Monday, September 24, 2007

A Coot Dilemma



It takes me a day and half to clean House of Pants and only an hour and a half to trash it. This family of coots lives under my bedroom window. Every year they build a nest out of anything that comes to hand. This year they’ve even laid carpet! One time they nested in a fridge door and another, in an old tyre. Last year they utilised a copy of the Yellow Pages. I can’t imagine how they managed to drag it into the nest. There’s another pair fifty or so yards down the canal who always build an incredibly neat nest using only the very best carefully woven lily leaves. Even coots can't agree on what's important, apparently.
The sale is still progressing despite the best efforts of American mortgage lenders and Northern Rock customers to trigger another great depression. The reason HOP had to be cleaned again is that the surveyors are coming tomorrow. It hasn’t undergone the type of ‘deep clean’ I’m certain our hospitals are going to get on the recent promise of Gordon ‘Scrooge McDuck’ Brown – just a superficial swish around with the mop, clearing of corridors and demolition of the dirty dishes mountain. It’s the last housework I’ll do until it’s time to move out.

I can think of nothing else. Obviously there’s a flurry of quite sensible activity happening in Downy Street to which I am thoroughly oblivious. Cleaning the hospitals is a master stroke, although it begs the question why no one thought to do it before. I was talking to a friend today who has a life-threatening chronic condition and he was relating yet another regular instance of nurses being cruel and callous. I wonder when that’s going to come up on the agenda. How many studies will it take before some policy wonk makes a link between being treated with serial beastliness when you’re desperately ill and taking rather a long time to get better? In addition to his main illness, my friend also has diabetes which is not catered for in hospitals. He could get Kosher or Halal choices but not food suitable for a diabetic. It has been suggested to him that a relative could bring him in some more appropriate nourishment. If he had any relatives living close by, I’m sure he would ask them to, but he doesn’t. He’s a little unclear as to what a lifetime of paying into National Insurance entitles him to at this point.

The economic wobble which has so far dismally failed to ruin my life could have been much worse if the Government hadn’t stepped in to guarantee ordinary folks' savings, so I suppose grudging gratitude is due to the old duck. According to Martin Kettle at one’s beloved Guardian yesterday, we’re lucky that the crisis happened when Labour has the confidence of the business sector and no possible chance of losing control of the country over it,

Ever since 1997, Labour has built its financial policy on the rock - if one can use the word in these circumstances - of non-intervention in markets. Allowing the markets to find their own solutions under the operational independence of the Bank was the alpha and omega of New Labour's historic compromise with the British business class. New Labour had a prescriptive view of the rights and responsibilities of almost everyone else in the country - from toddlers to teachers. Bankers and business leaders, alone, were exempt. They only had rights.

All that changed for ever on Monday when Darling [Alistair Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer] - with Brown's backing - intervened with a taxpayer-backed guarantee to protect Northern Rock's depositors. This was not just a huge financial act in its own right - the guarantee is worth billions of pounds - but a huge symbolic act too. It said that the government must intervene to protect ordinary people's savings, however much this spits on the cloth of financial orthodoxy. It was a moment of choice worthy of Franklin Roosevelt.

My luck may be on the turn, but it raises an interesting question. Is doing the right thing that dependent on circumstances? Would we want a government to stand aside and let depositors lose their life savings, given that it would then inherit the responsibility of feeding and housing them? Since they’ve been haranguing us to save for the future - a thing they make no effort whatever to guarantee - it wouldn’t be good to be seen to be penalising people for having done what they were asked to do. In any case, Scrooge and his Darling have done the right thing and I probably won’t have to sell matches and/or my next door neighbours' infants/cat/dog in the street.

Last week a police superintendent defended two police community support officers who had declined to jump into water to save a child who was in danger of drowning. Instead they called the incident in but by the time a police officer and the child’s father simultaneously arrived on the scene and located him, the little boy was unconscious and could not be saved. The superintendent claimed that the community support officers ‘had not been trained’ to intervene in such an incident. By this, does he mean they couldn’t swim? That would appear to be the governing factor in these circumstances would it not? Anyone who can swim can save a child from drowning. If you can’t swim you’re likely to become part of the problem and should stay out of it. So where does ‘doing the right thing’ fit into this equation? It’s true that support officers do not have the same contractual duty of care to the public that police officers have. Are all police officers taught to swim? If not, should they be?

Marcel Marceau died today. Please join me in observing a minute's clamour...


25 comments:

R.H. said...

No-hopers, get rid of them, I'd expect anyone able-bodied to jump in water to save a child.

R.H. said...

Can't swim? What bullshit, even a dog can paddle.

That's so pants said...

