One year on: Thank You, NHS!

Today, my husband and I are celebrating a first anniversary, of sorts. One year on from a subarachnoid haemorrhage, David continues to do well after making a remarkable recovery from a life-threatening condition.

We have much to be thankful for, not least the expertise of health professionals, and the treatment and quality of care he received from staff at all levels: from the neurosurgeon who explained the risks one Saturday at 2am, to the nurse on placement at QMC Nottingham who stayed beyond the end of her shift because she’d promised her patient she’d do what was needed.

I LOVE our NHS! Though there are those that do their damnedest to break it, the dedicated individuals that are its backbone continue to do the best they can for the patients in their care, in spite of this.

Many poems have been commissioned to mark 70 years of a healthcare system to meet the needs of everyone, free at the point of delivery, and based on clinical need, not the ability to pay. One such is Owen Sheers’ film-poem, To Provide All People; a tapestry of personal and universal experiences, historical narrative. Depicting 24 hours in a regional hospital, it is based on 70 hours of interviews with individuals: patients, health professionals and NHS workers at all levels. It is a love poem, of sorts, and available to view via BBC iPlayer until tomorrow at 9pm.

In my Ledbury blog post, I mentioned Martin Figura’s show, Doctor Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine. I was deeply affected by the image of the couple on sitting on the steps of Great Ormond Street hospital and the doctor who told them, “I have held your daughter’s heart in my hand and it’s fine.” (Our son, born with a congenital heart condition requiring surgery at five days old and again, aged 3, is now 33). I heartily recommend this life-affirming show, if it’s touring in your area.

I’ve also experienced a deep connection with ‘NHS’ poems by poets whose work I’ve read over time:

Roy Marshall’s poems in the Traces section of his latest collection, The Great Animator (Shoestring Press), are inspired by his nursing experience in coronary care and research. Self-effacing to the last, Roy is one of the most talented writers I know. Having read the collection soon after its publication last year, I was pleased to hear Roy read some of these poems at Lowdham book festival, last month.

My pre-ordered copy of Josephine Corcoran’s What Are You After? (Nine Arches Press) arrived just in time for me to read it from cover to cover before her launch reading at the Nine Arches Press tenth birthday bash. I was particularly pleased, then, that she included ‘Love in the Time of Hospital Visits’ among the poems she chose to read on the day. To say that I identify strongly with this poem is an understatement. You can read it here on the Bookanista site.

Poet and indefatigable blogger John Foggin has around 70 years of ‘form’ with the NHS. Last year, he invited his blog readers to send him poems about hospitals and their experience of them. They make for interesting and varied reading. You’ll find them all in his How Are You Feeling? series of posts starting here.

Obsession: a self-portrait

It’s official – I’m obsessed.

But it’s not always been the case.  You see, if my ‘seventies State Secondary education taught me anything, it was that I wasn’t ‘artistic.’  And I hated my art teacher, even if he was a) male and b) young (staff attributes in extremely short supply in my Girls’ High School).  The other (female) art teacher was ‘hip’ and ‘mod’ (and my best friend was in her class).  Even worse, I was expected to transform a blank sheet of cartridge paper with nothing more inspirational than said teacher’s voice droning lines from a play about some Welsh fishing village full of dead people.  And I got what I wished for: I defected to the art class next door and deafened (deadened?) myself to the magic in the Welsh bard’s words.

Until (shame on me) relatively recently, when I was transported to Llareggub by Richard Burton et al in the 1954 BBC recording of Dylan Thomas’ ‘Play for Voices,’ on air one sleepy Sunday afternoon (somewhere mid-sick leave), this spring.  And utterly convinced by Tom Hollander’s lead performance in the biopic ‘A Poet in New York.’  Since then, courtesy of BBC4, I’ve been on a guided tour of The Writing Shed with Owen Sheers, and marvelled over Peter Blake’s Under Milk Wood-inspired labour of love.  And I’ve raged against my ageing, addled brain for failing to record the BBC Wales TV production which followed, as if my bingeing on iPlayer hasn’t been sufficient.  It hasn’t: I want a recording I can watch anytime.  I’ll just have to wait for a repeat showing (or the release of the inevitable BBC DVD).  All three programmes are still available on iPlayer for one day.  (Click here, here and here for an instant fix).

Then on Thursday I googled Under Milk Wood + vintage editions and ended up treating myself to this gorgeous 1972 Folio Society edition in fine condition (costing little more than a certain ‘Ultimate’ centenary edition), which arrived in this morning’s post:


It features beautiful lithographs by Ceri Richards:









Oh, yes – and (since it came up under the same search) the aforementioned recording as a 2 CD set:


Tonight I’ll be slipping Under, dipping my toes in the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea…