Tag Archives: uk

Vertigo, a stroke, partial paralysis, two heart attacks and an inoperable cancer…

Irony upon irony.

In the UK, we are in the middle of an extreme heatwave.

Irony upon irony. It never rains but it pours.

Last Wednesday, torrential rains started in western Germany triggering deadly floods. At the time of writing, the German death toll is 188, with around 1,300 missing and an estimated 31 dead in Belgium. Poor old Belgium always gets forgotten.

And let’s not even mention the current Covid infection rate. Yet.

Irony upon irony.

The newspapers here in the UK are billing today as ‘Freedom Day’ when most Covid restriction in England are lifted. Yet the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and, yes, the Health Minister are all quarantining lest they have or spread Covid..

And, as ‘Freedom Day’ – freedom from Covid day – approached, there was a large surge in Covid cases which continues.

But more important to me, in my own little world, is that my vertigo returned with a vengeance this morning at 5.00am and I have been in bed all day. If I lie in bed on my right side – ie with my right ear on the pillow, it is like the inside of my head is being pulled apart by centrifugal force while I am spinning round on a phenominally fast fairground ride. 

But the importance of anything is comparative. 

In Germany: 188 flood deaths seems very bad… But they have had 91,370 Covid deaths.

Joe Palermo in hospital… He’s a fighter AND a lover…

I have vertigo again, but…

About a week ago, comedy critic Kate Copstick sent me an email saying that comedian Mark Dean Quinn had been hospitalised by a stroke and was paralysed down one side.

And London-based Italian performer Joe Palermo had had a heart attack.

Joe lived. So did Mark.

Mark Dean Quinn in better days at Edinburgh Fringe

After a week, Mark Dean Quinn was back at home. His speech was still slightly slurred, but he was able to cut two eggs, two onions, two tomatoes and open two jars… though it took him 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, before all that, on 8th July, Copstick had also told me about 87-year-old London-based American comic Lynn Ruth Miller. Copstick wrote:


Lynn Ruth Miller had what she calls a “mild” heart attack last week.

She is leaving hospital today.

That is not the worst of it.

She has been told she has oesophageal cancer. A large, ulcerated tumour which is wrapped around her oesophagus. Inoperable, they said.

She cannot eat solids.

They can operate to put a stent into the oesophagus to stop it closing completely BUT they are not happy about surgery because of her age.

She is talking to them on Tuesday to discuss treatment options – chemo or radiation.

She is continuing to do her gigs.


I talked to Lynn Ruth after that billed Tuesday NHS appointment.:

“How did it go with the doctors?” I asked.

“I am getting the same runaround you are from the NHS,” she said. “I am unable to eat food and I am unable to sleep. They keep postponing the consultation that will tell me exactly what kind of cancer I have and what they can do about it – and they are doing nothing at all about it. I have to find out what kind of cancer it is and what stage it is at first before I can fight it and they keep moving the date forward.  

“I do not know what to do or where to turn. I do not want to die just because no-one got around to figuring out how I can eat and sleep but that is exactly what is happening.

“I do know if I don’t get some help pretty soon I won’t make it and I want to make it very very badly. 

“In other news there is a dead rat stinking up my kitchen and I cannot find it.”


I got in touch with her again today.


“I have been complaining about the symptoms since mid May,” she told me. The NHS has known about this cancer since the end of June because it showed up on a CT scan when I went to A& E.  

“On July 2 I had the mild heart attack and, while I was having it, darling, I made the bed, brushed my teeth, did my etc and dressed properly, got the coffee ready and then collapsed.  

“When they took me into A&E (for a second time) the doctor knew what was wrong and said: You had a heart attack and you have oesophageal cancer…  

“WHY DIDN’T THEY TELL ME THAT AT THE END OF JUNE? I might have avoided the heart attack!   

“In all this time, NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING has been done to treat the fact that my oesophagus is closed and I cannot eat solid food and it is getting worse. I have lost about 12 pounds and am losing more every day.   

“I have told them that and they have increased the pain meds (they are working).

“I now have a ton of meds for my heart,  but nothing for my digestive problem and, when I was in the hospital, the dietician couldn’t get it through her head that I really really really cannot chew or swallow ANYTHING… They kept giving me Heinz’s cream of chicken soup.  

“So the bottom line is I can’t eat solid food and I cannot sleep because the pain is keeping me awake. Without food and sleep one dies… I am not in the mood to go this soon. I have a lot more trouble I want to cause.  

“I also have a LOT of morphine I am planning to sell on the street to finance going private. Who do you know?

