Thursday, 25 October 2018

The Pension Problem

Today I learnt about WASPI. If, like me, you don't know what it means, here is the link
Women Against State Pension Equalities. I was interested, because I am a woman who was born in the 1950s.
For the record, unlike many of my contemporaries, I am in favour of the pension reforms in principle. There is no logical reason why, in the long-term, women should receive their state pensions earlier than men. Furthermore, as we are living longer (we hope), the pension pot needs to stretch further. It makes sense for both men and women to wait a few more years for their pensions.
But before all you pensionless female baby boomers throw a missile at my blog page, please read on.
I do admit there is also a problem, which is this.....
No one told us in good time that the change would happen. We weren't warned long enough in advance to prepare. I spent most of my working life, believing that my state pension would drop into my bank account when I reached the age of 60, but now it won't actually arrive until I am 66.
I am one of the lucky ones. I have an occupational pension in my own right, which has allowed me to retire. This is just as well, because I have a husband with considerable health needs, who needs ongoing practical help. I was able to retire before reaching the state pension age in order to support him. Not all women of my age can make that choice. Many decided to set aside their occupational pension rights in order to focus on the massively important role of bringing up a family. They contributed to society, but now their state pension has been delayed. Some are really struggling financially, and I feel for them.
So whilst I am not complaining about my own situation, I admit, it was a blow to learn that my state pension would be held back for 6 years.
Now a petition has arisen from the BACKTO60  movement which seeks a return to the pension age of 60 for the women of my decade. You can learn more about it here.
I do have a problem signing it, because, if accepted, the reform would apparently cost billions of tax payers money, but I would nevertheless like the government to rethink the issue. Jumping our pension ages from 60 to at least 65 without a few more transition arrangements to soften the financial blow was bound to plunge a proportion of my generation into poverty. We planned for our future with one set of regulations in mind, and then became losers because the government changed the rules without adequate warning. Imagine the outcry, if FIFA extended the length of a football match without telling the players well in advance.  Millions of football supporters would be outraged. But unless you are a 60 something pensionless female, (or her dependent) I doubt the pension problem will keep you awake at night. We are not an especially high profile group.
So if you happen to notice a lady of a certain age, debating whether she can afford to turn on the heating, mention the words 'state pension', and see if you get a reaction.

To find out more about Claire Baldry go to

Simply Modern Life
Different Genes

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Can Writers Change the World?

Today I have chosen to include some of my own thoughts in the Blog Tour for 'Simply Modern Life'. I am using this opportunity to reflect on just how important the writing of poetry and fiction is for every civilised society. 

Can Imaginative Writing Change the World?
Imagination is the ability to think ourselves into a situation or emotional state which is not our own. It is an essential tool for authors of fiction or poetry. They must, of course, also demonstrate the capacity to communicate their imaginings in writing.
Imagination is indeed so powerful that in 380 BC Greek philosopher, Plato, banned all poetry from his fictional republic claiming that it was dangerous.  Plato lived at a time when poetry was the main form of fiction, and was often used to manipulate human thoughts in a way that tabloid journalism sometimes does today. I understand his reasoning, but I fundamentally disagree with Plato’s point of view. Imaginative writing, both poetry and prose, is one of the most powerful gifts available to change human society for the better. 
Used well, imagination transports us into magical worlds which lift our spirits. It also allows us to visualise the consequences of our intended actions, before we cause chaos. There are numerous examples in, say, the development of medicines, where a scientist has had the imagination to take an accidental discovery, and use his or her imagination to envisage life changing consequences. Without imagination there would be no anti-biotics.
Immersing ourselves in stories and poems is a fundamental route to lifelong creativity. The dangers of a school curriculum  which seems to value ‘the basics’ more than imagination and emotional well-being cannot be overstated. We risk producing a generation of young adults who suffer disproportionately from stress with an impaired ability to ‘think through’ their ideas.
You only have to look at recent mistakes made by politicians from all political persuasions to see the unintended outcomes which can arise from a lack of imagination. Examples are everywhere, from re-organisation of benefits causing poverty to lack of regulation of social media which allows online hate and criminal activity. Of course, everyone makes mistakes, but a succession of governments seem to have caused more problems than they have solved through a desire to be seen to be seen doing good, but the inability to stop and fully imagine the consequences of their actions.

We must never underestimate the power of reading and writing fiction and poetry. It stretches our imaginative processes with a workout worthy of the Olympic Games.

I really do believe that writers have the ability to change the world. 

Claire Baldry’s booklet of poetry ‘Simply Modern Life’ was published by Matador on 28th August 2018

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Books For Older Readers: Newsletter Three

Books For Older Readers: Newsletter Three
A Birthday Celebration
Yes, ‘Books For Older Readers' is one year old this week.
With over 400 members in our facebook group, and more than 15,000 hits on the website, combined with appearances on BBC Radio London and numerous podcasts and blogs, I think we can claim a successful first year. Several of our authors have achieved impressive new publishing deals, and I frequently get messages from readers saying how grateful they are to have found our selection of books on the website.

On 1st Sept we manned our first BFOR stall at the Hastings LItfest.

We made many useful contacts and gained a substantial number of new subscribers to our newsletter.
For those of you beginning to plan your Christmas shopping, our ‘Festive Titles’ page has now reappeared on the website. It has loads of great Christmassy titles which make excellent gifts or holiday reading. This is the link

Which brings me to our BIRTHDAY GIVEAWAY. 
We have a massive bundle of six titles to send to one lucky subscriber to our newsletter.
Keep them for yourself, or send them to friends as Christmas gifts. There is something for everyone including a large print hardback book from Joan Moules, a Christmas favourite from Paula Harmon called the Advent Calendar, and more titles from BFOR favourites, Voinks and Claire Baldry. Every subscriber to our newsletter will be entered in to the draw so, if you haven't already done so, sign up before 30th November 2018 for your chance to win.
The name will be drawn in early December in plenty of time for Christmas.

I can't help but feel that our progress this year is neatly summed up by the tag line in Paula's book.

This time last year we opened a new door, and we are still making discoveries.
We would like to thank all our followers and subscribers for their support during our first year.