Saying Yes to Research in the NHS.

As I am writing this Blog Post in June 2020 I feel sure that you will have heard the breakthrough news that a drug already in circulation could potentially lower the mortality rate of those severely affected by the Covid-19 virus. Not only is this drug, Dexamethasone, readily available it is cheap to produce. https://www.recoverytrial.net/news/low-cost-dexamethasone-reduces-death-by-up-to-one-third-in-hospitalised-patients-with-severe-respiratory-complications-of-covid-19

We are also hearing of emerging studies relating to vaccines – again being tested on volunteers, the results of which will be shared as they emerge. Whilst the method for these trials are tried and tested the vaccines are ones in development and therefore do carry a level of risk, hence the strict criteria and observation associated with participation. https://www.hra.nhs.uk/planning-and-improving-research/policies-standards-legislation/uk-policy-framework-health-social-care-research/ provides further information relating to the governance of research in England.

There are many other ‘Covid’ studies currently active – as well as trials investigating drugs there are others investigating the impact on mental health and wellbeing, development of antibodies and identification of length of immunity etc.

The Chief Medical Officer was keen to mention and thank those patients who had volunteered to participate in all these clinical trials. If you, or a relative, are so ill with Covid-19 that you require observation in an Intensive Care Unit I imagine agreeing to participate in a study that will possibly save your life is an easy decision to make. Volunteering to support the investigation of a possible vaccine does take some thought and courage and yet is vital if preventing further spread of this virus is to be achieved.

Listening to and reading about current efforts to both treat those effected and to reduce further outbreaks made me think about  clinical research in general and wonder – do we, as a population, understand how treatments (medicine, equipment, procedures) are developed and safely brought into the ‘patient care pathway’. As we undergo a surgical procedure, submit to treatment using ‘state of the art’ equipment or swallow a new medication do we understand that others – healthy individuals and patients with a similar illness have volunteered to test these on our behalf?

There are a number of ‘stages’ that developing new treatments work through – from the original thought to the safe prescription – and these do rely on the involvement of people. We often hear the term ‘guinea pig’ used in connection with research and the term does imply ‘untried, untested’ preparations and so I appreciate this can discourage people from agreeing to take part. Yet, my purpose is to encourage you to consider such requests.

Clinical research in Britain is extremely well governed – both in the laboratory and in the clinical setting. All new preparations undergo testing by ‘healthy volunteers’ in laboratory settings which highlight possible side effects. Once the safety/efficiency stages are complete it is ‘put to the test’ – and progress is then reliant on people with the specific medical conditions participating in trials to demonstrate and confirm the beneficial impact (dosage, application, length of treatment etc).

And it is here that progress is dependant on the population – the majority of hospital consultants and many GP practices regularly participate in trials. There are a variety of ways to become involved (and you can decline and/or opt out at any stage of the process without any impact on your future care).

The commonest method is to be informed of an appropriate research trial when attending a hospital/GP appointment. Large epidemiology projects, which study factors relating to health, are often ‘advertised’ in local papers and readers are encouraged to ‘self-refer’.

Or – you can use the NIHR-Clinical Research Network link to discover what active research is currently taking place in your geographical area, and if suitable, use the contact details to obtain further information. https://www.nihr.ac.uk/patients-carers-and-the-public/i-want-to-take-part-in-a-study.htm

Many long-term studies such as Bio-Bank have no direct benefit to the participants as the study team are collecting data overtime to identify health trends and offer information for future health care planning. Although, there are benefits, being a participant and knowing that your weight, exercise level and lifestyle choices will be observed over time does, at least sub-consciously, encourage healthier decision-making.  https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/about-biobank-uk/

The majority of my career in the NHS was working with the Clinical Research Network (the ‘Research Arm’ of the NHS https://www.nihr.ac.uk/explore-nihr/support/clinical-research-network.htm). I was always grateful when a patient agreed to participate in a research study. I understood that there were many reasons for their decision – access to innovative treatments, possibilities of a cure, ‘trying something new to see if it helps’ – but always underlying this choice was the willingness to contribute.

‘It may not help me but may help others’ – and for this, I say ‘Thank You’ on behalf of the future.

