What ever happened to Parental and Social Responsibility?

This morning, here in the UK, I heard a so called debate on the television about some proposed new scheme for warning the youth of today, including from 4 year olds and up about the dangers and warning signs of sexual abuse. To be funded by the government of course, I acknowledge that it is a very serious subject but it was the straw that just about broke this camel’s back. You might like to make a cup of tea first for this.

I won’t discuss that particular issue in detail as it is still only a proposal and hopefully common-sense will reign and it will be tackled more sensitively given its importance. My thoughts here are on parental and social responsibility in more general terms.

Firstly, to address the Nay Sayers of this world who will no doubt be the first to respond (if anyone does). I fully understand that there are always cases and circumstances where any generalisation that I may appear to address will-not and cannot apply. Although this small but important minority often makes the headlines, the bigger picture is just as important. To get the resources, backup and support that these genuine case deserve, society needs to stand up and take responsibility for themselves so that those precious and always limited recourses can be better directed.

There are so many areas where the principals I discuss can be applied but I will stick with the more obvious, hopefully for it to become evident for the rest.

Case One: The number of Children that are born in a family.
FamlyI have no problem what-so-ever with large families. My mother was one of nine, but, given the high street availability of contraception both general and advanced, why is it that many of these families are reliant on state benefits and all manner of other social aid? The more cynical side of me hears ‘keep having them luv and rack up the benefits’ but in many cases it is so true. The more reasonable side of me thinks that, if you can afford the family you want then have as many as you want! At least in recent years, all be it lip-service to the problem, child benefit is being limited a little; too little too late? I could repeat that phrase many time but will refrain from it if I can.

Case Two: Obesity, especially in children.
ObeseFamilyCartoonHow, in all that is sensible, is it the responsibility of government for the type of food that is shoved into the mouths of ourselves and our children. I say ‘our’ children as I have had two and so am not very far above the situation while standing on this, my little soap box. The type of food, but mostly the volume of food is a growing problem. It is a proven fact that it costs as much at eat a balanced and healthy diet as it does to eat the absurd volumes of processed and nutritionally irrelevant food that so often fills the freezers and cupboards of the western world. I am almost driven to tears when I listen to proposals for a Sugar Tax to deter the sales of sweets and sugar laden baked beans and the like. When ever did a hike in price ever stop people doing or having things, they just go without something sensible or even worse options. Why are we, the public, funding gastric bands for teenagers? Why are school children having to go to a breakfast club? Why are schools being undermined over promoting healthy school dinners? We have all hear of Jamie Oliver’s school dinner campaigns, those parents who were bringing McDonalds (many other fast foods are also available to deride) to the school fence to placate their nutritionally uneducated children’s palettes should surely face criminal proceedings!

Which leads me neatly onto the next case.

Case Three: Self-inflicted medical issues.
DrunkYou can find on late night television almost every night, ‘entertainment’ programmes about our hard presses police, fire and ambulance services tackling the stupidity of drunken irresponsibility and worse on our streets. Disappointingly I am realistic enough to know that you will never get certain layers of society to accept responsibility for themselves, that unfortunately has always been a lost cause. Let me illustrate a point of responsibility; some years ago, I was unfortunate to have a collision on my car, (there are no such things as accidents remember), an unsuspecting road worker stepped backwards in-front of me where there was no time or room to avoid a coming together. The young chap was fortunately unhurt and no damage to the car, not that that mattered. After the embarrassment for the guy when his foreman made him strip almost to his underwear to check for physical damage, there being none we exchanged details and all went on with our day. Two weeks later, I had a letter that was a bill for the ambulance that the foreman had decided he needed to call, just in case. I had no problem with the bill but it illustrates how we seem to be going backwards in our thinking on such things; you won’t get a bill now where I think you still should. Why do sensible members of what is supposed to be a civilised society have to foot the bill for drunk people causing a public nuisance, drug addicts who refuse help to get off their addiction, clinically obese people who refuse to address their diets, people requiring operations but refuse to give up smoking or drinking or many other situations that you can easily identify.

