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JUST LIKE IT IS: QEH not bad at all


Peter Simmons

JUST LIKE IT IS: QEH not bad at all

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It’s good to be back in this space after my enforced absence during November with thanks for your best wishes. My late parents had a mantra naming the female of the canine species in a way which captured graphically the vagaries and disabilities of old age.
Having just passed the biblical age accepted as that allocated for life on this planet, I am feeling the full weight of their mantra. I spent most of November bedridden, five days as a patient of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
Having heard and read so much negative through the years about that institution heightened the fear and trepidation of hospitalization for the first time. My misgivings turned out to be totally misplaced, confirming that there is nothing as revealing as the reality of personal experience.
During my hospital stay I was the recipient of consistently excellent care and attention which contributed to my speedy improvement. I was amused while waiting for an ultrasound to hear a joking doctor warn his colleagues to make sure I got the best attention or get written up here.
My only complaint was the 4:45 a.m. knock on my door signalling the arrival of the nurse to sponge me. Though I am a habitual early riser, the application of water to the body so early was a bit of a shock which took some time to overcome. That apart, others may say what they want. This patient gives the QEH an A.
The most debilitating feature of my hospitalization was watching the United States presidential election from a hospital bed, unable to celebrate Barack Obama’s victory with the usual rum and coconut water toast. But I am a patient who slavishly follows doctors’ instructions.
Obama’s trouncing of Mitt Romney was only one of a plethora of global events which coincided with my indisposition. I missed seeing the faces and hearing the lame lamentations of Sean Hannity, John Sununu, Karl Rove and that despicable, pompous political know-all Dick Morris who predicted an overwhelming Romney victory. Watching their nightly belly-aching over the next four years with an Afro-American president again will be must-watch TV. But the people have spoken and the voice of the people is the voice of God. They will get crevices in their faces lamenting everything Obama does.
The major problem now is the country going over the fiscal cliff. The gravity of the time demands compromise and cooperation in the national interest.
Obama won not because the country has changed. Demographics played a major role. Women, more urbanized, younger people, Hispanics and 93 per cent African Americans played a large role supplanting the older, white, male country folk for so long the Republican electoral backbone.
Tea Party fodder has had its day. Republicans must move to the political centre like Democrats did under Clinton if they hope to win the White House.
Across the pond, in Britain the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), my long-standing example of what a credible, balanced, true public service media house should be, forced out the director-general after only 55 days on the job. Nationally accused of having “no natural curiosity”, he was humiliated by the station’s top radio interviewer.
Following on the heels of the Jimmy Savile exposure of rampant, disgusting sexual behaviour with disadvantaged youths, the BBC’s chief executive officer publicly displayed he was out of his depth and out of touch with major issues troubling the entire country. His standards when the beleaguered media is tasked with improvement hit rock bottom. The door was his only choice.  
Back across the pond, head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), General David Petraeus, also saw the door as his only choice after exposure of an extra-marital affair with a lady writing his biography. He is 60, she’s 39.
The most fascinating aspect of the affair is that the whistle on the affair was blown by the CIA’s rival agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was looking into a possible security breach involving the general’s emails.
So far there is no suggestion of any criminal wrongdoing, just his admission that “he showed extremely poor judgment engaging in an affair”. The much admired four-star general led United States troops in super hotspots Iraq and Afghanistan. He is still subject to the Uniform Code of Military Conduct which ranks adultery as a crime.
Is it surprising that the general, after finding himself separated from his wife of 37 years for long periods and working under the most dangerous conditions imaginable, showed “poor judgment” turning to the young, attractive researcher for companionship? In a dangerous environment where even those considered allies carry out assassinations, is it surprising that she stuck so close to him?
What was most interesting was that news of the affair only became public after the presidential election. That is a compelling story in itself.
• Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat.

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