Tag Archives: healthcare

Fourteen days that changed the world

Been a long time since we rock’n’rolled, huh? Lest you think I’ve been idling away at Expat Mansions, wilfully neglecting this esteemed journal, let me reassure you that I’ve had one or two things on my mind. Specifically, I’ve been preparing the raw material for what could be my new book entitled “Life: How To Change Everything In As Short A Timeframe As Possible”.

So, cue the Scooby Doo style flashback fade, and let’s take a look back at the last two weeks:

Day One
I wake up at 2am to find The Special One at the edge of the bed, telling me that she’s going downstairs to make herself a baked potato, and that I should go back to sleep. Given that I am Enlightened Man, I intuitively understand that is pregnant female code for either “I have taken leave of my senses and need to be institutionalised” or “I have had a few contractions and I think I’m going to give birth today, so you should rest and relax in preparation for the fact that I will be shouting obscenities at you in a few short hours.”

I plump for the latter, and within a couple of hours, I’m hearing The Special One make the kind of groans that got us into this whole mess in the first place. And, as it turned out, the noises only got louder for the next twenty hours.

From a mother and child’s perspective, the benefits of a homebirth are clear: better outcomes, more control over decisions, and a more relaxed environment for a baby to come into the world. From the father’s perspective, ease of access to your own refrigerator so that you can get the champagne out when your child is born, should not be overlooked. Pink champagne, of course, given that we had a beautiful baby girl at 12:37am on October 1. American manufactured, with British parts – and there couldn’t be a better example of the special relationship between the UK and the USA.

Day two
I’m no expert, but nowhere in the baby manuals do they generally say “if you give birth after midnight, and get to bed at 4am, you should move house later that morning.” But the winning combination of a baby turning up 11 days late, and my wife having an idiotic husband, conspired to cause the movers to turn up less than nine hours after the birth. Suffice to say that my name was mud for some considerable time afterwards.

Day three
My punishment for such a challenging schedule was to clean our old house for seven hours straight. On my own. The arrival of a new tenant was a shock, although the mouse (or small rat) at least had the decency to be dead.

Day four
If I dislike B&Q or Homebase, I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate Lowes and Home Depot. Especially when I get home from buying a brand new microwave, and find that it has a brand new dent in its brand new door.

Day five
Did I not mention that I was launching a brand new corporate website for the company I work for? It’s always useful to have to be sending constant emails when you’re looking after a five day old, and you’re simultaneously unpacking enough cardboard boxes that a passing news crew mistakes your home for the favelas of Sao Paolo. In related news, I also stuck a broom up my arseass and swept the floor as I walked.

Day six
No, you don’t understand, I really hate Lowes. Who knew that not all toilet seats were the same size?

Day seven
Let me give you some marriage guidance advice, should you need it. If you have a child, and you move house on the same day, you’re going to be unpopular. If you then spend a day on telephone calls as you attempt to organize a conference for your company’s senior management team the following week, you should probably keep your suitcases close by just in case.

Day eight
I’ve never spent any time in UK hospitals, so I don’t really have any point of comparison with their US equivalents. But given that the American ‘system’ forces you to pay through the nose for private healthcare, I think that when you race to the emergency room with an eight day old child, you should be considered as an emergency. I mean, I’m sure some people are happy to be able to watch TV in the waiting room; I’m not one of them.

Oh, and by the same token, private healthcare should entitle you to access to someone who doesn’t need five attempts to get a lumbar puncture right.

Day nine
Hospital food in the US is astonishingly bad. If Obama wants to make this country a better place, he could do worse than outlawing the production of hospital meatballs.

Day ten
Only in America would you get hospitals that have 50 channels of cable TV at every bedside, but no water fountains anywhere on the ward.

Day eleven
The best thing about American hospitals? Leaving them. With your eleven day old baby, safely in your hands.

