used to be

I used to be a teacher, a rower, a daughter. I used to be employed, and healthy. I used to be a blogger.

Now, I’m not quite sure.

I’m busy and motivated and exhausted. I’m a volunteer and a dance mom and an occasional blog reader. I still have ME, I juggle all the things, and I sleep.

It used to be that I’d go for a walk and tell you about it; taking pictures in the museum and sharing my random thoughts on creativity or elephants or the chap who sounds just like Sir Humphrey.

You’d see my new purple nail varnish, or a tidy room, or the silly thing that made me laugh while my family rolled their eyes in despair.

Then I shared less music and more ranting. I’ve bored myself with the ranting.

Brexit leading to threats of war, Trump, NI politics, the Irish police– all of these are beyond parody. Unbelievable behaviour from those who simply don’t care about the rest of us. We appear to be beyond all norms of acceptable behaviour and nobody is being held to account. I don’t know what happened or what to do about it. (Social media is probably not the solution.)

I’ve felt defeated, and pictures of pretty things haven’t helped. I’ve been missing my wee mate Jake- always one to distract me from too much introspection when we were home alone. I’ve taken on extra responsibility with our charity, but nobody wants to read that sort of detail.

Alternatively, I’ve had loads of new experiences, I’ve joined a political party (in an attempt to divert the ranting into something constructive), I’ve got access to spontaneity via a new to me car, and it’s spring. The world is coming back to life, maybe I should, too.

 

 

I used to be in a bit of a rut. Bear with me as I work my way out.

thoughts on co-production

Change is happening in the NI health system. We’ve had a report and a ‘vision’, and our Executive (government made of different parties) committed to the change.

As part of the transformation, our Department of Health have recently discovered the concept of co-production, and don’t quite seem to know what to do with it…

Step 1: Convene a working group and get them to agree on what co-production is. Good luck with that. Also, produce guidance on co-production to inform transformation throughout the health and social care system, across multiple organisations. In 4 weeks. Don’t forget to include some patients and carers on the group. Long days in pokey rooms are preferred. Watch how co-productive methods are modelled. Or not.

Step 2: Be sure to use words like ‘mutuality’ and ‘reciprocity’. Nobody knows what they mean, so you have the opportunity to seem very clever if you can explain them. This is not a form of excluding people and their possible contributions. Definitely not. (It is.)

Step 3:Thank the group for their contribution, and clarify that it was simply a first draft. Lots of other people need to be involved, starting from scratch again. No need to share that draft that patients, carers and staff actually co-produced in difficult circumstances.

Step 4: Give multiple presentations using the video The Parable of the Blobs and Squares. Patients and carers *love* being called blobs.

Step 5: Make sure the presentations refer to doing things differently. It is important at this point to continue to work in the same way.

Step 6: repeat step 2

Step 7: Patients and carers give up their time to participate in co-production and other Personal and Public Involvement activities. You should provide coffee, sandwiches, petrol expenses, and a lot of boredom. Make sure presentations are long, and largely irrelevant. That will make sure that you have a) supported patient & carer participation, while b) making sure that they will not want to ‘participate’ again. Tend towards providing all assistance short of actual help.

Step 8: When discussing principles of co-production, be sure to talk about use of language. (repeat Step 2 as required, for clarity.) At a push, ‘shared decision making’ may be referred to.

 

Guiding principle to be used in all stages of the process. Above all else, never refer to ‘power’. Never say anything like

Co-production is where power is shared, different expertise and experiences are valued and considered in the development and delivery of public services, and trust and partnership working are at the core to improve outcomes. It will only work if there is a fundamental recognition of the power relationships that accompany the process.

 

Given that our coalition Executive has fallen apart because of an unwillingness to share power, to trust or to work in genuine partnership, it is perhaps not surprising that some in the Department appear to be challenged by a new approach. The sad thing is that effective co-production is happening in pockets and projects at all levels in health & social care- it’s nothing to be afraid of, but it does need supported and resourced.

We need to do things differently. We need to share power and decisions. We need to listen & be heard.

We have some way to go.

 

 

 

emptying

It came to pass that Handsome Husband went to live with his sisters. The house in the oakland was to be sold.

But first, the stuff. A house with a lot of storage space holds a lot. The Brother and I set to with the help of many black plastic bags, a huge car boot, and the wonderful St Vincent de Paul charity. SVP are long established and work  “to fight poverty in all its forms through the practical assistance to people in need.” What I didn’t grasp until a few weeks ago, is how easy they can make a challenging task. From the first phone call, to the lorry driving away  10 days later, and multiple donation trips to the shop, they gave us kindness, humour, gentleness, and quiet support. We just gave them stuff.

I’d been most concerned about the back bedroom. Boxes went in there when we cleared Herself’s room in the nursing home, and hadn’t been touched since. These boxes took on mythical proportions in my mind. They weren’t just literal boxes, they were metaphorical boxes. What mental chaos would be uncovered? Imagine my relief when they contained an awful lot of out of date toiletries and hangers. The biggest, scariest box held only hangers. Hundreds of them. Too many to count. Even SVP didn’t want them. I’d been wasting anxiety energy worrying about a box of hangers. I was on a roll for a day or so after that. I only laughed at the chest of drawers filled with wrapping paper and ornaments.

I made my way through the room to reach a trolley (recently pretending to be shelves) and pottered back and forth to the garage- wheeeling the bags, posing in a 70s hostess style on the way back. We remembered the glory days of the trolley, with pavlova and grey glass bowls. The trolley collapsed under the strain and expectation of movement before long, but I was glad to have had it, and to have recalled its prime.

Of course, the back bedroom wasn’t the worst. It was all the random, carefully packed, bits of paper filling the fitted wardrobe space in the main bedroom. Years of cards, letters, wedding invitations. 5 orders of service from the one wedding. A letter written to Herself in the weeks after the Omagh bomb. Lots of notes written by herslf as she tried to figure out whether living in Spain with a Dutchman was really for her. (You already know the answer to that.)

The auntie wondered what we’d do with the fire brasses. We hadn’t seen those in years. They got found eventually, in the bottom of the cloakroom, underneath the tennis racket, badminton racket, squash racket, golf practice sets, Nora’s bowls, vacuum cleaner, dusters and all the coats.

We’d donated the regular clothes some time ago, but held on to the good clothes. They still didn’t fit me. I looked at the tweed suit, the respectable going to wedding outfits, Herself’s style, and I phoned the fancy second hand shop. “Designer or top end of the high street only. Must be less than one year old.” Less than a year old? That’s not style, that’s just shopping. Decent style in a size too small for me may be found at Vincent’s.

The chaise lounge went to a cousin. One took chairs and a bookcase. Another, drawers and a lamp. Aunties have ornaments, or a table, or a  different lamp that had a whole other adventure. The Brother and I have the items we wanted. The enormous desk- an huge civil service item from the 50s- had to be dismantled, and then the door taken off, to get out of the back bedroom. SVP are holding on to that one.

This house was never home to the Brother or me. But Herself was so happy there, so full of plans. Plans to learn languages, computer skills, book keeping. We found all the text books. Handsome Husband moved in when they married; we found the actual plans they’d got drawn up for a new home for them both.

Instead, illness happened. Herself is gone a while now, nearly 6 years. I still find that remarkable. The space we’ve been allowed between her death and the house clearing was undoubtedly helpful. We laughed more than we cried. We grumbled without guilt.

And now that house belongs to other people. Sale agreed and completed much more quickly than we had any right to expect. A huge task finished promptly and efficiently.When does that ever happen?

It just feels weird.