[audioplayer src="http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/TheViewFrom22_28_August_2014_v4.mp3" title="Mary Wakefield and Julia Manning discuss the ambulance crisis" startat=63]
[/audioplayer]Last month I wrote about the weird exodus of paramedics from London’s ambulance service. Flies would blanch at the rate they’re dropping, and so I was curious — and also anxious. Everyone who lives in this heaving city relies upon 999, and 999 relies upon paramedics.
In 1980, June Lait and I published Can Social Work Survive?, the first critique of British social work aimed at the general public. She was a lecturer in social policy and a former social worker; I was a psychiatrist who had regular and friendly contact with social workers. But we both felt that social work had become vague and grandiose, and we compiled quite a lot of evidence to make our case. We even reported studies showing that well-intended social work interventions could be not just unhelpful but harmful.
Strange times throw up strange heroes — and in Russia’s proxy war with Ukraine, none is more enigmatic than the Donetsk rebel leader Igor Girkin, better known by his nom de guerre of Igor Strelkov.
In a few short months, Strelkov has gone from being an obscure military re-enactor to the highest-profile rebel leader in eastern Ukraine. But at the same time Strelkov’s fame and outspoken criticism of Vladimir Putin for failing to sufficiently support the rebels has earned him the enmity of the Kremlin.
Not so long ago disaffected youngsters would take to a life of crime and hard drugs, a trajectory which would often kill them. These days, some young men from our Muslim community sign up instead to the so-called Islamic State, and the dream of a distant Caliphate.
Why? Well, forget theology or even the prestige which comes from being a warrior — if Sister Christine Frost is right, it all comes down to housing.
Is international conflict really just a fight over oil? It sometimes seems that way. In Syria and Iraq, the militants of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ sell captured oil while battling to establish a puritanical Sunni theo-cracy. From Central Asia to Ukraine, Russia is contesting attempts (backed by the US) to minimise Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and natural gas. Meanwhile, Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’ allows the US to threaten the choke points through which most of China’s oil imports must pass.
The first ‘yes’ campaign volunteer knocked on my door towards the end of last year. She was a member of the Scottish Socialist Party. I glanced at her dog-eared tally sheet — in my old block of 40 flats, only three residents had said they would vote no. In this neglected pocket of Edinburgh there are men who roll up their tracksuit bottoms to show off their prison tags. It is made up of decaying towers and pebble-dashed tenements.
With Candida, you learned to expect the unexpected. She said she might make the charity sale at my house on Thursday, but not to rely on her. I didn’t. But on Friday, a bright red pick-up truck turned into the yard and out got Candida with a bagful of contributions. But she also brought a birthday present of a beautiful Alice Temperley skirt for my younger daughter. The red pick-up was a present for Candida’s own birthday, thrilling her as much as any red bike for a six-year-old.
[audioplayer src="http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/TheViewFrom22_28_August_2014_v4.mp3" title="Mark Mason and Alex Owen discuss the cultural generation gap" startat=1603]
[/audioplayer]I was recently talking to an intelligent 24-year-old Cambridge graduate. The conversation turned to TV comedy, and I mentioned Vic Reeves. The graduate had never heard of him. Nor had she heard of Bob Mortimer.
As the BA flight from Warsaw landed at Heathrow, I felt a little tremor of anxiety, though it wasn’t anything to do with fear of flying. I was here for the Pembroke College gaudy. I had never attended a reunion before, and I had doubts about it. What if the people I really liked didn’t show up? What if I didn’t remember somebody’s name, while they remembered me? Above all, did I really want to see a bunch of old people claiming to be my contemporaries?
It turned out to be a delight.
It was poker night. Five yuppies crammed round a table in a room at the back of a south London semi. Tumblers and water were on the table.
Conventions had developed. The host cooked the food (or so he said) and the four guests each brought a bottle of whisky. The guests rotated between four ‘stations’. One had to supply a standard blended scotch. Another had to provide a whisky from outside the United Kingdom.