They had an interview on breakfast TV this morning on the theme of stroke. Of course, my ears pricked up.

They had a survivor on. In some ways, a very good example of a survivor, because she’d had her stroke at just 22. A lot younger than many people think is possible. Actually, even a baby could have a stroke, although it is also true that the probability increases with age.

They did at least mention that stroke was the biggest cause of disability in the UK, although I thought they could have made it a little more obvious by interviewing a disabled stroke survivor. Maybe a pretty young woman is considered better tv than somebody who’s chair-bound (especially over breakfast!)? Nothing against this woman – I’m sure she’s struggling to get her life back, however the stroke’s left her. But tv producers think in terms of viewers.

The (first part of the) fatal mistake, in my opinion, was when the interviewer asked, quite innocently, something along the lines: “I suppose it took you a long time to recover?” This was completed when the survivor didn’t correct him. Past tense, just like a cold, or a bout of chickenpox. I think probably all survivors – all the survivors I’ve met, at least –  would describe themselves as “recovering” at best. Present tense. I know a guy who had his stroke in the nineties and who still feels the effects. It never goes away – I think the biggest “win”, if you could have such a thing, is to get to the point where other people don’t notice the effects. I’m met several people like this too, I’ve probably seen many more without even realising, and I’m in awe. But it’ll always be obvious to the survivor that they had a stroke.

I will readily admit to feeling very alone at the start of the stroke, something which made me reach out and find other people. I’ve written about that in the past, it was certainly one of the reasons for volunteering. I’ve kind-of come full-circle now – I feel alone again because although I know there are people out there, those who speak out never quite hit the mark. I’ve seen how the benefits system leaves people with benefits at such a level as to be meaningless – make no mistake, if you have a stroke, the system just casts you off, to sink or swim on your own. I’ve seen how the medical system abandons people for the simple want of transport to get to an appointment.

You eally want to show what it’s like? Get a survivor on, ask them to write their name. Ask them to butter a piece of bread, to cut up a steak. Ask ’em to type something without making stupid bloody typos.


I hate it when people consider themselves infallible, because none of us is.

I remember a while ago, I’d been volunteering up at the local hospital for a year or so. There’s a specific aspect of strokes (I’ll try not to say which because I’d prefer this post to be anonymous), and a training course had been organised aimed at members of staff. “There’s a few spare places. Why don’t you come along?” I thought that it might well be useful to learn more about the subject, so accepted.

The first half of the course was to be the theory. The second half, a group of people who’d been afflicted with this aspect of stroke had been invited in to be guinea pigs, so we could test our new-found knowledge.

On the appointed day, I arrived nice and early, and introduced myself to a somebody who happened to be lurking around the reception area, who I think I later found out was one of the doctors. “Hi, I’m a volunteer from the Stroke Association, I’m here to do the training”. “Oh, there is training today but you’re an hour too early.” That’s funny. I note stuff in my diary as soon as I find out about it, but maybe I’d made a mistake? So I thanked then and actually went to the coffee shop for the next hour.

When I went back, an hour later, it transpired that I’d missed the first half of the course. This woman had heard the words “course” and “volunteer”, had isolated them together and not bothered to listen to the rest of the sentence. She had assumed that, rather than being a course attendee, I was one of the people who’d been recruited to test the attendees in the second half of the course,

To say I was pissed off is an understatement. If this woman had been diligent, she could have checked, but no, she was sure that I was wrong. I could have been more assertive, I suppose, but I did realise that I might have indeed have got the time wrong.

It’s funny because I’ve since recognised this trait several times in doctors – I must be right because I’m infallible. With the benefit of hindsight (i.e. I now know that I was correct) I should’ve just gone home, or not have bothered making the journey in the first place. I have at least learned from experience  – if anybody from there asks me about future training, my response is always a quick “no, thanks”.

The Irish Solution

I’m really fed up with the intransigence in Northern Ireland.

My solution is for the UK and Irish governments to get together and to govern NI jointly. Their main purpose should be to hold elections in NI, then to step back. If NI people vote again for parties who won’t even talk to opponents, then they deserve everything they get.

‘Course, it’s a very reasonable question to ask why this hasn’t happened already. Perhaps those 10 seats in Westminster have something to do with it?

Scottish Independence

I must admit that, like Northern Ireland, I don’t have any strong feelings about whether Scotland remains tied to England. I live on the south coast of England, just about as far as possible from the Scottish border, so I can hardly claim to have a direct interest. Like Northern Ireland, I’d be happy for the Scottish population to self-determine, but I’m not fussed which way they go. I’m certainly not a unionist in the case of Ireland and frankly, don’t see Scotland (or Wales, for that matter) as any different.

Furthermore, I have a good amount of sympathy for a Scottish Independence referendum. Not because I’m either pro- or anti-independence, but just because the earthquake of Brexit has drastically changed the landscape compared to the earlier referendum.