(Disclaimer – whilst encouraging participation in suitable research please understand I do not know your specific health circumstances so seek advice from appropriate health professionals)

NB – the terms ‘Studies’ ‘Trials’ ‘Projects’ are used throughout and are interchangeable (used in this way to demonstrate that this occurs naturally in clinical areas too)

Please email with any questions or comments using email link below

Acknowledgements:

Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash – Thanks – End Photo

Photo by CDC on Unsplash – vaccine

Photo by Ronit Shaked on Unsplash – scales

 

 

Covid-19 Lockdown life with Adult Children

The imposed ‘Lockdown’ in 2020 by the UK Government meant 2 of our 3 children had to return home. The youngest because he is a university student and all the educational facilities were closing down and going ‘online’. The eldest because she had been  working in the USA, her contract had recently finished and she was planning to do some travelling in the Americas before heading back – the Foreign Office instruction to UK tourists aboard to ‘come home’ put paid to all her plans. Rather than be isolated in her Edinburgh apartment she headed straight from LHR to us.

Although we did see our children regularly my husband and I were used to having the house to ourselves so adjustments had to be made – it had been a long time since our house had groaned with the weight of teenage ‘clobber’. We are fortunate to have space and I quickly realised that to maintain harmony it would be beneficial to have divisions, which were discussed and agreed. As both were studying (one full time and one part-time) the dining room became a joint study and general dumping ground during the week for their ‘stuff’. This avoided their bedrooms becoming too chaotic and remained a peaceful sanctuary for sleeping and escape.

Thanks to modern technology they both recorded video presentations, sat exams and held project meetings with fellow students. It was interesting to observe how educational requirements could be delivered in this way and ensured that they maintained some level of communication with tutors and friends. I benefited as they taught me about Zoom – and soon we were having weekly family ‘catch-ups’ and quizzes.

When the Yoga teacher from my weekly class decided to offer a weekly Zoom class I was there – and able to offer advice on how to use the software to others in the class, and call through for assistance from the in-house IT team if needed! I then encouraged other groups that I belong to try it out, with mixed success although many of us ‘retirees’ are more capable than we believe ourselves to be.

Although their studies are important it was also important to ensure that there was some enjoyment during the ‘lock down’ so we introduced ‘Saturday Games Night’ –a family  meal followed by a chosen game. I am not a fan of Monopoly so using online shopping was especially useful to browse then obtain new games. I became a fan of ‘Ticket to Ride’ although I only won once. We re-discovered card games, ‘Pick up Pigs’ and Uno. The meal itself was to be something not often cooked – usually because it was particularly time consuming, well now we had plenty of time.

Becoming even more adventurous one Saturday Emma arranged a Cocktail Party. We dressed up and learnt how to make our own simple cocktails prior to dining on Rotisserie Chicken Caesar Salad – having cooked the rotisserie style chicken myself as the local supermarkets were not doing them at present.

We also searched online for evening entertainment – and discovered many ‘live’ performances on YouTube ( https://www.youtube.com/ ) which helped reduce boredom alongside offering an opportunity to see performances that previously would have passed us by. Another ‘find’ was the Friday Night Quiz presented by Darlington Hippodrome (https://www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk/whats-on/ it can also be accessed via their FaceBook page) The question master, Julian Cound, ensures everyone has  a fun evening (and understands the rules). As the quiz is usually 7.30 to 9.00pm we arrange a ‘Takeaway’ meal for approx. 7.00pm making the evening a social event whilst supporting a local business and giving the usual chefs an evening off.

We also managed to celebrate Easter with an Egg Hunt. 

And, a birthday with a party and cake (a special cake decorated by Emma)

When the children were young, whatever was going on, we all ate a Sunday Roast Dinner in the evening and planned the week ahead – we re-introduced this which I think added a sense of normality to our situation.

We are fortunate in living within walking distance of  Hardwick Park (http://www.durham.gov.uk/hardwickpark ) so enjoyed daily walks around the park and were able to photograph the emerging Spring, we also were lucky enough to notice frog spawn and then tadpoles in one of the small  lakes. Normally we walk too fast and infrequently to take in the small details, we also noticed how noisy the birds were early in the morning – then realised that it was the noise of rush hour traffic that was missing.

