Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
Posted: January 27th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
I recently came across a copy of the 1958 issue of my school magazine. Looking back, it was a strange place. We were urged to venerate distinguished old boys, of whom Wilberforce (William, not Soapy Sam) was one. As was Andrew Marvell, though reading To His Coy Mistress was not encouraged.
Reading through the magazine brought back many memories, mostly happy. The headmaster was fond of orotund phrases. His deputy saw his role as interpreter of the great man’s words. Once before speech day the head lectured us about appropriate behaviour, with the final injunction “no masticating oleaginous comestibles!”, swept majestically out of the hall. Up stepped his deputy and in his broad Yorkshire accent translated “Think on, boys. No gum!”.
I am now a governor of a school of similar vintage and similar history, a very fine comprehensive school. My old head would be appalled on both counts; me a governor, the school a comprehensive. As I read the magazine I was struck by how much things have changed.
The absence of Latin and Greek today, for example. It is not possible to read my school magazine with full understanding without knowing some Latin, and indeed some of my schoolmasters would revert to it under stress. Today, at Malton School, the teachers are pretty much cast from the same mould but more stressed, and none of them carries a stick. Science in my day was secondary, the choice for boys of low imagination and bad haircuts, but it is through science that Malton School most notably expresses its excellence. Plenty of bad haircuts still.
It is hard not to feel nostalgia for one’s own schooldays at this distance, and grateful as I am to the school for what it gave me I am aware that pupils are much better served now in important ways, especially I think in the expressive arts. In my day, if you had no artistic or musical ability you were pretty much ignored, and the focus was all on those who could draw, or paint or play the violin.
Or sing. In my first music lesson aged eleven my asthmatic music master, the legendary Mr “Wheezy” Graydon, set about discovering a song we had all memorised at primary schools (Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill,I remember), accompanied us on a couple of run-throughs on his Steinway, and then set us off singing unaccompanied while he crept along the rows listening to us over our shoulders. I never understood why he listened from behind; was it to avoid the halitosis, that by-product of the bad dentistry of the day? Anyway, he tapped the occasional boy on the shoulder, including me. Good, I’m in the choir, I thought. Not a bit of it. The boys so touched were, he said, tone deaf and henceforth would in school be known as Non-singers, obliged to mime. And a Non-singer I remain.
And that was it for me, musically speaking. I was never taught to be, what most of us after all are, a consumer of music, an informed listener. Same thing in art; I was never shown how intelligently to look at paintings, nor taught any art history. The only grounding I was given, and that incidentally, was from Bible Studies, which enabled me to identify themes and episodes so prevalent in classical art and music. To this day I feel short changed, especially as far as music goes. Actually, I am not tone deaf, just not a very good singer; who knows what I might have achieved had I been given some attention and not misdiagnosed. Even with poor hearing. Look at Beethoven.
Such a brutal approach would not be tolerated today, even though few schools can boast a Steinway. I am, however, glad of the Latin and Greek; very useful when solving crossword puzzles.
Posted: January 26th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Life Stories | Comments Off
Dr Penny Aeberhard retired as a GP in 2005. In 2007 she volunteered to teach gynaecology skills in Nepal.
“Before starting out, I refreshed my supply of books for use in the developing world, buying the newest edition of “Where Women have no Doctor”, a manual in leprosy and the Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicines. I also packed my book on “Hindu and Buddist Myths”, knitting, music tapes, a small radio for the BBC world service and my laptop.
I found myself on the rim of the Kathmandu valley amidst stunning scenery but with somewhat changeable mountain weather. Manmohan Community Hospital had been built 2 years earlier by a partnership of 2 Nepalese NGOs. Serving 63,000 people, the Hospital had 7 general beds, three maternity plus the labour bed, X ray and basic pathology.
After a week of fact finding, I presented my thoughts to the management committee who agreed that I would spend my remaining time on management and training.
I kept sane in my six and a half day week by good reflection time in pleasant if simple surroundings, warm and friendly people, local walks, reading, and the BBC news .
After I returned home, I received an email from one of the doctors: “Though it was a very short time I had the opportunity to be with you. But I have learned lot of ideas to run the hospital perfectly. It is not a matter of relation between doctor and patients but also between the staff and administration which I am trying to improve. Everybody got their third dose of hepatitis B vaccination. Cleaning commete also working very smoothly.” (sic)
With continued frustration in the NHS, it is good to feel creative and unencumbered by paper, computers and red tape.”
