Most of my friends in Brussels are English and they are, well I would say this, but really they are, lovely people. Charming, entertaining, interested, interesting, funny.
I spend some time in England for work and, again, I really like the people I meet. In general, I find English people are obliging and helpful and, other than the odd taxi driver, I’ve found them reasonable and sensible. I also read a lot of blogs by English people and, again, I find them entertaining and agreeable.
Are you feeling a big but coming? Well here it is. The tone of public discourse in the UK as set by the press, the radio and the television is relentlessly negative and whiny. I listen a lot to Radio 4 (the programme ‘You and Yours’ being a non-stop whine fest) and I read the British papers from time to time – perhaps not so much the television but I do watch the BBC news occasionally. I am Irish, I may not be in the best position to criticise the British or, more particularly, the English; I have some prejudices though possibly not the ones you imagine. Do you think that is going to stop me? Hah. Do not tell me that I should ignore the English media; they’re whiny but they’re good.
I think that it is very laudable that the British have high standards for their politicians. I think that they are over the top in their criticisms of financial impropriety. My God, if they had to face what we have in Ireland, they would all keel over. The media is in a state of permanent moan about the NHS but it really is a very good system compared to that available in Ireland at least and though I am enamoured of the Belgian system, it’s not free at the point of delivery. Free. Imagine, nothing to pay. You can go into the doctor and get treated for nothing. That is fantastic. Are people pleased? Does the media pat Britain on the back? Not a bit of it, the doctors are dreadful, they just confirm what you’ve discovered yourself on google, it’s all a ghastly mess. And Britain has relatively low taxes to boot. Amazing. Occasionally, a columnist in the papers will say, when I was in hospital my treatment was fantastic but moan, moan, blah, blah collapse of the NHS. It is as though, the British have decided en masse that the only way to improve anything is to moan about it constantly. It is tedious and it appears to be ineffective as another moan is that things are getting worse all the time. Would they stop. Perhaps it is ineffective because the government, in thrall to public opinion and the media, keeps tinkering with major areas like health and education before having had a chance to see whether the last tinkering was at all effective.
I appreciate that good news doesn’t sell papers but, it seems to me that the difference in the Irish papers is there is more outrage than whinging. I mean the health service actually is a national disgrace in Ireland. In England, lots of people, apparently, can’t get free dental care; I don’t hear so much about people dying on trolleys in hallways because there are no beds for them.
And yes, I’m sure I don’t know all the ins and outs of it and I can’t really talk because I’ve never lived in England and I’ve mixed up England and Britain but there it is. You know they say that the French think they are wonderful and have the best of everything and that they are better than anyone else and the British think that everything they have is dreadful and poorly run and hideous but they are still better than everyone else? Well, I think that might be true. It would explain a lot wouldn’t it?
I await your outrage and indignation with interest.