Saturday, September 24, 2005

More stuff in praise of the NHS

Just in case anyone was wondering, graeme jr's op went as well as slicing a boy open could ever go. They found his missing testicle and relocated it as nature would have intended had it not been looking the wrong way in the first place.
I've personally never had a bad experience with the NHS. And as such, I don't understand the argument that says 'this country is going to the dogs - just look at how shit the NHS is'. There are of course people who have bad stories to tell. The NHS is run by humans and humans will fuck up. But to suggest that the NHS is wrong to the core makes me think that there are people who don't recognise when they're well looked after. Very well looked after.
Put simply, and obviously anecdotally, there is nothing I could fault about the care graeme jr and me & his mum received when he had a minor op the other day. If operating on a two-year old can ever be minor....
We got ourseleves to the hospital about 7.35am, remembering that parking was an issue. And was bloody expensive too (mmm... might be a crack in my argument).
We were signed in and sent to a waiting room with some toys, and many videos, where all the other kids due for various slicings arrived over the next hour. By half-past-eight it was like a war zone.
Before 9, the nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons were calling kids and parents through for pre-processing.
This took a couple of hours, during which mrs graeme and I grabbed separate breakfasts at the hospital caff. Which, as it turned out, was unnecessary. graeme jr, of course, was not allowed to eat. Instead, he found the after-care room, which had better toys, and played there.
To cut a long story short, I held him in the operating room while the anaesthetic took hold and his little eyes rolled back into his head. The support staff played with him, distracted him and were generally fantastic. Then I left him to the bloke with the knife.
So they did stuff, they looked after him, and they called us in to see him when he came round. We sat with him for a few hours, with staff bringing us cups of tea and sandwiches, and, when the medical staff were absolutely satisfied he was well, and when the poor little bugger could stand up - bearing in mind they'd just cut one of his balls in half - we were told we could take him home.
Every member of staff, from the Surgeon-Commander (this is Plymouth; you couldn't avoid the navy if you wanted to) through to the Eastern European girl who brought us tea & sandwiches - and in between times mopped the floor - were caring above and beyond the call of duty.
Whenever I hear bad stuff about the NHS I think about the 15 days graeme jr and mrs graeme spent in Transitional Care in Derriford Hopital, Plymouth, two years ago, due to graeme jr having decided to come 6 weeks early. I won't have a bad word said against the NHS.
You may have different stories....

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Goodbye To Jane

In other news, it appears that the Happy Mondays are to be amongst us once again. My personal favourite track is 'Wrote For Luck', but 'Step On' still sends shivers down the spine. Frankly, they make Oasis look like the bunch of has-been beatles they always aspired to be.
And as if that wasn't enough, Jane Gazzo is playing something I recognize as a very old Birthday Party, er, 'tune'. Looking at her playlist on the BBC6 website I'm guessing that this means Jane is not working out her notice quietly. Apparently we should have expected 'Jackie Wilson Says' by Van Morrison.
Unless I'm reading the playlist wrong, which is entirely possible.
I'll miss Jane a great deal. Can't believe they haven't renewed her contract, if that is indeed the case. There are just some radio DJs who really seem to get off on what they do, and Jane Gazzo is one of them. There's a massive difference between being a 'presenter' and a lover of music.
I'll miss Jane Gazzo. If anyone has any idea where she might be working next I'd love to know. If it's Australia, surely there must be some way to listen on the web?
Also, she seems to be doing a Scottish session thing tonight, which is always good. Not sure about the Paul McCartney stuff, though.
Also, The Breeders. 1993. I could discourse in some detail about the Breeders, the Amps, Pixies, Sonic Youth, L7, the Cramps.. for some reason I want to include the Gun Club even though they had no Kims as far as I'm aware.
Orange Juice and Aztec Camera. I promoted both of those when I was social sec at Dundee University in 80/81. Roddy Frame was cruelly overlooked and I hope Edwyn Collins is getting better.
But mainly I want to praise Jane Gazzo for her genuine love of the phone-in punters, and her love of Nick Cave. And her constant love of new bands.
I'm not Australian, but if I was I'd be proud of Nick Cave, alone, with the Bad Seeds, and with the Birthday Party. Also The Saints.