A longer version of this article first appeared in the RCGP International Newsletter Summer 2007.
Posted: January 22nd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: New products!, Press coverage | Comments Off
This week’s Design Week featured a photo of our innovative double handled teapot made for us by Reckless Designs.
Posted: January 21st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Grandparents, Miscellaneous | Comments Off
As part of the battle to capture the public’s imagination before the election, Ed Balls announced this week “a new package of measures to support modern families in the 21st century”.
“Support for All – the Families and Relationships Green Paper’ sets out “how the Government can support all families, help to prevent and resolve marriage and relationship breakdown, support and recognise dads and grandparents, improve flexible working for families, and give more targeted support to families in need”. Goodness. Well, that sorts that, then.
What particularly drew my eye was the proposed launch of a new dedicated website for grandparents, ‘BeGrand’ which will “offer tips and advice on getting involved in their grandchildren’s lives, including online advisors, a directory of services and peer support”.
A quick google search brings up www.begrand.net. And what an odd fish this is, starting with the name. Not an obvious choice of name, I would have thought. Of course, the reason they could not use something with “grandparents” in the title is that there are already a number of good sites set up to give advice to grandparents, not least The Grandparents Association which is one of the partners to the project.
BeGrand is not as you might expect a hub for all government related information and agencies. The BeGrand site explains that it “provides information, advice and a welcoming community for grandparents. We have articles, factsheets, quizzes, surveys, resources, activities and helpful guides to making best use of the internet.”
The site is free to use and join and will “offer selected deals and partnerships with products and shops” which it seems will be used to fund the ongoing costs of the website.
So where is the government connection? Reading through the small print, we learn that the website received initial funding from the Parent Know How project, which is a project led by central government’s Department of Children, Schools and Families. So is this, then, the website promised by Ed Balls and if so, just how much input has the DCS&F had into its content? Particularly if the website is going to promote private sector products and services, I would suggest that this relationship needs to be clear.
The site does not officially launch until the end of the month and it looks like the content is still being finalised. It will be interesting to see how this project progresses.
Posted: January 20th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | 1 Comment »
I couldn’t get to the Pox Doctors’ Feast in the end; snowed in. I am very disappointed not to have been there because I hold in high regard the doctor in whose honour it was arranged, and clearly I am not alone in that as I hear that many speeches were made, piling praise upon him. Had I been there I would have spoken briefly to tell a story of one occasion when I visited him in Belfast.
Dr Gryppekchok-Titely is his name – actually it isn’t, of course, I made it up to avoid unsettling litigation.
He enjoys a good dinner does Dr G-T and on one of my visits we went to what was then one of the few good restaurants in the city, called I think Roscoffs. We dined well, I met the chef who was something of a celebrity, and we had a little drink. W
hen we got back to his home we decided to have another little drink and he went off to find a bottle, leaving me in a comfortable room whose walls were hung with many paintings. And he left me with a challenge: “If when I come back you can tell me which of the pictures is the most valuable I will give you fifty pence”.
When he returned, I pointed to a small oil of a man trying to gentle a frightened horse, a very powerful picture. I was right, and he, having somehow missed my artistic side, was astonished. The painting was by Jack Yeats, brother of the poet, and he was confident that I would never have heard of him. He became rather cross and demanded to know how I had so quickly identified the picture among so many. It was simple, I told him; it is the only one in the room individually lit. He denounced this as cheating, refused to hand over the fifty pence, and we never again spoke of it. Art appreciation is a wonderful gift and I know little of it, but I thought at the time, and still do, that acute observation would have scored higher marks from a medical man whose profession sets such store by it when it is found among themselves. I didn’t need the fifty pee then, but I think the trick was worth at least a quid.
Speaking of having a little drink, I see that there is powerful coalition of medical royal colleges and rather frightening anti-drink zealots who are saying, asserting, that moderate drinking must be defined as no more than three pints of beer or one bottle of wine a week, about three units. A week! You might as well give up altogether. Which is of course what they want. But why? And how many doctors, I wonder, drink so little? I remember years ago talking to a member of the committee that came up with the 28 units a week for men, fewer for women, that had until now been the orthodox view, and he told me that there was no evidence at all upon which to base a “safe dose” recommendation, but such was the demand from the Department of Health for “numbers” that they pretty much plucked some out of the air. Numbers that they no doubt derived from their own modest habits.
I once had lunch with Dr Anthony Clare, of blessed memory, and complained to him about what seemed to me the obsession of the medical colleges with restricting alcohol at a time when the NHS was beset with major health problems and the deteriorating services it was providing to address them. He told me not to worry, and clever psychiatrist that he was calmed my rage with a simple prescription: he sent me a copy of a report on safe and sensible alcohol consumption, published by the medical establishmment in the 1960s, so that I might carry it about with me and consult it from time to time. It recommended half a bottle of whiskey a day. I have it still.
Posted: January 19th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Miscellaneous | Comments Off
Over Christmas, my sister in law, Elizabeth Green told me about a new company founded last year. Run by a trio of women from Lewes in East Sussex, Spoken Memoirs records personal life histories using high quality digital equipment to create a broadcast quality CD.
Sarah Hitchings of Spoken Memoirs says : “A spoken memoir is a special and personal way of celebrating and acknowledging a life. It would be an ideal means of celebrating a birthday, an anniversary or other ‘life event’. It enables you to record your stories and memories before they are lost in time. For the family historian or anyone researching their family tree, a Spoken Memoir can provide an interesting extra dimension, that of “lived” experience. The interview process itself is often a valuable experience – Spoken Memoirs will listen attentively to your story. This can be a useful way of reviewing and reflecting on your life while at the same time creating an important record for the future.” Spoken Memoirs cover London and the South East.
It occurs to me that a spoken memoir would also make an excellent retirement gift, particularly for a long serving employee who “holds” the corporate memory.
For more information, visit www.spokenmemoirs.co.uk
Posted: January 18th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Grandparents, Miscellaneous | Comments Off
In a new twist on the pivotal role of baby boomers in today’s society, David Willetts, the shadow universities and skills secretary, has published a new book claiming that the post-war generation of “boomers” born between 1945 and 1965 have been guilty of a “monumental failure” to protect the future of their children.
In his new book, ‘How the Baby Boomers Stole Their Children’s Futures’, Willetts observes that pensions schemes and property booms have concentrated wealth and power in the boomer generation, and encouraged by the government and banks, “they borrowed as if there were no tomorrow”. At the same time, personal saving rates have declined.
“A young person could be forgiven for believing that the way in which economic and social policy is now conducted is little less than a conspiracy by the middle-aged against the young” says Willett. “I do not believe that this is because the boomers are unusually bad and selfish,” he said. “I think it is rather that we have lost sight of the importance of the contract between the generations that holds any society together.
According to Willetts the “boomers should worry too”…“The repercussions affect everyone. For if it is far harder for the young to get started on the housing ladder, to find a job or to save for the future, they are more dependent on their parents for longer. That in turn means new barriers to the spread of ownership and opportunity: indeed it threatens social mobility altogether”.
I am not altogether sure that suggesting blame in this way is particularly helpful, especially when the section of society targeted are those who are often best placed to help out other family members. Other commentators have started talking about the spectre of “intergenerational conflict” as younger people begin to realise that it is going to be much more difficult for them to amass the sort of wealth that their parents have accumulated. This is surely the last thing we need.
It seems to me that family structures will need to change to meet the challenges of changing demographics in a hostile economic environment. The nuclear family is going to find it very difficult to survive alone and the most successful families will be the ones where wealth, power and responsibility are shared across the generations.
Posted: January 13th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | Comments Off
In the years leading up to retirement, I often thought about what I would do with myself when the big day arrived. I would have freedom unknown since childhood and, my pension being in the safe hands of that prudent Scottish bank manager Gordon Brown, the world would be my lobster. Would I take up fly fishing, or golf? Would I spend my afternoons reading cheap fiction, or relaxing in the arms of a catamite? Would I buy a flat in Bridlington, or become a caravaner?
None of these as it turned out. I developed a single, all-consuming passion: bin-day, and the waste disposal and recycling policies not only of my own Council but everyone else’s as well. And other policies too when I have the time, for they can offer invaluable clues as to where in the country I am likely to find features of bin-day practices that reveal borderline lunacy. Who knows what the arrangements might be in Warwickshire, for example, where the council is busy spending money fitting out all elderly residents with taxpayer subsidised slippers with nifty velcro fasteners in the interests of Health and Safety. They define the elderly as anyone fifty and over, which must include a lot of council employees; if they cannot manage their own footware are they fit to manage public services?