Hi RH

Spoken like a true Aussie. You'd be surprised at the number of people in Britain who can't swim. I think there's an argument there for mandatory swimming lessons and basic first aid for the whole population.

xxx

Pants

Political Umpire said...

Top stuff. I don't know where I stand re Northern Rock. Seems the bank got in trouble over a silly investment (ie lending) policy. By bailing it out, the Gvt is essentially writing a blank cheque for other banks to do the same. A small finance co. would not have been helped in this manner

That's so pants said...

Hi Pumpie

Yes. Important point - but who ultimately needs to take responsibility for the astute middle management of the nation's retirement investments? People put their money in banks in Britain because the Government tells them this is what they should do and tacitly assures them that it is safe. That government should therefore regulate the veracity of their advice. You're right in pointing out that small finance companies - to which the lowest income earners pay the highest interest rates - won't get that protection and the poor buggers who have taken out loans with them can be sold on to any shark in the water. That's a problem that really needs doing something about.

xxx

Pants

Andrew said...

Groan at the last line. But wish I had thought of it.

That's so pants said...

Sorry Andrew

Couldn't resist...

xxx

Pants

Stray said...

Hey Pants,

there used to be a requirement to swim a certain distance unaided as part of the test to become a police officer. Life saving also used to be a mandatory part of the basic training for anyone joining the police force. Both these rules changed a couple of years ago (don't you love Radio 4?).

Apparently there is an ongoing discussion to see how life saving skills should be reintroduced to police training - but I agree, everybody should know how to swim and how to do CPR.

I've been a little torn on this one. I've worked with young people teaching outward bound courses, and the first rule of rescue is do not put yourself in danger - because someone else may lose their life trying to rescue you. We say it to the kids and we remind each other. My instinct would have me diving in after them, but I do know that a voice in my head would be reminding me that if you can't see what is under the water then you're taking a big risk - including making the situation worse for the person you are trying to rescue. Unfortunately it frequently happens that the original victim survives and the rescuer doesn't - which is what happened in this case to an extent, as the boy's sister was saved.

It's quite possible that it was too dangerous for the officers to enter the water even if they had been trained, but there's no doubt in my mind that they should at least have the training to allow them to make that decision.

I'm a bit worried that there will be an increase in people jumping in to inappropriate rescues as a result of this story ... it's taken a long time to educate people not to automatically plunge in after someone if they can't see the bottom of the water etc. I completely understand RH's sentiment - but often water rescues are more complicated than just being able to swim. So darling Pants - I challenge your statement that anyone who can swim can save a child from drowning - because it is very much dependent on circumstances, as many strong swimmers who have been unable to save someone - adult or child - from drowning (sometimes losing their own lives in the process) have shown. Whether or not you can swim is only the first factor you take into account when thinking about effecting a rescue.

Sx

That's so pants said...

Hi Stray

As always, an insightful and considered response. I've got a bronze medallion (swimming) and I think I probably remember most of what I should do in a water emergency. I would describe myself as a 'good' swimmer rather than a 'strong' swimmer in that I know from personal experience that I'm not so great in frightening situations where strong currents are involved. I'm fairly good at retrieving objects from the bottom of swimming pools - I have been known to find contact lenses for example. My crude example is just my way of saying you are right, of course. How any individual would respond when confronted with a life threatening situation is both unknown and unqualifiable.

As to how much responsibility we should lay on people who get months rather than years of training, it begs the question of how much use Police Community Support Officer roles are going to be in the long term.

Does it bode that we we'll be saddled with a hierarchy of emergency response officers who may or may not be qualified or trained to do what's required to save a person's life, assuming the circumstances are not extraordinary?

It so happened last year that I did have to deal with an emergency situation as an ordinary member of the public as an elderly lady collapsed right next to me at the bus stop. I think my response technique probably came more from years of watching ER than having learned CPR but certainly as I cradled her, stroked her arm and tried to keep her conscious and talking until the ambulance arrived, I rehearsed in my head what I would do if she stopped breathing.

We all have a certain responsibility to try to help each other if we can, and I think most of us would instinctively respond to that if we were confident that we knew what to do. As you very rightly point out, 'if we can' is not necessarily that simple.

Of all the topics covered under the general banner of 'life skills' in education, surely some basic understanding of common dangers and incidents that one might come across in the normal course of living in a world inhabited by lots of people might come in handy.

xxx

Pants

Quink said...

I've luckily managed to steer clear of the NHS for years, bar when the baby was born last year. Then, after the excitement of the birth had died down, we didn't suffer "serial beastliness" from the nurses, but were exasperated by their serial indifference. You'd be surprised by how many levels of firm, but fair, reasonableness you have to travel through before you will get these people to stop shunting responsibility from one to another and simply let someone go home with their baby (as they had been promised eight hours earlier).

