Friday 29 August 2014

The Sun Shines East, The Sun Shines West

At the Ynys Môn Let's Get Physical! event today those attending had the opportunity to WALK A MILE cross-country with the aim of inspiring a new habit.

Bronwen Pritchard, a carer in Ynys Môn, explained: "We wanted to do something simple and with a clear message. WALK A MILE is about setting ourselves an achievable goal of getting outside and doing a short walk – which a lot of people can do on a regular basis.

"For us the campaign is about setting realistic goals which can lead to lasting lifestyle changes. WALK A MILE is just that: it’s something many people could fit into their day or week. We want everyone who can to WALK A MILE when they can! It’s the first step to a healthier life – and Ynys Môn is the ideal place when it comes to walking."

Heather Russell-Hughes, Hafal’s Practice Leader in Ynys Môn, said: "Like many other projects, we think that walking groups are one of the most enjoyable and accessible ways to promote exercise. As a part of the campaign we are starting a new walking group with the idea of eventually moving people onto established walking groups in their communities. And we also plan to provide indoor exercise at the project during the winter months for those who don’t want to brave the elements!"

To paraphrase:

Everything seems lovely
When you start to roam
But here's what you'll be sayin'
When you are far from home...
For one of your smiles

...okay, it needs some work.

Friday 22 August 2014

Real Caviar

I drove up last night so I could meet the campervan - and friends and colleagues from across North Wales - when Let's Get Physical! reached Colwyn Bay today for a fantastic event which included walks along the promenade, Tai Chi sessions and healthy eating demonstrations.

Today's event is just a highlight in an ongoing programme of Let's Get Physical! activities in Conwy, one of which is a monthly 'Around the World' meal.

Andy Dawson, a Hafal service user at Colwyn Bay, tells us: "The Around the World events are a really worthwhile and pleasurable addition to the activities calendar, not only for the company and the camaraderie but also for experimenting with food and learning new cookery skills. We really get into the swing of whichever theme the meal is related to by preparing music: for example, Reggae for for the Caribbean or James Bond music for 'Bond Night' (which includes real caviar and optional fancy dress!).

"There's a lot of talk about eating more healthily but we want to think about making our food more adventurous and appetising as well, putting healthy ingredients to good use and with a vegetarian option for every meal."

Visitors at today's event got the opportunity to make fresh smoothies and tortilla wraps. Communities First demonstrated how to make cheap and simple meals which are both nutritious and delicious, and a dietician from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board was on hand to share useful tips.

Advice and information was available from a range of organisations including:

• Stop Smoking Wales
• Exercise by Referral
• FareShare Food Coop
• Specsavers
• Mental Health Foundation.

Diverse Cymru provided advice and information on BME mental health and advocacy, and how physical wellbeing can lead to better mental health; Bipolar UK provided advice and information on bipolar disorder and local services. Visitors also had the opportunity to get free health checks in the mobile health centre.

Hafal Practice Leader Phil said: "We'll be continuing the theme of Let's Get Physical! throughout the summer by running weekly coastal walks and hikes, Tai Chi sessions and healthy eating barbecues. We see the promotion of physical health as a key part of our service - and one of the main ways that people can benefit from being a part of Hafal."

Let's Get Physical! sets a challenge – both to service users and carers, and to service providers and policy makers – to radically improve the physical health of people with a mental illness and their carers. The campaign is supported by mental health charities Hafal, Bipolar UK and the Mental Health Foundation; Diverse Cymru helps to ensure the campaign reaches out to minority and disadvantaged communities. The campaign was launched by Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM in May and includes 22 events covering all the counties of Wales.

Friday 15 August 2014

Mood Foods

David Hanson MP tries to make off with the VW

Let's Get Physical! reached Flintshire today at an event in Aston Park Community Centre where visitors had the opportunity to pick up a copy of Hafal Flintshire Carers' Cook Book.

