What can I say about today? All was going along smoothly enough--a bit jauntily, even!--until I had to go out for my first doctor's appointment. It lasted ten minutes, and by its end, I'd basically been called a freeloader on the National Health Service because I will be taking subsidised prescription medicine while I live here. Knowing that I'd achieved what I set out to do (i.e., to get my prescriptions rewritten for this country) and that I'm not trying to be a freeloader and that my doctor was only partly right in her characterization of how my home health system works when she told her student observer, "If we were to go to the U.S., we wouldn't be able to get subsidised medicines, but Americans come here on madly expensive things and we just have to fill them" (given that anyone who'd constructed a year in the U.S. the way I've constructed a year here would, I imagine, also be entering some kind of insurance scheme)--knowing all these things, I tried to let everything else go as I took the long way home after accepting the print-out of my pharmacy script.
I revisited Newnham; I walked quietly in and stole around the grounds (and found the Eleanor Sidgwick memorial, where I imagined I was saying hello); I played with fat apertures at the college's gates. But I was still angry enough that when I was almost home, I decided to extend the walk even further and headed back out the funny footpath that terminates at the M11. Witnessing the evening rambles of cows and frolics of rabbits was a balm; being greeted by an excellent dog was another; reaching my home and feeling it to be my home was a third.
I'm not sure what that moment in the doctor's office was about, really; all I'd done was to ask how much prescriptions cost in the UK, and apparently I must have hit one of her nerves. Those of you who know me in non-electronic formats know that I've done a bit of wondering about the ethics of using another country's health system while not being required to pay taxes to that country, and I suspect that that set of wonderings laid me open to feeling the sting of truth in her words. It's true that someone in this country is going to help bankroll my health this year. It's also true that, with a lot of extra effort and some extra money, I could continue having my home pharmacy issue my refills and either send them directly to me or release them to someone who could send them to me. But I'm making a choice to have my medicine dispensed here--not because it's that much cheaper (because it's not; the prices of the drugs themselves are about even, as I told the doctor when she challenged me as to how much these medications would cost at home [where, I didn't explain to her in detail, they're also subsidised--by the medical insurance for which I'm still paying]), but because (today's unpleasantness notwithstanding) it's easier.
I'm just crossing my fingers that I won't need any further medical care before next August. And I'm still trying to let go of today's part of this process.
I do feel that I should make clear that my frustration today does not and should not constitute an indictment of the National Health Service or of nationalised health care per se. Even with its faults, I still suspect that nationalised health care is more humane, overall, than the system with which we live in the U.S. I'd like to think that I'd be willing to take an occasional tongue-lashing at home if that's what it cost (emotionally speaking) for more of my fellow citizens to be able to get any care.
By the end of the day, it did seem somewhat prescient of me to have gifted myself a new copy of Sebald's The Emigrants this afternoon.