Thursday, August 20, 2009

Setting the Record Straight about Health Care

I have lived in the USA and in England (and in Australia too). I am 73, I have a lot of experience and I know what I’m talking about. So this is a message to the US Congress and the people of America about health care.

Our British health care system isn't perfect, but we would never trade it for the one in the US.
Yet conservative US politicians and greedy insurance companies are pushing lies about our National Health Service as a way to scare the American public off universal health care - risking Obama's whole movement for change and threatening his majority in Congress.

Please ignore the lies about health systems in our country and others that are being pushed by US healthcare companies. Our national system of public healthcare works very well and enjoys extremely high levels of public support. Yes, there is room for improvement. Sure, for some non-urgent procedures there are waiting lists. But our system ensures that treatment is available for every man, woman and child in this entire country, and that nobody ever gets turned away when they need medical help. Anyone over 60 gets medication free of charge. We have reciprocal agreements with the rest of Europe so that we don’t have to fear falling ill on vacation on the European mainland. We even have a phone-in line for instant medical advice which is free and available to everyone.

We wish you a healthy and honest debate about healthcare in the US. And I for one am crossing my fingers that you will one day soon have the kind of universal health care that we, over here, have long since taken for granted.

(And for my UK compatriots – please click on the title of this post to sign the AVAAZ petition, if you haven’t already. We must refute the lies that are being told to our brothers and sisters across the pond by greedy insurance companies.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Life in the Slow Lane

I love the concept of ‘slow travel’ and I’ve written about it myself. We don't run a car, so most of the travel we do in an ordinary week certainly is slow. Sitting for an hour on our little bus as it lumbers all around the winding country lanes to get to town (which often involves backing up for tractors) is certainly not a speedy way to get around. But with a bare two hours to do a whole week’s worth of shopping plus choose library books, the whole outing sometimes feels just a little rushed.

I love the concept of ‘slow food’ too. Everything I eat is slow food, I suppose, since we don’t have a microwave, never go into fast food outlets, never buy ready-made meals. Then again, how long does it take to steam a bunch of broccoli or kale? How long does it take to boil an egg? Or to pick salad from the garden, wash it, pat it dry and put it in a bowl with some cold-pressed virgin olive oil, some balsamic vinegar and some seasonings? How many minutes does it take me to pull a carrot, scrub it, slice it into strips and spoon out a little dish of tahini to dip the strips in? I can have my sort of meal on the table in under ten minutes. I do eat slowly though. So maybe it is slow food after all.

Since retirement – which is sixteen years ago now – my time has been my own. With no employer to answer to and nobody else’s agenda to follow, I am now living in the slow lane at last. What bliss! I can have lovely, lazy mornings, deliciously unhurried afternoons, slow, quiet evenings. I can spend the day however I like.

So in retirement, I do all the things I enjoy. I take long walks every morning – walking as fast as I can, of course, in order to get my aerobic exercise. I have always loved to read, so now I read six or seven library books every week as well as the books I’ve been sent for reviewing. I love to connect with friends and relations and acquaintances all over the world and now, in retirement, I have time to do that, so I have dozens of emails per day and I’m on eight social networks. And since I no longer have to earn my living and I can do whatever I want to do with my day, I have a zillion projects on the go at any one time because there are so many things I love to do and so many fascinating things to get involved in and I am totally in love with my life By bedtime, I am usually exhausted.

Mind you, it is a happy, contented sort of exhaustion. The sort of exhaustion you get after a day of slow travel and slow food in the slow lane.