2022 - Some things come to an end ... but, others?
Ooh, would you like some more news? How I spoil you!
In 2021, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) funded a number of Celebrating Age (see below, do keep up) and Creative Places and People projects to provide some cultural/creative responses to the loneliness that was arising as a result of covid (lockdowns, and in general). It was teeny tiny money, and had to be spent in nano seconds (okay, a couple of months, but a very fast timescale nonetheless). Anyway, the usual CA suspects (see also below, honestly ...) plus lovely colleague Sarah Alden, did an even swifter evaluation, which report has just been published online by Arts Council of England - Impact of creative & cultural activity during the pandemic on loneliness, isolation and wellbeing. (I know, what a catchy title!)
Do please note that I am the final-named author, which is the writing equivalent of the person who sweeps up at the end and turns off the lights :-)
One piece of work that is destined (? destined? more like, timetabled!) to come to an end during 2022 is our evaluation of the (it turned out to be) 5-year programme of (in total) 32 Celebrating Age arts projects working with people in later life, jointly funded by the Arts Council of England and the Baring Foundation. I say 'our' evaluation as I've been one of a triumverate, comprising Imogen Blood and Mark Robinson, ably supported by Imogen's colleagues Shelly Dulson and Chloe Hands. "It's been a journey," as contestants on reality and talent shows seem frequently to comment. We've produced a number of reports so far - but later this year, our final report will be completed. A long piece of work like this is a strange beast, not least because it's essentially been a few paid days each year (not a full time 5 year paid gig! Hah! - which 'hah!' is freelancer-speak for 'oh it really doesn't work like that', when explaining things to people with, ahem, actual job :-)) which can make for difficulties; but also has meant for the past 5 years, the 3 of us (sometimes the 5 of us) have got together (often virtually, even before covid) to catch up on the programme's progress and discuss our next steps. Bringing this piece of work to an end will, inevitably, leave a gap ...
... into which, new things will flow (hoping that sounds mysterious; suspecting it sounds a bit naff). HNY.
UPDATE - February 2022. 'During 2022' is turning into 'by the end of the year.' Oh boy.
2021 - Stories
During some evaluation work for Age & Opportunity, in Ireland (and which, rather sadly, is being done via Zoom and the phone instead of physically being with those people in those places), came a chance to share some ideas about what changes people had noticed from taking part in an 8-week online (and postal) art course.
As I'd taken part in another online-and-postal course in January and February 2021 - to make a Crankie theatre, with Bronia Evers - I shared a change I'd observed for me.
In the depths of a dark, cold and wet winter, in another period of Covid-related lockdown, taking part had felt like an "Oasis of coloured pencils, glue, and craft tissue paper in a desert of connection and inventiveness."
I called this story, 'My Oasis'. There were some other changes I noticed, too - but this one stood out the most for me because it felt such a relief to be in a place of both peace (I'm making things - phew!) and excitement (I'm making things - hurrah!). Here's my slightly melodramatic 'cartoon' of the desert!
If you're interested in this way of finding a story of change that stands out most for you then do take a look at the Most Significant Change work with which I'm involved, as part of the Story-Based Evaluation and Research Alliance (with my very short audio 'welcome' on the home page :-)).
I'm really pleased to be working as the Storyteller on Community Catalysts' Valuable and Vulnerable project. Over the next few months, until March/April 2021, I'll be working to support people who've been shielding in the UK because of Covid-19 and who'd like to share a story of something they're doing, planning to do, or have done.
I wrote a short blog about this project, and why the story we keep being told of people being 'vulnerable' needs challenging - you can read it here. You can see the people I've supported to share their stories here, as these are added. This support is all being done at a distance, of course - over video calls like Zoom, and over the telephone.
I don't often post news about particular pieces of work (to be fair, I don't often post news, full stop!). But this role also marks a change in my work that's been slowly building over a very long time as I've gradually moved more towards storytelling and supporting others to tell and share their stories. This is why this website's being given a bit of a clean (in a wholesome lemon-juice-and-linseed-oil type way), to better reflect this change in emphasis.
If I was so inclined, I'd add to that last sentence "now, and going forward." But I really hate that phrase, 'going forward'! So instead, I'll say "now, and what's yet to come."
2020 feels like a momentous year, not just because of the awful impact of coronavirus or the very different and lovely palindrome moment that happened on February 2nd, which across continents can be expressed as 02022020 regardless of whether you believe putting the date or the month first is correct (by the way, the correct way is date/month/year :-) ).
This year will be 20 years since I started this consultancy, which feels like a very long time and also makes me want to have a very long nap. A lot has changed over 20 years across health, housing, care, and social care - and a lot has changed for me. This year is already bringing more change, of which more later in the year. But the passing of the time reminds me very much of what it can be for people older than me to realise the extent of their olderlyness. I know that's an invented word, but I hope it gives a flavour of what is meant. I've said this before, but becoming much older and reaching some of the later stages of life is always, for each person, the first time they've done it. No one gives you a manual. No one 'knows' how to do this. You're mostly just winging it. Hopefully, during your life, you've met some interesting role models - people you knew earlier on in your life about whom you thought at the time, 'I'd like to be like that when I'm 80' - or 90, or whatever age you choose to pluck from the ether.
One big problem though is that we're still surrounded by a very constrained, rigid, and frankly frequently boring version of later life: one in which - no exaggeration - 'grannies' still have perms, get meals on wheels, can't make decisions for themselves, are totally out of touch with 'modern' life, use the phrase 'what do you expect at our age' without any grasp of how negatively this kind of internalised ageism impacts on themselves, and have nothing interesting to do or say or go or be. One that is very much perpetuated by younger and, very sadly, quite a few older adults too.
In the draft of my novel, Assuming Positions, the main older female character complains that you are either seen as 'gogo granny or gaga granny'. Both extremes are unhelpful - and, honestly, really dull.
So, in 2020 and beyond, I would say to adults my age and younger: find the people older than you who you think have got something interesting to say or do or be or go, and take that as being some kind of norm and something you might adopt/adapt as your role model for your own later life futures (and do bear in mind how they and others are already ageing through a changing climate, because you may need that insight most of all).
And I would say to adults older than me, try and be that interesting source and not the cliché.
(And I would say to me, finish writing the b*****y novel :-) .)
That doesn't mean finding only what's interesting on some kind of obvious surface level - which may well be due to smoother life circumstances such as having lots of money, or an interesting family, or a kind partner, or good health. It means finding what else is interesting that may be more hidden, more difficult, and more complex - and so more likely that more of us could emulate it, since the majority of people will lack at least one of that 'smooth life list' at some stage in their younger and later lives.
