Parenting · Politics

Not just wrong, illegal

In 2001, when I was 30, I learnt that my mother had had three babies born in Ireland in the 1960’s who had all been adopted. I’m not ready to publicly examine and discuss all of the emotional fallout from that. My mother – who died last year – was not willing to talk about any of that with me other than in two conversations after I learnt about those three babies – three siblings I never knew existed. The fact that I know of their very existence is due to the persistence of the oldest child, my sister, who tracked me down and made contact with me.

One of those babies – a boy born in 1968 – has never been traced. From what I have been able to piece together from various members of my extended family and from the little bit my mother was prepared to share with me, his adoption was not conducted through any formal agency and it is likely he was illegally adopted.

That baby is now a 50 year old man. He may well have children, possibly grandchildren as well. Imagine for a minute that everything you thought you knew about your background turns out to be wrong – your name, your ancestry, your extended family…… all wrong.

His case is unfortunately not unusual. News broke here in Ireland yesterday that the births of 126 people were illegally registered as shown by records of the St. Patrick’s Guild adoption agency. This wasn’t news to anyone involved in organisations such as the Adoption Rights Alliance who have been talking about illegal adoptions for years.

I’ve been watching the RTÉ evening news while writing this and the language used is very telling: this was described as births having been “wrongly” registered. No, these births were ILLEGALLY registered. ‘Wrongly’ makes it sound like an administrative error rather than deliberate and illegal falsification of legal documents which it was.

I don’t know if my brother is still alive. I don’t know if he knows he was adopted. His case – if indeed it was (as I suspect) an illegal adoption – is one of probably thousands. Ireland needs to start talking about this openly and correctly and not keep on covering all of this up hoping it will never resurface. Trust me, that doesn’t work and all it does is create greater damage when it finally comes to light.

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Uncategorized

The ton of bricks has finally landed

Its been a very hard year. Not 2018, but the year (& a month) since Easter 2017 when a succession of bad things happened to my little family. Our gorgeous daughter developed C Diff (clostridium difficile) which is a vile infection in the bowel. She was hospitalised three times with it and it really set her back a lot. That’s on top of her severe disabilities. Just a couple of weeks after she began to pick up, my husband got bitten by something and got cellulitis in his leg which, apart from needing hospitalisation and lots of antibiotics, meant he was off work for a few months as his job is very physical. That took us from April to September, by which time he was improving. He finally got the all clear to return to work on October 2. On October 7 he was in collision with a car while cycling and received serious injuries. I can’t say more about that here as there is a court case pending.

Five weeks after his accident (he was home by that stage but needed a lot of care), I received a phone call on a Saturday night from a hospital in England (I live in Ireland), telling me that my mother was critically ill and I should get there asap. With the help of two amazing women I am lucky to call friends and with the support of family and neighbours I managed to get there on the Sunday morning and was able to be with her until she died on the Monday, less than 48 hours after I got the initial phone call. I haven’t even begun to process all of that yet.

The next month was taken up with organising her funeral, packing up her home and trying – increasingly desperately – to keep on top of things at home. We somehow managed to make it to 2018 and all I could think was that things had to get better. Don’t panic, nothing else really bad happened. We continued to muddle on through, our daughter’s epilepsy deteriorated and she had lots of tests done in February and we are working with her neurology team looking at the various options. That is all stressful but by this stage I felt I had come through so much relatively unscathed that I’d be ok. My husband has continued to improve and our daughter’s seizures are manageable at present. Over the last couple of months I have felt increasingly in need of some time alone. I’m the kind of person who needs a certain amount of solitude. I love being with my family and people generally but I need alone time too and that had been in very short supply since April last year.

Now it is May, and my husband returned to work this week, albeit on light duties. Our daughter is able to go to school each day and I have had a few hours each day that are just mine. Great, I thought, I can catch up on various things that need to be done, and carry on with an exercise program (I started the C25K 3 weeks ago), take some time for hobbies and things that make me feel good. I am fond of lists – shopping lists, lists of recipes I want to try, lists of books I want to read, and the damn TO-DO list. Today is Thursday and each day this week I’ve made myself a little to-do list of things I need or want to get done that day. At 47 you’d think I’d have twigged by now that this probably wasn’t a very good idea. I haven’t crossed everything off the list any day this week so far. That results in me carrying items forward on to the next day’s list and subconsciously (until this morning) carrying forward a niggling feeling of failure.

