Friday, 17 June 2016

Poetry is honey for the soul (12) - Ellen Moody

         Poetry is honey for the soul

Ellen has already contributed to this collection of poems chosen by blogger readers for other blogger readers. Her first choice was this poem by Judith Wright:

Today she suggests two poems linked by the same theme of birds. The first is well-known as it is "The Ode to a Nightingale" by Keats, read by Stephen Fry.

The second is less known. It has been written by Fleur Adcock, originally a writer from New -Zealand. Here is her biography and bibliography:

"The Way Out"

 (by Fleur Adcock)

The other option’s to become a bird.
That’s kindly done, to guess from how they sing,
decently independent of the word
as we are not; and how they use the air
to sail as we might soaring on a swing
higher and higher; but the rope’s not there,

it’s free fall upward, out into the sky;
or if the arc veer downwad, then it’s planned:
a bird can loiter, skimming just as high
as lets him supervise the hazel copse,
the turnip field, the orchard, and then land
on just the twig he’s chosen. Down he drops

to feed, if so it be: a pretty killer,
a keen-eyed stomach weighted like a dart.
He feels no pity for the caterpillar,
that moistly munching hoop of innocent green.
It is such tender lapses twist the heart.
A bird’s heart is a tight little red bean,

untwistable. His beak is made of bone,
his feet apparently of stainless wire;
his coat’s impermeable; his nest’s his own.
The clogging multiplicity of things
amongst whch other creatures, battling, tire
can be evaded by a pair of wings.

The point is, most of it occurs below,
earthed at the levels of the grovelling wood
and gritty buildings. Up’s the way to go.
If it’s escapist, if it’s like a dream
the dream’s prolonged until it ends for good.
I see no disadvantage in the scheme.

After the celebration and joy, there has come the reality check.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Diary (6) - The possibly mentally handicapped carer proceeds to think (and needs help in the process)

I must admit that I felt degraded and humiliated when it was suggested that I ask to be recognised as mentally handicapped. That was my first thought of hurt pride. Alright, it was misplaced: I am no genius; I have an average intelligence and understanding, no more. Nonetheless, the fact that I already feel I have been robbed of my life - I mean a normal life in a place I chose, doing things I chose, having friends, hobbies, a job, my own possessions - trivial things like my own crockery, my own books, my own records -, a financial independence - all this is difficult. I try to live it as a Christian: giving one's life for others without restriction and with love. I can tell you I am a bad Christian because this does not come easily to me!
Therefore, being deprived of full intellectual means "for the good cause" seemed to me a little over the top.
Dr Quack left, thinking I would rush to do what he had told me. He insisted that it could be easily proven that I suffer from chronic nervous breakdown verging on melancholia. He would write it. He would convince his colleagues on the Red Tape board or panel. I would not be deprived of my civic rights and my own disposition of my money and properties. I would manage my life as I would please. I would be given help that would help The Little Family. I would be given a status of "mentally handicapped" or "mentally disabled" that entailed a small allowance. All I had to do was to see a social worker who would ask for the file to be sent from the local bureaucracy for disabled and handicapped people (the same who has declared Anne-Fleur mentally handicapped) fill the papers, give them to him, to add his certificate about my mental disease, and to send the whole to the same office in Périgueux. Then, there would be some months before I would be called before a panel of administration (read intellectually limited and bureaucratic MDs) who would corroborate the decision. Then again, some more months with social workers to determine the amount of my allowance (not much - somewhere about 200 or 300€ per month) and the material help that I would need. 
Verba volant, scripta manent. Who can guarantee and sign the warrant? Who can guarantee that things will evolve like this? Can Dr Quack do it? I don't believe so.
The material needs are in the hands of the bureaucratic psychologists and social workers. They may very well decide that being mentally handicapped does not forbid my doing the whole house cleaning, cooking and gardening. These may well be seen as therapies. 
So what would I earn? A small financial allowance and a status of a mentally handicapped or mentally disabled person. The rest is a full question mark. The answer, if I adopt this solution, will be found in a year or so.
Meanwhile, we still have to live.
A blogger friend picked up another hole in the seemingly perfect fabric. And my thoughts had already jumped to it, after my pride had started to abate.
If I am declared mentally handicapped, or mentally disabled with the relevant status, I stop being the person with which The Girls can live without danger. One further step may easily be made by the Court, or by the social services, or by the administrator: The Girls would be better with "normal people", neither handicapped nor disabled, and be entrusted to a family paid to take care of them or to a specialised institution.
One more step and I could be deemed unable to live by myself and sent to a specialised institution myself.
Doesn't it need thought before rushing to issue that was so temptingly presented to me yesterday? Perhaps a consultation of our legal advisor in Paris, specialised in all things relevant to handicap and disability? To friends having jobs dealing with same social law? With social workers of the Foreign Office and the ministry of defence where family members worked for years and years?
Other thoughts?
I still believe that giving the carer, when he or she is family, a status is the proper solution. We do the job. Why are we not paid and helped for it?
But the job is a matter for another post.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Diary (5) When an able person needs to be declared handicapped herself to receive help in order to help the person who truly needs it

