21 November 2011

Posted by DMC on 22 November 2011 in Diary |

I had a pretty lazy day yesterday the weather was bright but extremely cold so it was a question of staying in on keeping warm I did my usual work publishing the blog, answering e-mails, writing the odd e-mail thank you – for example to Martin and Winifred Potter, the secretary and treasurer of The Arbitration Club, who represented the at the London Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Dinner – and then spent the rest of the day leisurely reading, listening to music and watching the television. I suppose a lot of people would think that sounds like a lovely way of spending a day. So it is, as a treat, but not day after day after day!

As much as anything. yesterday I was having another bad day with the Dragon and ‘my lovely’ said ‘why not give it a miss and not worry about it so much. Your readers will understand, and so on’. Add to that she said that she thought that perhaps my entries are far too long and that most of my readers would be busy people and hardly have time to read them. In that regard she might be right but, once I get the bit between my teeth, it is difficult not to explore the pros and cons of a particular piece of news or alternatively just to express my own opinion. I suppose it’s not so much that I set out to influence people , my objective is to try to write something of interest. Another problem I have concerns the spread of readership, a large number of them being outside this country. Obviously then I cannot spend too much time discussing something which only applies here in the UK. I have tried to explain to Alice that the blog is my lifeline to the outside world and although its main objective is to help others it also helps me. As I’ve said before., it gives me a reason for getting out of bed in the morning, particularly if I have heard something during the night on the wireless that I would like to share with my readers.

So much in the news at the moment is about the economy both at home and overseas, particularly Europe. On the European front the Spanish seem to believe that they can get themselves out of trouble by swallowing a lot of cuts in various services. The Italians are probably the most vulnerable at present but many of the top brains are working on a way round to get them out of trouble. On the home front our main problem seems to be stimulating the economy. We have two opposing objectives which to my mind seem irreconcilable. We want people to spend money in order to generate activity and employment but then on the other hand we don’t want individuals to build up vast overdrafts, which they did in the past, and were subsequently unable to service.

It doesn’t help that Christmas is upon us and families don’t seem able to bite the bullet and to tell their children that times are hard and they cannot expect so many expensive presents this year. At the mention of a cut or change in any employment terms to affect savings, even looking 30 to 50 years ahead, which is unusual for most governments, the unions threaten strikes instead of recognisng that their members are lucky to have jobs at all in these difficult times.

Unfortunately inflation is rising, partially because of the price of fuel which has risen 50% since I stopped driving. Now we’re getting into the winter those of us who have oil fired boilers practically have to take a second mortgage to fill up our oil tank. I heard of one elderly couple complaining, quite reasonably, that they needed to spend 30% of their income on keeping warm

The government is certainly tackling the million plus who are on benefit, or unemployed. In particular the 2.9 million claiming disability allowance. The suggestion is that they be reviewed, not necessarily by a doctor but by an independent assessor who would be able to say if they were able to undertake some sort of work. It doesn’t have to be heavy physical work as there are many jobs needing the simplest of skills and little or no qualifications. Work that can be done sitting down. As much as anything the government are putting a lot of effort into satisfying themselves which of those people are genuine handicapped and unable to work and the tens of thousands of people on benefit who frankly should not be there. For the unemployed generally, somehow they have to make it worth while working. I mentioned in an earlier entry, the couple who came onto the television and openly admitted that they had lived on benefit for years and intended to go on doing so, as by working they would only be about £30 a week better off , which they could probably by moonlighting for cash; baby sitting for exampnle.. I know amongst a lot of the young people I come into contact with, where they might well have gone on a winter package holiday this year, they are holding back and saving their money for a rainy day. This is admirable in its own way but does not, of course, stimulate the economy.

Coming back to the benefit fraudsters, how to stop that situation and not penalise the children of such families? I would have thought we could have introduced a system whereby those who were able to, would work to earn their benefit and then the  government would contribute an amount necessary to bring that household’s income up to a living wage. Surely something on these lines would be far more sustainable than the present system.

