In good health

I have subjected the NHS to a rigorous testing regimen, at no small cost to myself, and I can reveal that it is in excellent health.

Last Sunday, I expected to spend an hour or two in the pub after watching Kilmarnock qualify for the Europa League and, instead, ended up in a hospital bed with a cannula in my arm. About 10 days before I had done my annual stint in the garden, but no-one had warned that I should have worn a biohazard suit. A rummage in the soil, a nick under a nail led to a raging infection. After a few days it wasn’t clearing. I went to the doctor, was given antibiotics, which the virulent microbes clearly took as a challenge and the index finger ended up looking like a bloated, month-out-of-date sausage.

Fortunately, it wasn’t my middle finger or I would have been speechless.

So after the game I popped in to A&E at Crosshouse hospital for a quick jag or some soothing ointment, as I thought, but within minutes I was blood tested, cannula-ed, X-rayed and on my way to the ward with the caution that if I didn’t comply I’d be in a Dave Allen situation, sans swollen digit.

It has become almost like a mantra to recite how wonderful the NHS is. Well, it is, and it’s worth repeating. The staff were down to earth, endlessly helpful, and one of the auxiliaries even gave me a natural history lesson, pointing out the pair of oystercatchers with their long orange beaks which were safeguarding chicks in the quad below the window. If anyone like Richard Branson or Nigel Farage attempts to privatise our NHS it’ll be over my broken body, which I’ll grant you is not much of an obstacle or disincentive.

Private enterprise has made some small inroads. There’s no television for patients unless you pay £7.99 a day for the basic channels. It comes from Hospedia, owned by a private US company called Marlin Equity Partners, which also owns Virgin Pulse, Richard Branson’s private healthcare firm. At least it bought it over but, according to Companies House, the Virgin Pulse gave out last month and the UK company was dissolved, only to rise from the grave in Connecticut in a different and no doubt more rapacious incarnation.

After a couple of nights in, I was out, the sage medical advice from my night nurse ringing in the ear: “Get a gardener.”

Travellin’ right

It seemed like the whole world was against the Johnstones, conspiring to prevent them building on their own land. Two community councils filed objections, the environmental agency Sepa too, and there were dozens of locals against them, on issues from road access and safety to education, to visual blight. The fact that the Johnstones are gypsy travellers had nothing to do with it, naturally.

But despite the spate of objections the venture will go ahead on a site on the A719 between Waterside and Moscow in Ayrshire to create four traveller pitches and amenity blocks for up to 12 caravans. Congratulations to East Ayrshire Council for supporting the travelling family and giving the bureaucratic finger to the nimbys.

The council also plans to be the first in Scotland to set up official stopping places for gypsies where caravans can park temporarily without fear of eviction. The other 31 should follow the example.

No minister

Democratic deficit? More a yawning chasm. Once again we will get a prime minister – almost certainly Boris Johnson – who was not elected in any national plebiscite but by a tiny rump of aged, white privilege.

If the Stop Boris movement in the Tory parliamentary party can’t prevent his name going forward as one of two, the members will assuredly cast their votes for him. The Tory party membership is around 100,000, overwhelmingly white, well-off pensioners living in southern England. I know we vote for the party not the person, but the system where we get the premier the buffers and those just hale and sentient enough to manage to mark a cross against a name on an internal ballot needs ended. There should automatically be a General Election.

In despair

So sad, too bad, never mind. Game Of Thrones has ended but the malady lingers on. I have only unwittingly watched a few seconds of it so I’ll have to take a colleague's word that it has contemporary themes and is the sum of more than a few flying dragons, brutal murders and bared chests.

A linguist, who should be ashamed, has created the two languages spoken in the show, Dothraki and Valyrian, and apparently more than a million people – 100,000 in the UK – have started a course in High Valyrian at the language app, Duolingo.

There are more people with some kind of command of a fictional tongue – I don’t know about Klingon – than understand Gaelic (less than 60,000). Sometimes you have to despair about humanity.

And about Gaelic. It is, I’m afraid, a dying language, on life support largely through the public money sustaining it. I don’t object to £16 million, or whatever the current sum is, going into BBC Alba and the rest, but it’s a kind of guilty tokenism.

If the Government was serious then Gaelic would be a compulsory subject in schools, at least in areas where it was the traditional language, which rules out most of the country. It was never spoken in the central belt so how come we have all the public signage with invented Gaelic place names, like Cill Mheånaig for Kilmarnock. And police with Poileas plastered all over their Black Marias. If there’s to be second language signage it should be in contemporary, spoken Scots. So Polis on the cop cars and Cludgie over toilets.