This morning after my husband and daughter had left for work and school, I was getting ready to go for the next day of the C25K program (hoping that the lower back pain I have had since getting up would ease off and that my knee wouldn’t be sore afterwards), and writing my to-do list while pondering why I have been so bloody exhausted all week. (I know, I know, I can never switch my head off)

WALLOP. Its all starting to hit me now. Now that things have calmed down and are getting back to normality, the stress and strain of this last year is hitting me. And there was me thinking I’d escaped it. Now that might not sound terribly profound but it was (apologies for the cliche) a Eureka moment for me. I’m not Superwoman (she doesn’t exist). I have been through an awful year and my mind and body are now saying to me “STOP. Listen to us, its ok to rest, its ok to not have a to-do list every day. Its ok to not keep pushing yourself so hard.”

All I have to do now is actually listen to that message and act on it. There are times when I wonder how I’ve kept going the last few months. I’m running on empty and I need to allow myself to rest and heal. I’m parking the C25K for now and I’m going to try not to write a to-do list every day. That’s enough for now.

Uncategorized

Showing self kindness.

This very thought provoking piece could so easily be about me. As a carer taking time for myself is very hard but I’m increasingly aware I simply have to or everything else will collapse. I’m hoping that becoming conscious of this is the first step.

Everything is coming up Rosie

Many people, including myself have been brought up to put others first. My Mother was the typical Martyr, working herself into the ground, not expecting consideration or praise. Even when unwell she would keep going, no-one could run the home as she did, she made herself indespensible, but at what cost?  She was constantly drained, irritable, sleep deprived & extremely low in mood. When it was suggested that she took a break, she’d be horrified. When sitting she’d perch on the edge of the chair, just waiting to jump up & continue her work. I don’t remember ever seeing her truly relax. I can only imagine how unworthy she felt. Why else would she abuse herself in this way?

For most of my life I followed my Mothers’ ethos, although illness forced me to take a slower approach to life than I wanted. Even when really unwell, as soon as…

View original post 645 more words

food · Ritual food

Christmas puddings and memories

Today is the last Sunday in November, which is the day I traditionally (after 15 years I think I can call it a tradition) make my Christmas puddings. The number I make varies year on year but its never less than three. The recipe never varies. Its one that my mother wrote down for me fifteen years ago after I asked her for her Christmas pudding recipe to which she replied, “I don’t really have one, I just made mine based on what I remember Mam making”. But I nagged and cajoled and eventually she wrote it down. She always maintained it wasn’t as good as her Mam’s.

Fourteen years ago my husband and I were celebrating our first Christmas in our forever home and Mum spent it with us. I’d made a pudding but we didn’t eat it on Christmas Day, as I wanted to wait until the 27th Dec when my Granny – her Mam – and the originator of the recipe I had used – would be visiting our home. After dinner that day I proudly and also rather nervously served up the pudding. Our family always eats it cold with a cuppa and some have brandy butter on it too. I insisted no one was to taste it until my 91 year old Granny had. This amused her immensely as she took a bite and gave it her imprimatur. Albeit with the observation that if I’d grated fresh nutmeg rather than using already ground it would have been even nicer. (No I don’t know how she knew either)

Less than four years later my Granny died while I was pregnant with my daughter. One of my enduring sadnesses is that she never got to meet our precious little girl who I’m certain would have wrapped her Great Granny round her little finger. I have made puddings every year since and – like all cooks I think – have slightly tweaked the recipe that was handed down to me. I still don’t use fresh nutmeg though.

Two weeks ago my Mum died suddenly. I know it hasn’t really hit me yet and won’t for some time. Maybe once her funeral is over I will start to absorb the impact of it all. Mum didn’t have the easiest or happiest of lives at times but I firmly believe she is at peace now and reunited with my Dad who she missed so desperately for nearly seventeen years.

