SURFING THE WAVE OF FAMILY COURT CHAOS

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I RECENTLY got up-close-and-personal with the British Family Courts system—and witnessed, first-hand, its current farcical state of disrepair.

How so, you may ask? Well, where to begin? family-courts

Crucially—and most importantly—there’s no continuity. 

In your average criminal court the same judge presides and the same jury is appointed—seeing the trial or hearing through to conclusion. In the family court it’s a very different set-up… and one that clearly doesn’t work!

I can only speak from personal experience, but I have no doubts our case wasn’t a ‘one-off’.

There were three hearings in total—the first and third having the same judge, the second a different one.

That first judge appeared disinterested, impatient and unconcerned with any safety issues. It was the clerk of the court who advised the judge there was a safety issue which needed  investigating, and the judge reluctantly agreed. Child-First-RGB-dark-logo-e1453120126557-480x499

This would be carried out by CAFCAS (the Children and Family Court Advisory & Support Service) who, as I understand, are responsible for the safety and well-being of children in a relationship breakdown scenario.

Sadly it was only the second judge who took seriously the reasons our case had been brought before the family court.

However, at that second hearing, the judge and clerk of the court had to apologize as CAFCAS hadn’t been updated following the first hearing—and, as a result, no further investigations had been made. This was hastily reorganised in time for round three; but it was obvious it had been rushed through, as the relevant interviews were done over the phone. Certainly not ideal.

The experience has left me feeling extremely concerned for people and families going through these courts—and having to endure all this additional stress. Vulnerable people in tough, tricky situations—and without the right support or financial backing—are often, it seems, left to fend for themselves and fight their own corner.

At such a crucial and seminal time in the life of any family, should they not have the right—and is it not a basic human right—to expect a high level of professionalism? family-symbols-1170x775

Where there is acrimony between couples—and an amicable solution seems unlikely—what can be achieved by dragging the whole issue through a court system which seems, quite frankly, to be in a complete state of chaos itself?

The officials are unhelpful when you query anything you don’t understand. You’re also required to arrive at the court an hour before the hearing’s scheduled start-time, when there’s no obvious reason to do so. You’re then left waiting that whole hour—and longer. Why? Because the judge has to acquaint him or herself with the details of the case via the submitted papers before the hearing—when surely this should have been done in advance.

With this superficial knowledge, the judge is expected to come to a decision about a family they don’t know—or a situation about which they have minimal knowledge.

From my perspective, it’s an absolute shambles. The left hand doesn’t seem to know what the right hand is doing. And the poor families are left to suck up this added stress.

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Separate waiting areas are offered to individuals in the appointment letter—but only if available. And for disputing couples who, for whatever reason, have no choice but to resort to the courts for resolution, being forced to sit-and-wait in the same room creates an uncomfortable atmosphere in an already tense environment.

Surely, in the 21st Century, we can better organise these courts and this system—which are specifically designed to resolve difficult and unpleasant family situations.

On the plus side, court security and the quality of facilities are good, while there was always an adequate number of staff in attendance.

However, from my perspective, the organisation was still shambolic—and, as a result, we’re letting families down and putting children at risk. children-and-divorce

Things need to change—and we can all play a part in making this happen by raising awareness and highlighting this kind of ineptitude whenever possible.

Thanks for reading.

’Til next time,

Granny FlapjaX

PUNISH CALLOUS TROPHY HUNTERS

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I HONESTLY cannot find the words to describe how I felt last week when I saw a photo someone had shared on Facebook.

It was a picture of a dead male lion—placed in a sitting position—and behind it a grossly overweight man, holding a rifle in his right hand, with a woman—presumably his wife—sat just behind.

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It wasn’t hard to go to Google and type in ‘Trophy Hunter Kills Lion’—and there are literally hundreds of photographs with both men and women proudly showing off their ‘kills’.

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I find it hard to view pictures of such barbarity. But if that isn’t bad enough, alongside the poor animal is a smiling assassin. And I do mean killer. Because that’s what these people are: Killers. Trophy Hunters 2

What is wrong with them? I ask this question seriously—because there has to be a fairly major issue with their mental stability.

Whether you’re a big cat fan or not (though surely most of us are) what right-minded person could really take any pleasure from killing these masterful kings of the cat world? And simply for entertainment. Does it genuinely give them a sense of achievement or is it really all about power?

I believe they are sick, unhappy people with no sense of worth and very low self-esteem. And sadly, because they have the financial wherewithal to do it, they can big themselves up by taking the lives of these beautiful, powerful giants of the animal kingdom—and then bragging about it.

It honestly makes me feel ashamed to be a human being. But, more to the point, how are these people even given free license to shoot and kill these amazing animals? Who is allowing this to happen? It has recently come to my attention that in South Africa they are actually breeding lions just for the trophy hunters to shoot them. Can this be acceptable?

Clearly killing our planet by polluting the air, filling the oceans with vast amounts of waste, destroying the rain forests and melting the polar ice caps isn’t enough for some. 

By going out and killing for pleasure, these callous cretins are throwing the natural balance of the animal world out of sync, decimating the food chain, and, for sure, driving many of the animals we’re privileged to live alongside into extinction.

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And once they’re extinct, what happens then?

We need to understand that the natural world, of which we are a part, is inherently capable of looking after itself.

It will survive and recover from hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods and earthquakes. If humans weren’t here, everything would spring back to life, because that’s the force of nature.

But we are here—and sadly, because we’re interfering in the natural course of things, it would appear the earth is in a downward spiral.

