Time to take a little time

I’m taking a little time off to do some admin and redesigning of Belles Days.

I know you will all miss me (!) but I will be back in a couple of days. From time to time things have be done.

Also, I have home things and family things this weekend so my time short!

See you soon

photo from Unsplash.com

Notes on an election campaign

Source: Unsplash.com


It has to be said: this one’s a bit of a joke

Boris is getting himself in a twist as to whether he’s building 40 new hospitals or 6, or whether it’s actually just refurbishment, whether we’re going to have 50,000 nurses or actually 19,000. He really doesn’t have anything to say other than ‘let’s get Brexit done’!  ‘Unleash Britain’s potential’!  He promises a high level of investment in the NHS, in Education, in apprenticeship etc, all the usual stuff.
Mr Corbyn ( funny how we call Boris by his Christian name but with Jeremy we are more polite) promises unprecedented levels of spending, an old socialist policy, although possibly we’ve never seen it on this scale, billions being thrown around like confetti (yes that’s a cliche but it fits) to fix just about every problem we face.  When he runs out he’ll just borrow some more! On Brexit he declares himself neutral – an ‘honest broker’ to bring the country back together. It’s more likely that he is waiting to see how the land lies before he commits himself.
The Liberal Democrat’s promise to stop Brexit and revoke Article 50 is anti democratic. It ignores the wishes of every leave voter.  It’s totally unrealistic to imagine that they are going to vote for this. The thing that is most striking about their campaign though, is the constant repetition by Ms Swinson that she’s not putting Boris back in Downing Street, but she’s not going to put Mr Corbyn there either.  She does not say who is going to be there. I think she really thinks that she could be going there instead!
In the Question Time session last week, the only party leader to acquit herself reasonably well was SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.  There were a lot of Scots in the audience who were able to get answers to their questions. All well and good. For the rest of us the important thing is her insistence on another Independence referendum. Again this is anti democratic as they’ve already had one and voted to stay in the Union.  Both Johnson and Corbyn would deny her that, although Corbyn has said not in his first two years then he sort of fluffed a bit and said not in his first Parliament. About the only thing they agree on! Their  relevance in the campaign is what they if they’re holding the balance of power.  Ms Sturgeon says she’ll work with anyone except Boris!
Except, of course, none of this is a joke.  It’s uncertain, muddled and therefore confusing.  It’s frightening or exciting depending on where you stand.  None of us can see how this is all going to pan out. It’ll probably go right to the wire before we know.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Moving Forwards

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
How to face your fears and move on

Wednesday of this week for me, was momentous. You will probably think that what I am going to say next is not much to write home about!

I went out in my new power chair. There it is. I can hear the murmurs ‘and?’ ‘so?’ ‘and that was momentous because….’.

Having a power chair after years of depending on other people to be pushed around is a wondrous thing. Having no choice as to where you can go, concern about whether the person pushing is able to manage awkward spaces, being parked while they go down a supermarket aisle or go off to talk to someone, is one of the most frustrating things in a disabled person’s life. It has been my life for the past nine years.

About six months ago (yes six months) I finally got a made to measure power chair. At first I wasn’t allowed to go outside in it. This had to wait for an assessment to see if I was ready.

Eventually, I got the date for the assessment. I was very nervous, I panicked when they put me in a chair that had 5 speeds. My chair only had 3 and I usually pottered around the house at 1! Even more scary was that I had to do everything at speed 5! I won’t bore you with the details except to say it was terrifying! There seemed to be more than the usual amount of old ladies with shopping trolleys and mums with buggies and toddlers – all of which I obviously had to avoid!

I passed. Don’t ask me how I haven’t a clue. Somebody came to my house the next day and altered my speeds to five.

Wednesday was the first big test. My daughter offered to take me to the local golf club for brunch. I was going to a cafe where there was potential to plough into tables and chairs, and basically wreck the place. It took me back to the time when I had a mobility scooter and I knocked over a whole rack of ladies’ underwear in Marks and Spencer’s There were bras and knickers all over the place! Mortifying!

So, I was apprehensive of course, but I knew that if I didn’t do it now I would never do it.

It was fantastic. It will be memorable to me in this journey I’m on. It has given me so much more confidence to go out more. It just goes to show that you must face your fears to move onwards and upwards!

