Monday, 6 July 2015

An Economically Viable Unit

I woke this morning to news of an Alzheimer's Society report that states that over 50% of GPs think that patients with dementia don't get enough support from the NHS, and 67% think those patients don't get enough support from Social Services. (The NHS budget being ring-fenced, while the social care budget - encompassing most of those living with dementia - is not.) 

This is not news at all to anyone living with dementia or their family carers.  But still.  It has made headlines and people are talking - indeed arguing - about it on social media.  And of course money is at the root of it.

In response to a long exchange with someone on Twitter, who argued (in somewhat extreme terms) that the "greater good" of economics is always more important than personal need, here is my dramatic riposte:

INT. NON-DENOMINATIONAL APOLITICAL CELEBRATORY BUILDING - DAY


A function room with podium.  Ambient music.  Taking the podium, the CELEBRANT motions for the music to be lowered, opens a large register, and addresses the audience.  In the front row, a young couple, MAL and TRIX, sits with a baby in arms, an empty reserved seat beside them.

CELEBRANT

Welcome, friends, to this happiest of days!  An occasion of both joy and solemnity. A rite of passage that confirms our place in the community.  Ladies, gentlemen, and those of any other identification, we are gathered here, in the sight of secular state -

A young man, ANDY, bursts in from the back of the auditorium.

ANDY

- Sorry, sorry!  Not too late, am I? Signal failure on the Circle Line -

CELEBRANT

- If you please? Quick as you can.

ANDY hurries to join MAL; takes the seat beside him, out of breath.

CELEBRANT
We are gathered here, in the sight of secular state, to celebrate with (glances at register) Mal and Trix the arrival of a brand new Economically Viable Unit.

A flustered ANDY leads the audience in applause.

CELEBRANT
Would the Genetic Donors of the Unit step forward, please?


MAL and TRIX step up with the swaddled baby.

CELEBRANT
You are the registered Genetic Donors?

MAL/TRIX
We are.

CELEBRANT
Congratulations. You are to be commended for your contribution to society. Do you have your certificates of Economic Viability?

MAL/TRIX
We do.

They proffer two certificates.

CELEBRANT
Thank you.

MAL

It’s all in order -

TRIX

- Verified and sealed.

CELEBRANT 
(to MALI see you have a period of two months out of employment in the last ten years?

MAL

It was before the new rules came in... (indicates) 2015: I was made redundant, in the cuts...

CELEBRANT

Redundancy is no excuse; you were evidently deemed unviable at that place of work -

MAL

- Only because my job was phased out. It wasn’t me per se, they didn’t replace me. Efficiency savings, that’s what they said -

CELEBRANT

- Which means you were inefficient.

MAL

Not me personally, no; that role.

TRIX

“Inefficient”’s not “unviable”, is it? Just a little bit surplus to requirements...

CELEBRANT

That is a semantic distinction.

MAL

Yeah, thanks, Trix, I can handle this.

TRIX

Just trying to help...

MAL

(to CELEBRANTIt was 2015! Before the rules came in. You’ve got to take that, by law!

CELEBRANT 
Quite right, sir. Rules are rules. (refers to documents; to TRIX)
 You, however, have reduced Viability Points?

TRIX 
Because of the baby - sorry, "Unit". I took the minimum time off, just the afternoon, but I physically had to be in the hospital because there were complications -

CELEBRANT

- The Unit is not healthy?

TRIX/MAL

No! Yes! She’s healthy! Nothing wrong with her now!


Silence. Tension. Worried looks all round.

TRIX

She is Viable, trust me. At least as a future Genetic Donor and Incubator -

MAL

- Supporting the economy with future tax-payers, increased GDP.

TRIX

I know I’ve got to take a hit on Viability myself, but that’s my choice, don’t take it out on her.

CELEBRANT

Very well. Let us proceed. You have a name?

MAL
Prudence.

TRIX

We’ve always been supporters of government economic policy.

The CELEBRANT raises an eyebrow.

ANDY

(rises in testimonyThey have, they have! Praise be!

He jollies the audience along to agree.

CELEBRANT
Surname?

MAL
Goodheart.

TRIX

It’s an old family name. We got a dispensation to keep it -

MAL

- We paid the dispensation fee.

CELEBRANT 
And your sponsor?

ANDY 
That’s me!

He bounds up.

ANDY
Andy Fairweather. At your service.

CELEBRANT

Do you, Andrew Fairweather, undertake sponsorship of this Unit, Prudence Goodheart?

ANDY
I do!

CELEBRANT

Socially, morally, legally, and financially?

ANDY 
(less sureI do.

CELEBRANT

To be a guarantor, from this day forth, should the said Unit encounter difficulty in meeting approved behaviour or achievement, placing Viability at risk?

ANDY 
... I guess...

CELEBRANT

The terms of the contract have been explained?


ANDY shrugs, uncomfortable.

MAL 
They have, yes. (to ANDY; low) 
I did tell you, when I first asked -

ANDY

- In the pub, when we’d necked ten pints and JD chasers to wet the sprog’s head -

CELEBRANT

- It is all in the small print, Mr Fairweather. You cannot claim to have been mis-sold? Because you had the statutory fourteen days “no quibble” cancellation period.

ANDY

I signed the forms, yeah; but -

MAL

- You’re my best mate, Andy; my Best Man...

