Friday, 22 August 2014

National Nursing Shortage. By Dev

It’s now common knowledge that there is a shortage of nurses in hospitals around the UK. This causes lots of problems, such as nurses having to double up their shifts, potentially working 12 plus hours on a low salary.

In many hospitals, nurses have to look after 9 to 10 patients for 10+ hours, each patient having a wide range of problems. Nurses clean patients’ bodies, cope with cardiac arrests, change beds, give medicine and support the doctors, and are doing that for many people for many hours. I’m sure this could cause physical, physiological and social side effects over time. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) urges ‘all hospitals to use new NICE safe staffing guidelines for registered nurse staffing levels, alongside nursing staff expertise, to ensure staffing levels are always based on patient need.’ But these are just guidelines, and it could mean some of these may be difficult to implement because of the most common answer: lack of staffing.

‘According to the most recent data, in November 2013, the NHS was still short of 1,199 full time equivalent (FTE) registered nurses compared with April 2010’ (BBC News, 11 March 2014, ‘Worrying shortage of senior NHS nurses’).

More nurses would make it easier to care for patients with any type of complications and provide more support for existing nurses. Dr Peter Carter, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary at University College hospital, stated that ‘nursing staff have long recognised the importance of safe staffing levels and consistently provided evidence of the danger to patients in areas where there are too few staff.’ In other words, there is knowledge within the field of the dangers of a lack of nursing staff. I think it would be potent for the “powers that be” to bring in more locally trained nurses along side experienced nurses both from UK and abroad (saying this, nurses here in the UK go through years and years of studying and training before they become valuable nurses in our hospital around the UK). The NHS are now trying to get more nurses by paying for the tuition fees of student nurses and midwives and also giving them a bursary, to try and attract more people to choose it as a job.

What about Jamaican Food? Angela

Since the 1970s, there has been a growing interest in the healthy diet. We have been encouraged to eat e.g. more fruit and vegetables (five a day, or more). In England we have some diverse communities, and although there is a lot of information about what nutrients you get from the food that English people eat, there is not a lot of information about the nutrients you get from Caribbean food (I am a black woman of Jamaican decent which I’m very proud of!).

I remember when we first started talking about fibre in this country; we use to call it roughage. You could not get broccoli, kiwi fruit, lychee or star fruit, but the media was very clever; as they became available it encouraged you to eat these new unusual fruit and vegetables by telling you about the health benefits of these foods. You therefore ended up spending more money on fruit and vegetables by buying the fruit and vegetables you normally eat plus the new ones! The media also encouraged us to eat wholemeal bread and breakfast cereals, like Weetabix, Branflakes and All bran. High fibre foods are very important as they can reduce heart problems, improve the complexion, reduce constipation, produce healthy blood, boost the immune system give you more energy, improve the sex drive, and many other health benefits.

I was lucky enough to get free school milk every morning. A lot of milk is needed for the growing child. If you do not drink enough milk as a child you will get a bones disease in the legs called Rickets, where the legs bend. When Margaret Thatcher was the Secretary of State for Education she took the milk away (which is why she was called ‘Thatcher the Milk Snatcher’). Rickets is also caused by not getting enough sunlight.

When sailors from England went on long distant voyages they used to get scurvy, which causes sores around the mouth, caused by a lack of vitamin C. To prevent this they drank the juice from limes. This is why they were given the nick name Limeys!

Tropical fruit and vegetables grow in hot places like the Caribbean and Africa. It has to be transported to England for the migrant people that live here, and also because British people now eat them too. Due the fact these fruit and vegetables have to be transported to England from hot countries it does not retain the original quality. There is a variety of foods that grow in the Caribbean, some you may have heard of: green banana, sweet potatoes, mangoes, pineapples, ripe banana, melon, plantain, coconut, yam; and some you may not have: ackee, breadfruit, cassava, cho cho, okra, dasheen, genip. (Are you feeling hungry?!) I do not know what vitamins and minerals you get from these foods, as it’s not talked about in the media, and I would like to know more about them. There are a few newspapers and magazines which are targeted at the black community, such as The Voice newspaper and Black Hair and Beauty, but I have not seen them discuss this subject. I would like to see more information about Caribbean food in the black newspapers and magazines

I went to Jamaica for a three week holiday in 1998 by Air Jamaica. Every morning we had a big breakfast which I call a ‘Full Jamaican’. I was given things like a whole snapper fish, green bananas and callaloo at 7am, and then noticed that when I went out for the day, I did not feel hungry. I did not eat anything until 7pm in the evening. For this reason, I lost a lot of weight by eating this fresh natural food that comes from the island and I looked lovely and slim (yes, I am showing off!).

