Another gem from our National Health Service (well at least it’s National – two out of three ain’t bad). A week ago my GP referred me to an eye specialist. ‘It’s all computerised now,’ he says. ‘It’s called the “Choose and Book” system. Here is your reference number and password. You can now book the appointment on the internet.’ I try to do so, but after I’ve keyed in the reference and password, it says I can’t book an appointment on the internet – I must phone the above number.
I call the number. After the usual ID and security questions, a lady says, ‘Have you tried to book on the internet?’ I say I have. ‘Ah, she says, ‘then I can’t book you in within the next 30 minutes. Ring back later.’
I call back today. ‘The “Choose and Book” system isn’t working yet,’ she says. ‘Try later in the week.’
I say, ‘But can’t I call the hospital, the way I did for the other eye?’ ‘Oh no,’ she says, ‘they’re on the “Choose and Book” system now’.
I have been known to complain about unimaginative headline writers, but I have to admit that the best title often comes long after the story. I once did a piece about a walk across Paris from west to east that started on the Pont du Bir Hakeim. I titled the article 'Paris á Pied', (a bit pedestrian, you say?), which the magazine accepted. It wasn’t until years later that I saw the movie that opens with Marlon Brando meeting the girl on that same Bir Hakeim bridge, and realised that I should have called it ‘The Last Mango in Paris’.
I seem to think either of headlines that I’ve no story for, or stories I can’t headline, which is why I liked the one in The Sun (it’s origin is also claimed by the Glasgow Herald), when Aberdeen’s lowly Caledonian Thistle football team beat the mighty Glasgow Celtic – Scottish League leaders by miles: ‘Super Cally go Ballistic, Celtic are Atrocious’. Or what about the recent George Lang piece in the NYT about a visit to Hungary: ‘Nobody knows the Truffles I’ve seen’? Gotta go now – got to do a story about pear schnapps addiction to go with the title: ‘Intravenous Williams’.
When we were in Santiago not long after Pinochet had been extradited to Chile, I asked a number of people if they thought he should or would face trial. They all said there was no point – best that he be forgotten and die in peace. It sounded a surprisingly forgiving attitude at the time, or maybe they wanted to avoid creating a martyr. Either way it seems they were right. He will not get the state funeral that he and his supporters wanted - and it’s not his, but Salvador Allende’s statue that stands outside the presidential palace in which, on Chile’s own ‘9/11’, he was killed.
(The CIA admits it knew about the coup in advance, but ‘played no direct role’ in the execution - neither do they claim to have made any attempt to stop it. Like in the airline schedules that call a flight ‘direct’ even if it makes three stops, ‘direct’ is a subjective word.)