SHUTTING PARENTS OUT

Drawing of horses in the Chauvet cave.
Drawing of horses in the Chauvet cave. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been reading everywhere that the number of parents who are estranged from their adult children grows bigger every day. Some people explain this as a culture shift, that adult children raised over the past 30 years experienced a different world, where a ‘me’ culture exploded and the focus was on getting things for yourself rather than tradition and duty. So be it. But the heartache that any estrangement from a child causes for parents is something that has repercussions down the years and for future generations.

I’m not talking here about legitimate estrangement, where a parent has been sexually abusive or cruel, but the typical family where something has happened to cause a child to remove his or her parents from their life, almost as if they had died. For the parents, it often feels like this.

Having a child is an event that changes your emotional landscape for the rest of your life. The moment that tiny person is placed in your arms, until the day you take your last breath, they are on your mind. You are never truly free again and it’s an imprisonment that few parents would want release from. The joy, the love, the enormous and wonderful changes that children bring to your life cannot ever be bettered by anything, except perhaps your grandchildren. Even then, your own children, no matter how old they are, are etched on your heart and mind like those cave paintings in ChauvetFrance. They will endure forever – if they are protected…

And that’s the thing. How long is forever? How long can the pain of estrangement be borne by loving parents? Time heals they say, but it also makes the reason for any split between parents and an adult child, shrink further into the distance, fading like an old photo. Like a bereavement, there are stages to go through. Eventually, memory diminishes and you reach a point where it is hard to remember even what your child looked like, let alone what cause the rift.

If relationships are not protected, not nurtured, not fed by the possibility of seeing those you love on a regular basis, what can parents do? Simply give up and die? That happens. Or do you, bit by bit, loosen the ties that bind you, until you have become ‘free’? Sorry to tell you this, but you will never be free. Those etchings will remain on your heart, but you may become resigned to the estrangement, as all hope for a reconciliation dies. And when hope dies, the future is bleak. This is what is happening in so many families today and the future is indeed, bleak. Across the UK, loneliness is rife. Old people go for days without seeing a soul. They may have been married and had several children, but they end up unloved and unwanted, a burden on society, a bed-blocker, people who are using up the resources of our beleaguered NHS, according to the media.

I have read articles by a variety of therapists who caution against contacting adult children after they have chosen to remove their parents from their lives. Their take on the situation is to let sleeping dogs lie; to allow the child space to see things differently. There are others who give different advice. They say keep writing and admit that the estrangement is the parent’s fault; to apologise constantly, even if they do not feel they are in the wrong, until the child softens and a reconciliation is achieved.

For me, I cannot make a judgement of what approach would be best. What I do know is that adult children today appear to be a lot more judgemental. And there seems to be little room for compassion, humour or understanding when it comes to dealing with parents who are ageing. Perhaps it is fear of responsibility? With so many divorced parents, maybe adult children opt out of keeping relationships intact because they do not want to provide care when their parents need it? After all, these are the parents who were able to buy their own houses, who went to university on grants not loans and who stayed, more often than not, employed. They can look after themselves, can’t they?

It’s a sorry tale, but whether you have one child or ten, to lose contact is becoming more acceptable these days than it was in the past. For myself, I would never take it for granted that my kids would be there for me in my dotage. I have always been independent and intend to stay that way. I hope that as I grow older, I will have the privilege of seeing them now and again and I hope that I will not become one of the thousands of old people living alone and lonely because their children have abandoned them. But, living in a country where the numbers of elderly people needing care continues to rise, the solution might be for adult children to include elderly parents in their lives when those parents are still able and independent, getting to know them as older people. That’s always difficult. We want to see our parents stay the same, and watching them age, or lose their faculties is distressing. It also reminds adult kids of their own demise.

There are two sides to every family conflict. I think that maybe, the secret is listening. Listening to each other in an non-judgemental way, giving each other time and above all, understanding that there is, under all the unhappiness and conflict, a great deal of love.

IF YOU ARE A WOMAN, ARE YOU FUNNY?

English: Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green P...
English: Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Funny women – and I don’t mean funny peculiar – are powerful women. Using humour to address some of the most challenging issues we face, can hit home more than a strident, polemic speech that may leave the listener completely unmoved and after a while, desensitized to the subject matter. Yet, we have so few women politicians courageous enough to use humour in their parliamentary speeches. The boys do it all the time, don’t they?