I will reiterate my earlier submission that there will always be genuine cases that are out of an individual’s control and I am fully supportive of those, it is these that should be getting the resources that are, in my opinion, being wasted on those who self-inflict.

Case Four: Being polite.
Thank youIt is easy to push this subject away with the old potato of it being a ‘generational thing’ but how rotten that potato is going to be in the very foreseeable future; if not already. When and where did that basic civilised concept of Respect disappear? I’m not talking about the Emily Bronte type lords and ladies contrived and protracted protocols but it is something of a rarity now to hear a simple Please or Thank You. Personally I press the point whenever I can and will often make a show of an individual if only for my own satisfaction. From such little acorns, civility might grow rather than the slide towards the lowest common denominator, as are so many things and I stand by an old but timeless adage that I was bought up with, “If you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all.” How much easier it is not do something rather than actively offend, abuse, swear and disrupt. This ties into the next case; and the last for now anyway.

Case Five: Discipline.
disciplineWhat happened to the concept of being punished and accepting it, for doing something wrong? I have to say for the cynical reader, I have done plenty of things that I shouldn’t have, but you will never have heard me complain about any justifiable punishment. My further comments come from observing five generations in my lifetime; my grandparents, my own parents, me and my siblings and now own children plus their youngsters. What a terrible and escalating downward step change there has been over that time in the attitude towards other people in general. This now so often falls to ‘passing the buck’ where it’s social services fault, the government for not providing facilities, the television stations for showing violent films, video games that make mass murder a thing of fun; everybody but those that it is. Keeping up with the neighbours or school mates for the latest tech often foregoing everyday living basics. Worse of all, mistakenly thinking that so many things in this life are a right, when really they are a privilege; I could write a blog on that one alone (perhaps I will). Just one example, taking children out of school in term time to go on holiday. If you have children in school are you really happy to deny them a block of their education for a few hours of sun? Some will pay the fine as it’s often still cheaper than the inflated prices of holiday weeks but think nothing of the effect on those that they should be responsible for. Fines mean nothing to most whereas two weeks in the sun or two weeks at her Majesty’s pleasure? You might guess which I would advocate,;but still have them pay the fine and upkeep while behind bars if I could get away with it; (another blog brewing there I think).

If you have read this far, congratulations; not many will have I’m sure.

Call me a ‘grumpy old man’ if you wish, I have broad shoulders but even those are crumbling in despair of a society that is going to have to somehow manage itself and the anarchy that is going to overwhelm us as the generations move forward.

Holding Baby – rehearsal review 13-01-16

The inimitable Jan Watts has definitely come up with the goods with this marvellous piece.


Holding BabyAlthough only an audience attended rehearsal in this developing play, it is easy to see that the finished work will be absolutely fantastic! The subject matter is one of personal substance and you are gripped from the very first minute with the chaos but intimacy of the storyline. The characters are so clearly defined that they grab your attention and draw you into the personal plight of each one.

Written from very personal experience, Jan has hit every nail on every head in her portrayal of confusion and social upheaval that families go through where so often Grandma is literally left holding the baby. The moving story of Kinship Care is portrayed perfectly but tempered with a perfect degree of amusement from the character of the Great Gran although even she has a poignant edge to her performance.

The combination of intuitive actors who all play strong and very real parts plus an important and often overlooked topic, even without a set, props or costume, I would have paid to see this one any day.

Please keep an eye out for further developments of this work as it moves to full stage production, hopefully later in the year.

Follow Jan and all her great work on her Facebook page from here –  Jan Watts

 

Appropriate behaviour – Level 1

This is the first part of a trilogy; it should be read as that. It could be interesting to see what questions the set or its parts may raise.


The tearful individual had walked over to acquire something, but quite what it was he didn’t seem to know. A shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear or just an escape from the difficulties that followed him round the recreation area?

The two had known of each other for some time, not really on an even footing but there had always been a classifiable link. Age was the only spoiler, to the outside world that is but such things had never seemed to be a problem for them; how society judged was its own concern. Here in the quiet that had been honestly sought and genuinely found, there was nothing that could be judged inappropriate; not for them anyway.

