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Our Personal and Professional Harvests

I have been following an extraordinary woman on Twitter by the name of Dr Nadia Chaudhri, a neuroscientist who is dying, in her forties, of stage four ovarian cancer. Her immense dignity and courage as she has been tweeting her thoughts about her illness and its terminal phrase have been exceptional and inspirational. She has now many thousands of followers.

What has been so evident is how many people have reflected upon their own lives through her postings. She has also been preparing her six-year-old son (with her husband) for her death in the most moving and creative ways imaginable.

One recent tweet announced she was now in a palliative care ward and preparing for the pain to end. I, like many, posted pictures of flowers, moons, and gardens in support and comfort. On my walks, I was searching for the appropriate photograph to post and my eyes settled on a field of corn, ripe for harvest. Hence, this blog was born. I thought about her final harvest of tremendous triumph and good. What a legacy she was leaving to her son, her family and her medical community. She is now raising money for financially struggling students for minority and underrepresented groups studying neuroscience. She has named this the Nadia Chandhri Wingspan Award.

See here her shuffle page as she walks up and down the palliative care ward. A Tsunami of donations and a flood of immense respect has been the result. Please consider your support to her.…

(Note: I do hope this links works as I am still getting used to the widgets and layout of this updated site).

So linking this extraordinary achievement, I am using the analogy of the harvest to illustrate how every one of us has our own fields of corn and this blog attempts to discuss this briefly.

The days where a single career or field of work defines us are long gone. Forty years of working in the same job is no longer an accepted rule. Many of us now have multiple careers, where one skill set is woven into another, complementing each other, which results in a new crop.

Sometimes our fields lie fallow, as adversity, personal misfortune, redundancy, or wrong decisions result in a period of either decline or intended and enforced rest as we evaluate where we are.
Then, as fortunes change and new decisions are made our fields (lives) germinate again with new vigour as we have had the time to rest, reflect, reprioritise and move forward.

At the age of 48, my field, laboured upon for 28 years, was put to one side for pastures new. Planting in a new section of that field some 18 months earlier (midwifery training) left a crop that was a partial failure and I did not want to return to my main field (Nursing) as I had tolled that long enough and my health was suffering.

Ten years on, my new field of work (Education and now Medical English tuition) has been rewarding. However, many parts of this field still need to be tendered to grow and prosper. The fertiliser of a growth Mindset needs sprinkling liberally, but sometimes weeds (the fixed Mindset of doubts) still try to strangle the new growth. Ongoing work continues so that my crop can yield results both for individuals in healthcare and supporting others (peers) in education. I wish this to be my one final and lasting harvest of exceptional quality and sheaves of corn. I am committed to working hard through the rain, sun and storms to see this outcome.

But what about when other farmers stop us in our tracks? The close relationships, friends and sometimes colleagues that for whatever reason think we are ploughing the wrong field or who want to sabotage our efforts through fear for us, envy or because they don’t understand what we are trying to do. I expect you have come across such people. How do we manage them? Do they stop us or make us more determined to keep going?

Today, the news reported on a woman named Lily Ebert, aged 97 and who has just published a memoir as a Holocaust survivor, having met the family of the soldier who helped save her life. A shining example of a pensioner achieving something great at an advanced age.

Historically pensions helped provide people with financial means to rest and have a few years left to live their lives with some form of income. However, now retirement has been turned on its head. Pension pots are being used to create new businesses, hobbies and leisure, yet there is still an ageist culture. Questions like when are you going to retire? And a workforce where energy and drive are still associated with youth are commonplace. Retirement is a very personal thing. Here are two questions I would like you to consider:

Do we ever retire from life?

And if we don’t retire from life until we die then what kind of harvest do you want to leave behind?

Every field has relevance. There is no one size fits all of course. Do you want your field to be a colourful and rich (creative and artistic) staple and hardy (practical and reliable) full of warmth and sunshine (emphasis on family relationships), or have you yet to form some idea about what kind of field you want? My further questions are what tools do you need to plough your soil? Do they need to stay the same? Do you need to sharpen the new blades, or even replace them, as the old ones become rusty and worn with lacklustre, apathy and boredom?

The lady I mentioned will leave a harvest of such magnitude her field will never be forgotten, certainly not by me as I survey the corn each year from my window here on Earth. She has taught us all so much and I think many lives she has touched will never be the same again.

Your Thoughts?

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My Year of Keeping a Journal.

