Friday, 28 August 2009

Climate Camp Cavorting

I visited Climate Camp today with my daughter Clementine and friend Rachel. I've not been to the previous climate camps, but since it was in London this year it seemed like the ideal opportunity.

Blackheath is a great spot for the event, and it is a brilliantly organised affair.

I heard a talk from some of the women who were at Greenham Common. It was interesting to hear their first-hand account of that infamous camp - the hardships they endured during the winter is certainly inspiring. (Hmm...I wonder how many people would go to Climate Camp if it was staged in December? Maybe I'm being too cynical...).

One of the women said (twice, in fact) that it was always particularly galling at Greenham that they would camp there year-round, and then at their monthly actions, some women (and I quote) "would turn up, fluffing their hair, and then talk on our behalf to the press even though they were just there for the day."

Ah yes, sisterhood! It's a fine thing. I can understand that it would be rather galling, but surely the point with Greenham - and indeed with Climate Camp - is to get the message out to the press. Indeed, I saw a female press photographer today selecting two attractive young women and taking their picture, knowing as she did that the press would be more likely to use such a photo.

Of course it's not great that people judge on appearances and place such a high value on aesthetics, but surely we should be pleased that the message is getting into the press, and out to the public?

I was surprised to see a lack of police presence - in great contrast to April's G20 protest, I'm pleased to say! I did see some firemen. And a man with two ferrets on leads, much to my delight.

Another highlight was being threatened by a 3 year old in the children's tent. When I asked him to share the paint he said "I am going to stab you in the eye. I am going to kill you."

"That's not very nice," I remonstrated. "It really isn't in the spirit of Climate Camp, you know..."

This held very little sway with the tiny tearaway.

Thus ended my experience of Climate Camp '09.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

The Plot at Hornsey Police Station

Today, along with my fellow Stroud Green candidates Anna Bragga and Pete McAskie, I attended a ‘guerilla gardening’ event on Tottenham Lane. A neglected piece of land, supposedly one that the council should’ve been tending, is in the process of being transformed into a mini oasis of colour and scents.

We met the woman behind this excellent venture, Bethany Wells, and spent several hours with a group of volunteers. We swept up debris, dug over the soil and started planting donated plants such as geraniums. We enjoyed cakes, art, and homemade lemonade, not to mention the great community spirit!

The idea is that anyone who wants to can come along to the plot, which is next to the police station on Tottenham Lane, and do a bit of gardening whenever the fancy takes them. Bethany explained that rather than wait for the council to do something, she decided to take action and sort out the land herself. It’s a good attitude to have.

Earlier this year, together with a group of residents on my estate in Highgate, I cleared a disused garden and planted vegetables, fruit and flowers. We are now enjoying the fruit of our labour, with carrots, onions, tomatoes, beans and potatoes in abundance!

The guerrilla gardening movement is an interesting one. Since reading Richard Reynold’s excellent book ‘On Guerilla Gardening’ earlier this year, I can’t go past a disused plot, flower bed or tree pit without imagining it either blooming or providing food for local people. There are health, environmental and community benefits to this kind of action – it needs to be encouraged!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Choose and Book - whose choice?

I've had an encounter with the NHS's 'Choose and Book' system - and I have to say I am not thus far impressed. The idea is that it gives GPs the ability to book you an appointment directly, without doing a referral.

The reality is it's a major pain with a lot of margin for error.

I saw my GP in April, when he made me an appointment for my 2 year old daughter to see a dermatologist for an ongoing skin problem. The GP used the Choose and Book System.

I was initially made an appointment at the Finchley Memorial Hospital on 18th June 2009.

This was then cancelled by the hospital and I was given the date of 6th July 2009, this time at Barnet Hospital in Hertfordshire. This was going to be very difficult to get to. When I ‘phoned the 'Choose and Book' line I was told that I couldn’t choose which hospital to attend.

I couldn’t attend this appointment because I was having an operation that day. I was then sent another letter telling me this had been cancelled and that an appointment had been made on 20th July 2009.

I did not attend this appointment, but instead ‘phoned and cancelled it because my daughter’s skin had by this time cleared up.

My experience of 'Choose and Book' does not seem to be atypical according to anecdotes I have heard from other patients. I would like to know:

1. Why did I have to wait such a long time for the initial appointment?
2. Why did I get letters both confirming and cancelling the appointments, sent on the same day? This confused me as I didn’t know which letter was accurate.
3. Why was I sent out of London to see a dermatologist? I thought the point of Choose and Book was that you could CHOOSE. Is this not the case?

I've written a letter to the Chief Exec of Haringey PCT (now called NHS Haringey!)to get some answers. If anyone else has had a problem with 'Choose and Book' please let me know.