It’s history, not

In the late 80’s and early 90’s

I was proud to be part of a bold experiment.

The Level Best campaign invited disabled people, carers, professionals to get involved. To explain what they wanted to see from council services in Kirklees in West Yorkshire, taking in the conurbations of Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley and the surrounding rural areas.

It was small scale, focused on a specific community of interest and primarily about local welfare services.

It involved a reference group, not unlike an assembly, public meetings, focus groups, research questionnaires a range of techniques drawn from different professional and community approaches.

It resulted in significant local changes and showed how engaging people effectively brings real and lasting results.

There are many examples of how measures to promote people’s active participation can make a real difference in governance and the quality of our lives. We need to take these lessons to change the way our societies and their institutions work.

One such idea is presented here.

The constructive pressure from Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the opportunities afforded by adopting ideas such as citizens’ assembly and localised practical responses to our challenges will help us develop a more sustainable approach to life that can arise from the people themselves and provide opportunities that are different from traditional work models.

We need to think and act differently.

Unkindness

This situation is something of an analogy.

Manjula was the kindest person I’ve probably ever met yet she’d be let down badly by people throughout her life.

I also try to be kind and considerate and I’m beginning to realise it doesn’t work well when others are insensitive, thoughtless, can’t appreciate the ‘other’ and are ultimately unkind. I know, I know I’m a naive 63 year old.

I’m now isolated, in quarantine at home, the street is blocked by fencing on either side of my house, the washing machine is disconnected, I’m unable to shop. Lucie is confused and I can’t walk her. I’m disrupted.

Sowbhagya who works for me is also in a difficult situation quarantined with a sticker on her door confined to a postage stamp house separated from her son.

On the positive side I am in a comfortable home, received home deliveries, stocked up the freezer, Lucie is a street girl and can figure things out. I am extremely fortunate, there are people in terrible situations and have been for months. I should complain less and be sensitive to their situation.

This situation is however completely unnecessary and could have been avoided with a little thought and care.

Two weeks ago the owner asked if they could use the downstairs house for a couple of months. I readily agreed as we have no guests in the current situation. I use it but can manage. There’s one of me and counting the ground and first floor house it’s four bedrooms, library, two lounges you know the sort of thing. Help others, share it out.

The five members of family: grandparents, parents and daughter were living in an apartment in Bangalore and were concerned about the increase in the spread of the virus. At least one of them has underlying health conditions, and the elderly are from a vulnerable group. Once we discussed a few conditions primarily about looking after my stuff and complications about shifting the washing machine plus getting confirmation this was a temporary arrangement (many of my friends were suspicious it was a con to get back the houses) but I checked that one out specifically.

It was a hard thing to do emotionally. Manjula died a year ago. This is our home. She moved and properly set up the Mysore Bed and Breakfast when we took over the downstairs house around eight years ago. But I could so I should help. They could exclusively have the downstairs house with me and Lucie upstairs, separate entrances etc.

They moved in ten days ago.

The adult son of the owner who I deal with now informed me after six days, he’d been tested positive for coronavirus and would go into isolation in hospital.

The rest of the family and I were tested the next day. It seems that the only one other who tested positive was his daughter and she’s now with him in hospital.

Of course it’s just one of those things we have to deal with the best we can, everyone around the world has the same challenges. However, we’ve spent almost three months in lockdown being careful not to get the virus. That care paid off as we’ve had no cases in our layout Siddarthanager, until now, that is.

Now we have what seems to be a completely avoidable situation. Were they suspicious that they might be carrying the virus? Probably, otherwise, why go for a test the day after arriving?

If there was a suspicion a test should have been taken before shifting from Bangalore or gone to their isolated rural farmhouse rather than completely disrupting our lives.

It’s a practical problem but was quite an emotional pull letting them use the house. Manjula’s room was downstairs and for her last few months we created a lovely set up for her. This was her place I was letting go. I’d asked for her picture, the one on which we’d placed flowers every day for a month and then every month to be left on the wall. I discovered they’d taken it down and stuffed it in my storeroom down there. It’s now upstairs with five other pictures of her so maybe a bit over-the-top.

It’s now reflected, when I said at the beginning, kindness met by at the very least insensitivity, to me and my situation and to Manjula even after she’s gone. People don’t care for others enough.

The world is in a sorry state, we just don’t care. The virus, climate change and our responses are actually symptoms of that malaise.

Test form

Here’s my coronavirus test form. The name’s wrong but that’s to be expected, it’s listed that I have symptoms when I don’t (a contact, my neighbour, tested positive so that’s why I’m here) and I had throat and nasal swabs, again not properly indicated on the form.

We’ve not been informed when the results will come through.

