Friday 29 August 2014

Britain is a country and no country for old men whose 'care' is auctioned out to the lowest bidder

Local authorities in England and Wales have been tendering out blocks of contracts to care companies for a long time, but in a new development they are now searching for the most competitive bid to support old, disabled, ill or dying people on a case-by-case basis.

Joan Bakewell, champion of the rights old old men and women in Britain has said :
"The company that puts in the lowest tender to the council usually – not always – gets the contract. What's new is if it's being applied to individual care packages. The councils are strapped for cash by the Government and the companies see the chance for profit. The old are squeezed between. A scandal all round,"
Matrix SCM, a Milton Keynes-based company, has devised a software system called 'SProc.Net', which allows councils to circulate a care package they require for an individual to a large number of suppliers who then bid in an online auction for the contract.

Here is hypothetical 'Jim', seventy five years old, in need of a 'care package' to be provided by Birmingham City Council which is using SProc.Net and is well pleased by this since it has reduced its spending on care for old men like Jim by almost a fifth since using this system. So Jim's care is put out to auction. Sometimes the bidding is time-limited to a few hours. In Jim's case  it lasts for two days. Providers put in their bids and the software produced a shortlist of the most 'favourable'.
The shortlisted bidders were then told where they are ranked in the process and the one in second place, adjusted their bid, by lowering their price for Jim and so moved up to first place and bought the right to provide his 'care'.

Birmingham and Southend Councils have adopted the system and a handful of other councils are due to start using it soon. Adrian Baldwin, Matrix SCM's Marketing Manager, said the company was in talks with 30 other councils about the system.

If Jim had known about the fact that he was put up for auction he need not have feared because Adrian has said that the  bidding process was not just about finding the cheapest way to provide care but also about ensuring the right quality. He said that while the market would determine the price, councils could stipulate the kind of quality they required and :
"Councils specify their requirements and then broadcast them to market. At the end of the process they can get post-transactional feedback. It's a bit like the eBay community."

However, when Adrian was asked 'whether the system amounted to an '' situation' ?' he laughed and said the process was actually a kind of reverse auction that was about driving prices down rather than up :

"Providing care is so emotional and people get nervous about it costing less. Changing that behaviour requires a different mindset. We are taking that logic to a market that has perhaps been too soft, too fluffy and not challenged. Economic austerity and legislation have driven the need to think differently."

In addition, although a spokesman from Birmingham Council said the system had led to savings of 18% and has a projection to save £3.2m in care costs this financial year, he stressed that cost was not the only consideration and that the council had rejected some bids on the basis that it was not possible to deliver a safe service for the very low price some providers offered : "The system is designed on the basis of a scoring matrix which ranks quality at 60% and pricing at 40%." Having said that, surprise, surprise, 92.23% of bids under the auction system were awarded to the supplier offering the cheapest price.

Les Latchman, Chair of the Birmingham Care Consortium, said:
"I believe this system increases the risk to people who are being looked after. They are treated like cattle. Care is bought in the same way that people buy toilet paper. The system works well when it comes to saving money but fails miserably when it comes to providing quality and safe services."

John Lister, of the campaign group Health Emergency, condemned the system :
 "Local authority care budgets have already been slashed to the bone, there's nothing left to cut. This system is, it's a race to the bottom."

Old men and women all over England and Wales in need of council provided care by a local council outside Southend of Birmingham and in one of the thirty, 'in talks' with Matrix SCM take note. You too could soon be up for auction and beyond that all old men seeking care should take note, that Francis Maude, Government Cabinet Office Minister, visited Matrix' SCM's premises this year and in a video on the Company's website he said : "This is of serious interest."

A post last year :

Monday, 26 August 2013

Britain is no country for old men in 'care homes' which provide neither 'home' nor 'care'

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old St Ives artist called Victor Bramley

Victor, self-taught and the longest serving member of the St Ives Society of Artists, has died at the age of 80.

What you possibly didn't know about Victor, that he :

* was born in Sheffield in 1934, five years before the outbreak of the Second World War, into a family of butchers which he later said : "held the proud boast of helping feed the steelworkers of Sheffield throughout the War."

* recalled the occasion, when he was seven in 1941 and his class at Junior School, were told by their teacher, to put their gas masks on and draw a tree and he received acclaim from the teacher with words to the effect that "this laddie can draw better with his gas mask on than the rest of you can with them off " and later said : "I glowed inside my gas mask. It was my first contact with art criticism and I've never forgotten it."
* passed the 11+ exam in 1945 and attended Firth Park Grammar School for Boys, Sheffield and remembered the look of despondency on the Headteacher's face when he told him on leaving school at 16, that he "wanted to be an artist" and later admitted : "A metallurgist would have been more fitting and my father would have settled for a meat inspector. However, I still finished up in the steelworks, working my way from office boy to a progress clerk."

