Thursday, 17 May 2018

Let's talk more about dementia

It was a very brave decision by Dame Barbara Windsor's husband Scott to release the news about her dementia diagnosis.

The announcement was made with her permission, and although she had been diagnosed back in 2014, they had kept the information private until now.

I totally respect that too - in the 'world of celeb', we are often bombarded with info about what stars are up to, but some people feel that some things are better dealt with privately.  Victoria Wood's decision to keep her cancer diagnosis private - not 'secret' as some papers labelled it - was the right decision for her. 

In Dame Barbara's case, they decided to talk about her having Alzheimer's now because her condition has been declining, and the couple still wanted to go out as normal and not have to worry about trying to hide what was wrong.

The very positive thing to have happened though since Scott's announcement is the amount of news coverage and discussion about what is the cruellest of diseases, and truthfully is probably one of the illnesses that we all fear the most.

But talking about dementia in all its formats will help to reduce any stigma that still exists around the illness.  Statistically, over the age of 80, one in six people will have some form of dementia.

We do need to be much more open about dementia - it's not a natural part of ageing, it's a disease of the brain, but there are medical treatments that can sometimes be taken to slow its progress.

If you are worried about a friend or relative, please encourage them to see their GP at the earliest opportunity.  The NHS teams who work with dementia patients and their families do a marvellous job, they are there to help.

Years ago people felt a stigma about cancer and didn't discuss that - thankfully, that is no longer the case. 

We need to make sure the same thing happens with dementia - that way everybody can get the help and support they need.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Church bells

I think it's fair to say that if you move to the countryside - presumably to embrace and enjoy country life in all its glorious, varied formats - you can't really then complain about things which are part and parcel of the fabric of that life.

For example, if you live near a farm, then you have to expect to hear cows mooing, lambs and sheep baaing, pigs grunting and encounter the occasional strong odour of manure.  Farm animals tend to make noise and smells, it's what they do, it's probably part of their job description.

Similarly, if you live near a Church, it seems a little churlish to then complain to the council about the Church bells ringing.

Bearing in mind in the case I've been told about that the Church bells in question are only rung at weddings, funerals and on Easter Sunday, how much of a noise nuisance can they actually be?

These are surely day time activities - I'm unaware of any of the above services happening after dark or in the middle of the night - so I can't quite understand why this is causing an offence worthy of a complaint to the local council?

Giving the complainant the benefit of the doubt for a moment, perhaps they are a night-shift worker - in that case, I suppose it might be a bit annoying to be awoken by Church bells when you're trying to get a well-earned kip.

But in this particular scenario, as the Church is in an industrial town, on a busy main road, I can't quite get my head around how the Church bells are the one noise worthy of complaint.

If you buy a house near a farm, or a Church, or indeed a Pub or school, can you really complain if you hear the noises associated with these buildings and their inhabitants; have we really become that intolerant of other people and their way of life? 

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

What's the name of the game?

I was genuinely excited to hear about the reunion of people who were probably one of the greatest influences of my childhood.

There are some folk that remain etched on your memory; whose impact on those formative years simply can't be measured.

No, I'm not talking about the Chuckle Brothers, although fair play to them, they've managed to extend their career beyond the realms of what anybody probably thought was possible, and they have a new series starting on Channel Five shortly.  I wonder if they will still have the 'To me, to you' catchphrase?

The big reunion I'm referring to is of course Abba.  They're back, in the studio with each other, recording new music for the first time since the early 1980s.

This is amazing news, but it also makes me slightly nervous.  What if the new music isn't as good as the stuff I remember so well from my 1970s/80s childhood? 

So much water has passed under the bridge in that time, and let's not forget they were all once married to each other and then divorced, so you can't help but wonder what was the atmosphere in that studio actually like? 

They apparently said 'it was like time stood still and that we had only been away on a short holiday'.  A 35-year holiday - I just hope they'd asked a neighbour to feed the cat and they'd cancelled the milk and papers!

I can't help but think that it's a huge responsibility for them to undertake.  I wonder what their motivation is, it surely can't be money, money, money?!

As for a concert which features them as avatars - or Abba-tars I hear they're called - if they're able to meet up in person and record again, it surely begs the question as to why not do a real, proper, live concert or tour for their millions of fans worldwide? 

But I'm also musing what all this means for the many tribute acts - apart from having to learn new material for the first time in 30 years, that is.

Friday, 20 April 2018

More houses for Gretton?

Another week, another planning application.  This time for 120 homes on agricultural land behind existing homes in Gretton, with access down a narrow road that usually has cars parked both sides of it.

In fact, so bad is the on-street car parking in Gretton now it's been reported that the service bus - soon to be axed, incidentally - couldn't access its normal route last week and had to leave some passengers behind.

What if that had been a fire engine or ambulance trying to respond to an emergency call?

The applicant for this particular housing development, just off Southfield Road, is Gladman, as featured on BBC Countryfile recently.

They of course won't be building the actual houses - they will simply try to get the planning approved and sell the land on to a house builder.

So the talk in their glossy brochure sent to every Gretton resident of leisure areas, sympathetic architecture and at least 40% affordable houses is just that - talk.  They might as well promise each existing villager a pet Unicorn.

Over the last few months Gretton has lost its fantastic Post Office and Shop, the heart of the community; The Talbot Public House has had to close its doors for the final time too, and is for sale as a private house.

The Number 67 bus to Corby - a vital lifeline for those in the village who don't drive - is being axed due to NCC cutbacks.  This bus service makes numerous appearances in the developers' documentation, used as an example to highlight how well Gretton is served by public transport and how new residents will be able to use the bus to access employment, schooling and leisure facilities in Corby and Market Harborough.