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

How to change your life completely

If you are lucky enough to have the chance
Pont de Valentre Cahors by Sue Whiteman on Trover.com

Thirty years ago almost to the day my husband and I bought an old French farmhouse in the South-West of France in the beautiful Lot Valley.

We had to remortgage our home in England to do it but from our point of view it was worth it.

At that point my two youngest children were 10 and 12. We had been taking holidays in France since the youngest was approaching 2, we had five children altogether, three of my husband’s from his previous marriage and our two. All the children lived with us, so we were a large family. This made holidays in the UK expensive when compared to a gîte in France at £50 a week! The children all loved France from the get-go.

At first, we were only able to go down to the house for three weeks in Summer. Leaving to go home was heartbreaking every year. After my husband retired, and I was able to stop working, we would go there for anything up to six months (six months is the limit in terms of UK taxation rules). We just loved it more and more, were able to witness all seasons of the year, we got to know people in our village apart from our immediate neighbours.

And then two catastrophic events changed things. In 2002 my husband’s pension company collapsed and he lost the pension he had diligently paid into for over 40 years, cutting his retirement income by a massive amount. Then, in late 2003, I developed Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, an aggressive and late onset form of the disease, that progresses very quickly so by 2007 I was barely able to walk and was no longer able to do the stairs in our UK home. By this time our middle daughter was living in our French village and begged us to relocate to our house there, which had no stairs. We did.

The house was slightly unsuitable for living in full-time. Our bathroom and separate toilet were outside on the terrace. In the winter it was necessary to dress up in winter layers, socks etc just to take a pee in the night! So we made a few adjustments, taking part of the huge barn adjoining the house (there was more barn than house) to make a sitting room and to build a new bedroom with en-suite and a small terrace for my husband and I. It was lovely.

With daughter and grandchildren living round the corner, life was good. I could still walk with a stick to visit them and their swimming pool!

We really got into the swing of life in a beautiful part of France. Our nearest big town is Cahors, a medieval city with a famous bridge, a beautiful cathedral and many historic monuments. Over the years, coming to the house each year on holiday, we had got used to meandering through its narrow streets to find little restaurants tucked away where locals ate and you could get a fantastic three course meal with wine for about £2-3 a head. People often say to me that France has become more expensive. That’s probably true of the cost of living, certainly since it changed from francs to Euros, but search and you can find, in the most out of the way places sometimes, really good meals with wine for €12 a head.

How does it feel to live as an expat? At first, even though we knew the house and the village, it was a totally different feeling from being there short term. Suddenly, we became aware of different social and cultural references that we had to get used to. Learning to speak the language was essential. I picked it up fairly quickly because I had to speak to doctors and social services about care as my MS progressed.

The social care system in France is of an extremely high standard as are the hospitals and nursing staff. As the disease progressed and I needed more help and under reciprocal arrangements with the UK I had excellent care at no cost.

It’s a pity that as a consequence of leaving the EU those arrangements may come to an end, making it more difficult for expats living with chronic conditions or other illnesses.

Contrary to popular opinion, the French are agreeable, kind and very community- and family-minded. If you have a problem there is always someone willing to help from your neighbours to strangers who see you having trouble with something in the street or a car park.

It’s just a question of getting to know and understand them, not being an overbearing arrogant Brit (believe me I’ve seen plenty of them), and at least trying to speak the language. You will often find that they are as happy to practice their English as we are our French.

Photo by Alexander Pogorelsky on Unsplash

An open letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Boris

You have me seriously worried and confused. For the first time since I was eligible to vote in 1974, I don’t know what to do. Things were quite tough then. A Tory government under Edward Heath was struggling with a miner’s strike and those of us in work had to endure the three-day week, the constriction of power to commercial premises, meaning no light and no heating, this went on for three months January to March, the coldest time. There was an oil crisis, economic crisis, and the Trades Unions ruled the roost.

Women in the office of a duvet manufacturing firm use quilts to keep themselves warm while they work
Photograph: Evening Standard/Getty

There were two elections that year resulting in a Labour government. Strangely, Jeremy Corbyn was present during this time as well, up on the hustings with his left-wing Union friends. I don’t think he’s changed much.