Another opportunity presented by the lock down was to reduce the number of tasks on my ‘To-Do-List’, although no sooner did I complete an unfinished sewing project or spring-clean a set of cupboards  more jobs were added on the list . I fear my list will never be completed.

We had reason to call out an emergency plumber (blocked pipe back-flowing through ceilings!) which added a sense of emergency and entertainment one day. Whilst still maintaining social distancing it was good to have another conversation in the house. This also highlighted that the seal around the bath needed re-doing so I learnt a new skill – taught by daughter – in how to apply silicone sealant. I now feel confident enough to tackle the seal around the kitchen sink, (although Emma undertook that task too as I think my role is more ‘assistant’).

Alongside keeping a sense of ‘living’ in the home we also maintained contact with extended family members via telephone (still think voices are better than emails), assisted elderly neighbours by shopping and baking treats.  Aware that some friends were finding the situation challenging I also visited and had face-to-face conversations whilst maintaining social-distancing visits to those finding life challenging. I am sure that anyone walking past was entertained as I shouted from the pavement to a friend standing in the doorway – just as well we were not sharing secrets. Whilst, perhaps, acting at the edge of what was acceptable I am sure that these 10-minute chats had a lasting benefit and helped those unable to leave their homes.

We were so lucky with the weather, if this had occurred in deepest winter it would have been a bigger struggle for many.  Despite working from home (WFH) my husband was in the garden for hours on end, we even had the occasional BBQ and sat out on a morning with coffee. Newly hatched ducklings arrived from a nearby stream, and we watched them eat under the bird table, the birdbox had a nest with 4 eggs so we looked in daily via the in-box camera.

 

Hardwick Park

Whilst, as a family, we were able to cope with the restrictions (although I was always short of flour and yeast) and to find pleasure in many of the things we did I am very aware that many struggled. These struggles and difficulties took on many shapes – financial, well-being, boredom, physical – and for many it will take a long time to recover. As a family we clapped every Thursday for all Key Workers and having been a Health Care Professional I have an understanding of the personal impact such situations have on Clinicians but this situation has also broadened our understanding of the ‘Key Worker’ – it is not just those who wipe the ‘fevered brow’ but also the Refuse Collection Workers, the Prison Officers, the Policeman on the Beat and the Driver of your local Bus. All these roles underpin the functions of our society and by continuing to work they risked the dangers of Covid-19 on our behalf. I read a comment somewhere (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram?) that resonated with me and I mentally noted its importance ‘We may all be in the same ocean, but we are not all in the same boat’.

Whilst we have each had periods of ‘downtime’ with loss of energy and motivation I do think that having the children back helped each of us cope and kept us active. Without their presence I think it safe to say that husband and I would have just continued doing what we do, the two children were determined that the situation was to have more positives than negative and we became caught up in their thinking, taking on whatever plans were put forward. That we remained engaged, in turn, encouraged them to complete any necessary tasks so that the fun events were just that – fun.

Our latest event was an afternoon tea party to commemorate 75th VE Day. Again we were lucky with the weather, eating outside and dressing as near ‘1945’ style as our wardrobe permitted. But nothing lasts for ever and our daughter needs to return to Edinburgh – to continue ‘social-distancing’ whilst opening up  her home after 18 months and starting a new job.

Meanwhile our middle child decided that living in Stockholm with its lack of social distancing was too worrying  for her so, thanks again to modern technology and WFH ability, packed up husband and baby and moved in with father-in-law in the north of Sweden, in amongst a forest. Baby took so keenly to the wide-open space; Jane and Kasper now wonder how they will be able to take him back to the city.

 

Collated Insights on Bereavement, Family Woes and Happy Times

2019 has been a time of big changes, births, graduations and the death of my remaining parent. Alongside the physical tasks required following these events it is surprising how such changes alter individual life patterns and personal reflections.

Our first grandchild arrived safely in May. What kind of grandparent I would be had not really entered my consciousness (I was not one of those who eagerly anticipated a baby anytime my adult children appeared to be in a ‘serious relationship’) and, to be honest, my main concern during my daughter’s pregnancy was that everything went well and mother and baby came through the experience alive.

