HOPE

Born in the 1950s I grew up in hope

in a 1960s that promised much,

a break with stodgy McMillan and Home

into a white heat of technology

Socialism and Science leading us forwards

into the bright sunlit uplands.

There was no hope for those who yearned,

for whatever bizarre reason

for Victorian Values, for hate over love

for the resurgence of VD

to punish indulgence, by which,

they meant enjoyment

formerly reserved for the few.

A yearning for war that made us great,

for an austerity that tested will.

No hope of a return to that world

where welfare was stigma

where looking after the poor

was the act of lady bountiful

on a church parade of doom.

But it was a flash.

A flicker of time when we could laugh

when we could know that

old orders were changing

love and welfare would enrich us

would let us grow and know

our real place in the world.

A meritocracy where those

Privileged through ability

would look after the rest,

appreciate everyone’s contribution

we really would all be in it together.

Gone in a flash too,

sparked by those with power,

who knew already the war of the flea

better than the guerilla,

retreat, regroup and wait

until the party rolled and then

and then.

Where are we now boys?

Mines gone, Factories gone.

Peace gone. Europe gone.

The City, ah the City.

Still reigns supreme but not for Britain

Not for Britain, boys

Not for Britain, Maggie

Not for Britain.

The City as ever reigns for the City

but as the deregulated behometh grows

we will lose even that.

No longer a back door to Europe

dealers and brokers and financiers

and the Gods of modern globalism

the entrepreneurs will depart

leaving a hollow little shell

of third world, low rent service jobs.

Would you like fries with that?

and my sister is very clean and cheap

I can get you boys if you like that mister.

What a great nation we are

saved from equality and socialism

and joy and wealth by politicians

pulling levers no longer attached

to anything but panic buttons

and a rapacious global capital.

I’m glad I didn’t have too much hope.

WESTLEY WRITERS Chapter 5

If you thought eight months was a long walk for Straker this coffee has been cooling for thirty! Our writers are ready for their inaugural meeting, probably, but they aren’t actually a group yet and someone else is in the library.

If you want to catch up on how Westley Writers got here, they have their own section here: https://gfarrish.wordpress.com/writing/westley-writers/

PEACE IN OUR TIME

June blew a short shrill blast and brought the meeting to order.

‘Bloody hell June!’ Ashby said wiggling his finger in his ear. ‘Can we go back to the bell?

‘No. Nobody’s going to end up in A&E if I lose control of this.’

‘Might end up in audiology. I’ll be deaf as a post if you keep blowing that in my ear.’

‘Pardon?’ Bill asked

‘I said…’ Ashby tailed off as he caught the twinkle in Parker’s eye. ‘Very funny, Bill. Maybe I’ll go and get that bell myself and give you another bash with it.’

‘Now you two, behave! Veronica snapped.

The two men raised their eyebrows at each other.

‘Yes ma’am.’ Ashby said.

‘Well, I’m sorry but violence isn’t a joke and I don’t think I’ve recovered from the EGM yet. I still can’t believe we’ve split from the readers section. ‘

‘No, you’re right Veronica. We’re all sorry it happened. John and Bill were just playing but we should remember how close it came to being very serious for Bill.’ June blushed a little at the memory of what she’d done to Parker at the EGM and pulled her papers closer to her before continuing. ‘Now we’ve got to decide a few important things today. Like what we’re called, what our purpose is and how often we will meet. And of course elect officers. Diane, you were secretary, any thoughts?

‘I’d be happy to carry on as Secretary of the writers. Or did you mean about what we should be called?’

‘Both I think.’ June said.

‘Are we quorate?’ Veronica asked.

‘I’m not sure we can be Veronica. Technically we don’t actually exist yet.’ Straker pointed out.

‘Okay’. June said heaving a sigh. ‘Do we want to form a writers group? Raise your hand if you do.’

Seven hands went up in various states of embarrassment.

‘Good. Now what are the purposes?’

‘Of a writers group?’ Ashby asked. ‘Do we really need to state that?’

‘Do we want to read each others’ work? Do we want to hear it read? Are we supporting the members writing only, or writing in the area more generally? Do we want to publish our work? Anthologies? Is it creative or all genres? Are we…’ Stephanie was on a roll.

