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Blogging about things that matter to me. Photographing things I love - Instagram @debcyork. Writing about both. Only wine and chocolate can save us… You can also find me on Twitter (@debcyork) and Facebook. If you like four-legged views, try @missbonniedog on Twitter

Monday, 29 May 2017

Holiday Freedom

I am not writing a full post today as I am in London with my children.  But in the light of the awful events in Manchester a week ago, I wanted to reiterate what I wrote on Instagram last week.  

We will not be defeated by people who are so far in the minority that they can only perform cowardly acts like  the Manchester bomb in order to be noticed.

I did think twice about our trip to London.  But only fleetingly, in a 'I have to do the best for my kids' kind of a way.  The parents of those children who were killed last week have set an amazing example.  We have to carry on.   Carry on as if these evil people do not exist as far as we possible can.

Yesterday we were in Covent Garden, we went to School of Rock, we went to the Sky Gardens.  Today we will be at the O2.  And as we trooped out of School of Rock in particular, still singing the songs, I thought of the excited concert goers last week.

But continuing to live our lives, with enjoyment, is a proper (insert your own rude hand gesture) to the terrorists.

Enjoy the Bank Holiday if you are in the UK.  But wherever you are, go to your waited-for events.  Be it concerts, festivals, marathons, theatres, parks,whatever.  In free societies, this is what we do.

Monday, 22 May 2017

The Services Demographic

So I had planned to whitter on about the 'dementia tax' in this post.  And now this morning there has been a U-turn apparently.  

I am not surprised the U-turn as come on the care side.  At university in the early Nineties, I earned my beer money working on political surveys to analyse the membership demographics of the Conservative and Labour. parties  It was a slog of a job because there was no technology for looking at the answers.  So big thick surveys were posted out and then we all worked to code the answers by hand, reading each and every returned book.  Various work came out of the projects but the main one about the Tories was a book called True Blues by Paul Whiteley, Patrick Seyd and Jeremy Richardson.  My memory of the work is largely composed of continual amazement at the great age of most of the Tory members.  Crabbed handwriting became our speciality.

And I don't think their demographic has really changed all that much.  I don't propose to analyse the reasons for that - it is far too complicated for this little blog post.  But I was amazed at the arrogance of the announcements last week.  It really felt like the Tories were so over-confident of winning the election, they were prepared to finally say what they really though about social care, school dinners, etc.  No tiptoeing required anymore.  And no numbers to back anything up.  Just 'this is how it is'.

For a key part of their core support though, care for the elderly is a huge issue - be it for themselves or for relatives who are already struggling to provide care.  Free school dinners are also one of the few benefits which are not means tested.  No matter how much tax you do or don't pay, your children are entitled to the meals. 

Whilst I entirely agree with the arguments by Jamie Oliver and others about the future saving to the NHS from keeping our children healthy, I don't believe there will be a U-turn on school dinners.  They don't want the NHS to be saved.  They want it to creak slowly to its knees so they can say it is no longer fit for purpose.  Neither will there be a change on university tuition fees.  Because the Tories see no electoral benefit to themselves.  They let the Liberals fall on that sword.

What needs to happen in these last weeks of campaigning, aside from encouraging people to actually use their votes?  Well, I think we need to be talking about how policies will actually affect people.  You may be safe for now from a 'dementia tax'.  But you are only safe while the Prime Minister has taken it off the table in order to get your vote.  Clearly, policy work has been done on this issue and a large Conservative majority will mean they could bring all sorts of things out of the cupboard in the next five years.  

Voted Conservative all your life?  Well, during most of this electorate's lifetime, there has been an NHS, social care, public funded education.  Think about your life without those things.  Your grandchildren losing free meals, your own future care uncertain, the NHS unavailable as you age.  Your children working until they are seventy.  Your grandchildren stressing about having to get into grammar school.  Starts to look a bit different doesn't it?  The last massive Tory majority privatised anything they could get their hands on.  Now they want to get their hands on the last bastions of the post war consensus.

This is not about True Blue or True Red.   This election is about the future of our services.  It is not too late to make that decision.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Defence Spending

Despite the mass cyber attack, I currently (touch wood) seem to be able to use my laptop.  I am late working on it today but at least it is usable.  I hope you have survived the virus so far.

Whilst travelling to the hell hole which is Ikea earlier (I now go alone and beg strangers for help in lifting stuff rather than take my husband and plunge towards divorce at Aisle 1 of the warehouse), I was listening to the radio.  I think it was the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 but anyway, the talk was of how surprisingly unsophisticated the WannaCry cyber attack has been in its components.  Experts believe plenty of 'cyber gangs' are capable of much more.

In other words, at least half of the National Health Service has been brought to its knees by amateur attackers.  Showing the experts how easy it is to break the outdated systems.  Causing chaos for millions.  Spreading it around the world in a flash.

Operations cancelled, patient details inaccessible,  thousands of appointments not possible.  The list of trouble is endless.  Paper records are no longer kept.  In most surgeries, you don't even check in for your appointment by talking to a human being anymore.  You use a touch screen arrival system.

Then it took an amateur IT researcher to crack the virus and stop it spreading.

So could someone please explain why defence spending is to be 'ring fenced' if the Conservatives win the election?  And why successive governments - of all persuasions - have clearly not spent enough on the infrastructure of the NHS?  We knew there was not enough being spent on staff and treatments.  Now it turns out that the systems are so poor, the whole service could be broken by what may turn out to be a bunch of chancers.  And what does this mean for public services in general?  Is enough being spent to prevent us losing access to power stations?  To stop someone hacking air traffic control?  etc etc.  Of course, most of the other UK services have already been privatised.  How do we know if these companies are spending enough on their defences?

