Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tales of Iron Ladies

The smug, self-satisfied voice of Andrew Neil continues to drone from the radio, thanks to the BBC, so it's time to string a few thoughts together on an amazing woman who's been a constant in my life for as far back as I can remember.

Aunt O is my mum's eldest sister and also my godmother. Having no children of her own she's been exceptionally conscientious in carrying out her assigned role. Last Friday evening she collapsed in her kitchen and spent a very cold night on her kitchen floor. She was found there, propped up against a cupboard, by a neighbour who called in around mid-morning the next day to drop off the one newspaper she still bothered to read - on account of it carrying the details of the following week's television.

Incredibly,she was still breathing, in spite of being almost blue with hypothermia. Later, at the hospital, it was confirmed she'd broken her left femur, just below the ball joint at the hip. It was around midnight that the orthopaedic surgeon explained to me that an operation to replace the top part of that bone was necessary, even though, at the age of 97, there was a slight risk that she wouldn't come through it.

Aunt O had been on a kind of bed in A & E for the whole of the afternoon and the evening. Thankfully my cousin J was able to be with her throughout the afternoon, and had stayed until around 10.30 when it was confirmed that a bed would 'soon' be available. I'd arrived there myself around 8.00, and found the entire waiting room in front of the reception desk overflowing with relatives and friends of the sick and the injured who'd been brought in that day.

There must have been some very sick and injured people in there, and there must have been a minimum of staff, because my aunt needed to wait eight hours before she could have an x-ray and a proper assessment. During that time her temperature had gradually risen and her blood pressure had come down. It's just as well that she's an iron lady. [An agency nurse confided that she'd never go back to work there after her latest shift because of the extremely poor organisation and management of the place, which calls itself a university teaching hospital. This was exactly my attitude after experiencing neglectful and pathetic management within certain high profile engineering businesses back in the day.]

Born right at the end of the Victorian/Edwardian era, the first few years of my aunt's life had been lived during the first World War. By the time the second World War broke out she was twenty five, married, and living still in Longford, on the outskirts of Coventry. She still recalls vividly the time of the Blitz, and taking shelter under kitchen tables as shrapnel intended for the local gas works, railway lines, factories and coal pits whizzed through her house.

She was a factory worker for the whole of her life. She was one of Coventry's army of skilled factory workers whose dexterous and tireless hands and fingers shaped and assembled metal and plastic, electronic and mechanical components, and built things of value. All gone now, of course. Even Jaguar moved away, just a few years ago - the final insult to a city that had once been at the heart of Britain's industry and commerce, and as a consequence had been bombed and battered, but not broken, during Hitler's onslaught.

Clearly Coventrians have some issues with fascists and mad politicians who have grand designs and not much concern for the lives of 'ordinary' working people. How ironic, then, that Coventry's industries were finally demolished and destroyed not by Hitler but by the Thatcher gang and their successors - who clearly had and still have no regard for those 'hard working people' who are clearly not 'one of us'. What's more, we, the people, are proud not to be one of them.

We're proud of the fact that we continue to believe that there IS such a thing as society, and that education and health care should be free, paid for from taxes, and of high quality. We continue to believe in social justice, progressive taxation, decent housing for all, and in the elimination of poverty. We continue to believe in greater equality across society, rather than a society of haves and have nots. We continue to loathe the Thatcher woman, and her legacy, and all of those who think like her - greedy, nasty, selfish, arrogant, petty bourgeois individuals with their divide and rule mentality, their elitist and snobbish attitudes, their self-regard and their assumption of intellectual and cultural superiority. As for the upper classes, working class Tories and Ukippers - let's not even go there.

It's just as well Thatcher is going to be consumed by the fires of a crematorium and that she won't have a grave we can spit on.

As for my aunt, she's doing fine. Twenty four hours after her operation she was sitting in a chair, eating a meal. She's as tough as they come. Her little house is her Ritz, and in a couple of weeks or so she'll be back here, with a higher level of support and care, regardless of what it costs. She won't feel she wants or needs that, of course, but this time she'll allow us to take better care of her, however long she may live. That's the least she deserves. Truly it was people like her who built this nation, who fought for it, and who have maintained it, in spite of the neglect, the deprivation and the denigration they continue to experience from the billionaires, the bankers, the plutocrats, the neo-fascist newspaper owners . . . and the heirs of the Iron Lady.

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