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Let me just say I have no problem at all with the new rules regarding the wearing of masksnone at all.

Like others, I have been known to wonder why HMG did not impose the rule earlier, but as masks could not be had for love nor money at the outset, I have not voiced that thought. As soon as masks became more widely available we bought some and I have now worn a mask in shops for several weeks already.

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Click image for link

Nevertheless, what is it about the new requirement to wear masks that makes everyone think that they can shop as a family group again?

I’ve just been to Aldi and although the tills were quiet (unnervingly quiet), the store was packed with family groups hogging the aisles and crowding around their trollies to chat with other families they chanced to meet (blocking the aisle EVEN more). And don’t start me on the non-evident social distancing.

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Generic image of shoppers – not local Aldi

We have had four glorious months where only one person per trolley was allowed in the store (the rule was much the same in other stores too).  So, each household had a nominated shopper who, if deliveries from larger stores could not be arranged, would take their list and strategically shop for JUST what they needed. The nominated shopper would clinically plan their route around the store (using the one-way system), would precisely locate what it was they needed to buy and be in and out of the store almost as quickly as the tills allowed. It was absolute bliss.

Now, although there is a traffic-light system to enter our Aldi, there is no ‘number-of-people’ per trolley counter. It makes shopping by the (still) nominated shopper (me) immensely frustrating.

[I do understand that some people need help with their shopping. I have no problem with that, but when ‘hubby’ comes along to JUST push the trolley and the tribe of kids, of all ages join in the fun, it is annoying. Rant over]

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Just for perspective.

My Grandma (mum’s mum) was born on February 10th, 1900.

Imagine the life she led.

She was named for a distant relative who was wounded in the Boer War11, which ended when she was only two years old.  She was still a toddler when the Wright Brothers made their first controlled, powered flight1; but before she died, Concorde had made supersonic passenger flights possible2 and Neil Armstrong had walked on the moon3.

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Born in a grimy mill town, she would have been forced into work just as ‘The Great War’ began and all the young men went off to the trenches. By the time that war ended, she was eighteen and had then to survive the Spanish Flu pandemic4.

Edwardian-1905-Market-Square-Huddersfield-PostcardShe was married and had borne two children by the time the Great Depression hit the U.K. in 1929/305. Unemployment in some parts of the north reached up to 70% and I can only assume that she and her young family survived because mills were (presumably) less affected than heavy industry and mining.

Next came the second World War, which saw her son enlisted in the Royal Navy; he served in the Far East. Once again, she will have had to work in the filthy, noisy mills to survive. I never really knew what my grandad did, other than ‘work with horses’. He died while I was still very young. Then, along with a variety of international conflicts which involved young British conscripts6, and two other significant wars in the far east, she saw the Iron Curtain come down and lived the rest of her life under threat of nuclear annihilation. She didn’t live to see the Berlin Wall come down, but she did read of its erection in those early days of the cold war.

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She witnessed the final throes of the British Empire7, the birth of the NHS8, colour T.V., mini-skirts9, Teddy Boys10 and fighting on the south coast12. During the 1960’s she even experienced and enjoyed holidays in Spain – having (I seem to remember) been driven there with my uncle’s family. I’d love to have seen Spain then, or even when my own parents flew there with my younger brothers in the 1970s.

I think my grandma (mam) had a remarkable life, living through most of a century of change and turmoil.

She died in 1973.

1 – http://firstflight.open.ac.uk/index.php

2 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concorde

3 – https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/first-person-on-moon.html

4 – https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html

5 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression_in_the_United_Kingdom

6 – https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/20/national-service-consctiption-britain-richard-vinen-review

7 – https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/india-and-pakistan-win-independence

8 – https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/health-and-social-care-explained/the-history-of-the-nhs/

9 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1960s_in_fashion

10 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teddy_Boy

11 – https://www.britannica.com/event/South-African-War

12 – https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20140515-when-two-tribes-went-to-war?ocid=global_culture_rss&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

Thanks to all original owners of photographs – none are my own.

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Introduction.