My mummy looked after us very well in England. We were not rich but we had a hot dinner every evening; breakfast was always cereal and toast; lunch was something like fish fingers, mash potatoes or spaghetti. Sometimes we had Caribbean food, for example ‘hard food’, which was yam, green banana, potatoes, fish or lamb. We always felt better after having this kind of food. During the school holidays, my mum used to give us oranges and cod liver oil. I can still taste the cod liver oil from that big spoon, when I think about it (Thanks, mummy!).

We are quite lucky in Britain to be able to get a variety of food from all the four corners of the world. It is good to know about the nutrients in all foods, to contribute to a balanced diet. I think the Jamaican people have the right idea, because I did not see a lot of overweight or obese people there. The food in Jamaica is fresh and high in nutrients, because it comes from the island, so you don’t have to snack on things like chocolate, sweets and crisps.

Bon appetite!


In 2013 I had been diagnosed with having Asperger’s Syndrome at 40 years of age. I wasn’t surprised that I had Asperger’s Syndrome, in fact I already knew before my assessment results were completed, because I always feel  different to everyone else in the world. Times when I feel like an alien to this planet, and always feel out of place and socially awkward.

The reasoning behind my video was a way to shout out to the world that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I wanted this video to help myself overcome my childhood’s trauma of being bullied at school from both the teachers / lecturers and pupils. I was always called the lazy one, the day-dreamer, the worrier, the person who doesn’t listen and the person who struggles with maths, these are just a few examples. I also felt the need to get my message across to other people with Asperger’s Syndrome and to tell them that everything is alright, take myself as an example, I am happy and living my life to the full as possible and trying to make a difference in the world.

For many years I felt different to other people. I found that my colleagues at work really irritated me. I have had so many jobs in the past that I’ve lost count of how many jobs that I have had. I’ve been sacked a number of times from telling the managers that they were rubbish. Obviously they were not happy, but I was, telling them where to stick their job felt liberating, only to then worry about getting another job.

I always wanted to shut the world out, it is nosey, confusing, tiring and literally boring. I never can understand people’s jokes neither can I do small talk. How are you? My answer would be…why do you want to know? What benefit would you get if I told you that I was having a bad day? Would you hug me?…Because I wouldn’t be able to feel the love from you. Neither would I think it was a genuine hug, because I can’t feel your empathy. Would you then talk to me about your own mundane problems? I’ve learnt just to reply, I’m fine thanks. But am I? I’m not sure? What is fine anyway?
I did some research online about Asperger’s Syndrome and I was surprised that my assessment online scored very high. Reading the questions at the time made me realise that actually I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I made an appointment with my doctor and then I was referred to an Asperger’s specialist. As soon as I found out that I had Asperger’s Syndrome I felt different. I was confused, scared, worried, happy, excited and re-born all at the same time. What was I feeling? I felt that I lied to myself for 40 years by making up a make believe world, and suddenly my bubble had burst and now I’m in a world that I do not recognise. I questioned everything about myself, do I feel happy? What does that feel like? Do I recognise people’s facial expressions? No, ok, I thought I could, but actually I can’t. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream to the world that I have Asperger’s Syndrome and then I thought no keep it quiet. These emotions flooded my brain. I found myself staring at people, and willing myself to understand what were they feeling? But I couldn’t.

My mind felt like it was ready to explode. I started to look at my own body language, actually I do prefer to sit on my own on the bus, I do like to sit in a quiet area in a coffee shop, I don’t like people standing behind me, loud noises makes me jump and annoyed, my sense of smell is strong, why can I smell something quicker than anyone else? My eyes hurt in bright lights. I feel awkward in social situations, do I hug people? Do I shake their hands? I stare at people to try and pick up on all their cues, but how can I? I don’t recognise people facial expressions? So I just guess and hope for the best, and if I make a mistake, I laugh it off, pretend to be silly or make an excuse that I am tired.

