The Shed’s readership normally comprises a dozen in-laws, cousins, nephews and nieces, a kindly Kenyan who can advise us on how to get rich quick when we need to, and the odd drunken Googler …
However, every now and then there is a spike in the graph of hits. And it nearly always comes down to people searching for the same entry. It reads as follows:
In the Times Diary of 30/12/14, Patrick Kidd recalled a story told by the late Tony Benn …
“The NHS held a boat race against a Japanese crew and after Japan won by a mile, a working party found the winners had 18 people rowing and one steering while the NHS had eighteen steering and one rowing. So the NHS spent £5 million on consultants, forming a restructured crew of four assistant steering managers; three deputy managers and a director of steering services. The rower was given an incentive to row harder. They held another race and lost by two miles. So the NHS fired the rower for poor performance, sold the boat and used the proceeds to pay a bonus to the director of steering services.”
The story is popular, we guess, because it chimes with what many of us know to be the case – alongside its good works, the NHS functions as the biggest machine in the country for wasting time and money.
The Guardian has been talking to a lot of NHS professionals recently and one of the results was The Secret Finance Manager’s Diary, in which the anonymous author attended a hospital management meeting and noted:
“Perversely, with our accounting goggles on, we tend to view more outpatients turning up at A & E favourably, as it boosts the trust’s income. It’s absurd that we end up thinking like this. Organisations end up looking inward, to protect their finances, when patients need us to look outwards at the whole system.”
In the same newspaper, Simon Jenkins has made the point that at least some of the pressure on A & E arises from the last Labour government’s ridiculous generosity to General Practitioners, who were given a pay rise even they felt a little guilty about, along with permission to sub-contract their weekend and evening care to call centres and come out nicely on the deal.
We will end up loving the NHS to death, said Jenkins. It makes the MoD look like a paragon of thrift. But every criticism of it is always trumped by a story of a life saved.
Meanwhile, Wedgie Benn’s little satire still rings a gong.
* SUTCH A PERFORMANCE AT PLYMOUTH
The Telegraph alerts us to a play coming up at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, which tells the story of Screaming Lord Sutch’s second career, as a novelty candidate in 40 elections over 16 years.
Monster Raving Loony, written by James Graham, opened in Plymouth on Feb. 6 2016, to good reviews.
The way The Shed recalls Dave Sutch, the joke was that a long-haired nutter in a leopard-skin coat got to mingle with all the suits on election night – and that was about it. He wasn’t really very good at adding to the comedy. However, originally, he was sometimes not a bad rocker.
Hear his version of Hog For You Baby, produced by Joe Meek, and released in 1963, at
And read an old essay of The Shed’s on the cultural significance of Hog For You – originally a Coasters number but covered many times – at
* WHAT A DUDE IS
On Sunday, 31.01.16, all the papers were running extracts from a new book called From Skedaddle to Selfie, in which author Allan Metcalf tries to assign new coinages to the generations which minted them.
For example, he traces Dude back to what has been called The Progressive Generation, born `1843 to 1859 and charged with rebuilding the USA after its Civil War …
“In 1882 dude was practically unknown. In 1883 it was on the pages of seemingly every newspaper in the United States, as a label for a foppish young man. Robert Sale Hill, a resident of New York City, introduced dude to the world in a poem, The True Origin and History of ‘The Dude’ . (“Their features, first I would explain/ Are of the washed-out order – / Mild dissipation, feeble brain/ With cigarette smoke border.”)
Find the Telegraph’s report on the book, and a link to where to buy it, at
or, if typing it, try http://tinyurl.com/j8u7ptv
* HOW ACID RUINED ROCK
Awopbopaloobop alopbamboom, one of the seminal histories of pop music, is being republished, 50 years on, and its author, Nik Cohn, wrote an essay for the Telegraph 23.1.16 , reflecting on what has changed and what has not.
The Shed nodded approval for his view that LSD ruined what the 60s grew.
“Still mostly a rumour in 1966, by the next year it was ubiquitous. Its impact would be hard to overstate. Until then, the broadsheet essays notwithstanding, rock ’n’ roll had been a trade and its practitioners, however gifted or idolised, artisans. Drop enough acid, though, and rock seemed a religion, the practitioners visionaries. In no time, every bass player and his roadie had cracked the secret of life, and nothing you could say would keep them from passing it on. They truly believed that a new golden age had dawned, war was over, love was all you needed.
“The musical effect, to my ears, was catastrophic. Sharp, sexy rockers morphed almost overnight into fatuous windbags. The Beatles were a prime example. Compared to the cutting edge of their best singles – Day Tripper, or Paperback Writer – post-acid anthems like Let It Be and Hey Jude struck me as smug, dumb and flatulent.”
Read the whole essay at
PS: The Shed has a wing which argues that Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom should be Awopbopaloomopalopbamboom. The first is correct for the title of the book. But, as we think Cohn pointed out himself, Little Richard originally sang it aloomop, at least some of the time.
* MUSIC WITH REAL BUZZ
An outfit called Be on an arty London label has released an album called One which has something to do with capturing the sounds of a bee’s life, including the sounds of its own swarm.
Hampshire vicar John Owen, writing to the Guardian, was happy to be able to point out that it had been done before – 400 years ago.
A vicar and a pioneer of bee-keeping, the Reverend Charles Butler, wrote a work inspired by bee sounds which is still around as a score and has been performed by choirs in recent times. We’d buy a ticket for that. Or at least, we know somebody who might.
* BERNIE BLESSES AMERICA
One reason for Bernie Sanders’s Corbyn-style success in the US Democrat run-off, The Shed is interested to discover, is his campaign song – America, by Simon & Garfunkel, 1970 or so. The kids love it, apparently. Remind yourself at
* THE REAL LEAR
Here’s one to tuck away for the pub quiz.
Leicester City’s success, it has been widely pointed out, comes in the wake of the raising of King Richard’s bones on their patch, and the keeping of them in the face of competition from York, who are now plunging down division Z.
Peter Bradshaw, film critic for the Guardian, has read all the lists of previous Leicester successes and famous sons and daughters but points out that they have all missed a great one, although he can see why Leicester’s public relations people might not have mentioned it …
“King Leir, the actual original monarch himself, inspirer of Shakespeare, ruled Britain in the 8th century BC and founded Leicester (according to legend) before going on to attempt to divide his kingdom among his daughters, leading to catastrophe and despair.”
We could all tell a similar story, no doubt.