Before the National Health Scheme came into being on the 5th July 1948 the health of the village was in the hands of private doctors. There was however a private scheme or the panel as it was known whereby one could obtain treatment by a doctor for the price of a few pence per week. It was a primitive BUPA. At the same time and indeed since time immemorial villages had been blessed with ladies known as "handy women". These were ladies of the world who had raised a family and were conversant with the upsets of family life ie births, deaths and other eruptions. They always seemed to be ladies of ample girth, which gave them an aura of complete respect-they were bigger than you. During pregnancy one booked the services of the handy woman to attend the birth and the "hold the fort" until the mother regained her feet.
She cooked the dinner, did the nappies, and in fact took over the house until things had returned to normal. Such a person was Mrs Offord, Sonny Offord's mum. In any eventuality she could cope;--it was like being with the Woolwich only more son! And the anecdotes they could tell you concerning births and deaths and the circumstances leading up to these events would fill a book, but I shall not reveal it here.
The handywomen were need in the event of death and were always ready to lay out a body. They were told in advance of the imminence of a death, and their services were booked in advance, but it came as no less of a shock to be awakened at three in the morning by a distraught relative to perform the last service one human being can do for another. In this connotation surely deserving of a mention is Mrs Lal Jordan of Townsend who performed the taks and often attended and did all the work at the "funeral tea". People like Mrs Offord and Mrs Jordan are the sort of people one would hope to meet in heaven-unpretentious, undemanding, but there when you wanted them.
Mrs Jordan still lives bless her, a lady who could tell a thousand tales but probably won't. All this happened before the NHS was conceived but continued in the fens by people who knew what was best for them. What happens now? If expecting a baby the mother is monitored almost weekly; scans, examinatons, blood tests, physical exercises and diets are the order of the day-I think we have been taken over by science. At the other end of the scale if you are unfortunate enough to die your body is quickly transferred to the Chapel of Rest, supplied by the funeral director-that is if you are fortunate enough to die at home-life has become a process-it lacks that human touch.