I understand, to a point, why so many of the things relating to our animals in the wild—which I find so distasteful and unacceptable—happen. However, no matter which way I look at it, I can—and never will—condone the brutal killing of wild animals purely for the entertainment of the ‘sick’ rich.

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It’s abhorrent, disgraceful, shameful, shocking, atrocious, deplorable, despicable and totally inexcusable that this is happening in the 21st century.

It HAS to be stopped. There are simply no justifiable reasons why this appalling practice should be allowed to continue.

Pressure must be put on those who partake—and those who allow them to do so.

The killing of our beautiful big cats and other precious wildlife for pleasure, has to be treated as a crime. Big Cats 3

And those who indulge must be punished accordingly.

’Til next time,

Granny FlapjaX

WOMEN – IS THERE GENDER EQUALITY IN 2018?

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I’VE been astounded in recent months with the near-constant media coverage of women and their complaints about how tough life is.

Probably not PC for me to raise this, but I can’t help wondering why it is they feel whining about their lot—at home, in business, socially, and in life generally—is the only way they can improve it? March for Women in London ahead of International Women's Day

Now, let’s be clear. I’m not talking about the issues relating to Harvey Weinstein and several others involved in sexual abuse allegations. If proven to be true, they deserve everything coming to them for such appalling behavior. Though, as has been argued in the ensuing fallout, the line between what’s considered acceptable ‘flirting’ and what’s not is now extremely blurred.

However, I do frequently hear on the radio or read in my newsfeed about women who seem to feel they’ve been forced onto their collective back foot when it comes to positioning themselves in society today.

Admittedly, I’m a Baby Boomer. I went through my teens in the 1960’s; a revolutionary time of great change, featuring flower-power, mods and rockers, Mary Quant and Vivienne Westwood. We were full of ourselves, fashion and freedom—allowing us to live life to the full! We worked hard and we played hard. And I’m sure there are many people my age who wouldn’t disagree with the fact we sometimes had to accept the consequences of our actions. sixties

But that didn’t involve crying out to the world-at-large. Not least because, back then, we couldn’t. There was no-one to complain to. No social media, no court recognition (sexual harassment as a concept didn’t emerge ’til the 1970’s), and a greater sense of personal privacy. We simply didn’t want our names and faces splashed all over the papers. So we kept quiet and dealt with it.

In most instances—and I’m not talking about criminal offences such as rape which, of course, would have been handled by the police—we felt equipped and empowered to handle it ourselves. Harassment or unwanted attention, either in the workplace or a social setting, happened. And often. But, in most cases, we’d fend the perpetrator off.

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I’m not saying that type of behaviour is acceptable. Of course not. But if women want to stand alongside men in terms of equality, they must surely accept that they have to stand up for themselves, sometimes in difficult circumstances.Man-vs-Woman (1)

Likewise, while I can see many good reasons why a woman should be paid the exact same salary as a man when doing an identical job, is it always that simple?

In my teens I worked extremely hard—not always doing a job I enjoyed—until I eventually found my niche. However, in those days we were paid based on age and experience—and if you felt you deserved more, it was up to you to negotiate a raise with your boss.

Why is it now women in the workplace feel they have an automatic right to be paid the same as their male counterparts? It’s not about gender. It’s about who is best qualified to do a job—and who actually does it best, offering tangible value and worth.interviewing_resize

As an employer myself for many years, we paid based on age, experience, and any additional skills or talents an applicant had which made him or her a greater fit for the job on offer. Gender was irrelevant. The salary and conditions of employment were discussed and agreed upon at interview, before any offer. And if the candidate didn’t agree, they didn’t take the job.

I find it sad that women today are continually complaining. But, in reality, do they have a point? Are things really that bad or are those complaints justified?

Many have chosen to pursue careers while also raising a family, running a home, and trying to shoehorn in some kind of social life. Meanwhile, some mums have assumed true superhero status in doing all this solo as single parents. busy-parent-picture rev

In my view, it’s simply too much. And, as a consequence, we have a generation of mothers permanently stressed-out and struggling to keep all their plates spinning. All- too-often this leads to cases of depression and anxiety—negatively impacting both the mums and their families.

As a species, humans weren’t designed to be super-beings. However, society has led us down a path where women now feel they have to be. In reality, of course, we don’t.

Women are naturally able to multi-task. Making us, in my view, the stronger of the species. Not physically, of course. But in every other way. The problem is: we don’t believe it! And this feeling is further enhanced by the incessant media-griping—which, if anything, is actually undermining our status in society.

Life is tough, but you have to take the rough with the smooth. And if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

The opportunities for women today are endless. And a world away from the one I grew up in.Women_at_Work_-_Wrights_Biscuits

But the key is self-belief. We have to believe we deserve the best in life—and make the smart choices and decisions to take us there. That includes fighting our corner when necessary, and refusing to assume a victim’s mentality when things get spicy.

Remember, life is for living. And we have the power!

’Til next time,

Granny FlapjaX

TIME TO WAKE UP & STOP DESTROYING OUR PLANET!