* found that, by the time he was twenty, "after four years, the poisonous atmosphere was killing me, but I managed to escape and found a job with the Forestry Commission "at Wharnecliffe Side on the outskirts of Sheffield and later said : "This, together with my frequent walking, caving, climbing and cycling expeditions, to Derbyshire, Wales and the Lake District and so on, helped me to grow stronger physically and spiritually and gave me some insight into myself and the surrounding landscape."

* during the 1950's his "artistic endeavours were relegated to a small shed at the bottom of the garden", but having heard about the art colony in St Ives, at the age of 25, "plucked up enough courage" to find out if he could make a future with his art and left Sheffield and headed for the South West :

* soon after his arrival in St Ives in 1959, after the train journey from St Erth left him “wide-eyed and open-mouthed”, found work washing dishes at Curnow’s Hotel in the centre town where he met and was smitten by fellow artist Jacque Moran, “a young woman of extraordinary beauty” who he married the following year and embarked on their 20 year marriage.

* later recalled that "when Barbara Hepworth was in St Ives, as were Bernard Leach, Pete Lanyon and Bryan Wynter, among others, and I soon became familiar with seeing the famous and not so famous artists walking the streets of what was then still an exceedingly charming village. Even though I was up to my eyes in dish washing I was liberated!" and started work in his first studio, a condemned cottage.

 * began to exhibit his work with the Penwith Society of Arts at its Fore Street Gallery and at the age of 28 in Spring 1962 was elected to the St Ives Society of Artists, and had his first exhibition with ‘Marigold and Weeds’, ‘September Teasel’ and ‘Chrysanthemums’ and proceeded to work in studios in the town, including the Sail Loft and once said, "St Ives, for me, is always associated with happy times."

 * saw himself as an artist and magician and said : “By magic I don’t mean wizards and dragons but something more available and shared by us all. The important thing in art is that magic should happen. I’m wrapped up in the same pursuits as the prehistoric cave man, the Tibetan monk, the perpetrator of the crop circles, be he human or alien, and the manipulator of the computer-generated magic eye design. I find them all fascinating. They’re all pursuing a similar goal, the explanation of how we see, what we think, feel and believe, and who we are. I don’t have a cave wall or a corn field handy and I don’t own a computer, but I do have some paper, a burnt stick, a brush and some pigments, and I’m trying to make some magic.”

* moved to rural 'Nancledra', where he rented what had been the village mill as a studio, which allowed him "to capitalize on the understanding I had gained working with trees and seeking adventure in the wilder parts of Derbyshire and Yorkshire" and as well as 'making magic', had a highly successful exhibition of his mandalas at the Orion Gallery in Penzance in 1974, taught art in St Ives and Zennor and in the 1970s became the first yoga instructor in Penwith.

* said that he had "great affection for Wales and the English Lake District" because "mountain areas have always attracted me and I have spent many days walking and climbing in the hills. Having said that, I am still quite happy to explore the-relationship between a few simple objects on a table and still Iife has always been one of the cornerstones of my work .Art changes, not always for the better, but I think that an artist should perhaps be looking to reflect the constant truths in our lives and not merely to become a follower of the latest fashionable way to paint." 
 * in addition to exhibiting regularly with the St Ives Society of Artists and the breakaway Penwith Society of Arts, being one of the few to bridge the gap between the two societies,.exhibited in and sold in Britain and abroad, but kept his Yorkshire feet on the ground  and said : "Success in art is often measured in money these days, and heaven knows I've sold many paintings, but if this becomes the criterion then the artist's vision, if he or she has any, is certainly in peril and I do see this happening all around me. Surely, we should be talking more about artistic integrity than money?"

* in 2013, at the age of 79, visited the Crypt Gallery, St Ives to view his 'Perseus and the Ice Cream Eaters' with his second wife, Bernadette and pleased with the lighting and position said : "Well they’ve done me proud here John. What a great position" and to Bernadette : "I never do you justice you know" and continued : "There’s me surgeon, my hero, he is. Lovely man."

Despite his success as an artist, he never lost sight of who he was and where he came from. He was, as he would have said, "a proper man."

Monday 25 August 2014

Britain is no country for old men who want help to maintain a healthy sex life

Despite the myth that our sex lives end at first sight of a grey hair, many old men and women over 60 are still enjoying a healthy libido, but few are willing to admit it. The fact that sexually transmitted infections are increasing among them, prompted a recent article in the Guardian entitled :

Let’s talk about sex for the over 60s

It was partly based on an interview with a 67 year old Londoner and retired public servant called Roy who said :
“There is an embarrassment about it all. It’s a taboo which has carried on for generations. If you talk about sex, then you are labelled as a dirty old man or a pervert. It’s a kind of prejudice.”

