|Deep inside the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Bath, 2017. Adox paper with some very old bleach and sepia toner.|
The RNHRD is one of the few - perhaps the only - hospital on this little planet of ours which has a dedicated team to support people with Ankylosing Spondylitis. AS (as if you didn't know, eh?) is an inflammatory disease which affects joints and soft tissue - muscles, tendons, ligaments and the cause of syndesmophytes and all that. When I went to Bath this year I took the Pentax ME Super with me and to be honest I didn't take very many snaps at all...but I wanted to document the place which has been such a good friend to me for the last 35 years, before it finally closes it doors sometime in early 2019. I think the building is being preserved - and quite rightly so as it is pretty iconic, being in the centre of Bath for nigh on 300 years. But turned into an upmarket hotel? Ah no...come on, now - you can't be serious. Can you imagine being the Chief Executive of the Health Authority which signed off on this? I mean, there he or she is (although I suspect it's of the male variety of the species) with his grand-daughter on his lap, some 50 years from now. 'So Grandpa, what was your greatest achievement on this planet?' to which he answers 'Well, we were faced with mounting loses in the old Bath Mineral Water Hospital so after nearly 300 years I was the one who finally was able to sign off on the deal to sell it to The Big Hotel Company for Wealthy Tourists'. Nice. Yeh, I know, I'm as bitter as hell about it but I'm allowed to be as this place has saved my life many times since the first time I entered its doors in 1983. The Unit is moving to the Royal United Hospital at Weston, on the outskirts of Bath and by all accounts it will be pretty amazing - but it won't be the same. No longer will AS patients be able to walk out of the hospital just after treatment into the hustle-and-bustle of downtown Bath, drop into a cafe and feel 'normal' for a while - whatever that is.