Back for Good!

Keith Veness is back after recovering from 18 months of serious ill health.

Greetings Comrades and glad to be back and coming out swinging again. I spent eighteen months in hospitals and care homes and was told I’d never walk again. I collapsed in agony when my L4 vertebra got seriously infected and poisoned my whole system. For a number of weeks I was talking gibberish and wandering about.

The local hospitals here are poor and were basically overwhelmed by the Covid crisis. I caught it in QEQM Hospital in Margate but luckily I have a strong constitution and didn’t even run a temperature. I have now had both my Astra Zeneca jabs and was already so packed full of anti bodies that Imperial College, London wanted my blood samples for their special antibodies tank. I am now fairly impervious to these viruses.

All stories should have a happy ending and mine appears to involve the fantastic Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. Undoubtedly the best orthopaedic hospital in Western Europe, I did a five week session that started with me being virtually paralysed on arrival there but after two weeks they had me up making coffee for everyone in the gym’s kitchen and after three weeks cooking a six person Bangladeshi meal of rhui johl with pilau rice. I played table tennis and did flat green bowling outside on their lawn.

Being back in North London was strange but I got visits from Sandy Marks, an old comrade from Islington Council who still has her wicked sense of humour, and from the man himself Jeremy Corbyn, whose popularity amongst NHS staff is legendary. But the gardeners and grounds maintenance staff are also huge fans as JC is renowned for his allotment and his jam making. His hour of allocated  time for the visit swiftly morphed into two and a half hours – so no change there then!

I should record my sincerest thanks at this point to my old pal and fellow thorn in the side of the right wing, Ken Livingstone, who stepped in at short notice to take over my column. Not many activists can call upon such distinguished back up!

Another comrade I am eternally grateful to is Talal Karim from Islington North who constructed a “WhatsApp group” called FRIENDS OF KEITH VENESS, which is based on key persons in the constituency like Jeremy and leading councillors and CLP officers. He had to include a few famous Islingtonians now living further afield – Clive Boutle in Hornsey, Liz Davies in Hampshire, Nigel Mason in Hertfordshire and Ihsan Qadir in Deal – and this sustained my morale when I was suffering post-covid depression and life looked a bit grim.

I have to pay particular credit to the women who took it in turns to phone me over weekends when I was bored out of my skull in Herne Bay community hospital. So thanks to Jan W, Sally T, Nadine H, Maggie D. & Bisi W. All I can say is what a great CLP we were in for 40 years.

After I came home from the RNO hospital I was saddened to get the news of the death of Stan Newens, someone I had been involved with on and off since the mid 1970s. Stan was a member of the IS, (the forerunner of the SWP), who resigned from it the day he was elected as Labour MP for Epping, However Stan was one of those comrades who genuinely got more radical as he got older. He went for selection as MEP for London Central, beating me on the last ballot by one vote. He later joked he was the first socialist to represent the City of London since John Wilkes. We still swapped cards every Xmas and met at Liberation conferences. He was a genuine character we will all miss.

Anyhow, great to be back and watch this space.

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