One often cited description that Mandelbrot published to describe geometric fractals is “a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole”;[2] this is generally helpful but limited. Authorities disagree on the exact definition of fractal, but most usually elaborate on the basic ideas of self-similarity and an unusual relationship with the space a fractal is embedded in.[2][3][4] [6][29] One point agreed on is that fractal patterns are characterized by fractal dimensions, but whereas these numbers quantify complexity (i.e., changing detail with changing scale), they neither uniquely describe nor specify details of how to construct particular fractal patterns.


Leeched like lime from this soil

The grains of me are gone


And falling away


Numbers swirl and tumble

Names all interchange

Heads of friends are hooded

Keys each night re-cut


In 66 we went to Spain you told me

The year before Charlene was born

Our wedding day was cloudy

Some song suggested



Am I portable?

Is there a jar somewhere to catch what is left?

Or do these memories become minerals

Feeding some darker place?


Hold me softly my love

For I am leaving

Alzheimers, drugs, and a song of hope…

Sometimes I weep at what we are, and what we become.

The very heart of who we are, and the meaning we bring to our time spent in this fragile human tent- nothing brings this home more to us than becoming old. Facing the certainty of death.

We live in an aging population. I spend a lot of my time now chairing conferences where consideration is being given to the use of the Scottish Adults With Incapacity Act to enable the on going care of people who no longer have the capacity to make decisions for themselves. Most of these conferences relate to people who are older, and have a diagnosis of some form of dementia.

A news article last week brought me up sharp.It concerned a report

The medical care that we provide our oldest and most vulnerable people with at the end of their lives is killing around 1800 people a year.

Psychiatric drug prescribed to moderate behaviour and agitation kills people.

Only around 36,000 of the 180,000 people currently on the drugs in the UK are getting any benefit from them, the report said, leaving 144,000 people taking them unnecessarily.

This story was slipped into the pool of news with barely a ripple. No outcry. No calls for investigation.  No heads on the chopping block. Just move on to another story… more celebrity drivel, or a bit of political scandal about a moat and a dodgy expenses claim.

How we look after our older people with dignity and compassion is one of the greatest challenges facing our generation in this country. Numbers of people  experiencing dementia are set to double in the next 20 years. The percentage of the population of some towns (particularly seaside towns like mine) who have this difficulty will be very difficult for services to provide adequate care for.

At the same time, most health and social care budgets are already overspent, and likely to experience cuts in real terms.

I watched this film today, hence the reference to tears at the beginning of this post.

It is a beautiful film, full of tender care, hope and yearning, along with such sadness and loss.

And running through the middle of it all is music- the art that gives our lives meaning, even when almost all other things have been stripped away…


Vodpod videos no longer available.

Margaret Thatcher and Elvis Costello

news-graphics-2008-_661518a.jpg (JPEG Image, 350×330 pixels)

Margaret Thatcher’s daughter Carol has recently written movingly about her mother’s advancing Alzheimers Disease. THere was an interesting debate on the radio this evening concerning whether Carol should have revealed these intimate details of her mothers dementia, as her mother now lacks the ability to give her consent to this.

The spectre of old age infirmity and loss of faculties hangs over all of us. Author Terry Pratchett has been outspoken about his own dementia, and it seems to me that any publicity that raises the profile of the experience of this growing group of people is a good thing. Even better if this results in increased funding for research and development in treatment and care of older folks.

Anyone who has to visit the back wards of the oldest parts of our hospitals (where the ‘elderly acute’ wards are almost always to be found) will be aware that such places often appear to be nothing more than warehouses for amateur cadavers. Despite some wonderful staff, for most of the people who end their days there- after a referral of last resort- dignity has long gone.

But- Margaret Thatcher- vulnerable, human, just like the rest of us…

I grew up in Thatcher’s Britain. Communities I lived in where split apart by her calculated battle with the National Union of Miners, and now almost all the pits are gone. I write this sat in a car driving through Sheffield on out way down to Derbyshire to attend a family wedding. All the steel works are gone. The old industrial sites are covered with scrub, or been cleared back to make shrines to the great patron of retail parks, Margaret herself…

Were all those broken communities and broken lives necessary? Did economic reality make them inevitable, as Margaret always said? Did the Free Market really know best? History will decide, I suppose. But her status as an iconic epoch shifter is already cast in bronze.

But in the 1980’s, we knew who our enemy was. She was Satan in a twin-set. She personified everything that we rejected. It all came back to ideology- and hers was based on a selfish individualism, and an elevation of greed as an engine for social change. Or that is the way half of Britain saw it.

She inspired incredible idolatry from her followers. And generated genuine loathing from the other side of the spectrum, perhaps like no other democratic politician before or since. It is possible to understand the divisive effect she had more fully by remembering a song by Elvis Costello called ‘Tramp the dirt down.’ It included these lines;

I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child’s
face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
coming down on that child’s lips

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
long enough to savour
The day they finally put you in the ground

I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down

Words by Elvis Costello, from the album ‘Spike’, 1989

With the benefit of a few years family-raising and Brodski-quartet-consorting, the angry man of pop might regret these words now, but the point is, some of us sang along to these words with relish at the time.

So Margaret, may your end be kind.

And may those whose fate was once in your hands not wish upon your head the pain of poverty and powerlessness.

And may each one of us be worth so much more than a distant decimal point in an economist’s prediction…

Blogged with the Flock Browser