundred years of their existence. Many have had gateways and paths widened to allow passage of the car(s). Some are on such steep inclines that a series of steps has been included, two or three are spiralled. On a wet morning descent is hazardous.

    The horticultural ambitions of residents range from negative – disorganised, overgrown and littered with shoes, bikes, abandoned lawnmowers etc, via a standard patch of turf with flower border surround, to something special with collections of interesting shrubs and plants which are clearly well-tended.

    It is hard not to think that these front gardens say a lot about the personalities and attitudes of each household. There is no need for a printed notice – all is written large. What a privilege it is to get to know the neighbours and the neighbourhood by such a simple technique as systematic delivery of news.

    We enjoy organising activities on our park – Dogs’ Delight was a dream of happy people, dogs and all sorts – Ice-cream to hand. Tea or coffee if you prefer. Was your dog judged the prettiest bitch? Or were you judged to be the human most like their dog? How near were you in your guess for the weight of the water melon? Maybe you were better in estimating the number of dog biscuits in the jar. Could you agree the name of the soft toy which they say is Gromit’s cousin?

    Wouldn’t it be even better to set up an appreciation of front gardens? Not a competition as such – but people could be awarded standards – bronze, silver and gold – with help and support if they would like to do more. 

    Nearer to God in the garden.

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    26th June 2017 | By David Jolley

    Today I find the image of a fire in a tower block in Bethnal green. Emergency surveys of tower blocks around the country are being undertaken and at least one Local Authority has required residents to move out of blocks until dangerous cladding has been removed.

    The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have arranged for a discussion of the state of the nation in the House of Lords. Jeremy Corbyn has addressed a massive assembly at Glastonbury.

    It was the deaths in 1994 of old women with dementia who had been transferred, with no thought for their safety and requirements for health, from a hospital in the town of Bury to an unused ward high up the Rossendale Valley, which alerted the North West Regional health Authority to the need for special services for older people with mental health problems.

    It was the tragedy of care received by people in mental hospitals in the 1960s which led to the revolution which has eventually led to the closure and demolition of most of them.

    Will we find a way to prudence which makes quiet good provision? It requires discipline and control of short term selfishness.

    Just now, as at times of realisation in the past, it feels as if we might start again and clear away the shameful clutter of deceit.

    This is a good feeling. Let us be carried with it, for the while at least.

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