Adult care guide: Winter 2019

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Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Later life can be full of fun & mental stimulation. In February we focus on adult care and our moving interview with Sir Jackie Stewart as well as initiatives from silverswans.

THE GREATEST CHALLENGE

Inspired by his wife’s diagnosis, Sir Jackie Stewart has launched a £2million funding drive in Race Against Dementia, writes Karen Neville.

Motor racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart is embarking on the greatest and most personal challenge of his life. His wife of 56 years, Lady Helen Stewart was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia four years ago, driving him to establish the Race Against Dementia (RAD).

The three-time Formula One world champion has launched a £2million search for new scientists to develop breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of dementia. RAD aims to find a solution that will allow millions of people to live longer with dementia.

There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and millions more carers and family members who struggle to cope as their loved one suffers.

Unless a cure is found, one in three people born today will develop dementia in their lifetime. However, behind each statistic such as these
are the real people dealing with the disease and its effects on a daily basis, each with their own unique heart-breaking story – memories, passions and ambitions that are slowly fading away.

The £2m of research funding to find a solution to this will be administered in partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK and will support innovative new ideas in dementia research through research fellowships.

Sir Jackie says: “The Race Against Dementia is the greatest challenge of my life, but with the right people and the right approach we can encourage and accelerate a new way of thinking and cross the finish line with success.”

The chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, Hilary Evans said they were very grateful for the support of Sir Jackie and his sons, Paul and Mark. She says: “It has been inspirational to see Sir Jackie and the family step up to this challenge and to pour drive and determination into taking on the greatest medical challenge.

“We’re proud to have been working with him in setting up these ambitious global Race Against Dementia fellowships.

“These new fellowships are targeted at up-and-coming scientific global talent and will stimulate the careers of researchers with the drive and ambition to make breakthroughs possible that will transform lives.”

Sir Jackie hopes the fellowships will attract talent from all over the world and open the door to a new range of opportunities to “beat this horrendous illness”.

He adds: “Helen has always been my rock and her razor-sharp mind was one of the first things that I fell in love with. Four years on from her diagnosis, she’s still the same Helen, with the same sense of humour, but with a gradual decline in memory and mobility that throws up all sorts of challenges that she, and we, have had to learn to cope with.”

Admitting that his family’s world has been turned upside down, he also acknowledges that they are very fortunate to be able to afford 24-hour specialist care. He says: “I know this is not possible for millions of other families touched by dementia. The cost of care can be enormous and, from a medical point of view, there are very few treatments that can make life easier. This has to change.”

The couple’s sons are ambassadors for Race Against Dementia. Paul has written a song to his mother, entitled Praise You, as a gift to thank her for everything she has done for the family over the years. He says: “I wrote the words as a way to trigger special moments that we have shared together. Dementia has impacted not just my mother but all of us and in particular my father.”

Mark says his mother has always been a strong and loving parent, dedicating herself to the family. He adds: “Sadly we have seen up close what this terrible disease can do. Race Against Dementia is our family’s way of turning a negative in to something positive.”

70 per cent of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease or any other type of dementia

Five times fewer researchers choose to work on dementia than on cancer

GLIDE THROUGH AGEING

Become a Silver Swan and improve your body and mind through ballet.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re Darcey Bussell or have two left feet, dance improves your quality of life. Specially designed for older learners, Silver Swans ballet classes will not only help you keep fit and active physically but also help keep your mind in shape.

Silver Swans teachers are trained specifically to teach a range of abilities and ages over 55. Joining a local class will help improve your mobility, posture, coordination and energy levels.

Dance can improve your life in a variety of ways including improving energy levels and balance, helping to reduce stress and supporting weight loss as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and improving the immune system. Dancing increases cognitive ability by promoting new connections in the brain and it may even help stave off dementia in later life

If you’re an older learner, the social benefits of joining a dance class will also increase your sense of wellbeing – it’s a great way to expand your social circle and meet new people.

That’s certainly been the case for 74-year-old Anna, who says she lived for dancing when she was younger and then, having done nothing for more than 50 years, was thrilled to find Silver Swans. Anna considers ballet a wonderful discipline, both mentally and physically.

While most of those at the classes are women, 60-year-old Ian, who joined a class in Leatherhead 18 months ago, says he decided to do it when looking for exercise that didn’t involve the gym. He laughs: “I am told I’m getting better and I think I am, but it is a very long way to the Royal Opera House.”

Another dancer, Jane, 63, had long been wanting to find an adult ballet class, mindful of how it can help body and mind. She was further inspired after seeing a a 70-year-old woman perform, recalling: “She danced with such grace, within her own limits but demonstrating how beautiful old age could be. She was very moving. A role model to be all you can be at any stage of your life.”

   For more details, visit www.royalacademyofdance.org/silverswans

Studies have shown that dancing plays a role in helping diminish the symptoms of depression

Research has found 75% of the factors which affect quality of life and longevity are related to your lifestyle

SINGING FOR THE BRAIN

Music is key to unlock memories when it comes to dementia care.

