Thoughts on Our National Health Service

Too many people and not enough money to go round. It has been like this for a very long time. Money will always be found for war, but there’s never enough for peace. Growing old is a curse that all must come to – if they survive long enough. Being valued for what you have contributed throughout your lifetime is no longer relevant. If you’re old – you’re a nuisance as soon as you need those regular visits to the GP or hospital. Continue reading

The Lure of Those Old Papers

Have you ever been tempted to tackle a little DIY and begun by spreading those long-out-of-date newspapers to protect the carpet and anything in the surrounding area that might get splashed or messed up before you make a start? Well you might guess where I’m coming from, or going to, when I tell you that I’m still in the process of trying to de-clutter by emptying shelves of lever-arch files that are crammed with outdated material relating to defunct organisations that ceased operations years ago.

It was decided that all paperwork relating to the matters of which I speak should be kept for five years and then destroyed. Just as well, because I was deeply committed to my final year of study with the Open University, I delayed any action; I wouldn’t have had time for my studies if the current rate is anything to go by. This brings me back to the beginning of this blog and the irresistible urge to read the old papers that I’m having to look through in order to shred what is sensitive and dispose of the remainder without problem.

At the start of the millennium following the 1997 election, there was a renewed vibrancy to the campaigning movement among older retired people living on their state and professional pensions. Here in Wales, Wales Pensioners represented many individual groups throughout the country. Like their counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Wales Pensioners were affiliated to the NPC National Pensioners’ Convention. Groups held monthly meetings and hopes were high when, in 2002, the newly devolved Welsh Assembly set about appointing a Commissioner for Older People.

Indeed, hopes were so high, representatives of different groups dared to believe they might be in danger of duplicating responsibilities so Wales Pensioners disbanded as a campaigning body believing they now had a champion for the cause of all pensioners in Wales.

What a damp squib that turned out to be. Ruth Marks’ was eventually appointed as the first older people’s champion but her contract was not renewed at the end of her first year. Although, as a graduate of Common Purpose she went on to bigger and better things and another commissioner was appointed,  the Welsh pensioner movement was hoodwinked and demoralized because, although much was promised, little or nothing was delivered.

The papers I was entrusted to keep and eventually dispose of are now being sorted. They are reawakening old memories, but I think they are better left dormant and the paperwork shredded. Times change, and we move on.

Human Rights and Wrongdoings

Like so many people, I have been appalled at what is happening in Gaza. There can be no excuse for the mass slaughter of innocent civilians no matter how much blather is spouted by the Israeli publicity machine.

I am old enough to remember the terrorist tactics of the Stern Gang in what was Palestine. The blowing up of the King David hotel and the blood bath that ensued before the UK, to its everlasting shame, pulled out of the situation and left the Palestinians to their fate. The rest is history: the sponsorship of the Zionist ambitions by the USA, the UN, and all those who subscribed to the arms supremacy currently enjoyed by Israel.

I suppose Arthur Balfour, a British politician, must bear the brunt and blame for having, in 1917 allowed those Jews seeking asylum from persecution in Europe to find sanctuary in Palestine. By giving these refugees a place of safety, he also gave them an excuse to call it a homeland; but Palestine was never the property of the UK to give to anyone, commendable though this gesture was.

Since 1947, the Israelis, some descendants of those original refugees, have systematically stolen land and property from the Palestinians. They have reduced the host nation to becoming second-class subjects in their own land – without rights or hope of a future. Here we may be forgiven for drawing parallels with the Nazis, and what they did throughout Europe. Bit by bit Palestine has been reduced to the strip of land known as Gaza; another ghetto. Now, even that is being violated. True to tradition, according to the history of the Old Testament, the Israelites were ever the aggressors; driven to acquiring the land of their neighbours and arrogantly calling it their own. Some things never change.

Perhaps that was the reason the Romans expelled them from Jerusalem two thousand years ago – warning all Jews never to return on pain of death; a warning that was never revoked.

Meanwhile, the world’s politicians wring their hands and spout their rhetoric while Netanyahu puts up two fingers at the United Nations and tells all of them that Israel will stop only when it chooses.

All this we can ponder on while we remember how the might of America and UK marched and blasted its way into Iraq on the mere pretext of supposed weapons of mass destruction.

