House-Moving and All That


Having decided that at eighty, a house move must be tackled sooner rather than later, and with my house on the market, I have embarked upon the essential de-cluttering that downsizing means. The first stage of clearing shelves of files containing news, views and events that took me on the campaigning trail sixteen years ago has been under way for a few weeks and large spaces are now appearing.

The amount of paperwork has been staggering. A great advocate of filing and keeping records, I now realise this is a two-edged sword that is proving hugely time consuming. I was prudent to tackle it now, rather than wait for a buyer to happen along. Who could have foreseen that getting angry over other people’s problems would result in shelves crammed with so many black lever-arch files that once emptied, would pose the question, ‘…what do I do with the remains?

The immediate problem was solved after making some local inquiries; the files and their hundreds of multi-punched plastic pockets found good homes, but then the contents of those plastic pockets needed attention; many contained sensitive material so caution was needed before disposal. This meant looking through and reading everything so nothing confidential could fall into the wrong hands.

Now that doesn’t sound too onerous, and though the reading has been superficial, the content has raised many ghosts. I have been hag-ridden by the spectres of those who have had to live with the consequences of the injustices dealt them by circumstances and life in general.

Some of the cases were won by our little group, others we lost. One case took two years before the local health board issued a written apology for the neglect that caused the death of a family’s elderly father. Letters to the minister at the Welsh Assembly, the health Ombudsman, the chair of the local health board had all come back disclaiming responsibility and making excuses as to why they could not be involved in an individual case – but after a public enquiry had found in favour of the plaintiff – all capitulated and an apology was issued.

The prolonged pain and stress of that family would have been so much less had the apology been issued by the hospital in the first place. Just saying “Sorry – we’ll make sure this never happens again” would have sufficed.

Looking through my notes has made me realise that a simple apology on the part of the official body concerned could have saved so much pain for the victims in most of the cases. Why are the words, ‘I’m sorry’ so difficult to say?

The Spectre of Sexual Abuse


The spectre of sexual abuse being prevalent in yet more aspects of the daily life of our young people, is one that hits at the foundation and heart of modern culture, but it is time to look hard at what we call ‘human-nature’.

Sexual abuse and exploitation is as old as time itself and no one is able to explain why humans should perpetrate such vile acts upon the young of the species.

Psychiatrists and psychologists have tried and therapists attempt to deal with victims and perpetrators. All admit their success rate falls short of expectations – but it is necessary for them to try.

Nevertheless, while politicians wring their hands and the legal fraternity rake in the money bags, little is being done. The will to succeed and the necessary funding to train psychiatrists from already qualified doctors, as well as psychologists and therapists from suitably qualified candidates, must be regarded as every bit as critical as those of Brexit and immigration. Experts are in short supply as are designated premises; purpose-built premises are almost non-existent.

From past experience, I am afraid the current revelations will prove to be another storm in the proverbial teacup – debated hotly by our politicians for an all too short period; tossed around by the popular media, and then dumped on a back burner.

Meanwhile, the victims will continue to cry in vain for justice. They may end up in exactly the same way as the families of the Aberfan disaster in 1966 who were ignored by Lord Robens, chairman of the National Coal Board, and backed by Lord Tonypandy – then George Thomas MP – at the Welsh Office, told to pay for the clean up themselves from the disaster fund. Robens accepted no responsibility for the disaster – having ignored all warnings, and arrogantly proceeded to travel to America aboard the ‘Queen Mary’ where he later delivered lectures on ‘Health & Safety’. This injustice was not rectified until 2007.

Fifty years is a long time to wait for justice. Too many victims of sexual exploitation have gone to their graves still waiting. I believe many more may do the same unless those with the power to do so determine that events must move more surely – and more swiftly so justice can be delivered.

Thoughts on Our National Health Service


Too many people and not enough money to go round. It has been like this for a very long time. Money will always be found for war, but there’s never enough for peace. Growing old is a curse that all must come to – if they survive long enough. Being valued for what you have contributed throughout your lifetime is no longer relevant. If you’re old – you’re a nuisance as soon as you need those regular visits to the GP or hospital. Continue reading

Speak Up or Stay Quiet?


