I can hear cuckoos

When I was growing up the sound of a cuckoo was probably the iconic birdsong. Helped along by novelty clocks in late 70s/early 80s sitcoms and other TV things, a cuckoo call was the most easily recognisable bird call. I was desperate to hear one.

The nearest I got was visiting my Granny and hearing Wood Pigeons. I must have driven her demented by asking if it was a cuckoo every time I heard one. This, by the way, was a house with back garden overlooking tennis courts where a young Virginia Wade practised, long before winning the Women’s title at Wimbledon. Because local colour wins, or something like that.

Anyhow, it wasn’t until my 30s that I heard a cuckoo ‘in the flesh’, when we moved to this house. It was like suddenly discovering that, not only had we landed on the moon (collectively, as a species) in the 60s, but that I had, inexplicably, hitherto unbeknownst to me, been there, done that and got, not only the t-shirt but the NASA logo-ed space suit to prove it.

When we moved here our eldest was 7 years old and the youngest 15 months, so they have grown up with the sound of cuckoos in a way I could only imagine when I was their age.
This does not make me jealous, though. With the pressures on land in the South East of England it just makes me more determined than ever that this is something that should be preserved for their adult lives and that of their children.

So, when you think of NIMBYs think again, maybe we’re all simply trying to preserve something we believe to be precious. We’ve experienced it, appreciated it, and think it worth preserving for future generations.

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Standing up for the NHS

According to an on-line quiz to resolve which party you should vote for in today’s European Elections, wanting to protect the NHS equates to believing that  its destruction by privatisation is the worst thing that could happen to the UK. Ever.

That’s clearly a bit of an exaggeration because I’m pretty sure that the entire country being flattened by an enormous asteroid would be worse. As would Justin Bieber deciding that he’d quite like to come back here after all. Anyway, this has got me thinking about some of the reasons why some people would like the NHS privatised.

From the way the word ‘reform’ is bandied about, occasionally alongside ‘not fit for purpose’ and ‘time-bomb’ you’d think the NHS was so out of date, so old, so incapable of change to meet the needs of today and tomorrow that it is better to sweep it all away and start again. Because, you know, we’re operating with such old equipment and practices and what they have in the USA is so shiny and works so well.

Except that’s not really true, is it? The NHS was founded in 1948. The various acts to get it up and running were passed from 1946 onwards. There are people alive today who were born before the NHS was founded, so it’s within living memory. That’s not so old and it’s not so fossilised it can’t be improved. After all, if we were to ditch everything invented before 1946 we’d have to get rid of TV, radio, computing, space rockets….yeah, all those really old-fashioned things that haven’t been able to move with the times at all.

Then, of course, there’s democracy and the Houses of Parliament and MPs themselves. That whole system has been going for, like, centuries, man. Must be time for some serious changes there. OK, so that is something that maybe the majority of us would like to change, but I’m guessing we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, get rid of everything we’ve learned along the way and end up with a dictatorship, or a feudal system, or anything else that could happen if we didn’t have a vote.

So, back to the NHS. It’s not without its need for improvement, but privatisation is a backwards step, no matter how stealthily it is done.

Some people (notably the Freakonomics guys) have stated that free at the point of demand is what makes the NHS so expensive. People just overuse it until it costs way too much. Except….no. For one thing the tax paid per person for healthcare in the US is MORE than what we pay here. And that doesn’t get them free treatment. It only covers the schemes that are limited access – for the retired, congress members and such. They still have to pay insurance premiums on top of that. Also, the unit cost of various kinds of care is much higher than in countries with NHS-type care (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSjGouBmo0M for info: it’s funny as well as informative, so I hope you’ll watch it)

Also, I just don’t think we overuse the NHS to the point that it is breaking. Yes, there will be some overuse by some people, but there is also massive under-use. How many campaigns can you think of to try and get people in to be checked out so diseases can be caught at early stages? The persistent cough one, the various check for lumps and bumps in different parts of the body ones, the unusual…..ok, maybe I’ll stop there and just mention the several series of Embarrassing Bodies.

Would any of these be necessary/commercially viable TV if we were all going to our GPs and A & E so much that any slight thing we might develop was picked up before it became a problem? No, of course not.

Then, of course, there’s the whole stopping smoking thing. The NHS will help you quit smoking, for FREE, so you don’t have to carry on spending your own money on cigarettes and tobacco. If we all went for the free stuff so we didn’t spend our own money then no-one would smoke in this country. At all. Ever. There is obviously something else going on here, and that thing is human nature. We don’t always do what is expected, especially when those doing the expecting are economists, so let’s not see the NHS through a narrow and flawed viewpoint.

One group that is particularly reluctant to overuse the NHS is the elderly. You know, that vast, growing, group of highly needy (ie greedy in the view of some) that we’re all ‘struggling’ to pay for. You may know the odd one or two that are always popping into the GP. Well, maybe they’re lonely. Struggling. That’s a genuine need, and if the only way they can fix that is to see the GP every week then shame on us, not them.

Some people might want to see an end to the NHS because they want to pay as little tax as possible, and they may have this overly optimistic view that if they’re ever sick they’ll always be rich enough to cover it, so let’s look at that as a scenario.

Let’s assume that you are so amazingly rich, from such an amazingly rich family, that you have never used any NHS service at all. You’ve had your own private doctors and nurses. What’s more, you’ve been able to set up your own medical school, so they haven’t even needed to be tainted by NHS training. This medical school has also got it’s own research programme, so none of the knowledge it uses, not even the knowledge that went into designing the equipment your private doctors and nurses use, none of it came from the NHS. You and your family paid for all of it yourselves. Not only that, but you don’t use any roads, street lights, rubbish collection services, teachers for your kids, shop assistants, that have been built, maintained, taught, researched, or had anything to do with anyone who has ever had to use the NHS.

