Barbara Deus on Love Our NHS Patricia Currie on The Casting Couch – An U… forshaw59 on January debbiemcgowan on January Barbara Deus on January
The National Health Service for me is the difference between having my Mother for 42 wonderful years, or growing up without her love, guidance and overwhelming kindness. It is also the difference between actually having a life and not making it past my very dramatic entrance into the world – an emergency caesarean one hot summer Sunday after my mother’s hope for a home birth became a life or death emergency. Her obstetrician delivered me still wearing his pyjamas, apparently! My father was told to expect one of us to die. Luckily, we both survived and it was only for the creation of the National Health Service this was possible. Had the same perilous incident occured in a Third World country it is almost a certainty my father would have been a young widower, also mourning the loss of another daughter.
It’s really that important. My Mother continued to battle many ills throughout her life but enjoyed the blessed relief of long periods of health – the care and dedication of so many doctors, nurses and general practioners enabling her to see her children grow up. It is because of this I cherish everything that the NHS stands for. It makes no judgement or practises no prejudice towards anyone who needs medical care and assistance. A system almost unique, especially in this era of greed and unequal wealth. Witness any Accident and Emergency department, 24 hours day, seven days a week; these days often a war-like situation can be found where over-stretched staff barely cope with growing demands and dwindling resources. Your wait to be attended to is measured purely by the urgency of your medical condition – not by your financial situation, colour, creed or intellectual capacity. The front line staff sometimes crumble under the weight of the enormous burden they carry trying to provide a SERVICE – their meltdown will never be on duty, but maybe on their journey home, in the bath they try to relax in after another long shift or before they drift off into a well deserved sleep.
The experiences I have had of our beloved NHS have continued from the day I was born. The people I am able to continue to have in my life, to love and walk by their side during their times of ill health are a testament to our FREE health service. Make no mistake, this is under threat. I am reluctant to politicise this blog as it is a heartfelt tribute to a humanitarian organisation, but if you cherish the last bastion of a society that is FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW – protest in any way you can about it’s demise, refuse to allow health to become a financial commodity that can be traded on the stock market for the benefit of those better off and stand up for continuing a tradition borne from saving the lives of people like me and my Mother who, had I been born seventy years ago, would have most certainly perished on that hot summers day in June.
I used to hate January. What’s the point of it, I would ask myself, or anyone who would listen (if they weren’t already asking themselves that same question). Of course, if it’s your birth month I presume you never posed that question and grow tired of the people like me who bemoan it’s very existence.
I suppose there would always have to be a month after December and one that heralds a new year. So you could say January drew the short straw and maybe a little unfairly, takes the flak for our lethargy and general moodiness once the initial ‘New Year, New Me’ euphoria has worn off quicker than a Poinsetta has withered in it’s supermarket-bought glittery pot (unless you’re me and the poor plant doesn’t even make it to Christmas Eve). The thought of getting back to routine and not force feeding yourself mince pies and chocolate on a daily basis is initially appealing – but once we return to ‘normality’ and sensible eating, the halycon days of Christmas and it’s wanton displays of gluttony in the name of celebrating ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ seem like a far off dream that we woke from too soon.
My mental images of January were of bleak, grey days merging into each other and proving impossible to discern where one ended and a new one began. The weather expressed my mood, and was the reason for my mood. As I plunged headlong into the festive hysteria of Christmas, there was always the thought that, however merry my yuletide, I would have to pay for it with January’s gloomy hopelessness.
Awful things have happened in my January’s, this is true. However, awful things have happened at other times of the year too. Traumatic events do not have a preference about where we happen to be on the calendar, sadness can envelop our lives just as easily on a perfect summer’s day as it can in the midst of sub-zero temperatures and grey, groundhogday Januarys.
After discovering my obession/passion for anything Nordic (crime novels, tv dramas, fashion and the general ‘scandi’ look) I stumbled up the word HYGGE. (Definition of hygge (Prounounced Hoo -ga) – a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.)
What a game changer! Those clever Danes (aparently the happiest people in the world) embrace the winter months and celebrate all it has to offer. Nothing can alter the fact that they live in the Northern hemisphere and have many months of harsh, unrelenting coldness. Longing for balmy temperatures is pointless when the mercury drops and so they make the most of the cold by getting cosy – lighting candles, wearing fluffy socks and inviting friends to do the same over hot drinks and good food. What’s not to love?
