On ‘Asylum of the Daleks’

OK, I didn’t want to write this, but dammit – it’s going around my head for the second night in the row, and hopefully by writing it down I’ll be able to get some sleep.

(This is a stream of consciousness first draft as it is now gone midnight and I need to be awake for work in six hours – I make no apologies).

I have a few problems with ‘Asylum of the Daleks’, While I initially tweeted that I shouldn’t worry about such things as it is ultimately a kid’s programme, unfortunately lack of sleep means I am compelled to write this.

(On the argument that Doctor Whio isn’t a kids programme, it is irrelevant to my points – if you want to argue about it you can do so here)

Rather obviously there are big spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the episode, I suggest you stop reading.

The annoying thing is – I was completely swept up in the episode, enjoyed it thoroughly, but it was only when I stopped to think about it I realised that it made very little sense indeed.

Here there be spoilers…

1) Wow, how easy is it to capture the Doctor, I’m surprised the Daleks haven’t done it before.

2) People who are controlled by the Daleks, ok, I like that idea, there is a fair amount of ‘body horror’ in this episode so I’ve no problem with it. But an eyestalk sprouting from their head? Really?

3) Parliament of the Daleks? Wasn’t it an Empire? Were those Daleks elected to represent some bit of space-time? And their leader is a Prime Minister? Next you will be telling me that they have some sort of village fete to raise money for their reelection.

4) So, there were some ‘Nu Daleks’, the brightly coloured ones with the big arses and a whole lot of older fashioned Daleks in that parliament scene. I seem to remember that in the first appearance of the day-glo Daleks exterminating the older Daleks for being ‘impure’. Did they suddenly change their mind when threatened by the parliament with censure and stripping of their expenses budget?

5) The Daleks are too scared to go down to the planet, but why not send the zombie humans instead? And they don’t want to kill the crazy Daleks because they are ‘divine’ in their hatred. But then a bit later they blow up the planet. Reckon the Dalek priests (reserved seats in the Dalek house of Lords?) were a bit pissed off at that.

6) Oswin, the girl who will be the new companion? I didn’t know that she was the new companion, so the ‘shock’ of that completely passed me by. The reason? She looks like a lot of other ‘dark haired beauties’ that populate TV, and despite seeing a picture of her new role I still couldn’t pick her out of a line-up. I fully accept that this is a problem with me and not with her, or her casting. The problem was – not knowing she is to be a new companion, I was fully expecting the big finish of her being essentially a brain in a jar.

7) For a planet full of insane Daleks, they just seemed like regular Daleks who’d let themselves run their batteries a bit flat. None of the Daleks seemed any crazier than the regular ones.

8) Deus ex machine (quite literally in this case) – Well, it makes me grind my teeth. ‘Ah – I shall erase your from their databanks, thereby saving your life’. Erm. OK. Then the crazy Daleks who were about to kill you will instead just decide to wander off because they don’t recognise you. It’s not as if the Daleks have a history of randomly exterminating people.

9) Talking of which… By removing someone from the Daleks database, they all suddenly forgot about him? But it’s not a hive mind? But they are organic creatures driving tanks? Why not reprogram them to take an interesting in flower arranging and sink clearance rather than that whole ‘extermination thing’?

10) Nice bit of unsettling dialogue ‘This is the fourth time we’ve had this conversation’ I really liked that, I liked the dancing Daleks. But then that was that – Amy remembers Rory, remembers why she thew him out of the house, etc, etc. I suppose that this was the bracelet reversing the changes wrought by the nano-machines, but it all seemed a little too pat.

11) OK, the big one – Oswin Dalek proves that she is a human who just happens to be stuck in a Dalek body, She does that by helping the Doctor, by flirting with Rory by damping down the Dalek impulses and ultimately by sacrificing herself for the Doctor and his companions. And the Doctor doesn’t lift a finger to save her. That is what annoyed me the most – the Doctor suddenly choosing to let her die because her body is that of a Dalek. Just didn’t ring right for me.

12) Wasn’t it nice of the Daleks to bring the Tardis with them when they kidnapped the doctor, low loading it onto their spaceship and sticking it in the same room as the Doctor. Jolly sporting I thought.

