This blog is written by one of our volunteers: The Vocal Volunteer
June 2020 - Social Distancing
Here we are after a few weeks of keeping our distance from those we would rather be nearer. For some of course, being well away from the rest of society is a dream come true, and for others like me the wrench of not seeing my nearest and dearest is something I would rather not be faced with. Strange really, because I was an Army wife for 30 years, which meant my relatives were never close at hand. I managed to stand on my own 2 feet through all sorts of goings-on ~ having babies, moving every 2 years, child care, and the inevitable leaving friends who were all feeling the same way.
I did get on with it, and got on well enough, but that was really because I had no alternative, and we don’t have an alternative now whilst this virus is floating around. Except the fact that I am TOLD I can’t do what I really want to do, hits me harder!! To be honest, I don’t like being TOLD what to do!! I never have. My family, and especially my husband, can testify to that on a large scale, my constant “stop telling me what to do” ringing in their ears for the past decades. At least now I can empathise with the people I help as a volunteer advocate who do NOT want to be told what to do and when, but need their options explained to them, and for them to chose which path to take. A lesson my husband might like to try! Wishful thinking? More than likely, as he spent 30 years in the Army telling others what to do, when, and where, but perhaps he finds it difficult to cajole. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, as I AM an advocate after all. And if I could find a smiley emoji to insert here I would, but my brain is scrambling, what with IT not being something I excel at.
An upside of the lock-down of course is, I have not spent as much dosh as usual, not being able to use the shops, but I suppose I might have spent more if only I could use the wretched Amazon. Well, I did use it. I ordered my husbands birthday present, after my last attempt sometime last year which was a comedy sketch. Various attempts to place the order, only to find I had 4 of the items in the “basket”, and trying to get it to only 1, left me with another item lodged in the same basket, making 5!! Husband had to be asked to please show me what to do, which he did with a smile on his face. Ok then, a smirk!
This time, I was determined to do it myself, so chose the said item (easy), and attempted to go to the cash-out. Carefully I placed my item in the basket, and low and behold, I was shown my details already on the page, including credit card details and address etc ~ by this time I was sweating in case I made an almighty error as before, and so pressed the continue button. What do you think? A message popped up telling me my order had been dispatched!! Magic! Arrived in 3 days. My goodness this is easy, and so if we have any clients who wish to know how to shop online,I am the go-to advocate of choice. Well, perhaps not of choice, let’s be realistic, but I am an ace at other things. Honest!
So, as for Social Distancing, I do prefer to distance myself from IT but not from people, thank goodness, but be assured I am not as bad as I make out. I get by reasonably well, and if I have a blip, the people in the office are only too pleased to help me out. As for home life, I think I will distance myself from it as the virus allows, and I cannot wait. I cannot wait to be told what to do in this case, and leave the house to see ANYONE!!
Well, it’s finally caught us up. The dreaded Corona Virus has scattered our office support, and they are all working from home. At the same time, us volunteers have been left only able to work for our clients from the other end of a phone. Which is a bit weird, for people like me ~ I am a people-person, and prefer to see people face to face, where I believe I can better interact with someone, and who (I think) they can also read me. That said, I would always prefer to help someone than not, so with sleeves rolled up I am still raring to go, as we all are, and so upward and onward!
It is a difficult time for everyone, and for me, I feel as though I am in constant detention. Not sure why I should use that analogy never having been in detention during my school life! No ~ I was a goody goody compared with others in my peer group, the only “naughty” thing I ever did was to pour ink (as ink monitor) into an ink well that overflowed into the desk and turned another pupils white tennis kit into blue black tennis kit! I was mortified and lost my job for the rest of the term, but still no detention. My sister on the other hand, was constantly in trouble, and consequently was awarded many many detentions! I was ashamed of her, and unfortunately became used to her misbehaviour, but I suppose she too was always compared to me who was never in trouble!
That same sister actually, became the life and soul of any party she was at, and who always made whoever was with her happier. She still continued her naughtiness though when my children were small, by allowing them to have anything they wanted that had been banned by me!! Programmes that were not age appropriate, huge frilly dresses for my daughter, and lots of chocolate Easter eggs before breakfast. She once let them unroll a toilet roll and roll up in it because it was fun! They loved it. Wonder if she is one of those dreadful people who are now taking too many toilet rolls from the supermarket? Possibly!
