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TX: 01.02.08 - Ray Gosling and Sheltered Accommodation

PRESENTER: WINIFRED ROBINSON

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ROBINSON
In our Care in the UK season we've heard a great many personal testimonies from people who need some help and the people who try to provide it and we decided to end, what has been a month long examination of the care provided and who should pay for it, with an account from Ray Gosling. A broadcaster and writer loved by the Radio 4 audience for decades, Ray Gosling, like countless others, had to face the prospect of what to do when he could no longer manage living on his own. He now lives in sheltered housing and here he explains what happened to him.

GOSLING
I didn't want to be here, where I am, it is social care - it says on the door, the communal door that opens with an electronic tag we've all been given, it's writ above that communal door - Sheltered Scheme. It's got 30 odd flats for people I suppose with special needs. Built - 1984. Run by Guinness Trust and I'm here. I didn't want to be but how old am I now? Sixty nine? I was 60 when it happened, maybe 55 when it started, and I was forced eventually to be in here.

I had had a house you see, a proper house I'd lived in from being 25 years old to 55. Semi-detached. I owned it outright by the end in a quite posh Hampstead like suburb. You think your life when you've established yourself, age of 20s, you think it'll go on forever and ever when in your 30s it does and in your 40s it does and in my case into your 50s it did and then - ah - out of the blue my pal went yellow in the street one lunchtime and didn't feel well. He went to the hospital where they said pancreatic cancer. At that same time my work, that had just gone on and on, happily, richly, rewardingly relentlessly just plummeted. No fault of mine. And I owed some back tax - about five grand. But he was dying and I was working me what sits off to try and find new sources of income and failing. Took a long time to die - two years, three years. I got made bankrupt. And thankfully after me partner died in the house we built together they then came for the possession of the house and its forced sale with my eviction. I was 55-60 years old and had gone through these terrible recent years and you forget - age takes a toil, I was becoming beyond coherence with grief and bewilderment and some days with anger. And luckily - and this is a tip for all who are just sailing through life and think it'll never happen to you - luckily during my fit life I'd made big investments in the best bank in the world - the bank of friends.

So I was trolling along in town one day and I bumped into me old mate Ken. Coalminer he'd been. We went into the pub, as you do, me feeling forlorn and he says: Come and see where I live now. And I said: Alright. And it were in this block and he said: It might suit you you know. I remember, as if it was yesterday, going in with him into the block, the complex, and walking through a communal lounge of high backed chairs in which sat a blind lady - Celia. She's now my friend. And a wizened guy with a walking frame - John. He's now my friend.

Ken's flat was tiny, as you'd expect in a flat in a block, but it was warm. A warden, manager, looks after the place and lives in. Every flat has a red cord to call her or central control, if she's off site. But I walked in thinking - I can't do this, at 60, what is 60 years old, I'm not done for, not my fault. Where is what I had?

Next day I woke up cold, still in my big house. And the interest on the bankruptcy was clocking up like a London taxi metre all the time I thought more sensibly - Ray, don't be silly, you've always been communal, you've always been social, you might like that company, even that company, didn't you once run OAP clubs, disabled groups, as well as adventure playgrounds and youth clubs. Haven't you - you've just got to acknowledge what you are now, I am in some need, I can't decorate the old house even if I could get it back - climb ladders, mend, repair, do this, that - it's gone that! Come on, you paid loads in taxes in your time, you're entitled to something back aren't you?

And the warden of this block, she rings up and she says: There is a flat coming up vacant, soon, do you want it, on the ground floor? And I counted to 10 and thought - whoaa and said: Yes. This chance may never come to me again. I had to apply, I got me doctor to write a nice note of recommendation - thank you Susan. And being bankrupt and about to be evicted, that earned me points. And so I moved in. Slowly, I learnt to take part. Oh yes most Sundays you'll find me in the afternoon, I'll be in a high backed chair playing bingo, just for an hour or so. At night time it's quiet and yet it's surprisingly close to town - location is the thing, throw a stone and you're on a main street with everything - a convenience store, two minutes walk away; five pubs nearby. I'm what - what do you call them? I'm now a pig in clover.

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