I recently volunteered to fill in a survey by staff at Manchester Metropolitan – the basic question was ‘How do I feel about the current lockdown situation’. There were questions about home, community, relationships, health and activities included in the survey. The purpose was to create a record of the lockdown from a human, nationwide perspective. I thought it would be good for me too, to record these things for later, so that when I look back, I might remember and understand what I was thinking, doing and experiencing during these unusual times.

I have therefore saved the answers I provided for the survey and have now edited and arranged them here, for my blog.

The lockdown has changed the way we live, at least temporarily. There is much talk of a ‘new normal’ just now, but what that new normal is, remains to be seen. Only time will tell.

The virus.

The virus crept up on us very slowly – at first it was ‘just’ another thing that was infecting China, and then a wider area of S.E. Asia. By the time it reached Europe and Italy decided to lockdown, we began to see unimaginable numbers of people infected and increasing death counts. Sharon and I were in Spain as this began to unfold, but we were lucky enough to have planned our return to the U.K. before Spain was put into emergency measures.

We noticed very quickly that some early measures were being put in place: e.g. on a visit to a consultant in Rochdale in late February, I was asked if I had come back from Europe within the last 14 days. I had, but Spain was (apparently, at that time) okay. My mother is in a care home suffering from dementia and luckily, they saw the potential for disaster quite some time before our government’s isolation measures were introduced and they banned all visits to the care home at least one week before the U.K. was put into lockdown.

Lockdown.

Sharon and I started to self-isolate a week early because we had been with a group of friends’ mid-March and because Betony was due to give birth imminently.

The lockdown, and the fear that came with it (by now the news media had ramped up their facts, figures and warnings) changed life considerably. If we were regarded as vulnerable, over 70 or simply scared, we were not to leave the house for 12 weeks. Others should self-isolate and, if they had symptoms, they should stay inside for 14 days. As I write this early in June, I have friends who, because they fit the vulnerable or over-70 categories, haven’t left their homes for over 11 weeks.

At this point I stopped using public transport and used my once-a-day exercise period to explore the local countryside. Sharon rarely left the house as Betony was expecting her second child at any time (he was eventually born 14th April) and didn’t want to get infected as she was to be the carer for Chester (#1 child) while Betony was confined.  This itself was different to any time prior. Previously, it would have been a grand family occasion and the father could have stayed with his wife throughout – but not this time, Josh had to wait in a car park (around midnight) until called. He only just made it back inside to be there when Hunter was born. He’s now over six weeks old and thriving.

Because of the self-isolation none of us were able to visit family. This has been especially difficult for my 92-year-old father. His inability to see his wife, my mum, in the care home has led to his complete mental breakdown.  He used to visit her twice a week but now cannot. He has said that it is much harder for him to accept than if she had died. He has had tremendous difficulty with accepting or understanding the situation that the country is in. For example, he was very surprised to find, during week nine of the lockdown, that his doctors were closed and that he could not enter the surgery. He phoned to tell me this and I had to remind him that most shops were also closed as well as all the pubs and all the cafes he might normally visit.

Community.

The small town I live in is usually a bustling, busy semi-industrial place that we call a village and during the first months of lockdown it became a wonderfully quiet place to live. The six or so real-ale pubs, the six or so coffee-bar/cafes and two Indian restaurants all closed. All the take-away shops stayed open but other than those, the hub of the village became a well-placed Aldi and the village Co-op. People queued around Aldi and along the road from the Co-op patiently, waiting for their time to be allowed entry. Two metres (or six feet) apart became the norm and even now, after eleven weeks, this distance is fairly well, but not universally, observed. Numbers inside the shops were limited too, something which even the take away shops adhered to.

During the last three to four weeks, the roads in and around the village have become much busier. Some shops have begun to re-open; one Indian Restaurant has opened for take away meals (although there are three other Indian take away’s in the village), the burger shop has re-opened and does deliveries now. More and more people are using the chance to buy hot cooked food and have begun to enjoy eating it al fresco along the canal side** and on other grassy areas roundabouts.

Locale.