‘All right, all right. Point taken.’ Ashby conceded.

‘Writing in the Westley area’. Diane said firmly, writing it down. Whether she was secretary or not she wanted a record of things. ‘That gives us wiggle room to stretch to Ravenbury if needed.’

‘Fair enough.’

‘To encourage writers in the Westley area develop their talents and skills by providing a forum for discussion, reading and performance of their work and offering written and verbal feedback as required.’ Parker suddenly intoned.

‘Bloody hell Bill, that were a bit good.’ said Ashby who gave Parker a small round of applause.

‘That way we keep the council on board and make it easier for the library to host us.’ Parker said, winking extravagantly at anyone unfortunate enough to catch his eye.

‘Maybe add something in about helping publication within our means and as appropriate? Straker offered. ‘I know quite a few people were keen on the anthology we did, and that way we don’t have to squeeze the meaning of the word ‘performance’ too hard to accommodate another volume if anyone wants to go down that road.’

‘Could you repeat that?’ Diane asked. ‘From “…by providing…”‘

 There followed a few minutes intense cross talking while everyone offered their version of Parker’s mission statement  with or without amendments. June decided to try and bring the meeting to some sort of order without using the whistle but despite her best efforts no-one seemed inclined to cease putting their point forward. The shrill blast had Ashby wiggling his little finger in his ear again and everyone else silent.

‘What was that for?’ Veronica Goodman asked.

‘Nobody could tell what anyone was saying. It was all talk and no listening. It was just too loud.’

The door opened and a librarian’s head appeared in the opening.

‘Is everything all right?’

‘Er, yes, thanks. I’m sorry about the noise.’ June said

The librarian blinked and stared pointedly at the whistle in June’s hand.

‘Perhaps a gavel may be less piercing. There are people concentrating out here.’ She said and shut the door, gently, before anyone could reply.

‘Maybe I’d better find a gavel or something less carrying.’ June said, red faced from the admonishment of the librarian.

‘There’s never anyone in there reading anyhow.’ Ashby said.

‘There are people using the computers though.’ Straker observed. ‘Not that I’m criticising, June.’ He added hurriedly.

‘Should buy their own bloody computers.’ Ashby said. ‘Feckless lot.’

The conversation turned to the price of computers and how everything now was done through them from banking to benefit claims and buying groceries. Straker snatched a glance at Stephanie and raised his eyebrows. She smirked back. The implicit bet was on how long before someone said ‘When I was young’ or some equivalent. Straker harboured a view that hardly anyone every really said this. Stephanie had a more jaundiced, or as she called it, realistic, view of her fellow writers.

‘Well I was trying to get a TV aerial fixed the other day and could I find a phone number with a human being on the other end?’ Parker was saying.

‘You can’t get anyone on the phone now, it’s all automated systems and if you do get through it’s a call centre with people whose accents you can’t understand.’

‘Indian you mean?’ offered Ashby.

‘Northern Irish. I can make out the Indian fellers now after all that business with the garage roof but I can’t tell half of what the Ulster one’s say.’ Diane said.

‘Course it was different in my day.’ said Ashby. You could ring a local office and have the thing sorted in minutes.

Stephanie smiled and Straker hung his head. His faith in human nature his downfall again.

‘What’s the matter with you?’ Ashby said.

‘Nothing John. Just the vicissitudes of fate.’

‘Hang on a minute,’ Ashby said, ‘never mind the vicissitudes of fate. Who is in there “concentrating”?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean the library’s normally closing as we start. That’s why you said you’d be all right with that thing.’ Ashby jabbed his finger in the direction of the whistle.

‘You’re right John. I wonder what’s going on.’

Straker rose from his seat and walked out of the room.

‘Where’s he going?’ Ashby asked.

‘Going to see what’s happening.’ Stephanie said. ‘You know what he’s like.’

‘Nosy bugger you mean?’

‘I was thinking more proactive, but it often amounts to the same thing I suppose.’

‘Oh I do hope he doesn’t upset anyone!’

‘When does Jules upset people June?’

‘I can think of one or two he can wind up when he’s in the mood.’ Ashby said looking at Stephanie.

‘Different kettle of fish John. As you well know.’

‘Well we’ll soon find out, here he is now.’ Ashby said as he saw Straker approaching through the glass panel in the door.

