The Lure of Those Old Papers

Have you ever been tempted to tackle a little DIY and begun by spreading those long-out-of-date newspapers to protect the carpet and anything in the surrounding area that might get splashed or messed up before you make a start? Well you might guess where I’m coming from, or going to, when I tell you that I’m still in the process of trying to de-clutter by emptying shelves of lever-arch files that are crammed with outdated material relating to defunct organisations that ceased operations years ago.

It was decided that all paperwork relating to the matters of which I speak should be kept for five years and then destroyed. Just as well, because I was deeply committed to my final year of study with the Open University, I delayed any action; I wouldn’t have had time for my studies if the current rate is anything to go by. This brings me back to the beginning of this blog and the irresistible urge to read the old papers that I’m having to look through in order to shred what is sensitive and dispose of the remainder without problem.

At the start of the millennium following the 1997 election, there was a renewed vibrancy to the campaigning movement among older retired people living on their state and professional pensions. Here in Wales, Wales Pensioners represented many individual groups throughout the country. Like their counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Wales Pensioners were affiliated to the NPC National Pensioners’ Convention. Groups held monthly meetings and hopes were high when, in 2002, the newly devolved Welsh Assembly set about appointing a Commissioner for Older People.

Indeed, hopes were so high, representatives of different groups dared to believe they might be in danger of duplicating responsibilities so Wales Pensioners disbanded as a campaigning body believing they now had a champion for the cause of all pensioners in Wales.

What a damp squib that turned out to be. Ruth Marks’ was eventually appointed as the first older people’s champion but her contract was not renewed at the end of her first year. Although, as a graduate of Common Purpose she went on to bigger and better things and another commissioner was appointed,  the Welsh pensioner movement was hoodwinked and demoralized because, although much was promised, little or nothing was delivered.

The papers I was entrusted to keep and eventually dispose of are now being sorted. They are reawakening old memories, but I think they are better left dormant and the paperwork shredded. Times change, and we move on.

Books and Life


I have been reading Sam by Jonathan Powell which was filmed for a Granada TV series somewhere around 1973. It’s a powerful story of life in a mining community in the 1930s, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. It portrays a life where unemployment and Means Testing were ever present scourges that sapped the pride and energy out of those who had to endure both. It’s a far cry from all the political correctness of the twenty-first century, and that is just as well given the prospects thrown up by yesterday’s news of the end of shipbuilding at Southampton and the threat of more to come in the remaining shipyards of Scotland being used as a kind of threat to dissuade the Scots from voting for independence in any proposed referendum.

       I have no axe to grind one way or another, but I do subscribe to the old adage that, united we stand, divided we fall. One has only to think of the impenetrable turtle presented to the opposing foe by the Roman foot-soldiers and their interlocked shields, or the hail of arrows fired simultaneously by the united archery of the Welsh long-bowmen at Agincourt, to realise the strength and effectiveness of presenting a unified front and purpose. This was also the case for the unions in times past, but their impact is passing into antiquity as their numbers decline and their leaders become engrossed with enjoying their own comfort zones, or overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness as the facts are put before them.

       There’s no getting away from the fact that labour is expensive – I was recently quoted £70 to fix my kitchen tap by a representative of British Gas (now owned by Centrica), although I have a HomeSafe contract that is supposed to cover all plumbing, heating and electricity emergencies. This costs £400+ every year. In all fairness, I have to say my contract with BG has been exemplary for many years but I have also noticed the price has increased, while the service is getting pickier as they increase the small print I don’t always read these days. Well, my reply to the engineer who quoted me on the phone was to say that I’d get a local plumber. The same one who charged me £50 for a thirty minute job some months ago when BG informed me they wouldn’t touch the sink-disposal unit I wanted removed.

In fact, I emailed the Austrian manufacturer of my kitchen tap who asked me to send a photograph of the problem. He then emailed me by return with the simple remedy, and even telephoned later to make sure all was well. I was able to tell him I’d succeeded in repairing the tap in about ten minutes while grinning into the phone as I spoke. I might have added that I had also got a great big feeling of elation at saving myself more than a few pennies.



Books are Reflections of the Soul


Books (Photo credit: henry…)

Often when I read, I think the book I’m reading is a reflection of what is in my soul when I find myself agreeing with the writer. Just lately, I’ve found myself speaking aloud my protestations against items in the news. Today was no exception when I heard that politicians are once again meddling with the examinations that will mean so much to the lives of our young people. Long ago, when I was young, we knew we had to pass our school-leaving certificate, then, soon after World War II, the Meddling Matties got busy and started the long list of changes that has gone on ever since.

The results have been falling standards in literacy and all things to do with education. I don’t mean only academia either; I mean all things related to what is regarded as the education of young people in their preparation for life. There once was a subject called Domestic Science which helped girls in particular gain a useful knowledge of all that might help her feed and keep her family healthy. I not only learned to cook, but also learned the right and the wrong way to do simple tasks around the house.

Much that I learned was duplicated at home by my mother and father; being an only child, my mother demanded I learn all that a girl might need to know, while my father, having caught me messing about with an electric light switch and witnessed my giving myself a nasty electric shock, insisted I learned the right way to go about things. The results were to save me a great deal of money because I was never afraid to tackle most DIY jobs around the home, and gained even greater personal satisfaction on completing a good job whether it involved cutting out and sewing a garment, or sawing wood to put up new shelving.

Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing (Photo credit: BrianCSmith)

And that is where my love of books has paid off because having a passion for books has resulted in hundreds of them on my bookshelves; giving me access to almost any subject under the sun. With the help of books I have created garments to wear, prepared and cooked delicious food to eat, landscaped several gardens, decorated all six of my homes in various places here and abroad, and still, when I need to learn about something, or get away from it all, I have my books. They are the friends who may get a little older, a little shabbier, but never fail to comfort, even when what they have to say is as familiar as the face I see in a mirror.