The end of last week saw the sentencing of Andrew Harper’s killers and there were no smiles on their faces, as Mr Justice Edis sentenced the three teenagers. Henry Long was jailed for 16 years for the manslaughter of Andrew Harper, and his accomplices Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, each received 13 years. MP John Howell, from PC Harper’s constituency, said he will ascertain whether the sentences are ‘unduly lenient’ and, if so, whether they could be extended at the Court of Appeal. He said: “The sentences handed down today…. are very severe. The question is ‘does the punishment fit the crime?’ ” The Mikado and Front Line both sayeth – NO.

That judgement was a feeble ray of sunshine at the end of a decidedly stressful day. I began my Friday with a journey to the Royal Free for my oncology update. I had the brainwave of driving there, thinking ‘yes I can make this in half an hour,’ given the reduced traffic on the roads, but drove mainly because it was to be the hottest day of the year.

As I approached the Hendon flyover I wondered why my car was struggling to make even 30 mph, and remember facetiously muttering: ‘hmmm, 0 – 20 in 60 seconds,’ or something like that, but I didn’t know what was waiting round the next corner. [note to self, NEVER insult your car, when you’re out on the road] Before I could even get to the Finchley Road my car became unresponsive, and I was struggling, with my foot flat on the pedal, bravely trying to make 15 miles an hour. Plainly something was afoot. Anyway, I took the nearest left turn, up Frognal and tried to weave my way up towards Hampstead, at an incomprehensible 5 mph, heading to Haverstock Hill, for level parking near the hospital.

I had this vision of becoming stuck on a double red route, or a bus lane or worse. Maybe I’d stop for a minute and the steering might fail or the exhaust might drop off? Erm, no – the exhaust had done that already, and I’d replaced many other parts including the radiator, gearbox, electronic door locks, and others in a long list of ails. Even the CD player had failed, which for me was almost more of a catastrophe. On a recent trip, a driver had smashed a passenger rear window, which obviously needed to be replaced. If the car was a person, they would have put a DNR on it, as my car has got more replacement parts than the bionic man.

According to Wikipedia, Hampstead essentially translates as big houses, lots of money and a paradise for actors and artisans. I have to redefine it: narrow streets, big houses, and HUGE hills. Lots of them, none of which my car wanted to consider. Never, ever have I experienced a 4×4 unwilling to even contemplate going up a hill, instead standing its ground like a toddler threatening a tantrum. It was incredibly scary, but I eventually made it to my place of safety, readily accessible to a tow truck. This was already past my appointment time, and when I finished at the hospital, I sat for another 2 hours waiting for the recovery truck – all this in a scorching 40 degree heat. The car-diac team would doubtless put my engine in V-Fib, so if you do see me driving something newer, you’ll know it’s because my Land Rover became a casualty of old age. It’s been a long journey with more than 140,000 miles on the clock, and I think it’s come to the end of the road. It’s become much too stress-fuel.

Now given the uncertainty about my own longevity, it’s understandable then that I want a car at least to be reliable. It’s been suggested I should lease a vehicle, so if anyone is in that area of business or can advise me, please do be in touch. I need something with a warranty, to prevent my blood pressure from shooting up like the high striker at the fairground. You can reach me on Hey, I hear you say, but what about the hospital?? Good point. I seem to be okay, but need a repeat PET scan, and then a decision about restarting chemo. For this, I will need a new picc line inserted, as the last one managed to spring a leak. Most people require only one picc line, but I’ll be queuing up for my 5th, and take my word for it, it’s not a walk-in-the-park procedure. Imagine being stung on the upper arm by a killer wasp (local anaesthetic), then having a skipping rope (catheter) pushed through your veins, via a guide wire, across your chest and into your heart. My vasculature is apparently quite tricky, and on several occasions the procedure room was left looking like the bloodied barber’s surgery of Sweeney Todd. Such fun.