New news from The Little Family and a new turn in our life.
Another paradox of "The Red Tape".
All the excitement around our situation has made me ill, and I called our GP earlier this afternoon. Once diagnosed with a stomach ulcer, we talked about our needs. 
It is agreed that the house needs the great cleaning about which we have been talking for months. Dr Quack was even surprised that it had not already been done. Out was his prescription pad and busy did he become plying his pen along the page, requiring a cleaning firm to be sent to do the scouring from basement to attic, and then the assurance that  a cleaning lady would come two hours a week to help me do the routine tidying. Out was his cell phone to ring up the finance administrator to discuss the situation and to release the necessary funds.
I asked for a package: house and garden, as growing grass is a constant preoccupation, everywhere in the garden and, especially, close to the house: little animals of the fields and meadows may find their way within our walls.
I underlined the necessity to have a car that I might drive to go where we need when we need, and in case of emergency - on behalf of Anne-Fleur and The whole Little Family.
The finance administrator was out of reach - in a meeting or not at her desk - but Dr Quack left a message asking her to ring him back. Undaunted, he told me that he would ring her back himself if he had no news very quickly.
In France, in cases such as Anne-Fleur's, a MD/GP reigns. His word overrules all words - in a limited way but it has a true weight.
And then came the solution to our situation.
A carer, like me, has no status in France. The only person who has a status is the handicapped person. Therefore, a carer has no help. The handicapped person gets help - such help pushing slightly aside the carer. So, in order for the carer to get help, he/she/ I must be declared handicapped. 
As soon as I am declared handicapped, I may receive the help of a cleaning lady, the car can be repaired without protest, the gardener may be operational (in theory), and I may receive a small allowance (less than Anne-Fleur) but an allowance.
But I must be declared handicapped.
As I have no physical problem, the suggestion is a mental handicap. 
I felt ... degraded, treated without respect. But mental handicap it should be. Without having a guardian or losing my civil rights, Dr Quack hastened to say. I may be declared inapt to work because of an acute nervous breakdown verging on melancholia. 
So, if you are in France, be a mentally handicapped carer and you may care about your sister suffering from Down Syndrome, with the "benefit" of a status and an allowance.
I am left to think about this but urged to make steps forward the achievement of the necessary preliminary steps in order for Doctor Quack to process as quickly as possible, for the well-being of the whole Little Family.
Now, do I sound mentally handicapped to you? Am I illogical in my wish for a proper status for carers or is The Red Tape logical?
My mind boggles and loses its marks in this maze of new concepts.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Diary (4) -Would please still help The Little Family? Thanks to you, we are half way (or so I hope) - Continued

After a week, an answer came from the finance administrator. It is a weird answer, embarrassed, attempting to scold me for a lack of care or a wrongly dispensed care, and at the same time relenting on most points.
First of all, a telephone must be put back, so that talks may be conducted by ringing up.
My answer is that verba volant, scripta manent. It will be nice and convenient to have a telephone at home but no conversation that might lead to litigation or even misunderstandings should be held verbally.
The car with the broken exhaust pipe should not be repaired with Anne-Fleur's money as it does not belong to her. But given the particular circumstances, with the agreement of the Court, if the agreement is given, then the car might be mended.
My answer is that Anne-Fleur will never own a car and that she will never drive. Nonetheless, she needs a car to be driven to the "socialising" functions upon which the French bureaucracy is so keen. There also needs to be a car at home in case of emergency, or to go shopping outside the hours of the "socialising/shopping lady.” A car is useful. And, of course, it is I, and not Anne-Fleur, who shall drive it. Being without allowance myself, it seems pure common sense to use her money to repair it.
The hours with the shopping lady are not for cleaning the house. The shopping lady is someone who should help Anne-Fleur to wash every morning, (and evening?), to dress, to help her eat, to take her to the pictures, for walks, for shopping for her own food and clothes and needs, etc. She is to deal with all things intimate.
My answer is that Anne-Fleur is able to wash, to dress, to eat, and do intimate things by herself or with my help - we belong to the same family and we are close; that we are not each shopping for our respective food alone as we are a family; and that with due respect to the "socialising lady," I am intellectually more apt to know what film Anne-Fleur may or may not see, to explain things and generally to educate and instruct her. Moreover, what is to be said of a system that PAYS A SALARY to someone to go to the pictures or the library with the disabled person, meanwhile I / the carer is unpaid to care for all other needs? Where are the State finances going? Is this a rational economic decision?
It was decided in 2014 by the Board, and the MD who examined her, that Anne-Fleur needed no one to cook her meals, clean the house and keep the garden in good shape (clean).
My answer is that Anne-Fleur is absolutely not able to do all these things, and that I must do the cooking and help in the cleaning, but not assume all the cleaning of the whole house.
It will take months to allow someone to do the house cleaning. Therefore, exceptionally, money will be allowed to do, (at last), the great spring cleaning, (summer or autumn cleaning).
As to the garden, there will be money allowed ONCE to clean it, but nothing afterwards.
My answer is that a garden grows. Grass grows. Trees grow. Shrubs grow. A gardener came unofficially a month and a half ago and we cannot not see any more where he stopped cutting the grass. As the garden is wide, it will need more than two hours to put it to rights. And in a month, the grass will have grown again. What are we to do then?
So, here we are.
Paradoxes of the French administration and bureaucracy exposed. Fortunately, all this is written. I shall transmit it to my legal advisor. And I shall be able to show it to the local Agency which provides the effective services. There is a direct correspondence between the finance administrator and the Head of the Agency, and I have seen several times that the requests made by the finance administrator are not the same as those she tells me she will make. Then there is the interpretation by the Head of the Agency that is again different. Verba volant, scripta manent.
We have come almost half the way in a week, thanks to you. Now, I shall state the situation in all its absurdity to the minister of health and the minister for disabled people who are both responsible for Anne-Fleur's wellbeing. I shall also ask why carers like me have no status and no payment for the job they do all year round.
We still need your help, please, to show that people care; that I am not a lunatic asking for impossible things but, on the contrary, using common sense and resources as best as I can.
Please, show you care. Please, help us: click and comment, show that you are with us. Please.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Poetry is honey for the soul (11) - ML Kappa

