Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Question Time Special

While the news has been dominated for the past two weeks by the election and the terrible attacks in Manchester and London, my life has become pathetically obsessed by the fact that I have a piece of plastic fork stuck inside my intestine. One moment of carelessness, the sort of thing that happens when you have a young child and spend your life not concentrating and attempting to multi-task, and as a result I am now living in constant fear that I am going to win a Darwin award for the most stupid death of the year.

We were having a lovely day out in Bridlington, and had been to see the breeding sea birds at the spectacular Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve.

Our daughter was full of the moans, as she had been made to go for a long walk and it was well past her lunchtime. So we pulled up at our favourite chippy, 149 on Marton Road, and bought ourselves a picnic to eat on the cliffs next to the car park at Sewerby. Randomly, some friends from York were seated at the next bench. So I was talking, sharing my meal with my daughter, admiring the view, feeling pretty darn hungry myself, enjoying the yummy food, and therefore not paying attention to my cutlery. It was only when I swallowed that I felt something sharp. "Crikey, that was a big bone, or a tough bit of batter," I thought to myself, only to then notice that a tine of my fork was missing. I tried to calm my instant panic, by reassuring myself that it would just past straight through, like one of my top teeth when I was seven, which dropped out of its socket while I was leaping up and down on a bean bag and I reactively gulped down.

Anyway, not to put too fine a point on things, it hasn't re-emerged, over two weeks later. And I have a sharp pain on the right-hand side of my small intestine. And no doctor will effing believe me. The trouble is that plastic doesn't show up on X-rays. So there is nothing to see. I have had a CT scan with oral contrast, quite a miraculous achievement in itself for a Sunday afternoon in York Hospital on a Bank Holiday weekend, but all it showed is that my bowel is still intact. Obviously I don't want to be cut open unnecessarily, but I know it's there, sticking into me a little more as each days go by. And I can't get the bloody thing out, no matter how hard I try.

So here I continue, each day in pain, each day feeling very sorry for myself, and a bit scared of what the next few days or weeks might bring, with a sharp object in my body made of toxic plastic. It brings home to you just how special your family are to you, and how much there is to live for, and all the things that you never quite got round to doing. "You aren't going to die," my husband groans in exasperation. He is used to this sort of talk from me, and naturally doesn't like it. I am very paranoid about my health. I always was, and then watching my mother die of cancer made me a million times worse, especially now I have a child of my own, who I couldn't bear to leave motherless, because I just fricking adore her. 

And what a bloody idiotic thing to have done. That desperation to travel back in time and reset the clock, to go to a different chippy, to just chew my food that bit more thoroughly so that my teeth could have found the big sodding bit of plastic before my gullet. But it's happened, and there is nothing I can do about it now.

So it was good in a way that Question Time came to York last Friday, to remind me of the bigger picture. Here I am stressing about a tiny piece of fork, when we have the chance to decide and change our futures this coming Thursday, and when the May and Corbyn bandwagon was rolling into town. They'd both been to York already during the campaign. May spoke to ten Tory party activists in a back room of the Barbican (that "getting out and meeting voters rather than taking part in TV debates" that she keeps referring to, part of her "strong and stable leadership" mantra repeated ad nauseum, alongside "It is very clear that" and "negotiating Brexit" and pulling that funny fish face every time she tries to think of her own words) whereas Corbyn addressed a packed St Helen's Square, holding up an amplifier so that everyone could better hear Rachael Maskell's introduction. This was early in the campaign, when he was very lacking in the polls, but even then he had the popular touch. 

I have never been a Corbyn fan. I am angry that he ordered a three-line whip on the Article 50 vote - and that he voted to allow May to hold this election in the first place. He seemed to have no clue about what it means to be in Opposition, i.e. that you are supposed to oppose. But Corbyn is genuine at least. He is a man of conviction and integrity. He tries to stay on the side of decency. He is a pacifist. He gets out and talks to people. He is comfortable in his own skin. He tries to answer questions put to him. He doesn't U-turn at the drop of a hat, though he might want to learn the art of compromise a little more succinctly. But most importantly, he isn't full of shit. Unlike Theresa May. And all of that has counted a lot over recent weeks. 

But whatever doubts I may have had about Corbyn, I am going to vote Labour in this election, assuming my plastic fork lets me survive til Thursday. This is partly because I have a huge amount of respect for York Central's current MP, Rachael Maskell, who defied Corbyn's whip to vote against triggering Article 50. She chose to listen to the majority of her constituents, who voted to remain by a far greater margin than the country as a whole voted to leave the European Union. She has served our city tirelessly since being elected in 2015, and frankly I have no idea when she sleeps. She is there for the big issues, and also the small. When the city was inundated by water, there she was on our street, speaking to the residents next to the park whose houses were full of the river. She lambasted David Cameron for the government's lack of funding for flood defences. When Virgin Media trashed our pavements in Southbank laying new broadband cables, she was there demanding that they pay for the damage. When a group of mums at school campaigned for a safer crossing on Bishopthorpe Road, she came to see for herself and to ask what she could do. She has much of Corbyn's honesty and integrity, and I hope will go far. But the Tories are gunning for her seat. They have the money to throw at their campaign, and Theresa May is busy sending her glossy brochures out to the more marginal wards of York, particularly those who leaned more towards Brexit. It's greedy and despicable.

Anyway, here we were, Question Time, from the Ron Cooke hub at the University of York, part of the new Heslington East campus. Not a leaders' debate, because the Maybot only does pre-programmed cliched rhetoric, but a chance for the public to ask their questions. Although no one I knew - pro-European, left-leaning - who applied to go on the programme was successful. Instead, the biased BBC had managed to dredge up a load of entrepreneurial, wealthy, nuclear-war loving, anti-foreign aid and anti-Northern Ireland peace process Tories, young and old, to have a go at Corbyn. Gold star to the woman who finally had enough of the red-button grilling, and asked if people would kindly refrain from discussing the murder of potentially millions. Anyway, the audience certainly didn't reflect the people of York - who I generally regard as open-minded, tolerant, cultured and international - that well. They were more a reflection of the Saturday afternoon binge-drinking hellhole that our city can turn into from time to time. There were a few awkward questions for Theresa May too - notably from a nurse who has had only 1% pay rises (not in line with inflation) since 2010 and from a lady who had had a terrible experience during a work capability assessment and has had to wait years for psychological treatment. But nobody pushed May on how many people she was planning or not planning to bomb, or how she will deal with the fallout from Brexit on the borders in Ireland and the IRA. That would have made her pull a multitude of fishfaces.

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