Today is pudding making day. I wasn’t sure if I would make any this year and I only decided for certain this afternoon that I will. Mum loved the pudding I made and so did my Granny. Both my parents and all my grandparents are dead now and while I have aunts and uncles still very much alive and kicking, I’m now the oldest generation in my direct line of ancestry. It feels very strange. I’ve long believed all we can do for the dead is remember them. By making my puddings this evening I’m remembering Granny, Mum and all the others who have gone before.

Rest in peace Mum, and thanks for giving me the recipe x

Parenting · Politics · Special Needs

Is this early enough for you Taoiseach?

Good morning Taoiseach, its a few minutes after 9 am and its an average week day in our house which means that I’ve been up since 6.30 am.  I’m not sure if I’m the kind of person you had in mind when you said during your campaign to become leader of Fine Gael that you wanted to lead a party for people who get up early in the morning but here’s what I did this morning after I got up early.  (Well, 6.30 am is early as far as I’m concerned)

So the alarm went off and up I got, gathered my clothes and crept downstairs clutching the video monitor that sits by our bed.  We have a video monitor because our 10 year daughter has epilepsy and sometimes – thankfully not often – has seizures during the night.  You’re a medical doctor, so you should have some idea of how scary epilepsy can be.

You see Dr Varadkar, that little person is why I get up at 6.30 am on weekdays.  She has significant physical and intellectual disabilities and she attends special school.  We live in the north of the constituency of Meath West and our daughter has to travel to Navan in the middle of that constituency to go to school.  I’m talking in terms of constituency rather than counties or towns because I get the feeling that like most politicians you are more interested in votes than voters.  Her school bus collects her here at home at 7.45 am and then travels around collecting other pupils for the two special schools in Navan before she gets to school a little after 9 am – about the same time I started writing this post to you.  The journey door to door is 26 miles which should only take around 35 minutes but because we choose to send her on the bus it takes 1 hour and 15 minutes.  She’s only 10 and she’s been doing this since she was 5.  You might wonder why don’t I drive her in?  Yes, I could.  But Navan is already choked with traffic in the mornings and if I and the approximately 70 other parents whose children attend her school and travel in by bus all drove our children to school, can you imagine the chaos?  Never mind the extra traffic pollution.

But I digress, sorry for that Mr Varadkar but like every other carer my mind is constantly running trying to keep on top of everything.  Appointments, therapy sessions, equipment, etc etc etc.  Where was I?  Oh yes, what I did after I got up at 6.30 am.  Well I came downstairs, took a load of washing out of the machine and put another one on so it would be finished before the cheaper night rate electricity finished.  Every cent counts.  Stuck the first one in the dryer because it was raining here.  Then prepared some food for my daughter to take to school because she was quite ill earlier this year and her appetite is still not great so sometimes she won’t eat the dinner she gets at school.    Got her breakfast ready and swallowed down a quick bowl of cereal myself before heading back upstairs to waken her at 7 am.  She’s only 10 and she needs her sleep so that’s why I don’t get her up earlier.

I was tired last night so I had forgotten to leave her school uniform ready on the chair in her bedroom.  It only takes a minute to get it out of the chest of drawers but every second counts here in the mornings.  So grab the clean (at least I managed that bit!) uniform and wake her up.  She’s very wobbly first thing in the morning because her neurological condition (apart from the epilepsy) affects her balance and its especially bad when she wakes.  So while she’s waking up and starting to chat to me I leave her lying on the bed, take off her pyjamas, change her nappy and put on her trousers, socks, DAFO’s (splints for her feet) and shoes.  Then I help her sit up and change her vest then put her polo shirt and sweatshirt on.  Yay, she’s dressed and its only 7.15 am.  Then lift her from the bed and carry her downstairs.  She can get downstairs on her bum with help but she’s too wobbly first thing to do this, so I carry her.  By the way I’m only 5ft 2.