Reports to me for marking by the end of the year, please.
It's autumn! I can officially proclaim that with some authority (as far as the Northern hemisphere's concerned) as we've just gone past the September equinox, although there is another definition of autumn that I rather prefer to a random date in a (let's face it, industrial-era) manufactured calendar, which is that autumn is here when half the leaves have fallen from the trees.
(I expect you to keep an accurate count, now, of the remaining leaves.)
And autumn kicked off with some more Celebrating Age things. Last year, this jointly funded Arts Council of England and Baring Foundation programme of work announced it was funding a further 16 projects, adding to the original 16 announced in 2017. I'm part of a small national evaluation team, and we periodically bring projects together with other interestd arts organisations and practitioners. In September, at a great event organised by the Family Arts Campaign, we looked in detail at some of the stories being collected and sifted through a process and methodology called Most Significant Change. This approach is bringing some amazing stories to the forefront, and generating some highly insightful views and experiences.
And autumn brings more webinars! Caring - and care responsibilities - never rest. It's estimated, in the UK, that every year 2 million people take on a new caring role (for another 2 million people, that care role comes to an end). There are always people, from all situations and walks of life, needing to find out what's possible, what to say (and what to avoid), and how best they might support someone they know who is living with disability, serious illness, or life changing injury.
'Quite an adventure' is a summary report - co-written with Imogen Blood and Mark Robinson - of an evaluation of 5 digital arts projects, working with people in later life, and funded by the Baring Foundation and Social Tech Trust.
This was my first official foray back into the arts world - slightly ignoring, for one moment, my storytelling work of digital films and interviews shared through digital storytelling devices - after many years' absence.
To be accurate, this was only ever a formal absence - because 'the arts world' is around us at all times. There is the choreography of the queue for the bus, or the doh-se-doh at the train station concourse of sidestepping others; there is the game of who will get the last seat, often without the external musical accompaniment so needed for musical chairs; here is the story of the despair of the commuter, here is the love story of the commuter, here is the tragedy of the commuter, here is the boredom of the commuter; here are the patterns, of sunlight through speeding windows, of graffiti, of messages - Duke woz ere - written with fingers through steaming condensation and dust; here is the music, too loud in another's ears. Here is the arts world: explore, and enjoy.
Anyone who has come to these pages more than once will know that, here, 'Spring' means anything between (roughly) February and June (although both of those months are also a bit of a stretch). But this isn't the only part of the world where seasons such as 'spring' are a cover-all term. Governments are fond of using 'the summer' 'in the spring' and 'by the end of the year' to mean, respectively, 'at some point', 'at some point', and 'at some point'.
And so it is currently with the much promised social care Green Paper - which was initially expected two years ago, and recently once again missed its latest expected appearance. This is the Paper that should include any future plans on the funding of social care.
Social care is a funny beast - and I write that as someone who's been around the 'social care' world in the UK for over 25 years. Social care is an extraordinary thing because it's really about supporting people to get on with their lives when something like a disability, a serious illness, or a life changing injury (and/or the ways in which the external world is organised that don't helpfully take those aspects into account) affects their getting on with things. It can be - and should be - life-supporting and life enhancing. If you need it, it's essential. If it's done badly, it's disastrous - even deadly. If it's done well, it's brilliant. But it's not popular. We don't hold social care staff - in whatever role, from whatever sector - up as 'angels' in the way (for example) NHS nurses and doctors are revered, at least as a collective workforce. Businesses don't offer discounts to social care staff - but they do for NHS employees. We don't march for social care funding, but we do for the NHS. Yet both social care and the NHS have their origins at the beginning of the post second World War welfare state. In terms of the systems themselves and the staff who work within either (or both), they are intertwined. We love one. We don't love the other.
And this is where the funding issue frequently gets stuck. We don't 'love' social care unless we need it. And many of us hope we won't ever need it, because that means there's something in our lives that in turn means we can't get on with our lives without that social care support. And we don't want to have or to think about the 'something in our lives' unless we have to. And so we don't want to think about paying for social care - and by and large we don't think about it until we have to because we need that care.
And when we do need that care, or we think we might need it, we get - as a general rule - a lot more focused on how social care funding is going to affect us. And then, by and large, we find we don't much like the system. We think it's unfair, in many ways. And, many would argue, we think that way because it is unfair.
It's a bit of an unhelpful circle. We think about it when we're directly affected by it. When we expect not to be affected by it, we don't have any reason to think about it. But, somehow, we all need to be persuaded to think about and 'march' for social care funding; and to do that we probably all need to believe that it matters, period.
Welcome to (another) year! Someone, somewhere, recently invited me to join the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (the RSA) as a Fellow - which was very nice of them, totally unexpected, and involves me paying some money. My little ego got very excited (until that last bit). But it was a very lovely thing for someone to do - not least as their reason for doing so was, apparently: "In recognition of your work alongside disabled adults over the past 25 years, as well as your involvement in service design and community development."
I've never really been one to push on to higher roles, or bigger salaries, or more notoriety; in other words, to see the things I guess we're supposed to want as something I wanted for myself. I can remember, quite a long time ago when I had very sensible and rather respected employment, being asked by my then Manager how I saw myself in 5 years' time. I realised afterwards I was supposed to say, "running a small-medium scale national charity, or having a senior role in a much larger organisation, as a prelude to some kind of world domination in my field" (or words to that effect), but instead I told her what I actually hoped for, at the time, which was to be working part-time, in order to have time to write.
(I'd never be any good at world domination. I'd tell you all in advance what I really thought and planned to do.)
Life, of course, tends to take us in a different direction. Often, we have no clue at the time how much of a different direction it is - we're just in it, trundling along, sometimes hurtling along, trying to look all cool and collected in our own, vaguely updated version of Hockney's 'Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy' (in my case, this version would have included, variously, 'and Eric', or 'and Sebastian', or 'and Bertram Bonsters', or 'and Maximilian Uberstein the Third') - or, if we're not careful, or simply very lucky, ending up looking a bit too much like Munch's 'The Scream.'
Which is pertinent, I hope, not just because it is January and the sometimes relentless nature of making resolutions for the new year; but because of how life unfolds for us over the many years. I have met, in my working life, many, many people older than me whose lives have been filled with things for which no plan existed: often, for which no plan could have existed. Achievements, talents and skills, loves, suicides, faith and its loss, destruction, and recovery - sometimes all in the one lifetime; and that's just to date. If the person's not yet dead, who knows what more there might be, and of what nature.
