Friday, 12 August 2022

Cabal on Paper Mask

See here for essential background:
My good friend and brother porter who goes by the online nom-de-guerre "XCABALX" has written his own review of Paper Mask. The article is in both Polish and English because, like many HP's, Cabal hails from Eastern Europe. His insight into the film is very interesting and he spots many things that I missed. He has also captured a number of screenshots from the movie. Since watching Paper Mask I have also seen Withnail and I and I must admit Paul McGann is very good in that excellent comedy. Therefore he has redeemed himself slightly in my books. Cabal rightly points out the incredulity of the plot. It is not realistic; in fact it is something of a fantasy. Even back in the 90's, in Poland or the UK, it would have been impossible to impersonate a doctor as easily as Matthew Harris did. Today it would be even harder, with the endless electronic ID checks we all have to go through. I have also watched the film The Talented Mr Ripley, which tells the story of a habitual conman who kills a millionaire playboy and impersonates him. There are parallels between the two stories. Simon Harris is every bit as much an antihero. He is not only extremely deceitful; he is heartless, selfish and cowardly. He only expresses genuine emotion when his own hide is jeopardized. The scriptwriter is indeed a doctor, and I have yet to read his novel from which he adapted the film; I do have a copy though. He would have been in a position to research the HP's at his hospital, and didn't do too bad of a technical job; although, as I have said before, I bitterly resent his offensive and patronizing portrayal of us. I also don't like the way the extent of the porters' uniforms at the fictional hospital Harris serves at consists of a filthy grey overcoat pulled over their ordinary jeans and sweatshirts. HP's don't actually look like that (or they shouldn't). One element of the story that is one hundred percent accurate is that literally moments after Matthew/Simon has been unwillingly reunited with Moran, the first thing his old brother porter says is: "So are we going to a pub or what?" Typical HP! As it happens Harris is luring Moran away to murder him. Well done to Cabal for producing this neat bilingual essay on that most hateful of cinematic curses. Source:
See here for more background:

Saturday, 6 August 2022

"Head Porter"

Sometime in the mid-90's I had a rather unsettling conversation. I used the term head porter to refer to my boss, the person in change of the JRH porters. The person I was talking to, a domestic supervisor, corrected me; it's “portering manager”, she said severely. I had already found out by then that the OxRad administration placed a bafflingly extreme priority on using the right words; and indeed I had another major lesson many years later, see background link below. The terms “head porter” and “portering manager” are actually very similar to “U-boat” and “submarine” or “astronaut” and “cosmonaut”. They are exactly the same thing, yet they are given different names for psycho-political reasons. George Orwell predicted this would happen. Nevertheless, when the terminology changed there was a massive change in the culture of the hospital and therefore the role played in it by the porters. It happened during the Blair New Labour era which was marked by the massive corporatization of the NHS, which I've discussed too many times to suggest a reference. Image became everything. The Trust spent almost a million pounds revamping the public areas of the hospital to make them look like a combination of a hotel and shopping centre. Since then they have spent even more money doing it again! Yet at the same time waiting lists lengthened and post-operative infections soared. New and virulent superbugs emerged out of nowhere, apparently. In truth it was because of a breakdown in the organization's efficiency and professionalism that led to unsanitary levels of hygiene. One year, five thousand people died of these bugs in NHS hospitals less than a decade after I almost lost my job for refusing to call myself an “ODO”. These people are like dodgy car salesmen, painting over the rust. When I started out on a HP career in 1989 the head porter was usually somebody who had been promoted up through the ranks, with a huge amount of experience and expertize is HPing. Portering managers were brought in from outside. We had a whole series of them and they were usually people who had business college degrees. Most of them had no experience at all in healthcare outside administration. During their orientation they would do their standard two weeks in the lodge, but that does not make you a porter. They usually didn't stay for long. This is why I felt so uncomfortable being corrected when I said “head porter”. I knew, partly subconsciously, that it symbolized the rot. You'll be glad to know that I always called my boss the head porter after that, without exception. I still use that terminology to this day.
See here for background:

Friday, 29 July 2022

"You're Wasted as a Porter!"

At my hospital it seems I had a reputation for being very intelligent. This is not what I said about myself; just what others thought about me. They also were impressed with how dedicated I was towards my job and how caring I was towards the patients. Unfortunately the usual progression from that was something along the lines of: "So why are you wasting your life being a porter?" As if you have to be a heartless, lazy moron to be a hospital porter. (Cue the wag who comments: "but it helps!") That's what they were implying. It is a very difficult situation to deal with; far more so than those which require dignity statements. This is because your antagonist is probably not motivated by any malicious intent. Yes, occasionally you'll come across some emotional vampire who will keep saying "you're wasted as a porter" to wind you up, but this is very rare. Mostly they will truly believe they are giving you an honest compliment out of friendly intentions. They do not realize that the compliment doubles up as an insult, an insult against the hospital portering service. I don't like feeling angry with people who mean me no harm and act out of ignorance instead of spite. Probably the ideal solution is to explain the conundrum in a calm and gracious manner. If you can manage that, then you and your antagonist will part on good terms. Hopefully they will have learned a lesson and no longer be an antagonist. I'm surprised this is the first time I have mentioned this issue during all the years I have been doing the HPWA blog and The Gas Spanner radio project. Oddly enough it was a very recent experience that reminded me, literally just a couple of weeks ago. The lady involved is a good woman who is gentle and respectful, meaning no harm. You'll be pleased to know that I did respond politely.

