Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
Posted: May 29th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
With retirement come afflictions, minor if you’re lucky, but multiple if not; troubles come not single spies but in battalions. I have become a poor sleeper. I get off OK, but I usually wake up around four or five, ready to go. I take this as an opportunity to read cheap fiction for a few hours, and to drink coffee which pretty much guarantees that I don’t nod off again before the dog kicks off at about seven. I enjoy this quiet time, but it isn’t right; it means I’m ready for lunch by ten thirty and I need a nap in the afternoon. I am joined napping by the dog who now pretty much insists on it. This all sounds idyllic I expect, peace to read uninterrupted, no pressure of work, and freedom to snooze after lunch. But the afternoon refresher feels wrong, not a manly thing somehow. Then I was introduced to Nytol, an over-the-counter sleep medication, by my daughter. I have never had much faith in over-the-counter pills believing that anything really effective is sure to be prescription-only because of alarming side-effects to which we are sternly and wisely alerted. Prescription sleeping medicines carry the helpful warning “may cause drowsiness”.My favourite instruction was “take four times daily after meals”. Four meals a day? Who are these people? But this Nytol is a cracker and with an interesting side-effect – it induces dreams. For several consecutive nights I became a professional tennis player, which is odd as I have never played or particularly admired those who excel at it. But I had an exciting time and I was showing great promise, cheered on by unhinged fans and all the rest of it, until I was knocked out in the semis by Lew Hoad, denying me the pleasure of meeting the Duchess of Kent and Cliff Richard.
There have been episodes of gout. My GP, a much younger man, seemed unwilling to name the diagnosis until I had done so myself, out of kindness I suppose, and generously did not dispute my assertion that the symptoms were unconnected to my enthusiastic consumption of Shiraz but agreed that I might be wise to switch, just in case, to Merlot. Why do people snigger when you mention gout? It is extremely painful. If you confess to migraine peoples’ faces crumple sympathetically, or sciatica say. It’s a bit like piles in this respect. I remember to my shame my amusement years ago when a much older colleague described to me the misery of haemorrhoids. He confided that he found relief only in the use of apple cider vinegar, though whether he drank it or used it as some kind of wash he never said. I was too shy to ask, which means that if ever I am so afflicted I shall have to experiment, an unsettling prospect.
Then there is forgetfulness. Only the other day I couldn’t for the life of me recall the name of Terry Wogan, though this could have been a lively brain operating a protective mechanism. I have after all no difficulty coming up with the name of Claudia Schiffer. A friend once described an hilarious episode at a London restaurant when an outraged Francis Bacon called the police to report the theft of his car, discovered when he left after a “good lunch”, only to recall after they arrived that he had in fact travelled by taxi in anticipation “a few”. This has never happened to me, but I have sometimes searched the car park, with mounting despair, for my green Mini on days when I had been using my wife’s white John Cooper Works (a rare treat) which I had repeatedly walked past. But this is a small price to pay for the inability to recall Terry Wogan.
I have to say I’m lucky, with few complaints and none of them. I have given up tennis and now anticipate a night out dancing with the Dagenham Girl Pipers, once the gout clears up. Talk about night terrors.
Posted: May 29th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Miscellaneous | Comments Off
Still in need of ideas for Fathers Day? How about Many Happy Returns 1940s?
Many Happy Returns 1940s is a box of 24 carefully researched reminiscence cards designed to get old and young talking together about how life used to be – a perfect way to entertain both grandad and the grandchildren on an afternoon visit.
The cards offer a range of everyday subjects with large images, historical information and conversational prompts – from cigarettes to playing conkers, from evacuation to rationing, from playing in the streets to that very first kiss…
Everyone I have shown these cards to has loved them. For people over 70, the 1940s was the decade of their lives but even for people born later much of what had happened then touched their lives also. Families needed to be knitted together again after the long absences and traumas of WW2; rationing started during the war continued as late as 1953. And of course every family has its own stories from that period to be handed down to a generation used to instant communication rather than telegrams, Ipods rather than vinyl records, huge supermarkets rather than the local grocer.