It's easy to look at those older than ourselves and believe that, unlike that person, we will never [insert phrase here] - when we may actually not get much of a say in [repeat your phrase] when it comes down to it. Not everyone kayaks their way through surging, uncontrollable, white waters: instead, some get to paddle through a warm, sometimes cloudy (in a best-not-to-know sense), foot bath. But they've gone through before you, which means that - while ageing is new to them - they still know more about it than you do.
Ageing - as we all are - is always new to us. We've never done it before. We've been teenagers before, if we're now in our 20s at least, so we can talk from experience to young people becoming teenagers about what this period of life may bring. But we can't do the same with someone older than us, because we haven't yet been that age. Later life is new to that older person. Often, none of us have much of a clue what's going on: we're just led by media representation and stereotypical ideas of old age that don't always have much substance to them, or much use.
So, here are resolutions you might want to consider - not just for the new year, or for this year, but for all the years ahead. If you're not the older person, ask the person who is about what they're experiencing. Be open to really listening to and exploring those answers. And, if - astonishing as this may well be - you find that you're the 'older person' in question, consider exploring openly what this means for you and those around you. If we resolve to share and listen in these ways, there is much that may help us all with what we hope are the years still to come.
Time runs round so quickly sometimes - here we are, in the winter months. Things have been quite busy, but not with much I can currently share. So, for example, there's two reports in the offing - with one, it's finished, but it's not yet clear if it'll be made publicly available; with the second, we're just in the process of finalising - and again, waiting for decisions about whether it's an internal report or to be shared more widely.
(Nothing sinister here: just the very usual thing of it taking time for often overly busy people to get to speak to the other overly busy people in order to reach the necessary conclusions.)
In September, I stopped being a Trustee of Care & Repair England; something I've done for around 12 years, or thereabouts. Care & Repair has played a really pivotal part in my work with people in later life, not least as it was working for a local scheme in Rhymney Valley in south Wales that created the bridge for me, from theatre into social policy.
It also left me with a lifelong hesitation over the pronunciation of the word 'embargoed' - a word beloved (possibly more in the recent past than now) by PR types sending out press releases as a way to control when media outlets publicly shared those stories. In Rhymney Valley, there is a town - Bargoed - and a village - Aberbargoed - where the 'goed' part of the word is pronounced 'goy'd'. Whereas in the word 'embargoed', the 'goed' part is pronounced 'goad' - except when I'm not concentrating. Then, it's pronounced 'embargoy'd.'
I still think Embargoed is really a lost Welsh village.
In other news, I gave my first proper public performance of true life (or, real life) storytelling in October, at Salisbury Literary Festival (yes, 'that' Salisbury). I say it was proper because people paid! (real, actual, cash; not the Monopoly money pictured on the Costs page on this website). If you would like to know a bit more about this (the storytelling, not the Monopoly money) - and to hear an example of one of my (very short) real life stories, please feel free to hop over to the other website.
There's been lots of webinars and seminars - and more intense, bespoke 1:1 days - for corporate employees, which is often the case round about now on account of its being National Carers Week in June each year in the UK. One of the nice things about the webinars is the chance to get some structured feedback. Feedback - or any kind of appraisal - is one of the things that tends to fall off for you as a freelancer (otherwise, the general rule is: if they pay you, you've probably done a good job); and something that, in contrast, employees regularly expect (in a good way. Hopefully). I've put a few more examples of recent feedback on the Testimonials page, and added some here, too.
This isn't just trumpet blowing - which is lucky, as I can't even blow up a balloon never mind get a note out of a brass instrument; my mouth just decides to make weak and ineffective raspberry sounds - but is also very helpful for me to know if what I'm doing meets what people need. So, if you're ever asked to give feedback for a freelancer - please do; it really is genuinely valuable (and valued).
"All of it [was the 'most useful part'], to be honest ... extremely useful to my situation. My parents now both need care, and are moving to be close to where I live. I also have a daughter with Down Syndrome. (And a husband with a disability.) The information shared was excellent and I found I could apply to each of the scenarios that I have. It will also help me to think ahead for my own family." (Webinar, Planning Ahead for Care)
"Hearing that we were doing things already - when you are struggling and you think you are not doing enough it was good to hear that when items were mentioned some of them we already had in hand." (Webinar, Planning Ahead for Care)
"I found the webinar very useful and informative - especially on providing support to relatives overseas." (Webinar, Long Distance Caring)
"The most useful part was the presenter - her expertise in this topic was of great benefit to me. Please pass on my sincere thanks." (Webinar, Care Homes)
"Very, very, very useful. First time I am listening about care homes and it is incredibly useful to manage my own caring plan. The pace of the speaker was fantastic. Not too fast, not slow either." (Webinar, Care Homes)
"Excellent speaker, very knowledgeable, the pace was perfect and the content most informative." (Webinar, Care Homes)
You'll know from other pages on this website that I do quite a few sessions each year for Employees Matter. These sessions are generally either webinars or lunchtime seminars, for a variety of corporate organisations, all about different aspects of the care system, or paying for care, or being a carer, or about dementia, or ... or ...
You get the general idea.
I draw on a great deal of varied experience for these sessions - and which includes having been a carer to my mum. Here's a piece I wrote recently for Employees Matter, on some of the more unexpected aspects of a caring role. Sorry about the slightly scary photo by the way!
Welcome to 2018!
Anyone who has visited this page since 1st January 2018 will know I've been a bit sneaky here with that headline, but so long as you don't tell anyone else they won't know it's nearly March. Ahem.
In other news, I've been busy with storytelling in different forms. Partly some consultancy/training/consultation about the sharing of stories involving people who are paid to work with other people; and some of the intricacies that arise when a story about your own life becomes intertwined with the story of another person - whether that's a story about your working life ("how I worked with someone"), or your private life ("how someone worked with me"). Once you stop using words like 'client' or 'patient' or 'customer' or 'elderly' or 'paid staff' or 'carer' and just start talking about 'people', the best way you can make clear who you're talking about at any particular moment is to use the person's name - not their status, their job title, their age bracket, or anything else. Simple, but effective.
Anyway, in part to make sure I put my mouth where my boot usually goes, in the last few months I've been doing some training in autobiographical storytelling - as in, I've been the person going to the course - at the rather wonderful International School of Storytelling. I recommend their courses to anyone interested in oral storytelling. It's been a fantastic experience - surprisingly liberating (I say that as someone who knows well the theory behind the liberating role and value of this approach) - and giving me a great deal of pause for thought, for myself. Which is no bad thing.