After one of my vocal outbursts, my father gave me a real dressing down; ending up by saying , ‘One day you’ll learn that a still tongue makes a wise head.’

‘But the man shouldn’t beat his dog like that.’

‘It’s his dog; he can do what he likes.’

‘Well that’s wrong for a start.’

‘We’ve got to get home. Lunch will be ready. If we’re late we’ll both be in trouble.’ Taking my hand, my father hurried me along. It was only one of the many verbal tussles we had had, and would have in the future, but I was never discouraged from speaking my mind. Indeed, my father was known to speak his mind, and without equivocation. He believed that if you were right, you had a moral duty to speak out. Continue reading

Human Rights and Wrongdoings


Like so many people, I have been appalled at what is happening in Gaza. There can be no excuse for the mass slaughter of innocent civilians no matter how much blather is spouted by the Israeli publicity machine.

I am old enough to remember the terrorist tactics of the Stern Gang in what was Palestine. The blowing up of the King David hotel and the blood bath that ensued before the UK, to its everlasting shame, pulled out of the situation and left the Palestinians to their fate. The rest is history: the sponsorship of the Zionist ambitions by the USA, the UN, and all those who subscribed to the arms supremacy currently enjoyed by Israel.

I suppose Arthur Balfour, a British politician, must bear the brunt and blame for having, in 1917 allowed those Jews seeking asylum from persecution in Europe to find sanctuary in Palestine. By giving these refugees a place of safety, he also gave them an excuse to call it a homeland; but Palestine was never the property of the UK to give to anyone, commendable though this gesture was.

Since 1947, the Israelis, some descendants of those original refugees, have systematically stolen land and property from the Palestinians. They have reduced the host nation to becoming second-class subjects in their own land – without rights or hope of a future. Here we may be forgiven for drawing parallels with the Nazis, and what they did throughout Europe. Bit by bit Palestine has been reduced to the strip of land known as Gaza; another ghetto. Now, even that is being violated. True to tradition, according to the history of the Old Testament, the Israelites were ever the aggressors; driven to acquiring the land of their neighbours and arrogantly calling it their own. Some things never change.

Perhaps that was the reason the Romans expelled them from Jerusalem two thousand years ago – warning all Jews never to return on pain of death; a warning that was never revoked.

Meanwhile, the world’s politicians wring their hands and spout their rhetoric while Netanyahu puts up two fingers at the United Nations and tells all of them that Israel will stop only when it chooses.

All this we can ponder on while we remember how the might of America and UK marched and blasted its way into Iraq on the mere pretext of supposed weapons of mass destruction.

The catastrophic meddling of George Bush and Tony Blair has resulted in a maelstrom in the Middle East that will have repercussions for years to come, yet Israel has obtained, against all international agreements, atomic weapons. The disillusioned expert who disclosed this to the world in 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, has spent many years (eleven in solitary confinement), entombed as a political prisoner in Israel after being lured to Italy, and then kidnapped by Mossad. He is still not allowed to leave Israel even though he has served the heinous prison terms imposed upon him, despite pleas from his worldwide supporters that he be freed.

All this and the world looks on.

The Complications of 21st Century Communications


Yesterday, Monday 5th May 2014, I reported a problem with the cable delivering the telephone line to the outside of my house. The cable has become dangerously loose.

I was out of the country for some weeks and have been busy catching up on various matters. My neighbour drew my attention to the matter this week-end. It being a bank holiday, I thought to leave the matter, but on seeing for myself the urgency of the possibilities, I decided to try to communicate with British Telecom, who, through their most unhelpful robotic system of communication, told me it was a matter for the individual company with whom I had my telephone account so I phoned the TalkTalk helpline – and succeeded in talking to an operator in India.

After a somewhat protracted process of questions, answers, and laboured explanations, I thought he had understood that the matter was of some urgency. I tried to make him understand that the cable is attached to a heavy metal bracket on the outside of my house. The bracket is hanging from the wall by one screw. The cable is heavy. I am afraid that if the cable breaks free from the wall, the weight of the cable will cause the bracket to swing free. It could the kill or maim anyone passing underneath, or severely damage a passing vehicle which might also result in a driver fatality.