Singing is about so much more than hitting the right notes and making a good sound – it can improve brain activity, wellbeing and mood.

For the Alzheimer’s Society it means much more even than that – singing can unlock memories and kickstart the brain, an increasingly key feature of dementia care which is why the society’s Singing for the Brain sessions are so beneficial.

Run in dozens of different locations across the country, it aims to boost confidence, self esteem and quality of life by involving people with dementia and their carers in singing sessions.

Singing for the Brain groups allow people with dementia to express themselves and interact creatively with others. The idea sprang from Singing for the Brain founder Chreanne Montgomery-Smith who when working in a nursing home noticed how residents responded positively to music.

Beginning with a quiz which used familiar tunes, Chreanne noticed how gradually everyone joined in, including one woman who couldn’t remember her name but knew every song.

She explains: “It made me realise that people with dementia had a special ability to remember songs. Even if people with dementia can’t talk, they may be able to sing, whistle, clap or tap their feet. It helps them – and their carers – to feel life is worthwhile.”

The positive effect of Singing for the Brain groups has been proved by talking to those involved. “Dementia is a devastating condition, slowly stripping people of their memories, relationships and identities. It’s so important to still include people with dementia in social activities – no one should have to face it alone, “ says Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society.

He added: “This study suggests that this transformation could be in part due to parts of the brain connecting better for a brief time after hearing music.

“Further research is needed to help understand the longer-term effects of music and help show that it’s not only drugs that can help people manage with dementia.”

Professor Paul Robertson, an academic and concert violinist who has made a study of music in dementia care said music tends to stay with us to the end and that the auditory system is the first to fully function at just 16 weeks. He says: “This means you are musically receptive long before anything else. It’s a case of first in, last out when it comes to a dementia-type breakdown of memory.”

   For exact details about locations and dates go to www.alzheimers.org.uk/find-support-near-you#!/search

Singing can reach parts of the brain in ways other forms of communication cannot

ADAPTING YOUR HOME

We’ve teamed up with the experts at Age UK to help you consider some simple changes to make your home safer & more comfortable.

Change is seldom easy. And it’s not always easy to know where to start – especially if you’ve lived in your house a long time. But the Age UK team can help you make the choices that feel right for you.

Answering the door

If it’s difficult to get to the front door, think about installing a system that lets you speak to visitors and manage who you let in. Modern door-entry intercoms can help you find out who’s there or you could install an easy-to-fit wireless doorbell that comes with an entry phone to keep near your chair. A video entry phone can help you see who’s at the door – some video entry phones allow you to press a button to open the door from where you’re sitting. Many DIY shops and high-street retailers stock wireless doorbells and key safes. You could ask a family member, handyperson or Home Improvement Agency to fit them for you.

Moving around

Make sure your home is well lit. Think about motion-sensor lights that come on automatically when you get out of bed or enter a room. If you find you need a lot more room or want to keep all essential facilities (like the toilet or shower) on one floor, extending might be an option. Talk to a qualified surveyor or architect.

Stairs

An extra banister rail or a stairlift can make life easier. Depending on the size and layout of your home, it might be possible to install a through-floor wheelchair lift. Remember, though, that if you rent your home or share access with other people, you may need permission from your landlord or your neighbours to make changes.

Disability support

If you want to make some adaptations, you may be eligible for financial support from your council to make small changes. For larger adaptations, you can apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant. Your first step is to get a free care needs assessment from your local council who will send a social worker or an occupational therapist to assess your needs. If your needs are considered “eligible”, the council has a duty to support you. Specialist disability equipment is provided free of charge if recommended by your council and minor adaptations – such as grab rails, short ramps, a dropped curb or outside lights – are also provided and fitted free.

   Call the Age UK advice line on 0800 055 6112. There are more than 140 local Age UK centres willing to help, too. Please visit www.ageuk.org.uk

A police-approved key safe is a good option if you want friends, relatives or carers to let themselves in

Widening door frames or changing the direction your doors open can help you get about –particularly if you use a wheelchair

Q&A with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody

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Snow Patrol’s frontman Gary Lightbody chats about his recent move to L.A. and what goes into their shows.

Q. Is it good to finally be back with Snow Patrol after so long away and obviously working with other musicians on other projects?

“Yeah, course. You know, we were working together all the way through those seven years. I mean we started making the album that would eventually be called Wildness in 2013 with a view of getting that out in 2014 I guess, but it just didn’t work out that way and we wanted to keep rolling really. All we did was take one year off Snow Patrol, and then we got back at it. The songs just weren’t ready, they weren’t right, unfortunately it took a lot longer than we thought. It’s so exciting to be back, to have the album finished, have the album out there, to get back out on tour, and you know, to tour Britain and Ireland again is amazing. We can’t wait.”

