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Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

They say that if you keep your brain active and alert, it will slow down or prevent the onset of dementia.  

As a retiree, I find the eventual possibility and onset of dementia worrying.  I therefore keep as active as I can, I read copiously, I undertake puzzles and games on my iPad and I complete jig-saw puzzles.

All of this (hopefully) helps to prevent my memory from deteriorating too quickly.

It is also suggested that learning a new language can help to slow down the process of age related memory loss – or brain ageing.

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Well, bully for me – because I am desperately trying to learn Spanish.

However, I’ve never been good with language classes.

At secondary school, French was a subject only accessible to the top class (class ‘A’).  It took me a few years to reach that level and once I started to move up through ‘B’ and finally to the ‘A’ class, it was not accessible to me because I’d missed those early years. Later, at catering college, French Language was offered on Friday afternoons but it was not interesting and made no sense to my sixteen-year-old self.  Yet, the ‘kitchen’ French I learned in normal catering classes WAS interesting and I devoured that. I have always been able to decipher menus during the (roughly) thirty consecutive years I have visited France.

As a young adult, I attended evening classes, to learn German. I enjoyed those as they were aimed at grown-ups and Jill, the teacher, was fabulous.  I passed my Institute of Linguists ‘preliminary’ exam – no worries. The second year didn’t take off however and my interest lapsed.

I picked up French again when I began teaching, but by now it just seemed very hard and my progress was very slow.  I tried lunchtime courses, evening courses and – just a few years ago I attended an inclusive course in Sancerre.  I can get by in French. I can get by in German. But I cannot converse in either language.  Anything other than travel requisites (food, drink, fuel, rooms, tables, directions) and I begin to flounder.

I do not want that to happen with my Spanish. 

se habla español

I want to communicate socially and conversationally. 

To be fair, I am probably already at the stage it took me thirty years to reach in French, but it seems to be SO DIFFICULT.

And yet, I’m still avoiding formal classes.

Formal classes haven’t worked for me so far, so I’m undertaking some self-directed learning for now.  I’m using Duolingo as my base and have just recently completed ninety consecutive days of learning.  Each ‘day’ has a minimum of 10 minutes – I set that up at the beginning. I often do far more than that, but on busy days the minimum is 10 minutes.  I’ve found that online learning works ok for me, but that it does still lead to some confusion.  I therefore back up my learning on other sites and dictionaries. Google Translate is a Godsend.

750px-Flag_map_of_Spain.svgBecause Duolingo is available on the computer, as well as on my iPhone and iPad, it is constantly available.  If I stop for a coffee, instead of simply reading Facebook posts, I can complete a five-minute lesson on Duolingo, or its sister App Tinycards.  As time passes I find myself going over lessons more and more because the new words are taking much longer for me to process.

And that’s the thing:  How much more vocabulary do I need (do we need, as Sharon is also trying to learn Spanish) before I start to think in Spanish?  Some words and phrases come immediately to mind, without thinking what I need to say and, to be more fluent/competent, this needs to happen more often.

I have recently been given some children’s crime/adventure books, in Spanish, which I am beginning to wade through just now.  I know about 20% of the words on the page and understand about 40% of what is going on – but I have to stop and translate whole sentences to get the full gist.  I’m enjoying doing that – so perhaps all is not as bad as I think.

After all I studied for and achieved a Masters Degree – how hard can this be?

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Yesterday, I visited mum and dad to be with them when the Locala lady, Yasmin, came to assess their bathroom needs.  She, Yasmin was lovely and very helpful.Cold-call-flickr:markhillary:964441032-2

While they were all talking in the bathroom, I took a call on my parent’s landline.  It started with “hello, Mr Sugden??” [a short breath], “is that Mr. Sugden??” I said that it was (well it was! – not the one she wanted but …) and she started again “hello Mr Sugden, please don’t worry, this is not a nuisance call but we’re an energy saving company, working in the area and can save you £400 per year”.  Well, much of that is paraphrased, but it WAS an unsolicited call aimed at tricking old folks out of their money.  The manner in which the words were addressed at me was soothing, confident and understanding and in no way the sort of sales call that I might get on my own landline.  She went on to say “I just have a few questions to ask you – none of them personal so …” – I interrupted at this point to ask where she got ‘my’ details from; she said “I have them here, on my list”. I asked her to remove ‘my’ details from her list and never to ring this number again.

