Fantastic review!

Queens Nursing Institute Award review for my first collection OURSELVES

Ourselves by Beda Higgins

This volume of poems about healthcare is an impressive collection that shows the depth of perception of the nurse as poet, and the depth of experience that can only come through the intimate acts of caring for people at their most vulnerable moments in life.

The strength of the collection is the close observation of the small things that are often so important to people in hospital or in a care home – the eye that is confined to a smaller space but freed by memory and the imagination. Beda Higgins’ poems appeal to all the senses and we smell, taste and touch the things with the characters that appear fleetingly before us. To borrow a term much used in healthcare, these poems are truly person-centred; an individual’s life and experience is at the centre of each imagined world.

The poems are carefully crafted but read incredibly naturally; very accessible but at the same time repaying repeated reading, to gain new meanings from the text. It is a very diverse collection – the nurse’s voice runs through it all but we also hear from children, from carers and family members, from people of many walks of life and backgrounds, at all stages of the life course and in death. The poet has a privileged position to transcend the usual taboos surrounding death, and to present the poignancy and shock of this final act. ‘One wayward cell suggests a mutiny…’

There is a sense of timelessness throughout the book; some of the poems feel as if they are calling to us from a past generation and one nurse is accompanied by the ghosts of her forebears, their cloaks swirling along the hospital corridors, their presence giving her strength to finish a busy shift. The effect is deeply compassionate and life affirming and we are left with a sense of tranquillity and peace, and a necessary recognition and acceptance of life’s dramas and the ultimate mortality of those we love.

Matthew Bradby

ACTION IS LOUDER THAN WORDS

The World Health Organisation has suggested that inactivity needs to be tackled at government level; including town planners, transport networks, as well as health and sports facilities. In the 1970’s Finland did just this. Finland’s health at that time was one of the worst recorded with unacceptably high level of coronary heart disease. The then government took extreme measures and began massive community based interventions. They made exercise easy and cheap. Local authorities were given the funds and responsibility for their own budgets. They encouraged competition between towns and villages – giving prizes for the most successful. They spent time with hard to reach groups, for example visiting pubs and clubs, and negotiated what they might be interested in. Schemes were rolled out across the country, and with persistence, they drew inactive people into activity; cycling; walking, Nordic walking, skiing and ball games were made accessible to all. They also encouraged daily active routines such as commuting to and from work, particularly for those who ‘didn’t have time to exercise’. This was supported by the creation of a hundred kilometres of new walking and cycle paths. Money was provided to keep them well-lit and maintained.  Elderly people were given spikes to clamp on their shoes, so they could still go out in winter months. The pavements were kept clear of ice, and individuals who didn’t clear their patch of pavement were fined. Finland’s health was completely turned around to become one of the fittest populations of that time.

The UK today is very different demographically from Finland in the 70’s, but the Finnish policy proves mass change can be made with mass intervention.

Recent research supports the Finland template with evidence that societies who invest in encouraging their population to be physically active, reap financial and human rewards. For ever pound cities across the world invest in walking and cycling projects the returns average £13. 

Initiatives in the UK such as exercise on prescription, bike hiring, and regular park runs are only utilised by a small percentage of the population. If we are to stop this epidemic of inactivity and obesity it is time for a national strategy with environmental interventions. Health promotion and education with current incentives are only touching the tip of the iceberg, when it is too little too late.

GEOFF STEVENS AWARD

Brilliant to have been awarded a 2020 Award from the wonderful Indigo Dreams publishing team. I am honoured and thrilled to have my first collection of poetry due to be published this year. The collection is gathered from a long nursing career, and seems timely given the present covid-19 situation. We are all realising how vulnerable we are, and how valuable and sacred our NHS is.

Please give me your heart to hold: winning poems from the 2019 Winchester poetry prize

HERON

When you left he came.

On water and air, at a distance

still and silent, alone

telling me bit by bit how it would be –

the hurt like water rippling – different every day

but the same shapes and colour

in the blue flow of me to you.

He raises his head high, lifting to fly

wings wide open. I watch his reflection

him there, me here, and you always, skin close.

Some days I can almost touch you.