ACCIDENTAL EVENTS.

TIME is not fixed, in spite of our clocks and watches, sometimes the hours and days rush by in a blur, one day its Bank Holiday Monday then in a flash the days get shorter and the nights longer and darker. December is a busy month for all Christians and three members of my family had birthdays in December, now there is just one. It is the time to think about those loved ones who are not here any more. It shocks me to think I’m the oldest member of my family but its true. 

    I’ve always wondered about the where and when of my life.  My parents worked very hard to take care of us, there were few luxuries and holidays.  I understood that sometimes mother was very tired; washing the only energy from the power of her arms; cooking from the raw ingredients, not simply opening a packet to pop in the micro-wave and sweeping up the coal dust and the ashes. A coal fire is very cosy, but it does involve a daily round of clearing up the mess. My life has been so much easier; the amazing invention of the washing machine plus the tumble dryer, the disappearance of coal fires and the blessing of central heating. Yes I confess the micro-wave has an honoured place in my kitchen and ready meals are not unknown. on the other hand providing for the next generation seems to involve a lot of money, university grants have disappeared and debt now looms large for young people.

    I am reading, ‘ The Five Giants [New Edition]: A Biography of the Welfare State’ by Nicholas Timmins, published in 1995. The book is a very illuminating history of a period which covers most of my life time. It covers the difficult and long drawn out birth of the Welfare State, historians date the official life of the W.S. began in 1948, there was a tentative start on pensions and free education from the end of the nineteenth century but the Five Giants; Want, Ignorance, Idleness , Disease and Squalor were brought together by Sir William Beveridge in his report published in 1942.

    The Welfare  State has been present in my life since 1948 I was ten years old, to the present day, sometimes in the background and at others very much in the foreground. To me the political is very personal. I started school at the age of five and it was free, at the age of eleven I sat the 11+ and got a free place at grammar school. In my teens I had my appendix removed by the National Health Service. My father returned from his army service in a very poor state of health, for some months he was in hospital until he recovered sufficiently to be looked after at home. The doctor who treated him came from Jamaica.  The family was supported by sickness benefit.  Later he was able to return to work.

     My brother and sisters received free education and free health care. At about the age of twelve it was discovered that I needed reading glasses, the examination and the glasses were free, the frames were round pink plastic. It was obvious that these were the free frames, the major point was I was now able to read the blackboard and write down my answers. For some years I took off my glasses before I left the classroom

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