Tuesday 27 June 2023

Organ donor

For 22 years I've had an organ donor card which says that after I die any one of my organs can be donated to someone who needs it. I'm glad parts of my body can potentially benefit a person in dire medical need.

It isn't quite that simple of course. To start with, only one per cent of people will die in circumstances where organ donation is possible. Obviously you can't donate organs if you've died of some serious illness affecting the whole body, or if your organs have been damaged in (say) a car accident, or if you've died abroad and it would take time to return the body to the UK.

Also my family would have to be consulted about donating my organs, and if they objected my body would have to remain intact. Doctors won't proceed if the family objects, however useful my organs might be (though I see that next of kin don't have the legal right to veto your decision).

My immediate family is my sister, my brother in law and my niece. but whether they count as family for the purpose of consultation isn't clear.

So although theoretically it's entirely my choice to allow my organs to be donated, in practice my family can overrule me and doctors' hands are tied. I don't agree with that at all. I don't see why my family should have any say in the matter, since it's my body and not theirs. It's especially perverse when over 7,000 people in the UK are waiting desperately for life-saving organ transplants.

I would like to think that someone in urgent need had been given one (or several) of my organs and had a new lease of life, and that my body hadn't simply gone to waste.

Friday 23 June 2023

The submersible

Jenny and I have been following the search for the missing Titanic-viewing submersible with great interest, not just out of idle curiosity but because the thing is extraordinary on so many levels.

  • Extraord-inary that the three passengers were willing to take such huge risks descending 13,000 feet into the ocean in what looked like a glorified cigar tube never officially approved for the purpose and described as "experimental". They even had to sign a document stating that the operator accepted no liability for personal harm - including death - or for any adverse reactions from the trip.
  • Extraordinary that two members of the same family - Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman - were both on the trip, despite the possibility they could both die.
  • Extraordinary that the submersible ceased to transmit its location, so rescue vessels had to search a massive area to try and find it.
  • Extraordinary that people want to view the wreckage of the Titanic close-up in such a dangerous fashion when they could google images of the wreckage at any time.
  • Extraordinary that so many oceanic experts like the Marine Technology Society had criticised the submersible as being badly designed and not fit for purpose, but were unable to stop it being used.
  • Extraordinary that the cost of the totally frivolous trip was around $250,000 (£195,000), which only very wealthy thrill-seekers could afford.
Now that parts of the submersible have been found, it looks like it imploded as a result of some structural failure. The bodies of those on board are presumably lying somewhere on the sea bed and may never be found.

On thing's for sure - OceanGate, the trip's organisers, have a lot of very awkward questions to answer.

Pic: Hamish Harding, the billionaire on board the submersible

Monday 19 June 2023

A bit on the side

I've always been baffled by how many men have mistresses, and see it as totally normal behaviour. How do they justify it? Why do they feel the need for something so dubious and clandestine?

I've never been tempted to have a mistress. That might be because Jenny and I have always had a strong and enduring relationship, and I never felt there was something lacking, something I needed to look for elsewhere. Or it's a simple aversion to the very idea of "something on the side".

Having a mistress seems like a sign of failure, a sign that you haven't tried hard enough to make your main relationship work. I also couldn't go through with all the deceit and subterfuge it calls for. Plus I'd suspect I was motivated by some quite unreal idea of the person I was getting involved with - that they're stunningly beautiful or clever or sexy - and a few months later I'd be disillusioned and it'd all end in tears.

But everywhere you look men are revealing their secret mistresses and acting as though they're doing nothing wrong, they're just yielding to their masculine instincts and needs. Or they're just exercising their teeming virility. Some women even go along with a man's trail of mistresses on the basis that "it's just the way they are."

In virtually very novel I read there are men with mistresses, either carefully concealing them, or going off them, or being suddenly found out and begging forgiveness. In the world of fiction mistresses are normalised.

It's interesting that the marriage vows include all sorts of pledges to look after your spouse but say nothing about adultery or sticking to one partner and not being tempted by anyone else.

As the saying goes "I can resist anything except temptation".

PS: I see there are several versions of the marriage vows, some forbidding adultery, some not.

Wednesday 14 June 2023

Dental crisis

I'm lucky to have had free NHS dental treatment for all my life, as private treatment costs many times what the NHS charges. I can get a routine check-up, X rays and a scale and polish for £25.80 ($33), plus fillings or root canal work for £70.70 ($90).

Unfortunately the British government is trying to privatise dentistry and is deliberately paying dentists less than the actual cost of treatment so that (very reluctantly) they give up on the NHS and go private to get a decent income.

Our first NHS dentist in Belfast retired and sold her practice to another dentist who promptly went private. Our second NHS dental practice has just announced that the whole practice of seven dentists is going private from the end of July. We've found a new NHS dentist, but how long will it be before he goes private as well?