The catastrophic meddling of George Bush and Tony Blair has resulted in a maelstrom in the Middle East that will have repercussions for years to come, yet Israel has obtained, against all international agreements, atomic weapons. The disillusioned expert who disclosed this to the world in 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, has spent many years (eleven in solitary confinement), entombed as a political prisoner in Israel after being lured to Italy, and then kidnapped by Mossad. He is still not allowed to leave Israel even though he has served the heinous prison terms imposed upon him, despite pleas from his worldwide supporters that he be freed.

All this and the world looks on.

Getting the Bird

English: Countryside Stewardship Scheme sign A...

English: Countryside Stewardship Scheme sign A Countryside Stewardship Scheme sign near a new stile a Cratfield Suffolk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Today I received a post, drawing my attention to the latest directive from DEFRA. That august department intends to promote the culling of hundreds of seagulls at Warton Aerodrome in Lancashire. Bad enough that this facility has been built where it shouldn’t be – in an area of special scientific interest, without bringing further death and destruction to the habitat of some of our rare wildlife. Surely BAE systems have an obligation to find a solution, rather than resorting to such slaughter because they find the birds are a nuisance?


English: BAe 146 One of the staff transport pl...

English: BAe 146 One of the staff transport planes at Warton Aerodrome going into land (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Only a week ago, I read how a rare feathered-visitor, a member of the swift family, had met an untimely death in front of hundreds of enthusiastic twitchers, many of whom, having travelled hundreds of miles to the remote Scottish Isles to catch a glimpse of the bird, watched in horror as it was killed by flying into the propellers of a wind-turbine.

It seems nature has no place in the plans of Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Affairs. As our rural environment shrinks ever further, perhaps Mr Paterson should be reminded of some facts before we no longer have a rural environment for him to run.

Slaughtering over five hundred breeding pairs of herring gulls, and even more pairs of lesser black-backed gulls – because they are considered a nuisance, is both nonsensical and unacceptable since all species of gull have suffered a serious decline in numbers over recent years. I thought the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs was about the protection of our environment, not its exploitation by BAE.  Perhaps our seagull friend agrees with the van driver from Wells-next-the-sea.

Gull drool



English: Wells-next-the-Sea: a political state...

English: Wells-next-the-Sea: a political statement at the harbour I think the owner of this van does not appreciate the work of the government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Power of the Word

I was reminded of something I read by John Donne, ‘Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls; for, thus friends absent speak…’when I received letters from two friends now living many miles away; it was so true. Their words, written in their own inimitable ways were so different, yet in those words I could still hear their voices as clearly as if they were in the same room with me.

While I enjoy emails, and being able to Skype those friends who, like me, enjoy dabbling in computers, there is still something very special about a handwritten letter or message in a card; although the increasing costs of postage are fast rendering the paper and pen version of correspondence a luxury to be indulged in occasionally; rather like those now frowned upon indulgences like; butter, cream, and alcohol. Though I confess, I still believe that a little of what you fancy does you good – in moderation.

Portrait Picture of Tony Benn

Portrait Picture of Tony Benn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I‘ve been reading Free at Last, the diaries of Tony Benn for 1991 to 2001 and am still only half-way through, but his views, once considered by many to be maverick or outlandish, are proving more acceptable and honourable than any of those held by today’s politicians at Westminster. I blame the media, as well as members of his own political party, for encouraging the denigration of his ideas and concepts. Reading his diaries delivers a view on what a life dedicated to the service of his electorate really meant. He believed that his constituents came before party; such a view would have been poison to someone like Tony Blair, and those who think like him, believing that the party, like John Mortimer’s Mrs Rumpole, is ‘she who must be obeyed’.

Rumpole of the Bailey

Rumpole of the Bailey (Photo credit: Sarcasmo)

Of course, being honourable, honest, and having principles you feel you have to ‘stick to’, is probably rather old-fashioned these days when lining one’s own pockets and offering to use one’s  influence in return for money is making headlines in the daily news. It just goes to show – nothing changes, only the names and the faces. So many highly qualified people are having difficulty in making a living, while these political fat-cats get sleeker by the minute, with no end in sight to their globe-trotting glitzy persona. Ah well, a good book on my shelf is a friend that might turn its back on me, but remains a friend.