‘Who’s in there?’ Veronica asked before Straker was in the room. A smile flickered across Straker’s face as he shut the door behind him.

‘Our former selves. Well, our alter egos.’

‘Meaning?’ June asked.

‘Well bugger me! The readers section isn’t it?’ Ashby guffawed. ‘They’re stalking us.’

‘What are they doing?’ Stephanie asked as Julian sat down at the table.

‘Without meaning to sound sarcastic, reading.’ Straker paused ‘I suppose it should be “Reading Group” shouldn’t it? As they’re an entity in their own right now.’

‘In the library?’

‘Yes, June, in the children’s section.’

‘We should do that.’ Veronica said.

‘Move to the children’s section?’

‘On alternate weeks, yes. That’s what they’ve done isn’t it?’

‘We could ask the librarian I suppose.’ June said.

‘Was Lilian Dobson there?’

‘I believe she was John. Being rather forceful about cancel culture and an author’s right to say what they mean.’

‘Bit of a cheek considering how she moaned when I put her in a story.’

‘I suspect that is a different issue than the one she has with publishers John. Why did you want to know?’

‘I was thinking we could ask about the money. As they’re using the library, I presume for free, it would be a good time to sort out getting our share of the balance. They don’t need to hang on to more than their share do they?’

June looked around the table for support.

‘I’m not sure that’s a good idea in the middle of their session is it?’

There was a muttering, the meaning of which was hard to determine

‘Middle of ours too!’ Ashby said ‘It’s not the money it’s the principle of the thing.’

‘No John, with you it’s the money.’ Straker sighed and walked out of the room again.

‘We’ll end up in a fight again. I can feel it.’ Veronica twittered nervously.

‘No, he’ll sort it out. He’s not belligerent.’ Stephanie said. Bill Parker raised an eyebrow.

‘Remember him playing rugby?’

‘That’s different.’

‘Dunno, I can see Lilian as a prop forward myself.’

‘Uncalled for John’ June said trying to hide a smile. ‘Although I take your point.’

The door opened again and Straker walked back in followed by Lilian Dobson. Tight smiles flashed across faces.

‘Lilian.’

‘June. Everyone. All well I trust?’

‘Yes thank you Lilian.’ June said

‘Very kind of you to send your best wishes to us. Nice to know there’s no hard feelings. I don’t want to disturb you now, I know how much some of you put into your work. If you want to see me after in the library I’ll sort out a cheque for you. See you later.’  And with that she left.

‘Bloody hell, what did you do?’ Ashby said.

‘You hypnotised her didn’t you?’ Parker said. ‘I’ve read about it, the power of suggestion. Your lot are trained to do it aren’t you?’

‘My lot?’

‘You know, who you worked for.’

‘I was a civil servant Bill. I was trained to write reports and make tea. Not hypnotise stray women,’ he glanced at Stephanie, ‘unfortunately.’

‘One problem.’ Stephanie said, a sweet smile on her lips, ‘who does she make the cheque payable to? We haven’t decided on a name yet, never mind opened a bank account.’

Everyone clucked at the oversight.

‘Perhaps I was a little premature in my subterfuge.’ Straker admitted, but I think we can trust June or Diane to accept the money on our behalf and pay it in as and when we open an account.’

‘And you think Lilian Dobson is going to go along with that do you? Ashby offered.

Well, we’ll have to see won’t we John.’ Straker looked at his watch. ‘If we hurry we can appoint a treasurer so they can take the cheque as an official. Then maybe we can read some of our writing this week. I believe Steph has been busy.’

Thoughts on ‘In Everyone’s Best Interests’

‘In Everyone’s Best Interests’ is now posted in full, rather than in instalments, in the Short Fiction Section of the ‘Writing’ Tab, here. There is an explanatory note there which examines a little of how this piece came about.

I won’t repeat that here but I do want to say that this story was the ending (or at least one version of an ending) of what might have been a novel.

That it wasn’t is the result of several things. Laziness possibly being the biggest. As usual with laziness this has meant a lot more work than if I’d just written the damned thing! There are other reasons the main idea did not see the light of day which needn’t detain us too long. All writers mine personal experiences and there were perhaps some in this which were a little too close for comfort. The ending is nothing like anything that has ever happened to me and the main character is, I hope, most definitely not me. Perhaps he has a ruthless streak I wish I had.  