Being a grandparent has brought changes, although our experience is not very ‘hands on’ as the new family live in Sweden. It is different in some ways – a different language and different child-rearing customs needed to be recognised and – similar in others, in that it is lovely to have a ‘little person’ in the family and it is good to observe the new parents growing into their role. And, very good they are too.

Modern technology/software such as FaceTime has shown itself to be invaluable as we happily disperse advice and answer questions whilst also being able to watch baby develop. Obviously ‘advice giving’ is fraught with danger so I consciously state ‘this is what I would do, other options are ……… ‘

Just as we were growing into this new role and embracing the ‘next generation’ my mother’s health declined, and she passed away one Sunday morning. Poignant timing as we were in Stockholm visiting the new baby.

Her funeral arrangements had been made some years previously – she suffered with Dementia so it was important that she was involved in the planning whilst able to state her wishes. Despite this there was still plenty of tasks to arrange and complete.

There was no will so assistance and advice was required from the Probate Office   (https://www.gov.uk/applying-for-probate ). The estate is small and in good order yet still the process is time-consuming with many people to contact and numerous forms to complete. The wheels of bureaucracy do grind slowly, and I sympathise with anyone having to administrate a large estate. So once again, I encourage anyone reading this to write a will (https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/money-legal/legal-issues/making-a-will/# ) and to arrange a Power of Attorney                                                     ( https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/make-a-lasting-power-of-attorney)

As well as the practicalities there is also a grieving process to work through. No matter how expected the death of a relative or friend it still comes as a shock. Alongside the increasing Dementia my mother was 86 years old and becoming prone to Falls and Infections so her decline in physical health was obvious to us all.

As we worked through the funeral arrangements I became aware that I was dealing with the ‘tasks process’ and not addressing the ‘personal-to-me’ part of bereavement. Then, the realisation that I had not really addressed my father’s death 2 years earlier. At that time there was a lot to do and I spent many months sorting out a chaotic financial muddle and due to the family dynamics it was not straight forward. That had distracted me from acknowledging his death (links to Bereavement advice at end of article)

I had left home at 16 years old to begin a career in nursing (in the days of the Cadet Nurse) and had never moved back. I visited regularly and despite these visits declining as the years passed, I still phoned to speak to my parents most weeks – working life, marriage, children and living approx. 200 miles apart does impact on these relationships even with the best of intentions.

Yet despite regular conversations I was not aware that they were struggling with their situation – looking back I now realise that Mother was covering up her fears and concerns, making light of their declining years and not being open about failing health.

I understand that this is common with elderly parents. The need for independence, the reluctance to admit that handling difficult situations is now too much of a burden and it is easier ‘to let things slide’.

A sudden illness requiring emergency admission of my father to hospital was the eye-opener for me. Rushing to the hospital and meeting my mother at the entrance I recognised that she herself was not well. Then a sudden realisation that despite her claims of ‘everything will be fine’ we knew the time had come for interventions. I was glad of my NHS insights and knowing instinctively who we should talk to – hospital staff, Safeguarding teams, GP etc. Eventually both parents were identified as requiring 24-hour care and became residents of local Care Homes.

Although I hear negativity about Social Service departments I can only comment from my own experience which was very positive. I felt listened too and supported and they worked with myself and siblings to identify the correct care setting for both parents. This did result in them being in two different Homes although arrangements were made for regular visits and contacts.

Emptying the house was a mammoth task although as we progressed the evidence of a declining ability to cope showed itself – ‘how did we miss this’ was a question asked frequently. So, although not able to cope with what was happening to them, they were able to develop ‘coping mechanisms’ to hide this from us and they obviously did it well.

The positives that did come out of all the trauma was, once in a Care Home setting they both improved physically and as Mother’s Dementia progressed it was re-assuring for the family that she was safe, secure and cared for.

So alongside the conversations with Health Care Professionals we were also having dialogue with Landlords, Banks and Utility companies etc as well as the Office of the Public Guardian as there were no Power of Attorneys in place. Then before all this could be resolved Father’s health declined and he died – which takes me back to the origins of this tale.

I became so caught up in the practicalities of the events – funeral arrangements, accessing funds to pay increasing debts such as Care Home Fees and funeral costs and supporting the family that it never occurred to me I had never taken even 5 minutes to sit down, take a breath and reflect on his death.