My family, like most, has benefitted from the NHS over the years.  In fact, being blunt, none of us were born in private hospitals so it is a fairly safe assumption that without the NHS, some of us would not even have made it.  You only have to watch a drama like Call The Midwife to get an idea of conditions for many people at the time of the NHS' inception.

At least a million people use the NHS every day.  This apparently unsophisticated cyber attack needs to be the final straw, the final wakeup call for our government to protect and enhance it.  All of it.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Perfect World?

Image result for instagram

I have recently discovered the joys of Instagram.  Yes, much later than most people.  Especially those younger than me who are now onto something else which hasn't even hit my radar yet.  But never mind.  I am enjoying discovering this visual brand of social media all the same.  I have not made my account private (@debcyork if you are interested) because I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of people might 'like' my pictures.  

So far, I have posted mainly pictures from dog walks and pictures of food.  I tried one 'fashion' kind of picture but it made me terribly uncomfortable!  The temptation, of course, is to copy the methods of those trying to make a living from Instagram and to make your photos look as perfect and gorgeous as possible.  To say nothing of your life itself.  And following all the people who do make everything look easy, perfect and beautiful does make you a little too aware of how unperfected, difficult and annoying many aspects of your own life are.

For example, tomorrow is my birthday.  After watching a number of make-up tutorials - as advised by my daughter - I have settled on some apparently much needed up-to-date make-up as one present.  I have also been seeing endless pictures of women in 'Bardot' tops roll by on my photo stream.  You know, those off the shoulders, stretchy tops.  So I determined to ask for one of these as well.  Worrying about what I would end up with if the family were left to purchase this item without guidance, I have spent some time on trying on these garments.  In a wide variety of shops.  And almost none of them were even vaguely flattering.  I have finally found one.  But now I am left wondering how all these Instagrammers keep their chests in place under said tops...

I do wonder what someone like my ancestor who went to India with the army in 1804 would have put on Instagram if it had existed.  If there is a human desire to say 'it's fine' and 'having a lovely time' whatever is happening, it would be funny to see what he would have posted.  If he followed twenty-first century human behaviour, presumably it would be pictures of fabulous scenery, unusual animals, beautiful girls/boys and amazing food.  Ignoring the illness, the appalling living conditions and the general nightmare of soldiering in that age.  So we would be no wiser about how they managed even if we had access to such material.

All very frivolous.  But I do have a more serious point.  It seems to me that the more difficult and worrying our world becomes, the more we retreat into the pursuit of 'perfection' - that is, perfection as dictated by a relatively small number of our planet's inhabitants.  Whether it be huge caterpillar eyebrows, equally huge bottoms or thick make-up for women.  Or triangular body shapes, endless workouts and recipes for protein rich foods for men. ( Or a mixture of both for everyone.)  We all want everyone to believe we are doing brilliantly at everything.  Looks, decor, fitness, reading, crafts, cooking and eating, you name it.  Never was the campaign for better awareness of mental health issues more needed.  It is ok not to be ok.

Monday, 1 May 2017

The Latest Phase

Image result for 1997
So here we are in May already and Twitter this morning has a thread about 'what would you tell your 1997 self' in honour of the twentieth anniversary of the Labour win in 1997.

I have been pondering this as I dealt with kids, dog, general household stuff.  The treadmill of modern family life does get me down and May 1997 would be a nice time to tell me not to bother.  I wasn't engaged until later that year.  But I really could not think of any major thing I would tell myself to do differently.  Life has had many ups and downs in the last twenty years but I firmly believe they all make you what you are in the present.  I am quite sure many people do not like me in the present but at the moment, I think I quite like myself and my place in the world.  Which is really all that matters.  

On the smaller life decisions, there are plenty of things I wondered if I would change. Avoid certain alcoholic beverages; avoid various people; refuse certain jobs or take others; not wear certain outfits; check my daughter's hamster cage door every night (!); not get on that horse a fortnight ago (my ribs are still agony.)  

Surely, though, these things all add up to what you are right now?  My parenting mantra has generally been 'it is a phase, it will pass'.  This can be applied as equally to endless re-runs of Thomas the Tank Engine causing you to lose to your mind as to stroppy teenagers who think they know everything about the world because they watch YouTube and you don't. 

After my blog last week, a friend commented that the blurb on this blog is now a bit misleading as I seem to have got more political.  The family history element has been edging out.  And I do agree, looking at my 2017 posts.  I no longer tag it on Twitter for #familyhistory because I wasn't sure how relevant it is.  I have been wondering how to 'rebrand'.  But have got no further forward than wondering.  Family history is still a major part of my life and my writing.

So maybe this is a writing phase.  It is a time when I feel more political.  My family history is half-based around emigration and immigration.  I have a grandfather who was a conscientious objector in the Second World War.  My children have a half-Irish heritage.  I would be letting this history down and letting our descendants down if I do not campaign again against nuclear weapons, say what I think about Brexit, encourage people to use their votes.

I can rebrand the blog - and probably will change the blurb if I can get my head around what it should be trying to say - but according to the system (and I am not the best at doing the stats on Blogger!) more of you are reading my stuff than before so I am hoping my tone is reaching someone.  I would really welcome your comments though.  It might help me come to some conclusion!