I think the effects could be interesting, however. Presumably, if Scotland did vote fore independence, the UK by then would have left the European Union (although that in itself is a big “if”!). So they’d be wanting to join the EU just like A.N.Other nation. One of the conditions for joining the EU these days is that a state must at least be planning to join the Euro. Not actually adopt it, but plan to do so. So a knock-on effect of independence might be to ditch Sterling. Equally, I suppose the nationalist reaction is “so what?” I suppose they would just be going from one circumstance where they can’t really set monetary policy (Sterling) to another (Euro).

It’s interesting that as far as the UK is concerned, we too would nominally need to adopt the Euro, should some future government with to rejoin the EU. I suppose that’s one of the things you negotiate on entry, but I can’t help thinking that the reaction of the English to ditching Sterling might be somewhat more reactionary than might the Scots.

I mean, these are all just musings but, certainly, a subject with a surprise around every corner.


I must admit that I don’t really have any strong beliefs on the unification of Ireland. I can certainly sympathise with past horrors committed by the British against the Irish, but that doesn’t realty translate to what the future should be. Actually, that’s not quite true. I believe that Northern Ireland should determine its own future.

As regards representation, I feel that NI’s citizens have the right to be represented, wherever they decide they belong. It particularly concerns me that in the current situation, Sinn Fein don’t represent their constituents’ interests in the UK parliament. I say this from a standpoint of very much sympathising with Sinn Fein’s existence, although I wouldn’t vote for them purely because they don’t take up their seats.

I know that SF not attending at Westminster is old hat. I also know that the problem they have is in swearing allegiance to the queen. The queen? I’m sorry, but this is my parliament. A UK voter. MPs should be swearing allegiance to their constituents, not to the head of state. So I can understand totally where SF are coming from.

My solution? Swear allegiance to the right people, and don’t give SF the excuse. Make sure that all the people of NI are represented in parliament.

Role of Nationalisation

I’m just finishing off Ken Clarke‘s autobiography on Audible. I tend to think of Ken Clarke as very moderate, as right-wingers go, plus he’s been a cabinet minister through large parts of my life. Now that I’m older myself, I can appreciate some of the issues he’s had to grapple with. A lot of what he says is interesting but like most Conservatives, he sees a world of profit and loss, where I tend to see it as people’s (and the planet’s) well-being (or not). I think ultimately it boils down to what the main function of government is – to have prosperous people or to have happy people. (To a large extent, but not completely, I think that the two are mutual.)

For example he’s just recounted a French attitude he experienced whilst at the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), visiting the Airbus project in Toulouse. This is at the time of Mitterand, so the socialists were in control in France. Clarke’s notion was primarily to make Airbus commercially competitive versus Boeing, whilst other people’s priority was to offer stable jobs to local workers (bearing in mind that Airbus is dotted across Europe). I mean, sure, you needed a viable aircraft at the end of the process, but to me, the latter seems a perfectly acceptable viewpoint.

It’s kind-of like the arguments about nationalised industries. Is the role of the health service (say) limited to delivering healthcare, end of story, or do you also use it as a vehicle to get you towards full employment? That seems to me to be the whole purpose of having nationalised industries – instead of having the goal to supply some goods or service with 100% efficiency, as you would in a private company, you settle for maybe 80% efficiency. That 80% is just a number I plucked out of the air, but, you know,  something deliberately a little bit short of full efficiency. The wins being that whilst you pay out on salaries, you both save on benefits, and you’re left with somebody who feels they’ve made a contribution. I think that’s important because, by and large, I think people want to contribute. I think that some people do epect a free ride, but that they’re in a small minority.

Interesting also to hear Clarke describing some of the things he encountered in the early Eighties and his analysis of the problems, at least, seem reasonable. I think something had to change from the Seventies, although I’m not sure that Margaret Thatcher’s solutions took us entirely in the right direction. But you do look at things like the power of the unions… It’s a great pity that we had to have a miner’s strike (amongst others) to force the issue.


I think lastly that you need to be careful with political biographies. No matter who the politician is, they will present the facts so as to make their actions appear reasonable, and as a result, you end up feeling a degree of sympathy for them. No matter whether left or right. So I think you need to finish the book and give yourself time to digest its contents before drawing any firm conclusions.

Spot the difference

Sorting some photos this evening, found this one from 2016:

Just to be clear, the pharmacy picked the wrong medication. And then checked it wrongly. The sticky label clearly says atenolol, while the box is different. Losartan.

Do I need to add that I complained (to the NHS) about this, and surprise, surprise, it wasn’t taken any further? Would it also surprise you to learn that I never used that pharmacy again? Next time, the first call will be to the lawyer.

But no big deal, right? We’re allowed to fuck up every now and then, even if it is somebody’s medication.

De Strandvonder

Continuing on my theme of putting pictures into posts, this Northern Holland and this is the Beach Wanderer:

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