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Angelena Boden

Angelena Boden

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PANDEMIC PARANOIA 

 Should we be taking the coronavirus (COVID 19) panic seriously, or cooling the temperature on the alarming reactions to the impending loo roll crisis?  I didn’t know whether to laugh or scoff at the Australian family who had ordered 2,300 units of the coveted stuff, allegedly by accident, racking up a mind-boggling $3,000 plus. 

 Now, I’ve always kept a well-stocked larder as advised by my wise female ancestors, rotating cans and preserves by date, and buying in bulk when finances allowed. Doing this throughout the year has meant I haven’t had to worry if I got sick, snowed-in, or needed to avoid bumping into scowling locals doing the weekly supermarket dash. 

  The way people are reacting to this latest global crisis is by turning into a drama. Our feeds are clogged with images of empty shelves stripped of pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, disinfectant and hand sanitiser, giving the impression that supermarkets are under siege, and are in need of military protection against  armed robbers. 

 It’s stripping us of our common decency as we imagine ourselves caught up in yet another apocalyptic film set, fighting for survival and let no wo(man) get in our way. 

  The government talks of “battle plans” and the “enemy disease”. Those looking to project their fears look for someone to blame and anyone looking vaguely Chinese is an easy target: #jenesuispasunvirus is already trending on Twitter. Both the powers that be and the media are stoking the flames with their rhetoric. It’s enough to put the wind up even the most level-headed of people. 

 As a long-time sufferer from anxiety, I understand what’s driving this panic. It’s uncertainty- the not-knowing. We’re looking for someone to fix it, and do it now so we can sleep easily at night. 

 At first, I was sucked into by the sensationalist headlines and most of my day was spent in checking the latest figures. “UK cases up 70% in 24 hours!”  OMG. We’re all going to die!

   According to the specialists, the cases will become clusters and go onto join up and explode. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle BUT 80% will experience mild to moderate symptoms, and the recovery doesn’t lie in a huge stash of lavatory paper. 

 This is no time to be complacent. The threat is real. It’s fast-moving and it’s invisible. We now know that there are asymptomatic carriers. They could be sitting next to us at work, serving our coffee or indeed ourselves. 

 So what to do?  Ignore the hype and spin and stick with the facts. My go-to source is Dr John Campbell. An elderly unassuming, calm, rational presenter from Carlisle (UK) who has decades of experience teaching nurses under his belt. He provides concrete evidence and explains basic science in bite-sized pieces. 

 Panic ensues when we feel we are out of control. Life is riddled with uncertainties and part of being human is being able to develop resilience so that whatever crisis befalls us, we have coping skills. It’s normal to want to be safe at all times, but that’s not reality. 

 There’s little we can do other than follow the medical guidelines, one of which is to thoroughly wash our hands whilst singing Happy Birthday. Having survived the polio epidemic in 1962, ( and measles) I know something about hand hygiene. My father was a TB nurse and this routine was drilled into me. I’m surprised my hands have any skin left. 

 So, we keep calm and carry on, and hope that hourly hand washing doesn’t lead to an outbreak of germophobia. The last thing we want to do is replace one fear with another. 

Angelena Boden

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Generations at War

The last time I heard the term, “Generation Gap” was in reference to the 1960s. The explosion of personal expression through music, fashion, style, language and a shift in values were so far removed from the experience of the “silent generation” that raised the “baby boomers” that it created a chasm in understanding between the two generations. Our parents were “square”. We were “cool”. They stayed silent. We spoke out. 

  Is the generation gap back, or is there something more sinister going on?  Let’s explore.  There’s a story behind every generation’s experience of life, from trauma to joy, disappointment to unimagined leaps forward, failures and successes. Yet, this seems to be lost in the echo chambers of social media. 

   According to my Twitter feed, those of us born between 1946 -64 are getting pelted with rocks for raping the planet and triggering the climate crisis, pillaging the job market, saddling our children’s generation with debt and making it impossible for them to buy a home.  They are angry with us because, allegedly, we never had it so good and they aren’t going to do as well. 

 We had free university education, access to apprenticeships, a steady climb up the career ladder all the while garnering prosperity and personal freedoms. I experienced little of the daily grind my mother endured to keep the house running and the family fed and clothed. With labour-saving gadgets and packet foods, I had time to pursue a career and raise children.

   If today’s media are to be believed we are in the middle of an incendiary generation war because we are out of touch with the digital generations and are trying to impose a structure and set of values on them that are no longer viable. We criticise them for being lazy, self- indulgent and narcissistic. Messages such as hard work brings rewards (we need to rethink that myth), stay loyal to one company and they will be loyal to you, (not with zero-hour contracts), marry and settle down (with what money?), are no longer relevant in this fast-moving world. 