Into the kitchen and put her into the special chair we bought for her so she can sit comfortably at the table and eat with us.  Her breakfast is ready but first she has to have the two epilepsy medications she has in the morning.  She doesn’t really like taking them but she is a good kid and she swallows them without complaint.  She tucks into her breakfast.  While she’s eating I write a note to her teacher in her communication book because she only has about 70 words and a few phrases, none of which are expressive language, so this is how the teacher and I let each other know anything that’s going on with her and what she did at school each day.  She can’t tell me herself you see.

Its now about 7.30 and while she’s still eating – she’s a slow eater – I gather hair band, brush, hairslides, toothpaste, toothbrush, flannel and get ready to spruce her up.  She’s not able to do anything of this for herself but it all has to be done.  Like most 10 year olds she’s not keen on face and hand washing but we get through it with minimal grumbling.  All the while I’m chatting to her using repetitive phrases and words about school and the people she will see there as this is a big part of how she learns.  So there’s a bit of speech and language therapy thrown in early for good measure.

7.43 and the bus isn’t here yet – phew I’m ahead – help her walk to her wheelchair and climb into it.  Put her coat on, make sure she has everything in her schoolbag for the day and then the bus pulls up.  Grab a marker pen and a piece of paper that she likes to hold in her little hands while travelling for 1 hour 15 minutes to school.  Wheel her out to the  bus, have a quick word with the bus escort so they know what kind of form she’s in today.  Kiss my most precious girl goodbye and wave her off.  Its 7.48 and I’ve been up for over an hour.

Back in the house grab my phone, headphones, rain jacket, hi-vis vest and key and head out the door for a 5km walk.  I don’t especially enjoy it so I listen to podcasts on my way round to alleviate the monotony.  I need to take regular exercise because I’m overweight (many carers tend to be, we comfort eat you see) and my back isn’t great from lifting my daughter over the years.  I can’t afford to join a gym and walking is free.  Maybe one day I’ll get fit enough to join you for a 5km jog in the Park?

While I’m pounding the paths around Oldcastle I’m thinking about a tweet you posted a couple of days ago.  You see, that comment about people who get up early annoyed me. Actually more than that, it felt insulting to people like me who have to get up early to do the unpaid, unappreciated, unvalued work of being a carer.  I’ve tweeted about it a few times but when you put something like this up it really feels like you are just taking the piss not to put too fine a point on it.

People who get up early

 

 

Special thanks to @kloczbyjos in Glanmire for this thoughtful gift. New small craft business supported by Local Enterprise Office pic.twitter.com/JcDE2eALXj

I’m not sure if you were being facetious or if the people in Glanmire were but its clear to me and other carers like me that this State, of which you are Taoiseach, that our WORK (and it is work) is not taken seriously.

I’m up since 6.30 am Leo.  I’m tired already and its only 10.15.  Its a mental tiredness that comes from being a carer, from the never ending round of appointments, therapies, from wondering if she’s ok at school today, if she’s had any absence seizures.  It comes from fighting for equipment, for school transport, for better services generally, from trying to help other parents who aren’t as far into this life as we are.  It comes from knowing that this will not stop.  It comes from knowing that the Irish State of which I am a proud citizen does not care about carers. And that’s a very hard place to be.

What time did you get up today Taoiseach?

Bits and Bobs · Living the Good Life

Too much stuff!!

I find myself exclaiming this rather a lot lately.  It feels like we are drowning in a sea of stuff.  Junk, crap,  stuff we bought or were given and have either never or rarely used, never liked or which has now been superseded by yet more STUFF.    On those (rare) occasions when I’m in housework mode, I sometimes end up with piles of stuff in my arms trying to find a place to put it.  (What I really should do is sort it all out but y’know, time and always something more interesting to do!)

In all seriousness though, it does seem to me like we as a community, a society, certainly some of the planet, are in real danger of having so much unneeded stuff (there must a better word!) that it will bury us one day.  Why do we keep buying this crap?  I’m not a fan of shopping as a pastime and my husband and I really do try to minimise the amount of new items we buy, not always successfully.  I LOATHE Black Friday and the consumerist binge that seems to get worse every year from, oh about this time onwards, as people get all worked up over what to buy other people for Christmas.  A lot of which ends up being unwanted clutter and junk and either ends up in a charity shop, or worse, in landfill.

