Sunday, August 17, 2014

Scottish Independence

Over the past few months, the campaign both for and against have gathered momentum.  Politicians, even some from other countries, have voiced their opinions. People in Scotland and outside Scotland have voiced their opinions. Celebrities, some of whom have probably never so much as taken one step on to Scottish land, have voiced their opinions.

I was a definite no voter. I have to be honest though, I hadn't really put much thought into it. Scotland has been part of Great Britain for the last few centuries, so why change now? There is always a fear factor to any change and this would be a huge change. Probably the biggest change in the politics of my country I would ever be likely to see. So I was happy to simply put an X in the 'No' box on the 18th of September.

However, my opinion has changed.

Nicky Clarke, a celebrity hairdresser from England, spouted his opinion on the referendum. He believes we should stay with Great Britain. But he also said that Scottish people are not educated enough to be able to make such an important decision.

He is entitled to his opinion on the referendum. But I can't agree with his point about Scottish people. Not educated enough? What right does he have to say that about the people of Scotland?

I think it is fair to say that there have been more than a few brain cells amongst the Scots. Let's face it, televisions, telephones, fridges, pneumatic tyres, bicycles, colour photography, hypodermic syringes, hypnotism, MRI scanners, penicillin, insulin, flushing toilets and deep fried mars bars are just a few things either invented or discovered by the so-called 'uneducated' Scots. Ok, so we'll forget about the deep fried mars bars....that is possibly not one of the better inventions.

But seriously, what right does a hairdresser in England have to say that Scottish people should not be making this decision on our future, because we don't have the intelligence to understand it? That remark did make me angry, but it also made me think more. Perhaps there was a bit on truth in what he was saying. Here was I, looking ahead to the referendum without giving it much thought, apart from, let's just stick with what we know.

So from that day, I started reading. I wanted to educate myself on the subject. Avoiding media, since they have a habit of giving biased views on most subjects, I read facts....real facts and I do believe that Scotland has the ability to stand alone once again. It's not about what has happened in the's about what can happen in the future.

I have never been too keen on Alex Salmond, but this vote is not about Alex Salmond. It is about Scotland's Independence, not about which politician should or shouldn't run the country. However, having said that, after reading his CV, I believe he does know what he is talking about.

The 'Better Together' campaign seem to be promising us the earth if we stick with them. Why?? If they thought we were so worthy of all they promise now, why are we not already better together? They are making promises of more devolution powers for Scotland if we stay with the UK. When did you last meet a politician who fulfilled promises made prior to an election? False promises in the hope that people will vote for them. They use scare tactics telling us that we won't cope on our own, there isn't enough oil, not enough tax in the country to cover everything we need. They say we can't use the pound. They also say we are not guaranteed to be part of the EU. No money for pensions. The NHS will fall to pieces. It is all scare tactics. The truth is out there, but you have to look for it.

So where do I start?

  • EU - Scotland is already a country in its own right, so why should EU not allow us to stay there? European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker  has said that Scotland would be treated as a “special and separate case”, rather than a new applicant, so there wouldn't be a problem about joining the EU. But apart from that, some English politicians are considering coming out of the EU, so as it stands, the UK's future in the EU is not definite.
  • The £ - if the rest of UK decided to not allow us to use the pound, they would have a bigger problem than us. (As an aside, the Bank of England was actually created by a Scotsman). They actually cannot stop us from using the £, but it would be in the interest of both sides to have a currency union. The £ belongs to Scotland just as much as it belongs to the rest of the UK. The American dollar is used in some parts of South America, but it has nothing to do with the USA.
  • NHS Scotland is already funded solely by Scottish taxes. At present, if a Scottish person was treated in an English hospital, the English hospital will invoice NHS Scotland. Likewise, if an English person is treated in a Scottish hospital, Scotland invoices England. So there would be no change. At present, Scotland still has an NHS to be proud of. Hopefully, if we can keep it in our own hands, we will be able to keep it that way. There is probably less chance of that happening if we remain part of the UK.
  • No pension pot. There is actually no pension pot in the UK either. People who are paying tax today, are actually paying for the pensions of those entitled today. The money hasn't been put into a giant piggy bank waiting for everyone's retirement. It was used at the time.  An Independent Scotland would take on the responsibility of paying pensions in the same way as it is done by the UK. As far as still being entitled to a pension goes, yes, everyone will have the same rights as before. At present, anybody who is entitled to a UK pension receives it....even if they decide to spend their retirement in another country.