So rather than continue my dread of this post-Christmas month, I made the wise decision to actually look forward to it. As the Christmas decorations are taken down and placed carefully in storage (I use the term ‘carefully’ loosely. What I actually mean is thrown haphazardly into the boxes, shamed by my lack of organisational skills just knowing that Next Year’s Me hates how I yet again failed to develop a successful Decoration Packing Plan) my mood is light and the bareness that is left feels good, like wiping the slate clean as the saying goes.
I’m not going to lie, my optimism doesn’t continue relentlessly. A particularly grey January can be more challenging than a frosty, sunny one but my initial optimism holds me in good stead. A random January event was when, whilst working at a Sports Centre and being the only memeber of staff there apart from the general manager one snowy Saturday evening during a particularly bleak post Christmas month, we tried to survive our miserable customer-less shift by watching a 70’s tv movie about a woman being held hostage in a remote country mansion in the midst of winter. Before the movie finished, we decided to close up for the night early and made a hasty exit after carrying out the necessary closing procedures (in record time!). This was pre-catch up tv so time was of the essence and I made it home to watch the rest of the film at home with a hot drink and snuggled on the couch. I’m not really sure why that night is so significant but I have since bought the dvd and try to watch it every January. Maybe it was the hygge that night, the sharing of my time in that isolated sports centre with a colleague and my subsequent dash home to cosiness and the conclusion of Mary Steenburg’s fate at the hands of Roddy McDowell and Jason Robards – I won’t give you any spoilers, you may just stumble across it when channel hopping one snowy January night.
So my newfound mantra for January is to accept the grey days, the post-Christmas pounds that mysteriously appear on my hips but have drained from my bank account and the general malaise that envelops most of us as we batten down in anticipation of a long, dreary month ahead. Maybe it’s meant to be a month where our diaries are clear and we use the time for reflection. If nothing exciting happens in YOUR January, the rest of the year can only be an improvement!
I had a poem published a few years ago. Coincidentally, it’s called January…….
Jaded decorations, billowing in the breeze – soaked through from December rains. A deflated Santa – drooping, forlorn….no Christmas cheer remains.
Twinkling lights that were strategically placed with such careful consideration, hang listlessly now on an old oak tree, their removal a cause of frustration.
For this garden that was bathed in glorious light is now stripped of all it’s glitter. A wondrous sight to behold no more as January blows in on a wind that’s so bitter.
Darkness descends as a Christmas cracker escapes…it skips in the wind now its free, from refuse bags full of discarded remains – a gluttonous pile of debris.
Yet I look through the window at the slate grey sky and my spirit is lifted from gloom. For lurking around New Year’s corner, will be Spring and its wonderful bloom.
So there you have it. How to survive January in a nutshell – and for all you lovers of tv dross don’t forget it’s also the month that brings Celebrity Big Brother and Dancing On Ice to our screens. Roll on February………
So here we are again. Another monster disguising as a human being. Decades after this heinous character used his position of power in Hollywood, the obligatory can of worms has been opened and a maelstrom of unpleasant anecdotes are bombarding news bulletins with a momentum we should not at all be surprised by after the horror story that is Jimmy Saville.
Weinstein is probably an artistic genius, the list of his awards proof enough of his obvious talent for making great movies. That his sexual depravity and unrelenting appetite for aspiring actresses ran alongside his undeniably brilliant career is nothing if not tragic. How did a man of such brilliance jeopardise everything he clearly worked so hard for in order to gain brief, perverse satisfaction? More importantly – how on earth did he manage to get away with it?
I heard of the “casting couch” more years ago than I care to remember. It was standard Hollywood practice and I’ve lost count of the number of movies I have seen that make reference to it. Like the Jimmy Saville story, the claims about powerful men in the entertainment industry preying on young, vulnerable women were generally accepted. Indeed it was considered par for the course and such behaviour ingrained in our culture as almost, I would go so far as to say, “normal”. How grotesque.
When will things change? The only progress we have made here is to recognise that this behaviour is not “normal”. It is intolerable.