It took me until my mother’s funeral, to acknowledge this. My parents were both in their late 80’s when they died. They had been young adults when starting a family so myself and my siblings were ourselves reaching retirement age. As a consequence their deaths were not totally unexpected yet their absence does alter the family structure and we are, to all intents and purposes, orphans.

Bereavement is individual to each person and we all handle such life events in our own way. Often this is an unconscious process and whilst for many loss and grief display themselves through tears and visible sadness it can also be evidenced through stress, anxiety and increased susceptibility to minor illnesses. Unresolved this can lead to longer-term illnesses and effects on mental health so obtaining information from local Bereavement Groups and websites etc can be supportive during the grieving process.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/coping-with-bereavement/

https://www.cruse.org.uk/get-help/about-grief

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/relationships-family/bereavement/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/bereavement/#.XbB_h0ZKhPY

https://www.familylives.org.uk/advice/your-family/family-life/coping-with-bereavement/

Yet life moves on and adjustments in the family relationships are made, consciously or otherwise. Meanwhile Baby is growing well, developing his own character and having visited us recently I have had very ‘hands on’ experience of the role of Grandma.

 

Photography Acknowledgements:

Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash – Featured Image

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash – Lamb

Photo by Jan Schulz # Webdesigner Stuttgart on Unsplash – Misty Hill

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash – Paperwork

Photo by Micheile Henderson @micheile010 // Visual Stories [nl] on Unsplash – Couple

Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash – Dog in Box

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash – Frog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A madness in January

I have decided that trying to eat healthy in January is a waste – of time and food. Until recently we always declared January a ‘healthy eating month’ and from the 2nd of the month we would strive to starve ourselves back to our pre-Christmas weight whilst at the same time commencing some mad fitness regime which in reality was far too ambitious for the time of year.

And then, perhaps I had an epiphany, I realised how futile this was. The house would be full of tasty leftovers and foodie Festive gifts which we never managed to ignore so any sneaky trips to the pantry were followed by pangs of guilt and promises to increase the fitness regime to offset any further weight gain – who was I kidding? January is often our coldest, snowy and icy month so I would be very easily persuaded to avoid any exercise for fear of injury. What about the gym I hear you shout ‘surely its safe indoors to stretch and tone’? Obviously, it is but I would have to drive and the road conditions would not encourage that – so back to the fire and a book.

This year I decided that we would delay this routine and instead I declared February the ‘healthy eating’ month. It worked really well although I did not really think why until recently. Besides having only 28 days, by January 31st most of the foodie treats have gone, the days are slightly longer and the weather is starting to warm up so walking outside is more enjoyable. Yet, I think the main reason we were successful is that we had had a month of ‘normal’ behaviour – back to work, back to more regular eating patterns and when not under pressure to be active, going out in the winter sunshine takes on an encouraging pleasure.

As an added bonus the last day of the healthy eating is immediately followed by ‘weigh-in day, March 1st. (No, I have no idea why previously there was 4 weeks between finishing the regime and weigh-day, sounds cruel now I see it written down). Of course, in previous years, I would spend the 4 weeks fretting that I would not have reached the goal! This year all such anxieties were removed – went to bed Feb 28th, up on the scales March 1st – goal achieved, now where’s the cake ?

Photo acknowledgements:

Scales – Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash Featured Image

Tape Measure – Photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash

 

Reflections on Retirement – Looking back over 12 months

Now I feel officially one of those people who ‘do not have time to work’ ?

I had thought that statement was, at best, an exaggeration and, at worst, a comment made to make the ‘Retiree’ feel better about their ‘non-working’ existence. But – it is True, I never have a spare minute and still need to keep a diary, so I don’t double-book myself.

So, what do I actually do with all this time? I thought it would be useful to re-visit the past 12 months. Although I left work in the summer of 2017 there were a few ‘things to tidy up’ as well as planned family events so I only consider myself a retiree from November 2017.

I had planned two major activities for my first year – to renovate the house and to become a Lifestyle Blogger. Neither went to plan.

The house renovation is still ongoing – 12 months should have been doable. I watch ‘Homes under the Hammer’ where new owners complete amazing refurbishments in approximately 14 weeks. They obviously have secrets that they are keeping to themselves as I now accept I will be lucky to complete our house in 24 months. ☹ The main delay has been organising tradesmen – I have learnt that good plumbers, joiners etc have full diaries and you have to wait your turn. Patience is having to become a character trait.