“Tomorrow I am supposed to get a diagnosis. I still do not have an oncology doctor or a gastroenterology doctor or a diagnosis.  

“They have put off telling me three times. 

“And this is socialized medicine!  

“What has this world come to?”


 

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Filed under Comedy, Medical

Has the UK’s National Health Service any idea about what it is actually doing?

I have blogged about the chaos in the UK’s National Health Service before. The larger a bureaucracy, the larger the potential chaos.

I was in hospital for a week in May last year – with abnormally high calcium levels and dangerously low kidney function. This was reversed by a week’s worth of intravenous bisphosphonates – a drip to you and me.

But I have not had a full night’s sleep since June last year (ie exactly 12 months ago). No-one knows why I had the calcium/kidney problems and no-one knows why now, when I eventually go to sleep at night, I wake up at least once every hour every night with my mouth as dry as the Sahara Desert, forcing me to drink water.

As no-one has been able to diagnose the cause, there is no treatment. 

Currently, I have appointments with a Calcium Man in July, a Respiratory Man in August and a Kidney man in October.

One of the 6 pages of my Blood Test results

Yesterday morning, I got a 6-page print-out of my latest blood tests. I also got a call from another man at my local hospital to arrange a ‘Water Deprivation’ test two days before I see the Calcium Man. 

The Water Man was arranged by the Calcium Man.

The Calcium Man told me that it would be an early-morning urine test and I would not be able to drink liquids for several hours before the test.

Yesterday, the Water Man (who was a tad dithery) told me I would have to do “a 12-hour fast” before the test so I would not be able to eat or drink anything after 6.30pm the previous night. He had not told me what time the test would be.

“Oh,” I said, slightly surprised, “is my appointment at 6.30 in the morning?”

“9.30 in the morning,” he replied.

A slight pause.

“Oh,” I said, with a sinking heart. “So really a 15-hour fast.”

A slight pause at the other end of the line and then some linguistic confusion along the lines of “Umm… Err” followed by some audible recalculation.

“7.00pm,” the Water Man said, having recalculated the 12 hour gap before 9.30am. “So you can’t eat or drink anything after 7.00pm the previous night.”

I know when there is no point asking any more questions.

We left it at that.

But this does not increase my confidence in the efficiency of the UK’s National Health Service. I guess each generation thinks its doctors are experts and know what they are doing. Frankly, I do wonder if giving up on the application of leeches to the body was a good idea.

“The lies, and truths, and pain?… oh! yet… Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?” (Photograph by Ivan Mani via UnSplash)

 

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Filed under Bureaucracy, Health, Medical

There was a funny smell inside an English prison in the 1980s…

Keith introduces a programme at Anglia TV in his inimitable style…

So, yesterday I was having a chat on the phone with the delightful Keith Martin, a TV announcer whom I encountered during his 27 on-and-off freelance years at Anglia TV.

“…when I went to prison for the only time in my life,” was the end of one sentence. So, obviously, I asked for more details…


HMP Wayland in Norfolk: “It wasn’t a high security prison…”

KEITH: I was working at Anglia at the time. How or why we were invited to go to the prison, I just don’t know. I went with another of the Anglia announcers. This was probably in the late 1980s.

It was quite a modern prison – Wayland. It opened in 1985; Jeffrey Archer was imprisoned there for perjury in 2011. But I was there, as I say, I think in the late 1980s…

It wasn’t a high security prison but, as we went into one section, the door was locked solidly behind us before they opened the next door. It was that kind of prison.

JOHN: Why were you there?

KEITH: Probably some promotional thing for Anglia. I actually never knew. It was arranged last-minute. But, for some reason, we were there to watch the prisoners performing a pantomime.

JOHN: Oh no you weren’t.

KEITH: Oh yes we were. We went into a hall, not a particularly large hall. I can’t remember if the chairs were screwed to the floor… In fact, I think we were probably sitting on big, heavy benches.

JOHN: What was the first thing you noticed when you entered the prison?

KEITH: The smell. When we entered the inner sanctum of the prison, there was a very strong smell.

JOHN: Of what?

KEITH: Drugs.

JOHN: What was the inner sanctum?

KEITH: As we approached the recreational area.

JOHN: Recreational drugs?

KEITH: Indeed so.

JOHN: If there was a strong smell of drugs, the prison officers must have been aware of this too?

KEITH: I had the impression it was one way of pacifying the inmates. They allowed a certain amount of it to go on.

JOHN: Did someone actually tell you that?