The government have announced that they are considering capping the total weekly cash benefits to every household at £500 per week, equal to a post tax income of £32,000. This is in the face of some beneficiaries currently getting as much as £1500 a week plus free housing, community tax etc. Fortunately, we are not alone. Practically every country in Europe is having to consider cuts in services and benefit, raising the pensionable age to 67 and increasing slightly the amount of contribution from the employees. Without such action, by the year 2050 half the countries in Europe would become bankrupt and would simply not have enough money to pay the state pensions Even with this prospect hanging over the would-be pensioners the trade unions are still striking against these proposals. To my mind retiring at 67 will not last that long and within 10 years the retirement age will be raised to 70. Why the actuaries could not have seen the outcome of people living much longer, I find puzzling. I know that my own mother and her husband retired some 32 years ago and have long since gone past the age when they were expected to die and as a result, of course,: drawing a pension probably for 15 years more than they actuarial tables suggests they should have done. I recently read that a child born today can expect to  live to 102!

In all these talks of cuts, the current pensioners – and there are great deal of them -have been largely overlooked and are obviously feeling the pinch. Although the state pension will go up at the beginning of next year it is still well below the amount needed to compensate for the rise in the cost of living. Those people who worked hard and saved all their lives to accumulate a little nest egg are now faced with the aspect of losing it. if they have to go into government owned sheltered accommodation, or a nursing home. In order to qualify for free care,   either in their own home or one run by the government , they must not have more than £23,250 in savings. So, I have heard of a number of them spending their money on cruises and the like in order to reduce their savings below the maximum allowed before throwing themselves on the state for the rest of their lives. Who can blame them? as there is no differentiation between the careful and prudent worker who has saved a little money for their old age and the permanently indolent unemployed. Again, this cannot be right.

It is getting very difficult in this country to leave anything to the next generation with inheritance tax on all assets over £325,000 and the price of even the humblest house having risen dramatically over the years, almost everyone, certainly in the south of England, will have to pay something, leaving very little to hand on. I know that Australia abolished death duties, or inheritance tax , some years ago and have obviously raised the loss of tax some other way. When the Conservatives were canvassing for votes, prior to the last election, one plank of their manifesto was that they would raise the level of assets free of inheritance tax to £1 million, which sounds a great deal money but in view of the value of people’s houses is much more reasonable than the current level. No government has recognised the difference between a basic terraced house in London which could be worth £2/£3 million and a similar house in the North of England that would sell for a 10th of that value. Unfortunately this was one of the concessions they had to make to their coalition partners and will have to wait at least until the next general election to see if the Conservatives get a clear majority and are then able to honour some of their election pledges.

This has been a rather pessimistic entry but that sadly it reflect the mood of the country at present. Somehow the government have got to swing things round and to get people feeling more confident in the future and then build on that confidence, so that the economy starts to move forward once more. Until that happens we are in dire danger of talking ourselves into a double dip recession.

Oh dear, I’ve done it again. I rambled on far too long after lecturing myself on the necessity to make my entries much shorter. Even then I cannot resist showing you this little video which reflects my view of the protestors camping at St. Pauls cathedral, Dale Farm et al, it is a must. Click here and view it for yourself.


  • Amanda says:

    Please tell your wife I do enjoy reading your postings, regardless of how long . 🙂
    I recently read about stem cell research they are doing at an American university where they injected stem cells into the cervical area of an ALS patient. It has just been done maybe a few days/week ago. Have you heard about this across the Pond?

  • Christine from BC says:

    Love the blog no matter how long or how short. Long may it continue to have a huge therapeutic value to you.

  • Pam King says:

    Your web site is brilliant and the Blog a wonderful mix of humour and topical discussion. It is an inspiration [as are you]] and therapy for all. Please keep writing whatever the length of the blog!

  • DMC says:

    Thanks Christine. I think I will make you present of the Prof. D Mark Cato fan club in BC


  • DMC says:

    Dear Amanda

    yes I had read about the stem cell research but sadly even if it is successful it will be at least 10 years before it will be approved by the various medical authorities. I fear too late for us. In fact, I offered myself as a guinea pig if they wish to try in this country. I believe there is some sort of trial going on in Sheffield but my team at Addenbrookes, nor the team at King’s College London, are currently undertaking such trials


  • DMC says:

    Dear Pam. You are too kind but thank you for your comment which seems to be in line with quite a lot of other readers, so I should just go rambling on as usual.

