Jo Brand's week

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The press seems to have whipped people into a vague type of hysteria, judging by the reaction a planeload of passengers had to a young girl travelling back from Spain after suffering a bout of meningitis. I wonder how the passengers found out about it in the first place. I would also like to have been a fly on the wall while the passengers came to their reasoned and informed decision to proceed Mr Christian-like to Blight without the girl.

Unfortunately, most people these days do not read the papers properly, if at all, so they rely either on a selection of soundbites before they turn over to Home and Away, or two lines accompanied by a scary headline sandwiched between a picture of someone famous and attractive and an advert for a new diet. Hence the dreaded word, be it meningitis or BSE, just has to be uttered and everyone is thrown into a frenzy of histrionics. As a lot of people don't intend, I'm sure, to change their newpaper from a comic to a broadsheet, perhaps it is up to the tabloids to lay information about these types of illnesses on the line clearly and without drama, before the entire country starts refusing to travel with someone that once saw a cow.

I noticed that in one of the documentaries currently on the box about poverty, many of the families who were portrayed as struggling with terrible conditions and the blank face of bureaucracy had one thing in common ... most of them smoked. This will of course provoke the normal outcry from I'm Alright Jack Land which always includes the words, "If they can afford to smoke, they can't be that hard up," or "It's outrageous, they should be spending that money on their children." This from people who probably think nothing of spending the sort of money these people spend per week on fags on a good brandy or a fat cigar.

I wouldn't want to persuade anyone to start smoking, but the plain fact is that some of us do and we don't want to stop. For people who have hopeless lives particularly, it is one small pleasure in a dull, grinding existence. Hauling oneself out of the type of poverty and the substandard housing some of these people live in isn't the price of a packet of Silk Cut a day, it's much more. It also involves those so ready to condemn being a little less mean spirited.

I find I cannot let a comment by the illustrious Mr Garry Bushell on his marvellous television show this week, go unremarked upon. During one of his well argued and intellectually impressive rants about anything he can think of a tired joke on, he huffed and puffed about the choice of Beethoven's Ode To Joy, which will be used as the theme for Euro 96, complaining that it was a "Kraut" piece of music."Don't get me wrong," he went on to say, "I love Beethoven." Confusing or what?

I went up to Derby last Friday to blah on about psychiatric nursing at the university and on my way back dropped in to see a friend who has been managing a pub up there for a while. It's some time since I've done a Friday night in a city like Derby and I have to say it was a bit of a shock.

Wandering down a smallish road, peppered with drinking holes, I was surprised to see enormous bouncers outside every pub and the streets completely given over to the neanderthal laddish behaviour that I had fondly imagined confined itself to my nightmares. I'm sure Derby is no different from most other cities on a Friday night, but it was hell on earth, consisting as it did of staggering, loutish, screeching individuals all on a one- way ticket to vomiting.

Now most of us like a wild night out now and again, but this uncontrolled vision of Bacchanalia scared the hell out of me. No wonder so many women don't go out on their own at night.

Junior doctors appear to be getting a raw deal, depending on the area in which they are working. A recent report suggests that many are being asked to do jobs they have not been taught to do, or are missing out on supervision. I always got the feeling when I was a nurse that some consultants felt that because they'd had to go through it, why shouldn't these littl'uns.

If this feeling prevailed everywhere, working practice would still be back in the Thirties. We have moved on from the day when anybody should suffer the soul-destroying hours junior doctors have to work, not to mention the danger in which patients are placed when a junior with one hour's sleep comes to hoik out your appendix in the middle of the night. But one thing you can say for some consultants is that they're very supportive when it comes to closing ranks.

Poor old Pavarotti has been unable to drop the necessary weight in order to sing so beautifully without getting out of breath. Apparently he has to lose three supermodels' worth of fat to get himself in shape. Being in love just isn't the rush to the cottage cheese it used to be. The exercise bike purchased for him by his new love lies unpanted upon and gathering dust. I feel sorry for the poor old bugger. Maybe he should have a word with Fergie and enter the hazy world of slimming pills. On the other hand, I tried them many aeons ago. They just made me eat my dinner faster.