“WHAT you here for, then?” “Oh, aye, I’ve got that. Been tekkin’ owt for it, then?”

Date: Friday 12th October 2018

That’s just the crack in the waiting room. Wait until we all get together in one of those group sessions GPs are supposed to be planning to cut costs and save doctors’ time.

Now that the BBC is going to kill off Flog It, a program much beloved of the nation’s pensioners and other daytime TV watchers, we’re going to need some alternative entertainment.

A couple of hours spent comparing haemorrhoids, in-growing toenails and erectile dysfunction sounds just the ticket. “Piles a bit better this week, Mrs M?” “Much easier, thanks, but I see you’re sitting uncomfortably this week. You should try this cream I got from the chemist.” It’s going to be nice to share those little conversation pieces. Make a change from the weather.

Patients are encouraged to take part in mass GP appointments with up to 14 others. The sessions are aimed principally at long-term conditions like diabetes, arthritis and asthma, and have already been trialled in surgeries in London, Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle.

The sessions are led by healthcare assistants, with the doc dropping in for an hour or so to discuss tests and treatments, and patients are expected to sign a confidentiality agreement so the gossip doesn’t go outside the surgery.

Campaign group Patient Care describes it as “a ghastly idea”. Joyce Robins, from the group, said: “You might as well tell the town crier so he can shout it from the rooftops.”

Younger patients might feel a bit reticent to disclose their ailments in front of a crowd. But, speaking from the elderly viewpoint, I can see the attraction of joining fellow sufferers. As you get older you become less embarrassed about sharing those unfortunate medical complaints anyway. And if there’s tea and biscuits and Flog It has been flogged, well hey, why not?


THE Beeb has been undertaking a series of covert screen tests in an effort to fill David Dimbleby’s seat now he has decided to retire from hosting Question Time after 25 years at the helm.

The tests — under maximum security and in front of an invited audience of people who had previously applied for tickets for the program — put each of the would-be presenters through a full-length episode, facing real panellists and these regular viewers. Emily Maitlis, Kirsty Wark, Samira Ahmed and Nick Robinson are among Britain’s foremost political broadcasters to emerge as potential successors to Dimbleby.

I used to follow Question Time every week. Not now. Apparently politicians being despatched to appear on the program regard it as drawing the short straw. It’s become little more than a vehicle for fudge and waffle — mostly politicians not saying what they really think, but what they think they ought to say.

The best of luck to whoever gets the job because the programme has lost its way. If the panellists are irritating, then the audiences, usually left-leaning in their opinions, are even more annoying. If it was down to me I’d forget the auditions and scrap the whole thing.


WHILE I’m on the subject of the BBC getting rid of the tiresome and unwanted, how about ex-footballer turned pundit Robbie Savage whose regular appearances on the Five Live post-match inquest programme 606 have so driven me to distraction that I can no longer listen on the car radio on the way home from Saturday afternoon games.

Savage’s idea of a reasoned debate is to shout over phone callers, repeating endlessly until they give up and are forced to listen to his opinions. I thought he was going to come to blows with his fellow presenter the other week, so heated did it all get. Savage repeated the same mantra a dozen times — I counted them — to silence a fan who had called the show.

Having been raised on the ever-excellent Saturday evening Sports Report on the BBC — yes, Stuart Hall was a contributor but I can forgive one blip on the programme’s conscience — I can’t believe how low standards of broadcasting have fallen.

For a time Savage held the record for acquiring the most yellow cards. For his role on 606 I would show him a red one. I used to hear the show while driving back from Brunton Park on Saturday evenings. Not any longer. Robbie comes on and I reach for the off switch. I prefer the sound of silence.


IT’S not only professional footballers of modest talent who command obscene amounts of money in this crazy world of ours.

Take art, for example. Well done Banksy for bringing some perspective to the scene with his wonderful million pound self-shredding stencilled spray painting of a girl with a balloon which had seconds earlier fetched a record price for the artist at a London auction house.

A superb publicity stunt, yes. But Banksy, famous for his graffiti artworks in public places, also illustrated the insane way in which rich collectors place their values. Ironically the painting may be worth more shredded that it was before. As Picasso famously said, the urge to destroy is also a creative urge.

I’m no art expert, but I hope I’m not a complete philistine either. I’m probably reflecting my age when I express my dislike of much modern art. Maybe I’m just a stuffy old traditionalist at heart, but the whole idea seems to be to shock and outrage rather than to fill the soul with warmth and wonder. But that’s life, I guess.

As for another “national treasure”, David Hockney, I’m afraid his colourful Queen’s Window, now placed in the north transept of Westminster Abbey, strikes me as more like the colouring in of an eight-year-old than a work by a distinguished artist making a statement about the Queen’s reign while representing the Yorkshire Wolds.

Is it great art? Am I missing something? A spokesman for the abbey said the idea was to represent the Queen as a countrywoman and the Hockney window was “popping with colour”. I don’t think it is appropriate to its setting. But who am I to judge. Maybe Banksy would be better qualified to comment.


LEICESTERSHIRE police are offering “banter lessons” to officers and civilian staff. Yes, really. The idea, it seems, of their diversity and inclusion unit. Instead of solving burglaries, bobbies will likely be spending time agonising over what is acceptable and what might give offence.

I read this during the same week when police are said to be setting targets to investigate fewer than half of reported crimes. One of the UK’s largest forces is “screening out” 56 per cent of cases. The equivalent of 450,000 cases a year no longer being investigated.

It’s perfectly true that police are facing more complex crimes, but a Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Monday found that, across the country, nearly one million crimes are being “screened out” without investigation.

The police have also suffered financial cuts, as have the NHS, teachers and many other professions. But it can’t all be about cuts and about the upsurge in cyber crime. How reassuring to know that, for one force, priority is being given to cutting out back office banter.

Blimey, what would John Thaw’s politically incorrect Inspector Regan, of The Sweeney, have made of it? He wouldn’t have lasted a day in the job.


REMEMBER the time a Cumbrian headteacher, more in irony than seriousness, said kids playing conkers at break should be kitted out with goggles for health and safety purposes?

Children have tested their conkers for decades, centuries even. A bit of string and some dedicated home treatment for the conker — a soaking in vinegar or a spell in the oven maybe — and let battle commence.

They reckon that, after the dry summer, this autumn’s conkers aren’t a patch on conkers past. It seems gone are the days when kids proudly displayed their slightly chipped two dozen-ers. These 2018 specimens just don’t last. But still, it’s conker season again and time to fish out big brother’s motor cycling helmet, dad’s old batting gloves and pads, don a hi-viz jacket and some goggles, and go to war. That’s health and safety permitting, of course.