Mack - The Knife. Please.

graeme jr is going into hospital to have an operation tomorrow morning. Some bloke (and in this case, it is a bloke) is going to take a very sharp knife - or be handed a very sharp knife by some minion earning minimum wage - and slice him open. Cut through his skin and fiddle about with the stuff underneath. Some bloke I've never even met, for heaven's sake.
It is, I'm repeatedly told, a 'routine operation'. Yeah, for the surgeon it is. I'm sure he's done loads of them. Actually, he'd better have done loads of them. Don't want some Modern Apprentice delving into my boy's innards. Or, worse, a kid on work experience.
At times like this all the scare stories you've ever read about the NHS come flailing around. It's easy, if you read the tabloids, to assume that the entire NHS is all shit - and, if you're very lucky, everything might just go as planned and you'll be taking your two-year-old home safe and well at 1400 hours.

Are you sure you don't want to go private, mr graeme?

In fact, about 99.9% of operations go as planned. The sheer volume of NHS work means that the unsatisfactory 0.1% is actually a significant number of people. A further small percentage of whom seem quite happy to sell their stories to the tabloids. Hence the scare stories. And what would the Daily Mail and Daily Express do without those?
In the very rare event that graeme jr's op goes pear-shaped tomorrow I will mainly not be suing anyone. But I have absolute confidence that it will be good.

Either way - some bloke I don't know will be cutting him open!!

How scary is that?

Monday, September 19, 2005

We're All Going To The Zoo, Yesterday

On Saturday we went to Paignton Zoo for the day, as an amusingly ironic way to spend a day in the Theme Park. (As a good friend of mine once said, England stops at Bristol. The rest of us live in a Theme Park.) We were having a lovely time, mingling with the lemurs and the tamarinds and the brummies, when some zoo staff came running out of the bison enclosure shouting 'An Animal Has Escaped! Run For Your Lives!!'
Well, their exact words were: 'An Animal Has Escaped! Please gather in the Restaurant. Or the Play Area. Up to you, really. It's not safe here.'
I turned to look behind, instantly aware that I was the Man of the family, and I had a two-year-old son to protect. Also his Mum, and I was aware that if I had to sacrifice her I'd hate myself for ever. Hoping it wouldn't come to that. Hoping I'd never have to live with the guilt of feeding my wife to a wild animal to protect our son. For heaven's sake, people, a boy needs his dad.
As we turned to flee, something told me to look back, to get the measure of our foe. As I turned a woman, pushchair in hand, screamed, 'Oh my God, it's coming, it's here!!!!'
I had turned at the same time, and god help us, I saw what she saw. The animal was full of primal hatred, its eyes blazing, its mouth inflamed, and it was rushing toward us. And our babies.
I turned back to my wife and child and said 'It's a pig. About so high.' I indicated the grass. 'I'm not sure exactly how vicious Peccaries are. Or indeed what they are. Pigs, though.'
It turned away from us and ran into the elephant enclosure, which I thought wasn't its best choice.
Anyway, having corrralled us in the restaurant, they told us they were going to deploy the sedative darts. We waited for about an hour, then were told we could happily disperse. Wonder how they deal with an escaped lion?

I have seriously mixed feelings about zoos. I 'm not convinced that caging animals is 'humanitarian' in any sense. I especially hate aviaries, there is no sense in which it can be right to cage birds. Even in Paignton, one of the best zoos that there is, the Hornbills still have to occupy inadequate, seemingly tiny, cages.
The worst zoo I ever saw was in Bursa, in Turkey, and it sickened me, the pathetic pacing of the elephants, the lethargy of the lions.
On the other hand, the Kruger National Park, and Malolotja in Swaziland, and countless others we have no awareness of, seem to be dedicated to keeping animals the way they should be kept.
End of lesson. Insert humorous comment here.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Have you ever heard of Killing Joke? They were one of my favourite bands about 20 years ago. I idolised Jaz Colman, the singer, and I've just come across an interesting and very recent interview; it's there in their homepage.
Jaz is sitting in a clearly expensive hotel, smoking a very large cigar, talking about history
How is it that bands you barely remember selling any records are still going strong?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