On that note, I was recently browsing in a second-hand shop (part of my #dontbuynew aspiration).  The amount of duplicated items was unreal – ten or fifteen copies of the same book, countless plastic toys, and ornaments.  Oh the ornaments.  Mementoes from long-forgotten holidays, commemorative plates from various royal (yes, even here in Ireland) and national events, and quite a few ornaments/plates/plaques to mark various wedding anniversaries.  I’m not talking about personalised ones with names, dates etc, just the generic ones like this –

25th wedding stuff
Dustcatcher!

Why?? Why do we buy this stuff?  All that will happen is it will sit on a dresser or shelf somewhere and some poor sod will have to take it down and dust it.  Life’s too short!

Anyway, later that same day I found myself in a branch of TK Maxx, not a shop I’d ever spent much time in as I thought they only sold clothes but I had 20 minutes to kill and discovered they sell housewares, kitchen stuff, nice stationery and best of all a small selection of books.  (If I have to spend time browsing in a shop those things suit me far better.)  Then I came across this –

stuff boxes clutter
Houston, we have a problem

Yes, a box marked Stuff in which to put stuff. Seriously, if we are now using up valuable natural resources and energy to make empty boxes just to hold more stuff, then we really have lost the run of ourselves completely.   I’m not opposed to storage boxes completely, more to the mindset whereby we’d sooner buy boxes to put ‘stuff’ in, rather than reducing the amount of stuff we have.  I’m not going all KonMari here, the day anyone catches me thanking my possessions for helping me through another day, they can have me committed.   For me, its a sign that its time to declutter more thoroughly.  I thought I was fairly good at decluttering until I found six operating manuals yesterday, three of which were for items we don’t even own anymore….

Its the volume of unnecessary, unneeded and frequently unwanted STUFF we seem determined to inflict on each other that baffles me the most.  Its like people feel obliged just to buy you something – anything – because its Christmas.  And Christmas does seem to bring out the worst elements of this.  Who really wants the gadgets that you’ll use maybe twice, the gift sets of toiletries with all that useless (and often non recyclable) packaging, and innumerable other items of tacky, poorly made TAT and CRAP  (now called novelty gifts) that will be appearing in a shop near you in the next few months weeks.  And that’s without mentioning the Christmas themed cushions, bed linen, aprons, teatowels etc that people rush out to buy, never mind the fact they have perfectly good equivalents already at home and the Christmas ones will be stored away for 11 months of the year (adding to the clutter!)

How about we all stopped mindlessly buying stuff and spent a little more time thinking about what we need and what we might really like to give as a gift?  If there is someone you feel you should buy a gift for, then what about a bottle of wine?  Or some delicious nibbles and treats?  A plant for the garden (if they are gardeners), or a gift voucher for a pampering session?  Ask yourself before you pay for that useless ornament, novelty gift or gift sets of toiletries – would I want to be given this?

Before you ask, no I’m not the Grinch, I happen to love Christmas.  But I like a simple Christmas, a simple life in fact where we are not surrounded by so much stuff we feel like we can hardly breathe.  Just stop and think before you buy more stuff.  The planet and your sanity might well thank you for it.  Not to mention your wallet.

#dontbuynew

 

 

Feminism · Parenting · Politics · Special Needs

Anomaly scans are vital

A report in today’s Irish Times claims that in 2016, 23,000 pregnant women did not have an anomaly scan. While it is possible that some of these women would have chosen not to have one, the more likely scenario is that they were never offered one.  Anomaly scans,  for those who don’t know,  are generally carried out at around 20 weeks or halfway through the pregnancy.  The purpose of them is to see if there are any possible problems (or anomalies) with either the foetus or the pregnant woman.

Of my two pregnancies, only one made it to the 20 week stage, and I did not have a scheduled anomaly scan.  In my case, this was because I had opted for midwifery-led care provided at Cavan General hospital, and that scheme (at least in 2007) did not give the option of anomaly scans.  I felt a little uneasy about that at the time, but I had been fully aware of that when I opted for midwifery-led care, so I didn’t let it bother me too much.

