Opinion with Christine Tongue: Distractions before surgery

Christine Tongue

I had major surgery this week but there were various distractions before then.
My body obviously thought I needed a bit more to think about than just having my bones sawn up.

I fell over my tripod walking sticks and got carpet burn on my knee and had horrible bad temper at inadequate equipment.

Dentist last week for broken filling – I insisted on anaesthetic injection as I am a terrible coward. Kind dentist numbed my whole face so I not only couldn’t walk I couldn’t speak or eat for ages, and the  coffee I’d been gasping for throughout the ordeal finished up all over my respectable going-to-the dentist blouse.

The weirdest distraction was developing really sore eyes, getting an emergency optician appointment and finding I have some INGROWING EYELASHES!!! Who knew they could do that? That’s exactly what it felt like — something in your eye that you can’t get out. The optician (thank you, thank you, thank you!) plucked them out. Yes, I know, yucky to think of but instant relief. I was imagining going blind in hospital and wondering how I could manage a white stick and two crutches.
That’s how your mind runs before surgery!

But the biggest distraction was listening to the stories of the disabled people in the various campaign groups I’m part of.

Many are worrying about the cost of living crisis. People on disability benefits never got the extra £20 that people on universal credit got so they have really suffered financially as prices rise in the shops and energy prices double.

Imagine yourself, like me, having to use a stair lift, charge up a mobility scooter, perhaps use a hoist to get you out of bed, maybe having dialysis for kidney failure at home. You need a fridge for drugs, such as insulin if you’re diabetic etc etc. Your energy needs are already high and there’s nothing you can cut down on without damaging yourself drastically.

And there’s worry about important services, like a “lifeline”. That’s an emergency button you wear and press when you need help to get someone out to you. When my dad needed one twenty years ago, it was free. Now a friend in Hull who cares for his disabled wife is paying over £4 per week for one.

More are worrying about whether the government will introduce charges for medication. Many disabled people depend on all kinds of drugs to help with pain, control spasms or relax muscles. They’re free mostly for long term complaints but if you have to pay it would become very expensive. The sheer worry is depressing many people.  Despair leads to thoughts of suicide or euthanasia.

Or robbery even!

It started as a joke in my disability WhatsApp group: rob a bank as a protest if you don’t have enough money for basic necessities. In prison you get free medication, free food and energy! And being locked up in a cell, one wheelchair user argues, isn’t that different from being stuck in a bad care home during covid with eighteen residents out of forty dying around you. Exceptional I know, but memories and fears stay with people.

Disabled people are furious at politicians who just think you have to learn to cook properly or budget better. They’re most furious at politicians who talk about the value of catering for “working people”. As if you don’t deserve to have any quality of life if you can’t contribute economically in some way.

It’s forecast that the cost of living crisis will definitely mean hardship for the most vulnerable in our communities. No-one knows the extent of the hardship or how bad it’s going to get.  It needs more than a temporary financial fix — one off handouts won’t solve the long term problem of chronic underfunding of our health and care services.

That’s why my final distraction was going to demonstrate outside our MP Craig Mackinlay’s office. Let’s ask him  to call on his government to do something about it. Here’s his email address: [email protected]

Christine Tongue is a member of disability campaign group Access Thanet


  1. I was feeling jolly until I read all this!

    Perhaps a nice distraction would’ve been joining in the Jubilee celebrations, as many other old and infirm people are doing in an effort to put a little cheer into the world.

      • You could still mention it, i.e. your happy memories of the Silver/Golden Jubilees or (depending on your age!) even the Coronation. You could also have been making banners, outfits, etc. There are a lot of people having FUN this weekend (remember fun?). Still, if shouting outside an empty office gives you more satisfaction, do carry on.

        • I’m not sure the hard left do fun. I’m sure they would ban fun if they ever came to power.

          • Did you hear the one about the 3 Intersectionalists who went into a bar?

            I do recall reading an interview with the late Ayatollah Khomeini. When asked whether he knew of any Islamic comedy, he responded all my the lines of: “There is nothing funny about Islam!”

            All jokes necessarily have a “butt”. Ergo, Intersectionalism and comedy don’t mix.😕

        • Peter – well said. My wife is disabled but puts aside her problems so as not to bore friends etc to death! She gets on with life especially her Theatre trips to Marlowe. I am afraid as soon as I see an article by the author I immediately switch off. Moan moan moan.

        • Insensitive comment. We don’t all doff our caps to the crown! And we have the right not to.

