I'm currently reading Andrew Marr's book 'A History of Modern Britain.' I read his earlier volume, 'The Making of Modern Britain' which starts with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 and concludes with the end of the Second World War in 1945. This second book (which, apparently, was written before the other book.) takes up the story in 1945 with the General Election which saw Labour win a landslide victory and Clement Attlee becoming Prime Minister. This administration ushered in the Welfare State, the birth of the N.H.S., and National Insurance. I'm not sure this wasn't written to compliment a documentary series which Marr wrote and presented on BBC 1. I think I may have seen it, but, when I saw these two books in The Works in Milton Keynes Shopping Centre I had to buy them. Full-price they cost £9.99 each, but they were selling for £6 for both. I have to say I love a good bargain, and at that price they were more than a bargain.
Yesterday evening there was a documentary on BBC1 which was a sort of complimentary programme to the drama series 'Call The Midwife,' which gave a background to that series and mentioned the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948, so it was interesting to read about this in the Marr book and hear people talking about this on this programme.
I also learned that in 1947 there was a 'Big Freeze' that winter. Roads were blocked and food had to be rationed, even more than it had been during the war which ended in 1945. Things were certainly extremely tough. It reminds me of the winter of 1962-3. That was exceptionally cold. I lived on a farm and my father had real problems keeping pigeons off the Brussel sprouts which they grew on the farm. They used what are called gas guns, contraptions which ran on cylinders of what I imagine would have been like caller gas, with a timer, and these things had a charge in them, with a timer, which was let off at a pre-determined length of time and which scared off the pigeons. It was one of these gas-guns which went off in the back of the Land Rover, which my father was driving at the time, and perforated my father's ear-drum and as a result made him profoundly deaf which he was forever after until he died in 1993. He did wear a hearing aid, when he could be bothered to wear it, but his hearing was never the same after that incident, as you can imagine. It must have been a very loud explosion, and in an enclosed space, as it would have been in the back of a vehicle and he would have been sitting quite close if he was driving the Land Rover.
It was also the year I had my appendix out. I was supposed to go into Victoria Ward at Bedford Hospital over Christmas that year, but fortunately I went in well before Christmas so I could be at home for the Christmas period. I remember that ward, it had tile panels on the walls, each one showing illustrations for nursery rhyme characters. I don't imagine that old Victorian ward is still being used as a children's ward. Anyway, at Rushmoor School which I attended, no doubt after I returned to school in 1963, the playground became so snowed over because it snowed and then thawed and then froze I seem to remember, the snow became so thick we had to go out and help shovel it off the surface (unlike today, when children don't have to help with anything at school, no doubt they would say it was contravening their 'Human Rights' to have to work, or even help to pick up litter which is something we had to do at school. Anyway, the snow was heaped at one end of the playground, against a wall, and when it was frozen solid, it began to push over the wall. I'm not sure it was able to actually collapse it, but I do remember it was pushed to a quite sharp angle.