I think that’s it.

As I said earlier – I enjoyed the episode while I was watching it – which shows it’s real strength, the ability of it to suspend my disbelief. I also liked that it was essentially a ‘body horror’ episode for kids. zombies, and transforming bodies and the denouement of a ‘brain in a jar’. Quite a nice thing to sneak onto TV.

I think it annoys me because it could have been better, they certainly took long enough to write and make it (We are getting all of five episodes this year? Why not take a year off and give us ten? It’ll nearly be a series then). It also annoys me because I’m trying to put together a script myself and I’m going over it with a fine-tooth comb to make sure there are no plot holes, but it looks like I needn’t bother.

OK, sorry – pointless rant over.I shall regret writing this in the morning no doubt, but if it lets me sleep – I won’t be too upset.

Bloody Heroes

I like the police, I like police blogs and I’ve worked with them a lot. They, like the NHS, are being stuffed over by the government – numbers cut, pensions stolen, creeping privatisation. I know that there are a few knobs let’s face it there are knobs in any workforce. As I said to a student nurse this week, ‘It’s easy to be a shit nurse, and you won’t get fired for being a shit nurse, only for being a criminally shit nurse, but do you really want to be a shit nurse?’. the same goes for the police, doctors, teachers and street cleaners.

Sadly a lot of people concentrate on the shit ones. Like a lot of (ex?)bloggers I like to redress the balance occasionally.

I was at work and was asked for some advice – six officers had brought in a patient who, in the grip of their mental illness, had waved a knife around and then, as the police arrived had slashed his own neck. The police officers, without the chance to put on gloves, splash googles, etc, had then rushed him to disarm him and stop him from killing himself. It turns out that the patient had some nasty blood-borne diseases and the officer wanted to know if they were at risk. Especially as one of the other officers had open wounds from a previous arrest.

These men and women had put themselves at considerable risk in order to stop someone killing themselves. Heroes the lot of them – but I doubt they’ll be on the front page of the papers.

But you watch the government attack the police as they prepare to privatise them.

Nothing To Hide (Apparently)

Remember when the government rolls out the fallacy of ‘If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear’? They normally do this when talking about the ability to spy on all our emails and phone calls, install CCTV in our homes and other such privacy busting measures. After all, the argument goes, if we are all open and honest about everything then crime, terrorism and pedophiles will no longer exist.

(I’ll not delve too deeply into that particular fallacy)

Well it seems that they have not taken this motto to their own breast. Instead the government has decided to veto the information commissioners order to reveal the NHS Risk Register.

Let me explain the risk register, because part of the reason the government says it wants to keep this secret is because it is awfully complicated and it is unlike us mere members of the public could ever understand it.

The NHS risk register is how to measure the risk of something bad happening due to to governments changes. It does this by measuring two things – how likely something is to happen and how bad it would be if that something did happen. It measures both of these elements on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the worst.

So for example – rating the likelihood of something bad happening, you would give ‘Being hit by a meteorite’ a 1 because it is incredibly unlikely. You would give ‘Being hit by a bus’ a 2 because it is more likely (though not common), and you would give ‘catch a cold’ a 5 because it is really quite likely.

Then you rate the impact that a bad thing would have, again on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the worst. So ‘Being hit by a meteorite’ would be a 5 because it’s likely to kill you stone dead. ‘Being hit by a bus’ is probably a 4, it’s likely to do some lasting damage to you. ‘Catching a cold’ would be a 1 because it’s unlikely to do very much harm to you.

You then multiply these two numbers together to get the relative risk. So ‘being hit by a meteorite’ would be a 5 (1×5) because while it is really nasty it’s unlikely to happen. ‘Being hit by a bus’ would be a 8 (4×2) and ‘Catching a cold’ would be a 5 (1×5) because although it is likely in the wet and cold climate of the UK the actual harm is quite small.

These numbers are actually based on science, previous evidence and clever predictions- unlike what i have just done these numbers are not just plucked out of thin air. It’s a good way of managing and mitigating the harm of the risks involved in any activity.

That is the risk register in a nutshell. It’s the equivalent of buying a car after kicking the tyres and checking that it’s not two cars welded into one.

As the NHS reform bill went through the various stages of being voted on by the commons and the lords, a number of people who were to vote on it asked if they might actually look at the risk register – kick the tyres as it were. At each request the government refused. Why would the people voting for this legislation need to see if this car is a ringer? Don’t you trust the government? You must be some sort of Trotsky.

At one point in the lords, they actually voted against seeing the risk register. I believe this is the lord’s version of sticking their fingers in their ears and humming loudly.

The information commission, after a freedom of information request, ruled that the government should publish the risk register, the government then went to a number of different courts in an effort to not do this. However, none of the courts agreed with the government because, well, they aren’t idiots.

Yesterday the government invoked the nuclear option – a veto for ‘exceptional circumstances’. Stating that the reason for this veto was because ‘otherwise the civil service might tell lies if they realise that the plebs might look at their working out’.

Essentially the government is admitting that the risk register is full of 4×4 and 5×5 risks and that if the public were to see this then they might start questioning if the NHS reform bill was actually worth the risk. Why else would you work so harm to hide something if it’s contents were not explosive to your governing of the UK?

In the Queens speech today one plan was for ‘businesses to have less inspection’. Ostensibly so that they can get on with the business of making profit rather than, I dunno, being in compliance with the law. I suspect that this will apply to all those private companies taking over parts of the NHS – After all, actually inspecting them might show that the companies involved may not have their patient’s best interests at heart. And that would be damaging to the government.

I would be willing to put money on the risk register containing a 4×4 risk of ‘Private healthcare companies break the law and provide sub-standard service’…


This blogpost was written while listening to Rob Dougan ‘Furious Angels’


Without Meaning

I’m having trouble saying who I am at present.

It was easy when I worked on the ambulances – I was ‘ambulance worker’, the job defined me completely. The shift work made me sleep at weird hours and be grumpy when I was awake. I walked around other people’s homes as if they belonged to me and I raced along the road on blue lights. I was part of a clique of people who had seen things and done things that most people never even think about, the camaraderie and the in jokes, the swearing, the ‘us vs. them’ attitude. My job defined who I was.

Then I left the ambulance service (just in time, as my crumbling back gave me numb legs and I couldn’t see myself carrying 20st patients any more) and I became a nurse practitioner. There is something about being a nurse practitioner that just doesn’t give me meaning like when I was working on an ambulance. Is it because it is less stressful? Is it because the camaraderie is not as strong? Is it because, instead of saving lives and delivering babies, I’m now telling people how to deal with sore throats and runny noses?

I’m no longer described and defined by my job. ‘Ambulance worker’ was my super hero identity, ‘Nurse practitioner’ is just a job. When I’m not at work I’m not ‘off duty’ any more – I’m just not at work. Working on the ambulances defined me but being a nurse doesn’t seem to fulfil that same role.

I’m not sure that this is a bad thing, but I think it is something that has been worrying away at the back of my mind for a while. I’m wondering if it’s come to the front of my mind because my old blog Random Acts Of Reality has finally been deleted from the internet (due to Blogware shutting down). I have the whole site in a vaguely unusable export format – but something that was such a large part of my life has now gone, and I’ve nothing new to replace it with.

Maybe I need to find something…

Two Things

I write this on the first day of the end of the NHS which comes despite the cries of pretty much every professional health-care body, a public petition that passed the ‘will be discussed in parliament’ (and then wasn’t), legal challenges to let us poor dumb voters know that a proper risk assessment was actually done and a general feeling that we are being screwed over.

I can list the ways in which the public of England have been screwed over, at some point in the future I’ll start talking about how we in Newham are already feeling the effects of the changes – and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that it’s not leading to better patient care.

While I am angry that all this is being done in the cause of ideology, and that the Liberal Democrats are playing the part of a puppy rolling over hoping for it’s belly to be scratched by Cameron, examining my feelings it is something else that is raising my blood pressure.

