November 24, 2017

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The Magic Money Tree -

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Housing Wonderland by Ian Lewis -

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Will STPs finally wreck the NHS? -

Sunday, June 18, 2017

STPs – A new way to wreck the NHS -

Friday, February 17, 2017

Private health insurance doesn’t cover A & E!! -

Monday, January 30, 2017

It was meant to get better….wasn’t it? by Brenda Rogers

I was just a toddler when war was declared in 1939, so as a child I thought being at

war with Germany was the norm! I went to live with my Gran and Grandad, and all my

Aunts and Uncles still living there. My mother worked in an armaments factory, and my

father worked down the pit and as a reserve fireman, as he had failed the army

medical when he and his younger brother had gone to join up.

 

Young as I was, I remember lots of things about the war. Hearing the warning sirens

and hiding with the family in Grannie’s pantry, hearing the German aeroplanes flying

overhead and waiting for the ‘all clear’ sirens to sound. Sometimes we would peep

through a forbidden crack in the blackout curtain to watch the searchlights in the

sky.

 

We could hear the distant explosions and see the sky lit up red in colour as

Birmingham, about twenty miles away, was bombed. This always scared me as my other

grandparents and various relations lived there. I would be taken by bus and tram to

see if everyone was ok. Nobody had a telephone in those days.

 

We would go past houses that looked like they had been sliced in half, the front being a

pile of rubble and the back still standing with the rooms exposed, furniture still in place.

I thought they looked like giant dolls houses, my child’s mind having no thought of the

people who had lived there just the day before.

 

So when the end of the war came, there was a sense of expectancy…what would this

mean? Adults in my family were jubilant, and neighbours would come round and people

would hug one another. There was a sense of great hope, and a determination to create

a better way of life, that communicated itself to child and adult alike.

 

I remember the huge street party, the best we could conjure up, bearing in mind that

food was rationed. There was an American army camp nearby, and one of my Aunties had

married one of the soldiers there, so he managed to contribute some extras. I

remember the huge red, white and blue Victory Vs glued to the fronts of the houses,

that took about ten years to succumb to the weather and finally disappear!

 

War’s end was bittersweet in my family. There was joy over the safe return of my

father’s younger brother who was taken prisoner in the retreat to Dunkirk, and who

had spent the war years in a German prisoner-of-war camp. His homecoming was

wonderful. All the family and neighbours were out to greet him as he got off the

bus, and he swung me up on to his shoulders, making me feel extra-special. Up until

that moment, he had just been a man in soldier’s uniform, in a photograph on Grannie’s

sideboard.

 

However, at the same time, I remember the grief and sadness felt in our family over the

death of two of my Grandfather’s brother’s sons, who were killed inthe Normandy landings.

Their family lived in the same village as we did, and though they were happy to see my uncle

return safe, at the same time their grief was a palpable thing that I remember feeling, young

though I was.

 

Looking back, euphoria is the best way to describe how everyone felt, and a determination to

build a better country out of the rubble, a better life for everyone.  When the unbelievable

happened, with the landslide election victory of the Labour Party led by Clement Attlee in 1945,

our cup indeed was full and overflowing.

 

I lived in a family that was very politically astute, and I was a child who absorbed

knowledge from those around me. I grew up knowing about the class system in Britain,

and the unfairness of it. I had listened to my grandparents talking about the mine

owners, and their harsh policies towards the miners whose lifeblood lined their

pockets. Worker’s houses were owned by the mine owner. Also, the grocery store was

owned by the mine owner, so the miner’s wages went right back into the mine owner’s

pockets. After the 1926 miner’s strike, my grandparents were in debt to the mine owner

for years.

 

My family were great advocates of the union, the NUM. I grew up understanding the

importance of the working class needing to stand together. Our local branch of the

NUM looked after our community from the cradle to the grave. I went on a daytrip to

the seaside every year, on a charabanc supervised by union members. We were given

half a crown spending money, a bag with our lunch in it, a bottle of Vimto, and let

loose on some poor unsuspecting seaside town! Our union organised Christmas parties

for the kids and for the elderly, helped with funerals, organised the wonderful

Wakes week in the summer with the sports, dancing, and the wonderful brass band

competitions. Our union was the centre of our community.

