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Autumn colour



This is lovely isn’t it? We see this lovely tree on our usual walk, the dogs and me, through Beckenham Place Park. It doesn’t look like this yet, though because it’s still only mid-September and I took this photo a couple of years ago.

I’m posting this picture because a) I like it b) It’s nice to have something pretty and calming to look at and c) I want to try out a new blog theme, because I am #easilybored. I am having a few technical difficulties at the moment, though and the Make theme is not behaving. Grr.

So please bear with me while I update my blog, and decide whether I actually preferred my last theme, Linen. It takes a little while for a non-website designer like me to get my head around new things. That’s the joy of them, I guess.



The Scottish Referendum – Here’s what I think


I’m a Londoner and I’ve never even been to Scotland. I have no experience of life there so it’s not for me to tell the Scots what to think, still less how to vote in their Referendum. This has always been my position, as the No and Yes campaigns chugged on in the background since, 2012, was it?

Several of my Twitter friends are Scots or live in Scotland, or both, and I have been curious about their views and the arguments, but there seems to have been a dearth of actual concrete information on the shape of any newly-independent Scotland and the implications for all of us. Or maybe there’s plenty of information about but, being a Londoner, it’s not caught my imagination. If that’s the case, I’m guilty of negligence.

But everyone seems suddenly to have woken up and taken notice of the campaigns for Thursday’s vote and we’ve seen the initially cheery campaigns turn acrid, especially in the last few days. The mudslinging and conspiracy theories, the personal attacks and the erstwhile friends falling out have been painful to witness. Goodness knows whether it will be possible for everyone to bury their respective hatchets after Thursday’s vote.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I think:

  • People with a distinct culture such as that of Scotland are already a nation. It is only natural that they seek to govern themselves.
  • It’s a little late for Westminster politicians, business people, actors, sports stars to start telling people which way to  vote. It looks as if everyone is having a mass panic. Which, of course, they are. If the No campaign, the people for maintaining the United Kingdom as a united entity, wanted to persuade people of their case, they should have started when the Referendum was originally announced. Flocking en masse to Scotland to beg Scots not to leave; using the mawkish rhetoric of marriage and divorce; coming up with last-minute deals: it all just looks ridiculous.
  • Why has this happened? Because the UK government and everyone else complacently took for granted that most Scots would not want to leave the Union.
  • In my view, the arguments for the No campaign are based of cold, rational logic. The votes for Yes are based on emotional ideas of nationhood, something that is visceral, and cannot be bulldozed. There was room for both head and heart if only the big personalities in this debate had sat down together in a grown-up way and sorted out something sensible sooner.
  • It seems to me that the more high profile people go around telling the Scots to vote no, the more they will want to  subvert the people who have treated them with contempt before and are coming over as patronising now. That’s my view. I know people are saying that the Yesses should be made to see reason, but that rather assumes that they are ignorant of the consequences, or more ignorant of the consequences of a Yes vote than anyone else. This might be true but rubbing someone’s nose in what they don’t know was never good manners and is bound to put people’s backs up. Who reacts well to being insulted?

To me, It’s up to Scots to decide how to vote on Thursday, of course it is. But if they do vote Yes, I have this awful feeling that those of us who are left in the Disunited Kingdom will be left to pick up the pieces for a long time to come. And we haven’t been able to vote on that.

My Mum, the Elephant and Me #5 – A look back

Many of you kind, thoughtful friends have been asking about my mum and I’ve been thinking about doing this post for a while now.

This time last year, my mum was still defiantly independent, but I kept getting calls while at the gym, from all sorts of local GP surgeries and pharmacies. My mum had taken to occupying their premises and demanding her medication for asthma, blood pressure and arthritis. She has always denied having dementia and needing to take medication for it. She would refuse to leave their premises unless they gave her what she wanted and would often ask strangers for lifts home.

After discussion with her doctor’s surgery, we had decided that I should take over responsibility for ensuring that she received the correct quantities of the correct medication. A Social Worker came and assessed her needs and, with my help, in spite of mum’s screams, took away all the old medicines that mum had hoarded in her flat.

It was at this point that I thought that the social services would step in and help but it turned out that the request for help was never referred by the GP surgery. It was only when I took my mum for a routine flu jab in November that the practice nurse queried and discovered the request, still not actioned.

My mum had started to go downhill quite fast and I was taking regular phone calls from the block manager of her flats about her inconsiderate, disruptive behaviour. It was clear that she had become very isolated by the other residents in the block. This situation could not go on longer but I was  at a loss about what to do.

I investigated a local Alzheimer’s Society day centre,  but Mum refused point blank to go there. She had her routine and her freedom and she was going to stick to it. It was this resolve that made me hesitate: full-time residential care was a radical step and I was not sure I could impose it on her or, indeed, that she was quite at that stage. It’s a huge decision to make on someone else’s behalf, if they are not capable of any reasonable discussion. Culturally, we pour scorn on people who “put their elderly relatives in a home.” I did not want to be one of those reviled people. So I dithered.

