Ed Lines

I HEARD one of the more staggering ‘expert’ comments I’ve ever come across while driving into work on Thursday morning.

This character was highlighting a crisis in Accident and Emergency care across the UK. The challenge, he said, was to reduce the number of people coming into A&E units.

Now, I understand that I can be a tad obtuse at times, and even indulge in occasional wild flights of fancy – but I can’t be the only person who interpreted that as sounding like people were throwing themselves under buses or off ladders, just because they fancied half a day in A&E.

“Now then Joyce, shall we go down the bingo tonight or pop down the social club for a Dubonnet and lemonade?”

“Oooh no Doris, I quite fancy putting my arm in the fire and getting an ambulance half-way across the county to Pinderfields. I hear they have some very dishy junior doctors in the Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust outpatients department…” As if.

There may well have been a serious point my so-called ‘expert’ intended getting to, but didn’t manage.

Perhaps he meant that local health centres and GPs’ surgeries need to deal with more non-emergency cases, although in my experience people are pretty astute at self-diagnosis.

You have to have a pretty sad social life to fancy sitting for four hours watching people groan and bleed, if all you have is a sprained ankle.

And besides – with no offence to our GPs – they only take one look and send you to casualty anyway. Go get an X-ray. Just to be on the safe side.

But there is a quite simple point in and amongst this A&E crisis and one which our political and bureaucratic classes seem intent on ignoring, or at least papering over.

It is that we are only ever going to require more health provision, more schools and more residential elderly capacity. It is a simple and unavoidable fact of life that the more people there are, the greater the service provision they require.

The current centralising fad, as witnessed by the Mid Yorkshire Trust plan to reduce Dewsbury to cottage hospital status, only makes sense on one level – that of protecting the jobs, careers and interests of the very people who are a direct drain on resources, while tacitly destroying our social fabric.

The problem is bigger than them, I accept. It is being mirrored in every walk of public life, from Whitehall to Huddersfield and all stops in between.

Dewsbury police station is up for sale. Who on earth is going to buy a cop shop? Someone who can knock it down and build 50 houses on the site, possibly. But there are plenty of better options.

And I doubt the same pertains to the magnificent, still newish, Dewsbury Magistrates Court building, with its hopeful ‘For Sale’ sign – as though some occasional passer-by might stop and think: “That’s what I’ll do, I’ll buy a flaming huge court building! Just what I wanted!”

What is anyone going to do with that white elephant?

But it doesn’t matter because some tinpot bureaucrat saved 10 bob by cramming everyone into far less suitable premises in Huddersfield. No matter that it cost 10 quid in lost jobs and commerce (on so many levels).

No matter that it contributed to the decimation of a lost community. It preserved that jobsworth’s ivory tower while putting off far bigger problems for another day – and by then it will be someone else’s problem. Actually, it will be all of our problem. It already is.

 

YOU might find this strange, given our antagonistic relationship, but I despair when I look at the pale shadow of a newspaper that the Dewsbury Reporter has become.

The staff must want to tear their hair out – what’s left of them, that is. There’s always been room in this district for two voices, the Reporter group and our little paper.

I’ve always said that.

We keep toddling along, they seem intent on cutting their own throats. The sports department was made redundant but for one employee moved into Wakefield; the sub-editing staff likewise, all the district offices in Morley, Cleckheaton and Batley closed and finally even the advertising sales staff moved to Leeds. Life is local, eh?

Their owners, Johnston Press, are doing it with every one of their titles. Your adverts are designed where exactly? No, not Dewsbury. Not even Wakefield or Leeds. Try India.

Last week they carried a story about Dewsbury RLFC’s 1973 Championship win.

They couldn’t even spell Mick and Nigel Stephenson’s name. Stevenson, they had. They transformed ex-chairman Mick Lumb into Stevo, and Stevo into Nigel! Shameful.

On a poster outside their building they had an Earlsheaton woman killed by a runaway van. She lived in Willans Road – but that lack of care, of straight-forward knowledge, is what you get when you water down local services, when you kid yourself that saving 10 bob today can possibly make you 10 quid tomorrow.

It’s like trying to slow down a bleeding wound by opening up another vein.

They’re trying to get rid of the iconic Reporter building opposite the railway station and actually had the ground floor up for rent.

Before we moved offices to Batley, I actually applied to rent that. They declined saying it “wasn’t commercially appropriate”. But get this – I’d been printing my rugby paper with them. It was commercially appropriate to take £80,000 a year in business off me! Funnily enough, I don’t print with them any more.

Do you think anyone’s bothered putting 2+2 together? I wouldn’t place any bets on them even coming up with ‘4’.

I’m not gloating, honestly. It’s sad.

But I look at the clowns in Downing Street and Westminster, the pernicious executives at Kirklees Council with their barely veiled agendas, and the so-called leadership of almost every influential public or private organisation in between, and I shake my head.

Maybe it’s just me, eh?

 

 

FORTY years. Crikey, doesn’t time fly when you’re having a mid-life crisis?

I was chatting with Stevo earlier this week about Dewsbury’s magnificent Championship win at Odsal in 1973, and he made the point that quite apart from the frightening passage of time, every one of that team is still alive.

I don’t know if that’s testament to their clean living, and I suspect there’s more than a few knackered knees and dodgy hips, but I suppose it is quietly remarkable that now well into their 60s and 70s, all of those men are still soldiering on.

I do know that Mike is sick as the proverbial that he can’t make the big reunion and anniversary celebration next Friday night at the Tetley’s Stadium, as he’ll be working his usual Sky game.

Those men were every bit my schoolboy heroes, just as much as George Best. My sidestep, playing rugby on the grass island that bisects Overthorpe Avenue in Thornhill, was forever modelled on Nigel Stephenson’s. I still can’t work out how anyone ever leg-tackled Harry Beverley, who’s knees used to come up as high as one of those Lipizzaner stallions.

Dewsbury’s victory that season was literally against massive odds, the like of which hasn’t been seen in the sport since. It’s difficult, nigh-on impossible even, to imagine something like it again.

Not that it’s due to an inability to produce the talent – Super League and even the Australian NRL are littered with top quality players from this valley.

The Burgess boys are wowing Sydney’s cynics and critics, Danny Brough is (for my money) the best half-back in the British game, Alex Walmsley could be the next big thing – literally, in young Alex’s case – and Lee Gilmour has been one of the most professional performers in Super League’s history. And there are lots more.

The economics of the sport have moved on so radically that we simply couldn’t gather them all together sufficiently to re-create something special like that again.

But for now, however, we can still remember the pride and the glory those blokes brought to this modest, homespun town, and celebrate their achievement.

They’re still my heroes.

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