On Sunday I became convinced that I had meningitis so I took myself to the local walk-in centre. For those who don't know what they are walk-in centres are a buffer between doctors' surgeries and the A&E department. They are usually open from early in the morning until may be 20:00 at night. At one stage there were four in this middling-sized city - the one nearest to us was very well-used but when we had the swine flu 'epidemic' it closed (supposedly temporarily due to staff shortages) and never opened again. Now the nearest one to me is based at the local psychiatric hospital. Hmmm.
When I arrived at about 7pm there were maybe six groups of people sitting around and I couldn't help noticing that a small child was the focus in perhaps three of these groups. The children were in their pyjamas, wrapped up warmly and looking very sleepy. The parents were chuntering...'if that stupid cow tries to tell me again that it's just a cold I'll swing for her' was one overheard example.
It got me wondering where the wise mums and grannies of yesteryear are now. I could hear mobile phone conversations...'she's really hot, she's just laid sleeping' and it occurred to me that an older female relative could have put these worried young people right. Their children were hot because the building is kept that way and they are wrapped in blankets. Their children are laid sleeping because it's past their bedtime. Children get days now and again when they're whiney and a bit under the weather - it's part of growing up.
But lots of young (and not so young) mothers and fathers don't have anyone sensible and experienced they can turn to. They don't have someone they can call on who will say 'don't worry, that's okay. Just see how they are tomorrow'. Or 'I'll pop over and have a look'. Why is that? I know that I rang Babcia often and described symptoms down the phone when Red in particular was small and I can't remember her ever saying 'get that child to the doctor's at once!' Nowadays we are all too ready to dash to the surgery or walk-in centre and expect medicine or whatever every time. And then we wonder why the NHS is in such a bad way.
Now I'm not a nurse and I do know that children can become very ill, very quickly and that we shouldn't take chances with them. What I suppose I'm trying to say is that it's a pity society nowadays doesn't have friendly neighbour ladies - older with common-sense who have brought their own children up and who can help young parents that might not have that kind of family help close by. I remember as a very small girl playing out in the street and there were always nosy old grannies sitting on their doorsteps yatting together, or sitting on a kitchen chair by their gate, just passing the time with anyone who passed by. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about, and isn't it a shame it's all gone?
Anyway, I didn't have meningitis as it happens; all small children were sent home with prescriptions for Calpol; and I overheard (see, nosy old woman in the making) this exchange between who I took to be a father, possibly late-50s and a bit disreputable looking, and a woman who looked to be his daughter, maybe late 20s. She was filling the form in for him and it asks what the reason for your visit is - I guess they'd reached this part because he said something, she asked him a question and I heard him say 'S-P-L-I-N-T-E-R'. I could understand someone having trouble with haemorrhoids or enphysema maybe, or schizophrenia but splinter? And we wonder why the UK is falling down the education league tables..