Lazarus, the musical: a review, of sorts, in social media updates

screenshot-2016-10-26-23-09-13 (more…)

Boob job

NO MORE BOOB JOBS ON THE NHS!” scream some of today’s headlines. “We should not be doing cosmetic work on the NHS,” says Britain’s Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. With the next election less than a year away, that’s possibly a popular statement to make to voters. But what if the context of such a statement isn’t as black and white as presented? 

Mention ‘NHS’ and ‘cosmetic surgery’ in one sentence, and middle England will undoubtedly be reminded of tabloid stories like this, this and this, about nobodies ‑ with agents ‑ who had cosmetic procedures courtesy of the British taxpayer and seem to have sought fame on the back of it. For a politician to pick up on the public sentiments is a clever move to garner popularity, but let’s not look at this from an entirely cynical frame of mind: the taxpayer-funded NHS is dreadfully expensive, and we need to look at what medical care we want it to cover and what not. Cosmetic surgery is a subject we therefore need to discuss and I, for one, appreciate a politician listening to people and responding to people’s concerns.

Cosmetic surgery is certainly on my mind when I walk outside in the lovely weather we’re currently enjoying, and I see people with plenty of flesh on display, showcasing their piercings, tattoos, stretched earlobes and other visible body modifications. Then I can’t help but wonder if in years to come there will be an increased demand for surgery and other treatments to ‘undo’ previous modifications, and whether the NHS (read: the British tax payer) will be able to provide this or if people are going to be told to seek private medical care at their own expense. I believe we should think and plan ahead now rather than later and do so for the long term rather than merely till the next elections. But I also believe we shouldn’t fall for tabloid-style rhetoric in which issues and possible solutions are presented in black and white, when reality is more likely to involve varying shades of grey.

This is where I’ll get personal. You see, I’ve had cosmetic surgery on the NHS.

For as long as I can remember I’d always had a small but visible spot on my right breast. On the nipple, to be exact. When that suddenly started growing into an uncomfortable lump, and a second spot ‑ about the size of a birthmark ‑ appeared, I decided to see my GP about it. She was confident that both the lump and the spot were probably benign, yet she did order to have them removed, ‘just in case,’ but also because apparently sometimes perfectly benign tumours can become malignant. Since removing the two tumours might disfigure my breast, she referred me to a cosmetic surgeon. This decision was purely for aesthetic reasons. It wasn’t until I actually met with the surgeon, that I learned that there was more at stake than just looks: nerves, glands and milk ducts might get damaged in the operation.

In the end, I was operated on by a different surgeon than the one I’d initially been referred to ‑ there was a waiting list and a slot had opened up in the other surgeon’s schedule ‑ and that cosmetic surgeon decided in the operating room to leave the small new spot be and just remove the larger tumour that caused me discomfort. This left me with minimal scarring at the time and now, five years on, you can’t even see that I was ever operated on.

The biopsy later confirmed that the tumour had indeed been benign, so does that make my operation indeed one hundred percent ‘cosmetic’? Should I have been turned down for surgery on the NHS and been told to save up and pay for it myself?

Strangely, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s remarks have come at a time that the small spot that appeared five years ago, has just started growing. It is no longer the size of a birth mark and may end up growing into a tumour like the previous one, that gets itchy and painful and causes the other discomforts that its predecessor did. So what do I do?

If I could afford to go private, I wouldn’t even be asking this question. But I happen to be fully reliant on the NHS here. Do I deserve for taxpayers ‑ of which I am one myself ‑ to pay for a cosmetic surgeon to remove this growing-but-probably-benign-again tumour from my breast and hopefully do so (again) without scarring or disfiguring my breast? Or should I wait until it develops into something more sinister than it appears to be right now?

What would you do if you were (a) me; (b) Health Secretary; or (c) a UK taxpayer? See how this isn’t a plain black-and-white issue?

© 2014 Jo Hughes | All rights reserved


In Britain everybody around Jimmy Savile seemed to know what he was up to, yet let him get on with it. Now they’re gasping at the extent of his abuse that’s become clear since he died. No one’s acknowledging their potential enabling of him and his actions at the time, though.

Terry Richardson is another Jimmy Savile and no one’s doing anything about it.

Meanwhile, Ian Watkins has been jailed but the only ‘enablers’ of his that appear to have come to light are the mothers who let him abuse their children. And I just don’t believe those women were the only enablers he had, I refuse to believe no one else knew. But anyone who I’ve asked questions in relation to this has so far simply refused to answer, because I am nobody and they’re somebody, so why the hell should they have to answer me (or anyone, for that matter).

Still, it’s always been the way that celebrities do stuff that in the non-celebrity world would be frowned upon, to say the least. If your non-celebrity next-door neighbour did the kind of stuff Terry Richardson’s allegedly been up to, he’d be labelled a sick you-know-what. But do that sh!t in the art world, as a rock star, or in Hollywood, and at worst you’ll be labelled ‘eccentric’. It’s almost as if being a creep is a virtue.

It seems there’s a different world out there that has a teflon coating on it, and perhaps nobody in that world does anything because if they did it might implode on itself (and them); there’s everything to lose and nothing to gain for everyone involved.

It makes me sick.


ETA: Jamie Peck published a brilliant piece on the Guardian website about predators and power dynamics. Click here to read her excellent analysis.