In his counter attack at Caroline Lucas, who made a stand for women during Prime Minister’s Questions this week, David Cameron showed his true colours. What Ms. Lucas said was this: ” The government’s own research shows that there is a link between the portrayal of women as sex objects in the media and greater acceptance of sexual harassment and violence against women. That being the case, will he (Cameron) join me in trying to get our own house in order, calling on the parliamentary authorities to stop the Sun newspaper being available on the parliamentary estate until Page 3  is scrapped, and will he have a word with his friend Rupert Murdoch about it while he’s at it?’

Mr. Cameron appeared to find the whole thing very amusing, stating that he thought reading the Sun was important for politicians. He went on:  “I’m grateful to the honorable lady, I’m glad she got her question asked after the dazzling T-shirt she was wearing last week failed to catch Mr. Speaker‘s eye…”   Bad attempt at flattery, David.

Last Wednesday Ms. Lucas was forced to cover up a ‘No More Page Three  t-shirt she was wearing. She was, at the time, leading a Commons debate on media sexism. Cameron continued: “I’m afraid I don’t agree with her. I think it’s very important that we can read all newspapers on the parliamentary estate, including the Sun newspaper.”  For the important information that can be garnered from Page 3?

Apparently, there was a lot of tittering by the blokes all through this intercourse between Cameron and Lucas, and I use the word in its purest form here. Caroline Lucas was obviously not being heard or taken seriously. Perhaps wearing a t-shirt with large letters on it, was the only way to make the boys listen? After all, her mammary glands were beneath and that’s enough to make any chap sit up and take notice, isn’t it?  Especially the group of supermen who were listening to her. Probably had the same effect on them as Page 3.  I cannot agree with Mr. Cameron when he said she failed to catch the Speaker’s eye. But I agree that she had to cover up. We can’t have that sort of overt sexuality in parliament. It stunts growth.

Thank you Caroline. Your efforts to get your point across to those bimbos in y-fronts is greatly appreciated. Page 3 definitely needs a makeover. We need to see more men in g-strings, more rippling muscles, more posing pouches, more male sex objects so that our miniscule number of female politicians can have a jolly good chuckle about it all at Prime Minister’s Questions.

HOW DO WE REALLY TREAT OUR CHILDREN?

48Sheet billboard art project - Birmingham - P...
48Sheet billboard art project – Birmingham – Pershore Street – The feeling of humiliation is nothing … (Photo credit: ell brown)

The way we relate to and treat our kids needs some consideration. As this insightful blog points out, we are too keen to humiliate kids for our own insensitive pleasure, not understanding that they feel things deeply, just as we do, as adults.

This blog is close to my heart:

 http://www.the-mule.com/2012/12/childism-as-utterly-unacceptable-as.html?m=1

Treating kids as if they had a Teflon coating makes for difficult times later on. A child who has been criticised, humiliated and laughed at will very likely grow up to be an adult who criticises, humiliates and laughs at others. Children are like sponges. They absorb everything. They hear more than we realise. They take on our behaviour and make it part of themselves. This is a scary concept, but I believe it is true.

Treating kids with respect and dignity is teaching them a clear lesson. Kids are the most precious commodity in any nation’s treasure chest. Making sure that our kids grow up with a sure sense of what is right and what is wrong is something we should all be responsible for, because it takes a community to raise a child. So what state are our communities in, I have to ask? What do kids see the grown-ups doing every day? Lying and cheating, committing fraud, stealing… and that’s just international global companies!

Our children are sexualized almost before they can read. The Internet allows them to see images that are completely unsuitable, the newspapers are full of malice and spite, video games teach how easy it looks to kill someone, politicians send our young people to fight in wars, our government continues to attack the teaching of the arts in schools, so that music and drama, essential in my view, are quietly being removed from the curriculum. This is the world our kids are growing up in.

Our out-dated, Victorian attitudes to raising our kids is no longer acceptable to me. I am talking about the UK here, but I suspect it’s not much different in other countries. Victorian children often lived in extreme poverty. They were ‘seen and not heard’. Isn’t that what we are doing to our kids? Sitting them in front of a screen to keep them quiet? Feeding them cheap rubbish? Ignoring them? Pushing them to pass exams? Being too busy earning money to survive to take notice of them? And we must never forget that 3.5 million children in the UK are living below the poverty line today. What a disgrace this is?