 Since the financial crash of 2008 it’s been much harder to start out on the road to adulthood than it was in our time although that being said, there were challenging events during the 70s – The Winter of Discontent, recession, oil crisis, high unemployment, inflation,  15% interest rates and the threat of nuclear war was never far away. And, the Beatles disbanded! 

   Historical facts get lost and distorted in the retelling, and with the current wave of fake news disseminated by social media it’s become impossible to have rational conversations without getting het up. It’s not surprising that the Millennials are angry with us. They feel misunderstood by a generation that is out of touch, but hasn’t that always been the case?

   To improve intergenerational understanding we need to communicate, clearly, honestly and frequently and refrain from using labels as put-downs – snowflake, boomer, and zoomer.   This means sitting down calmly without an agenda and asking the right questions, actively listening and not pumping out advice beginning with “Well in my day…” 

  Like every generation before us, we wanted our own children to do better than us and that’s natural but we made the mistake of overpromising over protecting. Helicopter parenting has entered the lexicon as something negative and destructive to the self-esteem and mental health of our children. They’ve been cajoled, threatened and even bribed to work hard and do better than their peers. Achieve, achieve, achieve. I never heard these words from my parents. They didn’t know the first thing about universities.

 But, there’s been a huge price to pay for this constant pressure. In the USA, three quarters of millennials have had to leave a job because of mental illness. On both sides of the pond, there had been a dramatic rise in depression, anxiety and suicide as well as a rise in alcoholism and suicide. 

 When I started my professional life, I had a secretary to look after my administration. Nowadays, employees are expected to do their own, thus adding to their workload. So many are suffering from burnout from long hours and lengthy commutes. Minimum wage, rents on a tiny flat or house share, poor diets, lack of sleep, rise of mobile phones, social media, loneliness, rapid changes, insecurity, and a sense of hopelessness is destroying the lives of the generation in whom we’d placed so much faith. Because they struggle under these unrealistic pressures, they are condemned for being weak. We need to cut them some slack.
   On a personal note, I made sure my daughters knew that it was going to be tough out in the work place and skilled them up to be resilient and accept failure. It was the best gift I could have given them. 

 Looking back, people I knew worked for companies who looked after them, thus engendering loyalty and commitment on both sides. Companies like Cadbury, which was one of my key clients for many years, provided training, continuing education, social activities and good housing. Employees felt they belonged and were happy. 

 How many millennials can say this? Even when they enter graduate trainee schemes with blue chip companies, they are driven to exhaustion either because of the hours they need to work or because of fear of losing their job because of poor performance. They are in effect slaves to the share-holders. I know of several smart, generous, good young men and women – doctors, solicitors, teachers who took their own lives because they couldn’t see a way out. 

 So, what can we, the wise elders do to help? I have four simple suggestions.

  1. Mentor a young person. Help them to cut a path to where they would like to be while managing expectations. Tell stories about your own difficulties and how you reached your goals. Collude in a blog, book, or writing competition. 
  2. Treat them as assets and not a nuisance. Think about what they can teach you. 
  3. Include them. Value their ideas. Mix with them socially rather than sticking with your own tribe. Reassure them that things do pass and new opportunities will arise providing they look out for their health. 
  4. Take their worries seriously. Depression and anxiety are real issues. It’s not helpful to say people had it worse during the war. They are at war. Not with us but with themselves.

 Wishing you all a peaceful 2020. 

Angelena Boden

www.angelenaboden.com

 

 

    

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No Sex please, We're Married

Sex can be a lot of work. There’s so much stuff involved. Leg shaving, bikini waxing and what about all that ooo-ing and ahhhh-ing to sap the oxygen out of the lungs? Then there’s the warm up that seems more like a complicated game of twister. Foot this way, hand that way, head between legs – and as for all that tweaking, twizzling and nibbling – it’s blooming exhausting!

No wonder more married couples are opting for happy, cuddly, celibacy over a bowl of chocolate ice cream meant solely for eating. Thing is, nobody talks about a sexless marriage. If the bedroom chandeliers are not hanging off their wires, then it’s a failure on all fronts, or rears. We’ll admit to anything, but no sex? Never. We’d rather confess to extra-marital affairs or swinging parties than crisp white sheets with only crisp crumbs to show we’ve lain on them. 