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I CAN’T begin to explain how my heart breaks whenever I see or hear another story affecting this beautiful planet.
When, exactly, will we all come to our senses and start realizing just how important every single one of the amazing animals we share this planet with is to our existence?
9. Rhino MI was deeply saddened to hear that ‘Sudan’, our last male Black Northern Rhino, had recently passed away. Apart from the incredibly talented and dedicated people who work tirelessly to try and save Earth’s multitude of threatened species, does anyone really care?
Why aren’t governments around the world doing something about this? And why aren’t we individually and collectively putting pressure on global governments to change laws, rules and regulations? If we persist in ignoring what is happening around us, how long will it be before it’s too late to do anything—or even worse, to save the entire planet?
We’ve become a species totally driven and brainwashed by the fleeting joy and superficial satisfaction of greed and money. Rather than focusing on and savouring the amazing planet we’re privileged to live on, we seem hell-bent on destroying our environment—23. Shark-Fin-Trade-Factsour oceans, rain forests, marine life and wildlife. All of these are at our mercy and only WE can stop the destruction. Why? Because we triggered it in the first place!11. Lion M
Our selfish attitude is shameful. We think we can’t live without all the ‘things’ we believe make our lives happier. But, in reality, we can. Of course we can. We’re just spoilt—and very often emotionally detached from people, nature and the beauty of the world around us; the things that actually matter and give real meaning to our lives.Polar Bear Family Portraits
And given the runaway epidemic of mental health issues besieging millions of people across the globe, being obsessed with material things and ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ is doing us way more harm than good.
The more I talk to people, spanning a wide range of ages and demographics, I’m finding an underlying unhappiness. But what, specifically, is causing it?
On a daily basis we’re being put under more and more pressure—brainwashed, as we are, into living life in the fast lane. And, often, we simply don’t have time to take a step back and consider the potential damage and negative impact such a lifestyle is doing to and having on ourselves and our planet.
Surely it’s time we stepped up to the plate, took responsibility and changed the way we live our lives, in a bid to rebalance, regenerate and protect the environment.
So, what can be done? For starters, we can ramp up our protests to shops and supermarkets to clear plastic from their shelves. We don’t need it and are perfectly capable of shopping without bags or plastic wrapping. It’s just ridiculous! Let’s break open the packaging, where possible, remove the goods we want and leave the plastic for the shops to dispose of responsibly. Or, better still, buy all-natural products which don’t require such packaging in the first place. Why are we paying the shops to take home all their rubbish? Are we stupid?!27 Wheely Bin 2We can campaign the government to set up a properly thought-out and organized nationwide recycling program. Clearly every council has different ideas, so why not put all those heads together to come up with a uniform plan? How about having same-colour bins and depots where all the materials can be sorted and shipped to the appropriate recycling centres?
It’s madness for every council to have different rules—and it also costs a lot more money. Bring it all under one roof and get the Minister for the Environment to take control. What, I ask, is hard about that? If we show the way, then the idea can be shared across the globe.

Next, let’s look at what’s happening to our wildlife. There are a huge number of species under threat of extinction. It’s already too late for the Northern Black Rhino. But how many more are we set to lose if we don’t buck our ideas up?
It’s time to stop putting the onus and responsibility on the animals to keep their species going. It’s the governments who allow their citizens to go out and brutally slaughter these majestic creatures for rhino horn, elephant tusk and fur. They are the guilty ones and should be held accountable.18. 9898d904c4aacd91434449e88312a53d
Rhino horn is supposed to be an aphrodisiac. Really? Who even believes that? Where is the evidence? Greed has driven the desire for objects made with horns and tusks, and as a result they’ve become a highly sought-after commodity and attract large amounts of money.
Who decided that shark fins would make a good soup? How utterly appalling is that? Not only are these savages slicing off the shark fins, they’re also then cruelly tossing the butchered bodies back into the ocean, where the sharks will either drown or die a slow death over several days, as they’re eaten by other fish. How can people, in the 21st century, possibly think this kind of behaviour is acceptable? It’s a travesty and must be outlawed.21. RcPtRBaIlhPyyNf-800x450-noPad
It’s not enough for western governments to make feeble attempts at stopping these atrocities by making the buying of ivory or rhino horn illegal. Of course that would help, but the problem needs addressing at source. Introduce the death penalty for poachers who are caught. That would make others think twice and surely be an effective deterrent.

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And why should they be allowed to destroy our lives, which ultimately is what they will be doing? Take the Chinese to task over their killing of sharks for their fins. It’s an absolute disgrace and has to be stopped once-and-for-all.
No human life will change if they can’t eat shark fin soup, have ornaments made from ivory or rhino horn or indulge in sex minus a rhino horn aphrodisiac; if people are actually stupid enough to believe the latter will offer any real benefit on that front.
The rich indulge themselves in big-game hunting, encourage the horn and ivory trade with their wealth, but clearly have little respect for nature and the natural world; everything the latter offers to enrich our lives, our environment and make us better people.
Animals and wildlife are such an important part of our ecosystem, what do we imagine will happen to the planet without them? In chopping down the rain forests we’re eliminating natural habitats and causing massive disruption to creature life cycles. The planet is warming and weather patterns are changing. Rain now doesn’t come when it’s supposed to, and there are huge droughts. The polar ice caps are melting and polar bears are under threat because they can’t access the food they need to survive.

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All of this is OUR fault and OUR responsibility. And surely not even necessary. I mean, how is chopping down rain forests even justified? What is it actually achieving?
This planet has been here for millions of years—but we as humans, a supposedly intelligent species, will be the cause of its very demise in a relatively short period of time if we don’t change our ways.
We have to act NOW and STOP the slaughter of wild animals; STOP the polluting of our oceans and marine life; and STOP the destruction of our rain forests.
Collectively we can do the right thing – the ONLY thing – and help SAVE this precious planet which has been entrusted to us in good faith.

Until next time,

Granny FlapjaX.

TV PRESENTERS: OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW!

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I’D like to make a plea to the BBC, ITV, Sky, BT and all the other television stations who, for some reason, seem to think that we, the viewers, don’t want to see fresh presenting blood being injected onto our screens.

