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

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Have you ever been tempted to tackle a little DIY and begun by spreading those long-out-of-date newspapers to protect the carpet and anything in the surrounding area that might get splashed or messed up before you make a start?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that I’m still in the process of trying to de-clutter by emptying shelves of lever-arch files that are crammed with outdated material relating to defunct organisations that ceased operations years ago.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

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.

Three Cheers

Well, what do you know? Grey is gorgeous, and great for box-office returns. Well, that’s the way things look to me, and judging from some publications, not to mention the Olivier Awards last night, the over-fifties have won top places for superb performances in an increasing number of films that do not require bulging boobs, the frenzied frolicking of lusting flesh, nor all-devouring kisses that are routine in most of today’s films, but must be pure hell if you’re partnered with someone who has BO or suffers from halitosis!


Judi Dench at the BAFTAs at the Royal Opera Ho...




It’s become traditional to see the stars at such events as the Olivier Awards. Indeed, three such are Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Helen Mirren who are regularly awarded their well-deserved trophies, then deliver dignified speeches, minus the weeping and simpering of the less experienced, before returning to their seats amid thunderous applause from fellow thespians, each of whom must be conscious of the changing attitudes towards ageism. Now thankfully moving far away  from the days when most women actors would have been considered over-the-hill at forty  and useful perhaps for the odd cameo role on stage or screen. Although older men fared better and could still pick up supporting roles requiring grey-haired maturity where the odd wrinkle didn’t matter too much, star parts were few and far between. 

Derek Jacobi signing autographs

Derek Jacobi signing autographs (Photo credit: felibrilu)



Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon with brilliant fellow stars like Sophia Loren, gave us laughs a plenty in Grumpy Old Men. I never tire of watching such films. Indeed, my grandson, in his mid-twenties often asks to watch such golden oldies as Dad’s Army and Last of the Summer Wine whenever he comes to stay for a couple of nights. Among the most recent DVDs I acquired was The Exotic Marigold Hotel, and I’m looking forward to Quartet, when I get the DVD. I won’t miss Vicious tonight with Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi. I’m sure there are others who think, as I do when watching these brilliant people acting roles they make so realistic, it’s like being allowed to watch through a magic mirror, enchanting people behaving outrageously while doing what they want, even if it’s unconventional, and loving every moment.


I hope more such productions will be undertaken in the future so we can treasure and archive the unique talents of these brilliant people for years to come. So many who are  handsome or beautiful become obsessed with preserving their good looks in aspic through the surgeon’s knife, or botox; afraid to believe the years really do sit more kindly upon the shoulders of those who allow the odd laughter line, as well as those of life’s experiences, to trace their ways across faces topped by silvering hair, rather than that subjected to the harsh psychedelic contents of a bottle.

That said, I’m all in favour of living out my last act as disgracefully as time will allow. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to plunge into bed with anything more exciting than my hot water bottle or electric blanket, but I’m not going to listen to all that straight-laced-thou-shalt-not brigade. I enjoy my wine and my cognac too much. Cigarettes were consigned to the past many years ago, before they were ever more than a social accessory to give me something to do with my hands. Marriage and motherhood took care of that more than fifty years ago. No, I can say what I mean, and mean what I say, without fear or favour; enjoy my own company as well as that of family and friends, although, like everyone else, the numbers are dwindling, but there’s a great life to be lived in spite of the wrinkles.

Chinese Shar Pei Dog Cure for Wrinkles (No Bot...

Chinese Shar Pei Dog Cure for Wrinkles (No Botox) is Getting Wet, Luna & Boxer Puppy Friend (Photo credit: Beverly & Pack)