Don’t you think it would be easier (not to mention considerably cheaper) to just fund the NHS properly so we can all use it when we need to?

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Where do you come from?

This has always been a very difficult question for our family to answer, because it gets to the point where answering the question with any meaningful detail leads to eyes glazing over. And that’s if the kids can remember the details. It is a question that is asked with some regularity, though – when moving house, meeting new people, going to a new school, leaving home, going to university, changing jobs, talking to people on the internet – that style of thing.

Mostly we give up and go for the easy answer, which is that we live in Kent, England, and because we sound extremely English this all seems plausible and no further questions are asked, but how we ended up here is so much more complicated than that.

So, because my children have occasionally expressed the desire to have something they can point people to in answer to That Question, and because Stoshu nudged me into finally getting around to doing it, this is kind of where we come from.

I’ll start with my husband and his family first, because it’s relatively (!) simple.

He was born in Japan, of a father who was Northern Irish (born in Northern Ireland) although judging from my father in law’s height and very red hair there was always speculation that the family tree had probably got some Viking blood in it. His mother was half Welsh strict Chapel, quarter English and quarter Irish Catholic (but the Irish bit of her family was then in Liverpool, England, apart from the ones who had emigrated to the USA). My mother in Law, however, was born in Hong Kong. And there she lived until WWII when she was evacuated to Australia. Except then one of her Aunts died in Wales and her mother was so homesick they both made it through the U-boats back to the UK., where they stayed until the end of the war before returning to Hong Kong.

My husband’s parents met, married then moved to Japan for nearly 30 years, before finally returning to the British Isles.

My Dad’s Dad’s family doesn’t go back very far before you get the full stop of a foundling who was discovered and adopted in Cornwall, but his Mum’s family has more information. Her father came to the UK from Australia, his parents having emigrated there from what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His mother had come from some small place that is now counted as Saxony, I think, and his father came from nearer what is now Poland. They met and married in Australia. So far as I know we still have family in parts of what is now Germany, as well as Australia. Apart from those who left Australia to come here, go to Italy, Cyprus, Hong Kong and possibly other parts of the world. I remember my Grandmother telling me, but to be honest I’d be hard pressed to say if there were any distant cousins anywhere else.

Her mother’s side of the family had come from the Scottish borders. Which side is moot as I think it was still changeable when they had to leave in a hurry. There were accusations of cattle rustling, which seemed to be quite a thing if you were a Border Reaver, and they felt, apparently that these were best dealt with by being well out of the way. In Canada.

My mother’s family is a weird mix. One side were landed gentry, until the eldest son (my great grandfather) walked out on his family and inheritance over his dog being shot, which seemed fair enough to me, and made his own way in the world. I guess there was more to it than that, but that is all I know.

The other great grandfather was orphaned young-ish, but was looked after by his elder sisters, until he felt so smothered by them he ended up running away to sea. After a career at sea he became an undertaker, working in Baker Street throughout WWII so my grandmother used to go dancing with SOE trainees who were based nearby. After that he left London and became a Master Builder.

I met my husband in a British University, which given the globe-trotting habits of our families was against incredible odds, and we have settled here, athough we did spend some time in London. And Tokyo. You know, just to liven things up a bit.

So that’s the bare bones of it, geographically at least. So, kids, now you know. Just be thankful I didn’t take as long as How I Met Your Mother over it 😉

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The big, blowsy, daffodils certainly make an impression, but I love these delicate little ones too.

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Cherry blossom

We planted a flowering cherry in the garden of our last house, so long ago now I hope it’s matured as I hoped.
A new tree was one of the first things I added to this garden after moving here, and the blossoms are enjoying our lovely sunny weather.

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Sunday at Sissinghurst Castle

One of the cottages in the grounds of Sissinghurst Castle – I love the mellow brickwork and the colour of the sky was just fantastic as a background.

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I signed the petition a while ago but didn’t leave a comment, so, when, tonight, I saw there was a hashtag where you could leave your reasons for signing, it seemed a chance to make good that omission.
Having been chopping down trees, and such, throughout the day my twittering had been intermittent at best, but even so, the pervading theme of those tweeting on the hashtag was that we’d moved on. We were no longer in the 70s. Page 3 was an anachronism.
Now, being an old dinosaur I was not only alive in the 1970s (yes, that’s nineteen seventy, not fifteen hundred BC or whatever age you think I hail from, sarky kids of mine) but I remember a fair chunk of them.
I might have been young, but I’m relatively certain I haven’t changed species, or anything more fundamental about myself (such as being a sentient being) in the meantime. I’m human, and I was then too.
So that was why I gave my reason as ‘it should never have existed in the first place ‘.
I never was, and am not now, solely in existence for the purpose of being leered at by men. Enough already. I’ve had 3 kids, I’m more than aware of what boobs are for. They’re not for random blokes to grab, comment on, or talk to when my face is a significant distance north.
The reason I’ve put fingers to keypad to blog is that, judging by the number of retweets and favourites, my reasoning has struck a chord, so it seemed good to expand a little.

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Beech avenue

Beech avenue

You’d never know it from the picture but this is very close to the car park. One of my favourite ambles back to the car.

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Sunrise in the forest

Sunrise in the forest

I know I should be grateful to the dog for getting me up this early on a winter’s morning…

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Teeny tiny mushroom in moss

Teeny tiny mushroom in moss.

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