It used to be the case that, when a man hit 65 or a woman 60, they’d retire from work gracefully—vacating their jobs and, in doing so, allowing the younger generation of presenters to naturally step into their shoes and climb another rung on the career ladder. Not anymore.

Of course, due to successive governments screwing up the UK’s finances, the landscape has changed and people are now having to work for longer before they can claim their pensions. A very unfair situation, but one we have to accept.

However, I don’t think we have to accept the ageing television presenters and news readers populating our screens who, it seems, will die in situ if not removed beforehand!
I cannot for one minute believe there aren’t thousands of young people out there—all over the world, in fact—who wouldn’t give their eye teeth for the chance to work in television.

If ‘experience’ is the thing predominantly keeping older presenters employed, how about we concoct some kind of compromise. How about we move the ‘oldies’ upstairs, a la football managers, and have them impart their wisdom and experience to the new presenting crop from behind the scenes? That way everyone moves forward—and we viewers enjoy fresh faces.

Hearing recently the price of a UK television licence is set to rise again in April, I really feel now is the perfect time to have a ‘spring clean’ throughout the TV companies. Give young people a chance—before they’re too old to launch a presenting career and essentially ‘miss the boat’.

I don’t want to name names, but one male presenter I used to live near as a child—who I know has several more years on the clock than me—looks like he should be retired, but is still going! And I simply can’t believe there isn’t another younger person out there who could do his job at least as well, if not better.

I don’t believe for a minute any of them cannot afford to retire, or at least take a back seat—not on the salaries they are being paid.

So what’s going on?

I simply don’t understand TV companies. I get they have to comply with certain rules in relation to diversity when it comes to making their employee selections. But surely we, the viewers, are entitled to see fresh and younger faces on our screens—and spread right across all genres.

Approaching this from another angle, I wonder if any of these ‘ageing’ presenters have even considered how they come across on our screens? Some of them appear on a daily basis, and I have to own up to often changing channels to avoid seeing them.

There is also the “same old, same old” aspect we get—more from presenters than news readers. The repeated one-liners and corny, cringeworthy jokes which seem to be accepted as ‘the norm’ by us, the British public. We are, in my opinion, far too accepting of the status quo—or perhaps simply too comfortable with familiarity?

So, what’s the answer?

The simple solution would surely be to set an age limit at which a presenter is required to vacate and ‘retire’ their position. When they hit the chosen mark, they’re out! And that would apply to both men and women, so there’s no sexism.

And if they really can’t contemplate a life without work, there’s always radio. Listening to a nice mature voice coming from the airwaves can be a joyous experience—and we don’t have to see the ‘wrinkly’ behind it (webcams are optional).

Having said that, I do think the regular injection of fresh blood and new talent should also apply to radio DJs and presenters. It comes across as often being like some kind of exclusive ‘club’ on the airwaves; i.e. if you’ve worked on stage or screen, or in TV/sport, you’re almost guaranteed a job on radio as well—no matter how old or specifically qualified you are!

I listen quite a lot and could count on one hand the station presenters who don’t appear on or in other mediums. How many jobs do you need for goodness sake? Just because you do an ‘alright’ job on television, doesn’t mean you’re necessarily suited to radio—and vice-versa.

And more seriously, if we want to engage our youth and inspire the next generation to take an interest in the world they’re growing up to be responsible for, then maybe younger faces presenting the facts and figures to them via their TVs, tablets or smartphones—faces closer in age who they could more readily relate to—would be a very positive thing.

When I was in my late teens to early twenties, I certainly wouldn’t have engaged with or been enchanted by a presenter who appeared to be as old as my grandfather—even if he was in black and white!

I don’t want to be unkind, but I think it’s high time those wielding the power within media companies should take a more considered overview of their ageing presenters—and give serious consideration to a change in policy.

Our talented buds need the chance to bloom!

Until next time

Granny Flapjax  X

PAIN – LOVE IT OR HATE IT?

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A few days ago my hubby and I were walking in the beautiful winter sunshine when he asked me how my back was. That’s because he’s both very considerate and knows I’ve suffered back pain for a number of years now.
I’ve also endured pain in my neck, shoulder and head for over 30 years—due to a long-term condition called Spasmodic Torticollis (ST). ST is a strain of a lesser-known neurological disease called Dystonia, with symptoms akin to those experienced in Parkinson’s disease.
Please keep reading! I’m not seeking sympathy in this post. I just want to share my experiences and coping mechanisms in the hope I may be able to pass on some tips to anyone out there suffering from long-term pain.