I digress. The reason I am confused. For the first time in my life I don’t know who to vote for. I have been Tory to my roots all my voting life. I have worked for the Party, I stood for my local Council twice, and managed to halve the labour vote in my Ward, in what was then a fiercely loyal Labour seat. I have never doubted where my vote should go.

But now I do doubt. My Party has disappeared and in its place has arisen right-wing Populist politics. I associated this with the UKIP Party in the last two elections and in the referendum campaign. The only reason we had a referendum, as I see it, was that David Cameron was running scared from Nigel Farage and his cronies. We’ve had MP’s chucked out because they refused to vote with the Government, Parliament unlawfully prorogued, and Senior Tories and others stepping out of Politics altogether. Others have resigned in disgust and are now standing as independents, relying on their personal constituency vote.

The reason I am worried. Boris, I’m really sorry, but I don’t trust a word that comes out of your Eton-educated mouth. You want to ‘get Brexit done’, a phrase you repeat over and over, without specifically clarifying what it actually means. According to more balanced opinion, it probably means years and years of hanging on the edge of Europe trying to negotiate a trade deal (a bit dramatic but you get my drift).

In the meantime, you want to negotiate a trade deal with the US. This is the thing I am most worried about. Another one of your oft repeated phrases is ‘the NHS is not for sale’. I just don’t believe you. Jeremy Corbyn says it too, but I’m more inclined to believe him (I’m not quite sure why).

I could not bear to see our NHS broken up and sold out to American global corporations. I think you would do it. Despite your statements and those of Mr Trump on the matter and I quote “ We wouldn’t even be involved in that, no. It’s not for us to have anything to do with your health care system” (Donald Trump speaking on LBC). I am not reassured.

So you can see my dilemma. I voted remain in the referendum because I believe in European citizenship and free movement. However, I also believe strongly in democracy, the referendum was a democratic vote and the result should be honoured.

Notwithstanding that, the only Party open to me as a Remainer is the Liberal Democrats. But this really is a tactical vote, as they have little chance of gaining a working majority. I don’t like tactical voting, I think it’s a wasted vote.

Putting on my Politics graduate hat on for a moment (it’s not working very well just now) I think we may end up with a hung Parliament, which will solve nothing, and it may well be that a second Referendum is the only answer. Whether that would change the outcome is unknown, but whichever way it went tough decisions would have to be made. This could mean we end up back at square one. Another scenario is that the Tories gain enough from the election for a working majority. This is when effective and coherent opposition will be necessary. A third scenario is a Party like the Scottish National Party become ‘king-makers’ because they hold the balance of power.

So, the choice is stark. Do I go with my heart, forever Tory, or with my head which tells me to vote Lib Dem’s in the hope that we get a second referendum (which I don’t want, it goes against my Democratic principals). It is an impossible choice. Vote Labour I hear whispering in my head, but I would rather gouge my own eyes out!

So, Boris, this is how I feel. I’m sure I’m not alone. I’ll just keep watching the campaign unfold, and hope the sometime in the next few weeks something helps me make up my mind.

Photo courtesy of news.sky.com

Note to my American friends: Please don’t be offended by my references to President Trump and American Corporations

In whom do we trust?

So, we have a general election in December close to Christmas, the first since 1923. All the Parties have launched their campaigns.

Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

So, where do they all stand?

The Liberal Democrats have called themselves ‘the Remain Party’ In other words for them it’s all about revoking Article 50 and pretending that the democratic vote didn’t happen and if we vote for them it’ll be ok because everything will go back to normal — whatever that is!

The Labour Party can’t make up their minds whether they want Brexit or not and would offer a second referendum if elected, whilst at the same time getting Brexit done with a new deal in six months! They have unveiled an apparent spend, spend, borrow, spend some more………typical socialist economics we have seen before.

All Boris has said so far is that he doesn’t want an election but nevertheless he will get us out of the EU by the end of January 2020. But he has announced major spending plans for the NHS, the Police and infrastructure. A good and proper end to austerity, which they have put the country through for years. Everybody forgets that at the end of the last Labour era how much we were in debt!

Nigel Farage has popped up again to make sure nobody forgets him, and he is still peddling the same message — he is the man of the people and the only one who understands how much everyone (except the 48% who voted to remain) wants to leave Europe. Just go down the pub Nigel!

