The Pub That Time Forgot 2

On the importance of individual choice

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Fed up of Saturday stuck in the house, Wisegrannie & Grandpa ventured out into the biting wind (by London UK standards) & headed for the pub that time forgot.

An important part of traditional English local pubs was always respect for individual choice.

After you had served your probationary period (which could vary between weeks and months depending on the pub’s locality and clientele) when you walked in, the person behind the bar would greet you by name and say –

“Evening ……… & …….. , usual?”

Thus indicating that not only were you known as an individual, but your personal preferences were remembered as important and worthy of respect.

This afternoon a friend of the family was helping out behind the bar. She was unaware of all the intricacies of this demanding situation, but was doing well. She gave Grandpa a straight glass for his half (European translation – small beer) because Grandpa holds the traditional English opinion that beer glasses with stems are for female customers.

But then one of the long established regulars came up with an all time winner in the personal preferences stakes. As she was on the point of pouring out his pint, he called out to remind her of his particular individual choice.

“No, not that one, dear! I have a glass without any writing on it!”

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Being On The Receiving End – Think Before You Blog!

Another of life’s hard lessons- do they ever end?

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I have enjoyed myself so much remembering people and happenings in my past, but I am very wary of writing about memories in a way which might identify, or touch on the experiences, of the others involved. I’ll tell you why.

I was listening to Book of the Week on Radio 4 one morning as I pottered around and suddenly I began to recognise the scene that was being described. It was eerily like an event in my life.

It went on in more detail.

There was no doubt, it was my life!

I had to sit down.  It’s quite a shock to turn on the radio and hear a bit of your distant past being humourously retold for the entertainment of the respectable elderly doing their housework on a Tuesday morning.

One of my daughter’s childhood friends had gone on to become a sort of jobbing media personality and had made use of her memories as fodder for some of her writing. 

It was the most peculiar feeling.  It was the difference in perspective of the same event that shook me most.  I had experienced the incident as sad and distressing, but she had written it up as funny and laughable.  It was mocking the people involved.

For me it was one of those moments in life when the scales fall from your eyes.  When you realise you don’t matter to another person.  You are just an insignificant, but marginally amusing detail in the backdrop of their lives.

I did track her down at one point and tax her with it. 

“Oh it wasn’t you, it was someone else,” she replied, with more than a hint of irritation.

“What rubbish!” said my daughter, when I eventually told her. (I had been reluctant to mention it to her in case her feelings might be hurt). “Of course it was us! I knew the moment I read the book, but I didn’t like to say anything to you!”

It is easy to get led astray by your own desire to be witty and clever, especially if that’s what makes you a living. Even a humble blogger can get carried away with the pleasure of gaining a few extra hits.

But it doesn’t feel nice to be on the receiving end, to be valued only as the raw material for somebody else’s vanity.

Still, I’ve had that lesson, so perhaps I’m safe to continue!

The Pub That Time Forgot

On community and the lost art of real life conversation
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1963 – the year Kennedy was assassinated – was memorable for me because it was the first time I went into a pub. I was eighteen years old. In Scotland, where I had been brought up, respectable women did not drink in public houses.

When I moved South to the strange new culture of England, there was a pub on the corner of the street where I lodged, built in the Victorian fashion, on the corner of a little street of terraced houses.

It was a “local”. Neighbours dropped by on their way home from work, or just for an evening chat and a smoke, or to escape the children (quality family time not having been invented then).

It had a coal fire in winter, a  faithful clientele – the ” regulars” – and it didn’t serve wine. Ales and spirits were what you got. Women drank a half of lager and lime or a gin and tonic. The bell rang for last orders just before half past ten. Perhaps it was eleven at weekends. I seem to remember it was bit later then.

And anybody from the nearby streets was accepted there. A few had their own particular seats (a bit like Sheldon’s spot) which nobody else could sit in at certain times. If you wanted somewhere to take your arthritic old grannie in her wheelchair or your 40 year old son with learning difficulties,  somewhere they wouldn’t be stared at or made to feel uncomfortable, you went down the local.