When all my troubles began I was initially treated for depression, even though I wasn’t depressed. I had physical symptoms but, because my then doctor didn’t recognize them, he kept throwing more pills at me. To the point where I was taking 24 tablets a day!
At the time I had three young children, and eventually realized that, due to the medications, I was no longer the person I was before I started down that route. So, one day, I scooped up all the bottles of pills and flushed them down the toilet.
That was how we disposed of unused medication in those days—though now, of course, would be frowned upon as not a safe thing to do (polluting our water system etc.). We also now know that, when you come off certain types of medications—if not all—you should do so gradually. Wean yourself off under control so as to minimize withdrawal effects.
I survived, however, and slowly returned to being the person I knew as ‘me’, even if the physical symptoms remained.
After moving to a new area and changing doctors, I was referred to a neurologist – following a mental health assessment – after which I was declared ‘normal’. Whatever that is!
Following many hospital visits and trying ‘alternative’ treatments over the ensuing years—while running a full-time business with my hubby and bringing up our children—I began to realize that the pain I lived with on a daily basis was now a part of my life… and here to stay.
I’d long-since forgotten what it felt like to be pain-free. And, as ridiculous as it sounds, I actually thought I’d miss it if it wasn’t there! Mags Pain Images 8
To aid my plight, I found a support group for people struggling with the same condition – and eventually became Chair. I’m not a fan of small groups, so amalgamated three into one as I found it easier to attract good speakers to a larger audience.
We addressed and resolved issues such as people struggling to get their treatment on time. And also helped them see it was they who were ultimately responsible for managing their condition.
It is still possible to have a good quality of life when going toe-to-toe on a daily basis with pain. But it’s up to us to embrace the situation—and believe we can dance with it.
Help is out there, for sure. But you also have to source and access that help—put simply: ask for it—as it won’t come looking for you.
I know from personal experience how hard that is to do. But accepting the pain and embracing it is the first step in making it a positive part of your life—and also puts you back in control.
I’ve had major surgery on my neck, followed by several years of physiotherapy support; a spinal fusion on my lower back; and latterly have been diagnosed with arthritis. All of which have left me with a cumulative amount of residual pain.
I am, though, very lucky to have the love and support of my husband and family—and try not to ‘moan’ too much… even if sometimes it’s very hard not to!
However, because I’ve lived with pain for so long now, I’ve learnt the best way to cope is to embrace it and treat it like a ‘friend’. As much as we’d like it to, it’s not going away. It may ease for a while—before, invariably, returning with a vengeance! And so, making friends with it is an effective way to venture forth.
Treating pain with a positive attitude definitely makes it easier to bear. Plus, that way, when I wake up each morning it just feels normal to me. It might take me a while to get going. But I don’t look upon it as a negative—just a part of my day.
I do take a nominal amount of painkillers when needed—but nothing like the number I’ve been prescribed. So I’m in control of that, too. I want to enjoy life, pain-‘n’-all, and not be in conflict with it. Medication can mask the pain temporarily, but is never a permanent fix. Mags Pain Images 5
Diet can also play a part in helping with pain, particularly with arthritis. From experience I know that acidic and fatty foods can cause flare-ups. But, because everyone is different, it’s a good idea to keep a food diary so you have a record of which foods affect you. It doesn’t mean you should never eat those foods again. However, if you do indulge, be prepared!
Over the many years I’ve been living with pain, I’ve found so much inspiration from others in the same predicament. And, most of all, I’ve learnt not to be a ‘victim’.
Being positive and refusing to allow your situation to overwhelm you is the best and only way forward.
I hope penning this post and suggesting another way of thinking about pain can help improve your quality of life, if you’re struggling with pain on a daily basis.
Until next time.
Hugs,
Granny Flapjax X

RESURFACE OUR CRUMBLING ROADS!

 

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How many of you out there share my frustrations about the current state of our Great British roads? Not so “GREAT” are they?! In fact, I believe that if something isn’t done soon, we’ll be driving on roads of a standard equivalent to a Third World country. Which for a ‘First World’ nation is simply embarrassing. Pot Holes 1

Highway authorities and councils need to seriously ‘get a grip’, take control and give us the quality of roads we’re entitled to expect for the taxes we pay. And if they don’t take action soon, it’s up to us to kick up a fuss about the situation whenever possible and force them to act.

This time of year, with the sometimes challenging weather conditions, the roads deteriorate even more – and driving nationally or locally becomes hazardous if, like me, you’re trying to avoid damaging your car.

I’ve received horn-blasts, mouthed abuse and not-very-nice gestures from drivers when I’ve had to swerve my car off the regular driving line to avoid massive potholes in the road. I understand why—and I don’t like doing it. But I also don’t see why I should be faced with an expensive repair bill if forced to drive over dangerous potholes which shouldn’t be there in the first place.

What I especially cannot get my head around is that last year, during a two-week spell in the summer, we had to endure massive traffic hold-ups because workmen were out there filling up the potholes on one stretch of busy road I use regularly. There was a collective “Hooray!” among drivers at the time. But our joy/relief was short-lived—as less than six months later the potholes are back, bigger and ‘better’ than ever! Pot Holes 4

On a recent supermarket run, I nearly ended up in what can only be described as a ‘sink-hole’. It was so deep you couldn’t even see the bottom—at least not from the driver’s seat. If you’d landed plum in the middle of that you’d have been in serious trouble. Amazingly, the highway crews filled that in within a few days—but at the same time missed all the other shallower potholes surrounding it. Very frustrating!

During the course of a year, my hubby and I will usually drive up to Scotland, down to Cornwall, and across to Wales—covering a good part of the UK. So I feel qualified to say that it isn’t just the ‘A and B’ roads—but the motorways too—which are crumbling.

At some point the Government needs to tackle the state of our highways head-on and come up with a plan—not just to repair the potholes, but also to resurface all the roads. Repairing them is only a temporary measure—and if the job isn’t done properly in the first place, it’ll end up costing us more. “Buy cheap buy twice” is a phrase that springs to mind. Obviously it’d be a long-term project—and an expensive one. But it simply has to be done. And ASAP. Pot Holes 2

With more and more traffic cramming our roads by the day, we can’t go on putting up with the deterioration. Not only are we all at risk of serious damage to our vehicles, but journeys will take longer and longer as drivers are forced to slow down—creating extra traffic jams… and more road rage!

Though our frustrations may frequently threaten to boil over while out on the road, it’s important we don’t take them out on fellow drivers, and instead collectively target our ire at the Government, Highways England (Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland) and all the local or county councils responsible. And not go lightly, but let them have it—all guns blazing!

