Gastric distress

I fail to see how viewers could be expected to believe in a heroine who wouldn’t fall for a man with

Well, that’s the next book done, then… It’s always a complete anti-climax when a book’s finished. You’ll pootle about your flat afterwards with a numb/emptied feeling, then send if off before beginning the enormous wait for anyone to get back to you.

The pause left at this point always being far too long – even if it’s only a few hours (not that it ever is only a few hours, you’ll understand – despite that fact that it is physically possible to read a book in a few hours…)

Sadly, even though your new volume has been pressing on your brain like a venomous tumour for months and months, no one else is really that bothered about it – even if they’ve been expecting it, have paid a bit in advance for it and made mumbly nearly interested noises when you’ve ranted on about it. (That’s what your agent and editor are for – to provide mumbly noises.) The level of caring about my books tends to drop off from

ME – 347 per cent

My readers – between 100 per cent and 102 per cent - but there are only 12 of them. And some of them scare me. And some of them only touch/stroke the books, they don’t actually read them…

My agent and Editor – between 75 per cent and 76 per cent apportioned in rotation between authors according to alphabetical arrangement, height and availability of biscuits.

Other readers – 6 per cent

My pals – 4 per cent (They have a lot of other things on their minds.)

Other comics in clubs – 2 per cent (And they’re faking that.)

Other people I meet as I go about my life – 0.8 per cent

Other people in the world – 0.0 per cent

As it happens, I hammered the book’s last sentence into place while an Austrian camera crew fiddled with lights, set up for an interview and then looked on politely as I growled into my laptop and waggled my head twitches in combination with a hearty – I’LL BE WITH YOU IN A MINUTE, YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS BUT I AM ACTUALLY JUST NOW FINISHING A BOOK, EXACTLY AS I SPEAK – AM I SPEAKING ? – ANYWAY, I’LL JUST DO THIS – AND THIS - AND THEN THAT. DEAR GOD, WHAT WAS I THINKING ? I MEANT THIS ! OH, JUST AT LEAST LOOK INTERESTED COULD YOU ? THIS IS THE CULMINATION OF THREE YEAR’S WORK, YOU KNOW. AND KEEP WELL BACK, I MAY CRY.

To celebrate, I purchased – through the interweb – a pair of splendid electric blue and black suede shoes. I’m not generally much of a shoe person, but performing shoes are a good thing to have and these got two outings of comedy this week and managed to propel me across the stage with ease and stylishness.

This was a more than usually miraculous achievement given that my ear infection has returned (my body really does want me to just lie down for a while) and I am now on industrial strength antibiotics which are causing my digestive system, shall we say some distress. Suddenly doing a 20 minute set had to be carefully coordinated with the onceeveryfortyminute episodes of gastric distress. Ah, me – showbiz is so dandy.

And now I am waiting to hear about a book, a film and any number of BBC thingies – which is more waiting than my frame can stand. Frankly, my regular sprints to the bathroom are proving a healthy distraction. And there’s always the telly,,, which I rarely get to see unless I’m both at home and exhausted. I continue to enjoy the bewilderment and gallopy shouting which is The Devil’s Whore – although I fail to see how viewers could be expected to believe in a heroine who wouldn’t fall immediately for a man with a large facial scar, several mental difficulties and a metal hand.

Of course, many people in the days before thermoplastics, grafting and Hello had to settle for prosthetics made out of slightly unsuitable materials. George Washington had wooden teeth and Tycho Brahe had a metal nose. A potentially helpful mobility aid like a walking stick might be rendered attractive and yet dangerous by being made of glass. I imagine many period conversations running thusly:

“Why are you lying down there, my good man ?”

“Oh, you know… first I snapped my walking stick and now my toffee legs have melted. D’you think you could carry me home ?”

“I’d love to, sirrah, but my spine has been replaced with these bottle tops and strips of gingham so I’m not really up to heavy lifting.”

“I quite understand. Give my last regards to my lady wife – you can’t miss her, she’s the one with the paraffin ear and the woollen face.”

A year on from the Spending Review, the coalition's soothsayer has emerged to offer another gloomy economic prognosis. Asked by ITV News whether he could promise that there wouldn't be a double-dip recession, Vince Cable replied: "I can't do that.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.