Nonetheless, I started talking to people with relatives in dementia care homes. Many people have asked me whether I could have investigated one of the “Asian” care homes that have been around for a few years. But that would have been like taking an elderly, frail English lady who was losing her command of Spanish at her home in Spain and putting her into a care home in France. “Indian” is not all the same language. Most Indian people in London speak Punjabi or Gujarati. The care facilities in these places meet the demands of those communities, rather than the small, dispersed Maharashtrian community here. North London simply was not an option. So what next?




So here we are, the day after my mum’s 80th birthday. She has no concept of a birthday. She didn’t remember it when I took round a card last year and I didn’t send her a card this year. No-one mentioned it at home. Was it so easy to forget?

I felt guilty, that I was not there with her, to mark this day with a woman who no longer has any concept of time. But I was deeply, deeply touched when I received yesterday’s photo by email this morning. Wasn’t it nice of the staff to dress mum in a splendid red sari? Wasn’t it nice of them to bother? Yes. I think she is in the right place.

Skin deep

Where I talk about my quest for refined skin tone.

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The Cocktail Party – A guest post from Eliza Beecroft

A Guest Post from Miss DD, inspired by a visit from Upper Street Shoes.

*** (Post not sponsored) ***

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Music for a balmy Sicilian night


This performance of Brindisi, the drinking song from Verdi’s La Traviata went down especially well with the invited audience in the Villa Anna. Except, perhaps, the man behind me checking his phone. Enjoy, anyway, the Bromley Youth Concert Band on their recent Sicilian tour.

Oh yes, and pay particular attention to the trumpet solo from 16 year old Dan, a young man with a brilliant musical future.

A perky musical interlude

This is a performance from the only formal venue concert of the Bromley Youth Concert Band trip to Sicily, to an invited audience at Villa Anna near Ispica, Sicily. You can spot Eliza in the back row, her long hair draped over the back of her chair.

Villa Anna is in the middle of the Sicilian countryside and was always going to be a long drive. It would have been easier if a) I had not taken the country route and become lost in Ragusa. b) Sicily had better road signage c) my companion had not distracted me with an obscene tale about oyster consumption. The concert night turned into a 12 hour round trip with little or no food or drink. But it improved my MarioCart skills no end.



Farewell, Nisha

IMG 1189So this is where I say my final farewell to my cousin Nisha, who finally succumbed to the all-encompassing, family-destroying, despicable, demonic disease, ovarian cancer, two days after my return from India, at the very end of June. Goodness, how she fought. I know many people who have cancer despise the battle analogy: as her husband Mark said, it is an unfair fight. The battlefield is uphill all the way and the driving rain and wind sting your eyes and, while cancer is a Nuclear Power, you are armed only with a blunt instrument. And yet, I know of no other way to describe how my cousin kept herself alive for four years of tests and chemotherapy and surgery and pain and exhaustion. She was written off more than once but she kept going, though ever weaker, projecting a calm, dignified, fragile persona to all but the closest until within a a few weeks of her death. She kept going, through sheer force of will because she did not want to leave her family. She was only 57.

The last time I saw her was to take her a pie or some other frippery, in May, I think. When I said goodbye with a slightly too long, slightly too strong hug, she said she hoped she would see me again before my next trip to India. We both probably knew then that this would not happen, but this is how I want to remember Nisha. Gentle, smiling, calm, chatty, enjoying my company. I asked her how she was, and about the cancer, of course, but there was so much else besides to talk about. She did not want anyone apart from a very few her to see her in her final weeks in the Royal Marsden. I respected this and stayed away. It makes me sad.

Her funeral last Tuesday, in dazzling sunshine and beautiful surroundings, was attended by people flying in from all over Europe, the world. One of the most poignant sights I shall ever see was my 84 year uncle, frail, stumbling a little, as he bent to bear his daughter on her final journey. Wrong.

A musical tribute, recorded by my offspring, off that morning on their Sicilian tour, and their grandfather at the organ. The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended. It was, you see. And the orations, heartfelt, enlightened all of us. Nisha had had fun and was remembered in fondness by so many. I sang Schubert’s beautiful Ave Maria for my largest, saddest, most appreciative audience yet. I stood at the back, by the organ, and I sang to Nisha’s fabric coffin, bedecked with lilies and roses and said goodbye and no-one else saw me. There was one inappropriate breath as I struggled with my sadness, but the rest was OK. I hope she would have liked it.

I’m so sad for her husband, who is a true hero. I’m sad for her daughter, not a year older than my own baby girl. I’m sad for the relationship I wish I could have had with her. Estranged families and a continued estrangement as adults – goodness knows why – mean that I have far too few memories, no treasured photos of sunny days and family lunches and Christmasses and birthdays and chilling in the garden. All those people present at her funeal described someone who was almost a stranger to me until the last few years, when illness cast a long, omnipresent shadow. So I find myself yet again grieving for the times we could have had together and the missed opportunities and the laughs and the fun. We were quite alike, I think, in many ways. I hope the time we spent together in Singapore and here made up in some way for all that waste. They say she was fond of me. I became very fond of her. It’s a sort of unfolding love, I guess.

What remains? Some memories. Strengthening family ties. I’ll try to look after them for you, Nisha. As best I can.

Altered perceptions – a sorry saga

In which I make a complaint and end up being banned from a shop.

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Oscar likes trumpet practice time

Oscar sings with the trumpet

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