Sometimes there's something extra to say about a piece of work. Meeting people you don't already know in their own homes and listening to the story-sharing about their lives is one such.
I'm increasingly struck that the human dance and humane exchange in and through those relationships that are created or shaped by the sheer chance of illness, injury, disability, seems so invisible to - and appears so dismissed by - so many.
'Care' isn't 'sexy'; it involves situations we fear, or perhaps mistakenly assume will never form a part of our own lives. It's often dismissed as not 'adding economic value' in terms of GDP - although it does involve the (often poorly paid) employment of thousands and thousands of people across many, many roles. So - it's not sexy, we fear it, it's not seen as a big money-maker. No wonder so many turn away from 'care'.
But - and this is where it's true value lies - it is one part of modern life where we can (and many do) continually try to be our best selves, for another person's daily ease. And that's extraordinary. Truly.
Summer 2017 - Part 2!
Don't say I never spoil you! Just a short interjection across your summer to share another short film (this one lasts 2 mins 35 secs, so really short).
There's been quite a bit on Twitter (so I am told; I am even more rubbish at using Twitter than I am at keeping you abreast of my news on this site. Exactly) against the frequent use of photos of 'wrinkly hands' to depict loneliness; or inadequate social care; or failing pension provision; or some other doom and gloom aspect of old age. These are photos used by media organisations - newspapers, TV, websites etc - but they are also used by other organisations to illustrate things like training brochures and conference flyers about later life. And you may now be snorting because of my photo above, but the point is less about the wrinkles and more that the hands above are active and busy doing (typing emails, in this case); the hands in the photos being complained about are passive and doing nothing. Just sitting in a lap. Or resting on the top of a walking stick. Or being held by a younger hand. Anyway there's a hashtag #nomorewrinklyhands if you want to find out more.
Prompted by this, and more especially by a photo that's often used of an older woman staring out of a rainy window, I've made an alternative. With some help :-) It's called Beige, and you can watch it here.
And, as an extra treat, at the top of these pages are a selection of photos of 'wrinkly hands' that are actually doing something. I'm afraid they're all a bit white women - with a token white bloke - not planned that way, it's just a little stock I have built up from making my films, so it's simply a matter of who's been involved in those to date.
Once again it's the catch-all post, as I realise that - as usual - I've failed to post for some time. Busyness is the reason. April onwards has been especially busy as a number of pieces of work really got going.
Two of these are projects where I'm involved evaluating the work alongside Imogen Blood and Mark Robinson. It's always really good to collaborate with good people; Imogen and I've worked together before, on some work for Age UK, talking with people aged 50+ about their mental ill health and how locally and nationally Age UK might be able to support their lives. Mark and I are newly working together; and what's particularly nice about that is that Mark's work is very much in the arts and cultural parts of life, something that in-depth readers* of this website know is also a growing part of my life, having been mostly dormant for some years. These projects are:
- evaluating the 2017-2020 Celebrating Age programme of work funded by the Arts Council of England, and
- evaluating the 2017-2018 programme of digital arts with and for older people funded by the Nominet Trust and Baring Foundation.
And, of course, the late spring and early summer also means my running many seminars, webinars, and one:one clinic sessions for corporate clients, on the many different aspects of care that those employees experience in their home life, amongst families and friends - all impeccably organised by Employees Matter. So, busy!
*Dear in-depth readers: you are all lovely, lovely people, but as well as reading these pages you really should also be outside, planting potatoes, drinking tea, and playing.
It's been a very interesting month. I've spent a lot of time travelling round different parts of England meeting people who are getting care and support at home, and talking with those who organise and provide this.
Meeting people, especially in their own homes, is compelling. You learn so much, yet at the same time realise (again) how little you really know about the myriad ways in which different lives unfold.
More than anything, what you see and hear are people and their lives. You don't see or hear 'social care tasks' like helping someone to be dressed or changing the bed or getting something to eat - just people, and their lives: complex, messy, lucky, unfair, painful, spectacular.
Welcome to the new year! I know, that's so last month. January disappeared in a haze of filing, tax payments, and conversations about work. Now the work starts. And some very interesting things are on their way. More anon.
But for now, here's a link to a report published today for Age UK about older consumers, for which I facilitated some discussion groups. It's a type of work I really enjoy, because I'm fascinated to know not just what people think or have experienced, but how people express it. It's important to create time and space (and place) so we can tell it how it is, for us, in our own words - and have those words heard and, if you're in a group discussing topics for a report, shared with others in the way they were shared with you at the time. And this report does that: it's a good read, lots of quotes, a nice layout and - sadly, this doesn't always happen, which is why I'm flagging it up here - I got thanked for the small role I played in the process. Bonus.
I know: what happened to Summer 2016? It got, er, a bit squeezed out. Not to say it didn't happen - actually there was quite a lot of it in the UK this year (with perhaps a slightly wetter version in west Wales). Just that I failed miserably to post any news during it. This was largely due to my spending quite a bit of time and energy hopping about on one leg, courtesy of a rather nasty injury to both sides of one ankle, and generally annoying the NHS by needing x-rays and several hospital physio sessions.
Actually, the A&E/physio departments were great (thank you!), I just felt a bit daft and annoyed with myself at needing to use the NHS just when things are getting rather tough. I know: we pay in through National Insurance Contributions and general taxation and should take out when we need. I've been lucky enough never to need much hospital support before (one MRI scan in my 30s, to rule out MS and petit mal epilepsy, but that's a very small story. In fact it's so small that that's the totality of it). I wasn't even born in a hospital - and yes, they had been invented back then, thank you very much (the cheek!). Didn't stop me feeling a bit of an imposter (or, at least, a bit of an imposition) now though.
However, I did win the physio department 'gold star' (or I would have done if these actually existed) as I was apparently "very easy to rehab as you're very intelligent." Cue big head. Actually it just meant a) I did all my exercises (why wouldn't you, though? I wanted it healed, properly!) and b) I understand my body enough to know when it's making the wrong shape and so can eg adjust my posture, or where I'm placing my weight. Etc.
Anyway it is now The Autumn. I am contemplating new sessions - a new laughter workshop, and seminars on family conflict in caring situations: the latter something I suspect happens all too frequently but isn't really ever addressed. I know there seems to be this general view that 'the family' is everything, and is marvellous, and everyone loves everyone, and everyone is nice to everyone, and everyone thinks the same way, and no one is ever dishonest or foul tempered or ... But really, I doubt such families exist - or certainly, and at least, that's not how it will be all the time. There's a lot of pressure on 'the family' when it comes to older people's health, housing and care, borne from this expectation that 'of course' a) you have family b) they will come to your aid, straight away, and with no fussing or complaining c) they'll be any good at supporting you.