At the moment, Scottish taxes pay salaries for our MPs based in Edinburgh, for MPs based in Westminster, plus Prime Minister, chancellor, all the other cabinet members and staff to go with them. We pay to have MPs in Europe.  We pay for the House of Lords. And as much as I think the Queen is a lovely lady, we all pay a pretty hefty price to keep her and her family. I am not against Royalty completely, but when some people, working people, are relying on food banks, it just doesn't seem right that our royal family live so lavishly. So I guess my vote is for Independence, with the hope that Scotland would then have another referendum on the Royal family. If Scotland becomes independent, the country will have a government which will focus on Scotland and its people. We will have a chance to let our taxes stay in Scotland to help Scottish people.

In learning about what Independence could  mean for us, I have seen some bitterness and anger....from both sides. That concerns me. If the country decides to vote no, what will the relationship be like between Scotland and England? Some English people believe Scottish are just spongeing off England (this is not true) and can't wait to see the back of us. So if we vote no, do we ever manage to get a good relationship again? Likewise, if we vote yes, does it divide us further and will people be waiting and watching, hoping that we fall on our face. Surely it would be better to have a friendly relationship with our neighbours no matter what the result of the referendum is. There is already enough fighting and disagreement in the world, we don't need more.

I hope the bad feelings stop on both sides. It doesn't help anyone. But I also hope that people who can vote, do so with their eyes open. Don't listen to the scare-mongering, and don't vote no just so we don't have to face change. Read and learn (not from the media), then whatever way you choose to vote, do so believing what you are doing is right.

Scotland has always been classed as the lower class neighbour of England. Nobody works, we just sponge off the neighbours. We're lazy. We're loud. We're aggressive. And of course, we are mean. At least, that is how we are often portrayed.  When it suits and we achieve something, we are classed as British. When we fail, or something goes wrong, we are classed as Scottish.

I am, always have been and always will be, proud to say that I am Scottish.  And having learned about Independence, I do believe it can work for Scotland. A government, voted by the people of Scotland, in Scotland, focussing on Scotland. My X will be going in the yes box.

A few websites I have found useful :
Guide to the debate
Business for Scotland
Future UK and Scotland
An ebook about Independence

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Independence Debate

The vote for Scottish Independence will be taking place in just a few weeks time. I wasn't ever going to blog about it, but a couple a days ago I had to find my soapbox, and once found, I climbed on to it, and have not climbed back down since.

I wasn't ranting about whether we should go it alone or stay with what we know.

I was ranting about not being able to watch the debate between Alex Salmond from the SNP and Alistair Darling from the Better Together campaign which was shown on STV (Scottish Television) on Tuesday night.

STV covers many parts of Scotland. But not this part.

STV gave ITV the chance to show it to us, the Scottish Borders viewers, but for some reason, they only showed it in Scottish Borders areas which used Freeview. And where I live, nobody can use Freeview to watch television. Due to location, we need satellite if we want to watch television. On Tuesday night, ITV Borders via satellite, showed a gardening programme instead of the independence debate.

Not that I am against gardening programmes, but I don't believe watching it would have helped me to make an informed decision in the forthcoming vote.

(I would also like to say that watching the debate would possibly not have helped me to make an informed decision either. But that is not the point.)

Anyway....soapbox came out and I complained to ITV.

This morning, I received an email from them.

"ITV screened the 8-10pm debate live, in the area where our viewers have a vote in the question under discussion. 

The debate will of course be covered as a news story in our news programmes broadcast to the whole of the UK.

If you would like to watch the debate it is available to view on the STV Player at the following link: -", does ITV not realise that the Scottish Borders area of Scotland is actually in Scotland, and as such, the people who live there are entitled to vote (even if they live in an area which is too remote to receive Freeview).

