Living in Biddeford, West Yorkshire
It was in 1990 when the famous TV celebrity, Pamela Anderson, undertook a self-funded project to help pay for a breast lift in Beverly Hills. Anderson’s good friend, a real estate mogul, John du Preez, had given her a generous grant, believing that her passion for animals would translate into financial success. Within months, with the help of her friend’s friend, Du Preez arranged for Anderson to visit the Du Preez clinic. What she saw there is what would become the centerpiece of Anderson’s book, “Bridget Jones Diary”.
The town of Bideford lies in the north-western corner of Oxfordshire, England. It is here that writer Gertrude Stein called “a beautiful old English town with a population of more than a hundred thousand” and for which she based her play, “Bideford”, which was later made into a film of the same name. Anderson’s birthplace of Bideford and the nearby church were designed to resemble those of the original descriptions of the place by Stein.
The history of the town can be traced back to the Middle Ages when it was an important center for mining. A small river known as the Pennine flowed through it and during the Middle Ages, the Bideford mines operated throughout the year. The Pennine Mine continued to run until the thirteenth century and during the fifteenth century, the town served as a stop for cargo and passengers traveling to the cathedral of St John the Baptist in nearby Westborough. Queen Elizabeth the Great granted lands to Bideford and the name of the town was changed to Biddeford. This was to be the beginning of what we know today as Bideford and the nearby towns of Westborough, Poulton, and Westley.
Today Bideford plays an integral role in the healthcare of those in rural England. A shortage of primary care has resulted in an increase in the number of elderly people in the town and many live in Biddeford. Women in the town are especially vulnerable to the lack of medical services. In 2021 The National Health Service (NHS) actually gave the town a figure as being one of the most remote local areas in England from the rest of the country. This was despite the fact that there is a hospital within the town.
The lack of healthcare is not just an issue for the elderly but also for younger women. Many pregnant women who come to Biddeford for an ultrasound to find the facilities to be uncomfortable. They are forced to sleep on the floor or in cars to make it to the appointment. A study conducted recently found that the working environment of ultrasound technicians in Biddeford was surprisingly poor.
The lack of hospital amenities is not the only reason that women’s health can be a problem in Biddeford. The high level of pollution poses a serious threat to its environment. The town’s well water supplies have long since run dry and this has led to a lack of protection from chemicals such as lead and arsenic. There is also the problem of disposal of waste water. These factors all contribute to a hazardous working and living environment.