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Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 28th February 2017

IT’S years since I watched an episode of the BBC’s Saturday night hospital drama Casualty, but I confess I am a sucker for those real-life medical programs on television, such as 24 Hours In A&E and GPs Behind Closed Doors.

If you regularly tune in to series like these your respect and admiration for the stoicism of many seriously ill patients and the unstinting, talented work of doctors and nurses will only grow.

But something strikes me squarely between the eyes here — the number of people who turn up in A&E and spend the time larking about. The very words accident and emergency ought to make them realise that these places are not just somewhere to go with mates for a night out after you’ve had too much booze or sustained some self-inflicted minor injury.

It doesn’t seem to occur to these idiots that, while they are fooling around, paramedics are rushing heart attack and road accident victims into nearby cubicles for life-saving treatment. Freeing up A&E from timewasters won’t solve the multifarious problems that afflict the NHS. But it could help under-pressure staff whose time and efforts should be devoted to patients in real need.

If you are really seriously ill, in pain or shock, nursing severe injuries, are you likely to be drinking coke and scoffing chocolate bars in the waiting room, or playing stupid games with your pals who think your minor misfortune is a great laugh? If it’s a genuine emergency, will you be shouting into your mobile phone about meeting up in the pub later to boast about your trip to A&E?

To the enormous credit of hospital staff and GPs, these timewasters are treated with the same polite and thorough care as the heart attack and road crash victims. A twisted ankle? Ice it and rest it at home until the swelling goes down. Fifteen pints and vomiting with tummy ache? Go and be sick in your own bed and take a fizzy pill in the morning to treat that hangover.

The problem with drunks is they fall into two categories — the extremely silly or the very nasty. It’s high time the latter were treated as pariahs whose verbal and physical attacks on hospital staff should be, without exception, punished by arrest and in the courts. It’s tough enough on the late-night shift at weekends without having to deal with aggressive drunks, and there should be a zero tolerance attitude towards them.

A&E departments have had a particularly difficult time this winter without being clogged up with drunks and timewasters and their trivial problems. In January alone, 45 per cent. of NHS trusts declared a major alert because of the problem of moving patients through emergency departments and bed shortages.

Surely we owe it to the good people who keep these departments going against the odds to ensure they are able to work in a safe environment and can concentrate their skills on patients who really qualify under the description of accident and emergency.

A more thoughtful public could play a small part in easing the pressures on the NHS by not treating A&E as the final bit of entertainment on a Saturday night out, or by heading there with palpably minor complaints which they could probably treat themselves with a bit of common sense. Is that asking too much?


I DON’T have a bucket list as such. In fact, I don’t have a bucket. Not even a bucket with a hole in the bottom. But there’s one thing I’ve always fancied having a crack at. I know, I know. You will think it’s a barmy notion, but I have always fancied standing for Parliament.

Not to get in, you understand. I could do the yah-boo stuff and trouser the £70,000 no trouble. But all that travelling to Westminster would be a crashing bore once the first few weeks had passed. And as for Saturday surgeries in the constituency, well, Carlisle United come first every time. Plus dealing with all those whingeing self-interested, one-track issue folk who bother MPs. Would I want them coming round on my day off? Not on your nelly.

No, it’s the thrill of the chase that attracts me rather than the million-to-one shock that I might be elected. As Cumbrian representative of the Elvis Bus Pass Party I would take great delight in knocking the politics being espoused by the main party candidates, while not having any policies of my own, thus avoiding awkward questions when collared in the street by broadcaster Michael Crick.

By now the Copeland by-election is all done and dusted and the political big-hitters have left Cumbria to return to their safe havens down south. The MPs who think we’re Scottish. The ministers who think “thank goodness we’ve not got to go there again until 2020” but make the right noises about hospitals, nuclear plants and flood prevention when we all know they don’t mean it and will never have to back up their statements. The politicians who claim Stoke is the North.

There were seven candidates for the Copeland seat, including a couple of Independents. Sadly, they don’t make monster loonies like they used to in the old days. By-elections always had the odd barmy kipper sporting a yellow and green suit, over-sized hat, massive rosette and one of those annoying things you blow at parties that make a rude noise.

The days of Screaming Lord Such and even the Elvis Bus Pass Party — the leader was interviewed on the BBC by Andrew Neill and announced his retirement from the political fray — are gone. It’s a serious business and I really can’t afford to chuck away the deposit down the hole in my non-existent bucket.

Still, maybe next time. Is there a Victor Meldrew Appreciation Party? Is it looking for a candidate?


CRIKEY, I thought. The Braggs have actually taken over Radio 4, lock, stock and several smoking intellectual barrels.

I’m an early morning listener. A rather casual, getting that sleep out of my eyes and pondering on the duties of the upcoming day kind of listener, to be honest.

But the other day I thought this is it, the Cumbrians are coming. At last the revolution. Be Just and Fear Not, for our blue and white flag is flying over the BBC.

One Bragg is a treat and we had Lord Melvyn of Wigton examining maths in the Early Islamic World on his cerebral yet accessible In Our Time program. A “feast of erudition” as one national newspaper reviewer called it.

This particular day Melvyn was sharing the airwaves with his vicar daughter, Marie-Elsa Bragg, who woke me with her Prayer for the Day at 5-43am. Marie-Elsa, whose biography on the Internet hints at a brain not only the size of Cumbria but of the entire European continent, is a priest in the diocese of London and a duty chaplain of Westminster Abbey.

Well, that’s just a bit of it. As an expert in different traditions, religions and faiths, a lecturer on ritual, interfaith and spirituality, with an interest in local Christianity and the traditions of the Lake District, I imagine her to be a great source of information for dad’s programs.

Ask a busy person, as they say. Marie-Elsa’s first novel, Mellbreak, is to be published in April. She begins a tour of literary festivals in Keswick on 11th March and her second non-fiction book will be published in 2018.


“YOU’RE being targeted by phishers,” said my friend. “No, not fishers. That’s Robson Green hauling out whoppers for his telly program about extreme angling.”

I get two or three spurious e-mails every day. In the past week I’ve had them purporting to be from major stores, dating agencies and, most recently, a convincing message bearing the BT logo and customer care manager’s signature claiming my latest payment had not been cleared by my bank.

I checked my account. It had gone through 48 hours earlier. I rang BT — try doing that, it’s almost impossible to speak to a human — to report the scam. They didn’t seem much concerned. Why not send out an e-mail warning customers, for I’m sure I am not the only one, not to give out details? Why not set up a helpline?

I suspect most organisations have given up trying to cope with these phishing attempts. The worrying aspect is that some of the crooks are always a step ahead of on-line security and they seem to know as much about us and our buying activities as our nearest and dearest. It’s all very phishy if you ask me.

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