Click here for details of how to buy.
Posted: May 24th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Miscellaneous | Comments Off
Dads are notoriously difficult to buy presents for so we might just be your new best friends. Forget socks (even though he always says that’s just what he wanted..) and buy something that he will really appreciate.
A style icon (as featured in BBC’s Genius of Design) and a useful bit of kitchen kit, all for under £10, you can’t go wrong with the OXO Angled Measuring Cup.
Or how about this neat winged corkscrew by OXO?
Our signature handmade double handled mugs have loads of personality and solve that age old problem of how you pass a hot cup of tea to another person without one of you burning their hands!
For the keen golfer, Bionic Golf Gloves are as good as they get.
And family historians can get all that research in order with the KTWO Family Tree File.
For the keen gardener, Bionic’s range of leather gardening gloves are a must.
And OXO’s loppers maximise strength and power in the garden.
£50 and over
How is it that as we get older everything gets harder to see, particularly when we change to those energy saving lightbulbs? Our range of Alex lights are eco friendly as well as being the best reading lights we have ever experienced. If your father is a keen reader or crossword puzzler, this is the ultimate present.
Don’t forget the card and wrapping paper. Our lovely range from artist Rachel Goodchild will make sure your gift stands out for all the right reasons this year.
Posted: May 24th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | 1 Comment »
What on earth are they putting in the water in East Anglia? A few months ago we witnessed the weird behaviour of climate scientists at the university there, behaviour more typical of the secretive researchers in
pharmaceutical and tobacco companies, and now we have been given a stern lecture from another of their academics (specialty not known) on the ethics of filming and photographing animals without their consent and so violating their rights. He is particularly concerned about Nature’s Great Events,
presented by the saintly David Attenborough who was graciously knighted by HMQ. He does not mention Kate Humble’s Springwatch
though the Daily Telegraph
sensibly illustrated its article with a large photograph of her looking particularly windswept and interesting. She has not been honoured by HMQ, but in my view she should be sent straight to the House of Lords on the grounds physical beauty in particular, and general allure that appeals to men of all ages, especially mine.
Dr Brett Mills, the UEA academic from whose brain this idea sprang fully formed, an idea doubtless based on evidence in the time-honoured tradition of science, does not to be fair insist on informed consent, but nor does he give any suggestions as to how animals might communicate their consent, or their objections. Are we to suppose that the show-offs such as blue tits are up for a bit of camera work, whereas the shy types, otters for example, are by their diffidence registering an objection? You may think that this piece was published on the first of April – but in fact it was a month later.
Now, I don’t want you to run away with the idea that I am dismissive of animal rights, a “denier” as we now say, but I do think that Dr Mills’s idea has a whiff of lunacy about it, with some potential for harm. Some years ago a then prominent newsreader took some bathtime snaps of her baby, a traditional parental ritual at the time, and was reported to the police by the chemist shop where she took the film to be developed. She was at first suspected of being a paedophile, then scolded for creating images that might fall into the hands of a despicable pederast thereby dangerously exciting his loathesome propensities. Quite sensible concerns about the dangers of child pornography were taken by ill-informed zealots and extended to include and so prohibit harmless if not particularly interesting or original family activity.
It is entirely possible that Dr Mills will attract a following of loopy but vocal sympathisers who might by their relentless and boring determination, supported by unthinking police officers, force upon us regulation that will prohibit the photographing of our pets. It is not hard to imagine a government with an enthusiasm for minute control through legislation giving the force of law to such idiocy. In fact we have recent memories of such a regime. You may not be old enough to remember the vogue in the eighties for seeking out and punishing those guilty of “satanic abuse” of children. Children were siezed from their parents, families were harmed forever, and “hot spots” of satanism were identified where entire communities were demonised on the say-so of crazed social workers whose wrong-headedness was breathtaking. An enquiry was set up under a distinguished judge, which took many months, during which the ferocity of the social workers increased and the idea spread – and many social workers acquired the status of “experts” who were much in demand at conferences. When the report of the enquiry was published the judge revealed that she had found not a shred of evidence that “satanic abuse” existed at all. But by then much harm had been done, all because a few zealots had gone out of control.
