As usual I spent a large proportion of yesterday listening to the BBC’s Radio Five Live in a variety of fashions.
The most enlightening of these for me personally, being an oldie, was the moment that, when out in mid-afternoon on my “one per day” permitted exercise outing, complete with my smartphone and wireless ear piece in case I came to harm (or indeed Her Indoors did) so that an alarm could be raised, I discovered via a super-of-the-moment ‘trial & error’ try-out that it was possible to listen wirelessly to the radio via the BBC Sounds App even those my smartphone was buried in a pocket of my tracksuit top.
A growing staple of radio programming in recent times has been members of the public ringing radio stations to either ask questions, or seek advice, or simply perhaps “talk to the world” because they’re bored or lonely.
Some of these are the usual smart-alecs who, no doubt seeking to justify their existence, call in to hear the sound of their own voices (because they can) even though the matters they then raise are fatuous, irrelevant, silly, nonsensical, ‘glaringly obvious’ or simply repeating stuff that we listeners have now heard – and dealt with if necessary – tens if not hundreds of times previously.
Others are, for example, what might be described as front-line “key workers” of one type or another who – frustrated, saddened or angered by their working conditions and/or instances of public stupidity they come across on a daily basis – are trying to make valuable or sensible points amidst the Government and general media ‘propaganda’ [and I use that word to cover both the vital public notices that are necessary in such extraordinary times to inform or encourage the public to act in their own best interests, as well as what I’d describe here as semi party-political crap by the yard that sometimes get issued to deflect or answer the latest ‘criticism of the day’ of the Government’s latest policies and/or measures taken to deal with the crisis] being put out.
Still others are really sad cases of people – often in straightened circumstances, living in ‘forgotten’ parts of the country, perhaps serially unemployed for decades or indeed just recently ‘let go’ from the events, pubs, clubs, shops, hospitality industries at 24 hours following the implementation of some new Government policy directive – who have suddenly found themselves metaphorically “out on the street” with little or no money, no means of getting access to any, no friends or family, sometimes disabled or suffering from one or more of those “underlying medical conditions” (including being over 75, or whatever the current definition of being an oldie is) that make them a special case, who clearly by any yardstick need help.
When you don’t got hope, you got despair.
Some of the calls from such people are heart-breaking.
Whereas, as the old ‘professional Yorkshireman’ radio/music hall star Wilfred Pickles used to say “ … There’s always someone worse off than tha’self”, whatever current deprivations or issues are causing us anxiety at any time, the majority of us are actually in far more fortunate positions in life, thank you, than many others.
I don’t mind admitting that there were a couple of occasions yesterday when I felt ashamed of myself enough to almost call in to somewhere when I got back home and volunteer to drive round to my nearest supermarket, grab whatever provisions I could, and drive to wherever these people live, just to give them “something’ and perhaps maybe have a chat.
Going back a subject or two, when you hear from medics and others working in the NHS about how they don’t have enough protective equipment, or else what has so far arrived has on its packet “Best Before” dates going back to 2016 or beyond, it makes your blood boil.
I think it was Churchill in the dark days of WW2 who urged US President Roosevelt – and indeed probably quite a lot of others as well – “Give us the tools and we’ll do the job!” and frankly, at times of crises this big, that’s surely from where everything starts.
Don’t fob me off with Government mouthpieces giving out messages such as “We’re spending this much on virus-testing equipment, we’ve called up hundreds of thousands of ex-NHS doctors and workers, we’ve got 405,000 volunteers already when we only put out the call for 250,000 two days ago …” and similar platitudes such as are routinely spewed forth by the bucketful in our normal peace-time political back-and-forth.
If you’re providing those at the front line with obsolete equipment that won’t do the job required, even if it’s only to protect them from the very virus they’re going into battle with, never mind do any good to anyone else, I’m sorry, but you’re not only wasting everybody’s time including your own, you’re failing on the job …
All that said, there are a couple of caller-types to radio stations that get little – make that no – sympathy from me.
The first are those that come on to wax long and lyrical in their criticisms of the Government – as if anything and everything that goes wrong is “somebody’s fault” and the Government are a useful fall-guy to cover all bases … all with the benefit of hindsight.
Firstly, of course – to coin a phrase – hindsight is the refuge of the scoundrel.
But secondly, almost as night follows day, I’d just like to ask any such critic now holding forth with the easy arrogance of “I know better” – whether they be opposition politicians or the average prat in the street – what would they have done if the decisions had been theirs?
My overwhelming sense is that – at best – none of them would have done any better, in fact much more likely they’d have made a far bigger horlicks of it than even this Government.
There was a classic of the genre yesterday – a lady who opened up with her HMS Belfast 6-inch guns, capable of hurling eight shells a minute some 15 miles, at the Government for not having begun planning for the present crisis at the beginning of December.
I suspect she had read somewhere in the media that this was the date when the virus was first referenced in a report from Wuhan in China – or alternatively perhaps she’d just looked the fact up on Wikipedia.
My push-back to this blast is – frankly, who gives a row of beans when the bloody thing started, love?! Far more important, is what the hell are we going to do about it in the here and now, and indeed in the future?
Let’s get this war over – by winning it, of course – and then afterwards, when everything is back to normal, we can all go back and tell everyone why it should never have happened in the first place.
The second caller yesterday who hacked me off – another lady as it happened – was currently stuck somewhere in the wild backwaters of the Indian continent.
This was against the background that earlier this week the Foreign Office had put out and edict that the roughly 1 million Brits now abroad should make immediate steps to return to the UK as soon as possible.
My first point here drips with both incredulity and derision: what the hell are a million Brits doing on holiday, or travelling abroad for at this time – or indeed any time?
No wonder the country is going to the dogs.
Half our people are so well off and workshy – probably too busy to seek work because they’re sitting on their leather sofas, watching Sky Sports, drinking tens of cans of cheap lager, chomping on fast food takeaways and/or playing video games on their Huawei smartphones and perusing the online travel agent brochures deciding which exotic holiday they might go on next.
This lady told us that she’d gone on (and budgeted for) a three week holiday and had now been in a lockdown situation for five or so days and her money would run out in a week.
She couldn’t get through – or couldn’t get any satisfaction when she did – to the British Embassy or consulates.
What was the Government going to do about her plight? (It sounded as though she expected a British Airways jumbo jet to be sent immediately to wherever she was in order to pick her up).
My reaction – I’m afraid – was almost wholly unsympathetic.
This is all to do with the “Me Too”, “woke”, “entitled” culture with underpins 21st Century life.
“Somebody else” is responsible for providing me with the means to do whatever anybody else can do … and then also for getting me out of any scrape that I get myself into.
The fact is that, when you go off on holiday to India – and a particularly obscure part of it to boot, as she cheerfully testified – and this may surprise you, dear, but you may find that the facilities, culture and conditions in that exotic land may not be exactly as you’d expect to find them in Stevenage … or wherever it is you normally live in the UK.
And before setting off there you should make such necessary inquiries as you think fit in order to cope with a sudden emergency, should one ever happen.
And – if you cannot be bothered to do that research, and make those preparations, as part of your planning – then your best advice is not to go.
Not to expect the British Government to pay – what would it cost in total … £250,000? … to fly a British Airways jumbo jet to the north of India somewhere that doesn’t even have a runway on which it could land.
Well, at least, not when we’ve got a serious Coronavirus crisis running back here at home and that £250,000 could be spent on saving lives in the UK.