Saturday, 13 February 2010

Prosthetics and Britain

There was a story on the radio news this morning about a man in England who'd had his foot amputated and an artificial foot attached in its place. After what the newsreader described as months - or was it years? - of agony, during which several 'health professionals' checked the man and couldn't see what the problem could be, it was discovered that a left foot had been attached where a right foot should have been. Of course such a thing could happen anywhere. So why does it not surprise me that the initial error and the subsequent chain of people not spotting that first mistake should happen in Britain rather than, just for the sake of argument, Australia, to take a completely random example, hem, hem? We talked about this for a bit as we drank our tea and then we somehow ended up trying to decide what word we would use to describe Britain today, if we were only allowed to use one. Shabby was the first word that sprang to my mind - I think it encompasses slapdash and sloppy and frustratingly inefficient. Dodgy was a suggestion from another member of the household. If I was allowed two words, my second would probably be aggressive - as long as it was understood that that definitely included the sub-class with the prefix 'passive', so that the pointless, tiresome, obstructive measures that constrain you at every turn when living in Britain would not be left out of the equation. They cause frustration and inconvenience, but that is their purpose - the British derive real pleasure from the inconvenience of others, as I noticed a few months ago at Budapest airport. I was standing in a queue for Easyjet, trying to decide if the woman in front of me was Hungarian or British. An attractive, youthful, slim, carefree girl came in and saw the queue. She went up to the ticket window and told them her flight number and asked if she had to queue too. When she was told she did, I saw the woman in front of me smile with delight. She turned to her husband and said, with triumphant relish, 'She thought she didn't have to queue.' I think that was an entirely and uniquely British reaction.

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