Reference For Liam Taylor

To Whom It May Concern

Mr Taylor has been renting my house for about 4 and a half months – I don’t know the exact dates. He signed the Tenancy Agreement with N&M lettings – my letting agents at the time. The tenancy agreement was dated 1st of September 2017 which was impossible because N&M Lettings didn’t get the keys to the property until the 13th of September.

So I am unsure when Mr Taylor moved in. Also I am unsure of the date that he left. He never gave any notice, didn’t hand in any keys and certainly never cleaned up before he left.

Indeed I don’t believe Mr Taylor ever cleaned the property. Against my wishes he brought a dog into the house. A seventeen year old dog whom he left alone every day. Mr Taylor was reported to the RSPCA because the dog was whimpering sadly each day, obviously very distressed.

When I gained entry I discovered an excrement-laden blanket in the dining room. The place smelt of dog, dog poo, sweaty socks, unwashed clothes and stale cigarette smoke. Imagine that smell brewing for about 4 and a half months without opening a window.

Dog hairs were everywhere – encrusted on the window sills and trodden into every carpet.

In fairness, most of the dog poo was outside in the back yard

The bathroom was the cleanest room in the house – although I didn’t realise that limescale in a toilet could be such an extremely dark shade. In fact, I don’t think Mr Taylor had had a bath or a shower since Christmas. I am discerning this because I found a pair of knickers in the bath which I assume belonged to his partner who moved out around that time

The member of staff from Selective Licensing who called round with me when I got access said that he had seen worse! Worse apparently was a house where the toilet was chock full of shit. The sink was full of the same and the bath was half full of it. Apparently this person couldn’t get the toilet to work so was shovelling the shit into the other receptacles while he carried on doing his business. So in his favour I think Mr Taylor was not the worst tenant I could have got. Although having said that he was only in for 4 and a half months and the toilet was working all the time.

In conclusion, if you wish to have Mr Taylor as a tenant then also be prepared for neighbours complaining about the smell (drugs also can be added to the mix), unpaid bills, your carpets and other household items ruined and your property left in a state that animals would never live in.

Through A Glass Darkly

Bank Holiday Britain – Showers, Moderate to Poor

Spring but it is not spring.
A bright young lady in M&S
We laugh about this Bank Holiday springing up on us
Miserable grey days 
Weekend of woeful weather
(more of the woe later)
To her it is a break from work
a day off - always welcome
"What do you have planned?" she asks
"Well Tesco is open" I hear myself say ...
And then realise how sad that sounds
So I tell of our Plan B
"We may go to the pictures"
She gives me a kind smile.
Mulling it over later on the bus
I wonder if I am the last person
In Britain to use the phrase:
'going to the pictures'

How many of our 'out of date' expressions define us?
'Wednesday's child is full of woe'
and who understands woe these days?
Do the French still use the phrase 'Helas'?
in French translation in the 1970s
I tried to pass this off as 'alas'
which it is but was told no-one says this
in England any more
and this started 2 weeks of madness for me and my sister
as we tried to bring 'alas' back into fashion
Dropping it into every conversation we had
At hairdressers, bus stops, in the pub
No luck
Yet we should count ourselves lucky we survived
Alas! Boro was rough even in those days

just thought - is there still such a word in current use
as 'hairdressers'? People don't go 'down the pub' anymore.
Do they just go out for a drink?
Pub, hairdressers, milkman, coalman.
I should be writing to Saga?

But our rich heritage is in our words and their history.
My siblings (good word!) and I grew up with my grandma
A living treasure trove of expressions
Spondoolicks, 'out on the razzle', 'did you click?' 
(How I hated the last one)
Sometimes she would ask you to 'pass the glass'
I never thought of the latter as anything strange. 
So many years later, when an English lecturer
asked what I thought 'Through a glass darkly' meant
I could picture grandma staring into the mirror
and it only took a smitchen of imagination
to see that glass clouded over
And us now living in our dim reflection of life

Bucket Lists. Why?

Why does anyone do bucket lists?

Since retiring I have (sort of) made a list of places I’d like to visit. Suddenly today it occurred to me what should be on the list. There are things that I really should have done in my life. I don’t mean like climbing Mount Everest (never going to do that – Snowdon was enough). One thing I should have done . ..

My mum was admitted to hospital towards the end of her life – she was choking on her food, was listless and, because she had dementia, we were worried that her system was just closing down. To this day  years later what I didn’t do still haunts me.

When she was admitted, she could still go to the toilet.  Two days later when I went in she was distressed because she’d had a catheter inserted. I went to speak to someone about it as mum was clearly very upset. I was concerned because no-one in the family had been consulted and she was evidently protesting against it. I was put off -it was necessary to measure her fluid; it would be in for just 2 or 3 days; it was a temporary solution.

The temporary solution lasted until she died 5 days later. While she was conscious and whenever I was there, she would take my hand and gesticulate to show her distress. She desperately wanted that thing removed.

Once whilst waiting with my brother to see her, we were told to wait in a small room. After a while I came out and saw that there was a gathering of people round her bed. I was told to return to the family room but we somehow found out that she had attempted to remove the catheter herself.