Which reminds me, I never did blog about that...

That's so pants said...

Hi Quinkie

My friend phoned tonight to say that, amongst all his other problems, he's also got to have a triple bypass. The resignation in his voice tells me he's not got high expectations of getting through it. If folk having a healthy baby cause the NHS to go into a flutter, just imagine how they must approach life-threating illness. No wonder my friend is worried.

xxx

Pants

R.H. said...

No amount of social worker/arts graduate blah will 'educate' me. I can't avoid their 'advice', but get annoyed being ticked off for not taking it. I have a choice. And won't ponder at all their theory on what MIGHT happen if I act suddenly to assist someone. It's my business. If it gets other people in trouble through having to rescue ME that's THEIR business. I am not afraid of getting my feet wet. I'll take the burns from getting someone out of a blazing house. It's my choice. Meanwhile these coffee drinking advice-giving nicely-dressed hairdoed correctophiles with their CAUTIOUS PHILOSOPHY IN EVERYTHING which includes bravely trying to rescue me from poor diet -have their own choice to look out for number one. Which they do. And "Oh yes isn't it terrible how the lower orders won't listen to us and adjust their lives accordingly!"

Yes well we might if we had their dough! ha ha ha!

They can get fucked.

That's so pants said...

Hi RH

You are right about the risk aversion. I am a refusenik when it comes to mandatory cancer screening. I just think - whose agenda?

xxx

Pants

R.H. said...

Well maybe you ain't been 'educated' enough -by trained middle class monkeys sent out to tell the bogans how to live. What a laugh. I'd like to tell them if I didn't have a fag I'd be on heroin.
What I'd like to see is all these cafe society creeps shipped off to an island somewhere -full of gymnasiums of course. And beauty parlours. Plus clothes shops and cafes: Wooh!- Bourgeois Nirvana! They never die of course, or even get old; they wouldn't need a cemetery.

That's so pants said...

RH! - I had to resort to Wikipedia to find out what a 'bogan' was. I feel enriched.

xxx

Pants

R.H. said...

Enriched? Imagine how I feel, being able to bamboozle someone in pommyland with a buzzword! Well I saw it about a year ago, on a blog run by a snooty but funny (most unusual!) academic here. She put up a photo of some larrikins having a lark with Santa Clause. Her caption underneath said: Bogans making merry.
I've seen the word used since, always by caring socialist types: supporters of the downtrodden -indeed, but only if they're not white. Or Christian.

Janejill said...

Totally understand the Theory of cleaning- it applies (for me anyway) to putting on weight- it takes me about a day and a half to put on a kilo (my years in Spain are showing), and then half a year to lose it.
The last lovely nurse I met was calles Nurse Watson (that gives a clue) she had red hair and freckles and let me wear a pillow-case on my head as my nursing outfit.. yes, it was many many years ago. I met Bernadette Devlin, (later Mc Clusky) whilst I was on the rocking horse and she tried to get me off; a struggle ensued. I won.

That's so pants said...

Hi RH

Be warned - that word is NOT safe with me. You will never feel quite the same about it again - of that I feel confident.

Hey Jane Jill

I have just come from the eerily named Whipps Cross Hospital (they no longer whip but they are still quite cross). Poor old Age (not his real name) could be in there a month waiting for his triple bypass operation. He'll have to pay £3 a day to watch TV in addition to his TV licence and 50p a minute to call anyone as they don't let you use your mobile. Even in the Homerton they' not THAT cruel.

xxx

Pants

Janejill said...

GOd it was SUCH a dump - I had a broken jaw 'treated' there. They wired me up without a GA and didn't warn me I wouldn't be able to eat (for 10 weeks) Now THERE's a way to lose weight; even sitting in the bath was painful (boney bum). Outrageous that he cannot use his phone ; maybe a human rights lawyer could do something - where is Cherie when you need her? (no boney bum there ..now THAT is not nice, but I'm in a disgruntled state. Better than sad)
jj xxx

That's so pants said...

Hi JJ

I know, I KNOW. They come up with garbage about mobiles interfering with electronic equipment - huh! All they have to do is ask patients to set mobiles to silent. So difficult?

xxx

Pants

R.H. said...

These dirty snobs, university-educated, going on about discrimination and inequality, social injustice and dirty rotten John Howard, carry up their sleeve a word for the class they truly despise.

Bogans.

That's so pants said...

Hi RH

Er.. yeah.. we've like.. got it.

xxx

Pants

R.H. said...

Good. I'd hate to repeat myself.

Ann O'Dyne said...

those coots are gonna have to do a bit of housework if THEY ever want to sell their place!

That's so pants said...

Oh yeah!

xxx

Pants