Q. With you having moved to LA and other members living in the UK, how easy was the writing process?

“Yeah I mean, we took a little bit of a break. Nathan went and started Little Matador, I did another Tired Pony album and co-wrote with a bunch of different people including Taylor Swift, and Johnny McDaid was doing that as well with lots of different people and producing. Jonny started Polar Publishing, Pablo was writing and producing with people, too, so everybody was doing their own thing, and I was trying to write the Snow Patrol album at the same time but, you know, I’ll write generally on my own and then I’ll take it in to Garrett (producer) and we will work on tracks together and then everyone else will come in over the period. The years between 2013 when I started writing and 2017 when we finished, we would get together for a couple of weeks or a month at a time. I think the album was probably about nine months work in those four, nearly five years. So it wasn’t constant working for five years – that would have probably killed us.”

Q. Now that you have had that turnaround in your personal life has this changed your songwriting?

“I have access now to a part of myself that I was always maybe afraid of. ‘Afraid of’ is maybe the wrong term, but I was afraid that it would make other people not want to be my friend! You know, like, as in, if I, if we all had that fear I think, or we all have that fear that our deepest, darkest thoughts would frighten everyone else, and that’s, to me that was always the reason why I never talked about it, you know, and I found quite the opposite when I started to talk about it, when I started to talk about my demons, I realised that people then go ‘oh yeah, you know, I’ve gone through the same thing’ or ‘I understand what you’re going through’. People, at the very least, understood what I was going through, and at the very best had actually been through the same thing themselves. It made me feel so much less isolated, so much less alone, and I waited until I was 40 years old before I opened my mouth about it. I feel like, I’m so glad that I did, I just wish I had done it sooner in my life. I guess this was just the right time to do it and you know, when you let the light flood into those dark places in yourself, you kind of create this space in yourself, you create this kind of bravery.”

Q. Do you find much difference between the large and the intimate shows, aside from the crowd size?

“Yeah, you know it’s funny, when I first started out, I had no confidence in my stagecraft. I just used to get on stage and stare at my feet and had a big red face the whole time, like I was embarrassed to be there. I guess I probably was, I was still probably questioning what I was doing and I didn’t really have any self belief. Then over time, over many, many gigs, many, many years, as the gigs started getting bigger the confidence kind of grew, that outer shell began to thicken a bit, and I was able to look at the crowd to begin with  and then interact with the crowd, and then cause a reaction in the crowd, go out there and try and make sure that everybody has a great night, make sure everybody has fun and get people singing along. Sometimes it happens naturally but other times it’s not a bad idea to start a sing-a-long, you know. Freddie Mercury showed the way on that one.

Towards the end of 2012 when we were finishing the last tour, I think I was a very good front man, and getting back into that has been an interesting thing. I sort of feel with the smaller shows, I was closing my eyes a lot, maybe feeling a little shy. The bigger shows; after the first few rows everything starts to blur a little bit; my eyesight is not that great at it, so you’re able to come out of yourself more and I think in the last few shows, I’ve really felt like my old self on stage again. We toured with U2 for many years, in 2005 and then in 2009, and ‘10 or ‘11, and I watched them every single night. I watched the two-hour set and it’s a masterclass.”

Q. Anything planned for the live shows?

“We don’t just turn up with our equipment and a couple of lights on the night and go ‘alright, well, where do you want us to set up these?’ We’re thinking about the visuals, we’re thinking about the staging, thinking about how the stage looks, we’re thinking about how everything is presented, we’re thinking about the lighting of course. We’ve got one of the best lighting directors in music – he’s won many awards – working with us. We call him ‘jock for life’. We’ve got some lovely, lovely little tricks up our sleeve and some things that we’re very excited to bringing out on this tour.

Underwater wonders

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Journey deep into the ocean with Blue Planet II – Live in Concert – a feast for your eyes and ears…

The wonders and mysteries of our oceans will once again be centre stage when Blue Planet II – Live in Concert comes to London’s O2 Arena offering a visual, audio and spectacular concert experience.

Due to popular demand, an additional matinee show has been added to the diary and Blue Planet II – Live in Concert will share showstopping moments from the BAFTA award-winning BBC One series.

The natural wonders of our blue planet will be highlighted in breath-taking detail, projected on to a giant 4k Ultra HD LED screen all to the accompaniment of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
The concert, which will be hosted by BBC presenter Anita Rani, will feature such memorable moments from the TV series as the crab and eel rock pool chase and the sea lion tuna hunt.

And Anita admits she can’t wait to part of it, she says: “The penny hasn’t quite dropped that I’m hosting it because I will be standing there in front of 12,000 people at The O2 and all the various arenas that we’re going to and holding the show together. It’s such an honour to be asked to do this show.”

To be precise, Blue Planet II was more than a show on TV she adds, calling it a moment of television history. “If you watched it, and loved it, then you cannot afford to miss this live tour because it’s a fully immersive experience.

“You’ll be able to see those iconic moments – surfing dolphins on a huge screen with an 80-piece live orchestra playing that incredible soundtrack by Hans Zimmer,” she enthuses.

But Blue Planet II goes further than even that, showing the power of TV and the way in which it changed people’s attitudes towards single-use plastic. Anita adds: “It made us aware of the damage we are doing to our beautiful planet and our oceans.”