         Poetry is honey for the soul

Marina gives us regularly news from Greece in her blog:

I follow it with the utmost assiduity: politics, economy, society, refugees, literature, Ancient Greece, Grecian Islands, myths, history, traditions -her blog is always full of information. Its full name is "Letters from Athens - A blog about life and times in Greece".
Today, she invites us to read or re-read a poem by Constantin Cavafy, which sounds oddly relevant to our times.

Constantin Cavafy

C.P. Cavafy is widely considered the most distinguished Greek poet of the twentieth century. He was born in 1863 in Alexandria, Egypt, where his Greek parents had settled in the mid-1850s. 

During his lifetime Cavafy was an obscure poet, living in relative seclusion and publishing little of his work. A short collection of his poetry was privately printed in the early 1900s and reprinted with new verse a few years later, but that was the extent of his published poetry. Instead, Cavafy chose to circulate his verse among friends. 

Cavafy was an avid student of history, particularly ancient civilizations, and in a great number of poems he subjectively rendered life during the Greek and Roman empires.

Among his most acclaimed poems is “Waiting for the Barbarians,” in which leaders in ancient Greece prepare to yield their land to barbarians only to discover that the barbarians, so necessary to political and social change, no longer exist.

Greek and Persian soldiers in a duel


What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

            The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

            Because the barbarians are coming today.
            What laws can the senators make now?
            Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

            Because the barbarians are coming today
            and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
            He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
            replete with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

            Because the barbarians are coming today
            and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

            Because the barbarians are coming today
            and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

            Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
            And some who have just returned from the border say
            there are no barbarians any longer.

And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

A street of Alexandria where Cavafy was born

An example of his handwriting while writing poetry

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Poetry is honey for the soul (10) - Alison Hope

        Poetry is honey for the soul

Ali stood at an uncomfortable place last week: 
her poem was published on this blog just before my appeal to help for The Little Family. 
This was awkward and she might not have received the whole attention she deserved. 
Therefore, I post it again.

Ali is a well-known blogger, "specialised" in book reviews. She has her own blog and writes daily about a new book (better than I do and makes me feel lazy...). Here is the address:

for the few of you who would not know her yet. She is connected with books: buying books, lending books, reading groups, reviewing books, participating in book groups, in book events, creating them sometimes. I cannot imagine her without a book near at hand! Which is certainly exaggerated as she loves flowers and many other things.
When I asked her if she wanted to contribute, she asked for some days of thought, then sent me the following poem, comment and illustrations. I was surprised to see "Stopping by woods on a snowy evening" by Robert Frost that Phillip had already chosen. For the foreigner that I am it seems one of these poems that haunt you all your life long - and I begin to fall under its spell myself.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village, though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer  
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake. 
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.

There were lots of poems I could (nearly did) choose for this, many deeper, seemingly more complex pieces than this. Yet I kept coming back to this poem, one I first heard probably as a child. I love the deceptive simplicity of the poem, yet the images it evokes remain, and tell a story – albeit a simple one. The reader is left wondering about where the traveller might be going – what are those promises – and to whom were they made?

The poem reminds me -always of my dad – he died eight years ago. I can remember him quoting – on several occasions, though what those occasions were I can’t recall – that final haunting stanza – so it is a poem I always associate with him.