On the other hand, the National Health Service is proving itself something to be proud of. Elle needed an appointment at the doctor’s – a nurse would have done, but we went to explain things to the receptionist, she gave us a temporary registration form and suggested a doctor’s appointment an hour from then. The doctor was kind and helpful, and suggested that a blood test would be a good idea though he thinks it will probably prove negative – still, you can’t take chances, innit? While we were waiting to go in, I told Elle that a local woman had given £250,000 towards the building of the health centre because she would rather the money was well used during her lifetime (a couple of decades previously, she had given a similar amount to ensure a new library could be built), and after the doctor’s consultation, we spoke to the receptionist again to book the blood test next Monday.
“Do we pay now?” Elle asked me. I assured her there was nothing to pay. “But how is it paid for?” … ‘Does everyone pay health insurance?”
I explained. I’m so damn proud of the NHS. And I told her a little story from getting on for 45 years ago.
I can’t remember the original contact with Martina’s family, but it was probably something similar to Lena’s: a friend of a friend. Martina visited us a couple of times, she lived in Stutttgart. One day she went to the beach with friends and, once she was back, came to my mother in tears. She’d left her purse behind, it contained her passport, her money, everything. “Don’t worry,” said my mother, “I shall phone the police station. It will have been handed in.” Martina was doubtful, but my mother assured her it would be Fine. And so it was. Not a penny was missing, the kind finder had gone a mile to hand it in, everything intact. Martina was dead impressed and my mother was equally relieved.
I’m happy to report that England is as damn good now as it was 45 years ago. I like England, I’m glad I’m … well, I’m British as well as English. My great-grandmother was Scottish. They can have independence if they want to and welcome, but I’m very attached to Scotland too.