I’ve now discovered that my neighbours samples were originally lost so it was almost a week before he got his positive results and taken to hospital.

Our testers with biohazard suits.

Latest read

A lovely novel translated from the Swedish about a man coming to terms with a difficult new situation. Five golden stars.

A man called Ove.

I worried, as I started reading the book that, he was like my father and I was getting to be like that. Oh no! It didn’t quite work that way.

Social distancing

Social and physical distancing, our new normal, in this time of virus has different cultural implications here in India. For more, check this article

Manjula has helped illuminate, for me, something of the prejudice arising in society related to religion, caste, class, race, gender and colour. Aspects of this will feature in our story.

The virus and society’s response highlights those inequalities. This isn’t solely about two distinct groupings of the untouchables and the non- untouchables (savarnas) It’s far more complex and relates to a finely layered strata that’s not confined to Hindus and India.

The right wing shift experienced in most of our societies, does by its very nature exaggerate these differences for political advantage. The social, economic, political distancing is therefore a tool which we’re now reinforcing.

So here’s the next giant leap. This prejudice, elitism, separation of the haves and have-nots, call it what you will, is nothing new, fact is it’s obvious and everywhere and been here for aeons. It’s fundamental to all our societies but it doesn’t have to be.

The factor that connects all these seemingly dispirate disconnects is the way we organise ourselves, our hierarchy, dog eat dog mentality. It might have served us in the past (that’s debatable) but it (yes including brutal free market ways of organising focussing on growth regardless of consequences) is NOT fit for purpose.

It doesn’t serve our needs.

By ‘our’ I mean everyone and not just the self appointed master class or the people in the ‘developed’ countries and not just humans. Another interesting article in two parts here and here covers this.

It’s no accident that the poor in the UK have been demonised in recent decades to support and reinforce a range of political policies including ‘austerity.’

We’re in a sorry state, in so many ways which are clearly interrelated and need to realise it and act. We have opportunities now.

.

Says he, sitting on a balcony in south India who can’t even activate himself to do yoga.

Our separateness politically, economically, socially, spiritually is not sustainable. Rant over…..

And I’ve just found a New Yorker article helps illustrate aspects of what I’ve tried to cover.

Another article here helps illustrate how extreme this was traditionally in India and how a new ‘other’ forms

A community asset

In the USA some are concerned they may lose their publically owned postal service.

They’re right to be worried. It’s a social good that could be lost. In the early 90’s in the UK I recall conversations in social services about how services such as the postal service helped connect and create healthy communities. Individual posties, and refuse collectors and others who delivered to the home helped people feel less isolated and provide a safety net.

Well since those remembered discussions we’ve reduced costs of delivery, reorganised the services endless times, utilised technology, using a tremendous amount of effort and other resources. Why? To reduce the cost of the service to the consumer? No, it now costs more. Ok, to improve the service? No, there’s now fewer deliveries and more limitations. Well, is it better for the employee? That’s very subjective but I’m told that it’s not for a series of reasons. So why has there been so many ‘improvements’? In my view it’s to reduce operating costs, to increase profit potential and sell it off. And what happened? You know.

I write this as someone who’s family has worked in Royal Mail for many years and who’s worked as advisor on helping it to be a more responsible responsive organisation in terms of employee wellbeing.

So was privatisation a success? yes in terms of creating a profit for investors, and admittedly some limited income for government but in terms of being an asset to our community, in my view it’s not. We’ve lost the social value.

Sunflower day.

Hello from lockdown land here in Mysore. Lucie and I were getting bored with each other so we’ve created sunflower day. It’s a day to invite friends to visit. Here they are in the photo. Can you spot them?

How many are there?

Someone’s sneaked in five pictures of Manjula. That’s cheating and only counts as one.

Update: I can see three gods clearly, and there are two hidden away.

There’s more detailed photos below

There’s three gods in this photo, where’s the Australian animal?
One god and a dog
We have so many friends…

Storytime four and three quarters

There’s two stories today, well one is a sad story ‘The Memory Tree’ so check it out before you show it to a little one. It’s a lovely story in its own right and really useful in a context of a wider conversation about death. Here is a link to how I explained to my granddaughter Poppy what happens when someone dies. This was after Manjula slipped through my fingers.

The next is a rhyme by Roald Dahl, a different take on Cinderella.

I’ve had a technical question from my granddaughter about my filming set up. I expect that behind this question is an ulterior motive. That I need to up my game and improve the quality of the video. So I’m trying a different Heath Robinson set-up. It’s a bit out of focus, for that I blame my age.

Here’s the photographic evidence of my studio.

I know with all this effort, you’d expect the quality to be better. Well I blame my parents.