A Sunday morning spent in Saint James Hospital ophthalmology unit was proving to be a somewhat eye opening experience (sorry!). My initial resistance proved futile as my inner voyeur took over and I listened in to the tales of woe from assorted idiots.
First up was a plasterer who had sealant in his eye “it happens all the time to plasterer’s but I’ll never wear goggles”. He’d struck up a rapport with a woman who had decided that the best thing to do for a bleeding eye was to get on a plane to Spain. She was incredulous that this had made her eye worse, but had decided against treatment and waited until she had returned home.
Eventually the conversation turned to the NHS, more specifically, the problems with funding the NHS. “Idiots like you two” I almost cried out. But no, it’s those immigrants you see! At this point I could stay silent no longer, much to the chagrin of my wife. “What about those immigrants that work in the NHS?” I queried. Well those types of immigrants are OK, but the rest cost us too much was the consensus. “Actually, the problem of health tourism is much exaggerated and isn’t really an issue at all. Do you actually think people will spend hundreds of pounds to travel here rather than just using that money for treatment in their own country?” Silence! I thought that the woman’s other eye was going to start bleeding.
After a sustained period of silence I began to feel a little smug. I’ve educated these people. I’ve overcome the red top propaganda. Alas, the pair of ignoramuses again lamented the cost of immigrants to the NHS, albeit in a much quieter fashion this time. I was not to be deterred. “Do you realise that immigrants are actually net tax contributors to the UK economy?” More silence until the calamity plasterer pipes up with “it wasn’t always that way”. “Wasn’t it? Do you have any evidence to back that statement up?” More silence until the Manuel of the plastering world was called in to see the doctor.
He left grinning 15 minutes later, giving the thumbs up that stating that his eye was “alright”. The doctor who had saved his eye sight was an immigrant, an irony that I suspect was lost on our hapless white van man.
The entire morning left me somewhat depressed. I had long suspected that the majority of the British public were idiots, now I had some confirmation of that. This is why I fear that we will Brexit. It is far easier for an idiot to blame a foreigner for all their woes, rather than look at their own stupidity. None so blind as those that won’t see.
To paraphrase Harry Pearson, “you know that your town is rough when people from Middlesbrough look down their noses at it”. Stockton-On-Tees has the misfortune of falling within this select category of town. So I’m sure that we can all agree that Stockton could do with softening its image and what better way to do this than a six foot duck?
Stockton Council has invested £2.5k in a giant replica rubber duck. That’s a mere penny for every one of Stockton’s residents, assuming Wikipedia is correct (when has it ever let us down?). Given that I would happily pay thrice that to ensure that my place of residence could wheel out a six foot duck on occasion, you’d expect the residents of Stockton to be delighted with such a savvy purchase; sadly not.
“Quackers” is how the Teesside Gazette described the purchase of said duck. Well, I think that it’s ‘quacking’ or even ‘ducking great’. If blowing a rubber duck out of proportion wasn’t enough, a local Conservative councillor took to describing the purchase of the duck as “disgusting”. It that’s what disgusts them, I fear for their mental health when they discover that they are a member of a political party that has just pledged to take millions of pounds from the disabled. Why the outrage? Apparently, “people have their jobs on the line” in Stockton. Only a Tory could equate £2.5k with a job. That’s probably your typical zero hour’s contract wage and it’s still around a fiver a week short of what Ian Duncan Smith thinks that you can live off. It’s hardly a six foot solid gold jewel encrusted duck costing £2.5 million (now there’s an idea).
Far from berating the council leader for this purchase, we should hail the man for his vision. Dare to dream residents of Stockton. Picture this: The mosaic lizard of Park Guell in Barcelona; the pink dog of the Grand Canal in Venice; and the six foot duck of Stockton High Street, Teesside. Imagine the boom to the local economy; no longer will your average Stockton dweller have to make do on a Tory wage of £2.5k. No more, will the folk of Middlesbrough look down their noses at you. Let’s give it a quack.
Spine tingling, stomach curdling, truly terrifying. What has induced this fear into me? Facebook innocently posing the question ‘do you want to be notified when you’re within 10km of a friend’ and vice versa. Its features like this that convinces me that Facebook are trying to turn us all into agoraphobic loners.
My few friendships are built on the solid foundation of lies. I can keep my distance from them by simply concocting some exotic tale as to why I can’t possibly go on their awful sounding night out. Or my old favourite of simply ignoring someone’s messages, then claiming that you didn’t see them until after the event. But it sounded like a great time was had by all and I’d love to do it next time. Definitely! I’m already there! We both know the truth, but like the wife who nods as her cheating husband tells her that it was just a one off and it won’t happen again, we take comfort in this charade. This feature promises to wreck those foundations.
The narcissist in me is already imagining the doomsday scenario of being out somewhere and hearing the dreaded ping that tells me that someone in my friends list had reached within 10km of me and is closing in, like an enemy missile on a radar screen. All the time knowing that said person has received the same ping and is figuring out ways of hunting me down. As fast as I move away from them, they’re closing the gap at the same speed; I’m stuck in some kind of existential quick sand and there no option but to stand still and drown.
Now you may point out that the last thing anyone on my friends list would want to do is seek to close the distance, be that physical or emotional, between them and me. And you may well be right in that assertion. But merely knowing that the above scenario is possible makes me quake. It’s OK I hear you cry; simply remove those people you don’t want to be able to find you. Well that would result in a mass genocide of my friends list (frankly, even my own mother wouldn’t survive the cull).
This returns me to where I started; a social network is trying, and succeeding, in making me even less social (this is quite an achievement). It’s enough to make you think up a crazy conspiracy theory that Facebook was set up by some geek with no friends who’s trying to inflict some kind of twisted revenge on the world.