Thursday, October 23, 2008

National Health

Being diagnosed as having cancer is not going to be the high spot of anybody’s life time but, if it has to happen, it might be as well to have it happen in France.
Having felt under the weather for some time, I went to see my local doctor. He earns about half the salary of a British GP, works longer hours, makes house calls and always seems to be able to fit in a same-day appointment.
After examining me, he says I need to see a specialist and he then calls the local hospital.
“When would I like an appointment? Would tomorrow be OK?”
These are words that I understand are seldom, if ever, heard in the British National Health Service.
So at ten the next morning I am at the hospital. By 10.05 I am being examined by the doctor who says that he will need to perform an endoscopy. When would that be convenient for me?
We consult diaries and pick a date a couple of days off. He then says that I will need to be examined by the anaesthesiologist. When? Oh, right now.
A few minutes later I am given an ECG and a check-up by this gentleman who pronounces me fit enough for his side of the business. I’m out by just after eleven.
On reporting to the hospital at eight in the morning I’m shown to my room, 201. This has two beds, an en-suite bathroom, TV and bedside direct dial telephones (there’s a small charge for these). It looks like a modern motel room with extra plumbing.
Following the operation and a short time in recovery, I’m back in room 201 by eleven. A procession of nurses troop in and out, usually to ask “Ca va?” or to check my blood pressure.
When the consultant appears, unfortunately it is with bad news. I will need to make a return appearance. He arranges the appointment on the spot and it is later confirmed in writing.
My treatment will start immediately.
I understand that UK doctors are being rewarded for not sending patients to hospital.
I wonder how I would be placed had my doctor accepted such a bribe?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

No Colour Baa

In these times, when skin colour, religion and ethnicity seem to be an obsession with humans, it is pleasant to report that in the animal kingdom, (mutton division), no such problem exists.
My somewhat charmingly eccentric neighbour, Jean-Paul, has a varied selection of livestock in his paddocks, to whit: two mountain goats, twelve donkeys, three Cameroon sheep, two Alpacas and a Baker’s dozen of very black sheep.
Amongst this flock there is a rotund and well padded female that goes by the unlikely name, for a French sheep that is, of ‘Sheepy.’ Apparently Sheepy was a domestic pet but she grew too large to get in and out of the family Renault and so was, so to speak, put out to grass among Jean-Paul’s flock.
Rather as do many British matrons, when let loose south of the English Channel, Sheepy revelled in her new found freedom, loosened her stays, unhooked her corsets and forsook her formerly blameless existence for one of hedonistic delights.
The result was that, the other day, she produced a snowy white lamb.
Questions were asked, of course, but she repeatedly responded with a ‘baa’ or occasionally a ‘bah.’ Sheep in this part of the world often still use the old ‘langue d’oc’ making an accurate translation difficult but it is pretty certain that “mind your own business” would be a colloquial interpretation.
But in spite of her offspring standing out like the white sheep of the family, Sheepy is as popular as ever in the flock. No stigma seems to have been attached to the event and the snowy white lamb is gambolling (I understand that this is what lambs do) quite happily with her black friends.
From this we can conclude that either sheep are colour blind or that they are far more tolerant than we humans.
Personally, I prefer the latter explanation.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I'm Banking on It

It’s time, I feel, for a career change. Not that I am the least bit unhappy in my chosen profession but, on viewing the salaries and bonuses that seems to be the lot of others, I can see that I’m missing out badly.
After all, how often have you heard of a government bailing out an impoverished writer? Not often, I suspect, even though they may have the finest collection of rejection slips known to man.
So I am searching for another means of earning my daily bread. I’ve had one or two other professions and this time I am looking for one that does not have too much accountability. For example, I was an airline pilot, a job that, in the event of you making a serious error, can leave a large hole in the ground and a number of law suits. Much the same applies to bus drivers, train drivers and all those whose daily work demands a degree of competence.
My search has whittled down to the only profession where there is a large reward for failure and little accountability.
I shall become a banker.
Uncertain though I am on how to enter into the industry, I reason that, given the obvious incompetence of those at the top, it can’t be all that hard. Especially now that the rules of the business seem to have been changed.
Formerly a banker was charged with the safekeeping of other people’s monies, which he was then entitled to invest safely and securely to generate a modest profit for himself and his depositor.
Now of course, the money can be used in any frivolous fashion for huge salaries and bonuses to those who act rather more as though they are betting on the 3.30 at Newmarket.
And when it all comes tumbling down, now the government can be relied upon to use taxpayer’s cash to pay you off and provide a nice little pension.
So banking it is.
But hang on a minute.
I’ve just read that an Afghan refugee can get £170,000 worth of benefits per year from the British government without having to lift a finger.
That must be even better than banking.
Wonder what an Afghan passport costs on the street?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"I'm on the Plane..........."

The announcement by Ryanair that they were going to allow the use of mobile phones on their flights brought out the usual comments from the ‘We hate Ryanair’ crowd with a backing chorus of ‘Down with O’Leary.’
But it makes a lot of commercial sense. At £2 a minute, I doubt there will be many conversations of the “I’m on the plane….” line but many of us would have welcomed such a facility at almost any price when flights have been delayed or diverted. Being able to contact your ground transport in good time is invaluable in such cases.
And if it makes money for O’Leary, I’m all in favour. Thanks to his operation, by booking in advance, I can fly from my home in France to London and back often for less than the price of a one way ticket on the laughably named ‘Stansted Express’ into London.
Mr. O’Leary is unlikely to ever be confused with Mother Teresa and there are many who feel that whatever charm school he may have attended should have their licence revoked forthwith. But he has a way of stating obvious truths which would render him a totally ineffective politician.
Responding to a claim that the phone conversations would disturb fellow passengers, he replied, “All our flights are noisy. If you want a quiet flight, go fly with someone else.”
Overhearing someone’s conversation might be a relief from the normal cacophony of a Ryanair cabin which is run rather on the lines of a Middle Eastern street market.
But it suits me just fine. The aircraft are modern and clean, far cleaner than the aforementioned Stansted Express which I can only conceive was devised to make Eastern Europeans feel at home, as it closely resembles a Bucharest commuter train from the Cold War era. The crews are professional and personally I have always found the cabin staff pleasant.
I board and read my book, oblivious to the cries to make me a millionaire by selling me a scratch card or a mobile telephone system, to say nothing of a gourmet (judging by the price, that is) sandwich.
Economically, Ryanair’s service is invaluable to me.
So go ahead. Please buy a sandwich or two and use the telephone while you’re on board.
I promise I won’t listen.