Roy admitted that while his sexual appetite had waned over the years, he still enjoyed the intimacy which sex provided in a relationship and believed that you could have a good sexual relationship at any age :
“The familiarity of sex has gone now. You don’t do it as often, but you don’t stop it altogether. When you are young you do it every day, but when you get older you do it in little bursts. There are more important things to worry about and new priorities, it’s no longer just about sex.”

Despite the existence of a group of sexually active old men and women in Britain and the fact that higher divorce rates and the emergence of internet dating has meant more of them are embarking on new relationships, they remain a neglected and misunderstood group because :

* awareness campaigns on the dangers of unprotected sex largely target the young and sexual health messaging for this age group has struggled to keep up.

*  the media continues to perpetuate the stereotype of old people as either impotent and chaste or perverted and figures of ridicule.

* they themselves became sexually active in the 1960s, at a time when the pill had made its debut and couples were thinking about preventing pregnancy, not sexually transmitted infections and that mindset has stayed with them.

The urgency of the situation is evidenced by figures published by Public Health England for 2013 which revealed that  :

* in 2013 diagnoses of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes and genital warts, in those aged over 65, increased 8.2% on the previous year, a total of 1,125 cases.

* the number of old people with HIV is also growing.

Natika H Halil, Director of Health and Wellbeing at sexual health charity, FPA, has said that something has gone wrong with how we communicate to old people about sexually transmitted infections :
 “You might be embarrassed about how you use a condom, but who are you going to ask about it when you haven’t used one for 30 years? We somehow need to communicate that it’s ok to ask these questions. It’s OK not to know how to use protection, it’s OK to want to be educated and want to keep yourself healthy, in the same way that we do with diabetes or stroke or other things. It is a normal part of everybody’s lives.”

Roy thought that :
“Just like how younger people are targeted by sex clinics and given condoms, similar clinics should open for mature people as well. It can be embarrassing for many older people to go out and buy viagra, for example. If a young person goes and buys a pack of condoms, nobody would blink. If I do, everyone will immediately think I am a dirty old man.”

Stefan Walters, Psychosexual Therapist agrees with Roy, that education is part of the key to success and believed community centres and care homes were ideal places to start providing advice, even distributing condoms and explaining how viagra works. He believes, however, that unless we break our silence on the seemingly secret sex lives of the over 60s, there is a danger this age group will continue not taking the necessary precautions and think that STIs are something that can’t happen to them.

Sunday 24 August 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to an old school actor and film director called Dickie Attenborough

Richard, 90 years old and living in a care home with his wife of 72 years, died today.

What you possible didn't know about Richard, that he :

* was born in Cambridge, the eldest of three sons of Mary, a founding member of the 'Marriage Guidance Council' and Frederick, a don at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, who wrote a standard text on Anglo-Saxon law.

* was educated at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys and then studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

* became eligible to fight during the Second World War in 1941, served in the Royal Air Force and after initial pilot training, was seconded to the newly-formed RAF Film Unit at Pinewood Studios, under the command of Flight Lieutenant John Boulting.

* in 1943 appeared in propaganda film .'Journey Together' and then volunteered to fly with the Film Unit on missions over Europe, filming from the rear gunner's position to record the outcome of  Bomber Command sorties.

* started his film career at the age of 19 in 1942, in an uncredited role as a deserting sailor in 'In Which We Serve' in a role which would help to type-cast him for many years as 'spivs' and cowards until his breakthrough role as a psychopathic young gangster (left) in the film of Graham Green's novel, 'Brighton Rock' at the age of 24 in 1947.

* in the late 1950s, formed a production company, 'Beaver Films,' with Bryan Forbes and produced and appeared in 'The League of Gentlemen' in 1959 and 'The Angry Silence' in 1960 and produced 'Whistle Down the Wind' in 1961.

* appeared in several successful comedies by the Boulting Brothers, 'Private's Progress' in 1956 and 'I'm All Right Jack' in '59 and then in 1963, at the age of 30, appeared in his first Holywood blockbuster, in the ensemble cast of 'The Great Escape', as RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett, 'Big X', head of the escape committee, based on the real life exploits of Roger Bushell.

* expanded his range of character roles in the '60's in 'Séance on a Wet Afternoon' (left)
and 'Guns at Batasi'  for which he won the BAFTA Award for 'Best Actor' for his portrayal of the Regimental Sergeant Major.

