Tag Archives: welfare state

Ten years

Ten years ago today Sarah and I got up worried and early to begin one of the longest days of our lives. We travelled to the Royal Hospital here in Liverpool, to the Rapid Diagnosis Clinic, to find out what we found out.

And ten years later part of me finds it hard to travel back to what Sarah has written here. But most of me is immensely relieved, and grateful, that she is alive to write it. And that the years have in no way dimmed her fire and passion for our National Health Service, or her determination to keep it safe from officious predators, as you’ll see when you read on.



22nd February 2007

This is me on the 22nd of February 2007. It is the day after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, age 43.

So today, the 21st of February 2017, marks ten years from that diagnosis. There is no whoop of delight, no fist pumps here. No, this is not a celebration. It is a mere observation of a fact, a fact that I am still here to observe. And of all the questions I asked that day ten years ago during the hours in the hospital, the main question, the one I remember the most, was when I said, ‘Will I die?’

But thanks to modern medicine and surgery, some great doctors and surgeons, a hefty dose of luck and some of my own tenacity, I did not die of breast cancer. At least, I haven’t so far. Continue reading

Mr Churchill: And the creation of the NHS?

Winston Churchill, age 26, in 1900.

Winston Churchill, age 26, in 1900.

Would you say Winston Churchill was a Socialist Prime Minister?

That’s got your attention. Of course he wasn’t. Far from it.

But for the whole of the 1940s Britain had a government largely run by Socialists and for the first half of that Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister. So it is sort of true. Read on.

Since I did my walk around 1943 Liverpool with my then office junior Dad a few weeks ago, I’ve been reading  a lot about the 1940s. Born in 1954 it was, after all, the decade that created the world I was born into and the NHS Hospital I was actually born in. A decade of some of the worst things the human race had ever done:

  • The Holocaust;
  • Stalin’s enslavements and mass slaughtering in the USSR and Eastern Europe;
  • And the British and US fire storming and mass slaughter of German cities, well beyond any military reasoning.

But also a decade when we did one of the best things the human race had ever done, created the British National Health Service.

And over all of our side of things towered the truculent and mildly inebriated figure of the man who was once again Prime Minister when I was born, Winston Churchill. Let’s reflect. Continue reading

Harry’s Last Stand

“Though I am not an historian, I am history.”

As you may know I don’t generally review books on here. In fact I question the value of all reviews, our tastes in all manner of things being so different. But I do want to briefly recommend something extraordinary that I’ve just finished reading, so here goes.Harry Leslie Smith

‘Harry’s Last Stand’ is a 91 year old man’s testament about growing up in the great depression of the 1920s and 30s, fighting Nazism in the Second World War, and finally creating a green and pleasant land in Britain with the NHS and the social welfare safety net in the 1940s and beyond.

And how that all began to be unravelled from the 1980s onwards. Continue reading

The Spirit of ’45

I’ve always felt like I was there. Even though my body didn’t turn up on the earth until 9 years later. My spirit was with them every step of the way. Through the landslide election victory, the nationalisations and the founding of the NHS. I’ve read all the books I could find on the time, and now I’ve seen the film.11775

‘The Spirit of ’45’ is Ken Loach’s impassioned, almost newsreel piece about the energy of the people of these countries as World War Two ended, and how they demanded and got real social change. Unlike the aftermath of World War One, where society and the economy moved seamlessly back into the pre-war system of exploitation and domination of the working classes.land-girls-low-res

The film uses contemporary newsreel from the late Forties, together with modern monochrome interviews with nurses, doctors, dockers and miners who were there at the time. The first half is triumphal and inspiring. And when victorious Clem Atlee talks about ‘A socialist government with a socialist programme’ I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. Continue reading

Food in the 1960s: Actually it was quite good.

A joint post today by two of the boys from Mr Keith’s class in 1965.

Sparked by lots of comments on here and on Twitter about the awfulness of blancmange a few days ago, even involving the band Blancmange themselves in the end, I thought it might be good, in a perverse sort of way, to do a post about the general awfulness of food in the 1960s.blancburn-vinyl1new_med

So I got in touch with Barry Ward, hero of the 1963 birthday party incident and one of my boyhood best friends, and suggested we both dredge through our food memories. Which we duly did.

Only to come to a conclusion that surprised both of us. Food in the 1960s was actually quite good. Continue reading