The younger slid his facing chair closer to gain a little more reassurance, knees touched to cement the transfer. Eyes didn’t need to meet nor words be exchanged as this wasn’t the first time they had been this close. The younger’s feelings now were just some of the many things stirred up by confusing natural developments which were at the same time, exciting; the possibility that his peers were going through the same things hadn’t proved to supply the empathy that he found in the here-and-now.

As if this current need had to be identified he held out a hand, not knowing where to place it or even what he wanted to be done with it, he relied on the experience of age. The slim pale fingers were taken gently but firmly to appreciate the warmth of the others body; their trembling finally stopped. Still no words had been exchanged, only the certainty of protection.

The background banter and noise faded as the rowdy group worked out that there was more fun to be had without someone older being in their field of play.

It was now just the two of them.

Neither moved nor communicated further, not verbally anyway as eventually the older gently lifted the boy’s chin to see if he was ready to talk; as he had done several times in similar situations. A flashing glance from the clear grey-green eyes told the older no but, although the smile of reassurance that was offered went unnoticed, the touching knee changed to a full leg length as the younger slipped easily round onto an adjacent chair. Single hands of each gripped palm to palm and the contact zipped up forearms to elbow and onto uneven shoulders. The smooth movement set a mop of manicured sun-streaked hair falling to one side as a delicate and as yet acne free cheek rested onto the pointed shoulder of the older. Still no words were shared.

Their breathing synchronised sympathetically and the world around them faded that little bit more.

It was difficult to make out who made the next move, perhaps no more one than the other but the response was so immediate as to make it impossible to assign blame; the underlying driving emotion for either party was likely to be very different.

It was actually the older’s hand which had been first to unclasp which allowed it to brush past the short-haired nape of the younger’s fine neck where it griped the developing shoulder to pull the figure tighter into him; the freed younger hand slipped easily into the heat and comfort of the older’s thigh. Each paused to gauge any immediate reaction; again, outwardly, there was none.

They had sat side by side before, trying to work out who was helping whom. Then, conversation had found nothing more than a mutual acceptance of a friendship but with a growing awareness of more than only that. For the younger it would have been sensing and appreciating maturity that his peers were still working out, for the older it was definitely an opportunity to live many moments that had never been realised at that volatile stage in his own life.

The impending escalation would provide adventures for them both, although inevitably in contrasting ways.

Love off the rails

Commuting by train can be such a bore but who of us hasn’t played harmless games to pass the time?


The rocking of the train’s worn out velveteen seat
relaxing where it fits for tired head and hot pulsating feet,
no longer a nostalgic rhythm clickerty-clack, clickerty-clack,
just a quieter comfort from the featureless seamless track.

Images and colour change to quickly for appreciation,
soundless tannoy’s speak of each fleeting, nameless station.
Reflections flash past but too many to clearly view,
the attractions they feed in thankfully, limited to a few.

Amongst the crushed static travellers, few are familiar
although one or two stir up something more vascular
and you hope for a look or even a glance,
but features remain aloof, romance, no, not a chance.

Focused thoughts then seem to raise an attraction,
if only in a mirrored windows dark streaked reflection,
their eyes look deeper into yours, synaptic layers mingle,
you wonder just why they are so obviously single.

Sharp the thorns of rejection stick hard in your eyes,
with such overheated attention, is it such a surprise,
only you can’t give it up and these looks continue,
when you do find a smile, it steps past with ne’er an adieu.

Your station sequels in, the crush carries you in its sweep,
eyes open at what was a pat surely, on your one bottom cheek,
you reach back to find the as yet unseen set of warm digits
they clasp at your reaching and together you and they fidget
but hold on as you move to the freshness of the platform
where smile accepted you stroll, life partners, thankfully home.

paris-men-holding-hands

Reflection

Have you ever been on a train late at night and strange desires tease your ego?  No?  Well I have….


Being an avid people watcher, there was plenty of interest in the crowded train carriage. While actually too crowded for my comfort, station by station the commuting assemblage thinned until there were only a few of us left. My mood relaxed in tandem.

