Wednesday, 13 July 2016

PHILISTINES RULE, OK?


WHO NEEDS THE ARTS ANYWAY?

Note too that a faithful study

of the liberal arts humanizes character
and permits it not to be cruel.
OVID

 


As Ovid states, ‘and permits it not to be cruel’. However, what would one expect from a Philistine political party like the Conservatives other than cultural cruelty? Their idea of culture probably extends to Dire Straits and Downton Abbey and very little beyond.


So this true blue woman, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan (ABOVE) berates students and educators alike with the mantra that studying the arts will wreck your chances in life. She may have voted ‘remain’ in the EU referendum, but she perversely supported Brexit’s Michael Gove in his failed bid for Tory Party leadership. Both are to education what Eric Pickles is to hang gliding.

Married to an architect and trained as a lawyer who specialised in acquisitions (surprise, surprise) Morgan’s idea of artistic pursuit is going out running every morning. One wonders if she’d ever pondered over who designed her trainers or her track suit? Some artistic slacker, no doubt. Her advice to the younger generation considering higher education is that you must follow the holy grail of STEM subjects, (science, technology, engineering and maths). In a 2014 report in The Stage, she said

 “But if you wanted to do something different, or even if you didn’t know what you wanted to do … then the arts and humanities were what you chose. Because they were useful – we were told ­– for all kinds of jobs.

Of course now we know that couldn’t be further from the truth, that the subjects that keep young people’s options open and unlock doors to all sorts of careers are the STEM subjects.”

Let’s face it, her party means business and business means maths. To pay for the yachts and the villas they all enjoy the rich need bean counters. There’s no time for all that unprofitable malarkey of painting, sculpture, plinky-plonky music, and apart from The King’s Speech  the Tories probably think there hasn’t been a decent British film made since The Dam Busters. However, they do have Julian Fellowes and Jeffrey Archer - how much art do we need anyway? As for the highly profitable junk ‘art’ the Saatchis will always be around if there’s a sale of Tory supporter Tracey Emin’s offcuts.



Nicky Morgan obviously can’t see any prospect of a world where her beloved STEM subjects could have any relation to the arts. Perhaps, though, had she studied history a little more closely, she may have noticed that down the centuries some of the best science came from men and women who had one foot in the arts camp.

Albert Einstein was a keen violinist. Leonardo da Vinci? Well, all you have to do is google images and apart from artistic brilliance he’ll give you a tank, anatomy or a helicopter … and without the facility of the Arts, how can you frame and present the STEM subjects to an inquisitive young mind? She should take a closer look at Brian Cox, Jonathan Miller, Stephen Fry, Dan Cruikshank and others. Brunel was a brilliant engineer, but his products were works of art.

 
Leonardo's HELICOPTER - it didn't work, but not a bad try for an artist.

The actor Colin Firth said of England “You’ll not believe what a philistine country it is.” However, I prefer the multifaceted genius of Orson Welles:

 
  “Everything about me is a contradiction, and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There's a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don't reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.”


Thursday, 7 July 2016

EVERYTHING'S NOT GONNA BE OK


Everything’s Not gonna be OK.



Nihilism

/ˈnʌɪ(h)ɪlɪz(ə)m/

noun: nihilism



The rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.

Synonyms: negativity, cynicism, pessimism; More
rejection, repudiation, renunciation, denial, abnegation;
disbelief, non-belief, unbelief, scepticism, lack of conviction, absence of moral values, agnosticism, atheism, non-theism

•Philosophy; the belief that nothing in the world has a real existence.

•Historical; the doctrine of an extreme Russian revolutionary party circa  1900 which found nothing to approve of in the established social order.



v v v




There are a number of favourite, all-time repetitive lines in almost all Hollywood movie screenplays. They include classics such as “This ain’t lookin’ good”, “You’ve got 48 hours” and “You’re suspended - I want your badge and your gun” or “We gotta get out of here, now!” and usually when some whiney American infant wheedles something like “Day-ddy, what’s wrawng with Mawmmy?” the classic reply will forever be “Everything’s gonna be OK.” And in Hollywoodland, it usually is. But most of us don’t live in tinsel town. For at least 50% of the world things are certainly not ‘gonna be OK’ at all.

