Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

MODERN TIMES: The Dinosaur column

In Dinosaur on July 7, 2014 at 8:32 pm

dinosaurAsda is as Asda does 

I have a confession to make.  Once upon a time, I used to shop at Asda.

Yes, I admit it.  But back then it wasn’t owned by that predatory American giant, Walmart.  It seemed to me to be a fairly harmless Leeds-based chain of stores with their own little quirks. Back then, the store which I frequented was in an old textile mill, up north. It filled several floors, and amongst its other goods, it stocked ex-bankrupt stock consisting of, well, whatever it could get its hands on, including crockery. I still have the plates and dishes I bought there many years ago.

Times change, of course, and so did Asda. In July 1999, it became a subsidiary of Walmart, and today is a wholly-owned division of the USA-based supermarket group.  Indeed, after the original takeover all its delivery lorries were re-labelled with the words “Asda: part of the Walmart family”.

Then it went further than that.  A number of Asda-Walmart “supercentres” were opened. They were huge. I mean big enough to hold a couple of airships with room to spare.

But about six years’ ago, the name “Walmart” mysteriously vanished from their signage. Instead they reverted to being merely “Asda supercentres”.  I’m not sure why – but could it be that the US bosses were planning to complete their takeover by gradually replacing the name “Asda” with that of “Walmart” – but then it dawned on them that Walmart over here was about as popular as cold porridge made from bird dropping? Or, being American, was there some confusion over how the word “centre” should be spelled?

Whatever, our council seems intent on foisting an edge of town Asda on the good people of Cinderford.  It seems that there’s a some deluded belief that this will be good for the town. But the notion that eager shoppers will flock in to Asda, and then whilst they’re about it, carry on to sample other shops in the town. Let’s face it – is that in any way likely? Dream on!

Not just a bookshop:

I was saddened to read in the local paper that Doug MacLean, owner of the Forest Bookshop in Coleford, is putting it up for sale.

This bookshop has become something of a local institution. It was opened 37 years ago, and since then thousands have flocked through its doors. It has been able to order and supply nearly any book that customers wanted (provided that it was still in print), and also ran its own book launches for those volumes with a local interest.

The last time I was able to attend an event at the bookshop was to hear about the life of A.A. Purcell, one time MP for the Forest of Dean back in the 1920s. The talk was given by Kevin Morgan who wrote his biography, Bolshevism, Syndicalism and the General Strike.  The bookshop was packed.

Sadly that’s not always the case, and now Doug has decided it’s time to hang up his bookselling boots. He’s getting on in years, he says (aren’t we all?!), but hopes he can sell it as a going concern. Whether that’s possible remains to be seen. There are fewer and fewer independent bookshops around these days, and it needs someone dedicated enough to take on the responsibility. Here’s hoping!

Call for an ambulance?

It’s a trend that those who watch the weekly hospital soap, Casualty may not have noticed. Here the ambulances are all bone fide NHS vehicles, with fully-trained paramedics in control.

But it’s now been revealed that about half the ambulance journeys made are likely to be in private vehicles – and the number is increasing. To put put it crudely, the service is being rapidly privatised.

It’s been reported that many of these private providers may also be running other services such as buses or car parks. Plenty of “on the job” training there then! The ambulance crews may, or may not, have paramedic training  – and few checks are done on their background.

As well as hospitals, such companies are also providing transport for care homes. It seems that the NHS today simply doesn’t have enough ambulances to cope with demand.

It’s tempting to ask, why? But meanwhile, maybe someone like S4C could step into the breach? It could convert some of its prison transport vehicles for the purpose. But already many folk are worried about the trend, including the Care Quality Commission. And this covert privatisation is now beginning to spread to our neck of the woods.



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