Of course, the news programmes would show clips in their programmes. And the news programmes never give a biased viewpoint, do they???

And yes, the debate could be seen online. A little bit of a problem with that also. Many people who live in the Scottish Borders, who live in areas where they cannot get Freeview, also cannot get normal, through the phoneline broadband, so watching a two hour debate online would have been out of the question. Incidentally, I do have broadband, satellite broadband - not through the phoneline, actually more like through the nose! Over £70 a month (yes, you read that correctly), and it comes with a limited usage policy. So watching a two hour debate, would have used much of our monthly allowance.

What I do not understand is why STV (Scottish Television) cannot be shown to the whole of Scotland. Our local news tells me what is going on in Newcastle and Northumberland, but doesn't tell me much about what is happening where I live.

I will stress, that my complaint has nothing whatsoever to do with my preferences of voting either yes or no. But surely, everyone in Scotland should have the same access to information as people from elsewhere in Scotland.

Ironically, ITV is London based, and makes decisions involving the people of Scotland. Hmm....does this sound familiar to anyone?

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Panorama - Care Home for the Elderly

A few days ago we watched the much publicised Panorama programme about care homes for the elderly. It was distressing viewing to say the least. I don't know what was worse - seeing patients being physically abused or the degrading manner in which they were treated or the way the staff took every last piece of dignity from them. This is an article here, written in the Daily Mail last week.

My husband and I watched the programme in horror and disgust and neither of us have been able to stop thinking about it since. All we could think was "thank goodness that none of our parents are in a care home".

A hidden camera had been placed in a 98 year old woman's room by her grand-daughter. The old lady, who seemed like a fairly young 98 year old, had told her grand-daughter that some of the care home staff were mistreating patients. Without saying anything, the grand-daughter placed a hidden camera in the room. What was filmed was beyond shocking.

The old lady could no longer walk unaided, and had called for a nurse to help her up out of bed to go to the bathroom one evening. The poor woman was becoming distressed when nobody appeared. She kept calling out and two and a half hours later, a carer (this was her job title....definitely not a carer by definition) came to her room and asked why she wanted to get up. The lady asked for help to go to the bathroom and the carer refused and told her "you're wearing a pad - just do it where you are." The lady was shocked and seemed horrified at the thought of doing that. She begged the carer to help her, but the carer ignored her plea. She left the room, switched off the light and left this poor lady in distress. The lady again called out, and eventually the carer came back with a colleague and this time they did get her out of the bed. But they expected her to walk alone. She was then chastised and ridiculed for being unable to walk, then put back to bed very roughly and told yet again to just use the pad.

I can't even begin to explain just how distressing it was to watch. That poor woman was 98 and still wanted to retain some dignity, but those carers stole that from her.

Thankfully, the film footage was shown to police and charges were brought against the staff. The old lady passed away just days after that incident. Her grand-daughter had told her about the camera having filmed her and the lady was so pleased because she felt it would help put a stop to treatment like this, so it could help other patients.

Hidden cameras discovered a lot of bad treatment, however, they also showed that there were some nice staff, who deserved the title "carer". Sadly though, the bad will always overshadow the good. People with family in care homes will probably always wonder just what kind of carers are looking after their loved ones.

Should it be necessary to put a hidden camera in all the rooms? Seems very Big Brotherish, but is it the way to ensure that someone is getting the proper care and attention they deserve? Perhaps some of the staff in these care homes need to be aware that there could be a camera somewhere, making them more aware of their actions.

Being a carer in a home for the elderly cannot be an easy job, and is probably not well enough paid. But surely the job title "carer" should give a clue to what they are expected to do. Some people would admit that they are not suited to that job, and that is not a crime. But to do the job badly is a crime.

Hopefully programmes like this will help towards giving people a better future in care homes. Surely everyone deserves compassionate care and to be allowed to keep their dignity for as long as possible. Surely that is everyone's right.