Scotland’s favourite minister is back in the press this week after being criticised by the Statistics Watchdog for making unsubstantiated comparisons about coronavirus rates [Scotland vs England]. Nicola Sturgeon claimed that the virus was 5 times more prevalent in England, and was using these statistics to justify her controversial plan to enforce a quarantine for those from south of the border. The Director-General for regulation in the OSR slated Ms Sturgeon for this comparison, which was ‘not backed up by any sound data,’ and the unflattering review came on the day she was named the fifth most eloquent leader in the world. Doubtless this will further fuel her anti-English sentiment, cloaked in her tartan eloquence. It’s not always what’s on the outside of the tin which counts though, is it?

I was quite upset to hear Matt Hancock ratify his plan for virtual surgeries. I would add that ‘virtual’ doctors will not be massively popular, and many patients will suffer enormously for that decision. I wouldn’t be surprised if dozens of surgeries across the country are seeing only a handful of patients each day, whilst the office staff catch up with paperwork (not wearing PPE obviously), all in a relatively stress-free environment. No patients to come and distract you, or be demanding at the desk, with the foot traffic now negligible. GPs can then make their phone or video calls from the safety of their offices, doubtless missing some crucial or critical symptoms in patients whose lives they ultimately won’t saVe. But of course we’re ‘keeping saFe from Covid.’ Consider this, your GP with a list of 5000 patients might now be seeing 5 or 6 a day, where normally he might be seeing 6 an hour (I’m guessing), it’s also an economic consideration. What about the patients that he won’t see? Even if he makes a tsunami of phone calls, all running tickety-boo, where is the practitioner-patient partnership? What about the patient who claims he wants the appointment for stress or insomnia, but really needs to mention the relentless, blinding headaches or dreadful stomach pain? They will get a quick call, and likely not mention the ‘biggie.’ I recently took a call from a consultant whilst standing at a noisy checkout. The call was late, so I didn’t feel up to rescheduling, but I then couldn’t mention some pressing issues because it was all so very public. Know what I mean?

I feel like I’m in a position to be able to comment on this, because I wouldn’t have gone to my GP – even now – because I don’t feel ill. Others might feel less well, and still not go. This is where we experience the fascinating characteristic of the Stiff Upper Lip, and for that reason alone I won’t subscribe to the GP ‘one phone call fits all.’ I think that call should be for rudimentary or obvious cases, and not if a patient wishes to opt out.

Now back to masks for a moment. I was rather tickled to read that Boris Johnson is going to have the police out on the streets, enforcing mask wearing. They don’t even patrol our streets to uphold law and order, to protect citizens from snatch and grabbers, violent assaults, to intervene in shop burglaries or to help if you’re lost. But by golly, the Old Bill will be out there telling YOU off and issuing you with a fine. “Excuse me sir, I’m apprehending you for dropping your mask on the roadway!” or, “Where IS your mask, I ask?” Hahaha! And whilst we’re on the comedy platform, who’s going to stop you wearing a mask in the bank, at the post office or in the jewellers, and others going in with a pocket firearm to hold it up? If you’re wearing some fancy shmancy mask, and maybe a shield [or sporting a handy jack-hammer], you might get away with a free postage stamp or a diamond or two.

I don’t think an enforcement lark will help make your finest hour Boris, especially when you’re now being lambasted for nominating your own brother for a peerage. It’s not like it’s just an invitation to Chequers, or a titled ‘goodbye’ gift from you. How can politicians hold their heads up and argue that it’s NOT all about cronyism? As journalists we have to be balanced, like Charles Moore (also peer promoted, but more deservedly) so I have to tell you – to give your brother an award, is a step in the wrong direction. We know Jo-Bro served as an MP for 9 years, and quit because he was broigus about Brexit. What exceptional service to Queen and country has he actually done to merit such an unbelievable honour? Bo-Jo, who will be next? None would grudge you an elevation to the Lords, when you complete your term, but awards must be earned.

On that final note, our congratulations to Signor Giuseppe Paterna, Italy’s oldest student. Aged 96, he’s just been awarded a degree in History and Philosophy from the University of Palermo. Well earned! Bel pensatore. Fino a 100.

Affettuosamente il tuo

Jacqueline x