KEITH: The way I would prefer to phrase it was that it was implied at the time that this was… tolerated… that this would be allowed to happen.

JOHN: How did the prisoners get the drugs in?

KEITH: Well, I found out one way years later when I went to a second-hand mobile phone shop in Clapham Junction where they gave you money for your old phones. I told the man: “I’ve got one of the original Nokia phones,” and he said: “Oh! They’re very popular… because people use them for other purposes!”

“What?” I asked.

“They stick them up their arsking-for-it,” he told me… And that’s how they were smuggled in to prisons back then. With a contraceptive. They put the Nokia phone inside a contraceptive.

(This would have been around 1999/2000.)

JOHN: It would be embarrassing if the phone rang in transit.

KEITH: I don’t know what the signal strength would have been like.

JOHN: Do you still have a Nokia?

KEITH: Yes, the old one and it still works.

JOHN: Where do you keep it?

KEITH: In a safe place. As a back-up. But, as I’m sure you know, this was why they put certain people on the potty.

JOHN: Why?

KEITH: They used to put them on a potty and then wait until they did ‘an evacuation’.

JOHN: What?? In prison??

KEITH: Didn’t you know that?

JOHN: No. They did that in case a Nokia fell out?

KEITH: Other brands are available but, yes, this was part of the security thing. Maybe they used German toilet bowls.

JOHN: German?

KEITH: When I worked for BFBS in West Germany and West Berlin, there was a ceramic platform at the back of the toilet bowls onto which your evacuation fell so you could inspect it before you flushed and the water gushed it down the hole. Some Germans are obsessed about what’s happened to their poo.

JOHN: Up the Ruhr?

KEITH: Enough, John.


As a sign of how things have changed, a 2017 report in the International Business Times revealed that inmates at Wayland Prison were now being allowed to use laptop computers to order meals from their cells and had been given in-cell telephones to keep in touch with relatives in the evenings. 

All the prison’s cells had telephones and the prison was “also planning the limited introduction of ‘video calling’ to friends and family later in the year.”

“However,” the report continued, “in common with most prisons, HMP Wayland continues to battle a tide of contraband flooding into into the jail… So far, in the first six months of this year, the jail’s seized haul includes over a kilo of drugs, 177 mobile phones and almost 500 litres of alcohol, most of which was illicitly brewed inside the premises.”

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Filed under Drugs, Prison, Television

What it takes to bribe a police officer

British hospitality (Photo by Morgan Sessions via UnSplash)

A police officer came round to my home for a chat yesterday. These things happen.

A very nice young man, bright-eyed and amiable.

At a random point, I asked him if he wanted a cup of tea, but then I suddenly thought and said: 

“Oh! I suppose maybe you can’t. That would count as attempting to bribe a police officer…”

He said no, he didn’t want a cup of tea but… “No, offering a cup of tea would not really be bribery…

There was a slight pause.

“…but offering me a bar of chocolate might be.”

“Really?” I replied, surprised. “Why?”

Potential police bribery (Photo by Marqquin via UnSplash)

“Well,” the nice young police officer said, “I think that would count as a gift, but a cup of tea would be just…” 

He paused, not quite sure what the next words should be.

“…being British?” I suggested.

He smiled and shrugged.

Thinking about it afterwards, maybe I should have suggested: “…taking a drink.”

Rather than smiling, he might have laughed.

As I said in yesterday’s blog, English can sometimes – sometimes – be a subtle language.

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Irresistible US performer Lynn Ruth Miller’s visa struggle to stay in the UK

87-year-old American comedy performer Lynn Ruth Miller is not just an international treasure but a national treasure. And she eventually got the UK government to agree…

Eventually…

Here she explains…


YOU CAN’T GET IT ALL

But I always try. 

I have a little voice inside me that says, “Yes you can!!! If you want it, it is yours.”  

And I listen to it. 

So it was that I decided to move to Brighton, England, at the nubile age of 81.  

A man named Bill Smith promised me a fascinating job, a living wage, a beautiful home and a visa to guarantee that the British Government would welcome me.

I believed him.

I should have known that anyone with such a boring name would be up to no good, but I did not. I just listened to that stubborn little voice whispering, “Go on! Do it! Do it!”

So I did.

I sold my California home, packed up my feathers, tassels and thongs and crossed the ocean, filled with optimism and hope.  

I would begin a new life! I would speak like Queen Elizabeth and learn to drink tea. I would say, “Are you well?” to strangers I didn’t care about and bitch about the weather. I would be British.

It didn’t turn out that way.  