The Government may be struggling to find the money to do this work properly—but might I suggest they reconsider the HS2 project? Now that Carillion is being liquidated, there’s a perfect opportunity to re-assign the £53 Billion-plus into upgrading Britain’s roads. It makes no economic sense to build a section of rail which will improve the time of one train route, when there are millions of us drivers out there every day trying to navigate ever-deteriorating roads. Pot Holes 7

I also wonder what portion of our Council Tax is being paid out each year to drivers whose cars have suffered extensive damage due to the state of the British roads? Perhaps we should insist those figures be published so we can see the real cost to the UK taxpayer.

And it isn’t a problem which just affects car drivers. What about all the truck and van drivers who hit our roads daily to help businesses thrive and keep our economy moving? Has anyone in Westminster even given a thought as to how firms will be affected when the roads finally crumble completely? I doubt it, as they’ll likely try to pass the buck and shirk responsibility—just as previous governments have. It’s all just so short-sighted!

But something HAS to be done. And it’s up to us, the people, to ensure action is taken. Please share your thoughts about the state of Britain’s roads—and your own country’s highways if you’re reading this outside the UK—in the Comments section below.

In the meantime, stay safe and drive carefully!

Granny Flapjax X

PLASTIC – CAN WE LIVE WITHOUT IT?

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With all the talk of plastic and how we deal with the enormous quantities of waste which are non-recyclable, I feel the need to get ‘stuck in’ on the subject!
Taking an overview of the situation, it seems to me there are so many changes we could make globally, but governments just don’t seem interested. Is this because, by the time the damage to our planet becomes irreversible, the responsibility will belong to someone else? Or is it because they just can’t be bothered? I believe it’s partly both. But how can politicians not care about the future of the planet, especially when most have children and grandchildren?

They have a responsibility to make changes—and NOW; not over the next 25 years. And they must force manufacturers, retailers, restauranteurs, cafe owners and all those businesses which are churning out waste plastic day-after-day, to look at their levels of waste and work together to find ways to reverse the trend. The point is, we all managed before plastic was invented, but we have become brainwashed into believing that we can only buy items that are wrapped in attractive packaging—or food that comes in polythene or plastic containers. It’s ridiculous!

Plastic Bottles
In part, Health & Safety, although good in some areas, has been directly responsible for many of the changes which have led to foods and other items being wrapped and in some cases wrapped again! A case in point: recently I wanted to buy four baking potatoes. My choices were, four in a polythene bag, four in a plastic vacuum-formed tray and a paper bag with a clear plastic front or four which I could select myself from a box of loose ones. I’m ashamed to say that, initially, I picked up the potatoes in the tray and bag until suddenly my conscience pricked me! I put them back and selected from the loose box and placed them in my trolley. They remained like that through the check-out, into my shopping bag and then home, where they were washed before cooking. No-one was ill and I was delighted not to have a bag to throw away!

Many years ago, in the late 1980s, my family and I visited my youngest sister who has lived all her married life in Mexico. Shopping there was a whole new experience for me. Specifically, when it came to fruit and vegetables—of which there was a wonderful abundance of virtually any type you could wish for. And the difference being that nothing was packaged. You made your selection, paid and took it home. I later saw my sister cleaning her fruit and veg in washing-up liquid, rinsing it well, then leaving it ’til she was ready to cook. I, of course, queried why she would wash her fruit and veg, and her sensible answer was that many people would have touched it on its way to the shop or market. So, just because our UK fruit is wrapped, does that mean it’s ‘untouched by human hands’? Very probably not. In which case, let’s have it offered for sale with no packaging—and we can then all be responsible for washing our fruit and veg before eating or cooking it. I always wash fruit or veg which will be eaten with the skin on, anyway.Veg Packaging

Another problem with everything being packaged today is that we’re not building a natural immunity to many of the bugs and viruses that millions of us fall victim to each year. We’ve created a sterile environment which in itself is dangerous.

One idea would be to use the waste paper that the Chinese government has now refused to take from us, and turn it into paper bags, which in turn could be used in our shops and supermarkets. It’s not rocket science is it? And surely there are also some great business opportunities just waiting to be discovered.

The idea of a ‘plastic-free’ aisle in supermarkets is just about the most ridiculous suggestion I’ve ever heard! And what does it mean exactly? Because, if it means that everything in that one aisle will have no plastic packaging, then surely it’ll mean the manufacturers of all the items displayed in those aisles will have to produce goods without plastic around them? In which case, why can’t they do it for all of their products?

Another extraordinary solution that our government has come up with to aid the reduction of waste plastic is to tax all plastic carrier bags by extending the current 0.05p charge to include small businesses. This is also a ridiculous idea. If they really want to stop people using them and to bring their own bags, they should charge a hefty 0.25p per bag. Or, better still, stop manufacturing them altogether! Then we can all go back to using shopping baskets—just like our parents and grandparents used to.

It’s very hard, at times, not to hark back to the ‘good old days’. But, honestly, sometimes there’s just no option. In the latter part of the 20th century, household goods, clothes and food were priced according to what they cost to produce—plus a profit margin for the retailer. Everyone seemed happy with that set-up; paying what was considered to be a fair price all-round. And if an item stopped working or clothes started show signs of wear, there was always someone on the high street ready to repair it… sewing box at-the-ready! I’m no seamstress, but even I have darned a sock or two in the past.