The 2nd thing I have learnt is – nothing goes to plan and will cost nearly double the original quote. So far we have – fully refurbished a bathroom and the downstairs Washroom, had major roof repairs, replaced all external windows and doors, replaced all radiators, upgraded the central heating system from a one-pipe to a two-pipe system (no, me neither) and had 30 years of Ivy removed from external walls – along with 3 wasp nests.

I gained new skills by decorating 3 bedrooms – thanks to YouTube I learnt many ‘hints and tips’ to make a better job of this than would have occurred otherwise and now regularly use this website as a source of learning.

Still to undergo – refurbishment of small bedroom to a formal study, new staircase and major modernisation of hall and landing (sounds simple when the Joiner talks although I know it will be a nightmare!). A new sink is sitting behind the settee waiting for the plumber to find time to insert it into the kitchen – so far it has waited 3 months and I fear it will still be there at Christmas ☹

Designing and uploading a website was as confusing as I had anticipated so I completed 3 web-based courses and read 2 books on the process – then employed a web designer to complete the task. At least I understood the words he used even if I could never have done it myself. I do manage the day-to-day stuff which is an achievement. There is a lot more to ‘Blogging’ than I realised, and self-discipline is a must.

Alongside of this I have volunteered to take on two roles. I recently contacted and was accepted as a Regional Outreach Volunteer for the Silver Line organisation ( www.silverline.org.uk )  raising awareness of the work of the organisation to alleviate loneliness in older people. I also support the pre-retirement course presented by Tees, Esk and Wear Valley Mental Health Foundation Trust to members of staff shortly to retire, sharing my experiences both in planning my retirement and of retirement itself.

I have joined some local interest groups, to ensure I leave the house, to support my ‘Blog writing’ and to keep my brain active. So far, I regularly attend a local Book Club (which has widened my reading material), a local Writing Club (which has improved my writing style – I hope) and a local Family History group (offering insights in the local area and its ‘people’ history as well as providing an opportunity for support in researching my own family history).

And – I never turn down an invitation to go anywhere. Unless, of course, I already have something in the diary.

I challenged myself to achieve ‘Stuff’. There were two main targets – general fitness and driving anxiety. The first involved completing the ‘Couch to 5Km’ challenge ( https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week/  ) – follow the links to the tale of my achievement. Now I have to maintain fitness!

Secondly, I aimed to regain confidence in driving longer distances and so widen the opportunities for walking in the country etc. For many years I had only driven from the house to the local train station. So far I have driven to York (120 miles round trip) and to IKEA at Gateshead. This statement, I know, does not look much of an achievement but I have a bad history of driving north on the A1 and so this has become a road I avoided with a plethora of excuses, it was a bigger challenge than it sounds – but I did it and without a panic attack. Much to the relief of my passenger! And then we had the joy wandering through the store gazing at the number of items we had not realised were essential for our well-being ?

So -is retirement what I expected? Yes and No

I expected to be able to ‘do stuff’ that working prohibited, which I have done to the point my days are full and I looked forward to the weekends to relax. Except I manage to fill them as well! I also expected to have excess time to do things that hadn’t occurred to me – like laying on the sofa, eating chocolate and watching daytime TV. Luckily retirement has proved too consuming to be that boring.

(PS- have you noticed the content of daytime TV adverts? Funeral Plans and Chairlifts! Someone needs to have a word with Advertising Executives)

 

Photo Acknowledgements:

Man using Phone – Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Person Running – Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

House renovation – Photo by Milivoj Kuhar on Unsplash

 

Lest We Forget

This year, 2018, marks 100 years since the end of World War 1 (WW1). Often referred to as ‘the Great War’ and more poignantly as ‘the war to end all wars’.

Personally, I think there is nothing ‘great’ about war and history shows that there has not been a single day of world peace since 1914 so the second statement bears no resemblance to reality.

That said, I do think it is important to remember the impact that war has on societies and environments alongside honouring those who died or were injured protecting their country. If only so that future generations are able to ‘witness’ the personal stories as well as the historical events and gain a sense of the devastation that such events have. It is also important that we are able to recognise, that just as our relatives lost their fathers and children – so did those families on the other side of this conflict.