Another reason it ended up being a stand alone short story, at least I hope it stands alone, is that the theme of the difficulties of interacting with local authorities kept popping up in other things I am writing. There were two ways of dealing with this unwarranted intrusion: finish ‘In Everyone’s Best Interests’ as a novel pdq or write something else which more effectively laid those ghosts. As option one seemed unlikely given all the other baggage around it, option two seemed more practical if not attractive.

At first it seemed the obvious and best answer, and then as I began consigning the main body of work to the electronic equivalent of the bottom drawer of doom I felt guilty, and if not desperate to salvage something, then keen at least to think that there was something written that could make it to the page. The ending seemed okay, but it wasn’t exactly the same as it appears now. It was perhaps less punchy as it had quite a few loose ends to tie up. The relationship between Edwards and Mandy for a start which was far more complicated than his mental urges hinted at in the short story. This made it nowhere near as focused. Not only did the scene have to wrap up the fate of the man about to be ‘not sacked’ but at the same time it needed to carry the reader through a whole series of underlying implications about what was going on in the legal department and the general council and their connections to the man about to lose his job. These had all been part of the wider sweep of the novel but although there needed to be some allusion to them to explain why we were where we were in this short story, they didn’t need a full wrap.

It needed to be a lot tighter without all that baggage trailing behind it if was to work in a 2,000 word piece. The temptation was to make it 5,000 and try to introduce a lot of those themes and then try and resolve them. I’m quite good at letting writing expand to fill the blank space available. Not a good trait with limitless electrons available.

As it was I decided to go for the one location with just three characters and the rest all happening off stage as it were. The main theme had to be dealing with the one man. The way he had been protected, through genuine good intentions not be heavy handed, through reluctance to use the legislation, through incompetence, through possible corruption had to be hinted at in as few word as possible. It works for me, but I know the whole back story which a reader now has to fill in for themselves with only the barest hints from me.

Never underestimate your readers is a good motto, but it’s my capabilities I worry about, not theirs.

Off to do the easy bit now and write a lot more words rather than few.

BBC: When Toffs Attack

The jackals are out for the BBC.

All the usual suspects are crawling over the media, trying to haul down the broadcaster in order to devour it and make a financial as well as a corporate killing.

Charles Moore, a long time Tory hack who edited the Daily Telegraph, said this morning on the Today programme on Radio 4, that the BBC was a corporation which complained of fake news whilst itself faking the news. This was not true and a gross calumny.

If you have missed the thrashings of the rats tearing at one of the few (only?) politically neutral news agencies in the UK, if not the world, you may be forgiven for thinking this was about  the BBC making up a story that led to a war at the very least; it wasn’t (they leave that to politicians – WMD anyone?).

What we are actually talking about is Martin Bashir mocking up a couple of bank statements in order to get Earl Spencer on board with journalistic access to his sister, Princess Diana. The resulting interview Bashir did with her was one she said she wanted to do. After its airing on BBC she wrote that Bashir had not shown her any documents, was not pressured to do the interview and she had no regrets at having given it.

Now if Charles Moore reckons the BBC was peddling fake news it seems he is saying that Princess Diana was the one lying, doesn’t it? Bashir may have used a dubious method to get close enough to her to suggest the interview, but he didn’t make any news up. Charles was having an affair with his now wife, Diana had had an affair with another man and she was desperately unhappy in the marriage. Prince William saying that the interview worsened his parents relationship hardly seems tenable in this light, it was already doomed.

Spencer has claimed this interview led directly to her death two years later, which seems to stretch the laws of causality beyond reason. But this whole affair has nothing to do with reason, it has all to do with establishment payback melding with a long term commercial media hatred of the BBC born of greed.

This opportunistic attack on the BBC comes on the back of 11 years of swingeing financial cuts on the Corporation by an ideologically opposed party in power. And the BBC hadn’t been in favour with New Labour before that, given its part in exposing the lies about WMD and the government exposure of the man who helped the BBC, Dr David Kelly, who subsequently died in mysterious circumstances.

Should Bashir have had the documents mocked up? Probably not. Is it a hanging offence? No. Was the interview faked? No. Did it reveal the truth about the state of the marriage of the heir to the throne and say something about his fitness to govern? Yes.

