Friday, January 30, 2009

The NHS: Ultra Progressive or Third World Country-Like?

Finally, after almost a year here, I had my first 'real' interaction with the NHS today. The NHS is the UK's privatized health care system (National Health Service to be exact), and up until now, I had only been to my doctor's office twice: once to 'register' with them, and once to get travel meds for my trip to the Dominican in October. Now, I know many people could write reams on what is broken about the US system. I don't disagree with that-and that's not the point of my post. But, what happened today was certainly worth mentioning-at least in my book...

Long story short, I had to pop up to the local hospital today for an X-Ray, and then go have some blood drawn (Settle down-it's nothing major. Just some hip-joint pain, and my GP wants to rule out any type of bone problems...). this all worked today is both pretty cool-and alarmingly dated.

With my X-Ray referral in hand from my GP, all I had to do was go to the hospital (no x-ray capability in the doc's office..), with my form and they worked me in for the day. No appointment, no nothing. First come, first served. And, as I arrived there right when they opened up this morning, there was also no queue. I was in and out in 15 minutes; it took me longer to walk there and back then the actual appointment itself. Yea. That's the progressive part.

Here comes the scary part...

A few hours later, I went to my GPs office to have some blood drawn. How do I put this delicately?...I don't want to imply that the 'US IS BEST' by what I'm about to say, but it certainly can't be too far from the truth: My arm didn't get swabbed with anti-bacterial anything, and the lady who took the blood?...DIDN'T EVEN WEAR GLOVES!!!!

I was so taken aback, that I actually stopped her and asked: why aren't you cleaning my arm? In the US, I would get swabbed before getting stuck. Hint. Hint. Her reply was that, since she pokes my arm after swabbing (with her finger to find a vein), she continues to transfer germs (um. well, the gloves would certainly take care of that problem!!!), and she would also have to wait until the wetness dries to be effective-otherwise, it's just useless (and can actually sting a bit when putting the needle in you). Her words, not mine. I couldn't help but think: well then, WAIT. An extra minute won't kill *you*, and newsflash: I've got a needle going in my arm. I'll never be able to tell if the pain is from then needle or the antiseptic.

Wow. Now, I certainly can't comment as to whether or not my experience today with the phlebotomist is the NHS standard, or if it's simply her way of doing things. So, I'm trying not to indict the entire NHS for this one experience. But, after coming from a health system where, I wouldn't be surprised to see receptionists wearing surgical gloves at some point in the near future, it did at least make me take note of the experience.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Very British Week

Last Friday seemed to be the kickoff to a very odd, very British week...

I met a friend in Borough Market on Friday inbetween my in-town meetings for the day. We had a few minutes to kill before our lunch reservation at Roast, so while we were puttering in the market talking, we came across this. No words are needed:

And, as we all know and think about with great hope and (dare I say it?...) American Pride, Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the US on Tuesday. And for some reason, perfect strangers have taken the opportunity to strike up a chat with me about this over the past week; for lunch on Friday, my local kebab shop owner seemed to upgrade my 'small' combo to an 'american-size extra large' as we were talking about the (hopefully...) good things Obama will do-not only for the US, but for the world. A year ago, I would not have dared have this conversation with someone, and now, it's nice to be able to talk about the US (especially while not *in* the US) with a sense of pride.
Then, I get my paystub for January the other day and find that not only have I not had tax withheld, but I've also gotten a very fat refund-the net effect was a tripling of my normal 'after-tax' pay. woo. As I've been whinging about all this time...the British tax system seems to be even more bizarre than the US, and here is yet another example. Now that 'last years' tax return has been filed here, the HMRC *finally* recognizes that they're over-withholding my taxes. So, this is their lame attempt at fixing the situation. 9 months into the current tax year. Yeesh...