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Happy St Theo's Day 2022!

On behalf of every serving hospital porter, every former hospital porter, and everybody else who loves, appreciates and supports us, with all the Pride and Dignity of my Extremely Proud and Dignified Brother and Sister Porters, I'd like to wish all my friends and readers, a very happy St Theo's Day.
See here for The Gas Spanner St Theo 2022:
See here for the HPANWO TV St Theo 2022 video:

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

St Theo's Day 2022 Fliers

The fliers for this year's St Theo's Day are finished. Pretty soon I shall print and distribute them. This year, as with last year, I have produced two different fliers, one for the Oxfordshire hospitals on my doorstep; and another to be distributed to other institutions around the country. I will send the second national flier by post, addressed to the porters in those institutions.

St Theo's Flyer 2022 (N... by Ben Emlyn-Jones

St Theo's Flyer 2022 (JR) by Ben Emlyn-Jones

Friday, 25 March 2022

...One Must Be Silent

I thought I'd give my EP&DB&SP's something a little more light-hearted for the weekend. Have you ever been in one of those conversations with another person in which you're disagreeing about a fact and the other person, instead of simply explaining why you are factually wrong just says: "But what would you know!? You're not qualified to express an opinion because..." and they criticize you personally. They concluded: "If you don't know anything about it then don't talk about it!" This is called an ad hominem fallacy and it is so widely committed that it is almost endemic. Unfortunately it was an HP who promoted it with his famous quote: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." Ludwig Wittgenstein was a porter at Guys Hospital in London from 1939 to 45; and he also served in an Austrian army field hospital in the Great War of 1914 to 18. He was also an occasional amateur part-time philosopher, so I'm told. His quote has been interpreted to justify the ad hominem fallacy, although this was probably not my brother porter's intention. Anyway a few weeks ago I happened to meet up with the same person again at a family gathering and spoke non-stop for about half an hour about hospital portering. I saw them looking more and more annoyed until eventually they said to me: "Ben, could you please stop going on about hospital portering and change the subject?" I reminded them: "But a few months ago you told me that if I didn't know anything about it then I shouldn't talk about it. Hospital portering is the only thing I know a lot about, so that is what I am talking about? Rememer, this is accordance with your instructions... Or would you prefer it if I just sit here in silence?" I raised my eyebrows and gave a crafty half-smile. The person gritted their teeth and their cheeks flushed as they found themselves boxed into a logical corner. It was almost as satisfying as a well-delivered Dignity Statement! One-nil to the HP's again!
See here for more information:

Monday, 14 March 2022

The Millennium Bug

The Millennium Bug aka Y2K, or the Y2K error, was a portent of an approaching mass computer malfunction caused by the limitations of the standard six digit calendar format used by most computers. This means the current date, the 14th of March 2022, would be stored in such a database as 14/03/22. The obstacle is obvious. In this format the year 2000 is identical to 1900. This contradiction was predicted to lead to electronics crashing in enormous numbers. Such a crisis was considered by some an approaching Armageddon scenario and in preparation for New Year 2000 people stockpiled food, bought weapons and prepared shelters in their basements; like they still do today for other reason like nuclear holocaust, asteroid impact, viral pandemic etc. Comedians found inspiration from it too, like with The Simpsons episode entitled Life's a Glitch and Then you Die, see: and: Luckily there was a simple solution, to introduce a new calendar format with eight digits, which would record today as 14/03/2022. However the task of upgrading every computer in the world was Herculean. It was only half finished when the clocks chimed midnight on New Year's Eve. As it happened, there were a small number of breakdowns, but happily the DoS Doomsday never came to pass.
When it came to the upgrading campaign, a number of institutions were prioritized. One of those was of course hospitals. Imagine the catastrophe if intensive care life support machines suddenly stopped working. Despite the worthy effort by the IT's in the NHS, my hospital was not prepared to take any risks. In December 1999 we took action. I was assigned to a team dealing with anaesthetic machines. These are interconnected systems of oxygen and medicated gas delivery used during surgery. For information: All the ones in the JRH were modern and computerized; in fact I remember bringing the new ones into the Delivery Suite theatres a couple of years earlier. They replaced the older and purely mechanical ones that had been there since I joined the department in 1990. We had luckily kept them in the Level 0 storeroom! No doubt they were bound for the scrap yard and would have been gone before much longer. It took a couple of days to move every one of the heavy devices all the way from theatre to a temporary storage location. This had to be secure though because modern anaesthetic machines are worth about a million pounds each and there was always the fear that somebody might steal one. Therefore we had to find a spare chamber with a lock on the door which could be monitored by security. When the older machines were in place the theatre techs installed them and these were used for the entire new millennium period. During January 2000 tests were carried out on the modern machines and when it was certain they would work alright, we carried out the same assignment in reverse. We did get overtime pay so maybe apocalypse scenarios aren't all that bad. It was not only we porters who benefited from the "Y2K industry". Software manufacturers are estimated to have made billions in sales of their new suites. Cynics said afterwards that the threat of the Y2K error was exaggerated deliberately for this purpose. They pointed to South Korea, a country which had no state Millennium Bug alleviation programme and yet did not suffer more computer crashes than any other country which did. Who knows what was true or false? It's all hypothetical. I suppose if I were a patient at that time I would have wanted to play my caution card. As it was, thanks to the good old HP's and other NHS staff, we played it for them.
See here for more information: