Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
Posted: October 27th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
I read today that Jonathan Evans the current head of MI5, in an interview given to Iris magazine in support of a campaign to promote the return of Latin and classical Greek to state schools, said that education in the classical languages is an ideal preparation for employment in the intelligence services. No-one mentioned this to me when I was looking for my post-graduate start, though at the time the existence of MI5 was denied by everyone so it would have been difficult to know where to have sent my CV. There were rumours, of course, but rumour also had it that the way involved an intimate relationship with one of several gay dons quietly smoking their pipes in Cambridge colleges and influencing. Bristol graduates were unlikely to get to the starting blocks.
I suppose that teaching of the classics in state schools went into decline in the sixties, particularly Greek – I was the last boy at my grammar school to learn it – and got a serious kicking when inverted snobbery swept through the educational establishment from about that time. I remember at the opening of a huge comprehensive school in Hull, on a playing field only a few yards from my home, the new headmaster gave an interview in which he said, when asked if Latin would be taught there, “I’m not having that snob subject in my school!” His outrage was clearly genuine and could not have been warmer had it been suggested that he might be accepting applications from convicted paedophiles for the post of caretaker. I was a relatively unshockable 20 year old at the time, but I was taken aback that an educated man could take such a position. Perhaps he had failed his Latin O Level, and was bitter. The Chief Education Officer should have sent for him and given him six of the best, but he too had probably signed up to the same orthodoxy as the head, and appointed him into the bargain. Equality was the new shibboleth.
Anyway, all this set me thinking – am I too late? Ageism is illegal, and although retired I am more or less intact, so why don’t I dust down my CV and pop it in the post with an offer of my services? I notice that Mr Evans also studied at Bristol, which might give me an edge. He was a bit after my time, was still sleeping on a rubber sheet when I went up, but it’s still a bond. I wonder what changed during the fifteen years between us? Did a feverish rush of dons pile in from Cambridge and snap up all the best jobs during Bristol’s expansion in the seventies and, once settled, take a fancy to the then young Evans and take a chance on him? I don’t know, and Evans isn’t saying.
I would be the ideal spook; a slightly Pooterish figure, unfit and with failing hearing – practically undetectable. My hearing aids would provide excellent cover, cleverly adapted by Q, for sending me vital messages, and my training in Africa in the use of firearms would be useful if ever they needed someone to shoot the Prime Minister disliked. But my sterling quality is my deteriorating memory – who better to trust with secrets than a man who remembers nothing? Even under torture I could not reveal the location of my car on Morrison’s car park. I think I’ll compose my letter of application in classical Greek, and write it out with invisible ink (see The Dangerous Book for Boys). I’ll let you know how I get on. Do you think they’ll make me sleep with beautiful Russian women, to demonstrate my loyalty? Perhaps, perhaps, but surely not at the interview. You never know with these dons.
I’m happy to tell you – you will have been wondering – that the school in Hull, the David Lister School by the way, closed down a few years ago and its buildings demolished. Sic transit Gloria Swanson, I say.
Posted: October 21st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft, Health, Retirement | No Comments »
At my local GP surgery they have a scoreboard that announces how many appointments have been missed in the preceding month. A year or so ago it was running at over three thousand, but they seem to have got it down to fewer than two thousand, possibly a reflection of seasonal variation. It’s a medium sized practice, with, I suppose 8 doctors and half a dozen nurses. Assuming all the staff, doctors and nurses together, handle four appointments an hour and work 48 weeks a year it works out at over a hundred thousand patient encounters a year, probably more, it means that between a quarter and a third of made appointments are missed without notification, the workload of two to four doctors/nurses depending on how you do the numbers.
This is a huge amount of waste, but what to do? You could introduce a system of over-booking along the lines employed by airlines, but that would involve bumping patients at the end of day and it would introduce delays for the compliant without inconveniencing the delinquent. Or you could fine for the no-shows, which would provide income that the practice could use to buy equipment, but it would introduce an element of financial transaction into the doctor-patient relationship that the doctors I am sure would find unpalatable and resist. My own preferred solution would be to confiscate the cars of the guilty and put them in a crusher but I gather that there are some legal difficulties with this. And there would be an unfortunate side-effect; doctors would increasingly be seen as junkyard dogs rather than relievers of pain and savers of lives, which they obviously prefer.
I noticed the latest number when I visited the nurses’ station for my annual blood pressure check (135/75, thank you for asking – the blood pressure of the athlete I never was), which turned out to be rather more than that. After I had passed the BP test with First Class Honours, Sister Helen said, “Would you pop on the scales for me?” My friend Tim took me racing in York a couple of weeks ago, again as my carer on the disabled rail card, and as we walked along the platform looking for an empty carriage he bawled I WANT YOU TO GET ON THE TRAIN FOR ME. It’s odd how carers and health workers always want you to do things for them. All over the country every day miserable patients are exhorted by nurses to open their bowels “for me” – infantalising, somehow.