I've left a pause there so we can all have a good laugh (or a quiet weep). Nonetheless, many of us will have played into that fantasy at some point. It might be better for all of us if we were more realistic and, instead of asking 'do you have family?' in times of ill health or injury, simply ask whether there's anyone (anyone) in your life you trust enough and who might be able and willing to be helpful.
In other news, I have also (finally) got round to my new writing website. Be warned: it's not very sensible. But there's no swearing or rude photos so there's nothing too alarming on it, just some general daftness, and some more stuff about the laughter side of things. Please let me know if you enjoy it (and please take a vow of silence if not).
I'm just going to be able to squeeze this in under the general heading of 'spring', although in my defence the bluebells are only recently out so it's not completely inaccurate. What news since January? The usual 'all sorts of stuff' has beeen going on, at least in the relatively serious world of health, care and support. But I thought I might also tell you about the relatively not-serious world, as that's long been a favourite place of mine.
It's become much clearer to me, in recent months, how much of my life has been spent in 'storytelling' - whether that's listening to people's stories about their lives (aka qualitative research) or in recounting those stories in reports (aka case studies). I also write my own stories - short ones, and not so short - and, of course, as is well-rehearsed on this page, make photofilms in the guise of Potted Films. I can see how the stories we tell about how our lives have unfolded can continue to have an impact as life further unfolds, especially if those stories are not particularly positive; and of course there are also the negative stories others tell about us ('.... and then she .... he's always .... they never ....'). We have probably all done that latter, at some point or another, sadly. And very damaging to those other people.
It would be nice if those negative stories were more fun (for those they are about, at least) as in general fun is a rather good thing to have in your life. It can be very hard to find that fun when life is not so great, for whatever reason. I talk a lot on this website about my mum, and here's another example: when she was in hospital, as her cancer progressed, the hospital staff (correctly) asked her how she'd like to be called. She and I both thought 'Darling' or 'Your Honour' would be acceptable, and that made the staff laugh, as well as us, which was lovely. I don't think laughter is a 'cure' or a substitute for treatment or support, but it's a great thing if you can find ways to have as much laughter as possible alongside whatever else is needed. So - please insert your own fanfare noise here - in March I trained to become a Laughter Yoga leader. In April I will be running my first session. Wish me luck. And hope for laughter!
And, secondly, in April I went on a short oral storytelling course. Much laughing on that one - although not of the yoga variety - and much telling of and listening to (rather different) stories. Of which more, perhaps, another time .... she says, trying (desperately?) to appear all mysterious and interesting ....
Welcome to the new year! (I have to admit, it's been the new year for a while so I am just about squeezing this post into the tail end of January. Blame the chest infection that decided to start on Christmas Day .... but, happy new year anyway). There's a huge amount on my mind, partly what's in front of me (a coffee, a deadline), partly what's coming (training: me being trained that is. More on that in the spring....), and partly what's gone before.
I get strange email notifications sometimes: usually things I have long forgotten I once looked into. So, this morning, I got a notification via an academic site that 'someone in the UK' (how coy! Please don't be embarrassed!) had searched for a report I wrote so long ago that the charity I wrote it for doesn't now exist*. 'Friday is Pay Day' is a piece of qualitative research (otherwise known as 'I met people and they told me things about their lives') I did in 2001. I met and talked with a number of older people living in care and nursing homes, and asked them about the weekly 'pocket money' they received. Technically, this is the 'personal expenses allowance' that's left over after the means-test has been applied to their income. It's never been a very generous sum (and isn't now - at January 2016, it's £24.90 per week. That has to cover everything that's outside the care home fee - that means clothes, toiletries, birthday cards, books, sweets, phone calls: you get the picture). The project was aimed at finding out how people spent it, and what they thought about the amount. As you might imagine, they were less than impressed. Ahem.
But that's an aside - quite a long one, although anyone who knows me also knows long asides are quite usual. Am I turning into Dave Allen? Albeit with intact fingers and no fag - from what struck me. So, what struck me is that in 2001 a lot of people - including research organisations, charities, care homes, relatives - thought you couldn't possibly have a conversation with someone who lived in a care or nursing home. Fifteen years on, that has changed considerably. It's far more usual now to think how to include, in discussions and decisions, people who may have high support needs. And that's a good thing. Stuff does change. Sometimes it gets better. Sometimes it gets worse. I increasingly have my head in my hands at the media's depiction of 'bed blockers' in hospital, 18 years after a House of Commons Health Select Committee report strongly condemned the use of such a derogatory term. I've given one media link to that term, above - I could have given many others. It's not that (primarily older) patients are blocking beds, it's that the speed with which the hospital wants to discharge them isn't in line with the speed with which any needed post-hospital support is available, whether from the NHS (yes! NHS primary and community care! Not to mention joint NHS/social services intermediate care, and joint equipment stores for community aids and adaptations. Where's all of that gone? I know there's still some, but even so ...), social services, families, private sector, charities, your own resolve and effort, or any other source.
Anyway, happy new year. I hope more stuff gets better in 2016 than worse. Fingers crossed, eh ...
*it merged ...
Silverlinks, one of Care & Repair England's major projects, has just launched a new Housing, Care and Finance 'teach yourself' workbook for older people, carers and wider families. “Thinking Ahead: Housing, Care & Related Finance in Later Life” covers different aspects of making decisions about housing & care, to help people reach informed decisions that are right for them. It also gives details of where to go for further information, advice and support.
And one of my photos (left. Or below. It keeps mysteriously moving around ...) is on the front cover - cue large grin and over-inflated ego! This is a still taken from the photofilm 'Your Home Is Your Castle' that I made for the charity earlier in the year, in my Potted Films guise.
You can see this film, and more, on my Vimeo site - if you'd like!
Welcome to the autumn! And, as I mostly work with older people, a very good reason not to join with our North American cousins in calling it 'fall'..... How is it shaping up for you? I'm struck by a number of things including the speed at which safety net after safety net is disappearing, and the extent to which people with serious illness and disability are being left to walk the tightrope of those parts of their lives with no visible means of support.
I'm being asked more and more to explore what sort of support might help people other than what might best be described as mainstream care services (regardless of who pays for or provides this), and specialist housing options (ditto). This is because both are failing to deliver enough, or to do so quickly enough, or to be sufficiently 'right' in terms of what's being offered.