Over the years, however, the area was gradually gentrified. The pokey houses, originally lived in by locals or bought by hard up young couples because they were cheap, became highly desirable. Within commuting distance of the City the prices shot up, the upwardly mobile moved in, raving about the quaint village atmosphere – “So lovely for the children, growing up in a proper community!”

The pubs had their carpets torn up, their floor boards sanded, their dartboards banished along with the few remaining regulars, who spoiled the ambience.

All but one.

We were told about it by a neighbour who had come across this relic of the past in his ceaseless quest for real ale. Hidden away in a back street, next to the last untrendified area of social housing, was the pub that time forgot.

We went the first time apprehensively, ready to be disappointed. But as we opened the door the years vanished.

The first thing that you noticed was the noise, or rather the lack of it. All you heard was people chatting companionably, the sound of their voices absorbed by the swirly 70s carpet. No loud music, no television screens, no shrieking young professionals showing off to their colleagues.

And looking around we gradually recognised familiar faces, other refugees from the gastropub, the sports bar and the echoing scrubbed wood standing only spaces, brewery designed to discourage leisurely drinking.

I went towards a comfortable looking seat by the fire, but then I hesitated. I sensed an atmosphere and felt a discouraging stare. I read the signals. I moved away. The man collecting his drink from the bar appropriated the inviting space.

Of course he did. He was a regular.

It was his spot.
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It Was Always Thus

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As I follow Sara’s terrible account of her slow ongoing torture by the Health Trust whose systems and employees caused her son’s preventable death, I am continually reminded of Dickens’ Bleak House, the first book I studied when I went to university.

It might seem a depressing choice, but it is a good preparation for dealing with the law and other public bodies.

Sara, in her last post, asked how people experience working for public services today.  I fear many of them would recognise Dickens’s Court of Chancery all too well. Cases drag on interminably,  “complainants” become increasingly desperate, their anger either fading into depression, or taking over their lives to the detriment of every other facet of their existence. Relationships break down under the strain.The only beneficiaries are the legal firms growing fat on fees.

Yet today’s LA and Health Trust employees surely cannot be likened to the miserable clerks inhabiting Dickens’s dark world, aware of the situation and sufferings of their clients, but powerless to make any change?

While today’s offices may be brighter and have more ergonomically designed seating, power relationships still remain the same and all the information technology in the world doesn’t change that. Basically, just like Bob Cratchit, employees do what they are told. They know from the example of whistleblowers that, if they don’t, all the employment legislation in the world won’t protect them from being rendered unemployable.

In any office there are nasty people who will take advantage of every regulation and directive to be deliberately obstructive, just as there are others who will do their best, within the constraints of their situation, to be helpful. The majority simply grow indifferent.

That is why #deathbyindifference is so accurate.  Indifference is the default setting for any institution where the majority of employees feel little commitment or calling to their work, where they are powerless to change things and/or have cut-back practises imposed upon them. Patronised (at best) by their employer through tawdry rewards and dumbed down “training”, they soon grow cynical and bitter.

No amount of external inspection or internal paperwork can safeguard clients if the workers simply don’t care. Situations go wrong because nobody bothers to check or to follow up some concern in a timely fashion, or to make sure some point of information was accurate. In the end, somebody lies dead.

In Bleak House Dickens decried the indifference of his own day

Dead, your Majesty.  Dead, my lords and gentlemen.  Dead, Right Reverends and Wrong Reverends. Dead, men and women born with heavenly compassion in your hearts.  And dying thus about us every day.

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Yet we don’t live in Dickens’s times. Change has been made for the better. It was brought about by the determination and campaigning of individuals who cared. Those who campaigned to force the law to take children out of the mills and the mines, to free the enslaved, to educate the poor.

In JusticeforLB, and JusticeforNico, we have a campaign for our own age. It is daunting and depressing at times, but we tread in the footsteps of all those who battled against the entrenched practices and injustices of the past.

