I have read a few tweets in my twitterstream today that have praised people’s fathers and I thought I’d take the time to put some thoughts down about my dad. As many of you will know Bobby J, my dad, is terminally ill with cancer. Not that you’d necessarily know that if you met him today. Mostly because of his awesome attitude, which is one of the things I most admire about my pa.
Bobby J, is quite simply a legend. He’s one of the most patient people I know – family history says that I never slept through the night as a child (still struggle with being a night owl even now) and that Dad could regularly be found, with me in his arms in the rocking chair. He also spent hours listening to me murder a descant recorder when I was learning to play and he used to insist that I practice, a big believer in practice makes perfect, he harboured ideas of one of his children being musical, sadly something that wasn’t really realised – although none of us are as tone death as Bobby! On the music front, one of my favourite childhood memories was when my Dad took me to listen to the Royal Marines Band – suspect that has influenced my admiration for bootnecks now, think it also goes someway to explaining my love of pipers!
My Dad has spent years volunteering with the Army Cadet Force, testament to his patience was the hours he would spend every October and November polishing his boots for the Remembrance Sunday parade. I only ever saw my Dad cry a handful of times as a kid – every one was linked to Remembrance Day in some way! My Dad is a practical man and nothing phases him, when the house I lived in was flooded in the middle of the night in Ireland, it was my Dad (in another country) who got the panicked phonecall to ask what we should do about turning off the electric. He also had many late night/early morning phonecalls when we couldn’t get a taxi home or were stranded somewhere – he’d pick up the phone and be compos mentis instantly – and as long as there was good reason behind the call he’d never complain. My Dad is a practical man, he fitted my kitchen and bathroom, helped decorate my house, lay my wooden floor and is guaranteed to have whatever tool you could possibly need – although it is only him that can understand the ordering of his shed! A stickler for appearances and a lover of ironing, my Dad was very unusual compared to my mate’s dads – I’d often come home from school in the summer to find him ironing in the garden, in shorts, with an extension lead run from the house – not normal behaviour by a long shot.
But that’s it really, my Dad wasn’t, and isn’t, normal – he is exceptional.
A generous, patient, fun man with stoicism and determination like I’ve rarely seen in anyone else. He has fought his cancer diagnosis in much the same way he has tackled lots of things in life – with a complete and utter belief that he can succeed – and to date he is doing just that. I know everyone thinks their Dad is the best, but mine quite simply is.
My Dad and a very little me!
This week I had the absolute pleasure to listen to, and play with, the Nottingham City Music Service Area Bands. They had agreed to play at Directors Forum #df2011 and around 80 children, mostly from Year 5 and 6, came along to perform a number of pieces. They were fantastic. Of course they were all enthusiastic, they were dedicated, the concentration was palpable, there were a number of proud parents in the room, some brilliant teachers and truly engaging and supportive adult supporters. It really was an excellent performance. First up they played Carmina Burana, followed by Coldplay’s Viva la Vida and then The Passenger.
Not sure what The Passenger sounds like? Bet you do, it’s the Iggy Pop song that has been used for the most recent T Mobile ad – you can listen to the Trombone part here:
Why am I telling you this? Well there was a twist – we were encouraged to join in. Now I don’t consider myself to be very musical, I can sing reasonably enough, and played four different recorders as a youngster, but it is *years* since I have done anything even vaguely musical. Nothing could phase the conductors though, indeed they were confident they could teach anyone to play the required part on the violin or cello.
…You know what’s coming don’t you, I jumped onto a Cello and I can honestly say I haven’t had such a great time in a long time. I am still suffering with a sore finger – no doubt from pressing my strings too hard in all my excitement but it was brilliant. It was fantastic to practice something, relatively simple (we only needed three different notes), to feel like you made progress so quickly, to feel part of something bigger, to really enjoy it without too much pressure. The children and teachers who showed us what to do were amazing, very patient and oozing enthusiasm.
The National Music Transition Project is a pilot project working with Year 6 students who are due to leave primary school, they learn an arrangement and leave primary school confident in their ability to sing and play it. Then in the first half term of secondary school Year 7 teachers work with children to create an extended arrangement. In Nottingham the number of children who give up playing a music instrument on transfer to secondary school is staggering, ‘68% of those playing instruments in primary schools had given up two months into Year 7‘. It is a similar story across the country, hundreds of children who stop playing music once they move into secondary education.
The project supports primary schools to introduce The Passenger into their instrumental work, and encourages secondary schools to talk to their feeder primaries and schedule sessions that are based around The Passenger at the start of the year, to enable primary school children to show what they can do musically. You can find out more about the Transition Project on the Musical Futures website. Audio and video resources are available alongside a Teacher Resource Pack.
I know I’m not the target audience of this project, unfortunately I left primary school a long time ago, but at that time I stopped playing recorder. I didn’t feel confident enough to try out for the school orchestra, I did fancy playing the Trombone but after a couple weeks of practising in our terraced house (and not too much progress) my folks put a stop to that. I think this project has huge potential to ensure people don’t lose the love of singing or playing – a number of us spoke over dinner about the fact that as adults we didn’t tend to sing or play any more – I’d recommend it, even if just once in a while, it really did wake up a very latent part of my self! Now anyone know anyone who gives Cello lessons in Devon….
