DAY 266: The friendly bug

February 2nd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Well,I should have done with apologising for my silence. God knows, it has enough reasons; and many of my readers may feel some relief to have been spared this prattle – since a bit before January 11th, when I went (voluntarily) into UCLH (‘requires improvement’ – CQC)uchto have a knee replacement. The operation was certainly well worthwhile, since I could hardly walk; it went through quickly enough and was reported successful. This was on the 11th January; and what I didn’t expect was that I’d then be facing over three weeks of hospital life in its various incarnations. Luckily I’d brought Thomas Mann’s well-known text The Magic Mountain for light reading; and since it’s both about life in a sanatorium and extremely long, it was a pretty good choice, whiling away the endless nights, but the discipline – when can you turn on the light? – and the company haven’t always been to my choice, since I have to recognise that I’m getting old and crotchety. And my chances of thinking coherently for any length of time, and formulating a set of principles, have been slim indeed.

But my lucky break came int the form of my catching the well-known virulent bacterium Clostrioides difficile, known familiarly as C.Diff, and endemic in hospitals. Once it had been1024px-Clostridium_difficile_01 established that I had the bug, (a sample of stool was all it took and I had plenty), there was nothing for it as far as UCLH were concerned but to isolate me in a private room, with a view and my own toilet. I have in the past considered myself a sociable person (particularly in the cheery camaraderie of the Calais kitchen); but this solitude, with only the friendly attentions of doctors, nurses and family, has been very much to my taste and I may find myself forced to rethink my position. And, of course, besides Them Mann’s Meisterwerk, I’ve had a bit of the leisure I lacked to catch up on reading the posts of my allies in the struggle against detention, for MSF, the heroes of sea rescue and against the vicious Salvini mafia and their henchmen. And I learned (six months late) that the High Court had – subject to appeal as usual – made a start on doing away with Detained Fast Track as a way of making things harder for detainees:

‘The High Court has today declared the appeals process for asylum-seekers in detention to be unlawful.  Mr Justice Nicol quashed the procedural rules governing the Detained Fast Track asylum process, under which appeals are processed according to severely truncated timescales.

However, despite this finding the judge nevertheless granted to the Lord Chancellor’s request to stay the ruling until his appeal is heard in the Court of Appeal, on the basis that for the order to take effect immediately would be ‘inconvenient’.

The judgement would mean that the Home Office would no longer be able to assign asylum-seekers to an accelerated appeals process in detention.  Asylum-seekers would therefore no longer be detained throughout the asylum process simply for claiming asylum.  But until the appeal is heard, asylum-seekers will continue to face an appeals system that has been found unlawful.

Detention Action is considering urgently appealing the order refusing the stay – I wish them good luck.

Mr Justice Nicol ruled that the Fast Track Rules ‘do incorporate structural unfairness.  They put the Appellant at a serious procedural disadvantage… because his opponent in the appeal, the SSHD [Home Secretary], has decided that this is what should happen.’

He observed that ‘by allowing one party to the appeal to put the other at serious procedural disadvantage without sufficient judicial supervision, the Rules are not securing that justice be done or that the tribunal system is fair. [The Tribunal Procedures Committee] could not impinge on the minimum level of fairness or the irreducible minimum of due process bearing in mind the appropriate degree of fairness that asylum appeals require. For these reasons, in my judgment, the Fast Track Rules were ultra vires.’’ (So as usual, the Home Secretary is certain to try to reverse the admirable judgment.)

How many other judgments have I missed! But I simply need to catch up, and I count on you, my friends and supporters, to keep me abreast of what’s new; of what our comrades in Garden Court and such places are up to in the defence of detainees and asylum seekers.

In the middle of the night, I think of (what I might say if I got round to addressing a meeting): how lucky I am, bad legs, C.Diff and all, to be still alive and around when there are such transparently good causes to fight for, and such admirable allies I have to stand with me in the struggle. True, there were times in the seventies and eighties when, under the influence of such as Tariq Ali, I thought that I was in the heart of the class war; but such are the tricks which history plays on you.

I should here post the whole of W.E.Henley’s ‘In Hospital’ sequence (1873-5); but it’s not all relevant, and would obviously take up too much space. So here’s a sample, VII ‘Vigil’, which reflects how I’ve quite often felt.


LIVED on one’s back,
In the long hours of repose
Life is a practical nightmare —
Hideous asleep or awake.

Shoulders and loins
Ache – – – !
Ache, and the mattress,
Run into boulders and hummocks,
Glows like a kiln, while the bedclothes —
Tumbling, importunate, daft —
Ramble and roll, and the gas,
Screwed to its lowermost,
An inevitable atom of light,
Haunts, and a stentorous sleeper
Snores me to hate and despair.

All the old time
Surges malignant before me;
Old voices, old kisses, old songs
Blossom derisive about me;
While the new days
Pass me in endless procession:
A pageant of shadows
Silently, leeringly wending
On . . . and still on . . . still on!

Far in the stillness a cat
Languishes loudly. A cinder
Falls, and the shadows
Lurch to the leap of the flame. The next man to me
Turns with a moan; and the snorer,
The drug like a rope at his throat,
Gasps, gurgles, snorts himself free, as the night-nurse,
Noiseless and strange,
Her bull’s eye half-lanterned in apron,
(Whispering me, ‘Are ye no sleepin’ yet?
Passes, list-slippered and peering,
Round . . . and is gone.

Sleep comes at last —
Sleep full of dreams and misgivings —
Broken with brutal and sordid
Voices and sounds that impose on me,
Ere I can wake to it,
The unnatural, intolerable day.

And for contrast, the Rolling Stones’ ‘Dear Doctor‘ – even though the singer’s predicament doesn’t actually seem to be medical at all…

Where am I?

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