On July 27th 2020, I decided to write a journal for one year documenting how I was feeling, thinking, and what I was doing. The aim was a year of observation and to learn about any habits or triggers that made me feel sad, stressed or unwell. I decided to post this decision on a social media platform as an intention and to show my seriousness and pledge to myself. I then didn’t mention it and quietly got to work.

Several months later, I realised why this is usually not a good idea as these intentions are often uncompleted to the end because of our habits and inconsistencies.
However, in my case, I was determined that this would not be the case. So here I am one year later and two journals to prove that I stuck to my word; I have decided to write this blog to share my results and insights.

I initially called this journal my 365 Body Watch, tracking basic facts such as weight, food, mood, exercise and any health issues at any given time. It wasn’t to be any more than just a record that I could use to help me avoid the behaviours that made me feel unwell or depressed. Also, I wanted to chart the external influences that had a negative impact.

As I look back over these two notebooks, I recognise how early they changed in what was wrote from the structure and content. From simply recording basic facts, it became something a bit more reflective. Soon, I was writing an intention for the day, recording what I was reading and listening to and ending with at least one gratitude as I reflected upon the day. Only one day did I miss writing an entry due to a bereavement.

I knew that for this habit to be successful, I had to make it visible, and after something I usually do to become an activity I would remember. So, the book was placed right by my bedside locker and written in as soon as I was awake and the last thing I wrote when I got back into bed. I made it a quick activity too, not labour intensive and no more than five minutes.

When we get an idea to do something, we get a typical rush of excitement and motivation to go ahead with it. The reason why New Year’s Resolutions fail, as one example, is that the brain quickly tires of the idea, and we fall off the wagon. That’s why new gym memberships are often abandoned by February as the excitement of the activity fades and we fall back into old patterns of behaviour and inconsistencies.For something to stay put our why has to be greater than our willpower ( @Hardy, Clear). My ‘why’ was big enough to keep me committed to this task for one year.

As time went on, the compound effect of my actions took over, and one of the main reasons I have decided to share these results is to show how much two simple notebooks have had far-reaching consequences for my life and the new doors that have opened.

Here is my list of the positive impacts, new habits and surprises.

1) I had already started to walk back in 2019 but this now became a daily habit. At first 30 mins as a start, now up to two hours on one walk. I have met new lovely ladies to walk within my local area and completed my first solo walking trip this month to the Lincolnshire Wolds. I also do strength, balance and resistance training.
2) I have become more observant of people and my surroundings and have a deeper connection with nature due to my walking and reading nature books.

3) I am learning to bake cakes to reduce packaging, preservatives and less sugar. It’s also been fun and relaxing. It takes me away from too much sitting and screens. I now bake for friends, and the compound effect is that it helps make friendships more memorable. I even have a new garden sign called the Fennel Garden Tea Room.

4) I have looked at my anxiety-ridden relationship with money ( Maybe a separate blog to follow).

5) I am reading new books on subjects that would not have interested me, escape into fiction more and read almost daily, and am learning how to read better.

6) I have lost a little bit of weight. However, more importantly, have stabilised my weight and know what my food sins are and what pushes the weight up. However, I don’t punish myself for wanting a piece of chocolate or having a slice of cake with friends. Moderation and balance are everything. I also drink more water and my rosacea is much improved.

7) I listen to people more and new podcasts- Just One Thing by Dr Michael Mosley is a favourite.

8) I am aware of what triggers a ‘bad- day’ but out of every one of them, I learn something from it and am determined to create one new positive from them. As a result, I am developing more assertive skills.

9) My mental health has largely stayed strong despite lockdown’s, caring for an elderly father and trying to establish a successful tutoring business and normal pressures.

10) I have started a nature/walking journal called Wander, Wonder and Weather and have enjoyed taking photographs ( Nature Walks Here and There on Facebook.). I have started many new notebooks, including ones on church notes and my recipes.

11) I have reduced alcohol intake, usually do not drink at home anymore and only when I go out or socialise with friends.

12) I have sought professional help for severe tinnitus ( often caused by stress) and am learning to reduce it and live with it better.

13) I have started meditation again after my morning exercise- just for a couple of minutes. Read the science on this for yourself. It’s out there.

14) I have become interested in reading neuroscience, the effects of menopause on a woman’s health and take Omega 3 and Vit D, the latter in the winter months for bones, memory and immunity.

So there it is one year of journaling. I have carried on in a shorter format as I don’t want to leave multiple books behind and completing a five-year diary book I stopped using in 2020. I can see the benefits and you might want to try it too. I just hope I might have inspired you a little with your own physical and mental well-being. I honestly wasn’t expecting all of the 14 points I have mentioned.

