At the End of the Day

I’ve become something of a fan of antiseptic mouthwash, and those little plastic inbetween things with which one can clean out all the gunge between teeth. This is not enthusiasm so much as mean idleness: I have at last worked out that regular use of both is far more efficient than brushing one’s teeth, and the best method for avoiding dentists. It’s all part of my economy drive – see Getting By – which is a sort of plan for spending less yet continuing to have a pleasant lifestyle. (My last dental ‘check-up’ cost £187: that’s a meal for two at Hix).

My favoured brand and flavour of the moment in the mouthwash stakes is Listerine Coolmint, a light-blue coloured concoction which – if swilled around the gob of a morning – fulfils the dual purpose of zapping anything plaque-forming, while waking me up with a bang. Yesterday I was swigging at the bottle when a neighbour walked by our kitchen window with her dogs. The Ward reputation for copious alcohol abuse will now be entering a new phase in our community, “Oh my God, he’s moved on to anti-freeze”.

Moving in with us this March – as they have for many previous years – were housemartins. The RSPB site refers to their chatter as ‘rather hoarse and poor quality’ which I must confess to finding a very odd verdict: I love the sound. It’s like a cross between the old dial-up internet sound, and thrushes going at it hammer and tongues. I also can’t resist the way they swoop, play, and fly in and out of their nest areas non-stop. They are very busy birds, and a joy to be around.

Our youngest pup Coco does not, however, share my enthusiasm. Their duck-and-dive act frustrates the hell out of her, as she holds fast to the idea that small things are there purely to be caught and then savaged by her.

I have come to the conclusion that dogs can hear the sound of a human eyelid opening. I suggest this as a hypothesis because I have tried everything of a morning to get up, dress and get downstairs before Coco wakes up, realises her bladder is about to let fly, and produces a small Atlantic Ocean in front of the Aga. But nothing works. To be fair to her, she is getting better at holding on, but by the time I’m halfway downstairs there are yelps and whimpers coming from behind the kitchen door.

The theory is confirmed by the way in which dogs bark without warning at something they can clearly hear, but we can’t. Our late dog Harry could detect a silent fart two counties away. Unfortunately, his savantism in this respect caused many traumatised guests, over time, to wind up with their legs dangling from the ceiling.

For several days now I’ve detected a disturbing sound emanating from our Peugeot’s wheels, almost as if a demented cleaning lady were rubbing away to clean them as I drive. Much as this employment idea appeals to me, I was fairly confident that I hadn’t ordered any such thing. So after the noise became alarming yesterday, this morning I rang our village repair shop and asked what they could do. I duly left the car with them, and they rang around lunchtime to say that the brake pads had worn so completely, the pad-holders were scraping against the discs.

Every car owner in the country will identify with what I’m going to write next. It is but three and a half weeks since the car went in for a 12,000 mile service at our nearest Peugeot dealer. They just didn’t bother to check the brake pads. So local engineer Gavin replaced them for me, and I’ve now decided that I’m not going back to Peugeot dealers in the UK any more. This has also become part of The Slog’s economy drive – somewhat by default, given that dealership services are (a) a rip-off and (b) incompetent.

It’s nice to have the main car back in working order again, because the trip to and from Exeter Hospital isn’t that nice in an old VW Polo where the electric windows are broken, there’s no aircon, and overtaking even the slowest bus in front becomes something of a fantasy. But the journey is a breeze compared to the hospital experience itself.

You arrive, and cruise around the car park for fifteen minutes. As car parks go, it is wonderfully prettyfied by lots of winding lanes and maturing trees, but hard to enter or exit – and at least half the size it should be. Once inside the hospital, real medical staff and senior sisters are wonderful, but the general nursing standards below that are a disgrace. On the ward I visit, there are notice boards proclaiming how that ward is meeting all of management’s targets, and visual evidence everywhere of just how irrelevant those targets are: slovenly staff, bad attitudes and general untidiness bear witness to the low morale.

