The Things You Won’t Allow Us, Part 2

Public Service Announcement: we finished last time declaring an intention to form a trade union and save the working class. It wasn’t a terribly dramatic declaration, as it took place silently, in my head, during someone else’s liver biopsy. Still, there we are. I’ve discussed it with my current girlfriend and my dog, who both like the idea.

The founding of a trade union and resultant socio-political shift away from the middle class is not a usual train of thought to pursue while assisting with surgery. However, as our patient had no short term memory, and needed no conversation other than constant reassurance that he wasn’t being kidnapped, I was able to think the whole thing through in some detail. He was, in fact, admirably calm for someone who considers themselves a kidnap victim, and was happy enough with me saying, in my hospital voice, ‘Hospital, Ray. You’re in a hospital in Norwich. Yes. Myself and this gentleman are just doing a quick liver biopsy on you. Biopsy. No, your liver. Hospital, Ray. You’re in a hospital and myself and this gentleman are just going to do a biopsy on your liver. Liver. Your liver. Yes. Norwich. No, you’re in hospital, Ray. You and your liver are in a hospital in Norwich’ for forty five minutes until a tiny bit of Ray was in a small pot and away for analysis with those dorks in Pathology.

Anyway. Our current nursing unions seem hopeless. In fact, if there is one thing that contemporary socio-industrial history has taught us, it’s that nurses will put up with anything. Nursing unions can’t even protect nurses, heroically settling for whatever pay rises the government tell them to, and so forth. So what of we non-clinical staff, with our thirteen hour, minimum wage, no-paid-breaks shifts and routine undertaking of tasks for which we are neither qualified nor paid because there is simply no one else to do them? I imagine that we are a long way down their list of priorities. One of the reasons I imagine this is the sheer number of times we are referred to as Heroes on sundry NHS social media outlets – any employer who constantly tells you how heroic you are is not paying you enough, and no amount of rainbow lettering and applause emojis can hide this. In fact, the only tangible use of union resource I can ascertain is stickers all over the East Block bike shelter with ‘She Was Just Walking Home’ on them, as a reminder that assaulting middle class women is bad. I am always tempted to write ‘What? On her bike?’ underneath, but have thus far thought better of it.

I should very much like to make things better for my fellow workers. Incidentally, I don’t mean ‘workers’ in some fanciful, middle class Socialist sense. I am a right-leaning free market pragmatist, so I mean ‘workers’ in the sense of actual people in actual employment, in the actual world that actually exists. I should probably just say ‘employees’ to clear all that up, come to think of it. Anyway. I think the Non-Clinical Workers’ Union, which is what I shall call it, could not only provide a lesson in the correct placement of an apostrophe in conjunction with a plural possessive noun, but valuable representation for low grade staff such as myself and my A Team, who keep every hospital in the country ticking over. If the NHS is saveable, it is us who will save it. Indeed – If there was hope, it must lie in the proles…in those swarming, disregarded masses, to quote George Orwell in his famous book ‘It’s 1984!’

We needn’t be as flimsy as the existing nursing unions, either. For a start, we don’t have a twenty five year career tied up in the NHS, so we have no vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Also, because we are not bound by Hippocratic or any other codes, we do not need to be squeamish about strike action. I envisage this consisting of sitting calmly and cheerfully in the staff room for three hours every Wednesday afternoon offering people tea and biscuits, rather than shouting in a donkey jacket in a car park like it’s the nineteen seventies. Above all, I want my union to be quiet, dignified, and relentless. We’ve all been listening to shouty people for far too long and, in the interests of balance, it might be nice to let calm, rational people have a go for once.

To do this, I would need to disentangle it from the middle class Left. This is important as, throughout my lifetime, their purpose has been to take politics away from those who need it, via a concerted socio-economic campaign of marginalisation, demonisation and ungovernable personal politics. This confiscation of power has been catastrophic for the working class and therefore society as a whole, and must be challenged. However, we must remain a specific group of employees striving against specific circumstances of our employment, rather than acting for or against undefinable notions of class because, although the usual outcome when identifying societal groups as your problem is that you end up very boring and very embarrassing, there is the occasional capacity for thousands of people to get killed. Above all, we must remember that when you stare into an abyss, it also stares into you, to quote Frederick Nietzsche in his famous book Calm Down A Bit, Before You Get Carried Away.

I finished formulating all this as Ray’s biopsy ended. It concluded amid a lot of ‘Finished, Ray. We’re done now. We’ll just sort out some paperwork for your doctor and send you back to your ward. Ward. Doctor. Hospital, Ray. You’re in hospital, Ray. Biopsy. No, we’ve done it. Just then. You have a little doze and then we’ll take you back to your ward. Ward. Hospital, Ray. You’re in a hospital, Ray’, and so on.

As I pushed Ray and his bed out to Recovery, I said ‘That’s the trouble with hospital, Ray, isn’t it? No one tells you anything’, as a little chuckle for me and the surgeon.

‘About what?’ he replied, neatly putting me back in my box.


Main: Cows in a field. These things are massive and, if startled, can jump twenty feet vertically.

Top inset: That time a trampoline ended up wedged between our house and the garden wall after a ferocious coastal storm. It’s my son’s trampoline. He refers to it as a jumpoline, and we are lucky it didn’t smash the kitchen off.

Middle inset: I am already a union rep, and enjoy it, although I don’t represent anyone at the hospital. Well, yet, anyway.

Lower inset: There was an amusing couple of months in my son’s life when, if I set the hands on this thing to ten o’clock, and said ‘Look at the time!’, he would put himself away in it.

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