During the filming of Blue Planet II, crews embarked on 125 expeditions, travelled to 39 countries and spent more than 6,000 hours of deep sea diving armed with the latest state-of-the-art equipment.

She is full of praise for the four years it took to film the show saying it “opened our eyes to an alien world”, adding: “It was the talking point for everybody at work the next day. It tells you something about humanity, it tells you something about our planet. It’s something that is embedded, it’s not like watching an entertainment show that is fun and entertaining, watching Blue Planet II hasn’t left me. Those scenes are with us forever.”

Join the voyage of discovery and enjoy an experience like no other with Blue Planet II – Live in Concert on Sunday, 17th March, at 3pm.

Education guide: Winter 2019

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School days are the happiest days of your life, right? Check out our education guide and find out how you can make them really top class including information on bird watching, how to choose the right school for you, adult education and work experience.

FLYING HIGH

As we enter a new year, Karen Neville teams up with the RSPB to encourage you and the schoolchildren in your family to spot local birds in your garden.

A staggering 6,764,475 birds were spotted during last year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, thanks in no small part to the thousands of schoolchildren who joined in. Youngsters spotted robins, starlings and blue tits among the millions recorded for the annual count.

And now it’s time to do it all over again to see which ones are thriving and which ones need your help to survive.

The house sparrow was the most common bird again in 2018, happy in both urban and suburban areas. Other birds flying high in the surveys included the goldfinch, long-tailed and coal tit while robins were down, largely due to the mild winter which made food more widely available in the countryside meaning the red-breasted bird didn’t have such a need to visit our gardens.

The birdwatch is 40 years old this year and has grown hugely since youngsters were given the opportunity to get involved in a simple winter activity.

From counting the birds in your garden to determine which are the UK’s top 10 most common species, the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has become one of the most participated in nature events across the country, enjoyed by young and old.

Only a few hundred children were expected to take part when it started in 1979, but thanks to Blue Peter, more than 34,000 surveys were completed and results gathered.

Now schools turn their classes into conservation zones and help track the ups and downs in bird numbers through a variety of fun activities before, during and after the Big Schools Birdwatch which helps youngsters develop an interest in wildlife and the world around them.

Simple survey sheets are a great way to get started, helping you to count the birds with colourful worksheets designed for three age groups – five to seven years, seven to 11 and 11 to 14-year-olds. Focussing on the most common birds likely to be seen, youngsters are invited to record how many of each one they see and to draw any not included as well as recording any unusual features noticed.

Why not feed the birds as you record them and perhaps even entice a few more into your garden or school grounds? The RSPB has a range of recipe ideas that you can make too – pastry maggots, pine cone lardy seed feeders and a suet and nut log are just some of the tasty treats to encourage feathered friends to feel at home!

Games are also a great way for pupils to learn about the birds around them and recognise them as they take part in the count – try matching pairs of pictures with a fun memory game or how about a “top trumps” game comparing your favourite feathered facts?

However you enjoy the Big Schools Birdwatch, your help is essential to ensure the birds in our gardens and school grounds are protected. The Big Garden Birdwatch takes place from 26th to 28th January and you can submit your findings until Friday, 22nd February.

  To take part visit www.rspb.org.uk 

HAPPY FAMILIES

Choosing a school or nursery for your child can be a case of heart versus head…

At The Royal School, we understand choosing the right school for your child will be one of the most important decisions you ever make.

It is a decision that you will take with your head, having completed all the necessary research, but we know that you will really take it with your heart, based on your knowledge of your child and of his or her particular needs at any given time in their education.

There are many factors that a parent needs to consider. When seeking a nursery for your two-year-old, questions around sleep routines, food, toilet training and managing tears and tantrums will be high on the agenda. When seeking a primary or prep school, you will have questions about curriculum, homework, pupil-teacher ratio, friendships, lunches and wrap around care.

When it comes to selecting a senior school, considerations relating to the curriculum, examination results, behaviour management, ethos, class size, extra-curricular provision and the school environment will be on your mind. And when you are looking for a sixth form, you will want to know about university destinations, examination success, opportunities for the development of life skills and careers education. The list goes on…

Here in the south east, parents are blessed with a wide range of excellent schools and nurseries from which to choose and the choice can sometimes feel rather overwhelming, especially when friends and family also add their opinion into the mix. In the end, the decision is easier than you would think. Take time to visit the schools and nurseries in the area. Look beyond the first impression of bricks and mortar – is there a purposeful buzz of activity? Do the children or young people look happy and engaged? Do the teachers appear passionate about their subject? Is the head teacher approachable?

Choosing a school or nursery is rather like choosing a family home; it can all seem incredibly complicated, but ultimately, it is the one that has the right feel that will be the right choice. This is very personal; one size does not fit all!

By Mrs A Lynch, principal of The Royal School and Mrs K Daunter, head of the Junior School.

ADULT LEARNING

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Here are some reasons why learning in later life is beneficial!

Yes, young brains are most adept at learning languages and skills, but the benefits of taking up a new skill after school age are many!

