House-Moving and All That


Having decided that at eighty, a house move must be tackled sooner rather than later, and with my house on the market, I have embarked upon the essential de-cluttering that downsizing means. The first stage of clearing shelves of files containing news, views and events that took me on the campaigning trail sixteen years ago has been under way for a few weeks and large spaces are now appearing.

The amount of paperwork has been staggering. A great advocate of filing and keeping records, I now realise this is a two-edged sword that is proving hugely time consuming. I was prudent to tackle it now, rather than wait for a buyer to happen along. Who could have foreseen that getting angry over other people’s problems would result in shelves crammed with so many black lever-arch files that once emptied, would pose the question, ‘…what do I do with the remains?

The immediate problem was solved after making some local inquiries; the files and their hundreds of multi-punched plastic pockets found good homes, but then the contents of those plastic pockets needed attention; many contained sensitive material so caution was needed before disposal. This meant looking through and reading everything so nothing confidential could fall into the wrong hands.

Now that doesn’t sound too onerous, and though the reading has been superficial, the content has raised many ghosts. I have been hag-ridden by the spectres of those who have had to live with the consequences of the injustices dealt them by circumstances and life in general.

Some of the cases were won by our little group, others we lost. One case took two years before the local health board issued a written apology for the neglect that caused the death of a family’s elderly father. Letters to the minister at the Welsh Assembly, the health Ombudsman, the chair of the local health board had all come back disclaiming responsibility and making excuses as to why they could not be involved in an individual case – but after a public enquiry had found in favour of the plaintiff – all capitulated and an apology was issued.

The prolonged pain and stress of that family would have been so much less had the apology been issued by the hospital in the first place. Just saying “Sorry – we’ll make sure this never happens again” would have sufficed.

Looking through my notes has made me realise that a simple apology on the part of the official body concerned could have saved so much pain for the victims in most of the cases. Why are the words, ‘I’m sorry’ so difficult to say?

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