June Davies, a carer from Flintshire, said: "We've got so many good cooks here that we decided that we wanted to share our recipes. So we had the idea of publishing our own recipe book.

"The book includes healthy and nutritious recipes which we have tried and tested. It has really made us look at what we eat, the ingredients we use, how we source our food and how much it costs. We hope the book will inspire service users, carers and anyone else to eat more healthily and to experiment with their cooking."

The new book includes a recipe from the MP for Delyn, David Hanson, and is published by Double Click - a design and printing business which supports and provides training/work opportunities for people in the community with a mental illness.

Visitors at today's Let's Get Physical! event also had the opportunity to get key health checks in the Mobile Health Centre; take part in self-defence exercises, Tai Chi and a walk; and sample mood foods and healthy bites.

Janet Fletcher, Hafal's Acute Family Support Coordinator in Flintshire, said: "This year's campaign has really got us motivated: there are loads of ongoing activities following today's event. We're partnering with Flintshire County Council's Sports Development section to run a monthly carers' walk which will involve training some of the carers to be walk leaders.

"We're also running Tai Chi sessions and monthly ten-pin bowling groups. Throughout the summer we'll also be inviting primary care-related speakers to our partnership meetings including a dental hygienist. So we're definitely looking at the big picture!"

Let's Get Physical! sets a challenge – both to service users and careers, and to service providers and policy makers – to radically improve the physical health of people with a mental illness and their careers.

The campaign is supported by mental health charities Hafal, Bipolar UK and the Mental Health Foundation; Diverse Cymru helps to ensure the campaign reaches out to minority and disadvantaged communities. The campaign was launched by Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM in May and includes 22 county events covering all Wales.

Monday 11 August 2014

Joint Working

Hampshire County Lunatic Asylum, later Knowle Hospital

The former psychiatric hospital estate has been used for many interesting purposes, not least super-luxury apartments (see the fancy flats at the former Knowle Hospital in my picture above).

But it must be a first to turn a disused psychiatric hospital ward into a cannabis factory as has happened at Whitchurch Hospital in Cardiff - see the story here. And before the hospital has actually closed its doors.

Apparently the villains had tapped into the Health Board's electricity supply to create the intense light and heat required.

My experience of mental hospitals is that they are often kept much too warm and stuffy, like wards for people who are physically fragile, which is inappropriate and encourages passivity.

So the leccy bills probably didn't go up.

Friday 8 August 2014

Denbighshire Diggers

Let’s Get Physical! reached Denbighshire today where the campaign has inspired service users and carers to start their own vegetable plot.

"You can’t beat home-grown veg – it’s fresh and it tastes better because you’ve grown it yourself," says Lauren.

"There’s something therapeutic about growing your own vegetables: it absorbs you and you get to see the vegetables grow and flourish. Plus you get some exercise into the bargain, you grow really healthy and nutritious food and you save quite a bit of money on your shopping.

"We’re trying to prove that growing veg is something that anyone can do, even if it’s just a few essentials like potatoes, carrots and tomatoes. What’s really nice is that we’re doing it in partnership with Barnardo’s, so we are also using it as a way to make links with the community and grow friendships."

Today’s event took place at Hafal’s Bryn y Wal project; activities and stands included:-

• Bootcamp taster sessions
• Golf taster sessions
• Football obstacle course
• Healthy eating advice
• Information on Rural Regeneration (Food Co-operative)
• Advice on giving up smoking
• Table tennis
• Mobile Health Centre health checks.

Hafal Denbighshire Practice Leader Nina said: "In addition to the new vegetable plot we are also getting some chickens so that we can have our own freshly-laid eggs. It’s about encouraging each other to take an active part in producing our own food – and about making our diet healthy and nutritious. We’re also running a weekly Meal Challenge which gets people to share healthy recipes they have prepared, plus we’re running walking groups and promoting access to exercise groups in the community."

Another excellent example of making physical health fun and sociable, combining diet, exercise and those health checks!


Roman Geezer

Maiden Castle: doesn't make any sense, does it?