For those who are recently retired or considering a career change, a lack of direction can be demoralising. Embarking on an adult learning course and picking up new skills can be incredibly rewarding, and fun too.

Signing up to a new course, trying out a new sport, learning a new language or experimenting with a new instrument can boost . It’s important to step outside of your comfort zone from time to time and apply yourself to something completely new. Lifelong learning helps you to continually grow and develop as a person and it’s good for your mental ability if you’re always putting your mind to something new.

Adult education courses significantly benefit learners, a survey by the Workers’ Educational Association suggests. According to the survey of 2,000 adult learners, education boosts confidence about finding employment and benefits local communities.

Of course, we’re constantly told that physical exercise is important for keeping our bodies in good condition, but it’s just as important to keep your mind active, too. Taking in new information helps to stimulate your mind, and studies have proven that this can help to reduce a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

You’re never too old to learn, and with advances in technology making e-learning more accessible than ever, there are no excuses for not giving it a go.

   Visit www.wea.org.uk for more ideas and check out the University of the Third Age.

WORK EXPERIENCE

Don’t be shy of taking your first step into the workplace!

Work experience can be a daunting prospect when you’re in Year 10 and more interested in playing on the X-Box or the latest gossip. But it’s more important than just a week off lessons…

It’s a great way to find out whether a certain type of career is for you. You’ll get the chance to learn new skills, make contacts and experience what it’s like working a whole day.

But where do you begin? A good place to start is follow your passions. Try to do something you’re interested in – if, for example, you love animals, contact any zoos or animal sanctuaries. If being on stage or behind the scenes is your thing, try local theatres.

Once you have a general idea start checking out the businesses and companies in your area as well as speaking to your school careers adviser.

And don’t be disheartened if places you contact aren’t able to help; there are plenty of options. Some companies offer structured placements but competition can be tough so make sure you know what you want and how to ‘sell’ yourself. Many places will expect you to complete an application form too so double check your spelling and grammar when doing so.

Having gained a place, hopefully with your chosen employer, put your nerves aside – a tricky one – and remember to make contact ahead of your placement to confirm details such as times, dress code, what to wear etc and a bit of research on them doesn’t do any harm, either.

You’re now ready for your first proper day at work – make the most of it, you never know where it could lead…

Saving Sumatran orangutans

Liz Nicholls

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Lucy Radford of Abingdon charity Sumatran Orangutan Society explains more about the plight of and how to help this majestic endangered creature.

On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, lush rainforests are home to orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos. Hornbills fly over the treetops and troops of monkeys leap from branch to branch. The air is alive with the buzzing, shrieking and singing of thousands of animals, from minuscule insects to jungle giants. The rainforest is an amazing place to be, and it is vital for species such as the Sumatran orangutan, which is critically endangered in the wild. Tragically, Indonesia has the fastest deforestation rate in the world, and the threats facing species like the orangutan are intensifying.

Thousands of miles away in Abingdon, the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) works to reverse the fortunes of the orangutans, their forest homes, and the other animals living there. In collaboration with Indonesian NGOs, SOS takes a holistic approach to orangutan conservation. This means tackling the causes of deforestation, as well as trying to cure the symptoms.

Orangutan habitat is sometimes chipped away a few acres at a time by rural communities who grow crops where the forest used to be. In other cases, forests are cleared on an industrial scale. Of the crops grown on Sumatra, the most familiar to us in the UK is palm oil. Palm oil is found in a wide range of products, from cosmetics to chocolate bars, so the global demand is huge. Wildlife cannot survive in oil palm plantations – Sumatra has four times as much land cultivated with oil palms as there is habitat for orangutans.

Orangutans spend their lives in the trees, so protecting and restoring their forest habitat is crucial. SOS works with Indonesian non-Governmental organisations to protect Sumatra’s last forests and restore damaged ecosystems. The health and prosperity of the people of Sumatra are also linked to the fate of the forests, so SOS works closely with local communities to develop conservation projects including forest restoration, and sustainable livelihoods like organic farming that offer a real alternative to the destruction of forests. SOS also supports the only active orangutan rescue team in Sumatra. As well as evacuating orangutans from dangerous situations and releasing them into safe forests, they tackle the causes of human-orangutan conflict, providing training so rural communities can protect their crops without harming wildlife.

One of the simplest ways you can help is to become a voice for orangutans: follow SOS online and share their news. The choices you make when you shop can have a real impact – look out for sustainable palm oil on ingredients lists and check for the FSC symbol on anything derived from wood. You can also donate to support the work SOS is doing on the ground or set yourself a fundraising challenge to raise money and awareness.

 For more information visit www.orangutans-sos.org

Dancing: Witness the fitness

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Strictly star Ian Waite’s life was changed by the joy of dance and you can channel the same benefits thanks to FitSteps…

Best-known now for his previous appearances on Strictly Come Dancing, and more recently on It Takes Two with Zoe Ball, Ian grew up on the Whitley estate in south Reading.

