For as long as I’ve been alive, the NHS has been there. It’s such a fundamental part of British life that it’s near impossible to imagine life without it. Sure, sometimes it wobbles but having free-at-the-point-of-need healthcare is, literally, a lifesaver.
That’s why it’s difficult for someone of my generation to remember that the NHS hasn’t always been here or, more crucially, that it may not always be here in the future.
The NHS is under threat, like other public sector institutions I naively believed to be intrinsic parts of British society, like libraries and the BBC. It’s facing creeping privatisation, and yet the outcry is muted – perhaps it’s because the NHS has a sense of scale and permanence that political leaders don’t. It’s that optimism that could cost us dearly.
Anyway, to show why I’m worried, here are a few links, many of them curated by astrophysicist Marcus Chown, who’s on something of a Twitter crusade to save the NHS:
Introducing a new series of micro-posts based around an “On This Day In History” theme. It will mainly be stuff that wouldn’t make a full post, or that links to old entries, or that I just find interesting.
For instance, on December 6 1897, London became the first city to licence taxi cabs. This reminded me of my most memorable cab journey, back when I was in San Francisco. We got a cab to the airport and, frankly, the driver was insane. He looked how you’d expect a cabbie in San Francisco to look – long grey hair, vaguely hippy-ish – and he drove maniacally, swerving around a three or four lane freeway as if all other cars were merely conceptual entities and thus couldn’t kill us if we drove into the side/back/front/roof of them. He operated a clever system of indicating the opposite direction to that he intended to move, and when other drivers hit their horns and, you know, swore at us, he just blinked his hazard warning lights with Zen-like calm. It would have been beautiful in its Darwinian elegance if it weren’t for the fact I was in the passenger seat and therefore had a close-up view of everything we were about to hit. He also told us that, although he was married, his wife was a hippo and therefore he had a mistress. I don’t think his wife was really a hippo, I just think she nagged him a lot to reconsider his vocation, what with the whole driving thing being a bit of a kamikaze mission. If anyone else has experienced driving with this guy, please let me know…
Fantastic article by Mike Dash over at the Smithsonian’s Past Imperfect blog all about Santa Claus Smith, a hobo in Depression-era America who wrote those who helped him extravagant cheques on greasy pieces of paper. It’s a lovely story, one that reminds me of Emperor Joshua Norton, another great American eccentric. The story is well worth checking out, as a piece of historical colour, as a portrait of life during the Great Depression, and as a parable about kindness.
(It must be the week for stories about the Great Depression, because only a few days ago I was inspired to write about Superman’s roots in that era…)
Interesting interview at Shareable about a potential future development for public libraries – maker spaces. It’s a pretty cool idea and ties in with the idea that libraries should be about the democratisation of learning and public availability of knowledge and information… Maybe a potential future would be to merge libraries, museums, galleries, arts centres and maker spaces into one public area that allows people to not only accumulate knowledge but immediately put it into practice as well…