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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

To tea or not to tea...

'A woman is like a tea bag
You never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water...'

So said Eleanor Roosevelt who came to tea today.  Ok - that was just to get your attention - here's what really happened. This morning I received a present from an American lady who clearly has  a very kind heart. The  lady, who'll we'll call Francie, sent me a heart-shaped teaspooon  which was featured on her blog recently. When I admired them both - the blog and the teaspoon -she promptly  asked for my address.

Francie's cup of love...

 The beautifully-wrapped  spoon was accompanied by a teabag holder, along with the wonderfully witty quote above, plus a book full of fascinating quotes called Afternoon Tea. Inside was a card inscribed with the words 'Thankyou for your sweet comments. Would be so nice to share a cup of tea.'

Now I'm not sure if I will ever share a cup of tea with you, Francie, but I do want to say that you really have made my day.


Thursday, 21 February 2013

Why must we always bring up the bodies?'

'Most of us bounce along in the fatter section of the bell curve...'

This cryptic comment,  by prolific author A L Kennedy, comes from an article on  writers that I discovered recently on the Guardian website. Written over six months ago,  it's a reference to writers in general, but in the light of Hilary Mantel's now infamous comments about the Duchess of Cambridge, I think it has rather a prophetic ring.

Having read the full transcript of Ms Mantel's talk, I do concede that some of her thoughts appear to have been taken out of context. Nevertheless the fact remains; as a nation we are obsessed by size, sometimes to the exclusion of all else.

Is it just a coincidence that the  author of Bring up the Bodies looks as if she is hiding her own body behind a voluminous pair of curtains?  Should we 'blame' Kate's mother for her 'thin' genes, or the future queen's  fear of the 'paparazzi'  hiding round every corner? And why are we so fascinated by the royal 'baby bump?'  Can't the poor rich girl just be pregnant in peace?

What saddens me most is that  this Booker Prize winner should use her undoubted talent to grab headlines. Surely she must have known that her comments would be taken 'out of context?'  This woman who says she would never stoop so low as to read Mills and Boon, clearly knows how to incite the tabloids.

Back to A L Kennedy, herself winner of the 2007 Costa Book of the Year with her novel Day.   '.... some writers' I know,' she says, 'thrive on  emotional cataclysms and can barely wait for their next divorce, plummet into infatuation, flirtation with ridiculously violent  criminals or encounters with rabid shrews. Most of us bounce along in the fatter section of the bell curve.'

Food for thought, maybe?

Friday, 15 February 2013

The Pathway to Peace?


Winifred Chapman

Today the words of Gary Walker, former chief executive of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, have  put fear into the hearts of many of  us with elderly relatives.  After the terrible treatment  of patients at hospitals in Stafford,  which led to more than 1,000 deaths, we now hear  allegations of an NHS cover-up in Lincoln.

 My mother-in-law (pictured above) died in Louth County Hospital, Lincolnshire in 2009 at the age of 86. She was a happy, positive lady, who always looked on the bright side of life and, when asked how she was feeling,  replied without hesitation  'not too bad at all.'

When the nurse took us aside to say that her kidneys had failed, we worried about her suffering too much pain. That's when they explained about The Liverpool Pathway - a careplan for people in their dying days. 'Don't worry - we will look  after her,' they hospital  told us. And they did.

For more than a week we visited every day,  taking it in turns with the rest of her family, laughing about the past, chatting about children and grandchildren, and all the time, as she lay there, she continued to praise the nurses.

'They're ever so friendly, and can't do enough for me,' she said one day, tucking in to her favourite haddock  chips and peas. 'They say I make them laugh.'

Nothing was too much trouble for those nurses (not that my mother-in-law asked for much) and they assured us many times that she was a pleasure to look after.

Finally, when  the time was drawing near, they explained what was going to happen and left us in dignified peace.

 Nurses all over the country do an exceptional job and, amidst all  the bad publicity, we mustn't forget about them. Of course bad news makes headlines - I should know -  it used to be part of my job. Today I wanted to tell the other side of the story.


Thursday, 7 February 2013

Want to do a Survey? Don't ask silly questions!

I think it might be time to conduct a survey on, well, er,  surveys.    An up-to-date survey in the popular press   tells us what  we've known known all along: that men see things differently from women. Ooh, sorry, that was yesterday...

Today it's reported, from Rochester University in the United States, that both sexes actually share 'a vast range of identical traits.' Mmmm.... really? Like the desire to win the lottery? The need to spend two weeks in the Bahamas? I can think of lots of things I share with my other half, but that doesn't make us alike. The truth is that  very often surveys are  conducted on behalf of  people who have something to sell, an axe to grind, or dare I say it,  journalists who need a story on a non-news day.

 If you happen to be famous, of course, it's even easier. Take Pippa Middleton. She presumably conducted lots of surveys before writing her book on entertaining and revealing that most English people prefer to eat turkey at Christmas... (sorry, Pippa, only joking)

When I was a child my mother, who was a stay-at-home housewife, took a part-time job doing surveys for Gallup Poll.*  She would go into people's houses and ask them their favourite foods, holidays, social habits etc, all commissioned by  companies  with something to sell. The questions were often structured to elicit the 'correct' answers  -  the participants were then given a reward, the 'interviewers' paid and  and  everyone ended up happy.

A few years ago when shopping in a major department store,  I admired the wicker baskets in all shapes and sizes used for displays. 'Where can I find these?' I asked the assistant. 'Oh' she replied chirpily 'everyone asks that, but we don't sell them I'm afraid.' A true version of the old joke, 'You're the umpteenth person who's asked today, but there's no call for them.'

So the next time you read  that 'People who like books use libraries' or 'Rich children have too much money,' spare a thought for the person who did the survey. I'm not suggesting  there aren't genuine surveys out there, but when it comes to how many crisps we all eat, personally I'd take it with a pinch of salt

* With fond memories of George Horace Gallup - the man who started it all.