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By 999callfornhs, Jan 4 2017 09:58AM

Steven Carne

NHS Campaigner with 999 Call for the NHS

Happy New Year. 2017.

Like many I tried, and with some surprise succeeded, in taking a break from the campaign mindset. You know the one.  The constant nagging, niggling, stabbing voices in your head that don't shut up no matter how hard you try to quieten them with books, television or phone calls to friends. Every activity only serves to reawaken them and echo their constant drone.

Christmas. Three days of loved ones sharing good food and a little drink here and there; three days putting the terror and horror of what is happening in both our domestic and international politics to one side; three days to focus on our human relationships; three days to remember who we are deep down, who we used to be before NHS campaigning and fighting for the good society took over our lives.

I jumped in the sea at Portreath on Christmas Day.

A windy cold grey Cornish day with "mizzle" in the air. I didn't have to work very hard at "getting in" as the six foot waves  quickly covered me before I had to walk too far into the frothy tide. Surfers in wetsuits and dogwalking emmets (tourists) watched bemused as a 17.5stone hairy ape in hawaii swimshorts headed towards the ocean.

Diving headfirst and feeling that cold rush all over was a great way to refresh the system, leave London and "upcountry" behind and remember the elemental aspects of my old homeland. I grew up on a surfing beach and knowing how to dive and survive 9ft waves is something that stays inside like riding a bike. Concentrating on the water flow and my breathing as the cold wrapped my lungs there was no room for Clinical Commissioning Groups, lying Chief Execs, duplicitous businessmen and women who smile  too much, vicious political activists who refuse to listen, journalists who don't seem able to understand,  ineffectual MPs, local councils that don't know their arse from their Scrutiny Committee... all this was washed away in the icy salty wash.  And I loved it. Freedom.

Three days of simple social activity - smiling, walking, laughing, sleeping, old friends, old memories, - three days over and I dip my toe in the social media swell. Familiar waves of information, comment and opinion wash over my feet. I'm just paddling because i need to know the water. Even the smallest waves can lead to a sudden freak wave that hits you before you can steady yourself to dance with it.

Familiar ripples roll gently in - hospital cuts, stories of wonderful NHS Staff, local tragedies, newspaper articles and then there it is... tugging at our feet, the familiar undertow of anger, rage and frustration  that we all feel gripping from within and threatening to pull us under, dragging us helplessly into the murky depths of cold icy desperation. It's a dark ugly unseen force you have to fight hard to stay upright, one slip and you'll topple and find yourself on your back being swept along with the drag and pull of the outgoing tide. A very different kind of swimming.

2017 - Our winter of discontent. The ocean swell is huge, dark grey black stormclouds froth heavy on the horizon. And we stand on the shore witnessing the chaotic and jagged waves of political disaster - a government led by pure greed and self-interest, an opposition of weak, confused, embittered politicians who have lost  their moral compass and any guts to fight for us. It’s ugly and battling it is ugly. Ugliness abounds in the boardrooms of NHS England, the meeting rooms of Parliament, the sleepy benches of the Lords. Ugly.

But we have to remember ourselves, know who we are and understand that together we can swim in those waves and survive them. We have grace and beauty within us as well as rage, horror, dark knowledge and despair. And reading the waves it’s time to dive in and swim.

We must build our own opposition right now, lock our feet in the sand and stand up to the waves of corruption that are rushing over us. Otherwise we lose all that is precious to us. We lose the caring society we all thought we had, we lose the safe world we thought our kids and grandkids would enjoy for a long time ahead.

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