Why does this this happen to someone who goes into hospital? Do you have no say in your own life? I think back on my mum and how lovely and independent she was and yet in the end how her last attempts at making her desires known were ignored.  She also knew I could have done something to stop this happening. I let her down. I’m not looking for someone else to blame but would like to know how decisions are made to give patients catheters. Are they obligatory? Are we all going to get one? Is it because dementia patients need to be provided with bedpans and they are not able to get help in time when they need to go to the toilet?

In the last days of mum’s life – members of my family were with her 24/7 and we would have been happy to get her bedpans and change sheets if necessary. Why can’t dementia patients be offered some sort of family-assisted care?

I’m not ‘having a go’ at the doctors and nurses in the hospital – some of them were wonderful but I think the dementia care lets us down.  Sufferers of dementia are incredibly vulnerable. They have been very special people – mums, dads, grandmas, granddads, wives, husbands, aunties uncles etc., even younger people with early onset dementia. Whatever the connections, the surviving relatives watch as that lovely person that they knew, gradually disintegrates – often not being able to recognise them. Because dementia awareness is such a new thing, we need new ways to respond to treatment and care.

One final thing I wished I’d done at the hospital –

We were there as I said 24 hours every day of the week. At night when I stayed, I noticed the nurse’s computer had gone onto screensave.  The message that had been input as the screen saver was ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’. Imagine what it does for a relative to see this scrolling across the screen. Imagine what I am thinking they think of my mum and others in their care. On my bucket wish-list I edit their screensaver. I change it to say – ‘Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By’.

Can anyone at James Cook University Hospital, South Tees grant me my bucket list wish?

Who cares? Closing the care homes

I started to write this at the end of June,2014 because I was so frustrated after attending a Devon County Council meeting where we were told that we could attend but as an audience say nothing. I think it is one of the worst experiences of my adult life – and I grew up in Middlesbrough in the 50s and 60s so I’ve seen some ‘life’ in my time.

THURSDAY 26th June, County Hall, Exeter.
I’ve never been to a Scrutiny Committee meeting before but I’m very worried about Devon County Council’s plan to close nearly all the County’s care homes (20 out of 22) and half of its day care centres.

First thing I learn is that we are gagged. The whole audience is here to observe only. Apparently, we should consider ourselves lucky to be here. We are privileged. But we cannot speak.
I know none of the councillors so will have to describe them as best I can.
The effect of the gagging order hits almost immediately for me (someone who used to think I was crazy when I swore and railed at the TV but now realise that you are actually crazy or brain dead if you do NOT swear). The debate on the closures finally begins after much other council business. A councillor (Labour, may have been called Hill) is reading a letter from a Devon lady whose mum is in one of the care homes under threat. The daughter is concerned because her mother has dementia and the carers who now look after her knew her mum before she had the dementia. The present carers know her as a person and her mum is very distraught that she will have to leave a caring environment where she feels safe and understood. I know a bit about dementia because my mum had it and it is very scary for those with dementia to be moved and have to face even more uncertainty. The badly-dyed blond-haired chair of the committee is not only not listening to the constituent’s letter but she muttering to the young man next to her. Are they sharing a joke? Or is she casting the sickly, flirty grins across the room at the guy who is proposing the closures? I can’t concentrate on the clearly heartfelt letter being read out and, because I can’t say anything, I have a barely resistable urge to stand up and stare at her till she shuts up and stops smirking. It feels like a children’s playground except children would have more respect.
I can’t see expressions from the Tory and Liberal side, are they all having a laugh? I’ve got to imagine that they are.
A discussion about the cost of a care place – apparently it’s much cheaper to put the old in privately-run care homes (you’ve got to ask why really – what facilities and services are offered, are the staff fully trained and being paid a living wage?).
Also, some people need more than basic care. I sit there wondering what deal Thatcher got at The Ritz. Wonder if we could get that info? I wouldn’t mind going into a Travel Lodge when I get to need support. Wonder how they’d respond after I shit the bed a few weeks in a row.
A discussion about the cost of renovating a care home. A hard-faced old Tory woman chirrups, ‘Wouldn’t it be easier just to flatten it?’
Bear in mind she is talking about our buildings, rate payers. Maybe some of the £5 million plus being paid out in redundancy money could be diverted to investing in our properties, by putting them right.
One promise made ‘we won’t move people until we have a place to send them to’ (Stuart? can we follow up on this promise?)
A phrase that was often used in this one-sided debate was ‘market premium’ – comparing the price difference between the council run care homes and the private ones.

When I get home I Google ‘care homes closing’. It is happening throughout the country and what is becoming blindingly obvious is an emerging shortage of care homes. And this at a time when in the near future this burgeoning aging community (including us all) is going to need a whole lot more of them.

