Friday, 12 September 2008

Skewed Perspective

It is a standard bungalow. It was probably built in the 1970's, the front garden is neat with a pocket handkerchief lawn and a stone path to the neat double glazed front door. They bought it when they retired in the early 1980's, moving to the area where they had enjoyed holidays when their children were small.
I walk into the living room and it is breathtaking. Huge windows make up almost the whole of one wall and the view is filled with sea, for a moment it is disorientating - you feel you could be on the prow of a ship. Pure light floods the room and I wish I could paint, anyone who lived here would surely be inspired to try to produce art in this light, with this view.
She is not an easy woman, but then, she is not having the retirement she anticipated. Her husband has Parkinsons and their life revolves around caring for him, day hospital and carers, incontinence sheets and hospital beds. She is grieving the life she didn't get and the husband who is gone, replaced by a confused and sometimes aggressive man. I comment on the view and she turns blank eyes to the windows. "We thought we would be here for life" she says "We are putting it on the market this Month, we can't afford the fuel bills and the running costs"

He is a proud man, he fought in the War and he and his wife brought up a family in this tiny cottage. He got up at dawn or before each day and worked as a farm hand, walking the five miles to and from work. They never had a car or foreign holidays, they didn't have holidays at all but they had a simple life where you lived within your means and that was good enough for them. He is ninety now, his skin is paper thin, marked with purple stains where the steroids he takes for his breathing have thinned his blood. He lives in one room, the single bed in the corner with the family pictures still on the wall above it, a reminder that this used to be an ordinary sitting room. A portable gas heater is on constantly in front of the gaping fireplace - he doesn't have an open fire any more, he cant keep it in all day. The house has central heating but he doesn't switch it on, he can't there is no oil in the tank.

Twenty five thousand older people will die this Winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes properly. You know it, I know it, the Government know it, and yet it will still happen. I don't believe that help to insulate lofts will solve this problem, what's more, I think that the Energy Companies will put up their prices to cover the cost of providing it. There is real poverty going on in your street, in your village but the people who are dying cannot go on strike. It appears that they are expendable in our Society. Yesterday a friend of mine was in London and had a wander around Harrods. She saw a handbag on sale for £19,000. Something is very, very wrong with our values.


cb said...

So true. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

found you via Fat Doctor, and want you to know that I enjoy your writing very much. I am a nurse in the states who is involved in elder home care. I love the clients, hate the bureaucracy that focuses on the rules and not the humanity, and keep doing my best to make the day a little better for my clients. It's hard to get old, and apparently not any better in the UK than in the US. Keep up the good work, and take care of YOU - I have learned thru experience that taking care of me first is not selfish, but essential.

Caroline said...

Thank you Miss.M - I agree with every word you say, it feels like fighting the system every day and sometimes it is hard uphill work. I do try to look after myself and I wouldn't dream of doing any other work - the thing is this is a job that touches your heart- and sometimes breaks it. People like us try to make a difference, it is all we can do.