So, the Christmas season has passed for another year. Where did that go? We build up for weeks, put our trees up, buy presents, buy and cook food, all for the big day. Then, whoosh, it’s gone. This week we are all trying to get back into our normal routines.
I love Christmas, the build up, family times – everything. I love the time between Christmas and New Year, when normal routines go out of the window, and you feel that you can do whatever you like. Binge watch TV, eat sweets and all the other good things just when you feel like it.
Then comes New Year, a time of hope and optimism for the future. We all and I’m no exception, make resolutions we know we probably won’t stick to!
Somehow, though, 2020, a new decade, feels different. The twenties. Sounds so much better doesn’t it? You probably think I’m crazy but it’s how it seems to me. It has inspired me to reach greater heights and to be able to call myself a ‘writer’. This means writing more (only time is against me), publishing more, here and elsewhere, and using tools to optimise my blog.
I wrote a piece about living my best life as a disabled person. I will carry on trying to live my better life in 2020.
Some further thoughts
I wrote above about how I love Christmas and everything that goes with it. I just want to spare a thought firstly, for all the people who work over Christmas and New Year for me to keep my life running smoothly, my carers who are absolutely amazing. I am extremely lucky, but I should also mention nurses, doctors and others who work selflessly for people in hospital.
Secondly, for all those people who are homeless, living in poverty, or who are home alone, elderly and with no one to make Christmas special for them. We should all spare a thought for them, and I know there are many good people who volunteer in various capacities to offer help.
I, for one, constantly count my blessings and if you are one of the lucky ones, count yours too. You never know what’s around the corner.
That’s a line from one of my favourite Neil Diamond songs. Just popped into my head as I was writing hello.
So, welcome to my newly designed blog. I hope it’s crisp and clean and easy to navigate. If you have any thoughts please leave a comment. It may yet need tweaking.
It’s actually a day late going live. After a lovely family weekend, my plan was to complete it yesterday. Well best laid plans…….
I’d just set everything up, computer in front of me, stylus poised when wham! We had a power cut. We waited…waited…. hoping it would come back on. Then an engineer appeared on the doorstep, saying power was unlikely to be restored until 10.30 pm!
We were aghast. I have a medical bed which is electric, luckily the back rest had been left by my wonderful carers in a reasonable position so I was ok.
The two worst things? No heating and no internet! It had to be the most boring day ever.
It made me realise how dependent we are on our gadgets, our tech and all the appliances that use electricity. We actually had to chat to each other! We were trying to imagine what it would have been like to have lived in the time when electricity didn’t exist.
We lit candles and lit our wood stove, and we were quite cosy. No tv to watch, no underlying hum of electricity, very peaceful, and best of all, no telephone!
The worst of it was being cold. No wonder people went to bed so early. Just goes to show……..!
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.
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.
Watching BBC2’s ‘Who are you calling fat?’ lifestyle documentary, I was introduced to something that, I must admit, I had never heard of. Body Positivity. It is a social movement that emerged from the US in the 60’s. Here’s a definition from Wikipedia:
in the documentary, a group of nine people living with obesity to various degrees, were gathered together in the type of luxury accommodation seen in all reality television. You can read more about it here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/articles
After I had watched the first episode I was horrified. One of the girls was very into this movement, but, in my view, to an extreme. She had outlawed the use of words like ‘overweight’ and ‘fat’, nobody was to use those words, or express opinions regarding the correlation between obesity and health
Many of the other housemates had had or were having serious issues with their obesity and health. Two already have Type 2 Diabetes, another was too afraid to find out if he did have it, or would get it. A lady called Babs who already has Type 2 was so depressed about her weight that she found the constant talk of Body Positivity unbearable.
At the end of this first episode I found myself furious with her for being so irresponsible in insisting that ‘health is a social construct ‘. To be so glib about what to others is something that affects their physical and mental health, whilst constantly eating crisps or cake or whatever just seems unfeeling.
There’s to much to say about all this in one blog post so, if it interests you, watch out for Part II!