Archives

Hot off the press!

Just a very quick blog this time.

I was recently interviewed by the BBC about my experience with NHS when it was first created almost 70 years ago.

My interview will feature on tomorrow’s (Wednesday 4th July) news at 6pm and 10pm on BBC1.

So make sure you tune in and let me know what you think.

nhs

 

 

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted on July 3, 2018. 1 Comment

Tell the truth and shame the devil

Although, if I’m to tell the truth, and I do try to, I don’t think our present day devils would be shamed by it at all. They’re so immersed in their own fantasy world that they wouldn’t recognise the truth if it jumped up in front of them, stark bollock naked, and bit them. They’re a new breed and it’s a breed with unlimited greed and boundless ambition but without a shred of conscience. Think Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, all convinced they were gods and could ride rough-shod over the rest of us and do as they pleased, and, in our present terrible time, the benighted Trump and the kings and queens of Brexit, like Farage, Gove and Johnson and their ilk. That lot can lie through their teeth to con us to vote the way they want us to, and when the conned majority have voted their way and they’re caught out in their lies, they can pretend it was all a joke and get away with it, because no one is allowed to say that an MP is a liar. Even when he (or she) is lying through his/her teeth. And that’s an extremely dangerous state of affairs because it means that the rich and powerful can never be held to account.

image

trump2

But of course it isn’t just lying politicians. The culture of falsity spreads all through our society. Advertisers tell us gaudy stories about the efficacy and value of the products they’re pushing and we all know and accept it, worse, the media con us with propaganda every day of our lives and most of us accept what they’re saying and writing because it’s done so skilfully that we don’t question it. An article I found in our local freebie yesterday is a horrid example.

Under the headline ‘Experts visit Blake’s home’, the journalist told us that ‘officers at Historic England had visited Blake’s cottage in Felpham and had decided not to put it on their at risk register.’ Well isn’t that comforting. Now we don’t have to worry about the place and we can all get on with our lives and forget all about it. The article goes on with several more soothing and anodyne statements. English Heritage are going to continue to monitor the building’s condition and are advising the Blake Cottage Trust and Arun District Council in working towards a secure future for the cottage. There you are, you see. Sorted. Nothing at all to worry about. Except of course that the cottage is still in EXACTLY the same state as it was in when I visited it and reported about it on my blog with pictures. ‘If Blake’s Cottage had a voice it would cry HELP!’ The rafters are still rotten and broken, the thatch is still falling through the ceiling, there are still damp patches on the walls. Just go and look at the pictures. NOTHING HAS CHANGED. The triumvirate who compose the Blake Cottage Trust, who are supposed to hold the cottage ‘in Trust for the Nation’ have ‘owned’ it since September 2015, or in other words for nearly three years and NO REPAIRS HAVE BEEN CARRIED OUT at all. Nor will they be, no matter how much advice they are given by the kindly Expert from English Heritage. And nothing will be done because THEY HAVEN’T GOT ANY MONEY and haven’t got the remotest idea about how to raise any. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

I hope there are still people in Felpham who are still concerned about our Blake’s Cottage and, if there are, that they will get in touch with me. But I think most people who read that article will be conned into a false sense of security. That is how half-truths work. I’ve been depressed about it ever since I read it.

blake7

However to cheer us up a little, I can also report that a very courageous journalist, called Carole Cadwalladr, who works for the Sunday Observer and recently blew the gaff on Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, which took a lot of courage because the trolls and harpies who can’t bear to hear the truth have been viciously after her ever since, has been awarded the Orwell Prize for Journalism. Respec’ Carole! I wish there were more journalists like you. The mealy-mouthed ones who only say what their bosses tell them to say are a pain in the bum and do a lot of damage.

And on a final cheering note and to celebrate the fact that there are still courageous truth tellers in the world I’m ending with a poem that pokes fun at the liars.

Liars are Lovely.

A liar is a comfortable man. He’s right.

Easy to look at, in a well-placed light,

Where his stage make-up isn’t obvious,

His charm is sweet but rarely nauseous

His false teeth gleam, the toupee joins don’t peel,

The padded shoulders almost pass for real,

A twisted spine is hidden by his suit.