I am interested in the news (link here) that the National Trust has acquired another hill-fort in Dorset - well, I'm not that interested in the news but rather in the BBC's explanation of what a hill-fort is which they say they got from the British Museum, who ought to know.

But they evidently don't know. We are told "some provided secure living space for large numbers of people, whereas others may have been empty refuges or used for religious ceremonies and celebrations". In other words they haven't a clue what our early Welsh ancestors were up to building these colossal monuments.

It is one of those things which we take for granted and we vaguely accept the glib explanations of historians. But actually why is there a hill-fort every few hundred yards as you walk around the Pembrokeshire coast, with sufficient space to hold many times the present population? And why the multiple concentric rings instead of one great big wall like everybody else builds a castle?

If you study the matter you find that the experts are all over the place, some even suggesting they were really for keeping animals rather than defensive which is clearly ludicrous.

Like many budding classicists I was brought up on the story of the siege of Maiden Castle by the Romans. But this turns out to be pure fiction dreamt up by the famous archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler.

I think the archaeologists are making too much of their own specialism and we are better served going to the literary sources. Julius Caesar did his fair share of attacking hill-forts and in his own account of the Gallic wars he always refers to them as oppida (townships). I buy that, and with it the necessary conclusion that the population of Celtic Europe was far larger, and far more sophisticated, than presently thought.

Pembrokeshire for example must have been intensively farmed by substantial communities larger than the present villages, very close to each other (typically they would have been able to see several other townships from the vantage of their own) and with the people going back into their townships at night.

This still doesn't explain the multiple walls but I'll have to think about that.


Caesar is especially reviled by schoolchildren studying Latin because he is invariably the first author you encounter - he wrote in a simple and uncomplicated style as you might expect of a soldier and suited to beginners.

We also hated him because he was so spectacularly self-centred, taking credit for everything that went right and blaming his lieutenants when they went wrong; and ridiculously he thought he could get away with this by writing about himself in the third person. But we got his number...

Julius Caesar
Roman Geezer
Squashed his face in a lemon squeezer

Thursday 7 August 2014

Slightly Spooky

Have you seen the Holy Grail? If so ring West Mercia Police

An update on my last post...

Yesterday I left work at five to pick up Mrs Blog at Carmarthen Tesco's where among other stuff she had bought a crate of value-brand ("every little helps") bubble bath which is a morning treat before my Let's Get Physical! healthy breakfast (options - all at about 200 calories - are: a big spoon of baked beans on toast; two fish fingers on toast; egg on toast; two pieces of toast with Marmite; porridge; or two slices of grilled Lidl Bavarian ham - we call it "facon" as it is a good low-fat bacon substitute - on toast).

I arrived to find her a little dazed as moments before the Unknown Saint Of Cenarth had walked up to her and asked if we had got home safely. Yes thank you, she said, and he went on his way. Slightly spooky, although I guess Carmarthen Tesco's is probably the nearest big supermarket to Cenarth.

Also slightly spooky is the story of yesterday's police raid on a Herefordshire pub in search of the Holy Grail which, as everybody knows, used to reside in Wales having been brought over by Joseph of Arimathea.

They found a salad bowl (full story here). Let's hope they find the real thing soon before it is acquired by a sect of neo-Nazi spiritualists who harness its powers for evil purposes?

Sunday 3 August 2014

The Unknown Saint Of Cenarth

Q: Where does this path lead?

A: Down to the high tide version of the low tide picture at the head of my Blog (at the moment - it will change!)

Yes, I have enjoyed Sunday lunch at my Mum's with an old friend of the family. Most enjoyable and I found time for the walk illustrated above.

The Cardi in me noticed some drain pipe remnants in Mum's back yard - could they save me money fixing a land drain issue in Mrs Blog's garden? I measure them - probably not, they are 4 inch not 6 inch pipes. Ho hum.

This momentary breach of sabbatarian probity is punished an hour later. On the way home I get a puncture and pull into the White Hart pub car-park in Cenarth.