I was housed in a flat above a fish and chips place and fired from my job in three months with no living wage and no visa. I still had an unmistakable American accent and I drank coffee.

But that little voice whispered in my ear, “You can get that visa… You can get that living wage… You don’t have to smell like fried fish… Move on!”

So I did.

I managed to get a ‘tier five’ visa that involved me leaving the country every three months and I moved to London where the action is.  

Then the little voice said: ”You have to find a way to stop running hither and thither. You are not as young as you used to be. Besides, travel is expensive. You have to get a permanent visa. Then you will be safe.”

“What about a living wage?” I asked.

“We will get to that later,” said the little voice.

So it was that I found a lovely sponsor who kept reassuring me that the three month routine was enough and I kept saying, “But it doesn’t give me medical care,” and he said, “Take your vitamins.”

So I did.

But then the worst happened. 

The Home Office disqualified my lovely sponsor and I tried to find another person to give me proper papers. Each one I found either wanted to charge me three times the price of a new home in Chelsea to do the work or else decided I was too big a risk.   

Meanwhile, the little voice kept saying, “Do not give up. You really CAN have it all.”

So I didn’t. 

I talked to lawyer after lawyer and each one said, “The only options open to you are to marry a Brit, study at a University or to be so talented that the British people cannot bear to let you go.”

By this time, I was 86 years old and had lived alone for so long I did not close the bathroom door. My memory was like a sieve and felt I had never had any talent. But I DID have that little voice.   

“If you marry, you will have to cook him three meals every single day and do other uncomfortable things,” it said. “If you study, you will have to use intelligence and that went when you lost your waistline. Try that talent thing. What do you have to lose?”

That was when I stumbled on an angel named Peter. 

He and I consulted more lawyers who told me to give up and go back to America. 

But Peter said, “There must be a way. Do you know anyone who can convince the Arts Council that you are indispensable?”

And I said, “My dogs are dead.”

But the little voice said, ”Just try!”

So I did.

I managed to convince a lot of people who were sympathetic to the elderly to write letters swearing I was a national treasure and, to my amazement, The Arts Council bought it.  

“See? What did I tell you?” said the little voice. “The British love eccentric old ladies.”

But, sadly, the Home Office does not. 

They wrote me and said, “Well, the Arts Council says you are a ‘Global Talent’ from America. But why are you still here?”

And I said, “Because there is a pandemic going on and I had to stay here or die.”

I said this once.  

I said this twice. 

And, finally, another angel named Kate wrote them a letter and so did cherubic Peter and the Home Office buckled. 

“OK,” they said, “we will let her stay. After all she is 87. How long will it be?”

Success at last!… Lynn Ruth Miller can stay in the UK!

AND I DID IT!! 

I GOT IT! 

I AM HERE FOR FIVE YEARS!  

THE BRITISH SAY I AM TALENTED.  

I GET MEDICAL CARE. 

But I didn’t get it all.  

To my dismay, the visa says I cannot work as a sportsperson.  

A tragic end to 87-year-old Lynn Ruth’s hopes of attaining track, field, boxing or Olympic stardom…

No rugby, no cricket, no soccer for me.  

I will have to return my helmet and chest protector to Bat And Ball.

“Stop bitching,” said the little voice. “You win some; you lose some.”

Don’t I know it?

 

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Filed under Comedy, immigration, UK

Someone in the police is telling lies in the shocking PC Oliver Banfield case

PC Oliver Banfield leaves court (Photo by Sally Homer)

I have posted a couple of blogs (HERE and HERE) about police officer Oliver Banfield’s unprovoked night time attack and violent assault on a woman and how he escaped a prison sentence. Instead of prison, he was given a 14-week night curfew – in effect, less than a slap on the wrist in the current national COVID lockdown.

Yesterday morning, I was talking to my eternally un-named friend.

“He was lucky,” she said, “that he could wear a mask leaving court”. She was shocked that he got away with it. “Crazy lack of action,” she said. “Surely he will be sacked?”

“He will,” I suggested, “presumably resign before being sacked. And I guess keep any pension contributions etc etc. Normally they resign before they get investigated for misconduct then they don’t get prosecuted so have an unblemished record while they were serving, before they resigned. They were not sacked. He was unlucky the police were pressurised into taking him to court first – although they tried their very best not to prosecute him.”

Frames from CCTV video of attack by PC Oliver Banfield (6ft 2in tall) on the woman (5ft 2in tall)

After the court sentencing, a police spokesman said PC Oliver Banfield would still face “a misconduct hearing in due course”.