Perhaps the make believe world of California can almost be regarded as another planet altogether. The sun shines each day there, our entertainment is crafted and constructed, and it is beamed around the globe as a small screen palliative against the true hopelessness of life in many lands Americans may never have heard of, let alone visited. Alongside those distant, dark, depressing destinations is the middle ground of economic existence, Europe, a concept which once included the British Isles, a.k.a. the United Kingdom. No longer. Britain (we can drop the ‘Great’ - it’s no longer relevant) now floats politically and economically in the North Sea like one of those abandoned rotting hulks of the Mulberry Harbours  so brilliantly constructed for D-Day, which can still be seen rusting in the waves off the Normandy coast.

I am glad now to be old, past my three score and ten. The calendar ahead is dramatically shorter than the one behind me. But this is providential, as I shall not have to experience the struggles to come. It seems that in my British lifetime, every political, social and economic game plan has been rolled out, tried half-heartedly, and then, as the immorality and visible greed of politicians and business magnates has grown, the dog-eared ideas, only dusted down for elections, are thrown back in the Westminster wheelie bin. I say ‘every’ political plan - but one. That’s fascism, and the rigours of 20th century historical reality have forbidden ‘good and decent’ politicians from trying this. Yet its elements, spreading like carcinogenic cells from the tumour of  old Europe, are slowly losing their repulsiveness. Fascism is a tool to destroy the workers' movements and secure rule by the upper classes. This element has already been in motion since 1979, and is always on the political agenda. Fascism suggests that ‘we’re all in it together’, and succeeds by appealing to the people and to their most primitive prejudices and needs, while actually pursuing the interests of the already rich, who must always be allowed more wealth. If this situation sounds familiar in modern Britain, then although the jackboots and the brown shirts are not out of the wardrobe yet, they are being polished and pressed by the handmaidens of UKIP.

THE ATTRACTIVE FACE
OF THE NEW ORDER;
GERMANY'S
BREXIT-SUPPORTING
FAUKE PETRY

For anyone of a liberal persuasion, or dangerously further to the left as I am, the vote to leave the European Union was the loudest foghorn or alarm bell of approaching fascism, something I never dreamed would sound out across this country in my lifetime. Worse still, I find myself living in a town which could be as rabidly racist as Vienna in 1938. I came to Mansfield for the convenience of its location when I was at the height of my career in sales and marketing in 1987. Back then there were 13 coal mines here. It was as blue collar as you could get. Labour MP, Labour Council. Today Tories (masquerading as ‘Independents’) run the District Council. We still have a Labour MP, but one of the metro-centric beige types who the establishment have rewarded with a knighthood. There are no coal mines here at all now. All closed, yet whilst Britain’s electricity still relies 40% on coal, we import it now from Russia, Poland and distant Colombia. Bulky, ebullient tattooed men (those still with jobs) who once worked down the pit now man the tills at Tesco. Mansfield has a large, thriving population of Poles and eastern Europeans. Walking round the supermarket on a Friday night is like being in Bratislava. And this colourful rainbow of legal, hardworking humanity on the move is the very thing which has been manipulated into the fascist clay to bake the xenophobic bricks of the new Brexit order. Over 70% of Mansfield’s electorate voted ‘out’ in the referendum. As the new fascism slowly grows flesh on its brittle bones, it will have no more fertile ground than right here on my doorstep.


ANOTHER NICE FASCIST WHO
LOVED BREXIT: MARINE LE PEN
As a left wing socialist I had already long abandoned any hope that the naïve dreams of my youth could ever become reality. Although I have benefited all my life from the great Spirit of 1945, saved frequently by the safety net of the Welfare State and the NHS, I had always fought and hoped for that sense of fairness and egalitarianism engendered in the ideas of  Aneurin Bevan to become the norm. But fascism, this new, moneyed version, does not allow for such luxury. Without their golden carrot on the long stick dangled from Canary Wharf,  Britain’s one-time ‘proletariat’ have nothing to aspire to. A cloying treacle of celebrity, benefits porn, bake-offs, strictly come dancing and rabid tabloid propaganda has been poured into the fuel tank of human progress. It is manufactured by the real Masters of the New Universe: Rupert Murdoch, Lord Northcliffe, the Barclay Brothers and all their well-rewarded acolytes in Parliament and the City, captained by the products of Eton, Harrow, Oxford and Cambridge. What was once regarded as an elected government no longer serves its electorate’s needs. The Labour Party included (‘labour’ is a term it should abandon forever), Westminster exists only to progress and make real the diktat of aggressive capitalism, a darker, more virulent extension of the ideas of Milton Friedman and the creepy, spidery remnants from the dank cellar of Thatcherism.  And so, as Goebbels astutely observed;

