Posts Tagged ‘Media coverage’

The Radio 5 phone-in this morning is all about terrible conditions in some care homes, and the suggestion that hidden CCTV cameras might be installed in some of them to keep an eye on the staff. It sounds Orwellian, but I’m not sure that I’d be against it if I were one of the old folks.

In The Little Girl in the Radiator, Martin Slevin talks about the decision to have his mother taken into care, a decision which made him feel as though he had ‘betrayed and abandoned’ her. In the end, she went through three homes, with varying standards of care. She was treated reasonably in the first, though her clothes were all lost or ruined; in the second, the treatment was exemplary; in the third, to which she was admitted following a stroke, it was terrible.

On her admission to the hospital where she died, following another stroke which happened at that third home, Martin was taken aside by a doctor:

‘What can you tell me about the nursing home she has just come from?’ he asked.

‘Not a lot, really,’ I said. ‘She only just moved in there a few days ago. She was in Walsgrave [Hospital in Coventry] for about 10 weeks before that. Why do you ask?’

I had the strangest feeling there was something he wasn’t telling me.

‘She was not admitted in a favourable condition,’ he replied. ‘The nurse who first admitted her commented on her condition.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Heather. ‘What condition?’

‘The admitting nurse wrote some comments in the admittance book, which is a very unusual thing for a nurse to do. I think she was covering herself.’

‘I still don’t understand,’ I said. ‘What was mum’s condition when she arrived here?’

‘I didn’t see her personally,’ he said, ‘but the notes written by the admitting nurse state that she was covered in faeces. Some of it had dried onto her legs, and looked as though it had been there for some time. There was also dried faeces under her fingernails, again indicating that she had not been washed in some time. Also the feeding peg on her stomach was caked in dried blood, again indicating a lack of personal care.’

I thought I was going to be sick.

‘I’m sorry to have to tell you this,’ he said. ‘You can go through and see her now.’

Meanwhile, there is another excellent review of the book, this time in the GPs’ trade magazine, Pulse (written by Dr Natalie Smith, a practising GP at The Manor Surgery in Headington, Oxford):

‘Both medics and laymen alike stand to learn an awful lot from reading this book’ says Dr Natalie Smith

This book is a heart-breaking account of the author’s personal experience of coping with his mother’s deterioration with the cruel disease that is Alzheimer’s.  It is not meant as a medical text, nor should it be taken as one, however both medics and laymen alike stand to learn an awful lot from reading this book.

Don’t be put off by the subject matter; the book is incredibly well written and is very entertaining and even amusing in parts.  Mr Slevin manages to recount some of the more distressing aspects to his mother’s condition with a hint of humour, and throughout you feel that he is sharing his experiences in order to help others to cope.

Some of the more harrowing episodes relate to the lady’s treatment in a care home, which opens our eyes to the distressing and harsh attitude that some of these supposedly caring places may have. Fortunately, in the end [as above, this is not quite correct], Mr Slevin finds a wonderful home for his mother, where she is suitably cared for and lives out her last days in relative happiness, unaware of her condition, and talking always, to the little girl in the radiator.

Having read this, I for one, shall look at my patients with dementia in a new light, as well as treating their carers with even more respect, admiration and sympathy than I have done until now.


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The story so far. We publish a book by a serving police inspector (or higher), calling the author a ‘senior police officer’, and offering readers the inside track on modern British policing from the point of view of a more senior officer than a PC or a sergeant (‘the most senior police officer to date breaks ranks to tell the shocking truth about the collapse of the country’s criminal justice system’).

Nick Herbert MP writes a piece in the Observer in which he says Gadget is ‘self-promoted’ and adds that ‘he is not an inspector’.

Therefore, Gadget must be either a PC or a sergeant, with whom we are colluding in a bogus ‘promotion’ to give his or her views, and our book, more weight.

Ergo, it seems to us, that Nick Herbert and the Observer are accusing us, by implication, of being fraudulent liars.

A few days ago, I contacted Herbert and the editor of the Observer electronically asking them to correct this error.

I’ve had no reply from either of them, and the piece is still up on the Guardian/Observer website.

As it happens, we’ve had a couple of barristers as house guests over the last few days. Their views on the matter were very interesting, and one of them has offered to act pro bono for us if necessary.

All we really want is for Herbert and the Observer to acknowledge their error. If we don’t hear from them soon, we will send more formal letters.

The whole issue of policing is more interesting now than ever. According to the latest figures, crime is down by 10 per cent despite the cuts. I am very fortunate to live in an area where there is almost no crime at all, but this does seem unlikely to be correct. If it is true, what is the mechanism?