Last night, uber-Fringegoer Sandra Smith told me she had sent my first (not my second) blog to the Chief Constable of the West Midlands police force ‘Dave’ Thompson (for whom PC Oliver Banfield worked) to see the reaction. She got this reply:

“I have read the piece thank you… There are a number of tweets that I have been copied in concerning this. For reason relating to police conduct procedures I cannot comment.”

Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine: “had to wait”

In an article this morning, the Daily Mirror quotes Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine of West Midlands Police, as saying:

“The misconduct process had had to wait until after criminal and court processes concluded, because of police regulations.”

The police are telling direct porky pies.

Chief Constable Dave Thompson: “I cannot comment”

As I mentioned in my second blog – the one Chief Constable ‘Dave’ Thompson did not read… on 17th February, in a phone call and follow-up email to Sally Homer, the victim’s aunt, the police’s Professional Standards Dept confirmed that, because PC Banfield had (eventually) admitted that he was guilty, they did not have to wait until sentencing and their conduct review could begin immediately.

“…this matter is no longer Sub Judice as the officer pleaded guilty to assault… That now means we can continue with our conduct investigation which will include the review of the criminal case too”

That was on 17th February.

PC Oliver Banfield (Photo from C4 report)

One of these statements has to be a lie.

Either Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine is a liar and the misconduct hearing could have started on or before 17th February – over a month ago.

Or the police Professional Standards Department lied in a conversation and in writing in an email on 17th February.

Both cannot be true.

The Channel 4 report on PC Oliver Banfield’s attack (caught on CCTV) is online HERE.

PARTIALLY FOLLOWED UP IN MY NEXT BLOG HERE.

 

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Filed under Crime, Police, Sex, sexism

Christine Keeler’s son remembers mum

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the UK and Seymour Platt wrote: 

“This Mother’s Day, I am working to get my Mum the best gift I can – a pardon.

“Abused as a child, Mum fled her home at 15 and, over the following years, powerful men took advantage of her. From the age of 19, she spent 18 months being stalked and frequently raped by a violent man, who eventually attacked her in the street. When the case went to trial, Mum would be jailed for perjury while her attacker would walk free. 

“She lived the rest of her life branded a liar, powerless to challenge the lies that were told about her.

“My Mum is Christine Keeler and I want to set the record straight…”

His ​​christine-keeler.co.uk website says:

​Christine Keeler was an icon of the 20th century.

But what you think you know about her isn’t true.

Behind the glamorous image was a woman who was abused throughout her life.

​A woman whose traumatic experiences affected her until her death in 2017.

​It’s now time to re-evaluate Christine’s life.

It’s time to #PardonChristineKeeler

Christine Keeler and her son Seymour, c 1975 (from Christine’s private collection)

Yesterday, Seymour wrote:


I was struggling to remember a Mother’s Day with my Mum. Did I get her a card and make her breakfast? I just can’t remember.

I do remember the first cup of tea I ever made her. I was probably about six years old and had seen tea made a hundred times. I felt very grown up when she said yes and I went off to the kitchen. We used a tea strainer to make tea – it was the 1970s – add a teaspoon of tea leaves in the strainer and pour the boiling water over into the cup then add the milk and two sugars. That was how she took her tea. As it was the first cup of tea I had ever made, I wanted to make it special, so I added a pinch of salt for extra flavour.

She took a few sips and asked, “What is that strange taste?” 

I told her how I had added a pinch of salt for extra flavour and she just started to laugh. 

“Oh god! That’s why it tastes awful!” and she was laughing so hard, tears were rolling down her face.

It’s not a Mother’s Day story, it is a tea story and there was a lot of tea in the 1970s. At about the same time, my mother had some toilet water and, after going to the loo, I would go and find that bottle of toilet water and then pour some into the basin before flushing.

My mother asked me, “Why do I keep finding my perfume in the toilet?” 

“That’s your perfume? I thought it was for the toilet.”

“You’ve been putting my perfume down the toilet?” 

She was laughing again and I learned that Eau de Toilette is another name for perfume and not, in fact, toilet water. 

The perfume wasn’t a Mother’s Day gift from me. In fact I don’t remember ever buying a Mother’s Day gift. 

A few years later, when I was about 17, just after the film Scandal hit the screens, my mother was taken to a fancy restaurant, for an interview. When she got back it was late and she was a little bit tipsy but, always thinking of her son, she had brought me back a ‘doggy bag’, some of the food wrapped up in a napkin. 

“It was delicious,” she said. “I had to save you a bit.” 

At 17, I was always hungry so I was delighted – that is until she opened the napkin. 