That Was The Week That Was

Quite a week. A team called 'Eng-er-land' seem to have beaten a team called 'Strayl-ya' to win some poor bastard's ashes at a game called 'Crick-et'. Luckily, the British National News has hardly mentioned the little victory that one-quarter of this artificial construct of 'nations' has achieved.

Ouch. Unnecessarily churlish. I apologise. I watched the presentation on Channel 4 yesterday and I confess my eyes welled up. I felt proud for Michael Vaughan, more so for Flintoff and Pietersen (although I'm wondering just how English he might be), and even more so for Shane Warne. And I really enjoyed the very pissed interview Flintoff gave this morning to Jonathan Agnew. How much is he going to regret being pissed through the best day of his cricketing career? As I've said before, my problem is not with the team or the players, it's with the English media. Fill in your own personal organ of hatred here...

Even more remarkable than England beating Australia at cricket (and, yes, I do know what the Ashes really are), 'Loyalists' are fighting with police in Belfast. Another shift in perception. By the sounds of the British National News I'm going to have to reassess my view of the Orange Order and rank them right up there with the Protestant paramilitaries. How can this have happened? Take it along with the internal feuding in the more established prod paras and the republicans must be having a rare old time. Presenting themselves to the UK government as the Voice of Reason when the political alternative is the Reverend Dr Ian Paisley. Of course the Ra look reasonable, for fuck's sake.
As I write, the government has announced that the UVF has broken the terms of it's ceasefire. No shit. And the UDA has denounced violence.
Oh how we laughed.
I recommend you have a look at Everything Ulster for a much more informed perspective.

And finally, more fuel protests. There are many things you can take New Labour to task for, but the international rise in the price of petroleum is not one of them.
Not happy with paying tax and getting stuff in return? Don't see what your tax is paying for? Have a look at the road beneath your wheels, then, and remember that should you need to journey from Penzance to Aberdeen tomorrow you'll be able to do so. Perhaps you'd prefer to drive from Mogadishu to Tangiers?
Or maybe you're not happy with paying tax at all? Maybe Government is too big? Well, buy your own fucking aircraft carrier then and sort out your own defense strategy.
Good luck with that.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Northern Ireland 1 England 0

Well, what a night. Scotland won, Wales lost. But more importantly, Norn Irn beat England. How fantastic is that?
I am ecstatic for Lawrie Sanchez and his team. I watched the second half and I can tell you that they more than deserved to win. Two-nil would not have been surprising. Top job, boys, and you well deserve the history you've just created.
I thought the boy Beckham was impressive, though. Sadly for England, not on the field. After the game Garth Crooks (I can remember him when he played for the god-like Tottenham Hotspur) tried very hard to annoy him, but he spoke well in abject defeat, and didn't in any sense belittle the Norn Irn team. He was dignified, appropriately hurt, and also loyal to the other players and the manager. In no sense did he say "it's not my fault, blame Lampard. Or Rooney". He took it on the chin and I respect him for it.
I am, however, looking forward to reminding the English that Scotland won. And we have a decent keeper. And we just might still qualify.
Are you ready to play us, then?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The End of Summer