Truth’s such an ugly brute.

A liar’s a companion you won’t fear.

He tells you only what you want to hear

Good for a laugh to gloss the time of day.

Or a slick tale to chase your blues away

Where passion is not raw but sentimental.

Riot and rape, and all things elemental.

May tear the other harder world apart

He’ll keep such horrors from your placid heart;

Nothing he says or does will make you rue it;

He’ll talk of sex but never really do it;

And if you’re fifty make you feel fifteen.

The truth’s so bloody mean.

A liar is a politician, made

To keep all truthful thinkers in the shade.

He’ll mesmerize you till you’re sure you could

Give him your vote for all consumer good

You’ve ever dreamed that you could want or need.

Especially when he smiles into your greed.

He’ll chloroform your conscience as you buy.

Leave megadeath to his remedial lie.

To arm is noble; death is a release;

Carnage is colourful. And war is peace.

And if the bombs should chance to fall on you,

He’ll smile sincerely, “Nothing he could do.”

Knowing that in his artful world, most politics

Are muffled by mellifluous statistics

Where truth is dull, deadly and repetitious,

And readily avoided by the ambitious.

What people need is just their daily lie,

The lie sensational, dull truth put by.

The truth’s so uninspiring; makes you bored.

Leave truth to artists. They can be ignored.

This entry was posted on July 2, 2018. 4 Comments

A bit of publicity

I will apologise in advance for publicising my own work. It invariably makes me feel ashamed to do it, but if I don’t, those of you who want information about the next book, or whatever, won’t get it.

So here it goes.

Endeavour Media are in the process of putting up two new/old books on Kindle and other e-book outlets. New to them, and possibly to some of my original readers, but very old to me because they are the two oldest books I’ve written. They were published in 1985 and 1986, which was over thirty years ago and were both instant bestsellers. Those were the days!

The first one is called ‘Hearts and Farthings’ and is about an Italian immigrant, called Alberto Pelucci, who comes to London from Genoa at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, takes any job that offers and works all the hours God sends until he has saved enough to rent a shop in Tooting. And then….. Yes Tooting fans, this one’s for you. There’s a lot in it you’ll recognise.

image

The second is a sequel to the first, is called ‘Kisses and Ha’pennies’ and is also set in Tooting – among other places in London. It concerns two girls, called Anna and Mary, who are sisters but don’t know it because they have been brought up in different households in different parts of London. Until one day…

image

They’re available to buy on Kindle via Amazon now, so here are the links:

http://amzn.eu/6z6E3cL

http://amzn.eu/fYQKXoV

So there you are folks. The ads are over. Now for a tea break.

This entry was posted on June 22, 2018. 2 Comments

A birthday card with a difference for our 70 year old NHS

On Thursday July 5th it will be the 70th birthday of our much beleaguered, much loved National Health Service and I’m sure there will be millions of us all over the country who will want to wish it well, and praise it for all the wonderful work it has done over those seventy years. I’ve already put in my sevenpenn’orth about how good it was – and is still struggling to be – in an interview I gave to the BBC for a broadcast that will be aired during the next two weeks, so now I’m going to send this 70 year anniversary birthday card with a difference by telling the truth about what has been and is still being done to it by our determined and untruthful government.

nhs

Theresa May is already talking about how she is going to give it a special birthday present of twenty million pounds. What largesse! And what tosh! She doesn’t seem to realise – or perhaps she doesn’t want to realise – that her government’s spending money for the NHS comes from our National Insurance contributions and our taxes and is not hers to give or refuse to give on a whim. The NICs were introduced at the same time as the Welfare State began. The whole thing had been carefully costed and planned for and we paid the new tax willingly, knowing that among other very necessary things like unemployment benefit and pensions, it was for a health service that would look after us all and would be free for us when we needed it because we’d already paid for it.

