RIP Old Gaffer, 1922 – 2014

Steve here, the Old Gaffer’s grandson. I’m sorry to report that my grandfather died in the early hours of this-morning. I was on my way to the airport to fly to Northern Ireland for a visit when I got the call.

What a wonderful and inspiring man he was. And still is. This blog is testament to the colours of his days, his verve for life, his genius, his eccentricity and his unwavering love for friends and family. I will miss him dearly, but he was ready to go, to be honest.

All I’ve been able to think about all day is his big laugh. Sipping a single malt while sitting in his big comfortable armchair as the sun set outside the house on Cavehill Road, bursting out with that laugh, the purest expression of the joy of life.

Much loved, I know he will rest in peace.


Further to the Cost of Care

Futher To ‘The Cost Of Care’
Certainly in this part of the country, and probably elsewhere, the immigrant workers in the building trade are now departed, because the differential between the cost of living in Britain is no longer what it was. It is reasonable to suspect that the same thing will happen in the care and hospitalisation milieu, where currently there are highly trained, competent and willing immigrants supporting our health services. If this does occur, the cost of having someone in care will escalate to a point where many of the homes will be forced to shut down. I know of one in our district, where the same reason was muted, but whether this is actually correct I don’t know.

Writing further concerning insurance, which appears to be on the menu, I wish to say that I am totally against the system of insurance. The fact that it is required by statute for driving makes it inexorable. What I am finding is that more and more people are considering carrying their own house insurance, working on the principle that the house will not burn down, or ruined by flooding or settlement, feel that they have very little to gain by ensuring the contents of the house, and indeed the structure of the house as in a lot of cases the repair cost is little more than the voluntary excess, and the loss of any ‘no claims bonus’. The structure of the system in such that many feel dissatisfied with the remuneration system operating, and the benchmarks surrounding that.

I raise this because the word insurance was used in the discussion that I heard, and any money that we have to pay in advance for care when we are aged, should be in the form of savings, something which will benefit the government, but at the same time would provide a nest egg for the coming generation if demands were not made, as would be the case with a high percentage of people who never need more than minimal assistance, or none, in their old age. If it is to be a tax to provide help to the whole nation then there are some things which need to be adjusted. Firstly care should not be a postcode lottery. If we are paying a tax, then what we are receiving in help, maybe split into different categories as it is in care homes at the moment, what should be on offer should be consistent throughout the land, not the way it is now where the homes are run by individuals, to their own standards, and in some cases are probably merely to meet the minimum standards required of them by legislation. I have said before that I have seen friends of mine in homes, living in conditions that no one should be required to live in, yet these conditions appear to meet the standards required by law.

The Cost Of Care

This is my experiences of caring for my wife, having her cared for, while at the same time receiving care myself because I’m handicapped. The politicians are proposing to administer care in the future, to the country as a whole. If you use the search engine on this Blog you will find where I have explained about care in detail, the various aspects involved, such as the provision of suitable equipment, of care in the home on a daily basis, and above all that currently care is a postcode lottery, and I am fortunate in the care that I receive.

To some extent there is a theory that the elderly should pass over their property, and their savings, up to a fixed amount, to ensure that the inheritance to their children is preserved and not used to pay for care in a care home, which will happen if the savings are above a certain amount. In my generation, born at the end of the First World War, we were trained to save, against indebtedness. The problem with the above philosophy is that if you have made over your home and your savings to members of your family, you can lose your home and all the savings you passed on, if one of them gets seriously into debt. In my case I am paying for my wife out of my own and her income and savings, with one advantage, I was able to pick the home which I wanted, because of the standard of the home. I had seen so many of my friends in homes, over the years, where the quality of care was not personal, where everybody was lumped together irrespective of their condition.

There was a programme on Andrew Marr’s Show, where he interviewed Andrew Lansley, MP, Secretary of State for health, concerning the increase in anticipated financial requirement to cover the cost of care across the country, in view of the fact that people were living to an older age. Some points I feel are very serious and could lead to mismanagement. Firstly, very few people in any given family finish up in a care home. Within my family, my wife is the only one out of all of the family, going back to our parents and their relatives, who has had to go into a care home for a protracted period. I suggest that when you read this, you carry out your own exercise to get some bearing on whether the government is making the right decision. They refer to the cost of care as being anything between 50,000 and a hundred thousand pounds, which sounds excessive, but this is only for one person, and considerably greater than I would have expected, and not spread out to a figure that could be taken as the average per person, whether receiving care or not. To some extent this is true depending on the life expectancy of the individual, but in my case using our savings and our pensions, it is only costing us about 13,000 the year, and I repeat that she is the only one in the family who has required this help.