Save The Children say:

‘Right now, in this country, children are going to school hungry because they don’t get a proper breakfast. They go through winter without a warm coat or a decent pair of shoes. Some even have to sleep on a damp mattress on the floor because they don’t have their own bed. And according to our new report – It Shouldn’t Happen Here – the recession is making things so much worse. This is child poverty in the UK today.

So it is time to start seeing our kids as more than an irritating addition to a family that we are entitled to because ‘we want kids’. It’s time to start seeing our children as enormously valuable people. Our future depends on them.  It’s time to start treating them with respect.

http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/uk-child-poverty?sourcecode=A12073117

THE CLOSED EYES SYNDROME

English: US President Barack Obama and British...
English: US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron trade bottles of beer to settle a bet they made on the U.S. vs. England World Cup Soccer game (which ended in a tie), during a bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Saturday, June 26, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The G8 Conference kicks off today. Our PM, David Cameron listed the agenda on TV this morning. It seems that Syria is top of the list for discussion, along with global economics. No mention of climate change, which is to my mind, what any conference between global leaders should now be about.

I am continually amazed at the head in the sand attitude of the men – and they are predominately men – who are our leaders, when it comes to the health of our planet. The facts are screaming at us, the scientists have proven evidence and yet war is top of the agenda, men continue to kill each other in the name of ideals or religion or money. Shame on them!

In the UK, we have horrendous issues coming to light about the care of our increasingly ageing population. Care homes are being exposed for their lack of care. Shame on them, too!

Some years ago, I wrote an article about my work in this field. You can read my article here: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a793560340~frm=titlelink

My play CARERS toured nationally and internationally. It looked at the lives of four carers and their struggle to navigate their way through the care services. I wrote this play over 20 years ago. How little has changed. It seems that things have not improved one jot. In 2013, how little compassion we have for the elderly.

This links in to the way we care for the planet. Political leaders across the world must address this and concentrate on caring with the same vigour they put into waging wars and spending money.

Tax Dodgers?

Cover of "ELEMENTS OF ECONOMICS OF INDUST...
Cover via Amazon

So now we know. Thames Water paid NO corporation tax last year, though they made more than half a billion pounds in profit. Customers have seen their bills rise by 6.7 %.  And to add insult to injury, Thames Water gave their CEO a £274K bonus.  I quote from Johnson Cox: “The dichotomy between profits and the prices charged to customers raises business, regulatory and moral questions. Tax policy is not for an economic regulator and these structures may be legal and common in private equity. But some aspects are morally questionable in a vital public service…”

Customers are unhappy with this company’s behaviour. They saw their homes flooded by sewage and that’s just the start of their dissatisfaction.  Of course, Thames deny they have avoided paying any tax. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Like many other large corporations, they know their way around the tax system and can use methods to avoid paying tax which are apparently legal.

This is all wrong and permeates down through society, so it is becoming okay to rip off the tax-payer; okay to renege on contracts, okay to remain on the edge of the law in business and even break it; okay to set up your own rules and play only by them. Ofwat, the body that regulates the water companies, is quoted as saying that:“large profits and the complex tax arrangements of some water companies are morally questionable”. Yet they are getting away with it. Why?

We are seeing the poorest and most vulnerable people in our country hit with cuts in benefits. In real terms this means those people will, over time, become poorer and less able to maintain a decent quality of life. They will inevitably descend into a spiral of homelessness, illness and debt. In the long run, this will impact on  the whole country. Yet these huge companies, providing our basic needs – water – are allowed to manipulate the tax laws.

I quote: Political Economy or Economics is a study of man’s actions in the ordinary business of life; it inquires how he gets his income and how he uses it. It follows the action of individuals and of nations as they seek, by separate of collective endeavour,  to increase the material means of their well-being and to turn their resources to the best account. Thus it is on the one side, a study of wealth and on the other and more important side, the study of man… So wrote Alfred Marshall.  His book – Elements of Economics of Industry was published by Macmillan and Co in 1925. It was the first volume of a set of books entitled Elements of Economics, with sentences like: “What are the proper relations of individual and collective action in a stage of civilization such as ours? “ and “What business affairs should be undertaken by society itself acting through its government, imperial or local?” Answers on a postcard, please!

