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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

NO SOONER had Tony Blair been re-elected than my neighbour got a letter from the hospital saying they were ready to do something about his verruca.

I didn't know people still got verrucas, actually. I thought they were something you used to get in your foot when you were little if you stood on the wooden duckboards at the swimming baths.

Anyway, Victor's has been troubling him throughout the life of New Labour and all those promises about reforming the health service have been on his mind. And his foot. It had crossed my mind to wonder why he was hobbling about, but he didn't seem to want to talk about it.

So I asked him about the election instead. "The trouble with politicians," he started, and just then the postman came up the path.

It was the morning of the long brown envelope and there was Victor's appointment card to see the foot doctor next month about his wart.

"I only voted last night," he tailed off and limped indoors.

I couldn't help but notice that all the politicians who had been up all night still didn't look as though they'd had a drink the morning after. Tony Blair looked fresh as a red rose as he popped to see the Queen for a cup of tea. People were swigging champagne all around Charles Kennedy and he seemed completely sober. William Haig's hands were steady as a rock bun as he read his resignation letter.

If I'd been them I'd have found an excuse for a drink.

The trouble with the English…Wow, that's a bit like starting a sentence with "Never since the death of Jesus Christ"…

No, the trouble with the English is that they are descended from what was once a great nation, controlling half the world, and they still think they are special.

So, like Victor, they expect their verrucas to be dealt with straight away, as befits someone who inherited an Empire.

You wouldn't expect there to be a world-class hospital on Ibiza, would you?

I mean one where they could do transplants or separate Siamese twins.

Ibicencans know their place in the hospital pecking order. My neighbour up a mountain outside San Jose went to Barcelona when he needed something serious for his heart.

But in England we expect the hospital to be within a couple of miles and just waiting for our gammy foot.

What we want are hospitals that operate like McDonald's. Always open, always comforting and always the same.

There's one now at the Ibiza-Figueretas roundabout and I bet they're doing the same portion-controlled boxes of chips as the one in Wigan.

I went there last week and they were doing banana and mango milkshakes, lamb rogan josh in naan bread and vegetable samosas and it still tasted exactly like the regular burgers and fries.

Vegetable samosas from McDonalds! What is Tony Blair's brave new world coming to?

I worry about him. He must know he's never going to make everyone happy about anything to do with hospitals.

And McDonald's must know that people don't want these new fangled fry-ups.

I think he should get out of Number 10 as soon as possible. Only one out of four people here have voted for him and he needs to distance himself from all those promises within a couple of years at the most.

And I'm not convinced he had anything to do with Victor's verruca.

Sinclair Newton