Herbert and his chums would have us believe that crime is falling, and that New Year’s Eve will be another example of our exciting new continental-style cafe culture in action.

Perhaps they’re right. But here’s Gadget’s take (perhaps based more on experience):

On New Years Eve, Types 1. and 3. will outnumber Type 2. but it won’t seem that way to us. We will be dealing with Type 2. long after the street celebrations end. Type 2. will take their global hatred activities home with them, via fatal road accidents, domestic beatings and vicious fights within families etc. They will go to A&E and assault staff. They will assault staff in custody at police stations.

We know  that Ruralshire Ambulance Service will be swamped, so we have been issued with more first aid kit this year, including defibrillators to start your heart in an emergency. I think that is what they are for, we had the training cancelled at the last-minute. The machines ‘talk’ to you when you use them, recently, a colleague was given instructions in Polish when he opened the thing up. True story. Cheap, you see.

Ruralshire General Hospital have asked if we can post police officers in A&E to protect the private security staff on New Years Eve. So, a public body uses public money to pay a private ‘wealth creator’ to provide security in a public space, they then ask another public body to protect the private body using more public money. How ironic.

If course, if you’re Dave Cameron, Nick Herbert or Ed Miliband, you really have to work hard to be mugged or burgled. Maybe for a fortunate minority – I include myself in that number – things are better. Coincidentally, Tim Worstall links to this very good piece by ‘The Streetwise Professor’, Craig Pirrong, Professor of Finance at the University of Houston.

Happy New Year!

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In yesterday’s Observer, Nick Herbert, the former police minister, wrote at some length about what he said was the public’s loss of faith in the police. He said this had been caused by the fact that some detectives in Kent are being investigated for a scam involving TICs, and because of Hillsborough and ‘Plebgate’.

Leave aside the question of what on earth an MP of all people thinks he is doing lecturing people about a loss of faith; and the fact that the TIC scam is as old as the hills, and is partly in response to the government’s own insane target culture; and that Hillsborough happened in 1989 (90% of the cops in the country on that day having long since retired).

Andrew Mitchell resigned of his own volition after swearing at the police, and good riddance to the foul-mouthed yob. Arguably, the real scandal is that Mitchell was not arrested; if I were a youth who had been nicked for swearing at the police outside The Jolly Friar Chippy last night, I might be wondering why it is that pompous Tory MPs get a pass and I don’t.

But my main gripe is with this paragraph:

Anyone who doubts what was behind Mitchell’s downfall need only read the blog of Inspector Gadget. A serving police officer, the self-promoted Gadget (he is not an inspector) says: “The relationship between Conservatives and police officers is not just toxic, it is over.” Feelings about the reform of pay and conditions were so strong “there was bound to be trouble. Plebgate is trouble”.

So, just to recap: I say Inspector Gadget is a serving police inspector, or at least has been (s/he may or may not have been promoted).

Nick Herbert says s/he is not.

Does that mean Nick Herbert is saying that I am a liar?

Given that I publish non-fiction books, it is quite important to me that people believe what I say (outwith the usual disclaimers about names and details being changed to protect the guilty).

Can I sue Nick Herbert for libel? It’s an interesting question, with shades of Tony McNumpty.

Incidentally, I have met Herbert once: I found him to be on the slimy side of charming. It was (from memory) some time in early 2007, when PC David Copperfield was invited to give a talk to Policy Exchange, the Conservative think-tank.

I went along to hold his coat, the Daily Telegraph‘s Philip Johnston acted as MC, and the then opposition MP and shadow police minister Herbert was among the invited guests.

The audience was small but rapt: none of them had ever seen or heard a ground-level PC talking, openly and articulately, about the problems British policing faced (and faces). This was because no serving PC had ever done so. (This was a few months after Wasting Police Time had been published, and Copperfield had not yet outed himself; it took a lot of guts for him to attend, as he would certainly have lost his job if identified.)

Copperfield’s key messages were that, yes, the police sometimes are terrible – being human – but here’s why: too much police time was being taken up in pointless paperwork (he recounted how it could easily take six hours to deal with two teenagers for the theft of a pushbike; no-one was saying theft of a pushbike was not important, but six hours was a bit much); that serious recidivist criminals were not being jailed for the protection of their (usually poor, elderly and otherwise vulnerable) victims; that the target culture introduced by the Blair government was changing police priorities for the worse; that discretion was a thing of the past; and that policing much of modern Britain was a bit like dealing with drunk toddlers.

Herbert sat there and listened, gave an interview to some TV people who had attended, and then left.