Thanks for taking the time to read this if you got to the end. And good luck if you try this and get in touch with me if you want to.

Some of my recommended books read over the past year:

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. He has a daily video, via email. Seriously one of the best people out there for mentorship. He changes lives- your compound effect, both positive and negative is HUGE! I rarely miss him.

Atomic Habits, James Clear. Also, a must-read for anyone quitting bad habits and forming new ones. He has a newsletter I never miss reading on a Thursday.

Calm, Fearne Cotton.

The Midnight Library, Matt Haig. An excellent read about the different paths you could have taken in life, based on an fictional story but insights from real life.

Notes on a Nervous Planet, Matt Haig. Some excellent points about our digital age.

Meadowlands, John Lewis-Stempel Considered being one of the best nature writers.

The XX Brain: The Groundbreaking Science Empowering Women to Prevent Dementia. Dr Lisa Mosconi. Fascinating and an essential read for women over 50.

The Daily Stoic 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living Ryan Halliday. Stephen Hanselman.

How to Read a book. A Classical Guide to Intelligent Reading. Mortimer J. Alder, Charles Van Doren.

Wintering, The power or rest and retreat in difficult times, Katherine May. A beautiful and honest story about giving ourselves space when depressed and taking time to heal.

The Art of Improvement- one of the best channels out there on self-awareness and personal development.

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The Digital Addiction

So today we learned that 50% of us are hooked on our Internet devices.

This is not so surprising given how much technology has invaded every aspect of our lives. I too have taken a digital detox and have both missed and enjoyed its absence. 

After hearing this news, I put away the tablet and the phone and tossed my head around the air of the dog walk, thinking what could I do with my day, that did not involve either being online, or at least with a piece of electronic gagetry in my hand and began to think.

I soon realised how much of my day off relied upon the use of the digital age, in terms of day to day routine, that I enjoyed, was necessary, or to be productive. See if this list is what you might do.

Returning from the dog walk I did or could do the following on a normal day.

1) A text about a meet up regarding a commitment.

2) I searched online for the phone number to book a thank you dinner.

3) I checked my online banking as it’s payday.

4) I downloaded and bought the next book I wanted to read on my Kindle.

5) Researched the holiday destinations/ visits for next weeks trip to Suffolk.

6) I wrote my book review for good reads. 

7) I wrote an email and checked my posts.

8) I took a quick look on Facebook. 

9) I am writing this blog post.

10) An international Skype call.

All of these things I have done over the last two days. For me, like many technologies, this is so indispensable. However, when is the line crossed? When does a function become a habit? For this I have to say the power of the uncluttered mind is becoming more apparent in my life and I intend to write about it in my next blog post, in my quest to share better health, both physical and mental.

In the meantime, what list do you have? Do you feel hooked? I should like to hear from you.

Posted in goals, Health, Health Promotion. Diet, Ideas, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Up and Down over the Hurdles of Food

It’s been awhile now since my last food blogging, but I have been busy reading and learning more about what you could and should be doing to help you feel better.

You see, this has become more than just loosing some kgs. Over the course of these last few weeks, it has been striking what patterns are emerging: the cravings, the set-backs, the disappointments in will power, the up and downs of this journey, as I try to kick the sugar habit once and for all.

One truth that has been demonstrated to me over the course of this time is: if you keep your blood sugars stable by eating regularly through out the day, your need to snack on chocolate and other processed sweet things, like biscuits, is so much more under control. Hence, this is now my typical diet for the day:

Lemon and honey, first hot drink of the morning.

One shredded wheat with semi – skimmed milk. At first it had a teaspoon of honey on it, now there is none at all.Take a look at the sugar content in cereals: Wheetabix, porridge oats and cornflakes are lower than most others. Incidently, I could never stand shredded Wheat, it was like chewing tasteless string. Now I love it and it’s a great low sugar breakfast. One biscuit fills me up until 10.00 am when it is break time for me at school.

Fruit mid-morning,low glycaemic index fruit ( low carbon value) such as plums, pears and apples. Banana is the highest one I will eat, scoring at 65. Take care with bananas. I don’t eat them every day, as too many and the weight is back on.

No sandwiches for lunch. Instead Ryvita, thins or a tinned mackerel salad as examples. Anything that is a whole food, carrots, nuts, eggs, it does not matter which. It is surprising how little you need to fill you up. I treat myself to bread no more than once a week. Preparing lunch is easy. I just throw anything into my lunchbox at random. It takes five minutes.

