National Health Service…

There's no more NHS. There's an EHS and an SHS
There's nothing national about the National Health Service As anyone will know who has witnessed the death of a relative from multiple myeloma, it can be a grim way to go. Your very marrow is in revolt, as the cancer takes over the blood-making processes. Since it could happen to any of us, I hope you will concentrate for a second on the case of a constituent of mine, a distinguished and charming author. When I last met him, he was running the second-hand book stall at the fĂȘte, and seemed very cheerful. I did not know it, but he was already well down the track that begins with radiography and then goes on to chemotherapy and stem-cell transplants, and then to courses of melphalan and steroids. Now he has come to the last drug in humanity's current pharmacopoeia. It is called Velcade, and it is a good drug, fully licensed in this country. His doctors have told him that it would improve the quality of his life, and perhaps prolong it by two to five years. It is available free in the healthcare systems of virtually every other European country; and yet he cannot get it in Oxfordshire. It is not available to him, or anyone else, on the Oxfordshire NHS. Continue reading National Health Service…

American Passport

That's It Uncle Sam Right. That's it. Entre nous c'est terminé. After 42 happy years I am getting a divorce from America. From the very emerging of my childhood consciousness I have been aware that in the eyes of billions of people around the world I have won first prize in the lottery of life. I possess it, the thing competed for by everyone from Rupert Murdoch to the most desperate Mexican wetback, and I have it by simple dint of my nativity, on the Puerto Rican Health Scheme, in New York General Hospital, NY, NY. I am entitled to an American passport. I must confess that this knowledge used vaguely to tinge my sense of identity. My brothers and sisters are British, and so are my parents, and I would like you to know that I am a loyal subject of Her Majesty, speak in an English accent, and for years I have travelled exclusively on a British passport. But my first passport was green, and when we landed at Dover or Heathrow I felt secretly cool to be the one to present his document to be stamped. Continue reading American Passport

Physics at A Level

Civilisation is built on Physics (alas), not on Business Studies You remember being at school, and looking at the timetable with a lurching horror. You've just been doing something cushy, like playing football or snoozing through a movie about global warming in Double Geography. Or perhaps, if you have been really cunning with your options, you have been making biscuits with lovely Mrs Sindall in Double Cookery. And then you look at your schedule to see how your teachers propose to divert you for the last two periods of the day; and a shadow passes before your face and your hair stands on end, as though you had been plugged into a van der Graaf generator. Continue reading Physics at A Level

Middle East Crisis

Unlike Hizbollah, Mel, Israel is not trying to kill civilians Apart from a pint of tequila, I don't know what got into Mel Gibson when he decided to favour the Los Angeles police with an anti-Semitic rant. I don't know what whacko religious convictions inspire the Aussie heart-throb, or whether he genuinely believes that the "f------ Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world". But whatever Mel was having the other night was powerful stuff; and, you know what, my impression is that a lot of folks across Britain are secretly having a snifter of the same. Across the country there are sober people who would never dream of calling an LA police officer "sugar tits", or swinging like an ape from the bars of their cell. Yet these people seem to share the essentials of Mel's analysis of the Middle East. Continue reading Middle East Crisis