Wind forward five years, and the paperwork has got worse, the targets are still there, people are still drunk and entitled, and the government can’t wait to let violent criminals out of jail. But then, thanks to the Plebs at the Gates, Dave and Sam have zero chance of being burgled for the kids’ Christmas presents.

Of course, if you want to read more by Inspector Gadget, you can always buy the book.

On that note, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our reader!

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Jon Stock says no, not really.

Without wishing to sound like a serial killer, I track down all my hostile reviewers, sooner or later, particularly the anonymous ones (although I’m still working on “FleetStreetMan”). In this age of “sock puppetry”, when authors attack each other online under false names, it’s a necessary part of the job.

I can’t help thinking life’s too short. But then, that said, five years on, I am still smarting (on Austin’s behalf) over this thoroughly unfair review of Austin Healey’s autobiography, Me and My Mouth, by the Telegraph‘s Andrew Baker.

But his Mouth? Well, where does one start? It is a disgrace. At its best, the Mouth is foul: it is frequently to be heard abusing friends and foes alike, delivering a non-stop production line of put-downs, wisecracks and insults, usually based on the premise that the Mouth is brighter, wittier and more talented in every respect than anything else on the planet. Or on planet rugby, at any rate. What a strange world it is that these people occupy: a testosterone-dominated dystopia where the guys are constantly drinking, brawling, puking, drinking some more, smashing the place up, drinking, weeping, laughing, drinking, passing out, drinking and drinking some more. Oh, and occasionally playing rugby.

Shock, horror. Rugby players drink, swear, are sarcastic and mess around, unlike the denizens of Fleet Street sports desks. It certainly seems to be a surprise to Mr Baker.

The vacuity of it all is almost tragic, though more so for the players’ wives than the players themselves. The antics make early-period Martin Amis look like Jane Austen. Their idea of fun? Butting the club’s (female) secretary, then thwacking her on the behind with a broomstick. A standard night out? Forty-nine bottles of red wine (between seven), followed by a little light-hearted violence: “Later, I was fortunate enough to be sitting opposite Lewis [Moody] and noticed he was sitting with his legs apart, so I grabbed a heavy ashtray and Frisbeed it under the table straight into his groin. He was sick, which was one of the most satisfying moments of the whole trip.”

I don’t want to sound all Guardian, but isn’t this just a tiny bit sexist – the hand-wringing concern for the players’ wives (I’ve met a few, and they’re a bit tougher than Andrew Baker gives them credit for; in fact, I’d venture to suggest they’re a bit tougher than Andrew Baker), and that odd, parenthesised reference to the gender of the club secretary? Women, after all, cannot possibly take part in drinking games voluntarily. Can they? (For the record, it seems they can: Baker obviously missed the part where the secretary in question, Jo Hollis, is ‘lying on the floor, screaming with laughter…’ or where she ‘goes to wallop Benny [Kay] with a big haymaker. Only she misses straight over the top of his head and the swing takes her off her chair and onto the floor again, where she lies cackling and unable to right herself, like a dying fly.’)

Not particular edifying behaviour, I accept, as does Austin, clearly, later in the book. (I’ve been at journalists’ parties which make 49 bottles of red wine between seven look fairly tame, as it happens.) But the idea of an autobiography is that it’s the truth. We could have soft-soaped it all, but that would have been wrong.

When the review appeared, Austin rang me. He was upset, and I didn’t blame him. When you know a man, and have sat in his kitchen with his wife and children, drinking tea and chatting, I suppose you might be guilty of some bias in his favour. But, objectively, it sounded to me like a hatchet job, written by a journalist who hadn’t understood the book.

I emailed Baker to suggest that honest and open accounts of life at the pinnacle of sport (Jason Robinson aside, Austin was surely the most talented English back of the last 20 years?) are rare and should be encouraged. Apart from that, I pointed out that the whole book was really an extended mea culpa – that Austin wasn’t bragging about the drinking, and wasn’t proud of the way he treated people occasionally, and was at times ashamed of his own behaviour. Here’s one example, where Austin’s grouchy because of his non-selection of England’s pre-1999 world cup trip to Australia:

I went on holiday with Lou [his wife], Martin Corry, Craig Joiner [Leicester and Scotland winger] and their partners and for the first week I was unplayable. Snappy, irritable, the works. Lou took me to one side. ‘Look at yourself,’ she said. ‘Look at the way you’re going on. Now look at Cozza. He’s had another awesome season, and yet he never gets picked. Do you ever hear him whinge like this?’

