I can't say I'm sorry to say goodbye to 2016. Apart from all the happenings on the world stage, closer to home, it was the year that the Westcountry had it rammed down our collective throat that a politician’s promises aren’t worth the paper they are not written on, and, even closer to home, it was the year I achieved three score years and ten.
On the world stage, I suspect future historians will look back on this year as something of a pivotal one, where various established truths began to change. We have already seen a heavy swing against established politicians all over the world. We are also seeing a move in the centre of power from the West towards the East. What, I wonder, will the world look like when the main superpower is not the USA but China?
Here, remember all those grand promises made by Cameron et al in the run-up to the 2015 election? Remember when he said something along the lines that the government would do whatever it took to maintain a resilient rail link to the West? That seems to have turned into the government will do whatever it takes to have another enquiry and hope the whole issue will soon be forgotten.
And then we come to the NHS. Barely have we recovered from the loss of the Tyrrell than we are faced with, at best, the potential loss of services from NDDH, Barnstaple Hospital, and, at worst, the potential loss of NDDH itself. That fight continues and, for the sake of our children, if not ourselves, must be won. My Conservative friends say, and I completely agree with them, that we cannot continue throwing money at the NHS. However, we are throwing far less money at it than are other developed Western nations, and the amount, as a proportion of GDP is decreasing, not increasing. Even without increasing the overall amount we spend, we can make better use of it. The lowest estimate I have seen for the cost of the internal market (i.e. the money spent on what are basically parasites, such as advertising and marketing administrators) is £10 Billion; the highest is £30 Billion. And this is out of a total NHS spend of £130 Billion!
I know that many of the readers of this blog are vehemently opposed to the Conservative Party and so have little time for our MP, Peter Heaton-Jones. However, although I do not agree with everything he has done (actually, I doubt that there is even one MP whose every political act I would endorse), I do believe that he is, as he says, working hard for North Devon. Nonetheless, I believe that not only does he need to work a little harder, but that he and his fellow Westcountry MPs need to have the guts to stand up to the government and insist that future support is contingent upon the government (a) funding health, education and transport in the Westcountry fairly in comparison with the rest of the country and (b) following up on the promises made prior to the 2015 election.
For the first time that I can recall, the whole of the region, with the exception of Exeter, is represented by MPs from the governing party – this should give them incredible power, if they have the guts to use it.
And finally, the traditional and social media at this time of year are full of lamentations over the celebrities we have lost, and I have no doubt that you, like me, can instantly bring to mind some iconic figure who passed away during the year. Those who had the biggest impact on me include, in January, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Frank Finlay and Terry Wogan. In March, we said goodbye to George Martin, Keith Emerson and Ronnie Corbett. Victoria Wood went hand-in-hand with Prince in April. Burt Kwouk finally re-joined Inspector Clouseau in May. Muhammad Ali lost his last fight in June. Kenny Baker and Gene Wilder took their final bows in August. In November, Leonard Cohen went willingly, if not happily. In December, Death was rushed off his feet as celebrities seemingly queued up to meet their maker before the year ended. In that month alone, we lost Andrew Sachs, Peter Vaughan, John Glenn, Greg Lake, AA Gill, Ian McCaskill, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Rick Parfitt, George Michael, Richard Adams, Carrie Fisher, and, tragically the day after her daughter, Debbie Reynolds.
However, many of us will also have lost a friend or relative. In June, incredibly on the same day, I lost a sister and a sister-in-law. So, as we look back, let us think occasionally of those who are now only in our memories, where they will remain forever young.