The Shrinking NHS

It doesn’t feel like the NHS is getting smaller.      We are always being told by our politicians that there are more doctors and nurses than ever.    This doesn’t seem to fit with the stories always coming out of the health service about the unrelenting pressures on them.  Nor does it square with the endless queues in A&E or the over filled beds.    And the bill for the NHS goes up and up.

Strange then that in my recent blogs I have been writing about how pills are being struck off the list of things GP’s can proscribe.   Then there is hearing loss, or more accurately the withdrawal of hearing aids in the NHS.     Oh and eyesight is looked at, but you still have to get and pay for your own glasses.    I must not forget dentistry, although the NHS has done that years ago.

Ever lengthening waiting lists are a key tactic to continue this process and reduce demand.  How do you know you need an operation if you can’t get seen in the first place to get a diagnosis?   Closing the front door and leaving potential patients out side in the cold is certainly one way of pretending there is not a problem.

The NHS England grand strategic plan for all this is to employ more managers to explain why they are able to do less and less.

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Pill Rationing

I seem to be addicted to writing about pills and it is obviously catching. Because as fast as I write about it more and more articles appear in the media on the same topic.  (You can read all my earlier posts by click on “Pills” in the Tag Cloud)

So the NHS is finally putting its foot down.    There will be less pills from now on,    At least on prescription.   You will be encouraged —- no —- told to go buy them yourself from the local chemist.

In future you will no longer be able to get pill for all ills from your GP. Take your itches and aches to the pharmacist first and they will certainly sell you something.   It is just a matter of time before they start doing over the counter or even on the counter heart transplants.

“I was sorry to hold up all the other customers for so long” said MILLY, “I only came in to get something to perk me up.  I didn’t expect to end up on the operating counter”

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Absorbed in a book,

I could not look.

Too see the world was older.


Wrapped from the cold,

I did not feel.

The climate was changing.


If we are

too  careful.

Fear keeps us living

in our own bubble


Saga of Europcar Hire

In the middle of December 2017, we had snow in Kilsby.  Two days later, the snow had almost disappeared but there was still lots of ice on the roads in the village.  And that’s how this saga begins.

My car was parked outside on the road, as it always is, and just as I’m sitting down to wrap some Christmas presents, there comes a knock on the door.  It’s a nice young lady with a Christmas jumper and a bobble hat and she says – “Is that your car on the road?  I’m afraid I’ve just bumped into it.”

We both went out to inspect the damage and it was clear that she slid on the ice and the driver’s side headlight of her car had smashed into the driver’s side fog light of my car.  On both cars, the lights were broken and panels and bumpers on both cars were damaged.  The good news was the lady wasn’t injured and the damage wasn’t too extensive.

I hadn’t had an accident for years so I wasn’t totally sure what the procedure was but we swapped names and addresses and she told me the name of her insurance company.  She was keen to get to a meeting and so departed quite quickly after that.

That’s when this long tale really begins.  I rang my insurance company – SAGA – and spoke to a very nice man called Matt.  Matt told me our conversation would be recorded to make sure they captured everything.  He asked me to give him my address, my post code and my date of birth, from which he was able to confirm that I was who I was.  I recounted the story of what had happened and he  asked me to describe the lady, describe her car, describe the damage and confirm her conversation with me.  Matt then suggested that it wasn’t my fault.  Which is hardly surprising since I wasn’t in the car at the time.  Matt said this would mean that I didn’t lose my no claims bonus nor would I have to pay any excess charges. This conversation lasted for about half an hour.

Matt then passed me on to a colleague called Connor – another very nice man.  Connor works for SAGA Car Repair Company.  Connor told me that our telephone conversation would be recorded to make sure they captured everything.  He asked me to give him my address, my post code and my date of birth, from which he was able to confirm that I was who I was.  I recounted the story of what had happened and he  asked me to describe the lady, describe her car, describe the damage and confirm her conversation with me.  Connor then confirmed that it didn’t seem that the accident was my fault and that they should be able to claim all the cost from the lady’s insurance.  This would also mean that I didn’t lose my no claims bonus nor would I have to pay any excess charges.  Connor then said he would arrange for Rugby Car Care to collect and repair my car and that also he would ask Europcar to deliver me a hire car until my car repair was complete.  This conversation lasted for about another half an hour.

Within minutes, a very nice man from Rugby Car Care, who gave me his name but I didn’t catch it, rang and arranged to pick up my car.  They said because of the Christmas period it might take more time than usual to complete the repair.

At exactly the same time as Rugby Car Care came to collect my car, the phone rang and it was a very nice man from Europcar, who confirmed they would deliver me an Audi 4+4 the same day at 4pm.  So far, so good.  You couldn’t fault this excellent and expeditious service.  Later on that day, while I was in the middle of my lunch, a very nice man called Owen from Europcar, rang to say that they didn’t have an Audi 4+4 but they could deliver me a top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE, although it wouldn’t be available until 10am the following day.  Wanting to finish my lunch, I said “fine”.

Overnight, I thought about it and thought that it didn’t sound right.  A top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE was hardly equivalent to my 9-year old Freelander.  And the nice lady that bumped into me, didn’t deserve to be stung with a very expensive car hire.  So I decided to ring Europcar and change the car.

That’s where the slippery slope of Europcar begins in earnest.  The first problem was that I didn’t have a phone number for Owen at Europcar.  The second problem was that the car was due to be delivered at 10am and it was already 7am when I decided to cancel the top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE.  So I went on Europcar’s website and found their 24-hour helpline.  I rang them and spoke to a very nice man called Nicky and explained the problem.  He asked me for my Europcar reference number, but I didn’t have one.  He then asked me for my name and address, so that he could check on his system, but sadly no top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE due to be delivered to Kilsby at 10am seemed to be on his system.  Oops!  So then Nicky suggested I ring my local Europcar in Rugby and gave me their number.  Although he told me they don’t open until 8.30am.

At 8.30 I rang Europcar Rugby and spoke to a very nice lady, with no name that I could catch and having shared with her the same story, she confirmed that they didn’t hire out top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE’s and that would probably be Bristol Street Motors in Birmingham.  I asked her if she could ring them and cancel my shortly, due to be delivered, top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE.  She helpfully agreed to do this and said she would ring me back.  An hour later, I was getting anxious that the top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE would be appearing on my doorstop at any time.  So I rang Europcar Rugby again.  The nice lady explained that she had cancelled the car and didn’t ring me because Bristol Street were going to do that.  But they didn’t!

At the beginning of the following week, a very nice man called Henry from SAGA Car Repair called when I was out.  He spoke to my wife, Mo, but he wasn’t able to talk to her because she wasn’t on their system.  Apparently, according to SAGA, I am married to Morag Graham, who lives in Scotland!  This came as quite a shock to Mo.  It took a few more days and a lot of Christmas presents to get over that little SAGA bump in the road.  Maybe Morag is a contact on the SAGA dating service that I have yet to meet.

Once my marital problems were healed, Henry became quite a good friend after that and we spoke regularly over the Christmas period.

A few days later Henry calls from SAGA to confirm by car repair had been approved but they may not get parts until after Christmas.  That’s when I told him about Europcar and the top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE which I had cancelled.  He said he would follow it up with Europcar and confirm they have a car booked out to me on Friday 22nd December.  This was news to me as I had no phone call from the very nice man, Owen, from Europcar.

No doubt after Henry’s call to Europcar, Owen rang to confirm they will deliver a car on the 22nd at 10am.  A top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE.  I explained to him that I thought it was too expensive but he explained that it wouldn’t cost me anything.  Unusual that, I’m sure there aren’t many free, top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE’s around but Europcar seemed to have one and who could refuse a freebie!  Someone must pay somewhere, presumably everyone pays in higher insurance premiums.

I slept on it again and was still not happy.  It offends my integrity to take a car which is much more valuable than the once it is replacing.  Also I feel I am being hassled to have something I don’t want.  So I decided to put my foot down.  The cost didn’t seem to matter to anyone because it is on the other person’s insurance.  ONCE AGAIN, I CANCEL THE TOP OF THE RANGE, “IT WON’T COST YOU ANYTHING”, BRAND NEW JAGUAR XE.  I decided to wait until after Christmas.

Finally, in the first week in January, Henry rings to say my car will be returned on Friday and don’t forget to return the hire car within 24 hours.     I remind him about the top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE story and say that I haven’t yet got a hire car.   A day early, on Thursday, Rugby Car Care ring to say my car is about to be delivered and don’t forget to have the £300 excess ready to pay.   I explain that there is no excess to pay but they assure me there is.    I contact Henry again and he confirms there is no excess and he will email the repairers and tell them “Oh and don’t forget to return the hire car”.

Before I have hardly had time to get dressed, my car is returned.   All fixed, dents all gone, lights all working, freshly valetted and no excessive demands.   Excellent service from Rugby Car Care !

Later that day Henry rings to check I have my car back and that everything is OK.    I confirm that it is, he is pleased for me and mentions that I must not forget to return the hire car.  I think Henry has hire cars on the brain, but to be fair I am probably not his only customer and he may have forgotten.    I repeat for the umpteenth time the story about the top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE that I never wanted and never had.   “Oh!” says Henry, “if you didn’t have a hire car you have to pay the £300 excess”.