* in 1965, played Lew Moran opposite James Stewart in 'The Flight of the Phoenix'
and in 1967 won  a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in 'The Sand Pebbles'  co-starring Steve McQueen.

* directed the all-star screen version of the hit musical, 'Oh What a  Lovely War' in 1969, filmed in and around Brighton where I was a student at the time and where a friend, Willis Pitts, got a job as a soldier extra.

*  portrayed of the serial killer Christie in '10 Rillington Place'
and in 1977 he played the ruthless General Outram in Satyajit Ray's period piece , 'The Chess Player'.

* took no acting roles following his appearance in Otto Preminger's version of 'The Human Factor' at the age of 56 in 1979 until his appearance as the eccentric developer John Hammond in Spielburg's 'Jurassic Park' in 1993.

* directed two epic period films: 'Young Winston' in 1972, based on the early life of Churchill and 'A Bridge Too Far' in 1977 and in 1982 won the Academy Award for 'Best Director' for 'Gandhi' and five years later directed the anti-apartheid drama, 'Cry Freedom', based on the life and death of the acivist Steve Biko.

* directed and produced his last big films, 'Chaplin' in 1992 and 'Shadowlands' in '93 and between 2006 and 07 in his 80's, spent time in Belfast, Northern Ireland, working on his last film as director and producer, 'Closing the Ring', a love story set during the Second World War.

His was a life well spent and one which gave millions of people much pleasure watching thousands upon thousands of hours of film in hundreds and hundreds of cinemas over dozens and dozens of years.

Britain is no longer a country for and bids "Farewell" to an old Professor of Linguistics called Geoffrey Leech

Geoffrey, a renown scholar with an international reputation, whose work in linguistics deepened our understanding of the English language has died at the age of 78.

What you possibly didn't know about Geoffrey, that he :

* was born in Gloucester, three years before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1936, brought up in the small county town of Tewkesbury, where his father was the manager of a bank and went, from the age of 11 to 18, to the small Tewkesbury Grammar School, founded and endowed by a wealthy London mercer in 1625 'for the better education of boys and youth in good arts, learning. virtue and education.'

* left school in 1954, served two years National Service in the R.A.F in Germany where he spent most of his time shorthand-typing, reached the rank of 'Senior Aircraftman' and left intending to study French at university had not Professor A.H. Smith, Quain Professor of English at University College London, given him an interview for a university place at his country cottage as a favour to his father, who drank at the same pub, 'The Hobnails', offered him a student place in his faculty at UCL.

* as an undergraduate in his early twenties in the late 1950's, became particularly interested in the historical component of language work, studying Old and Middle English with Beowulf in the original and gleaned much from distinguished phoneticians and senior teachers, Daniel Jones (left0, the first Professor of Phonetics in Britain and 'Father of the British School of Phonetics' and J. R. Firth, the first British Professor and 'Father of Linguistics' and later said : 'I could scarcely
understand his message, although I remember that the term ‘context of situation’ figured prominently in it' .

* later wrote that it was 'a very happy accident' that he went to UCL to study English which provided him with an entrée to a circle of distinguished language scholars and gave him roughly equal doses of language and of literature, which  probably explained why he later took a deep interest in the relation between linguistic and literary studies and the interdisciplinary field of stylistics.

* graduated in 1959 with only a an 'undistinguished' 2.1 degree in English Language and Literature and was granted a State Studentship to study for an London University, based on the language of tv commercials, a new medium of advertising in Britain, but with little supervision grew disheartened and left the University.

* at the age of 24 in the summer of 1960, taught English for a term at the City of Coventry Boarding School, where he was best-known to the pupils for his amiable manner and sparkling piano-playing and then began teaching adolescents at Clarendon School (left), a state secondary on an overspill London County Council estate in South Oxley.

* made 'a very indifferent shot at being an English teacher' for 18 months, keeping up his M.A. studies in his spare time, married Fanny, a psychology graduate the following year and in 1962, and thanks to Professor Smith, was granted a 'research studentship' of £750 per year at his old department at UCL, by a tv mogul at the commercial company, ATV, for research into the language of advertising.

* was 'overjoyed to have the opportunity to abandon school teaching and take up full-time research' but had the problem of a lack of research tools until the newly chaired, Professor Randolph Quirk, suggested using the new linguistics coming out of the USA,  to arrive at the best analytic categories for describing the language of tv and in 1962 at the age of 26 applied for and much to his surprise and delight, was offered, the post of 'temporary assistant lecturer'.