Too many people now being told 'no' or 'wait' for state-funded/state-arranged/state-supported housing and care options are finding that alternatives aren't always there either, or aren't affordable, or available, or even suitable - let alone preferable. And, in some ways, very sadly, it was ever thus: what makes this 'news', though, is the speed at and extent to which this is happening. To keep abreast of where things are at, at least from the point of view of state-propelled care in England, check out Belinda Schwehr's blog*, Schwehr on Care.
* Okay - I admit it: I am one of the bloggers ....
This is the point at which a working knowledge of Dick Dastardly's sidekick Mutley comes in handy, if only for swearing-without-swearing under the breath. (I wish I could share one of my favourite swears-not-swears, but as it's a real company's name I suspect I might get into trouble ...). Why the Mutley muttering? Because I'd hoped to get away with not posting more News until later in the summer (see below), but in fact .....
In fact, I'm not sure that this truly consititues 'News': more a sort of 'Woman Rambles On A Little, aka A Small Rant'. Two things, one of which probably should get more fully explored under 'Stories...'.
The first: the Government's announcement this month that it will postpone the introduction of care funding reforms from April 2016 to April 2020; and the underlying inference that what's been proposed and set out legislatively in the Care Act 2014 won't work, or at least not very well (ahem. Quite a bit of 'told-you-but-you-wouldn't-listen' flies around from many quarters. Btw, can you have many quarters? Or is the maximum number 4....). So why rant? Because a government, a few weeks after election, reneges on a central manifesto promise? Well, yes, a bit of that. Because it was the best idea ever? Well, no .... but largely because, yet again, after more years and years of debating than I ever want to have to stop to add up about how to pay for social care in England, we are still no further forward. Frustrating, too, in that so very few people seem to want to connect the two central parts of the funding equation: how much people (who receive) should pay, and how much people (who deliver) are paid.
The bulk of social care costs (ignoring the profit margins stuff, especially in the private sector - or at the very least the stock-market floated end of private sector social care) cover the costs of staff. People. That includes their training, their pensions, their insurances (or it should, anyway. In my view). The bulk of the funding debate, though, isn't about any of that: it's about how much individuals receiving social care should pay in total for the care each receives, and is dominated by the question of how much people (should or may) pay from the sale of their former home. This latter is a longstanding debate that's firmly bound up in the inheritance argument (although never features in terms of increasingly generous, separate, inheritance tax offers), and is usually packaged up in 'hard working families' rhetoric (although those people may instead regard themselves as 'hard done by families' - especially those who use most of those 'hard worked for' assets paying for care). I digress. The point is this: what should care workers earn? How much is needed to support care workers more broadly, through training etc? How much money does the social care system need, therefore? So, how much money needs to be raised each year/ every 5 years?
That should be a much better starting point for discussing how much individuals contribute. We think and talk of social care as a system, but we talk about funding from the point of view of those individuals who will be doing the paying. Perhaps this rather lengthy governmental pause in proceedings is a good time to start looking at how much is needed in total for the system, and then work out how the individuals who need or find themselves within that system could contribute (how much money might they collectively have to 'spare'? Oh the definition of 'spare' - let's just say, for now, over and above usual living costs: your rainy day money, if you like. You think it isn't raining if you have social care needs?) - and then, and only then, have the debate about how much any of us should contribute (and that does mean all of us, not just those directly affected at that particular time) to make sure the system works.
Doubt it'll happen, but ....
Second rant. Smaller, by comparison, in terms of length but not importance. There's been quite a lot of stuff I've come across recently about the need for support for former carers.
Nothing wrong with that: as a former carer, I've been talking about this for some time; particularly about the lack of anything organised that would have been remotely helpful especially for someone like myself, who is self employed. Why the rant? Because I work in this field: some of those people who 'shout' the loudest about how important it is to support former carers were the ones who were the least helpful or supportive when I made that transition from carer to former carer. I'm sure they mean well now - I'm sure they meant well then - but they fundamentally didn't get it, and I somehow doubt that was just with me.
The point about being a carer, and therefore for many also now being a former carer, is that our country is stuffed full of us. Just as it's stuffed full of people experiencing some kind of illness, or disability, or financial hardship, or bereavement, at some point in our lives. The people who were the most supportive to me, as I became a former carer, weren't from carers' organisations: they were my mum's GP, and the garage where she got her car serviced, and my neighbours at home, and my friends, and some (but by no means all) of those I worked with. People who were naturally kind, and endlessly patient, and offered me practical help and support from the range of their skills and from what they could offer, who gave me their time, and who told me - unsolicited, having seen me in action - what a great job I'd done, when I felt the world had turned forever black and that I had failed in the biggest way imaginable because my mum died.
I really, really didn't need a carer's strategy. I just needed people who fundamentally 'got it', and were prepared, in their daily lives, to apply that understanding to me - over and over and over again. Not people who could talk up the issues but people who could live with the reality for me of walking that path - by walking alongside me as I lived through it, quietly holding my hand, however long it took me to make the transition - not from carer to former carer, but from former carer back to the self I am now, post-care.
Yes, it's a cheat post! By putting 'Summer 2015' I can make this one stretch out until - let's see - at least the end of August.
I know quite a few people do look at this site (although, - ? Why aren't you reading a book? Or watching old Tom & Jerry cartoons? Or outside, gardening? In fact, why aren't some of you outside doing my garden? ...), which is very nice of you. So, I do try to talk to you all, woman to erm ... whoever, and share as much as I can. Problem is, when I get busy, filling you in on what's happening goes to the bottom of the list (even below doing the garden. I'm sorry).
So - the last few months have been uber busy. Lots more Care Act 2014 training. Lots of seminars and webinars for working carers. Lots of discussions about other work, mostly revolving around older people.
I've also been reflecting on my work quite a bit, largely because I had a walloping great clear-out in my office. I'd accumulated *ahem* years' worth of materials, much of which is now redundant because it relates - in all sorts of ways - to legislation that's now been repealed (at least for adults, in England). Where I live, we have these fairly tall recycling bins - same size as used for collecting the rubbish - and I managed to fill four completely to the top. Four: that's an awful lot of paper! I apologised to several nearby trees. I swear the joists in the office sighed with relief at the operation I am now calling 'liposuction for filing cabinets.'
Of course, not everything was recycled: four shopping bags' worth of books and reports went to charity shops.
"Oh lovely," the lady in one charity bookshop said, as I handed over a bulging bag of what were clearly large sized (A4) reports: "Not The Da Vinci Code*, then?"