Following his parents’ divorce when he was ten, friends suggested his dad try ballroom dancing as there were many single ladies there. He enjoyed himself, and soon enrolled Ian and his younger brother. Ian always had a competitive streak in what he did in sports such as badminton, and this he brought to competitive dancing and a new world opened up for him leading to him winning the European Championship aged 17. Now aged 47, Ian says he feels as fit as he has felt all his life. He says: “Dance is not only good for improving your physical self but remembering all the steps and moves keeps the brain active as well.”

Ian can testify to the physical side after touring with Oti Mobuse last year, and touring with Vincent Simone as The Ballroom Boys later this year. A few years ago, he teamed up with his former Strictly dance partner, Natalie Loew and swimmer Mark Foster to create FitSteps.

This is a dance workout combining the graceful steps of ballroom with the up-tempo steps of Latin to create fun-filled classes for all ages and abilities. “It’s so much fun that you don’t realise you’re getting fit!” adds Ian. He has many tales of people who have lost huge amounts of weight, including one who has lost almost four stone.

There are FitSteps classes across the UK including classes in Oxfordshire run by the friendly Debs. For more about her classes, please email deborahjanedavies@hotmail.co.uk or contact her on 07968 948007.

The “Joy of Dance” is something that completely changed Ian Waite’s life. Best-known now for his previous appearances on Strictly Come Dancing, and more recently on It Takes Two with Zoe Ball, Ian grew up on the Whitley estate in South Reading. Following his parents divorcing when he was ten, friends suggested his Dad try ballroom dancing as there were many single ladies there. He enjoyed himself, and soon enrolled Ian and his younger brother.

Ian always had a competitive streak in what he did in sports such as badminton, and this he brought to competitive dancing and a new world opened-up for him leading to him winning the European Championship aged seventeen. Now aged forty-seven Ian says he feels as fit as he has felt all his life, as he says; “Dance is not only good for improving your physical self but remembering all the steps and moves keeps the brain active as well”. Ian can testify to the physical side after touring with Oti Mobuse last year, and touring with Vincent Simone as “The Ballroom Boys” later this year.

A few years ago, he teamed up with his former Strictly dance partner, Natalie Loew and swimmer Mark Foster to create FitSteps. This is a dance workout combining the graceful steps of Ballroom with the up-tempo steps of Latin to create fun-filled classes where you don’t realise you are getting fit, Ian tells of one person who lost between around four stone.

For more information please go to www.fitsteps.co.uk.

Best of British: Political cartoons

Liz Nicholls

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Liz Nicholls reflects on a tumultuous year in world politics, thanks to Tim Benson and the talented cartoonists who have depicted 2018 in satirical pictures…

Few people might have relished the political drama served up throughout 2018… However, by way of positive spin, it has been a gift to cartoonists.

“It’s been fantastic!” exclaims Tim Benson, editor of Britain’s Best Political Cartoons and co-owner of The Political Cartoon Gallery & Café in London.

“Over the last six years you couldn’t have made up the world events… For a cartoonist, it’s been like a daily treat. And the characters; from Jeremy Corbyn to Jacob Rees Mogg, Boris Johnson to Kim Jong Un… so many subjects to have fun with! No one knows what’s going to happen next.”

We’re just kissing goodbye to 2018; a feverish year in which Brexit got serious, football fever, a UK heatwave and royal wedding mania gripped us all and Trump got transformed into a giant baby blimp (see above, by Peter Brookes of The Times)…

Times of political turmoil test the mettle of our nation’s cartoonists – the best in the world. “We’re very lucky in this country, because cartoonists have more freedom here than anywhere else, which is something to be proud of,” says Tim.

A historian with a particular interest in 20th century political history, Tim’s PhD was on Sir David Low’s relationship with Lord Beaverbrook, his editor at The Daily Express. He began collecting political caricatures and has written several titles on political cartoon art, a vital form of satire, from 19th century etcher James Gillray via wartime master Sir David Low to today’s top draw. As a die-hard fan of newspapers myself, it’s cheering to read that it is also a media that works best in print.

Tim rejoices in the art form, pointing out that, while cartoonists might be the “canaries in the mine” when it comes to budget cuts, it has survived the industrial revolution, print censorship and two world wars. “And we still have a culture of daily political cartooning in the broadsheet press: Evening Standard editor George Osborne recently reinvigorated his opinion pages by bringing back the political cartoon after a hiatus of 13 years.”

Along with his partner Julie Dangoor, Tim has bought, sold and exhibited original cartoon art for 15 years. Their gallery is the world’s only venue dedicated to original political cartoon art, ranging from The Guardian’s Steve Bell and The Daily Telegraph’s Bob Moran to yesteryear greats “Vicky” (Victor Weisz) and Carl Giles as well as original gag cartoons from Punch and Private Eye.

Tim has edited six Britain’s Best books, published by Random House. “It’s fabulous because I get to play God,” he tells me. “Selecting my favourites is hard because there are so many good cartoons. As for depicting people, David Low called them ‘tags of identity’ and politicians often play these up – Theresa May’s leopard print shoes, Howard Wilson choosing a pipe even though really he was a cigar man… To be in politics you need the hide of a rhinoceros but the higher up the greasy pole you go, the more vain you can get… When Steve Bell got wind David Cameron was really irked by being depicted with a condom on his head, it felt like winning the lottery. Cartoons are a wonderful in the ‘now’ but also, when you put them into context, become a kind of commentary.”