Information is hard to come by – partly because over half the staff are part-time or agency employees, but as often because can’t-be-arsed syndrome is almost universal. The nurses are unaware of specific patient dietary needs, hazy about their medication requirements, and extremely defensive when asked a question about either. Doctors routinely say, when I suggest leaving a message at the nurses’ station, “No, don’t do that – leave it with the consultant’s secretary”. They’re only too aware of the fact that 95% of messages simply aren’t passed on. Yesterday I asked about whether a scan appointment had been fixed. The nurse looked me up and down, said “I’ve no idea” and went back to her task of I know not what. The whole experience is profoundly depressing.

Before new readers dismiss me as a spoilt anti-NHS bourgeois git, let me just explain that I come from a very ordinary background – but also an era when all hospitals were spotless havens of draconian discipline and ruthless hygiene. The reason for this was simple: infection was still a real and present threat to life then. It is not perceived to be so now, but the truth is that – as microbes gain immunity to more and more antibiotics – the danger today is greater than ever before.

Last week, an earnest employee at this hospital replied – when I asked why we had just answered thirty questions about recent ilnesses unrelated to the current complaint – told me, “Look – most people don’t realise this, but over 90% of MRSA infection is brought in from outside”.

The bloke concerned had the sort of estuary pc air about him that rules out the idea of debate about it, but my instant internal reaction was, ‘Well where the bloody hell else would it come from?” I mean, is there a resident MRSA witch in every hospital, cooking up turd of newt and ear of snail prior to wafting about the wards dispensing liberal amounts of airborne MRSA?

His statistic is just another of those Despatch Box soundbites that get the voters nodding, but don’t bear any form of interrogation. The imputation of his factoid is that patient visitors bring disease into hospitals, not staff. Bollocks: staff are by far the most frequent occupants of hospitals, and their obvious guilt for this epidemic is illustrated beyond doubt by the fact that hand-washing at hospital entrances has now been replaced by handwash dispensers at the foot of every patient’s bed.

The fact is that a huge percentage of all hospital procedures today are driven by political shibboleths, and fear of being sued by lawyers. It is still true to say that the senior end of well-trained staff – in medical emergency admission, A&E, and specialist fields – deserve sanctification more than they do tabloid accusation. And it is equally valid to aver that private sector values (while they would quickly eradicate the lowest standards) would make health services in his country unaffordable for all but the privileged few.

But a mutualised Health Service could raise the standards of the lowest denominators….without the blinkered shareholder profit-motive leaving prices beyond the rach of ordinary people.

Neither main Party is prepared to accept this. Speaking as a carer, I find this irksome. But speaking as a Benthamite seeker after majority contentment, I find it irrational and obscene.




28 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. Bang on.

    On a seperate note, better to make use of your mouthwash related savings at the Mill Tea and Dining Room, surely?


  2. Another good article JW.

    Dorset County Hospital took their handwash dispensers in side from the main entrance because local winos had acquired a taste for them as the legend goes!

    I do wish nursing staff would stop wearing jewellry and wristwatches- and I am always shocked to see theatre staff out and about in their scrubs+ wearing their theatre shoes etc


  3. A few house martins and swallows coming over in drifts(Purbecks) Not heard a cuckoo yet though.
    I hope ours return , for years we have had semi detached nests! 2 returning pairs.
    They are usually caught in nets for food as they return via Congo and West Africa, that’s why numbers are often or not so low in recent years .


  4. Had a few glasses of wine so a bit confused …. more than usual …. who exactly is this Coco?

    Is she some foreign au pair or part of some menage a trois?…………

    “I have tried everything of a morning to get up, dress and get downstairs before Coco wakes up, realises her bladder is about to let fly, and produces a small Atlantic Ocean in front of the Aga.

    “… around lunchtime the incontinance pads had worn so completely, the pad-holders were scraping against the discs!”

    John can’t you get her a downstairs indoor toilet? This is the 21st century after all!


  5. As to the Hospitals. The two I know in Birmingham are about the same and I can identify with the car park.

    As to the mouthwash several of them are also in the £1 shops. I’ve found the way to do the cleaning is to take a swig of the mouthwash and then use the toothbrush as well or use the Corsodyl toothpaste which does both as well

    As to dog’s hearing, our two can hear the postman walking towards the door along the street 3 houses away


  6. A few more glasses of wine and now I’m really confused.

    They’ve just said on the news that Holland is going to be running France?