* delivered his first series of lectures on ‘Rhetoric’ and given carte blanche to teach as he wished, ditched the dull 'history of rhetoric from classical times' in favour of treating literary language, especially poetry, from the modern linguistic point of view and in 1963 finished his MA thesis on 'The Language of Commercial Television Advertising'  having studied tv commercials ad nauseam and tired of the whole subject, sent ATV a copy and found 'there was no evidence that they read it or found it useful.'

* in 1964, at the age of 28, was given the opportunity to spend a year in the USA as a Harkness Fellow, after an interview by a panel of ten fom the academic world, including Sir Isaiah Berlin and with Fanny and baby son, crossed the Atlantic on the liner 'Queen Elizabeth', to study linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology' 

* on occasion had lunch with Naom Chomsky and 'was nonplussed yet fascinated to find all the talk to be of politics and how to keep Senator Barry Goldwater out of office and not about linguistics and the latest models of transformational grammar' and after a 3 month tour with Fanny and baby as tent campers, returned to Britain in the 'Queen Mary'.

* had learned much about many areas of linguistics at MIT but also 'a sense of conviction – the assumption that MIT led the world, as indeed it unquestionably did, and that others’ heterodox opinions need not be treated too seriously' and 'I suppose I must have carried something of that arrogance back to the UK with me. However, any sense of superiority was soon punctured when I gave a paper on semantics at the Philological Society, where my nascent semantic theory met with some scepticism and hostility'.

*  between 1965 and '69, rethought and developed his work on semantics until it became a PhD thesis : 'An Approach to the Semantics of Place, Time and Modality in Modern English which published in 1969 in the Longman Linguistics Library and, although soon out of print. helped him win a reputation in linguistics.

* in 1969, at the age of 33, became Senior Lecturer at the new University of Lancaster and on arrival, was further promoted to the equivalent of 'Associate Professor', became busy with a heavy teaching load,writing 'Meaning and the English Verb' and 'Semantics', published in 1971 and '74 and at the same time consumed by the battle known as the Craig Affair' in the English Department, between two factions with the ‘left’ supported by the students and the ‘right’ by the Head of Department, which disrupted the whole campus and became a cause célèbre in the national press.

* in 1972, co-authored 'A Grammar of Contemporary English', which was inspired by the desire to close the gap between the type of 'academic' and 'theory-driven grammar' that was studied in linguistics departments and the type of grammar which was needed for the English language classroom and saw it become well-known throughout the world as a source of descriptive information on English grammar.

* at the age of 38 in 1974, was  promoted to the post of Professor of Linguistics and Modern English Language and saw the University become one of the first to offer a B.A. in Linguistics.

* in 1976, was about to abandon a project he had started in 1970 with a small group of young linguists known as the 'Gang of Four' (seen here seated on the extreme right), to develop a computer corpus of 'British English', to match the recently completed, Brown University Corpus of American English.

* had planned the corpus to consist of more than a million words, but had been hampered by primitive computing facilities and assailed by problems concerning copyright, related in 2013 in conversation for Lancaster University for its online course in corpus linguistics :

* gave the 'corpus project' to former student of Jan Svartvik and Swedish scholar, Stig Johansson, who took it to Norway where they gained permissions from UK copyright holders who had withheld it and so saw the 'Lancaster-Oslo/Bergen Corpus' or the 'LOB Corpus' born and has since witnessed its use throughout the world.

* in 1983, worked with colleague, Mick Short, on : 'Style in Fiction: A Linguistic Introduction to English Fictional Prose', intended to be a course book for students, but also an attempt to develop a theory of prose style, which he found particularly difficult to write, but also most satisfying to have written and saw it well received.

*  considered his A 'Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language', published in 1985, as the summit of  his career, after which he began to be treated as ‘the authority on English grammar' and was bestowed with honours :  Fellow of the British Academy, an honorary doctorate of the University of Lund, Fellow of his old college, University College London and in 1989, member of the Academia Europaea.

* between 1991 and '95, was involved in the 'British National Corpus', a collaborative project between three publishers, OUP, Longman and Chambers, two universities, Oxford and Lancaster and one national institution, the British Library, which after great pressures and enormous difficulties, resulted in the 100-million-word corpus of spoken and written English, an important national achievement in which Britain led the way to be followed by other countries, including the USA.

* took early retirement in 1996, but continued to work as a Research Professor and at the age of 72 in 2008 wrote : 'When I look back on more than forty years of research and publication, it is the working on language in English Literature that has given me the most enduring pleasure'.

* in 2009 said : 'while I am fortunate enough to remain healthy, I would like to continue my research and publication in the fields of corpus linguistics, stylistics, the pragmatics of politeness, and English grammar. As far as I am concerned, ‘old professors never die, they merely fade away’.