But Seriously…

So, already the sparring has started. From each, but particularly Corbyn, attacking each other seems to have set the tone. However much they pretend otherwise (save the Lib Dems) this is going to be a Brexit election. People are generally fed up with three years of uncertainty and interviews with the general public would appear to show that there is a general shift towards Boris Johnson as the man who will relieve us all of this burden. However, it must be remembered that this is a minute sample of roughly 50 million voters.

Mostly there is a sense of confusion. The Labour Party insists that Boris‘ plan is to sell the NHS out to major US corporations. In this Jeremy and Boris have the same message constantly uttered ‘the NHS is not for sale’. Who do we trust? Boris has lost the trust of many over his Brexit deal and it’s solution for Northern Ireland, whereas as Jeremy is an unknown quantity never having had the chance to be tested on his trustworthiness. It depends very much on which Party the voters trust to deliver Brexit, as well safeguarding the NHS, dealing with climate change, and delivering a strong economy.

Trust is a very important concept in politics. Ordinary people can be heard asking the question ‘who can we trust?’ Or ‘how can we trust Boris Johnson?’ . The sad thing is that people in this country have lost their trust in our democracy. The Parties have an opportunity to try to restore this trust. If all this election comes down to is squabbling and scoring points, as in recent campaigns, any trust that is left will be further eroded.

There is a real chance we will end up with a hung Parliament again. This will deny us the chance to move on from this ghastliness that we have endured over the past few years. Unlike others I don’t believe our democracy, system or Parliament is ‘broken’ but we do need a government with a working majority at the very least. It is very difficult to predict who are the best people to put into government.

This is the most important election we have had in 40 years. Any government we elect will potentially govern for five years. We have got to get it right.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

The Body Positive Part II

Victoria (Image: BBC / Love Productions / Richard Ansett)

Continuing with Episode 1 for the moment, Body Positive exponent Victoria decided to challenge the other women in the group to put on their swimsuits or bikinis and to go with her into the nearest town centre, to raise awareness of what The Body Positive movement is about. Passers-by were asked if they wanted to write on the visible naked parts of the body to show their support. Surprisingly, many people did. Babs, who truly dislikes her overweight body, bravely took up the challenge and was overwhelmed with the support they were given.

So to Episode 2. The Body Positive (BP) debate hots up as a discussion about childhood obesity draws gasps from the BP supporters at the thought that children in Primary School should be taught about healthy eating and exercise! Apparently this will cause them to obsess about food and could lead to eating disorders. One housemate, Sarah who is the director of the charity Obese UK, quite rightly worried about the drain on the NHS of obesity health issues.

Also respected geneticist Dr. Brian Yeo, gives the housemates the results of a DNA test showing that some people are genetically predisposed to excessive eating, or crave food. This had a good effect on Jed, who worried about Type 2 diabetes and encouraged him to be tested.

Watching this episode, it became apparent that there was more to Victoria than met the eye. First impressions were that she was an extremist in the BP movement, she was constantly insisting that she was happy as she was, and tried to get others to feel the same way. She was roundly criticised in the media, branded as ‘dangerous ‘, and amongst housemates, some of them found it unbearable.

As the episode went on, it became obvious that she is using BP to deal with her own deep insecurities about her body, it was very much about ‘those who shout the loudest’ . In other words, the more she went on about it the less convincing she became. She may eat, as she claimed in Episode 1, ‘what she wants’ but she was the only one who was eating in just about every shot, crisps, cake, always unhealthy stuff. If she eats like that to prove a point that’s ‘cutting off her nose to spite her face’ territory, it’s unnecessary and unhealthy. But if she is eating like that because it satisfies a deep-seated insecurity or trauma or whatever, then she needs to admit it to herself.

By the end of the episode everybody seemed to have accepted the different views and people’s right to hold them. There was genuine feeling when it came to say goodbye.

Whilst it’s true that we shouldn’t discriminate against people who are overweight or obese, it is important to realise that it’s the impact on health that is most important. When Victoria was asked whether she would prefer to be fat or lose her mobility through diabetes, she refused to answer the question. That indicates that either she hasn’t thought about it (slightly unbelievable!) or she doesn’t want to think about so as not to compromise her views. Either way, the conclusion has to be that her views are subversive and dangerous, and are extremely unhealthy.

Courtney (Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

The opinions expressed in this post are mine