No, it’s frustration. It’s the feeling that no matter what we do, no matter how much we shout, no matter how many petitions, no matter how many MPs we write to that nothing will change. The government has it’s fingers in their ears shouting ‘Lalala – we can’t hear you’.

It’s the fact that the media would rather cover sports than the fate of the NHS. Take for example the recent peaceful protest where armed and riot police were in attendance kettling protestors. There was little to no coverage in the mainstream media about it.

This is the root of my anger – that there seems to be no way of fighting back against these unwanted changes.

I wish I were an organiser, I wish I have the knowledge and the skill to muster a group of people to help fight this. Instead I have two ideas – but no skill to make them happen.

First – the Risk register that the government is trying to hide should be published – and if this means a brave soul who has the register manages to leak it then so be it. Let it into the public domain so that it might be looked at fully by everyone – only then will I not believe that this whole act is driven by ideology.

Secondly – For every MP that voted for this bill I would have a group of smart and motivated people look into that person’s conduct. Expose every dodgy deal, all the MPs who have a stake in private medical companies, every campaign contribution. Not doing anything illegal – but showing every bit of corruption until finally it reaches a critical mass and there is no option but for that MP to resign (or be fired)*.

I’m one of those horribly idealistic people who thinks that if enough people see the truth then the world can change.

Stupid, I know, but it might be worth a try.

*And once we’ve done it to those who voted for the bill, we can do it to every other MP – might keep them a bit more honest…

The $8 Billion iPad

This is largely a testing post because I’m feeling the itch to start blogging again. Partly because of my experiences in Urgent Care, but also because every day I wake up and the government seems to have found a new way to make me angry.

Let’s see if this anger continues for long enough to get me blogging again…

This video is well worth five minutes of your life.

Soundtrack Listing – Episode 6

OK folks, here is the soundtrack listing to the final episode of Sirens along with the usual Spotify link to the track of the artists who have a presence there.

(There was a piece, cut from the draft where, during the party, a gang of firemen talk about removing part of a radiator with power tools in order to help make the melon bong. I am quite sad that got cut).

Also – I don’t cry.  Partly because my ‘father’ story is much funnier.

Les Carnaval Des Animaux - Slovak RSO
Surf Hell - Little Barrie
The Greeks - Is Tropical
Fireworks - The Whitest Boy Alive
Until Then - OrcasI Think I Like U 2 - Jamaica
Microlite - Trophy Wife
The Sound Of Sunshine - Michael Franti
I Need A Dollar - Aloe Blacc
Come To The Bar - Pete and the Pirates
Super Duper - Deerhoof
Tighten up - The Black Keys
Crushing Limbs - Anni Rossi
Bakerman - Laid Back
The Look - Metronomy
Wild Thing - Tone Loc
I Think I Like It - Fake Blood
Gas - Star Slinger
In The Summer - Crystal Fighters
Like A G6 - Far East Movement
Brow Beaten - Silver Columns
Bumpkin - Star Slinger
Pearl High - The Bar Kays
Right On - The Roots
Claire - Baxter Dury
OK - The Beastie Boys
The Burial - Justine Barker
We Are Your Friends - Justice Vs Simian
Avril 14th - Aphex Twin
Peace Begins Within - Nora Dean
Wonders of the Deep - The Chemical Brothers
Hullaballabalu - Mum
Ice Cream - The Battles

The End Of Sirens (Hopefully Of Just Series One)

So, that’s over.

First off – I have no idea if there is going to be a second series. Certainly I’ve got my fingers crossed that there will be a second series. Once I know you’ll know because you will probably hear me dancing (badly) around my flat again.

For those that don’t know – I wrote ‘Blood, Sweat and Tea’ which was the book that Sirens is based on (And has been republished with the sequels as ‘Sirens’). The book was based on my old blog ‘Random Acts Of Reality’ which was about my previous job as an EMT for the London Ambulance Service.

(All books available from Amazon and physical bookshops – ahem).

So – did you enjoy it? I know I did and I think for most of the people who liked it it was a grower.

The purpose of this post is so that folk can ask me questions on the series as a whole, my information is limited, but if you want to leave a question in the comments I’ll answer as much as I can in a couple of days time.