Summer has a way of shrinking the brain. Or at least mine, anyway. I haven't read a newspaper since the end of July (to qualify, I'm rarely very far from Radio 5 Live, so I continue to be saturated with rolling news), and I've barely kept up with the football results. I have, of course, kept up with Dundee United's results, but somehow those seem to make summer denial even more urgent.
The only football matches I've watched on TV were Wales v England and Scotland v Italy.
Wales v England was a disappointing result, but the National Anthems were hilarious. Sung by a Welsh opera singer (I'm sorry, I have no idea which one; wasn't Charlotte Curch, though - I know this because it was definitely a bloke). The English anthem went:
"God save our gracious Queen blah blah blah mumble Queen." Took about 10 seconds.
Then he filled his lungs, had a long slow look round, and belted out "Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau", for at least 15 minutes. I had goosepimples (I'm Scottish, for heaven's sake), my wife had goosepimples (she's Welsh, she's allowed), my son was ordered to have goosepimples as he pootled amongst his toys, totally unaware of the significance of the "Born to Play For Wales" t-shirt his mother had dressed him in that morning.
And then the English won. By one cruelly deflected goal. Hey ho.
Scotland led Italy 1-0 for about five years before some Italian nonentity - I dunno, Totti, Vieri, someone like that, some rubbish Italian striker anyway, managed to actually get the spherical thing between the two vertical things. The Scots were aces, though, in their way - and the biggest result is that we have an excellent young goalkeeper. And we can make jokes about English goalkeepers at last - if you consider 'Calamity James' to be a joke. Which, after all the shit Scottish goalkeepers have endured from the English over the years, we do. And I actually like David James.
But the biggest summer thing has been the Ashes. A fantastic tournament with only one problem - the English, bizarrely, seem to be winning games of cricket against Australia. The traditional 'English Batting Collapse' has been absent from our back pages. Like global warming, this seems to go against the natural order of things. I look forward to Shane Warne squirreling the Ashes away in his trousers at the end of this week, shouting "You whinging Poms are all.. uh.. whinging Poms. So there."
But much more than all of that, it was graeme junior's second birthday today. Unfortunately, his Mum and Dad went back to work yesterday, so we couldn't spend the whole day with him. Fortunately, he spent all day having a picnic with his little friends and his very favourite childminder. Well, his only childminder. In case you're feeling his birthday needs have been neglected, he had a very lovely party with another two-year-old last Friday, with chocolate cake and everything. And we bought him lots of presents. And he thoroughly enjoyed tearing most of them to bits before bedtime.
Sadly, his main present from us - delivered last, and delivered with great ceremony ("Look, son, this is Mummy and Daddy's present!!!")- obscured his view of CBeebies, so he chucked it off the sofa and stuck his fingers back in his mouth.
It's not easy being a parent....

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Joy of Toddlers.

It's graeme junior's second birthday on Tuesday, following hot on the heels of my 44th birthday last week. I really wonder about the age difference and how it will affect him when he's older. But then, we would really like to add another little one to the family.
I often get asked when I meet new people if I have a previous family. Actually, it's not so much a question as an assumption that I have older kids, a divorced wife and a very large CSA bill. Fair enough, it's hardly unusual. But wrong. I got married at 41 - for the first time, in case you were wondering - and had my first kid at the age of 42. And I love it. And him, obviously. I couldn't have done it when I was younger. Even at 32 I was probably too immature to deal with the inherent selflessness of having a dependant life.
I just love being a dad, I love his every move and his every, increasing, word. And, for a very few years only, I would love to do it again.
Anyway, my point in this post is - how does it feel to have a parent 40 years older than you? If anyone has experienced that I'd love to know. Although, in fact, I don't feel a day over 23.
I am so going to take this post down tomorrow.....

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Geek Stuff

I've spent a large chunk of the last few days trying to get Visual Basic Express 2005 to talk to SQL Server Express 2005, without any great success. Not much success with C# either, although I love the language. The thing is, no matter your level of expertise with your known version of this stuff, the newest generations seem designed to make you feel stupid. Or maybe it's just me, but how hard should it be to connect to a SQL Server instance that you were forced to install with the main download?
Perhaps I'm being unfair. This is free software after all. Microsoft, free software. Go figure. But I'm grateful nonetheless.
I kind of liked VB6, and I still like VBA. You can do extraordinary things with Office and VBA, especially with Excel. I still think Excel is the best shrink-wrapped software ever written.
Anyway. This blog will return to normal service eventually.