Afraid that the young man might not have understood the urgency of my request for help, I determined to try to contact my telecommunication firm by email – but failed miserably. Although there are several options – somewhat euphemistically called Help or Customer Service  none allowed me to send an email direct to Customer Services at TalkTalk. It has forced me to conclude that trying to communicate with telecommunication firms such as this, as well as BT, is somewhat like trying to find a hen’s teeth. They don’t make it easy, so I decided to try the questionable mailing system we now have in UK, as that too has proved a dubious method of communication in recent weeks – apart from that of the ‘junk’ variety.

A friend recently sent a card – a single flower with a button at its centre – by first class mail. It arrived six days later, having been posted and delivered locally, in Carmarthenshire. Now I know this is the biggest single county in Wales, but letters from Sri Lanka and New Zealand take only four days to arrive. Not only was the card delivered late, but I had to drive five miles to the nearest post-office to collect it, (I was so informed by the printed missive left in my mail box) where I was made to pay £1.11 – (£1 handling charge and 11 pence extra postage) because the button in the centre of the flower made the letter too thick to pass through the mandatory test slot, (but not the post box into which it was popped by my friend) determining the next price category requiring that extra 11 pence postage. My question for the post office was, ‘How much time was wasted by the postman fiddling with a footling plastic test slot instead of doing what he should have been doing – delivering the letter?’ Surely the postal service has not had to stoop to such measures in order to boost profits?

Age, Life’s Quiet Companion.


I wonder how many other older people like me watched the recent programmes screened last week and this by the BBC, as well as the Panorama programme on Wednesday evening. It made salutary viewing and brought the predicted outcry, bluster  and hot-air from politicians and the media. Such revelations always do, for a short time, like the revelations about paedophilia and prominent names, but then the blustering gives way as the hot-air bubbles are pricked and the rhetoric drifts away to be forgotten – except by the victims and their families.

In 2004 I visited a geriatric ward in Cardiff’s Heath Hospital and was so incensed by what I saw, I wrote to the then Minister of Health, Jane Hutt AM, and her Deputy Minister, John Griffiths AM, at the Welsh Assembly in Wales. I invited them to do as I had done, but to do so without warning and without their retinue of civil servants in attendance.  They never did, although they wrote (the letters remain on my files) suggesting that the patients involved could write a letter of complaint to the hospital authorities.  Looking at the patients involved in the Panorama programme, I doubt many of them would have been capable of doing so, and their families were too scared of the possible repercussions on the patients.

Why was I there? I was visiting my aunt; then in her early nineties, who was a patient there for about one week for observation and treatment. She was visited twice a day by her daughter who ensured her mother both ate and drank the nourishment she had prepared at home while she was there. My aunt was summarily brought home by my cousin when she found her mother in some distress having soiled her bed following several calls for a nurse to help her use a bedpan. The patients either side of my aunt were not so lucky, having family who rarely visited and only did so late in the evening.

While visiting, I witnessed a male ward orderly, serving tea from a trolley, pick up full cups of undrunk tea; replace it with a fresh one but make no attempt to help the supine bird-fragile figure, lying helpless and moaning on the bed to even sip her drink. When I remarked that the patient needed help, the response was, ‘That’s not my job.’

We have heard that same reply all too often since it became fashionable to delegate responsibility in what has become the blame-and-claim, compensation-seeking  culture of our modern world. Old people are as much a part of our culture as the young. They belong with their families. My father lived with my family for seventeen years following my mother’s death.  I won’t pretend there were no tensions. He drove us mad – at times, but he meant well and I remembered the doting father of an only child, who’d carried me everywhere when I seemed to be at death’s door for almost two years. So, when it was my turn to care, I was fortunate to have a husband who believed in the same values, and who originally suggested that my dad came to live with us.

Hearing that the company operating the care-home in question made a profit of some one million pounds last year, makes one realise how much money is involved in families and local authorities financing such places.  It would make more sense if the state helped families to provide necessary care for people in their own homes. Carers who drop in for a few minutes are not the answer. Better provision of better trained, better paid carers would make more sense and would be a more efficient way of utilising tax-payers’ money. Older people need to have their personal dignity respected, but don’t need to be locked away in seclusion where unseen, they can be subjected to the kind of abuse we witnessed on the Panorama programme.