Maybe we all need to make more fuss, to lobby our MP’s, to teach our children to be more politically aware and to write letters on a regular basis, when we see an injustice?Perhaps we all need to cultivate a sense of responsibility when it comes to judging how we use our democratic principles and take some action? Perhaps we need to make it known to our leaders that we are aware of these growing discrepancies and injustices and when we read about companies like Thames Water and Google et al avoiding tax, use any peaceful, legal methods to show we are concerned?

Sadly, it’s so much easier to stick your head in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening, particularly if your own life is going well. But we all have a responsibility to others, to their well-being and quality of life, because in the long run, if these dishonest practices are allowed to continue unchallenged, all of us will be affected.

 

WRITING WORK

Writer Wordart
Writer Wordart (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

It’s tough being a writer. Not tough like a miner or a refuse operative – that’s what they call our lovely dustmen these days. Not tough like being Prime Minister, Putin or Clegg.  Not tough like being a mum with four kids (done that). Nope, it’s tough because it’s one of the many creative jobs where you start with nothing. It’s all in your head. The tools may be a pencil or a PC or an old-fashioned typewriter, but the building bricks, the nuts and bolts are hidden in the grey matter and have to be teased out like reluctant knitting wool and shaped into something credible and readable.

Call that a job, I can hear you say? I’ve asked myself that question many time. Wouldn’t I be happier stacking shelves in a supermarket, retraining to be a plumber, working on the railways (I always fancied driving a train)? Actually, no. I’m not doing those things because the only thing I want to do, is what I do, even if I don’t do it that well.  Very selfish I guess, but I do believe that we have to hold onto our dreams, no matter what, and try to make them reality.

I have, in the past, done dozens of jobs to pay the bills and feed myself and my family. I’ve been a clumsy waitress, dropping trays of food on to hapless customers, I’ve worked in a wine bar and learnt all about sherry; what I didn’t know about Amontillado was not worth knowing. I’ve been a secretary to a grumpy CEO of a very large corporation and eaten pizza at my desk while writing a report and answering the phone, all at the same time. I’ve sold insurance, cosmetics, shoes, clothes and perfume. I’ve cleaned people’s posh houses and looked after the mentally ill in a huge institution, now thankfully closed. I’ve driven taxis and looked after other people’s kids. My CV reads like a dot-to-dot book.

Writer's Block 1
Writer’s Block 1 (Photo credit: OkayCityNate)

All this was in my callow youth. Once I became a sort of grown-up, I started and ran a successful professional theatre and film company, writing plays, films and directing. When I started to get a bit old, I retired (hate that word) from that and focused only on the writing bit. But all those jobs, all that experience is what gave me the grist for my writing mill and I don’t regret a minute of it.

At the time, when I was trying to make life work, I often lost sight of who I really was. Being a mum trying to hold down a job, keep house, be everything to everyone, can do this. You get lost. You forget what your real dreams are about. You see a long, dusty road ahead with no place to stop and take stock. Then, one day, the dust clears and there, in front of you, is your future – the one you really know you want. If you are into religious revelations, this moment might be one.

It happened to me on an ordinary day in November, quite a few years ago. Alone in the house, I sat down with a cup of coffee to read the morning paper. Something had been nagging at me for ages and I couldn’t settle. I’d had this idea; this small pip that needed some soil. In the back of my mind was a scenario – a play. I went upstairs and began to write on the Amstrad computer my eldest had given me – bless him.  A week past and I hardly moved from that chair, much to my family’s horror. Eventually, a piece of theatre was the outcome. It was polemic and angry and looked at the way the elderly were treated after they retired. It went on to be performed in many venues across the UK and won a financial award from Age Concern, now Age UK. It was performed to an audience of VIP’s at the request of The Centre for Policy on Ageing in London. It kick-started my career as a playwright and my theatre company, Turning Point.

Why was I writing about the problems of getting old in 1990, when I had hardly reached middle age myself? I don’t know. It just happened. I went on to write plays about mental health issues, about carers, about young people and drugs awareness, in fact anything that I was asked to investigate and write about, I did. The company thrived and I realised my dream. It had been hiding away inside me for years.

I still ask myself why I wrote that first play and these days, I understand that all the life experience I’d had, all that trying out different jobs, different roles – all enhanced my ability to see things in a three-dimensional way; to hear all kinds of people talk, watch them live their lives; make me party to those lives. All that experience went into my work as a writer, and still does.

