July already! Half way through the year and what a year it has been so far – surreal. I began writing a reflective diary in the first days of lockdown but abandoned it when it became to depressingly similar day on day. I’m sure that, in time, there will be a plethora of novels set during 2020 but I think it will be along time before I’d feel like reading one. I’ve just discovered author Elizabeth Noble and enjoyed reading The Family Holiday. I’ve downloaded another to see how I like that. I’ve read a lot lately but will save the rest for another post.
The sunshine and warmth of last week has retreated leaving us with cool, windy and overcast days so far this week, though we have had a few brief sunny episodes today. According to my young grandson it has been ‘freezing’! We should have been off to Devon in two days time but cancelled. I’m glad we did for despite the relaxing of travel restrictions, I don’t think we’d have had a great time without the freedoms we’re used to. We’ve tentatively arranged something for September but certainly won’t be jetting off to sunnier climes, and I’m resigned to the fact that it may not take place at all.
I tried bringing sweet peas into the house again – it wasn’t a good idea. The smell was back. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, Click here. I need to try other flowers but feel wary, so for the time being I’m putting garden flowers on the outside table where, even on cooler days when the doors are closed, they can still be enjoyed.
What have you been watching on television? Having looked forward to Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads I confess to being a little disappointed. Imelda Staunton’s A Lady of Letters has been my favourite so far. There is a dearth of good drama at the moment and this may not be addressed for some time with filming halted. I always look forward to seeing what the Autumn offers but I guess that this year there will be a lot of repeats shown since they normally make those programmes earlier in the year. I have caught up with the odd episode of Escape to the Country and have particularly enjoyed seeing familiar places in Devon.
Needing to speak to my doctor, I booked an online consultation. In the past I’d thought that it would be a very unsatisfactory way to consult but I was pleasantly surprised. The discussion was very thorough and, though it should never replace face-to-face appointments when necessary, I have changed my mind and now think that for minor issues, this arrangement would speed up the service and save a lot of time. I hope they continue with it.
Boris’s Promises are much in the news today. Amid his vision for the future is the Irish sea bridge – Oh, how I hope this possibility could become a reality. I detest flying but since I (who can happily spend a fortnight on a cruise ship – though with no desire to do so presently) succumb to debilitating seasickness on a ferry, I have no choice but to don the mantel of the proverbial quivering wreck at Birmingham Airport when I wish to visit my family. I’d happily drive to Ireland instead.
I am less excited about the proposal for forty new hospitals. Given that there are 100,000 vacancies in the NHS and numerous hospitals have closed wards due to staff shortages, I wonder how we’d staff four, never mind ten times as many. In January concerns were raised about stoke units across the country which faced closure, and last year it was reported that a children’s mental health ward had closed in Ellingham, and a community hospital temporarily shut its doors because there were insufficient nurses. This picture is replicated all over the country. How about putting the funds that would be used for the new hospitals towards improving what we already have. My local hospital doesn’t even offer maternity services when the town has a population of 90,000, and our A&E department is under constant threat. We have, in any case, failed for years to invest enough in training for the construction trade so the building of these hospitals would be a long time being fulfilled.
The desire to create opportunities for training is an admirable one, but to promise that every young person has an apprenticeship or an in-work placement will be a hard one to deliver on. Having spent many years in workforce development, managing large-scale apprentice training programmes, I know first hand that it is not just about finding places – there has to be a strong core of people who are capable of, and have thew right temperament for the training and mentoring of youngsters. This, unfortunately is where ambition can come unstuck. Even the most dedicated worker is not necessarily the right person for the role and furthermore, a business cannot afford to have all its best workers involved in training others when it can significantly slow production.
The building of 180,000 affordable homes over the next eight years would be a tremendous achievement, though these (and more) have already been included in the unfulfilled promises of successive Governments. We are repeatedly let down when it comes to housing. In 2015 we were promised 200,000 new starter homes by 2020. It didn’t happen; the number built is minimal – the tiniest fraction. On the outskirts of my home town vast swathes of countryside have been built on but the majority of houses are detached four and five bedroomed, way beyond the reach of those in need of starter homes. The newly built smaller, two bedroomed properties cost EIGHT times the national average wage and we are considered one of the cheaper areas! The term ‘Affordable Housing’ really is a poor joke. No-one seems to have grasped the fact that without truly affordable housing there will be no first time buyers and without them, there is no housing market.
Austerity beckons and I hope very much that it can be overcome, but until we get realistic about what can be achieved, I fear that Boris’s rallying cry for positivity may become little more than another set of abandoned promises.