Raised Expectations

There is a simple rule on the internet – and that is you do not feed the Trolls. Trolls being the people who write something in order to start an argument. You know, the sort of people who say that Hitler was an alright sort of bloke in a holocaust support forum.

But… but… The article in the Daily Mail yesterday by ‘Liz Jones – professional troll’ was beyond the pale. It was truly epic in the way it combined unreasonably high expectations, a complete misunderstanding of the NHS, a lack of medical knowledge and inflated sense of self worth.

I’m not going to link to the original story because I don’t want to send visitors to the rag that is the Daily Mail.

Here is the thing – I often deal with unreasonable expectations from the patients that I see, often these expectations are because the patient doesn’t understand what an urgent care centre can provide – and yet with all the people I see who have these expectations, none have pissed me off as much as this article from a fashion writer. Largely because once I explain that the Urgent Care Centre can’t order them an MRI scan they seem to understand a lot better than this supposedly highly educated columnist.

I don’t scrape and scrabble at the coal face of the NHS very often. I was born, I suppose.

Congratulations on not having a long term medical condition.

I have a private GP, gynaecol­ogist, two therapists and a dentist, who charges £900 for a root-canal filling. I don’t drink, smoke or overeat. I don’t have children. I exercise every single day. I’ve been a vegetarian since the age of 11.

And the reason for all this private stuff is…? So you don’t have to mix with the proles? So the GP surgery has nice pictures on the walls? No – I’m sure that the reason you are private is so that you do not place a strain on the NHS. And two therapists?

Let us just say that, so far, I have not been a burden. But, on Friday morning, I found I needed the NHS for the first time in about 20 years, and it let me down. Very badly.

You needed the NHS? I hope you are alright – did you fall off your bike breaking your arm? Heart attack? Stroke?

I am catching a flight to the Horn of Africa tomorrow, to cover the famine in Somalia. In order to obtain a visa, I am required to be inoculated against hepatitis A and B, yellow fever, typhoid, diphtheria, tetanus, polio and so on. On Thursday, I called my GP, a private GP, in London’s Sloane Street.

Oh. Immunisations on a short notice.

‘Yes, Miss Jones, come in any time.’ And so I did. But my doctor could only give me the ‘live’ vaccine, yellow fever; the other jabs would have to be done the following day. The next morning, back home in Somerset, I called my local GP or ‘health centre’.

So the GP you pay lots of money for could only give you one set of injections – I assume that they explained why. And why is ‘health centre’ in quotes? Is it because you work for a ‘paper’.

‘Hello!’ I said cheerily. ‘I am not registered with you, but I live two miles away. I wonder if you could possibly squeeze me in today to complete my jabs for travelling to Africa, and fill in my malaria prescription, as I need to start taking the tablets on Sunday.’

‘Hello, you don’t know me from Adam – normally one pays for these things, so I was wondering if you could see me without doing any of those oh-so tiresome health checks that you have to do when you register with a GP, and then ignore any appointment system you have so I can jump the queue of people with chronic conditions that can’t pay for a private GP. Because – you know – it’s important to me, and so should be important for you’.

‘You are not registered?!’ the woman said, clearly appalled I had made her pick up the phone. ‘We can’t see you then. And we can’t fill out a prescription that hasn’t been written up by us.’

‘But I will pay for the jabs, it only takes a couple of minutes.’

Appalling – Tell you what – why don’t I phone you up and ask you to discuss this story more fully – I don’t need an appointment do I? I’m sure you can put off someone else in order to talk to me. I’ll give you a fiver.

‘But the nurse is fully booked. She can’t do it. I don’t even know if we have the drugs.’

‘Can you find out?’

‘Well, no. I’d have to ask her. And she can’t fit you in.’

Oh goodness – loads of people who can’t afford to go private need medical care – how dare they, can’t they all just die.

‘But this is an emergency. I have never bothered you before in the three years I have lived here. Not with a snotty-nosed kid, not with depression, nothing. Never!’

Yes. an ’emergency’. It’s an emergency because you need some vaccinations that you doubtless had plenty of time to get.