That brought it home to me that I’d been a complete embarrassment. We all went out to dinner that night and I apologised for my bad attitude. It was a weakness of mine, and luckily I had a strong wife to set me right.

Here’s another – this time, upset at his non-selection for the 2003 world cup squad, he misses his own family birthday lunch to go on the lash:

I got absolutely smashed. We finished at the bar after the game and I suggested that we go to my local, purely so that I could walk home which was fairly selfish, too. We got taxis over there and started drinking again. The worst of it was that my family and some friends had driven all the way down to see me. I nipped home at one o’clock and said hello; my mum and dad and people were all trying to give me my birthday presents, but I was absolutely blotto and could hardly see straight. I mumbled some thanks and then said I was going back out.

‘But we’re having your birthday lunch,’ said my mum.

‘I’ll be there in a bit,’ I said, and left, walking back to the pub and carrying on drowning my sorrows with Freddie Tuilagi, George Chuter and my mate Ade.

In the end, they ate without me. I kept popping back for five minutes here and there but the lure of the pub was too strong. I feel pretty guilty, and embarrassed, about that now…

Here’s Austin at his lowest point:

The following day, I got up, went out and started drinking again… now I was in a mess, and I was on the verge of becoming an alcoholic.

Fortunately, I realised in time that it wasn’t the right thing to do. I was jeopardising my job, and possibly my family, and I needed to stop being such a soft arse. It was an easy way out and I’ve always seemed to take the easy way out and make excuses when times are hard; it was time for me to front up and just take it on the chin.

A complete embarrassment… selfish… guilty… weak… soft… I’ve always taken the easy way out: this is all quite hard to square with Baker’s characterisation of Austin’s self-image as being a ‘near-infallible husband, father, athlete, club man, team player’.

In fact, if you read the book (which is still available), there’s only one conclusion you can draw, and it’s not the one Andrew Baker arrived at. He begged to differ, but then perhaps he’s better suited to reviewing exciting theme parks (‘…raw thrills are the name of the game… the side-shows are feeble… food is basic… On the up-side, car parking is very cheap…).

Anyway, here are the three most recent reviews of Me and My Mouth from Amazon. (We haven’t tracked the writers down.)

* * * * * Me and my mouth Austin Healey, 5 Oct 2012 By PGM

As a fan of Scottish Rugby, i was apprehensive to read a book about The Auld Enemy, and in particular about a player who broke our hearts on more than one occaision. A fanastaic read, a very honest, frank and great autobiography. Its a pity Austin was let down by injury, the rugby world misses him. Read this book, its worth the suprises, he is right about his mouth!

* * * * * Fantastic Book, 24 Mar 2012 By cashy89

Anyone who is a fan of English rugby and followed rugby before the 2003 RWC win, will enjoy this book. I prevously read Martin Johnsons, Matt Dawson, Will Greenwood & Lawrence Dallaglio’s books aswell as this. I have to say this is possibly my favourite one, it includes all the banter and funny stories that you would expect from a tour, and also the struggles that dont appear on the tv set or on the pitch. If your pondering about buying it, just get it because you wont be disappointed.

* * * * More interesting and honest than most, 6 Jan 2011 By skinnyfatman

Austin Healey is Marmite – most people love or hate him. As someone who quite liked him before reading his book I’m not sure what I think now – he’s clearly massively conceited, but pretty self-aware, and knows that he rubs people up the wrong way all the time, but does it anyway – take him as you find him sort. The book is good and better than most rugby autobiogs I’ve read (which is quite a few) since it isn’t just ‘games that I’ve played in’ as a long list, it’s got lots of background and interesting opinion and back-stories to the biog throughout. More than anything though, it is stunningly honest and pulls no punches about what Healey thinks about anything, including himself. It also contains some interesting stuff about how difficult it is to maintain motivation and focus as a professional sportsperson. Overall well worth the read – the only rugby autobiog I’ve ever stayed up reading later than I meant to!

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Following the Manchester shootings, PC Bloggs wrote a comment piece for yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, entitled What life is like on the front line for policewomen.

(For those who haven’t read the book, a more detailed explanation can be found in Diary of an On Call Girl.)

It might read like a moan (‘Now I am a sergeant, with a team of mostly men under me. Our numbers are so depleted that I scarcely notice the gender of those turning up for work. My few female officers are as likely to work with each other as with a man, or by themselves. Extreme budget cuts have done more for gender equality than any amount of positive action.) but you’d be hard-pressed to find a less miserable person than Bloggsy.

The usual mix of sane and insane comments underneath.