Could this happen as a result of Dr Mills’s no doubt well intentioned but foolish pursuit of academic novelty? Could I find myself on some police database because I have published a few photographs of my dog without her permission? Could I get an ASBO for snapping a woodpecker in my garden? I wouldn’t rule it out. In the meantime those funding this at UEA should perhaps look again at the research protocols underlying it, and consider the possibility of better uses of the money
Posted: May 20th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Press coverage | Comments Off
Healthy Life Essex have published my latest article about the dearth of well designed products for people getting older. As you can see, I am now talking to a local sixth form college about running a design competition to encourage younger designers to design for their future selves. Put this way, we hope that they are unlikely to come up with the dull and stigmatising products which are unfortunately so prevalent today.
Posted: May 17th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Miscellaneous | No Comments »
I spotted a fruit bowl on the dining table in a neighbour’s house yesterday and it got me thinking. We no longer keep a fruit bowl. We might have the odd bowl of oranges but the rest of the fruit lives in the fridge.
And yet when we were children, there was always a fruit bowl. Most likely full of seasonal apples, pears, maybe bananas. Our paternal grandparents maintained a fruit bowl almost as part of their interior design. It was located in the front room of their post war semi, a room which was kept for “best” and full of rather hard, uncompromising 1930s furniture. Comfortable “living” took place in the back room where a teapot, snug in its knitted cosy, sat on the table always protected by its “cloth”.
As young visitors, we would be offered an apple from the fruit bowl in the smart front room out of hospitality and with a degree of pride. I cannot remember ever offering my visitors a piece of fruit.
To the generation which lived through the deprivations of the war and rationing, fruit seems to have a luxurious air, a sign of good fortune and successful homemaking. And indeed this folk memory lives on as kitchens in show homes throughout the country are not complete without the ubiquituous bowl of fruit, although more likelysome faux designer stainless steel basket rather than the classic wooden bowl.
But now not only is fruit no longer so desirable but many children refuse to eat it notwithstanding that (or maybe because) successive governments have tried to “prescribe” its consumption.
What do you think? Do you keep a fruit bowl?
Posted: May 16th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | 1 Comment »
The comment from Maral (see Part 18)
referring to Ben Gingell brought back some stuff I haven’t thought about for years, In 1975. when I was a young and thrusting publisher and could still pee standing up, I was sent by my employer to war-torn Rhodesia in anticipation of an expected “settlement” of the Rhodesian stand-off between Harold Wilson and Ian Smith, which as it turned out was some way off. I went originally for a two year tour but was pulled out early when enforced enlistment into the army threatened and transferred to Nigeria, a much more dangerous place. I was replaced by Maral, who as a female could not be conscripted. Ben Gingell was our boss.
Rhodesia was a very old fashioned place. When British Airways planes landed there the pilots used to say “Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to land at Salisbury International Airport. Please fasten your seatbelts and turn your watches back forty years”. The truth behind this joke was brought home to me after a couple of days in the country when I was invited to a barbecue. I had very little in the way of tropical clothing, and had arrived in November fully kitted out for the English winter, and had no choice but to wear a light suit bought that day. I was a bit worried about being over-dressed, expecting everyone to be in shorts or safari suits, but to my astonishment I was under-dressed – all the men were in dinner jackets, the women gussied up as for Ascot. Ben Gingell fitted right in to this scene.
