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We are fortunate to have a garden and spend too much money on it. It is fairly large and, this summer alone, we have imported railway sleepers and scaffolding boards to make new raised beds, along with two tonnes of soil and a large German pre-war bathtub we call a ‘pond’.
Arriving later this week will be two tonnes of pebbles so we can convert to a droughtproof ‘gravel garden’ – apparently, it is illegal for me to keep cycling down to the beach to ‘steal’ rocks.
Derek Jarman, the late artist and filmmaker said of the lawn: “Lawns, it seems to me, are against nature, barren and often threadbare – the enemy of a good garden.” I think he was right; lawns, unless things of beauty in themselves or played on by young children, are pretty pointless. So we are importing pebbles and long grasses to plant among the flowers and the vegetables; we are recognising the lawn as being past its sell-by date. Which brings me to the Royal College of Nursing.
Now, it’s not that I have strong feelings about the RCN; to me, it’s like parsley or Liza Tarbuck – I’m pretty ambivalent about both. Actually, I probably like Liza Tarbuck more than the RCN – she is marginally funnier – so it could well be that the RCN is more like parsley, about which I have no feelings whatsoever (although my wife says we are growing parsley, so maybe I like it secretly?). Anyway…
“One wonders if it might – at last – be offering an alternative way for nursing to be heard?”
I’ve wondered this before but do we know what the RCN is for any more? I realise it offers up an alternative career path for some people and the idea of having a Royal College probably stands for something somewhere, or did in the past, but in terms of representation, political acumen and all-round usefulness is it not a bit, well, if not ‘against nature’ than probably threadbare and barren? Is it not a bit like lawns?
I don’t know very much about the grassroots (sorry!) organisation Nurses United and, frankly, I’m probably not their target demographic, but one wonders if it might – at last – be offering an alternative way for nursing to be heard?
Nurses United and one or two large social media groups, like NHS Workers Say No, seem to be capable of doing things the old-fashioned institutions can’t. First, they offer a grassroots voice that is not diluted or silenced. Second, they are emotionally literate – not just unafraid to show appropriate feelings (anger, outrage) but also able to articulate them in an appropriate way, thereby demonstrating and maintaining an up-to-date and focused social-media presence. Third, they are disparate; they are not so worried about their brand that every perspective needs to be honed down until it can fit on the famous Father Ted placard, saying ‘Careful Now’. And fourth, they are different to what has failed before; they break the overly established and recurrently pointless relationships that have overseen the devaluing of nursing and nurses.
Now, of course, any student of history will tell us that, when something new emerges that may threaten the established order of things, one of two things are likely to happen. It may be targeted and vehemently attacked or it may be integrated – ‘come join us, benefit from our experience and let us help you, and we have cake, just sign this waiver’. I rather hope the new voices just get louder. And angrier. And more articulate. They are the best hope nursing has had for a long time to break out of a cycle of negotiated subservience. We can but hope.
Mark Radcliffe is author of Superpowers, a new collection of short stories