One chap writes:

I do enjoy reading the comments below. Some are useful, most are not, pushing their own political square points into the round hole offered to them.
I have also been a police officer “on the front line” for over 15 years – the incident above is doubtless not the scariest thing that the author has encountered. It is however typical, and frequent. It is one that I recognise. However as a 16 stone male I am usually (but not always) able to fight them off physically – a 10 second brawl then translates into 6 hours of writing.
Equally telling, is the comment my colleague makes about being a sergeant and seeing not a team of men and women, but a team; numbers steadily declining (rapidly over the last few years regardless of who holds political office) necessitate single crewing, even at night, in the rural, or in the violent town centre I work in.
Our back up is not other officers, it is almost always doorstaff who are first to help on Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday – Thursday nights as well thanks to licensing laws.
The  commentator below who babbles on about not arresting someone high on drugs, please remove your head from its current location, you will sit more comfortably – alcohol is a very potent drug and people do extraordinary things when they are pissed – as to arresting them all, you have no idea, really no idea, we do not have enough officers or enough cells.
I could write for hours about the state of policing, and the state of the country, but I see no point and I have no voice beyond this page, we are not a political entity. Just be happy we are there, our job is crap, but at least we aren’t soldiers, they have the toughest jobs.

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The Daily Mail ran a two-page digest of The Little Girl In The Radiator yesterday. The standfirst to the print version included the above line, which will certainly make it onto the jacket of the reprint.

Some of the comments below the online version are well worth reproducing.

What a beautiful article. Sometimes the only way to deal with heartache is humour…

This story bears an uncanny resemblance to my own dear dad’s journey through dementia. I’ve laughed and cried reading this very touching and incredibly honest account…

I never cry at anything but I’m here sobbing like a baby…

How sad, but what a lucky lady to have a son who cared about her so much…

Beautifully written, Martin… I’m glad that you found out that once you joined your Mum in her world, and stopped trying to use “normal” reason or rationalisation that we without dementia use to make our world work, the two of you found a way to get through the days… I’m glad that her hallucinations didn’t cause her unhappiness, and that you were able to identify the little girl in the dark radiator – a fitting euphemism for dementia…

It makes such a change to read a touching, heartfelt article… Although terribly sad for the victim and their families, as a psychologist I find the intriguing symptoms of the disease fascinating, as is often the case the only way to help is through extreme love, patience and positive regard. Well done Martin…

I worked in a care home and looked after a 101 year old with this disease and every time I went in to her she would ask for her mum and where her eggs were. I was only 18 and the time and it was heartbreaking… This is one of the best articles I’ve read in this paper. Well done Martin…

I feel very honoured and humbled to read such a touching personal story…Thank you…

I don’t think I have ever cried as much as I did reading this. Beautifully written and astonishingly honest…

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The crucial thing to establish, when publishing books by anonymous coppers (or anonymous anything), is their bona fides. Are they actually coppers?

Inspector Winter looked like he was; turns out he wasn’t. Before we move swiftly on, nothing to see here etc, this from behind The Times‘ paywall:

Inspector Winter was the darling of the police social media scene [er, not quite. Ed.]. At the height of last summer’s riots, he tweeted and blogged about his experiences on the front line — comforting people who had been burnt out of their businesses in Tottenham, arresting suspected rioters in dawn raids and drinking tea with bedraggled fellow officers in rescue centres. His fan base of more than 3,000 Twitter followers included police and the media, and he was even commissioned by The Daily Telegraph to write a first-person piece that described the “chaos” of policing the riots… The only problem was that Inspector Winter was not a policeman. He was a serial conman…

He spent the next two-and-a-half years on the run, effectively hiding in plain sight by visiting police stations, mixing with officers and pretending to be one of them. He fooled at least three lovers into believing that he was variously an officer in the Metropolitan Police, an officer in Essex Police, a captain in the Army and an officer in the Royal Military Police…

Ward’s claims ranged from the believable to the implausible. In Ware, Hertfordshire, he posed as Ethan Winchcombe, a major in the Royal Military Police. He told local residents he had a false leg after an incident in Afghanistan, had served in Northern Ireland and owned a series of restaurants and a garden centre. He drank at the town’s Royal Legion club and even participated in the Remembrance Day parade last year wearing an RMP uniform.

John Hawthorne, owner of the Albion pub where Ward was a regular, told The Times: “He said he had his leg shot off in Afghanistan, and that the bullet ricocheted up through his nose. We realised that wasn’t true when we saw him jogging along the street.”

Ho hum. The weird thing is, if The Daily Telegraph want pieces about riots by genuine coppers, we’ve got them coming out of our ears, and the Telegraph know that.

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