The word, ‘ Insurance’, came into the conversation, and I took it to be that in some way the government wished everyone to have insurance against going into a care home, Perhaps I misunderstood, but I took it that the government was proposing some further taxation, whether it was included in the general tax or was a separate taxation. When I first wrote this blog I used to say that it was like shouting down a well, because all I got back was the sound of my own voice. Insurance is a bottomless pit into which we throw money through fear, with no hope of a valuable return. I would have thought, a quick assessment could be made on the liability of an individual finishing up in a care home, as a percentage,, This would have been a sensible way to go, before going into any other system of taxation. Currently, in most care homes there are different grades of care charged at different rates. The most expensive is the dementia and full-time care. I believe that this differential should also be taken into account when deciding on what sort of tax is going to be levied.

Finally, there is no shadow of doubt that there has been a considerable change from my day to the modern generation with respect to saving, and therefore the system should be designed to take this into account. It seems to me singularly fair that somebody who is careful and responsible, and wishes to assist their successors after they are dead, should be respected, anything else is invidious.

Women, a concideration

Women, a consideration.
In the round, spontaneous pleasures are often more pleasing than if they had been tailored with great care. Take for example two families on holiday in a seaside house. The sun is shining the day is warm and one of the number says that he is going off for a swim. Others say that they will join him and then a voice pipes up, suggesting that they all have a picnic on the beach. Pandemonium reigns, and within no time some are setting out the picnic and others are already swimming. I believe that would have been a much better party than if it had been thought of days before, and catered for.

Having been brought up by women, married, and having two daughters and five married young ladies as part of the family, I am not unaware of how much women enjoy dressing up, looking smart and above all fashionable, I think the film ‘My Fair Lady’, in the Ascot scene, showed just what could be done in the way of style and fashion for women. When I was a young man, women still wore dresses, and it was a delight to see them in summertime, when they had all their beautifully coloured finery on view. I have actually seen trousers on women which were bearable. Women can walk and swing their hair, which often is very attractive, and is even more attractive when it is coupled with them swinging their dresses in the sunlight. OK, trousers are very serviceable especially in the winter, but one couldn’t say that they were terribly attractive and that they do very much for the woman apart from keeping warm.

In these days, as I’ve said before, we are presented on television with nightly scenes of gross damage and carnage, and the inevitable display of adults having sexual intercourse. I have always felt that the actors when kissing, look as though they’re fighting over who should get the largest suck of a sourer lemon. Equally their physical cavorting is more like gymnastics. There is however one common factor in all these films, the women always wear skirts in these conditions, and never trousers. The reason is obvious.

I have been married for over 60 years, and I only see my Sophie on most days in the week for an hour, in her Care Home. but she still likes me. One day I made the point that I have just made above, and she and I reminisced about the past, and how in those days it was only on rare occasions, and under certain conditions, that a woman would wear trousers. Two people working together in their home,or one arriving unexpectedly could well generate Pheromones that would cause a smile and a silent question, which would be reciprocated. There was no preamble of undressing nor later that of dressing. It was fun, It all started and finished with big smiles, a hug and a kiss, and then later when the household started to fill, from time to time there would be secret smiles passed between the couple that added further pleasure, and underlined the relationship.

I am fully aware that wearing skirts leaves those who wish to pander to their urges easy opportunity. But I also think that couples living together and enjoying one another have been denied something which in my day was fun. The opportunity to have spontaneity and immense fun couched in love.

Suicide – A case for euthenasia

What I write here is as a result of my own experience, but not my intentions. My situation is such that I have to live as long as I can, and I hope for at least three years, during which time I shall have to be very careful not to fall yet again. I cannot afford to go into a care home The government seems to be very concerned about the fact that the current older generations are living too long, but doesn’t take into account the fact that the coming generations will never live as long as we did because their habits are so different from ours.
I have known of three cases of suicide, but not the reasons of any one of them. The first was of a man friend of mine who without consideration for the people in the bus or the driver, stepped in front of a long-distance bus, purposely, and was killed. The second case was the wife of a friend of mine. For some reason she drank bleach, which must have given her a most terribly painful death. The third case was that of a young woman, wealthy, apparently healthy, and if the vast number of people who turned up for her funeral was any gauge, she was well loved. I quote these instances because those who commit suicide do not take into consideration the effects on their family or on other’s. The trauma that the suicide can generate can be quite wide. There will be the effects on the immediate family, presupposing that there is affection between them. There will be trauma for those who discover the body, and the subsequent attentions of the police and the coroner’s court, will also be unpleasant. I accept, that the fact of having euthanasia will present the family with some problems, but they would more than likely be aware of the reason why the decision was taken.