I had a cataract operation last week, and wouldn’t you just know it ~ am unable to make the most of my new-found clear vision by being at home and in detention! Except that I can now see the keyboard to type this blog ~ wonderful!! It is fantastic how much my sight has improved, it was a real eureka moment, and as though my windows had been cleaned. Everything was so clear, but there were down-sides. I can see the dust, and a few cobwebs I had overlooked, but worse than ever, I can see my face in the mirror!! Oh dear, I can see clearly where my eyebrows need plucking, and the wrinkles leap out at me. Nothing I can do about the wrinkles though ~ my family say they are there because I am always laughing, so I will go with that.
So being in detention is enabling me to clear the dust properly, to rid the house of any lurking cobwebs, and to pluck my eyebrows. I am available at the other end of a phone, and so will still be able to help people who need a bit of support, and at the same time to let anyone having to have a cataract op not to be afraid ~ it is 15 mins of lying down, only to feel like everything is sparklingly clear afterwards. .Oh ~ and I suppose I should ring that sister and check her toilet roll storage!
New Year 2020
Well, another New Year celebration has been and gone, and I sincerely hope that 2020 is as good as you wish it to be for yourselves, your family and friends. It was lovely for myself and husband, as we spent it with friends of 30 years in their home in Chipping Sodbury. LOVELY, she is the best cook we have ever known, she’s Irish, and the best thing for her is to feed you till you cry for mercy!! What am I moaning about then, except to say we could hardly move from the table for hours at a time, her husband LOVES his wine, so the 2 of them together make the most delicious company, and we don’t know what we would have done without them over the years. Happy New Year again to this lovely couple of friends.
Thinking back over past New Years, we seem to have spent it together with them either at our home or theirs for many of those 30 years, but not all. When we haven’t, we have regretted it, ~ they though were probably grateful for the respite! The washing up is of truly epic proportions and the 4 of us stumble to bed in the early hours, usually still laughing. We are older and more staid now ~ what have I said? Older yes, more staid is questionable. I swear, the year I fell on their stairs, that only one glass of Prosecco had passed my lips, but the result on my back meant we had to leave early the next day. Ouch. The promise of only one glass, no one believes, but it was true. It must have been the amount of food eaten!!
I am still harping back to celebrations with them, and thought to share our New Years one at the new millenium. They have stayed with us when we lived in Bristol, Harrogate, Ripon, Woolacombe in Devon, and in York. The York one being the start of the new millenium, and so this particular one was an important one. Very Serious. We had waited for the planes to fall from the skies, for computers to crash, and for the country to plunge into darkness, as we had been lead to believe it would, so our plan for the morning of the new day was for the 4 of us to trudge up the hill in Ripon, and to see the new day dawn.
We prised ourselves from our beds at 6am, and with hats and scarves, and a bottle of Champagne with 4 glasses, off we set to see the New Year Dawn!!
Atop the hill, and with Ripon snuggled down below, we filled our glasses as the brightest orange dawn rose slowly in front of us. It was glorious! Breathtaking in fact, and as we looked at the Cathedral way down below us, the orange sun shone onto it’s windows, lighting up those windows so brightly. I am not religious, but the sight was very moving to all 4 of us, and one I will never forget. No other light shining on Ripon, except on the Cathedral windows. Happy New Year!!! And what a lovely (to us) way to start a new millenium.
Choked with emotion, and empty tummies, we made our way back to our home, had some bacon rolls, and all fell asleep in front of a roaring fire. A truly treasured memory.
Would love to hear if anyone else has memories from the start of the millenium. If so, and wish to share them, just contact the OCAY office, and they will forward them to me, Vocal Volunteer.
Now I am back to being an Advocate, which I love, and if anyone wishes to join me, just ring the office. It’s a great thing to do.
Happy New Year!
Another blog coming along with apologies for the long delay. I know, I know, no-one has noticed, but I apologise non-the-less, and hope whoever is reading this, will find it interesting. If not, you can always let the powers-that-be at OCAY know exactly how you feel, and I will gird my loins for the straight-talking that will follow!
(I think I am joking!).
