COMMENT: Lyn of Littleport

PUBLISHED: 16:11 14 April 2016

St George's Medical Centre Littleport

St George's Medical Centre Littleport

Archant

Apart from the usual places of social and sociable meetings in the village, Littleport has a random hub of activity, its medical centre, where appointments invariably give opportunity to have a chat with at least a couple of people you know while you're watching for your name to be flashed up on the giant screen.

Apart from the usual places of social and sociable meetings in the village, Littleport has a random hub of activity, its medical centre, where appointments invariably give opportunity to have a chat with at least a couple of people you know while you’re watching for your name to be flashed up on the giant screen.

You are also to be entertained by sundry public service and National Health type items as its 10,584 (roughly) registered patients shared out between 5 doctors and a few good nurses, sit in serried ranks in front of it, although not all at once.

Chats can be a bit more limited and arduous when we’re all there for our hearing aid tubes and batteries to be replaced. The next opportunity that will present itself for another orally and aurally challenged attempt at some neighbourly interaction at the St George’s Medical Centre is next Monday (18) between noon and 4pm at the Cambridgeshire Hearing Help’s third Monday of the month sessions.

Last week I had the good fortune to bump into one of Littleport’s many literati, poet and painter of distinction John Lyons, in the waiting room.

Some of John’s pictures are in the ‘Cultural Connections’ exhibition at the Babylon Gallery in Ely. Entrance is free and if you want to take a look it’s on from noon to 4pm, except Mondays, until Sunday April 24.

Saying that, doctors’ waiting rooms are never a very jolly place to be, friends and neighbours’ company notwithstanding, but you could say some days are more depressing than others.

When victims of those various ills that all flesh is heir to, as dear old Shakespeare pointed out, to which even the most abstemious of habit and health conscious individual can fall prey, find themselves alongside sufferers having to pick up heroin replacement prescriptions (for Methadone) it can have a miserable–making and alienating effect on all concerned.

Littleport should have a specific local drug outreach help service instead. Its people are having to make what can be a difficult trip to Ely to something called ‘Inclusion’ that doesn’t seem to help a great deal either despite its own public description.

And before you recoil in horror at a perceived 21st century malaise brought in to these rural parts by city dwellers, may I point out the well-known, if rarely mentioned, fact that Littleport was almost the epicentre of opiate addiction in the 19th century.

A ‘Hemp field’ was a matter of public record in 1801, and a few years later one Granny Gray of Littleport was dishing out pills and potions based on hemp seeds, flowers and leaves.

The women who laboured in the fields, having had the pain of their labour in birth assuaged by ‘groaning cakes’ made with hemp, were excused harvesting the hemp crop as it was supposed to cause barrenness or abortion – but the workers who did cut it suffered massive headaches. Cut hemp is a strong narcotic.

Meanwhile the babies and children spent a lot of time asleep, dosed up by parents who had to toil in the fields of potatoes, oats and hemp. It was also an appetite suppressant for the hungry.

Hemp was still being cultivated here in 1900.

Female hemp plants were made into sheets and household fabric, while the male plant stems made rope. The kind of rope used to hang people. Like the five men who were part of what is now called the Littleport bread riots in May 1816 when hundreds of families were starving.

The Field Theatre Group, the Littleport Society, the parish council and other groups are well on with plans to commemorate the people of Littleport’s part in that fen-wide rebellion, and let’s hope that plenty is said about that from the rioters’ points of view and not that of the establishment.

Of the 82 who refused to be pacified, 19 were eventually imprisoned or transported and five of them were executed.

The condemned men’s elaborate confessions were signed only with an X and yet the words attributed to John Dennis castigating his crime from the scaffold and written down thereafter were worthy of a learned lawyer for the prosecution. ‘Verbalising’ was obviously going on well before the police force proper existed! More on the Littleport riots nearer May 22.

There was riotous celebration in the village last week when Littleport Town FC won the Creake Cup Final. Fortunately nobody got themselves arrested!

The football club is thriving and would welcome more players.

These days there are any amount of healthy pursuits going on here in Littleport. From the running group to camera club, quiz, bingo nights and dancing at the Ex-Servicemen’s, the WI and flower club, pubs with music, and gym and sports enthusiasts are catered for at the leisure centre. Youngsters now have ThePort.

Perhaps a little beneficial recreation helps to cut down the amount of time we spend in our medical centre’s waiting room?

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