A fruit or nut snack on the way home from work. A crucial time for me when the need to snack is strong. Nuts and seeds are great for you. Protein is good.

My usual dinner at night. Again,trying avoiding anything that is processed. I have a treat sometimes or when I am busy and don’t feel like cooking, though you soon don’t want to go down this road.

No dessert, unless it is Greek yoghurt with small dash of honey or small portion of fruit. Banana, blueberries or strawberries are nice with this. Desserts are treats when going out to dinner- though again, I often decline, they are simply becoming too sweet.

Alcohol is consumed largely only at the weekend and usually then no more than one glass per night.

Small amounts of dark chocolate after dinner, though this is now occasional. The need to eat it is becoming less and less.

Variety and colour and different food groups. Colourful foods are healthy foods, rich in different vitamins and minerals. I don’t eat low fat products- to make them taste better they are loaded with sugar,  but I avoid trans fats. I eat bacon and eggs at the weekend.

Keep portion sizes down. I have seen a lot of people trying to eat really heathy, but the masses of pasta and salad on their plate is self defeating.Accept one thing. You can’t eat the amounts you could get away with it at 30 when you are 50. It’s a fact. Learn to eat variety but less of it. You will soon get used to it, as your stomach adjusts.

I have been studying that the effects of high sugar and insulin levels affect your ability to lose weight, reduce the rate of your metabolism which gives me a small but never-the-less apple- shaped tummy. My next step is to undertake a  small piece of research on myself to see how my blood sugars individually react to certain foods and how this affects my overall weight.

Results have been slow but the progress is in the right direction. The biggest barrier is social and family get-togethers and a husband who wants to tempt you. Seriously, I would have been at my target weight by now if it wasn’t for the eating desires of those around me. It is hard to eat low carbohydrate food when you have a buffet table in front of you and Dad wants to go out for breakfast. Typically, after a trip to Lowestoft to see him, a kg is back on and it can take sometimes a week to get it off, though interestingly the time it is taking to do that is becoming less and less.

Other measures are exercise as part of lifestyle incorporation, taking the five-minute longer way around in the park to work when walking, some cycling, brisk dog walking, yoga and weight lifting for five to ten minutes in the evening. More about exercise in another post. Avoiding fruit juice, a killer to low blood sugars and take water with you to work and drink it throughout the day.

Top tip: don’t become a slave to any of it. Do it when you want to, embrace the small changes and don’t beat yourself up if you cave in, just start again.

This is no longer a chore. It’s becoming a way of life that I don’t want to change. I feel great, have more energy, better memory and I have deliberately put this last, have lost five pounds. Ideally, another five would be the icing on the cake, or for me now, a bowl of fruit…..

More to come!

Posted in achievement, Change, Commitment, Debate, Development, Liberation, Modern society, Politics, Thoughts, Uncategorized

So We Left

I have decided to write a post concerning the UK’s decision to leave the EU and why, against the astonishment of my own husband and some friends, I decided to vote Leave.

The Brexit camp have been accused of right-wing prejudice, racism and divisiveness, and indeed there will be some who have these motives; a kind of selfishness against humanity of which there is no dignity. However, I wish to defend myself and others here who have been branded by this one brush of darkness.

I am a humanitarian and centre – left in politics. I volunteer for an NGO, am an environmentalist and against neo-liberalist policies. I have never voted for UKIP, nor even the Tories in the last three elections.It has been breathtaking to read the strength of feeling in this debate, some of which has been nasty and potentially patronising, because we dare to ask for controlled and responsible immigration and to take back control of our own destiny.

Decent people with passionate feelings and concerns, as to why we should have stayed have vented this anger;that by denying the Brussels State Machine of Federalism we should be denying the very heart of compassion, love and care for which the majority of people are aligned to. But let’s get to the heart of this debate and why people decided to vote Brexit with three words: beaucocracy , globalisation and immigration.

1) I think we can all agree, that the then Common Market back in the seventies was about free-trade. It wasn’t about stopping another World War, ( NATO was largely formed for that purpose.) Neither was it about creating a single currency, with ever greater political integration. Along with the trade agreements came rules and regulations, and as the years wore on the rules became longer, with more red tape and countless counter clauses and more strangulation with it.

Recently, I drove past some old orchards in Suffolk. My Dad told me that when we joined the EU, the orchards along with the apples were dug up and destroyed. Why? Because we had to accept the French Golden Delicious imports instead. We weren’t allowed these apples grown for years on our own soil anymore.