There is another reason why I made a video. After researching online about people’s stories about Asperger’s Syndrome I did feel concerned. I believe that there is a lot of negativity surrounding Asperger’s Syndrome. But in my view it should be a positive one. People with Asperger’s Syndrome are unique, in some way’s super-human. For example, I can hear someone annoyingly eating a packet of crisps a long way away from me. I personally now feel confident, positive and ready to conquer the world in a good way. To all my Asperger’s friends, please keep positive, live your life the way that you want to live it, and be yourself….LOVE yourself.

Meeting up again on the Mersey. Ian Stewart

Back in the seventies, I met a friend of my friend Malcolm’s, called Jon. I called on him one day as Malcolm had told me he was leaving for a town in the north to take up a job running a hostel or something similar. I had only known him for a short time but found him a likeable character with a sense of humour that was very upbeat, and I wished him well in his new job and thought that we probably wouldn’t meet again.

Over the years, however, Malcolm kept in touch with him and recently asked if I remembered him. I did; he was the sort of person you wouldn’t forget as he was full of enthusiasm for life. Malcolm explained that Jon had been diagnosed with MS and was now living in Liverpool, a city I had only a distant recollection of en route to RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man as a school cadet. Malcolm asked me if I would like to join him on a trip to Liverpool to see Jon and I was delighted, as he had crossed my mind over the years and I wondered how he was coping with his illness.

We took the train to Liverpool on a Day Return ticket and as soon as we arrived at Lime Street, Jon was there to meet us. Malcolm had warned me that Jon was not as mobile as he was, but thankfully Jon was still able to walk and we promptly set off on a boat trip across the Mersey to see the Royal Liver building from the river. Jon was still the likeable character I remembered with his distinctive sense of humour and we all three got on well together, stopping off at a café where I was able to taste a bowl of “scouse” – like an irish stew – from where Liverpudleans get their slang name.
Jon had recently moved into a wardened flat with a lovely view down on the garden in a quiet suburb and he seemed content. We talked about times present and times past and he introduced me to a German music group I had never encountered, Tangerine Dream, and afterwards he showed us to the station where we could get back to Lime Street and return to London.

I’m glad that Malcolm suggested the trip and it was good to see Jon again and know he has not let his illness get him down. I am still in touch with him and have re-established a friend who at a point years ago I thought I would never see again.

I thought I knew about stress, until I became stressed!

I’d imagine most of us have a fairly good understanding of stress. Dare I say most of us may even think we know pretty much everything there is to know about stress. I thought I knew everything there was to know about stress; I’d suffered from it enough times over the years. Little did I realise I couldn’t even answer the simplest of questions about my stress.

So what did I know about stress? I’m no expert on the subject, but a cursory glance at my basic knowledge tells me that as individuals we can get stressed from things like feeling overwhelmed at work, or having relationship issues, or kids kicking up a storm, or no money in the bank and the bills are pouring in. And of course the list is endless.

We may know what happens to the body when we get stressed. The physical symptoms might be  tension running across the shoulders, the frantic thoughts on a never ending loop, a racing heart, sweating hands, butterflies in the stomach. Again, the list goes on.

And I’d imagine we all know of some ways of combating stress: a walk in the park, meditation, taking a pause, chatting to someone, exercise. Again, the list for dealing with stress is limitless, and everyone tends to have their own particular ways of coping with it.

Of course I’ve been stressed a million times or more throughout my lifetime. So I assumed I knew all there was to know about stress. Until I recently became stressed. This time I asked myself the question: Where is my stress coming from? The answer was, after several days of fruitless observation, I hadn’t the faintest idea!

We know how to recognise stress, because we recognise the symptoms in our bodies. The root of stress is sometimes obvious to locate: I feel my racing heart and the tension across my shoulders, because the driver behind me is revving up the rear of my car. But sometimes it is less easy to locate.

But how could I not know what was stressing me out? I looked at every possible source, yet still I couldn’t find the root of its cause. Often I’ve never bothered asking where my stress is coming from, just that I need to deal with it. But then wouldn’t it be more efficient when dealing with stress if we could know the nature of the beast; the cause of it? But sometime stress can conceals its triggers.

