Pride in Place and Purpose – Does Northampton Fail?
A population just over 200,000, with unemployment running at a record 22%, developments and regeneration at a standstill because of the economic recession, a health service that is private and expensive, roads in disrepair with pot holes appearing every day and those that have been around for years getting worse, fuel prices at record levels!
This isn’t Northampton but the small Independent Country of St Lucia where it was a pleasure to visit at the end of last year.
One of the joys of visiting other countries is in finding those similarities that exist between us which allows us to communicate on common ground and there is nothing more important to most people than the place they live and the opportunities that it offers for them and their families.
What struck me most about St Lucia in talking to residents called is the immense pride they and have in their country even with unemployment at record levels.
It was a pride that they were happy to share and especially in two very distinct areas, the first was in their education system and more importantly their absolute commitment to providing their children with the best education possible starting with nursery schools at three all the way through to University.
Is there any wonder with that kind of commitment that this small country has produced two Nobel Prize winners.
The other area of pride was to point out very clearly that this was their country and their responsibility both individually and collectively and no more so than in the way it is seen by and presented to visitors which is why they invest heavily in not only keeping the island clean and clear of all rubbish but in educating people to be responsible for their own immediate area.
It goes without saying that they have problems, the roads are full of pot holes to the extent that they descried those who have passed their driving tests as having obtained their PHD licence, (that’s pot hole dodgers to you and me).
Development and regeneration has stalled so they have had to prioritize what is important to the country going forward in anticipation of the world economy picking up.
In St Lucia the priority is to replace their 100-year-old colonial hospital to provide employment and training opportunities for their population along with the health benefits of having a modern state of the art facility.
Investment in the country’s infrastructure is seen as not only a sensible but necessary way to promote employment and economic growth.
What was a major concern was the provision of health care which up to the age of 65 has to be paid for and they are extremely envious of us having a National Health Service and it being ‘free at the point of service’.
Cecil, a local man was telling us that his mother died in 2008 after being in hospital for 5 days which cost over 4,000 US dollars a day which he has only recently paid off, private health care is a major concern for many who simply, even with private insurance cannot afford to pay.
Nevertheless it doesn’t take anything away from their immense pride in being as it was put, ‘the surviving families’ from the days of slavery when only the strongest survived and they know that nothing can ever diminish that instinct which is why they are determined, against any and all odds to continue to build and maintain their independence even with a population of just over 200,000.
It is a determination of purpose-built on pride that you just cannot ignore or just build overnight with slogans but on real commitment, all of which the St Lucian’s have by the bucket load.
Perhaps it is something we have forgotten in the UK a sense of really being a One Nation, preferring to look at how we can compete with other areas and if we can’t compete do our level best to do the others down rather than look at how we can retain our independence while still working to raise the standards for everyone.
The last thing that was said to us was, ‘we hope when you think of our country it will make you smile and think well off us’.
It was sentiments that were expressed in all of the islands we visited which as anyone who currently lives in Northampton and England’s cannot help but find remarkably refreshing.
It does, sadly can the same be said of people who think of Northampton and the UK when the leave and if so is it a smile of pleasure or relief at leaving?