However, suddenly in the 1990s—then early 21st Century, cheap goods started flooding in from abroad and it became clear that ‘make do and mend’ was becoming a thing of the past. Goods were so cheap it wasn’t worth the time or effort to try and repair them. And, worse still, some of the items—many made from plastic—were being packaged in plastic too! Attitudes seemed to change completely and, coupled with the new easier ways to borrow money, shopping became the new pastime, with most goods becoming disposable.

Today, I’m not sure that much has changed. I was shocked to hear on the radio recently, a presenter talking about removing the Christmas lights from his tree and trying to pack them away. He said that after 25 minutes of trying to untangle them he gave up and threw them in the bin—vowing to buy new ones next year. Pretty shocking!

While many of us are doing our ‘bit’, it’s hard to see the ‘wood for the trees’ when clearly there’s more than one mountain of waste plastic out there waiting to be dealt with. The government needs to pressure councils to work harder at educating us as to what can and can’t be recycled.

Plastic WasteThe advice we’re currently given is very basic. The council will issue a leaflet each year with the collection days listed, and it offers us a rough/general idea as to what can be put in the recycling bin. However, there are so many items made from multiple materials which, in theory, makes them non-recyclable. But how are we to know?

I think there should be a national plan for recycling, funded by the Department of the Environment, and every council should have to follow those guidelines. It would be easy to administer and greatly reduce the amount of landfill. The government should also make it law for all manufacturers to state on their packaging whether it’s recyclable or non-recyclable. So many of the items I buy say ‘check local recycling’—and you can’t! It’s simply ‘passing the buck’.

In one form or another plastic is used across the world in almost everything that is made, but does it need to be? In some cases it can be argued that ‘yes it does’—and there are enormous benefits to the manufacturing of a large number of the items that we’ve become so accustomed to using every day. Many of these types of plastic are recyclable, which is great. But there are also many that aren’t—and this needs to change.

Globally, we need to unite and make some major changes to how we live our lives—working together to help protect our environment for future generations.

Happy recycling!
Granny Flapjax X

 

ARE WE LETTING CHILDREN DOWN?

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So here we are at the start of another year, 2018. Of course we all want it to be a ‘happy one’ and hopefully it will be. But perhaps we could play a direct role in making it a whole lot happier by focusing on helping others and our planet.

These days it’s so very easy to become insular—to think only of ourselves and our family and friends, and wanting the best for them. But what if we were to step outside our comfort zone and look around at what’s going on; not just across the world, but here on this small island on which we’re privileged to live. Yes, Great Britain!

To kick off, let’s talk about children—and how they’re raised nowadays.

When I was growing up, there was no Internet – so no social media and no online shopping – and definitely no mobile phones! As children, we had the freedom of ignorance. What I mean is, we were protected by our parents, grandparents and teachers from the horrors out there to which children today seem often exposed. We weren’t allowed to, but also didn’t want to look at newspapers or listen to the news on the radio—in the days before television. That’s because we’d be out all day in the fresh air, playing with our friends and growing up blissfully cocooned from the world at large.Kids Playing Old

Today, we’re allowing young children to have their heads filled with so much negative and often frightening information—most of which is hard enough for adults to comprehend. And then we wonder why children as young as eight or nine are being diagnosed with stress and depression.

Responsibility, of course, still largely lies with the parents. But I have to also question the policymakers who seem to find it acceptable for our youth’s innocence to be stripped away in their formative years, rather than allowing them to grow up slowly—as we were—in a carefree environment, absorbing and learning from their experiences, being creative, and gaining confidence along the way.

To start from the beginning, let’s look at the family structure in our society today. Was it the right thing to do, in the late ’90s, to pressurize women to return to work and put their children into nursery or with a child-minder? Encouraged by the government of the day, which provided financial assistance by way of nursery vouchers, women acquired a new-found freedom, and families saw their spending power increase. A better home, holidays abroad, designer clothes and eating out were some of the benefits they convinced themselves would benefit them and their children. Excellent for the economy, but at what cost? Sadly, the price has been an ever-increasing breakdown in family life with more and more children forced to endure growing up in one-parent households.

I’ve personally witnessed this, and while I’m not suggesting every broken relationship involving children leads to disastrous consequences, it’s clear that the emotional trauma for both young children and teenagers can be overwhelming. The question is, will the children who experience this first-hand be able to understand how and why it’s affected their future selves as adults—and be able to do something about it? Going by the number of people now reportedly needing/seeking medication and counselling to treat depression, it appears not. And it’s no great surprise.

As a society we have to accept that, when parents separate, their children’s world collapses—and the security they once had is gone. In many cases the ‘break-up’ will involve moving home, changing schools, having to make new friends, start a different daily routine and very often have to deal with things which Mum or Dad would previously have taken care of. Suddenly they have two homes, and are forced to split their time between each, just so they can keep seeing Mum and Dad. Then maybe a new partner arrives on the scene—but that’s a whole ’nother blog post!

At this point I should say that I definitely don’t agree with couples who stay together for the sake of the children. If their relationship has irretrievably broken down and there’s no hope, it’s surely the right decision to separate. However, as we grow older we do change—and riding over and through the rough patches can ultimately smooth things out. Plus, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Watching my grandchildren growing up and being closely involved in their lives has been a privilege. But I also cannot help but compare what they have to cope with nowadays to that which my own children dealt with growing up through the 1970s and 1980s. There’s so much more to deal with and to be fearful about—and it’s all-too-often right there in front of them 24 hours a day!

So, in 2018, can we change anything to help reverse the overwhelming decline in the wellbeing of our children?

The answer is undoubtedly yes—but there needs to be a radical change in how we think about and approach raising them. We need to take a leaf out of what worked for us and give 21st century children back their childhoods, protecting them from the outer world. And we, as adults, also have to lead the way in understanding that when we take the leap into parenthood, sacrifices have to be made! The life of a single man or woman has to go on the backburner.