           “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will  eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes  vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress  dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by  extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Therein lies the success of the Brexit vote. Foreigners are bad. Where now is that mythical £350 million per week we can give to the NHS? There are many more facets to the referendum lies package from both sides of the campaign. Those few politicians (a miniscule minority) who sometimes bleat out truths,
the Dennis Skinners and Jeremy Corbyns of our new world, are Westminster’s court jesters, the shaggy dogs the rich wipe their greasy hands on at their frequent banquets. The champions of the Big Lie think nothing of sending young men to die in some forlorn cause. Tony Blair, that great Thespian of modern politics, is the very embodiment of the self-serving, money-worshipping hypocrite who can lean back on his soft mattress of banknotes and cry theatrical tears for his ‘mistakes’ for the eager media. Westminster’s club members can talk the talk, but walking the walk, their legs buckle beneath them. They will let our privacy be sold off because GCHQ must be the tool for control in the New Order. They cry crocodile tears for the NHS whilst taking bribes from lobbyists for privatisation. They hate the very idea of the public owning anything, because anything and everything can make a profit in the right hands, and profit does not exist for the progress of the nation; profit is for the rich. Thus we have a colourful assortment of Mickey Mouse railways and bus companies, a hi-jacked postal service where stamps cost more than a ream of the paper we write on, belligerent insurance and payday loan companies hiding behind false facades of ‘customer care’… the catalogue of calumny is as long as the Chilcot Report.




Hiding in my little fortress in my embattled corner of the New Reich I now look back in sadness, anger and sorrow. Outside, beyond the closed curtains of my fading world the tattooed masses shuffle along, thumbs a blur as they stare down at their I-phones texting God knows who. The new Daily Mail-reading  Sturmabteilung is growing like a field of weeds, and soon ‘Little England’, isolated, backward, insular and xenophobic, having turned its inked back upon the world, will forget all the hope and potential goodness it once imagined it stood for. There is nothing left now. A bottle of beer, a smoke, a DVD, a good book, bed, a few more weeks, months, perhaps years of breathing, followed by welcome death.

I feel sorry for you, young England, and I feel guilty, because I have a past where hope reigned supreme. Your present, your choice, and your future will never know anything like it. I never imagined myself as a Nihilist, but now I’ve got the T-shirt, and it fits me very well.

Friday, 24 June 2016

LITTLE HINGERLAND


It Woz us Wot Won it!


Thank heavens that’s over! I’m writing this, bleary-eyed, at 8.30 am on the sunny morning Britain decided to pull up the drawbridge. Napoleon once called us ‘a nation of shopkeepers’, but he also said ‘Glory is fleeting, obscurity is forever’. In turning our back on the world, have we chosen obscurity? That remains to be seen. One thing seems sure; that is that we can’t shake off the baggage of our imperial past, so now we’re trying to carve a future from the tombstone of our long-dead empire. As the saying goes, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

     No matter how the vote panned out, in my opinion this referendum was totally unnecessary and it has split the country down the middle. It cost Jo Cox her life, and her killer will feel ‘justified’ as we spend many thousands of pounds keeping him in comfortable incarceration for the rest of his pathetic life.  It saw Yvette Cooper’s children and grandchildren threatened with death. It has divided families and old friends, some of whom have revealed such dark, xenophobic tendencies which may well separate us for good.