These days I try to write novels. It’s solitary and there is no-one to rely upon but myself; no actors or funders to cheer me on, no audience waiting to applaud my efforts. It’s tough because I have to tease the book out, day by day. I have to know and love my characters as if they lived in my house and slept in my bed. I have to create a maze of a story and then try to unravel it into a coherent plot with a satisfying structure for my readers. I must have faith in myself and not expect anything but success. It’s not digging holes in a road or cleaning toilets, but sometimes it feels like it!

PRETENDING by Lyn Ferrand.

Available at http://www.amazon.co.uk

A LOST GENERATION?

Country Lane
Country Lane (Photo credit: Nanagyei)

My God, what sort of a world are we living in?

Coming back from a walk along a country lane, with no pavement,  a car missed killing me and my friend by centimeters. It was driven by a young woman with three passengers, all young women. The windows were open and as I pushed my friend, aged 72, into the hedge, I heard them all laughing at us as they whizzed passed, doing a speed that would be considered fast on a dual-carriageway! Shaken, we realised how close that young woman had been to hitting us. We’d have had no chance.

I managed to put two fingers up at the back of the car as it disappeared round a bend. They probably didn’t see it, but it made me feel so much better. This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this sort of behaviour. I know there are thousands, if not millions of young people who are respectful and caring towards the elderly, but increasingly, many seem to think anyone on a pension is fair game to be ridiculed, abused and if in the way of their car, on a sunny day, a target!

Why have our young become so intolerant towards the old? I’ve harped on about this for some time now. Just after the Age Discrimination Act came into force, another friend applied for a job as a call handler in a large call centre. The telephone interview was going swimmingly, until my friend volunteered the information that she was just 60. There was a pause, then the young woman on the other end of the phone said: ‘Oh, sorry love. We retire people at 60. It’s company policy not to employ anyone over that age. Anyway. why do you want to work? You’ve got your pension, haven’t you? Let a youngster have the chance.’  She put the phone down on my bemused friend.

Now, I think things have moved on since then, especially as this government wants us all to work until we are 75, at least. But there is an echo of that discrimination still hanging around and if you look, you can find it everywhere. The sad thing about all this, is that the young, no matter how much they avoid thinking about it, will one day become the old, and no one seems to have told them. To them, it’s just something that happens to others.

To really connect with older people, you must understand that you will one day change. You will still be the person you were when you were young, but with bad eyesight, bad hearing, a brain that works a bit slower and possibly have difficulty jumping out of the way of a fast car.  You might suddenly recognise that somehow, you have to be ghettoized and keep yourself away from the young. They don’t want you around. You make them irritable and uncomfortable. Why? because in this totally unsympathetic society that we now live in, the old represent several things that make a lot of young people very angry and, perhaps make them feel betrayed.

They feel betrayed because today’s old were the people who got easy mortgages and bought their own homes. They were the ones who sold their council houses and made money and those council houses were never replaced. They had jobs that they stayed in securely for years; they accumulated savings from the housing boom and enjoyed a National Health Service that wasn’t constantly under threat. They are the generation that went to university funded by generous grants. They got a degree but did not leave university with £15 -£30K’s worth of debt.  Some appear to be living on generous pensions. The old, see through the eyes of the young, seem to have had it all and there is little left for them.

Is it any wonder that our young people today feel that something has gone wrong? That the world is not what it was; that they are part of a lost generation? But wait a minute – is it really the fault if the current grey masses, that the young have been betrayed? I don’t think so. It’s successive governments, who have allowed a boom/bust culture to exist, who allowed the banks to turn into pirates, who feathered their own political nests, at the expense of everyone else.

I, for one, am very angry about this.

A COUNTRY WALK

The River Otter in Devon, today.  Started at about 3pm and walked to Colaton Raleigh. The countryside was buzzing. Every few steps there were butterflies and dozens of humming flying insects filling the balmy air. This little bird saluted me as I crossed the bridge – he opened his beak and sang! Joy…

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Singing his heart out…
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The River Otter
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Vegetation in profusion…
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Sunlight on the water…
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Ready to burst!
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A secret bridge…
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The Weir
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Falling boughs…
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The salmon run…
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The fish have a way through…
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A meadow by the river
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The start…
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To the left of the river –

So beautiful!