Those passengers left were unfortunately positioned to be reduced to just domes of heads, all different hair colour, scalp tone, hat style; I was disappointed.

Although I know it couldn’t have been by design, there was only one face to be seen from where I sat tightly in my corner. Actually there were two faces, one in profile, warm, friendly, passively looking out into the darkness, the same night-time creating a mirror to accommodate the second; a rather paler reflection that seemed to be looking in my direction across the seat tops. In my direction but there was no eye contact that constituted recognition or communication. My interest was pricked but I was drawn away to muse over a rather shapely dark skinned scull a couple of seats behind him; them.

Further distraction came as the next station slid alongside and my eyes flicked about in hope but returned to the warm face which was now alone, it’s counterpart lost in the whiteness of the platform lights. As the carriage doors cycled open and closed, I studied his rather attractive features. Smooth tight skin, mid thirties, perhaps younger, yes younger; I was trying to kid myself that I didn’t need to consider the youth. Pale grey irises stood out clearly in their clean white pools but a blink hooded then a little and the long dark lashes linking to manicured brows showed them off to perfection.

A ripple on his temple was driven by some agitation of the defined jaw, I caught a pout of gentle rouge brown lips and the forehead rested once more. To one side a neat flat ear was nestling beneath the tightly cropped hair line that gently developed upward only to disappear under a shock of sculpted silk strands wrapping smoothly out of sight to the nape; I could easily picture the 360 degree image in my practised mind’s eye. This indulgence was brushed aside but the sudden reappearance of the boy’s co-conspirator, this time the black backed reflection was not so isolated, in fact it was staring at me, not past me, not through me, right inside me.

Embarrassed, I looked away, but the attraction had already been secured by my psyche and I allowed my peripheral vision to keep the image available; indistinct but available.

They were inviting eyes and my resolve failed quickly and I allowed mine to be locked into them. It lasted for only a millisecond but there was something wrong with this picture; it was my rational brain speaking to me; I couldn’t determine the problem but there was something odd going on.

In the previous minutes, neither of us in this detached intimacy had moved more than the occasional discrete muscle but I froze as the reflective face broke into a smile, I could see it clearly although still locked into the grey pools. His cheek bones had filled out with raised impudence, teeth, white and even, glistened inside lips full. The problem resolved.

The face, the living face hadn’t changed its stoic beautiful profile. Trying to break myself away to confirm this peculiarity seemed impossible but when the wink that was tossed, definitely didn’t come from the statuesque form. Confusion slapped me hard on the cheek and my neck swung round only to be met by the confusion of reflections of reflections in the opposing windows. It was too much to reason and I bounced back to the original conundrum.

The smile was still in place and although I returned it willingly, I hoped that mine was hidden by the high velveteen seat backs between us. Knowing that my reciprocation had been registered, a more comprehensible set of facial niceties beamed out their acceptance of my complete attention.

Still confused I glanced momentarily to the left but felt guilty as a frown dig into his forehead. The visceral version of this peculiarity still hadn’t moved it’s ravishing contours. As my eyes flicked back, I could tell that he displeased as the corners of his mouth had dropped slightly in silent admonishment; I tilted my head and raised an eyebrow in apology. What was I apologising for? I was flirting with a reflection, beautiful, but still only a refection. Was I so desperate for attention? So gullible? My eyes stabbed with pain and they screwed up against another set of bright lights, my head fell forward and hit the seat in-front of me. The train screeched harshly to its rest.

The atmosphere changed. People were getting in my way, there was no room to manoeuvrer or escape as a rotund panting body exhaled some obnoxious curry flavoured breath as it sat heavily almost in my lap; my stomach turned. Disappointment rocked me back into the uncomfortable seat. Craning a stiffening neck around the seat, the vision of beauty was gone, as was its counterpart, leaving only an invisible imprint on the weather streaked glass.

All I could do was scowl at the unfortunate mass next to me.