The same can be said with the decimation of our fishing industry with the Agricultural and Fishing policies, enforced quotas and a sharing of maritime waters.  Lowestoft, my home town, was a thriving fishing community, now this is all but dead. No wonder then, that as early as 1975, people were uneasy and we had a re-think to stay. However, we were in the grip of a recession ( The Three Day Week loomed large in people’s minds),so we decided It was best to hang -on -in- there and stay and hope for the best.

2) You have to ask the question. Why when one country decides to leave a club of traders should there be so much fury, economic blackmail, worry and anxiety? This is of course tied into globalisation. This leads to one pivotal question. Has the EU become so powerful that to dare leave it creates such a horrific reaction of market forces of doom and despair? Of stock market collapses, shoring up of the pound against the Euro and economic fall-out. Should one institution ( comprised of now 28 nations) hold that much dominance, that much power in the world? To want to trade more freely with the rest of the world comes a robust no, like you have no right to ask. How dare you! That the cost is so high no one dares to do it because of your pension fund. Market forces and capitalism at its worst is what springs to mind here.

When Greece was at the mercy of the EU, after it elected a government to address its virtual bankruptcy and collapsing Euro, what happened next?  The newly elected Prime Minster wad told by Merkel this is what you will comply with, or you won’t get your bailout and you will go bankrupt. How many days did they have to shut their banks for, nearly a week? Where was their democracy in all of this? The Greek government wanted a different way, whether that way was right or wrong is not the issue here, but to not have any control was, and still is. Thank God, we did not join the Euro in 1992. That situation could well have been us.

Therefore, You can not wonder why comments were raised about Germany winning the war, by the back door. This is not working together for the common good of man. This felt like a dictatorial superstate. I didn’t like it one bit.

3) Now, let’s talk about immigration and let’s start with Gt Yarmouth. 71.5% of the town voted to leave. Yarmouth has a large immigrant population, run down, depressed and poor. Like Thetford and Boston of which the later had the highest vote to leave of 75.6%, It has a high non-British- born population. Ok, nothing wrong with people’s from other countries coming to live and work here in principle ,but I do have a problem with Gt Yarmouth and Boston for two good reasons which is repeated, especially in inner cities.

Firstly, the creation of ethnic ghettos where you walk the street after nine at your peril. The English man just does not do this there. This is repeated in Luton, Northampton and Bedford, ( that I know of ) because my brother and parents have either worked or lived close to these areas. They have been exposed to it. This is not a racist statement, this is a simply a fact.

An example of this being that my Mother was told by my Dad to keep her eyes down and walk quickly past a gang of East European men raiding cars in broad daylight in Gt Yarmouth. No one did anything for fear they would get a knife in their back. Ok, we can’t say this one action reflects the majority’s behaviour by  these ethnic group. I work with some of these people and they are great but you can see why society is sick and tired of unremitting, unrelenting immigration, given this situation and why right- wing factions seize upon this example.

These passions continue to run high when welfare benefits are sent back home to renovate a house in Romania ( in a documentary last week) or child benefit.  This is against a backdrop of our own homelessness – a national disgrace of which over 300,000 are left on the street or in hostels and savage disability benefit cuts. Mr Cameron wanted to stop much of this welfare going abroad but most of you will know the outcome of his renegotiations on this issue. Mr Brussels said once again,no.

Secondly,  today I learned of an individual having no district nursing cover at their surgery. An A/E department recently asking for only life-threatening injuries to come in because services were at breaking point. Are you seriously suggesting those of you in the Remain camp that we continue to have unlimited free-movements of labour, across 28 member states, not even addressing the huge refugee crisis ( another topic entirely) given the resources we have in schools, hospitals, surgery and housing? Ok, this is a government funding issue, yes it is, but we still don’t have the infrastructure whose ever fault it is. I want to see controlled immigration and I resent being called a racist for it.

To conclude: no, I am not a brain-dead, bigot, nit-wit having a fit of madness to vote leave. I have read widely on this subject. I have given consent based on informed information to the best of my knowledge. I have listened to both sides, even read a whole book about it.

Ultimately, I don’t wish to be part a United States of Europe, at Brussels’ mercy, of seeing TTIP ( sanctioned by the EU ) to erode our already precarious NHS. I don’t want to pay my hard earned taxes to shore up Brussels, their sub committees, beaucocracy, for MEP expenses, etc,etc. I don’t want to see exploitation of migrant workers on low wages, living in container blocks like battery farm hens, such as those in our Eastern ports. I don’t want to see depressed wages for the rest of us as a result.

