The Blessed iPad

I went to visit my old friend Steve Dwoskin yesterday.  Crabby and funny and combatant and lovely, in his big electric wheelchair.

It’s impossible not to admire his spirit. Multiple carers now come in at intervals, and two of them are needed to get him into bed at night. He used to be able to deal with that himself, but respiratory problems have limited his options even further. Inevitably, he has to go to bed when it suits the carers – never later than 9pm, and that is a pain for a natural nightowl.

But it is the IPad, he reports, that has saved the day (or the night). It’s meant he’s able to lie in bed with it and work on his biography, or on his new film project. The film is to do with the experience of ageing. What images occur, he asks,  when I think about it? He’s collecting images. Another friend had offered a clock with its numbers of washed away.

For me, this card I’ve had up on my wall for years, says something –

Cameron – disasterous shot at the wrong target

One of the advantages of ageing, they say, is getting a long view. It is said to give you a sense of equilibrium and perspective, and stop you getting blown about by the winds of passion.

It doesn’t always work.

When David Cameron took aim at ‘Multiculturalism’ the other day, anyone with a long view would have realised how fatally an ignorance of history affected his arguments.  To be fair, he was not alone. ‘Multiculturalism’ has come in for some bashing over the past few years, and for a time – knowing from experience the real gains and benefits – I was bemused by the chorus of detractors.

But finally, I came to recognise that none of us had been sufficiently intellectually rigorous. ‘Multiculturalism’ – or the more common term ‘cultural diversity’ – isn’t one single and simple entity. There are two very separate major forms of discourse, each with different needs, heading in different directions and with very different outcomes indeed. Ironically, one of them offers a route to precisely the goals of citizenship and community that the coalition government desires…..

I rapidly wrote a piece for the Guardian’s Comment is Free, but it didn’t make it. If you want to find out more, check out my website – It is currently being redone, but when it’s finished (imminently), you can find a link to a longer presentation I gave to a conference last autumn where I first started to lay out explore those double strands of diversity.

It made it clear that Cameron and his like are in fact like those characters in a movie who see what they think is an ominous shape in the bushes, who take aim and fire. And then find they have shot and wounded their best friend.

Mysteries of Life – Duvets

There a few mysteries of life that remain insoluble and maybe I’ll never get to crack. Top of the list is how to put duvet covers on simply and easily, without the sense that you are struggling with a large, inert and uncooperative animal.

I have recently signed up as a host for something called Airbnb – a great idea that has guests turning up on my doorstep to stay for a few days from all over the world. I’ve hosted radical American lawyers, a Slovenian curator, Australian TV journo and even a Marine who had served in Afghanistan.

But the downside is the need to do a heck of a lot of sheet-changing and laundry and tackling the demon duvet over and over again.

I have recently found that the best solution so far is to get in the damn thing so that I can be sure the ends stay where they need to be. But it is a strange sensation – a bit like being a child again playing with making a tent in bed at night. And I think the interest of that is going to be short-lived.

Rebellious Streaks

More experiments with hair. It must be sounding a bit as if I had a fetish. No, I promise you.  I’ve just got fascinated by the way in which grey/white hair can be a basis for other colours.

This was trying out orangey streaks. It looks a bit as if I had dipped some of my hair in marmelade. Or if I was a man, that I had been half-heartedly on the Haj.

My expression in this picture (taken up by the Monastery of Sainte Odile outside Strasbourg) isn’t very buoyant. It just goes to show, that having a rebellious streak maybe isn’t always such a good thing….

A Brighter Shade of Pale

Well, there’s a surprise…. I thought when I let my hair go white that that would be the end of it. Not a bit.  In fact grey/white turns out to be a really interesting basis for playing around.  I tried pink streaks, and that was fun…

And when they had faded, I got orangey-brown streaks put in instead. A bit more subtle, you might say. And I wonder where next? So the message seems to be to think creatively. Just say – ageing is a beginning and and not an ending. I don’t have to follow the rules.





Sitting on the edge of the Rubicon…

I half crossed a Rubicon the other day. Well, to be honest – i put my toe in to test the water and then sat down on the bank to think about it,

For as long as I can remember – thirty years and more – I have been darkening my hair. And for the past ten years I have had fun with bleaching a wide white strip along the front. If I am honest, I will admit that, as I got to being old, the fact that it covered up grey was important. I felt too young to be old. And I considered I was still a player, and saw how the white-headed grannies got shoved aside. Or so I believed.

Then by chance, my hairdressing appointment fell through and I was forced to live with what I was – streaky browny grey and some pure white coming through. And I looked at it in the mirror, and I thought it looked rather interesting. I added a few pale pink streaks here and there, and I liked it even better.

So will I let age advance , and be grey and proud? I am really not sure. I dither. Truly. Appearance seems to affect the way you’re treated. I ran for a train at London Bridge and only just missed it, and found myself surrounded by solicitous young railway guys who kindlily urged me to sit down and not to worry. As if I was Red Riding Hood’s granny. If my hair had been dark, they would not have turned a hair…

Are the terminally ill too expensive?

It is alarming to read.

“The SUPPORT investigators found that despite an intervention designed to improve end-of-life care, many patients who died did so not only at great expense but also after spending at least 10 d in the ICU comatose, receiving mechanical ventilation, with do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders written 2 d before death, and in pain.”

The American SUPPORT report looked at ways to reduce the health bill and speculated that it was just too darned expensive – and pointless – to keep terminally ill people alive. So access to the Intensive Care Unit, it argued, should, as  policy, be severely restricted.

It is a tricky point – whether doctors should ‘strive/ Officiously to keep alive’, – and after sitting with a terminally ill and pain-ridden friend I would not (I think) want that for myself. But to make expense the prime factor is shocking.

Fortunately, the SUPPORT report (Study to Understand Prognoses and Preferences for Outcomes and Risks of Treatment) was in 1995  and has been challenged by newer research. This has shown that in fact minimal savings would be made  – if any – and that prognoses of imminent death were anyway unreliable. It recommends the right to ICU but also more emphasis on palliative care.

Point-scoring is a childish temptation. But nevertheless, to read what is a serious debate around cost-cutting from a country twhere many have been shouting that the British NHS would kill off grannies is – to say the least – ironic.