Winter

Withseasons8Winter the weather turning decidedly cold and wet, I though it time to bring out a few observations on the last of the seasons; hope you enjoy them


 

White wastelands glisten from chocolate box tops,
for most, these are things of memory where the fantasy we hope for stops.
Autumn’s detritus soaked by dew and more often frost,
means that the coldest of seasons has the years kindness, for now at least, lost.

Modern trends help make shorter days, normal days,
and with cold air less of a problem most can still relax and laze,
in the comfort of automated centrally governed heat,
steamed up windows belie the balmy temperature of your pampered and rather toasty feet.

The suns lower path is something only natural,
but you have no advantage and rearrange you diary try to make it more or less compatible,
car share mums dictate the drama of the daily school run,
with many trying to fit in work, it doesn’t take much weather not to get everything done.

But when we can, we make the most of the time,
start to plan for the seasons one great event, not too early but through pre Christmas sales you still do climb,
hold back? no sir, throughout every department the temptation’s ever there,
but you can always hide those secret presents somewhere, perhaps under the stair.

Distract from the practical to enjoy more of the theme,
a winter’s wonderland, you may even get to watch your local football team,
or rugby as they plunder the balls across ever muddied grass,
you cheer and whistle, scream ‘Wot, Ref’ when your favourite player has been dumped on his ass.

Snow lovers in current divergent climates have many a doubt,
and now have to plan ahead to get piste, just one or two if they can on an Alp,
those who stay home, take brief advantage, and hopefully some more,
of the odd days of white stuff done more safely with less risk of avalanche horror.

Others dust off the sled, that’s been hung in the shed,
find a slope, push, scream, bounce bang crash, you’re glad of the helmet on your head,
drag only slightly damaged yourself back home and a piping hot bath,
perhaps stick to the track now but at least you created a memory and had something of a laugh.

Then Christmas is here, at last, its been just too long,
excitement bursts from every corner, bright, baubley bounty, even the odd festive song,
‘Its not the same as it was’, that’s the usual comment my Gran’
who remembers nuts in your stocking and rare treats only seen at this time, of the white bearded man.

Festivals fly fast and then, oh dear they’re all done and gone,
New Year sees your decorations packed, the world looks rather plain and perhaps just a little wan,
They say its the lack of sunshine, nature’s natural, vitamin D,
all I know is that its just a matter of time as the world spins, and what will be, will be.

The Patient

An unfortunate incident but we got through it.


Busy hospital
Bustles about you,
Beds full of patients,
Books full of notes

Curtains pulled round,
Clothes swapped for gowns, thin,
Cups of cool tea,
Crusts curl on plate

Waiting, then wandering,
Watching all, sitting cool,
White coats flutter
Willing students lean in and peer

“This ones a poser?”
The consultant, questions
“Tell me young medic, what
The prognosis might be?”

“It presents with a lump sir,
It could be,” he pauses,
“It might be,” notes rustle,
“It’s definitely a…. hmmm”

You listen all eager but
Young faces they’re frowning,
You’re not really certain,
Your nerves begin to crown

Patience is expended,
Pan-faced professor is grim,
“Pull together you students,
Please, what is this in him?”

You look round, still blank faces,
You must seem very tense,
“You’ll be fine” says the sister,
“You just sit still,” she grins

“Well I’ll tell you them shall I”
Words of wisdom they flow
“We’ll cut him just here, yes,
What size?” but they don’t really know

In confusion you stop listening,
It’s their job, you just lie there,
In the end you’ll be better,
Into their hands, you just relax

Darkness envelops,
Dreams devour you,
Dull pain now, there,
Down below

But by doctors orders
Bed baths over
Bag of pills and
Back home you go.

Morning shines new,
Miss the food, no,
Miss the appendage?
Maybe a little,
Mmmm
May-be so.

Medics

The Wheelie Bin Affair

This piece was written for an ‘in house’ competition for one of the writing groups I am part of; it didn’t win but that’s OK. You can see the winner here if you would like – or dare to!


Although I don’t personally have the pleasure of using the new recycling wheelie bins, I sometimes hear the chatter of them; today for instance. I was picking at a few errant weeds in my front border when a quiet conversation weaved its way through the hedge and caught my attention, mainly because of the rather superior tone that was being taken.

