Every now and then a news story appears which seems to me to be earth-shattering, or at the very least, quite serious, and yet no-one seems to give it the attention it merits. This week, the Welsh Blood Service issued an urgent plea for donors, as supplies are running low. They have only 2 days’ supply of the rarest blood group, AB negative, in stock.
Now, I do realise that not everyone lives in Wales, and that not everyone in Wales is planning to sustain a major injury over the next week, but this still seems shocking to me. A few days’ worth of blood is clearly not enough. And as the bank holidays stack up, the shortage is likely to get worse: donor numbers went down over Easter, and they are likely to dip again over the Jubilee weekend.
Add to that the fact that the national Blood Service reckons it will need a 30% boost in blood stocks before the Olympics, to cover the huge influx of visitors to the UK, and I think we should be making a bit more noise about this.
As a society, we wrestle with the ethics of opt-in or opt-out schemes for organ donation. But while deciding to carry a donor-card may require serious thought, giving blood requires none at all. It takes an hour, you get free biscuits and they give you all the lemon squash you can drink. It has all the perks of a school fete, in other words, except you don’t have to throw anything at a coconut (unless you really want to). And everyone is nice to you because you’re important: it gives you a taste of how it must feel to be rich.
Sure, sometimes it goes marginally less well than others, and you end up with a bruise. Do you know what a bruise says? It says you are tough, and don’t let a tiny thing like a bruise stop you from saving the lives of people you’ve never met, exactly like a superhero. Yet of all the eligible donors in this country, only 4% of us give blood.
Every now and then, someone suggests paying blood donors, to try and get the numbers up. But actually, it’s the altruism which makes donating blood fun. Yes, fun, I tell you. You do something mildly inconvenient in the certain knowledge that the net gain to the society is vastly greater than the net inconvenience to you. There are very few things we can do which take so little time, require no skills (on our part – the nurses are super-skilled), and cost virtually nothing. So, surely it’s time to open our veins for the Jubilee.
Claire Lomas is paralysed from the chest down, but she didn’t let that stop her walking the London Marathon in a bionic suit. It took her 16 days to complete the course, and in doing so, she has raised £83,000 for Spinal Research. But her name won’t appear on the official results, nor did she receive a medal for finishing. Rules are rules, apparently, and the organisers insist that only those runners who finish on the day of the marathon are eligible for a medal.
There is no uglier reason for behaving obnoxiously than declaring that it’s ‘the rules’. Could any athlete who sprinted round the course in a few hours really think that their achievement would be belittled if the organisers made an exception to their rule, and gave Claire Lomas a medal too? It seems not: Matthew Pinsent – a man who knows plenty about winning a medal - met her at the finish line with 15 medals donated by other runners. What a pity the race organisers have forgotten it’s the taking part which counts.
What is going on at the Barbican? Last week, theatre critic Mark Shenton went to see Philip Glass’ 5 hour opera, Einstein on the Beach. He was infuriated by the presence of an audience member, taking flash photographs during the show. When that audient turned out to be Bianca Jagger, his wrath was unabated.
And quite right too: Jagger is an environmental campaigner, yet she was apparently light-polluting his environment. Using a flash is clearly disruptive both to your fellow spectators and the performers. Also - though I must confess I haven’t found the five hours to go and see it yet - I am guessing that the stage is pretty well illuminated already. So who needs a flash?
I find the need to document every moment of life simply perverse. Why wouldn’t you just enjoy the opera, since you’d paid good money to see it, and buy a programme, which will have better pictures in anyway?