The Much Wenlock Olympics
I have only just caught up on the 2012 London Olympic mascot called "Wenlock" (on the left). Truly ghastly it is (what designer could really have been proud of this, and what insult to children who are, presumably, the intended audience/market?) But it still strikes a bit of a chord with me, as this horrible creature is named after Much Wenlock in Shropshire, where the first modern Olympics were held (and where, as it happens, I was born -- in the Lady Forester Cottage Hospital, pictured below).
When I was growing up there (after an early spell in Church Preen -- compared to which Much Wenlock seemed cosmopolitan), we always went in for the Olympics. Not the athletic events which brought rather glitzy runners to the village), but all the peripherals that made the "Olympiad" (as we called it) much more like a local fete: I mean the prizes that went for the best animal made out of felt, or the best face made out if a potato (I still remember the agony of making a potato face and not realising that you had to put salt in the water to preserve it, and discovering the next morning that it had all gone irrevocably brown).
But looking back on it, the Lady Forester Hospital was all that we are now told the NHS should be.
It was, I fear, long ago abolished as a hospital and became a private care home (and I think that there has been some local controversy about building a little estate of sheltered accommodation on the site). But when I was a kid, the place was run by the local GPs. And if you needed an X-ray or a minor bit of surgery (or indeed if you wanted to give birth to a baby), you went there.
All that was got rid of in the zeal for specialist hospitals (who, we thought in the 1980s, wants a GP doing the X-ray, when you can have a specialist radiographer 30 miles away?). But looking back, it all looks just like the style of NHS that is being reinvented -- and like the "new" idea of local surgeries offering more services than simply a referral to the nearby district high tech hospital. Isn't that what we used to have?
The last time I saw the Lady Forester in operation as a hospital was in the 1970s when my Mother had her hip replaced. After a few days in the Shrewsbury District Hospital, she was transferred to the place she had last stayed when she gave birth to me. And indeed it was home from home. Nice ladies offering low tech care (and good food) to local convalescents -- and to the local frail/bonkers elderly, so offering a bit of respite to their husbands, wives and carers.
It is a kind of NHS service that used to seem wasteful, but that we are now discovering again ... as if it had never been thought about before. Such amnesia.