Day twelve
When you’ve given birth at home rather than a hospital, it’s almost as if your child doesn’t exist. Try convincing your healthcare providers to pay for, say, some antibiotics for your apparently non-existent daughter, and you’ll find you’ve got more chance of getting a quick roll in the hay with Megan Fox. And add that freckly girl from Lost into the mix if you think there’s a remote chance of the battle over the subsequent hospital bills being over before the London Olympics. The 2124 London Olympics, that is.

Day thirteen
If you have a child and move on the same day, you’ll be unpopular with your wife. If you then spend a day on the phone organizing an international management conference, you’ll need your suitcases nearby in case you get thrown out. And if you then have to go back to work to actually oversee the conference, you’ll almost certainly have to look into expensive jewellery options if you want to remain married.

Day fourteen
I take my 803rd look at a photo of Brit Out Of Water, Jr taking in the world from her bed. Realise that it’s all worth it.

Brit Out Of Water, Jr.

So THAT’S what you think about Britain?

Being British in America can sometimes be akin to life as a happy-go-lucky labradoodle – everybody thinks you’re very sweet, but they don’t really understand you, and they’re often shocked to find out that you really do exist.

The problem is that as soon as you tell someone that you’re British, people jump to certain assumptions. As far as some Americans are concerned, everybody has met the Queen, and quite possibly have had tea with her. I know I still miss my weekly cup of darjeeling and occasional chocolate hobnob with Her Majesty, as do most expats I’m sure, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve also met Harry Potter, David Beckham, or that kid from the Twilight movies.

For clarity’s sake, fish and chips is not the only food we Brits eat, contrary to popular opinion. We also eat black pudding on Tuesdays, and tripe on the second Sunday of every month.

And yes, absolutely every single one of us is stark raving posh. Whether we’re from a dilapidated estate in Newcastle, or a country pile in the home counties, each and every one of us was born with a plum and/or silver spoon in our mouth, and is the heir to a fortune built off the exploitation of children in the (former) colonies. Quite.

Of course, my insistence that “we’re just like you, you know” generally falls on deaf ears. And mostly that’s probably down to language. A lot of that might be our own fault. After all, if – as I did this weekend – you use the phrase “I’ve been running around like a blue arsed fly,” you’ve got to expect that people are going to regard you as being a bit different.

That said, Americans (whether cosmopolitan New Yorkers or sheltered West Virginians) love to perpetuate a stereotype as much as the next man, and never more so than when it comes to the British.

Last week, Metro newspaper published an article entitled “Be prepared for a second Brit invasion” regarding a marketing accord between London and New York, to drive locals in each city to visit the other one. Helpfully, Metro offered five “terms to know” for anyone hoping to either go to London, or understand the hordes of Brits apparently about to descend on New York. For your delight and edification, I list them below:

1. “Footie: Means football, as in “I’m off to watch the footie.”
If you’re a football fan, you should know that the first rule of being a football fan is “never refer to it as footie”. It’s marginally more acceptable than soccer, but only in the way that maiming is more socially acceptable than murder.

2. “Bladdered: Means drunk. ‘I am so bladdered, I couldn’t gargle another pint.'”
Words fail me. I have never once in 35 years heard someone use the phrase “gargle a pint”. Even Dick van Dyke would have rejected it as too unbelievable. The irony, of course, is that most American beer tastes worse than mouthwash.

3. “Meat and two veg: Slang for male genitalia.”
Now, I’m no expert, but I struggle to be able to think of a situation in which an American in London (or a New Yorker talking to a Brit over here) is going to need this phrase. Anyone believing that “fancy a sample of my meat and two veg” is part of the essential lexicon of love, with the ability to win the heart of a passing Brit faster than any Shakespearean sonnet, should probably think again.

4. “Trainspotter: A dork. The kind of guy who keeps a log book of train schedules. The British love their trains.”
Show me someone who believes that the British love their trains, and I will show you someone who has not been to Britain. The sad thing being that American trains make their British equivalent look world-class.

5. “Brad Pitt: rhyming slang for defecation.”
Maybe I missed a meeting, but last time I looked, rhyming slang for ‘defecation’ was Eartha Kitt. That’s showbusiness for you. And there was me thinking that Brad Pitt was rhyming slang for “actor with marginally less talent than he thinks, with a penchant for screwing leading ladies’.

