The Connection Between Pre-Prepared Vegetables And The NHS Crisis (Or – How Focusing On The Obvious Isn’t Necessarily A Good Idea)

You are probably looking at the first part of the title to today’s blog post and wondering how I dare to link two totally unconnected subjects???  Well, actually those subjects are more connected than you think.  Not just because inadequate consumption of fruit and vegetables can land you in hospital either.

Apparently it is only the lazy people – or those with more money than sense – who buy pre-prepared vegetables???  Not forgetting those of us who don’t care about the environmental impact of the excessive packaging on the aforementioned items???

Well, if I was feeling uncharitable towards the able-bodied, non-visually-impaired, members of society, I could argue that the people who agree with that argument might have a point.

However, then I would be guilty of the same thing as them – a massive generalisation.  You see there are some people for whom the act of preparing vegetables for consumption is either downright dangerous or physically impossible.  (I fit into the category where it can be downright dangerous.). I am talking about people with limited function in their hands, people with poor sight, and other disabilities.

I prefer to do things for myself when I can.  This includes cooking.  Therefore, if given a choice between attempting to munch raw parsnips or finding a pre-prepared serving of parsnips which I can stick in the microwave and cook, I will go for the second option.

I have read somewhere about there being an issue of “privilege” coming into play on this subject.  Sorry guys – it’s not “privilege”.  What it is is a lack of education about how Disabled people can (and do) function reasonably well on our own if you give us the required help – as well as how that help can be seen as an unnecessary “luxury” – particularly when the “able-bodied” commandeer it for their own use.

What has all the above got to do with the NHS Crisis???  (Apart from the availability of pre-prepared vegetables ensuring I stay uninjured – or rather – uncut whilst cooking???)

There is an unspoken subject in the NHS Crisis which I think urgently needs to be addressed.  And I was as culpable as anyone before I ended up in my current situation.

Did I bother my GP with inconsequential symptoms which I could have treated at home??? Nope.

Did I use the Ambulance service inappropriately for minor injuries???  Nope.

Did I clog up A&E as a result of a minor illness???  Nope.

In fact, my absolute hatred of hospitals and Medical Professionals – coupled with being told by the Mainstream Media (and the NHS themselves) only to use things like ambulances and A&E in an emergency – led me to leave seeking medical attention until it was almost too late to help me.

It is all very well to praise those of us who try our best not to put any pressure on the NHS with minor complaints, injuries, and illnesses.  However, if we leave things to cure themselves we could actually cause more expense for the NHS when the opposite occurs and our health deteriorates drastically.

As with the pre-prepared vegetables – there needs to be a discussion about the appropriate use of NHS resources which includes those of us who don’t like bothering Medical Professionals even when we are literally dying on our feet, as well as the ones who treat the NHS as their personal slaves.

The funny thing is – I actually followed the advice I had been force-fed on the correct use of the NHS and ambulances.  This meant that I didn’t dial 999 because I could walk far enough to get into a taxi.  However, when I got a booklet about what to do with symptoms of “heart failure” when they go haywire, I learned that my exact level of breathless when I took myself to A&E would have made me a prime candidate for a journey on a small bed with blue flashing lights.  The fact that I could walk was beside the point.

We need a proper discussion as to what exactly constitutes a medical emergency with parameters which are clearly understood by everyone.  We also need to encourage the “properly poorly” to seek medical attention without feeling uncomfortable about wasting NHS resources.

The thing I find really annoying is – when certain diseases or illnesses become the focus of Media attention – the lists of symptoms sometimes include things I have had my entire life without becoming poorly as a result of them.  Blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and spots in front of the eyes, are all apparently symptoms which should send me rushing to A&E??? Can someone please ask the Media to add the caveat “if you have never experienced them before” to their urging to seek medical attention???

In both the “pre-prepared vegetables” discussion and the “NHS Crisis” there is a lack of education about the hidden people which are affected by the arguments.  Until all sides are included – and heard – we are never going to get a useful outcome to either debate.


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When A Name Gets Interesting (Or – How I Learned About A “Claim To Fame” Link)

There is something funny about seeing one of the boys you went to secondary school with on national TV presenting an actual series.