    And who are the victors? Rupert Murdoch and Lord Rothermere, and, of course, the rich - in or out, they’ll continue getting richer. If you thought the government of David Cameron was right wing, then once the new champions, Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith, Nigel Farage and Michael Gove take over, allied to the possible new President of the USA, Brexit supporter Donald Trump, the pre-referendum UK government will seem like communists. Whatever Britain’s ordinary working people have gained in social terms over the past four decades is now under threat. If you study history, call this an extreme view if you wish, but in my opinion there’s an ambience of Munich, 1933 in the air. Why?
EVERYONE LOVES A WINNER!

   There are 13 far-right Eurosceptic political parties celebrating our choice. Germany’s sinister Alternative for Germany party, led by Ms. Frauke Petry were keen for Britain to vote out, as was the ultra-racist right wing Dutch Freedom Party and Le Pen’s French Front Nationale. Now we face many dilemmas. Are Mansfield’s Poles, Latvians and Estonians, no longer beneficiaries of free European movement, about to be sent home? Will our EU traveller’s Health Cards become invalid? Will all the promises about an improved NHS be fulfilled? Now it has achieved its aim, will UKIP be disbanded? On a more humourous note, will garlic now be banned, and shall we dump ‘foreign muck’ like spaghetti Bolognese, pizza, chicken balti and kebabs? Shall we block the Eurotunnel off with straight bananas and French cheese?   

In his speech to young students at Zurich University in 1946, Winston Churchill called for a “United States of Europe, based on justice, mercy and freedom” saying “We are asking the nations of Europe between whom rivers of blood have flowed to forget the feuds of a thousand years.”  Well, here we all happily are, back where we started in ‘Little England’.






Thursday, 16 June 2016

THE ART OF DARKNESS


THE ART OF DARKNESS
Andreas Paul Weber 1893-1980
Speculating on death


In April 1995 I visited Dachau Concentration Camp for The New Statesman magazine to write a feature (entitled Hell Was Here) on the 50th anniversary of the camp’s liberation. I’d imagined that Munich in April, being far south of Mansfield, would be mild and spring-like. No chance. It was freezing, and I recall the bitter sleet slashing against the train windows on the short journey from Munich Bahnhof to Dachau.

My fellow passengers disembarking at Dachau were a mix of elderly tourists and high school pupils. The older visitors included several Americans. Cold and icy, the weather seemed apt for such a destination, but that day was not without its humour.  There was a minibus waiting outside Dachau railway station which took people to the concentration camp. As we clambered on board, I noticed the driver, obviously of the new, post-war generation of Germans. He was huge, bearded and long-haired, wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with some heavy metal rock calligraphy. As we all shuffled into the bus interior, our colossal chauffeur turned in his seat and bellowed forcefully at us all in the kind of German accent only heard in British B-movies:

    You vill all move down zer bus und be seated now!” At this a small, elderly American guy who may well have been Jewish, piped up in a New York accent;

   “Gee, buddy - ya sure make these trips authentic!”


I spent most of that bitter day walking around the camp. All the main huts, but for a couple, had been demolished, but the Crematorium remained, as did the watchtowers and original SS barracks. There was an oppressive, doomy ambience to the place; no doubt this was to be expected considering the misery, death and torture which had existed there. It was the first of such establishments to be set up by Himmler as early as 1933, the idea being that the Nazis should imprison people as a ‘preventative’ measure - in effect, if they suspected that you might commit a crime, then that was reason enough to lock you up. And, of course, if you were a communist, a dissident, a critic of the party, and although the ‘Final Solution’ hadn’t been established yet, the first batch of inmates included numerous Jews.

It was in the SS barracks, where such awful remnants of mistreatment were displayed, like the whipping block, where prisoners would be tied down for sadistic punishment that I paused with an intake of breath at some framed lithographs. They were some of the most sinister, disturbing art I’d ever seen.

WEBER IN 1979
Andreas Paul Weber (1893-1980) was one of the Third Reich’s first dissidents. His name rarely appears in dictionaries of art. In 1928, appalled at the rise of National Socialism, aged 35 he joined Ernst Niekisch’s anti-Nazi circle and began illustrating books for the Widerstands-Verlag (Resistance Press). When Hitler came to power, the Resistance Press was immediately banned and Weber was arrested and committed to Dachau Concentration Camp. Today there is a Paul Weber Museum in Ratzeburg, a town in Germany south of Lubeck. I would dearly like to go there and see Weber’s originals. There is a sinister darkness to his lithographs depicting the rise of Nazism, it’s corrosive invasion into private life and the hypocrisy of the war years.