So, if this Metro piece is to be believed, Brits spend all their time drinking, shagging, shitting and watching football. Or trains. Thanks for the resounding vote of confidence in our collective personality, guys!

Still, at least we don’t believe that universal healthcare means an inevitable march towards Hitler death camps, eh?

Spot the difference

July 2007

A man walks into a doctor’s surgery in South West London, under extreme pressure from his wife-to-be, to get his allegedly high blood pressure looked at. The surgery smells like all doctors the length and breadth of the UK – a heady mix of two parts flatulent old lady, one part Brut aftershave, and one part child’s vomit (three day vintage). The scene is like something from a refugee camp in war-torn Uganda, with the sick of the area having wheezed, oozed and staggered their way into a waiting area so large that the end-of-season football playoffs could conceivably be played there.

Stepping over the wounded to get to the cinder block reception, the man stands for five minutes waiting for Doris to finish her conversation with Patricia about the size of Mr Harris’s piles. No, not Mr Harris from Watling Close – the one from Ridgemount Drive who was having the affair with the hairdresser from Belmont Hill. You know, the one with the hoop earrings who’s already on her third marriage?

Eventually Doris turns to the man and asks which of the seventeen doctors he’s here to see. Once he’s been redirected to the reception on the other side of the room, and endured a similar delay while he waits for Mabel to discuss last night’s episode of Heartbeat with Sandra, he eventually checks in and scans the room for somewhere to sit.

Our hero uses both hands to lift and move the beer gut occupying the last remaining space in the room, wiping off some unidentifiable residue from the orange plastic seat as he does so. Wedging himself into the seat alongside the aforementioned Beer Gut, he ducks quickly to avoid a flying red plastic Fisher Price brick which has ‘accidentally’ ‘slipped’ from the hand of the five year old convict-in-waiting to his left.

On the table ahead of him lay three magazines. Having rejected a copy of Hello magazine from 1994 (featuring Mandy Smith on the cover) and Weight Watchers’ 101 Low Fat Classics, he plumps for a relatively new (only four years old) copy of Top Gear magazine. Sadly, the cover is merely masking an issue of Coeliacs Monthly, the new publication for intestinal disease sufferers everywhere. He wearily puts it down and forces himself to read an informational pamphlet on the warning signs to look out for when you’re having a stroke.

Forty five minutes later, the man is convinced he has at least three symptoms, although the pain running up and down his left arm could conceivably be caused by the angle at which he’s having to hold himself to avoid resting his elbow on his neighbour’s man boobs.

Finally, an announcement over the loudspeaker informs him that it’s his turn to see the doctor, and gives him a lengthy set of directions to get to the relevant office. Given that the PA system is now 43 years old and replacement parts are no longer available, the muffled instructions (to head down the corridor, take the first right, and then the fourth door on the left) are unclear, and our hero spends the next ten minutes inadvertently interrupting old men having their prostates examined before finally managing to track down his GP.

July 2008

A man walks into a doctor’s surgery in New York’s SoHo, under extreme pressure from his long suffering wife to get his allegedly high blood pressure looked at. He takes the liftelevator to the second floor, and quietly remarks to himself that he wishes Americans would accept that it’s really the first floor. Stepping out of the elevator, he walks past a gentle waterfall that takes up an entire wall in the corridor that leads to the reception desk.

Eva Cassidy’s version of Sting’s “Fields Of Gold” plays gently across the loudspeaker as he approaches the desk. The receptionist looks up, smiles and asks how he is. By name. Having extracted a $20 fee (or “co-pay”, as she calls it) by credit card, she asks him to settle down in one of the chocolate brown leather sofas nearby. He is the only person in the waiting area.

Healthcare free at the point of entry vs extortionate health insurance. You pays your money (or not), you takes your choice.

I still had to wait forty five minutes with eight year old magazines as my sole entertainment, though.