    I can’t believe it.

    We’ll be having Belgium running Germany next
    ……..and Iceland running Tesco’s ( that may be a good thing!)


  7. On a side note, has anybody noticed that the price of gold has fallen $30 today, to roughly $1600. A buying opportunity perhaps… especially with what’s on the cards for Greece?


  8. Those interdental brushes are a revelation – amazing the stuff that must have been left behind before my dentist introduced me to them. Cost of living tip: look on ebay for the best price – about two thirds the average shop price last time I looked. Save on the exorbitant cost of Corsodyl mouthwash by getting a generic one containing the same active ingredient, chlorhexidine – about half the price at Wilkinsons.
    The Haynes manual used to be the hands-on road to affordable car maintenance, but modern motors seem designed to make amateur spanner wielding impossible. I notice Haynes have turned their nuts and bolts approach to subjects like sexual health and retirement – I wonder if these get oily thumbprints marking the important bits.
    Hospital car parks round here have a minimum price of £3.50 for a three hour stay – even if you’re only stopping for ten minutes. The only money saver I could think of for this was to go by bike – but since it was a cycling fracas that created the need for hospital visits, this wasn’t really an option last time I frequented A&E.


  9. I agree the pass the buck mentality in the NHS is incredible; however so is the publics enduring belief that they have a god given right to free healthcare – and that that free healthcare should be provided by enthusiastic knowledable people. Why? When was the last time anyone volenteered their time and effort to help a sick person for free?? No the problem is nursing and medicine are a job like anything else. These people are not box tickers and their skills would be in demand in a free market economy. Yet they’re been hijacked by the state, left with no incentive to actually progress. So the public, the mainstram media, and the state come out and claim, in the absence of a carot, what these people need is a stick – bring back maitrons, sack them, impose more league tables, charts, regulations, standards etc…yet all this serves to do is make the better people leave and the rest care even less.

    Its worth mentioning the other strains on the NHS, such as the fact that they treat anyone, no matter how little they’ve paid in. ie someone might come to the uk with a huge extended familiy and be the only person working. pops needs a heart bypass and uncs needs a prostate removed. Thats maybe 50 grand right there. I don’t know any other country who doles this out with so little regard to whats been paid in. Secondly, we face a serious obesitiy and diabetes crisis (you might not notice it too bad in the south, but go north of oxford and you see jaw dropping walking NHS bankrupcies). Lastly, and I think john has mentioned, the modern western moral idea of prolonging life at all costs clearly costs millions and millions, and is also quite cruel. We assume that once someones brain has turned to jelly, their body to waste, that what they (in their previous self) would’ve wanted is to sit with a tube up their nose, be hoisted onto a toilet every morning, force fed while wearing a nappy for up to ten years or more…anyway, what can’t go on, wont. The NHS has to change dramatically, as does the publics expectations.


  10. On the matter of gold.. did anyone else see the DT article by ambrose pritchard-evans re russia favouring gold inclusion in the basket weighting of a future new world currency based on sdr’s issued by the imf..?

    jim rickards (author currency wars) best analyst/writer out there on this idea/subject that i can find. i posted yesterday on one of johns blog a link to a couple of rickards’ articles on this subject. seems like a possible future scenerio imho.. wonder what others think?


  11. John…

    You’re becoming a true curmudgeon.
    Do you have a front lawn that you chase the kids away from?

    As to the dental issue. You don’t want to be losing teeth at your age as it would be a pain to have to learn to use dentures.

    Please use a toothbrush in addition to your other dental tools as it will stimulate your gums where the gingivitis takes hold and that’s what takes your teeth out as the blood supply diminishes. Your teeth are probably second in importance as body parts right after your hands and opposable thumbs.

    As to the dogs. Have you ever thought about installing a doggy door so they can come and go out to do their business as needed?

    You Brits certainly do have interesting problems.


  12. Firstly, I have to say that our local Derby Royal Hospital is first class and that my experience in going in for a minor surgery and that of two friends going in for serious operations and longer stays could hardly be more different from yours. Everybody was on the ball from the receptionist , the anesthetist, surgeon, theatre team and the ward staff down to the cheerful chap who brought the tea round. So I think it is a matter of leadership.