Did the interview lead directly to her death? In the same way as being born inevitably leads to our death. The choices all parties made after that took her to that terrible end. The fact that it was commercial journalists and paparazzi hounding her into that Paris tunnel, make the baying for BBC blood now all the more sickening.

Beware Patriarchs Bearing Covenants

I blame Abraham for a lot of things.

Perhaps the least contentious, in terms of not being arrested for hate crime, being blown up by suicide bombers or annoying friends and relatives, is the fact that he fucked up my relationship with my father for a few more years than was necessary. It would have happened anyway I guess in that stupid testosterone fuelled male competitiveness crap around puberty. But the supposedly reassuring tale that God has our interests at heart and that he had chosen to make a covenant with us by getting Abraham to sacrifice his ‘only begotten’ son was a bit of a downer for me.

I was my father’s only begotten son and I was worried about history repeating itself. Isaac was always portrayed in those picture books beloved of Christian Sunday Schools as looking calm and relaxed, like he knew the fix was in, but I wasn’t convinced. The whole voice of God, the deus ex machina bit at the fifty ninth minute of the eleventh hour didn’t help. I mean there weren’t a lot of thorn thickets around our terraced house and there were definitely no rams getting caught in them to do the whole super sub routine on the altar.

Don’t get me wrong, my father hadn’t until this point, I was about six or seven when the portent of this tale struck home, done a lot to suggest he was listening to voices in his head advocating filicide as a strong career move. But you never knew.

Actually the more I read the Torah/Pentateuch/Old Testament, the less certain I became about the whole reliability of God’s contract and Abraham’s version of events.

The whole ‘only begotten son’ bit was a crock for a start. Abraham (Abram at the time as he had not yet been renamed by God) already had a son. Ishmael hadn’t chosen to be born and certainly got the shitty end of the stick. Sarai/Sarah persuaded Hagar to have Abram’s child as she couldn’t and then she kicked the pair of them out when she had her own child. Nice lady.

Actually Abraham and Sarah are a right pair. Abusing the home help, planning on murdering their son for a chance at the top job in the tribe and helping destroy two cities because they (possibly) didn’t persecute homosexuals enough.

You have to wonder if Abram might not have been disguising a rapacious desire to succeed at all costs under the veil of doing God’s will. It’s as if a really good PR firm had got hold of the life story of some of today’s tech giant/social media creators and done a snow job on them. ‘Sure he destroyed millions of high street jobs and drove down wages and avoided all the existing labour and tax laws…but he was doing it for a higher purpose!’ Watch out for new Messiahs/Patriarchs coming to a digital app near you!

My Dad didn’t exhibit any kindling collecting tendencies but I confess his understandable crossness at some of the things I did at times, triggered a distinct wariness. I wish I had explained my reserve to him at the time.

 As it was we grew more distant than we needed and puberty made things worse. It took me some years (decades?) to move back to a respect, and yes a love, that I had had when Daddy was the best thing in the world, before bloody Abram stuck his oar in. We did get there but I wish it hadn’t have been so protracted and skewed by a mythical character and his self aggrandising PR story.

Three great religions and the justification for millions dead.

Beware men building pyres and listening to voices no-one else can hear.

Or hi-tec business empires.

A Farrish By Any Other Name

Inspired by a NaPoWriMo prompt on Carol J Forrester’s site: https://caroljforrester.com/2021/04/15/napowrimo-day-fourteen-my-married-name/ Thanks to her – I wouldn’t have seen it and had the idea otherwise. Oh, and go and read her pages – she writes proper poetry!

What’s in a name?

Everything and nothing

A consummation devoutly to be wished

And an untimely ending

Played out on a stage

Of someone else’s making.


Did I choose my name?

Did you?

My name holds promise

Something strange, exotic perhaps

Al Faris in decades gone by?

Lost in a scribes lazy transcription


A Moor maybe?

 I look at my freckles,

Red hair, fair skin and wonder

Is there anything in genetics?

Or maybe there’s Moor or less

Than meets the eye?


Of course the answer’s simple.