Lust gets boring after a while. I’d rather go to bed with an apple and a copy of Dante’s Inferno. In Latin. The bliss of separate beds, bedrooms or even houses does not mean the fun has gone. Far from it. Love Skyping, or FaceApping can still be thrilling even when your once Olympic –level gymnast partner is mountaineering in deepest Wales.

Not that you will care what this crusty old woman has to say, but I think it’s about time the big magazines pulled up their Big Pants and ran real life stories on this wicked behaviour. #celibacyrocks

Ok, there are some of you out there, going at it as if the world is about to end ( as it very well might at the time of writing this) and if the infamous “Last Fling of the Ovary” is to be believed, there could be some interesting results from this frantic replay of The Battle of the Little Bighorn.

But for many of us older marrieds, snuggling up on the sofa to watch a rom-com, (providing there’s nothing yucky in it), is preferable to having to dream up excuses about hoovering the cat before bedtime or emptying the loft.

There comes a stage in life when sex is no longer the cornerstone of a relationship, but an annoying little cockroach sneaking out from the cracks. You side-glance it and hope it will go away.

I suppose it is a teeny bit strange that low or no libido types don’t share the urges or interest of the rest of the planet, but have managed to produce a sprog or two, but then it’s nobody else’s business. Neither should it be something to be ashamed off. I’m not interested in shagging. So what?

There may well be a host of physical and psychological reasons why celibacy is better for a couple, but that’s not under discussion here.

On a final note, at the time of writing this, the Russian consumer health watchdog has advised people to avoid kissing and hugging to avoid the spread of the corona virus (COVID-19). They don’t even have any cases of infection, but best to be on the safe side, eh?. It’s a good spin on the tired, old excuse, of “Not tonight, I’ve got a headache”, not that I’ve ever understood what role the head plays in nightly romps. But then, I’ve never been interested enough to ask.

On a less cynical note, it’s soon Valentines’ Day. For me, that doesn’t mean forced roses or saccharine cards with Gooey Eyed Teddy Bears on the front.

It means my new book, LOVE BYTES BACK is published and no, before you ask, it is not erotica! I wouldn’t be able to write that stuff for laughing! J

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THE HOPE VALLEY, PEAK DISTRICT, DERBYSHIRE

 Readers often ask me why I’ve chosen to set my Edna Reid Investigates books in the Hope Valley area of Derbyshire. (UK) 

  Here are three good reasons.

  1. Because it’s where I grew up. 

  2. Because the Peak District is one of the most beautiful parts of the country and 

   3. It gives me a good excuse to spend time up there doing my research and having a pub lunch in my favourite place, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Castleton. 

  The Hope Valley is part of what is known as the Dark Peak because of the atmospheric gritstone moors, as opposed to the White Peak known for its limestone and rolling dales. 

 Potholers, trekkers, cyclists, hang-gliders and rock climbers are drawn to its challenging terrain in all weathers as well as its fascinating   Blue John caverns. 

 Winnats Pass is mentioned in my books. A steep, winding road cuts through the towering limestone cliffs and provides a spectacular backdrop to any “cosy crime”. Mam Tor, or Shivering Mountain as the locals call it, dominates the landscape and from here you can take the challenging walk to Losehill and down into the village of Hope, the setting for Love Bytes Back.  The fictitious St Hilda’s is based on Hope Parish Church with its splendid Saxon cross. 

 There are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants for when you need a well-deserved break from rambling, and my favourite place to stop is nearby Hathersage with its open air lido and a church famous for its brass rubbings. It’s a busy village with strong literary connections. 

 Charlotte Bronte was a regular visitor and included it in her writings. She probably chose the name Eyre (Jane) as it is local to the area. Its industrial past included the manufacture of pins and needles. 

  The Hope Valley line connects the area with Sheffield and Manchester and passes through some of the most stunning scenery. Rugged hillsides and dramatic cliff edges call intrepid walkers and climbers from all over the country. Be sure you have a good pair of boots and a backpack of necessities as the weather can be unpredictable. 

 Why do I love it so much? It connects me with my long-departed grandfather who used to take me to Surprise View, a spectacular viewpoint to watch sunrises and sunsets. It’s also an official Dark Skies spot for star gazing.

  There used to be an ice cream van every Sunday back in the sixties and, of course, I was always treated to whatever I fancied. 

   The Hope Valley is a place for all seasons but my favourite is winter when the snow frosts the peaks – gone are the days of heavy snowfalls of my childhood – and the skies burn with red and gold. I can see my grandad leaning over on one of the many five bar gates and gazing into the distance. He’d say, “You can travel the world but there’s nowt like Derbyshire, m’duck.’

  

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