There will always be bad apples in all walks of life. But hopefully there will always be more good than bad. And hopefully, people will look after the vulnerable in society to ensure they only get good apples.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring Has Sprung

Blue sky and sunshine here, so I've been outside just enjoying it. Don't get weather like this too often, so not missing an opportunity to get some natural Vitamin D.

Been really lovely - not a cloud in the sky, with the sun in my eyes. I'm sure those words could be turned into a good song...

Sometimes it is nice to take some time out of life, relax, and just enjoy something you love. Some people love hustle and bustle. I love silence.

So silence, with the added bonus of having sunshine, has kept me smiling over the last few days.

I suppose I could say it makes me feel on top of the world....

Wish I could sing like Karen Carpenter. Actually, I really just wish I could sing! Husband wishes I would stop singing....

Anyway, back to being outside, in the peace and quiet, no noise other than from nature itself. The birds have been singing, bees buzzing, leaves rustling in the peaceful.

The garden is full of daffodils and our hens have started laying again. So that is a sure sign that Spring has definitely sprung.

We only have six hens now. They are three years old now, and still giving us eggs. Only problem is that they keep changing their minds about where to lay their eggs. So while other people have been doing Easter egg hunts over the last few days, we have been doing real egg hunts. I was lucky enough on Sunday to find a nest with six lovely eggs....and two pheasant eggs as an added extra. The pheasants must have decided they liked that spot for laying too.

There is nothing to beat fresh, free range eggs. During the winter, when the hens stop laying, we take it ill out when we have to buy eggs. I pay extra to buy free range, but they are never the good as our own. Maybe it's because we know ours really are free range...

Friday, March 21, 2014

What's Worse Than Spam?

I once wrote a blog post about how much I hate spam. Well, there is something else I really hate even more than spam. Can look a bit like spam, even sounds like spam....but it is worse than spam.

The internet must be like a playground to scammers. Some of them are very clever. They do their research, find the right audience and find a weak point. Then they prey...

People with illnesses and disabilities are often that target audience. We have a weak point....we don't want to be ill or have a disability. We want a cure, we want to get better, we will try almost anything. So the scammers throw us a line and reel us in.

Whether they try to sell us supplements with amazing claims that they will cure nerve pain, or some new fangled machine which will do wonders for our painful bodies, they shout out one word : SCAM

Their websites normally have testimonials written by "clients" actual fact, those testimonials are often made up by the company.

When we started our Trigeminal Neuralgia awareness page, a young woman came onto the page and said she used a certain (very expensive) supplement and her TN was cured. She claimed to have lots of friends with TN, and they used the supplement too, and they were all cured. Amazing! Truth was that she didn't even know what Trigeminal Neuralgia was, and she knew nobody with the condition. She eventually admitted to me that the testimonials on the website were all fake. Every single one. She was trying to make some extra money by generating business. She came to the wrong awareness page that day.

I am not suggesting that all supplements are made by companies who prey on vulnerable people. Some supplements are good, and some may help things like nerve pain. But, people should check the company out, and ask doctors or pharmacists if they are safe to take, especially when taking other meds. Some herbal supplements can interfere with many meds, so it is always best to be safe.

Something else I came across this week is a clinic using laser therapy. Their website claims that their laser therapy will cure Trigeminal Neuralgia.

  • Proof that their therapy can cure TN is in the testimonials. (Yes, the testimonials which they have possibly made up)
  • They claim their laser is ten times stronger than an other laser. (I'm not sure if this is good or bad)
  • If you have medical insurance, it will not cover laser treatment.
  • If you want to know how much this laser therapy costs, they will not tell you until you have a consultation.
  • They say that you will normally have two thirty minute treatments per day possibly over three weeks. (Surely they should be able to give a price if it is a set length of time for a session)
  • They say it is a cure for TN, yet they say that if it does not work the first time, you can have another round of treatments for half price. (That would be if you have any money left after the first round of treatments)
  • Oh, and you can enjoy the area and stay in a lovely hotel while you are there. (The hotels in the area must love this clinic)

I have seen people ask about this laser therapy....people with TN see that word CURE and think it could change their lives. TN isn't just about pain, it can ruin people's lives. They become desperate for a cure. They use their savings, take out loans, sell their possessions.....they would pay anything for a cure.