An internet search

Cuts the work of decades now

To an origin lost in time

Not that long it turns out

But long enough to wipe memory


An itinerant Dumfriesshire man

A William of that ilk,

My ilk it turns out, give or take

An ‘R’ that was a scribes addition

Came to my home town and never left

But left me his Border name.

HAPPY ST DAVID’S DAY!

DYDD GWYL DEWI SANT HAPUS IAWN I CHI GYD!

Hoping everyone has a terrific St David’s Day.

After the way the last three Six Nations Rugby matches have gone for Wales I would guess that God, if not a Welshman, certainly has some sort of deal going with Wayne Pivac.

If  he/she/it is Welsh – just look after the rest of things as well as the rugby eh?

 

Action Monday

A news presenter on radio has just wasted several precious minutes of air time wibbling about ‘Blue Monday’. Apparently that is today, 18 January 2021.

The slot started off moderately light heartedly but rapidly drooped into the usual misery about the ‘last year’ and how we can all avoid our suicidal depression.

Well I’m not in one.

I’m sure there are some people who are down about life, and I sympathise but there are obviously a lot of people who are not and designating a day at random as ‘the low point of the year’ isn’t helping anyone.

I’d never even heard of ‘Blue Monday’ as a concept until today, and thirty seconds of searching online revealed what I suspected. There is no evidence for this as a real thing at all. It was a creation of a psychologist, Cliff Arnall who was suckered into the idea by Sky Travel in 2004. They were seeking a way of getting people to book holidays early for that summer and used this concept to prod people into parting with their hard earned cash. Arnall has since asked people to ignore the whole thing as irrelevant to real life. But as Dr Frankenstein found out, these monsters are harder to slay than create.

So here we are then on the most depressing day of the year (not). And you would, under the current circumstances, be mad to book a sun packed overseas beach holiday any time soon. So do you end it all now?

No.

Lift your head up and look at the glory of creation. Whether you ascribe the wonders around you to a God, or to a Gaia type concept or to the random chance events of scientific evolution they are pretty amazing and so are you. Your sheer existence is a wondrous victory over chance. Celebrate it.

Vaccines are on the way to offer a hope at least of a path through the Covid-19 minefield for many of us fairly soon so we should bear up under the strain and keep a clear head.

Actually if we are looking for something to be less than happy about, it might be that idea of vaccine rollout.

I am fortunate enough through happy circumstance, nothing to do with me, to live in a rich, self absorbed country, that had the money and opportunity to bung loads of cash relatively early on to pharmaceutical companies and ensure fairly early access to large numbers of doses of these lifelines. But what about the rest of the world? There are billions of people out there who will not have lifesaving vaccines for months, probably years the way things are going. The Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine is being made available to low and middle income countries at cost. Which is great but still expensive and supplies are currently being snapped up by rich ‘first world’ countries before they can rollout to these other needy areas.

So if you want to shake off the imaginary Blue Monday lethargy, write to your MP and suggest we stick a couple of billion in the pot to help pay the ‘cost’ price for our fellow human beings to be safe. And maybe we could build and licence production facilities elsewhere to stop countries rich from the previous exploitation of other countries snaffling all the available doses first?

‘No man is an island…’ and all that.

BREAKING POINT

I’d like to end 2020 on an upbeat note.

But I have no desire to stick my head in the sand

Civil society in Wales is not in a good place.

Our Covid figures are the worst in the UK nations and the NHS is falling, or probably has already fallen, over.

And political accountability on a range of issues is non-existent.

Starting with the small stuff first, the idea that the majority of people pay the smallest amount of attention to various enjoinders or rules about the Covid situation is a joke.

I see secondary school children, old ladies and athletic looking middle aged men without masks in shops unchallenged by shop workers while pre recorded voice messages play over the tannoy system telling us all how there is a one way system in force, everyone must wear masks and assistants will enforce the rules.

Families have extended family over to visit from many different households and not just in the Christmas window and way beyond those limits.

And why would they pay attention when the rules change seemingly from day to day?

And when someone writes to ask a question via email about the policy, the system, its implications for a Welsh student studying and living in England and whether they can and how they should return for essential services still registered for in Wales, and might the Welsh Government apply a little more thought to those in that position, they are ignored.

The official system my daughter used to contact Mark Drakeford some months ago specifically says that the enquiry will receive an answer. She wasn’t expecting a personally signed vellum scroll in reply, but not to receive even an acknowledgment, as required, undermines belief in even the most basic lip service to democratic accountability and engagement.

