Sunday, 5 August 2012

A Maiden in a Tower, Damsels at my Feet, a Young Princess, and Snow Angels

Last week I was on holiday in one of my most favourite places of all time, the Solway Coast of Scotland. The weather was fine, I watched the sea as it came in and went out twice a day, 6 novels of the crime/thriller genre were read, and many miles were walked with Cello on deserted beaches, through fertile fields and along paths snaking their way through lush woodlands. My sun tan was topped up, a fine selection of real ales was sampled and too many lazy lunches indulged in. That there was no internet of phone coverage made for a peaceful time free from the incessant ping of a new email arriving at work.

Maybe it was the lack of access to the news that resulted in my not knowing about the Rapunzel like maiden trapped in the ruins of Kirkcudbright (pronounced kerr-coo-bree) Castle. Once I found out I was able to promptly affect a rescue and still have time to spend some time with Rosie, owner of The White House Gallery. Kirkcudbright has had a long association with the Glasgow art movement, however, over the past five years or so, it is from this gallery that I have been buying the work of Urpu Sellar, the Finnish creator of some of the quirkiest ceramic sculptures I have ever seen.

Unfortunately I had to come back to Manchester for an Academic Health Science Network meeting on Friday (more of which in a subsequent post). So yesterday I was able to walk on High Rid once more with Cello. The morning sun, which was warm from early on, brought out hundreds of damselflies. These beautiful dragonfly like insects flew, with spectacular dips and swoops around my feet as I walked around the waters edge. It was an almost magical feeling to see so many out in the sunshine living their very short lives so energetically.

And being reconnected with the internet also brought a couple of interesting surprises. For some reason Facebook feels it has to let me know when anyone who was once a 'friend' on my previous Facebook account post a thought, a picture or whatever. Although I never use this social network anymore, it appears that once you have an account you have it forever. Well yesterday I was alerted to the fact that my middle daughter apparently likes a photograph I was ‘tagged’ in. Intrigued I opened up this photograph (and it’s not one I have anywhere) to find it was taken some 30 years ago. At the time I was living in Wales and my hair was still dark and not grey. It was also in my pre-black only era. But it was lovely to see my daughter in her ‘I’m a little Princess' phase though. I suspect one of my brothers will have posted it, but where he got it from is anyone’s guess.

The second surprise was seeing an announcement that the Snow Angels were preparing plans to reduce the number of deaths in the North West that are caused by cold weather. Now I know our summer so far hasn’t been up to much but this seemed an extreme case of forward planning. Even Tesco’s haven’t got their Christmas stock on the shelves yet. But it is a serious health and social care issue. In November 2009 the Office for National Statistics reported an estimated 36,700 excess winter deaths (the term used for deaths caused by cold weather) for the period 2008/09 which was a 49% increase over the previous year. The majority of these deaths occurred in people aged 75 years and over. For some reason some parts of the North West seemed to have a higher problem than others. For example, there were 209 deaths in Cheshire West and Chester in 2009/10, some 40% more than any other part of the North West. The key risk criteria are age, female, respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, living alone, or living in nursing or residential care.

Operation Snow Angel is designed to support older and vulnerable people in the local community by bringing together existing services and improving access to these services, providing support to the most vulnerable people in the local community through Snow Angel volunteers, and supporting local neighbourhoods to assist people through periods of extreme cold weather. The role of these Snow Angels will be to respond to requests for assistance during periods of extreme cold weather to ensure that people are kept safe and warm. Specific duties include assistance with path clearance, making sure that people are warm, assistance with shopping, and referrals to other agencies when appropriate.

It sounds like a great scheme. I have a few days left before returning to work, and I shall spend much of this time in the garden making my own preparations for the forthcoming winter.

And OK, I will be watching the last week of the Olympics. They have been fantastic games so far - my favourites have to be Jess Ennis (that was some 800 m) and Mo Farah - what wonderful athletes - both of whom personify the Olympic spirit!