I recently attended a couple of meetings organised by York City Council and York CVS regarding the Armed Forces Covenant, which has been set up to help Service personnel and their families in their adjustment to life when leaving the Services. A really great meeting,~ the Council are aware of the problems, and thanks to this meeting, so are the various companies and charities who also attended. Housing, employment, loneliness and medical were all problems highlighted, so thank you to the organisers ~especially for the fish and chips!!
My husband accompanied me on these meetings, along with Ruth and Dan from OCAY, and during discussions my mind wandered to my own thoughts about Service life, especially from a family perspective. BUT I have to tell you now that I fully enjoyed my life following that lovely husband not only around UK, but to other countries which I would never have had the opportunity to live in if it were not for him. A bigger BUT now ~ there were certain things I despised!!! Yep, me complaining!! Who knew?
My big gripe was being known as “wife of “ at the doctor, at the hospital, the dentist, the booking of removals (lots) and the booking of travel arrangements. Wife of,(WO) followed by husbands name, rank and number! Sons were SO (son of) and daughters, yes you guessed it, DO. Never came across a HO (hamster of)!! Even in Service hospitals, I had WO over my bed, and it rankled. A lot! So, along with others we campaigned for a few years to get our feelings known, and for a while, we were met with incredulity at our challenge. But determination conquered the day, and we finally were sent a MEMO from Ministry of Defence London to tell us that wives from therein were to be known by their first name!!!! That memo is framed, and was in pride of place in our spare toilet ~ well, I thought the placing was appropriate, but we had WON.
All different now of course,~ thank goodness,~ Services being much more enlightened than in our distant past.
When we left the Army, my husband had put his name forward to be considered for redundancy, and got it. We were living in Army quarters in Harrogate, and I answered the door to another serviceman, who pushed a pile of papers into my hands, and told me we had 6 weeks to vacate our quarter!! After 30 years service! So I know of the problems that may be facing servicemen as they leave the Army family. And so do the Council who are trying their best to make the transition for them easier ~ not to give priority, but to make everyone aware, their housing department especially, to avoid a possible shock of homelessness. Well, that’s my bit of a tale over with, and I shall try to focus on brighter things now.
Oooops too late for that ~ it’s Halloween and those pesky kids will be around soon! How about Christmas then, or is it too soon? No, I am waiting anxiously for the next Nativity Play at primary school, after the last year’s effort, with the child on the front row looking wistful, and far away, as he played gently with his dangly bits! Not something to remember as I tucked into my Christmas dinner, but it did make me laugh on the day I saw it, so much, that I was stuffing a tissue in my mouth to keep the laughter down. I don’t think it worked, at least not after feeling my daughter
nudge me several times.
I was feeling another gripe coming on this morning as I spent too much time trying to ring the doctor. The new telephone system is a nightmare, and I spent a deal of time and money on all the calls, that 2 hours later got me an appointment. Get yourself an advocate I said to myself, one that will contact the surgery for you,~ oh, forgot ~ I AM an advocate!!! And this advocate has empathy for anyone trying to use unhelpful systems, who seems to be getting nowhere, and if you are one of those people who need someone to help you, just contact OCAY. It’s easy, one call usually is all it takes. Looking forward to helping.
Almost the 1st day of winter, and the usual panic in my tummy that I will never be ready for Christmas! I really don’t know where the panic comes from ~ probably firmly embedded after Christmases abroad, in places where the shops are scarce, and a few days leave for my husband never fully “in the bag”. However, life is very different now, and in retirement, we are invited to one of our offspring to spend Christmas with them.
We have had quite a few with our son and his family in Sheffield ~ hilarious days of fun and laughing and Prosecco, and chocolate, and best of all with no cooking to organise!! Just the washing up. My sons wife is more like a friend than a daughter-in-law, and the two of us have had the best of times, especially in the kitchen!!
She would be the first one to tell you that she is no genius in this particular room, and I would be the first to tell you that she has cooked wonderfully well for her family over the 20 years I have known her, except that her Turkey at Christmas has become the talking point for the whole of the following year!! And there have been many.
One year she followed a Delia Smith recipe to the letter (she thought) where you turn the turkey on to its breast half way through cooking. Done. Glass of Prosecco Done. Table laid and all veg ready. Done. Everyone seated, when the howls of laughter from her and myself floated through from the kitchen. The whole of the turkey had collapsed into the juices, the meat in bits, and the bones managing to fight their way to the top of this “stew”. I could not function, I was laughing SO much, as she took this concoction onto the table, and said “Who would like to carve?” It made our Christmas.
