It so happened that yesterday I joined a very British queue.
I’d been rung on Tuesday afternoon by someone from my local GP surgery about my second vaccination jab.
I’m sure that every GP surgery, pharmacy, NHS “walk in centre” and other unit involved in rolling out the UK’s vaccination programme has organised its delivery service slightly differently – that’s the way of things in the human world (ask Ursula von der Leyen, EU Commission president, if you don’t believe me) – but “taking the trouble to ring each individual” is how mine does it.
After a conversation lasting no more than two minutes 2.48pm yesterday was my allotted appointment.
I was brought up this way but I’m a punctual person, always have been.
Thus it was I arrived yesterday at my GP surgery at 2.40pm, anticipating that (as with the arrangements in place for my first “jab”) everything would be happening with clockwork-like precision. On that occasion the system was so good that I’d emerged out into the sunshine of the street again – fully jabbed – four minutes before my appointment had been due to take place!
Things were slightly different yesterday.
There was a gent in a yellow high-viz jacket at the gate to the surgery and – somewhat disconcertingly – a queue of at least fifteen people ahead of me. It swiftly became apparent that, deliberately or otherwise, the “system” had gone awry. There was no alternative but to join the back of the queue and wait my turn.
I wasn’t in a hurry – my day had begun with just two tasks to perform … get my “jab” and do a food shop at the local supermarket – so I stood in silence.
I then watched as others arrived – some as couples, most as singles – presumably each a few minutes in advance of their given appointments, approached the high-viz jacket man … established that on this occasion their appointment time was only an aspiration … and trudged to the back of the queue.
Some seemed somewhat disappointed that “their” appointment time had been rendered irrelevant – there’s something in the average Brit that (in true “Do as you would be done by” fashion) they’ll always do as they’re told, albeit on the expectation that that everyone else will do similar, including GP surgeries … and indeed Time itself.
There was little “conversation burbling” in the queue. Most of us just “switched our engines off” and moved forward four or five yards whenever this became possible.
When my turn eventually arrived to be “checked” by the lady in possession of the appointments clipboard, there was some confusion. Having given my name and supposed “appointment time”, it took her four passes of the printed out names and appointments to find me.
In true “Blitz” (black humour) style, I quipped that I’d clearly become a non-person, presumably erased from history by Boris Johson’s version of “Big Brother”.
Eventually the crisis passed – my name was found – and I was allowed into the building. I soon found myself baring an arm to the practice Supremo, a gent from the Sub-Continent in a turban with whom I’d had acquaintance for a decade and a half.
I asked my obvious question (“I was never told, can you advise me which vaccine I had first time, and which I’m having now?) and received the reply “First time Astra-Venica, this time Astra-Venica … and if I have my way, when it comes to a third jab (which in my view is inevitable) that will be Astra-Venica as well …”
We chatted briefly. I asked whether he thought the concept of a vaccine passport was a sound one. He did – and I agreed.
Exaggerating to make my point, I likened the “ethical/human rights issue” to the Highway Code.
If anyone said to the UK authorities “I’m sorry, I know in this country you drive on the left but I’m not happy with that, I want to drive on the right instead …” I would expect the UK authorities to reply – in fashionable “woke” style – “We naturally and totally respect your right to hold that view as a matter of principle, but nevertheless in this country we drive on the left and – if you refuse to – you won’t be driving at all. And that’s your choice, not ours …”
My new friend went further. He told me that frankly, in the not too distant future, he was not going to see patients (who had refused to be vaccinated) face-to-face. That decision was one for him personally to take and that was his stance. Good on him, I say.
I went to see my daughter and grandson this week. Her husband had no fewer than five doctors in his family. He has a big birthday coming up this summer and all five have registered that they have a problem with the venue he has chosen for his celebratory lunch – a private room inside a well-known hospitality building. They’re not happy with the Covid risk this represents.
Perhaps the medical profession knows something that the rest of us don’t.