So what’s gone wrong? Why isn’t it working now? Why have 15,000 beds been shut down? Why has the nursing bursary been axed? Why have so many A&E and Maternity units been closed or cut down from their original and necessary size? Why are we short of 40,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors? We’re still paying NICs and taxes which run to billions of pounds every year. Well, put in a nutshell, it isn’t working and is in dire straits because that is what this government, and previous governments from Thatcher on, have always intended to do to it. They have been following a determined and ruthless plan to destroy it. And no, I’m not playing Cassandra and crying ‘Woe! Woe!’ never to be believed. It’s a verifiable fact. So let me tell you some of the story.

Way back in 2010 a man called Mark Britnell, who was the Chair of KPMG Health spoke to a meeting of American private health firms. What he had to say was hideously clear and, to its eternal credit, the Guardian/Observer reported it word for word. This is what he said:-

In future, the NHS will be a state insurance provider and not a state deliverer.’

The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.’

Smart cookies the KPMG. It is now a ‘supplier of services’ to six of the nine NHS consortia which the government instructed the NHS to set up. In 2014 the Greater East Midland Commissioning Support Group, paid KPMG a quarter of a million pounds every month in the first six months of 2014 for ‘services’. Money, as they used to say when I was a kid, for old rope. And they’re not the only wealthy firms in the private health business to take advantage of this enforced privatisation, Ernst and Young are another and so is Virgin Care.

If you want to know more about the racket, tweet or google ‘OurNHS’ and read what Tamsin Cave has to say about it under the headline ‘Why are GPs being told to hand billions worth of NHS decisions to private health firms?’ Google and Twitter can give you a lot of information if you know where to dig.

When it was set up the NHS was responsible for everything to do with our health care, paying for their doctors, nurses, cleaners, ambulance men and all their other staff, the upkeep of their hospitals and surgeries, the purchase of medicines and supplies. Now it is all being siphoned off along with the money to pay for it – our money you will remember – to rapacious private companies who will milk it for as much as they can get out of it and drop it if and when it fails, as big private companies do. Nothing is sacred. Not even the blood that so many donors give for free, to help their fellows. The plasma from it has already gone to a private company.

Please, if you care about our NHS and don’t believe the government propaganda which is pumped at us daily by a nice tame press, which, with the noble exception of the Guardian, is owned by six billionaires with off shore accounts who don’t pay tax, make it your business to find out what is actually going on and spread the word. They are playing a terrible, damaging con trick on us and, like me, you may well want something better for our NHS. Ask how many of our MPs have shares in private health companies or links to them. My own MP for example worked as an accountant for KPMG and his brother is a big noise at the BBC. Give names to the billionaires who now own large parts of it. Let the cats out of the bag. And if you want me to use this blog to pass your findings on, just let me know. Vive the NHS!

This entry was posted on June 17, 2018. 2 Comments

A 70th birthday celebration for our NHS

A few days ago I had a phone call from a TV producer called Sarah Bloch-Budzier, who sounded warm and friendly and wanted to know if I would be prepared to give an interview to BBC TV on what it was like to be among the first people to be treated by the National Health Service back in 1948. The interview was to be part of a programme the BBC will be collating to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the start of the NHS, which was on July 5th 1948. Naturally I said ‘Of course’, the rescue and preservation of the NHS being very important to me.

nyebevan2

They arrived at midday on Monday, Sarah, who turned out to be as friendly as she sounded and is very pretty, an equally affable and handsome man called Hugh Pym, who is six foot seven inches tall and gentle, and turned out to be the same age as my younger daughter (I checked him out on Google later) and a photographer, laden with cameras and equally friendly, who told me his name which I’m afraid I’ve forgotten, because I didn’t write it down.

They decided to film in the conservatory and I was settled in my usual chair at the table and attached to a microphone and off we went. I won’t take you through the interview here because you can see it when it’s transmitted – or perhaps I should say ‘if and when’ because nothing is certain when it comes to television. The anniversary is on July 5th. I’ll give you a reminder nearer the time.