We have a copy of Britain’s Best Political Cartoons 2018 to give away! To enter, click here or visit our competitions page.

The Political Cartoon Gallery & Café, SW15 1JP www.original-political-cartoon.com

Vegan virtues: January recipes

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Star chef Dipna Anand shares some Punjabi-inspired vegan recipes to warm the cockles as we enter a new year.

alu gobi

(Prep: 10mins – Cooking: 20 mins – Serves: 4-5)

Not only extremely popular across India, alu gobi has also made its mark in Britain. It’s a customer favourite, enjoyed with a naan or a chapatti as a main meal or even a side dish. If you are looking for the perfect Punjabi vegetable dish which is quick and easy to prepare then look no further; it’s what I call simple food – hearty and tasty at the same time.

Ingredients:

6 tbsp vegetable oil, two finger green chillies, finely chopped, one medium onion, finely chopped, 1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste, 2 tomatoes, finely diced, 1 ½ tsp salt, 2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced into ½ inch cubes, 300ml water, 500g cauliflower florets, 2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp turmeric, ¾ tsp red chilli powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves, crushed

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a sauté pan for one minute.

2. Add the cumin seeds to the oil together with the green chilli and when the seeds begin to sizzle, add the chopped onions to the pan and cook for three or four minutes until the onions begin to colour.

3. Add ginger and garlic paste and cook for one minute before adding the turmeric, red chilli powder, diced tomato and salt and cook for one further minute.

4. Add the diced potatoes to the sauté pan with 150ml water, cover the pan and simmer on a low-medium heat for about eight to 10 minutes (mix occasionally).

5. Add the cauliflower florets to the sauté pan with the remaining 150ml of water, cover the pan and cook for nine or 10 minutes (mix occasionally, if more water is required in between and the alu gobi is drying out, add as needed).

6. When the cauliflower and potato are cooked, add the garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves and fresh coriander to the pan and cook for a final one or two minutes.

7. Garnish with finely chopped ginger juliennes and chopped coriander stalks.

BEGAN BHARTHA

(Prep: 10 mins, Cooking: 20 mins, Serves: 6-8)

This is my mum’s version of the dish and it’s packed full of flavour yet does not use that many spices. Some recipes use a lot more ingredients and spices and complicate the method, yet Mum’s way is simple and straightforward and the result is hearty and flavoursome!

Ingredients:

Two large aubergines (800g), 4 tbsp olive oil, two finger green chillies, finely chopped, one medium onion (finely sliced), 1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste, 3½ tomatoes, blanched, skinned and chopped 1 ½ tsp salt, 160g peas, frozen or tinned, 5 tbsp water, 2 tbsp fresh coriander (finely chopped) . Tadka (finishing touch!): ½ tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp coarse black pepper, 1 tsp turmeric powder, ¼ tsp white pepper powder ¾ tsp garam masala. Garnish suggestion: aubergine skin, rolled into tubes and roasted in the oven for 10 minutes

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.

2. Cut the aubergines in half, length-ways, lay them flesh-side up and roast on an oven tray for 45 minutes. Once cooked, let them cool.

3. Using a spoon scrape out the inside pulp of the aubergine avoiding scooping out any of the skin and put the pulp into a bowl.

4. Cut the stem from the skin and mix with the pulp, leave the aubergine pulp to one side and discard the aubergine skin or save for garnish.

5. In a sauté pan, heat the oil, add the green chilli, cumin and coarse black pepper and onions. Fry the onions until golden brown and almost caramelised, this should take about seven or eight minutes on a medium heat.

6. Add the ginger and garlic paste and cook for two minutes.

7. Add half the chopped tomatoes and cook for four or five minutes.

8. Add the salt, turmeric and white pepper powder and cook for a further three or four minutes.

9. Add the peas to the masala and cook for 4-5 minutes.

10. Add the aubergine pulp and stems to the masala sauce together with the remaining tomatoes and water and cook for eight to ten minutes.

11. Add the final touches of garam masala and fresh coriander and cook for a further two or three minutes.

12. Serve with a fluffy buttered chapatti, spread like pâté.

• Dipna Anand is the founder of London restaurant Dip in Brilliant – visit www.dipinbrilliant.com

Wishes in the Wind

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A Christmas story

© Chris Meredith

It was deep mid-winter. Snow lay on the ground and barely a bird could be seen in the clear, blue sky.

Children were wrapped up in their hats and coats, ice drops appearing on their noses. Dogs were bounding after snowballs thrown high into the air. Adults were building snowmen, laughing, and chatting to each other as they returned to the joys of their childhood.

Soon the light faded, and the adults, children and dogs slowly and tiredly made their way home.

Silence – until the wind came.

