Recently there's been some media confusion regarding our NHS. The grumbles mostly stem around A&E waiting times; the possible charging for visits to see your GP; the shortage of hospital beds and a health service we've always prided ourselves as being 'free' – although in truth, during our working lives we've duly paid for.
During the past week our son and his lovely Irish wife have been home on a visit and they explained some of the differences between the British and the Irish health system – oh dear!
Apparently, in Southern Ireland there's no free medical service. Even after taking out private insurance, people still have to pay 50 euros to see their GP. Prescriptions are 60 euros per item and hospital treatment cost a whole heap of money.
Ireland recently sorted their abortion laws but they're so complicated and expensive that scores of unwanted pregnancies still cross to the UK to be terminated.
Anyway, away from the concern about health charges, the visit was a lovely family reunion and during the course of the week we did all the normal tourist things. True, the vast crowds around Brixham harbour was slightly off-putting (although good for business) so we retreated to the tranquillity of the Berry Head Hotel for coffee.
Although they live and work in Dublin Bay, which is about the same size and shape as Torbay, they both remarked that Torbay is truly beautiful.
We 'natives' often take for granted the tranquillity that nature has blessed us with and it isn't until we see things through the eyes of visitors that we realise just how lucky we are.
MAYBE it's an age thing, or perhaps my education doesn't stretch to fully understanding just how devastating Government cut-backs can affect a struggling community like Torbay.
According to reports in this newspaper (HE, Aug 8) Mayor Gordon Oliver and Director of Finance, Steve Parrock stated that Torbay is about to face another £20m cut in Government hand-outs (I did wonder how such news caused these two gentlemen to smile at the camera, but there you go!).
Anyway, the concept of having to tighten our belts has brought home by the number of public service jobs that will bite the dust as the financial restrictions take hold.
On the subject of Torbay's various services, and the possible changes that seem to affect the way we live, a few weeks ago my lady contacted Tor2's management regarding the way the grass verges in our area were left, after their workmen's visit.
She received a nice email back agreeing that the cutting wasn't a good job and the promise of a return visit by July 31 to sort it out. True to their word the men returned on that said day and completed the job.
Thanking the Tor2 management, my lady remarked that it was a pity they hadn't cleared the growth of abundant weeds in the gutters, while they were at it. She was informed that gutter-weeds were the responsibility of 'lengthsmen' and because of serious financial Council cut-backs the number of lengthsmen covering all the gutters in Torbay had been reduced from six to two. Two men to cover all the gutters of Torbay…can't be done!
YEARS ago, completing a voyage, especially after bad weather and arriving safely in port created a sense of …well, almost personal achievement.
Safely moored, it was accepted that the first visitors would be the harbour officers, with a list of do's and don'ts. Next would be Her Majesty's Customs and Excise officers, checking the ship's papers, crew list and the contents of the duty-free locker – the Bond!
Trading on the UK coast the duty-free restrictions were pretty strict and it would depend on the temperament of the Customs officer just how generous would be the 'issue' until we headed for a European port again.
Torbay was blessed with having some of the most 'civilized' customs officers you could wish to meet.
Once they'd established that we weren't involved with smuggling, officers would do a 'quickie' search of the ship before joining the Captain for a small 'welcome back to harbour' drinkies.
Life has changed. I understand these gentlemen have now been replaced by something called Border Control. Retirement has its compensations!