Yesterday, contrary to feeling ashamed, I was proud to be British. To stand up, be counted and have courage against the hysteria and the scare-mongering. I am European, want to trade with Europe, be friends with Europe, work together with Europe against war, climate change, famine and disaster. I just don’t want to be a part of a federalist super state. For that I am maligned and chastised today by those in the Remain camp.

If we in the Leave side are so wrong and the EU is such a sound institution, then why have we got a domino effect rippling across the continent after 24hrs. France, Denmark and Holland are asking for the vote too. We dared to question. We stood up for the true meaning of liberty, equality, fraternity. Yes, there will be extreme right-wing factions seizing the chance to promote their dangerous ideology but in reality it is going to be the Common Man, the Working Man, without an extreme political agenda that will seize the day and have the deciding vote.
Make no mistake, the EU will change as a result of this vote, it has to. PIty Brussels never gave us a chance to change it from the inside. It will change and secure its future because we Brexits were brave enough, against the tidal flood of criticism, to vote for a new path. The British vote was the catalyst. Perhaps then, for once in a very long time we can say, that this may not be defined as our finest hour ( I am not comparing myself to Churchill) but it certainly wasn’t the darkest one by a long shot.

Go on Britain, let’s come together and make this work!

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World of Books

At the age of 15, I failed my mock GCE English Literature exam by 2% and was told by my high school that I would not be allowed to go for the O-level in this subject. It was not worth it as I would probably fail. They did not give me the chance, even though I read and loved books. I felt sad. This decision sent me a message that I and fiction books were no good for each other, or that I was simply no good for them.

For the next 33 years or so I largely stopped reading fiction books. At the age of 41 I returned to education and I was busy then reading non-fiction, academic books and words to help me learn, think and grow in knowledge and in skills. Fiction books were no use to me. Silly stories telling me nothing which were not true. What was the point of that? A total waste of your time when you could be doing something so much more productive.

Then a couple of years ago I started working in a school and things about books began to get pretty serious. Perhaps, fiction was not such a bad idea to read after all. I had heard titles such as ” To Kill A Mocking Bird” and “The Christmas Carol” : “Brave New World” and others but these titles just washed over my head. They were meaningless.

Today, I went into my favourite book shop Toppings in Ely and remembered about my exam all those years ago. My eyes gazed over all those books and it was one of those moments when I thought, wow, this is such a wonderful world. All those authors were just jumping off the shelves. I wanted to take them all home. So many names; so much to choose from.

This blog’s simple message is just to say how much I have come to appreciate fiction in its own right -separate to non-fiction which I still enjoy. I have learned this over these last couple of years how fiction can stretch your mind and be totally just for enjoyment; to take you out of yourself and to learn about the beauty of the English language. Stories can convey a powerful message, touch on subjects that go much deeper than the pages and take you on a journey of discovery and desire.

I have a lot of time to make up and I hope I don’t wear out my eyes doing it. I wear glasses now and my father is nearly blind. I have a fear of loosing my sight too because of this but that won’t stop me reading, as there are so many books out there waiting for me to read them.

Just wanted to write this and share it.

If you love books, you will “kinder-know” what I mean:)

Posted in Change, Children, Commitment, Debate, families, goals, Health, Home, Modern society, Thoughts, Uncategorized

I Am Seriously Worried

Yesterday, I started to really look and notice something for the first time. Walking along the seafront, my eyes wandered around the people and their outlines. Many were overweight, and the striking thing of all was that many young and middle-aged women were not just overweight but clinically obese. Yes, the word most Women I am using here, from what I saw yesterday. And overall women appeared to be fatter than men. I wondered why.

That word fat is an awful word isn’t it. We don’t like saying it, as it potentially portrays a negative comment about an individual. It conveys that we have no self-control. That it is our fault we are just big. Fat is bad both in word, shape, image and representation. It is an ugly word and you just don’t say it. We avoid it and look beyond it to another conversation. TV programmes have aided this invisibility of weight. Being in love with your curves, dressing to enhance the natural shape are the things to do. Yet, I know several women who have tried to “diet” another bad word. Like me, they can fluctuate from weight loss to weight gain and then stop and start.

Against this, we have a tide of programmes showing us every aspect of cooking. People like to watch Masterchef, Nigella Lawson and Jamie Olivier showing us to how to cook. We have no shortage of inspiration tips and advice. Cooking on a budget, cooking something different. Cooking healthy nutritious meals, it’s all there. Sadly, most of us appear to be using it for entertainment against the reality of true cooking or not, as the case may be.

