Mon Mar 25th, 2019 at 08:25:06 AM EST
When I was a kid, they used to tell stories of Britain in the seventies, supposedly a union-crazed hellhole of the three-day week, garbage piling up in Leicester Square, going cap in hand to the IMF...
Yet it seems to me that the UK in 2019, not 1979, is the place in crisis. The stench of decay is in the air.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
It is the feeling you get when you visit the emergency department and the streaming nurse only appears once every 20 minutes. I first visited a UK hospital in 2003; at that time there was always someone there, 24 hours a day.
You can see it in the public libraries. The central library in my town no longer has a children's section; there is no money to replace worn-out books. Scars in the carpet bear mute testimony to the shelves that used to be there.
Stroll over to the schools and the story goes on. At my son's secondary school, one by one activities for special-needs children have been cut back or eliminated. The social skills group he used to attend is gone. He no longer has any friends. The school once had a librarian, who had him reading more books in one year than he had in the previous four. She was made redundant. Nothing we can do can persuade my son to touch a book now.
As for my daughter's primary school, its library is smaller than my closet. Donations from parents make up most of its intake of books. There is no money for book purchases. The room is usually deserted.
The local leisure centres are privatized. Telephone them to book swimming lessons; they do not answer the phone. Visit in person and it's hit or miss if you can actually find someone able to take your details.
One leisure centre has an ice rink, its web site says it offers children's birthday parties for a suitable price. My daughter wanted to hold her tenth there. We could not; we were unable to reach them by phone, at all.
With great fanfare my GP practice says that appointments can be made online, but they cannot. They are never available. Nobody at the surgery can explain why the web site always says 'no appointments'. One has to call the landline at precisely 8.00 am to have a chance at an appointment, but it is a fifty/fifty chance at best. You can be left on hold twenty minutes only to hear there is no appointment to be had.
It is all the immigrants' fault, they say. I am an immigrant. I have paid my taxes. In fact, I was even given a tax cut once; in 2012 the rate in income over £150,000 was cut from 50 to 45 percent. I would have given the money back to have a decent children's library.
In one sense I did - the Home Office extracted from our family thousands, literally thousands, of pounds in fees every time we renewed my work visa, applied for settlement, applied for citizenship.
Was that a mistake? The town centre is the saddest of all. Stores are shutting. Empty storefronts seem to mock shoppers. Fifteen years ago, I remember the central shopping centre being filled with throngs of shoppers on Saturday afternoons, and every storefront open. Now, there is row after row of empty space.
And yet unemployment is low, the government trumpets, consumer confidence is high. If this is prosperity, what will an actual recession look like?
More and more rough sleepers lie on the roads, mutely begging for more help than I dare to give. There are phone numbers one can call to seek help for them, but they only go to voicemail.
This does not feel like a growing, prospering country, ready to face the future free from the shackles of the EU.