'The Informer'
Yet there are blind spots in the museum’s biography of Weber; for example, when he was discharged from Dachau before the war, he at least managed to visit Cuba, and then during the war his work seems to have been (mis?)used by the Nazis. He was drafted in WW2. He did a series of works criticising Imperialism, The Britische Bilder (The British Pictures) producing over one hundred sketches and drawings to protest against Imperialism and Colonialism. In the 60s and 70s Weber became an avid supporter of the ecological movement. He maintained a love of nature and peace throughout his life, detested militarism, pollution, and devoted his art to themes such as justice.  This paragraph from the museum’s website succinctly explains Weber;

          Death is an important theme in Weber's work, as is the figure of the fool, which is a common character in his drawings. The artist identified himself with his figure, which was inspired by the historical joker Eulenspiegel, who lived a few miles from Ratzeburg in the town of Mölln, and by the medieval court jester. Weber envisioned himself as a court jester, because in this position he  could tell uncomfortable truths without being punished.
Titled 'Doom' this was the way Weber predicted National Socialism would go -
straight into the grave.

When it comes to capturing the dark mood of the underbelly of world politics, capitalism and war, every time I think about Dachau I now think about Andreas Paul Weber.  During his 87 years, he produced nearly 3,000 lithographs, hundreds of wood cuts, more than 200 oil paintings and several thousand other drawings. And still he has the power to chill me to the bone.
'The Meeting' 1932



Tuesday, 31 May 2016

RUNNING ON EMPTY


RUNNING ON EMPTY

The Hollywood Reporter recently gathered together six leading New York literary agents to share their thoughts on the publishing industry today. You can see this fascinating hour long discussion on line at www.litrejections.com/agents-roundtable/. One of the agents, Eric Simonoff of the WME agency, recalled one author’s letter which accompanied his MSS. It read; “Dear Mr. Simonoff, it would be an egregious lack of judgment for you to represent me; let me outline ten reasons why…” The writer got a deal. For literary health and safety reasons, I wouldn’t recommend you try this method, but I wish I’d known about it some years ago when agents and publishers still paid attention.
    I’ve heard a lot over the years about ‘writer’s block’ yet it’s not a condition I’ve ever had to contend with. The ideas keep coming, the fragile flame of hope that I can continue to make a meagre living still flickers, and without a daily target of words I feel lost. However, as with all occupations, physical or desk-bound, there comes a time when, imperceptibly at first, age, cynicism and lassitude begin to wear you down. As the literary landscape around you begins to change, a feeling of despair and isolation sets in. After a dozen published books, (deals mostly negotiated without the aid of an agent) countless magazine features, radio and TV work, to paraphrase Groucho Marx I’ve worked my way up from nothing to a state of extreme obscurity. I still write every day, but when it comes to optimism, I’m running on empty.
   It’s a common whinge among us older scribes that writing and publishing aren’t what they used to be. Technology may have initially seemed like a liberator, yet it has also become a destroyer. In the ancient era of the typewriter, a re-write of a day’s work would have taken you just that - a day. Now, on screen you can zip through it in a couple of hours. This ought to have freed up more time for human interaction, but the reverse is true. Good manners and communication in the field of publishing have been eroded almost to the point of non-existence.

I was struck recently by seeing a facsimile of a rejection letter from Faber and Faber dated July 13 1944. It was addressed to George Orwell, a whole page and a half, around 500 words, telling him why Faber wouldn’t be publishing Animal Farm. It was signed by T.S. Eliot. Of course, Orwell was an important writer, yet it was the gentlemanly thoroughness of the rejection which stood out. Eliot and Faber’s directors had actually read the MSS. The two-page typewritten response was detailed, reasoned, helpful. Time had been taken to assess and evaluate a submission. One has to wonder, in the age of the ‘slush pile’, what might have happened to Animal Farm today.