She has done several for us since then, all with varying levels of success, and leaving the giblets in one of them, complete with plastic bag, was not as funny as the first.
I myself have had disasters too, one at Christmas Eve in Germany, when my husband was in the Army. The officers went carol singing around the area, to raise money for a German Charity, and to create a lovely atmosphere for everyone. I cannot sing! I sound like a squeaIing chicken, so I declined the offer to join them but offered wine and mince pies at my house for them afterwards. The cook-house on camp baked the mince pies~ but delivered 4 LARGE trays of them to my house. There were only about 25 people, and so the mince pies outnumbered us. By a large margin. Wine and lots of laughter then, as I tried to rid us of the pies. I pushed them at everyone, more than once, I put some in bags for them to take home, I put unwrapped ones in their pockets, and they in turn put them in the plant pots, in the cupboards ~ I even found 3 or 4 in my bed when I finally got there!! The neighbours arrived cause they heard the hilarity, and I must say it was a very happy Christmas Eve. When we left that house 2 months later I even found 3 mince pies in the airing cupboard!!! Happy days.
Enough of remembering past events, I am now looking forward to this years, despite the feelings of panic,. I am also remembering that not everyone is going to share the festive season with someone else, and I think of those, even my clients at Ocay, who may be unhappy at this time. Spare them a thought, and do all that you can to help make a difference. Perhaps become a volunteer for us!!
Happy Christmas from
Almost November, and the time for the Remembrance Day services and parades. The promise we made was that we will “Never Forget”. I have a brooch that I wear on Remembrance Day, a brooch that means a lot to me. My grandmothers brother went off to fight in World War1 and was sent to France 2 weeks after marrying the love of his life, and who had a button from his uniform made into a brooch. That brooch was sent to his new wife and arrived on the day he was killed. His wife never re-married but wore that brooch on her high-necked blouses until she died at age 86. I wear it on every Remembrance Day, as indeed will my daughter when I am no longer here. We as a family will never forget.
I have been an Army wife. I was an Army wife for 29 years and am still married after 51years to the same man~ we are indeed extremely lucky, not least that we didn’t have to live through the trauma of a war.
Military families though, can go through tough times, like moving every 18months or 2 years, like children having 5 schools before they are 9, like living in other countries with no family support, ~ and the losing of friendships is one that I still find hard. Just the moment when you need one, they might be thousands of miles away. Husbands are away for most of the time, I had one friend whose husband left one morning and didn’t return for 18 months!!! No~not another woman!!! Just another part of the job.
I seem to be ranting now, but forgive me please, as I realise my usual light-heartedness has gone on holiday, and in its place is an old lady, intent on having her say!! Sorry!!
Whilst I am on the subject though, I do have the greatest empathy and respect for the soldiers who today are suffering unimaginable trauma after fighting in Afghanistan, and Iraq, and other wars, and who return with limbs missing, blindness, or mental health problems, or even ALL the above. And I spare a thought often for their families who have to pick up the pieces and help their loved ones as they continue with the big battle of life afterwards. Even Bonfire Night can be traumatic, as they hear the boom of fireworks. Yes ~ I WILL REMEMBER THEM!!! And I am grateful ~ but oh so sorry that the humans of this world still cannot live together without trying to kill each other!!
Phew!!! I apologise to whoever is reading this and promise I will be back to my usual cheery self for the next blog. In the meantime, there are clients who are needing a bit of help, so I am off on my merry way, and hope that they will remember me too. That is ~ if I do a good enough job!
At last!! It’s Autumn, and time for me to breathe easily again after the scorching sun that zapped any shred of energy I had, and left me in a state of exhaustion that I have not experienced since living in Malta. I never have done the sun thing, not even as a child, and would rather find a cooler spot to read my book, leaving those that do enjoy it to enjoy without hearing my moaning and cursing!