We are shown, via Television and social media, conflicts on other continents although it is only by hearing the stories of our individual family members that I think we truly can gain an understanding of the personal impact. Why was great-grandmother on her own with 3 children, why did great uncle Joe jump when ever a car backfired, why did cousin Mark have his leg amputated and lose the fingers on his left hand?

I doubt there are many alive who lived through the first World War – and those who are alive were mostly babes in arms – so information is now passed on through letters, photos and family reminisces. It is quite amazing the ‘keepsakes’ and ‘mementos’ that have been unearthed as towns and cities prepare exhibitions and tributes.

Earlier this week I assisted the local Girl Guides install an insulation of poppies and silhouette soldiers in the centre of the village (to add to other organisations tributes) in readiness for November 11th. It felt good that this was a multi-generational activity and that the Girl Guides were the main design artists – us oldies mostly just passed over the hundreds of poppies to willing hands.

And, I learnt something new – some of the knitted poppies were purple. This is to recognise the war effort of the Horses and other animals who also contributed and suffered during those years.

The next day I travelled to Bedale in the Yorkshire Dales to see an exhibition of the Red Cross Hospitals that were active in North Yorkshire during WW1. These hospital units opened up in response to the number of wounded soldiers returning to England for medical/nursing care.

The buildings were mostly large Halls – which had up until then been the homes of the local gentry. I recall episodes of ‘Downton Abbey’ when it too became a refuge for the wounded. The medical and nursing staff were a mixture of army personnel and local Red Cross Volunteers and were represented at the opening of the exhibition by today’s Army Nurses and members of the Red Cross.

From a personal historic perspective, it was worrying to see a ‘Nelson’s Inhaler’ as an antique – I recall using them when I was nursing (and it is not that long ago!) 

Again, it was humbling to, not only see the historical artefacts, but to speak to people who had stored such items in their homes over the generations – to remember the loss, the bravery and the strength of the human spirit.

 

Clothing

Fashion and clothes have never rated highly on my priority list. Neither could I claim to have any style, I can quite happily pair a Jaeger dress with a cardigan from H&M alongside shoes so old that even I have no idea of their origins.

I just had categories – Formal, Work, Casual (very). My dilemma (I know, minor issue!) is what to do with the ‘work’ clothes. These mainly consisted of Dresses, Jackets, and Black Trousers which could all be co-ordinated and, if required, become ‘a suit’.

In the 2 years leading up to retirement I did not replace any items that looked ‘worn out’. I naively thought such a plan would weed out ‘stuff’ I would no longer use. Was not the case!

Alongside the black dresses & suits I had failed to recognise the amount of smart chinos and blouses I used – mainly in the summer – when just spending the day in the office.

The obvious answer was – make them casual day wear. Yet I struggle, I open the wardrobe look at the clothes and think ‘Oh, I cannot wear that around the house’.

As a consequence, I have clothes just hanging there unused. My challenge is to change my mindset, so I have become a woman who ‘dresses up’ when leaving the house. They have become my ‘going out’ clothes.

My ‘clothes shopping’ mindset also needs to change – I am still drawn to the racks of smart simple dresses. Who know that clothing was to become such an issue.

Photo Acknowledgements:

Photo by Lauren Roberts on Unsplash -featured Image

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash – wardrobe

Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash – fashion models

Photo by Prudence Earl on Unsplash – end photo

 

Why Perpetually 49?

Why Perpetually 49?

When my husband was approaching his 50th birthday the family tried persuading him to have a ‘big bash’. But, no matter what theme or venue was suggested, he was having none of it.

He declared he was no longer celebrating birthdays, his 49th was the last he was acknowledging, and he would stay that age foreveeer!

At work one day and chatting to Caroline about my future plans I talked of my idea for a website relating to retirement – ‘just an idea, no name or details at present’ I said.

The conversation turned to age and individual concepts of ageing – which led to me recounting the discussion with my husband, above.

‘That’s it’ she said ‘you could call your website Perpetually 49’

So I did.

(Courtesy of Google Images)

Photo Acknowledgement:

Featured Image – Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash