The Haves and Have-nots of Old Age

Prince Philip [for the unaware or hermits, Prince Philip is the husband of Queen Elizabeth 2nd, queen of The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland] who is ninety-six years old, is going into hospital for a hip operation.
You have to assume that the Prince will not have been hobbling around in agony for about two years. He has not had to first visit his GP [local doctor], waiting a couple of weeks to get an appointment, having had to convince the receptionist that he is in great discomfort. He has had some difficulty for ‘about a month’. He will not have had to get himself to a hospital for an appointment, pay to park, sit around in various waiting rooms and corridors, wait for scans, x-rays and investigations. He will not have had to return home with the vague promise of an operation, his name having been placed upon a waiting list.
No-the Prince will have attended a private hospital. He will have been given a prompt appointment, been chauffeur-driven to a luxurious venue akin to a top-class hotel, sat on a plush sofa to drink tea and nibble pastries while his personal consultant explains how they will fix his hip.
This extraordinary treatment will all have been paid for, reader, by we, the tax-payers.
I’m finding it difficult not to relate this my father’s death, at ninety-one in his local hospital’s men’s geriatric ward, in a bed with curtains drawn around it. I sat next to the bed as he wheezed and stared uncomprehending, while visiting times came and went, greetings sounding from outside the curtains and sometimes a chair pushed back into our tiny space by visitors to the adjacent bed’s occupant. Occasionally a staff member would come to tell me my father was dying and administer to him another dose of morphine.
The Queen Mother, I learned, had two hip operations in her nineties. Surgeons have to be confident that the very elderly are fit enough and well enough nourished for a general anaesthetic to be administered. Not much chance of the royals being under-nourished, is there? And Prince Philip has enjoyed the benefits of plenty of fresh air and exercise over the years, on royal estates and various jaunts.
Of course, in a democratic society we allow privilege and the way that life is for the [increasing numbers of] elderly is under debate. Some will always be able to afford any kind of care they would like, for as long as they like. Others must fend for themselves. For most, financial circumstances will play the largest part. While it’s as well to be prepared it is also a blessing that we don’t know what’s in store for us as we age. We can try to stay fit, eat sensibly, follow the rules, ensure that pension provision is adequate. But how many of us, if we achieve the age of ninety-six, would get a hip replacement operation within a month?

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Agony in the Waiting Room

                I arrived a little too early for my annual dental check up, not out of enthusiasm for the ordeal to come, but an over estimation of the time I’d take to get there. This is not a disaster, as the waiting room offers a range of magazines for every taste and from almost as many eras. The table is awash with a range of periodicals -from ‘The Oldie’ and ‘Saga’ to ‘Good Housekeeping’ and ‘Woman’s Weekly’. Take ‘Hello’ magazine, for instance. It makes no difference to me whether the edition is February 2014 or July 2003. I’m still none the wiser who most of the featured celebrities are, or in which field they have achieved their notoriety. Of course I do recognise the more prominent members of the British royal family and I am aware of such tabloid royals as the Beckhams, but most of the names and the faces are a complete mystery. So it is with a sense of the surreal that I read the caption-‘Chianti Cosmetique’s bump makes a debut at the Innuendo fragrance awards party’ or ‘Krayde and Melliflua Lamprey’s engagement party at Legoland Windsor’ or ‘Lady Hermione Drake-Smatterborn settles into her new home following her split from husband Basil’.

                I wonder what it is that creates this appetite for pictures and news about ‘slebs’ and/or royalty, when their lives, actually, are not of any interest at all. Like us, they have encounters, they form relationships [albeit brief in many cases], they buy homes, they marry, they divorce, they have babies, they ‘find happiness’ again, they party, they holiday, cavort, pose in expensive outfits in exotic locations and presumably on the proceeds of the sales of the magazines.

                A cursory delve into who some of the unknowns might be generally reveals that they are known for being married to someone famous, or that they are born into a famous/rich/royal family. In other words they are not known for anything they may have achieved, but by the tenuous thread that is as an appendage dangling off the end of a ‘famous’ person. This is irritating. Not only have they benefitted from marrying/being born to a [vaguely] known person but they are then able to rake in more dosh by appearing in the magazine in this lightweight capacity, not having actually done anything themselves.

                It was a mistake to arrive early for my appointment. I then had a wait of 35 minutes while the dentist dealt with someone else’s complications. Grim! I was left to occupy myself with photos of the Ponsonby-Smythes’ garden party of summer 2010 and Victoria Beckham’s shopping trip to New York. And after all this torture, what a relief to be invited in to sit in the chair and have my teeth prodded, my gums scraped and my tongue mummified. This time next year, when I return for my annual prod I will either ensure a more accurate arrival time or take along my Kindle!

Hello? OK-can we Take a Break now?

                In my semi-conscious, post celebratory state I felt I must be hallucinating. Each time I turned on a screen to attempt to catch up on current affairs, the same, confusing, surreal images and words flooded the waves, hour in, hour out in a relentless deluge. Babies. Crowds. Photographers. The news was…no news. She was in labour. She was still in labour. She went into labour on Monday morning. There was still no news. Would it be a girl? Would it be something else?

                After what seemed like days [no doubt the Duchess herself felt it to be so], the announcement of the baby’s arrival was made, taking up hours more of the news broadcasts. Then there was more speculation-when would she be leaving the hospital? The massed ranks of reporters and photographers were in a frenzy of feverish speculation and excitement. Clearly nothing else had occurred in the world since Kate went in to pop out a sprog. I presume the loyalist, ‘Hello’ reading nation took a day off, stayed indoors, drew the curtains and glued themselves to their screen while they waited, breath baited for the thrilling moment when the Cambridges would emerge with their offspring.

                At long last, and I’m guessing after having been groomed, styled, primped, made up and dressed by a post-partum designer, the Duchess and husband appeared with their wrapped bundle of baby-a tiny, screwed up face in a swathe of blankets. There were a few, bland remarks about parenthood-then they were off in their swanky Range Rover [or something], driven by someone.

                The next round of intense build-up concerned the name [much exploited by the turf accountants of this world]. Charles was favourite-then James-then…

                Then all was quiet, except, perhaps in the Cambridge household.

                I suppose the Royals must generate an amount of tourist income. Other than that there seems little purpose, especially for the periphery-the ‘hangers on’; the likes of Charles and Camilla, Andrew [who, under his designation of ‘trade ambassador’ appears to do little except to play in a middle Eastern playboys’ playground involving some unsavoury entertainment with young girls]. In the meantime, we, the proletariat fund it all through tax. If this sounds mean spirited, I make no excuse-I feel mean about it.

                I am sure the Queen herself feels she has served the nation, and in her own way she has. And yes, a lot of people feel affection for her and her batty, eccentric husband. Perhaps it is all part of their appeal. But their upkeep is all monstrously expensive. I wonder if the return justifies the expense? Answers on a postcard please…or in the comments?