I consider that the most cogent reason for introducing euthanasia, is the problems made by the subject being totally incapable, for one reason or another, of understanding the parameters of committing suicide, and thus, failing in the attempt. In this case, the result is that the subject can be totally damaged, and require attention for the rest of their lives, which in turn costs the government thousands of pounds per annum, and puts a burden on the family.

Introducing euthanasia is not a simple matter. One has to be firmly convinced that the subject has reasonable necessity, is not making the decision lightly, nor on the spur of the moment. There must be time to ensure that it is not a whim. What I set out next is just a basic framework for the way in which the processes could be undertaken reasonably, sensibly, and justifiably. Stage one is the application, written by the subject, and witnessed by a reliable person. In the application there would be the names of two family members, who are regularly in touch with the subject. In addition there will be the names of two friends of the family with the same requirement. And finally there will be the name of the doctor treating the subject. There would be a six week period from that point on, to allow the authorities to insure that what they were doing was reasonable. This period also provides that the subject has time to reconsider. Stage two, is split into two fortnightly periods, during which the subject is housed in a very comfortable location, and provided with a very civilised day-to-day existence. At the end of the first fortnight, there will be an opportunity for the subject to indicate that he wished to proceed. Failing this the same procedure would be taken in the second fortnight, when the subject could terminate the exercise at any time, by pressing two buttons only. There would be a switch system, with three buttons and associated coloured lights, set far apart so that they could not be triggered altogether, accidentally. Pressing all the buttons will inaugurated the final stages which will be conducted in such a manner that the subject would not be put under any serious stress. I’m not suggesting that this is a foolproof system, merely suggesting that something along these lines would be essential. If the information that I have received from the Internet about the costs of going to Switzerland is in any way true, then I believe that this alone could force some people into suicide, and hence a viable system at a reasonable price, superintended by the government should be the aim

I believe that we are lucky

I am sure that everybody who writes for public consumption, has written something about the Royals. Due to being ill and in hospital, I wasn’t able to contribute , but I am doing so now on a different tack. Being born in the 20s, I entered an age where it was natural to be a royalist, to be anything else was unusual. On royal occasions the children were given mugs and spoons as keepsakes by the local authority, so the whole philosophy was endemic and taken for granted. It was only just before the war that any thought was given by the general public, to the validity of having a royal family taking care of our affairs, however, the upsurge of the Bownshirts, and Oswald Mosley’s people had little effect on the general public. For this reason, and the fact that the general public are mostly proud to have a royal family, I think we’re lucky because I see little favour in a dictatorship, and I believe our system is preferable to those where the head of state changes every five years

As part of the Raj in Africa, I found the Royal family held a very high position, they represented home, that place miles across the sea, that was look forward to by the civil servants as their final resting place when they retired. .Empire day each year was a great occasion for us in Livingston, in what was then Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe. The children were given keepsakes, and the Governor, at Government House, gave a party for the children in the afternoon and a dinner for the Whites and those of the other races who held prominent positions of authority. Needless to say there were very few Africans invited to these affairs. Some years later, when we returned to England, and the cat’s whisker type radio became in vogue, the country as a whole would sit at Christmas lunch and listen to the King’s speech. This affinity of the man in the street for the Royals, was duplicated during the war when the Dutch resistance, in London learning their trade, would stand and toast Queen Wilhelmina when the Dutch anthem was played on Sunday nights, along with the anthems of every country fighting with us.

Every week,The Prime Minister advises the Queen on current policies and other political matters. Whether this is a polite, historical feature, and serves any real purpose of putting a brake on something the Queen objects to, I feel is unlikely. There is a thing called the Royal prerogative, which has come down through the historical ages, from when kings had total power. I believe that this also has been watered down. All the time that we have a royal head of state, the chances of us becoming a dictatorship, is thankfully, unlikely. We only have to look round the world today to see the disadvantages of the dictatorship.

