Tuesday, 12 June 2007

What a Difference a Decade Makes

Someone recently suggested I should change my blog strapline to The Man Who Gets About A Bit. They've formed the impression I spend my time flitting about the country - one minute in Oldham, the next in North Yorkshire and then, at the blink of an eye, in County Durham. Gallivanting is, I think, the term that has been used.

It's true, I do like to put myself about. It's one of the things that divides Mrs Blunt and I, she much preferring to spend her time around the hearth at home. As I travel the land, I try to stay alert to the changes that have occurred in places I used to know.

So, as I found myself (unexpectedly) in Daventry, Northants earlier today, I was able to reflect on how a decade had taken its toll on a town that - when I first knew it - was in something of a crisis. Well known high street shops had deserted the place in droves, leaving a phalanx of charity shops and run-down pubs in their train, fighting a desperate rear-guard action against out-of-town shopping centres.

Well, I was in for quite a surprise. Daventry has re-asserted itself. The pubs are smarter, the shops more varied and bustling, and there's even a very nice Costa Coffee shop that's opened up.

When I first visited Daventry back in the early 1990's, it was at the invitation of a group of locals who were trying to stop their local Health Authority closing down the much-loved Danetre Hospital. They'd heard from somewhere that the power of Bill Blunt's pen could cause bureaucrats to quake in their comfortable, leather office chairs, and wondered if I could help them out.

My initial assessment was bleak. The NHS managers seemed intent on closing the place and flogging off the land for housing development - a fashionable way of generating revenue at the time. If that happened, the opportunity would be lost forever for future developments, and it would be another nail in the coffin for the town.

My time with the group was brief - enough, however, to organise a lobby of local councillors, MPs and health service officials, produce a few well-aimed newsletters and organise a march through the town against the proposed cuts in services. Victory in the first battle was hard won, but sweet when it came: we commissioned an independent report on the health needs of the town, and argued that the Health Authority needed to carry out their own 'health needs assessment' for the local population. They eventually agreed to do just that. I was satisfied, at the time, that my work was done.

What a pleasure, then, to see today that (all these years later) the Danetre Hospital had not only survived closure, but had been augmented with the opening, late last year, of a brand new community hospital on the same site. This, on the land that would otherwise have fallen to housing development.

There will be some readers of my blog who think that old Bill Blunt spends his time wittering on about meat pies, prostitution in Oldham, MP3 players and Walthamstow Dog Track statistics. If that's what they want to think, that's fine by me. But they'd better take note: Bill's still got his quill, and it's ready for sharpening whenever the occasion arises.


70steen said...

mmmmm!Daventrey? a place I visited some 25 years hence, a lovely city before thecommon all garden invasion of Costa Coffee, as I rememeber it had a unique charm of oldy English quaintness. So you were there in it's downfall where I was there in its quaintness!

Glad D is on the up :-)
rejuvinisation is aways a plus!!!

Must say, how ever, that the dog track at Walthamstowe was a fav with my grandad

the domestic minx said...

Ah, the power of the pen.

Daddy Papersurfer said...

I look forward to ink blots and witterings Mr Blunt. The complexity of your mind is.......well, complex. This is as it should be and must inspire and reassure Mrs Blunt as it does your public.

Anonymous said...

I would prompt you to take another look at Daventry! smarter pubs and varied shops is not what it has, your right it has a costa coffee and yes we have a newly build multi million £ hospital on the old site yet it has NO A&E. great, not to mention the ammount of fund raising the local community has had to do just to be able to put equiptment into said hospital.I urge you to take a closer look next time.


Julian Syngen-Smythe said...

Bill! I urge you to come to Spaffton-Upon-Grime, where I now reside, having FINALLY completed my travels.

That, of course, is in addition to our visit to Hove, naturally.

Bill Blunt said...

70s teen: Oldy English quaintness was in short supply when I was in Daventry, I'm afraid. It must have been sold to the Americans sometime in the period 1982 and 1996. I hope the town's burghers got a good price for it.

Domestic Minx: I always think that she sheep pen is mightier than the sward of grass.

Daddy Papersurfer: Mrs Blunt has often complained about my superiority complex.

Anonymous: You may be amazed but I did note that there was no Accident & Emergency Department at Daventry Hospital. I would hardly claim to be surprised, however, since there never was one before the new hospital was built.

If you really feel there should be an A&E in every community hospital in the country, I suggest you lobby Gordon Brown to increase the basic rate of taxation to something like 28p in the pound to fund the process.

Bill Blunt said...

Julian: Oh, Spaffton-under-Grime sounds delightful. Now that I've mastered the art of proper lawn maintenance, you can count me in on the next gardening party.

Anonymous said...

What's all this about lawn mowing? Is it something to do with Walthamstow Dogs or are you available to undertake gardening projects?

Bill Blunt said...

The lawn mowing was strictly a con-job, Anonymous. But I guess I'm happy to trade a good, close cut for a free holiday!

Anonymous said...

So you dont think a hospital that cost countless millions to build in a town that hopes to grow to roughly 100,000 people within in the next 10 years deserves an A&E?

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way its not a community hospital, people come from all over the county to recieve treatment as its now renown as housing some of the best equiptment and some of the top doctors and consultants in the country.I myself saw the top plastic surgeon for northampton and warwrikshire there not to long ago.

Bill Blunt said...

I can think of lots of towns that deserve an A&E, Anonymous. My point is that you will need to convince the people of the UK (and for these purposes that includes the people of Daventry - including, I presume, the ones that are slagged off at www.daventryvoice.co.uk) that services at this level need to be paid for.
Unless you are engaging in a little 'yes, in my back yard, please' special pleading here?

Anonymous said...

www.daventryvoice.co.uk is a community website no different to that of the local newspaper, they just dont overcharge people for advertising and promoting events or posting only the stories that they want to print in the interest of themselves.Yes many towns and cities could do with an A&E like daventry, Like i said in the beginning.
Have you ever convinced the suit guys behind desks to do anything they dont want to do that doesnt involve in there wallet becoming fatter? Hell even in my job i see lots of people taking back hands in large companies and its no different to those in your local and district council's.
And thats one thing on www.daventryvoice.co.uk that you can talk about unlike the paper the website is not afraid of posting said stories.If the poster has names then Admin will email thwem and ask what the situation as before sometimes you get replies sometimes you dont.

Bill Blunt said...

I'll happily spread the word about daventryvoice.co.uk, my friend.

It seems we almost speak the same language, after all. Unlike those buggers in Kettering.

neil.sheppard said...

It sounds like the voice of Daventry has spoken

TIL said...

It's a long time since the BBC World Service uttered the words 'Daventry calling' but Daventry is starting to be heard again. With thanks to www.daventryvoice.co.uk it not only speaks, also bites back!