I didn’t get her company name. My parents are listed on the national TPS

“elderly people receiving an average of 39 nuisance calls a month – 50% more than the general population” – (https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/aug/06/phone-service-protect-elderly-fraudsters-nuisance-calls )

All of that would have been ok but later, when my parents and Yasmin were talking in the kitchen, I answered a knock on the door.  A guy, probably in his late fifties, looked visible shocked to see me answer it [I don’t think that I look like Mr. Gullible – yet] and asked “Mrs? sorry Mr Sugden??” I said yes, I’m one of them!  At which point I guess he knew the game was up.  He told me he’s come about the mattress they had discussed with my mother on the phone the previous day.  I told him that my mother has Alzheimer’s disease and that he/they shouldn’t be cold calling old folks like that.

I only managed to get the name on his van – Mobility Care – and the telephone code 0115 so that could be http://www.mobilitycareproducts.co.uk/ in Derbyshire.  If I’m wrong, I apologise unreservedly – but if Mobility Care is the company who are cold calling old folks – then shame on you.

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Photo Credit
Mark Hillary: https://www.flickr.com/photos/markhillary/964441032 – with thanks for using Creative Commons

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Following on from my previous post about my mum’s fading memory – https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2017/05/04/memory-test/ today was the day we visited the specialist doctor.

Sharon and I accompanied her to the same place as before.

Mum’s memory function has deteriorated quite a bit since the first visit almost two months ago; not so much that she has no awareness of things around her, but nevertheless, there has been a significant decline. E.g. she introduced me to the doctor as her brother.

So, we were not expecting any ‘good’ news.

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The CT scan she’d had showed nothing more than age-related deterioration, her pulse is perfect (72) and the only ‘bad’ (inasmuch as it’s not a worry for this memory process, but it’s not ‘good’) is that her eGFR1 (estimated glomerular filtration rate2) was only 35. This could be another issue to watch, given that it shows moderate to severe loss of kidney function, but for now I’ll stick to the issue of memory.

The doctor mentioned dementia, but then avoided it suggesting that she didn’t like the word (neither do I) and towards the end of our interview suggested that this was Alzheimer’s, without actually dwelling on that. I suspect that once the paperwork all comes through – that’s what will be the diagnosis.

As part of this process, mum had also had to have an ECG, the result of which is that she has to visit the hospital again on July 31st, to see a cardiologist. Today’s doctor knew nothing about that – but promised to follow it up, especially as the drug she was prescribing for my mum depended on heart rate to a certain extent. She phoned me about an hour later to say that the G.P. was out right now, but that she would be in touch again next week. The medication aims to slow down the memory loss process.

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We were then introduced to the local Making Space representative. Making Space provide specialist dementia care alongside support for sufferers that enables them to stay in their own home for as long as possible. At this early stage, we only required information, advice and guidance. Sharon, the lady we met, was superb and was able to put my mum’s mind at rest and to answer the questions we had brought. She is sending me leaflets to read and more information about the services available to my parents. My job will be convincing my dad to take some, if not all of these up.

Some of the support I will be aiming for over the next few weeks will be to find an Admiral Nurse5 to pick up on my mum; to get my dad to reconsider applying for a Power of Attorney over my mum’s health and finances and to apply for Attendance Allowance on behalf of my mum.

Sharon, at Making Space has promised help with all of those.

References

Photo Credits:

https://pixabay.com/p-544403/?no_redirect

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It’s now early February and I’m nearing the end of my sixty fifth birthday celebrations. After the UK celebrations, I decided I would spend two months in Spain. That time is almost up.

It’s been a fabulous stay, with friends popping in from time to time and a break (a big break) from the UK winter weather.

Following the celebrations at home, we set off on 12th December to stay in the Premier Inn at Heald Green, close to Manchester Airport. We arrived here in Torreblanca on the 13th https://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/winter-201617/ and spent the Christmas and New Year period on our own, mainly just Sharon and me. Early on, she took me for a great day out in Malaga, on a food tour https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/malaga-food-tour/ . See also: http://devourmalagafoodtours.com/

We also went for lots of walks. For example: up and down the hill lots of times; to and from Fuengirola, Los Boliches or Torreblanca (quite often!). We also caught the train to Torremolinos and walked back to Benalmadena a couple of times.