Panic. I don't even know where the spare is hidden! But I patiently read the manual and locate it strapped under the boot.

Feeling rather pleased I exhibit maximum Zen calmness, find all the kit, and work out what I have to do (Mrs B has no faith in me but I persist confidently).

But I fail. The nuts on the wheel will not budge.

At this point anti-sabbatarianism comes to my aid because the pub is open (it wouldn't have been a few years ago) and within it I find a saint who spends the next two hours helping me.

He too can't do it with the pathetic kit supplied and goes back to his farm to fetch a cross-wrench - he is held up by a herd of cows so takes ages.

But it too won't budge the nuts.

We both set off on foot to find something to help - he finds a bit of a tourist's caravan's TV aerial which might do it (I am tempted) but I find a scaffolding pipe which we put over the cross-wrench to create a 5 foot lever (clever, eh?) and together we finally loosen the bolts.

Then we find the spare is flat (possibly a criminal offence on my part? If you even ask the question the answer will be yes).

The patient saint drives me a long way to a garage and we blow up the spare and drive back and put it on.

Meanwhile Mrs B slightly offends the saint by asking him (to my horror) how long he has lived in the area. He says all his life.

This is an interesting lesson about local Welsh accents. Mrs B was brought up in the same county for heavens sake but admittedly at the other end of Carmarthenshire - but she swears he sounded alien to her ("surely some kind of Gog?").

But the saint puts up with all this to complete the job.

At this point you might agree with me that there is a potential embarrassment. I choose, I think quite well judged, to say:

"Look, you might take offence if I ask but is there anything I might pay or do for your trouble?"

Brilliantly the saint doesn't want anything, doesn't take offence, but laughs happily, waves his hand, and disappears into the pub again, unwilling even to hear our profuse thanks - so he is even unwilling to embarrass us because it would embarrass him.

We agree as we drive home that actually many people - maybe even most people? - would have helped like that.

No less credit to the saint but what a fantastic reminder of that great decency which surrounds us all.

Truly the bad people are a minority and, I swear and often argue with my friends, they have the worst deal - we can all see the high-profile nasty exceptions but even they are, I think, probably not happy.

This matters professionally too. In advancing the cause of people with a mental illness we should not make the mistake of thinking that most people's first instinct will be other than friendly and supportive.

Friday 1 August 2014

Fruit Kebabs

The Let’s Get Physical! campaign went into top gear today when service users and carers took part in a badminton marathon at our event in Hafal’s WOTS project, Wrexham.

Sharon Bryan, a service user from Wrexham, said: "We wanted to do a badminton marathon because almost anyone can play and it’s really fast and fun, great for the responses and coordination. And because it’s a cardio exercise it’s good for fitness.

"There’s a community aspect to badminton, too: if you join a club it really improves your social life. There are clubs across Wales. Cost may be an issue for some people as joining a club can be quite expensive, but you can always take part in pay-and-play sessions and equipment isn’t as expensive as other sports."

At today’s event visitors also had the opportunity to have health checks in the Mobile Health Centre, enjoy fruit kebabs supplied by the local CMHT and take part in a drumming session.

Hafal Practice Leader Karen Edwards said: "We’re continuing to Get Physical! throughout the summer and beyond with our new WOTS this Step walking club. We’ll be wearing our Let’s Get Physical! pedometers to monitor how far we go. Hopefully we’ll rack up millions of steps as the club progresses!

"With the walking club we wanted to provide an example of service users and carers creating opportunities for physical activities themselves in a specialist mental health service. But the badminton is a perfect example of how service users and carers can access general services in the community to improve their physical health."

Our Wrexham clients and staff have got this exactly right by working on two fronts - and watch out for our final report from the campaign which will include a guide for all mental health services showing how to promote physical health both within their service and by helping clients engage outside their service in non-mental-health facilities.

Both approaches are vital and Karen and company, not for the first time, are showing the way!