What?  How does that work?  I save you money and have to pay you more!    After a few more reminders about the all singing all dancing top of the range “it won’t cost you anything” brand new Jaguar XE, Henry talks to his boss and they agree there will be no excess in this instance.

At last the SAGA is over !

SAGA were great, I have made lots of new friends there and their service was helpful and efficient throughout this process, aside from nearly getting me divorced.

Rugby Car Care did an excellent job and my car looks as good as new and is cleaner than it’s ever been.

EUROPCAR, however, get no medals from me, they are probably the reason insurance claims are so high.  I’ll only ever use them should I want to hire a top of the range, “it won’t cost you anything”, brand new Jaguar XE!


Plastic Fantastic !

At last I can see my blog is beginning to have a global impact.   I am talking about all my rants about excessive packaging.    (You can see my earlier blogs by clicking on Packaging in the Tag Cloud)  Also after the last bungled election the LLLP has arranged several anti-packaging demonstrations outside parliament.

Headlines in the press this week confirm the influence we are having, although I must say, I am sad to see there is no acknowledgement of my GrumbleSmiles contribution to raising the profile of this important issue.   There is little doubt that Prime Minister Maynot has gained a lot from having the Last Laugh Looney Party  in her Cabinet, judging by the freaky ideas she is now coming up with.

Here are some of the recent front page headlines :-

Daily Mail  ———   “May: I’ll end the plastic scourge”

The Times  ——  “May wants plastic-free aisles put into supermarkets.”

Apparently Prime Minister Maynot has been shocked and horrified by all the needless plastic.    I do hope she is not losing sleep over it.  Especially  when Brexit negotiations are still on going and of course she has the man in North Korea and his missiles to think about.    But at least we will be plastic-free before we exit-Brexit and the missiles land.

Here are some of the most earth shattering ideas included in the 25 year plan (25 years is just long enough to ensure nobody can be held accountable , if the ideas don’t work) :-

  • Plastic-aisles in supermarkets.  Presumably only the plastic will be free and you will still have to pay for the goods. Oh and don’t forget to bring a bottle if you want more fairy liquid😋
  • The 5p carrier bag charge.   Will be doubled every year a so that by 2023 a bag will cost you £1.60, by 2028 for every extra plastic bag you will have to pay £54.40.   By 2043 a bag will cost about a £zillion although sadly Mrs Maynot may not be around by then.
  • Plastic cutlery and cups.    These will be phased out in Whitehall.  Apparently the civil servants in the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs drank  2.5 million cups in the last 5 years.  I wondered what they were doing all day?  And why do we need a Department of Rural Affairs?   Surely it’s none of their business what farmers do behind closed doors !
  • Wildlife site visits.  £10million will be spent to send children to see the countryside.    I am not sure what it has to do with plastic but it is a lot better than learning boring things like maths and science.
  • Finally the £13billion foreign aid budget is to be used to clean up the oceans.   The fish will certainly appreciate that!

It must have taken years and a lot of tea drinking to dream up such cleaver vote-winning policies.   Mrs Maynot’s Government is certainly getting into the Last Laugh Looney Party spirit.

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Blogging ?

In 2017 I wrote 3 blogs a week.

A target I set myself,

but a treadmill I didn’t seek.


Quality not quantity

are the new order of the day.

Creativity and imagination,

better watchwords than numbers.


But there is something

to be said

for getting up every day

and not forgetting.


So 2018 maybe more sporadic

or not ?

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Second Unicorn Ramble

We are on a roll with ideas for unicorn start-up companies specifically for the older generation.   It may not be so easy to get out and about as you used to, but what if you could virtually accompany someone for a day or more?     Following a live video link with instant text communication and feedback.    Here’s a possible new App with a suitable, geeky name.


A virtual shadow for just about anything legal.   E.G.:-

  • How about climbing a mountain virtually by accompanying a miked up mountaineer with a camera on his/her head.  You can encourage the progress they are making at every rest station.
  • Virtually being on board a sailing boat crossing the ocean – something that most people won’t be able to do in a lifetime.
  • Watching a potter make a pot (just like the TV “interlude” video, if you’re old enough to remember it) and this time being able to influence what they make.  Maybe even able to purchase the end product.
  • Telling an artist what type of painting you would like and then observing them complete it.
  • Going virtually on a live guided tour of an art gallery or a museum and able to ask your own questions.
  • Shadowing someone in a job for the day to see what is  involved :- A butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker or anything else you can think of.

We could have an army of adventurers and experts, all wired up and ready to go, supported by a group of sponsoring virtual followers.

Surely that must be another geeky unicorn idea just waiting to be snapped up.


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