things are not what they seem

A curious collection of events in the past 24h that struck as being linked by one thing only – that what one sees on the surface can often be very different from what is actually going on.

I woke to the familiar voices of the radio 4 Today presenters, discussing a forthcoming Panorama programme about an old peoples’ home. Apparently covert CCTV cameras had been installed after a relative of one of the residents had contacted the BBC. The snippet that I heard this morning reported that cameras had caught footage of a resident in their nineties being physically abused by one of the staff. Further camera footage apparently confirmed that this was not an isolated incident.

‘According to last year’s Adult Social Care Survey, one in three adults who are in residential care or receiving help at home fear abuse or physical harm — that’s about half a million people. Others complained they received so little food and drink that they believed their health could suffer. It was a damning testimony to patients’ perceptions of the £17 billion-a-year industry.’

Last night I heard another radio 4 piece, again only part of it (how much (mis?)information do we gain from half-heard or seen media articles?) – this time about residential centres for people with severe behavioural problems. The gist of the report was that there was massive overuse of antipsychotic drugs in this group of patients, to the extent that the drugs were being used as a chemical cosh.

“The Learning Disability Census presents a picture of some unacceptable practices. Over half the patients had been subject to at least one incident of restraint or seclusion, self-harming, an accident or physical assault in the three months prior to the census.

“Almost half of the patients had no discharge plan in place. The report will provide CQC with additional information to support our inspection activity of these services.”

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said: “People with learning disabilities or autism deserve the best possible care, so the widespread use of antipsychotics and restrictive practices is extremely concerning. This is intolerable and needs to change.

The report also touched on the fact that nearly half of the centres in the country were privately run and contracted out to the NHS, and that the cost to the NHS  across all centres was up to £4500, and occasionally even more.

We expect that people who are vulnerable because of age or illness will be cared for with dignity and compassion, wherever they live. There is often a response to scandals that blames the breakdown of the family for people being ill-treated in residential homes – quietly ignoring the extent of abuse that goes on behind the closed doors of families. Statistics suggest that almost 10% of the elderly population in the UK suffer from domestic abuse. Indeed things are not what they seem in these cases.


In football things are often not what they seem either. To the disinterested observer football may be about 22 men (women’s football may be gaining respect, but doesn’t figure for most of the general public) running around on a field for 90 minutes, and being paid ridiculous sums of money to do so. To the moderately interested the final score may appear to be the end of the matter. But for the enthusiast at this stage of the season – the final few weeks – virtually every game has potential ramifications that extend far beyond each individual 90 minutes. The merry-go-round of Premier League (and beyond) managers is reaching a crescendo following the sacking of Manchester United’s manager (David Moyes). Following the Champion’s League semi-finals over the past 24h, and the resulting outcome of an all Madrid final, speculation is rife. If Ancelotti (and Real Madrid) lose the final, will he be tempted to move to Man U? As Bayern Munich have been knocked out, will Pep Guardiola also be tempted to move. If the ‘safe’ contender for United, Dutch manager Van Gaal, is displaced by another more alluring manager, will he be persuaded to go to Tottenham? And if he does, will the chances of Southampton keeping Pochettino increase? And if Saints keep him, will Lallana, Lambert, Rodriguez and Shaw still be at St Mary’s next season?

The permutations and feverish speculation about all of this, and much more, occupy many sports journalists and many fans (and presumably the players and managers too!) Yet this is smoke and mirrors player par excellence, where things are almost never what they seem.


My mind drifted towards the topic of my writing today after going to watch another film. (I don’t usually go to the cinema twice in one week) – this time ‘Under the Skin’. I went with some misgivings as when I attempted to read the book a couple of years ago I decided that I was wasting my time and abandoned it.

I’m not going to review the film; suffice it to say that it was unusual! The last film that I saw Scarlett Johansson in was ‘Her’, the Spike Jonze film in which see is the voice of a computer operating system, so we hear her throughout the film but never see her. In ‘Under the Skin’ we see her throughout the film but almost never hear her. In fact as the film has minimal dialogue (but beautiful cinematography) it is very easy for the viewer to create multiple narratives. Not having read the book I was unaware of the ‘correct’ reading of the film, and was amused when my husband told me that he knew exactly what was going on from beginning to end. I could quite easily write several 5000 word essays interpreting what I saw. Definitely a case of things not being what they seem.

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