Dear Friends,

Its that time of year. Final preparations are being made for the ‘return’ to school, college and university. For many it will be like ‘starting all over again’ given the enforced disruption of the last 2 academic years. For others, sadly, opportunities denied that will never be recovered. They say that schooldays are the ‘best days of one’s lives.’ Well, I’m not sure about that, even under normal circumstances. As we emerge out of the most stringent restrictions imposed upon us all because of the pandemic, it will be time to re-evaluate our priorities as far as society is concerned. And this will be particularly so as regards public services. Health care provision via the NHS has been stretched to breaking point with the likelihood that unless something drastic is done many people will not get the attention that their non-Covid conditions require. Similarly with so-called social care, whether delivered ‘at home’ or ‘in a home’. Very soon, Govt will have to make difficult choices in order to raise the money required to ensure that the quality of service is maintained. At this point it would be very easy for me to slip into ‘party political’ mode, advocating a set of policies most easily identified with one party or another. Like anyone, I have my own views. But one senses that the impact of what we have lived through, and continue to live through is of such magnitude as to render ‘party politicking’ redundant…Indeed, the best policies tend to emerge out of a far more fundamental sense of what is right, of what is necessary, – what should be, what must be –the identification of a moral imperative. It was the doctor, and novelist A. J. Cronin who was the unlikely inspiration behind the NHS. He had worked as a doctor in Tredegar, living alongside a young Nye Bevan. It was Cronin’s novel, ‘The Citadel’ that brought out the need for some form of universal health care provision. Interestingly, it wasn’t Cronin’s politics that framed his outlook, but more his rediscovering of his Christian faith: ‘… At medical school, as he recounts in his autobiography, he had become an agnostic: “When I thought of God it was with a superior smile, indicative of biological scorn for such an outworn myth.” During his practice in Wales, however, the deep religious faith of the people he worked among made him start to wonder whether “the compass of existence held more than my text-books had revealed, more than I had ever dreamed of. In short, I lost my superiority, and this, though I was not then aware of it, is the first step towards finding God.”…’ It may be that post Covid, if we are to recover any sense of social, cultural, economic, political equilibrium then it will require those who have no interest to declare, those sufficiently disinterested for themselves, whose only interest is in the serving of others to emerge, to take the lead, to map out a way forward by which each and all of us will be able to navigate our way through life. It is time for those who owe their allegiance to the One who said, ‘And love your neighbour as yourself’ to step forward. Too many folks are content to ponder over, ‘who is my neighbour?’ The time for talking is over, its time to act. And if you do get the chance, read or reread ‘The Citadel’. It will leave its mark on you, as it did on me.

The Citadel