I rarely look at the Daily Mail without thinking, yuck- but occasionally it surprises me, and I feel amazed horror and disgust. I saw its headline about Benefits Britain: a man murdered six children, and for the Mail the headline about the story is that he was a benefit claimant. The news now about benefits is that the Government is cutting housing benefit deliberately to drive people out of their homes- no, they cannot keep a social housing house, they must go private renting. The Mail however seeks to demonise the claimants.
Sitting waiting. A woman asks her little girl if she would like to sit quietly, or to watch. The girl wants to watch, surprising the older woman and me. “I wouldn’t have wanted to watch when I was her age,” says the other. “You must remember that they are not hurting me,” says the mother, then caresses her back as the child hugs her. My blood does not sink fast enough in the test solution, so the carer gives another test. I sit, patiently, as she fiddles with the plastic tubes and needles, and the plasters, just as I lie passively when another takes the 470ml. It is so easy to drop into this passivity, that when the first carer does not give me a plaster for my fingertip and I bleed over my hand while she does the backup test, I wait for her to notice and wipe my hand for me.
More waiting. I have my e-reader with me. “How d’you get on with that, then?” asks a man as he sits down. He does not own a kindle, but has access to one. “Do you pay for the books?” He doesn’t. He is reading the plays of Aristophanes. “The trouble with that is you have to read 19th century translations,” I say. I have scored a victory, though I did not know it at the time. “That’s the best translation,” he says, vaguely. I get called to lie down with the tubes.
I am pleased to donate so quickly, once she finds the vein it only takes five minutes as I clench and unclench my buttocks as instructed- to keep blood pressure up. I have the cup of tea after as a granny talks to her grandchildren about the donor card she has been given. The Polymath comes to the table. “I only come here for the conversation”, he says. He tells me more of Aristophanes, and how he took the mickey out of So-Crates. Socrateees, I mean. A bit like Descarteez, the famous Ancient Greek French philosopher, I say, or it was Des Carteez, the philosopher on the Northern comedy club circuit. Another point to me. He heard American tourists talk of Ivan Solzhenitsyn. Except it wasn’t Ivan, was it? For the life of me, I cannot recall, and after a minute he puts me out of my misery: Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I have the feeling he is scoring points at that moment, after he has talked of how dreadful to be offered decaffeinated coffee, and the fall of Athens. How dreadful to have to show off your wit and erudition in that way! Worse than blogging.