One of these days we will have a change in the head of state, and when one hears that the current Queen has had as many as 440 engagements in one year, one can see that there has to be a considerable amount of study by the head of state, not only to maintain her or his standards when receiving the Prime Minister each week, but also having to mug up all the details and personalities for each visit. It would seem therefore at the outset, any new head of state has got a prodigious learning curve, and I wouldn’t like to be in his shoes

Things I disaprove of

Excesses in sport
I know that there will be some who will say that that old idiot is delving into his past, and ranting as usual. This is true, this is true, because I feel that in a lot of cases the aggrandisement of the school or the individual sets precedents over the general good. A young friend of mine was telling me about the conditions at the school her son goes to, where ability in sport is seen to be more advantageous for the individual, than an overall full education. She was describing how her children, while good at sport, and enjoying sport while not training to the excesses which other children were, who were the in the top echelon of sportsmen and sportswomen. She said this was more the case with respect to rugby, than it was to any other type of sport. She pointed out that the time when the school was in serious competition with other schools, the gymnasia, and other sports facilities were taken over by the rugby team, to the detriment of the rest of the school. She further went on to say that the boys who were playing rugby at high-level, were being given high levels of muscle training to enable them to achieve their goal, and she felt that this at that age is both psychologically and physically detrimental to the child’s future. She said they were like grown men rather than schoolboys. In my day, 1920s and 30s, we were hardly trained at all, told a few basics, and then left to get on with the game. As I played rugby at an average level, I was still playing it fairly robustly, with the inevitable bumps and bruises, and my physical modification if any, resulted from the daily period in the gymnasium, with a good shower afterwards, rather than the rugby. Obviously we wanted our school to,win when they played in competition, but I don’t remember us getting into the level of hysteria that seems to follow top sport, even at school level,

Recently I have been watching rugby on television and come to the conclusion that it is no longer a sport, but a business, and sportsmanship as we knew it is sacrificed to winning, and at all costs, I can go back to the end of the war when sport started to emerge once again, as a spectator event, rather than merely for pleasure. But the levels that people attained, or even sought, were well below what people are achieving today, because today the rewards are incredible. Then, footballers were not paid in thousands of pounds a year, or indeed millions, they got a small stipend every week, if they turned up. My father-in-law played for a local team in one of the lower leagues, and the majority of the players were amateurs at a high level.

In so many things we have become Americanised, and the attraction of the almighty dollar I believe is seeping into our country, through the back door which really is just Skye television. Having watched television quite considerably since I was injured, I find their outlook to be rumbustious, extraordinarily crass, noisy and extrovert. If their serious films are to be taken seriously as an indication of their desires and outlook, with copious killings in the first two minuets and every person depicted in the picture, and even the women, capable of throwing a 16 stone man over their shoulder with their knowledge of Kung Fu, I question whether it is only I who wishes to have a reasonable amount of honesty and consistency in a story, rather than some childish make-believe?

I have discovered recently that I am not alone in my criticism, but also many other ordinary people are beginning to question not only their politics, pricing, honestly as a whole, and where all this is leading us in the future, when we will not be picking up the bill, but those who are still at school, unfortunately, will be, in my youth we were able to leave the front door open without any fear. Criminality was at a very low ebb, and rarely within reach of the average citizen. With no television the only advertisements we had were in newspapers, and they were of a very muted type. Today on television people are making extraordinary promises, false statements to the individual, and what I consider to be criminal proposals, , all in the name of commercial expediency. It is not an accident that the television volume goes up to incredible levels every time the advertisements start. It is all to do with our equivalent of the almighty dollar.

Beware of the chasam

There comes a time for all of us, when we will lose someone very dear to us, either through death or separation. It is this condition, which prompts me to mull over the problems that the young people of today are going to be faced with, as a result the current financial problems, and the incredible changes that have been made in society over the recent decade. These young people are having exactly the same problems that we had during WW 2, a lack of finance, a society under serious pressure, and a problematical future.I first met Sophie, my wife, on my 21nd birthday. We would probably not have married as soon as we did, if there had not been the possibility that I would be sent abroad for at least two years, and now, about 68 years later we are separated, because through illness, she is in a care home and I live alone. I’m not complaining, I merely applying my condition to those of the young people who are either married or living together at this time. With separation, one loses friendship, social, tactile, sensory, intellectual relationships, and companionship, which leaves you alone for much of the day and indeed much of the week, and having to rely on your own resources. Living together either married or otherwise, is a condition that requires work from time to time, understanding, and what is more the ability to admit when you’re wrong. The pressures of living, especially in the environment that we have today can produce a situation that can seriously undermine a relationship, if those involved are not prepared to stand back, think carefully, and then come to a fair conclusion.
The period prior to marriage, is a time of pleasure, mutual outings, and a certain amount of euphoria In effect, marriage, to some extent,is a leap in the dark, which time and mutual understanding will help to iron out the bumps. Family and financial problems are often the cause of misunderstandings that can magnify with time, and disrupt a relationship. The fact of being married presents an obstacle to separation, which allows time and probably advice, to bring a more stable viewpoint on the problems. Living together, has not the same beginning, with the wedding, the honeymoon and the fact that there is a legal tie as well, but this fact may not be sufficient to make any difference.With my outlook and history, I appreciate that the younger people have not the same viewpoints as I have, which could well be slightly Victorian, and therefore make what I say redundant.

