Safe and Cheerful

So, I’m just sliding on here to sort of wave at you uncertainly. If you look at this and think – “Oh it’s her. Where has she been? Well if she thinks I’ll be reading this again – she’s got another think coming” I completely understand. However, I am going to type it anyway. This morning, I had a call from a lady from….well actually I’m not 100% positive where she was from. Something to do with the NHS Track and Trace…possibly. She asked a lot of questions about mental health and said that I should try and do productive things to help while we are sitting out the next 12 days in quarantine so here goes.

Actually, before “Here goes” I am not going to give you very much in the way of positive thoughts at the moment. (Nothing terrible. No deaths or anything) When I began to write this blog however many years ago that was, I had ideas of being encouraging and chivvying us all along a bit. I’m not sure it has ever worked out like that so, if you have problems of your own at the moment (and who doesn’t) and feel you want to leg it and not read. I would not take it personally.

So. (I can’t stand it when people start sentences with “so”) So, what’s been occurring? Well, you probably noticed the mention of being in quarantine. That’s because our son – FOW1 – contracted Covid 19 and has been in our back bedroom for the last seven days. It is, as many of you will know, a nasty virus and I would be happy to have a “chat” with anyone who feels that it has been overblown. FOW1 is young and fit. It has made him really quite ill. Also, hello to the donks who tried to come into the hostelry he works in, on the last night before lockdown, and then tried to start something because they “hilariously” thought pulling your T-Shirt over your head was “good enough mate”. For the more observant amongst you, FOW1 is living with us because his relationship has broken down. Initially, he was devastated, although he is thinking a little differently about things now. You know when things happen and you look back and realise that you weren’t actually that happy? That’s where he is at the moment. Well actually, to be strictly accurate, where he is at the moment is having a good cough.

In the meantime, we have also been dealing with Aged Parent whose meds had gone spectacularly wrong. Well, when I say “wrong” the doctors just didn’t get round to sending them. I mean I know they have a lot on but not sending the meds meant she phoned 999 – twice – was admitted to hospital for a barrage of tests – they can’t find anything much physically wrong with her – she was gutted. However, Aged Parent definitely does have mental health issues so we were dealing with phone calls with a distressed old lady crying “Can you help me please?” That was a bit tough. You will be pleased to hear that she is back on a much more even keel now. She is now well enough to pick a fight with her sister about who is the closest relative to my son.

So, that plus sorting out a new lockdown for the charity I work for. (We are not closing completely this time so people can get to doctors’ appointments etc) has meant that I just couldn’t make it happen. AND THEN…good grief, I am boring myself now…Bloglovin has stopped showing my blogs. Now, I know that this means that some people who are interested in me can no longer see if I have posted but, I’m not sure if I should do anything about it. Not because I don’t care about people who read the blog but more because a good proportion of my followers on Bloglovin’ seem to be ladies of a Russian bent who are offering me jig-a-jig. Now – far be it for me to pass judgment on people’s private lives but, I could do without all that carry on, to be frank. So I may see if there is another way forward. Any suggestions gratefully received.

So, if you have read this far. Thank you very much. The lady from Track and Trace was very concerned that we find something useful to do while we are isolated. (I think she was a bit suspicious actually because I took the call while I was standing on the balcony. With all the cars passing, I don’t think it sounded very isolationy.) This has felt quite useful for me if not for you. I hope you are all safe and cheerful.

Don’t have nightmares…

Does anyone remember Crimewatch? I used to watch it in the eighties. Apparently, it was canceled in 2017. Who knew? Mind you, I don’t think anyone was watching by then. For me, it all went wrong when they replaced good, solid you know where you are up to journalists with “sexy” police people who were just as likely to pop up on reality programmes like “When Sharks Eat Celebrities” or on the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame falling out of a nightclub in the early hours.

Anyway, for those who let this phenomenon pass them by, Crimewatch would recreate horrible crimes using lookalike actors. They would then ask you to phone in and speak to the bank of police who were sitting behind the presenters if you had any clues. Then, after an hour of watching women getting followed down back alleys or men in balaclavas with sawn-off shotguns bursting through the French Windows of a semi-detached in Kidderminster, the presenter Nick Ross would remind you how rare violent crime is and implore you not to have nightmares. (I used to thank that, considering violent crime is so rare, they didn’t seem to have many problems finding at least two to reenact every Thursday night).

