Wednesday 27 December 2017

Privilege noted

Check your privilege, they say. Oh, I do, I do. Every day. I'm well aware of all those lucky personal advantages that have given me a leg up in life where others have been side-lined and ignored and under-valued.

I'm white, male, able-bodied, well-educated, well-spoken, physically attractive, I own a house and I live in a peaceful country. Compared to millions of people around the world, I'm absurdly privileged and have a pampered, affluent lifestyle.

I've never been in debt (apart from a mortgage), never starved, never been unable to afford clothes, never been driven from my home, never been on the minimum wage, never been caught in a war, never been pimped or tortured or imprisoned.

I may drone on from time to time about my dysfunctional childhood, my tyrannical father, the boarding-school bullies, the grasping landlords, and the psychological damage I've had to overcome, but if that's all I have to complain about, I'm still living the life of Riley compared to all those people who're grappling with problems ten times as nasty and soul-destroying.

Which is why I hesitate to criticise those in less fortunate situations who unknown to me may be labouring under huge domestic or personal burdens. I'm reluctant to complain about shop assistants or delivery drivers or call-centre staff who may be struggling through their working day worrying about eviction or loan sharks or a brutal husband.

It's fashionable for wealthy, adulated celebs to take the edge off their privilege by revealing a poverty-stricken childhood or years of domestic violence or paralysing depressions, but at the end of the day they're still vastly privileged and protected from life's worst miseries.

Oh, I check my privilege all right. I just wish all the other inhabitants of planet earth were equally privileged, and that those responsible for their welfare actually helped them instead of feathering their own nests.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

A prank too far

How would you react to finding out that your surgeon had carved their initials on your liver while they were operating? Would you be horrified or would you just shrug it off as a childish prank?

I pondered my own possible reaction when I read about Simon Bramhall, who autographed the livers of two liver transplant patients. Nobody reported it at the time, and he might have got away with it, except that another surgeon doing a follow-up procedure noticed the initials and duly reported it.

He has just been found guilty of "assault by beating" and will shortly be sentenced.

My first reaction was to dismiss it as a rather trivial incident that did no harm to the patients. In fact one former patient, Tracy Scriven, said "Is it really that bad? I wouldn't have cared if he did it to me. The man saved my life."

But then I thought, no, if my surgeon had done that to my liver, I wouldn't have the same trust and confidence in them. I would feel they hadn't taken my operation seriously but were fooling around. And it wouldn't just damage their reputation but the reputation of other surgeons.

And yes, he saved a patient's life, and of course the patient is grateful, but that still doesn't justify what he did.

It's one thing to carve your initials and a romantic message on a tree trunk. It's quite another to carve your initials on someone else's liver while they're under general anaesthetic and oblivious to whatever you're doing inside their body. It's not just taking advantage of an unconscious person, it's a total lack of respect for them.

Hopefully there aren't any initials on what's left of my prostate....

NB: Assault by beating doesn't literally mean beating. It refers to the use of unlawful force on another person

Friday 15 December 2017

Waxing lyrical

Ursula gets the impression I carp about everything and enjoy nothing. Do I ever wax lyrical over a robin in my back garden, she asks. Or a cat that left her paw prints in the snow? Well of course I do. I wax lyrical over dozens of things. Clearly, not for the first time, I'm giving false impressions galore. I shall now do my best to put the record straight.

There are many things I find beautiful. Sometimes quite dizzyingly so. For instance:
  • Weeping willows
  • Stained glass
  • Jewellery
  • Afros
  • Mosaics
  • Patchwork quilts
  • Tapestry
  • Lace
  • Marbles
  • Roses
  • Rainbows
  • Peacocks
There are also plenty of things I enjoy. Too many to name in fact, but here are some of them:
  • Murmurations
  • Squirrels
  • Cats
  • Butterflies
  • Swans
  • Sunsets and sunrises
  • Beautiful men and women
  • Oddballs and misfits
  • Acrobats and gymnasts
  • Stilt-walkers
  • Dresses (on other people, that is)
  • Modern art
  • Music/books/films/TV dramas
  • Chess
  • White wine
  • Vegetarian and vegan food
  • Ice cream
  • Chocolate
  • Spectacular buildings
  • The sea
  • Mountains
  • Thunderstorms
  • Fountains
  • Waterfalls
Are we all on the same page now? I hope so.

Monday 11 December 2017

Shop till you drop

Apparently compulsive shopping is getting to be a big problem for a lot of people. They just can't stop buying things, whether or not they need them. Especially as the internet makes it easy to shop from your armchair.

That's one problem I'll avoid, for sure. I've always loathed shopping, and do it as little as I can. I never buy things on impulse and I never buy things online - except books. I buy only what I need and that's that.

I'm probably the opposite of the compulsive shopper - I'm a compulsive non-shopper. Any excuse not to go shopping and I'll seize it. That shirt will last a bit longer. I don't really need any more books. And I've quite enough stuff in the freezer.

My idea of hell would be spending an entire day at a shopping mall. But lots of people do that. Have they nothing better to do? Surely there's something more exciting than traipsing round shops looking for clothes?

I hate shopping for all sorts of reasons. It's hard to find what I want, in the size I want. Shop assistants are either surly and off-hand or over-attentive. I'm forced to listen to mindless musak. Or my favourite shop has closed and is now a Caffè Nero.

I've always been immune to adverts. I'm not tempted by rugged male models in Calvin Klein jackets or cut-price strawberry cheesecake from Sainsbury's. If I don't want them I'm not going to buy them. I tune out adverts like I tune out the football results.

So my wardrobe isn't full of unworn clothes I bought on impulse, and hated the moment I got home. There aren't dozens of unused kitchen gadgets gathering dust. And my credit card isn't permanently maxed out with reckless spending.

Sunday 3 December 2017

Quite a stickler

I do have a thing about reliability. I pride myself on being reliable and I expect others to be reliable in return. People who're consistently unreliable drive me nuts. Why can't they just be better organised?

If I say I''ll be at the Dog and Duck at 6 pm, then I'll be there and I'll be on time. If I tell my boss I'll have a report ready on Tuesday, it'll be ready. I'd be mortified if people were saying, oh that Nick he's so unreliable, he's all over the place.

I just think constant unreliability is rude and inconsiderate and self-centred. How hard can it be to organise yourself properly, do what you say you'll do, and not keep messing other people about?

I hate it when someone turns up half an hour late, or pleads for more time to finish something (for no good reason), or says they'll ring me back but never do. I hate it even more when I complain and they don't know what all the fuss is about.

Some people do act as if reliability is just some pedantic, strait-laced notion that serves no purpose and should be treated with derision. They make a point of turning up at any old time, ignoring deadlines, and always doing something different from what they said they'd do.

It's especially annoying when those of us who're reliable end up carrying those who aren't. We're in the office answering calls and dealing with customers, while the habitual straggler is still casually trundling in from their suburban semi.

I guess a lot of people would see me as some sort of tight-arsed martinet, unable to relax, go with the flow and make allowances for human frailty. Well, I'm happy to make allowances for an emotional weakness - grief, anxiety, loneliness, despair, whatever - but unreliability isn't an emotional weakness. It's simply self-indulgence at other people's expense.

So I'll see you at the Dog and Duck. At 6 pm sharp. No excuses.