Lastly, the annual 'Amazon post-Christmas, Holiday bash' was last night. Yes..I know it's Janurary already, but in reality, December is too hectic for us to have our 'do' then, so even in the US, our party is in January. This isn't the British/odd part. Here comes the odd part...Apparently the UK version of these parties can only be described as the hook-up fest to end all hook-up fests. And though at first, I thought the rumors I had heard about last year were overblown, I can now say after what I saw last night...the rumors are actually true! Folks that are normally very buttoned up (and in some cases, very married...) suddenly-or at least for one night only-become these dancing, drinking, raging party animals on the lookout for, as the British best describe it, a good snogging; you could actually feel it in the air. I decided to be a good girl and left around 10.30p last night, and even though there were still several hours left in the party-and it was early, I could already see it going quickly downhill. It really was just amazing. Part of me wanted to just sit back and watch, and part of me was just so surprised, I couldn't believe it! Good times...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Tis the season to sit back and evaluate 2008-and contemplate what I want to personally accomplish in 2009. To say that 2008 was a year of 'change' would be an understatement akin to saying George W Bush wasn't a good president.

Anyhoo, political statements aside, I've been pondering what I want to do with myself in 2009, and decided that this year, am going to publicize some of my resolutions, as they do specifically relate to the theme of my blog. So, here goes..

1. Get a hobby. I work too much. Specifically, when factoring in my commute I'm 'at work' daily from 7.30am to almost 7.30pm. That's too much time, and my typical weeks consist of work/home/work/home...No good. I need to find a hobby/class/interest that gets me out of the office at a respectable time, and off to something other than my flat to watch television. Softball will definitely kick in at some point when it warms up in May, but in the interim, I'm thinking about a cooking class, continuing my Thai lessons, finding a yoga studio, getting a personal trainer...something. Any suggestions? And, it certainly doesn't have to involve spending money!
2. Run a 10k. (At least one). I've been roped into a 10k with Simon and his BFF, Herbie in April. Mind you, Herbie ran a half marathon in October, and Simon's fast walking pace is my *running* pace. But, oh well... :) Someone has to be the slow one!
3. Travel. Like this one is a surprise. Given the £ to € conversion lately, it's safe to say that unless it's a super-cheap location, Western Europe will likely be off limits this year. So, instead, it will be the Year Of Eastern Europe....Poland, Croatia, Turkey, Hungary, Greece, Morocco, Portugal (though, technically not Eastern Europe, the last two are both pretty cheap...). And, I'd like to explore more of England. There are dozens of places that I can 'pop' out to for a day trip on the train for under £20. I should take advantage of this.
4. Volunteer locally. It's time to get off my duff, and find something good to do while I'm here. Ideally with Habitat for Humanity, but it doesn't *have* to be. I'm open to organization/cause suggestions if anyone has any.
5. Try more 'British' things...I'm living here for a reason (aside from The Job), and I need to take better advantage of this. Be it jellied eels (though that may be taking it a bit too far...), becoming a mushy peas connoisseur, or maybe it will be to finally try a tin of the icky looking 'Tuna Mayonnaise' that I poked fun at back in March, I vow to try things in 2009 that I wouldn't have dared try in 2008!

Well, that's about it-or at least, those are the one's I'm willing to make public. :) There are more, but those will just have to remain a secret for now.

Happy 2009 all. I hope it's a great year for everyone!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Catching Up

Though I've been blogging like a good girl lately, I have been lazy about posting photos-mainly from Thanksgiving and puttering around London at Christmas. I honestly just haven't been in the mood to mess with my computer in an attempt to get it to work, though surprisingly, after not touching it for over a month, it fired up the other day and I've had no problems since-including being able to access Hotmail. Go figure.

So, I decdied to catch up on all the 'home PC' work I've been putting off, like uploading songs to the iPod, uploading photos-and then adding a few to the blog, things like that.

Without further ado, a few pictures from the past two months. Enjoy...

Chef Justyn and our 28 pound Thanskgiving Bird...

Simon, Herbie, Shalma, Daniel, Jamie & Jen at T'giving Dinner...

Carnaby Street at Xmas (is it just me, or do those things look like the StaPuff 'monster' from GhostBusters?...)...

I think the label says it all...

Dad, Virginia, Max, Scott & Susan...

I am now an Official Londoner...

I got stuck on the Tube today for 30 mintutes. The train in front of us on the Central Line broke down, and we got stuck. 30 minutes later ('just'...), I got to Oxford Circus, and though I was still going to Lancaster Gate, decided to play it safe and switch lines to get home via Paddington instead.

I guess it's technically my first 'traffic jam.' But, considering the horror stories of the trains breaking down in the summer time for literally *hours* (and the temperature on the trains going above 100 degrees. seriously...), I won't complain.

At least I had a seat!