Pop­pies and the peo­ple who look af­ter us

Harefield Gazette - - OPINION -

ICOULDN’T help think­ing on Sun­day (Re­mem­brance Day) of how the poppy is such a sim­ple but po­tent sym­bol that needs no em­bel­lish­ment to get its mes­sage across. The ar­ray of pop­pies at the Al­bert Hall was such a con­trast to the pre­vi­ous week, where adults were el­bow­ing each other out of the way to com­pete with chil­dren to be the most glam­orous ghouls in the te­dious Hal­loween-fest that now threat­ens to dis­place Christ­mas as our big­gest an­nual ‘cel­e­bra­tion’.

Pop­pies were also promi­nently on dis­play at the funeral of a po­lice­man who died in the line of duty, though sadly in peace time.

When I was a pri­mary school teacher – in the days be­fore test­ing over­rode every­thing else – the pupils en­joyed do­ing work on the theme, Peo­ple who Look af­ter Us.

We taught the chil­dren to re­spect those who made our lives safer, from lol­lipop ladies to peo­ple in the emer­gency ser­vices, and stressed we could rely on them to be there when we needed them.

Now we are told that there aren’t enough po­lice to do the job prop­erly. Fire sta­tions and hos­pi­tals con­tinue to shut, and the am­bu­lance ser­vice doesn’t al­ways turn up when we need it.

Suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments seem to be pow­er­less to halt the de­cline in our once bril­liant ser­vices.

You may re­mem­ber in March that Mr F, though in ter­ri­ble pain, was re­fused an am­bu­lance. I drove him to Hilling­don Hospi­tal where he had an emer­gency op­er­a­tion for a per­fo­rated ul­cer and re­ceived bril­liant care from staff dur­ing his three-week stay.

I made a for­mal com­plaint to the Lon­don Am­bu­lance Ser­vice and in July re­ceived a re­ply say­ing that they acted prop­erly. I may now take this up with the om­buds­man.

Many peo­ple will never need to ring 999 in their lives; some of us only rarely. But we ex­pect help to be there when we need it. No one in a mo­ment of cri­sis should have to jump through hoops. Mr F does not make a fuss. I knew it was se­ri­ous. They should have be­lieved me.

When it turns out that a ‘non-emer­gency’ was ac­tu­ally a life and death sit­u­a­tion af­ter all, apolo­gies should be made.

The feel­ing of help­less­ness and aban­don­ment when you are turned down for emer­gency help is over­whelm­ing.

Thank God the peo­ple we still hon­our by wear­ing pop­pies were there for us when we needed them.

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