The problem I have coming to terms with is how the established, successful artists who knew Weinstein systematically abused (in every sense of the word) his powerful position as a movie mogul and yet continued to work with him. No Oscar, movie role or million dollar deal would motivate me to sign up to anything he was involved in if I knew what he was up to – and we now know some people were aware of his misdemeanours. I can understand how reporting Weinstein may have not been an option for the young and gullible women who were subject to his unwanted advances and veiled attempts to lure them with the promise of stardom – who would have taken them seriously? I cannot comprehend however, those who rose to prestigious ranks in Hollywood and chose to remain silent about what appears to be an open secret, continued to work with him and were happy to be seen at various award ceremonies posing with Weinstein for photo oportunities. How could they?
Maybe we have to look at the whole picture, the misogony that is prevalent thoughout the entertainment industry and the reinforcement that certain kinds of behaviour is “just how it is”. I believe women need to at least try to change this, along with their male counterparts – shaking your surgically enhanced butt at the camera to the strains of your new release instead of letting your talent do the talking is not the reason a predatory, lecherous parasite believes he has the right to objectify women but it serves no purpose either. We have witnessed over the last couple of decades a smudging of the lines between mainstream and adult only entertainment. They have become one and the same and I worry deeply about young, impressionable little girls who follow pop stars with an adoring loyalty who try to emulate their dance routines that are nothing if not pornographic. It all has a connection whether we like it or not, as if we deem it okay to subject our youngsters to material not really intended for pre-pubescents, we are also growing more tolerant of the sexualisation of children. It is really that bad.
When a young women still sees offering ‘favours’ to a powerful man as a career move, how far have we come? When a man such as this can climb the ladder of success whilst behaving so despicably, how have women progressed in their pursuit of equality? Depressingly little it seems.
The unshaven, unkempt and now disgraced Weinstein will soon be yesterdays news. The elephant in the room at so many Hollywood parties is no more, as he skulks off for some ridiculously expensive sex addiction therapy. No doubt there is another, if not several more executives waiting in the wings to take up where he left off.
We can only hope the empowerment of women reaches such an extent that men like Weinstein and their unwanted advances are met with zero tolerance and their swift fall from grace, so that artists can forge their careers based on talent and talent alone.
One of the most unexpected things I have done this year (and possibly in my life) was to campaign for the Labour Party and my local MP, when a General Election was announced in the Spring. Many questioned the wisdom of Theresa May in calling it (oh I bet she is wishing she had the benefit of political hindsight now) and I’m no exception to that but her mis-guided belief she would saunter back into Number Ten in her kitten heels actually led to one of the best experiences I’ve possibly ever had. So thanks Ms May – although I can’t quite comprehend I could ever have felt gratitude towards any politician in the government we have at present, it is a fact that her slightly maverick behaviour motivated me to become an activist in every sense of the word.
My motivation more than likely also derived from the absolute slaughter of Jeremy Corbyn by the media and, I’m sad to say, members of his own party. It wasn’t enough that he won the leadership fair and square, he was subjected to a second challenge and emerged even more victorious. It set the precedent for one of the most extraordinary political battles we have seen in modern times. Make no mistake, Jeremy Corbyn’s rise can be hugely attributed to social media, to engaging young people in politics like never before (who can forget that pivotal moment of his campaign at Prenton Park when the crowd chanted his name to a White Stripes anthem?) and to the imagination and vision of a man who will refuse to jeopardise his principles in order to offer himself as a safe, palatable dish to serve to the nation. Instead, his recipe of integrity, straight talk and very opinionated philosophy had more people than ever wanting a slice of the humble pie he was promising to serve in order to redress the growing unfairness in our country and worldwide. His ill fitting suits and geography teacher-like persona was a breath of fresh air amongst the stale sound bytes of politicians from all parties and the idiosyncracies the press liked to ridicule became the reasons for his meteoric rise to a very viable, alternative Prime Minister. After too many years of a capitalist culture that has surely started to slowly implode, he offered a socialist solution to global greed and people started to ‘get him’.
That certainly helped and inspired me to literally walk the streets, knocking on doors and rallying potential Labour voters, rather like some wide eyed youth with a head full of idealism and naive optimism. The fact that I’m none of those things hardly mattered. The smell of change is in the wind and I desperately want to help herald the change in direction we need to lay the foundations that builds a fairer society.
My initial foray into election campaigning began on a chilly but gloriously blue skied Sunday on Crosby beach. My local MP was making a promotional video for social media and he needed a crowd scene to conclude it. That day was the beginning of my Labour-fuelled incentive to literally vote with my feet and I went home ruddy cheeked and full of inspiration for the street pounding weeks that lay ahead.