The roads through Gretton are riddled with potholes that, despite being reported numerous times, just don't get fixed.

The broadband speed is woefully inadequate at times, mobile phone signal is limited, the sewerage system struggles to cope and villagers complain about lack of water pressure.  On top of this, the primary school and nursery are at full capacity.

How on earth is this village supposed to cope with another 120 houses, potentially 240 cars, and about 500 more residents when its existing facilities cannot serve the current population?

If you wish to object to this scheme, please write by 3rd May to Corby Borough Council, Planning and Environmental Services, Deene House, Corby, Northants, NN17 1GD, quoting planning reference number 18/00271/DPA

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Where's Cromer pier?!

I know a family who used to regularly holiday in a remote part of Donegal in the Irish Republic, visiting family and friends.

This particular area is beautiful, relatively unspoilt, and has a sandy beach which stretches for miles, with a magnificent mountain in the background to give additional atmosphere.

Yet this stretch of coast with its immaculate, clean beach has very few visitors - and that's because it rains most of the time.

On each and every visit, as the family sat in their relatives' houses listening to the rain pounding on the roof, watching the puddles getting larger and seeing the mountain shrouded in mist and cloud, the refrain would always be 'Ah, sure you should have been here last week - the sun was splitting the stones!  It was too hot to work!'

I was reminded of this scenario as I sat in my holiday accommodation, over the Easter break, except it was the other way round, with the television weather presenter gleefully telling me that next week I would have temperatures of up to 24 degrees and warm sunshine from the Mediterranean.

Not much comfort I'm afraid when you're sitting in the fog in North Norfolk to hear that the following week - when the children have of course gone back to school - is going to be glorious!

We put a brave face on it of course - there's no such thing as bad weather, just incorrect clothing, or so I kept telling myself.

But when I stood on a cliff top in Cromer and couldn't see the Pier, let alone the sea which was just feet below me, I was struggling to stay positive about the great British weather!

It was cold, it was damp, and visibility was down to arm's length in places.  I've never seen fog like it.

Luckily, it wasn't my first visit to the area so I knew what it should look like.

We met a coach load of Japanese tourists in Sheringham, also shrouded in the same thick fog; I did wonder what they made of it all.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Reduce, reuse, recycle - and get some money back

Back to the future - not the 1980s classic film with Marty McFly, hover boards and self-tying shoe laces - but the way we're heading in a bit to save our planet.

The deposit scheme for glass, plastic and tin cans is a step in the right direction, but it is in fact borrowing from how we used to live.

Yes, I'm old enough to remember when you could return your glass Corona lemonade bottles to the pub and get 5p back.

I have heard it said, but can neither confirm or deny, some youngsters discovered where the bottles were kept out the back of a local pub and used to gather them up and deliver them via the front door to the landlady to collect 5p deposits.  I expect those individuals are now either multi-millionaire entrepreneurs or staying at Her Majesty's pleasure!

I also remember the Alpine drinks delivery van bringing its range of soft beverages - dandelion and burdock included - down our way. 

I've always got milk from the milkman in glass bottles, a trend that is also increasing, so I hear.  It's good to know that seemingly going retro is in fact going forward! 

I'd bring back the use of paper bags for groceries etc too.  Fruit and veg keeps far better in paper than in plastic, and paper bags can be recycled.

Of course, any scheme to reduce waste, recycle and reuse resources should be applauded.

However, the proposed deposit scheme needs proper consideration and consultation, and Government or industry funding to assist in its implementation.

For example, small shops and caf├ęs don't necessarily have the resources to buy in large recycling machines like the ones they showed on the news bulletins that are in use in Norway.  They may not have the space to accommodate them either.

So while I very much welcome the news that people are actually listening to Sir David Attenborough and the Blue Planet effect is taking hold, I think some more thought and investment is needed to make this a successful solution.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Northamptonshire - we're in an awful mess, and we don't mean maybe...

As a weekly columnist for a Northamptonshire newspaper, the situation at the County Council should be the gift that just keeps on giving.

Every week I could write about the latest twists, turns and resignations, point the finger of blame, tut and shake my head - but what good would it do?  It would just depress you and me even further.

We all know we're in an awful mess and we don't mean maybe (Madonna, 'Papa Don't Preach'), so instead I'd like to ask what are we going to do about it?

Come on, we're sensible people, one of us must have an idea?

No, sorry, me neither - that's surely why we elect, pay and trust these people to make these big decisions for us.  To look after our elderly and vulnerable, educate our children, provide decent public transport, fix potholes etc.

I read that a unitary authority is being touted as a possible solution to the county's current woes.

But then I heard a district councillor say that this isn't a 'silver bullet' solution.  I had to look this up because I thought silver bullets were used to kill vampires, but it turns out it's werewolves, and it's a term for a miraculous fix, like the waving of a magic wand.

The idea of a unitary authority seems sensible, on the face of it.  Instead of two layers of local government - County Council and District or Borough Councils - we would just have the one, responsible for everything. 

So, in theory, no more passing the buck and council staff saying 'that's County's fault' or 'that's your local council's responsibility'.

But what we desperately need now though is somebody to please tell us truthfully, honestly and without any personal agenda of any kind, what the pros and cons are of such an arrangement.

This county can't afford any more costly mistakes.  If there's going to be a big change, it is essential that it is the right one, and one that benefits the ordinary people of Northamptonshire.