Anyway, at the weigh-in I got only a poor Third and promised half-heartedly to cut down on the fresh cream slices to which I confessed, rather like the traveller at Customs admitting to an ounce of tobacco over the limit in the hope that such openness would impress the officer and distract his attention away from the parcel of Krugerrands. Then came the question about alcohol. The days are gone when I could with a straight face own up to the occasional sherry at funerals so I put my cards, most of them at least, boldly claiming twenty-eight units, which I think is reasonable. Like Clive of India when confronted with his considerable corruption, I stood there astounded by my own moderation. She tried to negotiate me down to twenty-six units but I held the line. I like it, I said, I can afford it, and no-one any longer expects me to get out of bed in a morning to any serious purpose – apart from the dog at 6.30 – so it’s not going to happen. She gave in, looked at me with a mixture of disgust and amusement and told me I’m as bad as her father. Never met him, but he sounds like a good chap to me.
Posted: October 21st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Designing for the Future Competition - Collyer's, Inclusive design, Press coverage | Comments Off
Today’s West Sussex County Times featured the Designing for the Future Competition we have just launched with Collyer’s Sixth Form College.
Like all areas in the UK, coping with an increasingly ageing population is an issue West Sussex is starting to address. We are keen to make sure that good design is seen as part of the solution to helping us all live longer, happier lives.
Posted: October 14th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Designing for the Future Competition - Collyer's, Designing for the Future Competition - University of Brighton | Comments Off
Following on from the success of this summer’s ”Designing for the Future” competition with the University of Brighton, today we launched a new competition with sixth form students at the College of Richard Collyers.
The competition seeks to encourage young designers to think about the challenges that an ageing population presents – and to create innovative, attractive and aspirational designs that allow people to continue to live enjoyable, active and independent lives as they get older.
The UK is going through an enormous demographic transition. The first ‘baby boomers’ born after the Second World War are now drawing their pensions and the number of people over State Pension Age is overtaking the number of children. However, research released in April 2009 from charity Age UK revealed that the majority of people over 50 feel that businesses in the UK ignore them, instead focusing the majority of their attentions on the ‘youth’ market. This is despite the fact that older people’s spending power is worth an estimated £250 billion a year.
Ageing is characterised by certain physical changes – a decline in short-term memory, failing eyesight, hearing and problems with manual dexterity. Whilst there are products already available that are designed to address these changes, they are usually dull and clinical with very little emphasis on attractive design, making them ‘necessary evils’ which highlight disability rather than aid and promote ability.
After the success of the University of Brighton competition earlier this year, we are very excited to be running this competition with Collyers. There is a dearth of attractively designed products available for people who want to continue enjoying life as they get older. By engaging designers at the very beginning of their careers, we are hoping to encourage them to focus on this increasingly important market.
The competition is open to Collyers students on the GCE Advanced Subsidiary Product Design course and will be judged by Denise Stephens (ex Collyers student and co-founder of online design community Enabled by Design), Harry Trimble (former winner of the Designing for the Future Competition at University of Brighton, final year 3D Design student), and Philippa Aldrich (founder of The Future Perfect Company).
Tutors Kate Sharpe (Faculty leader – Arts and Communications) and Hari Atkins (Subject Leader – Product Design, Materials) will act as advisors to the judging panel. The results will be announced in December 2010 and the winner will receive a prize of £75. There will be five further prizes of £25 for highly commended entries.
Image : Pill Box by Sophia Fong, University of Brighton
Posted: October 11th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | Comments Off
The Daily Telegraph reports today that Andrew Marr, speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, denounced bloggers as “socially inadequate, pimpled and single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed loners sitting in their mothers’ basements and ranting”. A Johnsonian insult if ever I read one. Coming from someone with raw-boned features and enormous, protruding ears it’s a daring line to take – not noted for his physical beauty, he is likely to come in for some stick in the blogosphere, with the focus I expect on his dreadful halitosis and stinking armpits as well as his absurd ears.
What’s a cauliflower nose?
Posted: October 8th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft, Grandparents | No Comments »
There was a time, when I was young and vigorous, with hair you could run your fingers through and teeth that could crack walnuts, a time when my children thought I knew everything. That I could climb any mountain, slay any dragon and fit a new washer to a tap even when tipsy. I have suspected for some time that this touching filial faith was on the wane, and this was confirmed with brutal finality after I acquired my new cell ‘phone, an up-to-the minute item free from Vodaphone, not much bigger than a Bourbon biscuit and as thin as a cream cracker. I charged it up, transferred the SLIM card from the old Nokia job, and away I went. Or so I thought. Myy address book had vanished, all fifteen telephone numbers.
My children happened to be staying at the point when I was recharging the old faithful Nokia with a view to switching the SLIM card back and carrying on as before. There was a certain amount of sniggering, and I was asked if I had transferred my address book from the SLIM card before I swapped it over to the new ‘phone. I didn’t understand the question, but I bluffed my way through saying that for security reasons I had not done this, and made authoritative references to the Data Protection Act. I thought I had got away with it, but the smirking and knowing looks told a different story. Anyway, they did it for me with what I thought was a showy display of competence. Soren was involved too and I detected his fingerprints all over an unlooked for change: arrival of text messages are heralded not be a discreet beep but a sinister voice announcing, A MESSAGE FROM THE DARK SIDE THERE IS!
