It is all too easy to forget, from the lofty heights of public strategy, that public services are about people. It is all too easy to forget that although we are all users of public services, that there are some among us for whom public services are not something at the margin but are the determinants of well being, or may quite literally be at the boundary between life and death. It is all too easy to forget that although there are many who are helped by public services to move from dependency to self-sufficiency, there are many others whom we serve by easing their dependency.
One of the people who helps me to remember is Spence Kennedy, the author of Siren Voices. You could call it an ambulance blog. It is an ambulance blog. When I started reading it a couple of years ago, that would have been an adequate description, and superficially nothing has changed. But it has become something which transcends its genre, while remaining perfectly suited to the blog form. It tends to the limits of society, sometimes the limits of the human condition, described in prose which is sparse, matter of fact but profoundly beautiful. The stories have got shorter, more focused over the years, leaving out everything except the essential details.
Read the latest post, and reflect.
Later in the journey she asks me again where we are taking her.
‘To the hospital,’ I say. ‘You need to see a doctor.’
She pauses. A confusion settles on her, then lifts, then settles again.
‘Will my parents be there?’ she says. ‘My elder brother Jeremy?’
‘How old is Jeremy?’ I ask her, as gently as I can.
‘Forty,’ she says.
Then she looks at me, and smiles, as the ambulance floods with time.