TRIX

We’re relying on you. You owe us.

MAL and TRIX eyeball ANDY. A beat.

CELEBRANT
May we proceed?

ANDY

Yeah, OK. It’s cool.

The CELEBRANT takes up the register.

CELEBRANT

You, the registered sponsor, Andrew Fairweather, agree to guarantee the continued Viability of this Unit, throughout its lifetime (or yours, whichever should end sooner); to maintain a healthy lifestyle commensurate with Economic Viability, to fund support of the Unit during any periods of Unviability or to arrange private funding for such at your discretion -

ANDY

- Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute! How long does this “funding” go on for?

TRIX

It’s just a formality -

MAL

- Like “renouncing all evil”. That’s what they said in the old days; no-one took it literally.

TRIX

A kind of insurance policy -

MAL

- An excess, if you like.

TRIX

All being well, she’ll never have to make any claim.

ANDY

All being well? But what if it’s not?  What if - ?

TRIX

- Well then we hope you’d step up to the plate.

MAL

As our best mate.

TRIX

Isn’t that the point?

CELEBRANT
It’s all in the T&Cs, Mr Fairweather. In coming here today, you have entered into the contract.

ANDY

No, hang on, I came to support my mate’s kid. She’s cute. He showed me the photos on his mobile, the night she popped out. All welled up, he was - like when Arsenal won the double; and we’d had a few bevvies. So I was up for it, you know? Thought I’d pay for her Prom or something, maybe chip in for driving lessons or Uni fees, if she gets in, if there’s still a Uni, if I can afford it by then and don’t have kids - sorry, Units - of my own; but a whole lifetime...?

TRIX
We’ll pledge the same for you, when the time comes.

MAL
Quid pro quo.

ANDY

It’s quids I’m worried about...

CELEBRANT

The terms are quite clear. There’s been a multi-million pound cross-platform government campaign.

ANDY

But who takes any notice of that? It’s for old codgers, isn’t it? Losers? Load of blah, blah, blah -

CELEBRANT

- Well maybe you should. You might need to avail yourself of it one day. If you have not paid due attention -

TRIX

- Sorry, do we have to go into all this now? I’m sure we can sort it out. Prudence is getting tired. And we’ve got guests; they’ve come over for the do...

MAL

Cut us some slack here, will you? It’s our first time as donors -

TRIX

- We do want to contribute to the greater good.

MAL 
(re ANDYAnd he doesn’t mean to be disrespectful -

TRIX

- It’s just a blip -

MAL
- Nerves -

TRIX

- Immaturity. He’s never had a Unit himself.

ANDY

Who are you calling immature?

MAL

Let’s just get on with it, yeah; get stuck into the buffet? We’ve got handmade Scotch eggs.

ANDY
No, but -

TRIX

- Please, Andy! We can’t do it without you. We need her to be on the Register - or else she doesn’t exist.

ANDY
OK... (to MAL; pointed) 
But we’ll talk later, right? Do a deal?

CELEBRANT

You can make whatever arrangement you like between yourselves, so long as government requirements are met and you claim nothing from the state. You mind your own business, we mind ours.

TRIX
(appeals to ANDYWe’ve only got this room for a one-hour slot; there’s penalties...

ANDY
(to CELEBRANT)
 Just cut to the chase. I could murder a pint.

MAL

Thanks, mate. Appreciate it.

The CELEBRANT refers back to the register.

CELEBRANT

You, the Registered Sponsor, or any Deputy Sponsor you assign by deed of variation to take on your responsibilities in the event of your prior demise or incapacity, agree to notify the authorities at once and without delay of any ongoing and irreversible Unviability - including, but not confined to, persistent vegetative state, quadriplegia, loss of communicative senses, incurable brain injury, genetic or acquired mental defect, or any form of dementia. (proffers register) Sign here.

ANDY

My nan’s got dementia...

TRIX 
Ssshh!

CELEBRANT
Have the authorities been notified?

MAL
It’s a different case, not your remit -

TRIX

- You didn’t hear that, OK? (re ANDY) 
He was confused -

ANDY
- Not “confused”! There’s nothing wrong with my Viability!

MAL

What did you have to say that for?

TRIX

Your nan could be reported.

MAL 
We’ll be here for hours now!

ANDY
No-one touches my nan.

MAL
Forget your nan -

TRIX

- She’s forgotten you.

ANDY and MAL look at her.

TRIX
Sorry. I just mean, your nan’s got nothing to do with it. This is our Prudence’s day.

MAL

Yeah, it’s all about Prudence. We want to take care of our girl.

CELEBRANT
(to ANDY) I could overlook the remark about your relative, as it does not concern anyone here present today.

TRIX
Thank you. (to ANDY)
 That’s good, isn’t it? Understanding...?

MAL
Very civil.

A beat. ANDY nods, not quite sure.

ANDY
Just one more question…

CELEBRANT
(looks at watch) Of course.

ANDY
This notification thing?  When you have to contact the authorities?

CELEBRANT
Yes?

ANDY
Well what actually happens?  When you give notice?

CELEBRANT
Then we come.

ANDY
And do what?

CELEBRANT
Euthanise the Unit.  It’s all in the T&Cs – and the government campaign.  You must know?  That’s the basis of our existence: an Economically Viable Unit.  (proffers register)  Sign here?

BLACKOUT.

No comments:

Post a comment