0 R

Hugh Pym is a patient interviewer and a knowledgeable one. I was impressed by the number of books he’d read about the run up to the NHS and its history. But I think I showed him something relatively new to him when I produced my copy of William Beveridge’s report and told him how it preached revolution, which seemed amazing to us at the time, and how he’d spelt out in patient detail just how that revolution could be achieved. I think he was a bit surprised to think that it should have been read by schoolchildren – I was a grammar schoolgirl when it came out and read it avidly when I was in the fifth form. But I tried to explain how popular it was – it was a best seller within days of publication and outsold all the other current best sellers put together. We talked for a while about how the war had given people a new and unusual opportunity to meet together and talk about the sort of world we wanted. We lived in working groups during the war not isolated in our homes, and we talked wherever we were, in factories, schools, the forces, air raid shelters. And I was aware as we talked of how very different our lives are now.

image

After they’d packed up their cameras and said good bye, I sat down and made a list of all the things I was thinking about, as my head was fizzing with them. It seemed to me then and it seems to me now that, if we’re going to restore our cherished and admirable NHS, we have got to tackle the lies and propaganda that this government has been pumping out about it through their tame media and, if we can, to expose what they are really doing to it behind our backs. At the moment they’re having everything their own way and that must stop.

Firstly. We should nail the lie that the NHS is ‘free’ and that people who use it are idle scroungers who are ‘taking something for nothing.’ THE NHS HAS NEVER BEEN FREE. We have always paid for it, as we intended to, week by week through our National Insurance contributions which were deducted at source from our wage packets, and also by our taxes. It was, and is, a matter of honour, which William Beveridge understood and stressed in his report. You pay in willingly so that the service – whether it be medical care, a pension or unemployment benefit to tide you over until you can get another job – is there for you and your family when you need it. That is the essence of the Welfare State.

Secondly. We should explain, over and over again, that there is a fundamental and insurmountable difference of attitude between the Health Service and the Welfare State, which do not exist to make a profit, and private services which do. The first attitude produces caring organisations, the second leads, far too often, to greed, some of it obscene. First and foremost and most importantly, these private services guys are there to make a profit, whether it be from health care, social care, railways, schools, exams. And the richer they are, the less likely they are to contribute to our society by paying taxes. You cannot serve God and Mammon.

Thirdly. We should make it our business to press for information about all the secret deals our leaders are, and have been, doing behind closed doors. They have already sold off a large proportion of our NHS to multimillionaires like Richard Branson. We need to know the names of all the people to whom they have sold these choice bits and for how much. The NHS was never theirs to sell. It was created by the people who voted in a Labour government in 1945 and it belongs to all of us.

nhs2

And fourthly. We should press our new government to bring in a law that would require our MPs to tell the truth in the House. At the moment, because of a piece of antiquated flim-flammery that assumes an MP cannot lie ‘because he is a gentleman and gentlemen do not lie’, it is impossible for outright liars to be called to account. That must stop. The task of cleansing our foul Augean stables begins there.

If you are interested in all this, you will find more detailed information in a blog I put up on January 10th 2018. ‘Our NHS is very near its final destruction’.

nhsdem1

This entry was posted on June 8, 2018. 2 Comments

Citizen Armies

To begin at the beginning, ‘Citizen Armies’ is the title of my 30th novel, which is the sequel to ‘Everybody’s Somebody’ and follows my heroine through World War 2. She is now in her forties, forty-three when the war begins and forty-nine when it ends, so she’s living in my lifetime (I was eight when the war began and 14 at the end of it) and she lives in the Borough, where the bombing was particularly fierce. But of course there’s a different story behind the title.

My first two books were given titles by my publisher – I didn’t know how to do titles then and sold them as Novel 1 and Novel 2 – but from then on titles tended to leap at me in unexpected places or as this one did, lurk in my memory. It’s been lurking for seventy two years so I reckoned it was time I used it.

The war was an experience that taught us to think about horrors and to face the fact that they were happening to millions of people. There were millions killed in air raids; millions gassed in the concentration camps because they were Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, communists or anybody Hitler didn’t like; millions on both sides killed in land and air battles, or at sea; millions ‘displaced’. And on top of that, millions of houses were destroyed – one million in London alone – and two cities in Japan were reduced to piles of radioactive rubble by the first atomic bombs. The implacable figures are endless. So on May 13th 1945, when it was finally over and we knew that the official announcement would come that day, we took off to our city centres and went crazy with relief. I was among the crowds in Whitehall and Trafalgar Square and remember it vividly, dancing the Hokey Cokey, singing the Lambeth Walk, paddling in the fountains, and cheering, cheering, on and on and on, until our voices grew husky. We stayed there for such a long time that when we finally decided we really ought to go home, the trams and buses had finished running and the Underground stations were closed down. So we had to walk and it took us the rest of the night. But who cared about that? The war was over.