It isn’t easy.

Fighting for the little people never was.

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On Smiling Villains and Beacons of Hope

Life’s lessons 11 on Betrayal, Hope and Staying Sane

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I always knew that people you loved died. My mother kept one photo by her bedside, the one of a beautiful child I never knew, the sister who died of meningitis before I was born.

I suppose I came into the world in a bid to take away some of that pain.  I certainly provided a bit of noise and distraction. I was never an obedient or obliging child. At the very least I must have tormented my grieving family in such a variety of ways, that they were diverted from dwelling on their sorrow.

In those days you didn’t talk about things. You just got on with it. I don’t know whether it was better or worse. 

When my father died suddenly I remember the teacher who drove me home saying gruffly “Well, I don’t envy you the next days, but we all have to go through it, sooner or later.” I didn’t need him to say more. I knew his words were kind. He was a good man and he had been through the war.

But now, coming towards the end of life, I think that sudden death is not the worst thing to bear. The hardest thing to carry with you, the hurt that defies healing, the lasting bitterness that weighs you down and oppresses your spirit, is betrayal.

So often in the posts related to Justice for LB you hear that pain expressed – that people, who should have cared or protected, betrayed the trust placed in them. They then multiplied the hurt of that betrayal by lying and denying their actions.

Grief, allowed to take its natural course, becomes liveable with in time. It is something we all have to face, like my old teacher said, and in one way or another we muddle our way through to a bearable sadness.

But the cruelty of having to struggle against the odds to establish the truth of a neglectful, untimely, preventable death removes the opportunity to come to terms with loss, obstructs the channels of regaining joy in life.

That the NHS, the service that once shone like a beacon in a naughty world, should be the monster we have to fight, is the grossest betrayal.

Yet somehow this fighting has to be done without losing our sanity. We have to be able to find courage for the battle and believe that we will achieve peace of mind in the end.

Sara has to talk to the Chair this afternoon. We wish her strength and discernment. He may well be a decent man lost in the mire of corporate spin.  He is trapped, restricted in what he can possibly say, but he deserves the chance to act for the good. Sara is giving him that opportunity. Let us pray he is brave enough to take it.

Nowadays I always speak to the people trapped in call centres as human beings. I say to them “Look, I know you have to say these things and it’s not your fault, but this is the help I need.”

It’s surprising how people can act well, when their humanity and the reality of their situation is recognised. Fortunately psychopaths are in the minority, even if it doesn’t always seem so these days.

When my first email account was hacked, I set up another Yahoo account and emailed the hacker at my own address. I explained I was an old lady who hardly went anywhere and that nobody would ever believe I was trapped in Lagos and needed £2000 to get home, so I would be really grateful if I could have my contacts back.

From some distant corner of the developing world he emailed me back to say he was really sorry. He was ashamed of what he was doing but he did the job to fund his way through college as he had no sponsor.

He sent me back my account.

This Is For All The Little People

Life’s lessons 8  Beware of the “I” word

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Sunflowers for Nico today – Nico who died because the basic routine care and therapy he needed to keep him alive were not provided.

Make no mistake, they had been allocated funding from the money you and I pay all our lives in taxes. But, at every level, the organisation of how that money was spent was so confused, and the process of ensuring he received the support he needed so convoluted, that his young life was ended.

We do not, and cannot, know the detail, because the inquest process is so slow, especially should the organisation responsible for his care fail to provide the required documentation.

Nico’s story and Connor’s story ( mydaftlife.WordPress.com) need to be viewed alongside a letter sent by Katrina Percy’s letter to Connor’s mother. This encapsulates just why the current NHS situation is so desperate.

In this letter the “leader” of the Health Trust states she cannot be influenced by the views of any group or interest, no matter how loudly they protest or how much long they persist.

There is absolutely no recognition given to the possibility that a group or interest’s protest could be valid. They could be shouting so loud and so long because something is very wrong.

No – that doesn’t come into it, because she has to act “in the interests of all parties”.

