Here in the UK the myth persists that the national health service is the best in the world and the envy of at least every country in the EU. In reality, it's a bit of a joke outside the UK. Within the UK, the subject is a political hot potato and no politician is willing to admit it's substandard and that, worse, it remains a bloody mess no matter how much money is thrown at it. The Labour party benefits most from this myth as it can always label any proposed change as an attempt to destroy this national gem, or even an attempt to completely privatise it. This despite the fact it was the last Labour administration who initiated contractual arrangements with private healthcare companies. But, anyway, I'm prompted to write this by a report this morning that some of the 12,000 patients who've waited more that 6 months for 'routine operations' in the UK have flown to one or other of 8 EU countries for rapid, private 'cheap' treatment. These include Spain, which seems to specialise in IVF treatment and 'veneers'. No, I don't know what this is either, unless it's something to do with teeth.
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to read that the famous Costa Concordia was found to be stuffed full of cocaine. But I was. I thought it all came into Spain. It turns out that one of Italy's 3 main mafia groups uses cruise ships to bring the stuff from South America. Giving a whole new meaning to the phrase 'the high seas'.
Talking of ships with dangerous cargo . . . I've long known, of course, that Britain's Wirral Peninsula was invaded and then settled by Vikings. Indeed, Wirral is the only place on mainland Britain to have documented evidence of Viking settlers. But I hadn't known these were primarily Norwegian and nor had I realised just how many of the local place names were Norwegian in origin. More here for those interested. I will now get my DNA profile done, to see how much of a Viking I am. And tomorrow I will be going to spend a couple of nights in Brunanburgh (Bromborough). In a road called The Rake. Or The Lane in Norwegian (rak). Never too late to learn.
The compiler of the latest edition of Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage seems an admirable cove. Writing of the excessive use of 'like' by those under 25, he opines: "Overuse will cause listeners outside the speaker's immediate social circle, social group or age consort to ignore the content of the message, to assume that the speaker is little short of brain dead or, in extreme cases, to wish they had a discreet firearm to hand." I imagine extreme cases will be primarily our American cousins.
Finally . . . If you've got, say, €50m to buy a piece of art and you don't want to pay the import tax prior to hanging it on one of your walls, you can store it in a special vault at either Geneva or Luxembourg airport and leave it there until you want to sell it. For some people there would be a point to all this but it has nothing to do with art or its appreciation, I suspect.