Before I retired and moved to rural North Yorkshire I lived in Notting Hill Gate where rubbish was collected twice a week (now, I hear, three times a week) and where the local authority understands the duty to dispose of rubbish was laid upon them for reasons of public health and not to indulge the whims of a fastidious public. Where I now live the Council collects general waste, food and so on, every two weeks and recyclable material on alternate weeks, but only garden waste, glass, cans and newspapers (but “no envelopes, thank you” – why?). Not cardboard, not plastic.
Now, this more or less suits me because I have a garage to house the two wheelies and two crates provided by the Council, plus two further containers (cardboard and plastic) provided by me, and taken by me to the tip where I have made lots of new friends. But it doesn’t suit everyone, people in small cottages or without cars, for example, and people with large families. There is no policy that suits everyone. Recently however my Council has came up with a refinement that makes me wonder if its officers live in a parallel universe. For the whole of January, February and March they will not collect the garden waste wheelies, because there will be no garden waste. I cannot be described as an enthusiastic gardener, in fact I hate the activity, but even I know that this is nonsense. There will be savings, we are told and a positive impact on the Council’s carbon emissions (or as the local paper called them “carbon omissions” – have they not done the things that they ought to have done?).
The savings, mainly diesel, will not include any reduction of the payroll as the operatives will be redeployed on leaf collection. I don’t know what kind of trees grown in the splendid grounds surrounding the Council offices, but I do know that in the rest of the district the leaves begin to fall in late September and by the end of November it was all over for another year. Do they think we are stupid, which on the basis of this and other evidence I think they do, or are they stupid themselves, a possibility to be considered at least? Will the leaf gatherers not burn diesel, and so adversely impact the Council’s budget and carbon omissions? Who is on the committee that came up with this wheeze – no doubt called the Winterisation Committee?
Some Councils (not mine, yet) are issuing “food waste caddies” as a further refinement, in other words slop buckets. Do they think that by renaming these unpleasant articles caddies we shall think that we are involved in some dainty activity along the lines of afternoon tea? And that “going forward”, as they like to say, the people will be even happier? Who can say.
Getting back to these Warwickshire slippers. I know a number of old people who wear loosely fitting slippers, and there is certainly an element of risk in this but there is a benefit to them – they can put them on and take them off themselves, a bit of independence they value. They have decided that the risk is acceptable. Has it not occurred to these Warwickshire pen pushers that the very people they think they are helping will not, with their inflexible backs and arthritic fingers, be able to get down there to fiddle and fix these municipal jobs anyway.
Posted: January 7th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Miscellaneous, New products! | Comments Off
Just arrived today! Forest of Dean potters, Reckless Designs have made this innovative range of teapots especially for The Future Perfect Company. Designed to complement the double handled mugs, these teapots brim with character and have a useful second handle by the spout which makes them easier to pour. Hand made and hand painted so no two teapots are the same.
I came across the prototype for this design when I visited potter, Kevin Burke at Reckless’ studios in the summer. He had made it a couple of years ago and it has been languishing on a shelf. I persuaded him that it would make a perfect partner to our popular double handled mugs.
For details of how to add this characterful piece to your kitchen, go to http://thefutureperfectcompany.com/shop/items/135/double_handled_teapot_by_reckless_designs__blue_stripe
Please note that there is limited availability.
Posted: January 7th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Miscellaneous | Comments Off
Harry and Sarah Mayman know a thing or two about keeping warm. They moved back to Cornwall when they discovered they were expecting their third child and bought the remains of a very run down farm on the edge of Bodmin Moor planning to renovate the stone barns for tourism. Higher Hill Farm had previously been a successful wild boar farm but had had problems with escapees. Unfortunately after the wild boar left, most of the topsoil had gone too: the only animals Harry and Sarah could find that could live comfortably off the land were goats and the only goats they could find that wouldn’t jump over the fences were angora goats which produce mohair. It only took a winter in their freezing, drafty stone farmhouse, made worse by Harry’s reluctance to buy heating oil, to discover the benefits of wool on their feet. And so The Wool Company was born.
Our favourites from The Wool Company range are the pretty angora bed socks http://thefutureperfectcompany.com/shop/items/52/angora_blend_bed_socks_powder_blue, and the lambswool throws which are guaranteed to bring cheer and warmth on these chilly days http://thefutureperfectcompany.com/shop/items/130/classic_lambswool_throw__plum.