I think the answer is that it’s not always clear where are stress is coming from. The smallest insignificant event which happens in our daily lives can easily go unnoticed on a conscious level, whereas the subconscious mind absorbs the information and this can trigger a stress reaction, often based on past experiences or memories. Therefore the conscious mind cannot always know the cause of our stress.

Sometimes it’s less important to know where our stress is coming from, but far more important that we are AWARE that we are stressed. That means tuning in to our own particular symptoms of stress as it manifests in our bodies/ minds. It means recognising it early enough before it can do damage. Once it is recognised we can take action to alleviate the stress.

For every kind of stress out there there is an appropriate action which can alleviate it. What that action is, only each individual can answer. But we can say there are some great places to start which will almost certainly have some kind of beneficial effect. The outdoors is always a great place to start. I personally find a long cycle ride can work wonders for clearing stress out of my body.

Frank - with Michael Fassbender and Domnhall Gleeson

Inspired by a real character Frank Sidebottom, this is a funny, quirky, watchable and sometimes tender take on ‘eccentricity’, being masked, the painfulness of life in a band and relationships. The band – with an unpronounceable name – take on board Jon (based on Jon Ronson, the creator of the film) who narrates and interrogates the situation in a naïve but fetching way. Frank always wears a papier mache head and somehow this, as well as hiding him, liberates him. The film becomes darker and sadder towards the end, but is good at normalising those who don’t fit norms. And the music is pretty interesting.
Polly Mortimer

Asylum archives of Picauville psychiatric hospital. Polly Mortimer

A visit to Paris for the day bore fruit in an intriguing exhibition at La Maison Rouge near Gare du Lyon. Called L’Asile des Photographies it was crafted out of asylum archives of Picauville psychiatric hospital, 40k from Cherbourg. The institution, about to be demolished, wanted to preserve a record of the hospital and this exhibition did it proud. It lacked the strange spin of sentimentality that often attaches to these kinds of exhibitions, and – apart from a predictable installation of twisted iron hospital beds – gave us an unmediated and normal look at the people who lived in the asylum in the ‘40s and after.

Scattered around were postcards of the buildings and photos taken by Canadian soldiers after D-Day and before it was bombed – empty kitchens and sides of meat.

There are photos taken in the late ‘30s that we, through early 21st century eyes, know were taken before the horror of WW2; the nuns are singing and walking in ignorance as they celebrate their bicentenary; they put on a pageantry play telling the story of their charitable institution founded 200 years earlier ‘to care for the disturbed, the deranged’.

There were lists of words in glass cases - serieusement, concasser, meticuleusement, oncteux (serious, grind, meticulous, smooth) – and sad bits of ephemera and medical notes, including one letter from a family begging for their mother’s return, ECT read-outs, drug sheets and photos of ordinary people looking ordinary. Around the walls are films: the patients on outings to the sand dunes, putting on plays, holding fetes and larking around with eggs and spoons in their mouths, masked for a party, on the beach, trousers rolled, and then the eternal loafing around in the courtyard, waiting. This was a little pearl of a show and I’m very glad that I made the effort to go.

CoolTan Arts wins Queen’s Award

CoolTan Arts is proud to announce our success in being awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.  Thank you to all our volunteers, past and present, for their support, time and impact, this award is very much for them, as it is for all those involved in CoolTan Arts.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is an annual award to recognise and reward excellence in voluntary activities carried out by groups in the community. The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK.

It is given for outstanding achievement by groups of volunteers who regularly devote their time to helping others in the community, improving the quality of life and opportunity for others and providing an outstanding service.

Michelle Baharier CEO said:  ‘I am delighted that CoolTan Arts has won this prestigious award it is a testament to everyone who has ever volunteered at CoolTan Arts, their hard work, their giving of their time freely, either in the days when we squatted our buildings or since we become a charity. The DIY culture that CoolTan is famous for is actually the ‘Big Society’ that governments dream of.

Give power to people and communities so they can flourish on their own, with a little help from peppercorn rent.  What is life for? It’s about helping each other, we take money to the grave but we help each other when we are alive, is there any other point to life? If you would like to join our award winning team get in touch with us. Well done every one at CoolTan Arts for your efforts!’

Rachel Ball Volunteer Coordinator said: ‘This is a fantastic recognition for all our past and present volunteers and the hard work, enthusiasm, time, comment and skill sharing they have given to CoolTan Arts. I hope this award will inspire new people to become a part of CoolTan Arts and contribute to their community.’

