Cloud Surfing in Kentucky

GrumbleSmiles was set up to provide innovative answers to tackling the problems of loneliness in later life.    Many older people are less able to get out and about, which can be the first steps towards a life of isolation.

My travel around the clouds continue.   Today I invite you to join me on a trip to unknown destinations around the world and an opportunity to talk to new and interesting people.    All at no cost and from the comfort of your own armchair.

We are going cloudsurfing.   

Courtesy of Blogger and Photographer, Barbara Judge and her excellent blog called Folkways Notebook.   Barbara has taken some interesting trips around America and the first one that caught my eye, I have referred below.

 

 

 

Today I took a trip to the Appalachian Mountains in the USA.  In particular, I landed in Madison County, Kentucky and came across Miss Ida Green, a remarkable 82 year old lady who owns and runs a country grocery store.

You can find the full story and photographs by clicking on the following link:

https://folkwaysnotebook.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/ida-greens-country-grocery-store.html

 

In the weeks ahead, I will publish more blogs and photographs from my cloud surfing travels.

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Bold NHS Chief Executive ?

The Government is shortly supposed to be coming up with a Green Paper on Social Care.  The aim of the paper is to resolve the current and future funding crisis in Social Care related to the ever-growing numbers of older people.  This is a recurring issue which politicians regularly approach and then back away from.  It constantly gets put in the “too difficult” box.  For now Brexit has absorbed most of the headlines and the politicians’ attention.  But the issue of older peoples’ care just won’t go away.

I have been writing about it ever since I started this blog.  You can see many of my earlier posts by clicking on “CARE FUNDING” in the TOPICS list.

Now at least the penny seems to have dropped with somebody with a louder voice than mine.  Mr Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, raised a radical proposal with the House of Commons Select Committee on Long Term Funding of Adult Social Care.  His proposal was that we should tax the homes of elderly people to fund the growing social care bill.  This is something that I have long advocated.

The context of Mr Stevens’ evidence to the Committee was that there was large scale bed blocking in the NHS.  Around 18,000 people have been stuck in hospital for 21 days or more.   This amount to 1 in 5 of all NHS beds or the equivalent of taking 36 hospitals out of action.

The elderly will never vote for this and since many of them are Conservative voters, neither will the Tory party propose it.  On the other hand, if the Labour party gets into power, I doubt they would have the courage to adopt such a radical proposal.  Therefore we are left with a political stalemate.

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Cloud surfing to the SUN !

It’s another wet and windy day on Earth.  Not at all like May is supposed to be in Kilsby.   So I decided to go a bit closer to the sun and joined the NASA Parker Solar Probe.

Goodness knows how I got here, but I ended up inside the high security environment of the NASA Space Mission.   I think I am going to become an astrophysicist 😀.    This is what you get from aimlessly surfing around in the clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AN ARTIST’S IMPRESSION OF THE PARKER SOLAR PROBE APPROACHING THE SUN

As long as the weather gets better, I am due to take off from the Florida launch pad sometime between July and August.  It seems like NASA time tables are a bit like Network Rail.    The journey will take six years, which is about as long as it takes to get to Birmingham on the new high-speed trains.   It seems like HS2 is just another politician’s ego trip.

We pass Venus in 2020 although we are not stopping.  Later we shoot by Mercury at around 430,000 miles per hour.    That’s fast enough to get you from New York to Tokyo in less than a minute.   Certainly makes you wonder why Network Rail is building a high-speed train that will still take nearly an hour to get from Birmingham to London.

Of course it will be a lot hotter, the latest weather forecast for the sun says that it will be more than 1,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit.   I am assured we will be protected by four and a half inches of carbon composite shield and that the temperature inside the probe will be more or less room temperature.   So that should be alright then😩

Just a short flight of fancy on a cold, wet, windy day.

If you would like to see more about my celestial travels, follow the link below.

http://parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu/The-Mission/docs/SolarProbe_FS_WEB.pdf

It does leave me with a few questions:-

  • How much is the Solar Probe Mission costing?  The answer must be in billions of dollars.
  • Who on earth agreed to spend this money?  It seems like NASA is a runaway rocket.
  • Mr Parker, the astrophysicist, had a load of theories about the sun and this mission is to find out whether his theories are correct.  It sounds like an American ego trip to me and I would be inclined to ask whether the money could be better spent on other things.
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WELFARE BENEFITS SURVEY – PENSIONS FOLLOW UP

Over the last few months, I have been researching welfare benefits entitlements in the UK.  (You can see all my earlier posts by clicking on “Welfare Benefits” in the TAG CLOUD).  

The first question was about who received the “State Pension”.    Needless to say everybody answered that with a resounding “YES”.    You might assume from this that everybody gets about the same from the state to support themselves in retirement.    That would be a big misjudgment because the pension system is far more complex and doesn’t end up with an easy numerical answer for all.

So I asked a simple follow-up question to the group.    How much did they think they received in state pension each week?   Their answers are summed up in the graph below.

I said when I first published this survey that the State Pension, which everybody said they received, should be fairly straight forward to understand.    Firstly, there is an “old State Pension” which is currently £125.95 per week.    Secondly, there is a “new higher State Pension” which is £164.35 per week, but only applies to new pensioners.    In the survey group, nobody would be eligible for this new pension as they had all been pensioners for some while.    Therefore you would expect them to receive something around the old pension level of £126 per week.    So how do you explain the above graph?

  • Have they correctly remembered the amount they receive?
  • Is their State Pension topped up with Pension Credit?
  • Are they adding other occupational pensions into this figure?
  • Most importantly, do they know how their State Pension has been calculated?