“He always gets left out there, look at him, all black and dowdy, always last to be collected but then that’s understandable I guess.”

“You can be such a snob at times.”

“Excuse me, doesn’t my natural pedigree show, blue blood always comes to the top you know.”

“Well it’s blue and on the top but you are hardly something very much different…..”

“I beg your pardon,” the voice cut in, “I know you’re green with envy but have you seen my special compartments? You can’t deny that I’m here to provide the more valuable service, this bit in here, that bit in there and only the best of course, would you like to have a read of yesterdays Times?

“No thank you, I’m more of a Gardeners World reader.”

“Humm, I guess you are. Anyway, all the dirty rubbish gets passed on to him. All that black bag business and constantly smelling like some, well I don’t know what I’m just surprised I’m expected to stand next to him, he can get a little whiffy you know, saying that, so can you on a hot day; is there nothing you can do about yourself?”

“I’ll have you know I’m just as essential as you, I was specially purchased you know, not everyone has one like me, we are very particular who and what we service.”

“Well that’s just it isn’t it, you service whereas I’m a necessity, EU regulations don’t you know! You two have been around for years doing your best, but now I’m providing the new and most valuable service.”

“Watch out he’s coming back.”

I was almost tempted to pull back the bushes as see what was going on but didn’t want to be seen as the nosey neighbour. After a rumble and a scrape, the conversation continued.

“A good dump today was it?”

“I do have to say it’s nice to get rid of it, I think two weeks is a little long even with a good fitting lid like I’ve got but of course you don’t have to think about that in your cosy separated life do you?”

“Now now my good man, we all have our part to play, someone has to deal with the dross, and if the lid fits, or in your case not very well,…hahaha.”

Even I could see that this wasn’t very a kind attitude but another sound of movement dragged me away from the thought.

“See you later boys, I’m off to do my Special job, all that fresh-cut grass, mmmmm, sweet heaven.”

The voice faded and was soon accompanied by the gentle hum of a lawnmower. The remaining parties were quiet for a while and I was struggling to find any more weeds to remove but continued the pretence anyway.

“You can be quite harsh you know, even a dirty old thing like me has feelings you know.”

“Well, yes, I’m sorry, but it’s him, he’s itching to get in-between us, every time he goes out I dread that he’ll muscle his way back in and then where would be, we household chaps have to stick together don’t you know.”

“I do, but it’s still not very nice to listen to, you understand how I would be lost without you, how I managed all these years on my own I shall never know.”

“Now then you silly smelly old thing, you settle here next to me and I’ll sort the other one out, we can sit here quite nicely and sort out the troubles of the world together, I don’t think I could do it on my own if the truth be told.”

“Thank you Henry, you are so good to me.”

“That’s OK Bert, someone has to take charge so it might as well be me.”

Things went rather quiet but I had a picture in my mind of the two of them happily nestled in the corner of the yard quite happy in their own company. The haughty voice piped up again.

“I do wish you could straighten up those numbers though, they do rather let the side down… what, what?”

“Now then Henry, you know you like me being a little kinky, mmm?”

Back in my kitchen I tied off the top of the carrier bag that I used for rubbish and tossed it into the industrial sized steel bin in the communal area, the receptacle grunted it’s usual gruff thanks and I nodded in return.

The Wait

A further contribution to the 99 word collection. This one was inspired by a place we would all like to avoid I’m sure ?


The monitors and gauges sat bleeping and flashing in some uncoordinated operetta of care, but it didn’t entertain during the wait. Although the procedure was minor and as they say, routine, the waiting like the thought was proving more difficult.

The clinical smells and the shiny surfaces offered only cold comfort, even well-meant heat pouring from squared ducts was lost in its irritating draft.

“Are we ready?”

The smile in a neat blue uniform failed to pacify the butterflies.

Lying down, hypnotic ceiling lights distracted until with thump of bed against door the reality snapped back.

Wait over.

Hospital Lights