"No," I reassured her, and scarpered, fast, before she realised I had instead donated such gems as The Health Needs of Older Londoners, published in 2000 .....
* Not that I'm suggesting there's anything wrong with The Da Vinci Code - (I've not read it) - just that it's one of the most commonly donated books ...
I know, I know! The usual long delay between posts, in which it is not that no news happens but that too much is happening to report on it ... The biggest bit of which is that, as of 1st April, most of the Care Act 2014 became operational. And the last few months have involved a deal of schlepping around, with many others, telling the NHS, local councils and national charities exactly why this matters - because it's now the law for social care in England! Pretty much the whole law, at that!
As of 31st March, most of the existing legislation was repealed - including the National Assistance Act 1948 (absolute lynchpin of the post-WW2 welfare state) and my favourite - the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudication Act 1983, otherwise known by the acronym HASSASSA. Why my favourite? Not because of what it allowed in law, but because HASSASSA sounded to me like the sort of legislation the late Tommy Cooper would have enjoyed [this space has been left blank for you to insert your own Tommy Cooper impressions....].
January 2015 - extra news!
I know - don't say I don't spoil you! My latest film - Your Home Is Your Castle - has just been made publicly available on the Care & Repair England website. In it, two households - married couple Pat and Pete, and widowed Phyllis - talk about their experiences of needing support with housing repairs, and how their local Care and Repair scheme has helped them remain living well at home. I hope you enjoy it. Extra January news!
Blimey! 2015 already! This is significant because - if you have owt to do with social care in England - you will know that most of the Care Act 2014 comes into force in England from April. Not long now.....! It will introduce a wide range of what might apear to be subtle change to the current system, but which will have a significant impact over time on what people receive in the way of state funding and support, as well as what people are told is possible, and the whole way in which social care is understood.
January's also a significant month because - as anyone working in any of the advice-giving older people's charities will tell you - it also brings a sharp peak in enquiries about 'what to do' about an older relative. Why? Basically, it's because families have spent intergenerational time together over Christmas. Possibly they've spent more time together than usual; possibly, they've spent time with someone outside their home environment (because the older person's come to stay); possibly, it's that several family members have seen the same person over the same period of time. What happens? They start swapping notes. They start saying things like 'I don't think she's coping'; or 'what are going to do about your Dad?'
Which by and large is understandable. It's rarely done nastily - although there is arguably still more familial elder abuse than other kinds - in fact, it's generally done because younger adults, seeing or fearing there may be problems, want to help. And a very good starting point is finding out what's possible, what's available - and what the system offers: which, in a year when the system will begin to change quite a bit, is quite difficult to tackle (the conversations will probably go something like: "There's this really complicated system, which I can explain to you and send you loads of factsheets on, but that information will only do you until April when a new and differently complicated system comes into play....."). Cue much banging of heads on desks.
But a point I would very much like to make is this: finding out details for someone else is a great thing to do. It can be incredibly helpful, and feel very supportive. But it won't be either if what then happens is that the person who's found out the information thinks these are also their own decisions to make. They aren't. It's up to the older person. That's because they're an adult. Now, there's a whole load of discussion around someone's mental capacity to make or contribute to decisions, but that's for another day. Let's assume the older person can make their own decisions. Yes, they may make ridiculous ( to you!) decisions. Yes, they may decide not to make a decision. Yes, it may infuriate you and frustrate you - and make you very, very anxious. But they're still not your decisions to make, and your getting to grips with that - and with your own needs for control, security and certainty where the older person is concerned - is one of the most helpfully supportive things you can consistently do (and I say that as someone who's been there, done that, and wore the T shirt so much it fell apart).
And one other thing: if you are arranging or supporting someone to arrange care, please make sure that as much of this as possible is thought about and planned around how the person would enjoy spending their day. That way, you might get any support you need not just for its own sake - to be up and dressed, your home clean, and coffee and cake in the cupboard - but in order to have the visitors you're looking forward to (and so share the cake), do something at home on your own that you like (and eat the cake yourself), or go out and do something that interests you (and so eat more cake on your return home.) That's perhaps a more cake-orientated life than public health experts might like - obesity crisis and all that - but I hope you will be able to take and practically apply the point. That would be great. Thank you very much.
That was the year that was! I hope, if you are someone who spends time reflecting on such things, that your year has been good (actually, even if you don't reflect, I hope it was good. You're welcome.). It's certainly been busy for me - multiple films (I think it was 8. But there are times when I count up to nine films. I'm not entirely sure how that happens ....); and many meetings and discussions with health, care and housing staff, older people, working carers, and - frankly - all others in between.
Lots of writing; lots of training (me doing, as well as me learning); new teams. I also stopped doing some things: working with some people; involvement at Board level with a charity (took up tooooo much time, sadly. But, as I am still involved with the other one, more time as a result for Care & Repair England :-) ).
Lots of change, in other words. And, I suspect, more to come ....
Two things to share this month (so far, at any rate!). First, a new film. Now, I know I go on (at length?) about my Potted Films film-making, but I do think you'll enjoy The Art of Talking, as it shows older people with dementia, living in a care home, discussing art, dancing - and the somewhat dubious reputation of one woman, in a painting by Toulouse-Lautrec!
Secondly, to let you know that I am part of a much larger team that will shortly be delivering training throughout England on the new Care Act 2014 - see Care and Health Law's website for more information. So, you could book your (absolutely essential) training in all aspects of the impending new legislation, and get me! Result - squared!
Already, it's starting to feel much more autumnal, which is a good thing as it's my favourite time of year. New starts, and all that. I have over many years had an ongoing row with someone who believes that 'the start' is the spring: it isn't (as if!), it's the autumn - because you first need to fertilise that ground, otherwise nowt's going to be happening come the new year. Not that I am suggesting we personally fertilise the ground, you understand ...
Anyway, back to the point: autumn is a time for changes, for putting in the ground work for the next stages of whatever is yet to unfold, and - if you are so inclined - to plan. What's unfolding for me? All sorts of things (she says, desperately trying to sound mysterious and profound ....) including more work on the films. It was great presenting 3 of my films at the British Society of Gerontology conference at the beginning of the month (for which my ongoing thanks go to the fantastic gerontology team at University of Southampton led by Prof. Maria Evandrou), not least because it gave me the chance to start to make clear the link between the film making, my interest and experience in story telling, and all these (many!) years of social policy work. For example, if you wanted to see how making a change in your mid life might turn out 40 years later, you'd be hard put to do better than watch Pots Are People - it's all there: continuing to change and develop, ongoing learning, networks of people, fitness, purpose in life. Amazing!