We live in West Yorkshire, in a village nestled into the eastern Pennines. The countryside around us is beautiful, especially during this magnificent springtime. It has been a delight to watch the trees unfold, the meadows to bloom and the blossom to come and go. There are signs just now of summer; the brighter colours of spring are now beginning to turn to deeper shades. Our village is in a valley, so there are hills all around. What’s more, it is an old industrial mill-town through which both railway and Industrial Revolution canal pass.

The canal has become a pedestrian walking/cycling motorway over the weeks of lockdown, especially during the many bank holidays we seem to have had.

Home life.

At home, very little has changed. Sharon’s work has become more intense but as she works from home, online, over 22 hours per week, she has been able to spread much of that work out. She is the course manager for a company offering online Access Courses.  Much of her normal work has had to be postponed because of the changes required by awarding bodies, for those wanting to start university this autumn. My own (average 1hr per day) online work has been furloughed until the end of June. We have both been fine.

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Not being able to see my father has led to problems, but my mother remains well cared for as before. I’ve kept in telephone contact with my own grown up children but still have Easter gifts we were unable to deliver for my grandchildren. I’ve made a point of calling retired or furloughed friends on the phone to see how they are doing, or passing by the end of their garden for a socially distanced chat. Other friends and I have regularly exchanged funny pictures, jokes and videos – all have helped me to stay sane.

Typical day.

There hasn’t really been a typical day in lockdown – perhaps a series of ‘differently’ typical days. One day for example, I started making a loaf of bread* at 07:00am and while that was proving I completed my ablutions before going to Aldi for some essentials. After that and while the bread baked, I read a little, did some quizzes and games (brain games) on my iPad, checked my emails and looked on Facebook. I am also following a Duolingo course, learning Spanish – it only takes up 15-20 minutes a day and my progress is slow, but I am enjoying it.

Lunch that day was a sandwich made with two slices of the newly baked bread and some left-over chicken pate. After lunch, I got out my jigsaw board and spent an hour or so working on that. About 15:00pm Sharon and I went out for a walk. The weather was gorgeous and we set off along the canal westwards, before heading up the hill (right up), and back around the other side of the village. We were out maybe 75-90 minutes. When we got back I made some fresh pasta (110g strong flour, 1 egg and a dessert spoon of pesto) for tea. To go with this, I’d defrosted some spicy tomato sauce which I’d made earlier in lockdown.

After our evening meal, as it was Saturday, we logged on to a Zoom-quiz hosted by a friend at 20:00pm.  He has up to 16 participants each week from all over the world. I also host a quiz for friends on Wednesday evenings – just six couples (which means we have to have 2 x Zoom sessions to overcome their 40-minute limit on free accounts).

* I suppose these activities haven’t really been new. Baking bread for example, I’ve done it before, but as we’re blessed locally with a superb artisan bakery I haven’t needed to bake for years. During lockdown however, I have perfected both my white and my brown bread skills. I thoroughly enjoy the kneading, the proving and the baking – it’s so rewarding. To do this I had to buy 16k of flour online as all the supermarkets were sold out. I’ve also spent the odd day bulk cooking, for the freezer, so that more of the other days can be enjoyed, rather than be spent preparing meals. Finding yeast became an issue, but I found some at a local farm shop.

Entertainment.

At other times, we’ve spent the evenings watching some of the theatre productions put out by various companies: Andrew Lloyd Weber, The National Theatre etc. YouTube has been a revelation! We’ve also started (and are presently 3/10ths of the way though) the entire series of Friends. We now have a login to Disney and have begun to watch the Star Wars films in order as well as The Marvel series (in some kind of order). We’ve finished watching the most recent series of Bosch and Outlander on Prime and the occasional film on Netflix.

Health.

I see myself as healthy, for my age (68). I am fairly fit, my walks involve distance (although not as far as pre-lockdown, because of the necessary solitariness), hill climbs (which have improved my recovery time) and regularity. I now walk more miles per week than pre-lockdown. I stopped eating fatty snacks EVERY day after a few weeks of lockdown and feel better for that. My own treatments have not been affected but those of my father have been.

