Wednesday, 24 October 2012

In Aberdeen

Instead of Oban.

The good people of Mull are safe from disease & disaster (if not from NHS malpractice.) This time its Aberdeen's Emergency Care Centre, seven floors (eight if you count the labyrinthine basement) of medical wonder, the latest addition to the hospital complex at Foresterhill and at £115 million, you'd be right in expecting the best of equipment.

One of the things they didn't spend any of that money on was my hotel room, in Oban I had a suite of rooms, I know I'm a tiny cog but if I'm to be away from home for long periods (not really true this time, I'm away only for a couple of nights each week for the next few weeks) I expect to be housed appropriately. I'm staying in the Atholl Hotel, its actually quite posh, lots of blue rinsers in the bar and men with copious amounts of satiny grey hair, they'd be smoking cigars and the women would be in another room if this was fifty odd years ago.

My room on the other hand isn't posh, its tiny, I feel like an eight year old all over again. I want to put Indiana Jones posters on the wall or put on a gimp suit and grow a humped back. I could lurch and frolic for the entertainment of the lords and ladies in the parlour downstairs.

It comes with only a single bed, no seriously, a single bed, what if I pull tonight, I mean they'll probably not manage the stairs (I'm on the second floor and I haven't seen a lift) but I might attract the attentions of someone much younger, say, in their 60's.

I was going to say I've seen nothing of Aberdeen but that isn't true, there are three of us working up here and we went out for dinner. We did attempt to find somewhere in the town centre but my work colleague who was driving got lost, he said he wanted to find the sea, a pretty big target but he kept driving in the opposite direction. Still, he'd have found it eventually, it just wouldn't have been the North Sea.

We drove along Union Street, saw the Union Terrace Gardens (which looked perfectly fine in the evening as they were.) We then drove all over the place, up and down, along and back. Eventually deciding on a Beef Eater Toby Brewer's Carvery or some such place, it was nice enough and really very cheap, which is good given the stingy amount we are allowed to claim for sustenance while away.

I had a good look around the new hospital building and it looks very swish, more importantly it has many, many buttons and things to push, pull, raise, lower and otherwise be made to make noises they may or may not be meant to make. I found the roof via the mysterious eighth floor, the entire top floor of the building is given over to shiny 'plant' machinery, something to do with heating or cooling or perhaps disposal of bodies, I'm not sure but it was very shiny and hummed in an efficient and productive fashion.

The new hospital has a High Dependency or Critical Care Unit (the same thing really.) Ten bays where the unfortunate patient is surrounded by medical equipment that hangs from the ceiling on pneumatic pendants. At the push of a button they can be swung round closer or further away from the bedside, these moving workstations have power sockets, oxygen and suction plus other things I couldn't identify, its all very modern.

One thing I did do which earned me some frowns was walk into the x-ray rooms while they were being tested. The warning light outside the door was on but at this stage of the development that doesn't really mean anything, so in I walked. Two men (wearing owl-like glasses and beards) were sitting behind the lead screening, I said hello, they frowned. I pointed to the x-ray machine and asked, 'is that switched on?' They said, 'yes it is.' I said, 'I'd better go then.' They nodded and frowned some more.

Now, if I was sitting there testing the machine and some arse came sauntering in, I wouldn't frown, I'd do this and in the following order:

1. Leap up screaming and hammering on the lead glass screen.
2. Shout NO! NO! You'll be killed. NO! Stay there, its too late...
3. Then I'd start sobbing about 'losing my job over this'.

Imagine the look on the person's face. I know walking into an x-ray room once* (assuming you don't actually work in one every day) isn't going to do any harm, but they'd shit themselves, it would be hilarious. Instead, I was allowed to leave, my dignity intact if not my ability to procreate (which doesn't really matter if the person I'm engaged in sexual congress with in my attic bedroom, is sixty or more years old and in all probability not female in any case.)

Beyond that, Aberdeen is not a city I'm overly familiar with, I've spent no time here at all, it certainly looks handsome and you can see why it gets the Granite City name, the buildings are really very grey indeed. My colleagues have retired for the evening and I'm sitting in my room typing and listening to the radio. I've opened and closed all the drawers, found the Gideon's bible, the kettle and the hair dryer. The trouser press is also present, all is well in my hotel room world, except of course for that bloody single bed.

