SARAH VINE: A touch of love that can make life worth living

SARAH VINE: A touch of love that can make life worth living

Many years ago, when my grandmother moved from her terrace house in Mumbles to a care home, I rang up and, with the arrogance of youth, suggested making a royal visit.

There was a pause at the end of the line and then she said: ‘Oh no, my bach, don’t bother yourself. I’m fine.’ I insisted. She demurred: I wasn’t to trouble myself.

We went back and forth until she gave the real reason: the residents were having a bowls tournament (she was a regional champion in her day). In other words, she had plans of her own.

The young tend to assume old people exist only through the prism of their own lives. That all granny does is sit waiting for a phone call or a visit to brighten her meaningless existence.

This is patronising nonsense. In reality, most people I know over 70 — including my own parents — live incredibly rich, fulfilling lives.

That’s not to say older people don’t want to spend time with their children. They just have lives of their own.

But Covid has changed all that. Not only are those who live in care homes restricted in what they can do, they are also being separated from their families at a time when they need the reassurance of contact from their loved ones.

All this has taken away so much of what they enjoy in life — and what keeps them young at heart.

Too many care homes, despite the often heroic efforts of staff, seem to have become quasi prison camps during the pandemic.

It is here that we are seeing the worst effects of the restrictions designed to stop the spread of the virus. Deprived of outings and activities, and forbidden from receiving visitors, residents who previously thrived in their care environment have begun to deteriorate with alarming speed.

As the Mail has reported as part of our campaign to reunite families in time for Christmas, there are countless stories of individuals whose quality of life has become so poor they are, quite literally, losing the will to live.

And in many cases it is the very measures designed to protect them that are causing the most anguish. For those with even mild dementia, or other age-related impairments, having to communicate with their loved ones from behind a screen or a face mask is distressing and confusing.

As the Mail has reported as part of our campaign to reunite families in time for Christmas, there are countless stories of individuals whose quality of life has become so poor they are, quite literally, losing the will to live 

The same is true not just for the elderly, but for those with learning difficulties. They need that human touch, that squeeze of the hand. Because even if their minds don’t understand what’s going on, their bodies do. That sensory engagement is key in these situations.

I remember how a friend of mine, who had a very disabled child, used to gently tap on his forehead before cleaning his teeth. He was deaf, and had no verbal communication, but that one simple gesture both reassured him and let him know what was coming.

That contact, that touch, was a vital part of his day-to-day care. It was how he knew he was loved.

A Covid test now exists that can provide a reliable result within 15 minutes. It should be possible for a relative to turn up at a care home, have a test on site, isolate until the result comes back — and then spend quality time with their loved one, safe in the knowledge that they won’t infect them.

Because it is not enough just to preserve a life. You also have to make it worth living. 

Oh, do jog off! 

Is there any species more entitled than the lockdown jogger? Walking with my son to school the other day, a young woman came huffing and puffing towards us on the pavement.

Before I’d had a chance to get out of her way, she yelled ‘Move!’, before barging past. 

Is there any species more entitled than the lockdown jogger? Walking with my son to school the other day, a young woman came huffing and puffing towards us on the pavement

I turned to remonstrate, but she just ran on, a look of smug superiority on her face. 

Listen, love, a bouncy ponytail and tight calves don’t mean you own the pavement, OK? And, while we’re at it, why don’t these people wear masks? 

Given what we know about how the virus travels, surely it would make sense. Not to mention hide the irritating smirk on that rude woman’s face.

Fiona Shackleton, divorce lawyer to the stars, recently told an interviewer that ‘women are like leaseholds, depreciating assets, and men are like freeholds — and appreciate’. So much for the sisterhood, eh? 

That’s stretching it a bit, Jane 

Evergreen Jane Seymour said she was left ‘raging’ after the makers of her new television series refused to let her play the 25-year-old version of her character, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

‘It’s something I really don’t understand at all,’ she said, ‘because believe it or not, and you can see on Instagram, they don’t even need to do the facial stuff on me. It works just fine.’

Of course, Seymour, 69, is right that she looks fabulous — but surely even she can see that playing a woman almost half a century younger is a bit of a stretch.

Unless, you’re Cher, of course, who is pretty stretched already.

Evergreen Jane Seymour said she was left ‘raging’ after the makers of her new television series refused to let her play the 25-year-old version of her character, Eleanor of Aquitaine

Some people have been a bit dismissive about the notion of ‘long Covid’. But I would advise caution.

When I had swine flu in 2009 aged 42, the virus was horrible — chest pains, high temperature, shortness of breath, vomiting — but relatively short-lived.

Almost worse was the aftermath: tonsils that became infected; hair loss; chronic fatigue; brain fug; depression; and persistent bronchial pneumonia that took almost two years of monster antibiotics to clear up. 

I was ill so often that my son, who was four at the time, told me recently that he and his sister thought I was an invalid.

There are so many conspiracies surrounding this new virus; but one thing I do know is that post-viral syndrome is real.

I don’t think we’ve been nearly rude enough about that Mary Wollstonecraft statue. After the hoo-ha over it last week, I went to see it for myself. 

I half-expected it to work in real life. Nope. If anything, it’s worse — like a bucket of melted tin foil with a Barbie stuck on top. Except Barbie has more dignity and gravitas than this thing ever will.

If the Prime Minister’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, were a man, no one would bat an eyelid at the idea of her having the occasional opinion.

Indeed, she would probably be respected for it.

If the Prime Minister’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, were a man, no one would bat an eyelid at the idea of her having the occasional opinion

But because she’s a woman, she is immediately cast as a Lady Macbeth, meddling unwisely in the affairs of men.

Seriously, guys: how many more centuries do we have to put up with such nonsense before this lazy trope is put to rest?

The new series of The Crown portrays Diana as some sort of aristocratic Cinderella, while Camilla is cast as the Wicked Stepmother and both Ugly Sisters rolled into one. 

Now we know why Netflix paid Prince Harry all that money to work for them: he’s clearly moonlighting as a script consultant. 

It’s only halfway through November, and already the Christmas adverts are getting on my nerves. With one exception: John Lewis. 

And that’s because it’s sung by the wonderful Celeste Waite (known simply as Celeste) who, if Covid hadn’t happened, would probably be as big as Adele by now.

It’s only halfway through November, and already the Christmas adverts are getting on my nerves. With one exception: John Lewis

 This strikingly talented young woman has a voice that echoes all the greats, yet carries its own distinctive individuality. 

She makes the kind of music you can really lose yourself in. And goodness knows we could all use a bit of that these days. 

The BBC, in its infinite wokeness, has replaced the word fisherman with ‘fisherpeople’. Fisherpeople?! 

It sounds like some terrible 1970s prog-rock band, probably involving jazz flute and dodgy leather breeches. 

Look, Auntie, as a female of the species, I’m happy with ‘fisherman’. As for the fish… they won’t get in a flap either way. 

You’ve probably never have heard of ‘Mondelez International’, but have likely sampled their produce (they own brands such as Cadbury Dairy Milk and Toblerone).

Anyway, they’ve coined a new verb: ‘humaning’, which ‘is a unique, consumer-centric approach to marketing that creates real, human connections with purpose’. One of their brands is called Barni. Barmy, more like. 

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