   Needless to say, I’m no Orwell, just a jobbing old hack minus an academic past. With three GCE ‘O’ levels and a fascination with history, I set out to be a writer in the 1970s with no idea how to get into print. Yet even then, three decades after Animal Farm’s rejection, with all my futile romantic hopes and grammatical shortcomings, even a vain would-be wordsmith was allowed to communicate with the commissioning editors of the publishing world. When I tried to write a book in 1971, a history of an obscure Yorkshire railway line killed off by Dr. Beeching, no less than the managing director, David St. John Thomas of the publishers David and Charles, wrote to me a few days after receiving my pitiful MSS with a two page critique of my work and style, with pointers as to how I could improve the work, and encouraging me to keep on writing. In that same year, when I wrote an article on spec for the Observer, the editor of the Business Section, Anthony Bambridge, not only wrote me an uplifting letter, but telephoned me to thank me for my submission. And he printed it. At that time my work was being featured on BBC Radio 3 on a show called The Northern Drift. The producer was the late, legendary Alfred Bradley. He even agreed to meet me in a pub in Hull, where we sat for over two hours as he offered me advice.
   Fast forward to the so-called ‘age of instant communication’, 2016. Two months ago I sent out 7 detailed proposals, four to TV production companies and three to publishers. Return postage and envelopes were enclosed, the submissions all backed up by e-mails. The result to date is … zilch. For nine months last year, as instructed by an interested publisher, I re-wrote a children’s novel five times until they were happy. Then silence fell. I badgered them: eventually they said that their ‘budget wouldn’t allow taking my work on at this time’. Would they have told me had I not kept at them? No. Today more than ever, time is money, and no-one has any to spare. Magazines, newspapers, publishers, the BBC, today all are infected with this courtesy by-pass, where good manners have been burned on the corporate bonfire. That said, I did encounter one pocket of ‘old school’ good manners when I wrote to Ian Hislop with a TV documentary proposal. He actually wrote back, in longhand, telling me he was ‘too busy’ but wishing me luck.
   Of course, it is quite possible that after 40 years of work perhaps my ideas and my creativity have run their vague commercial course. However, I still fall back on Thomas Edison’s dictum; “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”    
David St John Thomas died in his sleep on 19 August 2014 at the age of 84 while on a cruise in the Baltic. I shall remember him and Alfred Bradley fondly, because something good died with them; the human etiquette of response and considerate correspondence.

Monday, 23 May 2016

FLYTIP NATION


Litter at the end of our street, 11 am, Monday May 23rd 2016.
Hope you had a good night, guys.

LITTERBUGS AND BUSYBODIES


ASBOs - remember them? In terms of anti-social behaviour in Mansfield, I call Sundays and Mondays ASBO days. Living in the town centre, close to numerous clubs and pubs, we find Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights make central Mansfield a no-go area for grown-ups. It’s also the time  when the takeaways do their best business, as bawling, immature feral drunks stagger though their midnight delirium in search of kebabs, pizzas and burgers. Probably due to an intoxicated lack of co-ordination, half of what they buy misses their noisy mouths, and is destined for the pavement, along with the packaging which held it, despite litter bins within sight. And so, on Monday mornings, I have go out with my bin bag and grabber and collect the cans, bottles, half-eaten pizzas, scattered chips, noodles, fag packets and assorted prawn crackers carelessly thrown down by these anonymous nocturnal inebriates. On the one occasion I did see litter being tossed on my pavement, using the most diplomatic reasoning I could, I challenged the culprits, only to be threatened with maximum potential violence. This is what you can expect in modern Britain; a good kicking or even a knifing for daring to engage in dialogue over something as prosaic (to them, at least) as turning your town into a shithole.

It seems that in Mansfield, once you’ve had a few beers, dropping your rubbish is your God-given right, wherever you are. If you’re one of those people who can’t abide this anti-social criminality (there’s still a £2,500 fine for littering), and give up your time to clear up the mess, you’re regarded as some kind of interfering old busybody with nothing better to do. Well, that’s me, guilty as charged, m’lud - I just like living down a clean street. It makes one wonder; when these irresponsible oafs finally blunder into their own homes, do they throw the remains of their meals onto the living room floor, or toss the packaging into their gardens? Or were they brought up in a skip? 

