RATING: 5/5 BLURB: “Fancy some life coaching on the cheap? Read on for the pearls of wisdom handed on to me by my rescue dog, Sean. I didn’t think I needed much help with running my lif…
It’s official; it’s a thin news day. When there’s not much happening in the world, that’s when journalists come out to play, and write what they really want to write.
Thank God for that. As the world gets a little crazier every week, it’s nice to get a bit of respite and read the Guardian having a rant about Michael Gove. Considering the readership of the Guardian includes a good proportion of socialists and teachers, that’s a pretty reliable punt for entertainment.
What’s he done this time? Prepare yourselves. Yes, he has taken it upon himself to improvise a mini style guide for his department.
The naughty man.
So the Guardian of course is ripping into him for requesting that staff don’t use ‘However’ at the beginning of a sentence, or ‘doesn’t’ when they should be writing ‘does not’. Or being unnecessarily pompous. I can only assume that the Guardian is publishing such stuff to get back at a minister, or a government, which it hates. After all, the story has nothing in it – except hypocrisy. The Guardian itself has a style guide – as does every newspaper, and every reputable company or organisation that has extensive dealings with thepublic – such as Yahoo, Apple and MailChimp. In fact I have the Guardian style guide on my book shelf – and let me tell you it’s a comprehensive 362 pages. The NHS has a style guide of sorts also – particular colours and pictures can be used in presentations and print communications etc.
Michael Gove just wants a consistent style of communication from his department. What’s entertaining is that the Guardian can take normal professional practice and try to turn it into something ridiculous. Nothing ridiculous about the Guardian’s style guide, however, that’s serious stuff.
Today’s award for the most unhelpful headline goes to the subeditors of the BBC with this little gem:
‘Exercise ‘not key to obesity fight’
So what happens is, if they want to say something they should say, they stick it in inverted commas to make it look like they’re not really saying it, when they’re saying it. Along the lines of ‘wasn’t me, guv’nor’. BBC, you must be so proud.
An editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said that it was time to ‘bust the myth’ that exercise had a big effect on obesity. Naturally the reach of the BBC is wider than that of the British Journal of Sports Medicine – and the reach of the headline is far, far wider than the reach of the detail in the story. And that’s why headlines are risky, and need to thought about responsibly. Now we’ll have a situation where people think that the disembodied quote from three experts writing in a periodical they’ll never read is licence for them never to do exercise again.
But let’s look at it. Those experts are right in one sense – our diet is so far out of whack it dwarfs our sedentary lifestyle in how damaging it is to our long-term health. We like junk food, and it’s hard to avoid since it’s so cheap and plentiful. Those who are obese can have a tremendous effect on their weight if they cut their daily calorie intake from that of a pro cyclist down to that of a sedentary person (in some cases a drop in excess of 2000 calories). The other reason they’re right is that in those who are morbidly obese, really effective exercise is impossible. The first gains need to come from curbing intake.
But the key to success remains – a deficit between what calories you need, and what you actually consume. One of the results of exercise is to boost the deficit.
What was also not addressed was the fixation on obesity. I suppose it’s easy to fixate on because it’s so visible – but generally it’s not being fat that kills you, it’s heart disease, or diabetes that leads to complications, or a stroke or whatever. Obesity increases the risk of all of these. Exercise is great at reducing the risk of these. So exercise, whether you use it for calorie busting or not, is a great thing to have in your life.
The problem with obesity is the same as the problem with politics – we get hooked on the extreme – extreme eating, extreme dieting, extreme exercise, extreme left, extreme right. Actually there’s a sweet spot, and it’s at neither end of the spectrum. A reasonable diet and reasonable exercise will have you living healthier for longer. Yes, there are those who feel the need to eat a diet of raw wizardfruit and ground unicorn horn, or whatever’s currently trendy (I lose track); there’ll always fads and extremes – it’s just not where the success is.
Today’s message is just not encouraging. Exercise does work, and it works best when you’re paying attention to diet as well. People who are trying to make changes should be supported and encouraged, not discouraged by being told half the story. Moderation is something we can all do. For some of us, that’s a habit we need to learn – but that’s OK, recognising it is the best place to start.
