A Drop in the Ocean
Second book in the trilogy's now out and it shreds Political Correctness (humorously, of course) at the very moment the Monty Python team are caving in to the PC lot by gutting some of their own songs. Talk about timing!
A Drop in the Ocean (ADITO) will probably annoy the hell out of the PCers, but I live in hope that some sliver of humour will have survived all those stifling, bite-your-tongue years.
ADITO steps in where the first book, Last Resort, omitted to tread. Voraciously demanding women - Last Resort dealt largely with care for old men - are brought into the picture, and much else besides. This time, the action is mostly sea-borne - think craftily exploitative, luxury care-home ships, and you'll be heading in the right direction.
Egomaniac cultural icons, holier-than-thou greens, sexual preference obsessives, God-pestering loons, political extremists and the usual sprinkling of single-issue fanatics, all come in for some inventive stick (apologies if I've left anyone out).
And, of course, Ratledge and Scully are still the duelling duo in their respective roles of greedy porker and naive do-gooder as they battle over the living flesh and corpses of the elderly.
Readers tell me the humour is darker, but no less funny than Last Resort, and now there's curiosity over the direction of the final book in the trilogy, due out late next year.
But for the present, does ADITO help coalesce thinking about care of the elderly? I hope so. Vested interests, however, have a huge stake in keeping matters largely as they are.
So my advice is: Enjoy ADITO's mini world tour, laugh and if you feel so inclined, let the issues percolate through.
Maurice Jones, July 2014.
THINKING OUTSIDE THAT (WOODEN) BOX
There are very few subjects I'm able to treat totally seriously.
From the early years I fought hard to keep my face straight at gravesides, struggling mightily not to put the fun into funeral.
I felt sure there was something seriously wrong with me as I smirked at the absurdity of it all:
A jolly good fellow or a spectacularly miserable harridan suddenly swapping pint pots or knitting needles for the company of bugs and worms.
It was just too ridiculous to take seriously, and that included some weirdly dressed chap mumbling unintelligible words over a freshly dug residence as a wooden box was lowered down.
I was thinking outside that box, in every sense, and that's been my path ever since. Without any doubt, I would have been that kid shouting out to the crowd, 'Look everyone, the emperor's stark bollock naked.'
It should explain a lot to those who can't quite fathom out how I came to writing. Irritatingly (for them), I fit none of the traditional routes: High academic achievement; or talent plucked from among a mass of poor, uneducated kids and taken under the wing of some well-connected benefactor(s).
None of that applied to me. I left school at 15 - no qualifications sat for - to help with the family pennies. Completely self-taught, unaided financially, no literary hothouses entered or styles studied, I just read whatever fell into my lap, fired by an intense curiosity about everything, and imagining my own answers to questions large and small.
In later years, having ditched the life-sapping shackles of extremist politics, what survived was a fiercely independent, free-thinking approach to life, no subject taboo.
So the end result is what you see in what I write.
Life's short & there's no greater satisfaction in life (OK, maybe one) than giving people a great laugh.
There are tears aplenty all around us, and that's not something to ignore, but to retain relative sanity, we need to see the lighter side.
For me, Monty Python's Life of Brian really said it all, and until that golden day dawns when all religions & mind-numbingly intense belief systems can similarly laugh at themselves, this planet will remain a poorer place. I see it as my job to bridge that gap.
STILL THE SAME OLD STORY
Hardly a month passes without exposure of abuse in some overpriced care home, or in hospital, and the usual players swing into inaction: The media huffs and puffs; the politicians twiddle thumbs; and the care industry passes the same old soiled buck. Meanwhile, those at the sharp end suffer; with those at the very end sometimes starved to death. It can't go on, yet, apparently, the best the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, can suggest is backing for assisted dying.
With respect, Lord Carey, it's not assisted dying the elderly need; it's assisted living. And that will take money, time and fresh thinking to achieve. Let's get back to basics here, but in two stages: Number one is to ensure people live out their twilight years in the best possible physical and mental health. That means eating well, moderate exercise and being exposed to all-important psychological stimuli by doing something they enjoy.
And that could be anything, from better family access (see faces light up when grandkids visit), more travel, late-age business start-ups - the elderly seem naturals for trading in the antiques world - writing, painting, jumping out of planes, breeding frogs - you name it. Yes, some of those activities, especially the ones involving travel, will need subsidising, but if being active keeps them out of ruinously expensive care homes for longer, it would be a pittance alongside the huge amounts saved.
And so to the controversial bit, the second stage basics, when it's blindingly obvious we're talking the final days or weeks of life, although there are, of course, exceptions. Simply give the dying what they want: Quality, hand-made chocolates; a bit of weed; a punt on the horses; pleasures of the flesh (if they're 'up' to it); the finest Havana cigars; a bootle of top-grade Cognac. Why should their only taste of luxury be that limousine ride to the cemetery? And, again, we're talking pennies compared to the huge amount saved in earlier care-home costs.
Yes, I can hear the screams now:
'Chocolates? Are you mad? She's a diabetic.'
'Betting on the horses? The excitement will kill him.'
'Booze? Don't you know what state her liver's in!!!'
'Smoking? He's got lung cancer, you lunatic. Anyway, this is a strictly no-smoking zone.'
The whole point is that none of this matters one iota if you're on the cusp of becoming ash or worm food. In other words, let's take the deathliness out of death and humanise the end.