I knew about inequality. Of course I did. As journalist and editor I read and write about people whose daily lives are very different to mine. I did not feel the difference in my guts before.
Seven days and four nights in hospital brought me a close up and very personal view of the state of our nation. Across every part of the UK Covid has exposed the grotesque inequalities of our society. But it did not cause them.
After successful surgery I returned home to a genteel part of Edinburgh where people like me can expect to live 21 years longer (twenty one years longer, let that sink in) than people in the neighbourhoods my husband and I passed on our short journey to and from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. As I wrote for Sceptical Scot (see It Hurts Us All post below the line), I can see no solution, no genuine Covid recovery plan until we address that cruel imbalance. We seem to be hurtling towards a second devastating lockdown. Once again the most severe pain will be felt by those without the protection of secure homes and incomes. What is our plan?
What will the future bring? Children at my sons’ primary school down the road had bright ideas nearly twenty-five years ago.
“…a robot teacher in every classroom, ‘see-through’ classrooms made of glass, blackboards rubbed clean at the touch of a switch and electronically operated toilets.”
The school of the future hasn’t turned out quite as pupils imagined in 1996 though ‘see-through classrooms and electronically operated toilets’ could come in handy to combat Covid-19. The centenary book my sons and I helped to produce turned up in a lockdown study clear-out. A bit of a museum piece, Broughton Primary 100 casts not always favourable light on the present.
Writing this for Sceptical Scot’s last issue before the holiday break, I was struck by a cruel irony we had never anticipated at the parent-teacher-pupil editorial meetings 25 years ago: the school of the future would have much in common with the school of the past. In the late 19th century medical officers of health were acutely aware of the links between ill health, mortality and poverty. That harsh reality reinforced again by the latest National Register of Scotland report of deaths involving Covid-19:
“People in the most deprived areas were 2.1 times more likely to die with COVID-19 than those living in the least deprived areas.”National Register of Scotland July 2020
A crucial difference between then and now – in the 1890s local medical officers of health had the power to take pre-emptive action where and when it was needed.