It’s basic kindness we need, pet

First published in Sharon's View The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

LOOK pet, hinny, love, dear, my duck, let’s get our priorities straight. Using such endearments when dealing with old people shows a lack of respect, says a commission on care and the elderly.

Maybe, maybe.

But it’s a lot better than being called a wrinkly bed blocker and left to lie in your own dirt and bedsores.

You can’t legislate for compassion.

You can’t have rules in basic kindness.

You can’t have a tick box form for spending a few moments talking to an elderly patient who’s in pain and frightened. Years ago, a nurse in the Friarage, Northallerton, took time to do just that for my mother in the early hours of a grim morning and I bless her name still.

We are no longer sure what we expect from our nurses. Do we want a hi-tech expert, at ease with all the latest medicines, treatments and machines?

Or do we want a simply, kindly soul who will patiently wash us, feed us and wipe our bum?

Clearly, we need both. We have yet to work out how we manage this in an NHS which is expected to do so much more than was ever originally envisaged.

When it comes to people suffering from dementia, it gets harder still.

One consultant has admitted that medics act like vets when dealing with dementia sufferers, making no effort to talk to them.

Years ago I used to hate being called “pet” – especially by a certain type of working men’s club committee man – but in different circumstances...

Anyone who calls an old person “pet” or “dear” or “sweetheart” at least sees them as a human being and one deserving kindness at that.

And is more inclined to make them clean and comfortable than a colleague who just sees them as the awkward case in the corner.

Respect and dignity involves many important aspects. Calling people “pet” is the least of them.

AN interview with the first female prime minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning- Schmidt, was fascinating on all sorts of levels – not least when she talked about the high standard of day care available in Denmark, where virtually everyone uses the state provided schemes. Very egalitarian.

The Danish prime minister, inset, has no official Copenhagen residence – she leaves every night to go to her own home and her two daughters – which must seem like a nice return to the normal everyday world, unlike other state leaders who live in official residences or over the shop and are rarely away from work and staff.

The Danish prime minister is married to Stephen Kinnock, son of former Labour leader Neil and Glenys, now Lord and Lady.

When there’s a family crisis, says Helle Thorning Schmidt, her in-laws come racing across Europe bringing frozen lasagne and emergency cakes.

Wonderfully normal, isn’t it?

So that’s me from now on, never out of the chair.

Flaws in the work experience plan

WHEN does a helping hand become exploitation? It’s tricky – especially when it comes to work experience.

Youngsters on the Government scheme, working for major retailers for anything from two to eight weeks, get to keep their benefits, but also get training, experience, a wider outlook, something to talk about at job interviews – and a 50 per cent chance of a permanent job.

Which should, in itself, be enough incentive to switch off Jeremy Kyle and get off the sofa.

What they don’t get is an extra pay packet and a feeling of having earned their money, their place in life and entry to the world of grownups.

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, unpaid internships – posh American words for work experience – are now about the only way of getting into the top jobs in media, politics and finance. They often last six months or more.

Which rules out everyone who doesn’t have rich parents and, probably, anyone who lives outside London.

As it’s all a jungle, maybe it’s time we had some rules, including maybe an “intern rate” of maybe just 25 per cent of the minimum wage. Not a lot – but worth it if only as a signal to the stay-at-home sofa slackers who’d be picking up the same amount of benefits as the workers.

And it could give that sense of satisfaction of money earned – a great spur to job hunting.

Work experience should be unpaid, but last no more than two weeks. Internship should be two weeks to two months, when you might be marginally be useful, if only making tea and running messages, and should be paid that special “intern rate”, with an absolute legal ban on that rate continuing beyond two months.

Either it then turns into a proper job, or another intern has a go.

No it’s not ideal, but neither is the rackety system we have now.

And none of it would matter anyway, if only there were enough jobs to go round.

Kate's weird fashion followers

IT’S like Delia Smith and the cranberries only worse. Yet again, a dress worn by the Duchess of Cambridge has sold out in hours. This time it was an Orla Kiely dress coat she wore on a charity visit in London. Before that it was her Hobbs coat she wore on Valentine’s Day in Liverpool, before that it was a dress from Reiss, a tunic from Topshop etc etc, all subsequently sold out within hours.

So who’s buying these clothes? And how weird are they?

Is there a whole tribe of women who spend their days on the computer watching the news feeds in case the Duchess of Cambridge pops up wearing a nice dress and then – fingers on the button – they must, must have it, and why?

Some of her clothes are last season’s, even the season before, so you’d think our fashion groupies would have had plenty of time to see if they liked them.

Still, if they’re spending that much time tracking the Duchess and shopping online, at least it keeps them off the streets. For which we should probably be thankful.

Carol Vorderman

CAROL Vorderman spent a good few years agonisingly squeezing into tiny little dresses to show how skinny she was.

Skinny yes, comfortable, no. Not a good look.

Now she says that since her 50th birthday she’s relaxed a little and gone up a size. A recent picture showed her happy, smiling and looking a good ten years younger.

The amazing Barbara Cartland once famously said “After 40, a woman has to choose between her figure and her face. My advice is to keep your face and stay sitting down.”


Dear Sharon,
LIKE John Prescott and his sons and like your cousin, I was never hugged by my father. We just didn’t do it. It wasn’t done to show emotion of any kind. My father belonged to the stiff upper-lip generation epitomised in that popular saying “Keep calm and carry on”.

I never doubted his love for me and his unwavering support and help when I needed it and never even questioned his attitude.

However, he managed to unbend slightly when he became a grandfather. It was delightful to see him much more openly affectionate with my children than he had ever been with me and my brother.

I was more physically demonstrative with my children, but I would not like to say that made me a better or worse father than my father was to me.

Peter Grayling, by email

Thank you...

I WOULD like to mention Andrew Wyse and his assistant Mariko from the Balmoral Guesthouse, Woodlands Road, in Darlington. I had visitors from five countries staying there last week and they went above and beyond his call of duty to make them feel welcome and make their stay in Darlington enjoyable.

They offered lifts to and from the train station, organised transport to the airport and made them midnight feasts when they arrived in the early hours. A perfect example of good, oldfashioned hospitality.

Naomi Potts, Darlington


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