    Across the county boundary in Staffordshire there was one hospital where 1200 patients are estimated to have died early from neglect in the most appalling circumstances with patients being left in their own filth and so desperately thristy that they were drinking water out of flower vases – yet the hospital concerned was ticking every box and on target for Foundation status.

    There seems to be some malign fairy in the Staffordshire NHS. I go to Church in Staffordshire and one lady in our congregation was trying to visit her husband in hsppital (although I don’t think it was the same one). She couldn’t find him and asked a nurse.
    “He’s over there” said the nurse, pointing to a bed in an offhand way.
    “That’s not him ” she replied
    “OH YES IT IS” said the nurse, becoming extremely stroppy and truculent.
    “Look, I’ve been married to him for fifty years and that’s not my husband”
    she replied.
    So, with a very sullen attitude, they looked around and eventually found him. The wrist bands had got swapped round. There was no apology.

    If you live in Staffordshire and fear the NHS, try to exercise that “choice” which New Labour was so keen on and get to the Derby Royal.

    Wasn’t it fortunate that one chap wasn’t due to have his leg off?


  13. John
    Take 1 tablespoon of cocount oil
    Take 1 tablespoon of baking soda
    Mash together in a bowl.
    End result the perfect cheap and REALLY effective toothpaste.
    If you don’t like the taste of coconut add some peppermint oil.
    I used to have a small part of my gum bleeding after every brushing. I switched from fluoride to non fluoride toothpaste and it lessened but switching to the concoction above (sans peppermint. I love the taste of coconut) the bleeding has stopped.

    Coconut Oil kills MRSA but there’s no big pharma money in that solution

    As you have a ‘Coco’ who is a ‘Nut’…


  14. That’s not a legend its sadly the truth. This is a big problem in Central London hospitals certainly at both Guys and St Thomas. The alcoholic hand gel gets stolen by destitute mainly East European vagrants many of whom are chronic alcoholics. In their desperation to get alcohol they will steal the hand gel often getting into the hospital out of ours to take from closed day care units and departments.


  15. John,
    I have moved away from intradental sticks to Oral Irrigator’s and find the results better and the process takes less time.


  16. I read that as well John. Into the bloodstream via the gums really quickly. I always found that listerine made my heart race faster so stopped using it.


  17. Alcohol in mouthwash increases the risk of oral cancer for smokers. The issue for everyone is that alcohol is a desiccant – it dries the mouth. Dry mouth leads to increased risk of fungal infections, cavities, gum disease and – wait for it – bad breath. There are lots of alcohol-free mouthwashes available.


  18. Edward
    I cut my teeth as an investigative blogger working on the Stafford scandal. How Ben Bradshawe emerged unscathed is beyond me.


  19. DS: I’m the last one that can go snitching to JW about you….I regularly raid Tesco for plonk when prices justify. Enjoy me o’l matey.


  20. Teeth: Careful brushing twice a day plus flossing. At least one of the brushings should be thorough. I brush each surface twelve times (listening to music in 4/4 times saves having to count, and I read to avoid the tedium), in a circular motion, mainly against the gum line.

    I use a soft natural-bristle brush and Colgate Total toothpaste. (I don’t know if it’s available in the U.K.; my periodontist recommended it as lasting longer afterward than competing products; probably the rigor of the routine counts for more than the product. Baking soda is too abrasive.)

    My teeth might be in better shape if I were not so old that my childhood dentist used to give out lollipops as a reward, and my subsequent large fillings didn’t fracture their teeth over the years. I love my crowns. I love my implants. I love modern dentistry! (But most doctors are quacks.) Between my natural teeth and the implants (and I can’t tell the difference without looking it up), I’m missing only one tooth (the bone had thinned too much for an implant).

    I just got back from a much-delayed checkup on a root canal from two years ago. The endodontist showed me the original X-ray and pointed out the shadow at the bottom of the tooth where infection had eaten away part of the tooth. Today’s X-ray showed that the tooth had regrown to fill the space. I didn’t know teeth could do that!


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