I’ve written elsewhere about our walks up and around the hills behind the apartment for exploration. See:

fullsizerender-3Michelle came up from Gibraltar one day before Christmas and we took her up to Mijas before deciding it was too cold up there and coming back down to Los Boliches and eating in Mason Salvador. She came up to see us again early in the New Year and we took her for a day out in Malaga. As in all the subsequent visits (with JT, DT and Tony, as well as with Martin and Lin), we visited the marina, the castle (Castillo de Gibralfaro) and the city itself, sampling some of the places Sharon and I had enjoyed on the food tour.

Sharon had to return to the UK for a couple of weeks on 12th January and while she was away, friends came over and stayed with me.

3-amigosJohn (JT) came out to visit first and we went more or less straight down to Gibraltar to see Michelle (his daughter) and we spent the day there with friends and shopping. Michelle cooked a delightful Pork Fillet Wellington for dinner – splendid.  John’s brother David (DT) came out on the Sunday to stay in 916 and Tony (TT) flew in on the Tuesday; so, there was quite a crossover of friends whilst Sharon was back in the UK. We ‘did’ Malaga again and walked up to Mijas (twice, once with JT and Dt and again then, with TT – we also walked back – which nearly broke me J )

Most evenings we ate out, but one rainy evening, the weather was so bad that we decided to come straight back and ‘eat in’. This was probably the best meal of their stay; we had all sorts of food, DT cooked steak, I cooked Tortilla and we emptied our fridges of other cold foods and salads (and beer).

three-amigos

Sharon arrived back the same day that Lin and Martin arrived to stay with us for a week. During that week, we had trips to Mijas, to Malaga and to Gibraltar where Michelle, again did us proud. She drove us onto The Rock and gave us a magnificent tour, showing us viewing points and time to see the marching re-enactment of the ceremony of the keys. http://www.visitgibraltar.gi/event/re-enactment-association-saturday-march/187. We had a late lunch in La Linea before setting off back before it was too dark.

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So that’s it. All visitors arrived home safely and we depart on Sunday.  Back again soon.

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I was sixty-five this month.

To celebrate a lifetime of learning and working, I invited six of my closest chums to join Sharon and me for dinner at The Watermill in Slaithwaite. John R, I met during my first week at secondary school (I met his wife Sandy, when they married). John T, I met when playing rugby and after my family had moved from Sheepridge to Deighton. I met Carol later in life when we all met up again a few years later. Tony and I met in mid-life, when we attended teacher training college. We followed that up by working together in a catering business/franchise, which is when I met Gill, his wife.  We have all done all sorts of things, together and apart.  We had a great meal, followed by dessert at home (Sharon had made cake and Carol had made us tub of her bombe 🙂 ).

img_7450Prior to this, we held open house on the Saturday before my birthday.  Almost forty friends from various parts of my life (and life line) came along to this and we all had a great time chatting and reminiscing.

I had decided to provide a selection of Spanish dishes, tapas size, with beer and cava brought back from Spain in October. Sharon decorated the house in a pseudo Spanish style with a big flag, an inflatable beer island, an inflatable cactus and lots of streamers.

I prepared:

  • EMPANADILLAs, made from potatoes, swede, cheese and onion (baked not fried).
  • I sliced some Spanish Sheep (oveja) cheese. We’d probably call it MANCHEGO.
  • I cooked TORTILLA. Each filled with six eggs, potato and onion. 12 portions each.
  • PATATAS BRAVAS – roast potatoes with spicy tomato sauce.
  • ALBONDIGAS – mixed pork and beef meatballs in a tomato sauce.
  • I also made my version of the Spanish SALAD RUSSE with lots of potato and vegetables (and a little tuna in some).
  • and .. Sharon made a wonderful BEETROOT HUMOUS

I had also made my own focaccia bread to go with all this. As it didn’t turn out quite right, I toasted small pieces of this in the oven – which made it perfect. People pretty much helped themselves while I sliced the main act, SERRANO HAM, off the bone as required.  Thank you for this Aldi!

Emma and family had not been able to make the open house as it was Amy’s birthday, but they came around the following week for a meal. I invited my mum and dad to this too as I wouldn’t see them for the best part of two months afterwards.

So, I’ve had a great birthday month. I’m in Spain now and will receive my birthday gift from Sharon on Tuesday when she takes me on a surprise ‘something’ in Malaga. I’m looking forward to that.

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My friend John (Gav’s dad) and I spend hours talking about this and that whilst we’re out walking. Anything, in fact – not just this and that. We talk about politics, religion, sex, marriage, shopping, gardening, DIY – and more surreal things that wouldn’t stand the reaction of others, not attuned to our range of discussion.