The future of London living is that for many it won’t exist

Once upon a time I enjoyed an above-average salary and life was affordable. I was married and the main breadwinner; my wages alone were sufficient to cover rent, bills and food. I didn’t actually enjoy the lifestyle, because I never got to live it – I was always working and there was never any time or money left for me. These days, as a freelancer, I don’t earn anywhere near as much as I used to before I ‘went it alone’ in both work and life, so life is significantly tougher in a financial sense. But I feel a happier person for it, so I’m not complaining. Not yet. But I fear what the future may hold.

My first eight or nine months as a freelancer went well, then the global financial crisis hit. Around the same time my marriage fell apart. After my separation and subsequent divorce, I spent some time working three jobs – two part-time minimum-wage jobs and my freelance biz – in order to be able to continue living in the one-bed flat I’d lived in throughout my marriage. That was unhealthy, to put it mildly; it would have been for the healthiest of people, let alone me and my obnoxious health issues. So after 10 years of having a reasonable amount of living and home-working space I moved to a tiny basement studio flat that wasn’t much cheaper than the one-bed place, but in a better location to commute into town, and besides, every little bit of saving helps, I thought; little did I foresee how cold, damp, dark and utterly depressive a basement could be, and combined with everything else about that place and its owner that turned out to be very, very wrong, I didn’t stay there for long.

Sharing the burden

Nowadays I live in a flatshare. The threshold from having a home entirely to yourself to a place where everything bar your bedroom is shared with others seemed very high beforehand, but as it turned out it wasn’t; in fact, I feel more at home where I live now than I’ve felt in the aforementioned places.

Non-Brits and even non-Londoners usually react with surprise when I tell them I live in shared accommodation; they tend to associate house-sharing with students. But the average flatsharer in London is not a student in his or her late teens or early twenties, the average London flatsharer is a thirty-something in full-time work (source: The Essential Guide to Flatsharing by Rupert Hunt).


An average UK wage would – after tax – just about cover an average London rent plus council tax and utility bills, and might just about stretch to cover the cost of commuting into work to earn that wage (though that would be pushing it), but it wouldn’t leave you enough money to then feed yourself. So unless you qualify for housing benefit, the only way to live in London is through sharing accommodation. (Of course one could choose to move out of London, but there just aren’t the jobs in the areas where rents are affordable – that’s why rents are so much lower there.)

Building works?

London needs homes, desperately, and within London there is plenty of space available to build new homes without the need to cut trees or concrete over parks, but in a free market without rent controls they are just not going to be built because there is more profit to be made in London’s housing crisis. And rent controls aren’t going to happen as long as the powers that be are among those who would be negatively affected by them.

In the meantime there are plenty of new structures being built everywhere throughout London, but only very few of them are homes. Some of those few homes are even labelled ‘affordable’, but ‘affordable’ means 20% below market value and for average and lower earners that is anything but affordable. Most of the (too few) homes being built in London serve the high-end market and a staggering 75% of them is sold overseas without even being advertised for sale in the UK. The vast majority of building projects visible in London, though, appear to involve office space, and as with residential properties most of it owned by overseas investors.

I have no objection against office buildings being built, provided new offices would bring new job vacancies to London for jobs that pay above-average wages sufficient cover the cost of living within commutable distance and commuting to said offices… and I am just not convinced that is happening. Moreover, while sources state that only 7-10% of London office space stands vacant, everywhere I go in London I see empty (often ugly) office buildings featuring unsightly signage offering office space to let; if indeed that is only 7-10% of all office space in London, London has far more office space than I could ever have imagined.

It doesn’t really matter whether the 7-10% figure is genuine or not, every and any Londoner will have seen plenty of office space standing empty for months if not years, and I don’t see why this couldn’t be temporarily or permanently converted into living spaces that are truly affordable to people on average and below-average incomes. Right now, London’s housing crisis is so acute, I don’t even see how private landlords would be financially disadvantaged if we took pressure off waiting lists for social housing and curbed homelessness in London.

Crisis point

Aside from the odd vanity project not enough is being done to ease London’s housing crisis and curtail London rent levels. London needs middle and lower income workers but said workers are being priced out of London. There is government money for over-the-top weapons programmes and infrastructure projects, but no money towards housing? I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy that; I think it’s time the powers that be reveal their own personal and business interests in these matters, because they clearly don’t think or act in any interest of the greater public.

In London rents continue to rise and house and flat shares are making way for room shares. That step seems a hell of a lot greater to me than the one from living independently to sharing a home… and personally I am not sure I’ll be willing or able to make that step when the need arises, even with inventions like bed tents. Which probably means that within the next ten-or-so years I, too, will be priced out this city I love so dearly… unless, of course, something is done about the housing crisis. Can you see that happening? Sadly, I don’t.

Reason to kill

Two particular sections of news have been stuck in my head for weeks now. This one:
A man left the pub and went to a minimart nearby and got into an argument with Walters – who referred to the area outside the shop as the ‘front line’.…and this one:
Ms Howes said it had started after Simian thought Roach-Johnson had ‘looked at him funny’ at a car wash earlier on September 4. The group planned to lure Simian to Chalkhill Road, but when they realised he would not fall into the trap they turned their attention to Arron instead, the court heard.Both paragraphs come from different newspaper articles about murders (click on the images for links to the respective articles) and the circumstances that led to those murders taking place.

Apparently a shop forecourt is a ‘front line’ and anyone who happens to cross that while you’re there deserves to be killed, as does anyone who is related to someone who ‘looks at you funny’.

Hello Western civilisation – why don’t you shoot me for not being able to make sense of this at all. I just don’t get this, and I don’t think I ever want to.