Edward very generously gave me a Sony book reader for my birthday, and told me that if I didn’t break the seal I could leg down to Waterstone’s and try it out, and other models, to make sure I got what I wanted. The model he gave me is a high-end item, the latest Sony offering. But it is rather small, smaller even that a regular paperback, more the size of a sixties Mills and Boon bodice ripper. I had a long consultation with the Waterstone expert on such products; he looked to be twelve but, judging from his incipient moustache must have been fourteen at least. He talked me through all the features of the various products, the different apps and so on, we got on very well. Anyway, he smiled a lot. Or did he smirk? The outcome of all this man-to-man techie talk was that I decided to ditch the Sony job for the Amazon Kibble, of which I had some experience – my clever economist friend has one, and let me fiddle about with it a bit over drinks one Sunday. I liked the heft of it, more like the hard cover books I am used to.
So here I am, firmly in the 21st century and confident that I am recovering some of the lost ground in the eyes of my children. The next generation is more of a challenge: at the weekend my grandson, Archie, took me to one side and asked: “Grandad, why are you so old?” He’s three years old, for goodness sake.
Posted: October 6th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Care, Grandparents, Retirement | Comments Off
Millions of British people are struggling to care for elderly parents and grandchildren in a growing number of four generation families.
An ageing population means that thirty per cent of UK adults are now part of four generation families fueling a rapidly growing ‘sandwich generation’ – the name given to them because they are caught between younger and older family members and unable to spread their time effectively.
A survey has revealed that a massive 65% of ‘sandwich generation’ Britons are struggling to balance the homecare needs of both the oldest and the youngest generations of their family.
Nearly two in three that have already retired said they feel they are too busy caring for other people with 35 per cent admitting to feeling overwhelmed by the pressures they are facing.
The survey was conducted by live in care work specialists, Helping Hands, to highlight the pressures ageing British people are facing trapped in this dual caring role. On average grandparents with parents still alive were spending two and a half days a week helping out with childcare or helping their elderly parents do things such as get to hospital appointments, pay bills and do the shopping.
One in three were also afraid to travel in case either their parents or grandchildren needed them.
Lindsey Edgehill, Care Services Manager for Helping Hands, said: “Instead of enjoying the so-called ‘best years of your life’, people approaching retirement are under more pressure than ever. We are seeing an increasing number of people in their 50s and 60s coming to us to find out more about home care services and live-in care for their elderly parents because the pressure is simply becoming too much.”
“25 per cent of people we talked to in our research identified guilt as the main reason for not considering alternative home health care options but the reality is that taking all the responsibility yourself is not always the best option either for you or your loved ones.”
The World Alzheimer Report released recently highlighted that the cost of informal care (unpaid care provided by family members and others) accounts for 42 per cent of the total cost of dementia worldwide, underlining the huge responsibility our ‘sandwich generation’ carers are facing.
The demands placed on the ’sandwich generation’ have led to one in five suffering ill health and 18 per cent admitted that all the time spent acting as a carer for the rest of the family was effecting their relationship with their partner. One in five unlucky people said they were tired all the time.
Women are feeling the strain more than men with nearly half saying that they feel that they have no time to themselves. One in three women thought they spent too much of their time caring for their families while only a fifth of men felt the same.
Men were also much more likely to look into getting help than women were with one in four women saying that they feel it’s their responsibility to care for their family.
23 per cent are supporting their parents at an average spend of £138 a month whilst one in three are having to support grandchildren financially with an average spend of £118 a month. Most of this money is spent on food, clothes, bills and saving for their grandchildren’s future.
Fourteen per cent also admitted that they felt their quality of life was not as they felt it should be as a result. More than half wished they had more time to go travelling and 48 per cent wanted more time to spend in the garden.
For more information about Helping Hands visit www.helpinghandshomecare.co.uk
Posted: October 5th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Miscellaneous | No Comments »
I am feeling rather despondent since the ceiling collapsed yesterday.
Up until that point I was feeling quite chirpy having finally got our fence fixed. This is the fence which routinely fails at some point during the year. This year it was the victim of a luxuriant but out of control honeysuckle.
We are supremely unlucky in that we seem to have responsibility for all the fences bordering our garden.
So, we fixed the fence and the hall ceiling collapsed 2 hours later. It turns out that the shower tray whose dripping tendencies we thought we had finally curbed had been silently but steadily leaking water into the joists and floor boards until it all proved too much for the ceiling.
I must admit to a Chicken Licken moment until I remembered the insurance policy. Surely such a devastating event would be covered? This is just the disastrous event for which we had been paying our premiums for the past 25 years.
But no, dear reader. Turns out it was the wrong sort of leak. If there had been a big gushing leak, we would have been fine. All expenses paid (apart of course from the hefty excess that the insurers imposed last time we renewed). But small, stealthy leaks, sorry, no.
So there we are. A fence but no ceiling. Where’s Henny Penny when you need her…?