I turned up for my first campaign session on a sunny Tuesday afternoon and was made more than welcome by people who I had never met before or had any idea who I was and why I was there. I began with not a little trepidation but soon fell into my stride and so began several weeks of door knocking, envelope stuffing and general camaraderie. All ages, backgrounds and personalities coming together for the common good. I bloody well loved every calorie burning, foot blistering minute.
Most of it was certainly out of my own comfort zone and I most certainly faced several fears and anxieties I have. Being told to “Sod off I’m having my tea and would never vote for that communist anyway” wasn’t half as daunting as negotiating stubborn gate locks on a pathway that led to a hostile bark and my general, irrational anxiety would increase every time I joined in with political discussions (me being who I am and wondering why anyone would want to listen to me – but blathering on anyway). There were plenty of debates and lots of interesting, more learned activists than myself but not once did I feel patronized. We were, literally, all in it together. The hours spent trekking around suburbia often concluded with a drink in a nearby ‘watering hole’. Changing the world is thirsty work!
In conclusion I can honestly state I loved being a part of Labour’s General Election campaign in 2017 and eagerly await a re-run soon – only with a new Government in charge this time. Victory is just around the corner, I can feel it in my socialist bones.
There are so many benefits to doing voluntary work, both personally, ethically and professionally.
My own experience of volunteering began modestly, helping out with fund-raising events at my children’s primary school. The pleasure of organising school discos and preparing the pupils for their Christmas production was priceless and I’m sure my three felt happy I was there experiencing the excitement with them.
It wasn’t until after my father died that I really embraced the whole aspect of becoming a volunteer. With a little more free time available I was unsure what steps to take to fill my days. Dad was no longer around to visit and keep company so I filled that huge void by becoming an assistant at the newly opened charity shop that raised much needed funds for the local hospice that, co-incidentally, cared for him in his final days.
It was a dark, uninviting place that begged for a fresh coat of paint to cover the sickly green wood chip paper that covered the walls. It was almost unbearably cold in there during the winter and smelt of damp, it’s mustiness evident the minute you came through the door. However, the other volunteers were lovely to work with and I decided to do my best to make the shop look more cheerful and less shabby. No easy feat!
The best way to do this was by colour co-ordinating the clothes and adding corresponding displays on shelves above each section. The window was a challenge, given the sparse nature of it’s appeal and I would angst about customers regularly removing strategically placed items, oblivious to their destruction of my carefully considered aesthetic attempt……yes, I know that’s completely irrational on my part – us arty types are so temperamental.
Joking aside what I’m saying is, my volunteering experience enabled me to indulge my passion for merchandising and all things artistic. I had dabbled over the years in window dressing and retail display but never got the qualifications to prove this. Here I was able to use my skills without question and I must say, with positive results. Customers often commented how they enjoyed coming in to see the displays which gave me great satisfaction in two ways – my (fragile) ego was rubbed and there was more chance they would buy something, raising extra cash for St. Joseph’s hospice. Win win really!
We have since moved location to a shiny, brand new shop. The fittings and fixtures lend themselves to an exclusive boutique and it’s been an absolute joy to dress the place and witness it’s opening. I hope it’s success continues and brings in even more revenue for such a wonderful cause.
Volunteering comes in all forms – from building schools in third world countries to the more modest but no less important helping out at a local primary school or hospital. The benefits are two-fold. You will undoubtedly find it an enriching experience and the service you offer will benefit whatever charity or organisation you have decided to offer your services to.
Some people love volunteering so much they replace their salaried positions for the opportunity to help out. If you are in a position where being paid for your employment isn’t necessary (not possible with the majority of voluntary workers obviously), I would say go for it. The satisfaction and contentment will be more than adequate payment for what you do.
Some actually leave their paid positions (after carefully financial planning beforehand I presume) to undertake a volunteering opportunity. To be inspired to help others and generally endeavour to make the world a better place is an honourable task. One such individual is a perfect example – visit http://www.friendindeed.org.uk.
You don’t have to leave your job to volunteer – even one evening a week, a couple of hours at the weekend, it all helps. It will help you personally in obtaining a unique satisfaction and contentment. It will help whoever or whatever it is you decide to volunteer with. There are no losers, only winners in the ‘helping others’ game.
“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
H.Jackson Brown Jr.