Journalists: Be responsible
Experts: Stop trying to be extreme to get column inches
Everyone else: Be different, be average.
Kent Nagano, musical director of the Hamburg State Opera, recently claimed that classical music was on its way out, that it was ‘losing its social significance’. This was met by much wagging of heads and tutting that the world is going to the dogs, and that the young people don’t know what’s good for them. But is he right?
It’s not usual that I’ll accuse someone else of being pessimistic, I’m quite happy to take that duty upon myself, but this time I can’t agree with Mr Nagano. Did the sandalmakers of Rome panic that the world was going down the pan, and that with the Roman invasion of Britain that would be the end of open-toe footwear? Erm no. What will happen with classical music is the same as what will happen with everything that is worth keeping – it will adapt to survive.
In fact, it’s already doing that – and it’s been doing it for a while. What if people hankered after the music of JS Bach and refused anything new-fangled? Well there’d be no Magic Flute by Mozart for a start – and in fact anything involving a clarinet, a horn with valves, or a saxophone – or even a pianoforte as opposed to a fortepiano – would not exist. And I think we’d all agree, we’re more culturally prosperous for the fact that music has adapted to the changing world around it.
Mr Nagano cites budget cuts and technology for reasons why music will die. Budget cuts sharpen the game. When survival is harder, invention, innovation, and adaptation happen faster. Why do people not go to as many classical concerts as 80 years ago? Probably because now they’re able to hear the music in their own homes on CD or iTunes. I suspect Mr and Mrs Average have a greater fondness for classical music now than ever before. Remember Italia ’90? Remember Pavarotti? That sporting event brought Puccini to probably his most massive audience yet. And Nessun Dorma (the song) is one of those that we’re all now familiar with. How about X Factor and the use of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana when they start the programme? Classical music is a cultural staple. It’s not going anywhere. It’s being used in such a wide variety of settings that it is short-sighted to worry about people not going to so many concerts as before.
Every Easter weekend, the commercial radio station, ClassicFM releases its top 300 pieces of classical music chosen by its listeners. There are two interesting things about it:
- A lot of the pieces stay the same. If you’re not mad keen on The Lark Ascending or Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto, there’s no point bothering with the last half an hour where they unveil who’s at the top.
- Some of the pieces change. And what’s been really interesting has been the increase in the number of pieces from film soundtracks over the last 15 years or so, and also the inclusion of music computer games more recently.
These changes show that classical music is attaining a wider audience than ever before. EVEN computer games now!
So perhaps the concern is not regarding classical music itself, so much, as the declining demand for classical concerts. But even then, there are changes. Picnic style concerts during the summer are popular, Andre Rieu has popularised classical music as light entertainment – be as snobby as you like, he’s made it accessible and enjoyable for more people. There are classical music festivals all over the place, and concerts are taking place in all kinds of venues.
But yes, perhaps the actual ‘classical concert’ might be under pressure to change, and there might be enough people who like the status quo who will prevent that change from happening. I like classical concerts. There is nothing like watching some incredible person negotiate the intricacies of Dvorak’s cello concerto – but I know that that’s not for everyone. And culture’s a democracy; if a thing isn’t popular enough, it’ll have to change. Or leave. Perhaps in the future orchestra’s will use their funding not just for classical concerts but to work with communities to improve society through art. Julian Lloyd-Webber (cellist) is doing just that by being involved in a UK project designed along similar lines to the El Sistema project of Venezuela (Gustavo Dudamel’s baby), a programme for teaching music to children who live in the country’s slums, and described by Sir Simon Rattle as ‘the most important thing happening to classical music anywhere in the world’.
So in short, classical music doesn’t have to die. I’d argue it’s more relevant today than ever. It will need to continue adapting as it always has done. Music is fluid. There is no time in history that you can point to and say ‘THAT right there is “music”‘. It will continue changing, developing, growing – like Smetana’s river Vltava, in fact. Funny that.
Almost unbelievably, Labour is claiming that there’s a secret Tory plot afoot to axe the number of nurses working in the NHS. Amongst others, the Guardian has given up space for conspiracy talk.
