For many years, there has been a certain amount of movement of people from private industry to government and vice versa. When well controlled, it is beneficial to both. However, it can too easily cross a hazy border and become incestuous, or go even further and encourage corruption. The New Model NHS has encouraged such movement. Here are a few examples. I leave it to you to decide where on the spectrum running from valuable synergy to unwise through potential conflict of interest and on to unacceptable corruption you would place them.
I was at the Square in Barnstaple on Saturday when the bikers had their protest against the lenient sentence handed down to Aiden Platt’s killer.
There are a couple of events coming up this Saturday 11th March that I would like to remind you of.
T. S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruellest month. With respect, I would disagree: February deserves that accolade far more than does April. As with January, we are still suffering the depressing weather, lack of sunlight and aftermath of the joys of Christmas and the New Year. The weather will have been, at best cold and damp, but we are just beginning to see hints of Spring in the garden.
This week, I am going to start with some books.
I always like to be able to tell you about a local author I enjoy, and this one is particularly enjoyable for me, as he writes science fiction, a genre I have been eagerly reading for around 65 years.
I expect that many of you, like me, were at Landmark Green last Saturday to watch The Performers Strike Back.
In any case, I am sure the local papers will have covered the event in detail, and so I need not say much about it here. What I will say is how impressed I was by the whole event. A mere three weeks after the closure of the theatres, the organisers got together 23 groups and all the equipment and permissions to give us two and a half hours of top quality entertainment. I have some idea of the difficulties involved in getting this sort of thing together, but I suspect I don’t know the half of it. If the people who ran the theatres for the last year or so – ran them into the ground, more like - had one tenth of the administrative and organisational ability shown by the organisers of this event, the theatres would be thriving today.
Last week, once again, the rest of the UK was cut off from the peninsular as a result of adverse conditions at Dawlish.
How many times has that happened so far this winter? I have lost count. How many of you remember Cameron saying something along the lines “We will spend whatever it takes to ensure a resilient rail connection to the far Southwest”? All of you – I expect. Now, how many of you think the present government has any intention of honouring that promise? Not so many, I wager.
Like, I guess, most of us, I was flabbergasted when I heard the news that the North Devon Theatres Trust had gone into administration.
I suppose there is still time for the weather to change for the worse, but, so far, it looks as though this is going to be another mild winter. Already, I am seeing the first snowdrops, and primulas and other spring flowers are starting to show their heads. The squirrels are frisky and there seem to me to be more of them around than I normally expect at this time of year. Whether this all bodes well or ill for the coming year, I can't guess.
I gather there was snow at Mullacott last Friday. I guess that was our winter, although I suppose there is still the possibility of wintery weather as we move into February. However, just now, the weather is mild, the squirrels are frisky and spring bulbs are beginning to show their heads. But just to make sure we all know it is still officially winter, many of the town’s restaurants are still closed, including, of course, Thomas Carr, who I imagine continuously celebrating his Michelin star, before returning on February 8th to the hard graft of keeping it, and the harder graft of making a living.
However, I recently had a very pleasant meal at the Habit, although they really ought to up-date their wine list to exclude wines that are no longer available!
My friends campaigning for restoration of a comprehensive NHS service often complain that those opposed to them are OK because they have private health insurance, and I suspect that those with private health insurance also believe that they are OK whatever happens to the NHS. Well, let me tell you, you are all wrong. There are so many ways in which British private health insurance services are dependent on the NHS, but I will mention just three.
First, if you are so fortunate as to have such insurance, take a good close look at the insurance document (you might need the help of a lawyer). You might be surprised how much is excluded.
Next, if you have an accident or sudden incapacitating medical event, such as a heart attack or stroke, you will almost certainly be picked up by an ambulance service (not private) ambulance and will find that your first port of call is an NHS A&E. That will be fun, won't it – you have read, I hope, how overcrowded and over-stretched most hospital A&E departments are nowadays. I can imagine, in the future, unless something is done, hospitals will have to have two lanes for ambulances – a “fast lane” for time-critical emergencies and a “slow lane” for the rest.
This one is from my own experience when I still had BUPA insurance via my firm, and so was treated privately. In late 2008, I was found to have a tumour on my right kidney. It was asymptomatic and discovered by accident, but was at a stage where it could metastasise at any time. Accordingly, although I was beginning to develop the symptoms of a cold, the surgeon decided to operate. The next day, I had a massive chest infection – all of my life indicators were going down. The surgeon decided I needed intensive care. Unfortunately, the private hospital I was in could not provide this, so I was sent to a nearby NHS hospital, where I received excellent care. But make no mistake, were it not for the NHS hospital, I would not be here now.
Peter Heaton-Jones and the Prime Minister have repeatedly stated that the NHS has been given all the money it asked for and more besides. The following is from the BBC website:
The NHS is being given more money than it asked for.
Reality Check verdict:
The amount that the NHS in England is being given over this Parliament is at the bottom end of the range that it asked for. It doesn't take into account the knock-on effects of shortfalls in other areas such as social care.
You can find more information and the detailed analysis at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38600471?intlink_from_url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/267ada11-b730-4344-b404-63067c032c65/reality-check&link_location=live-reporting-story. Frankly, in the face of this, Mrs May’s continued claim that the NHS is being given more than it asked for diminishes her in my eyes.
I hear that Kelly Raveney’s first mask-making workshop was a great success. The next one is on 11th February at Pip & Jim’s Hall. Last year’s revival of the May Day celebrations was very successful. Join in and make this year’s even better.
Apparently, the proposed extension to the Barnstaple museum is not too popular and they are going to rethink the design. Maybe they should rethink the sense of spending £1.8 million on extending a museum which, I have been told, attracts fewer visitors than does our own little Ilfracombe museum!
On 1st February at the Lantern between 2 and 4pm, there will be an auction to raise money for this year’s Victorian and Steampunk Celebration. All welcome.
Last month, I mentioned Ben Blake’s book, “Black Lord of Eagles” and his Kickstarter project. Probably because it is January and we are all suffering the post-Christmas financial hangover, progress towards his target is painfully slow. However, if you can spare just a pound or two, every little helps. Mr Blake is a talented author and he is planning to publish through a small, indeed minute, publishing house, which is one in the eye for the major publishers who invariably treat all but their best selling authors disgracefully. If you can help, please go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1473817166/black-lord-of-eagles/.
And finally, another plea. Last week, again (!), I told you about the Tooleys’ project to bring out a 4 song EP as a precursor to a full scale musical with the snappy and no doubt optimistic title “The Last Days are Coming”. If they are able to realise this, it will be a major benefit to local musicians and, indeed, to the arts generally in North Devon. Again, if you can spare a few bob, please support https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/988709253/the-last-days-are-coming-musical-4-track-ep, If it helps, keep in mind that your money will only be taken if the project achieves its target and this will not be until February.