Ben lived in a splendid house called Jericho Lodge, where he lived alone supported by a cook steward called Wil-son and his woman Weezy-Weezy, to which he kindly invited me to dinner. I say kindly because he resented my presence and regarded me as a “spy from London”; there was some truth in this. A party of about ten sat about the drawing room enjoying pre-dinner drinks and after about an hour the double doors that gave on to the dining room opened with a flourish and in stepped Wil-son splendid in a white steward’s outfit with diagonal sash, a cummerbund and a fez – all scarlet. He carried a bugle on which he gave a few toots, saluted and cried “Master! Dinner is served!”
At the end of dinner Ben asked his lady friend, Jenny, to lead the ladies away to powder their noses, and said to the men “Gentlemen, step out into Africa I beg of you” and through the French windows we went where the men all proceeded to urinate into the borders. Back in we went for port and cigars while the ladies continued their powdering elsewhere joining us later back in the drawing room for a session at the scotch. The doors opened again and in came Wil-son, this time with Weezy-Weezy, more toots on the bugle after which they bowed deeply to each guest in turn – “goodnight, master – goodnight, madam” then retreated backwards out of the room as if from the presence of a monarch. As they disappeared Ben shouted out “Wilson, my boy! Take a bottle of beer from the fridge I beg of you!”
Ben had joined the company in England as a graduate trainee and was seen as someone with great promise. a potential chief executive in the future, and his overseas posting was part of the grooming for future greatness. He never left. He told me that as soon as he stepped off the plane he thought he’s died and gone to heaven, and hated the thought of returning to England with its cold climate and lack of indoor servants. But with changing times he was sent home where he lived unhappily on the south coast, dying shortly afterwards I suppose of unhappiness.
He was an unusual man, a published poet, shy with a pawky sense of humour, and I think that by the time I left we had become friends although we were very different. He regarded me as a bit unpolished, and from an unprepossessing background, representing all that was disagreeable in what England had become. Maral did better, being a tall, willowy attractive girl with all the polish that seven years at the Herts and Essex High School could bestow, notwithstanding the fact that it was – and is still I think - known locally as “Herts and Tarts”. My daughter was in due course to attend the school, but by then it was a comprehensive.
Posted: May 14th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Miscellaneous | Comments Off
If you watched Jamie does..the French Pyrenees this week, you will have seen chef Jamie Oliver admiring the use of shopping trolleys and reusuable shopping bags in a French market.
Stylish, practical and eco friendly, shopping trolleys have come a long way since their first rather old fashioned appearance on the UK shopping scene. Ours, made by Typhoon, are particularly attractive (even if we say so ourselves) so expect compliments as you roll! And no tartan in sight!
Equally attractive (and proving very popular) are our reuseable pocket bags which come in a set of three including a pretty vintage print.
To browse our stylish selection of shopping trolleys and bags go to http://www.thefutureperfectcompany.com/shop/categories/2/hit_the_shops
For more information about the lovely Jamie go to http://www.jamieoliver.com/jamie-does/french
Posted: May 13th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Care, Miscellaneous | Comments Off
Melanie Henwood in Community Care (wwwcommunitycare.co.uk) today reports on the findings of the Partnerships for Older People Projects (Popp) initiative.
This scheme was funded by the Department of Health to the tune of £ 60m to develop services for older people to promote their health, well-being and independence, and prevent or delay their need for higher intensity or institutional care. Twenty-nine councils in England were involved as sites for the pilots.
Popp was focused on improving health and well-being for older people through local projects and services. These were to be person-centred and integrated, featuring strong partnerships between local organisations such as Age Concern and involving older people. Some 264,000 people using services were involved with the pilots over the course of three years.
Overall, 81% of respondents agreed that improvements had been delivered in the quality of life and well-being of older people using services, and a similar proportion agreed that a greater range of services was being offered to older people as a result of Popp.
Interestingly, the greatest improvements were reported by older people receiving practical help. Services providing practical support, often viewed pejoratively as ‘low level’, were found to significantly affect health and well-being. These included providing simple aids and adaptations to make self-care easier such as a grab-rail attached to a lavatory, bath or shower. Similarly, providing gardening services or making simple repairs was found to reduce anxiety.