We have had a lot of media coverage about the ailing health service struggling to cope, the time bomb of heart disease, the labelling of food and a food industry that is committed to serving us fat, sugar and salt. The simple truth is we are losing the battle on eating a diet to give us health. A newspaper report this week showed stark figures that our children will die before we do, as their weight and lack of exercise spirals out of control. The not so hidden rise of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver disease (yes, as we consume ever dangerous amounts of alcohol) is causing greater alarm bells than ever before. We simply won’t have a health service able to cope. Societies health is going to collapse and the infrastructure to support it unless we take some radical action now. This is what is going to happen and that is why I am seriously worried.

I can’t begin to answer all the questions that could be posed here as to what could be done about it. What I do know is, how hard it is to lose a few pounds. How when you go out to eat, in the vast majority of typical restaurants, you find it almost impossible to eat low-calorie, low-fat, tasty food. I know full well how easy it is to throw food in the supermarket trolley just because your are tired after a day’s work and just want to get home. And once you are at home, you just throw something quick and easy into the oven because it’s just too much bother. How you need time to shop wisely, how you need positive energy to make the changes. Healthy eating and weight reduction is hard and it can be costly. Many people on ever tighter budgets can’t do it and the apathy is, I just don’t care. I do my best, I eat what I can.

We eat for comfort, we treat ourselves to chocolate as a reward to ourselves for a hard day. I am not judging overweight people at all. Everything is stacked against us. I am not overweight but I am in the same boat as most of us. I will be sharing on my next blog what changes we have managed to make here as a family. It’s not been easy and by no means has the battle being won yet but we are trying. This is being done because quite simply we can’t rely on our health service to patch us up. It isn’t going to there for much longer. We have to look after ourselves now the best way we know how.

Posted in Uncategorized

Hot Stone Massage

I think us ladies don’t do enough to look after ourselves. I certainly don’t. The excuse can be time and very often money. We make sure the children are fed, the bills paid, the house is still standing up and the boiler fixed.

Well that was me up until yesterday, when I was given, as a special treat, a hot stone massage from my friend, who calls herself Sally In Norfolk on twitter . I met her there and have known her ever since as a friend. I have had her Swedish and Indian massages before, as a special occasion present, and thoroughly recommend  them. However, I will finding the £35 to continue with the experience of yesterday, that being the Hot Stone Massage.

It was absolutely out of this world. Currently, I have an old back injury playing up and I was a little worried it might hurt. For me, it was any thing but pain. My back feels so much better today, so much so, that I have been garage clearing and gardening pruning trees.

For me, the combination of the warm lovely smelling oils, the heat and the massage pressure from the smooth, flat stones invigorated me from top to toe. I have recently had a lot of personal stress. so  mentally, it felt like a detox. I was alive and mentally alert last night. The best I have felt in ages. An hour of utter pleasure and relaxation and to soft music. A real meditation experience if you want it, or you can chat as well. Most people know I like to chat too:)

We can spend £25 on a takeaway and a bottle of wine. For a bit more you can have this experience, and if that does not take your fancy, then there are other types of massages you can try. I am booking in now every six weeks. Can’t wait for the next one as part of me looking after myself time.

Give it a go, do! Try it! Sally is mobile and can come to you, though the hot stones takes more time to prepare off her home premises. She is professional, highly competent, qualified and experienced. I would recommend her to anyone, hence this blog post.

Thank you Sally once again for a wonderful healing time. Can’t wait now to October!


Posted in Change, Debate, Development, Government, Health, History, Modern society, Politics, Psychology, Religion, Skills, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Good Leadership Skills Within the NHS: Are They There Or Not?

During my nursing career of 28 years within the NHS, I worked with only three exceptional leaders of people. Two of those leaders worked together in the same unit. One was senior to the other and both worked in harmony together. It was some of the golden days of my NHS life.

When you have a good boss, it shows through and through. You feel valued, invested in and your opinions matter. There is a fairness and compassion within that person. They are interested in people, usually are highly skilled and experienced in their field and have a humane and caring character. They have disciple within themselves and enhance and encourage that in the workplace. The atmosphere in the place of work is happy, standards are high and efficiency prevails. When you are asked to perhaps stay late, or to help in a crisis of staffing, you will come forward because you invest in your workplace, in return for how you are treated. Well, that was how it was for me anyway. 