“It was some of my starter,” she said, “a beautiful steak tartare.”

If you don’t know, steak tartare is raw steak with chopped onions, all covered in a raw egg – one of the worst meals you could put to one side and save for later. After several hours in her handbag, it looked and smelled like dog food.

“Go on, have some, it’s delicious.”

The look and smell of the steak tartare made me never want to eat food again but, because Chris was a little tipsy, not wanting to eat this ‘dog food’ wrapped in a napkin was insulting to her. She had gone to all the trouble to bring me back a little doggy bag. She told me, “I had to get the journalist to distract the waiter while I put the napkin in my bag.”

She told me I was ungrateful for not eating the food: “If you’re not going to eat it, then I will!” and off she went to get a fork. 

After one bite, she said, “Don’t eat that, it’s gone off, yuk!” and she ran off to spit it out. We laughed so hard she started coughing that deep smoker’s cough.

The fancy restaurant meal that night wasn’t a Mother’s Day treat from me.

It seems every day more people are stepping forward and offering to help with the campaign to get her pardoned posthumously, which is wonderful; and any help is gratefully accepted. 

I am finding myself getting a little nervous now and thinking what would happen if her pardon is rejected or why it could be rejected. I guess these are all understandable fears, but I also realise it’s because the story of getting my mother a pardon is not just my story. In fact it hasn’t been for a while, as more and more people get involved, more people become invested. 

I sometimes sense the same nervousness in the people around me, the people who are working on this so hard to get her pardoned. I’m sure that is a good thing because sometimes being nervous reminds us when things are important.

On Mother’s Day, we do something in recognition of the women who brought us into the world and this week I wanted to tell you stories about my mother that could equally have been stories about any mother, stories that show a mother’s love.

If you are lucky enough to be with your mother today, why don’t you tell her that you love her and maybe make her a cup of tea? But don’t put any salt in the tea, it makes it taste yuk. 

Happy Mother’s Day, Mum.


Details of Seymour’s campaign to obtain a pardon for his mum are online at christine-keeler.co.uk


 

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Reaction to the incompetence of the UK’s National Health Service…

Yesterday’s blog was me bitching about the inefficient, mindless bureaucracy of the NHS. In particular, about how they sent me three self-contradictory letters about changing my meeting with a Consultant in June (in four months’ time) from an in-the-flesh meeting to a telephone call (because of the infection risk during the current COVID outbreak).

Inevitably, about ten minutes after posting that blog, I got a phone call from the NHS about changing from flesh-to-telephone a different appointment I have tomorrow with a different Consultant at the same hospital.

Something of a pity that I am not seeing him in the flesh because last week I had a recurrance of the vertigo I suddenly had without warning three weeks ago… and the neck/shoulder/arm pain which has recently got worse since it started back in November… and, of course, the fact I have not had a proper night’s sleep since I was in hospital in May last year – I wake up at least once every hour during the night, dehydrated, with my throat and mouth parched and having to drink water.

This means – because of the water – having to go to the toilet a lot during the night, which is not helped by falling-over vertigo or a painful and restrictive neck/shoulder/arm problem which is easier to describe visually rather than over the phone.

It also means I will not be given a blood test to see how my calcium level/kidney function is progressing or not. Those were involved in my problem last May, the cause of which is still a “mystery” (technical term).

Anyway, I got a fair number of comments about yesterday’s blog. These are a few…


Andy’s response was:


You should raise this with The Minister at The Department of Administrative Affairs. The response will be that to change a standard NHS letter issued by a single key stroke that generates three different but essential standard letters to the same person whilst informing several departments of the change is essential in effective running of the appointments system. 

Whilst admitting that this does appear to be wasteful and confusing, particularly if the three letters received by the patient are opened in the wrong order, to alter the system requires the employment of a number of consultants and support staff over a period. It’s estimated, that may extend over several years because there is no central office for administration within the NHS. 

You’ll recall the failure of the government proposed computer system to link all the the NHS computer systems into one seamless system. It’s considered that to fix this issue, which is considered mostly harmless, would take in the area of £736,000,000 and is therefore not worth doing.

In addition, all of the Ministers’ friends are all currently overstretched in other government projects they’ve been awarded so won’t be able to start work in this until at least 2037.


‘King1394’ observed:


Yes it is the efficient work of computerised automation. Once there would have been a thinking clerical worker managing your appointments. But computers are cheap to employ even if they produce three contradictory letters where one would suffice.