image

Wonders came in threes during the next few months. The second one came on July 26th, when the vote in the first General Election in ten years was finally announced and we discovered that although we hadn’t dared to hope that such a thing was possible, we had actually voted in a majority Labour Government and a revolution. The first bloodless revolution the country has ever known. ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive but to be young was very Heaven.’

And then on June 8th we had an amazing Victory Parade in London. There were war leaders there naturally, and a long columns of war vehicles of every kind, and contingents from all three of the armed forces, men and women alike, but as well as the fighting troops there was another and very special section consisting of the Civil Defence workers who’d been out night after night and day after day rescuing the wounded during the air raids, wardens, ambulance drivers, fire men, heavy rescue teams, the WVS. They got a mighty cheer. And quite right too. It was well deserved.

The next day the papers reported it all in happy detail, with lots of pictures. But it was the headline in one paper that remained with me from then on because it was so apt. ‘CITIZEN ARMIES ON THE MARCH’ it said. And I thought what a splendid description it was because we were all citizens, conscripted men, civil defence workers, all the men and women who had voted in the new government, all the lot. So now I’m writing about the bravery of these citizens what better title could I choose? Respec’ Citizens!

image

This entry was posted on May 24, 2018. 3 Comments

Tooting springs a few pleasant suprises

I had a treat last week. Well actually four or five treats, some of them expected, others out of the blue. Let me explain.

For a start my sister Carole came down to spend a weekend with me, which was a joy, even though we spent Sunday morning doing battle with a hideously difficult Sudoku – howls, groans, manic laughter and far too many new starts..

Carole

Then on Monday morning she drove me back to her house to stay with her, which was another joy, as it always is, and on Tuesday I headed off to London where I had a productive and happy meeting with my agent, whom I like very much and then on to Tooting where I was going to give a talk to the Tooting Historical Society.

They’re a great group, the historical Tootingites and the talk was a lot of fun. I told local stories, which made them laugh and that set them off with stories and memories of their own, which made us all laugh and the time rushed by on roller skates. But they had two unexpected treats for me too.
Before I began the talk and while my audience was arriving, some of the people I’d met in the library last time came up to say hello, which was a happy way to start the evening off. And the fourth person who came towards me was an old school friend whom I’d known since the last months of 1944. It was wonderful to see her and hug her again and she was splendid in the audience because her presence there meant that there were two of us with slightly different views and memories of the school. She’d also brought a copy of the school photograph and there we were, looking so young and standing in among all the other classmates that we remembered. We rushed down Memory Lane together.

image

And then, as if that weren’t treat enough, after the talk was over, lots more people came up to have a word. But that time we were bubbling, there’s no other word for it. And one of them inadvertently brought me my second surprise. The Chairman? Secretary? of the Tooting group, who is called Janet Smith and has become a real friend, told me his name, which is John Brown and explained that he was the leading light of the Streatham Historical Society, so naturally we talked about Streatham, which I know almost as well as I know Tooting, having lived there for twenty five years. At one point he asked whether I’d taught in Streatham and I told him I had and that my old darling had taught at Sunnyhill Primary School for thirty years.

‘Wait there,’ he said. ‘There are two men here tonight who were pupils there. You must meet them.’ And he went off to get them. And oh what memories they had. For a start they’d been taught by my old darling and remembered him fondly. Then they got on to the school nativity play that they’d been in. It was in the year that Hywel Bennett had played the recorder in the school orchestra instead of being one of the actors, which they said had surprised them when they thought about it afterwards, given what a good actor he’d become. I gave them another surprise by telling them I remembered that play very well because I’d written it.

I went back to Carole’s house, much later than I’d planned but as high as the Shard. What a great thing it can be to go back to your roots.

image

This entry was posted on May 16, 2018. 4 Comments