Just before lockdown I went with him (he’s 92), to his doctors, and two hospital appointments were made as a result. One was exploratory and the other was to update his hearing aids as he is quite deaf.  Both were cancelled, so now over three months later, he still cannot hear and has still not been diagnosed.              

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**

Remembering lockdown.

The thing I hope to remember the lockdown by will be the wonderful weather we have experienced. The trees going through their leaf-growing process during April, their unfurled colours in May, along with the spring flowers burgeoning throughout. And all the walks. Wonderful.

The thing I want to forget. My father’s suicidal deterioration.

 

Picture Credit. Not sure to whom the b/w photo belongs. All credit to them for that. Others, my own.

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We’re coming towards the end of the U.K.’s official Week #2 of self-isolation/lock-down. This period follows a previous week of phoney-war-type self-isolation that I like to call ‘the ACTUAL first week’.

Everyone over the age of 70 and those who are deemed to be vulnerable (diabetics, pregnant women, COPD patients etc.) are required to ‘stay-in’ and to avoid all contact with others – anyone! Everyone else should work from home where possible, and where not possible, must keep themselves 2 metres away from everyone else.

Nevertheless, we’re both ok just now, we’re keeping well, we’re keeping busy (ish) and we’re not killing each other – or anyone else, yet. It helps that we’re able to go out for a spot of exercise each day or to shop for essential items (no one has said exactly what is essential – we assume foodstuffs etc.) but then, we don’t fit into any of those ‘must stay at home’ classifications above. Those folks must be bored stiff, albeit they must surely have a better chance of remaining healthy and ultimately alive.

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A hopeful picture, of a summer to come.

As the News Reports ramp up day after day, it becomes more and more obvious that, no matter who you believe, or which political party you support, we were simply not ready for Covid-19 in the U.K. Nor it seems, were many other countries. However, it is interesting to see how each one is dealing with the virus differently – with no real impact on the death count, which continues to rise and as yet, shows no sign of abating.  Here, after weeks of panic buying (toilet rolls and pasta? fgs! ) the supermarkets have introduced limits to what can be bought (e.g. Co-op 1x per item, Tesco 3x per item and Aldi 4x), how many people can be in their shop at any one time, and they have started asking folks to queue outside, each person to be 2 metres away from the other. Some of the queues outside Aldi are to be seen to be believed. But, at least everyone is trying to keep safe and the food stocks have returned to normal (ish) now.

Pandemics can never come at a good time. The last big global one (i.e. the one that killed c36 million people – HIV/AIDS) couldn’t really be caught in the same way as Covid-19; that pandemic was sexually transmitted and resulted in a much greater use of condoms. Nevertheless, HIV still casts a shadow over the world.

https://www.visualcapitalist.com/history-of-pandemics-deadliest/

The Covid-19, Corona Virus pandemic comes at an especially troubling time for us. My mum, 90, is in a care home and we are unable now to visit her. The likelihood is that I may never see her again, although to be fair she does have a very strong life ethic, and I’ve wondered how long she can last for the last 18 months, bless her. My Dad is 92 and, although VERY independent and strong willed, is slowly failing. Nevertheless, despite all advice, he goes out every day and buys his paper, his milk, his whatever. He refuses to ask either of his boys to shop for him. I speak with him a couple of times per week whenever he rings me, but I cannot ring him because he doesn’t hear the phone; all of his incoming calls are diverted to me anyway.

Fingers crossed – we hope for the best.

Links:

https://www.kirklees.gov.uk/beta/health-and-well-being/coronavirus.aspx

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

 

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I have some experience of Hard Rock Cafés; when Alison and I were in India, it was an oasis of non-spicy food (a relief when breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hotels are ‘spicy’). Whilst there, in Bangalore (Bengaluru) I bought t-shirts for Sharon and myself. They were not cheap, but the quality was good – so good that I bought Sharon a second t-shirt during my second visit to India.