        • I enjoy a some fun as much as the next person Peter, but the Jubilee was taking a joke too far! I am not medically trained but I suspect your suffering from Pillockism, there’s no cure but it can be managed, get help!

        • You really are not a very nice person Peter. Try living in Christine’s world – it’s not easy

    • Just who do you think you are?
      I think you’re an ill-mannered, arrogant, insensitive Little Englander

      Sit down

  2. How many people don’t have a fridge Christine?
    My husband has diabetes and yes, his insulin needs to be in a fridge. The same fridge where we put our food.
    As ever, another uplifting tale from our left wing activist on this Jubilee Weekend.

  3. Might be a suitable time to read, “This Boy”? The autobiographical story of the early years of former Labour Party Cabinet Minister (the only one who was also the former General Secretary of a trades union)? I myself lived on a squat in the Portobello Rd. for a while
    Or, watch “Cathy Come Home”?
    “Absolute Poverty” has not existed in the U.K. for some decades now. Sure. Some people have to make more considered choices than others, but…

    • As a life long hard leftist I object strenuously to the idea that we don’t have lots of fun. Besides being a lifelong Gooner, most of my other interests involve a great deal of laughter.
      It’s the Tories and Kippers who invariably have been po-faced and can’t laugh at the ridiculous prime minister we have, the ludicrous state Church (To quote Tony Benn, you can only be an Anglican if you think God wants Prince Charles to be the next head of the Church!) & our weird 18th century monarchy with its expensive trappings. Most of us lefties find all this hilarious!

  4. The late not Lord Stansgate was a devout adherent to Roman Catholicism throughout his life. He believed in Transubstantiation. Only it lived in Rome, rather than Buckingham Palace!

    Now that is funny!😂

  5. Sorry, the idea that Comrade Benn was a papist is truly funny. He was a very low church Christian but supported disestablishmentarianism (been dying to get that word into a posting for years!). The hysterical bit is that the current Queen is head of both the Church of England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 and Head of the Church of Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿. Only thing is that the former is Episcopalian and the latter presbyterian, so every time her maj crosses the border at Berwick or Gretna she changes religion! Now that is funny.

  6. Oh Christine! I’ve always got the impression that you do have a sense of humour, do enjoy life. And I consider that it is also entirely appropriate to air the issues disabled people face.

    The Comments section here has gone completely nuts, there are more and more vicious, aggressive and downright absurd comments. It’s not you, it’s them (as you probably know).

  7. The comments and the commentators on here generally bear little correlation with Thanet and its people.
    (With the exception of me and my comments, of ourse)

  8. Christine Tongue is a courageous woman who always fights for the rights of sick and disabled people whilst struggling with her own health and quite severe disabilities. I salute you and all that you do for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Thank you Christine Tongue. Your excellent observational humour and sense of fun has had me laughing our loud on many an occasion in your blogs. I thank you for this too.
    These nasty, unkind, right-wing Tory commentators on this thread are showing just how utterly ignorant and completely lacking in any kind of compassion and empathy they truly are. 😡

    Anyway, just to prove that socialists do have a sense of humour and love to have fun! 😃 …
    1) “ Boris Johnson, a Scotsman, a Welshman and an Irishman are all on a plane when the engines fail.

    There is only one parachute on board.

    Without a moment’s hesitation, the Scotsman sacrifices himself, shouting “For Scotland!” as he jumps out of the plane. The Welshman follows suit, shouting “For Wales!” as he jumps.

    Then it’s the turn of the Irishman. He shouts “For Ireland!”…and pushes Johnson out of the plane.” 😂

    2) “What’s the difference between Maggie Thatcher and Boris Johnson?

    One starved miners and one starved minors.”

    3) “UK politician Boris Johnson has promised to lie in front of bulldozers clearing a path for the 3rd Heathrow runway.

    This should be no problem for him as he has already had plenty of practice lying in front of a bus!” 😂

    4) “ Margaret Thatcher appears to Boris Johnson in a dream…

    “Privatise the NHS and paint the Houses of Parliament green!” she says to Johnson

    Johnson looks confused; “Why green?”

    Thatcher smiles, “I knew you wouldn’t object to the first part.” 😂

  9. A lot of name calling here. From all directions. In my experience, I always try to aim for the “Kind” option. It doesn’t have a political colour or dogma of any hue.
    I know Christine and Christine knows me. I sincerely wish her a speedy and positive convalescence. I think that all of us, regardless of personal affiliations, should be good examples of homo sapiens and do the same.
    As to the politics of Health? Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” and Sender’s “Snake Oil” would be good bookends for a future dialectic!

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