My pregnancy had been largely uneventful up until week 20 when I had a small amount of bleeding.  It was very little, but as a precautionary measure I was transferred from midwifery-led care to consultant-led care.  I had a scan carried out that day which did not show anything untoward and I was told I would be scanned again at 28 weeks.  If that scan showed everything to be ok I was told I would be allowed to transfer back to midwifery-led care.  I was very upset at having to leave midwifery-led care but remained hopeful that everything would progress ok and that at 28 weeks, I’d be allowed back.

The next eight weeks of my pregnancy were very uneventful and I was sure all was grand.  Week 28 rolled around and off we went for the scan, deciding that we would ask the gender that day.  The scan went well , the obstetrician (who we hadn’t met before owing me to being under midwifery -led care) chatted away to us about what he could see, informing us that baby was breech (which we didn’t know) and that it was very active (like who was he telling??).  Then just as we were about to ask if we could find out the gender, he moved the probe over the baby’s head and went very quiet.  Frighteningly so.  I’ve written about that awful time in our lives before and won’t go over it all again in detail here.

Essentially, our baby had a very rare neurological condition which necessitated me being referred to a foetal anomaly specialist in the Rotunda and having a far more detailed and lengthy scan a week later.  I was scanned frequently for the rest of my pregnancy as the baby’s head was enlarged and we had been told that she (we found out the gender at the Rotunda appointment) might need to be delivered at very short notice.  I had been planning a very intervention free birth and ended up having to have a C section.  It would have been potentially very dangerous – possibly fatal – for the baby if I had tried to deliver her vaginally and the implications for me of such a delivery were also deemed too risky.

Now, our case is rare.  But bear in mind that I had been accepted onto a program for midwifery-led care (I’m not knocking that btw) and that I had not been scheduled for an anomaly scan.  Until the bleeding at 20 weeks, I’d had a textbook pregnancy, with no cause for concern.  Just think for a minute if I HADN’T had that episode of bleeding and hence had not had a scan at 28 weeks when her condition was picked up.  Supposing my pregnancy had continued uneventfully and I’d gone into labour,  what might have happened then?  There was a chance – maybe not huge, but a chance nonetheless – that neither of us would have survived.

The Irish Times article quotes Louise O’Reilly TD, Sinn Féin health spokesperson, as saying that women outside the main cities in the State are not routinely receiving these scans.  That contravenes international advice on the best care for both the woman and the foetus.   Our daughter was born safely in Cavan at 39 weeks and is now 10.  She has both physical and intellectual disabilities and our lives are not at all as we had envisaged.  (That’s not the focus of this post, that’s just for anyone who wondered how things turned out)  I was so relieved just to have her that I pretty quickly put the whole scanning issue out of my mind, until a couple of years later when as a member of a consumer group looking at maternity care in Cavan Monaghan hospital group, I was angered almost beyond words to hear a senior midwife say she didn’t think anomaly scans were a good idea because parents get alarmed if something is discovered.   Take it from me, yes you get alarmed, but we would have been in a far worse position if our daughter’s condition had not been discovered prenatally and she had died during delivery.

Finding out that your unborn baby has health issues is frightening, terrifying, there’s no superlative that even comes close.  But – and I am only speaking for my husband and myself here – we found it gave us time (10 weeks) to get over the initial shock, to try and learn something about the condition, to inform those closest to us.  It also, and this was even more important, meant that the team at Cavan were prepared to deal with a possibly very sick baby at delivery.  (As it turned out she roared her head off when lifted out and was very stable, but we were lucky in that sense.)