That sun and it’s heat actually does make me feel claustrophobic - I can feel trapped, and unable to get away from it so the hoovering and ironing have to take a back seat, whilst I drip in my creased clothes and think of Autumn. AND HERE IT IS!! I am free, free to breathe, and enjoy life, and to have a coffee without thinking I will explode! Oooops, but then I am free to hoover and to do the ironing ~ a dilemma which I might put off for a day whilst I reflect on Autumn.
Forgive me for using this space for my own personal therapy session, but my mood is lifting as I write, which can only be a good thing for my clients and readers alike. My husband on the other hand has become used to my groaning sessions (usually from June -September) and over the years has shown stoicism in ways that merit a medal. Basically he left me to it!!
The sun is shining now, but this time in a useful sort of way ~ like highlighting the Virginia Creeper, and allowing me to get out and about and live my life ~ smiling (a lot), as my grandchildren bring me bags of pine cones and conkers which they promise help to keep the spiders away, and I can enjoy again scuffing up the brown leaves scattered everywhere. Enough!!! I ramble. Have I mentioned how much I love it?
Actually, I was told that mint helps keep the spiders at bay, and so I planted mint plants near the door and windows out on the patio. Hand on heart I haven’t seen a garden spider in the house since ~ and the Pimms have been enhanced remarkably!
A great thing happened during the summer though ~ we were awarded our Investors in People award at OCAY, the award now hanging for all to see in our office, proving the work we put into achieving this award over the past year has finally paid off. It was quite a body of work needed by those who contributed to it, and so pats on the back all round ~ you know who you are! We have proved what we knew already, that OCAY invests time and effort into keeping it’s volunteers working to help others. A great charity to volunteer for if you are thinking of helping ~ and we have the plaque to prove it!!!
I hear you groaning, but the Christmas cards are on sale in Marks and Spencer,and no doubt in other shops too. Strictly is back on TV, as is Question Time and dramas that seem to have been in cold storage over the summer have surfaced to entertain us through the Autumn. There is not a mention on television about the World Cup, the Olympics Wimbledon, or late deals for Summer hols. Bliss!! Roll on the battle for the Christmas ads, and whether John Lewis will beat Aldi in the sickly gooey category! You can’t help but love it ~ go on ~ try!! And if you don’t, why not get to our office, and become a volunteer, you can always busy yourself with helping whilst the war of the ads goes on. And on.
Happy Autumn everyone ~ be glad you survived the heat!!
Do you love the sun? I think most people do, and lets face it, people seem to smile more when the sun comes out ~ but I am one of those miserable souls who grins when it goes elsewhere! I know, I know I can be tetchy when I am hot, I just wasn't built for sweaty days, and for a heat that drains the life out of me. I can no more strip off and lie in it, than I could paddle a canoe up the Amazon. Ok, Ouse then.
No. I was born in the autumn, and autumn winter and spring is when I am at my best. That glorious time when the trees turn into the most gorgeous colours is when I get a spring in my step. I have to admit, that when I went into Marks and Spencer for my therapy yesterday, I was elated to find their summer clothing thrown into the SALE, and a few woolies were appearing on the hangers that once housed skimpy tops, all in a size 8. I am starting to look forward to September!! My “resting” face is not good really, and reminds everyone who knew my family, to liken it to my mothers ~ but soon I can let the face relax, and hope the panic that come from being too hot and tired disappears from it. Unfortunately the similarity with mine and my mothers face seems to keep on going the older I get!!
Note to self ~ stop being negative, get a grip, and get on with it!!!!
Ok, I have, I took a few moments to think positive thoughts, and was remembering the discussions we had at OCAY regarding fundraising, and somehow those thoughts went to Christmas Fairs. (It cheered me up). We have several fundraising events throughout the year, which are good to attend, good to help at, and bring much needed £s into our coffers.
If anyone reading this is inspired to pick up a phone and help us, then please do tel our office. If you are like me, you will do it once that sun goes in, and if you aren't like me, you will do it anyway. Thank goodness all our volunteers are a mixture of personalities. Some who want to advocate, some who want to help with fundraising and some who work tirelessly behind the scenes at being a trustee. All equally valued. Give it some thought.
