Monday, 21 November 2016


There is a section of society today which we prefer to forget. They are blamed for creating all manner of problems with which future generations will have to deal, and for draining the economy with constant demands for more to be spent on care and health care. I speak, of course, of the elderly. Those grumpy, self-opinionated and slow-moving people who fill up the buses without paying a fare and 'whizz' around the pavements on their odd little vehicles, or stagger out into the road in the expectation that traffic will stop and let them cross. If they can even stagger, that is. For there are those 'bed-blockers' too, building up ever longer waiting lists for hospital places.

I am not being deliberately cruel, or if I am it is to make you sit up and take notice! Because one day you might be one of them. And if you are grumpy and slow, it is caused by pain. If you are using your bus pass, it's because you worked for decades to arrive at a resting-place called 'retirement', but are finding that your carefully saved pennies - if indeed you still possess them - are no match for today's ever-increasing costs. And if you are confined to bed, then you might just have lost all hope.

My mother is eighty seven and earlier this year we nearly lost her. She has a multitude of physical problems and her legs hardly work. There is a shadow building in her lungs and I think time is currently being borrowed, but I enjoy every moment of her (sometimes crochety) company. Now that we know / hope she will be around for Christmas, comes the time to consider presents. When my brother brought her over for lunch yesterday, we discussed these things and he is going to give her something which I would not have expected her to request - a pair of secateurs. We all know that she is struggling with the mere concept of going outside into her little garden. She is terrified of falling and at this time of year the ground is slippery and uneven... it's just not on. Yet she has no intention of resigning herself to stopping gardening. Unlike her children she is 'carrying on regardless' - and so should we.

If you attempt an internet search for Christmas gifts for the elderly, it is a very depressing exercise. Apparently they want mobility aids, toys (TOYS?) and all manner of expensive technical or mechanical devices which they will never use. Or so the retailers would like us to think, so that they can sell us these items. I can't imagine how they are getting this so wrong. Except that they aren't really interested in this particular market, are they? There's not enough profit in it.

Well, I had already decided what to do. I love to make my own Christmas presents, and a remnant of material recently purchased was the perfect answer to something an old person can never have enough of: soft cushions. I will add to this a small but luxurious bathroom towel and perhaps some scented soap. I've already run up one of the cushions (pictured) and the other is in progress. My son's gift will be the lovely hand cream for which his grandmother asks every year.

You don't have to be old or disabled to enjoy simple and inexpensive Christmas presents. So much joy is created when we reduce our lofty expectations and opt for a more magical appreciation of Christmas.

Last word: it's amazing how much more cheerful an internet search can be if you type 'cushion' into Google!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Today is Remembrance Day in Great Britain. I will be using the two minute silence to remember my late father who fought in Burma during the Second World War. It was an experience he seldom spoke of, in common I believe with all his compatriots, and one whose horror I can only imagine. He was a quiet, steadfast and honourable man whose life - like those of everyone at that time - was completely changed by the war.

The poppies in the photograph used to grow in the garden of my father's brother. He too fought during that war, as did their elder brother who was captured early on and spent five years incarcerated in German prisoner-of-war camps - a totally different kind of experience, but equally as terrible.

I believe it is important to remember these people and what they stood for, their simple yet passionate love of life and other people, and their essential goodness in trying to preserve the very best of it for future generations.