Friday, February 24, 2017

Pontevedra Pensées: 24.2.17

To no one's great surprise, I'm sure, the husband of Princess Cristina might well not serve any of his 6 year sentence for fraud. And will be free to spend the residue of his ill-gotten gains after he's paid some sort of fine. See here on this.

The Guardian has an article on the former IMF chief sentenced to 4 years in jail. He too is unlikely to serve much of that. And what he does serve will be in conditions of luxury in which neither you nor I live. I had to laugh at the paper's claim that this verdict would embarrass the PP government. Nothing has yet been invented that would achieve this. See The Local's Spanish take on the case here.

It's intriguing that, while the very rich and the politically important have some impressive rights here, the country is not felt to pull its weight when it comes to human rights generally, as one of The Local's darker lists shows here. Though I'm sure things are better now - in both respects? - than under Franco from 1939 to 1976. So, progress.

On second thoughts, in some respects at least and on the evidence of this ridiculous case, modern Spain might not be very different from that era. But at least I won't be carted off to the clink for saying that.

Driving from Santander to Pontevedra the other day, I stopped off for lunch in Villaviciosa, the cider capital of Asturias. When I can get it, my lunch there is always rabbit stew in a place called Casa Milagros, in the old quarter. This is always gratifyingly greasy and comes with chips, and a little bit of red pepper. By coincidence, I read another recommendation last night, this time by A A Gill for a restaurant called the Farmgate Cafe in the English Market in Cork. In his words . . . This is the best covered market I’ve come across south of Scandinavia and west of France, selling locally landed fish and the many, many Irish iterations of pig.

Talking of the much-missed Mr Gill, he reported this response from his doctor to the question: “Why is the UK such a bad place to get cancer, when we have lots of hospitals, when we teach doctors from all over the world, when we’ve won more Nobel prizes than the French?” The answer was: The NHS here was set up with GPs separate from hospitals. The system means you probably have to wait a week or so for an appointment to see first your GP, or a clinic. And then if your doctor thinks it does need a second opinion, he’ll suggest you see a consultant, and that’s likely to take a month. And then there are all the appointments - for tests, a cancellation, a missed x-ray, a scan - which can put months on a diagnosis. As Gill put it: It’s not the treatment; it’s the scale of the bureaucracy and the immovable-but-crumbling structure of a private-public doctor-consultant arrangement, which was the cornerstone laid down by the 1945 government at the insistence of doctors. That is the chronic tumour in the bowel of the system. In European countries, patients can access specialist care easily and straightaway. Suffice to say, it was said in 1945 that the opposition of the medical profession to a national health servic has been overcome by stuffing their mouths with gold.

There are a few more of Gill's dying thoughts at the end of this post, for those interested.

Moving to British politics . . . . It was fascinating to watch an accomplished political liar at work on Sky News this morning. Following a disastrous election result for the Labour party last night, the deputy leader was intent on convincing us that all was hunky-dory in the party and that Labour would win the next election at a canter – something less likely than me being voted Mr Universe. His main tactic was to collate the following 2 statements, to demonstrate that the party was united behind the hopeless and hapless Jeremy Corbyn:-
  1. JC has the support of the vast majority of paid-up Labour supporters (militantes in Spanish); and
  2. The majority of the Parliamentary Party are crying out for unity.
Both of these statements are incontrovertibly true but, of course, the vast majority of Labour MPs don't want JC as their leader and will only unite behind him shortly after Hell has frozen over. Something Mr McDonnell was desperate to obfuscate. It will be interesting to see how long it is before he and his mates stab JC in the back, now that even a cretin can see the Labour party will never be elected with JC as its leader. More accurately, its figurehead. Even if – as Mr McDonnell blithely predicts - the Conservative party 'tears itself apart' over Brexit.

In the interests of balance, I should stress that UKIP suffered a party-destroying defeat as well. The Conservatives, however, achieved the rare feat of taking a seat from Labour even though they are in government.

Finally . . . Today's Bill Tidy cartoon:-

A A Gill on the NHS and what's good about it . . . 

[Forgive repetition]

When you look at our awkward, lumpy, inherited short-tempered characters, you’d imagine we might have come up with something more brass-bandy Brit [to stand for the country at large]: a bellicose, sentimental military fetishism, perhaps, or sport, or nostalgic history, boastful Anglophone culture, invention, exploration, banking avarice. But no. It turned out that what really sticks in our hard, gimpy, sclerotic hearts is looking after each other. Turning up at a bed with three carnations, a copy of Racing Post, a Twix and saying, “The cat misses you.”

We know it’s the best of us. The National Health Service is the best of us. You can’t walk into an NHS hospital and be a racist. That condition is cured instantly. But it’s almost impossible to walk into a private hospital and not fleetingly feel that you are one: a plush waiting room with entitled and bad-tempered health tourists.

You can’t be sexist on the NHS, nor patronising, and the care and the humour, the togetherness ranged against the teetering, chronic system by both the caring and the careworn is the Blitz, “back against the wall”, stern and sentimental best of us — and so we tell lies about it. We say it’s the envy of the world. It isn’t. We say there’s nothing else like it. There is. We say it’s the best in the West. It’s not. We think it’s the cheapest. It isn’t. Either that or we think it’s the most expensive — it’s not that, either. You will live longer in France and Germany, get treated faster and more comfortably in Scandinavia, and everything costs more in America.


Maria said...

The description of going to the GP, etc., is what happens here. Someone I know once went from October to May to be diagnosed with colon cancer. And then the surgery came in July, almost a year after the first test was done. My husband has breathing problems, though it's been over a year since he quit smoking. He went first to his local doc this month, who checked him out and told him to get an appointment with a lung specialist in Santiago. That first appointment, which will simply be to jot down information and order tests, is scheduled for June. We will probably know what is ailing him finally sometime next year. After that, comes the treatment.

It would be interesting to see any statistics that are kept on how many cancer patients are actually diagnosed and treated while they have Stage I cancer. Precious few, I bet.

Colin Davies said...

True, Maria, but if you have medical insurance, you can go straight to a specialist here, I believe. You can't do that in the UK; you have to go through the GP 'gatekeeper'. And a lot more people in Spain - including civil servants - have medical insurance than in the UK. This, of course, reduces the burden on the public health service.

She Bee said...

Did the cat miss you?

Colin Davies said...

@ She Bee: Well, he'd made a great friend of next door's dog and was friendly enough, but seemed rather confused. At least initially.

Colin Davies said...

@Anthea: Actually, I can take cod and quite like cocido . . .

Perry said...

Both of these statements are incontrovertibly true but, mutually exclusive!

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