My husband and I (come to think of it) are an odd mix of personalities. He loves the sun, he loves walking and the outdoors, he loves the beach and relaxing on it, and of course he loves the sea, and being in it. He is sporty, competitive, and likes his own company. I on the other hand am extreme opposite in all these things, but like the theatre, opera, ballet, galleries, and mixing with other people. My idea of a good walk is up and down Regent Street in London, and when I used to support his athletic achievements whilst he was in the army, I, along with several other wife-supporters sat together with the bottles of wine, having a good catch-up!! Gossip, then!!
But we are together and happy still, after 51 years, which goes to show you don't have to be clones in order to be compatible. Just like all our volunteers, who are a diverse group of people who like to help, but have different ways of going about it, but who work together in order to be effective. And of course, the odd glass of wine helps when we have our get-togethers!!!
I have rambled again, it IS a trait I am trying to halt, but it's still hot, so bear with me 'till September when my mood will be much much brighter ~ and my clients will get the best out of me again!!
About 105 years ago, I had my first job working with older people in a very up-market care home in Bristol. I loved it, and my title was Activities Organiser, which I did my utmost to live up to. When I say up-market, I mean there were a couple of Lords and Ladies, (and some who thought they were), ~ the majority had been high fliers in their day and they all “dressed for dinner” which was the only time they all got together. The rest of their day had been spent in their very comfortable suites of rooms, which were plush but small, and most had not a clue about any of the other residents. And they were lonely.
Along came me ~ and a brand new mini bus, purchased from the residents fund, which I had full use of, in order to get everyone out and about, and happy!!!! The last bit took some doing. It didn't take me long to see how empty the main drawing room always was, so I slowly started to make contact with them, and organised flower arranging, (with coffee) every Friday morning. I loved, and still do, arranging flowers, and one by one they started to filter in for the weekly session. I always did a small arrangement for the raffle, so they could have it for their own room ( making sure a different person won every week). We always shared items from the news of the day, and the owners joined us for this gathering too.
We started a whist club, we had a book club, and we had a knitting club, where we all knitted squares to make into rugs to be used on outings in the mini bus. These were all colour co-ordinated, and were dished out by me as they got on the bus ~ everyone had a rug to match their outfit on that day!! (Standards!! ) The cook made picnic lunches and we went to on trips to Weston Super Mare, Tintern Abbey, and many roams around the Cotswolds. I organised garden parties in the summer, and trips around the Christmas Lights in Bristol, and I have such lovely memories of those happy days, with happier people than they were before.
I have to admit here that everything in the garden was not that rosy!!!! I am thinking of 2 men who rang to offer to entertain with music. Yep ~ that sounded grand, but when they offered to sing from the musicals, etc, I declined the offer, knowing the residents as I did. I asked if they did light classical, something like Greensleeves etc. “Oh yes, no problem” they said. Silly me!
The cook was aked to provide afternoon tea, and all came to the drawing room for the concert. Even a lady who was nicknamed “the Duchess” owing to her superior tastes in all things. Along she came to sit on the front row ~ all the diamonds she owned scattered around her person for all to see and admire.
Then in came the “musicians”. Well, let's face it ~ in they tripped, the trip not being caused so much by the small step, but by the amount they had drunk in the pub beforehand!!!
AND, the only light classics they could play was Greensleeves. Over and over again on a guitar and electric keyboard!! I stood firm, and told them to leave, but they thought the residents had not had their monies-worth, and so decided to tell jokes!! He stood in front of the assembled audience, saying “ Oh look at all these lovely ladies~and me without my pack of 3” Oh lordy!! The Duchess stood up as far as she could, what with a zimmer frame and all, and thought he was talking about his pack of cigarettes!! I packed the duo off, handed the afternoon tea out, made a few quips to lighten the atmosphere ~ (the Duchess and her diamonds safely back in her rooms by this point,) and luckily for me, she had a very bad memory, and did not recall one bit of the afternoon. I kept my job! But actually, it was the talking point during the coming weeks, even my boss had tears in his eyes as I recounted the activity. Tears of laughter I might add.
So here I am recounting just how important social interaction can be, no matter what our age, and how loneliness can be debilitating in itself. For anyone thinking of volunteering to become an advocate, you can rest assured that we now have a good social calendar for the volunteers themselves, to make use of if they feel they want to. And more of us are, and I am grateful for it, as it makes for a more cohesive team, so thank you to those of you who do the organising, and please make a note not to have a musical “at-home” !!! I don't have enough diamonds!!