The NHS, the Royals, Letting and Local News

Settling into London and getting a quick education on the NHS, the Royals, the proliferation of letting agencies and the lack of local news.  (If I am missing something in the latter, please send links.)

The NHS: It's hard not to have low expectations after reading the American press on the NHS, but when our 70-year-old friend visiting from Berkeley falls scarily ill,  we are forced to face what the NHS has to offer. It's full of surprises. Everyone from the triage nurse to the docs has a sense of humor and appears to know their medicine. By the time we get to the acute care window, Tony can barely stand. 

"He's deteriorating by the minute, " I say in panic after hearing the gentleman in front of me say that he is bleeding to death.  (I decide that emergency rooms are like jails except that here everyone is dying and there everyone is innocent.) At any rate, the doc sees Tony in five minutes and reads the assessment of the clinic doctor who quickly discounted the dizziness and our diagnosis of an ear imbalance/infection (you can take care of that in the states, she says) and focuses in on what appears to her to be acute anemia. 

She's right. A few tests later (it's amazing how few tests later) the docs believe that Tony probably has at least one bleeding ulcer, causing him to lose an alarming amount of blood (hence the deterioration and the increasing dizziness).  A day's worth of transfusions later he's ready for a procedure where they go in, confirm two bleeding ulcers, treat the devils and put Tony out the door the following day.  No one asks him about insurance. No one presents a bill. No one talks money. They talk health. It's impressive. 

The Royals: Recently in a snit about photographs of the topless Duchess, which the American newspapers pick up on day two or three. It seems an especially boring story because Europeans have just spent the summer watching old, young and everyone between baring their breasts on European beaches. I begin to wonder what is special about this particular set.  Clearly, I have much to learn about the Royals, but they don't seem near as much fun as Armando Iannucci's In the Thick of It. We're catching up on earlier seasons and go to bed laughing in our sleep.

Letting Agencies: This is an article waiting to be done.  The rental scene here is NY and SF times ten and it appears to be keeping the economy afloat and the pound ridiculously strong. Some U.S. papers have done the latter story, but not the scene story and the rental scene unfolds like no other in the world. There are letting agencies on every block and a whole economy built around them including the agents who show places, the agents who check tenants in and the renovators who clean, paint and wallpaper between.  Some 60 percent of the building we're in must be tenants renting for a year or two. Buying is out unless you have cash. So while the wider economy maintains its downward trajectory, rents keep going up, sustaining a housing market that seems recession proof. 

Local News: So far I can't find much of it. There are some good London-wide blogs (The Arts Desk and the Londinist being my two favorite for the moment.) but not much in the way of what is going on around my immediate area - three blocks from Westminster Abbey and perhaps too close to the Home Office.  IF anyone out there has advice on this, please send it on. I have looked a bit at Up Your Street, but it's all about crime and there doesn't seem to be much around here - probably because gun laws are fairly strict.