The Forum: "Letter from the UK #2" by Rob Burge (England)

From the Web 1.0 days I bring you The Forum. To preserve them for posterity as Geocities can no longer be found but also it's fun to re-read some of them.

20th April, 2001

15 minutes, just 15 minutes, that’s all we want. 15 minutes of peace & quite. Why??? Well, this is the first time that I’ve been able to sit down in front of the pc for 5 weeks and write the second letter from UK. The reason? Quite simple really. Tomos David Burge was born on 19th March and since then life has been somewhat hectic with night-time feeds, nappy changes and of course, lots of hugs and cuddles. Not only do we have the needs of young Tomos to contend with, we also have Philippa (5) and Georgina (3). A real handful but luckily the girls love their little brother and can’t do enough to help (in their own way of course!). By the time they are all asleep and things are quiet, we’ve only had the energy to fall into bed to grab a few hours sleep before the whole circus starts again.

On the morning of the birth I spied the daily newspapers on the stand. I don’t buy them but I was attracted to one particular bold headline. It read ‘NHS midwives fail expectant mothers’. Well as we were in a National Health Service hospital at the time and Karen was an expectant mother (for the next 4 hours at least) I decided to read the first few paragraphs. Basically, a recent survey was carried out (didn’t state by who) on pregnant women and the main findings were that 20% of expectant mothers were still feeling anxious prior to attending hospital and giving birth. This figure was thought to be too high by the newspaper and they continued with a report that made the NHS out to be an uncaring, impersonal institution.
20%!!!!!! Is THAT all????? Personally, I think that if only 20% of new Mums were feeling anxious then society should decree this survey as a wholesale success by our midwives. Karen was having our third, Caesarean birth again, usual procedure, nothing we hadn’t been through twice before and both of us were as naturally anxious as if we were having our first.
The fact that this survey was even carried out, let alone published as a scare-mongering headline reflects on the state of our national newspapers. Why the negative twist? We should be praising our NHS staff not belittling them at every opportunity. As you can tell, I feel very strongly on this subject. Karen has spent a lot of time in various hospitals over the past 15 years and she can’t remember one incident where the system or staff let her down or carried out their duties without putting the welfare of the patients first and foremost.
As you can guess, the birth was a success and the care before, during and after was second to none.
If you’re interested, the first pictures of Tomos David are now available on

As is our usual way, 2 weeks before the birth, I changed contracts and started working on a project that would take me abroad yet again. Our third child due and this is the third time it has happened. Honestly, it’s just the timing of the new contracts and nothing to do with me wanting to get out of the country when nappies need changing!!! Since the birth 5 weeks ago I have spent 2 weeks in Italy and poor Karen has had to deal with the 3 kids on her own. Oh! and it was also half term so the girls were home during the day as well. I can only say a big Thank You to Karen for her support for me disappearing off on an aeroplane so often (I fly out again on Monday).

Turin, the home of the film The Italian Job. Everywhere you turn you can see where parts of the film were enacted. A wonderful city with views to the Alps over 80 miles away. Now that the snow has started to melt the peaks look like they are floating. As Mike would say…”Awesome”. As Italian cities go, Turin is one of the smaller ones with lots of French & Swiss influences. One of the most memorable things about spending time in Italy is the style of driving. To drive through the city during rush hour, which we have to do, is an experience in itself. Being trained in the noble art of driving in the UK over 15 years ago, did not prepare me for driving Italian-style.
The first thing to learn (quickly) is that traffic lights are only there for the entertainment of passengers. That’s all they do…change colour. No one looks at them until they are about to change to green. If you do actually have to stop at a red then before moving off after green is lit you have to wait for the 8 cars to pass that are jumping the lights from the other direction. Single lane roads turn into triple lane roads as cars race for the poll position before the unofficial race begins at every junction. The locals all drive round in 10 year old 950cc Fiats (haven’t seen a new one yet!!) pretending they are behind the wheel of a Formula One Ferrari.

To a lot of people, the thought of travelling out to Italy every week seems like a glamorous job, until I point out that I live out of a suitcase, have no opportunity to get away talking about work with colleagues every evening, only talk to my family via phone and worst of all having to endure the wrath of airlines to get there.
Usual Monday timetable is as follows:
04:00am: wake up.
05:45am: queue and check in at airline desk
06:45am: sit in plane surrounded by people coughing and sneezing
07:10am: take off 25 minutes late…again
07:40am: eat a cold ‘breakfast-bun’ with the compliments of the airline
09:30am: arrive in Brussels for connecting flight, walk entire length of airport, go through customs a second time and end up on same plane for next part of journey
09:50am: sit in plane surrounded by same people (in different seats)
10:15am: take off 25 minutes late…again
11:30am: arrive in Turin
11:45am: wait for luggage
11:55am: wait for luggage
12:00pm: queue with 50 other people to give forwarding address for lost luggage
12:15pm: hit the Italian roads with lots of horn blowing
13:00pm: arrive in work fresh and smiling ready for a full days work.
The facility where I am based in Turin has about 500 staff….and 4 outside phone lines. I invested in a lap-top a few weeks ago to access my e-mail whilst abroad, and now 5 of us share a single phone socket. 4 of us have lap-tops so that’s 9 systems (5 phones lines and 4 internet lines) trying to use 1. Oh what fun. To make an outside call, first you have to program the phone, then wait until a line is available. This is known when the phone rings a certain tone. When this is heard, the whole office then race back to their phones to try to be the lucky one who gets a line. But, and this is the best bit, if one of the facility directors need to use a phone….they can cut you off without warning. Oh! This world of technology that we live in!!!!!

On a serious side to life in the UK……
The last time I wrote piece for this Forum, Foot & Mouth had broken out in the UK. Since then, things have turned from bad to worse. The policy to eradicate this disease consisted of slaughtering every animal on farms where Foot & Mouth was present. This policy then moved up a gear to slaughtering every animal on neighbouring farms as well. Sounds like a plan Huh? Well no, not really. Problem comes when all these dead animals have to be disposed of. Unfortunately, those in power failed to organise the disposal as well as they had organised the actual destruction of the animals, and carcasses have been lying around on farms for days in view of the farmers and their families before either being burned or collected.
To those who don’t know, the UK had a similar outbreak in the late ‘60’s and the subsequent Inquiry listed out recommended procedures in case of a re-occurrence. None of these were practised from the first case to now have been instigated. 8 weeks on and over 1100 farmers have seen their lives work being slaughtered in front of them. During the last outbreak, the countryside came to a virtual stop including a complete stop of horse racing and other events. Has this happened this time? NO!. Mainly because of the money it would have failed to generate. With a General Election due by the end of the year, I hope the farmers suffering isn’t forgotten by the public.

Hope you have enjoyed reading this short account of life in the UK and life with the Burge’s and until next time…..Toddle Pip!

Next Forum contends with the legal system with regards to traffic offences (Oh Yes! I was caught)!!!!!!!


Popular articles

Make Your Public Event Calendar Usable To All

Signs Of Old

The Difference Between One Million And One Billion

W. C. Fields quotes

Venues Long Gone