Ma and Pa – Jan 2011
This post is dedicated to my mum. She is one of the 6million people in the UK who are carers, although it is only recently that she has come to consider herself as such. My mum lives next door to my grandparents who are both in their 90s, they live independently with her support, but would have lost their independence a long time ago if she was not available to support them. My mum checks they have managed to get themselves up each day, she buys and delivers the paper to them every day, she does a weekly shop for them, takes Gran out to the hairdressers on a Thursday, is pharmacist assistant (my grandfather prides himself on being Head Pharmacist dishing out his medication each day), medical transport service, daily bringer of family news and all round foundation for their independence.
In the past couple of year’s my Dad’s health has deteriorated and recovered and we now live knowing that it will deteriorate again. My Dad is an absolute trooper, he has fought his cancer every step of the way and every step he has taken, mum has been next to him, shoulder-to-shoulder providing support. Even when she has not shared his view or opinion, or agreed with his treatment choices, she has still put herself into the background and supported my Dad, doing all she can to enable him to make his own choices – offering her view but ultimately providing support for Dad with the choices he makes.
My parents brought three children up and worked hard all their working lives, very shortly after they retired my Dad got sick. Shortly before mum gave up work my grandparents moved to live next door to us, to support their independence, not that I think we ever thought they’d live as long as they have. Most of my mum’s retirement has been spent supporting her family in some way – she has always been supportive of all of us but of late she has little time for herself. A couple months ago when Dad was referred to the palliative care team at the local hospice, someone actually took the time to ask my Mum how she was doing. She was offered a place on a short course for carers and it has really made a massive difference to her sense of self – since then her local support network has grown, her sense of isolation has decreased and her self confidence has grown. I think the thing she has valued the most is the fact that other people have recognised her contribution, understood her concerns or challenges, and offered her a sense of community.
In a recent Change Project from research in practice for adults, carers and service users were asked what they wanted from social care practitioners, the response reported in the half way blog post was as follows:
“Frequently the word recognition is used in terms of what makes a good experience for carers. The question is: what does this mean? Is it a question of acknowledging someone is a carer, writing that down and acting on it? Or is it more to do with the way you respond humanly to the experience of that individual as a carer; how you show in your response that you know and feel that they are a carer? Recognition comes from the Latin recognoscere, to know again. It includes the sense that if you came across that person again you would remember them – there was something that stuck. If you really ‘get’ something about that person then you will recollect them”.
This post is one small way in which I wanted to recognise the fantastic role my mum plays as a carer, she is unlikely ever to see it, or know about it, and that’s fine. She is just one representative of many, there are an estimated six million carers in the UK (that figure doesn’t include people who provide support but don’t recognise themselves as a carer). Each and every one of you who has read this post will know someone who is a carer, you might not know that they are, but I’d be fairly certain we all know someone. We can each provide a certain level of support to carers, by offering the recognition for the support that they provide. Our society would be far worse off without them.
Last week I watched 24Hours in A&E for the first time on Channel 4, today I watched this week’s episode and felt like sharing just in case any of you have missed it. Filmed in Kings College Hospital, London it does what it says on the tin, reports on 24hours in one of the busiest Accident and Emergency Departments in England.
I love documentaries, I love biographies, I love glimpses into people’s lives….this programme is a fantastic combination of all of these things. As someone who has spent more than my fair share of time in A&E departments in the last few years, more often than not I’m amazed at the professionalism and compassion of the staff.
As one of the consultants featured this week, Jacqui, stated ‘I think there are days when what happens will bring tears to your eyes, you’re faced with people who are having life changing or life ending events, every day, and on some level it must make you appreciate what you’ve got, what you’re capable of doing, and so you know I think you’re mad if you don’t take the opportunities that are presented to you to enjoy life while you’ve got it, because unfortunately one day you could be crossing the road and it’ll all be over’.
Seventy cameras filmed throughout the department, 24 hours a day for 28 days and captured 4200 hours of footage. This footage has been crafted into a documentary that shows the highs and lows of patients and staff, it is fair and representative, heart warming and heart breaking at the same time. It is a reality check and a priority benchmark, to steal another quote from the show:
‘Everyone should walk through an Emergency Room at least once in their lives, because it makes you realise what your priorities are; it’s not the rush, rush, rush and the money, money, money, its the people you love and the fact that one minute they might be there, and one minute they might be gone’
Go watch it, you wont be disappointed.
(cc) Photo by Jim Linwood on flickr
Last night, at 3.37am I received a phonecall. I was fast asleep and I woke up and first off thought I was dreaming, then thought it was an alarm, then a phone…and eventually realised it was my phone. I stumbled out of bed and by the time I got to it, it had stopped ringing, I checked who had rung and it was a mobile number. Not one I recognised. I searched my contacts and the number didn’t match, I searched my work phone and it didn’t match there either.
I went back to bed and five minutes later the phone rang again. So I googled the number (Google how I love you) and found it was a spam number – either used to deliver texts to landlines and/or to spam so you call the number back and it charges you a fortune. Either way, I turned the ringer off on my landline and went back to bed.
Where I lay thinking….about when the next middle of the night phonecall will come. A few years ago when my Dad, Mum and both grandparents were sick I had a number of calls in the early hours to say people had been taken ill, were up at A&E, needed support. I go to bed every night semi-aware that a call might come. Last night the adrenalin was pumping, the headache descended, the panic and then the calm when I realised it was a false alert. I know one of these days that call will be real, luckily not just yet.