However, one disturbing discussion that we often drift into, perhaps more surreal than the others; is that we might in fact be just two old men, already gaga, lost our memories, pumped with drugs and sat outside a care facility – dreaming that ALL THIS, is JUST A DREAM. ‘This’ being the world around us.img_0163

Imagine if you took a powerful sleeping draught at some point early in 2016 and you have just woken to the news that your favourite celebrity was dead: http://www.legacy.com/news/galleries/celebrity-deaths/gallery/2016-celebrity-deaths/292092, that Britain had narrowly voted to leave Europe, that Boris Johnson was now foreign secretary, that David Cameron had stepped aside for Theresa May and that Donald Trump, would in January 2017 become leader of the free world, having just won the U.S. presidential election. WHAT!!!

First of all – leave Europe?  How did that happen?  http://www.richardcorbett.org.uk/long-list-leave-lies/ how will that turn out!

Then Donald Trump – really? The wall building, Mexican hating, misogynistic racist Donald Trump? http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-deport-immigrants-immediately-when-mexico-wall-a7415116.html how will that turn out!

I think I need to go back to my rocking chair, plug in to some David Bowie and go back to sleep.

 

 

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I feel disenfranchised.

I really do. And so, I have to get this off my chest and put it somewhere to reflect on some years down the line.

I lost the 2010 election, because the Liberal party I voted for decided to aid and abet the Tory party I especially didn’t (and would never) vote for. I lost the 2015 election because the Labour party I voted for on this occasion, were, after five years in opposition, so weak and namby pamby that they didn’t have a chance!  Well, they sort of had a chance but were seen for what they are in Scotland and lost all their historic seats to an emergent Scottish national party – leaving the Tory ‘winners’ with a clear majority (on a 66% turnout) and free to wreak havoc on the NHS and our position in Europe.

The labour party; the one I voted for in 2015, were and are still in turmoil. The liberal party (the one I had traditionally voted for and whose social policies most closely matched my own views) were almost completely obliterated; their decision to back a vicious evil-banker-supporting, common-people-hating Tory party for five years – coupled with the fact that they dropped the most important policies they had campaigned for, made them factio non grata (or something like that).

Because Scotland had returned so many Scottish Nationalists (SNP) in 2015, it would seem that Labour have no chance of forming any government, at any time in the future, without the support of various Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish nationalist parties. Fair enough, that’s politics.

However, I even lost the IN v OUT referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU).

[A referendum on such an important matter should NEVER have been put to the populace. Never. Unlike a general election – where once we’ve cast our votes the successful party has five years to prove itself. Then at least, whether they like it or not, we get another chance to tell them what we think – this referendum result however, is permanent.]

Just less than 52% of my UK compatriots voted for OUT (on a 73% turnout). I was one of the just more than 48% to vote REMAIN. The fallout since that historic vote on June 23rd 2016 has been astonishing. Despite all of the information and (mostly) misinformation, from both sides, we are faced with a new regime, as the prime minister (who backed REMAIN) immediately resigned and left the celebrants to sort out the mess they had created.

AND what a mess!!!!

Just over one week later, leaders of the OUT campaign had failed to agree on a way forward and many had resigned (Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage). Some were even heard to retract the lies they had spouted during the long and windy campaign. Really? They hadn’t a clue what to do now!

So, the time between then and now (late July 2016) has been spent choosing (anointing) a new Tory Prime Minister, with vicious in-fighting in the labour party and with what to do with Article 50 (and when).

But events and decisions around those three issues are just too stagering to comment on, so just a few highlights:

  • Teresa May is P.M.
    • She appointed Boris Johnson as foreign secretary (!!!!!)
    • She sacked Michael Gove (yeah!)
    • She scares me
  • Jeremy Corbyn is labour leader (just)
    • He was balmed by media for the ‘out’ vote despite campaigning against his personal beliefs for ‘in’
    • There is a leadership battle within the labour party which seems to falling into Parliamentary Labour Party versus Members, and everything possible is being done by the PLP to prevent members voting for Corbyn. [I have thoughts on that too but not here and now]
  • Scotland, Gibraltar, London and Northern Ireland are all looking for ways to stay in Europe when/if (and ‘if’ is just as likely) Britain leaves.
  • Article 50 is a hot potato no one wants to be invoke or be responsible for.

REMAIN

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-news-second-eu-referendum-leave-voters-regret-bregret-choice-in-millions-a7113336.html

 

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