The wind had travelled from oceans far away to be here, gathering speed and ferocity and anger. Static objects only mildly interrupted it. The next objects it encountered were a group of trees that still had bedraggled leaves clinging on for dear life on them.

The wind smiled as it raced to blow the remaining leaves off the tree. A huge puff should do it. Breathing in deeply, the wind blew its cold, wintry breath over the leaves. And within seconds, every tree branch became bare.

The wind stopped a while to catch its breath. As it did so, it noticed a beautiful robin sitting on one of the bare branches. The robin smiled and said to the wind; “You’re a bit of a bully, aren’t you?”

The wind, taken aback, started to blow fiercely at the little robin, making him fall off the branch and onto the white ground below. The wind towered over the robin and glowered at him. The robin simply fluffed his feathers and hopped and danced in a circle in the snow, not showing an ounce of concern.

“There you are, said the robin. You ARE a bully!”

The anger of the wind dissipated and he started to sob gently.

“I am sorry little robin, I know of no other way to behave. It is in my nature to behave like this”,  he explained.

The robin hopped on one foot, then the other and was deep in thought.

“Would you like to change your nature wind, the one that is angry sometimes?” he said.

“I would love to”, wailed the wind, “but I just don’t know how.”

The robin beckoned the wind to pick him up which the wind gladly did, asking, “Take me to that cloud you can see high.”

The wind was intrigued and gently carried the robin to the cloud.

“The cloud is called the wishes cloud and inside this cloud you will find the Christmas wishes of some of our human friends from Cleeve Lodge Residential Home. To see them you must softly breathe on the cloud.”

The wind followed the robin’s instructions and the cloud parted as he breathed onto it. All at once there appeared the faces of Ken, Mary, Elsie, Gordon, Dot, Lilian, Sylvia, and Tom. “Now”, said robin,  “please take me back to the tree where you first met me and then you must go and make their wishes come true. Can you do that?”

The wind nodded and smiled as he swept the robin back to the tree in one huge breath.

“Good luck” said robin – “God’s speed to you.”

The wind turned and moved quickly above the land and hovered above Cleeve Lodge.

He could see Mary and Ken playing out in the fields, knee deep in snow and laughing. Elsie was wrapping up Christmas presents, Gordon and Dot were singing Christmas songs. While all the other residents were tucked up inside, snug and warm.

With a shake of his head the wind rushed over the fields where Ken and Mary were playing and then rushed into an open window at Cleeve Lodge. He tore around the house, brushing the heads of everyone he touched. The care assistants rushed to close the window, but the wind swept through it and was gone.

The wind had what he wanted. He had gathered all the memories of the residents and raced to the wishes cloud. Once there he blew the cloud with all his might and the residents’ Christmas memories tumbled from him and into the cloud of wishes.

Their memories were from distant Christmases past.

Lilian was cuddling a baby doll named Lilly who was enjoying being fed with pretend milk. Mary was kissing a toy panda and pushing it in a dolls pram. Philip was kicking an old leather football, Gordon was pushing a train around a track, Ken was playing a musical instrument while Tom had an array of plastic farm animals. They were children, they were happy and carefree. The whole of their life stretched before them.

The wishes cloud recreated the toys they were playing with. The wind blew them towards Cleeve Lodge and magically wrapped them in Christmas paper as he blew.

They tumbled from the sky, down the chimney and rested under the Christmas tree.

Christmas Day came, and the residents eagerly opened the mysterious presents under the tree. As each one was opened, a special memory of childhood was evoked. All the residents remembered with glee the happy, carefree life they had many moons ago.

Chris Meredith is a writer based in Windsor with a passion for poetry.

He conducts therapeutic poetry sessions at care homes in Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire sharing his love of the form at weekends since 2015.

His first anthology Words of My Life was published in 2014 and is available through Amazon.

Chris has recently launched a website featuring his work, please visit chris-meredith.co.uk

Show you care this Christmas

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On Monday, St Christopher’s Fellowship launched its Christmas fundraising appeal. They’re raising £20,000 to help make sure children in care and young care leavers don’t feel lonely this Christmas.

St Christopher’s is a charity based in Putney that aims to create brighter futures for children and young people. They do this by providing fostering, residential homes and support services where children and young people can feel safe and cared for.

Their appeal puts a spotlight on the issue of young people’s loneliness. Last month a nationwide survey revealed that 16 – 24 year olds are lonelier than any other age group. This is particularly the case for young care leavers who find themselves living on their own for the first time. Some don’t have a family they can call on for support when they need it, and they may find themselves facing the prospect of being on their own on Christmas Day.

But St Christopher’s want to change things. With your help, this Christmas can be special for children in care and young care leavers. Your donation could buy Christmas presents and Christmas lunch for a children’s home. Or it could buy a train ticket so that a young care leaver can be at their children’s home for Christmas, so they don’t spend the day alone.

A young person who lives at one of St Christopher’s 16+ homes said: “I don’t know where I would be without St Christopher’s? It is like a family.”

Support the appeal today at www.stchris.org.uk/christmas