Friday, 14 June 2013

The Shropshire Map of Death

Frankly I find it utterly stultifying that the government, after everything that has happened over the last few gruesome years, is still pumping (or surreptitiously slipping) cash into quangos. Big dozy white elephants implemented to make it look like actual governmental departments are doing something productive. But they’re still there, being all serious and expensive.

Public Health England (“an Executive Agency for the Department of Health”) has carried out a project called Longer Lives. Part of the Longer Lives project was to draw up a map – presumably done by a bunch of GCSE geography kids on work experience – to highlight the fact that people in the southern half of England live longer than those in the northern half.

I haven’t found out how long it took PHE to work out that folk up north smoke more fags, eat more takeaways, and go out on the lash more often than the fairies down south, but I’ll bet it took them a fair while. Maybe Jeremy Hunt was on holiday that week. I could have saved them a whole bunch of time and just told it to them straight, but strangely I wasn’t approached to opine on this particular matter. Hey-ho. The interesting thing though is that whereas the north south divide was always traditionally a diagonal line from the Severn Estuary to the Wash, it is now a nice horizontal-ish line from the Humber to the Mersey. Much more north south and them-and-us. Result for Shropshire: as far as death goes, we’re southerners. Yay!

It’s great. You can have a look at a pretty colour coded map on the PHE website. Green meaning premature death outcomes are “best”, yellow, orange and down to red. Red get the idea. So there I was looking at this map, most of the southern half nice and green with odd pockets of red here and there in places like Luton, Coventry and so on, and as my eyes moved upwards and across I was thrilled to see Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire all verdant, free of junk-food, lung cancer and untimely death and feeling really quite proud to be a man of the Marches and then…then there was this bloody great red blob pulsing like a bubo in the top right corner of my home county.

Telford and Wrekin. As red as you like. After Much Wenlock, you’ve pretty much had it. To be honest it’s of no great concern to me, as callous as this may sound. My own Shropshire stops at about Church Stretton, but it just makes our county’s Fat Map look untidy. A blot (or a Blott – RIP dear old Tom Sharpe – nice Shropshire cultural reference there young man, thanks very much) on our lovely and aged landscape. 

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