I think I might put my gimp suit on and nip down stairs, I might be able to lure an eager sixty year old to my room in the building's eaves, if they can't manage the stairs, I can always balance them on my hump.

* There was another x-ray room being tested by two similar gentlement, I wandered into that one too. I had no plans for children anyway.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Ooooh politics...

I don't normally write about politics because lets be honest, it turns folk off and lets be honest once more, I can't afford to do that with my readership numbers. But, I couldn't not say anything about this rammy over universal benefits which is so popular here in Scotland yet so derided in England or I should say, derided by Westminster in England.

As I see it, its this simple; what kind of society do you want to live in? For me, something approaching a caring but not overly indulgent one is what I'd prefer. These universal benefits are not free, they are already being paid for out of general taxation, the wiggle room in terms of public spending is what you spend it on, not as Labour and Johann Lamont etc would have you believe; that it can be spent at all.

You might say, 'but the rich benefit more than the poor' and have a point, but time and again its been proven, if you start means testing, two things happen; people (especially vulnerable OAP's) are embarrassed by it so don't even ask, and the process costs a ton of money, the savings are questionable. Take prescription charges, something Jackie Baillie (Labour Health spokesperson) who last night on newsnight said she'd reintroduce for the richest (ie. people earning over £16k pa, so not the super rich.) What she didn't say is it costs as much as you'd save to means test it, she went on to say she'd spend the money saved elsewhere, its just really very lazy debate and so easily debunked, a bit like telling your Mum you didn't eat all the biscuits while wearing the empty biscuit tin on your head.. Or something...

(It has also been pointed out, that if universal benefits are universally dumped then the rich wouldn't be paying for them any more but the poorest would be losing out; so who really benefits after all?)

In any case, the point I was making is this, well two points actually. Firstly, an example, my mother gets free personal care in her home, obviously I know her (she's my Mum) so I know if this was means tested, she wouldn't even ask for it, she'd be in a care home even now although she's thriving at home. I would challenge any hard-nosed conservative to deny her and people like her, the chance to live in their own home with dignity.

Secondly, and this was the point I was really trying to get to, Labour have abandoned Scotland, deliberately and cynically, I say this because down South there is still a large number of voters who believe England subsidises Scotland (look at any BBC article on the topic that allows comments,) suffice to say, English tax payers do not subsidise Scotland. Scotland's GDP figures are worked out minus Scotland's geographical share of oil revenue (stay focused now,) its a bit like Westminster working out England's GDP figures and leaving out financial services income. Worked out per head of population Scotland pays more into the UK coffers than does England, that info comes from the UK Government who lets be honest, would lie about it if they could.

Still, since a great many people in England think they're paying for Scottish universal benefits, something they don't get, when Johann Lamont etc say this needs to be remedied, not only does it fly in the face of what Labour actually stand for, ask yourself this, to whom does this idea really appeal? Scottish or English Voters?

We basically have a Scottish Labour Politician appointed by a Scottish electorate making a policy decision which is popular among English but not Scottish voters so her party can gain votes in England. I can't figure it out any other way. Ed Miliband might look like Wallace, just think about how cynical this actually is and look at him again, in fact; look at all of them.

Is there a more damning indictment of Labour in Scotland, that they would do such a thing? At least the Tories have an excuse, they've only got one (pretty daft) MP and a rump of MSP's in Scotland.

A foot note. Unionist politicians always base the things they say they'll do around UK union economic conditions, Lamont says we should look at our spending, fair enough. In the Union Scotland currently forks out for things like trident, wars in sandy places and aircraft carriers (with no planes so in reality; large flat boats.) Would Scotland if independent do this? No, these three things alone free up (in UK terms) billions, I mean to say, hundreds of billions over the life time of the activities. What would you rather spend your tax money on, a nuclear weapons system that will never be used, or making sure your mum or dad got a wee bit of dignity later in life and your kids can get to uni so they can pay the taxes to help cover the ongoing costs and to support positive, useful pursuits at home in Scotland and further afield?

Universal benefits are not something for nothing, for this to be the case, so would all other government-provided services and last time I checked, I'm still paying a hefty wedge each month in income tax for them all.

Don't worry, the next blog will be a nonsense, kudos if you got down this far and shame on you if you just skipped down with out reading, you should know, I will be testing you...