This is a roundabout way of telling you that I am having a lot of nightmares at the moment. Well, I say “a lot”, I’m having more than I usually have which is zero. It wouldn’t be so bad but I am shouting as well so HOH is suffering. Is anyone else having nightmares? Is not as if I can remember anything so if big hands were appearing and writing in the woodchip about how much I am falling short, I wouldn’t know.

Anyway, I have looked into it (I’ve Googled it) and apparently it’s the pandemic. Possibly. Is anything not “The Pandemic”? It seems that we are all suffering a kind of PTSD (which seems a bit insulting to people who have belly rolled under helicopters while under fire from international terrorists). It’s a kind of slow PTSD and our minds are struggling because of the removal of our normal things and the loss of outside stimuli. So there you are then. Either way, HOH would just rather I got my stimuli sorted and stopped screaming at the curtains in the early hours.

I was always told (by Aged Parent to be honest so don’t write a thesis on it and try and get it peer-reviewed) that nightmares were the body’s way of washing out your brain of horrible thoughts and worries and that people who didn’t dream had bad thoughts bedding down permanently in their brain. Which makes sense when you think about it. Mind you, she also told me that if you die in a dream you die in real life and she is also a firm believer that eating cucumber before bed once gave her a hallucination in which the devil came into our living room and kept trying to put the big lights back on. You pays your money and you takes your choice when it comes to dream deciphering.

For me, I intend to only read nice books before bed. HOH is reading the new Robert Galbraith Strike book which is definitely NOT a nice book. And, I suppose I should cut down on the digestive biscuits before bed (and no cucumber sandwiches obviously). And let’s see if that helps.

Anyway, have a good weekend. If you get a second, prayers and fasting would be appreciated on Saturday morning. We have bought AP a new table to go over her chair since we found she was eating her meals standing up because she didn’t want to spill any gravy. We intend to build that table in her flat on Saturday. Usually, this kind of thing doesn’t go well but in the words of Sally Bowles in Cabaret. “Maybe this time….”

How to break up with your phone

by Catherine Price

Hello all. I hope you are all ok. I am typing this while watching Battlestar Galactica which is very VERY dark. I remember the one with Dirk Benedict which was a lot more cheery but this one has a very strong end of the world/ children dying/undefeatable enemy vibe which is not how I remember it. Also, Starbuck has changed sex. Not in a modern – no-one has a sex way – he’s just a woman now. I’m sorry – I can’t tell you why. She seems very nice. I’m not sure if I will carry on with it. Each episode is 90 minutes long and there appear to be hundreds of episodes containing dystopian, end of the world bleakness. A bit like Aged Parent when she’s run out of Laxido. I will probably move over to All Creatures Great and Small which is very good, I think. All the actors seem to be note perfect to me.

Also, it’s still very warm in Plymouth. Is anyone else warm? I have spent the best part of the weekend changing my clothes in my wardrobe from summer to winter and I probably won’t have anything to wear for the next two weeks now. I mean Tomaz Schafernaker’s word is law in this house but I don’t remember him predicting this.

I just wanted to pop on and review a book. I think it is important. This week, work has continued for the inquest into Molly Russell’s death. The 14-year-old (mark that – 14) killed herself in 2017 after viewing graphic images of self-harm and suicide on Social Media. Instagram has released details of the things she saw and the police have not been able to view it for an extended period of time because it is so graphic. She was 14.

This book addresses the issues around mobile phones, Social Media apps, and the Internet. It is split into two parts. The first part looks at the problems and the second part is an action plan.

The first half uses science to confirm everything I suspected about my mobile phone use. I had noticed that my attention span seemed to be shorter. I put it down to old age/dementia/lack of sleep worrying about Aged Parent. However, it seems that social media shortens our attention spans. It can also be responsible for lack of sleep, it encourages addictive behaviour and is actually changing our brains. And this is all deliberate. These apps are designed to do this to us. They are designed to make us chase “likes” etc. because that is where the money is for them. The killer fact for me was that silicon valley whizz kid designers do not allow their children to have phones – basically until they are so old that there is very little that the parents can do about it. Given a choice, they would probably ban their loved ones from the Internet forever.