Alan commented:


This is the same bureaucracy that, when medics were crying out for Personal Protective Equipment, refused to deal with many suppliers who had stockpiles of exactly the right equipment, in date, authorised for medical use… They refused to purchase it because that particular supplier couldn’t be added to the procurement system due to a lack of past dealings.

Every once in a while there’s a cry-out for everyone in the NHS to receive a pay rise or bonus due to the hard work they’ve done in fighting the pandemic.

While I wholeheartedly agree that every single person in the NHS who has been right there in the hospital, facing danger, risking their own health as well as that of their families should get something, I’m still very reticent to make it a blanket award as I don’t want to reward those who made it more difficult or who simply did their job from home at no additional risk to themselves or others.


…and Sandra said:


The NHS? I have been lucky in my treatment from them in the main.

Apart from the time when I was sent for physio, when in fact my hip was on the point of fracturing.

Plus one other doctor whom everyone avoided.

As it turned out, he mis-diagnosed my condition, complained about the price of the meds he was about to prescribe, then ran after me begging forgiveness because he had given me the wrong prescription. Bastard. 

And I told him so, leaving out the word bastard…


Obviously, I realise my alleged problems are only relatively minor inconveniences, but – hey! – look – it’s my blog. It needs writing and where else can I selfishly whinge up my own arse if not in my blog?

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The oddity of no sex north of London

This morning my chum, writer and songstress Ariane Sherine, Tweeted about the oddity of London postcodes. 

There are SW (south west) postcodes, SE (south east), postcodes, NW (north west) ones but no NE one for north east London. That is because NE is the postcode for Newcastle.

Likewise, there are N, E and W London postcodes (north, east and west) but no S postcode, because that is used for Sheffield.

Another quirk, designed to confuse the unwary, is that the numbering of London postcodes is alphabetical, not geographical. So a postcode area 3 is not necessarily next to 2 and 4…

However, I am more interested in sex.

So, we have or had Middlesex (the central area), Wessex (ie West Sex), Sussex (South Sex), Essex (East Sex) but no North Sex, presumably because the people of Nosex eventually died out.

Apparently, in this context, ‘sex’ turns out to be an abbreviation and corruption of ‘Saxon’, which is a disappointment.

But life is full of disappointments.

I am going to have breakfast now.

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John Fleming’s (half) Weekly Diary No 22 – Coughs, teeth, dead surrealists

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 21

SUNDAY 21st JUNE

One of my front upper teeth has gone out of alignment with the others. Hopefully this is a false tooth.

Staying on things oral, I have a lifelong dry, irritating (to others) cough, which is very useful for clearing queues during the current coronavirus outbreak.

One of the many British comedic highlights of the past which I missed was The Fast Show on BBC2 (1994-1997 + 2011-2014). I never saw an entire episode though I saw occasional excerpts.

One thing I apparently missed was a running gag/character called Bob Fleming, who had a dry irritating cough. Someone drew my attention to it today.

I had zero involvement in The Fast Show, but I did (inevitably, though Malcolm Hardee) peripherally have a nodding acquaintance with a couple of the cast members. It would be nice to think one mentioned in passing about this bloke John Fleming who had a perpetual irritating cough. That would be my 15 seconds of inspirational fame.

Alas, I imagine the thought of phlegming/Fleming is a more likely source.

Today I also chatted with TV chap Simon Kennedy for an upcoming blog. Inexplicably, the subject of long-time Chinese statesman Chou En Lai came up… and his famous quote.

Ever-wise, much quoted Chinese statesman

In the early 1970s, talking to Henry Kissinger, he was asked if he thought the French Revolution had had a successful outcome. The French Revolution happened in 1789.

Chou said: “It is too early to say.”

I have always seen this as the epitome of Chinese long-sightedness.

But Simon correctly told me that Chou was actually referring to the 1968 student riots in Paris.

What a pity.

It is far more Chinese to say that 1968 was too early to say what long-term effects an action in 1789 had.

MONDAY 22nd JUNE

China – and, indeed, similar political paradises – are known for their bureaucracy.

So today I arrived at my local hospital at 0845 (with my three appointment letters) for my 0900 Nephrology appointment at Outpatients and, on presenting myself and my three letters at Main Reception, was told the department was closed and all appointments had been moved to another hospital.

I ignored this – as I had had the three letters and had had a phone call confirming the appointment. I phoned the Kidney Man’s answering machine, found Outpatients and sat in Main Outpatients Reception (open from 0830 but with no receptionist).

About 0900, the Kidney Man’s secretary phoned me back to confirm I would be seen and if no-one turned up, to phone her back. I was due to see a Kidney Woman.