Here is a hint.

A heart attack is an emergency. A stroke is an emergency. Being stabbed is an emergency. Needing vaccinations is not a bloody emergency.

I also find your linking together of ‘snotty nosed kid’ and ‘depression’ a red flag that you know very little about health at all.

‘But we don’t have your notes.’

‘You don’t need my notes. Lots of people go to walk-in centres. You could telephone my doctor if you’re worried about anything.’

I work in a walk in centre – we don’t give vaccinations because (a) we are not funded to do so, so we don’t have the drugs and, (b) we don’t have your medical notes which are, despite what you think, rather important.

‘I don’t have time to do that. Why don’t you go to A&E if it’s an emergency?’

‘I’m sure they wouldn’t classify a routine jab as an emergency. I mean, it’s a global crisis. Millions of people are dying and you won’t put yourself out to allow me to be seen by a nurse, not even a doctor, for five minutes?’


Hold up – I thought you said it was an emergency? And yes, the famine is a global crisis, which is why you need to fly out and cover it with opinion pieces like this? Something starting out with not getting a business class seat on the way out there I suppose.

Here is a hint – you are a journalist, not an aid worker, not with Médecins Sans Frontières. You aren’t going to be saving lives by getting out there immediately. This. Is. Not. An. Emergency.

Last week, the boss of the care company Castlebeck, whose Winterbourne View care home in Bristol was exposed by Panorama for practising routine abuse, used the defence that the home was understaffed, and that the employees needed more training.

Of course that is part of the problem, but it doesn’t explain all of it. I don’t need to be trained to know that it is wrong to slap someone, or ridicule them, or pin them down, or deny them privacy and respect. That is called being a human being. You should not need to be trained to do that.

I always wonder why people who don’t like people go into the caring professions. The problems in the health service and in privately-run homes are not always to do with money. Attitude is often the issue.

So now you confuse criminal abuse with you not being able to jump a queue with a surgery you have not seen fit to register with for a complete non-emergency.

That’s like saying every journalist is guilty of phone-hacking. So – Grrrr. Liz Jones – I hate you because you hacked the phone of Milly Dowler’s relatives.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said last week that NHS managers were abusing the system, forcing patients to wait so they either die or go private. The report, by the Co-operation and Competition Panel, said that one trust was insisting patients wait at least 15 weeks for treatment.

Such a time frame is within the 18-week target, but many hospitals can deal with patients more quickly than that. Everyone has become very ‘jobsworth’, doing only the minimum that is required.

I’d say that there is no actual proof of this as yet – and yet you ignore the way that the Co-operation and Competition Panel are rather close to lobby groups for privatised healthcare.

But when you challenge them on their attitude, as I did when I called the ‘health centre’ and spoke to the receptionist, or manager, or whatever she calls herself, they are shocked at your temerity.

Again the ‘journalist’ puts Health Centre in quotes.

How would you like it if you were queuing and someone jumped in front of the line? There you go – that’s why you have receptionists – to stop bossy, over-entitled ‘journalists’ thinking that they are so much more important than anyone else.

They are too used to being bossy. They call the shots, not you, the patient – or at least potential patient. What would it have cost this woman on Friday morning to have said: ‘Sod the protocol – everyone needs to know about this famine, Miss Jones, so I am going to speak to the GP and see what we can do.’

What would it have cost to send a ‘journalist’ to the famine? It would have cost the appointment slot of someone coming in to have their asthma monitored, a chronic leg ulcer dressing being changed, a diabetes check or a renewal of a contraceptive implant.

And the world knows about the famine, because people like the BBC have journalists there. Not ‘journalists’ like you.

Have a serious think and ask yourself – what are you going to add to the reporting? All you are going to add to is the burden of people having to support you while you are out there – unless you are going to carry all the food and water you expect to eat while you are there in your Gucci hand luggage.

But no. People no longer talk in such a way. They follow the rules. They never put themselves out. They never look at the bigger picture.

Madame – you are a douche of the highest order.

And a Troll.

(Article reproduced fully for criticism)

What Random Acts of Reality turned into