February Blog 2013


By Clive Lindley-Jones | February 5, 2013 12:45 pm

Greetings From Tokyo 東京

File:Skyscrapers of Shinjuku 2009 January.jpg

View of Shinjuku skyscrapers and Mount Fuji as seen from the Bunkyo Civic Center in Tokyo, January 2009, image by Morio and sourced from Wikipedia.org.

As the largest metropolitan area in the world, (32.5m) Tokyo takes some getting used to, even though it was my home for a year, forty years ago. After Seoul, (the second biggest world city, after Tokyo,) it will be good to be back in cycle-friendly Oxford where human scale still pervails. When you read this I should hopefully have been lecturing happily in these two cities and had some fun revising old haunts, making new friends and sharing my skills. I should be ready to get back to less hectic work in friendly old Oxford. Looking at this photo of Tokyo one has to wonder when it was taken, in my memory of the city, at least back then, it was very rare to be able to see much more than a grey pawl of smog let alone Mt. Fuji! I will report my findings in a later blog!

Lifestyle, social factors and survival after age 75

Another recent longitudinal study reported in the British Medical Journal identifies modifiable factors associated with longevity among adults aged 75 and older. This time, the the population was based around older people living on Kungsholmen, in Stockholm, Sweden. It is always nice to report on one of my favourite cities. Stockholm is no Tokyo, but rather a city blessed by its siting amongst so much water, half the city being built on islands so one is never far from a great big heart warming view of water; sun sparkling in the summer and perhaps thick ice you can play and walk on in the winter. Anyway back to the study. 1810 adults aged 75 or more participating in the Kungsholmen Project, with follow-up for 18 years between 1987-2005. In summary they found that;

Even after age 75 lifestyle behaviours such as not smoking and physical activity are associated with longer survival. A low risk profile can add five years to women’s lives and six years to men’s. These associations, although attenuated, were also present among the oldest old (≥85 years) and in people with chronic conditions.

When you are younger, five or six years may not seem so much, but if you are 85 plus, it can mean the difference between building and having a relationship with their grandchildren or not. This is something that might be treasured and remembered for a life-time and influence that child right up to their own grand-parenting role some 80 years on.

The researchers defined a low-risk profile as healthy lifestyle behaviours, taking part in 1 or more leisure activities, and having a rich or moderate social network. Other helpful factors seem to have been being female and having had higher education!

So get out there, keep active, don’t smoke,  learn something new and keep making new and good friends!

One Hundred Not Out: resilience and active ageing
Yvonne Roberts The Young Foundation

Baby Boomers

Over 65s are a net contributor to society amounting to between £30 billion and £40 billion a year because they pay tax, spend money that creates jobs, deliver billions of pounds of free care and contribute to charities and volunteering.

Broken down, over 65s pay £45 billion in taxes; they spend £64 billion on goods and services; they provide social care worth around £30 billion; they volunteer to the value of £10 billion and they donate £10 billion a year to charity.

This offsets the £136 billion cost of the older person’s share of the NHS, pensions and other welfare benefits.

The baby boomers are better off than their predecessors; they are better educated and they will work longer. So the net contribution to the economy and society is likely to rise to about £75 billion by 2030.

Prostate Cancer

Are you or do you know a man over 40? Perhaps this documentary on Prostate cancer and what to do and what not to do should be essential viewing for him?ANH-INTL FEATURE: Documentary on prostate cancer — essential viewing for all men over 40.

Book of the Month

“The human heart has a hidden want which science cannot supply.”

Sir William Osler M.D.

Why be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson OBE, scored a big hit with her first novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, in 1985. Written when she was only 25, ‘Oranges’ went on to win the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel, became an international best seller and an award-winning BBC television adaptation. More recently after I had written this review, BBC Imagine did a very good programme inspired by this book with Jeanette, worth seeing if you can.

This was a semi-autobiographical account of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents, who is meant to grow up to become a missionary, but instead she falls in love with a woman and all hell breaks loose in this dysfunctional and bizarre family.

Jeanette finally left home at sixteen, because she was in love with a woman. Her adopted mother Mrs. Winterson, the central, unhappy, and somewhat deranged key character, after the protagonist, in Oranges,’ suffered from some strange and damaging delusions and obsessions that she inflicted with casual cruelty on her adopted daughter.

The great Swiss Psychiatrist, Karl Jung, once said that he would, rather be whole than happy. Mrs. Winterson’s sad reversal of this was, why be happy when you could be normal, was the interrogative of provincial curtain twitchers across the ages. Guaranteed to kill the life and spirit in all but the strongest; Jeannette Winterson, certainly by the evidence of this book, was one of those with the strength to defy such a deadly injunction, and this is part of her tale to tell of her struggle to survive such damaging injunctions.

In this book, Winterson explores her journey through this tough and damaging upbringing in a, now hugely changed northern town, back in the 70’s when things were much as they had been for most of the century. Hard, cruel and, by our twenty first century standards, bizarre and strange, at least in the God-obsessed Winterson household. She suffered at the hands of her intolerant and fundamentalist mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the duster draw as she waits for Armageddon.

As it is astutely observed on the dust cover, this is fundamentally a story of a life’s work to find happiness. A book of stories, both of her strange and painful childhood, as well as her refuge in stories as she in her unschooled, intelligent, naivety, works her way through English Literature, A to Z in Accrington public library. This refuge in literature, combined with her obvious sharp intelligence, led to her escaping her unhappy childhood to read English at Oxford and a career as a successful novelist.

Compelling, horrific, both sad and amusing, this is an account of her struggles to find herself after this hard start into the world, her journey, through life, poetry and literature into her own madness and despair and out the other side as she searches for her birth mother, tries to makes sense of the pain of her childhood and put it in context so that she can go on to live a life worth living.

Always intensely readable, tough-minded astute and ultimately life affirming, this is a book you can start and finish in a day, making the journey with her, gaining from her incisive mining of her own life’s struggles and coming out wiser and better for the reading. Recommended.

And Finally…

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1 Comment

  1. […] readers of these occasional blogs will know that early  in 2013 I was in Korea examining and Lecturing to an impressive group of doctors keen on my specialist […]