Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Small stones in July

Do you remember the river of stones project in January?

I enjoyed it very much, but I have to admit I've not found the discipline to continue writing small stones on a daily basis. So I was pleased to hear that Fiona and Kaspa are running a new project through July and I've signed up again.

This time I've set up a new blog for my small stones, you will find it here. And if you would like to join me, the full details are to be found on the river of stones blog.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

And while we're on the subject...

...of bands I saw when I was at university, I don't suppose anyone else is old enough to remember the early songs of Joe Jackson. I saw him twice and this video is a great reminder.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Going back in time

Today I went to visit a university with Son 1. Not just any university, but the very one from which I graduated 29 years ago, almost to the day.

We went with Son 1's girlfriend, one of her friends and her mother, A, who by coincidence also studied there, a year behind me.

For A and me it was an exciting day, a trip down memory lane. Whilst there have been considerable changes for the better over the intervening years, many familiar landmarks awaited us and I think I can say we both fell in love with the place all over again. I remembered all the good times and conveniently forgot the occasional heartbreak, perhaps she did too. And most importantly for me, Son 1 fell in love with the university too. He could see himself there and I think it may be a dead cert for his UCAS application.

As we looked round the sparkling new function hall in the Students' Union I couldn't help remembering some of the bands I saw in the tatty old place. Here's The Tourists (the precursor to the Eurythmics)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A makeover

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that this blog has changed again.

I'd tired of the old design, which was intended to resemble a notebook full of doodles, and a revamp of my website this week led me to redo the blog too.

The aim was simple, to tie up the various parts of my writing media strategy (website, blog and Twitter) as closely as possible in design concept and colour. Now I'm no web designer, so I know it's far from perfect, but I'm quite pleased with the result using standard templates and just tweaking the colour schemes.

What do you all think?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Carers Week

This week is Carers Week in the UK, a chance to publicise and celebrate the vital role of carers in our society.

Twice I've started to write a bog post on this and twice I've deleted it as it sounded too whiny and self-indulgent. So instead I'll just give you a few vital statistics and leave you to draw your own conclusions:

Carers save the UK £119bn a year (Carers UK).

Carers Allowance (for carers who care for a person of a qualifying medium or high level of disability for a minimum of 35 hours a week) is currently £55.55. The carer can earn no more than £100 a week on top of this, otherwise the allowance is lost (Directgov).

The current UK minimum wage for an employee over 21 is £5.93, that is £207.55 for a 35 hour week (HMRC).

Aound 50% of carers have health problems as a result of their caring duties (NHS).

More than 80% of carers are worried about cuts to services (Princess Royal Trust for Carers).

If you are interested in finding about more about carers, including young carers, there is further information on the Carers UK and Princess Royal Trust for Carers websites as well as from the NHS.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Half term blues

I'm back.

I've had some hopefully temporary problems with Blogger, which have made posting and commenting difficult.

I've also been battling my way through half term, feeling guilty about the amount of work I'm able to do (or rather not able to do). I tend to use school holiday time for catching up on reading, rather than writing, but during this long half term even that has proved difficult, due to Son 2's constant noise levels. Right now he has the radio on in the kitchen (it was a pop channel, Radio 1 perhaps, but has just been changed to classical) and at the same time is watching YouTube videos on the computer in the living room. I often feel as if my head is going to explode.

My mind is also flitting in a very haphazard manner between different writing projects, some started but none completed, and I need to rediscover my focus. Son 2 is back to school tomorrow, after 17 days at home, so that should help.

Novel one is back out there and I'm at that stage of checking my email regularly, hoping, hoping...

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Panorama on care home abuse

I haven't blogged for a while. Sorry, but there have been family matters to resolve.

Firstly we had to take Son 2 to see a neurologist and the appointment came through more quickly than we had expected. He has been started on a small dose of some medication so we are having to monitor him for changes and possible side effects.

On Tuesday I had to attend a meeting with Son 2's social worker and the lady from Connexions (the careers service) who deals with special needs in our area. It was a meeting to kick off the planning for his transfer to adult services for continuing education and residential care. Despite my best efforts, I went into the meeting feeling rather unprepared, having failed to find out some of the information I needed, however the meeting actually went fairly well. I don't think there was much disagreement about what he actually needs, but I am under no illusion that this is going to be easy and we have to start looking at what will realistically be available to him when he leaves school at 19. But with such savage cuts, and services which are budget-led, who can predict anything?

Then I came home to face the BBC Panorama programme about the abuse of young adults with severe learning difficulties in a specialist care facility in Bristol. I didn't actually watch it, I couldn't, as even what I'd read in advance made me feel sick to the stomach. The media reports, including this in the Daily Mail by the BBC undercover reporter, were more than enough for me.

I'm glad the abuse was exposed and I hope that the programme will lead to improvements in standards in both the inspection procedures and rogue care facilities such as that one. But I think it's also important to hang on to the fact that not all care homes are like that and Casdok has written a very good blog post about the response to Panorama from her own son's care home. As parents and carers we have a huge responsibility to search out the best for our children and to monitor it for as long as we are able, because it's possible that nobody else will give them a voice unless they are in one of the good care homes such as that one.

But when we can no longer do that, then what?

PS And while I'm on the subject of the Panorama expose, you might like to conside signing the petition the National Autistic Society has set up in the aftermath. You can find it here.