Our current dentist's charges for private treatment will be hefty - for example, new patient examination £75 ($95), fillings £80 to £120 ($102 to $152). There's no dental insurance, only a scheme to spread your payments rather than pay them upfront.

The situation is worse in England, where many people can't even find an NHS dentist willing to take on new patients. Or an available dentist is so far away (like 50 miles), it's impractical to sign on with them.

There are reports of people in horrendous pain extracting their own teeth, or using over-the-counter emergency fillings, such is their desperation. But the government does nothing to make NHS treatment more viable for dentists and is happy to let NHS dentistry (the proud achievement of Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan in 1948) slowly collapse.

Saturday 10 June 2023

Bonfire madness

It's traditional the day before July 12 in Northern Ireland to have bonfires to celebrate the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Which is fair enough if you really want to commemorate something that happened several centuries ago.

The problem is that the bonfires are getting bigger and bigger because of rivalry between the bonfire-builders, and there is increasing worry that they're too dangerous and their size ought to be limited so nobody gets hurt.

Last year John Steele died after falling from a bonfire stack at Larne*, and local councillors were told six months ago that "they cannot simply ignore the activity and do nothing." Despite the warning, an even taller bonfire stack has now been built in Larne.

It's so high (over 200 feet) that the builders hope to get it into the Guinness Book of Records. They needed elaborate scaffolding to enable them to build it.

It's not the first time bonfires have caused a problem. In 2016 two terraced houses were destroyed and another damaged close to a bonfire in Belfast. It was thought the fire was caused by burning embers blown through the air.

In 2021 a teenager suffered serious injuries after being engulfed in a fireball at a bonfire in north Belfast. He was treated in hospital for burns to his face and body.

There is regular discussion by politicians about bringing in stricter regulations on bonfires, including a maximum height, but nothing much happens for fear of a violent reaction among the bonfire builders and their supporters.

Sooner or later there will surely be another tragedy, followed by more fruitless political discussions.

Update, June 11: The bonfire builders have abandoned their world record attempt and will use the funds raised to support a young girl undergoing cancer treatment. 

Pic: The absurdly high bonfire stack at Larne, close to several houses.

*Larne is on the east coast of Northern Ireland, north of Belfast Lough

Tuesday 6 June 2023

In the buff

I wonder what's so attractive about nudism. Why this desire to wander around in the buff and show off everything you've got? I've never had the urge so it's a total mystery to me.

I ask this question after reading that Richard Collins was accused of indecent exposure by an off-duty police officer while seated nude on a bench in Hastings, Sussex. He didn't see the problem. "I've been naked in pubs and pub gardens without any problem. There's nearly always a positive reaction from the public" he says.

But why the craving to be naked? What does he get out of it, apart from a lot of attention from other people? Maybe that's part of the attraction. Personally I try to avoid attention, I like to be as anonymous as possible.

If people don't want to see my naked body, I'm quite happy to keep it covered up. I don't feel hard-done-by if I've got clothes on. I don't feel I'm hiding my real self or being deprived in some way.

Fair enough if you want to be naked on an established nude beach, where the only people around are other nudists. That's not going to bother anyone. Jenny and I once stumbled on a male gay nude beach on our travels. It was just amusing to see all these blokes disporting themselves, hoping to be admired and seduced.

I'm certainly not shocked by nudity. I saw plenty of naked boys at boarding school. And of course I've seen a few naked women. What's to be shocked by? I could think of many things that are genuinely shocking. Like widespread poverty in a very wealthy country.

Friday 2 June 2023

Chomping and slurping

Since when did it become normal for people to eat and drink in theatres and cinemas with absolutely no consider-ation for those around them who're trying to concentrate on the film or play?

When I was younger people might eat the odd packet of popcorn or chocolate bar or have the odd drink, but they did it as discreetly as possible and without disturbing their neighbours.

Now it's seen as normal by some to chomp and slurp and rustle as noisily and blatantly as they like, sometimes so conspicuously that the play or film has to be halted and the offending individuals told to be quiet or leave.

And often when someone asks the people concerned to keep the noise down, they're met with a torrent of abuse and anger and told to mind their own business, as if the person complaining is the guilty party.

There are also the chatterers - those people who just chatter to each other continuously, and you wonder why on earth they paid good money to be there when they must be missing so much of what's going on.

Quite often heavy drinking seems to be involved, with the resulting indifference to other people's annoyance. And again, if you're drunk you'll be missing half of what's going on, so why not stay sober?

I can only sympathise with the actors trying to deliver a major speech to an audience that finds stuffing their mouths more important than what's happening on stage.