ANOTHER greetings card shop has closed down near where we live. That makes three in the last year. There are only three left now - all nestling suspiciously within 100 yards of each other. The greetings card price wars get more acute.
One shop has a special offer where you can buy a pack of five cards - two Valentine’s cards, and one in each of the Engagement, Wedding and Divorce categories - all for £4.99. Three doors down, a rival aped the offer - two You’re Having a Baby cards, an Advent calendar and a giant Scooby Doo balloon, all for £7.99.
The third shop is trying another tack, with the owner maintaining prices as well as the integrity of the life events his cards honour. He’s going down the personalised card route, dressing up as a giant panda and having his photo taken with children (often quite frightened children). He looks like a badger with a cigarette.
I can’t help thinking if the three shops wanted to survive they would be better served getting together and coming up with some new excuses for greeting cards - ‘Congratulations on your new shoes’, say, or ‘Thank you for putting the lid back on the toothpaste’. Sometimes, maybe a little bit of cooperation is better than competition.
In recent weeks the glorified water pistol fight that is modern politics has turned its attention to which of the two major parties will devastate public services the least after the next election.
Each party claims the other will cut funding, training, services and staff more than it will. The parties are effectively uniting to tell us that the activities that matter most to us - educating our children, looking after our loved ones when they are ill, protecting the well-being of the population - are all going to suffer. The nation braces itself for the inevitable while public sector workers sigh - again - and wonder how feasible it might be to take early retirement, buy that camper van and head for the hills.
‘The glorified water pistol fight that is modern politics has turned its attention to which of the two major parties will devastate public services the least’
Politicians perennially miss the point of public services. They continue to guess at what words - choice, access, and so on - might resonate with a disenchanted electorate. The fact is that such words meant nothing 10 years ago - and they don’t mean much more now. Not when the key challenge facing the NHS is to provide appropriate, responsive clinical services with quality and compassion.
Of course there will be public spending cuts - although nurses know that plenty of money will be wasted on meetings to discuss how to deal with the ensuing reorganisations. It’s disheartening, because if there’s going to be less money isn’t now the time to focus on and protect the things that matter most?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the NHS should be independent of government. Regardless of whichever party is in power, it can’t survive much more political silliness. And as long as it is at the mercy of frightened electioneers it cannot prepare adequately for the vagaries of the economy. Health care is too important to be left in the hands of politicians.