    Best wishes


  • Christine from BC says:

    I wonder how many folk in BC have read your blog? That would be interesting to know. Hmmmm.

    In my small fishing village your fan club would be as big as our fencing club (members include myself and my husband!!!). From little seeds grown mighty trees……

  • Dear Mark,
    I contacted you some months ago regarding my husband Ray,he was diagnosed around the same time as you with MND (Flailing Arm Syndrome)
    Fortunately for us his diagnosis was changed early this year following Cervical surgery it is thought now he has Multifocal Motor Neuropathy with conduction blocks.
    He has commenced on a treatment called “Intragam'” which is an intraveinus infusion of Gammaglobulin given over a few hours one day a fortnight.

    Before he started the treatment he couldn’t walk but he is walking with the WheelyWalker for short distances. We are keeping our fingers crossed that he will continue to improve.He can also feed himself with some difficulty but it is all positive…

    He continues to have a great deal of pain in his neck,shoulders arms and hands which we try to control with tablets and skin patches.
    We follow your blog with great interest and enjoy your jokes and pictures.

    I wish you, your family and carers a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous
    New Year.
    Best Regards Maureen Jones

  • DMC says:

    This is absolutely fabulous news congratulations to you and Ray. He must be over the moon.

    You know that these comments Published on the blog at the end of the entry to which you refer, in this case 21st of November and I’ve no doubt that I will get some feedback from others and it will be good to have some answers. Would you mind answering a couple of questions for me?

    You say that Ray was diagnosed about the same time as I was i.e. the end of 2007 and suspected to have possibly flail armyndrome. Presumably he has gone through all the stages of MND to date, starting with the fasciculations and then gradually limb ceasing to work?

    What sort of cervical operation discovered the incorrect diagnosis?

    Have raised lungs been affected at all? The only difference between this seems to be at that my lung capacit is reduced to 46% of normal. Fortuitously I go tomorrow to Papwothto have my quarterly land check and will certainly raise it with them and the following Thursday when I gave them my quarterly MND assessment..

    I will of course look at Ray’s disease but I would very much appreciated if you had time to answer this before I leave mid morning for my assessment. Of course, the chances of us both having been misdiagnosed is 1,000,000 to one but nevertheless it’s worth checking out

    I am immensely grateful to for letting me know this information for who knows it might well help

    Once more congratulations to you both I shall certainly be in touch with you again shortly when I’ve learned a little more.

    Best wishes


  • Maureen Jones says:

    Monday 5th Dec. 12mn
    Hi Mark,
    Yes Ray started off losing a lot of weight (He was never fat) it was mainly muscle wasting he went from 64 kg down to 45kg over time but has gone back to about 52kg.
    He had and still has Fasciculations in the arms and legs and lost the use of them, fortunately his chest (lungs) have not been affected although he has been incontinent for some months and had to wear a uridome and collection bag.
    Since being on the treatment the control of the bladder has improved somewhat.
    We just keep hoping that he will continue to improve.
    The surgery on the cervical spine was in January this year as he had narrowing of the canal and had a Laminectomy to release the pressure on the spinalcord he needs further surgery to stabilise the neck, but he is not looking forward to this as he turned 76yrs this year, my argument being if there is a chance to give him better quality of life he should take it.
    I hope you have a good report when you go for your assessment.

  • DMC says:

    Dear Maureen
    Thank you for your prompt reply. Read your query about pain. You will have noted from my blog comment that I had suffered severe pain in my shoulders and hips and knees. So far the only treatment I had is a temporary injection into my shoulder which said that he has rellieved the severity of the pain somewhat. The next step apparently is a nerve block under x-ray. I can understand that may well clear by shoulder pain but cannot for the life of me think how it can affect my hips and knees. I did not even know whether this pain is something common to MND sufferers but will find out on Thursday when I have my quarterly assessment. I will certainly let you know if anything interesting comes out of that.

    In the meantime I have done a short summary of RAy’s condition which is of course can quickly anonymous as I am the only one who knows where these comments come from. This will appear as for December entry and I shall be interested to see what, if anything, that flushes out.

    I think Ray has had a very rough time and is obviously a very brave man and fortunate, as indeed I am myself, and having such a wonderful wife.

    I will keep in touch

    Best wishes to you both


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