Cards on the table, I didn’t follow the second half which is the action plan, point by point. When someone gives me a twelve-point plan, I never just take them one a day like you are supposed to. I get bored and curious and read them all (which as my old mother would say probably explains why I never stick with anything). But I did read all the suggestions and took quite a lot of them on board. I have never kept my phone in the bedroom (except when HOH works nights so that I can quickly dial 999 when murderers break-in). So that was never a big deal for me. However, Looking at my phone when I first got up was beginning to be a habit. Although, as usual, I am not sure that I am entirely to blame. It really only started when I got up and wanted to check the COVID stories. Drat you! International Pandemic. I haven’t deleted all the Social Media Apps either, which she definitely recommends. I mean, she’s right. I’m not doing it. Partly because how else can you keep up with what your kids are up to and er…I’m not doing it.

I did get a time tracker on the phone. (I’ll be honest – I’m not sure where I got it from. It seemed to just appear when I was looking into it which is a bit worrying). That makes a big difference, seeing the amount of time you spend on the phone has helped me to cut back. (On average, we pick up our phones over 50 times a day. I think I was well below average but I still cut back.

Also, emails. At any one time I usually have around 100 emails in my inbox and that’s not my work inbox. Listen, I have a very small circle of friends, eking out, as I do this lonely friendless existence. I am certain there is no way that people who love and care for me are sending me 100 emails. Could it be that they want to make money from me? What do you think?

I am aware, looking at the comments, etc that I get on here that rabid phone usage may not be a terrible problem for you and I am certainly not at the pointy end of this stick. But, if you love someone young or, if you are just concerned about what we are doing to the young people with their palpitations and their stress attacks and, oat the most horrible, horrible end of the spectrum, their suicide attempts, then you might like to poke around in this cesspool a bit further and make sure you have the old sword and shield and don’t get caught unawares.

Here we go again

So, in the words of Mama Mia 2 – “We’re going again” (or something like that. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t Mama Mia’s biggest fan. I know I stand alone in that but I’m managing to live with it).

COVID 19 – which never really left – has rudely forced its way back into the party and we are all subject to reduced freedoms, etc. again. I don’t know if you feel the same but I am finding the fact that we are back here again more depressing than anything I felt during the initial lockdown. I think it is probably because we are wiser this time. In March, everyone was borderline excited by the novelty – who knew what was happening next? Now, very few people are in the market for baking sourdough, Joe Wicks, or clapping on the street on a Thursday night.

The realities of returning to school, starting university, and keeping the shops open are proving to be very messy and full of trip-ups. Although no one doubts that these things are vital. Boris Johnson says we should be ready to be doing all this for at least the next six months. (BTW. Did anyone else know that Boris is his middle name? His first name is Alexander so, he chose the name Boris which I think probably tells us almost everything we need to know).

So, coping strategies. What are you doing to stop you from running amok? Firstly, because I am blessed not to be shielding I am getting out and doing whatever I can that involved other members of my species. That means shopping, eating out, and talking to the man walking his miniature dachshund puppy until you think he may be tempted to take out some sort of restraining order. (Dashy was the cutest thing I had ever seen)
HOH and I are not big eaters out but we are trying to put a bit of money into local eating places you know. We also added to the gaiety of the nation by ordering via Deliveroo for the first time. It was quite thrilling to use our pin-sharp minds to order on the App and then have a pizza as big as our head delivered to the house within 20 minutes. This is the sort of technological wizardry that the young people are using all the time. No wonder they are all so impatient. And annoying.

Secondly, I’m trying to build a bit of quality in. Lord knows there is definitely a time and a place for lying face down on the settee drinking wine through a straw and listening to Barry Manilow. That’s certainly a top-notch Saturday night in anyone’s book. But even I, with all my years of practice, can’t do it every night. So I’m reading. I read quite a lot anyway but the rules are paper books rather than screens. Speaking of screens, I recently downloaded an app that counted up my screen time each day. I will not share the results with you as I am too ashamed but I am making some alterations there which is freeing up six or seven hours a day.

We have gone back to the cinema as you know. There is a lot of fun to be had, trying to eat Maltesers through a mask but the problem is that very few films are being released at the moment and there is a limit to the number of times you can watch Tenet. (Been twice – still don’t understand it. Can’t say it affected my enjoyment). So, rather than spending screen time watching re-runs of Cash in the Attic and Escape to Australia (never seen either of them so can’t really judge but you get my drift.) We are having film nights. We can overdo it. Last Saturday was While You Were Sleeping followed immediately by Big. I’m sorry to disappoint those who were expecting All Quiet on the Western Front or Battleship Potemkin, but I feel we are all depressed enough.