Except, this doesn't seem to be curing those people. People have lost thousands of dollars, pinning their hopes on being pain free, but after the treatment, they have the same pain (sometimes worse), and empty bank books.

I don't know enough about laser therapy to know whether or not it can actually help anyone. It may help some people. My husband told me last night that someone he knows had accidentally left his laser torch switch on. It burnt a hole in the wooden table. So I don't think I would like to try laser therapy, especially with the knowledge that their laser is ten times stronger than any other.

I know that there are no real cures out there for Trigeminal Neuralgia. The Facial Pain Research Foundation is trying to find a cure, and we can rest assured that when they do, it will go through the correct channels of being tested etc before it reaches us.

I really hate knowing that people are out their trying to take advantage of people who live with illness and disabilities. Scammers are the lowest of the low, they prey on vulnerable people. They give people hope, they take their money, but they do not cure people.

When we see the word "cure" on an advert or website, we all need to be very cautious. Ask questions, ask doctors, look out for one another.....we need to ensure that people are not taken in by those false claims.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Coping Mechanisms

When living with chronic pain, life can by tiring, frightening and frustrating.

A chronic pain patient has to learn ways of coping. It can become an emotional battleground, fighting against feelings of fear, anxiety, depression and even guilt. They have to find ways of relaxing and trying to clear their mind from the pain which can so easily take over their life. They have to find a way of keeping their identity so they do not become lost to their pain. Their pain must only be part of them - it cannot be allowed to take over.

The same applies for people living with someone else's chronic pain. Whether they are the patient's partner, parent, child or friend, their life can also be tiring, frightening and frustrating. In some ways, perhaps more so. They can get tired of watching the person they love struggle, frightened of the future, frightened of never seeing that person be free of pain. The frustration and guilt at times must be overwhelming, because they can do little, or sometimes nothing, to make that person's life easier.  It can be soul destroying for someone seeing a loved one in constant pain.

They also have to find ways of coping and relaxing so that they can also clear their mind of the pain. It is possibly even more important that they do this, so that they can continue to support the person they love.

Living with pain is certainly not easy....but living with someone else's pain is possibly even more difficult.

I have always been lucky. I think there is something in my genes which makes me just accept my pain for what it is, and cope with it as best I can. Maybe because I have grown up with pain, I simply don't know anything different, so I can just accept it more easily than some people who have had a normal life, then suddenly develop a chronic illness or condition. They then have a huge adjustment to make and have to learn to deal with that along with physical and emotional problems associated with their condition.

When I look at my life, I try not to focus on the negative parts. That would drag me down....and I can't let that happen. In fact, I think I try to take the negatives and turn them into something positive. Most of my blog posts are about my face pain, which is an extremely negative aspect of my life, so it could be said that I focus on that too much.....but my reason for focussing on that is to bring much needed awareness about Trigeminal Neuralgia. This helps myself as well as other people with the condition. That is my way of turning something very negative into something positive.

So my pain may be negative, but if I can take something positive from it, it helps me to deal with it.

I also look around me every day and find reasons to smile, and there are always plenty of reasons. I smile because I love where I live. I smile because I love that crazy guy I am married to. I smile because my family mean so much to me. I smile because my eight year old fox-red labrador still tries to climb up beside me for a cuddle. I smile when the cat talks to me (she does....she really does!)

I smile because I have started drawing again. I smiled because Ian made a pot of chicken soup this afternoon and it is delicious. There was a glimpse of sunshine and blue sky while I was out shopping...that made me smile thinking that Spring is somewhere just around the corner. Then on the way home, I saw the snow on the hills......that made me smile too because they just look beautiful covered in snow.

There is always something to smile about.

My life can be tiring, frightening and frustrating, but finding things to smile about, I think, is my coping mechanism. That is what helps get me through life.

Everybody living with pain (whether their own, or someone else's) has to find their own coping mechanism.

Finding it is the hard part, but once found, life can become so much easier.