29069276044_f1b6b7dce5_cThen, some years later, we were both in Seville and popped in to the Hard Rock Café as we were passing, partly for the air-conditioning and partly to see if the merchandise was as good as it was in India. It was, the cotton quality of the t-shirts was excellent although still a little expensive.

So, we were now owners of Hard Rock merchandise from Bengaluru and from Seville.

 

Time passed again and last December, whilst in Malaga, we decided to check out the newly opened Hard Rock Café on the port. Things have certainly changed!  The clothing is MUCH more expensive than it had been and the quality has deteriorated greatly with thin (cheap-feeling) cotton and poor print design. Is it me? Or has HRC decided to go down market with their merchandise and up market with the costs?

We didn’t eat at either café in Spain. Why would we?

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My non-spicy burger in Bengaluru

 

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indexWe Spent a couple of weeks in Spain, early in December before returning home on the 19th.  Because of this we’d used postal votes in the election for what good they eventually did.

I may well reflect on the election result and what that may mean later.

This year, we stayed at home to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with family and friends. It is the first time in many a year that we have been home at that time of year. But, it was very enjoyable.

We spent Christmas Day ay Betony and Josh’s.  I think that I believed Betony’s invite to be along the lines of come along and I’ll do Christmas dinner but I was mistaken. I spent a fair bit of Christmas Eve doing food preparation for the day (making soup, cooking ham, peeling vegetables, preparing stuffing etc.) and then Sharon went along on the day to ‘help’ do the cooking.  The meal was great, the company was great and it was a pleasure to be cooked for on the day.

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Following that, we went up to Carol’s on Boxing Day to join her and Mick for what turned out to be a meal. Others had been invited too, but apart from Joanne and family, they had been and gone by the time we got there.  So, we all played cards with Florence, while Carol and Joanne finished off in the kitchen.  Another really enjoyable day.

On the 28th, we went up to Emma’s for tea. We took Chester with us too as Betony was a bit poorly and tired (she’s pregnant too).  It was great to see the girls again. We’d been up at the beginning of December for Amy’s birthday but that was a school night, so we didn’t see much of them. Today’s meal was great too, two kinds of pork from the local butcher’s https://www.jbrindonaddy.co.uk/ – Thank you Emma, another lovely day.

For several years prior to us wintering in Spain, Sharon and I had alternated New Year’s Eves entertaining or being entertained by Tony and Gill.  Having decided to spend late December in the U.K. this year we were able to recommence this arrangement. We invited David and Gail to join us and a jolly time was had by all.  We had –

Parsnip and Ginger Soup;

Cod wrapped in Serrano Ham, baked and served with mustard sauce;

Carrillada with creamed potatoes and broccoli,

Chocolate Pudding and…

Cheese.

We arrived in Spain late on the 3rd January 2020 and I’ll pick up the story now, over on the holiday weblog.

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It’s come to this then. A General Election.

You have to admire Boris Johnson, who by some fluke (or subterfuge) is now our Prime Minister; despite (or because of) his downright shamelessness.

His lies (to parliament, to the Queen, to the population at large), his misdirection’s, his sheer gall when dealing with the thorny Brexit problem and his two-facedness have now resulted in a General Election.

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This will be first General Election to be held in December for almost a hundred years.

And, the Tories will win.

In reality, this General Election has been called because Johnson leads a minority government.

It has not been called to sort out our relationship with the EU, although that is the bluster Johnson has used.  There are enough ‘single-issue’ Brexit supporters in the country to believe that this is the only thing that matters. 

Screenshot 2019-11-06 at 09.47.54Johnson eventually managed to present parliament with a ‘deal’ that they really could not deny, given that their previous (many) denials were because of the Irish Backstop

All he had to do was move the border from where it used to be (from Lough Foyle in the north of Ireland to Carlingford Lough in the northeast [1]) and into the middle of the Irish Sea.

I’m not sure what the Irish government think of that – or, in the long run what the inhabitants of Ulster think.

The Tories will, for the first time in two years, govern with a comfortable majority.  By the time this term is finished, we will have had a Conservative government for the best part of fifteen years (although it was initially bolstered by the Liberal party, who jumped at the chance of being in power for a while). My friend Jim Scott used to say “scratch a Liberal, find a Tory”.