Good also to see that Stick Your Neck Out has a mention in this month's Later Life newsletter published by the Department for Work and Pensions (which is not, I should add for any non-UK readers, an unusual club for hipsters: rather, it is a Government department .... erm....).
I must admit, every time I think about adding to this page I feel the need to shuffle some papers and knock them into a neat shape against the desk .... it must be all those years of watching TV newsreaders! Still, that's not really what you're looking to find out, is it? (Be honest...) So, In More Sensible News: I've been starting to do (as in, take part in) some training around the Care Act 2014, which will begin to be implemented from April 2015. Not long at all, not given the scale of the changes. I'm not yet clear whether enough people and organisations are aware of the extent of the changes - maybe many think it'll generally be 'business as usual', with some changes to the means test coming in the following April (2016). But it's a fairly hefty set of changes: not least, that there is a lot of nuanced change. That's hardest of all to explain, and to grasp. Gone will be many of the 'old' entitlements and instead the system will be ... well let's just say, less certain. On the one hand, this gives the potential for greater freedom for all concerned; on the other hand, more freedom = less security. More training will follow, in September.
More films, more editing underway: new films out include The Bonnie Day Way. I think this film in particular highlights the strength of the photo film approach in enabling us to hear providers' aims; see them in action; hear the real-time/ real-life responses of older people using/receiving that service; and hear older people's views, subsequently. All in under 6 minutes! (*shuffles papers against desk and wishes you all a good evening*.)
More interviewing, more photography, more editing, some seminars and webinars for Employees Matter, and confirmation that I've been accepted through the recently revised process as an Approved Consultant by Age UK (which also means being on the 'okay list' to potentially work with the range of local Age UKs around the country as well as the national Age UK charity). It's been a busy month so far ..... Oh, and my Films Symposium in Southampton (see below) will be on Tuesday 2nd September - see the BSG website for further details. Book it, book it! (you know you want to....)
Another film! Slightly longer this time and featuring interviews with 3 family carers and the Head of Support for Action for Carers Oxfordshire, for National Carers Week (9-15 June 2014). A Grand Job helps explain how you know you are a carer when you are already in that person's life because you are their daughter, friend, husband, mum.
The last couple of months have been really busy with lots of work (on 2 projects) for a national charity, lots of travelling to complete both, lots of days of seminars, lecturing, and conference speaking. All with a bad head cold (*cough/splutter*).
Some changes, too! After many years involvement, I'm no longer offering training for solicitors and barristers on the legal side of community care, I'm afraid. Instead, I'm focusing more on working carers, older people, service providers, and statutory services - so there'll be training, but it'll just be aimed at people directly involved in supplying, funding, or receiving care.
And I am busy film making. If you are at all worried about later life, watch and see how positive life can be in your ninth decade ... (the photo in the banner above is from this film): Pots Are People.
I've also had confirmation that I'll be showing three of my films, all concerned with ageing/older people, at the annual conference of the British Society of Gerontology later this year. This will be held at the University of Southampton, 1-3 September 2014 (http://www.southampton.ac.uk/bsg2014). Full details of the programme will be available from the end of June - please keep an eye out for my session, a Symposium entitled Moving Stories, Still Films. I'm really looking forward to it.
I've been involved with the work of Care & Repair for over 20 years - firstly, working for a local scheme (in Rhymney Valley in south Wales) and latterly as a Trustee of the national charity Care & Repair England.
As national charities go, it's a tiny organisation: only 2 full time members of staff, plus around 2 to 3 project staff working on generally time-limited grant-aided projects, and some input from a couple of (rather talented) freelancers on things like the website and PR. But although it is small it does really good work (and I and many others think it punches way above its own weight. Although admittedly, as a Trustee, you'd probably expect me to say that). It's a delight, therefore, that one project - Silverlinks - is to receive substantial funding for the next 4 years: http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/global-content/press-releases/england/010314_eng_sd_care-and-repair-england.
You can read more about Silverlinks work at http://silverlinksprogramme.wordpress.com.
Blimey, that was a long gap! Not that nothing happened between September 2013 and January 2014 of course: rather, too much was going on to stop to write about it! (And, yes, I do know how annoying that can be to read on someone's web page. Sorry.)
So, one small bit of news first - for those who like small news, or have already enjoyed my first photofilm, Just Treat Yourself - is that I've been getting on with making some more films. One new film is now complete, and on my Vimeo site. I've got audio recordings and photographs for 3 more after that, just got to find the time for more editing! (Not helped by - being right-handed- my badly spraining my right wrist, falling over at a Samba class. Thank you for not laughing.)
I hope you enjoy the new film - We Don't Stand Still: a really uplifting story about how learning to dance helped someone through a period of grief following bereavement.
In other news, on 6th March 2014 I am Chairing a one-day conference in central London on the Care Bill - http://www.clt.co.uk/media/159141/cf111523.pdf. Hope you will join us - it's a great line up of speakers (yes, I know, that includes me!).
You'll already know from my photofilms page how much I enjoyed - and learned from - my training with duckrabbit earlier in the year.
So I am incredibly pleased (and a bit proud, albeit of the 'looking-down-and-scuffing-shoes-on-the-pavement-whilst-blushing' variety) that they're using my first film - Just Treat Yourself - to illustrate the virtues of doing the same course (which I thoroughly recommend, especially if factual digital storytelling is your particular thing).
So pleased, in fact, that it reminded me how I felt when I was 6 years old and entered a competition held by the BBC TV children's programme Blue Peter to Design A Train Of The Future - and it prompted me to find the letters and badge, which my mum had carefully kept for me.
I went with my mum to the exhibition of winning entries at Euston train station in London, and I loved my badge: but the most exciting thing of all had been on one edition of Blue Peter, before the entry date had closed, when John Noakes held up my design to the camera and said he'd particularly liked it because it had a special recipe for beer to be served on the train.
(What can I say? Except that my dad was doing a lot of home brewing at the time.)
Thank you, duckrabbit, for reminding me just how exciting it is to be 6 years old and have your beer recipe admired by one of the true legends of children's TV programmes. Wish I'd kept that recipe though ....
Over the summer (possibly a bit longer), I'll be working with Age UK, and a range of other organisations, on the Health & Care Voluntary Sector Strategic Partner Programme. Starting near the end of July, this part-time project management role for Age UK involves making sure what needs to happen, happens! in the 'gap' while a new postholder is recruited.
Website launched! (you have no idea....)