Undoubtedly the variation in these figures is related to the level of National Insurance contributions they made during their working life.    But on top of that, you have to factor in other issues, like whether they paid a Married Woman’s Stamp, whether they contributed to the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme and whether they deferred taking their pension.

Basically, the Pensions Service says “trust me”.    But in a system as complicated as this that has changed frequently in the years gone by, how can you be sure that they get it right every time?   If you have a comprehensive grasp of this issue when you retire, you may be able to challenge the determination, but I wonder how many people do this.   I suspect that most people accept the figures they are given without question.

I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the Government’s figures but for many people setting aside money for a pension (alias National Insurance), this will be the biggest investment they will make in their life.    Therefore you would hope the system would be transparent and easy to understand.

The reality is the frequent changes that have been made to the State Pension system over the years, the constant renaming of benefits titles and the frequently hollow unfulfilled promises of politicians, do not inspire you with any great confidence.

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“All the pages are my days”

GrumbleSmiles was set up to provide innovative answers to tackling the problems of loneliness in later life.    Many older people are less able to get out and about, which can be the first steps towards a life of isolation.

So starting today I invite you to join me on a trip to unknown destinations around the world and an opportunity to talk to new and interesting people.    All at no cost and from the comfort of your own armchair.

We are going cloudsurfing.

 

 

My first trip is travelling with Mike Rodriquez in Aspen, Colorado, specifically to see the Maroon Bells mountains.  Although I’ve been to America many times, I’ve never been to Colorado.  So Mike’s blog and his wonderful photographs gave me a real insight into how wonderful the landscape is.

The photograph below is one of many views that Mike captured on his trip in October 2017.

2017 Favorites: Maroon Bells

If you click on the link below, it will take you to Mike’s blog site which is called “All the pages are my days”, where you can see much more.  I thank him for giving me permission to use this photograph and the link and I’m sure Mike would love to hear from you.

Mike’s Colorado Trip

In the weeks ahead, I will publish more blogs and photographs from my cloud surfing travels.

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WELFARE BENEFITS SURVEY RESULTS – BENEFIT FREEBIES

Over the last few months, I have been researching welfare benefits entitlements in the UK.  (You can see all my earlier posts by clicking on “Welfare Benefits” in the TAG CLOUD).  

This is the fourth section which covers benefit freebies.

Free Travel Pass Graph – 96% Yes; 4% No; 0% Not Sure

You only get this when you’re eligible for State Pension and you have to apply for it.  Exactly where you can travel to depends on your Local Authority rules.  Some Local Authorities allow for free travel beyond their area (e.g. West Midlands).

 

 

 

Free Eye Tests Graph – 100% Yes

Perhaps not surprisingly, the take up for this is 100%.  Obviously because your optician tells you in anticipation that they are going to sell you an expensive pair of glasses.  I wonder how many people are sent away without needing glasses?

 

 

Free Prescriptions Graph – 100% Yes 

Again, everybody knows about this, presumably they are told at the doctor’s surgery.  You have to be 60 years old and look like it :-).

 

 

 

Hospital Travel Allowance Graph – 0% Yes; 80% No; 20% Not Sure 

This is means tested but if you qualify it should pay for your travel to and from the hospital as well as for car parking.  Some people had received reimbursement for car parking fees but otherwise you are generally expected to travel free on public transport.  This will not always be possible for people who either can’t get out of the house without assistance, or live in remote rural areas.  In those cases they should be reimbursed either for a car travel allowance or a taxi.  Hospitals seem to vary their approach on this and in some cases will also pay for carers.

Free TV Licence

This is available to people over the age of 75 and also to all pensioners if they live in sheltered housing.  You have to apply for it.  Responsibility for funding it has recently been transferred to the BBC which means the rules could change in future.

 

FOOTNOTE – Please note, I hasten to add that I am no expert and anyone reading this should not take my observations or figures as fact.    Hopefully before I finish this series of blogs, I will have raised awareness of some of the issues in the welfare benefits system.    If you’re intending to make a claim, you should go to one of the trusted agencies like Age UK or Citizens Advice Bureau.   

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WELFARE BENEFITS SURVEY RESULTS – WEATHER PAYMENTS

Over the last few months, I have been researching welfare benefits entitlements in the UK.  (You can see all my earlier posts by clicking on “Welfare Benefits” in the TAG CLOUD).  

This is the third section which covers the weather payments.

Winter Fuel Allowance Graph – 92% Yes; 0% No; 8% Not Sure

This is paid for as part of the State Pension system and therefore everyone should receive it automatically.   Unless they have deferred receiving their pension, in which case they have to apply for it separately.  It is awarded per household, not per person.  There is a higher level for people over the age of 80.

 

 

Cold Weather Payments Graph – 20% Yes; 60% No; 20% Not Sure

This is not as simple as the last benefit, but it is paid automatically as an addition to the State Pension.  You do not have to apply for it.  You only receive it if there are 7 consequtive days where the temperature falls below zero during the winter period in the location that you live.

 

 

Fuel Discount?

You should be able to get a £140 reduction in your fuel bills from your fuel supplier.  This isn’t part of the benefits system, but it is a reduction negotiated between the Government and the fuel suppliers (gas and electric).  It is means tested and you have to take the initiative to speak to your supplier to get it.

I’m not sure how many people are aware of this or how many actually receive it?

 

FOOTNOTE – Please note, I hasten to add that I am no expert and anyone reading this should not take my observations or figures as fact.    Hopefully before I finish this series of blogs, I will have raised awareness of some of the issues in the welfare benefits system.    If you’re intending to make a claim, you should go to one of the trusted agencies like Age UK or Citizens Advice Bureau.   

Posted in Cheylesmore Good Neighbours | Tagged | 1 Comment