Considered as a whole, the report found that there was a high probability (86%) that the Popp programme was cost-effective compared with usual care. Projects focused on practical help, small housing repairs, gardening, limited assistive technology or shopping indicated a 98% probability of cost-effectiveness for an extra spend of £5,000 a person (£96.15 a week).
Melanie Henwood notes that policy in health and social care for older people has, for some years, emphasised the importance of :
- partnership working
- prevention of ill-health
- promotion of wider well-being and independence
- development of social capital
- engaging local people in the design and operation of local services.
Although there has been “an underlying assumption that such a service shift would eventually bring cost savings” there has been, until now, little evidence to back this up. The findings of the Popps programme, however, provide valuable evidence that early interventions can deliver improved outcomes and greater satisfaction and reduce the need for hospital and other higher dependency services.
As Melanie Henwood says, providing this new government understands and embraces the potential for system-wide change that the report suggests, this could be a win-win both to the health care system and, above all, to the lives of older people.
Posted: May 11th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Care, Miscellaneous | No Comments »
Getting older, and looking after people as they get older, particularly if they have mobility problems, can be expensive for everyone. Did you know, though, that there are many schemes that can help from paying towards utility costs to enjoying a trip to the cinema or days out with the National Trust?
Planning a trip? There are two options here – a Senior Railcard (for over 60s) or The Disabled Persons Railcard which allows you to get up to a third of the price of rail tickets for yourself and another adult if you meet certain criteria (one of which is the receipt of Attendance Allowance). www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk
Fancy a trip to the cinema? The Cinema Exhibitors Association card is a national system giving disabled people one free ticket for somebody accompanying them to the cinema. You need to be in receipt of the Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or to be registered blind. The card costs £5.50 per year. www.ceacard.co.uk
3. Save on council tax
If you need additional space – including an extra room – because of your impairment, you may be eligible for a council tax discount. Check with your local authority for more details.
4. Thinking about some home improvements ?
Whether you rent or own your own home, you can get support to make it more accessible – for example by adding a lift or widening internal doorways. Disabled Facilities Grants (which are generally means tested) are provided through local councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The council must agree (usually on the advice of an occupational therapist) that the changes are necessary, reasonable and practical. A different system of grants operates in Scotland. www.direct.gov.uk
5. The VAT man can be your friend
With VAT likely to rise, this might make a real difference to you or someone for whom you care. Essentially, you shouldn’t pay VAT on any product required for your use – such as a wheelchair or wheelchair accessible vehicle. This includes repair and maintenance charges. Eligibility criteria and copies of the relevant forms are available from HM Customs and Excise. You might also be able to recover any VAT you have paid unnecessarily in the past. www.hmrc.gov.uk
6. Keep warm
All energy providers are required to offer social tariffs to meet the needs of their most vulnerable customers. Talk to your provider to see if you or the person you care for can be moved to a cheaper tariff www.ofgem.gov.uk
7. Get motoring
Motability is best known for enabling those in receipt of certain benefits to buy a suitable car or powered wheelchair or scooter. However, the charity also administers the cost of more complex and expensive vehicle adaptations – www.motability.co.uk
8. Days out with the National Trust
The National Trust admits an essential companion or carer of a disabled visitor free of charge and has just published a new Access Guide for 2010 http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-visits-essential_info/w-visits-essential_info-disabilities.htm
9. For bookworms
Listening Books is a UK charity whose patron is Stephen Fry which provides a fantastic selection of high-quality audiobooks to over 7000 people across the UK who find it difficult or impossible to read due to illness or disability from as little as £20 per year. They send audiobooks through the post on CD or they can be downloaded or streamed via the internet. Members can choose from a range of options to find the service that best suits their needs. http://www.listening-books.org.uk/
Lastly, it is worth checking that everyone is receiving all the benefits to which they are entitled. www.direct.gov.uk includes a useful on line benefits advisor.