Screenshot 2019-11-01 at 00.12.43Economy
So, despite ten years of austerity caused by the crash/recession of the late noughties and despite the ensuing (many) redundancies and bankruptcies, there still seems to be a feeling amongst the general public that the Tories have been good for the economy over those ten years. 

They have not!Screenshot 2019-11-06 at 14.35.45Despite all the most painful government cutbacks, the national debt has almost doubled since 2010.  The UK National Debt went over £1 trillion in 2011 and by budget time in March 2020 it is estimated to be £1.84 trillion [2]

The public has have been so misinformed by the popular press over the last four years, that Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, has been demonised beyond redemption. Despite his party’s successes in the 2017 General Election, he is still thought by many to be a terrorist sympathiser, an extreme left-wing ‘communist’ and a downright baddy.  And, because of that, many say they will not vote Labour.  That is like turkeys denying that Christmas is coming.

One man is not his party.  Which is something we should remember when ‘we’ think that Boris Johnson is a lovable old rogue.

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The Liberal Party say that they will ‘Revoke Article 50’, which, if this were a normal General election, would make no sense on its own, but as many voters think that Brexit is the one single issue, they (the Liberals), may well pick up some votes.  However, I wouldn’t trust a word the Liberals say in their as yet to be seen manifesto, because in 2010 they said they would not implement university fees and they said they would fight for proportional representation, amongst other things. Yet none of these promises were fulfilled once they had snuggled up with the Tories.

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The NHS
The NHS has been under funded and under scrutiny for many years now.  I know that the initial bids for private tender were first allowed back in the 1980’s – but this has continued to increase exponentially over the last ten years.

‘There are clearly different ways of calculating how much NHS money is spent on NHS services provided by private companies. However, the bottom line is that – however the figures are arrived at – healthcare in England is now much less directly provided by the NHS than most people think.’

Also

‘There are also concerns about whether or not private companies are avoiding paying tax on their profits. For example, Virgin Care pays no tax in the UK: it’s parent company is registered in the British Virgin Islands.’

http://www.patients4nhs.org.uk/private-companies-involvement-in-the-nhs/

Screenshot 2019-11-02 at 08.43.16

Hospitals up and down the country are also under threat of closure, e.g.

and yet, we see stories of a future Tory government issuing more contracts to private companies, including drug companies based in the USA. The Conservative party really couldn’t care less about the NHS.

Screenshot 2019-10-30 at 15.49.13I know that this has been a fairly long rant, but I had to get it off my chest. I still have lots of thoughts about how the future will affect me personally, but I worry much more about the future for younger generations. If zero-hour contracts are allowed to flourish, how will young families ever afford to make their way in an increasingly ‘dog-eat-dog’ world? Since the Tories took over, the education system has become one that teaches young people to ‘pass the test’, rather than ‘how to think’. Perhaps that is because ‘the elite’ don’t want to have a well educated ‘under class’?  Who knows. Perhaps I don’t and never will, but I do feel much better for having had this rant.

I know that many will have differing views to me and I respect that. Please respect mine.


Previous election rants.

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2016/07/19/feeling-disenfranchised/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/come-what-may/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2016/06/11/staying-in/


Like I said:

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Is this still available? Why do people ask that of online sellers and then not pursue the inquiry?

Because we have recently been clearing out what was our old house, now vacated by Betony and family, we have had quite a few things to get rid of.  We’ve made several trips to  charity shops (and the tip) but some items are simply too valuable to go via that route.

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So, as it’s worked for us before, I have been listing quite a few items on Facebook’s Market Place.  These are then shared with various other Facebook Groups to widen and localise the spread.

However, I’ve had an uncounted number of “Is this still available?” messages, all of which I have replied to.  At first, I would give them my phone number and ask for them to text me (or send a direct message; DM), to discuss the need for further contact details – I now simply say ‘Yes – are you still interested?”. 9.5 times out of ten there is no answer.  At all.  Why?

