Up North, Kicking Up Fuss

Public Service Announcement: Since writing this post, the Royal College of Surgeons has ruled that Jungle is too mental for a clinical setting, although breakbeat hardcore is OK if it’s not too hectic.

Following on from our last chat, the topic of a Spotify playlist for surgery has been a hot one at work. This stemmed from thoughts about what I would want as the soundtrack to my own vascular surgery, should I ever require it as a result of peripheral arterial disease. It should be stressed that this is an as-yet unconfirmed condition, pending an MRI scan which I’ll pop down to East Block Level 2 for at some point, but my doctor and I are pretty sure I’ve got it. Countering her advice, I suggested that instead of lowering my cholesterol to combat arterial deterioration, I instead increase it so I form a natural immunity, a tactic for which I also lobbied when Nid was diagnosed with a nut allergy, although this was rejected by his mother who feared that if he didn’t have a food intolerance the other mums at yoga would think he was working class.

As I am fond of saying ‘I know we’re supposed to care for the patients – but are we though?’, and this extends to their Spotify choices for surgery, because there are six staff in an operating theatre, and quite often the patient is unconscious or a bit sulky, and anyway it can’t always be about them. The consensus among the medical professionals of my acquaintance is that the playlist should be bangers rather than classics, a banger being defined as a tune that you basically like and everything, but don’t often listen to but, when you do hear it, realise it’s mental. Classics are merely considered to be good, or ground breaking, or otherwise remarkable. This rules out the fresh new sound of my own beloved Beatles, as everything they did was classic, with no

identifiable bangers in sight, although as they were inventing not only popular music as we know it but the cultural landscape it would inhabit until the end of time, they were quite busy. My contributions were Groove Is In The Heart by Dee Lite, Incredible by M Beat ft General Levy, and Original Nuttah by UK Apache and Shy FX. Incidentally, it’s Pheno One Be Lit! on Spotify, ‘Pheno One’ being the primary operating theatre in my unit, in case you fancy it while facing surgery of your own.
I love the diet that contributes to peripheral arterial disease – or peripheral arterial delicious, as I like to call it – so I can’t complain when my blood vessels buckle under the resultant tsunami of cholesterol. Still, my signature dessert – two jam doughnuts in half a pint of double cream – is off the menu for a couple of weeks which, as I understand it, is how long chronic arterial conditions take to sort themselves out. To celebrate my lactose dependency, I also pioneered what my sister-in-law refers to as ‘double dairy’, which is a lot of double cream mixed with a lot of Cornish ice cream – refreshing at any time of day. Remarkably, I’m not fat. It would be easier if I was, because I could sort it out by taking up smoking in order to keep my appetite down. An average working day for me involves walking around 23,000 steps and cycling between 15 and 40 miles, so I am in shape and everything, it’s just that my customary celebration of the striking of each waking hour with four Mars bars and fifteen chocolate Hob Nobs may have to be re-thought before I end up having my legs amputated, which is the endgame of the condition if you aren’t careful.

I was about to say how much I approve of the reference to ‘eggs fried in butter’ that appears in Original Nuttah when I remembered my other playlist contribution: Street Tuff by the Rebel MC and Double Trouble. This was huge at West Ham during my teenage years, mainly I suspect due to the ‘Up North, kicking up fuss’ line. I

suggested this appear on the stickers we plastered upon pub windows, letter boxes and lamp posts on jaunts to the featureless frozen wasteland beyond Waltham Abbey, this being when you could travel cheaply on Inter City services by simply refusing to pay. At the time, they carried the line ‘Out Of Control And Heading Your Way / West Ham ICF Wrekin’ The Second’ and, while I liked ‘Wrekin’ The Second’ for the pleasing half rhyme, culturally colloquial spelling, and reference to what was then the Second Division of the football league, I questioned the plausibility of being out of control and heading towards something. ‘Out Of Control But Heading Your Way’ made more sense, I would explain on long journeys back from Blackburn or Sunderland or Hull, but agreed that the sentiment lacked punch, unlike the people I was talking to. Looking back, I suppose the paradox had a certain ring, and was certainly popular, as I am sure faded shreds of sticker in tiny forgotten corners of the north of England will testify to this day.

Medical, cultural and sub-cultural points of order aside, there is a new trade union to organise, as a couple of posts ago. The imagined course of action is a thrilling call to the barricades followed by a dramatic and acclaimed victory, but I cannot think of a single historical precedent for this. You could argue that Napoleonic France, Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany achieved it in theory, if you overlook the paranoid industrial slaughterhouses that all three became for the entirety of their existence, but I suppose the Peasants’ Revolt is nearer the mark. However, this tends to be remembered for what it was, rather than what it did, which tells you something. In any case, I am suspicious of the word ‘peasants”, as no group of people has ever referred to themselves thus, suggesting that the events are not being told from the perspective of the people in whose name they allegedly took place – which sounds to me like our old friends the middle class fiddling about with the narrative again.

Incidentally, I am aware of how equating my thoughts about conditions for lower grade staff within the NHS with some of the most important events in European history sounds, and also that it is a conversation that, for now, exists only in my inner dialogue. We are all capable of declaring war upon our circumstances and those of our peers, but I am aware that sooner or later you have to be – here we go again – Gavrilo Princip outside a Sarajevo delicatessen with a pistol in your pocket, watching an Austrian Grand Duke rolling towards you in a large car. I imagine that’s the awkward bit, really.


Main: beach at Weybourne, height of the tourist season.

Inset top: Phone which I am supposed to carry at work in case I need to be contacted. I tend not to carry it.

Inset middle: This is not Pheno One, but Q-Artis Three, pretty much the same thing except it doesn’t get used much due to the weight of the machinery pulling the ceiling down.

Inset lower: My scrubs always end up with stuff written all over them by the end of a shift. It’s like the last day of school or something. They are nature’s notebook, as far as I am concerned.

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