Thursday, February 16, 2006

Neanderthals, conservatives, language & evolution

‘Neanderthals were the last true conservatives’, ‘English is really mispronounced French’; two quips I heard this morning, the former for the first time. Regular readers will know that I’m interested in language but frustrated by my inability to speak any except English, some French and just enough Italian to buy beer, cheese, tomatoes red wine, insalata di fruiti di mari, ice-cream and olive oil (so almost enough).

English has evolved rapidly in my lifetime. Mostly this is a Good Thing but some trends bring out the grumpy old man. Why extra words? People park up their cars at train stations on their way to their weekend mini-break (as long as they’ve not been delayed by the sheer weight of* traffic). Perhaps it’s Americans to blame; many of them, especially their politicians, refuse to use three words if sixteen will do.

The quips came from this morning’s In Our Time programme about “Human Evolution - from early hominids to Homo sapiens”. Not a classic edition, it took a while to get going and for the contributors to relax, but worth a listen. Many reminders about why we’re not merely animals and the vast power of our intellect compared to other species. Whether this will turn out to have been a Good Evolutionary Ploy only time will tell; certainly many of the doomsayers in the so-called green movement seem to feel it wasn’t.

The Neanderthal quip arose because they were apparently content to rest on their laurels. If you’ve found a stone sharp enough to hack meat off a carcass why bother developing the Stanley Knife? The quipper** meant small c conservatives but it applies to some big Cs as well or at least to many of their supporters. You must have met the sort of people who think, for example, that cottage hospitals run by large matrons represent the pinnacle of health care? They rarely mention that if you went into one of those places suffering from much more than a broken leg you only came out if you were dead. Still they made you as comfy as they could and rarely woke you before 5:30 a.m.

Monday’s Start the Week programme was introduced by David Baddiel who demonstrated just how good Melvyn Bragg and Andrew Marr at hosting such programmes. It’s not that Mr Baddiel wasn’t any good but he wasn’t much good at segueing (now there’s a usefully anglicised Italian word). The edition is still worth listening to (via the web site) especially to hear Ann Widdecombe getting a bit flummoxed around absolute beliefs (but she was sound about why real politicians can’t rely on them). And baby-boomers like me might enjoy the discussion around Joe Queenan's latest book.

* I could, with some justification, have italicised that whole phrase.
** the best quip came right at the end – it’s about survival


At 21:45, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you came back! more essay distraction!
hope "domestic tasks" were carried out ok. You do seem to have radio, electicity and internet, so can't have gone too disastrously..

At 22:13, Anonymous cathryn said...

welcome back! good to see you again.

At 03:24, Blogger Aidan Brack said...

I want to echo Cathryn's reply.

I agree so much on the Conservative view of the health service. It's based around nostalgia and a wish for health to be convenient. My reply to people who complain about having to travel further to get good treatment is simply "as inconvenient as it is to go an extra 100 miles, it's decidedly more convenient than death and if the bigger hospital can be better funded if it takes on all patients with a particular problem and specialises then it's worthwhile".

To listen to some Conservatives, as you say, the reintroduction of matron would solve everything. MRSA would be a thing of the past. It's true that there probably would be a slight improvement in environmental standards but the biggest factors leading to uncleaniness (private rooms have more corners than wards and therefore take more time and effort to clean, subcontracting out cleaning services, etc) would still remain.

Finally: does complaining about spelling, punctuation and grammar make you a grumpy old man? If so I'm worried as I appear to be prematurely aging!

At 15:15, Blogger Aunty Marianne said...

Aidan - you're probably right about cleanliness but distance is still an issue for many. Dad, for example, is blind, and now they've cut the bus run up to the local hospital, how is he supposed to get there for treatment? Oh, we look after him, but how much worse off the little old spinster whose pension won't fund a twice-monthly two-hour-either-way taxi run to Southampton for chemo?

I recognise this is a transport issue, not a health issue, but it needs to be dovetailed.

At 15:42, Blogger Aidan Brack said...

I think you're right that there are problems with how these changes have been delivered and if a patient is being sent outside of the local area for treatment then really the local PCTs ought to be funding transportation to and from the hospital.

The problem is that there can only be so many specialists and so much specific equipment funded by the NHS so it makes sense to group them together in bigger, specialist facilities. The standard of treatment ought to be higher than at a smaller facility where some conditions are more rare and the staff will be less experienced in dealing with them.

But you are right that there needs to be a way of taking care of anyone who does not have the financial means to travel to far-off hospitals. It seems to me though that it'd be cheaper to transport the patients to far-away hospitals than it would be to transport the specialists and equipment to smaller country hospitals.

At 18:05, Blogger Hughes Views said...

Thank you all for your kind welcomes back (or is it welcome backs?) - I must write a post about my recent blog-interrupting domestic matters (must you?).

Re the health discussion comments - I've recently become a member of the Gloucestershire Ambulance Trust's PPI Forum (we semi-retirees do all sorts of odd things to fill our time) and I've learnt loads about ambulance services and a little about the NHS.

My vision of the ambulance service was of blue lights and rushing to heart attack victims or RTAs (road crashes to thee and me). But I've now discovered that much of their time is taken up with providing PTS. I sat nodding wisely at my first few meetings whenever this topic came up but I've learnt that it means Patients' Transport Services.

They carry hundreds of people to hospital appointments and the like. It works jolly well and most of the patients (many of whom are elderly regulars) seem to love it - the camaraderie of the bus sort of thing. What I'm not clear about yet is the criteria for getting a ride. But I'll find out.

Most of our recent meetings have been dominated by the upcoming merger with Wilshire and Avon to become the Great Western Ambulance Trust. I wonder if they'll give their vehicles names like the old GW steam engines - I feel a suggestion coming on.....


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