Sadly, overall leadership within the NHS is poor in my opinion. There are good leaders in the NHS of course and these ones stand out. However, a good leader is often challenged by higher management, if they are not a “yes man” and not always popular with that seniority. In the end these people leave and go on to other positions, leaving the vacuum and the loss behind. Poorer management often comes in as a result and then staff leaves and recruitment/retention gets harder. Moral goes down: stress goes up.

I think one of the problems for nursing is a lack of experience in leadership. Historically, to become a ward sister, at one time, you needed to be qualified for five years.

This is now a dreadful statement to make but I have heard someone say once, that nurses are like “painters and decorators”, you climb the ladder so fast that you scarcely come into contact with any patients. This is a simplistic and rather brash view, but the point here is that, I personally feel that the quality of those in charge, in terms of interpersonal skills with people, CAN be lacking. There just isn’t that core backbone of personal standards, discipline and integrity that there once was.

Then at the heart of the matter, combine these factors with nurses who do not feel listened to by higher management. They feel dis-empowered, that no-one really cares and that they are just a number, easily dispensed with and easy to replace. Challenge anything with anyone who is in a higher position than you and you will often come out worse. Employees can easily feel start to feel vulnerable. Conflicts and bullying are present in the NHS, just as they can be in any large employing organisation. Staff feel threatened and gagged if they dare to speak out. Confidentiality clauses are cited as a means of fear to shut people up for fear of losing their jobs or being frog-marched up to the NMC ( Nursing, Midwifery Council) professional conduct committe. Nurses are in a terrible dilemma if they feel standards are being compromised, yet have no confidence in any leader to talk to or simply feel too afraid. They trust no one. Both the Royal College of Nursing and the NMC have issued guidelines on how to whistle-blow professionally but too few are still prepared to blow that whistle at a local level with a mortgage to pay.  

Finally, it is in my view that the NHS also operate within a very rigid and hierarchical structure. Everyone knows their place in the pecking order from cleaner, to porter, from nurses to doctor and consultants. There is less snobbery now between those at the top of the management tree to those at the bottom; and nurses are no longer seen merely as doctor’s hand-maidens due to their increased technical and skilled roles. Thankfully, there has been this shift ( enhanced by our increasing number of graduate nurses) but both leadership qualities and this persistent hierarchy remains an issue……

On Monday: Management decisions at the very top- Government policy. How PFI’s and the obsession for targets and figures are critically wounding our NHS.




Posted in Change, Debate, Health, Human Rights, Modern society, Skills, Thoughts, Uncategorized

A crisis of Care in Nursing within the NHS. New blog series.

Today, I start a new blog series of concurrent short posts to attract maximum reading and interest. I know there will be interest out there, given recent media headlines. These blog posts need a proper introduction and the reasons given as to why this is now being undertaken by me.

In recent months, the nursing profession has come under immense scrutiny as a catalogue of failures in the NHS has been published,most notably: The Mid- Staffordshire Report. Patients left to drink out of flower vases and astonishing neglect have left the public shocked and disgusted by the systematic failings of basic humanity and care. The spot- light has been placed on nursing like never before and so it should be in the light of what has been reported.

However, I can no longer sit back and let my once respected profession be so hounded and demonized without at least trying to address why some of these incidents may have arisen. This is not an easy task I am about to undertake. Some may be disappointed with the contents of my blog posts. There will be no personal rants, ear bashing and no leaning towards one political party. This is an attempt to unravel what has gone wrong, to give the public a truer picture of the real lives of nurses working now in a 21 Century NHS and how times have changed from 1948.

It will look at nurse training, how the trained nurse’s role has changed against a tide of wider NHS reforms. It will look at nurse leadership and management.  How it has become increasingly harder to deliver basic standards of care, humanity and compassion with an ever increasing workload; and crucially a shift of emphais as to what that work now comprises.The pressure and demands in people’s needs and expectations against a backdrop of increased health-care needs and complexity. Finally, It will attempt to discuss what now needs to be put in place for nursing to win back public confidence, as a profession nurses can be proud off.

This blog is NOT about making excuses for poor standards of care but to explain why a combination of many factors have created what we are now reading about in the NHS today. It will largely not be discussing the theme of privatization, another too larger and separate area to merge with this series.

I hope people will find this helpful and any comments welcome. Having worked in the NHS for 28 years, (up to a year ago), it is hoped that an insight from an experienced nurse can be given in a manner that is professional and constructive.

Tomorrow, we are going right back to the beginning and start with the role of the student nurse…….