If we’re lucky, we get to an age when we’re very pleased but marginally surprised that we’re still alive, and of course we will happily continue the best we can. But most of us know or at least accept that things will soon start dropping off or just stop working. Some people, however, expect that hard-working doctors will restore them to what they were like when they were 30 and are very disappointed when it doesn’t happen (and then begin to look for someone to blame).
I am of the former attitude, and now that I’ve reached 76, I am increasingly saying to myself “I’m alive, leave me alone”. I wouldn’t dream of saying this to the doctor (or perhaps I will), for I’ve grown to assume that once they have hold of you for a specific condition they won’t let go until you die of something else, which the doctor will regard as a triumph.
Dangerous lifestyle choices should be paid for
We all have lifestyle choices. We can smoke like chimneys, drink like fishes, sit and watch television all day, slide down mountains on a tin tray, knock seven bells out of each other in the boxing ring and have a jolly good time until things go belly-up. In many of these activities, ‘belly-up’ is where we’re likely to end up and, when this happens, we expect our fantastic National Health Service to stand us up again so we can carry on doing it some more.
I must have my grumpy head on today, for I am thinking of many things that we choose to do or a lifestyle path that is likely to cost our NHS valuable resources to keep us upright. I’m beginning to think that we should be willing to pay either by our rates – based on the occupant’s age and/or gender – or an insurance based on the activity we pursue (or again perhaps on our gender).
Car insurance companies have got this taped. They know that young men are the most reckless and therefore they should, and do, pay more for their car insurance. Similarly, we should pay public liability insurance for any potentially dangerous pursuits we choose to carry out. I can happily suggest this now, of course, because I am too old to take part in anything that is likely to put me on my sorry arse, save perhaps for slipping on a muddy path while out walking. Or putting my back out helping Moi turn the mattress.
Unhealthy habits should all cost more
To satisfy my grumpiness I will mention but a few other things we should have to pay through the nose for. Cigarettes should be £50 a packet. Alcohol should not be cheap – perhaps Bahrain have taken this to an extreme, but I’m sure it’s better than say Russia, where alcohol is very cheap, and drunkenness is part of their culture. The cost of alcohol in Great Britain is about average in the world but still it costs the NHS an enormous amount to deal with drunken stupidity and, of course, the devastating effects of drunk driving, not to mention the impact of taking illegal drugs.
In my humble opinion, moderate exercise can help any medical condition. The human body is meant to move and when it doesn’t it starts to fester. Walking in our beautiful countryside taking in the fresh air and admiring the views is incredibly inspiring; even just pottering about in the garden or along the road to have a chat with a neighbour is far better than sat at home watching that box in the corner.
To this end, television licences should be at least £500 per year but every household, and in particular every pensioner, should be given a portable radio so they could listen to music or conversations about the meaning of life while they are on the move. Stairs are a very good exercise, so the rateable value on bungalows and houses with downstairs toilets should be much higher.
Parking should be restricted
In my utopian world there would be no parking in our towns and village streets or any road with a speed limit of 30mph or lower. Local councils or private landowners should be given substantial government subsidies and rents to provide nearby tarmacked parking areas with floodlights and security cameras. Each household would have one free dedicated bay in this parking area and if more than one was required for that 35-year-old child who won’t leave home, then this would be paid for in the rates.
There would be an additional visitors’ section, certainly not to be used by the 35-year-old-child. A traffic warden would visit each village every day to check on dishonesty. This would give the residents, or at least the traffic warden, a bit of useful exercise. This would also encourage those with garages that aren’t full of children’s toys, garden furniture or nick-knacks that you just haven’t got around to clearing away yet that have been there since 1996, a good reason to get on with it and get the car off the road.
There would be exceptions to this of course, for emergency or general service and maintenance vehicles, working taxis and undertakers. It would be a little unseemly to expect the undertaker to carry a coffin along the road to the car park.
Don’t abstain, don’t binge, and get walking
The quote “Everything in moderation, including moderation” has been attributed to Oscar Wilde. (What hasn’t, one may ask?) But this advice, or something like it, is much older and to me it means ‘don’t abstain and don’t binge’ – take the middle path to a healthy lifestyle. A small glass of sherry of an evening and two on Fridays, a nice quiet life during the week but a good shout at the dodgy referee on Saturday or Sunday. Take your Ferrari, Porsche, black BMW or Audi on track days to your nearest race circuit for a right good blast and drive sensibly the rest of the time. But walk as often as possible, in rain or shine – just dress accordingly.
This attitude will help the NHS enormously. I’m sure Aneurin Bevan didn’t foresee his beloved idea being used and abused in the way it has been, nor the amount of modern government interference, when he wrote this message to the medical profession in 1948:
“On 5th July we start together, the new National Health Service. It has not had an altogether trouble-free gestation! There have been understandable anxieties, inevitable in so great and novel an undertaking. Nor will there be overnight any miraculous removal of our more serious shortages of nurses and others and of modern re-planned buildings and equipment. But the sooner we start, the sooner we can try together to see to these things and to secure the improvements we all want . . . My job is to give you all the facilities, resources and help I can, and then to leave you alone as professional men and women to use your skill and judgement without hindrance. Let us try to develop that partnership from now on”.
Current transport policies don’t help
All this will never happen of course. The government and local councils just want to make car ownership very expensive to force us to either break the law or buy very expensive electric vehicles. Small electric cars are ideal for around town, going to the shops and so on. For long journeys a battery vehicle is useless, but people still buy a two-and-a-half-ton, seven-seater electric goliath (in black of course) and convince themselves that they are saving the planet. They only take into account what comes out of the tailpipe, completely ignoring the immense natural resources it takes to make the battery.
The government should be subsidising golf carts and milk floats. In ULEZ (ultra low emission zones) they charge cars like mine that do less than three thousand miles a year and live the rest of their lives in a garage; the goliaths that bung up our streets can come and go with impunity. The whole thing is nonsense. If saving the planet was the idea, then councils should ban petrol and diesel vehicles altogether, but they don’t – they charge extra money instead. Batteries as we know them are not the answer.
The answer in my humble opinion is to vastly improve local bus and train services. The government seems determined to make it too expensive or too much trouble to leave the comfort of our one-bar electric fire, and for us old folk to just fade away and not make waves.
Time to calm down with a joke
By eck I have got grumpy today, even becoming political and probably very contradictory and self-centred. I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with me, or even to agree with myself tomorrow. I’ll try to make amends with this silly old joke.
Two old boys were walking down one of our neighbouring village high streets when one said.
“Wife’s non been sa weel a late.”
“Nay what’s bin the matta wi er?”
“She as the piles.”
“Ooo them’s fair painful, am non capped shis non bin sa weel. As shi bin ta doctors?”
“Yes he give her sum saprostaries or summat.”
“Did they do ony gud.”
“Nay gud at all, shi sed shi may as well av shuved em up er arse.”
This old joke is no reflection on the reason for my own grumpiness. I just developed a standard regular grump today, but I feel much better now, still very much alive and able to carry on.