Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Wednesday 12th September 2018

MORE than a million more people aged 65 and over, a rise of a third, will need round-the-clock care by 2035. The number of over-85s requiring 24-hour care in England will almost double to 446,000 according to a study in The Lancet.

Politicians have not exactly kicked this scary vision into the long grass, but they have been guilty of waiting for something, anything, to come up and now it’s beginning to stare us all in the face.

Governments are elected for only limited periods, so they are often reluctant to face difficult and unpopular choices when it’s entirely likely the responsibility will be handed on to their successors.

We are in a social care crisis right now and successive governments have failed to grasp the nettle. It’s left millions of older people, and millions facing the prospect of retirement, almost praying they don’t live too long and get ill.

We have fallen far behind other European nations in attempting to care for an increasingly large ageing population. The study warns that health and social care services must adapt to the “unprecedented needs of an increasingly older population with complex care needs”.

The authors say relying on informal carers who provide around £57 billion worth of care in the UK is not a sustainable solution. I remember reading a while back that the number of carers aged 85 or more struggling to look after a frail relative had more than doubled in a decade to 87,000.

Growing numbers of older people are caring for others at a time when they are more likely to need care themselves. Who is going to care for the carers?

The Government’s delayed Green Paper is due for publication later this year. Proposals, it claims, will “ensure that the care and support system is sustainable in the long term”.

Age UK says an entire generation of elderly people has lost out already through delays. I hope I’m wrong, but I sense more prevarication on the part of a Government that itself is barely breathing. A quote I came across recently encapsulated it all — “no country to be old”.


THERESA May would have been well-advised to follow the lead of Fred Astaire when, in the 1930s film Roberta, he sang “I won’t dance, don’t ask me.”

The Prime Minister’s embarrassing attempt at rhythmic dance during her African visit has my sympathy, speaking as one who is definitely severely challenged by the art.

Being able to sweep young women round the dance floor in a foxtrot or quickstep has always seemed to me an accomplishment that might have done me no harm over the years. Instead, I have shrunk away, the eternal wallflower, through my inability to put one foot in front of the other once the music starts.

A survey commissioned by the National Institute of Adult Continued Education illustrated just how envious we are of talents we see being shown on television programmes like Strictly and Bake Off. In questioning more than 1,000 people aged 16 and over, they found that 40 per cent of us would love to be better at cooking and dancing. Many of us harbour a secret yearning to master a new skill.

I remember school dances when my feet seemed to get tangled whenever I had the rare experience of persuading a girl to take to the floor with me. I never got a second dance.

My pal, who was the most cumbersome and ungainly person imaginable in everyday life, was transformed into a Fred Astaire when he hit the dance floor. He always had a queue of potential partners.

What was poor Theresa to do when everyone started dancing? Stand there looking superior or join in with what looked more like a demonstration of dad dancing than any truly co-ordinated movement.

Not so much an exhibition of cultural appropriation as one of gender appropriation, something better left to middle-aged fathers and Jamie Vardy goal celebrations.

Apparently she can dance, but prefers the more traditional stuff that they trot out at Conservative functions and dinners. It just seems poor Mrs May is afflicted by misfortune whatever she does, wherever she travels.


LIGHT-fingered thieves will nick just about anything these days.

But what is the world coming to when even entertainer and artist, and one time I’m A Celebrity contestant Timmy Mallett’s much-loved bike is stolen from outside the local pub.

Timmy, whose parents retired to Penrith, had just completed a 2,500-mile ride across Europe in memory of his late brother, Martin, hence his special relationship with that bike. He tweeted that he was “heartbroken and devastated” by the theft.

Timmy is a great fan of cycling around Cumbria and particularly the Solway coast. He and a pal completed a sea to sea challenge from Whitehaven to Tynemouth — all without recourse to his famous pink mallet prop that was a key part of his act as a children’s entertainer on TV in the 1980s.

The theft of his trusty steed has clearly not deterred Timmy who last week was cycling in Dumfries and stopped off to paint a bridge that his father painted more than 50 years ago.


LABOUR has certain suggestions aimed at we journalistic types that smack more than a little of control.

For instance, they would like to tax the major internet operators and set up a fund to promote “public interest journalism”. Call me an old cynic, but their definition of public interest sounds to me like support for journalists who write things they agree with.

Another Labour suggestion to emerge in recent days was that BBC staff be made to declare their social status. Well, they don’t want working class politicians being grilled by public school and Cambridge-educated poshos. Aunty could end up with a bunch of old Etonians claiming they wear cloth caps and walk whippets outside working hours.


THE weather forecasters have spent the summer telling us about warm fronts, but for the main political parties in this country there’s been a deep depression.

While the Tories systematically tear themselves apart in a series of weekly suicide notes, Labour would have walked into No 10 had they been led by someone, anyone, better than Jeremy Corbyn. Labour, faced with a virtual open goal, has simply inherited the “nasty party” label from the squabbling Conservatives.

And with the Lib Dems no more exciting than a limp lettuce, I suspect there are many people like me out there, neither hard right nor extreme left in our views, who are left feeling unrepresented.

Now we’re heading into party conference time. They never made compelling TV at the best of times. This year the only interest is whether the in-fighting will finally burst out like the monsters in Aliens.

Forget the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems. My message to the BBC is to simply televise the Monster Raving Loonies. At least they seem to agree on something even if it’s just the best pubs in town.


WEEKENDS sharing their favourite music, mixing with like-minded environmentally aware youngsters.

Festivals are big these days, and big business if you happen to be in the pop-up tent trade. Hundreds of thousands of these are bought and vast numbers simply ditched where they stand in the fields at the conclusion of events.

It smacks of green hypocrisy. I’ve always assumed that festival types were keen on the environment, not the sort to shove off leaving someone else to clear up their mess.

One year 20,000 tents were abandoned after Glastonbury. This year it’s a similar story at other festivals and one charity has bust the myth that these tents are recycled for homeless people in Africa. The majority end up in landfill.

Some campers may be genuinely misguided, but I reckon most are too lazy to take their stuff away with them. Not a very green message there.