Where a sale has been agreed, the sale has gone off without a hitch and some things have ‘gone’.  However, we do still have a number of things that really need re-homing soon.

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Local Charities:

https://www.kirkwoodhospice.co.uk/

https://www.forgetmenotchild.co.uk/our-shops

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All credit to artist – stolen by me from FB

 

 

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I can’t say that we were over impressed with Jerez.  Sadly, because I had built up a fairly high impression of what it would be like, I was quite disappointed. I expected a gentility that simply wasn’t there (imho).

Jerez de la Frontera is:

  1. Home to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, which, according to Wikipedia, is one of the four greatest schools of horsemanship in the world.
  2. Host to an International Grand Prix circuit, used for MotoGP, F1, F2 and World Superbike championships.
  3. Home for most of the world’s sherry producers and the spiritual home to one of the biggest producers, Gonzalez Byass.

 Yet, despite all this, it appeared to me to be run down and dirty.

I accept that Jerez is a very old city, with a rich and varied history, but, despite the prestige and money those international events/producers bring into the city, along with tourists, it wears an air of neglect.  We have visited several old cities in Spain with equally rich and varied histories but they have been cleaner and their buildings have, to a large extent, been or are being maintained. I’m thinking here of Salamanca, Avila, Toledo, Cordoba and Segovia – none have the aforementioned air of neglect and yet, all have similarly long and unique histories.

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unpleasant tapas

The old town’s main square and streets off it, house the restaurants and bars that provide food and drink for tourists and locals alike.  Certainly, the town comes alive at night with tables popping up where none were to be seen at lunchtime.  We chose badly at lunchtime; presented with what were probably the worst tapas we’ve ever eaten: Over vinegared Ensalada Rusa (why vinegar? Why?), Queso that began to sweat in the heat, tab-end sized Croquetas (with soggy fries for garnish) and a fairly tasty piece of ‘Lomo’ in sherry sauce – covered with soggy fries again.

Our evening meal was better.IMG_1823 copy

Sharon had spent a bit of time on Trip Advisor and had come up with a number of options for us to dine at.  I put the first one (top of the list) into MapsDotMe and off we went.  Sharon saw something on the menu that she liked and I knew I would find something, so we stopped there – there was no point dragging ourselves around the town. Bar Juanito looked to be a nice place, and it was – see my review on Trip Advisor.

Before eating lunch, we’d decided to take the tourist bus-trip (City Sightseeing Jerez) which for €17 also includes a tour of the Bodegas Tio Pepe, the home of Gonzalez Byass in Jerez.  The bus trip itself was interesting enough, and explained much of Jerez’s history.  One fact that stuck with me was that many years ago (perhaps hundreds?) the city fathers allowed people to erect buildings alongside the more ancient city walls.  The idea being that this would help to preserve and protect those walls.  However, as we were driven past, I noticed that the buildings that had been erected are also falling into disrepair.  It’s sad that a city of this note and with this heritage cannot be better looked after.

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Our trip around Bodegas Tio Pepe was interesting and by far the more entertaining time of our trip. It is followed by a tasting of Tio Pepe itself and of Croft Original.

Our hotel had been chosen for its position, its price and its description on Booking dotcom.  Although we’d booked and paid to visit the Jeys Catedral Jerez, the hotel seemed to be called Hotel Belles Artes (as well?) – see my review on Trip Advisor.

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Why is it, every time we come close to an election (local and EU are both planned for this month) that pensioners are demonised as a drain on society?

The recent news from the house of Lords [http://tiny.cc/tj105y] comes as no surprise but it is alarming and everyone should take note, not just pensioners.

A report from the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision has made wide-ranging recommendations on benefits for the elderly, calling for much of the help for older generations to be curtailed.

Lord True is the chair of this particular Lord’s committee.

You will all be/get old one day. 

You will all (in the main) have paid into society for all of your lives: via National Insurance, income tax, V.A.T., petrol tax etc.

