Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the Christian season that is customarily a time of reflection, repentance and self-denial. It symbolises the 40 days in which Jesus fasted in the wilderness and was tempted by the Devil. He withstood the three tests and banished the devil with the words, "Get thee behind me, Satan."
It was on Ash Wednesday years ago that the then Bishop of Sheffield, David Lunn, came to see me in my home.
I had been seeking his help in my endeavours to put an end to the appallingly cruel treatment being meted out to some patients at the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital in order to cover up sustained clinical negligence. See the account of my personal experience of this. He had not wanted to help, but had not wanted to admit that he did not want to help. He had made several excuses first. Then at last he had had me to see him at the Bishop's Palace. I was shown into the library there, and waited a little while there, on my own, until he came into the room. I found it a forbidding room, with its daunting collection of commentaries on St Paul. I'd have felt happier with books about Jesus.
He had already checked up on me with Professor Eric Wilkes, whom we both knew and respected: checked that I was a person who told the truth, and Prof had assured him I was. I had told Prof that I was seeking the Bishop's help. At that meeting in his library, I left some further information with him and he later wrote to me arranging the Ash Wednesday visit.
He arrived in his purple bishop's cassock and stayed a long time - I forget how long. He said he would need some of the lords in the House of Lords to help him to deal with the matter. I had asked him to ensure that patients with agonising toothache, needing dental help, would not be told at that dental hospital (or indeed any other) that they were not in pain and were 'just depressed', without properly examining the patients' teeth! and to give the dentists a statutory duty to examine the patients' teeth. Mr Reg Dinsdale, the negligent consultant dentist who did me the most harm, had told me he was not going to 'indulge' me by having necessary X-rays done! (I have written about him in my short story, Long in the Toothache.)
So I set about getting some lords to help the bishop. I was already in contact with the secretary of a society - I think it was called something like The Human Rights Society. I had already helped her to help a guy in the North-East who had been so atrociously treated in his dealings with the NHS and was so sick of being ignored or insulted (but never helped) by the useless NHS Complaints Procedures, and by his MP, that he had gone to London to the Houses of Parliament and had nailed his hand to a door there! to try to get someone to do something about all the NHS cruelty. - He still didn't get any help... - I had talked about him on local radio, and sent him a recording of the interview, and it had lifted his spirits to know that his shocking treatment was at least no longer completely ignored.
I asked that secretary if she could help me. She said the society was only small and not very active, but it had several lords among its membership. She asked these lords if they would help and they said they would, but that the Bishop would have to introduce the matter in the House of Lords and then they would support him in the matter. When the Bishop had left me that Ash Wednesday, he had said to me that in approaching anyone about the matter after that day, I could quote him at any time and in any context (I remember those were his exact words) that he had investigated the matter and knew that I was telling the truth and he would support me in the matter. I asked him to write me a short note to that effect and sign it but he said that that would not be necessary; I could trust him to keep his word.
Excitedly, I wrote to him to tell him that there were these lords happy to support him in the House of Lords. I never heard from him again!
I wrote to him again. He did not reply. I rang him. His newly-appointed secretary had clearly been told by him that I was a nutter, and she spoke to me as though I was half-witted. Neither she nor he answered my letters and he refused to speak to me on the phone. I can only surmise that he had supposed that I would be unable to get any lords to back him up in the House of Lords and so had felt safe in assuming that his promise to speak on the matter would never need to be kept. And he had most shamefully lied to me when he had told me that I could quote him at any time and in any context that he had investigated the matter and knew that I was telling the truth and he would support me in the matter