But politicians and officials seem to care little about what the pubic want. We have recently had a new superhospital open in our area, The Grange at Cwmbran – the one recently in the news with no beds for A & E and patients sat overnight in ambulances waiting. Which is odd as it is the A & E hospital now for the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. This has a huge catchment area and is not on the established public transport links in the area. Newport is the focal point for transport links in the area. Cwmbran is up one of the valleys and if you need to get there you have to change buses or trains at least once, in Newport, to get there and then the hospital is nowhere near the station in Cwmbran.

But obviously if you need to get there in an emergency you will use an ambulance to get you there in time to save you without the bother of public transport.

The 86 year old grandmother of a friend of my daughter had a fall a couple of days ago. She was in agony and the family couldn’t move her themselves as they suspected she had broken her hip. They rang for an ambulance to take her to the new state of the art centre of excellence that is the Grange at Cwmbran.

26 and a half hours later an ambulance arrived. The ambulance driver said he would complain as his patient was by then in a bad way and he had not heard about the call until recently. That obviously stops the press stories about waiting in ambulances for a bed.

As suspected, she as a broken hip, and will have an operation tomorrow.

I’d suggest writing to someone to complain, but as nobody is even likely to acknowledge it, it hardly seems worth it does it?

In case anyone thinks Covid and/or teething problems with the new hospital in Cwmbran are to blame, nearly two years ago my GP rang for an ambulance for me when my heart went into atrial flutter and I had a resting pulse of c150 beats per minute. I waited for a couple of hours and rang to see what was happening. There were no ambulances. They sub contracted a taxi.

Fortunately my wife got back from hospital and drove me to hospital. The ambulance/taxi never did arrive.

There were no beds. There were no trolleys. I sat in a chair in the waiting room overnight, eventually hooked up to a drip to see if they could get my heart rate down before I saw someone about sixteen hours later and I eventually got a trolley. I moved up through the hierarchy for a couple of days until I eventually got to a cardiac ward bed, got my heart rate under control and was discharged for cardioversion at a later (five month) date.

There was no Covid. There were no teething problems

I’m not having a pop at the NHS staff, but at the failure to finance, organise and direct their efforts while talking gibberish about how brilliant everything is.

A little less effort on the ‘message’ front and a little more at getting the bloody thing right would help.

It’s not just the NHS, and it’s not just Wales.

Underfunding, poor planning and a desire to egregiously lie about how ‘World Beating’ everything is at every verse end is infecting every facet of public life in the UK. And it is not ‘public service inefficiency’ that is the problem. The efficacy of the Government’s remedy of choice, privatised sub contracting, can be seen in the woeful performance the World Beating private test, track and trace system in England. It is undoubtedly setting records but not at the end of the leader board you’d like it to be.

A little more honesty and genuine attempts to fix problems rather than ‘perceptions’ would go a long way.

SAD LOSS

I heard at the beginning of the week that Ray Edwards has died from an infection acquired in hospital having been admitted with Covid.

It is unlikely that you will know Ray, and your life will have been the poorer for that. He wasn’t a great literary genius or a famous politician or a celebrity. He was simply a great human being.

I knew Ray through a Writers group and through helping proof read his autobiography ‘Lucky Me!’.(available here)

It was a privilege to know Ray and to help him in however small a way to realise one of his dreams; setting his life story down on paper. He wrote sensitively about his childhood and his family which held one of those secrets that could, perhaps should, have come from the pages of a novel rather than the beginning chapter of an amusing kind and sensitive man.

Whatever difficulties life threw at him, and he had his share and more, he overcame them and bought a smile to the faces of those around him. He turned this gift of compassion and human understanding to counselling work after his engineering career was over.

He used his experiences, growing up near Caerphilly, in the RAF and as an engineer with British Airways, and his natural interest in people to fuel a burst of writing enthusiasm which entertained, amused and entranced those who heard and read his stories. It is a great sadness that he has gone before he could have developed more fully the promise he showed.

He leaves his wife, Rosemary to whom I offer my deepest condolences at her loss and to whom I offer my thanks for loaning him to us at Writers every week.

He will be deeply missed.