Olwyn and AlbertI know that when I started my post-compulsory educational life (at 15) I expected to pay into a national health system (the NHS itself is a whole ‘other’ blog post) along with the subsequent pension, that then required 45 years of input.  It was my insurance policy for old age.  The 45 years changed over time, but by whatever measure you use, I paid IN to the system and am now benefiting from that by taking OUT no more, no less than I expected.

  • I get a basic national pension, (reduced by who knows what % because I also had the foresight to fight for my work-based pension rights. See below #4),
  • I get free bus travel (see below #1),
  • I get free prescriptions (see below #2) and …
  • I get a winter fuel allowance (see below #3).

All of which are under threat by the discussions now taking place.

#1 – Free Bus travel.

This is a benefit that I hadn’t expected at the age of 15 but one I became aware of as my life progressed. Once anyone reached the age of 60, they used to get a free bus pass. I got mine because my age ran alongside that of women who were being forced to wait, incrementally, until they were 65 to collect their pensions (again – see #4).

  • Without the pensioner bus pass subsidy, I suspect there wouldn’t be many off-peak buses running and that the peak-time buses would be far more expensive – meaning that even those who pay now, would pay even more.
  • Without the pensioner bus pass, far fewer old folk would get out and about. I’m lucky, I live in a village where most things are available to me (all kinds of shops, an Aldi, pubs and restaurants) but many are not so lucky. Even getting out to meet other people is something older folk need to do. Otherwise, they become isolated, reclusive and progressively ill. Unfortunately, many pensioners could not afford to ‘get out and about’ with bus fares being what they are.
  • Without a pensioner bus pass, pensioners who by nature of their age are becoming more infirm, would not be able to easily visit their doctors or to attend their increasingly distant hospital appointments.
  • Without my own pensioner bus pass, the weekly walks I have with John would be far less exciting. One of us would have to drive, adding our four wheels and fumes to an already overcrowded infrastructure.

#2 – Free Prescriptions

Free prescriptions have been on and off for everyone throughout my life, not just pensioners.  They are a political hot-potato.  At the age of 60, they again became free. As we reach old age, we require more health preserving drugs and medicines. These help to stave off the infirmity mentioned earlier. The free drugs and medicines given out are generic, so no (much more expensive) named brands are available this way – why should the drug companies be made even richer! I do not abuse the system and fully understand why folk get upset to hear of (e.g.) paracetamols being prescribed. However, I believe that this is changing and wait to see exactly how it all pans out.

#3 – Winter Fuel allowance

This one came as a surprise at 60.  A nice surprise, but one that for me was not strictly necessary. I used the £200 to buy wood for my log burner in the first few years and if it helped those who DO NEED THE SUPPORT, I would be happy to give it up (the same would apply to post-75 free T.V. licences mentioned in the report).

#4 – Pension v benefit

This one makes me furious. The U.K. does not have the best pension in the world and there are many sites on the internet which contradict each other about how the pension is calculated. Nevertheless, it is a pension. It is something that most workers pay into for their entire working lives – it is NOT a benefit.

Women, who used to be allowed to retire at 60, now have to wait until they are 65. Soon (next year) both men and women will have to wait until they are 66 to retire and changes are even planned to increase that age. https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/money-legal/pensions/state-pension/changes-to-state-pension-age/#

There are more changes planned. From 2019, the State Pension age will increase for both men and women to reach 66 by October 2020.

The Government is planning further increases, which will raise the State Pension age from 66 to 67 between 2026 and 2028. (via AgeUK)

This might (just) have been fair if the person was told at the beginning of their working life that their retirement age would change – rather than towards the middle or end of their working life.

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And all of this is despite the UK’s life expectancy rates stalling https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45096074  We’re still getting older, but at a slower rate. Nevertheless, we are not staying healthy longer and demanding that an aging population stay at work even longer simply seems to be a way of ensuring that age expectancy reduces, rather than stalls. 

Can YOU imagine being a manual worker; told to work for up to (and eventually more) two years (seven in the case of women) before collecting their pension?

Retirement image courtesy of https://pixabay.com/images/search/royalty%20free/

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