I saw on Twitter today women recounting how they had been told they couldn’t have an anomaly scan (unless they were willing to go private) for various reasons.  The reasons given are not the main issue, although some are awful.  It has been argued that it is the existence of the Eighth Amendment to our Constitution  (Article 40.3.3) that has led to this situation.   This amendment states “The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”  It has been argued repeatedly that this amendment is the reason why anomaly scans are not being routinely offered to pregnant women, as women would not be able to avail of a termination if they felt they wanted one.  I’m not going to get into the whole debate around the Eighth Amendment here.  I’m openly pro-choice and always have been.  Our Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has been reported as saying the roll-out of anomaly scans across the State is a priority for his department.  That is good to hear, but if as it seems, the Eighth Amendment is one of the reasons why that hasn’t yet happened,  then that’s another reason for it to be repealed.  Women have the right to make informed choices about their care in pregnancy, labour and childbirth.  Anomaly scans are part of that information gathering process.

#repealthe8th

food · Living the Good Life

Milk is milk is milk – or is it?

Over my first cuppa of the day while daughter was still fast asleep and before life kicked in, I was browsing through one of my (many) cookbooks. Another one that I’ve never actually made anything from. Yet. This particular one was ‘Favourite Cornish Recipes’ and I’ve no idea when or where I picked it up. (That’s true of many of my books actually. Sometimes I think they are breeding.) It included a recipe for Cornish clotted cream, something I can’t abide but my husband would love on a freshly baked scone or two. That’s if I get round to baking any.

The method in the recipe says “Pour the milk into a wide-topped basin and leave to stand for a while preferably up to 8 hours in the refrigerator, to allow the cream to rise to the top.” And that sentence stopped me, mug of tea half way to mouth. Let the cream rise to the top. Do kids today (oh that sounds so middle aged) even know what that means? I vividly remember the cream rising to the top of the bottles (real glass bottles not the awful plastic containers that a lot of people refer to as a can of milk) and when it froze in the winter (real winter!) it used to push the foil lid up off the bottle. Top of the milk in our house was poured over apple pie and was a treat to get. I haven’t seen that in years, and I always buy what is labelled as full fat or whole milk.

milk cream
Whole milk – but where’s the cream?

So I took to Facebook and Twitter asking did anyone know could this still be bought.

Still musing about how food has changed over the years, I went on to ask if anyone knew could lard still be bought. I haven’t seen lard in a shop for years. I much prefer lard to solid vegetable oils for making pastry. A friend of mine replied that it can be easily bought up the North, which I didn’t know. So unless I track it down elsewhere it looks like I’ll be doing some cross-border shopping soon. Anyway, back to milk. I took a look at Asda’s online shopping site (I don’t shop online but its great for info) and yes, they sell blocks of lard. I searched for non homogenised milk but got zero results. I’ll be back to that word homogenised later.

I prefer to buy organic when I can (not always easy) so was interested to see that Asda sell organic milk. Its on the right in this pic taken from their website earlier today.

milk
What’s in our milk?

I was quite forcefully struck by the info that the non-organic milk has 9 days typical life whereas the organic milk has 4 days typical life. So what’s in the non-organic milk that gives it a longer shelf life?? I don’t have the answers (although I have emailed Asda) and maybe this is nothing new to some, but it jolted me. What are we really consuming and what is it doing to us? I saw a great thing on Twitter this week posted by the blogger Foodborn whose approach to food and eating I love.   It said “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.”  Food for thought for sure.

Back to homogenised. The milk I usually buy is always homogenised. The dictionary definition of homogenised in relation to milk is “a process in which the fat droplets are emulsified and the cream does not separate.”

Homogenised – or adulterated?

My question is why? Why is this done to milk? Are many of the health problems that we’ve almost come to accept as a society down to the way our food is altered from its more natural state? I’m very aware that many people have been thinking and writing about this far longer than me and are far better informed than me but at least I’m starting to really look at what’s in our food and question what’s best for me and my family to consume.

I think my cookbooks are going to get much more use.

Bits and Bobs

Why I think Channel 4 are wrong to show the Diana tapes

I’m not a royalist, but have long found the institution of the royal family fascinating. I remember vividly – as do most people alive at the time – where I was when I heard that Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in Paris. I watched the TV coverage and a week later I watched her funeral. I didn’t understand then and I still don’t understand the outpouring of what to me seemed like hysterical grief from people who had never met the woman. However, more than enough has been written on that subject without me adding to it.