There is something even stranger about finding out that your Dad went to primary school with someone who later became a hero of one of your friends (who your friend actually met).

The strangest thing of all is learning that your own first name not only appears in one side of your family tree twice – the second time it appears it gives you a family link to someone who is as near as I know of to an internationally known (as in world famous) “celebrity”.  As in – it forms part of their surname.

The boy I went to secondary school with was Jonathan Irwin (now known as Jonnie Irwin) who has presented TV programmes on buying and selling homes.

My Dad went to primary school with Peter Shilton (ex-England goalkeeper).  Actually – I think there was a couple of years between them but they were definitely there at the same time.

But what is the family link between my first name and the internationally known “celebrity”???

I could hardly believe my ears when my English Grandma told me that not only has my first name appeared on the back of football shirts from Leicester City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Barcelona, and the England International Team (it actually retired from international football during a match in The Netherlands funnily enough) but it also appears twice in the English side of my family tree – the other time as part of a very famous surname.  A surname which I still use to teach people how to spell – and master the “English” pronunciation of – my first name (after seeing it on a stall at Leicester Market).

If you take the letters “I”, “N”, “E”, “K”, “E” (keeping them in that order) you have a Dutch female’s first name.  Put an “L” in front of the “I” and an “R” behind the last “E” and you have “Lineker” – which is a pretty famous English surname (especially if you put the name “Gary” in front of it).  The “Salt & Lineker” flavour of Walkers crisps came after I learned about the connection.

I am not quite sure of the exact family connection – I think it was a second marriage a few generations back – but I was stunned to learn that me and the ex-footballer didn’t just have a city and five letters in common.

Apparently, my surname has also got some interesting historical connections – with Canada of all places.  In fact, it appears that the least interesting of my names is “Caroline” (my middle name).

It is fascinating how names connect unexpected people in intriguing ways.

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Happy Whenever It Is Wherever You Are (Or – Why I Don’t Like “Happy Holidays”)

It is rather worrying to find myself agreeing with anything Donald Trump says but he did actually say something sensible last year.  I just don’t agree with the point he was trying to make through saying it.

The thing he and I both hate is “Happy Holidays”.  He claims to not like it because he wants to go back to saying “Merry Christmas”.

I don’t like it because it is yet another indication of all the “Festivals” running into one another – at least as far as the shops are concerned.  Seriously – who wants to think about buying Easter Eggs when you still have all the chocolate from Christmas to munch your way through???

I am not going to get into the debate about whether or not Easter Eggs detract from the religious meaning of the Festival.

Of course I am aware that shops need to make money and things like Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc, are their most profitable times of the year but – when I was a child Christmas wasn’t spoken about in the media or the shops until after my birthday (31 October).

We are living in a consumer-driven society where people are encouraged to spend more than they can afford.

Maybe we should just take a step back and celebrate one Festival from the United States – Thanksgiving.  As in – give thanks for what we have already got as well as truly taking time to appreciate our life.

Then we might start to see a separation between all the Festivals – so I can wish you a Happy New Year without wondering when I should start saying “Happy Easter” instead.

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Why The Self-Driving Car Inventors Are Not Going Far Enough

My favourite TV character when I was growing up might not quite be what you expect. He had four wheels, an engine, a scanner, the ability to verbally communicate with his passengers – oh and he could drive himself. He answered to “KITT”.

The opening title sequence to “Knightrider” always reminded viewers that the car hadn’t been invented in real life. (I can imagine the costs of the research and design of a real life KITT would be astronomical.) That didn’t stop me from wishing someone would invent it – particularly when it became obvious that me and possession of a driving licence wouldn’t even be casual acquaintances.

The funny thing was – I wasn’t too bothered about the fact that KITT could drive himself, or speak. What fascinated me was the scanner on the front – and how he could use it in clever ways.

The bit of technology I actually wanted (and still do) is the wristwatch which Michael Knight used to summon KITT – just by speaking into it.

What reminded me about the wristwatch was trying to find a way to get me from Downham Market to King’s Lynn yesterday afternoon. On any other day I would have had a choice of bus or train. Yesterday being New Year’s Day – I had to go by train. Not much problem with that – I was able to get a lift to the railway station in Downham Market.

This got me thinking though. It is all very well people being encouraged to use public transport whilst others are trying to invent cars which drive themselves. The amount of mobile phone apps which you can use to find out the times of public transport is unbelievable (and some of them even work too).

Why not put the two together??? That way you could invent a vehicle which someone like me could summon via an app, as well as using the same app to tell the vehicle where I wanted to get to.

I admit there is a taxi company near me which half works like that – you pay for the journey through the app too. However, the vehicle is still operated by a human. Humans have a bad habit of requiring things like sleep, food, loo stops, etc. They also like being paid for their employment.

Call me crazy if you want but I am sometimes envious of people who can drive because of the freedom it gives them to travel when and where they want to. (Let’s just say it can get very annoying when a journey which can be done in 20 minutes in a single car journey takes at least 45 minutes and at least two forms of public transport. As for a trip to somewhere “exotic” like Glasgow from Leicester??? That involves military precision timing if you want to use public transport.)

I could talk about how everyone should make use of public transport whenever and wherever possible. However, as someone who is forced to use it I can see why people prefer the alternatives (I would love to be able to summon a bus to my house to pick me up and take me where I want to go when I want to travel – no more walking to and from bus stops).

So – next time you moan about how expensive it is to run a car, and how many idiots there are driving around – remember people like me who rely on public transport. Until someone invents a car like KITT in real life you will always be better off than I am.

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The Most Dangerous Weapon We Have Is Words (Or – Why We Should Be Very Careful About How We Communicate)

You could say I am a words-based person. After all, my hobbies include reading and writing – and my sense of humour is more geared towards words and language.

I have also been exposed to the darker world of words – bullying and receiving the worst news that someone can get (not helped by the fact the person who told me omitted the most useful information at the time).

As someone who is amazed by the ways in which language can be used to cheer people up, to motivate people, to educate people, to incite people, I am aware that if your audience reads or hears something you are responsible for the transmission of – but they don’t understand it in the way it was meant – you could have a huge problem on your hands.

One such example is found in a book which was written by a Neuroscientist. It was in a chapter on possible ways to enhance your brainpower. Let’s just say that it involved your head and an industrial generator – with the closing phrase “that would make your head explode literally”. (Definitely a candidate for the old “Don’t try this at home” cliche.)

My favourite authors are the ones who can use words to take me on their journey with them – making me share their experiences and emotions as we go.

There is a saying about a word being able to paint a thousand pictures (more if you can speak more than one language). Certain words in the English language also appear in other languages (same spelling or pronunciation) but with a totally different definition. Very confusing when you are not concentrating on the conversation.

Words can bring happiness but can also do tremendous damage both to people and surroundings through the hatred and intolerance they can spread so easily.

There is a song by the Bee Gees which says “words are all I have”. There is also a saying about the pen being mightier than the sword. After all, unless someone is fatally stabbed with a sword (or other bladed instrument) their chances of recovery may be slim but they do at least have a chance. Some people never recover from verbal attacks – the hidden psychological and emotional scars are much too deep to ever heal properly. I have several scars on my body as a result of operations to save my life when I was a baby – some of which don’t look particularly nice. They have all healed up though.

The scars from the bullying I got at school??? They will never properly heal because they are way too deep. Some of them still affect me today.

As we head towards another New Year I have a request for you.

When you speak please only speak with kindness and consideration – bring your children up to speak words of compassion and encouragement to others. Do not allow prejudice and bigotry to colour your conversations with others. Speak that others might hear your story and not feel so alone in the world.

I wish you a peaceful, warm, and blessed 2018.

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There Is More Than One “Correct” Way Of Doing Some Things (Or – How Life Can Sometimes Be Like A 3D Jigsaw)

My Dad gave me some money for Christmas and I used some of it to buy one of my favourite sort of jigsaw puzzles.

I must admit to not really liking those jigsaw puzzles with edges. You know the ones? The flat ones which can only be done by peering at every single piece to try to match the picture on the lid??? Not good for someone with my sight – especially if it is an intricate design or picture.

This may surprise you but I love 3D jigsaw puzzles. They provide me with hours of amusement. Yes, the pictures can be alarmingly frustrating in their complexity but I have found a trick which makes the puzzles that bit easier – counting!!!

Nope, not counting the number of pieces, nor counting the number of ends to each piece (the sticking out bits and the cutouts). That is far too complicated.

I merely sort through the pieces and look at the back of each piece – where I can see a number with an arrow pointing in a certain direction. Starting with the lowest numbers I work my way methodically joining the pieces together.

I hear you asking – isn’t that cheating??? Not if you are me!!! Sometimes I still have to wonder which way round the pieces are supposed to go – especially if the jigsaw is ball-shaped (like the globe I am working on now).

That is a bit like how we each have to work our way through life. Some of us can peer at every little detail and think we know where everything should go – whilst others (like me) have a different way of going about things. Who is to say if I am correct or you are??? As long as we stay within the laws of the country we are in (as well as obeying the social niceties) we can each be correct.

I know people who would put their religious beliefs above everything else – and make me feel judged when I am around them. (I will speak about my beliefs but you will have to ask me first – I prefer to show you instead of tell you.)

I also know people who seem unable to understand that there are certain things which I need to do differently to everyone else. (My last boss was one of the “Everyone else can… Why can’t you?” Brigade – I hated him with a passion you can only dream of as a result.)

The funny thing is – sometimes I find myself being thanked for accidentally making life easier for other people as a byproduct of “being an Ineke”. For example, if the lights get switched on five minutes before most people would think it is too dark to see anything (sorry – I am not wasting electricity for the fun of it – my eyes tell me it is dark at least five minutes before everyone else thinks it is when the sun is setting. If you don’t believe me – watch me in dim lighting situations and time how long it takes me to head for a lightswitch – you may be surprised).

We all have our different things to cope with in life – some more than others (I consider myself blessed in comparison to some of my friends). We just need to remember that not everyone can do everything we can – or in the same way.

You may insist on doing a 3D jigsaw puzzle just by looking at the picture on the front of the pieces whilst I start with the numbers – but in the end, as long as we end up with a completed puzzle, does it really matter who did it the “correct” way???

I know my limitations and – whilst I am happy to exceed them on occasions – I think jigsaw puzzles are supposed to be fun. You can peer at the picture if you want to – I will wait until the end to see the finished product.

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What Christmas Means To Me

I am currently sitting in one of my favourite shops enjoying a hot chocolate whilst trying to ignore the Christmas music coming through the speakers.

For me – Christmas has several meanings. We have the religious side (which most people seem to either lose completely or only pay lipservice to if they can squeeze in attendance of a Carol Service somewhere between the tinsel, shopping, and stress). You can treat Christmas in whatever way you want.

Then we have the rubbish you see on TV. Bring back the old Variety shows and proper entertainment. I don’t want to be subjected to murder and mayhem by EastEnders, thanks very much.

Christmas used to be a time for “Novelty” singles to hit the charts. I can remember some truly dreadful ones. My favourite was the original “BandAid” single which told us to “Feed The World (Do They Know It’s Christmas?)” – that was only because the US artists came up with a song shortly afterwards informing us that “We Are The World”!!! I wonder if that was the start of the US epidemic of obesity???

What Christmas really means to me is the start of another countdown. This one is to my favourite time of the year – New Year’s Eve.

Until I was 24, I used to go to Holland for what they call “Oud en Nieuw” (literally “Old and New”). Until I was 23 it turned into a kind of second Christmas for me – I had the “English” Christmas on 25 December with my English grandparents, then my parents and I would go over to Holland and exchange presents with Oma on New Year’s Eve. An added sparkle was provided by the fireworks displays which could be seen from Oma’s flat at the turn of midnight.

The year after Oma died I went to stay with some cousins who lived on the banks of the Rotte. I can still remember that fireworks display and lasershow.

I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

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