However, let’s look at this from a capitalist viewpoint. It’s unmistakably a ‘business opportunity’ and what happens when you’ve closed the council homes is that you create a shortage? Prices in business are determined by the market. By demand and not by how much a service actually costs. Look what happened (is still happening!) to the housing market when council houses were sold off. By closing care homes, the cost of care will increase because you are doing away with the competition. Competition that only charges its costs and is not governed by profit and shareholder’s remuneration.

Since writing this, look what is happening with the NHS. It is struggling to cope. In many cases this is down to ‘bed blocking’. People who no longer need the hospital’s services but there is nowhere else for them to go. This is due to the recent closures and uncertainty facing small cottage type hospitals. They were wonderful, allowing patients to recuperate and freeing up the hospital beds for more needy patients. It is also due to the closure of care homes.  Many older people do not need to be in hospital beds. They need to get superlative treatment – they deserve better consideration.  We were told that cuts will not affect vulnerable people.  That promise was a lie.

Train companies – open letter from one of the sardines

When was the last time you enjoyed a train journey?

When was the last time you enjoyed a train journey?

The Quiet Coach

In what way – by what definition can you justifiably call any coach ‘the quiet coach’.

1) There are children in this coach – I like children don’t get me wrong but 99.999% of children travelling any distance will never be designated ‘quiet’ so why are they in here?  Children should pay adult fares in a quiet coach unless there is no other seat available at time of booking – they should get much reduced fares in other carriages to encourage parents to use other coaches.

2) You should make regular announcements that Coach F or whatever it is – is a quiet carriage and that you will take action against anyone who is not making an attempt hush up.  I have requested that people do not use their phones as they are in a quiet coach but today with two blokes across the aisle chatting away like noisy old men – what it the point of asking the young man in front to cease using his mobile?

On my trains –  the Quiet Zone would be enforced by everyone having a gag round their mouths — even if they were just passing through.

I dare you, train company managers – travel on your own trains (and not in 1st class) or, simpler, provide your customers with an on board survey. Question One could be. ‘Sum up your journey in a four letter word – one that is not rude’.
Sunday 13th of April, 2014,  my word is DIRE.

My journey took just under 6 hours which shouldn’t have been too harsh but I am sat in a four-carriage train that should have been longer. And everyone who got on said  ‘There’s no room for the luggage’,  ‘It won’t fit up there’ or in the case of the young Liverpudlian man ‘Yes it just about fits’  – thump THUMP, WHACK, CRASH.

Travelling from Leeds to Exeter and already crowded,  we went into Wales and took on another train-load at Newport who stood in the aisles. Hemmed in against the window by the large guy next to me who is using the WIFI that’s beneath my feet, every now and then he flicks his mouse elbow which knocks me, not enough for him to notice (?) but it’s like a dripping tap, I never know when he’ll overreach for his mouse,  – a dilemma – should I subtly move and smash him in the face?

Train companies – British People are getting fatter, make your seats bigger. And because we have to take out payday loans to buy the tickets, wouldn’t it be nice if you gave us at least half an hour of WIFI free. It could allow us to let the people who are picking us up know when the train is late. You gleefully announce that WIFI is free in 1st class – how do you think that makes the rest of us feel?

And talking about costs  – what about the tea? £2.30 and when I complain, am told it may go up. Now I don’t mind £2.30 too much but a guy near me asked for a cup of hot water the other day and guess what? That’s £2.30 as well. There’s got to be something wrong about that. It must be illegal. What if we complain to our legislators? Well – they are travelling 1st class so if the tea’s not included they get a receipt and claim it back on their expenses. (which WE ALL PAY).  So they haven’t paid for their ticket, they have a bigger seat, no-one’s standing over you in 1st, there’s plenty of room for your luggage,  they can visit the toilet when they actually want to go and not when the coast is clear (when there are less sardines to squeeze past)   – they’ve got unlimited free drinks, food (and newspapers probably) – no wonder they don’t know anything about our lives –  they are making decisions which dictate the way we live  yet they are clearly living on a different planet.  And they’ve got the flipping WIFI free!


Come see, come see . . .

A host of golden daffodils   This retirement lark gets you thinking. The other day, having grown daffodils for over 40 years, Phil shouted ‘Come see, Come see!’ Out in the back garden, he pointed to our daffodils. “Do you notice anything strange about them?” After a short guessing session, I gave up. “They are all looking at us” he says. And they were. Creepy .. . It was similar at the front.. I argued that it was natural as they would probably be just growing towards the light. Why had he never noticed this before though in all these years? Retirement – far too much time.

Domestic goddess, eat your heart out

2014-04-04 10.58.17
Doomed before it had a chance. No proper cake tin. Basic ingredients missing so needed to invent others and reinvent the proportions of what I did have. Who over 60 understands metric to imperial conversions anyway -well Mary Berry excluded. To sum up resulting cake in one word - I would say 'solid'.
You'll note the doorstep-like appearance.
I think it could be recycled perhaps as the base of a substantial trifle, - tautology aside, it doesn't taste too bad. The opposite of light, fluffy and moist, it is massively filling. Eat this (I have had 2 slices) and you will require nothing further for quite a while. It could become a major weapon on the war on want.
Sadly it's a 'one off'.