We need to allow our next generation of children to grow up slowly, at the right pace, so they can enjoy being a child and we can enjoy being parents. The pressures of fashion and make-up and the latest fads need to be removed—or at the very least shielded from our young ones. The designer labels and clothes we often feel we have to dress them in so as to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ are not enhancing their childhood or self-esteem, or teaching them the value of money and hard work. On the contrary, they’re learning nothing of value, parents become financially compromised and the fashion companies just get even richer!

Let children be children. Let them blossom and grow in a loving and carefree environment. Raise them with good, sound routines. As parents, you make the rules. Being told what is happening and when will make your children feel secure and loved. Give them a time to head to bed and stick to it. Don’t be swayed by pleas for an extra half hour.Kids Playing New-5

Remove all electronic devices from their bedrooms and encourage reading before sleep. I always read to my children and grandchildren; they loved it and so did I!

Consider what your child has access to every day, and how those things would have affected you at their age. If it would have scared you, surely it will scare them? And when they reach their teens and it sometimes feels like a battleground, realise it’s not. They are simply seeing how far they can push the boundaries—and it’s up to you, as parents, to set those boundaries and make them impenetrable. If they go out, ensure they’re back at the time you say. They will thank you for it in the long run.

Sadly, not all of us will experience the joy of being a parent. But those that do, need to recognise how incredibly special it is. Cherish each child through their early and then teenage years. And when they reach 18 and officially become an adult, give yourself a pat on the back, for the amazing human being you have raised. You’ll deserve it!

Until next time,

Happy New Year!

Granny Flapjax X

GRANNY FLAPJAX – STRESSES OF XMAS

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Hello everyone

Well, the festive season is here again—and usually by this time my stress levels are off the scale! But not this year. For the first time in the 47 years my husband and I have been married, we’re spending Christmas Day on our own… and I can’t tell you how excited I am! Not that I haven’t enjoyed all the Christmases over the years when first our children were growing up; and then our grandchildren. But I’d be telling porkies (pork pies—lies) if I didn’t admit to feeling under immense pressure in the run-up to the ‘big day’.

Firstly, what to buy everyone? Do I fill an Xmas carrier bag with lots of items from the Pound Shop? Because, in reality, the younger children really only enjoy the anticipation of the gift—and unwrapping. Growing up now they become heavily influenced by the relentless bombardment of TV adverts—or feel pressured by their friends into requesting the latest kids craze or fad… despite it costing a small fortune! When they hit their teens, the focus becomes: ‘money, money, money.’ No trudging around town needed here. And you can’t get away with that bargain you bought in the sales last January.Granny Flapjax 3-Presents

Once you’ve decided which gifts you still need to buy, let the battle commence! You put your life in others’ hands as you head for the shops. Invariably you can’t find what you want straight away, so you join the mile-long queue to request it in person from a sales assistant… only to discover, when you reach the counter, your item has sold out!

The easier, less stressful option these days has to be online shopping. But be sure you’re dealing with reputable companies and sellers. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting with anticipation for that special gift… and it never arriving! Worst still, your money’s been lost too. The safest option is to pay by credit card and not debit—which gives you no protection at all.

So we’ve dealt with presents, now what about cards? Well, after countless years of crafting a ‘round robin’ update letter, I came to the conclusion no-one’s really interested in what’s happened in my life over the past 12 months. Or perhaps they simply don’t have time to be interested, given the number of things pulling us in different directions and vying for our attention in 21st Century life. Traditionally, we still receive cards from people we never see and only communicate with at Christmas—featuring the inevitable line: “We really must get together next year.” Why do we repeatedly vow this? We haven’t turned the vow into a physical catch-up/get-together for the past however many years, so why would that change now? These are simply empty promises. Granny Flapjax 3-Cards

Over the last couple of years I’ve taken a hard line and bravely struck people off my list… only to then receive a card from them a few days later! So, of course, I send one back; feeling obligated to do so—and guilty if I don’t. But why is it so difficult to break this habit? Well, with postage costs rising every year, I have now managed to make some progress on that front: sending e-cards. For me they’re simply brilliant—especially for those we send to overseas!

So, with cards and presents sorted, what’s left? Food, of course! What I’ve yet to understand, when it comes to shopping for Christmas and New Year, is why we feel the need to stockpile supplies as if shops are going out of fashion. We cram our trolleys chock-full with absurd amounts of food and drink—much of which will simply end up in the bin or compost. Why do we do that? Perhaps it’s that we’ve been conditioned to believe that, over the Yuletide week, our bodies need regenerating/revitalising with the consumption of more food than we’d normally eat in a month! Granny Flapjax 3-Shopping Trolley

If we all took a step back, got some perspective and shopped sensibly, there’d be a lot less wastage and a much lighter impact on our wallets. We’d be healthier, too—so all-round a ‘win-win’ situation. Let’s dare to dream! Back to Christmas 2017. When I let slip we might be having a Christmas pizza for dinner, the grandkids’ eyes lit up and they wanted a piece of the action. ‘Oops!’ To insure we’ll still be having our special Christmas-for-two, I’ll instead be cooking duck breasts with plum sauce & trimmings—and, sticking with tradition, Christmas pudding and brandy butter for dessert. Aside from the cooking, it’ll be a blissful ‘chill day’. And I’m going to lap it up… not least                     because I’ll be feeding 12 on Boxing Day!

HAPPY CHRISTMAS! 

Grannyflapjax X