Real friendship is precious

When you get to my age, you start losing relatives and close friends through illness. Recently, the last of my friends who date back to the 40s, died, and this made me ruminate on what I was missing and indeed, what I have missed over the years. This in turn made me evaluate the sort of friendships that the young people will have today, when you consider all the various influences that they have on their lives.
What happened to my parents, with respect to friends, happened to me, because we were all caught up in wars, that meant you lost touch with the friends that you had made in your school-days. Sophie my wife, had no such impediment, and all her friends that she had had since early childhood, her school days and her university days then became my friends when I married her, and this included husbands where they existed The level of trust and friendship that we had with these people , the help they gave when we were in trouble, and the constant pleasure of their company on holidays, outings, parties, celebrations and year round, was something one cannot buy. To have this level of friendship requires certain conditions. You have to live within easy access, you need to not only enjoy but look for their company, have implicit trust in them under all circumstances, and this ultimately makes them part of your family, although this is never acknowledged
I know of several cases where parents have retired, and gone to live near their children in another part of the country, because there were also the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but in these cases few have been all that successful, firstly because they have now lost friendships that they have had for at least 40 years, and in some cases the children themselves have later moved away, because of changes in their workplace.
There is a some difference between a friendship which is is as a result of mixing on a daily basis, or living next door, compared with those friendships that have come about primarily from school.days. What I say here, does not in any way denigrate those friendships come about by circumstance, or indeed as neighbours or workmates, on the contrary, these too can be long and strong as I have found, but friendship, I believe, has to be maintained, not taken for granted, and is definitely a two-way street. It should be remembered that when you get older friendship becomes even more important, the children have gone, to some extent you are thrown on your own ability to entertain yourself, but this is also a time when old friends help one another.
The young people of today are more prone to go away from home to find work, with the result that the friendships that they made at school while still there, are only serviced when the opportunity and the time allows, in my experience with my grandchildren, these friendships are strong, but when they meet I believe it is a little frenetic, not as relaxed as if they had never left, and while not false, the participants are aware of the clock. Another aspect of this fractured existence, is that the children and grandchildren are not part of that friendship, which they were in my generation, and so I suspect the level of friendship experienced by any one family is more than likely to be very small compared with what we were lucky enough to have.

Predictable stupidity

Predictable stupidity
For some time now, I have been stating in the blog that I could not understand how the government was permitting the legal faction to advertise on television that people could claim if they had an accident. I even cited a case in Belfast, where a flight of steps, which were constructed out of paving slabs, and was part of a parking area, was continually vandalised so that individuals could first damage the steps, then appeared to fall on them, and claim from the local council

It is now coming to the surface that this possibility of obtaining compensation from accident, by taking legal action, is not only spurious, it is being used by criminals to obtain money, in some cases by actually manufacturing a car accident involving two cars. To anybody with any sense this was predictable, and should have been cut off at the very beginning. I was always under the impression that if you had any dealings with a solicitor, you had to pay the solicitor, or even the barrister. These advertisements claim that the recipient will receive the full amount of the compensation without any deduction. I find this totally iniquitous, because those advertisements are not put up without there being some advantage for the professional legal factions obtaining profit. What I don’t understand is where the profit is coming from.

All along I was of the opinion that it was not necessary to bail out the banks, it would have been cheaper and easier in the long term, to allow the individual to transfer his savings from the banks to a central government- instituted bank. The government would then have more finance on which to draw on a short-term basis. I believe if that had been done, and strict measures taken with both the banks and stock exchange, way back when it was obvious that people were gambling, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

For a family to be able to manage their financial affairs, they need to know in long-term, any changes in taxes, the rates, and other large items of their budget, otherwise the whole thing is chaotic. We are now finding that the government is continuously changing the way things are operated, in the case of the changes in electoral boundaries, and at a time financial upheaval, seem to me to be a selfish act which was not done for the sake of the populace, but for some other reason

It would be most interesting if, on the Internet, there was a website where people could write about the matters of government policy which they considered to be totally unnecessary, at this time. My generation had job security, now no such thing exists except possibly in Parliament for five years. If you were a tradesman, which meant that you had a qualification; if you had academic qualification and were in a professional job, then the chances of you getting the sack, would have been minimal, because even in austere times, everybody pulled together, and the bosses took the brunt as well as the staff. Today it is dog eat dog and what it will be like in the future is hard to foretell, because it would appear that greed is God