The dreaded “D” word by Dev

The D word may send people into fits of fear: “no, no I don’t want to do that thing”, or: “there is nothing wrong with me, my bones are thick!”. Yes, I am taking about the post popular word in our vocabulary: Dieting. Dieting advice website ‘informationdiet’ describes dieting as “about your personal health, and the health of society”. The word tends to crop up when you are eating (which could be the worst moment), from friends (“you’re looking a bit chubby down there!”) or from your GP, which would medical and to do with health risks.

If you go on Google and type ‘dieting’, you will probably find millions of search results. But it doesn’t stop there; for an overweight person, no matter if you are obese, morbidly obese or just chubby, you start to look at your body whilst questioning yourself: “Is this really fat? I just thought it was a bump.”

Suddenly, on an annual trip to the doctors, the dreaded BMI (Body Mass Index) chart popped up. This is measured by finding your weight and your height on a chart, and can lead to some “hard to hear” words about your weight problems if you are found to be obese or morbid obese, including issues about blood sugar levels and diabetes. Yes, it sounds bad to hear and it might cause you to think ‘why did I do this in the first place?’ Now comes that D word again and an appointment with the dietician.

Dieting, from what I can gather, means eating healthily: more fruits, vegetables, less fatty food and lots of exercise. These are the most likely things that the dietician will recommend. For a person who has a “weight problem” admitting that you have a problem with your weight is the first important thing. For most people it is not easy to comprehend the realization that you have to shed that weight, regardless of how it is done. Now comes the fear of dieting, and the fear of exercise. The fear continues whilst you start to loose your breath, thinking “I cannot do this, it’s too much!” You give up and go for something sweet to give you comfort. Hence the term ‘comfort food’. Gradually you might loose interest in doing the “D” word.

Sometimes it is easy to take a step back and think to yourself: ‘How am I going to tackle this problem?’ I should say at this point that I am not a dietitian or a doctor and before dieting you should look what suites you physically, and don’t put your health at risk. Don’t over do it or under do it; it needs to be a gradual process that suites your body. Eat vegetables, after a while they taste better! Here is something I thought I would never say, but here goes: Dieting is not such a scary word when you take it slowly (but not too slowly!). I understand that I might sound like a dietitian or a person who just took this information off a website, but this is rather from my own experience. I went from 27 stone down to 15 stone over a period of 3 to 4 years, and that was by exercising more and eating less bad food. It needs to be a new approach to healthy living; it’s not just about not eating. 

Wise Words Marco Lanzarote

Leafing through a copy of Stylist magazine I came across a selection of “Wise Words” by Caroline Corcoran and selected a few that appealed to me. The following are the ones I picked out as ones I thought might appeal to our readers:

‘Nothing is a waste of time, if you use the experience wisely.’ August Rodin

‘No-one has ever become poor by giving.’ Anne Frank
‘Life is ours to be spent not saved.’ D H Lawrence
‘You have to really believe not only in yourself; you have to believe that the world is actually worth your sacrifices.’ Zaha Hadid
‘To know what is right, and not do it, is the worst cowardice.’ Confucius
‘Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.’ Dalai Lama
‘Let us forget with generosity those who cannot love us.’ Pablo Neruda
‘Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.’ Winston Churchill.
‘The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.’ E.E. Cummings
‘The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.’
Dorothy Parker


Join our Run to the Beat 10k team!

Mind in Haringey have secured places in Sure run to the beat 2014, London’s most unique running event. Taking place on 14th September 2014, join 15,000 other runners taking on an epic 10k starting and finishing in Wembley Park, home to the iconic Wembley stadium.

Live DJ’s will be based all along the route, pumping out motivational tunes to keep you going and a headline act will be playing at the finish to help you celebrate your achievement. Previous acts have included Jessie J, Tinie Tempah, Calvin Harris and DJ Fresh. The atmosphere on the day will be like nothing you have experienced at a running event before.

This event is perfect for both seasoned runners and first time runners alike. If you would like more information about Run to the beat, please click here.

We are asking all runners to pay a registration fee of £25.00 to secure a place in the event and to pledge to raise £200.00 for Mind in Haringey. To sign up, please email or .

Event Date: 14th September 2014
Location: Wembley Park, London
Start time: 9am (provisional)