I said if no-one turned up by 0920 I would phone back.

The Kidney Woman arrived at 0917, unlike the receptionist.

She (the Kidney Woman) told me that, during my 7-day hospital stay, they had not treated me – just observed. Fair enough.

During that time, my calcium level had gone back to normal without any treatment (except the saline drip for 7 days). My calcium level had been 3.2. I had been told in hospital it should be 2.6.

The Kidney Woman told me: “2.6 would be an absolute maximum.”

Apparently ‘normal’ would be 2.2 to 2.6.

My kidney function last October had been an OK-for-my-age 62 but, on entering hospital, it was down to 19. Over 7 days in the hospital I had been told it had risen to 28 which was concerning but no longer “dangerous” and the Kidney Woman today told me it had been 34 on discharge from hospital.

“Anything over 60 would be OK for a man of your age,” she told me. “Your calcium level would affect your kidney function, but your kidney function could not affect the calcium level.”

Still, there is no hint of why my calcium level/kidney function went haywire nor why I keep waking up 6 or 7 or 8 times a night with a parched, bone-dry mouth and have to drink water. Next week, I will hear the result of today’s blood test.

During the day I am mostly OK though I sometimes have to have a late afternoon nap for a couple of hours; and I go to bed, tired, around 8.00pm or 9.00pm. My normal bedtime used to be around midnight.

Whether this tiredness is a result of my calcium/kidney problems or just being old or having constantly woken up 6 or 7 or 8 times the previous night… Who knows?

TUESDAY 23rd JUNE

The pandemic has resulted in much more dental bureaucracy

The tooth cap that was out-of-alignment on Sunday has now got decidedly wobbly. It is hanging on in there, but threatening to either fall out during the day or (in my fantasies) drop out and get swallowed by me during the night.

Miraculously (because of the coronavirus lockdown) I was able to get a dental appointment next Tuesday. My dentist re-opened last Monday (eight days ago) for emergencies.

I got an appointment after answering a lot of detailed medical questions and, I think, because the dodgy upper tooth is towards the front and visible.

There will be absolutely no drilling of any kind because of the danger from airborne spray from the mouth. So anything that would normally involve drilling will, instead, be temporarily repaired.

Around lunchtime, I was sitting on a bench with someone (the regulation two metres apart) in the Green Belt area near my home when a stray football from a nearby game headed towards us. I got up, kicked the ball back and nearly overbalanced and (did not) fall over.

I am constantly lightheaded during the day and waking up hourly at night.

Who knows why?

In the afternoon, I was told of the death of Douglas Gray last Thursday. He and brother Tony were The Alberts, a surreal comedy duo which linked The Goons and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

I met the brothers years ago – in the 1980s, I think, at their home (I think they lived in the same rambling house but I could be wrong) in Norfolk. They were interestingly and gently eccentric and one – I think it was Douglas – appeared to be dressed for playing cricket for no apparent reason.

They should have been British cultural treasures but, alas, mega-fame escaped them, like so many worthy performers. I seem to remember that they used to pretend to work on a national newspaper in London, before Margaret Thatcher destroyed the ‘closed shop’ policies of the trades unions.

They told me, I think, that they would drive down from Norfolk to London each Friday, sign on as print workers (they had union cards), then drive straight back to Norfolk. They got paid well for working at the weekends although they were not even in London, let alone working on the production of the newspaper.

They were surrealists on and off stage.

Today was the last day of the daily government Briefings/updates about the coronavirus pandemic. The lockdown restrictions will be partially, but not by any means totally, lifted on the 4th of July – our ‘Trim-dependence Day’ as one BBC News reporter put it, because hairdressers will be allowed to open with safety restrictions.

The total of reported UK coronavirus deaths is now 42,927… up 171 in the previous 24 hours

WEDNESDAY 24th JUNE

I have received the three pages of forms I have to fill in before seeing my dentist next Tuesday.

The accompanying letter details what will happen.

The tooth will out…

– I should rinse my mouth with mouthwash before leaving home, to kill off any bacteria in my mouth.

– I should not arrive early, because the surgery’s street door will be locked and I will only be allowed in when the previous patient has left.

– On entry, my temperature will be taken with an infra-red thermometer.

– I will have to wash my hands with anti-bacterial gel before seeing the dentist.

– The dentist and nurse will be wearing protective clothing: presumably face masks and/or plastic face visors.

As if to celebrate my filling-in of the dental forms…

…my tooth fell out.

… CONTINUED HERE

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