 

Another thing the Union organised was a sick club where, my grandfather

would pay maybe one shilling a week, (I don’t know the exact amount) and if he was

hurt or sick, his doctor’s expenses would be paid out of the funds accrued, as he was

the breadwinner. When my grandfather had to retire, because of rheumatism so severe

that he had to walk with the aid of two sticks, he got a small pension from union funds.

His rheumatism was caused by the conditions he had worked in down the mine for years.

 

An example in my own family, of how desperate were the dilemmas faced by the working

man when it came to health care, or lack of it, was the time my father was hurt in

the pit. He had left school at 14yrs and gone to work down the pit. He had worked

underground for about a year when his arm got caught up in machinery, which left

his arm almost hanging off just below the shoulder. His arm was wrapped in bandages

and he was helped out of the pit in the company of an older miner. This involved a

considerable walk to the pit bottom, and then being brought up on the cage to the surface.

He then had to walk home in the company of the other miner, trying to hold his arm

together. Upon arrival at home, the doctor was sent for, and my father had to be

stripped down and washed (he was black from head to toe with coal dust, and there

was no bathroom). He was then laid on my Grannie’s scrubbed table in her kitchen,

and the doctor set and stitched my father’s arm back together. I’m sure some kind of

anaesthetic would have been used, but as a child hearing this tale, I didn’t think to

ask. My father would roll up his sleeve to exhibit an inch-wide scar round the whole

circumference of his arm, and we would hear the story again, of what it was like to

live without an NHS!

 

My gran was a champion at herbal concoctions for every ailment going, and everybody

in the house would be dosed up unmercifully, with the admonishment: ‘if you’re ill, we

can’t get the doctor’. So fear of ‘coming down with something’ was a spectre in everyone’s household.

 

I say all this to highlight the absolute joy we felt when the much-loved Aneurin Bevan

masterminded the NHS. It was nothing short of a miracle to us working people.

We couldn’t believe that bitterly though the Tories and doctors themselves fought to

prevent it coming into being, Nye Bevan had won through for us. We loved him. A true

socialist, together with Clem Attlee, with an agenda that would bring fairness and

opportunity for everyone, no matter what station in life. I saw grown men weep with

happiness at the prospect of this new, fairer society. I watched, listened, and though not

fully understanding then, I still felt that the future was opening up on a new and

better Britain. I felt it, even though I couldn’t put it into words.

 

I have watched this post-war vision crumble, and finally collapse, with the bitter

Miners strike of 1984. My brother was one of the last 15 workers who stayed on

strike in Staffordshire, for the duration, before having to return to work and then

watch every pit in the area be closed, with coal still down there, while Thatcher’s

government imported coal from abroad!

 

I’m an elderly lady now, and wonder what the future holds for my grandchildren.

People are afraid to protest because they feel they have too much to lose, what with

having to pay rent or mortgage, more and more debt to be paid off. Real power is

once again in the hands of the elite few, who hold all the wealth and have their foot

on the necks of the millions of workers from whose labour they derive their wealth.

Now we are facing the reality that we may once again have to live with the fear of

‘coming down with something’ and having to pay for medication, doctor’s visits,

stays in hospital etc.

 

Where are today’s Nye Bevans and Clem Attlee’s? Are you out there? We need you!

 

Brenda Rogers

 

 

Comments
One Response to “It was meant to get better….wasn’t it? by Brenda Rogers”
  1. Janos Abel says:

    “I have watched this post-war vision crumble…”

    All under the pretext that we can not afford it, or that the business way of delivering services is more efficient and better for the people.

    Both are lies:
    The government can afford to spend billions on committing atrocities in undeclared wars;
    Efficiency is a matter of management, *not of ownership*.

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