Please pause to think for a moment about the implications of the statements above

In management, as in life, some parties or interests are right and some are wrong and some are a bit muddled and hard to sort out. If I had preventable deaths occurring in my line of business, I’d want to be doing a bit of sorting.

And remember, this is a letter addressed to the mother of a healthy young man who drowned just one year ago in a bath in an institution her organisation ran.

It is written to be shared with the family’s supporters, who are fundraising to pursue this matter through legal process, as the only way to ensure that proper accountability can be achieved.

It is written for sharing with any other patients, care residents or their relatives (like Nico’s family), who group together to try to raise issues or protest about how their beloved children, or friends, or parents have been, or are being, treated.

The message is clear. Don’t bother, because it’s being placed on record that the leaders won’t be swayed. Their word is law, though you’re welcome to come in for a cosy little chat now and again.

The letter says the organisation is doing lots of things right and has lots of hardworking employees. I’m sure it has. That’s not the point.

As far as the NHS trust is concerned, we, the little people who pay the taxes, are regarded as no more than vexatious complainants.

Our views are there to be mocked in the office amongst colleagues, our reputations disparaged and insulted, our concerns glossed over and, wherever possible, silenced.

Practically every paragraph in the letter begins with the word “I” – “I believe this or that”, “I support this or that”.

But it is not about what one individual “I” believes or supports.  It is about best and rotten practice. It is about taking proper, justifiable pride in a job well done and facing up to a botched one.

It’s about right and wrong.

This Is For All The Little People

Life’s lessons 8  Beware of the “I” word

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Sunflowers for Nico today – Nico who died because the basic routine care and therapy he needed to keep him alive were not provided.

Make no mistake, they had been allocated funding from the money you and I pay all our lives in taxes. But, at every level, the organisation of how that money was spent was so confused, and the process of ensuring he received the support he needed so convoluted, that his young life was ended.

We do not, and cannot, know the detail, because the inquest process is so slow, especially should the organisation responsible for his care fail to provide the required documentation.

Nico’s story and Connor’s story ( mydaftlife.WordPress.com) need to be viewed alongside a letter sent by Katrina Percy’s letter to Connor’s mother. This encapsulates just why the current NHS situation is so desperate.

In this letter the “leader” of the Health Trust states she cannot be influenced by the views of any group or interest, no matter how loudly they protest or how much long they persist.

There is absolutely no recognition given to the possibility that a group or interest’s protest could be valid. They could be shouting so loud and so long because something is very wrong.

No – that doesn’t come into it, because she has to act “in the interests of all parties”.

Please pause to think for a moment about the implications of the statements above

In management, as in life, some parties or interests are right and some are wrong and some are a bit muddled and hard to sort out. If I had preventable deaths occurring in my line of business, I’d want to be doing a bit of sorting.

And remember, this is a letter addressed to the mother of a healthy young man who drowned just one year ago in a bath in an institution her organisation ran.

It is written to be shared with the family’s supporters, who are fundraising to pursue this matter through legal process, as the only way to ensure that proper accountability can be achieved.

It is written for sharing with any other patients, care residents or their relatives (like Nico’s family), who group together to try to raise issues or protest about how their beloved children, or friends, or parents have been, or are being, treated.

The message is clear. Don’t bother, because it’s being placed on record that the leaders won’t be swayed. Their word is law, though you’re welcome to come in for a cosy little chat now and again.

The letter says the organisation is doing lots of things right and has lots of hardworking employees. I’m sure it has. That’s not the point.

As far as the NHS trust is concerned, we, the little people who pay the taxes, are regarded as no more than vexatious complainants.

Our views are there to be mocked in the office amongst colleagues, our reputations disparaged and insulted, our concerns glossed over and, wherever possible, silenced.

Practically every paragraph in the letter begins with the word “I” – “I believe this or that”, “I support this or that”.

But it is not about what one individual “I” believes or supports.  It is about best and rotten practice. It is about taking proper, justifiable pride in a job well done and facing up to a botched one.

It’s about right and wrong.