Last week I started watching the programme about Diana as remembered by her sons. I’m not really sure why I wanted to watch it, but while it was quite a moving tribute to a clearly much loved and much missed mother, it wasn’t really that interesting. (I nodded off towards the end) So when I heard about the programme to be broadcast tonight which – as far as I can tell – largely consists of videos made of Diana when she was having training in public speaking, it didn’t strike me as something I’d be bothering to watch. Over the next couple of days press stories emerged about the subject matter of at least some of the tapes. Two that stuck in my mind were that Diana apparently discussed her sex life with Charles and also an affair she had. Channel 4 have described the programme as “Brand new documentary of Diana at her most candid, natural and charismatic which provides valuable insight into one of the most iconic women of the late 20th century”

I haven’t followed all the debate around this, but it feels wrong to me that this material be placed in the public domain. I do not care about anyone’s sex life other than my own and I cannot see how conversations Diana was having which (I assume) she did not intend to be made public, can now be considered in the public interest. If she had not died, would these tapes be broadcast now? No, of course not, because she’d have every lawyer at her disposal making damn sure they were not shown. If they were to be shown fifty years after her death would I watch them? No, because I just can’t see how this can be considered a serious insight into Diana’s life and personality. Its just prurient gossip and I’m disappointed in Channel 4 for showing it.

Parenting · Politics · Special Needs

Minimum wage to go up but not if you’re a carer

Today (July 18th) our Cabinet welcomed a proposal based on a recommendation from the Low Pay Commission to increase the national minimum wage by 30c per hour from January 2018. It is believed that around 120,000 workers will benefit from this increase. This is very welcome news. But what of those in our society like me who work yet are not employed, who are deemed unavailable for employment yet have to work to receive any benefits, who work long hours with no training and immense stress yet have no rights with regard to our work? I am talking about carers.

Yes, carers. Those ‘selfless heroes’, those people who give up their careers (or at the very least put them on hold) to care for a loved one, those people who save the State an untold sum every year, those people who administer medication daily, who sometimes have to literally save a life. Those people receive in Carer’s Allowance at the most €209 per week (if they are aged under 66 and caring for one person). Yes you read that correctly, €209 PER WEEK. For a 39 hour week (the average full-time working week) that is €5.35 per hour. The minimum wage before the proposed increase is €9.25 per hour.

However, no carers work just 39 hours per week. On the Census form this year I stated that I provide care to my daughter for 168 hours per week. (That’s 24/7) You might quibble about this – what about when she is asleep? Yes, but I’m still keeping an eye on the video monitor in case of a seizure. What about when she’s in school or in respite? Yes I do indeed get a break then, but I’m still on call. At any time while she’s away I can get a call telling me she’s had a seizure, or is unwell in some way. Even if no such call comes (and thankfully they are fairly rare), I spend a sizeable portion of that time sourcing equipment for her, reading up on her condition (the carer’s version of Continuing Professional Development?), dealing with what seems like a never-ending stream of paperwork…….. you get the picture.

So if a carer gets the full amount of Carer’s Allowance (€209) for a 168 hour week, that’s €1.24 per hour. Yet not all carers get the full amount because its means-tested. In my case, I get €66.40 per week. Based on my self-defined hours of 168, that means I get 39c per hour. I personally know a number of carers whose means are such that they do not receive any Carer’s Allowance. That means they either have independent means deemed sufficient to support themselves, the person they care and any others who might live with them, OR the State has decided that their partner or spouse has sufficient income to support them. This renders the carer financially dependent on their spouse. I resent that the State forces me into a financially subordinate position.

I don’t know how many people are in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, so therefore I don’t know exactly how much it would cost the State to increase Carer’s Allowance by 30c per hour, the same amount as the minimum wage is to be increased by. I do know that being continually forgotten by the State (apart from during Carer’s Week when they can’t tell us enough times how great we are) adds to the very high stress levels that carers experience. None of us asked for this job. None of us want this job. But we do it, every day, week in week out and we will continue to do so. We do it because we have no choice. We do it out of love. But that does not give the State the right to ignore us and pay us a pittance.