Britain is the second dirtiest country in Europe - only Serbia beats us for rubbishy streets. Despite numerous powers and responsibilities for local councils enshrined in legislation,  litter remains an issue of  public concern, with levels of littering and fly-tipping failing to reduce substantially. Campaigns aimed at changing public behaviour don’t seem to work. Keep Britain Tidy places a £1 billion plus annual price tag on managing litter and its knock-on impacts nationally. The website litterheroes.co.uk drove along 1 mile of country lane and found 147 items of litter including 40 drinks cans, 30 plastic bottles, 20 bits of fast food litter, 20 crisp packets, 20 chocolate bar wrappers, 10 Cigarette packets, 6 Carrier bags and 1 hub cap (there’s always a hub cap). So it is hardly surprising that this ‘let somebody else clear it up’ mentality reaches its pinnacle with fly tipping, perhaps the most disgusting offence of them all.

If you’ve any pride in your civic environment, the only answer is to be a busybody. Pick it up, bag it, bin it. But whatever you do, don’t challenge the perpetrators - you too could end up on the pavement.

Friday, 13 May 2016

DEFEND OUR NATIONAL TREASURE


Mansfield's Kings Mill Hospital

No profit: Just Care, Just People.

As our work-worn physiques begin breaking down, those of us in the older generation need to visit a hospital more often than we’d wish. In my case an overweight lifestyle of drinking and scoffing gargantuan plates of food has resulted in 4 hernia operations, trapped bowels and assorted complications. One of these kicked in this week and I was in some agony. If we believe the constant barrage of anti-NHS propaganda issued from UK Plc’s ‘privatise everything’ media, then rather than passing through the doors of a hospital we might imagine we’re entering the gates of Hell.

Yes, there are long waits in A&E at some hospitals. Yes, some people do spend time lying on trolleys in corridors. On some wards around the country perhaps mistakes are made by staff working exhausting 13 hour shifts. However in my opinion, all the negative hype and deliberate underfunding has one underlying purpose - to destroy the NHS and replace it with a US-style private Insurance system. Those of us who use the service regularly are fully aware that the NHS is one of Britain’s finest surviving world-class social achievements - the other is the BBC, also fighting on under the same sinister commercial intimidation from corporate-minded Philistine politicians.

So having just returned from another spell in Kings Mill Hospital, what can I report? Did the NHS work for me? The negative aspect is that I had to go to A&E simply because my local surgery had no GP appointments available. I was in pain, yet couldn’t see a doctor when I needed one. The receptionist suggested Kings Mill’s Primary Care facility. I telephoned the NHS 111 line first to see if my condition warranted my bothering the overworked staff at A&E. After many questions and answers, the nurse on the line decided I should definitely go to the hospital. At 1 pm I arrived in A&E expecting a wait of several hours, but was seen in 20 minutes. Once in the Primary Care department, I spent 45 minutes with a wonderful, highly skilled nurse who gave me the most thorough examination: blood pressure, temperature, samples taken.
They're not called Angels for nothing ... and they're not looking for my credit card here ...

Still in pain, I knew I might not be going home. She rang the surgical ward, and within minutes I was being pushed there in a wheelchair. The ensuing 24 hours were a textbook example of medical routine, care and attention. The ward was subject to a cavalcade of honest care. Conscientious nurses, two junior doctors followed by the no-nonsense superiority of the consultant surgeon. Ladies brought tea, coffee and food from the impressive cosmopolitan menu. I was in overnight for observation. I slept well. The pain subsided, I went home. I’ll return soon for a scan.

     Therefore I conclude; in Britain’s increasingly unequal society created by the privileged rich, our NHS survives as a true bastion of equality. When that nurse takes your temperature and your pulse, she’s not checking your bank balance or credit card. She’s sharing the basics of humanity; care and compassion. The NHS, created by and for the people, still belongs to us all. Perhaps those initials stand for something else; the National ‘Humanity’ Service. Respect, support and defend it - don’t let them steal our last national treasure.