Magazine article The Spectator

In a Jam

Magazine article The Spectator

In a Jam

Article excerpt

Trust a radio critic, she who is paid to listen, not to rely on the wireless set in her car for information when stuck on a highland road miles from anywhere in a jam that stretches far into the horizon in both directions. But when a forest fire closed the road we were travelling on back across the mountains I realised I hadn't a clue how to retune our southbound radio from the preset buttons and so couldn't find the local station, Moray Firth Radio. After three hours, in the gloaming, we turned back along the road we had travelled. If only we had waited - or listened to MFR. Ten minutes later, the road reopened, exactly as MFR had announced to their listeners, as we ruefully discovered only the next day after an expensive over - night stay.

I should have known that MFR would have more useful info than the Northern Constabulary; the quality of its traffic info is how the station attracts and keeps its listeners. If we'd hired a car, the radio would have been preset to MFR by the rental company, almost as a safety precaution. So next time you leave the house for a long trek, check out the wavelengths of the local stations en route. There are times when only local will do.

'Nurses aren't kind, ' declared the journalist Christina Patterson in a shocking expose of her experience of NHS treatment for breast cancer. She was speaking at the Royal Society of Arts in the first of a new series of Four Thought last week (Radio 4, Wednesdays), the 15-minute 'live' lectures on subjects designed to provoke (produced by Giles Edwards). She knows her subject too well, having had six operations in three different hospitals over the last eight years.

Some nursing has been kind, overwhelmingly so, but too much of her experience has been, as she revealed, nothing short of cruelty.

On the first morning after her first operation she was told that if she wanted break - fast she would have to get it herself. This meant clipping various drips and drains on to a drip trolley and then dragging herself along the corridor to the kitchen, which she could only do by leaning on the trolley. She just about managed to butter herself a slice of toast when she got there, but the giant teapot was too much. 'No one cared, ' she told us, 'whether I got a cup of tea or not.'

Most people who've experienced the NHS close-up, either themselves or with relatives, will have similar tales to tell. Yet how few of us complain. Patterson used her 15 minutes to tell her story with breathtaking frankness. …

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