I’m also dipping my toe back into a quiet time. The idea of a quiet time has had a bad press with lots of jokes about Christian pencils and notebooks with a fish on them. People have also spoken about how legalistic it can be. All that kind of thing may be true but sitting down regularly with the expansive, challenging comforting word is perhaps the most important thing I can do.

Aged Parent, meanwhile is holding up better than expected so far. Partly, this has been achieved by keeping her away from the news as much as possible. This is a lot easier in the winter because if it is at all windy, she likes to keep the telly off in case the wind blows the plugs out of the sockets. She is far happier going down to bingo if possible. Keeping busy is helping her a lot. That, and refusing to take on board anything that she doesn’t have the mental space for.

Me Has Jenny (friend from previous flats) been in touch?

AP Well she has but I didn’t stay on long

Me Why’s that?

AP Well, it’s just all about that chap she has in. She can’t carry on like that at her age. Women that age you know. No wonder she keeps needing the doctor.

I am leaving it there dear reader. We are all too young.

Feet of Clay

Hello all. I hope you are well. HOH and I were discussing how we both felt that our mental health had got worse over the course of the pandemic. Rather than becoming more resilient, we felt more aware of what we have been losing as time has progressed. Last week we came out of the cinema on a Friday night to find a deserted foyer at a time when it would usually be buzzing with people and then out onto the car park with lots of fast food outlets – again nothing happening. It was so sad. People’s jobs disappearing out of the window quicker than we can count and there doesn’t seem to be a plan. Although, what can be done, I wouldn’t like to say. It is difficult and no mistake.

This week saw the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, an associate justice of the Supreme Court of America. Responsible, among other things, for the right to sign a mortgage for women, the right to have a bank account without a male co-signer, the right to have a job without being discriminated against on the basis of gender. Some achievements there. Yet today, people on Social Media are saying “Not so fast”. She was also responsible for upholding, white, rich people’s privilege and basically not doing enough. Because she was in a position of power, she should have done more and she therefore doesn’t get a pass.

Well of course she didn’t do enough! None of us do enough. Can you honestly take a hard look at your life and say that you have done enough? And I am sure that many of you are fine upstanding members of the community and that many of you – especially because I imagine you work/volunteer in churches and have had the principle of service ironed into the very fabric of your Sunday hats.

Human beings have feet of clay, no matter how heroic. It doesn’t do anyone any good to look into what Martin Luther King got up to on his Friday nights off. Winston Churchill’s understanding of the word “equality” was foggy at the very least. And yet Aged Parent’s Parents described him as a hero who fought like a tiger to defeat the Nazis (Although they wouldn’t actually vote for him.) Biblical giants – all of em have interesting backstories. David – adulterer, murderer, terrible dancer. Samson – weak spot for unsuitable women, blabber. Moses – murderer, coward, confrontation avoider. Jonah – moaner, sulker, liked to tell God how to run his business. And yet… each of these people achieved and their lives were full of service.

I think we see people – especially young people and they look to see people to emulate and instead of seeing people with faults and failures who nevertheless persisted, they see people whose reputations are worthless – sometimes because a lot of people on Social Media – many of whom have strong opinions but very little experience of actually doing anything about anything – have decided that these people just don’t make the grade.

Who would want to go into public service, knowing what may be lying in wait for them if they mess up? We may complain about the quality of our leadership – calling them lightweights (ok, that would be me doing that) but why would anyone put themselves out there? If people look at themselves with any kind of honesty we will know that we are not perfect but it is important to know that we don’t have to be.

There’s a story in the Bible of a woman “taken in adultery” (apparently the man had other places to be) Jesus does not diminish her actions but asks the men (and it would have been men) to look at themselves and only begin to stone her if they could honestly say that they were faultless. One by one, the men disappear. I wonder if it happened today if those who were trying to build a decent Social Media following might have stayed around and lobbed a few rocks anyway.

The Bible is packed to the drawstrings with verses acknowledging people’s frailties and failures.

Romans 3 – Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us

God does not shy away from it yet we are both obliged to have a go at doing good and assured of God’s support and empathy. We all hold this treasure in clay jars. In other words, we are all clay jars – a bit knobbly, vulnerable to cracking under a bit of pressure, and not always sparkling like Ethel Merman in a fifties musical. Taking into account that everyone is like that, I’d just like to see a bit more acknowledgment of the achievements – taking into account the problematic as part of a whole sinful man. More cheering and saying “jolly good try” and “thank you – it was appreciated” and less weighing people in the balance.