Tuesday, 31 January 2012

On appreciation

Google has "inferred" that I am a woman. Well done data-mining! Google has also "inferred" that I am over the age of 65. I would laugh, but I accepted long ago that I am in fact an 85 year old woman cursorily disguised as a 25 year old. What is odd, though, is that they've "inferred" this information based on the fact that I like looking at (a) clothes, (b) social issues and advocacy, and (c) stuff to do with.. Ireland? Is Ireland now a nation of pensioners? Are only old people interested in clothes? Are Young People Today not trying to make the world a better place?? Huh.

In related news, it has been observed that if one were to take a stab at my nationality from my writing style, one would probably go for "as American as mom's apple pie". To address this I will be replacing all instances of "you GUYS!" to "I say, what ho chaps", and possibly making repeated reference to croquet.

Things that are awesome about being English: eating pie and mash. Getting annoyed when the bus you've paid almost nothing to travel on is a little slow navigating ancient streets (with names like Cripplegate and Cheapside) built originally to allow three sheep to walk abreast. Making friends with a dude from Senegal while drinking Polish beer in the grounds of a cathedral built by Normans who were themselves French Vikings. Sending a letter 300 miles for 38p, and wondering why it takes a whole two days to get there. Shops set up specifically to raise money to house poorly cats (which will sell you a pair of shoes for 20p). And the NHS.

This is just going to be a love letter from here on out. Dear the NHS, I heart you, love Hannah xxx

Without wanting to sound like a panglossian hippie twat, I do like to take a moment every now and then to appreciate the brilliance of the things we take for granted. Like broadband! While I'm tapping my fingers waiting for a 350MB video file to download and being genuinely put out that it's taking more than 20 minutes, I think back to the days of 56k dial-up: waiting for 6pm to be allowed online, waiting for your mum to get off the phone so you could get back to your very important Yahoo Messenger conversation, waiting for the damn modem to start talking to the rest of the world (and the noise it made! Oh, I miss the noise), waiting an hour and a half for a shitty low bit-rate punk song to download (and then someone would always pick up the phone when it was 99% completed, breaking the connection which would never be made again: Napster was pretty rubbish actually)... waiting, is what I'm saying: there is a reason I got so good at FreeCell.

And we spend a lot of time complaining about the NHS. With good reason: postcode lotteries and lack of compassion and privatisation and dickish doctors and waiting lists are real problems, and we should never shut up about them. But while we're fighting to make it better, we shouldn't forget how incredible it is that it exists at all.

Off the top of my head: I had a tooth pulled out and paid nothing for the privilege. I had a six-week course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for free. I've had five years' worth of antidepressant medication and thirteen years' worth of serious painkillers for a nominal fee (and before I turned 20, for nothing at all). I've had eight years' worth of birth control pills, three morning after pills, and a significant pile of condoms for free, and should this Fort Knox around my cervix fail, I will have the option of having an abortion for free. I've had keyhole surgery for a minor heart condition - a condition that, while unpleasant and initially terrifying, wasn't remotely life-threatening - and not only did I not pay a penny, they didn't even mention that it is one of the most expensive procedures currently carried out by the world-leading cardiac unit in question.

For most of this time, I've been in debt up to my eyeballs and living on scraps at the end of every month. If I'd had to pay market value there is no way in hell I would have managed to maintain this medical regime - and consequently would probably be knocked up, infected, in unbearable pain, physically incapacitated two days out of the month and mentally unable to function six months out of the year, or just plain dead. The fact that I have never had to choose between medication and food is literally the reason I'm still alive.

I was a little wary about phrasing this in terms of gratitude - decent healthcare is surely a human right, and we shouldn't be grateful for that right being acknowledged.

But there are a shitload of other things that I believe are human rights. Marriage equality. The right to have your gender legally recognised without being forced to become sterile (hi, Sweden!). The right to dignity, not poverty, in old age. The right to full NHS healthcare (hi, Northern Ireland!) or a life-saving abortion (I see you, Ireland!). The right to a decent education.

In her amazing column this week, Caitlin Moran refers to the establishment of the Welfare State as "the moral equivalent of the moon landings": the most incredible achievement of the 20th century. And while the benefits system is a fucking nightmare - like the NHS has gigantic problems - I worry that if we don't value what we've got, we'll think it's no big deal when they try to take it away.


  1. I feel the same way about the Canadian healthcare system.. yes, it definitely has it's problems. Wait times are an issue. A lack of doctors is an issue. But on the whole, I'm here today and without our universal health-care, I wouldn't be.

  2. This was great. The NHS is so great! And I spend so much time fighting for it not to be fucked up I don't spend enough time saying how great it is, and remembering exactly why it's something worth fighting for. Yay! NHS!

  3. Socialised medicine high-fives!

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