Applying the wisdom of Occam’s Razor (the simplest theory is probably the true one), there’s no conspiracy, it’s just that nurses are leaving the NHS faster than they can be replaced. Probably not helped by being accused of laziness by Mr Cameron. Nurses will leave at a faster rate when more of them wise up to the fact that they’re doing a lot of doctor-work for less than a quarter of doctor-pay. When they stop moaning about what’s not in their paypacket, and start moaning about the gap between what they do and what they are paid to do, we’ll see an uptick in nurses leaving. I’m not saying it like it’s a good thing – it’s just that nurses have been underpaid for years because they have been immensely undervalued for years. I understand the emotional, physical and mental pressure that comes from just doing a nursing job; it is like no other. Interestingly Labour claims that most of the losses will be from mental health. I’d concur with that, they’re probably right with that at least – but I’d say the rate of haemorrhage is more in line with nurse burn-out and disillusionment than some Tory plot that’s clearly too clever for its own good. We don’t need a conspiracy; nurses are quite able to take themselves out of the equation without any help from Mr Cameron.
I left my permanent post as a practice nurse a couple of months ago, burned out. I’m just now starting to feel human again. Caring for people properly in an environment of huge regulation, impersonal and often unworkable policies (that you don’t get time to read unless you take them home!) and the lack of respect from some staff and patients makes a tough job even harder. One of my previous colleagues has blown the whistle on her employers three times, and three times has had to find another job. There aren’t enough nurses like her. People like her are hard to find – and I suspect that nursing colleges do not have the places available that are needed to stem the shortfall in the nursing workforce – and I suspect, they are not attracting and recruiting some of the right people to train as nurses.
Nursing’s a mess. It’s not some sordid little plot, it’s a result of generations of disrespect and not being valued. Maybe instead of pointing fingers, politicians like Mr Burnham might want to offer a solution instead.
Stairs are tricky when you’re tall and have four long legs. But there’s always a challenge with anything that’s really worth doing.
Cynicism aside, there is a reason for it all. Try to ignore the consumerism and nasty grabbiness – enjoy the fact that this is the start of amazing things that are all there for the accepting.
Patient is unable to self-treat. If conscious, and able to swallow safely, patient should be given one of the following:
- 100ml Lucozade
- 150ml non-diet fizzy drink
- 200ml smooth orange juice
- 5-6 dextrose tablets
- 4 jelly babies
- 7 jelly beans
- 2 tubes glucose gel
Repeat as required and stay with patient until recovered.
If patient is unconscious, he should be put in recovery position, glucagon can be injected if trained to do so. Otherwise dial 999 for ambulance.
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Make sure you’re getting the authentic NHS experience!
- Being asked if you’ve had your ‘bowels open’. Score 1 point each time, and 10 bonus points if you’re asked three times in 24 hours.
- Score 10 for a ride in a wheelchair that only goes backwards.
- Score 2 if there’s a mad person on the ward.
- Score 10 if he tries to get in bed with you.
- Score 60 if you can’t figure out who the mad person is.
- Score 5 if you get served burnt sweetcorn
- Score 3 points each time your meal is two thirds yellow. Three in a row gives you a bonus of 10 points.
- Score 20 points each time a visitor brings you grapes.
- Score 5 if you get served the wrong meal.
- Score 30 if they try to make out it’s your fault.
- Score 20 if they give you a really rubbish explanation for your treatment.
- Score 50 of they don’t even attempt an explanation.
- Score 40 if your discharge is delayed by at least 4 hours. Score a further 15 points for each hour after this.
- Score 25 if you learn to stay asleep while they check your BP for the 18th time in 24 hours.
- Score 30 if your gag reflex disappears after repeatedly hearing old men coughing up phlegm.
- Score 1 point each time you inapproriately get called ‘sweetheart’, ‘darling’, or ‘love’.
- Score 10 if while you’re there they use pillowcases as towels or sheets as pillowcases.
- Get 50 points if there’s a shortage of pyjama bottoms.
- Score 5 points each time someone speaks a little louder to you because you’re lying down/wearing night attire.